Showing posts with label Home. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Home. Show all posts

Monday, December 29, 2014

Home Grown

Because a place can do many things against you, and if it's your home or if it was your one at one time, you still love it. [Even if it only exists in the memories inside of you and is no longer a real place on a map] That's how it works. 
- Cristina Henriquez, The Book of Unknown Americans

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Epic Triple Layer Banana Pineapple Cake with Ginger-Pineapple Filling

After spotting Ken's from HungryRabbitNYC amazing looking Banana Pineapple Cake on Pinterest, I was inspired to make my own version for my SO's birthday.

I am not going to lie the recipe seemed quite intense and it took me hours to prepare and finish this cake but I have to say not only was I impressed with the results, I actually felt proud of being able to create it.

Maybe it's because I miss eating butter but the Ginger Milk Frosting was so good, I wanted to eat bowls of it alone. The filling tasted like store bought candy sauce.

A lot of times you see amazing things pinned and then you try them and either they're a huge flop, a waste of time or just not as easy as you thought it looked.

I was short of some ingredients and I often like to go rogue when following a recipe: I ended up using 1 lb of frozen pineapple instead of 3 lbs, I added in applesauce to try to make up the difference. I used honey, agave, molasses and regular sugar where I was short of light brown sugar. I used nonfat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. I decorated my cake differently. I used Seven Tiki Spiced Rum because it was all we had on hand. I didn't use a mixer or processor, I did everything by hand. I made this cake my own.

And there is a certain pride that comes with this.

Perhaps, it is a remnant from my mother's poor, rural upbringing in Ponce, Puerto Rico, or even my grandmothers' before her but the thing is you make do, you work with what you have and you waste nothing. You don't have to follow the rules, they're are just parameters after all. Resilience, grit, creativity, those are the things my mom consigned to me, as I watched her cook every day from my perch on the kitchen counter as a small child.

As much as she could, she used fresh ingredients, never from a box, and made everything from scratch. It's ironic to me that this  farm to table/DIY mentality is in vogue now especially with scrappy millennials, affluent hipsters and the Whole Foods/Trader Joe's folks. I mean my mom saved every jar, plastic tub and button from going in the trash bin because tu nunca sabes.

Not only was I really mindful but I made a serious effort to put everything I had into baking this cake, this labor of love. My mom used to always tell me that the most important ingredient to add to your food was love and lately with all the talk of mindful eating, I've resolved to mindfully cook the hell out of this cake.

My Ginger Pinapple Filling was amazing!
We have such a deep connection with the food we eat and our memories and senses. It brings to mind, the stories of Like Water for Chocolate where the food was imbued with the emotions of whomever cooked it.

I recall that various tribes of American Indians not only thanked the animals they hunted for sustaining them but also treated and prepared them very respectfully. I've always loved this idea, not of thanking some abstract religious figure but the organism who we are actually consuming.

Ginger Milk Frosting
It took me several hours to bake the cake, at point I had to leave the house to get more ingredients for the frosting. I had to let the layers cool off, I had to make the filling and then make the frosting. I was grateful for the summer Friday hours that day.

It was hot in the kitchen and we hadn't put our AC in yet. I hadn't decorated nor even made a cake in a very long time. It was hard to stack the cake and keep the frosting from melting but it worked out. It was pretty intense but this cake turned out phenomenally.

My version of Triple Layer Banana Pineapple Cake with Ginger-Pineapple Filling
The birthday boy thought so too. I knew I had done well when he kept repeating how very sweet I was. We broke our pre-wedding diets that weekend with this fabulous cake made from scratch but steeped with love.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Author & Educator, Jose Vilson, on Fatherhood

I recently asked fellow blogger, Jose Vilson (@TheJLV), his thoughts on Machismo, Fatherhood and the how the transition into becoming a "family man" changes you as person.

Here's Jose in his words:

Fatherhood isn't just a badge or something that happens when our children are born. It's a way of life. 

When my child was first born, and he shook the room with his first cries, I knew I was in for an awesome life-long journey. Within the first few days, he already peed on me, vomited on me, and pooped on me, which was a lesson in humility. It's as if a divine spirit said, "The things you thought would normally offend you are a natural part of your baby's growth. Love him anyways." So I did, and then some. Within the first few months, you're inundated with sleepless nights, diaper changes, and multiple places for your baby's sleep, including the couch, your bed, his bed, your leg, your chest, and anywhere else that the baby deems soft.

The Vilson Family (Courtesy of Jose Vilson)
When people say, "Everything changes," and it's absolutely true. I push myself harder to do right in everything I do because I have a child now, and the stakes are higher. Having a child means my schedule revolve around my son now. Gone are the days of spontaneous happy hours and movie premieres. Yet, I'm glad I gave it up for the running around, the laughter, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse viewings. I find myself doing Dora the Explorer impressions because my son thinks it's funny.

The thing I've noticed with my fatherhood is that I didn't have my father growing up too much. I saw him on average once a year. While I've come to peace with his role in my life, I also know I wanted to do better. Being there for my son, even when I have to handle other responsibilities, is priority #1. He doesn't have too many words in his vocabulary, but making sure he knows I love him. He has lots to learn, and I'll be there for those lessons.

He has a great mother, and I appreciate the way she loves and cares for him. What I needed to do is create a new fatherhood, one that I hadn't seen before, and that would match what she was trying to do and then some.  It's a beautiful thing and I'd never turn back the clock on any of this experience.


Jose Vilson is a math educator, writer, and activist in a New York City public school. You can find more of his writing at and his book, This Is Not A Test, will be released in the spring of 2014.

José Vilson writes about race, class, and education through stories from the classroom and researched essays. His rise from rookie math teacher to prominent teacher leader takes a twist when he takes on education reform through his now-blocked eponymous blog, He calls for the reclaiming of the education profession while seeking social justice.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Aromatic Water: Rose Recipes & Agua Florida

Last week, I saw a post for 20 Unusual Uses for Rose Water and it reminded me of the recipes in Like Water for Chocolate by Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel, and also of the Agua Florida that my aunts splashed around the house (and everything else) back in the day - which my mom detested.

Cover of "Like Water for Chocolate"

Recipe: Rose Petal Sauce for Hens

* Makes 6 servings

12 red or pink organic roses' petals
1 cup chopped walnuts 
3 cups chicken broth, or as needed (I use the No Sodium, organic type)
2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I switched to Coconut Oil)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground anise seed
3 prickly pears (cactus fruit, Nopal), peeled and chopped (tasted like Watermelon)


- Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add garlic, and saute until fragrant, 2 or 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and anise, and cook for another minute to blend the flavors.
- In the container of a blender or food processor, combine the prickly pears, rose petals (reserving a few for garnish) and walnuts. Pour in just enough broth to cover. Cover, and process until smooth.
- Pour the rose petal mixture into the saucepan with the garlic. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring gently. If the sauce is too thick, add more broth as needed. Mix in the honey, then taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper or anise if desired. Serve poured over poultry, garnishing with a few rose petals.

Via AllRecipes

THE ONE AND ONLY: Agua de Florida - Murray y L...
 (Photo : youflavio)
For those of you not familiar with Agua Florida or Florida Water, I found this guide very interesting.

It's been around since 1808 and has been used for spiritual cleansing in addition to being used as fragrance just as long.

Do remember this in your house?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Crush it en la Cocina! A Pilón/Molcajete Giveaway

I've always been fascinated by pilóns, the wooden mortar and pestles, so commonly used in Latin cuisine that I'm instantly taken to my mother's kitchen as she crushed garlic and oregano in a teeny bit of olive oil and salt to make her dishes like pernil or mofongo amazing.

In fact, I've started collecting my own array of these traditional tools sometimes made of ceramic, stone, metal or wood and used to crush, grind, and mash ingredients, medicines, herbs and seasonings. There is something so powerful about the act of grinding nature's bounty, almost like an alchemist, with your own two hands in a way that your ancestors have for thousands of years.

Italians used mortars and pestles since the 15th Century in apothecaries, the Molcajete or Mexican version dates back to over 6,000 years ago, Aztec and Maya cultures and is made literally of the earth, from volcanic rock. The Thais usage dates back to the 13th Century.

IMUSA, which specializes in Hispanic cookware and appliances, recently reached out to me about their line calderos (dutch oven pots), griddles & sauté pans, tostoneras, authentic molcajetes, empanada makers, tortilla warmers, salsa dishes and much more. They have some really great products that celebrate both the culture and cuisine of Latinos.

Honestly, some of these kitchen items are so cool and beautiful that they make perfect gifts. They have been kind enough to sponsor a giveaway for Literanista readers - more below on how to win one of three Lava Rock Molcajetes: Made from ultra-durable natural volcanic lava rock, this mortar and pestle set is large enough to grind up a party-size batch of guacamole, then mix and serve it in the same bowl. ($59.99 at Macy’s) Enter to win one below and help my blog gain more visitors:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Guacamole and avocado are some of my favorites, just take a look at my Literanista Eats Pinterest Board to see what I mean but having these in your home makes so many healthy, fresh foods even a Mojito easy to make quickly.


You might also like:
Latina Cooking: Healthy & Low Fat Versions
6 Books About Food Every Latina Should Read
Have You Tried Nueva Cocina Foods Yet?
New Book: Gran Cocina
Just Say "No" to MSG - DIY Recipes for Adobo, Sofrito & Sazon
Sonia Sotomayor's Favorite Dish

Friday, May 21, 2010

Damn, She's on Fire!

Perhaps I will give this one the same amount of thought, analysis, and critique as I did here: Tostitos Salsa & the Carmen Miranda/Chiquita Banana/Sexy Señorita Image

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Flan v. Tembleque

I am reading Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell in preparation to see the Julie and Julia movie next month.

For those of you, who aren't familiar with the book, it's based on a blog created by Julie Powell.

The book is sumptuous; it's written superbly, intelligent and funny. While reading about Powell's fear of eggs (sorry, you will have to read the book) it reminded me of my dislike of Flan.

Flan, "Crème caramel, or caramel custard is a rich custard dessert with a layer of soft caramel on top, as opposed to crème brûlée, which is custard with a hard caramel top."

Some might consider this Latina blasphemy, but the runny texture makes my stomach flop.

I prefer coconut pudding or Tembleque as Puerto Ricans call the light coconut custard that shakes like Jell-O. Jiggle it, baby!

Here's an easy recipe:

If you like to follow food blogs, here's a lovely one with awesome recipes and photos:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Latina Cooking: The Healthy & Low Fat Version

Many of Mami's recipes are tried and true and extremely delicious but it's with a heavy heart (literally) that I often look inside her kitchen and see the stuff she is using to make them.

Here are my suggestions to make the same dishes (only healthier, lower fat, carbohydrate, sodium and caloric versions)

* most of this applies to any ethnic diet

- Ditch the manteca/lard! (seriously, I can't believe people still use this stuff)

- Read the labels! If you use Achotina to flavor your food, you should know it contains lard.

- When you start reading labels you will notice the high amounts of sodium in some of our favorite keystone products; like adobo, bouillon, etc. Either buy the lower sodium versions or make your own and don't add any salt to your dishes. Also rinse your canned beans.

- Cook with canola or olive oil only or a use a mister. They are much healthier for you and remember not to use so much, a tablespoon will do.

- Rice, we love it don't we? If you have to eat white rice, serve yourself a cup (the size of your fist - well, my fist - I have little hands) not a half-plate full. If you want to really go healthy, try using brown rice. I usually make mine with some homemade sofrito and boil it with some low sodium chicken broth.

- Make your own condiments when you can. First off they taste so much better fresh and you can completely keep track of what is going in there. Make your own mojo, sofrito, salsas, dry adobo, flavored oils, vinaigrette, etc., I like to drop a couple of achiote seeds into a separate jar with oil to make very reddish and paprika flavored oil - great for yellow rice.

- Use lean meats, clean and trim the fat.

- Eat fish at least once a week (and not fried).

- Instead of frying; try broiling/grilling, steaming or sauteing.

- Use butter/margerine sparringly - in most cases olive oil and/or cooking spray will substitute.

- Use turkey sausage and bacon as a replacement for fattier pork versions. For even healthier versions, make your own turkey sausages.

- Use low fat dairy and cheeses or use soy products instead.

- Reverse your daily intake of food. If you were brought up like me, then a typical breakfast at home was a piece of bread or crackers with a piece of cheese and cafecito. Lunch was something filling enough to send you to bed and dinner was sort of in between. This cultural phenomenon worked well when we left for the fields at the rooster's crow and could take siestas but that isn't the case anymore.

Begin your day with a full blown breakfast. It's going to power your day! Fruit, protein, fiber should all be components. Coffee is actually fine too. It actually helps your metabolism. Lunch should be your big meal, if your are eating carbs, this is when you should eat them so your body has time to digest them and use up the sugars. Dinner should be really light. Some protein and some veggies or a salad.

- Make your own delicious fruit and low fat smoothies for breakfast and snacks.

- Don't eat after 7 pm. I know most of us are not even home by then but you should eat your last meal at least three hours before you turn in. And if, you need a midnight snack, cereal or a yogurt is good.

- Ditch the white bread. Look for whole wheat breads and if you like to bake your own look for diabetic bread/biscuit recipes.

- Ditch the soda (sorry cola champagne). You don't need it. Drink lots of water. Be cautious with the fruit juices too - they have tons of sugar and calories. You can cut down on the juice by adding seltzer water (plain carbonated water) to half a glass of juice to fool your self into drinking more water and less sugars.

- Be on the lookout for low-carb, baked versions of your favorite snacks. You can find low-carb wheat tortillas in many places as well as baked tortilla chips. You can also make your own.

- Sweet potatoes are healthier than regular potatoes and if you want to ditch the potatoes all together cauliflower is a good substitute for mashing.

- There are many low-starch/carbohydrate veggies to use more of : squash, chiles, quelites, nopales, jicama, yucca, tomatillos, and chayotes.

- Accompany your meals with some veggies and nice green salad daily. Go heavy on the greens and light on the carbs.

Have fun and be creative! You can easily make any meal healthier.

Want to make some empanadas? Just like Mami's but so much better for you. Instead of ground beef try ground turkey and instead of frying them try baking them. Yes, baking them. You can see a recipe here: weight-watchers-points-recipes. Just use turkey instead of beef.

You can still eat your tostones, just don't deep fry them. Instead fry in a bit of canola oil and drain off the extra oil. Or how about some Oven Fried Yucca?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

More Mother's Day Ideas

- If you hurry, you can still create a customized cookbook with all of Mami's recetas favoritas at You can add family photos, stories, and organize all her recipes. Not only that but you create a timeless keepsake that will inspire and touch everyone.
If you are in NYC, you can take Mami to a fabulous obra: Doña Flor Y Sus Dos Maridos

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Latina Thanksgiving Dinner

I often like to take dishes and put a latin spin on them.

My mom's turkey stuffing, which is delectable and I try to make it the same way, includes chayote and sazon. This Thanksgiving I found some fantastic recipes to help spread this idea and I'd like to share those with you:

Adobo Turkey with Red-Chile Gravy via Epicurious

Pumpkin-Coconut Pie via Latina

Turkey with Southwest Stuffing (*Not my mom's recipe, I'm keeping that a secret)

Some more ideas:

Caribbean Thanksgiving Menu

Coquito - Rum Eggnog

Pumpkin Flan

Mofongo Stuffing

Adobo Dry Rub & Sofrito with Culantro for the turkey
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