See all that cheese? How can anyone resist? With a little guacamole on the side (or stuffed inside), these arepas make a great dinner.
Vanilla is such an important ingredient. It goes into pretty much every dessert I make, and lately I’ve started putting a capful in my morning coffee, too. Sometimes when I’m baking, the worst thing happens. I suddenly realize there are only three drops of vanilla left in my little bottle. This has been happening all too frequently since I developed my vanilla cafe au lait habit, so I decided to put an end to my vanilla extract shortages for good. I got the idea to make my own vanilla extract from this post on Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes.
All you need are some cute little bottles (I used these), vanilla beans (I got these Madagascar beans), and some vodka. It doesn’t have to be high quality vodka–the quality of the beans is much more important. Vanilla beans are expensive, but more reasonable if you buy a bunch of them. Also, vanilla extract is expensive, so I think if you use enough of it you’ll definitely save money by making your own. If you don’t want to make all the beans you buy into extract, you can store some in an airtight container to use in baking or custards. A lot of desserts call for vanilla bean seeds instead of extract, so it’s great to have some around. As soon as I get my ice cream maker, I am going to use my leftover beans to make vanilla bean ice cream with those great little specks of vanilla seeds in it.
Guess what? This vanilla extract would make a great gift, and is a gift that keeps on giving. If you start running low, just top off the vodka and let it sit for a few weeks before using it again. After doing this a couple of times, you will probably want to add some new beans. Ina Garten says she’s been doing this to refresh the same bottle of vanilla that’s been in her pantry for twenty years!
Vanilla beans (6 beans per cup of vodka)
Make sure your bottles are really clean. I sterilized mine by boiling them in water for ten minutes. Let them dry completely (I put mine in the dishwasher top rack to dry).
Cut each vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and then crosswise to fit in your bottles if you’re using small ones like me. I used three beans for each of my four-ounce bottles. Pour in vodka, leaving a little bit of space at the top (if you can find a funnel, you won’t make as much of a mess as I did). Store in a cool, dark place, and shake every day or so. The extract will be ready after two months, but continues to develop a more pronounced flavor if aged longer.
I made my labels in Microsoft Word, printed them on regular paper, and stuck them on with a permanent glue stick. I can’t figure out how to post the document up here for you to download, but if you want these labels, drop me a note with your email address and I’ll send them to you.
This is a delicious pantry soup, meaning you can make it with ingredients that might already be in your pantry. It’s healthy and filling, and topped with lots of good stuff. Also, it comes together in less than half an hour and packs a little mini punch. Yum!
P.S. I am calling this a bisque, because it sounds so much fancier than soup. However, according to Wikipedia, bisques have to be made with seafood stock. Oh well! No seafood here, but still delicious.
Ingredients (serves 3-4):
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1/2 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic paste
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 15 ounce cans of black beans
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1 packet Sazón Adobo seasoning
A few pinches cayenne pepper, to taste
1 cup water
Splash of silver tequila (optional)
3 tablespoons cream or coconut milk
Chopped fresh cilantro and scallions, for serving
Heat the butter or olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and corn, and raise the heat to medium high. Stir in the garlic paste and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about ten minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beans along with their liquid. Add the oregano, cumin, Adobo seasoning, cayenne, and water. Stir to combine. Simmer for ten minutes. Towards the end of the cooking time, stir in the tequila and let it bubble away for another minute or so.
Remove soup from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove about half of the beans and puree them in a food processor until smooth. Return the puree to the saucepan, add the cream, and stir to combine.
Serve the soup with a generous scoop of corn and onions, and a sprinkling of scallions and cilantro.
Here’s the perfect Cinco de Mayo breakfast! Arepas (my favorite thing ever since I made these), eggs, and guacamole. These are pretty quick to throw together, and very filling and satisfying. Plus, who doesn’t love a chance to make guacamole first thing in the morning? I know I do!
I was excited to try arepas with some shredded cheese mixed into the batter, but once they were cooked I didn’t really notice the cheese. Oh well. Next up in my all-arepas-all-the-time series, I’ll be trying arepas with a big chunk of cheese stuffed in the middle. Cheese-bellied arepas, if you will. Stay tuned! I won’t make you wait long, I promise.
Ingredients (serves four):
For the arepas:
1 cup masarepa
(precooked fine yellow or white cornmeal)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup shredded cheese (optional)
Butter for cooking
For the guacamole:
1 ripe avocado
1 clove garlic, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs, poached or fried
Salt and pepper
To make the guacamole, place all ingredients in a bowl and mash with a fork until combined but still chunky.
For the arepas, mix the masarepa, salt, and water and let sit for 5 minutes. Heat some butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Mix the cheese into the batter, then form patties about four inches across and half an inch thick. Fry until golden and crisped on both sides, about 10 minutes.
Spoon a generous layer of guacamole on top of a hot arepa, then top with an egg. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve hot.
I LOVE curry made with coconut milk. It’s the most delicious thing ever. But, I am not the biggest fan of rice. I mean, rice is fine, but for me it’s nothing to write home about.
But, noodles? Noodles are my jam. All kinds of noodles. Italian noodles, Asian noodles…where are the noodles in Indian and Mexican cuisines? Big problem. Someone get on that quick.
Anyway, whenever I see noodles, I’m interested. Even in places where noodles might not seem to belong–bring on the noodles! One of my favorite Thai restaurants has a dish called Noodle Curry, which is a delicious yellow curry served over udon noodles. Genius! Curry and noodles are a match made in heaven. Watch out, rice. You ain’t got nothing on noodles.
Ingredients (adapted from The Little Foodie):
1 pound rice noodles
1/3 cup coconut cream (scrape off the top of a can of coconut milk that has not been shaken)
3 tablespoons red curry paste
2 Japanese eggplants, halved lengthwise and sliced into half-moons
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3-4 tablespoons fish sauce (omit for a vegan or vegetarian dish–you may need to add some salt)
1 can coconut milk (Not the same can you scraped the cream off of! We need a lot of coconut love here. Save the other can for smoothies!)
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 pound snow peas
Sliced scallions and chopped fresh cilantro for serving
Boil water and cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
Heat the coconut cream in a skillet over medium-high heat. When it bubbles, add the curry paste and stir to mix. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes.
Add the pepper and onion and mix well. Cook for five more minutes. Add the garlic, fish sauce, coconut milk, brown sugar, and snow peas. Cover the pot, and turn the heat down so the mixture simmers. Cook for about five more minutes, or until the snow peas are cooked but still crunchy and bright green.
Serve noodles in a bowl with vegetables and curry spooned on top. Garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro and serve hot.
You might also like:
caught my eye, and guess what? It had a super easy recipe for arepas right on the back.
(fine yellow cornmeal)
Ingredients (from The Year in Food):
8-10 organic lemons (depending on how big your jar is)
about 1/2 cup sea salt (I used Maldon)
In the Jamaican airport I bought myself a cookbook called Eat Caribbean by Virginia Burke to read on the plane. It’s fabulous–full of colorful photographs and delicious recipes. I read the whole thing by the end of the second flight, and already knew I wanted to try jerk chicken right away. Since Ben and I are trying to eat more lightly for spring, I decided to opt for the recipe with jerk chicken on top of a tropical avocado and papaya salad. (Have I mentioned how much I love papayas? If you don’t, or you can’t find one, I bet this would be great with grapefruit, too.)
The jerk seasoning has a lot of ingredients, but is super quick to make. This recipe makes about 2/3 of a cup, so you can store the extra in your fridge and try it on other meats or seafood. I am pretty much dying to try jerk everything. The cookbook even has a recipe for jerk hamburgers! How fabulous does that sound?
This salad was a wonderful light dinner. The citrusy dressing, creamy avocado, sweet papaya, and spiced chicken complement each other perfectly. I will definitely be making this again soon!
This recipe is adapted from Eat Caribbean and serves 3-4.
Ingredients for the jerk seasoning:
6 scallions, trimmed
1-3 scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, seeded and trimmed (I chickened out and used half a pepper, and it wasn’t hot at all. So I recommend using at least one whole pepper!)
1 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup cane, malt, or apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon oil
Blend all ingredients in the food processor to form a paste. Store in the refrigerator.
Ingredients for the jerk chicken:
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1.5 pounds)
Salt or lime juice
1-2 tablespoons jerk seasoning (The recipe called for 1, but I thought the chicken could have used more flavor)
1 tablespoon oil, plus some for cooking
Prepare a bowl of salt water, or water with the juice of 1 lime, and rinse the chicken pieces in it. Pat dry. Rub the chicken with the jerk seasoning and oil, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
Heat a bit of oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook, turning occasionally, until well-browned on both sides and cooked through, about 15 minutes total.
Next up was the Appleton Estate Rum Tour. The best part was when they opened up the bar after the tour–we got to serve ourselves shots of as many different kinds of rum as we wanted. My favorite was the rum cream, which is featured in my new favorite Jamaican cocktail (see recipe below). It’s like a better version of Bailey’s. I also liked the Berry Hill Pimento Allspice liqueur, which has a pleasant double burn from the alcohol and spice.
I bought an adorable mini-bundt rum cake at the Appleton gift shop, which was a deliciously buttery, rum-soaked cake. My mom has a mini bundt pan, so I am totally planning on making my own version when I get home. Maybe with a glaze involving rum cream? I love that stuff.
|Caves at Xtabi
So, yesterday was jam-packed with tours, and today we decided to just take it easy by the cliffs. We walked about 15 minutes down the road from our hotel to Xtabi, a resort that we’d heard serves great breakfast. We could smell delicious baked goods even before we rounded the corner and saw the place. Right away, we knew we just wanted to spend the entire day there. The tables for the restaurant are in a large round gazebo and porch perched on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Two sets of stairs lead down to the lagoon, where you can swim or catch a ride on a glass-bottom boat. Another set of stairs lead to the caves, where stone benches invite you to sit and relax in the dark coolness by the grotto. I, however, left in a bit of a hurry after a couple of bats zoomed by uncomfortably close to my head.
Turns out the food is just as fabulous as the surroundings. I ordered the bread basket (hello, carbs do not count when you’re on vacation). It came with a corn muffin, banana bread, and a cinnamon roll, all split open, buttered, and grilled to crispy perfection. Ben ordered an ackee and callaloo omelette, which featured ackee from the tree right outside. It was also delicious, but I did not get a chance to snap a picture before he started eating (I guess it’s kind of annoying if someone is always trying to photograph your food from a few different angles before you can even get a bite in).
We lounged by the cliffs all morning, watching small rainstorms come and go. When it got to be a respectable hour (ahem, 11:30 am), we ordered drinks. I got one called a Dirty Banana–I was sold by the name and the fact that it had rum cream in it. This is my new favorite cocktail! I’m sharing a recipe here based on the ingredients Xtabi uses, so you can try it right away. You might have to tweak some of the quantities to get it just how you like it. Let me know what you think!
Recipe (serves one):
2 ounces Tia Maria
2 ounces rum cream or Bailey’s
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
Drizzle chocolate syrup all over the inside of a tall, frosted glass. Blend the remaining ingredients until smooth. Serve in the chocolaty glass. If you want it extra boozy, top with another splash of Tia Maria. Enjoy!