Posts Tagged ‘easy’

Bittersweet chocolate is a form of sweetened chocolate that does not have milk in any way shape or form. It is mainly chocolate liquor, sugar,cocoa butter and vanilla.  Often, lecithin is added as an emulsifying agent.  In the United States of America the Food and Drug Administration requires that bittersweet chocolate has at least 35% chocolate liquor. In Great Britain the amount required is higher (43%).  Contrary to what it may suggest, chocolate liquor does not have alcohol. It is basically ground cocoa beans turned into liquid.  The higher the amount of chocolate liquor, the stronger the taste of the chocolate. What we know as unsweetened baking chocolate is hardened chocolate liquor. Bittersweet chocolate and Semi-sweet chocolate can be used interchangeably for baking, the difference is that bittersweet has a higher amount of chocolate liquor and less sugar. They are sensitive to temperatures and humidity. Both the semisweet and bittersweet chocolates are occasionally labeled “couverture,” which indicates that the chocolate contains no less than 32 percent cocoa butter (fat) and that they have to be tempered.

Studies have shown that, when eaten in moderation, good quality dark chocolate has antioxidant properties that reduce blood pressure, is an antitussive and an aphrodisiac!  I welcome anything that is good for my heart, my health and my sex life!  Ja! However, take note that the same property of chocolate (theobromine) that gets you sexually aroused , is poison to cats and dogs, so keep chocolate away from your pets!  I know from personal experience because about 10 years ago I had some friends over for my husband’s birthday and someone dropped chocolate cake on the floor. Our dog Cosmo ate it and started convulsing and my friend Paola and I ended up at the veterinary clinic at 2 am! Cosmo survived, but the vet told us to never ever let the dog eat chocolate again.

Inspired by a recipe in Alice Medrich’s book Pure Dessert, these brownies are strong in flavor but delicate in texture.  My mother calls them “adult brownies” because of their deep, bittersweet lingering taste. One or two 2″x2″ inch pieces will probably be enough to get your chocolate fix! They have the traditional glossy top and moist center. More crumbly than fudgy. Best when eaten the same day you bake them. Lining the pan with foil paper is a great tip because it makes it so easy to take out, cut and serve, not to mention the cleaning of the pan…”nada”!   Like Michael Pollan says in his book Food Rules, “eat junk food as long as you make it”, so allow yourself this treat because it is home made with natural ingredients. I once heard that coffee brings out the chocolate flavors, so I always add a little bit of espresso to my brownies no matter which or whose recipe I make. As a general rule, never over beat brownies!!!! These brownies are dark, decadent and delicious!!!!! Serve as a snack with glass of milk or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and berries as desert. Yum!

Note:  In Puerto Rico I find good quality bittersweet chocolate in Bottles or La Hacienda.


Bittersweet Brownies


8 ounces 70% cacao bittersweet chocolate

6 tbsp unsalted butter

3 eggs

1 cup of sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp fresh espresso coffee

generous pinch of salt

1/3 cup and 1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour


1.  Preheat oven 350ºF.  Line a square 8 inch baking pan with foil paper.

2.  In a double boiler melt butter and chocolate until fully incorporated by stirring with a spatula.

3.  Meanwhile, beat eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla for about two minutes until creamy consistency and the mixuture turns light yellow.

4.  Whisk in chocolate/butter mixture to egg/sugar mixture.

5.  Fold in flour and espresso just until fully incorporated. Do not overmix.

6.  Pour batter into lined pan and spread evenly with a spatula.  Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes at 350º F until toothpick comes out crumbly not “wet” with batter.  It will not come out totally clean when done.

7.  Let cool a bit for about 5 minutes and remove foil paper and “big brownie” from baking pan.

8.  Turn over a plate or flat surface to remove foil paper and carefully turn back up again in a cutting board.

9.  Cut with large knife into 16 2×2 inch pieces.  Let cool completely at room temperature.  Serve as a snack with glass of milk or as desert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream with mixed berries or raspberry coulis.


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This recipe is from Jeannie, the mother of Maryse one of my best friends from childhood.  While we were growing up (approximately 11-16 years old in the late 1980’s), Jeannie and Jose would invite a group of 5 or 6 of their daughter’s girlfriends to spend the weekend on their boat the week of her birthday, usually the third week of april.  Jeannie would always come prepared with a few gallons of her homemade fruit punch, “sandwichitos de mezcla” and she would make eggs on a nest (“huevo al nido”) for breakfast.  For several years we visited different beaches and bays in Culebra and Vieques, beautiful islands off Puerto Rico. We had so much fun learning to kneeboard, snorkel and just being close to nature.  No DVD players, nintendos or cable tv, just girlfriends engaging in conversation, making jokes and playing cards and board games. I remember one morning I woke up to find that the girls played a joke on me by replacing one of the boat’s flags with one of my bras!  I was 13 and was so embarrassed!

Culebrita Island March 2008. 35th birthday trip.

Two years ago, I called Maryse (who lives in New York City) to plan a weekend boat trip to Vieques and Culebra to celebrate our 35th birthday.  After we got in touch with all the girls and the trip was a go, Jeannie called me to see if there was anything she could do to help in planning the trip since her daughter was arriving the night before and would not be able to pitch in with the food like the other girlfriends that were living on the island.  I didn’t ask for lasagna or  chicken pot pie, the only thing that came to my mind was her fruit punch.  So the night Maryse and Jorg arrived, which was at around midnight, she came to the marina with a bag of fruit and a gallon or two of her fruit punch specialty.  The taste tranported me to great childhood memories! In addition, I realized once again how lucky I am to have true lifelong friends.  Happy Birthday Maryse!

Jeannie’s Fruit Punch


makes a gallon

1 frozen can concentrated orange juice (12 0z) plus 3 cans of water

1 large can of pineapple juice (46 oz.)

1/4 cup of grenadine syrup


1.  Prepare frozen orange juice concentrate according to package instructions (usually adding 3 additional water measurements)

2.  Add rest of ingredients and stir briskly.  Makes one gallon.  Refrigerate.  You may add maraschino cherries when serving.

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Simple whipped potatoes is a basic recipe that every cook should know.  Everyone big and small likes mashed potatoes and they go with almost everything.  Believe me, this is so easy and delicious you will never make those instant mashed potato packets again in your life! A few days ago I made a batch and served it to my family as a side dish to sea bass with olives and capers.   I also use this recipe as the starting point for my roasted garlic mashed potato recipe, my “relleno de papa” recipe, “tambor de papas” and potato and carrot puree among others.

Important tips to follow when making mashed potatoes:

a) cut potatoes into large cubes of similar size so that they cook evenly.

b)  place potatoes in cold or warm water to cook and then bring to a boil so that the potatoes cook evenly.

c) once the potatoes are whipped or mashed to your liking, place them in a double boiler or “bain-marie” so that they remain smooth and fluffy.  If you don’t do this, you will be eating the hardest mashed potatoes of your life! This is a great tip I learned from my late father-in-law Don Tony , this way I can make the potatoes ahead of time and not worry about their texture and fluffiness.  If you don’t have a double boiler, put a heat proof bowl over simmering water and cover.


Simple Whipped Potatoes


5  medium potatoes (peeled and cubed)

1/4 cup of heavy cream

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 tbsp butter

pepper to taste


1.  Peel 5 medium sized potatoes and cut it into uniform large cubes.

2.  Put potatoes into medium saucepan that is filled halfway with water.   Add generous dash of salt and bring to a boil until done.

3.  Once potatoes are cooked, drain and put into a bowl with rest of ingredients. Mash potatoes roughly by hand. (I use my Kitchen Aid bowl with a hand potato masher)

4.  Whip mashed potatoes for about 3 minutes. Be careful because bowl will get hot.

5. Once you have reached desired consistency, place whipped potatoes into a double boiler or “bain-marie” over low heat until ready to serve.

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This is a delicious easy alternative for a week day family dinner.  You can leave the pork tenderloins seasoned the night before. The brown sugar gives the tenderloin a sweet golden finish and helps make an amazing onion cream sauce.  It is different and tastes so good!  I use fresh rosemary from my herb garden but you can use dried if you want.  Just remember nothing beats the flavor of fresh herbs, with the exception of dried oregano in italian cooking. I make this dish for my family and always get outstanding reviews.  Great with homemade mashed potatoes or salad.


Brown Sugar Pork Tenderloin


2 pork tenderloins

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp fresh ground pepper

1 tbsp fresh rosemary

2 garlic cloves (mashed)

1/4 cup of brown sugar

1/4 cup of white wine

1 medium onion  sliced

1/2 cup of heavy cream


1.  Clean pork tenderloins from excess fat.

2.  Mash garlic cloves with a pinch of the salt in a mortar and pestle.  Mix with brown sugar, pepper, remaining salt and rosemary to create a paste and rub on tenderloins.

3.  In a heavy bottomed medium size casserole (caldero) or dutch oven,  heat extra virgin olive oil (med-hi heat).  Add pork tenderloins and brown on one side for about 5 -7minutes.

4.  Add white wine and flip to brown on the other side for about 5 minutes. Lower heat to med-low, cover and cook for about 15 minutes. Check for doneness.

5.  Remove tenderloins form pan and add onions to the meat-wine juices left in the pan.  Saute until onions caramelized and add heavy cream. Do not let juices to evaporate completely. If too high lower heat (stoves vary so use common sense).

6.  Meanwhile, cut tenderloin into medallions and add juices from your cutting plate to the onions in the pan.  Allow sauce to reduce until creamy in texture.

7.  Pour sauce over medallions.   Serve immediately with salad or vegetables.

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I love pasta!  Capellini is very thin spaghetti sometimes called angel hair pasta.  My favorite way to make it is short and simple; with olive oil, tomato, garlic and basil. Fresh, light and satisfying!  May be served as a side dish or as a light meal.  I also like to serve it cold from the fridge with salad. Yum!

Buon Appetito!

Capellini with tomato, garlic and basil


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 pound capellini (8 oz.)

3 garlic cloves (minced)

2 roma tomatoes (diced)

about 6 fresh basil leaves chopped

2 tsp kosher salt

pepper to taste

freshly grated parmesan cheese


1.  In a medium sauce pan, bring water (about 6 cups) to a boil.  Add generous pinch of salt  and olive oil and start cooking capellini according to package instructions.

2.  Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat extra virgin olive oil (medium heat) and add minced garlic.  Saute for about 2 minutes (do not  brown).

3.  Add tomato, basil and salt and pepper. Saute for about 3 minutes.

4.  Turn off the heat. Add drained capellini to saute pan and stir until well mixed. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later.

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There is no question that this side dish is the traditional Puertorican complement to white rice, fried plantains and sauteed beef tenderloin with onions (arroz blanco, habichuelas guisadas, tostones/amarillos, y bistec encebollado).  Of course, for purists of Puertorrican cooking this fast track version of “Habichuelas Guisadas” is a sacrilege (how dramatic!) because I am using canned beans (relax, I also have a recipe with dried beans).  However, some of you will agree with me that this quick and easy recipe is a lifesaver for busy parents, college students and professionals that forgot to soften the dried beans in water the night before. Sometimes I find organic canned pink beans.  If you want you may substitute the pumpkin with same amount of cubed potatoes or the chicken stock with good quality vegetable stock. Also, if you have some left overs, you can make “arroz mamposteado”  (sauteed white rice and beans).  My grandmother likes to add cubed ham (jamón de cocinar) to the “sofrito”.   I find my version pretty flavorful and tasty without the ham so its optional and depending on your preference.

Well, my mother and grandmother might not approve, but I think these beans turn out pretty awesome! Ja!


Habichuelas Rosadas Guisadas Fáciles (Easy Stewed Pink Beans)


2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves minced

1/4 cup cubanel green pepper (pimiento de cocinar) finely chopped

1/4  cup white onion finely chopped

1 recaito “ice cube” ( about 1 1/2 tbsp)

2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 cup tomato sauce

1  15 ounce can of pink beans (drained)

1 cup fresh pumpkin cubed

2 cups organic chicken broth


1.  In a saucepan heat extra virgin olive oil.  Add garlic, pepper, onion and recaito. Sauté for about 5 minutes over medium heat.

2. Add salt and tomato sauce  to complete the “sofrito”. Sauté for about 3 minutes.

3.  Add beans and pumpkin and stir followed by chicken broth.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat for almost 20.  Stir occasionally and make sure there is enough liquid for beans not to stick to bottom of sauce pan.

4.  Serve over your choice of white or yellow rice.

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