Our Very Own Paladares

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I know I’m not alone when I say that I’d like to visit Cuba one day.  It’s definitely on my travel bucket list.  With regulations easing up, it looks more and more feasible that I’ll be able to make this dream come true and eat in one of the authentic Paladares.  In Cuba, a Paladares is a restaurant run by self employers, usually family run, and often in the home of the family.

Recently I was with a few good friends and they told me that their husbands were sailing to Cuba in May.  Everything about this trip sounds amazing.  They are taking a large catamaran with two captains on board.  As a woman who grew up going to sailing camp, the thought of sailing to Cuba is more than just a little enticing, but alas, it’s not my time yet.  But lucky me, we decided to have a Cuban themed brunch to celebrate the guys upcoming trip.  You can always count on me to say yes to an opportunity to cook good food and eat and drink with friends.  We did so yesterday.

Our hosts were incredibly gracious and made each of us feel welcome and loved.  While the house was impeccably designed and needed no further decoration, our host had added her special themed touches to take the brunch up another notch.  We planned this event in my favorite potluck style.  Every couple brought something delicious to the table.  I can only offer the recipes for the food that I took to the brunch,  but I had to show all of the wonderful food that was there.  I made my own version of pulled pork, tostones, and black beans, but the menu was so much more than my small contribution.  In a way, we created our very own Paladares, and that, along with great fellowship, filled my cup.

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Pulled Pork and Tostones
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Black Beans with fresh avocado
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White rice with cilantro
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Black Beans with Cilantro
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Cuban Panini’s with ham and pickles made with an amazing homemade caramelized onion bread
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American take on a Cuban sandwich made with crescent rolls
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Fresh Watercress salad with thinly sliced red onion, avocado, lime and a light vinaigrette
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Flan so shiny that it’s impossible to take a picture without a reflection of my hand
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Mojitos made with freshly squeezed lime juice and muddled mint. 
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Champagne, Prosecco, White Burgundy and a Rum sampling were provided by our generous hosts, as well

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Crockpot Pulled Pork

Ingredients:

4 pound pork shoulder-trim excess fat
1 medium yellow onion thinly sliced
sea salt
cumin
black pepper
1/2 cup organic apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
14 ounce diced tomatoes
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp lime zest
Juice of 1 lime

Pat pork shoulder down with paper towels and season with sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and cumin.   Drizzle olive oil into the base of the crock pot and scatter onion into the base.  Place pork shoulder onto the nest of onions and pour chicken broth, vinegar, and tomatoes into crockpot.  Mix in the brown sugar and turn crockpot to low.  Simmer for 6 hours until the pork is done and will easily shred with forks.  Remove the pork and use two forks to shred.  Once shredded,  squeeze the fresh lime juice over the pork and add lime zest and another sprinkle of cumin.  Enjoy!

Spicy Black Beans

Ingredients:

16 ounce dried black beans
4 cups Chicken or Vegetable broth
1 large jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
1 large fresno pepper, seeds removed and diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt
pepper
cumin

In a large stock pot, add beans and pour boiling water over beans until they are covered.  Cover with a lid and let them sit for two hours.  Drain beans.  While the beans are draining, add olive oil to pot and heat to medium high heat.  Add onion and stir often until softened.  Add peppers and garlic and continue to stir.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cumin and cook until fragrant. (2-3 minutes)  Add beans back to pot and cover with broth.  Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 2 hours.

Tostones

Ingredients:

4 large plaintains
canola, olive, or coconut oil to fry plaintains
cumin
salt
pepper
lime zest

Peel plaintains and cut on a diagonal into 2″ slices.  Heat a large frying pan with the oil of your choice.  The oil will need to be deep enough to meet the tops of the plaintains.  Heat oil to medium high heat.  Carefully add plaintains and fry for one minute and flip and fry another minute.  Remove and drain on a paper towel.  Use a glass to smash each piece into half the width and return to frying pan and repeat.  Remove from pan and place back onto a fresh paper towel and sprinkle with fresh lime zest, cumin, salt and pepper.  Serve hot!

 

 

Cooking At Home With Blue Apron

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Steak & Green Peppercorn Sauce with Sauteed Kale and Baked Potatoes

I wish I could say that Blue Apron is paying me to write about them, but in truth, I just love it and wanted to share.  As many of you know, I love to cook.  It’s a passion that I indulge in as often as possible.  I love to create new recipes and work with new flavor profiles, but like many home cooks, I can easily get stuck in a cooking rut.  With meals that everyone loves already, it can be easy to just keep making the same things over and over again.  But BOOOOOOO to that.

Blue Apron is a home delivery meal system that works for me.  I didn’t want to commit to anything, but when I read their policies, I was sold.  You can quit whenever you want to and skip week after week if you feel like it, too.  My subscription is for 3 meals per week for a family of two.  A box arrives on my doorstep on Wednesday morning with everything I need to make 3 meals for my family.  There’s usually at least one ingredient each week that is new to me and there’s often ingredients that are not my favorites, but they’ve taught me how to prepare them so I now love them.  My best reference to this is the week I received turnips.  I literally cried when my mom would serve these to me growing up, so as an adult, I never gave them another chance…until Blue Apron.  I made baked turnip matchsticks one week and I was sold.  My point is that for me, it inspires me to try new things and new cooking techniques.  Blue Apron also keeps waste to a minimum in my kitchen.  If you need a one inch piece of ginger for a recipe, that’s how they send it to you.  There’s nothing to go bad.  My only complaint is that we never have leftovers.  So here’s a few of my Blue Apron creations.  I hope you’ll try it, too!

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Tinkerbell Pepper Quesadilla

 

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Sesame Chicken With Bok Choy and Jasmine Rice
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BBQ Sloppy Joes With Green Bean & Tomato Salad

 

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Spiced Pork Burgers With Pickled Beets & Cone Cabbage Slaw
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Easy Instructions with pictures come with every meal.

Tuna Cakes With A Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad

Tuna Cakes With A Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad

One of the things I found out quickly when I started dating my now husband was that his mother was an extraordinary cook. His eyes would almost roll back into his head as he would retell of her fried chicken. I knew early on that I was going to have to learn how to cook. For years the poor man endured all kinds of monstrosities that I prepared for him. I collected cook books and recipes and all the while hoping that I would become a good cook. In fact, I did learn to cook and love it. It’s now one of those things that I look forward to in my day. I find it incredibly relaxing to put a meal together. Last night I made tuna cakes in hopes that my husband would enjoy them as much as his mom’s salmon cakes and he did. Yay! Here’s the recipe I put together in case you want something easy and inexpensive to make for dinner.

Tuna Cakes

Ingredients:
3-4.5oz cans of tuna in olive oil
1/2 Serrano pepper chopped finely with seeds left in
12 whole wheat triscuit crackers shredded
2 tbsp cilantro diced
1 whole lemon squeezed into the mix
1 garlic clove minced
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
drizzle of olive oil
Combine all ingredients together in a bowl. Heat a large skillet with olive oil to medium high heat. Make 7-8 small patties and gently lay each one in the pan. I cooked 4 at a time to keep from packing things in too tight. I cooked them for 4 minutes and then turned the heat down to low and covered for 2 minutes. I then gently flipped them over and did the same thing. After frying these I put them on a plate with a paper towel to get rid of the extra oil and served with a sriracha mayo. To make that just add 1 tsp of sriracha to 1/4 cup mayo and mix together.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we did. I make a lot of good things in my house to eat, but no doubt, I will never make fried chicken like Mama Ann does, and that’s quite alright with me. Some things should be reserved as special between a mom and son. 🙂