JAMAICA IN THE HOUSE!! #BRAISED OXTAILS AND SPINNERS(DUMPLINGS)

 Sunday’s supper was braised oxtails, one of the popular dishes from my childhood. This dish  is still a favorite in many Jamaican kitchens and restaurants. Part of its composition is a center bone which is quite a delight to savor by sucking the mouth-watering gravy. You just can’t help yourself; your fingers will become  utensils while partaking.  After all, it’s a rustic meal.

Over the years, this dish has grown in popularity across many ethnic lines. As a result, the prices have increased exorbitantly. However, that has not stopped lovers of oxtails to purchase same. In Jamaica, we mainly cook ox tails with  lima beans (butter beans)  which are added close to the end of the cooking process.

There are a few variations in cooking braised ox tails and everyone places their signature stamp on same. For me, the previous night I trimmed any residual fat from oxtails pieces before seasoning.  Then, oxtails pieces were seasoned with salt, black pepper, crushed garlic, a splash balsamic vinegar (which act as a tenderizer as well as for flavoring), and a pinch of jerk sauce (my preference for added flavors).

After bringing oxtails to room temperature, they were added to a sturdy hot skillet with a drizzle of canola oil. I allowed them to brown on each side (turning repeatedly). Chopped root vegetables were added in the form of chopped onions, celery, and bell peppers. Also, thyme and rosemary were added along with crushed pimento (all spice).

There was no need to add beef broth as oxtails are loaded with great flavors. So, instead,  tap cold water was used to cover pieces. Under low to medium heat, oxtail pieces were braised for two and a half hours (adding liquid,(water) whenever needed. By the way, this dish is a labor of love. It takes time; two to three hours. A pressure cooker would cut the duration.

As soon as the pieces were fork-tender, additional seasonings were added. Instead of lima beans (butter), spinners (small dumplings) were added. These dumplings were made with a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. Dish was further simmered for an additional five to ten minutes.

The finished dish was one that was a ‘fall-off’ the bone one. These tenderized pieces of meat had the right amount of spices and flavorings that were mouth-watering to the palate.

BRAISED OXTAILS AND DUMPLINGS
BRAISED OXTAILS AND DUMPLINGS

Oxtails were served with steamed Jasmine rice which soaked up all the amazing flavors of the thick and rich gravy. In addition, a side dish of sauteed assorted vegetables accompanied the dish.

SAUTEED ASSORTED VEGETABLES
SAUTEED ASSORTED VEGETABLES

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ONCE AGAIN, OATMEAL/FLAX SEEDS DID IT FOR ME #WAFFLE-STYLE

I was inspired to make this super-delicious and healthy set of waffles by a fellow blogger, Frugal (Frugal Hausfrau). By the way, her blog is fantastic. You should check it out. She made these awesome looking Scottish oatcake. Thus, I replicated  her cakes. I didn’t have all the ingredients she actually added; as such I made the dish my own by doing waffles instead.

One of the important tips in making the batter is to soak the oatmeal overnight; which I did. I used the old-fashioned type and added whole milk. The oatmeal absorbed the milk and became more manageable. In the morning, I added vanilla, beaten egg (at room temperature), sour cream, half of a mashed ripe banana, sugar, and melted butter to soaked oatmeal. Dried ingredients in the form of whole wheat flour, a little all-purpose flour, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt were added to wet ingredients. Powered flax seeds and additional cinnamon were added and folded in batter.

BATTER FOR OATMEAL AND FLAX SEED WAFFLES
BATTER FOR OATMEAL AND FLAX SEED WAFFLES

When all the ingredients were combined, batter was placed on hot and oiled waffle iron using a 1/3 cup measuring cup. Waffles were topped with strawberries simmered for a few minutes with a sprinkle of sugar. Also a serving of orange wedges a fresh strawberry completed the dish. Thanks to Frugal the waffles were a hit.

IT WAS A WILD CATCH FOR ME! #CRUSTED WILD FLOUNDER WITH PUMPKIN/COCONUT SOUP

I treated my palate to a rich and colorful mix earlier. Within a few minutes I was able to pan-sear a piece of crusty flounder after seasoning with salt and black pepper to taste. After lightly spreading fish with a panko breadcrumbs, this was seared in a combination of olive and canola oil.

SEASONED FLOUNDER WITH PANKO BREAD CRUMBS
SEASONED FLOUNDER WITH PANKO BREAD CRUMBS

Had some chopped pumpkin pieces from the previous winter. They came in a handy for a rich and colorful soup.  They had been sitting in the freezer from last winter. Just didn’t have the urge to use same. It was quite convenient You see, all was needed was to defrost my bright pumpkin pieces. While I was at it, I grabbed some fresh coconut milk.

CHOPPED PUMPKIN PIECES AND COCONUT MILK
CHOPPED PUMPKIN PIECES AND COCONUT MILK

After sauteeing  finely chopped onions and a clove of garlic, I added pumpkin to the mix. A pinch of salt and pepper were added along with a sprinkle of dried thyme. Coconut milk was then added. In less than ten minutes, all ingredients were cooked. This was cooled and then pureed in standing blender.

My tasty and delicious soup was served with crusty wild flounder fish with a garnish of cilantro. Sautéed garlic kale and pieces of corn on the cob were added as sides.

Guys, I was elated with my dish.

I’LL BE HAVING MY WAY WITH THESE MANGOES IN THE NEAR FUTURE ##MANGO SALSA

One of the beauties of spring is that it brings us the blossoming trees. And one of them is the mango tree. It seems like yesterday I observed this specimen laden with breath-taking blossoms frolicking in the breezes. Now, these blossoms have given way to  firm, green immature fruits hanging from the branches.

Just beholding them takes me back to my roots as a girl running wild and barefoot on the outskirts in my domain, Jamaica. Our family had a couple of mango trees in our back yard. We called them ‘blackie’ and ‘hairy’ mangoes. These mangoes were very sweet and juicy to the taste buds. My dear mom was a great lover of mangoes. She could consume a considerable amount at any sitting. The bruised and the firm ones were devoured equally.

Early in the morning, we would be awakened by the weakened stems of these delicious fruits. You see, a few of the branches hanged over our roof. Subsequently, when they fell they would produce a raucous on the roof. Me and my siblings had a ball. We would scamper to fetch them before the birds had their way with them.

Oddly, I’m not a big lover of mangoes in their natural form unless they are reconstituted with other ingredients. For instance, I love a refreshing fruit drink with an a hint of mango. Or, I love to incorporate mangoes and make a spicy salsa. With the addition of jalapeno, bell peppers,tomatoes, cilantro and of course avocado, I know I’ll be taken over the moon.

So guys, feast your eyes on these beautiful specimens, in a few months, I’ll be having my way with them. Hmmm, without a doubt, I’ll be brought back to my island home. Yeah mon!

HOW TO GAIN MORE SHELF-LIFE FROM YOUR RIPE BANANAS

We all watch it happens gradually before our eyes. We bring them home and place them on our counters, hoping to indulge in their sweet and potassium goodness whenever we desire. But,  slowly they become a science project. It’s the metamorphosis of our firm, yellow ripe bananas. By the way, the over-ripened ones are excellent in smoothies, pancakes and fritters.

You see, this transformation of ripe bananas often happens during the warmer months of the year (spring/summer). And, if you reside in South Florida, USA where I am, you know that although it’s spring on the calendar the temperatures are heading for the nineties today. And, that’s brutal for these ripe bananas.

However, there’s a way to lengthen the shelf life of these potassium-rich fruits. Once I spot a speckle or two, I immediately grab a zip lock bag or any plastic bag and place bananas within. Bag is placed in refrigerator where the cooling will stop the ripening process of bananas. It works A1 all the time. Yippee!!

IT WAS A HEART-HEATHLY MORN FOR YOURS TRULY ##OATMEAL/FLAXSEED/STRAWBERRIES

The humidity on the outskirts reminds me that summer is at my back door. So, in anticipation of the lazy days of summer, I’ve prepared something heart-healthy for breakfast.Studies have shown that a diet that involves whole grains like oatmeal and flax seeds helps in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, it aids in weight management. So, with that said, in a stock pot I added a few tablespoons of old-fashioned oatmeal along with a few raisins to some whole milk. A sprinkle of cinnamon was also added.

After oatmeal simmered on low to medium heat, I sweetened with a teaspoon of brown sugar. I topped my oatmeal with a generous sprinkle of powered flax seeds/cinnamon and garnished with fresh ripe bananas and slices of strawberries. The great thing about my warm cereal is that I didn’t have to add much sugar as the fresh fruits and raisins provided the extra sugar content.

Guys, I know that I’ll be satiated for sometime. I’m happy.

DIDN’T LET THE FIRE ALARM KEEP ME AWAY FROM MY GRILL##GRILLED CORN SUCCOTASH

Yes, I get it. Perhaps, I was a little over-zealous and anxious with my cobs. Couldn’t wait to get them on my indoor grill. Just wanted a hint of smoky flavor so I could add to my succotash I was preparing.  Ahh, I was in for a wee bit of excitement. Brushed my ‘bad boys’ with a little olive oil. They were looking oh, so, golden and firm. Placed them on my warm, maybe, a little too warm (more hot) grill. I told you I couldn’t wait to start.

EARS OF CORN ON GRILL
EARS OF CORN ON GRILL

While my corns made their dark marks, my fire alarm went excited. Clearly, the vent wasn’t doing a great job in keeping the smoke at bay. I quickly turned down the stove and opened a couple of windows and doors so as allow the smoke to escape. With things back to normal, I proceeded to prep and cook my succotash.

INGREDIENTS IN SKILLET FOR CORN SUCCOTASH
INGREDIENTS IN SKILLET FOR CORN SUCCOTASH

In a hot skillet with a drizzle of olive oil, I added chopped zucchini, onions, grape tomatoes (some whole and some in halves). Under low to medium heat, I allowed these to saute along with a pinch of salt and pepper. And then, it was time. It was time to remove my golden boys. Oh, they were warm and as you can see,  a bit charred.

I carefully held each corn on the cob with a piece of paper towel and took my knife. And, with the help of my cutting board I removed all the kernels. Decided to go for a quick sample. Hmmmm, I was super-delighted.

KERNELS READY FOR SKILLET
KERNELS READY FOR SKILLET

My corn kernels were sweet, delicious and still had crispiness to each bite. Had to pull myself away and continue the cooking process. Kernels were added to the other succotash ingredients in skillet.

CORN SUCCOTASH SIMMERING IN SKILLET
CORN SUCCOTASH SIMMERING IN SKILLET

I allowed all the ingredients to get acquainted by gently folding them. Did a quick taste and added a pinch more salt and black pepper. Had some fresh cilantro herb on hand and tore a few leaves along with some chopped scallion.

Guys, I served my sweet corn succotash in corn husks along with some spicy roasted chicken wings and sweet potato wedges garnished with cilantro herb.

CORN SUCCOTASH IN HUSKS
CORN SUCCOTASH IN HUSKS
SUCCOTASH ON HUSKS WITH ROASTED JERK CHICKEN WINGS AND SWEET POTATOES
SUCCOTASH ON HUSKS WITH ROASTED JERK CHICKEN WINGS AND SWEET POTATOES

Guys, my taste buds and I were quite happy. The contrasting flavors and tastes placed the dish in another dimension.

LOOK WHAT I FOUND!! ##CORNS ON THE COB

One of the wholesome and beautiful corps of spring is the corn on the cob. And, the different marketplaces are loaded with a bountiful supply of same. Got mine at my neighborhood Publix supermarket here in So. Florida, USA. The great thing about purchasing foods of a particular season is that the prices are relatively reasonable. Thus, I got six corns at $2.00. I was happy.

I’ll be steaming and then slathering on a little herb compound butter on a few and watch it melt in the nooks and crannies. In addition, I will grill some and then remove the kernels and incorporate with delicious succotash or corn bread. I see a great side dish for my jerk wings. I’m salivating; I can’t wait. Corn is in the house!

AN ITALIAN KIND OF NIGHT …..SI! SI! #PENNE PASTA/TURKEY BAKE

I knew I had ingredients for a spectacular dish. However, on this day, I was  a tad indecisive on what to prepare for supper. The previous evening before I ventured for work, I placed some chopped turkey on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator for thawing. Thought I would whip up some curried balls.

But now on the day of reckoning, my palate and I didn’t feel like doing a repeat performance. At a quick glance on the counter, I spotted some juicy and super-red tomatoes.

TOMATOES FOR MEXICAN/ITALIAN BAKE
TOMATOES FOR MEXICAN/ITALIAN BAKE

Got four of them a few days ago at the produce aisle of my store for $1.99. Thought they were a fairly good bargain; so, I brought them home and placed same on the counter top. Used up one in its natural form. I chopped up same and drizzled a little olive oil and a pinch of salt/pepper to taste along with crushed garlic. This was topped on a piece of crusty warm bread. I was in heaven.

So, the remainder of my three tomatoes perched there as if to say, “What’s wrong with us? Are we chopped liver?” Immediately an idea came to my head. I decided on a homemade tomato sauce that screamed Italian. An amalgamation was in mind. Clearly, it was looking to be an Italian kind of night.

A scan of the pantry yielded quite a find. Nestled between the shell and linguine pastas was my whole grain penne pasta. On close inspection, I learned that there was enough to make my international dish.

PENNE PASTA FOR MEXICAN/ITALIAN BAKE DISH
PENNE PASTA FOR MEXICAN/ITALIAN BAKE DISH

I was in business, with all my main ingredients assembled, I went to work.

MAIN INGREDIENTS FOR DISH
SOME OF THE  INGREDIENTS FOR DISH

In a hot skillet, a little olive oil was drizzled and ground turkey was added. The spices and seasoning added were salt, black pepper, and dried oregano/basil. As soon as turkey took on its brown hue, chopped onion, garlic, thyme, bell peppers were added to skillet for more flavoring. This was then set aside in a bowl.

GROUND TURKEY BROWNING IN SKILLET
GROUND TURKEY BROWNING IN SKILLET

In a separate sturdy skillet, finely chopped onions,bell peppers were added to a drizzle of olive oil. These were seasoned along with salt and black pepper. It was time, I added my chopped tomatoes and four diced olives for more flavors. My sauce called for a little more tomatoes, so, once again, I raided my pantry and  found a can of diced tomatoes.

DICED TOMATOES FOR SAUCE
DICED TOMATOES FOR SAUCE

So, I let it work for me. With the sprinkle of a little dried oregano, basil and a pinch of sugar, my tomato sauce was all done.

TOMATO SAUCE
TOMATO SAUCE

Penne pasta was cooked in salted water in al dente form. This was then drained making sure to reserve a little water in case I needed for later. Pasta and sauce were then added to chopped turkey. I tossed in my shredded cheddar cheese and folded all the ingredients.

MOST OF THE INGREDIENTS READ TO BE FOLDED FOR ITALIAN BAKE
MOST OF THE INGREDIENTS READY TO BE FOLDED FOR ITALIAN BAKE

All ingredients were combined and placed in a greased baking dish. A sprinkle of a little more cheese, bread crumbs and olive oil were mixed. That was added on the top of Italian Penne bake and placed in a heated oven at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

Guys, this was my Italian Penne bake. And, I was over the moon about this delicious dish.

ITALIAN PENNE BAKE DISH
ITALIAN PENNE BAKE DISH

SUNDAY’S SUPPER WAS A CURRIED AFFAIR #CURRIED CHICKEN

It was an easy decision for supper. You see, already I had some chicken parts (dark/couple pieces of wings) marinated in a ziplock bag. These chicken portions were bone-in and skinless. Whenever I’ve downtime, I try to take advantage of same by prepping my poultry and/or meats in advance. So, it was relatively smooth to get supper going after returning to my abode.

I allowed my marinated curried chicken to come to room temperature.

MARINATED CHICKEN READY FOR SKILLET
MARINATED CHICKEN READY FOR SKILLET

Chicken was marinated with salt, black pepper, crushed garlic, pimento(all spice, soy sauce,finely chopped onions and scotch bonnet pepper and of course, curry powder. In a hot skillet, a drizzle of coconut oil was added; then, chicken was placed in skillet.After a quick sauteing of same, water was added to cover chicken. Additional seasonings and spices were added including bell peppers, thyme and a dash of cumin.

Chicken was cooked under low to medium heat with lid on until fork tender. Moreover, the gravy/curry sauce was simmered to the right consistency that I liked.

CURRIED CHICKEN SIMMERING IN SKILLET
CURRIED CHICKEN SIMMERING IN SKILLET

I served my curried chicken with steamed whole wheat rice along with sauteed kale and fried plantain.

CURRIED CHICKEN DISH ALONG WITH STEAMED WHOLE WHEAT RICE, SAUTEED KALE AND FRIED PLANTAIN
CURRIED CHICKEN DISH ALONG WITH STEAMED WHOLE WHEAT RICE, SAUTEED KALE AND FRIED PLANTAIN