Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stuffed Chicken Breast

I haven't been cooking anything new lately. Actually I've been pretty much avoiding the kitchen, trying to prepare the simplest meals possible. Today, I decided to try something new, and I must say I found it very tasty.

3 boneless chicken breast halves pounded thin
1 cup spinach (I used canned)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 slices bacon
mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper

Pound your chicken breasts between two cellophane sheets 'til thin, but not falling apart (as I did). Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Mince your garlic and mix it into the spinach.

Lay the chicken breasts out on a clean surface, and spoon some of the spinach mixture onto each one. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Roll up chicken to enclose the spinach and cheese, then wrap each chicken breast with one (or two) slices of bacon. Secure with toothpicks, and arrange in a baking dish. (I couldn't find the toothpicks, so I used skewers).

Bake uncovered for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, then  use the oven's broiler to cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes to brown the bacon.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cafe Cubano

I'm stocked up for winter.

Cuban coffee is not easy to come by here (at least not at the market where I shop), so when I do go out of my way, I stock up. Seeing all these cans of Bustelo, I was inspired to repost my very first blog post. Here it is.

Cubans start their day off with coffee, but what we refer to as Cuban coffee in the United States is not actually Cuban. The U.S. trade embargo with Cuba prohibits the import of Cuban coffee. The Cuban-style coffee we drink here is actually a blend of finely ground beans from Jamaica, Brazil, Colombia or other parts of Central and South America. Although it is often compared to espresso, it is actually the combined result of Cuban, Spanish, French and Italian traditions. Cuban Coffee is very strong and traditionally prepared with plenty of sugar, so the portions are small and served in cups called tacitas (about the size of a shot glass) which are generally smaller than a demi-tasse. Making this thick, rich, dark brew with a thin frothy foam top is relatively simple. You need:

  1. A cafetera. These Italian espresso makers are not that hard to come by. Of course the easiest route is to order one online, but if you keep your eyes open you may spot them in unexpected places. My daughter bought me one last Christmas at TJ Maxx.
  2. Cuban-style coffee. There are several brands out there (you can order online). Here in the Midwest I have found my favorite, Café Bustelo which is readily available at Walmart.
  3. Sugar
  4. A metal cup. (to make the foam)
  1. Unscrew the espresso maker. Remove the metal filter cup from the bottom half. Pour cold water into the bottom of the espresso maker up to the bolt located on the inside.
  2. Place the filter cup back into the bottom half; this is where you put your coffee. Pack the grounds tightly, leveling it off at the top. Screw the top of the espresso maker back on. Place on a burner at high heat. Leave the lid open to keep an eye on it.
  3. In the meantime measure one teaspoon of sugar per tacita into the metal cup. (Espresso makers come in different sizes, from 2 to 8 tacitas)
  4. When you see the first trickles of coffee percolate turn the heat down to low and pour that first teaspoonful of coffee into the metal cup with the sugar. Vigorously stir the mixture until it becomes a light paste.
  5. By now, the coffee should be slowly trickling into the top half of the coffee maker. Once the top is almost full it may start to spurt. Drop the lid and turn off the burner. Slowly pour the coffee into your metal cup and stir. You will see the foam (espumita) rise to the top.
Pour into your tacitas and enjoy. Caution: Because it's so flavorful, and Americans are accustomed a larger quantity of coffee, they tend to want a second cup. Don't do it! This coffee packs a powerful punch, and for those not accustomed to it that second cup could make them jittery! Variations: To make café con leche (the Cuban version of café au lait), add one shot (tacita) of Cuban coffee to an American size cup of hot (usually steamed) milk. To make a cortadito add a tablespoon or two of hot milk to your tacita of Cuban coffee.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

I've never made chicken pot pie before, but with the temperatures dropping below freezing for the past few of nights, I decided it would be nice to turn on the oven and have a hearty, hot meal for dinner. I never really realized how simple to is to make. There are many variations, from complicated to super easy. I chose a recipe in between, and Cubanized it of course by adding garlic and bell peppers!

For the crust (you can subtitute with store-bougth pie crust)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1-2 tsp sugar
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp vegetable shortening
1/2 cup water
1 egg yolk

1 egg for wash  (optional)

Mix your dry ingredients with the butter and shortening using a pastry cutter or two butter knives, until fairly well blended. Form a well. Whisk the egg yolk with the water, and drop into the center of your flour mixture. Use a fork to first blend it together and then your hands to knead it into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

For the filling:

2 chicken breasts
3/4 cup chopped onions
1/2 cups peas
1 large carrot sliced
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1/2 cup chicken stock (you can use bouillon)
2 cloves garlice
1/2 green bell pepper diced
olive oil or butter to saute onions

I boiled my chicken breasts in water with 1 large cube of chicken bouillon for about 15 minutes. (You can use roasted chicken or leftover chicken as well.) Remove the breasts of the water and cut into chunks, set aside. Reserve the broth.
In a skillet warm olive oil or butter to saute your onions, peppers and garlic. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cups of the broth to the onions, add your fresh carrots, and frozen peas cover and let your carrots simmer for about 5 minutes, add the cream of chicken soup. (I added the peas with the carrots since they were frozen. If you are using canned peas, rinse them out of the can and add with canned soup). Mix in the chicken and set aside to cool.

Lightly flour a clean working surface. Separate your dough in two parts (I made 4  mini pot pies, so I separated my dough into 8 parts).  Roll out one part for the bottom crust and place into your pie pan.  Add the filling, place the second rolled crust on top. Use a fork to seal the edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape. You can brush the top with an egg wash (optional). Place your pie pan atop a larger baking pan in case of spillage. Bake in a pre-heated 375F oven for 45 minutes to an hour or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Please note, you can basically use any vegetables you prefer. This is also a great idea for leftover turkey.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Salmon Marinated in Oriental Sauce

I was looking for a different way to prepare salmon fillets and I came across this recipe on

The recipe calls for cooking the fish on a grill, but I cooked it in a pan.

This is how I prepared it.
12 oz salmon
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1/8 cup oil (I used olive oil, but you can use vegetable oil)
2 garlic gloves minced
salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the marinade stir together soy sauce, brown sugar, water, and oil in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved. Pour over fish and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Lightly oil your pan. Bring heat to medium high. Place salmon in the pan along with the marinade. Cook salmon for 6 to 8 minutes per side, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. The marinade will reduce and glaze your salmon.

Although I made a rice packet as a side, I just had too fry up some plantians. :)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Crock Pot Beef Roast

When it comes to home cooking there is no recipe that needs to be followed exactly (unless you're baking).  I use what's at hand, and most of the time I eyeball the measurements.  Today I am making a beef roast in the crock pot.  Being a Cuban married to an American, it is only natural that I have also married the ingredients.  For a Cuban recipe I would have chopped onions; I substituted Lipton's onion soup mix, and I would have used tomato paste; I used bbq sauce.

3 lb round roast
1 pkg Lipton's beefy onion soup mix
1 cup water
6-8 cloves garlic, pressed
1 cup wine (I only had white, but dry sherry or red would be fine)
2 tsp bbq sauce
1 bay leaf

salt to taste

Set your crock pot to high if you're home, or to low if you're leaving it to cook all day. Toss all your ingredients in, cover and walk away.

I went back and added two potatoes, carrots and olives in final two hours of cooking. These could have been added from the start, but my potatoes were already boiled from the previous day and I din't want them falling apart. Like I said, whatever is at hand.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Warm Swiss Chard

This is self explanatory. Swiss Chard, Garlic, Olive Oil, Vinegar, Salt and Pepper. The Swiss Chard is rolled to cut into ribbons. Warm the garlic in the olive oil, add the Swiss Chard, add the vinegar to taste.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cake Balls

I saw a recipe for this when I was clipping grocery coupons. Here is the link to the Betty Crocker website and the full recipe.
Now I must admit I'm not very good at the decorating part of it, and I still haven't perfected the way to dip these in chocolate. I suppose putting a lollipop stick in them is the way to go!

1 box cake mix, any flavor (I used classic yellow)
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box

1 container  frosting

36 oz vanilla or chocolate-flavored candy coating

Bake cake as directed on box. Pour your frosting into a large bowl. Crumble warm cake into frosting.

Mix together with a fork until well blended. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or firm enough to shape. (I left it in overnight).

Use a tablespoon worth of mixture and shape into a ball. Repeat. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Line another cookie sheet with foil. In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave 12 oz candy coating uncovered on High 1 minute 30 seconds; stir. Continue microwaving and stirring in 15-second intervals until melted and smooth. Remove one-third of the balls from the freezer. Using 2 forks, dip and roll each ball in coating. Place on foil-covered cookie sheet. Decorate as desired. Refrigerate cake balls about 10 minutes or until coating is set. Melt remaining candy coating in 12-oz batches; dip remaining balls. Serve at room temperature. Store in airtight container.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Eggroll Wrap Empanadas

My daughter gave me the idea for this. Either out of a lack of time, or just plain laziness, we've avoided making empanadas because of the work involved in preparing the flour wrap. Using store-bought egg-roll wraps makes this recipe very simple and the crispiness of the fried wraps bring an extra fun and tasty texture to the empanadas.

Start with a simple meat filling.
1 1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 large onion finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper finely chopped
2 to 4 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1 cup water
12 pimento stuffed green olives, sliced (optional)
olive oil

Brown your ground beef and strain.  Set aside. Coat your pan with olive oil and saute the onions, peppers and garlic. Add the beef, the water, the spices and the olives. Simmer, stirring occasionally until everthing is well blended and most of the water has evaporated. Taste and adjust your salt. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

For the wrap
1 pkg egg roll wrap
Vegetable oil for frying

Place on sheet of the wrap on a flat surface. Place about two tablespoons of your filling in the center. Wet the edges of the wrap with your finger. Fold the wrap over on the diagonal and press to seal. You can fold your wrap rectangular if you prefer. Continue this process for as many empanadas as you wish to make.

Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a frying pan, and drop your empanadas in one at a time (depending on the size of your frying pan you may only be able to fit two or three at a time). Adjust your temperature so that it doesn't brown too quickly. Turn them to brown on both sides. Place on a paper towel lined plate.

Hint: You can sprinkle cheese atop the filling before folding and sealing the wrap.