Lucky New Year Foods

Happy New Year! The above dish was made by my nephew Michael. And, this goes to show that tradition never fades. This dish was certainly a dish my mom made every New Years Eve. It signifies lots of luck for the new year. However, most families that I know, always have black eye peas and collards for luck in the new year. It just really made me proud that my nephew continues the tradition with his family. And, I know my mom, his grandma would be proud!

He’s brought tradition to a whole new level. The plating is beautiful, and I know it taste awesome!

All the best to everyone in this New Year 2022!

Country fried smothered pork chops!

Smothered pork chop

Happy New Year everyone. I know it’s been a while since my last post. However, it’s never too late to share some good recipes. Well, it looks like the pandemic has picked up again. Don’t mean to be sarcastic, life is still so different as we knew it. Yet, we are still dealing with the unknown of how our world is turning.

When I hear that the country is “lightly” locking down. I think of “ok, quarantine time again.” At least I’m not having an anxiety attack when I continue to hear the word “pandemic” or, “numbers are up.” I actually think of being home and cooking some good food! Hey! We have to still make the best of what’s going on in the world. Cooking is my staying calm and collected in a situation I have no control over.

Although, I would rather be traveling, and experiencing tasting dishes from other Countries. I will do my best to bring you recipes that have a meaning to my culture and other cultures. Especially, cultures that are right here in my own country.

Although this dish “country fried southern pork chops” would probably be considered a “southern dish”, and that it is! However, the “sauce is French. My take on that situation is that after the Louisiana trade, Louisiana, especially New Orleans still kept their French ways of cooking. The sauce is called etouffee. Basically, a roux (rue). This sauce is one of the first things you’ll make in culinary school. I always knew I’d make it again. It’s so hearty and delicious!

Although my “country fried smothered pork chops” is an American dish. It was derived from France. I like that! The idea of cultures, especially food recipes that can stay alive and reach delicious possibilities of so many families. It’s such an infinite process of our world.

Ingredients

4 bone-in half inch pork chops

Flour for dredging

Seasonings – adobo, garlic powder, sazon, salt & pepper.

1/2 cup Oil for frying

Roux ingredients

2/3 cup flour

3 tablespoons butter

5 or 6 cups water or chicken stock

I whole white onion

Salt and pepper to taste

Pork chops drippings

How to make

Season the pork chops with all the dry ingredients. add oil to frying pan, let get hot, dredge pork chops in flour and fry 5 minutes on each side. Place in I’ve for 10 to 15 minutes.

Set pork chops aside and use pork drippings to make your roux.

Add the flour to drippings and whisk add butter and onions (cook onions through). Cook down for few minutes then add the water or stock, and cook for few more minutes. Note: more stock may have to be added as the roux should have a thick, yet loose consistency.

Add salt,!pepper and garlic powder to taste.

Country fried smothered pork chops

Add pork chops to roux or plate it by pouring over chops in a platter. Enjoy!

Bean thread/Pad Thai

Bean thread Pad Thai

This dish takes me back almost 30 years. I remember when I was working as a secretary in downtown Brooklyn. Every pay day, a coworker and I use to splurge for lunch, and we’d go to this Taiwan restaurant. I’d order this noodle dish, every week. However, it took me a while to work my way to trying a different culture of food. I was use to Chinese food that was usually the whole in the wall restaurant, where my idea of an Asian dish was chicken wings and pork fried rice. But, it’s not the Resturant’s fault that they have to adapt to what the neighborhood whats the most. However, my horizons were limited.

I forgot the name of the Taiwanian restaurant. But, I believe it plays an important role in my culinary enthusiasms. Because, each week I went there, it pushed me to order something that I felt would be more flavorful than the dish I had last week.

Enter pad Thai and bean thread noodles. Oh yes! And, the freshness of vegetables like scallion and cucumber. Never knew that vegetables can actually add exotic flavors to a dish.

I made this dish to purposely bring my taste buds back to something for me that really just taste good!

Ingredients

Bean thread noodles (2 bundles)

Shrimp 2 cups

Cucumbers 1 cup

Scallions 1 cup

Cabbage (salad bag for convenience) 1 cup

Carrots 1/2 cup

Cilantro 1 cup

Fish sauce 4 tablespoons

Sesame oil 4 tablespoons

Soy sauce

Salt and pepper

How to make

This dish is actually very easy to make. Frying chicken is more complicated.

Prepare the noodle as the instructions on the packet. Use 2 average bundles.

Cut up your vegetables, medium dice, also for convenience, get the salad pre made, so much easier then cutting up a whole cabbage. Also, for convenience, get precooked shrimp.

If you have a wok, perfect! If you don’t no problem. Regular pan will do fine. Add your 4 table spoons fish sauce, and, 4 tablespoons sesame oil. Let heat up a little, then throw your shrimps, veggies, then noodles. Splash soy sauce as needed, make sure noodles are covered completely with soy sauce.

Use tongs or flat flipping pancake turner. Add little salt and pepper. Make sure all ingredients are incorporated.

This dish is also healthy. Anything with this much veggies is no question. Enjoy!

Easy as Pie! Holiday edition!

It’s a pandemic holiday! And, I still was able to add a holiday desert to my list. I’m purposely trying to make light of things. It’s a different world we’re living in today, and I’m trying to make the best of it (without going into a panic attack).

Cheesecake! Yes, I made a strawberry cheesecake! This was not my first time at the rodeo, making cheesecake, however, I bought a 9 inch springform pan, because with my OCD I felt it needed to be perfect!

Auntie Fran’s Strawberry Cheesecake!

Auntie Fran’s Strawberry Cheesecake

Ingredients

Three packs of Philadelphia cream cheese

1 1/2 cup of sour cream

2 cups of sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

3 eggs

Crust Ingredients

1 box of gram crackers

1/2 cup of melted butter

Strawberry compote ingredients

Fresh box of strawberries (leave out about ten to place over the pie)

1/4 cup corn starch

1 cup of sugar

2 cups water

How to make

I love my kitchen aid! Mix cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and vanilla extract in bowl. You can use a hand mixer or kitchen aid. Add the eggs last, after mixture is completely combined and smooth.

For crust, I used my nutra blend to break down the crackers. Added the melted butter, and fluffed it out.

First, evenly pat down the gram cracker crust to your 9 inch springform pan (I put aluminum foil in the pan, for easy transfer to a plate, after bake.

Second, add your beautiful mixture of cream cheese to the pan. Bake for an hour and 10 minutes. Let cool down a bit before putting in fridge.

Cut up your fruit/strawberries in any decoration, shape or size you like and get creative.

To make the strawberry compote, add water, strawberries, sugar and cornstarch in a pot. Boil for 10 to 15 minutes, let cool, then blend.

Check out my holiday pies below. They’ll bring a smile to anyone’s face!

Let me introduce you to my Mom’s southern sweet potato pie, and this delectable fruit tart pie I learned how to make in Culinary school, however, since the holidays that just past, (because I’ve made so many of them), I’ve perfected my fruit tart pies to my own liking. Culinary school just gave me the tools, it’s up to me create on that foundation.

Just let me give you a bit of my Mom’s family history, my Mom grew up in a small town in North Carolina, (Greensboro). My Mom learned everything from her Mom, and I from her. I feel blessed, My Mom and Grandma although inadvertently not knowing, was bringing down tradition. I say that, because in the 1920’s and 30’ there was no time to bombarded with happily passing down traditions, survival was more of a fitting attitude back I those days. Unfortunately, going to work as a cook and housekeeper at a young age for my Ma was a reality. Fast forward to when I was a kid in the kitchen with my Ma, was always fun time for me. Whatever my Ma did during the struggle, or the depression era, her teaching me her crafts in the kitchen overcame what sad feelings, (if she had any) long gone. When my Ma and me cooked, baked, braised, and seasoned, was the best times in my life. My Ma was an eager beaver to show me how to cook. I cherish the memories and the recipes.

Momma Louise Sweet Potato Pie:

Ingredients

5 pounds of sweet potatoes

2 1/2 cups of sugar

3 eggs

1 cup of evaporated milk

2 table spoons vanilla extract

2 table spoons nutmeg

2 table spoons cinnamon

1 stick (half a cup) of butter with or without the salt

This recipe yields 2 pies

How to make:

Boil sweet potatoes until they are soft enough to put a fork through them

When sweet potatoes are done, let them cool. They should be easy to peel at this time

Use a hand mixer, and mix until you have a medium soft consistency, (get out all the lumps, and you may have to add a little more milk to get that medium soft consistency). Add all your ingredients, maintaining your soft consistency (note) you may have to add more sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

Fill your pie crust, (I use already made prepared pie crust). Some may consider this cheating, I don’t, because it’s made from real dough, sugar, eggs etc. smooth the top with a spoon or flat frosting spatula. Oven at 350 degrees. Bake for 45 minutes.

Auntie Fran’s delectable sweet tart

Ingredients for the Pastry cream

2 1/2 cups of whole milk

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup of sugar

3 slices of butter

1 table spoon vanilla extract

1/4 cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt

This recipe yields two 9 inch pie or six 3 inch mini’s

How to make:

Bring milk to a boil.

While milk is boiling, whisk together all the eggs, sugar, and cornstarch in a separate bowl.

When the milk starts to boil, remove from heat, pour in half milk into your egg mixture, whisk together, then combine with the rest of the milk that’s in the pot, and add vanilla extract and butter slices.

The mixture should thicken up quickly. Let cool and transfer your pastry cream into a bowl.

To prevent your pastry from forming a film at the sides of the bowl, layer plastic wrap literally on top of the pastry cream, and immediately put in fridge to firm up. Pastry cream can be used in about an hour.

Ingredients for Crust

2 1/2 cups AP flour

2 egg yolk & 1 whole egg

1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter (soft)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Note: if you have a Kitchen aid, this can make all the difference. However, you’ll have to put in the work to mix it all by hand. However, it can be done.

Mix butter and sugar in kitchen aid mixer. If mixing by hand, add flour to bowl first, than add butter and sugar.

Once butter and sugar are combined throughly, add vanilla.

Combine flour and salt and mix with a fork throughly.

Combine all ingredients (may have to add a little more flour) to get a cookie Dough consistency.

On a flat surface, sprinkle some flour and knead your dough, not too much. Wrap your dough in plastic wrap, and put in fridge. Can be used in an hour. Dough will keep in fridge for couple days.

Roll out on a flat surface with a little flour, and start layering and fitting dough in your tart pans. (I prefer to use the removal bottom tart pans).

Oven at 350 degrees. Bake your dough for 20 minutes.

Let cool and add your pastry cream. The fruit you use is totally up to you. I like using as many bright colors as I can. However, you can never go wrong with strawberries.

I make mini’s too!

Duck Confit! My Culinary School Daze

Duck Confit served with white rice, spinach, mushrooms, and my homemade ginger sauce.

Don’t get me wrong, but there were some days in culinary school when I had some Bad days. And, some days were like Heaven’s gate opened up for delicious recipes that went great!

Duck Confit pronounced (Con-fee) is poultry I never cooked, before culinary school. I’ve had duck before, when I use to work near Chinatown! I remember having it with plain white rice, and a delicious ginger sauce that came with it on the side.

However, in culinary school, I learned so much about duck, because it’s considered a French dish. And, most culinary schools are somewhat organized in the way the French prepares its students for professional kitchens.

With that said, I wanted to be brave enough to cook duck on my own. In school there’s a head chef looking over you, so it’s a controlled environment. Duck Confit is just duck rendered/cooked in its own fat! However, the fat from the duck is saved. Because, it is so delicious, and savory that if you don’t use it to cook with other foods, like sautéing vegetables, or baking potatoes. It would be considered a great travesty, and shock against the culinary world.

Slice duck over rice and spinach
Crispy skin Duck Confit

Ingredients

4 Duck Breast

Salt

Pepper

How to make

Clean, then salt pepper the duck on both sides. Place duck on skin side first, pan does not have to be hot. Please do not add any oil to pan.

Cook on both sides for 4 minutes each, at least skin side until golden brown and little crispy. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Continue to cook in oven for 8-10 minutes.

Let rest, then slice, the color should be a nice beautiful pink.

Serve with so white rice and sautéed mushrooms and spinach. Any vegetable will do.

Ginger and scallion sauce

I love the ginger and scallion sauce! It is the most flavorful, and delicious. It’s so perfect for the duck dish.

Ingredients

Ginger

Scallions

1 cup vegetable oil

2 tbl Salt

How to make

Cut vegetables small dice. One cup of ginger and one cup of scallions. Add salt and mix with vegetables.

Boil oil until it’s literally smoking, however let cool for 2 minutes before adding to ginger and scallion.

Place vegetables in heat resistant bowl and add hot oil.

Vala, you have a delicious ginger sauce, that goes great with any poultry or meats!

I hope you enjoy making this dish, I sure did. The flavors of the duck took me back to my culinary school days, and the sauce took me back to Chinatown!

Summer Sweets/Christmas in July! My Momma’s Peach Cobbler!

Had a craving for my Mother’s peach cobbler! Funny tho, my Mom only made peach cobbler on the holiday season. Although My Mom has passed, my vivid memories of her was watching her cook as a kid, than as a teen and in my college years, (helping in the cooking prep by that time).

I suppose I’m just reflecting my precious time that I had on this earth with her. However, my Momma’s food was always the thing I needed to feel blessed! Especially, when life brought me down. I’m always yearning for that feeling of home, of course I’ll probably never recapture the actual feeling. However, I’m damn sure gonna try. Because, that’s my momma’s food, it could put a smile on Scrooge’s face, (hence, the Christmas theme of the article!😂)

This recipe is not exactly like my Mom’s, and not that her ingredients was less than or more than. I’m a culinary enthusiast, so I’m always gonna mix and match flavors.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (29oz) peaches drain liquid, (about 4-5 cups)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the batter:

  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Butter
  • ground cinnamon to sprinkle on top

Cook time: 40 min at 350 degrees

How to make:

Place peaches (drained from can) in a sauce pot, and add the sugar, brown sugar, salt, vanilla extract, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Cook for 6 to 7 minutes, set aside to cool.

I used ramekins for my desert. Place a slice of butter in each ramekin. Melt butter in your preheated oven, let melt for couple minutes.

While butter is melting, mix your batter ingredients with a whisk. Once smooth , add to your ramekins evenly.

With a saucing spoon, layer your peaches on top of batter in the ramekins. Sprinkle cinnamon on top.

Place ramekins in preheated oven for 40 min., at 350-375 degrees.

Then enjoy! 😋

Don’t forget to add vanilla ice cream on top these bad boys! 😋

A little Tiramisu 🇮🇹

Tiramisu

Although the pandemic has eased up a bit. Still, travel to some other countries are still on heavy lockdown. My plan on resuming my traveling will probably start up again next year. With news of a new variant surfacing, I am still gonna take precautions with traveling. Also, with air travel being unpredictable, and flights being canceled left and right. I don’t like taking chances booking and than being unsure I will make my destination or worse, being in another country and having a flight being canceled.

I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m talking about traveling, and the name of this article is called “A little Tiramisu!” Well, tiramisu is an Italian desert, and I’d like to keep in tune with what my blog is about! “Travel, culture and food.”

What I love about tiramisu is that it’s so easy to make. There is no baking involved. And, it’s an airy, light really delicious dessert! Your friends will think you spent hours making this dish, because it’s so flavorful, and it taste like you spent hours over an oven to make it.

Ingredients

*Lady fingers (2 packs)

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

6 to 8 ounces mascarpone (should be at room temp)

2 cups of black coffee

3 tablespoons rum

Herseys bittersweet coco powder

*Unfortunately, lady fingers are considered gourmet foods, so finding them in your local supermarket can be frustrating. So you can substitute Stella D’oro Margherite.

How to make

I like to start off with making the coffee first. Because, it needs to cool down before dipping your lady fingers. Instant coffee is best, and it’s quick and easy. After coffee is done, mix in the three tablespoons of rum, and sit aside.

Second, use a kitchen aid or hand blender to thicken your heavy cream. Whip your heavy cream on high for about two to three minutes, adding your sugar, vanilla extract and salt.

Please! Do not make the dumb mistake I made and blend in the mascarpone with the heavy cream while blending in the kitchen aid or hand blender. Fold in the mascarpone with a wooden or rubber top spoon.

Now that the coffee with rum has cooled, pour in a wide bowl, and dip the lady fingers one at a time. Note: the texture of the lady fingers can be really soft, if so, just brush the coffee mixture on the lady fingers after layering them in your pan.

Use a frosting flatware to spread half your cream on top of the lady fingers, than sprinkle/shift the bittersweet coco powder over the cream. Repeat process so you’ll have two layers. Lady fingers, cream, coco powder in that order.

I hope you enjoy this dessert, it was fun to make, so delicious and be careful not to eat the whole thing.

Just appetizers

Been wanting to put together a post/blog for appetizers. Back in 2018 when I had to do my externship for culinary school, I worked at a catering company called Acquolina Catering. It was hard work, but personally I felt that having that experience was just as crucial as culinary school itself. At first, everyone I worked with treated me just like a newbie, and at one point I think I annoyed them, because my experience was below an entry level prep cook. However, I’m a tough cookie and I took whatever the chefs dolled out to me. Once I got some experience and continued to show up, (there was a point in time I was frustrated enough to just throw my hands up, and walk out the damn kitchen). However, I gained much respect, and I realized I was learning from the best. I settled in quite nicely after a while with the “Appetizer team”, one chef took me under her wing. Her name was Selsa (I’m sure I’ve spelled it wrong), however, she was the best teacher I’ve couldn’t of asked for. She was the best at what she did, and she never held back any thing she wanted me to know. I respected and appreciated her patience with me, because I learned things from her, I would of never got anywhere in the world.

Selsa, one of the best chefs in the business!

Anyhoo, I’ve put together some appetizers of my own. I think these appetizers are great for when you’re gonna just have a small, intimate gathering, and with cocktails you’ll be all set for a cozy evening. Or just to treat yourself after a hards day work.

First up:

Crostini with mango salsa and Brie with cilantro on top.

Crostini topped with a mango salsa, Brie cheese and olive oil

Spicy Deviled Eggs w/grilled shrimp on top

Baked Potato Skins

These are a few of my favorites! Recipes are as follows.

And, always remember to make a cocktail with these delicious appetizers!

Baked Potato skins

1 Bag of potatoes

Shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Sour cream

Bacon

Scallions

Directions:

Wash potatoes really good, and wipe off any access water. Cut potatoes in half, and use a small scooper to remove the inside of the potatoes, and leave a little on the skin.

Lay potatoes on a baking sheet with parchment paper skin side down. Add cheese, bacon and bake for 20 minutes to half hour.

Stick a fork in potatoes, if it goes through smoothly take out, let cool than add sour cream and scallions on top.

Quick and easy meals!

Linguine with mussels in garlic red pepper sauce

Yes! It literally took me 10 minutes to make this great tasting dish! This dish was so filling, and delicious! I’m bias anyways, because I love pasta! The sauce was made in the juice of the mussels! Add 1 stick of butter, red pepper flakes garlic powder and a half of cup of water. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.

Boil the linguine for 7 to 8 minutes (or follow directions on the package.

Ingredients

Pasta linguine (packaged)

1 stick of butter (half a cup)

1 to 2 pound a of mussels (1 pound for this recipe)

Garlic powder

Red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Parsley for garnish (optional)

Note: do not forget to salt boiling pasta water.