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Guava Paste and Cream Cheese

15 Mar

This has to be the first dessert I was taught how to make… besides opening a bag of Hershey’s Kisses, that is.

I grew up in a house where there always was guava paste and cream cheese, two if my dad’s passions.  I guess the passion rubbed off on me, because nowadays I heart anything with either guava or cream cheese, not to mention anything that combines the two.

This is just so simple that’s difficult to even call it a recipe…



3 strips of guava paste
3 strips of cream cheese – you can use regular or the 1/3 less fat kind – the only difference is that the regular kind will hold its shape better when eating it…
  1. Place guava strips onto a plate and place the cream cheese strip on top.
  2. Take carefully with your fingers and enjoy the pleasure…


Read well the guava paste packages before buying.  Buy guava paste that’s free of additives or artificial colorants.  It should only contain guava, sugar and citric acid.  Anything else in there you do not want it or need it.

If you’re not into cream cheese, or do not have it in the house, just use any other cheese like queso blanco, cheddar or even muenster would work well here… it’s just something to cut the sweetness of the guava paste.

Veggie Cuban Sandwich

5 Mar

I grew up eating Cuban Sandwiches… being the daughter of a Cuban, it was something I ate at least a few times a month.  My dad would take us to La España or La Ceiba – two bakeries here in Puerto Rico where the best Cuban sandwiches were made back then… now the same can be said for Kasalta too. 

Cuban sandwiches are now becoming very popular among US chefs – Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence, among others have all sung the praises of the Cuban sandwiches.  Traditionally they’re made with roasted pork, sliced cooked ham, crusty white criollo bread, mustard, pickles and Swiss cheese.  There is a smaller version called Media Noche – same ingredients as the Cuban, but in a smaller sweet bread.  This is the kind my sister and I had when we were growing up… and when the Media Noche is too small for your more adult appetite, you graduate to the Cuban.

Now that I am vegetarian, traditional Cuban sandwiches are not an option… so I have come up with my veggie version.  I order these at any panadería in PR or Miami.  And even though I prefer whole wheat, whole grain breads in my sandwiches, Cubans traditional or veggie versions taste better in regular white criollo bread.  The crunch it has compared to a whole wheat version can’t be beat.



Criollo Bread
Swiss Cheese
Lettuce and Tomato
  1.  When you go out an order, say you want a grilled cheese on criollo bread with lettuce, tomato, pickles and mustard.

If you want to prepare it yourself…

  1. Slice a 1/3 pound of criollo bread “baguette”.  Slather the insides with yellow mustard.  Place Swiss cheese on one side, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles on the other.
  2. Place in a pannini press or a George Foreman grill and press the sandwich so the bread toasts and the sandwich flattens a bit. 
  3. You could press without the lettuce sand tomato and add them afterwards, but sometimes the cheese melts so much that it’s difficult to reopen to add the salad.


To me, the best way to wash down your Veggie Cuban sandwich is with a malta or a batido de mamey.  No other drink makes it justice…

One final note… be wary of Cuban breads out there (Pan Cubano – as they are called in Miami) you need to order Puerto Rican bread.  Why??? Cuban bread usually is made with lard.  You run no such risk in PR as “pan de agua” or “pan criollo” is made with vegetable shortening.  Something to watch out…

“Camarones” Enchilados / “Shrimp” Creole

2 Mar

When I was in Miami recently, I visited this Chinese market where they sold many soy based products, like the ones I usually buy when I go to Chinatown in NYC.  I brought with me 2 bags of “shrimp”…  why?  Because my aunt in Miami makes the most awesome Enchilado de Camarones or Shrimp Creole and I missed tasting these flavors a lot.

I did not have time to make this in Miami, so I interviewed my aunt for her recipe… and being from the same family, she also cooks without measurements, so this is my interpretation of her recipe.



1 cup of tomato sauce – I use Viter Fried Tomato Sauce
2 tbs of sofrito
¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
½ cup of water
1 bag of soy “shrimp” product, defrosted
1 bay leaf
Salt and Pepper to taste
Drizzle of olive oil
2 roasted sweet bell peppers, sliced thin


  1. In a medium pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the sofrito and sauté lightly for a few minutes.    Add the tomato sauce, vinegar, water, bay leaf, salt and pepper and cook for about 5-8 minutes.  The idea is to cook the tomato sauce and impart the flavors for the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Add the “shrimp” to the tomato mixture and braise in the sauce for about 20 minutes at medium-low heat.  Cover so the sauce does not evaporate much.
  3. At the end, add the sweet bell peppers and turn off the stove.  Leave covered for about 10 minutes until the sauce cools down a bit before serving.


Serve over whole grain rice and a side of sweet baked plantains.  The sweet taste will balance the salty/tart taste of the tomato sauce of the “shrimp”.

The funny thing… I made this dish for a group of friends who are NOT vegetarians.  Some of them knew these where not real shrimp but some of them didn’t.  They devoured the whole dish.  None of the “shrimp” were left.  My friend Kristina has not failed to mention to me once after this how delicious the sauce was…  to me that spells SUCCESS!!!

If by any chance you have some sauce left over and you do not want to throw it out… cook some baby potatoes in the sauce and serve over rice again.  They will taste delicious…

Chicharritas de Plátano

15 Aug

While I was in Miami, I got the opportunity to make a true Latin specialty – Chicharritas de Plátano.  This is the way I call them when I am in Miami, because in Puerto Rico these are called Platanutres.  They’re exactly the same, people just call them differently, the same way some people say elevator and others say lift… you get my drift.

But not only these are called differently by Cubans and Puerto Ricans, they’re eaten somewhat differently too.  Puerto Ricans eat platanutres mainly as a snack or maybe even as a side to sandwiches.  However, Cubans eat these little fried slices of plantain as an appetizer, a snack or sometimes even as a crispy side dish to accompany rice and black beans.  Also, they like to serve these with a drizzle of mojito criollo, just like the one I showed you to eat with your boiled yucca, without the onions – just olive oil, garlic , salt and lemon juice.  This is my favorite appetizer in any Cuban restaurant in Miami… and Cuban restaurants in Puerto Rico do not have them.  It’s a Miami thing and I LOOOOOOOOVE it!!

You can get chicharritas bagged, just like potato chips.  I have even talked to you about them in our posts on Junk Food, but the freshly made ones are special.   My aunt Gladys, being the “alcahueta” she is, made me some chicharritas before us leaving Miami.  I wanted to go to a restaurant, but she insisted and I took pictures. 




2 green plantains
Kosher salt
Canola oil to fry them in


  1. Start by peeling the plantain.  Remember to peel them carefully using an oiled knife to avoid staining your knife.
  2. Slice the plantain very thinly using a slicer or a mandoline.  My aunt uses this nifty slicer.  You can slice it in small rounds, which is the traditional way and the way we did them this time around.  In restaurants you usually see the chips sliced the long side of the plantain.  The choice is yours.
  3. Separate and salt the plantain slices.  I always thought the salt was added after frying, but in fact, I like the taste when they’re salted beforehand.
  4. Bring about an inch of oil to frying temperature in a medium sized pot – about 350° F.  To tell you the truth, I never take the oil’s temperature.  Use the wooden spoon method if you want to be sure.
  5. Drop the plantain slices in small batches and try to separate them as much as possible.  Slices will want to stick together. So try to keep the separate.  Fry them until they’re golden.  Keep an eye on them because they go from perfect to burn easily.
  6. Take them out with a slotted spoon and drain in a paper towel.


Enjoy alone, with mojito criollo or as a side dish – I ate them with black beans and rice and slices of avocado on the side.  I love my aunt’s cooking!!!!!

Plantain Tostones

20 Jul

I had already given you a lesson in making tostones when I shared my Tostón Sandwich with all of you.  This time, I want to show those of you who are not familiar with tostones – the traditional way of making them… well, almost traditional because like most of you outside the Latin communities, I do not own a “tostonera” – the implement used to mash the tostones into its traditional shape.  Funny I do not own one, because my dad sells them wholesale.  As they say in Spanish, “en casa del herrero, cuchillo de palo”.

I specify these are Plantain Tostones because tostones can be made from the traditional plantains, or also out of breadfruit.  Tostones (any kind) are a great side dish to many dishes I have shared with you here…   like pastas, rices or even to use as a base for a delicious Antipasto

Here’s how… you need to start with Green Plantains.  Optimally, they need to be large, but very green still.   Here is a picture to give you an idea of the differences in ripeness.







1 green plantain, peeled and sliced in 1-inch rounds
Canola oil, for frying
Garlic Salt for sprinkling on top after they’re fried
  1. In a small skillet, pour about ½ inch of canola oil over medium-high heat.  Check if the oil is ready by inserting the back end of a wooden spoon.  When bubbles form around the spoon, the oil is ready to fry.
  2. This is how you peel a green plantain… chop off the ends.  Make 3-4 slits from top to bottom ends and with the help of a knife and your finger, take the peel off.  Just like with green bananas, if the plantain is too green, the peel will be difficult to take out and refrigeration will not help.
  3. When the plantain is peeled, cut it into rounds about 1 inch thick.
  4. Place about 3-4 plantain pieces in the oil and start cooking.  Do not be tempted to place all plantain pieces in even if they fit… why? Because you need to cook them partially, smash them and then refry them.  If you fry them too much the first time, they might be hard to smash.  You do not want to over-fry them that first time, so the easiest way is to work in small batches.  If you have someone helping you in the kitchen, you might be able to get adventurous enough to put in a few extra…
  5. Take 2 plates, a salad plate and a dinner plate.  Place a plantain piece on the dinner plate and with the bottom side of the salad plate SMASH the plantain piece down.  Peel the tostón piece off with a spatula (it probably stuck to either the bottom of the top plate) to prevent it from breaking apart and return it to the frying oil.  Repeat with all plantain pieces.
  7. At this point… you can either store them in freezer bags and freeze them until you’re ready to eat them or finish them to eat immediately by frying them for the second and last time. 
  8. Fry the tostones until they’re golden brown and crispy.
  9. Take them out of the oil onto a plate lined with a paper towel to catch the oil drippings.  Sprinkle with garlic salt as soon as they come out of the oil.


You can also eat them with some butter on top – that’s how my dad likes them…

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