MY MANGO STOOD OUT ##MANGO COCKTAIL

I love the taste of mango in a refreshing summer cocktail. It’s bold and upfront and center within a drink. And, it doesn’t take a huge amount to flavor a particular drink. A few pieces go a long way. The smooth and sweet characteristics make it perfect for an exotic drink on a sizzling day.

And so, this afternoon, my palate was in for a refreshing surprise of this amazing cocktail. I didn’t need to input any sweetener or sugar as my fruits provided the natural sugars. My blender was more than ready for a  few wedges of watermelon, the juice of an orange, chopped ginger root, water and of course pieces of mango.

With a few pulses of my standing blender I was greeted with a virtuous drink of mango cocktail. As you can observe, the mango overpowered the other juicy and tasty fruits with its golden appearance. And the taste was just as bold. The warm, sweet and ripe aromas were evident in my space. Just as I expected; the drink acquired the thick consistency I was looking for.

Cheers!

FRESH MILK FROM NATURE ##FRESH COCONUT MILK

We all have (well, many of us) super busy lives. And, as a result, when it comes to our dietary needs, it makes it very challenging to sometime go the wholesome and healthy routes. It is quite easy and convenient to visit our respective neighborhood store and buy the ready-made food products on hand.

And, that’s the case with coconut milk. The marketplace is loaded with different brands of coconut milk packed in cans. Some of the popular names out there are: Grace Kennedy, Ocho Rios, Goya and more.  I like to keep a few on hand for when I’m strapped for precious time or run out of the fresh type.

However, I often opt for the fresh one as much as I can because it reminds me of my island domain, Jamaica. Coconut is a staple here and over 89 countries around the world. Top producers are India, Indonesia, Philippines and others. Studies have shown that coconut is loaded with essential nutrients that are beneficial for heart health, great energy source for the body, and many more pluses.

As a result, I do try to stock the pressed milk in my freezer in tupper wares. Thanks to my South Florida location, coconut trees flourish very well in this locale. As such, supermarkets and farmers markets stock the wholesome coconut in its shell. I always try to purchase one. I bring it home and use a hammer to break through the shell and this is what’s inside:

WHITE FLESH OF FRESH COCONUT
WHITE FLESH OF FRESH COCONUT

I use a sharp knife to cut these in sizable pieces to accommodate my standing blender. Water is poured on same and then coconut is blended to a beautiful white finish. All is need to be done it use a strainer to separate the milky liquid from the remnants of the coconut.

This coconut milk can be used in: smoothies, rice and beans, curried chicken/or goat or in any other dish that calls for milk. It will provide enormous flavors that will enhance these dishes.

MY HEART DID AN EXTRA SKIP THIS MORN ##APPLE OATMEAL WITH BLUEBERRIES/FLAX-SEEDS

I was still in a heart-healthy kind of mode this morning. They say “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. I’m no scientist; however, I do know that incorporating fresh fruits in my daily diet aid me tremendously when it comes to digestion. So, to ‘bump’ up the taste of my morning’s oatmeal, and to give my dish more fiber I decided to add a shredded apple.

In a small stockpot 2%whole milk was poured. Oatmeal was then added with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon and a splash of vanilla. This was simmered on low heat until a thick consistency was had. Then shredded apple was added. This was folded into oatmeal and allowed to simmer for another couple of minutes.

Apple oatmeal was sweetened with a couple teaspoon of dark sugar. This was then served in dish with a topping of blueberries formed in a heart-shape. And in between my blueberry heart, flax-seeds were sprinkled for more heart healthy properties. My heart and I were happy.

BREAKFAST WAS A FIBER/HEART GOODNESS #APPLE/FLAX-SEED PANCAKES

I was in a super-charge mood from my morning’s workout. The endorphins gained kept me in an upbeat mood for sometime. Thus, I went with the flow and hopped in my kitchen to make yours truly a powerhouse breakfast. I knew beforehand that the apple on my counter was heading somewhat ‘south’. I hate when that happens.

So, like the thrifty gal that I am; or perhaps I should state a restorer that I am, I decided to breathe back life. I did that by grabbing my box grater and shredded the fiber wonder. I added this to a batter made up of whole wheat and all-purpose flour and other ingredients. My mission was to make apple and flax-seed pancakes.

Ingredients:

  • whole-wheat flour (1/2 cup)
  • All purpose flour (1/2 cup)
  • Baking powder (1 tsp)
  • Flax seeds (1 tbsp)
  • Salt(pinch)
  • Cinnamon (1 tsp)
  • Milk (3/4 cup)
  • Egg (1 egg)
  • Shredded apple (1 apple)
  • Melted butter (1 tbsp)
  • Sour cream (1 tsp)
  • Vanilla (splash)
  • Pam spray
  • Fresh strawberries
  • Fresh blueberries
  • Orange slices

Method:

  1. In a bowl, dried ingredients were added to wet. These were folded together without overworking batter.
  2. In a hot skillet under low to medium heat, Pam spray was added.
  3. Each pancake was dispensed using a 1/3 measuring cup and cooked on both sides until finished.
  4. In sauce pan, chopped strawberries were added with a teaspoon of honey and squeeze of lemon.
  5. Under low heat, strawberries were reduced to a semi sauce-like consistency with chunks.
  6. Pancakes were topped with strawberry sauce.

On the side, I served fresh straw and blueberries along with orange slices.

SUPPER BECAME MY LUNCH ##LEFT-OVER CURRIED CHICKEN/PIGEON(GUNGO) PEAS/RICE

I wasn’t in the mood to prepare a meal from scratch. You see, when hunger strikes, I grab anything in sight. I guess it’s just human nature to feed the need. Moreover, I was super tired and wanted to hit the ‘sack’. There was an extra step in my gait as I made my way to my ‘gates’.

I felt great contentment knowing what I had within my fridge (well, more of my freezer). With a quick wash of my dirty hands (come to think about it, did I wash them? Yes, I did), I headed to the ‘gold mine’. Oh, I love my freezer. It didn’t take me long to retrieve the frozen delights that I would thaw to satisfy my hunger.

First I grabbed the pigeon (gungo) peas and rice and gave a rapid wet of the container under water so as to loosen it up. I placed same on a plate covered with damp paper towel. In less than four minutes, my rice and peas was piping hot and smelled quite fresh in a beautiful and fluffy bed.

Thank God for my super hot microwave. It was time for my curried chicken. I added same to a glass bowl and revisited my freezer to grab a scotch bonnet pepper. Yes, that’s where I keep my peppers so as to gain more shelf life from them. I finely chopped my pungent pepper and placed on top of frozen chicken. My microwave did not disappoint. It was on ‘fire’! The amazing aromas got to my senses.

While I allowed my chicken to cool down, I reached for a piece of nature’s butter (avocado). I just love to have that along with curried dishes. I roughly chopped in small portions and seasoned with a pinch of salt and black pepper along with a squeeze of lime for taste and to stop oxidation.

Before I consumed my supper for lunch, I warmed my palate with a cup of left-over pumpkin and carrot soup. So glad I had that in the refrigerator. I wasn’t in the mood to chop and make a veggie salad. It was time. But first, I can’t believe it, I actually went to grab a quick shower. Can you imagine that? Yes, I did. You see, after eating my curried chicken and rice and beans, I wanted to settle in a siesta type of thing.

So, on my bed of rice/pigeon peas, I added my succulent and spicy curried chicken with pieces of avocado (nature’s butter).

LEFT-OVER CURRIED CHICKEN/AVOCADO ON A BED OF PIGEON PEAS AND RICE WITH PUMPKIN/CARROT SOUP ON THE SIDE
LEFT-OVER CURRIED CHICKEN/AVOCADO ON A BED OF PIGEON PEAS AND RICE WITH PUMPKIN/CARROT SOUP ON THE SIDE

After the close-ups, (by the way,  those were done in rapid fashion), it was time. It was time to indulge; and I did. The flavors were bold, delicious and the whole dish tasted like it was freshly done.

Guys, I was over the moon. I perched in my favorite spot on the sofa and watched the trees do their perfect sways. ‘La la land made its way. Or, perhaps I should say I made my way to ‘la la’ land.  Now, supper will take care of itself.

TIPS TO EMPLOY WHILE PREPARING AND COOKING MEALS ON THE OUTSKIRTS

There’s no denying. Summer is here with full throttle. With temperatures and humidity digits on the rise, we try to seek out  ways to cool down and relax. And, one of the ways that bring us ease and comfort during these sizzling months is to gather with loved ones at barbeques, picnics, and cookouts. After all, no one wishes to spend hours in-house on the stove.

And while having fun and laughter with loved ones, it is very easy to let down our guards in regards to food safety. However, this is the time to be very cognizant as food borne illnesses tend to rise during the warmer months of the year. Some tips and habits to practice when preparing and cooking foods on the outside are:

  1. Pack and preserve protein and fruits/veggies in separate coolers.
  2. Use separate apparatus like utensils, cutting boards, and platters for preparing and cooking meals.
  3. Preserve meats and poultry longer by marinating them in (alcohol – e.g. beer or wine) and citrus/acid (e.g. lime, orange lemon, vinegar -(balsamic).
  4. Pre-cook foods at home before grilling outdoors. This move will decrease cooking time on the grill.
  5. Substitute mayonnaise for vinegar. For example, when preparing potato salad, instead of the creamy mayo use oils and vinegar. This will give salad a longer shelf life in the outdoors.
  6. Avoid creamy salad dressings for salads. Instead, use lemon or lime juice, vinegar or any other acid.
  7. Bear in mind that cooked foods start deteriorating after two hours without refrigeration. Therefore, it’s important that you try to consume foods within a two-hour time frame; otherwise, bacteria starts building up.
  8. Have a cooler with sufficient ice.
  9. Pack sanitary wipes.
  10. Make sure to have disposal cups, spoons, forks, plates, and garbage bags on hand.

Summer is a carefree time of the year. And, it’s often spent with loved ones making great memories by frolicking and bonding over delicious meals on the outskirts. With the tips above and others, you can rest assure that everyone will be safe and happy with amazing meals.

 

JUST IN TIME FOR 4TH OF JULY #ROASTED SWEET POTATOES/CORN SALAD

ROASTED SWEET POTATOES/CORN ON THE COB SALAD WITH AVOCADO (NATURE'S BUTTER) ON THE SIDE
ROASTED SWEET POTATOES/CORN ON THE COB SALAD WITH AVOCADO (NATURE’S BUTTER) ON THE SIDE

One way of using up earth’s harvest is to combine them and have a healthy and delicious feast. This recipe is just in time for Independence. It can be had as a side dish as well as a warm salad. The beautiful thing is that most of these ingredients are readily available and are in season. The marketplace is loaded with vine ripe tomatoes, corn on the cob and of course, avocados(nature’s butter).

I always try to take advantage of my freezer as much as I can. As a result, a few weeks ago I placed a couple corns on the cob in a zip lock bag in the freezer for future use. I had grilled a few for a succotash dish and boiled some in a chicken soup.Frankly, I was ‘corned’ out.

It was a rather quick defrost in the microwave. Then I went to work on my cutting board and removed the ears of corn.

CORN READY FOR ROASTING IN SKILLET
CORN READY FOR ROASTING IN SKILLET

I allowed these to dry on paper towel. Then in a hot skillet with a drizzle of olive oil, corn was added under medium heat. I made sure to constantly stir to avoid sticking. This was seasoned with salt and black pepper. Roughly chopped onion was added along with fresh thyme. In addition, chopped tomatoes were added to mix with a half teaspoon of honey.

PAN-ROASTED CORN ALONG WITH TOMATOES AND ONION
PAN-ROASTED CORN ALONG WITH TOMATOES AND ONION

On a baking sheet, bite-sized sweet potatoes and carrots were placed with a drizzle of olive oil. To that I added a pinch of salt and cinnamon. This was roasted in oven at 380 for approximately 45 minutes turning once.

ROASTED SWEET POTATOES AND CARROTS
ROASTED SWEET POTATOES AND CARROTS

Roasted sweet potatoes and carrots were then added to pan-roasted corn, tomatoes and onions.

OVEN ROASTED SWEET POTATOES/CARROTS AND PAN-ROASTED CORN AND TOMATOES
OVEN ROASTED SWEET POTATOES/CARROTS AND PAN-ROASTED CORN AND TOMATOES

Roasted salad was then garnished with fresh parsley with a serving of avocado on the side. I devoured dish with a serving of roasted jerk wings. I was over the moon.

JERK CHICKEN WINGS ALONG WITH ROASTED SWEET POTATOES/CORN SALAD AND AVOCADO
JERK CHICKEN WINGS ALONG WITH ROASTED SWEET POTATOES/CORN SALAD AND AVOCADO

THE BEGINNING OF SOMETHING AWESOME FOR LUNCH #AVOCADO/TOMATO SALAD

Nature’s butter (well, that’s what I call avocado) has been staring me in the face for the last week. You see, just by chance I was gifted a couple of avocados a week ago by a nice woman. I was reminded that it was the beginning of avocado season. I was very excited. I thought they would have ripened during the week-end; but, they didn’t.

 I placed them on my counter in a brown bag so as to hasten the ripening process. What do you know? It took those ‘guys’ exactly one week to ripe. I’m not complaining though. I was super-happy because I was in the mood for a home-made lunch.  And when I made a check on them, they were ready for me.

I immediately rinsed and sliced my way into the beautiful yellow flesh of one of nature’s butter. From the looks of it, it was perfectly ripened to my liking, firm but possessed the silky smooth touch. I couldn’t wait to dig in.  I proceeded to thinly slice and season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lime.

In addition, I added another favorite of mine, vine-ripe tomatoes. Though they were matured and juicy, they also were firm and sweet. I seasoned in similar fashion as the avocado slices. And, I drizzled a little olive oil on same along with crumbled pepper jack cheese with jalapeno.

My avocado and tomato salad needed more accompaniments. So, I reached for a couple of eggs and poached them to a soft finish for approximately 5 minutes with slightly runny yolks. I made sure to drizzle a little house vinegar in order to readily set the white of the eggs. Eggs were drained on paper towel and then drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and black pepper to my taste.

Guys, my avocado and tomato salad was not complete without a pairing of Heineken beer to quench my thirst. Moreover, on the side, I served toasted whole-grain English muffin (not in pic) with butter. I was ecstatic.

AVOCADO/TOMATO SALAD WITH CRUMBLED PEPPER JACK CHEESE WITH JALAPENO
AVOCADO/TOMATO SALAD WITH CRUMBLED PEPPER JACK CHEESE WITH JALAPENO ALONG WITH POACHED EGGS. HEINEKEN BEER ON THE SIDE

EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, ONE SHOULD’VE A SCREWDRIVER AFTERNOON #SIESTA

I couldn’t help myself. It was the middle of the afternoon. I was hot and quite weary from my ‘laboring’ as my of us do. Guys, I had an excuse; it’s my day off (well, night off). And, what does one do on their day off? I had to unwind and let my weave down. The other day, a good friend of mine brought over a bottle of vodka. I couldn’t ignore the Grey Goose on my counter. Moreover some fresh Florida oranges were perched in close proximity. You talk about a perfect match!

In rapid fashion, I squeezed a juicy orange and added same to a glass loaded with ice cubes. To that I added a shot (well, it was more of a shot and a half of vodka. I hope it wasn’t two.) Already, I was super-excited and couldn’t wait to pucker-up to this smooth and refreshing cocktail. I did a quick pull with my straw. Yes guys, I love to drink my cocktail with a straw. Hmmm, the taste was just as I thought; quite cool, citrusy and smooth.

As I went for my left-overs of curried chicken,

CURRIED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH STEAMED ASPARAGUS
CURRIED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH STEAMED ASPARAGUS

I spotted some left-over fresh pineapple juice I made over the week-end.20150628_154535 (2)

I had a perfect plan. As I reheated my curried chicken, I fetched pineapple juice. And what do you know? I added a splash and stirred. Oh, by the way, I’m having supper for lunch.  I did a second taste. Guys, I was on cloud nine. It brought back sweet memories when I used to guzzle down a few of these glasses. Oh, but not now! I’m a super conscious gal who believes in a fine balance. One or two I choose to go.

After indulging in my curried left-overs, I reached for my stiff screwdriver (well, perhaps it was more than a screwdriver).  I sipped my way to a better place. With my air-conditioning close to 69 degrees, I reached for my throw, and settled in that sweet spot on my couch. ‘La la’ land was beckoning and I had to surrender.

Cheers!