Posts Tagged ‘Brunch’

I Made the Smithsonian!

September 15, 2011

While I was dormant for the past eight months, people were still reading and enjoying my blog

I was more than a little flattered to get an unsolicited mention in The detailed post is here. If you read it carefully, I’m still not sure I was featured because I am clever enough to cook in my coffeepot and make good food or because I cook with my beautiful granddaughters and include them in fun projects.

Oh well, either way, I am still flattered.

Now I’m just dying to get an Easy Bake Oven and expanding my culinary horizons with portion controlled meals. Maybe even Beef Wellington for one.

Pumpkin Banana Fritters

January 24, 2011

Parade Day Breakfast

The butternut fritters came out so well I decided to try the classic Pumpkin Fritters and I asked an old friend if their was any way to reduce the sugar. I was told that in the old days, there were always bananas and pumpkin growing in the yard but not always enough money for refined sugar so her mom would combine the banana and punkin and make the fritters without sugar.

I decided to give it a try and made them the same as the butternut squash but used a little extra water to thin it out. Vanise and I decided to try them for brunch and even though she’s not a fan of sweet fritters, she liked these. I saved the extra batter and about a week later used the fritters and scrambled eggs as the basis for a big breakfast brunch prior to going to the Festival Parade to party for the next six hours.

I must admit this was a much heather breakfast then the eggs and spam I had a year earlier. I also will acknowledge that my drinking habits for the day were also much healthier for both me and my community as I have to drive about 15 miles to the parade route and festival village and was far more responsible this year.

The plate above has one scrambled egg, with three dots of hot sauce, local fresh cucumbers, and tomatoes, and the pumpkin banana fritters. Filling, healthy and delicious, a wonderful way to start my day.


1 pound pumpkin

2 ripe bananas

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp fresh ground ginger

¼ tsp fresh ground nutmeg

1 egg

1 cup flour

3/4 cup water


1. Mash the boiled pumpkin and bananas to the bowl.

Mashed Pumpkin and Banana

2. Mix it and mash it well. (I used the potato masher and did it all by hand.)

3. Add the vanilla and spices and mix it into the pumpkin and bananas until uniform.

4. Add the egg and blend.

5. Add the flour and mix until uniform. I used a whisk for the rest of the steps.

Mix Everything Except Water

6. Add the water and mix until done. ( I used some water I boiled the pumpkin in.)

7. Fry until Golden Brown.

8. Serve as a side dish Crucian style. We snacked on these for brunch and then I ate the rest for my breakfast shown above.

Pumpkin Banana Fritters

Good, Better Best never let it rest. This is healthier but the next time I try it, I will switch to whole wheat flour and see what happens.

Crucian Prayer Breakfast

January 20, 2011

Crucian Prayer Breakfast

I don’t know how many other Caribbean Islands have a custom as lovely as our Crucian Prayer Breakfast. These are held for such unholy purposes as fundraisers for politicians and to bless candidates who are lying through their teeth in order to deceive the public and get reelected. Occasionally, they are held for good purposes such as the one I attended this past Saturday.

I am on the Steel Workers Scholarship board which is a Union endeavor at self help among the members to give their children scholarships to help defer the cost of college. Every year, I get to meet a half dozen very bright and sincere children who are working so hard to make it, I am sure that they would succeed without our help but they are so young that they don’t understand how strong they are so they always thank us and even come back years later to thank us again.

Since awarding scholarships is a seasonal occupation, we only meet from January to June. One of the nicer customs of this harmonious group is to start each year with a prayer breakfast which combines prayer, camaraderie and food as we discuss the coming year. Since most of us have been doing this for a decade, the administrative procedures have been stabilized so the focus is on the children as it should be.

Regardless if the purpose is good as in helping children succeed or evil as with politicians using the event to deceive the public, the food is always excellent and the offering differs from event to event.

The plate of food pictured above is what I started with and yes I had seconds. The numbers around the edge of the plate are approximately the position of a clock and the descriptions below correspond to the numbers in the picture.

1. Salt-fish Gundy. This is well washed salt-fish ground or chopped into a coarse past and blended with minced onion and oil and vinegar salad dressing. Occasionally lime juice is also used. This is appropriately served at breakfast, brunch, or cocktail hour.

3. Deviled Eggs

5. Herring Grundy Similar to Salt fish Gundy but based on dried herring. Usually a little spicier than Saltfish Gundy

7. Whole Wheat Dumb Bread made without yeast.

9. Stewed Eggplant

11. Stewed Okra and greens.

There was also a Tofu  dish for the vegetarian in our group.

          Last year we had pumpkin and banana fritters instead or Dumb bread and the ever popular jonny cake is usually available. What is served is based on the culinary skills of the person doing the cooking and also on what’s available. I have also had ham, scrambled eggs, black bread, avocado, cheese, stewed saltfish and I am sure many other items that I can’t remember.

          In my mind this is a tradition that should be shared with the world and it’s unfortunate that visitors to our island rarely get a chance to join these wonderful events or share the food.

          Tostones – Puerto Rican Twice Fried Plantains

          January 18, 2011

          Tostones and Mojo

          I have eaten and enjoyed Tostones for the past 40 years of my life but never made them as they are twice fried plantains and that just sounded like a lot of work. A couple of weeks ago there was an interview in the newspaper with Angie Morales of Villa Morales and she said she is so used to cooking them that she could do a batch in 10 minutes from start to finish. I decide to give it a try because I have been in her kitchen when she was making them for a large group and have seen other local cooks making them for smaller groups.

          For those who don’t know, Tostones are a fried disc of plantain which is about two inches across and gets enlarged from the standard size during the preparation. They are extremely crispy and great with salt, ketchup, or the more traditional Mojo which is a garlic sauce you make yourself. The starting fruit is an unripe green Plantain. They are great as an appetizer, or as a side dish or snack. Think “French Fried Potatoes” and you will get a good idea of all the ways that children and adults enjoy Tostones.

          Frying Oil

          1.Peal Plantain, use a knife to start.
          2.Slice ½ to ¾ inch thick. (Thicker slices, cut on a diagonal will give a bigger finished Tostone)
          3.Fry 2 minutes per side at 350 Fahrenheit (Hot Oil but not smoking) until just tender to the fork.

          Fry Half Inch Chunks

          4.Remove and drain on paper towel
          5.Press flat with palm or flat object. I used a beer mug. They should end up ¼ inch thick. (Sorry about this Picture) If necessary, use a fork to separate them from the bottom of the mug.

          Press Flat with Beer Mug

          6.Return them to the pan and fry a couple more minutes on each side until golden brown.

          Refry Compressed Discs

          7.Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with Mojo.

          Mojo (Traditional Garlic Sauce)
          ½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
          2 heaping Tablespoons Crushed Garlic (6 large cloves)
          2 Tablespoons Lime or Lemon Juice
          ½ tsp salt.
          1 Scotch bonnet hot pepper
          ¼ cup more oil.

          Blend all the ingredients in a blender until a smooth liquid. and serve. The traditional Mojo has no hot pepper but since I like hot pepper, I added a whole one and some more oil and blended it until it had the texture of mayonnaise. If I were serving this to guests, I would definitely leave out the hot pepper and serve it in the traditional manner.

          Good Salad – Bad Salad!!!

          January 14, 2011

          Good Salad - Bad Salad???

          It seems that a lot of people want to be immortal and are searching for a fountain of youth and many are finding it in their own way. Not so amazing, once they find it, they post the story on the internet and try to cash in on their discovery. Obviously, I am not opposed to that as I have made good money in the service industry for the past 15 years. However, I can’t believe that my genetics will adapt overnight to place my body in harmony with these new discoveries.

          I tend to accept that anything that your grandparent or mine ate and drank in moderation will not kill me. Historically, man had a life expectancy of 33 years from mitochondrial Eve 200,000 years ago until about 1850 when things began to change. It wasn’t fire, housing the arts or a zest for life that led to people living longer. It was good old fashioned improvements in personal hygiene and public health.

          From 1860 to 1910, life expectancy grew by about 10 years as Doctors learned to clean there hands and cities cleared the sewage and garbage off the streets. Life expectancy grew by a very big 20 years between 1910 and 1960 where we reached the biblical age of three score and ten. That was the era of sulfa drugs and improved antibiotics plus a continued focus on personal hygiene. Since the advent of infomercials about diets and exercise machines we have added 10 more years to our life but I would be hard pressed to give all the credit to exercise machines and weird diets with the advances in medicine and care for the aged that has taken place.

          So given that I am a skeptic, how could one salad possibly be better than the other when both salads had about the same amount of ingredients including the olives and pepperoncini, they both had about 5 ounces of meat and the both used locally grown and very fresh arugula, tomatoes and cucumbers. The first salad I called Emperor’s Salad and first made last winter when tomatoes cucumbers and arugula were abundant and the meat is a sous vide Turkey Confit made from 5 ounces of steak cut from a turkey leg. I thought it was fantastic and healthy a year ago so I made it again this week.

          I believe firmly in seasonal eating especially when it comes to tomatoes, cucumbers and arugula and will eat it every night in every way including BLT’s. The second salad is based on canned tuna with the rest of the salad ingredients being the same.

          Bad Salad - Good Salad???

          The tuna salad is simple to make and you just stir the following ingredients in a bowl and use a mold to fix the shape. The topping is 1 tablespoon of horseradish.


          1 can (5 ounces) of tuna in water well drained

          1 Tablespoon of soy sauce

          ½ tsp fish oil (optional but it does add a lot of flavor)

          Both salads have about 500 calories but because of the soy sauce and fish oil, the tuna salad had about 50% of my salt requirement for the day. Since that was my only salt for the day it turned out to not be a factor. So which Salad is the truly healthy one?

          If you put your trust in the Inflammation Factor, the Turkey Salad is wickedly inflammatory and the Tuna Salad is soothing. Funny thing a cold front came through paradise the day I ate the Tuna Salad, my arthritis kicked up and if I didn’t know better and attributed my pain to the food I ate, I would have to conclude that the Turkey Salad was better for me. Oh well, one more reason I eat what I want in moderation.

          Acorn Squash and Pasta – A work in Progress

          January 12, 2011

          Acorn Squash And Pasta

          I love everything about acorn squash. I love it baked in a half shell with butter and brown sugar, I love it as a base for a vegan or vegetarian soup. I even love the way it looks and and because of the affordable price I usually forget I have one and buy an another one before I use the one I have. Because I love to have a variety in my diet, I started searching for new ways to cook it and stumbled upon a Rachael Ray recipe for Penne-Wise Pumpkin Pasta.

          Seem that this was not a crowd favorite as most people called it bland and the only ones who gave it high enough ratings to bring the average up to 3 stars out of 5 had altered the recipe and added meat to the meal because it wasn’t vegetarian to start with. Still it was an interesting concept and it got me to thinking?

          What if I used Italian spices instead of pumpkin pie spices? What if I used a acorn squash instead of pumpkin? What if I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth? What if I used ricotta instead of milk and Hot pepper instead of Pepper sauce? The only way to find out was give it a try.


          2 T olive oil

          3 shallots diced (optional)

          3 coves garlic minced

          1 thin slice Scotch Bonnet Pepper

          1 onion diced

          2 tsp Parsley

          6-8 fresh basil leaves or 1 tsp dry

          ½ tsp thyme

          1 bay leaf

          1 acorn squash

          1 Can Vegetable Broth

          1 cup ricotta

          ½ tsp salt

          Grated Parmesan to sprinkle on top


          1. Cook the acorn squash until soft, and remove pulp from shell and set aside.
          2. In olive oil, simmer shallots, garlic, hot pepper, onion, parsley, basil, time and bay until onion glazes over.
          3. Add broth and acorn squash and let simmer for an hour.
          4. Remove Bay and hot pepper and blend in blender.
          5. Add ricotta, bring to temperature and serve over pasta. (I used a bowl with extra sauce).

          Well the jury is out on this recipe. Believe it or not I found it bland while my vegetarian friend loved it. I tried it before I added the ricotta, and the flavors were actually bolder. I do believe this will have a better chance of me cooking it again as a vegan meal with the addition of diced tomatoes and am actually looking forward to the challenge of getting a bold flavor out an acorn squash and pasta meal. I love my acorn squash and would like to eat it more often if I can find different ways.

          What do you do with Broccoli Stems?

          January 8, 2011

          Broccoli Stems Pealed and Cubed

          Over a lifetime of enjoying Broccoli, I knew I had to be doing something wrong. After all who in their right mind would buy a head of Broccoli cut off the flowers and throw the rest away. Finally, after making a pot of Broccoli Soup from the Carla Capalbo’s “Encyclopedia of Italian Cooking”. I started to get the big picture but now had the opposite problem. I was taking perfectly good flowers and throwing them into a pot of soup just to puree the whole thing and cook a few more flowers in it for garnish. What a waste of perfectly good broccoli flowers which are a delight to eat either raw or gently steamed.

          Pealed and Cubed Butternut Squash

          Then I got an idea! After using the perfectly good flowers as a vegetable, why not use the leftover stems in a different pot of soup without any flowers. I pealed the stems and cubed them and combined it with an equal amount of butternut squash and followed the recipe for the my Vegan Acorn Squash Soup . Now just to let my sense of humor kick in I served it to my children and their friends who all hail from DC, New York and Princeton and are moderately affluent. After all why not make a soup for the well off out of what was formerly considered garbage.

          Cooking the Soup

          My daughter knows my sense off humor and loved the soup as did all who ate it. She now buys a butternut squash every time she purchases broccoli and makes the soup as a follow up dinner with a completely different character.

          The recipe is recipe is similar to the Vegan Acorn Squash Soup with an equal amount of squash and broccoli stems and it makes enough for 4 people. Oops, because I forgot to take a picture and because I used Gimelli, the soup looks more like this.

          Puerto Rican Green Banana Salad or Escabeche de Guineos

          January 6, 2011

          Green Fig Side Salad

          The first two people who served me this side dish were of Puerto Rican extraction so I called it Puerto Rican Green Banana Salad or Escabeche de Guineos. Actually, it is common throughout the Caribbean because it evolved by eating green bananas as a starchy substance when times are tough. In addition to being called Green Banana in English, it is also referred to as Green Fig Salad although there is no relationship with Figs as most Americans understand the word. This is not to be confused with plantains which appear to be big green bananas as this salad is made from regular unripe starchy bananas.

          Green Fig

          I would imagine this side dish evolved from an era when you had fields of bananas and none ripe and nothing to feed the kids for lunch. The solution is simple, boil the green bananas and toss them in a salad with whatever you have. The recipes are more standard now but there are still personal and regional variations. Of course, the source for my recipe is once again my friend Chino who shared his kitchen with anybody who liked to drink beer and keep him company while he was cooking. This was not as difficult as going to a culinary college so I found myself joining him quite frequently.

          At a Crucian Breakfast or Brunch, you will traditionally find a salt-fish dish, johnnycake, various fritters and Green Banana Salad. After that the variety of side dishes for breakfast is an endless combinations of old fashioned foods. At other meals Green Fig can be served as a side dish from a bowl like seasoned rice or any other vegetable or can be garnished and served as a salad as above. Eating it on new years will bring you green for the year.


          2 Green Bananas

          ¼ cup olive oil

          2 T. distilled white vinegar

          2 T. lemon juice

          10 sliced green Spanish Olives stuffed with pimento

          1T. Crushed Garlic

          1 tsp. capers

          1 Onion thin sliced and separated into rings.

          ½ green pepper cut into thin rings

          1 bay leaf

          ½ tsp. salt

          ¼ tsp. Pepper


          1. Cut the ends off the green bananas and score it lengthwise. Try not to go deeper than the skin as a deep cut will discolor. Leave the skins on and boil for 20-25 minutes on the stove top or cut in half put in coffeepot and run 10 cups of water through the coffeemaker let stay on hot plate covered with foil for 1 hour.

            Prepare Green Banana for Cooking

          2. Remove skin from the cooked bananas and slice into pieces – your choice I have seen them cut from 3/8 inch discs to 1 inch long pieces. Some people serve them whole without any dressing. They are all good. I used about ½ inch pieces.

            Boiled Pealed Green Fig

          3. Put all the other ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork until evenly distributed.
          4. Add bananas and gently toss until all are coated with the dressing and blended with the other ingredients.

            Tossed Salad Ready to Serve

          5. Serve from the Bowl or make as a side salad.
          6. For the simple salad plate,  I used a bed of lettuce and fresh ripe tomatoes locally grown.

          Winter is our strongest growing season for vegetables as that is when it is cool enough to grow a lot of North American summer crops. We have fantastic tomatoes and cucumbers but since the salad was already white, I left the cucumbers out for appearance but if you like cucumbers and have them on hand, why not include them?

          Hibiscus Punch – A Beautiful Natural Pink Limeade.

          January 3, 2011

          Hibiscus Punch – A Beautiful Natural Pink Limeade.

          When my granddaughters, family and friends visit, we swim or walk in the morning, take a mid day break, referred to as quiet time, where everybody can read or join me in the kitchen and back to the beach in the afternoon. My granddaughters go on food fads where one trip they will drink gallons of juice and not enough milk products, the next trip it’s all milk. Last trip is was no juice at all. However, I try to balance this by what we cook together and since they help make the healthy item, they alter their consumption to eat what they cooked.

          When I suggested we make Hibiscus punch to increase their juice consumption, everybody, except my son-in-law came to play. Let’s get the ingredients out of the way and then we can explain the method by showing everybody’s participation.


          6 Hibiscus flowers in full bloom

          5 Ripe Limes (about 4 ounces of juice)

          water as needed to make a half gallon

          ½ cup sugar

          ½ tsp ginger

          Helping Mom Make Juice

          In this picture Ms. Ana is helping her mother extract the fruit from passion fruit for juice which we made at the same time but that’s a story for another day.

          Flowers for Hibiscus Punch

          The starting point is 6 beautiful red hibiscus flowers which really don’t add much taste but they certainly contribute to a wonderful pink lemonade.

          Putting the Petals into the Pot

          The petals are removed from the flowers and placed in a pot to be covered with water and heated to extract the color. In our case when we are playing and cooking with kids, it is just more fun way to use the coffeepot although my daughter who is a lover of passion fruit juice used a real pot to make hers.

          The Cooked Flowers Turn The Water Purple

          Water is run through the coffeemaker on to the petals in the pot and you get that wonderfully rich purple color from red flowers. (about 10 -11 cups)

          Rolling the Limes

          Now to squeeze, limes by hand, you first roll them under pressure and you can use either your hands or feet. I demonstrated how to do one with my foot and then rinsed it off but Todd and Cayla opted to use their hands. Yes the yellow fruit is actually limes that are tree ripened outside my front door.

          Turn Inside Out to Free Juice

          Once the pulp is broken down, you cut the limes in half and turn them inside out over a cup, the juice is freely extracted from the pulp.

          Pour Lime Juice into Pot

          The juice is added to the pot after the flowers have been removed being careful to keep the seeds out.

          Stir in Sugar and Powered Ginger

          After that, the sugar and the ginger is added to the final jug it is to be stored in and any adjustments to sweetness, ginger or sugar is made at this time.

          A good time was had by all and no local juices were wasted. The kids and I drank the Hibiscus Punch for breakfast, the other adults seemed to prefer Cruzan Rum and Passion fruit juice later in the day.

          Rotini Dolores

          January 1, 2011

          An Absolutely Delightful Vegi - Combo!!!

          When it came to Italian food, Dolores did everything to make me a fan just as she did for other friends and family. From Calabrese in the toe of the Italian Boot to the Hills of Tuscany in the north, she loved it all. It simply didn’t matter that her family was from Naples as Italian was Italian.

          Other than Italian Foods, Dolores loved streak. So when the Palms offered a streak in Gorgonzola sauce over fettuccine, I had to try it out of love and remembrance for Dolores. She loved the combination of Steak and Gorgonzola cheese which first appeared on local menu’s about 10 years ago and would order it every chance she got. While I would hardly ever order steak when out, I had eaten some of Dolores’ leftovers and have to agree it was a pretty good combination.

          The Palm’s Gorgonzola and Sirloin Tips was excellent, the meat was cooked to perfection, very tender and moist, and the creamy white sauce had red onion pieces and mushrooms with a rich cheesy flavor. My date for the evening suggested that she would probably like it without the beef and the flavors were so delicious, I really could see that the beef was not necessary and his would make a fantastic Vegetarian meal.

          Since the only white sauce I had cooked in the past year was the Penne with Cauliflower which was excellent, I decided to use that as a starting point and leave the meat out. The red onion and sirloin tips added some color to the original meal, but I wanted more. I decided to serve it over tri-colored rotini to make it prettier when served and also because the unique shape of rotini holds more sauce.


          2 cups low fat milk

          1 bay leaf

          2 T. butter

          2 T. cup flower

          ½ tsp salt

          ¼ tsp black or white pepper freshly ground

          ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

          ¼ cup crumbled Gorgonzola

          1 small red onion rough cut and flaked

          1 small can mushrooms


          Obviously this will work well in one of the modern bottom heated crockpots with a low temperature setting about 170 Fahrenheit.

          1. Mix the flower and butter together with the back side of a fork until a smooth past is formed let sit at room temperature.

            Make the Cold Rue

          2. Put the milk in the coffee pot with the bay leaf and let come to temperature about 2 hours.

            Bay and Milk in Pot

          3. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the rue, the sauce will thicken right away. Be careful when stirring in the rue and the cheese. I used a fork to transfer the rue to the pot and a whisk to stir so as not to crack the glass pot.

            Mix in Rue with a Whisk

          4. Add the cheese and stir in the pot. When all is smooth, add the mushrooms and onions to the pot and gently stir until uniform. I use a plastic spoon.

            Stir in Mushrooms and Onions

          Serve over pasta and don’t worry if you have to hold it a few hours, just dilute with a little more milk if it thickens too much. No burning, scalding or separating will occur even when you microwave the leftovers.

          I smile as I write and cook this meal because I know that Dolores would love it and eat it as prepared the first time and after that she would add leftover steak or some pan seared tenderloin tips to her portion of this delightful vegetarian meal. And after 43 years of marriage why would I waste a second arguing. Meat or no meat, to each his/her own.