Agua de Pepino ~ Cucumber cooler

>> Saturday, August 22, 2009

agua de pepinoAgua de Pepino ( cucumber water) is a refreshing drink that is popular in Mexico. It is one of the large variety of the popular Aguas Frescas ( fresh or cool waters). Agua frescas are refreshing drinks made from fresh sweet and sour fruits or grains, (like Horchata made from rice,sugar and cinnamon-recipe coming soon.), water is mixed with the fruits as well as a sweetener and sometimes lemon or lime juice. These drinks are very popular in our homes and also sold in restaurants,markets and small street vendors. They are a great alternative to the "sugar water" or American soft drinks , are more nutritious and in my opinion taste so much better than colas -not even a comparison. The variety is quite big with flavors and favorites for everyone. Mine were Cucumber, Jamaica (hibiscus),tamarind, strawberry and watermelon.

english cucumber
I know it sounds kinda weird, even if you love cucumbers. I too was hesitant the first time I had this as a kid, but it quickly became a favorite. Agua de pepino is a great drink to have on a really hot summer day, it makes you feel very refreshed. It is because cucumbers have a high water content which of course keeps you hydrated in the heat. Cucumbers have a mineral called silica that is essential for a healthy complexion and muscles. They are also high in fiber and in vitamin C.

When I've made it it was just by sense and taste using cucumbers,lemon/lime,mint, sugar and water. But for this blog post I referenced my Cocina de la Familia by Marilyn Tausend, book and added a few of my own things.

aguas frescasYour Ingredients: makes 4-6 servings
2 large cucumbers-peeled,seeds removed,and chopped into chunks
3 lemons
6-8 teaspoons of sugar
6 cups of cold water

fresh mint
cucumber slices
ice cubes

1. Prepare the cucumbers,note if you use English cucumbers the seeds are so small they don't really need to be removed and the skin is thinner so you can choose to use it as well. Place the cucumber pieces, lemon juice,sugar and 2 cups of cold water in a blender. Blend until it has begun to foam.
2. In a large pitcher pour the cucumber mixture and add 4 more cups of cold water, mix thoroughly and taste for sugar or lemon, add several sprigs of mint. If serving right away add ice cubes to the glasses, if not you can keep in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
3. If you want to make a nice presentation for guest or your family :),in a plate pour some sugar and take one of your glasses make sure the rim is damp, and place on top of the sugar, move around a bit until the glass rim is covered in the sugar. Then ice if you like and pour the cucumber water, add 1 or 2 mint leaves. Cut a slice of cucumber and lemon, add a small slit and place on the glass.
cucumber cooler
This is also a great to use up all those extra summer cucumbers! Sit back,take a sip and enjoy!

If you are interested in Marilyn Tausend's book you can find it here,
Cocina de la Familia: More Than 200 Authentic Recipes from Mexican-American Home Kitchens , there is also a Spanish version.

This recipe is also featured on Cucumber on Foodista please stop by to see me there.


Grilled Cheese -n- Tomato sandwich with herbs

>> Sunday, August 16, 2009

grilled cheese and tomatoGrilled cheese one of the easiest, fastest, and tastiest sandwiches. One of the most common ways to serve and eat grilled cheese is with a tomato soup. In this recipe we are skipping the soup but not the tomatoes to make a lighter summer time lunch. Also it's a good way to use the home made white bread from the previous post.
You'll need:
Gouda Cheese sliced, your choice
tomato slices
black pepper
oregano leaves
dried basil leaves

Skillet or frying pan

1. Prepare the bread slices by buttering both sides, then put them on a hot skillet,after 2 minutes flip the bread. Add 1 slice of cheese on each piece of bread, sprinkle a pinch of black pepper -oregano and basil. Add a couple of tomato slices to each piece of bread. Put 2 breads together and serve.

grilled cheese with herbs
To make it a complete healthy lunch add some fresh sliced fruit and it's ready. So simple yet so good!
easy meals


old fashioned white bread~ easy

>> Saturday, August 15, 2009

basic white bread
Who doesn't love the smell of fresh baked bread. This simple recipe is good to learn how to bake a basic bread. This recipe is a combination of recipes and techniques that I used to eventually come up with this simple and fool proof basic white bread. The recipes gives you a foundation that you can build on later by adding other things like spices or herbs or experiment with mixing different flours. It's great for sandwiches or to use for French Toast.
ingredients white bread

Your Ingredients:

-2 cups (227 grams) white wheat flour

-1 TBSP. (15 ml)sugar

-1 tsp. (5 ml) salt

-1 TBSP. (15 ml) butter or vegetable shortening, soft at room temperature

-1 egg

-3/4 cups (175 ml) warm water or milk, your choice or use a mixture of half water and half milk

-1 small packet of active yeast

-1 bread pan, or cookie sheet

1. Measure out the water or milk, which ever you decide to use, it needs to be lukewarm. *tip- don't overheat it or you'll kill the yeast and bread won't rise*. In a small bowl put the water/milk then add the yeast and sugar, stir to combine a bit. Put aside to let for about 5 minutes. This is called proofing the yeast and what it means is just that we are testing the yeast to make sure it's still alive and will raise our bread. If the yeast is Ok it will look like the photo below.

yeast proofing
2. In a separate large bowl combine the the flour and salt combine, then make a well in the center of the bowl and add the egg and soft butter and slowly add the yeast and water/milk mixture. With your hands start combining all the ingredients, keep kneading the dough until it forms a smooth texture. , *see photo below*

bread dough3. Continue kneading for a total of about 10 minutes, you will feel the air starting to build in the dough. Next prepare the dough pan or cookie sheet by either using parchment paper or using a little oil cover the entire inside of the pan, then dust with a little flour to again cover the inside , but just a light dusting. (this prevents the bread from sticking and can be removed easier.) Next you need to shape the bread, either in a circular form or shape into a loaf and place on the sheet or in the pan.

bread pan4. Use a clean kitchen towel and cover the dough and let it rest for about 40 minutes. We need to let the dough rise to double its size, and this could take up to 40 minutes or more.

bread rising
5. Preheat the oven to 350 F /177 C for about 10 minutes. The bread will take about 30 minutes to bake. home made bread
The bread will be golden brown all over with the top being a bit darker. After the bread has baked let it cool down before you slice. And that's all fresh home made bread, convenient ,soft, warm and delicious without all the added preservatives.

old fashioned white bread from scratch


Indian Curry - an epiphany of the senses

>> Friday, August 7, 2009

curry an epiphanyOne of my favorite things in the world is curry, both making it and of course eating it. I love different types from many different countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and Japan. Which did I miss?, well these are just the one's I've tasted so far. My favorite curries are Indian curries. Why?, because of the complexity and mélange of all the different tastes, textures, sounds, smells, and colors.

Often times you will hear a Chef or passionate foodie describe food or eating a truly delicious meal as an awakening of the senses. For me the awakening came with this curry.Indian Curry ingredients,spicie foodie, spicy food, cilantro
Touch~ the roughness of the cloves,cumin,cardamom,pepper corns and fennel,the ridges of the bay leaves, the silky velvety touch of cinnamon,turmeric and nutmeg.
Sound~the pestle pounding and grinding the spices against the mortar, the oil gently popping as the ingredients cook.
Smell~the individual aromas of the freshly ground spices as they gently meld together.
Sight~the intriguing color palette, the simmering brilliant red sauce as it turns a creamy red when adding the creamy coconut milk.
Taste~ you take the first bite; a burst of flavors. You can taste coconut,a bit of sweetness, you feel like your are tasting all the ingredients individually and at the same time all together. Then; the spiciness it's the last tingling sensation at the back of your tongue.

Today I would like to share a delicious Indian chicken curry recipe that is not difficult to make. (In a previous post I gave you my recipe for freshly ground Garam Masala, or you use what you have.) The recipe makes a big portion for 3 to 4 people.

Your ingredients:
1 lb. (500 grams) chicken breast,bite sizes
1 red onion,chopped
4 garlic cloves (1 tbsp. minced)
2 tbsp. fresh ginger finely chopped(1/2tsp ground)
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/2 cup warm water Or chicken stock
2 tbsp. Garam Masala*
2 tsp. whole coriander seed (1 tsp ground)
2 tsp. cumin seed(1 1/2 tbs. ground)
1 tsp. Turmeric powder (aka curcuma)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. hot chili/cayenne powder *
1 can stewed tomatoes (14 oz. or 400grams)
Coconut milk 1 2/3 cups ( 13.5 oz. or 400 ml)

* to start with and you can adjust to your liking as you go*
1. In a large pan add a couple of spoonfuls of vegetable oil, once it's warm add the chicken and saute until it's cooked. Next add red onions and cook for about 5 minutes or until it has become soft, then add minced garlic and ginger cook for 2 minutes. Add all of the spices to the pan, and stir continuously for about 3 minutes, the spices will release their aroma.
2. Make sure the stewed tomatoes are in small pieces, then add them to the pan,combine thoroughly. If using bouillon cube dilute it in the water and add it to the chicken and spices, or just add the chicken stock. Stir the mixture and cook for another 5 minutes, then reduce heat, and add the coconut milk. Under low heat cover and let it cook for another 10 minutes.
3. Almost finished, taste your curry, does it need a bit more salt or more spices? I always double the spices and triple the chili given above, because I like my curry very fragrant and spicy. But this is up to you, every one's taste is different. The more you cook with spices you'll learn to use them by feel, you won't pre-measure anything. I did, and I had to stop to measure these just so I could do this post:)
Once you've tasted and if you added anything else you should cover and let it simmer a little longer.

That's it, super simple and ready in about 30 minutes. Serve with steamed white rice or vegetable spiced rice and or some naan bread, (recipes for the rice and eggplant in photo will follow) Now the best part.....
indian chicken curry, easy curry, garam masala, home made curry, mild curry, an epiphany of the senses


Salt ~ A spotlight on Salt

>> Wednesday, August 5, 2009

salt, sea and table salt,photo of salt,cooking with salt
Salt is not just a simple rock or mineral found on all of our tables and kitchens, it's so much more than that. Sodium Chloride or more commonly know as salt is an essential part of human life and needed to maintain good health. Salt comes in rock form from underground salt deposits left by ancient dried up seas, or above ground in evaporated sea beds. It is also found diluted in sea water, that is then separated in ponds and left to evaporate. There are many different types of salts with different uses textures and grains, all of which have been used by humans since cave man days. Early on humans discovered the many uses for salt,mainly as a flavor enhancer. One of the most important uses which has had a major impact on civilization was in using salt for preserving foods. This allowed the people to enjoy foods year round not only based on the seasons which they were available. Salt also became part of religious rituals , art and folklore. It become so valuable that large trade routes appeared creating economies for many cities, which then led to cities and countries fighting for control of the salt routes- salt wars.

Salt is the oldest know food additive, when used for preserving food it draws out the moisture and slows down the growth of micro-organisms. When added to food it helps balance bitterness by neutralizing the acidity and it helps bring out the other tastes and flavors. Processed foods have a higher salt content than fresh foods because more salt is added to help maintain colors,taste, smells and textures. Outside the kitchen salt also has many uses, in cosmetics, to soften hard water, cleaning agents, clothes dying, deicing roads, and the list is endless.

Salt is not only essential in our kitchens and homes, it is essential to human and animal life. Humans are instinctually drawn to the taste of salt, because without it we wouldn't survive. Salt's main function for our bodies it to helps maintain fluids in our bodies and balance electrolytes that send messages to our muscles and nerves. But just like anything else too much salt is bad for our bodies and can cause high blood pressure and heart problems. Be an informed consumer talk to your doctors and read food labels. Try to avoid too much salt specially high in processed foods, one simple way to remember is any salt compounds contain the word "sodium" like Monosodium glutamate (MSG)- but also baking soda and baking powder. We can use spices and herbs to replace too much salt in our diets.

Ignorantly I thought I knew enough about salt and what it was all about. I think salt is one of the things humans just take for granted without realizing how important it is and how much impact on our societies and cultures it has had. As I began to research salt it became apparent how little I new and how much history and how interesting it actually is. I read and learn so much, the most interesting being that our blood has the same chemical balance of sodium, potassium and calcium found in the oceans. I even learned a new roasting technique,(salt crust roasting), which I can't wait to try. There is just so much to learn about salt that this post could go on and on, but it wont :).

Update: September 2009 : This photo won the September's edition of DMBLGIT for the Originality Category.!


Pork Tacos cooked in a spicy green chili sauce

>> Monday, August 3, 2009

pork tacos, green salsaYummy tacos in spicy green chili sauce! A couple of days ago I posted a recipe for my green chili salsa, well I had a lot left over and rather than trowing a perfectly good sauce away I looked in refrigerator to see what or how to use it up, other than with chips. Pork , tortillas, cilantro and onions ....Taco night!

Your ingredients:
Pork cutlets (or any piece that isn't fatty)
Green chili salsa (recipe here)
little vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Corn or Flour tortillas
chopped fresh cilantro
finely chopped onion
a couple of lime/lemon wedges

1. Cut any fat off the meat then cut into bite size pieces. Warm the vegetable oil in a pan then add the pork an fry until it's cooked all the way through, about 10 minutes. Next add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes, then add the chili salsa. Cover and over medium low heat let simmer for an additional 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
2. While the meat is simmering chop the cilantro and onion, slice the lemons. Then once the meat is finished warm up the tortillas. Place some meat and sauce in center of the tortillas, top with cilantro and onion. Serve the lime/lemon wedges on the side for everyone to squeeze their own on top of the tacos.

You could serve these tacos with some beans or rice, or on their own. I didn't grow up always eating our meals with beans on the side of every meal, like it's common in restaurants outside of Mexico. Many people just eat several delicious tacos and and call it a meal.
Spiciness and citrus are great flavors to combine with Pork. These tacos can also be made with chicken instead of pork, they still taste yummy. After all it's all about working with what you have and not being wasteful. Enjoy!


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