Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Road Trip Munchies

With the Fourth of July just around the corner and summer in full swing, a road trip may be in your future if it hasn't already happened yet. When I was a kid, my mom always let us splurge on candies and salty snacks when we took our long East coast drives. I couldn't imagine being in the car for longer than three hours without a bag of Twizzlers by my side. These days, I'm a little bit more careful about my snacks, mostly because I'm a grown-up and occasionally share in the driving, which means sugar highs lead to speeding tickets and lows lead to swerving. No, I needed something that wouldn't send my blood sugar all over the place like gravel from a truck bed.

On our last road trip to NJ, I unexpectedly stumbled upon the answer. Trying to clean out my fridge of perishables, I found a half-used English cucumber, some celery sticks and a bag of baby carrots. "Hmmm, these will have to come along," I thought. So I tossed them in with the half-eaten bag of Doritos and set off to conquer (I mean crawl) along the Beltway. It was a success, not only did the veggies taste good, but they kept us hydrated and cool. Although, I still missed the Twizzlers, as we head off to Cape Cod for a beach weekend, I'm sure my waistline will thank me.

P.S. Parents, this might be a good trick to try with your kids. Fewer sugar roller coasters mean less fighting and fewer are-we-there-yets. Plus, you can save the candy as a reward for x-amount of miles of good behavior.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Two Punch Meal

Hey there! It's been a fun andbusy week in Capital City-landia, but I just had to share two awesome meals. They stack up so if you are also going to be having a busy week this is just the thing. Plus, it will feed you and yours for 2 nights. The first is my mom's slow cooker pork loin with garlic, oregano, and lime juice. Pork loin is on sale frequently at the markets and you get two pieces of loin per package so it's a really good deal. First, you set your slow cooker to high and depending on the size of the loin set it to cook for 3-8 hours. Then, you dry the pork loin (remove the silver skin if you like), then salt it generously and sear it in a hot pan with a lil bit of veggie oil. After it is seared transfer it to the slow cooker and add the juice of a lime and a quarter cup of white cooking wine. Mince up about 7 cloves of garlic and spread them on each of the loins in the slow cooker, sprinkle each with some dried oregano, add a bay leaf, and ignore until the timer dings. You can serve this with any side dish: rice, beans, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, squash.

Now, if you have leftovers, and when you are cooking for two you will, just pop them in the fridge until you need another quick fix dinner. This one is even easier than the first. Buy a loaf of Cuban bread or French, if you are in non-Cuban area, something long and soft-ish. Then chop up the remaining pork and sautee it with some onions and oil in a frying pan until the onions are translucent and the pork is warmed through. Split the bread down the middle and stuff with the pork mixture. Voila a quick and easy pan con lechon (bread and roasted pork sandwich) Plate and enjoy! This really needs no side dish, but if you must, I recommend an arugula salad or something crunchy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Apples in July?

Sure! What could be more American during Independence month? I just found this recipe on a blog and I had to post it so I could find it again.


I'll let you know how it turns out.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tapas and Treasures

One more Miami post for you all! This one is close to my heart. My great-aunt Hilda passed away a few years ago, but she has not been forgotten. A music teacher and choral leader, she was also the archivist and historian of the family. She saved newspaper clippings, photos, curios, and best of all, pictures of our family. While I was home, my RC cousins and I got together to sift through a few boxes full of memories and try to figure out who the heck all these people were. (Props to Andy and my dad for recognizing the most!) To fortify ourselves for the walk down memory land, we had some tapas from Delicias and a delicious chocolate chocolate chip poundcake by Lucila. Those of you who live in the Greater Miami area are sooooo lucky! You can pick one of these up at your local Publix or Milam's stores. Those of us who are far away will just have to fantasize about them and hope that some one wants to send us one by mail! (hint, hint!) If you have an archivist, scrap-booker, or memory saver in your family, I encourage you to talk to them now! I'm sure Hilda could have told us great stories about her life and our family history. Even though she couldn't be with us, her presence was definitely felt, and she brought us all together, helping us make more memories.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Paladar Teresita

My great-aunt, Tia Tere, is a phenomenal cook and host. She knows just how to plan a multi-course meal that will make your mouth water at every bite. Even when you drop in on her unexpectedly, while her stove is out, like I did last week, she will not disappoint you. On the contrary, she will stuff you with Cuban lasagna, salad, awesome empanadas (more on these later), hearty soup, and plantains. And this is what I want to tell you about, mmm-mmmm-mmm, the plantains. This is a Cuban dish I have yet to master because it requires an ingredient I need to cultivate - no, not a banana plant, PATIENCE. Low and slow is the secret to making plantains, a.k.a tostones, as is making things in small batches and enjoying the process. Tia Tere's talented kitchen assistant, Loli, kindly let me take pictures of the process and pass them on to you.

First, cut up a green plantain into 1 inch pieces. This plantain should be really green, no yellowish or brown spots. Fry the plantains in about an inch of oil on low heat. The plantains need to soften, but not get too crispy.

Then, you pull the plantains out of the oil and get ready for the squashing.

Loli used a flat bottom glass to squash the plantain into a thin disk.

Like so.

Then its back into the frying pan, this time at high heat to get the edges nice and crispy.

Once they are finished, sprinkle with salt, let cool just a bit, and enjoy your delicious crispy tostones.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jamaica Postcard 2

New Kingston is primarily a business district, so there wasn't much in the way of dinner, but lunch was spectacular. For about 350 Jamaican you could get a large serving of rice and peas with stewed or jerked chicken that could double as dinner.

Yard Vybz, the tiny kitchen and counter place pictured below, also served amazing fresh squeezed juices. Lara and I had a beet juice with ginger that was incredibly fresh and delicious, and really really bright pink in color.

Another great place for lunch was the restaurant at the Courtleigh Hotel. We had some fantastic tandoori chicken and lamb chops. Unfortunately, the veggies left something to be desired. Eggplant must not be a traditional JA staple because it hadn't been soaked and the bitterness made it and the carrots it touched inedible. However, the Courtleigh made a fantastic Jamaican breakfast, so good in fact, that it merited its own post as JA postcard 3.

We also went out for Chinese, hoping to find a place that would fuse Asian and Caribbean flavors. Instead, our cabbie insisted on Jade Garden, which was ok. But quite frankly, the fish tank was more spectacular than the food.

On a side note, we unexpectedly happened upon a Jamaican Costco on our first night and stocked up on Red Stripe in bulk. There was nothing better after a day of intellectual stimulation than sitting poolside with a frosty one and watching the sun set through the palm trees.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pictures Uploaded

Hey everybody,

I just uploaded pictures to some of the previous posts. Check them out here and here.

Jamaica Postcard

Jamaica is a beautiful country, much more mountainous than I expected. We stayed in Kingston our conference. New Kingston, the business district, to be more specific. Our hotel, the Knutsford was comfortable and had a pool!

Michelle bought mangoes and a pomerack. I had never tasted a pomerack before. It's light and crisp with a bit of a floral scent to it. The texture is something between a pear and an apple, but the skin is bright pink. Trinidadians call it pomerack; Jamaicans call it otahiti apple, and the internet machine called it Malay apple.

Jamaica is not just about beautiful beaches and funky tropical fruit. We had the opportunity to check out a Sistren performance. Sistren is a theatrical group that uses performance to help communities heal after violence and address social issues.

Although we came as spectators, we became participants holding part of a long swath of fabric that symbolized the bloodshed in downtown Kingston and abroad. The procession ended with a very moving ceremony in a park dedicated to the children who have died as a result of gun violence.

One elderly woman cried as we listened to Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" and told me that she had lost three sons to violence. Although the performance commemorated the dead, it also celebrated the living and urged a change in attitudes and hope for the future.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Home in Arlington

Home sweet home again. I'm back in Arlington and looking forward to our first summer here in our new hometown. We've been to NJ and Miami recently and it's exciting to think that this place, Arlington, VA, will always be special to us as the first place that we kept a house together. In honor of that, here is a link to a hilarious video about Arlington. I don't know how to embed vidoes yet, so just follow the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4T1RMuoQnKo . I promise it will leave you in stitches.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A taste of España in the 305

I love having the tilde function at my parents' desktop computer. Just press the Alt key down while you type in 164 on the number pad and voila ~ you have an ñ. En-ye. A funky Spanish letter that doesn't exist in any other language to my knowledge. The ñ was a huge part of my life for a very long time, but has since departed following a marital name change. Once the bane of my existence, ñ became a part of my life and identity. Why haven't you seen ñ on my blog before? Well, laptops lack a number pad and trying to type an ñ is sometimes more difficult than uploading pictures. Perhaps now that I have one on the blog, I can just copy and paste from the this post. That would be glorious! Espana could once more be España, name could be ñame, and pina colada can be piña colada. All this preamble is just to say that I'm leaving Miami today and having a farewell lunch with familia at Delicias de España, our favorite Spanish specialty store and restaurant. They also deliver so extraordinary tapas are never more than a click a way: www.deliciasdeespana.com.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Gardening and Giving

One of the great things about coming back home is getting to swap magazines with my mom and mother-in-law. They both get magazines that I love to look at but don't usually buy, like Good Housekeeping and Family Circle. This week at my mom's I read the most amazing article in the July 2009 issue of Family Circle about a mom from Moscow, Idaho, who turned her garden surplus into a way to improve the quality of life for others. Amy Grey started Backyard Harvest, a program that brings the surplus from family gardens around the area to a local food bank. Fresh produce is often hard to find in a food bank and the families are grateful to recieve it. This is such a great idea! If I ever get a thumb as green as Mrs. Grey's, I would love to use it as she has to help other people. The program seems to be spreading out west, but any productive gardeners this side of the Mississippi should definitely check out their website: www.backyardharvest.org . This is a great cause and an even better idea, getting communities to help their own by sharing the fruits of their labor. Their website is also really tastefully and beautifully constructed, a real pleasure to navigate.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hello from Jamaica!

I made it to Jamaica. This country is beautiful! Much more hilly than I expected. The food is fantastic. At the hotel restaurant, we had leisurely service, a deliciously spicy pumkin and chicken soup, and brown stewed fish with veggies and rice and peas (Jamaican red beans and rice with a hint of coconut flavor).
For dinner, we got a tip from our driver who escorted us to Ziggy's, a very local restaurant with inexpensive and tasty food. Curry goat, fried fish and chicken and lots and lots of rice and peas. Wash it down with a Red Stripe and you have a great culinary day in Jamaica.

P.S. The weather is delightful, even if it is a bit hot and humid!