Tag Archives: Puerto Rico

Hawaiian Vegetarian Festival

26 Apr

Manolo gave me a challenge… Why don’t we plan a Vegetarian Festival with the flavors of Hawaii??  Hawaii??  Why??  I asked.   He replied: “Well…  I did this Rice with Pineapple the other day and I think it’s pretty awesome… so I thought it would go well within a Hawaiian-themed festival.”

33  stock-footage-aloha-form-hawaii

Just like Manolo… he gets an idea in his head, and then the rest of the world needs to accommodate to it.   “Oh… and the decorations would look so pretty!!!! Don’t you think, Madelyn??”   And that’s how the idea about this Hawaiian Festival came about.  Because… I have never been to Hawaii, Manolo has never been to Hawaii and the closest we have been to something truly Hawaiian are our friends Kenny and Tim, who one is from Hawaii and the other lives currently in Maui.

Hawaii Festival - ENG

So I went to the internet and social media to gather some ideas of what a traditional Hawaiian Luau would be like and how could I make it into a vegan, gluten-free affair.  My friends were enthusiastic about the idea and recipes started to flow.  What surprised me the most was that many of the ingredients in Hawaiian/Polynesian cuisine are the same as in Puerto Rican cooking – taro root, breadfruit, sweet potatoes… with a few unexpected twists, such as nori, gomasio, rice vinegar, and macadamia nuts…

During the next few weeks I will be sharing with you the menu of this Vegetarian Hawaiian Luau.  But this post will serve as an anchor and summary of all the recipes served that Sunday at the Centro Cultural Yoga Devanand.   Let’s all travel through our taste buds…

Alohas and Mahalo!!!

23  shaka-sign

 Lomi Tomato

Longrice Soup


Tofu Mushroom Poke

Lau Lau

Eggplant Musubi

Roasted Breadfruit with Spices

Haupia with a Carob Drizzle

Banana Mango Bread

Lilikoi and Grapefruit Juice

A Vegetarian Xmas Cooking Class at Centro Cultural Yoga Devanand

3 Dec

The Centro Cultural Yoga Devanand will offer this coming Sunday, December 7, a Vegetarian Xmas Cooking Class featuring typical dishes from the Puerto Rican Xmas menu.  “This is our way to teach our community that you can celebrate a typical Puerto Rican Xmas, with all the traditional flavors we love but without the need to harm any living creature.  Also, our students will taste for themselves how delicious and accessible vegetarian cooking can be – made with the exact same ingredients all Puerto Ricans love so much.” shares Carmen González, who will lead the cooking class.

Clase Cocina Devanand - Diciembre 2014 - Navidad Vegetariana


The vegetarian cooking class will be from 1PM to 5PM.  Participants should bring their own apron and where to take notes.  The Vegetarian Xmas Cooking Class is only $20 per person and it’s a donation to the Centro Cultural Yoga Devanand.  Spaces are limited.

The Centro Cultural Yoga Devanand is a non-profit institution offering Mantra Yoga Meditation and Hatha Yoga.  They also provide orientations via seminars on vegetarian cooking, stress management, relaxation workshops, breathing techniques and other natural and positive practices.  The Center is located in Calle 13 SO #824 in Caparra Terrace.  You can find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CentroCulturalYogaDevanand.  For more information call  787-273-0236.

Cocina Abierta new vegetarian menu in Condado

12 Sep

I’ve told you about Cocina Abierta… a super cool restaurant owned by a former neighbor of mine, Martin Louzao. Martin is an awesome chef, one with a former vegetarian girlfriend. I would like to think that based on her insistence or my insistence on her asking if several of their dishes were truly vegetarian, that he decided to create a Vegetarian Menu in his new location in Condado.

Cocina Abierta is not a vegetarían restaurant… we still have a great opportunity for Vegetarian Fine Dining in Puerto Rico. But Martin has certainly captured my attention developing new dishes and adapting several true and tried favorites to create a vegetarian tasting menu fit for celebrations, to take vegetarian friends when they travel to Puerto Rico and when you want to enjoy truly good cooking overall.

If you ignore the smells of grilled steaks coming from the kitchen… you will find Cocina Abierta has a great ambiance and atmosphere. Their menu is divided into ACTS, like a play, but we only ordered from the Vegetarian side concert. I took my friend Andrew, who was visiting Puerto Rico for work. Aside from the Yoga Center cooking, he had not had the chance to experience fine dining in Puerto Rico.

We ordered:

Baby Arugula Salad with Almond-Stuffed Dates and Caramelized Onions

Cocina Abierta - Vegetarian Menu Salad

Eggplant Mignon over a bed of Curried Couscous

Eggplant Vegetarian Dish

Ricotta Gnocchi with Blue Cheese and Arugula

Cocina Abierta Vegetarian Menu

Gelatos – Salted Caramel and Strawberry Flavors

Cocina Abierta Vegetrian Menu

OMG!!!!   What an awesome experience we had!!! We shared everything because we wanted to taste as many things we could… I would have ordered another salad just for me… not because the serving was small, but because it was so delicious.

The Eggplant Mignon is something I would rarely order in a restaurant, yet I was very surprised to taste the flavors of India in a very refined manner, suitable for the Western taste buds. I am not too fond of Indian cooking and I enjoyed this very much…

The gnocchi are so rich and delicious… it was a good thing we shared. Because if not, I would have eaten the whole thing by myself and would have been counting the amount of calories for days.

The gelatos were spectacular, in particular the salted caramel one… with pieces of caramel inside. It was heaven on a plate. I may just go back and sit at their Dessert Bar just to have the salted caramel ice cream. Move over Mango Sorbet from Hagen Dasz, there’s a new frozen dessert in town!!!

I want to thank Martin and the whole Cocina Abierta team for a wonderful evening… our waitress Mari Carmen was a joy and made our dining experience all the better. When you have someone serving you who’s super excited about the food… it gets you excited too. We were very happy and Andrew even mentioned he might return again when his next business trip takes him back to San Juan.

I am glad I have an alternative to offer friends and people who ask on tour FB page – “Where can I eat in PR if I am vegetarian???” There’s no need to suffer or put your lifestyle aside if you’re traveling to Puerto Rico.

Make My Food Famous – a new culinary competition featuring Puerto Rican hostess, Monti Carlo

29 Aug

Monti from MasterChef Season 3 fame is at it again in the kitchen… this time she’s helping other home cooks, just like herself, to get their signature dishes be part of a Michelin-starred restaurant menu.

Make my Food Famous

In the new show Make my Food Famous, Monti hosts and judges 3 home cooks get their food be part of the menu at David LeFavre restaurant, MB Post… in Manhattan Beach, California.  This is a BIG DEAL…  for Monti herself and the 3 home cooks participating.

MB Post Collage

Photos courtesy of MB Post Restaurant http://www.eatmbpost.com

Monti, a fellow Puerto Rican, a self-proclaimed home cook who made her living as a radio-show host came to fame because of her culinary talent in a TV show and now she gets to provide support and advice to these aspiring home cooks.  “Working in a commercial kitchen is NOT the same as working in your own home space.  I’m there to provide these people some support – because it can be really emotional and tough to be fighting for your dream.” candidly shares Monti.


According to Monti, “This is a very rewarding process for all these home cooks.  Win it or not, all these people will have a much better idea of what they want and how to get there.” And Monti knows a little about how to fight for her dreams because after her participation on MasterChef Season 3, she came home to an eviction notice and little planning on what to do next.  But the Universe works in mysterious ways and now she’s back on TV with a series on the FYI network.

I asked Monti if someone vegetarian competing with a vegetarian dish would have a chance to win in Make my Food Famous and she gave me a resounding YES!!!!  Even though she’s not a vegetarian, she knows and believes a great dish can be vegetable-based.  For the last few months, Monti has also worked at Roy Choi’s new roof-top greenhouse restaurant, Commisary.  “If the work and thoughtfulness is put on a dish, any vegetable or fruit can certainly be the star.” says Monti with pride.  This new vegetable and fruit based restaurant is so popular that recently well-known vegan Natalie Portman and also singer John Mayer have been among its celebrity guests.

Commisary - Roy Choi

Photo courtesy of Commissary Restaurant

Make My Food Famous premieres on the FYI network this Sunday, August 31 @ 10PM.  Stay tuned to see if maybe one day I can try to make some of my signatures dishes into one of these vegetable-based restaurants too.  I am throwing that out into the Universe…

In the meantime, I wish Monti all the success in the world and to celebrate her new show I asked her what was the foods she missed most from our Puerto Rico and she mentioned quenepas, dulces de coco, pan sobao and chicharrones. I am not sure if I support the chicharrones part, but Monti, stay tuned to the mailbox because you may receive a nice little surprise in the mail – a care package courtesy of KarmaFree Cooking.

Sweet Plantain Canoes filled with Creamed Spinach

8 May

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!


Canoa de Platano Rellena de Espinacas


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
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.


Canoa de Plátano Maduro Relleno de Espinacas y Queso





Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,659 other followers

%d bloggers like this: