When you think of Caribbean cuisine most people think of seafood and bean dishes, not necessarily beef recipes, but especially in Cuba, beef has been a traditional staple of the populace since before the 20th century. In Cuba these days however regular citizens can’t afford beef. A pound of ground beef costs over $20 dollars or the equivalent in Cuban pesos. Taking into consideration that the average Cuban makes less than $30 per month, beef just is not an option for most Cubans unless they work in a dollar restaurant or one of the tourist hotels.
Cuban beef recipes include the ever popular picadillo (pronounced pick-a-dee-yo) which is basically seasoned ground beef. You need to make the seasoning, or sofrito first which consists of fried onions, a little oil, and some garlic. Let the sofrito cool and then add it to one pound of 80% lean ground meat. The ground meat is then mixed with about half a cup of tomato paste or tomato sauce (paste is better). The mixture is then cooked on a skillet for half an hour. Add chopped or sliced green pitted olives at the end and it is ready to serve over plain white rice and accompanied by fried plantains and black bean soup.
Another one of the great tasting Cuban beef recipes is beef empanadas, which are pastries filled with picadillo. These meat filled treats are deep fried until crispy and perfect. Most good Cuban restaurants will also offer beef, ham, chicken, or bacalao (dried smoked cod) croquetas (croquettes). Croquetas are made with finely ground meat or fish filling and spices, then rolled and formed into little Finger shapes, then rolled in egg yolk and finally into bread crumbs. Once they are ready the croquetas are deep fried until golden brown and crispy. Both croquetas and empanadas are really tapas, or appetizers but can also serve as a main dish when accompanied by traditional fried green plantains and some form of rice dish, or black beans.
Cuban beef recipes from the island include the famous ropa vieja, which literally translates as old clothes. This is a dish of shredded skirt steak sauted in a sauce of red bell peppers, onions and tomato sauce. All of these dishes begin with the traditional ìsofritoî and then the meat is mixed in and cooked.
Most Cuban recipes go better with plain white rice and a black bean soup, or potaje (pronounced po-ta-heh). Add some fried sliced sweet or green plantains and you have a great traditional Cuban dish right at home.
Cuban beef recipes go well with mixed rum drinks such as rum and coke with a slice of lime, also known as a Cuba Libre (free Cuba) or the favorite drink of Ernest Hemingway, the Mojito (pronounced mo-hee-to) which is white rum, lime juice, soda, simple syrup, and crushed mint.
If you really want the entire experience you need to put on some spicy Salsa dance music and invite some friends over for a party. They will love the tropical drinks and the delicious Cuban food that you serve.
A capsule guide to cooking with herbs and spices.
With busy schedules and an abundance of ready-made dishes, it’s an unfortunate fact that the art of cooking is fast becoming a lost art, particularly in the U.S. If both Mom and Dad are working, there may be little time to spend creating dishes from scratch. As a result, plenty of kids go off to college not knowing a spatula from a tong, how to bake a pie or make a roast with gravy. This makes for dull meals indeed. At the same time, there are a few cuisines (which shall remain unnamed) that use very little in the way of seasoning, producing some albeit nutritious, but bland tasting dishes.
Knowing the basics of cooking with herbs and spices provides any cook with the secrets to dishing up some memorable meals, no matter how elementary your cooking skills may be. Let’s see how basic mastery of cooking with herbs and spices can change your life. Food is, after all, one of life’s main pleasures. Just to pique your appetite, so to speak, let’s look at a few everyday foods that are greatly enhanced with a few herbs or spices. A plain dish of applesauce becomes oh so much better with a spoonful of cinnamon and sugar mixed filling, but becomes a gourmet standout when roasted with sprigs of fresh rosemary.
Steamed rice, with a dab of butter, is an acceptable side dish, but see what happens when you sprinkle that rice with Chinese Five Spice! In short, knowing your way with cooking with herbs and spices is your ticket to gourmet stardom. The spice aisle at the supermarket is organized alphabetically, to make it easy for you to find a given herb or spice. What you need to learn is how to group those herbs and spices to match them up with the foods they best enhance. The savory herbs go best with meats and most produce, while sweet spices make sweet foods taste better. The famous combination of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme is invariably successful with beef. Sweet herbs, such as tarragon and dill, are good with mild tasting meats, such as shrimp and most fish fillets. Sweet basil and tomatoes are a match made in heaven.
As you progress in your adventures in cooking with herbs and spices, you’ll discover that there are many surprises and exceptions. For example, tarragon is an herb many cooks reserve strictly for use with fish. Tarragon can be tricky to use with other foods, not for the faint-hearted cook; however, it’s absolutely perfect with strongly flavored game dishes, such as venison, elk and buffalo. Here’s another surprisingly delightful combination: roast beef with cinnamon gravy, a medieval favorite.
You can see that cooking with herbs and spices doesn’t require extensive culinary skills, but just a little imagination and a willingness to experiment. To learn more, make your next stop the bookstore. There are many excellent books filled with herb and spice mixtures that you can try out on your very next meal. There’s simply no excuse for boring meals.
Cooking 30 Minute Meals is a Lot of Fun!
One of my favorite shows on the Food Network is 30 Minute Meals, where celebrity chef and host Rachel Ray makes savory and well-balanced meals in 30 minutes or less. The whole premise behind the show is that anybody can find the time to make a delicious meal in a short time, and I can attest to the fact that it is possible and it is a lot of fun.
My wife and I are very busy people, but whenever we got the chance to watch the show, we did. We decided that we would start trying some of our own 30 minute meals because we were tired of spending the money on restaurants and we wanted to be healthier and set a good example for our children.
We went to the grocery store and bought all kinds of healthy ingredients like boneless, skinless chicken breast, fresh salmon, whole wheat rolls and breads, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, of course, and brought it home and started to plan our menus.
The whole idea was that we had to prepare meals that were desirable and tasty, and do so in less than 30 minutes. We kind of followed the show as a frame of reference, but we actually came up with most of our meal plans on our own, and with great results.
At first, the 30 minute meals were more like 40 to 45 minute meals, but we were still making them fairly quickly and we all loved the way they tasted. For the first few days, our kids kind of grumbled because they missed some of their favorite fast foods and sweets, but before long, they wanted the meals we were making as a family and even started to help make them.
The 30 minute meals became a reality after about two weeks, when we had it down to a fine art and started to see great results. We were eating a lot healthier, my wife and I were both losing weight and getting into better shape, and we were saving a lot of money.
One of the things that we always noticed about the Food Network show 30 Minute Meals was that Rachel Ray was always saying don’t use a lack of time as an excuse. My wife and I took that to heart, and stopped using it as an excuse.
For dinner practically every night now, we will make our own 30 minute meals, and we all really like making them. It is a time that we can all get together for a little while and work together to create something that we can all sit down and enjoy together as a family.
Is Fish Meat? A Question I’m Often Asked. I am a Catholic who has a vegetarian brother and sister, so one question I am often asked is, Is fish meat? Whether people want to know because they are not sure if vegetarians can eat fish or whether or not Catholics can eat fish on Friday during Lent.
The answer to that question is pretty simple it depends. Because a fish is a living creature, some would definitely consider it to be meat. In other words, if my brother or sister were asked whether fish is meat, the answer would be yes, because they do not eat fish as vegetarians.
There are also the kind of vegetarians called vegans that do not eat any type of meat byproduct, such as eggs, cheese or butter, because they think of all of those things as meat. Fish would definitely be off limits to a vegan.
If you asked my aunt the same question, however, the answer would be different. She lives on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, where crab feasts are a regular event. She considers herself a vegetarian, though she calls herself a Maryland vegetarian, and still eats seafood. She does not think of fish as being meat, and a lot of people agree with her. When I get asked the question, ìis fish meat, I always say that I am not sure. I don’t consider it to be meat on Fridays during Lent, because I eat it every week. However, if I define being a vegetarian as not eating any kind of animal, which I do, I would consider fish to be meat.
Is fish meat? It depends. I saw a diet one time for a friend of the family who was supposed to get his cholesterol level down by going vegetarian, as the guy said. There was fish on the diet, because there is not a significant amount of fat in fish, and there is nowhere near as much saturated fat as there is in beef or pork. I asked him if he had ever thought about whether or not fish should be considered meat, and he said that he had not. He said he leaned toward it being a kind of meat, because it is often served as a main course at restaurants, and virtually every main course he had ever seen at a restaurant involved meat. I thought that was an interesting point.
Is fish meat? I really don’t know if I can answer that question. Obviously, some people definitely think of it as being a form of meat, while other people think that it is acceptable to eat, even if they are a vegetarian. I guess it all depends on who you ask.
Starting Baby With Rice Cereal.
Most doctors will tell you to give your baby rice cereal for their first solid food. It’s not really solid, but it does present a different type of food and will be a bit harder to digest than the breast milk or formula your baby has been having exclusively up until this point. As long as you wait for the right age, and give the cereal in the correct way, you should not have too many problems when you start. Things have changed, and doctors have different recommendations with cereals that you should follow when starting.
Rice cereal is still the first cereal or food that is recommended by doctors. This is because it is very easy to digest and causes very little digestive upset. However, if you feed it to your baby too soon, they could have excess gas and other stomach upset because their bodies are not yet able to fully digest the cereal. Do not start before your doctor tells you to. Eating cereal is an addition to most formula or breast feedings at first, and will not make your baby sleep through the night. Do not start rice cereal too early for that reason alone.
You can start, for the most part, giving rice cereal when your baby is between four and six months of age. They should have great head and neck control, and should be able to sit up while supported, and later sit up on their own. If they can not sit up, they are not going to be able to swallow the rice cereal in the right way and they could choke.
Baby should be interested in your eating habits, and they will have to learn to use their tongue in a different way. Be patient when you start and don’t give them too much.
Do not feed rice cereal to your baby through a bottle. They should start right away eating from a spoon. The only time bottle feeding cereal is done is for reflux reasons, but you should never do it otherwise.
They need to learn to eat from a spoon and this is the time to do it. Start out with very watery consistency (mixing the cereal with breast milk or formula) and only give a few bits. After they seem to get the hang of it, you can allow the cereal to be a bit thicker and they can have more of it. They may have it twice a day once they get the hang of it.
Rice cereal does not agree with all babies. Some parents skip it and go to oatmeal because they feel the oatmeal is a better choice. Most babies can do this without problems. Oatmeal single grain cereal can be started and fed to baby in the very same way that rice cereal is given. If you feel your baby is having problems with cereal, talk to your doctor about what is going on and what they think you should do. Some babies start cereal late and that is okay, as their bodies simply are not ready for it.
Italian Cooking Recipes Are Still My Favorite!
Italian food is my favorite of any cuisine in the world, and the Italian cooking recipes I have are still my favorites of all the different dishes I make on a regular basis. They are usually simple, quick, and most important, absolutely delicious.
When I was in university, I dated an Italian girl who loved to cook, so it was pretty much a match made in heaven. She had scads of Italian cooking recipes that her family actually brought from the old country, and I was the lucky recipient of many of those dishes.
My absolute favorite was veal parmesan. That is still my favorite meal of all, and I ask for it every birthday. The only problem is that nobody I know makes it the way that I do, because I got it from my girlfriend’s Italian cooking recipes and basically had it down to a fine art.
I soon realized that I had to learn how to cook all of the meals that I was enjoying on a regular basis, because they were all so delicious, and from what I could tell, they did not look that difficult to prepare.
I had taken some culinary classes in college, and I always seemed to have a knack for making Italian food and making it well. When I met my girlfriend and started looking at her recipes, I put the skills I had picked up in the classroom to good work and started pounding out things like lasagna, baked ziti and chicken parmesan.
I loved the simplicity of the Italian cooking recipes, and when I was preparing a meal with my girlfriend, we always had so much fun. She would often tell me about the history of the foods that we were making and where they came from in Italy.
She also told me that one of my favorite Italian dishes, fettuccine alfredo, was not Italian at all, but Italian-American. As the story goes, an Italian-American chef in New York City was trying to make his pregnant wife something to eat that would not upset her stomach, and stumbled upon the dish, which has become an American favorite.
As it turned out, I never ended up having to use any of the Italian cooking recipes that I had so arduously studied and committed to memory, because, well, I married my Italian girlfriend and we have been together for more than 20 years.
We still get together at least once a week to cook, and we still have as much fun as we ever did. We do like all kinds of food, but Italian is still our favorite, and Italian cooking recipes are still the ones I enjoy the most.
What Exactly Makes it Irish Coffee Cream?
As an Irish American and a coffee drinker, I sometimes get asked about Irish coffee cream, and whether it is actually Irish. I don’t really know how to answer this, because I don’t really understand the question, and most of the time, I don’t believe that those who are asking understand it, either.
For instance, I will ask if they mean that Irish coffee cream is actually from Ireland or made with Irish ingredients, whatever those may be. Most of the time when I ask those questions, I will get a, Well, you know what I mean.î
The truth of the matter is that I don’t know what they mean, and what is more, I don’t know a whole lot about Irish coffee cream in the first place. I have always preferred amaretto or hazelnut flavored coffee cream to other kinds.
I began to realize two things. First, it seemed as though people automatically assumed that because I am an Irish American, I must know all about Irish coffee cream. The second thing was that they probably didn’t mean anything by it, but were just trying to make conversation, and that maybe I should stop being so sensitive about the issue.
One of my favorite encounters, after all, and a story that I love to tell whenever the right opportunity presents itself, is of a woman who once told me, You know, I like Lucky Charms cereal, but you must really like it!
I just about died laughing when she said that, and I decided to take the same sort of attitude when it came to Irish coffee cream.
I would make up stories about its origins and say that it came from Irish cows that were cared for by leprechauns and only grazed in pastures of four-leaf clovers. Usually, people would realize very quickly that I was teasing them, and hopefully that their question about Irish coffee cream was silly, and that would be the end of it for a while.
I don’t believe that stereotypes are funny, and they can be downright hurtful. I also don’t believe, however, that the best way to deal with stereotypes is to be angry about them all the time. I really believe that you are clever enough when somebody is making an assumption about you, you can defuse the situation and make the person realize what they are doing without creating a scene.
I honestly don’t know that much about Irish coffee cream. I have had it before, I thought that it was OK, and then went back to the other kinds that I prefer. I think the next time I am asked about it, I will just be honest and say that it is not one of my favorites, but some people like it a lot.
The Mexican Food Recipes Are Surprisingly Similar.
Being from Texas, I have practically grown up on Mexican food, and I absolutely love it more than anything else. What I have found over the years, however, is that Mexican food recipes are surprisingly similar in that many of the dishes use essentially the same ingredients.
Tacos are probably my favorite food off all. I have liked them since I was a little kid, when I would ask for them every year for my birthday dinner, and nothing has really changed. I still ask for them regularly, and they are quite simple in concept. All they require is ground beef, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, seasoning and taco shells or tortillas.
They are easy to make and taste delicious, just as many Mexican food recipes are. When I started to think about all of the Mexican dishes that I really like, however, I started to notice a very similar trend. Nearly every meal that I like is some variation of those ingredients, with a few more added in here and there.
Burritos, for instance, are ground beef, cheese, seasoning, tortillas and refried beans. If you like them this way, you can add potatoes, but for the most part, the ingredients are the same for burritos as they are for tacos with the exception of beans. Then there are tostadas, which I also love. These are basically a cross between a taco and a burrito. This recipe calls for a tostada shell, which is basically a flat taco shell, along with ground beef, cheese, refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and seasoning.
Tortillas are a staple in most Mexican food recipes, as are beans. I have found that with one of my favorite foods, enchiladas, they typically use a different type of tortilla than some other recipes, in that they include corn tortillas. However, the ingredients still include beef and cheese in most cases, or in some cases, chicken.
I also am a big fan of flautas, which basically are tortillas wrapped around beef or chicken and then deep fried. It’s probably not the best thing for your heart, but they are pretty tasty nonetheless.
I love the fact that Mexican food recipes are so simple in terms of ingredients, and yet so flavorful. Mexican restaurants are probably the most popular in the state of Texas, and I feel very fortunate that one can find really good Mexican food pretty much everywhere.
Mexican food recipes are part of my family’s regular cuisine, even though we are an Irish-American family. It is hard not to fall in love with Mexican food once you have had it, and with such a great variety of meals that can be made from such a small group of ingredients, it is impressive, too.
Time Honored Latin American Recipes from Cuba
When most Americans hear Latin American recipes they automatically think of Mexican food. While Mexican food is delicious and well represented in most major U.S. cities (though conspicuously absent from Miami for some reason), there are also great Latin American recipes and dishes from other countries and you will be missing out if you donít know about them. One of the greatest countries for culinary delights and food completely different from Mexican food is the big island nation of Cuba.
Cuba, located just 90 miles off the southern tip of Florida in the warm waters of the Caribbean, has always been a Mecca for food lovers. Ever since the great author Ernest Hemingway went ex-pat and decided to spend the rest of his life there, living and fishing off the coast of Varadero and Havana, Cuba has attracted tourists and culture lovers from around the world. Even though the U.S. has had an embargo on the island since the 1960s when Castro plotted with the Soviets and built missile launch sites throughout the island, most of the rest of the world has not shared our disdain for the sovereign nation. Tourists, fun and adventure seekers from all over the world, and culinary gourmets have been coming to the island country for many, many years. They have discovered the wonderful traditional foods of Cuba, many of which owe their heritage to Spain and Africa, a powerful blend of old world and new.
One of the staples of everyday Latin American recipes from Cuba is the simple potaje (pronounced po-ta-he) or soup of black beans. Served over plain white rice, this simple dish is perfectly seasoned and served as a side dish with lots of other traditional Cuban fare such as fried plantains (sweet or salty), fritters, croquettes, or thinly cut French fries.
Another of the great and simple Latin American recipes is seasoned ground beef called picadillo (pronounced pick-a-diyo) and usually served over rice with the black bean potaje on the side. Some island chefs add whole or sliced green olives and/or raisins but most just leave it plain and simple. This is an addictive dish and when combined with the black beans and rice it is just simply wonderful home-cooked comfort food.
Cuban cuisine features many wonderful soups and stews, most of them dating back to the colonial days when Spanish influence was primary. Caldo de Gallego (literally translated as Broth of Galiceans) is made with whole white beans and collard greens and is definitely one of the most prized of Latin American recipes. Other traditional Cuban soups include Sopa de Lentejasî (lentil soup) and Sopa de Albondigasî (meatball soup).
Cuban food has found its way into the hearts of many Americans over the years, especially in the bigger cities like New York and Los Angeles with their larger Cuban immigrant populations. Almost all Cuban restaurants will have some fun salsa music on the weekends and you can bring a bunch of friends and really have a great time.