TRYING TO KICK OFF MY DAY RIGHT #BERRY AND BANANA SMOOTHIE

Trying my utmost best to do it right. After I kicked it up on the outskirts, I ventured to my humble kitchen and whipped up a refreshing morning cocktail. As usual, my handy and reliable standing blender was patiently waiting for your truly. I had a little work for it.

I grabbed me some frozen berries in the form of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries and added them to blender. I also input a half of a ripe banana which I also had in the freezer. Whenever my ripe bananas become a little mushy and over-ripened I chop same and store in freezer.

With a splash of water and a piece of watermelon, I  pulsed and pureed my morning cocktail to sweet and fiber-filled finish. I poured into margarita glass and topped with a few blueberries. Just I had expected, it was thick (not overly), smooth and full of natural sugars from all the fruits. I was super-happy.

Cheers!

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STORMY DAY CATCH #ROASTED WHOLE SNAPPER WITH STUFFING

It was quite a precipitous day in my neck of the woods (South Florida, U.S.A.). Maybe, ‘Erika’, the tropical storm was informing me of the things to come. But, I didn’t allow her to distract me from the culinary plans that I had up my sleeves. I had ‘tunnel-vision’. I paid undivided attention to my ‘big boy’ (snapper fish) I had on hand. He needed me so I heeded to the call.

SCORED AND SEASONED SNAPPER FOR OVEN ROASTING
SCORED AND SEASONED SNAPPER FOR OVEN ROASTING

I placed him on the cutting board and scored my marks upon his firm body. I smiled feeling like an artist as I drizzled a little olive oil within and out. I also sprinkled a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper in both the head and cavity. I love to cook whole fish over the fillet version as it retains all the succulent moisture.

My plan was to make an oven roasted whole snapper fish with assorted vegetable stuffing. So, I grabbed my skillet and did a very quick saute of onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, vine-ripe tomatoes, crushed pimento and garlic, and some left-over chopped okra. I also added finely chopped scotch bonnet peppers along with thyme and scallion. I made sure to season along with salt and black pepper.

After the stuffing were cooled I added this to seasoned fish both inside the head as well as the body.

STUFFED WHOLE SNAPPER READY FOR ROASTING
STUFFED WHOLE SNAPPER READY FOR ROASTING

Of course, I had extra stuffing and I placed same adjacent to my ‘big boy’. In addition, a table-spoon of herb-butter was added on same with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Fish was placed and wrapped in parchment paper in order to give a roasting effect. Foil was placed on top of baking sheet for any spillage of sauce.

SNAPPER IN WRAPPED PARCHMENT PAPER FOR ROASTING
SNAPPER IN WRAPPED PARCHMENT PAPER FOR ROASTING

Whole snapper was placed in a pre-heated oven of 380 degrees fahrenheit for ten minutes. A few holes were poked on paper in order to allow steam to escape. After the ten minutes of roasting, parchment paper was unfolded and fish was basted with the aromatic juices released from the veggies. An additional ten minutes was given at 400 degrees.

FINISHED DISH (OVEN-ROASTED WHOLE SNAPPER) STUFFED WITH ASSORTED VEGGIES
FINISHED DISH (OVEN-ROASTED WHOLE SNAPPER) STUFFED WITH ASSORTED VEGGIES

I served my snapper with steamed coconut rice and roasted pumpkin.

STEAMED COCONUT WHOLE-GRAIN RICE AND ROASTED PUMPKIN
STEAMED COCONUT WHOLE-GRAIN RICE AND ROASTED PUMPKIN

PROTEIN MEETS AN APHRODISIAC-LIKE VEGGIE #SEARED ASPARAGUS AND EGGS

Asparagus has been around the block for hundreds of years. It is said that this super food has aphrodisiac effects; and for me, that’s music to my ears. The fact is that nutritionists have stated that these perennial vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, folate, fibers, vitamins, and diuretic effects and more nutritious properties that are beneficial for the body.

I was super-excited when I fetched approximately a  pound from the produce aisle the other day.  Moreover, the price was relatively inexpensive $3.94. I can eat these spears at anytime of the day; breakfast, lunch and dinner. They were slender in body so they were very quick to prepare and cook. After snipping the woodsy tip,  I blanched asparagus for approximately one minute in salty boiling water. Blanching is cooking quickly in liquid (water, oil, alcohol,broth, etc) and then shocking in a cold bath of water.

With a quick dry with paper towels, my asparagus spears were ready for my hot skillet. A drizzle of olive oil was placed in same under low heat along with a clove of crushed garlic. Asparagus was tossed in the garlic oil so as to absorb the aromatic flavors. With a squeeze of a little lime and a sprinkle of salt and cracked black pepper my spears were ready for consumption.

As you can observe, asparagus retained their natural green hue. I served asparagus with a couple fried eggs cooked in olive oil with the yolk still a tad runny and creamy. They provided a perfect balance to my still crispy asparagus. In addition, toasted whole-grain English muffin with strawberry spread (not in picture) was a side dish.

Guys, my palate was super happy.

A REVIST TO A HEART-HEALTY LAND #OATMEAL AND BERRIES

It was in a heart beat that I whipped up this healthy breakfast. I love oatmeal because of its whole grain properties that help to stave off the hungry pangs for an extended time. Moreover, I often try to select the coarser type (old-fashioned) over the quick and easy version as it gives a beautiful ‘bite’ to each spoon-full.

In a stockpot, 2% milk was added along with oatmeal, splash of vanilla, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. In addition, I tossed in a few raisins which gave my warm cereal an extra layer of sweetness and fiber. This was simmered on low heat for approximately eight minutes; stirring at interval to prevent sticking. When the right consistency was had, oatmeal was sweetened with a little sprinkle of brown sugar and a generous amount of cinnamon, my oatmeal was ‘kicking’.

I couldn’t complete same without the beautiful and fiber filled berries. Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are still fixtures in the marketplace. So, I took the liberty to top my heart-healthy oatmeal with nature’s bounties. After consumption, my heart and palate were in a very happy mood.

SAUTEED PICKLED RED HERRING #JAMAICAN TREAT

SAUTEED PICKLED RED HERRING SERVED WITH WHOLE-WHEAT FRIED DUMPLINGS, STEAMED CALLALOO (JAMAICAN SPINACH) AND FRIED PLANTAINS
SAUTEED PICKLED RED HERRING SERVED WITH WHOLE-WHEAT FRIED DUMPLINGS, STEAMED CALLALOO (JAMAICAN SPINACH) AND FRIED PLANTAINS

A few days aback, it was quite a Jamaican guilty-treat. Had the craving for a dish a tad salty and chock-full of flavors and aromatic spices. Decided on a traditional Jamaican dish, pickled red herring. After removing the excess sodium by rinsing and soaking in boiling water a few times, herring was ready for the next steps. The other ingredients:

  • Onions (1 small)
  • Chopped bell peppers
  • Scotch bonnet peppers (finely chopped)
  • Pimento (all spice) 1/4 tsp
  • Scallion (stalk)
  • Thyme (sprig)
  • Crushed garlic (1 clove) optional
  • Vinegar (splash)
  • Plummy tomatoes (2)
  • Canola oil

Method:

  1. In a hot skillet, a drizzle of oil was added along with onions and bell peppers. After these were translucent, tomatoes, crushed garlic, finely chopped scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, pimento were added. These were seasoned with a pinch of salt and black pepper to taste.
  2. Under low heat, red herring was added along with a splash of vinegar and pinch of sugar for balance. This was simmered with lid on for a few minutes until all the flavors blended.

Pickled red herring was served with steamed Jamaican spinach (callaloo), fried dumplings (made from combination of whole-wheat and all-purpose flours) and fried plantains.

CALIENTE! CALIENTE! I HAD TO TEMPER MY SALSA OMELET #FRESH STRAWBERRIES

It was one of those afternoons. It was one where I almost tossed in the kitchen sink. You see, I was rather ravenous and my palate called for something spicy yet filling. What did I do? I went for my bottle of store-bought salsa (the hot version). That salsa has never seen or felt a chip. Moreover, I’m not a lover of chips. Call me ‘nutty’ call me whatever. Whenever I purchase a bottle of salsa is for other reasons. And today, I felt like a salsa omelet. Si! Si!

BOTTLE OF SALSA FOR $1.99
BOTTLE OF SALSA FOR $1.99

Already I had my salsa in the refrigerator for chilling. With a mad flash I retrieved that ‘bad boy’ and warmed about three tablespoons in the microwave. I was in the mood for a protein meal with some spice to it.Eggs came to mind. Been there before and liked the taste. All I needed to do was to whisk my couple of eggs. There was no need for water or milk.

I sprinkled a pinch of salt and black pepper along with finely chopped parsley I had on hand. In a hot skillet, I drizzled olive oil and in went my egg batter under low to medium heat.

SALSA OMELET READY TO BE FLIPPED
SALSA OMELET READY TO BE FLIPPED

As soon as my egg batter was set, I spooned on my warmed salsa and did my flip. Yes, you guessed correctly some of that salsa did a little oozing. Caliente! Caliente! But, I didn’t care. I couldn’t  wait to devour. But first, I had to make a few additions.

I reached for my left-over avocado and sliced on a few pieces.I reckoned that would aid with cooling my palate and provide a smooth and flavorful addition. I felt like I was in a Mexican eatery. All that was missing was cheese and cilantro. I smiled. I didn’t allow that to bother me. I rocked my salsa omelet and garnished with parsley I had on hand. And to top it off I also added a few sliced strawberries to temper all that beautiful heat. Now, that provided a perfect balance. Ole! Ole!

BALLS AND WINES #STARBUCK’S LATEST

Our friendly and perky neighborhood coffee-house is at it again. Not too long ago, their coffee baristas came knocking at our doors, delivering our purchased brews. Now, Starbucks wants to lure us to their joints to sip locally craft beers and our favorite red and white wines. Action begins at 4p.m. until closing time. They call it ‘Evenings’ at Starbucks.

In selected locations in South Florida, and dozens nationwide, Starbucks has added tempting protein bites like skewered chicken and meatballs with basil and sauce to their menus. They also will also be adding sides of truffle macaroni and cheese, bacon-wrapped dates and flat breads.

With everything, there is a cost factor. These small food plates cost $2.50 to $7.00. And, be prepared to fork out $5.00 to $6.00 for a craft beer. As for your favorite Pinot grigio, Pinot noir, Merlot, Sauvignon blanc, etc. those will put you back $8.00 to $14.00.

Guys, don’t worry, they promise the right ambiance. Bottoms up!!

THE COLLIDING OF OMEGA AND BETA-CAROTENE #SALMON AND SWEET POTATO CAKES

I was a bit strapped for precious time. As such, I wasn’t in the mood to separate dishes. I knew I wanted something quick, tasty and nutritious. All roads led me to my pantry for the stash of canned goods. Couldn’t miss the bright red can of salmon; so I grabbed.

I reached for a couple sweet potatoes and gave a quick scrub. Thank God for microwave ovens. They come in quite handy when you really need them. With a few pricks on potatoes, I stuck them in oven for a five-minute cooking of same. My mind was on salmon and sweet potato cakes. I love combining both. Moreover, they are both heart-healthy and would keep me satiated for sometime.

SOME OF THE MAIN INGREDIENTS FOR SALMON(CANNED) AND SWEET POTATO CAKES
SOME OF THE MAIN INGREDIENTS FOR SALMON(CANNED) AND SWEET POTATO CAKES

Other ingredients were:

  • Egg (white)
  • Bread crumbs (1/4 cup)
  • Salt/black pepper to taste
  • Cinnamon (pinch)
  • Olive oil or any oil for frying
  • Lime juice (fresh)
  • Sour cream (dollop)

Method:

  1. In a bowl, egg was beaten with a squeeze of lime juice.
  2. Salmon was added to egg white after liquid was drained. Then finely chopped bell peppers and onions were added along with salt, black pepper and bread crumbs.
  3. After skin from sweet potatoes was removed, these were roughly crushed with a fork and a sprinkle of cinnamon added.

    PREPPING FOR SALMON/SWEET POTATO CAKES
    PREPPING FOR SALMON/SWEET POTATO CAKES
  4. Crushed sweet potatoes were added to mixture in bowl and gently folded together.
  5. Patties were formed.

    PATTIES READY FOR PAN-FRYING
    PATTIES READY FOR PAN-FRYING
  6. In a hot skillet olive oil was added along with a clove of garlic(optional) for extra flavoring.
  7. Patties were pan-fried on medium heat on both sides until they were crispy on the outside and cooked on the internal.

Salmon (canned) and sweet potato cakes were served with vine-ripe tomatoes and nature’s butter (avocado). A wedge of lime and a dollop of sour cream were added.

SALMON (CANNED) AND SWEET POTATO CAKES WITH SIDES OF AVOCADO AND TOMATOES
SALMON (CANNED) AND SWEET POTATO CAKES WITH SIDES OF AVOCADO AND TOMATOES

SPICY AND COLORFUL FEST #ESCOVITCHED SNAPPER

It was quite a spicy and colorful treat a few evenings ago.  I wasn’t in the mood to count calories. After all, it was another ‘cheat’ day of mine. So, what did I do? I went island mon! Yes, it was back to basics for yours truly. I reckon the celebratory mood was still within. You see, August 6 was the official day when Jamaica celebrated her 53rd year of independence. And I decided to continue in my way; in the kitchen.

I guess I just wanted an excuse to cook a favorite of mine. And though this dish is popular during the Easter period, it’s cooked all year-round. I love an escovitched fish dish. When growing up, it was a staple in our kitchen and is still is. Thus, I didn’t hesitate to do a ‘throw-down’ with my ‘catch’. The ingredients were:

  • Snapper fish (2 whole) [cut into 3 slices]
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Pimento/all spice (1 tsp) [crushed]
  • Carrot (1 large) [cut into strips]
  • Bell peppers (wedges) [cut into strips]
  • Onions (1 med) [sliced into circles]
  • Scotch bonnet peppers
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Thyme (stuffing)
  • Sugar (1/2 tsp)

Method:

  1. Fish was rinsed and dried with paper towel. Then slices were seasoned with salt and black pepper to taste and stuffed with thyme for extra flavors.
  2. In a sturdy skillet, canola oil was added with a clove of garlic for flavor. Garlic was then discarded.
  3. Under medium heat, fish slices were fried on both sides until flaky on the inside and crispy on the exterior.
  4. Fish slices were drained on paper towel to remove excess oil.

Escovitched sauce:

  1. In small stockpot, vinegar, splash of water, fresh squeeze of lime,sugar, pinch of salt and black pepper, crushed pimento were added and brought to a boil.
  2. Vegetables and other spices were added. On low heat, pot with lid was simmered for approximately five minutes.

Fried fish slices were then topped with escovitched veggies and sauce. For extra color and additional veggies, I decided to add a few steamed okra in on the mix. Why not? It’s celebration.

DOUBLE TROUBLE ##BRANDY-ROASTED FIGS AND BUTTER PECAN ICE-CREAM

A few days ago, I was gifted a 16 ounce package of Black Mission figs grown in California. You see, some of Publix Supermarkets in my locale (So. Florida, U.S.A.) have these for sale (buy 1 get 1 free). There is a saving of about $5.99. These summer treats are available at the current rate through August 12 to 18. A pound of fresh figs averages between $3.00 to $6.00 depending on where.

Anyway, figs have two seasons: mid-fall and late-summer. Clearly, these were at their peak because they were very mature and a few were even oozing quite a bit. I couldn’t help myself; I did a quick rinse and devoured two to three. They were super-sweet. I had to pull myself away from them. As I placed the package in the refrigerator, I got a culinary brain storm.

I decided to roast them. At the time I couldn’t decide on a savory or sweet version; however, my peripheral left vision caught the left-over brandy. And, immediately I decided on dessert. I grabbed my chopping board and went to work and removed the stem from each fig and sliced them in halves.

FRESH FIGS CUT IN HALVES ALONG WITH MINT
FRESH FIGS CUT IN HALVES ALONG WITH MINT

Other ingredients:

  • Dark sugar (1 tbsp)
  • Honey (1 tbsp)
  • Cinnamon (sprinkle)
  • Olive oil (drizzle)
  • Salt (pinch)
  • Fresh mint (1 tbsp) with sprig for garnish)
  • Brandy (1/4 cup)
  • Pam spray

Method:

  1. All ingredients were combined in a bowl.
  2. Mint was finely chopped and added to mixture. Then, this was toss over figs and gently rubbed into fruits.
  3. Baking dish was sprayed with Pam spray and each fig was turned cut-side down in one layer along with brandy liquid.

    FIGS READY FOR ROASTING
    FIGS  GETTING READY FOR ROASTING
  4. In 400 degree pre-heated oven, figs were roasted for 15 minutes covered with foil. And for the last 10 minutes, the foil was removed.

The figs released their own juices and added to the brandy liquid. The two combination left a thick and syrup-like consistency full of aromatic flavors.

ROASTED FIGS WITH FRESH MINT AS GARNISH
ROASTED FIGS WITH FRESH MINT AS GARNISH

It was double-trouble for yours truly. I decided to pair same with a scoop (well 2-3 small scoops) of butter pecan ice-cream. Oh, I was in heaven!

BRANDY-ROASTED FIGS AND BUTTER PECAN ICE-CREAM WITH A GARNISH OF FRESH MINT
BRANDY-ROASTED FIGS AND BUTTER PECAN ICE-CREAM WITH A GARNISH OF FRESH MINT