When I was very little my mother found endless way to entertain us even when the refrigerator and pantry were less than full. One of her special treats were dulces de ajonjoli and nothing cheered me up more than eating candy made by my very own mom.
Here's a quick and pretty easy way to make your own Sesame Seed Candy at home:
* Sandra has one here, it's in Spanish but just use Google to translate the page.
Recently, I received a bottle of Olive Oil from Iberia. Iberia, is a manufacturer of packaged foods, specializing in Latin cuisine. Iberia offers a wide variety of food & beverage products (EVOO, olives, rice, beans) to specialty ‘foodie’ products (aioli, blended oils, paella packets) … the list goes on.
It is a such a pretty bottle design and packaging that I didn't want to just put it away in a cabinet. I instantly thought of the achiote oil that both my mom and my sister, although my sister more so always uses to make her food look and taste amazing. Achiote oil is commonly used in Puerto Rican cuisine and gives food a sweet but nutty peppery taste.
Historically it has been valued for its coloring properties and used for body paint and even a predecessor to lipstick. It's been also been used as traditional folk medicine and in addition to being high in antioxidants and tocotrienols (belied to prevent cancer), it has antimicrobial properties. Of course, we all know that comsuming good quality olive oil on a daily basis, more commonly known as the Mediterranean diet has been shown to cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 30 percent.
DIY Achiote Oil
Chef Daisy Martinez has a pretty simple recipe here. You just heat up some achiote seeds (also referred to as annatto seeds) in the olive oil, watch carefully until the start to fizzle and then remove, cool and store. Your oil will turn an amazing reddish color and you can use it to make your rice yellow and your empanadas a golden brown.
My mom always uses a bit in her pasteles and her food is amazing. Rub a little of this on any meat you roast and it will come out looking Martha Stewart-worthy. Let me know what you think of it or if you use it.
Here's a fun video from Chef Don Davis walking you through Iberia products.
The other day while browsing the meat aisle of my local A&P Supermarket, after stocking up on healthy snacks at Trader's Joes, I spotted a package of taco seasoning labeled "Nueva Cocina® Latin" that claimed to be MSG- free, gluten free, and all-natural; all products contain no artificial ingredients or preservatives.
I am not sure if you've spotted this brand before, I certainly hadn't but I was really pleased to discover it. Keep an eye for their rice, seasonings and soup products. I hope they extend their line too and make some low sodium versions soon.
I've been on a herbal tea kick for a while. Brewing green tea or mint tea to both cleanse/detox, activate my metabolism and curb my snack-appetite. A couple of weeks ago, I received a trio of Mighty Leaf Teas from BirchBox and I was taken aback by their... Beauty.
I know it might sound weird but these might well be the prettiest tea bags I have ever come across. Their artisanal teas are packaged in specially handcraften SILKEN tea bags that are 100% compostable. Inside are whole leaf teas, herbs fruits, blossoms and spices. They also have a social responsibility section on their website where they demonstrate their initiatives and discuss their human (artist)-based philosophy. One that has garnered them innovation awards and my advocacy.
I hope you have a chance to experience this tea for yourself.
Lately, I've been on sort of "green" kick and it has spread to what I eat. While I've never been one to munch on unhealthy things ; chips or drink tons of soda, I've been considering how I can make my diet healthier overall. The other day one of my friends told me I should cut out salt of my diet, and I easily responded I didn't salt my food.
Then she asked if I used Sazon or Adobo in my food, to which I replied "of course, I do," I mean what good PuertoRican cook doesn't, right? That's when her tsk-tsking began - I went home and checked the labels and found that my adobo was obscenely high in sodium and that my sazon was not only high in salt but also contained a lot of MSG.
I did make an attempt to not use those products and my dinner turned out badly, the food was bland and missing it usual sabrosura.
I, then bought the new reduced sodium Adobo, and the "natural" Sazon to my dismay however, both products are very high in MSG. Now while some argue that MSG is not harmful, i.e., Wikipedia, it does note here as well that MSG has an addictive type of quality (read: crack) that has induced obesity in lab rats.
I also found this which doesn't seem like a very credible read but if you want to be petrified, then feel free to check it out: http://www.msgtruth.org/
So what's a girl to do, when diabetes, lupus, high blood pressure and even autism have reared their ugly head in her gene pool? Well, I decided that unless Goya and all the other ethnic seasoning companies do something serious about lowering the levels of sodium and other "ingredients/chemicals" in our food, I'm going to go the DIY route.
And, I welcome you to join me! So in that light, I'm adding some DIY seasoning recipes with no preservatives (and better for your wallet too).
A native New Yorker born to Puerto Rican & Sicilian parents in Spanish Harlem's El Barrio, Literanista is a Social Media Strategist, a published poet/writer, has worked at Hachette Book Group, Aol, Thomson Reuters and scouts the web for multicultural literary news, tech trends, innovation, working on her debut novel & about a million other things.
* All content on Literanista is strictly based on my sole personal opinion & beliefs & not those of my employer. I sometimes receive advance release copies of books, media, and products for promotion purposes.