It’s incredible when you have the opportunity to live outside your native country, how you turn more patriotic than the flag.
I developed this recipe as part of a special post for my friend Marixsa’s blog, Mamá Boricua en Brooklyn. She’s sharing a series of articles celebrating the Puerto Rican Parade in NYC under the moniker Abrazos Boricuas. She was gracious to invite me to share a bit of my experience living and experiencing the Puerto Rican Day Parade for the first time, 20 years ago!!! Can you believe it?!?!
If you want to read more about my story and the pride I feel about flaunting my “mancha de plátano”, please visit Mamá Boricua en Brooklyn. And to her readers who are visiting KarmaFree Cooking for the first time, we welcome you with open arms. Here I share many vegetarian recipes recipes that express my love for my beautiful Island, Puerto Rico. This is one of them… enjoy!
SWEET PLANTAIN CANOES FILLED WITH CREAMED SPINACH
4 sweet ripe plantains
1 bag of fresh baby spinach
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
4 oz of cream cheese
A splash of half & half or milk
A pinch of nutmeg
2 tbs of pine nuts
1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Bake the plantains in their own skin… cut a Little bit of the ends and you make a shallow slit on the inside of the plantain from one end to the other. Place in a baking sheet covered with parchment paper side to side and bake in a 350F for about 30 minutes.
- While the plantains cook, we prepare the filling… In a large skillet over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil, the onions and garlic clove. Sweat slowly for the onions to cook and the garlic to infuse its flavor, without browning.
- When the onions are cooked and translucent, remove the Garlic clove and add the spinach in batches to the skillet. It might seem like too much, but the spinach will wilt down a lot. Cover the skillet for a few minutes to help the wilting process. Mix the spinach and the onions well to help the spinach wilt and for the flavors to meld together.
- Add the cream cheese in pieces to make it easier to melt with the spinach. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. You’ll end up with a creamy spinach mixture. If you feel the mixture is tight, add a splash of milk or half and half.
- When the plantains are cooked, take them out of their blackened skins and place in a baking dish all 4 plantains together side by side or in individual lasagna dishes or even shallow ramekins might work well too.
- Place the plantains with the natural curve to the top. If you made the slit to the skin previously, now make the slit slightly deeper to fill the plantain on the inside. Place ¼ of the spinach mixture over each plantain. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the plantains evenly and cover them all with the grated mozzarella cheese.
- Return the plantains to the oven for a few minutes at 350F to melt and brown the cheese a bit.
Enjoy these plantain canoes with a nice salad and rice with corn on the side.
A dessert with the holidays written all over it… white chocolate, cream cheese and cranberries. These last ones, look like jewels on top of it all.
Easy to make and fancy to the eyes. I brought it to a day-after-Thanksgiving get-together and my friends ate it all before I had a chance to take a good picture of it.
Is that enough proof on how good this is???
WHITE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE WITH CRANBERRIES
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
½ stick butter, melted
8oz cream cheese
¼ cup brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla powder
1 ½ tsp egg replacer + 2 tbs water
¼ cup half and half
½ cup white chocolate chips
¼ cup dried cranberries
- Use the wrapper of the butter stick to grease the bottom and sides of a 5” x 7” baking dish.
- I break a few graham crackers in the bowl of my food processor. Process it until I get fine crumbs. I measure to make sure I have 1 cup of crumbs and return the measured crumbs to the food processor. Add the melted butter and pulse a few times to combine. It should be the texture and consistency of damp sand. Add the mixture to the buttered baking dish and pat the crumbs to the bottom of the dish and a bit to the sides.
- Bake in a 400F oven for about 10 minutes to create a nice crust base for our cheesecake. When the crust is golden brown, take out of the oven and chill for a few minutes to cool down as much as possible.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350F.
- In the meantime, let’s create the filling…
- In a bowl mix together using a hand mixer the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, egg replacer mixed with water, and half and half. Blend well until it becomes a smooth mixture. Add most of the white chocolate chips and cranberries and mix in using a spatula.
- When the crust has cooled, pour the cheesy white chocolate mixture on top of the crust. Decorate the top with the remaining white chocolate and cranberries. Bake in oven for about 25 mins. When the time has elapsed, turn the oven off, but leave the cheesecake in the oven for 10-15 additional minutes.
Take out of the oven and let it cool in a wire rack, so air can circulate from all sides. Refrigerate for about 2 hours for the cheesecake to set completely.
I prefer stove-top mac and cheese recipes to mac & cheeses you bake in the oven…
Why?? After the pasta is cooked and the cheese sauce is made, why do we need to cook it all over again??? I like a cheesey topping just like the next person, but I also like to have my macaroni with lots of sauce and unfortunately, baking dries much of the sauce out.
So this is a recipe that came about with no recipe in mind at all… My aunt likes when I make pasta in cheese sauces. I was in the supermarket and I started buying ingredients without knowing how I would make them in the end. The result was a great pasta dish that delighted not just the people who ate it with me initially, but my friends on the internet as well. So to all of you who were drooling over the pic on FB, here’s the recipe!!!!
This is a large recipe for me… I rarely ask you to make the whole box of pasta at once. This will feed about 8 people or 4 people with leftovers. You can certainly halve this recipe… I do it aaaaaaalllllllll the time.
SPINACH, TOMATO AND CHEESE MACARONI
1 box of whole wheat macaroni
½ bag of frozen chopped spinach
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbs olive oil
2 cups diced tomatoes
2 cups half and half
4 oz cream cheese
2 cups Italian blend shredded cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese, grated to garnish
- In a large pot, much larger than you think you’ll need, bring about a gallon of water to a boil. When the water reaches it’s boiling point, salt the water and add the pasta. Stir a few times so the pasta won’t stick together. Cook the pasta according to pasta directions until al dente.
- While the pasta cooks, we make the sauce… they’ll be done at about the same time.
- In a medium sauce pan over medium heat add some olive oil, the onions and garlic. If you have sofrito, you could add a tbs if you want as an added bonus. Sautee them for a few minutes so the onion softens. Avoid the garlic getting burned.
- Add the spinach still frozen… the heat from the pan will thaw it. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the sauce pan for a few minutes. This will help the spinach thaw quicker.
- When the spinach is thawed and looks more cooked, add the diced tomatoes and cream cheese. Stir well to combine. Afterwards, add the half and half and allow it to softly boil so the sauce will thicken in consistency. Season again lightly with salt and pepper. Stir a few times as the sauce is thickening to avoid any scorching on the bottom of the pan.
- When the sauce has gotten a tad thicker, but is still runny, turn off the stove and add the shredded cheese in small batches. Stir consistently and allow the cheese to melt into the sauce.
- When the pasta is done, drain it well… but even if a little water is kept it’s no big deal. Return the pasta to the larger pot and add the sauce to it. Stir well to combine. Try to stir carefully to avoid breaking up the pasta…
Serve with grated parmesan on top with your favorite salad ( we had to have avocados in Miami) and baked sweet plantains.
Tell me what you think… Are you brave enough to “invent” a pasta dish on the fly like that??? I want to hear from all my friends on FB that were ohhhh-ing and ahhh-ing when they saw the picture initially. Have you made it?? Tell me what you think. Gracias!!!
I was given a challenge… A Sandwich a Day wanted us to showcase our favorite sandwiches.
I’ve told you before how I could live on sandwiches alone possibly and how one of my most addictive sandwiches is my Avocado Tomato Sandwich. Sometimes I fail to come up with new ideas for sandwiches because I am so enthralled with this one still. I even dream about eating it sometimes.
But recently I have come to learn to love another sandwich… maybe not as fresh-tasting as the one above, but certainly very seasonal. Mixing apples, onions, thyme, almonds and blue cheese in between 2 pieces of bread might not seem very appealing, but oh, oh boy, how delicious it is. This has nothing to do with my Latin roots, but everything that I have learned to appreciate from my travels in the Northeastern part of the US.
Inspired by these crostini from Giada Di Laurentiis, this panino hits the spot on a cold winter night. I might even argue it works great for a nice cozy date in front of the fire. I think your date would be greatly impressed.
APPLE ONION RELISH PANINI WITH GORGONZOLA
2 slices of 100% whole grain bread
Gorgonzola Cheese crumbles
Toasted Sliced Almonds
¼ cup of Apple Onion Relish
Butter – for the outside of the bread/sandwich
- Pre-heat your Panini maker, or in my case, my George Foreman Grill.
- Spread cream cheese on the inside of both bread slices. This will be part of the glue that makes the sandwich stay together.
- On one slice, add the apple onion relish. Try to keep it as dry as possible so the moisture won’t seep out of the sandwich. Layer the toasted almonds and finish with the blue cheese crumbles.
- Close the sandwich with the other slice of bread, cream cheese on top of the almonds/blue cheese.
- Butter the outside of the slices with some softened butter.
- Place on the Panini maker and press lightly without forcing it too much. The sandwich will flatten as it toasts in the Panini maker.
- After a few minutes, the cheeses will be melted and the bread toasted on the outside. Carefully, remove the sandwich from the panini grill and allow it to cool slightly. This will allow you to cut into the sandwich without the breads sliding all over the place.
Enjoy with you favorite sparkling cider or tea.
I have a bunch of virtual friends and we decided at the end of last year to start sharing amongst each other the things we love to eat from the places we live. These virtual friends are spread all over the US and the world – Colorado, Florida, California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Texas, Oklahoma, of course me in Puerto Rico and even one in Italy and another one in can’t remember if she’s in Iceland, Vietnam or Australia. That girl has me confused…
On our first round of our Foodie Exchange I got paired up the KATY, the only other vegetarian in our group. Can you believe our luck??? Well, they say there are no coincidences in life. It was up to the Universe that we would get to share what we love about our region. Katy lives in Maryland, close to DC and Baltimore… but she’s a lover of everything in her region including Pennsylvania where most mushrooms in the US are grown.
This is what I received from Katy…
But for the purposes of this post, we’ll concentrate on the baggie of dried morel mushrooms right there. Katy told me these are her favorites and that she preferred to send them fresh but was unable to locate them. So in its place she sent me these with instructions on her favorite way to eat them – sautéed with onions and thyme over toast. This is Katy’s favorite snack and she urged me to try it.
Katy is part of our Foodie Group for a reason… these toasts are amazing!!! I loved the earthiness of the morel mushrooms and how easy they are to put together. A great vegetarian snack or light lunch suitable for any foodie out there.
MOREL MUSHROOM TOASTS
½ bag of dried morel mushrooms
½ medium onion, sliced thinly
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 small garlic clove, smashed
Salt and pepper to taste
A whole wheat ciabatta roll, sliced in half
- Bring a small saucepot with water to a boil. As soon as the water boils, add the dried morel mushrooms to the water, cover and turn off the stove. Allow the mushrooms to reconstitute in that hot water for about 30 minutes.
- After the mushrooms are softened again, strain the mushrooms over a fine sieve reserving the liquid for another recipe.
- Take the drained mushrooms and pat the dry a bit. I cut the larger ones in half, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.
- In a small skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, the onions and the smashed garlic clove. Sautee them lightly for a few minutes. Add the softened morels and the thyme leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cook everything together until the mushrooms have dried out a bit and looked cooked and “kinda alive”. Discard the pieces of garlic and set aside.
5. While the mushroom cook, drizzle some olive oil over the bread halves and toast in toaster oven. Slather some cream cheese or other spreadable cheese of your choice and place the morels and onions over the toasts with cheese.
This is a great snack or even a light lunch served with a simple salad on the side. Thanks Katy for introducing me to morel mushrooms… I had eaten them in restaurants, but never made them at home. And now, this has also become one of MY favorites, thanks to you.