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Pasta with Eggplant Puree

2 Nov

We are in eggplant season, and I wanted to share an easy recipe I adapted a long while ago from Giada DeLaurentiis.  As usual, I use whatever I have handy in my pantry, fridge and what I believe my taste buds will prefer.

It’s easy to make, and the leftovers keep very well.


 Eggplant Pasta


1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into small cubes
½ pint of cherry tomatoes or 2 small tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup of walnuts, toasted
½ bag of whole-wheat penne pasta
2 tbs Olive Oil
½ cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped finely – optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. While the oven is heating, place walnuts on a baking sheet with lined with parchment paper.  Toast in the oven until you get a first whiff of walnut smell, about 5-8 minutes.  Remove from baking sheet and let cool on a separate plate.
  3. Line the baking sheet with new parchment paper.  Place the eggplant, cherry tomatoes, garlic on baking sheet.  Drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread them evenly on the baking sheet. Roast in the oven until the vegetables are tender and the eggplant is golden, about 35 minutes.
  4. While we wait for the vegetables to cool of a bit, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.  Return pasta to the same pot where you cooked it.
  5. While the pasta is cooking, transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor and puree to form a chunky paste.
  6. Transfer the pureed vegetables to the pot with the pasta, add the Parmesan.  Stir to combine, adding the pasta cooking liquid 1/4 cup at a time until the pasta is saucy. Add the walnuts and chopped parsley, if using, and toss again. 

Pumpkin Polenta

30 Oct

I am a fan of Italian flavors… and this recipe fits very well with the flavors of autumn.   We do not have autumn here in Puerto Rico, but pumpkin is a favorite of mine and I wanted to do something that would highlight the flavor and nutrition of the pumpkin.  Plus, I still had some pumpkin seeds in my fridge I wanted to use up…

 Pumpkin Polenta



1 ½ cups of pumpkin, peeled and cubed
4 tbs quick cooking polenta
½ cup of water
½ cup of milk
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
¼ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted – as garnish


  1. First we steam the pumpkin… place in a steamer for about 10-15 minutes to cook thoroughly.  After the pumpkin is done, mash it well and place it in a colander lined with a coffee filter or a paper towel and let the moisture of the pumpkin drain out a bit.  This can be done well in advance before moving on to the rest of the steps.
  2. Then we make the polenta… I heat the water, milk and salt in a medium pot and bring to a boil.  Add the polenta while stirring to avoid getting lumps.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue stirring until the desired consistency, which is like a smooth cream of wheat.  I’ll be honest; I follow the instructions on the polenta package I buy.  If the instructions on your package are different, follow the instructions on your package, but what I do is to replace ½ the water the recipe calls for milk – makes a creamier polenta, in my opinion.
  3. When the polenta reached the desired consistency, add the drained pumpkin puree, the grated cheese and season with pepper.  Stir well for the cheese to melt and the pumpkin to combine well with the polenta cream.
  4. Serve warm and sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds.


Great vegetarian alternative for Thanksgiving lunch or dinner… don’t you think?

Provençal Rice

21 Sep

With my stove out of commission for a few weeks, I resorted to my trusted friend the rice cooker to help me out in the kitchen.

This is a dish I used to order a lot as accompaniment when I used to eat at La Parrilla Argentina, a “fast food” joint found here in PR in mall food courts.  Never been to Argentina, it’s still in my to-travel list, but apparently this is a popular side dish too.  The name is “french” but that’s the way the named it at La Parrilla, I guess because it uses parsley and garlic.

It’s easy to make, delicious and you don’t need to occupy a stove range when making it.  I usually set the rice cooker and then go off to take a shower, meditate, and do other stuff without having to tend to the food itself.  Rice cookers are the best invention ever…

 Arroz Provencal


1 cup of whole grain, brown Texmati rice (I use the measure in my rice cooker… so I am not completely sure if my “cup” is the same size as yours)
1 tbs sofrito or  2 cloves of garlic, chopped
¼ cup minced flat leaf Italian parsley
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil


  1. Measure rice and wash well.
  2. Place in the rice cooker and fill with rice with about ¼ more than the rice cooker lines say.  Brown Texmati rice needs a bit more water than regular white rice.
  3. Add the sofrito, salt and olive oil to taste. Mix it all in a bit.  I usually pour about 1 tsp to 2 tsp of oil.  I learned to do this by “eyeballing” it.  Cover and turn the rice cooker on.
  4. In my rice cooker, when the chime goes off, I still need to let it rest for about 10-15 more minutes to make sure the steam finish cooking the rice.  After this time has passed, fluff the rice with a fork and stir in the parsley and the parmesan cheese.
  5. Let the flavors meld for about 5-10 minutes more and serve.


I had this rice with a tomato and avocado salad and french fries.  YUM!!

KarmaFreeCooking is getting some publicity…

14 Sep

Hey guys…  KarmaFree Cooking has been getting some exposure on the web.

My friend Silka, from Siembra 3 Vidas CSA Farm is featuring in her blog a series of interviews with the supporters of the CSA project.  An interview about me was featured last August 24.  I know the text is in Spanish, but I promise to edit this post with the translation into English.

Click here to read the full interview…


Monday, August 24, 2009

MADELYN RODRIGUEZ/Serie Entrevistas Auspiciadores



For a lot of years now I have been exposed to organic agriculture.  Since my days in college in the early 90’s when I had the chance to work on a project to promote the consumption of organic fruits and vegetables in PR.  Back then, organic produce was not readily available in supermarkets like today. Also, there wasn’t a consciousness about the damages pesticides and other chemicals in our food stream have on our health.

And given the last 10 years I’ve been exposed to a vegetarian lifestyle and knowing how a healthier lifestyle leads to better health, I wanted to integrate more organic produce into my diet, even if it meant paying a bit more to acquire them.

About 3 years ago I started reading about CSA farms on the internet, where people contributed to their local farmers in exchange for fresh seasonal crops.  It sounded very appealing to me how I could contribute to small business owners in my area and at the same time have fresh organic produce readily available.  The pictures and stories I read on the internet were fascinating and reeled me into the idea.

Being an entrepreneur myself, I understand it’s my responsibility to contribute and support other small business owners in PR.  If I don’t support the small business industry, then who will?  I would like to believe this support and contribution will translate into benefits to my own business somehow.  That’s the law of karma in action…

2) Do you believe the opportunity to support S3V contributes to your interests in this topic?  How?

I believe supporting the local organic agriculture contributes to the collective consciousness of PR, demonstrating the importance of eating more naturally and steering away from chemicals, preservatives, colorings and additives, which produce so many ailments.  Lack of knowledge is our own worst enemy… and helping to promote in some way the availability of more natural and organic food sources promotes that eating more healthfully is not necessarily more difficult or inaccessible as people might think.  The more we know about where our food comes from, the more awareness we have about taking care of it, not harming it and the benefits it provides us everyday.

3) What other activities you share regarding this same topic?

By being vegetarian and simultaneously developing a love for cooking, I have noticed how people are intrigued and curious about the vegetarian lifestyle.  In PR we are not known for a plant or grain-based diet.  We have been raised that if you do not have a piece of meat on your plate, you’re not eating at all.  But it’s incredible the amount of interest and questions people have when they learn you are vegetarian…  people think you only eat salad.

That’s why I decided to share my vegetarian lifestyle and many of the recipes I have developed over the years thru my blog KarmaFree Cooking – to educate my community and the public at large how easy it is to follow a vegetarian lifestyle –  that it’s simple, varied and promotes health and well-being.  Also, my recipes have been tried and tested on all my non-vegetarian friends, which validates them even more in the eyes of the incredulous.  Thanks to the public’s acceptance to KarmaFree Cooking, I also started a Spanish version, KarmaFree Cooking en Español. 

Participating in S3V has helped me to have more topics to share in KarmaFree Cooking – letting the PR community know that organic agriculture is alive and well here, challenging me to cook and prepare dishes with seasonal ingredients that possibly I have never cooked with.  It’s a challenge when you do not have a large family to cook for every night, but I enjoy it anyhow.  If you click on the section From my CSA Box or Desde mi cajita CSA you’ll find a collection of recipes and comments developed based on the contents of my weekly CSA box from S3V.

4) What other benefit you enjoy by being a S3V sponsor?  What do you do with the vegetables you receive?

 My mom and I belong to a yoga center – Centro Cultural Yoga Devanand in Caparra Terrace – and people in the Center cook daily for all the hatha yoga students, partly to educate them on how delicious and accessible vegetarian cooking is.  Weekly, we use the vegetables in the S3V box to prepare lunches and dinners at the Center, specially the great variety of lettuces.  The center is managed thanks to the donations and contributions of the hatha yoga students and initiated members.  So the S3V box helps us cook more frequently with organic produce than we would be able to without it.

 5) Do you have a certain ideal for PR in regards to ecological agriculture/the environment and/or health?

 I would like for the PR community to discover the vegetarian lifestyle as one that will bring long-lasting health benefits to our community in general.  And if someone is not ready to make the “leap” into a full-fledged vegetarian lifestyle, to at least commit to consuming less animal products, to consume more fruits and vegetables on a regular basis, to consume less refined flours, less products with added chemicals and colorants we can’t even pronounce, to consume less soft-drinks and less alcohol.    Doing all of this will most certainly lead to have a healthier and more prosperous life.  I am certain of that.  To gain understanding that real health does not come from taking pills from a bottle, it comes from prevention – understanding our health comes from what we actually place in our mouths and by making small changes everyday, we can evolve into a more healthful and more harmonious society.

 I wish Puerto Ricans would develop a consciousness of the union and dependence we have on nature and that preserving our natural interests is as important as taking care of our own families.  We should respect more our trees, our rivers, our beaches, our mountains… we would recycle more and waste less.  We should realize when we leave trash on the streets leaves a lot to be desired of and it does not communicate the true quality of people we are.

 And even if not a lot of people share this same ideal, we need to start with ourselves and be the example.  That if we want our surroundings to be better, we need to set the example and be agents of change.  We can’t be complacent and think we can’t have some positive effects in our society, because if we all thought that way, nobody would do anything different.  In the words of one of the philosophers of our time, Michael Jackson, “If you want to make a world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change”.

 6) What do you do for a living?

 Currently I have my own marketing consulting business, helping small and medium-sized companies without a marketing staff with their marketing functions.  I also have a small artisanal “gig” selling a few vegetarian goodies and dips – like hummus, veggie dips, tomato sauces for pastas, stewed soy crumbles, cakes, etc. 


You can read more about Madelyn and her recipes in KarmaFree Cooking.


Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini Sandwich

12 Sep

In my CSA box we’ve been receiving many eggplants and zucchini… why not combine them both in one of my favorite applications? A SANDWICH!!!

Super simple, super tasty and travels really well…

  Grilled Eggplant Zuch Sandwich - KFC


1 small Japanese or Italian eggplant
1 small zucchini or summer squash
2 oz of goat cheese, at room temperature works best
A handful of arugula lettuce – washed well and pat dry
Extra virgin Olive oil
Sea salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
1 whole-wheat whole grain demi baguette


  1. Preheat your grill – I use my George Foreman grill for this…
  2. Slice the eggplant and the zucchini in ¼ inch slices.  Brush with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Place on the grill for about 4-5 minutes to cook and get pretty grill marks.
  3. In the meantime, slice the baguette in top and bottom halves and toast in a toaster oven.  Slather both sides of bread with goat cheese.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil and sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper to season cheese.
  4. Remove the eggplant and zucchini slices from grill and let cool down a bit.  Place on bottom half of bread.  Add lettuce on top of grilled veggies.  Season lettuce with a bit of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil.  Top with top half of bread.


Simple, yet very tasty and nutritious.   You could add some tomatoes or even some roasted red peppers or roasted piquillo peppers too.

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