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Tasty, Beautiful, Healthy: Grilled Veggie Kebabs

11 Jun

More from our recent camping trip…veggie kebabs are crunchy and fresh accompaniments to all that heavy meat you are throwing on the grill. They are fun to make and fun to eat and look beautiful on a picnic table. The marinade has just five ingredients…the taste of summer produce shines through!

Bright and beautiful, these kebabs are sure to be a favorite of campers and grill-lovers!

Bright and beautiful, these kebabs are sure to be a favorite of campers and grill-lovers!


Dozen wooden skewers, soaked in water for 20 minutes (soak them as you cut vegetables)


3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 generous tsp oregano

2-3 tsps fresh lemon juice

2 generous pinches salt


About 2 lbs quick-cooking mixed vegetables such as

1 Cup grape or cherry tomatoes (whole)

1 Cup green/red/yellow/orange peppers, cut into 1” squares

1 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds

1 medium yellow squash, sliced into rounds

8 oz. button mushrooms, wiped cleaned, stems trimmed and cut in half top to stem

(eggplant is not recommended for a mixed kebab as it takes much longer to cook; in general, stay away from dense vegetables for this)

Whisk together all marinade ingredients and place in a resealable 1-gallon plastic storage bag (or put them in the bag, seal, and shake vigorously until combined). Put all the vegetables in the bag, seal and shake to coat thoroughly. Let marinate at least 20 minutes. Get the grill going.

Now for the messy part. Spear mixed veggies onto the skewer in whichever order seems right to you (this is a great job for kids). Don’t  squeeze them together (you want them to have surface area between to cook quickly and evenly) and leave ample space for hands to hold them. Figure on 5-7 vegetables per skewer.

Lay on medium hot grill and cook for 5 minutes, turn, and cook more. They should be completely done in 15 minutes or so, depending on your grill. You are looking for blistering, even charring, skin on the tomatoes and peppers for doneness. You can move them about to different temperature areas on the grill as needed. Serve!

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Spanish-style Tortilla (modified for camp stoves)

Take your omelette to a new level....

Take your omelette to a new level….

Spider Dogs




Big Bang Burgers: Four Ingredients, Deliciously Juicy

7 Jun

Do you buy frozen beef patties for summer grilling? Really? Please tell me you don’t. Or at least, please tell me that you have done it for the last time! When you see how easy it is to make tasty, juicy burgers that are infinitely superior to those tasteless wooden slabs, and only use four ingredients, I know you will make your own next time. And your family and guests will be glad you did.

Destined for the freezer

Destined for the freezer

We certainly were. Several days before our recent beach camping trip to Hither Hills State Park here on the East End of Long Island, I made about a dozen burgers (which took all of five minutes, even with Leandro doing the burger formation), cooked a couple for dinner, then wrapped and froze the rest. Ours are a variety of sizes, as a certain almost-six-year-old was in charge of forming the patties. I like having many sizes actually, because it suits different appetities. Adjust cooking times accordingly.

Here's one we ate at home

Here’s one we ate at home

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Spider Dogs, Octo-Dogs:The Hottest Dogs for Kids!

31 May

We’ll be camping and grilling again this summer, so here is a reminder for you (and me) on the coolest way to grill hot dogs for kids!

Click here for original post, or follow the directions below!

Quick grill idea for kids!

Quick grill idea for kids!

Grilled Spider-Dogs

Packaged hot dogs

1 skewer for each hotdog

You’ll want a hot grill going for this.

Stick a skewer halfway through each hot dog lengthwise.

Carefully cut the free half into quarters, lengthwise.

Lay the sliced ends of the hot dogs on the grill. The slices will curl back away from each other as they cook. When the sliced end is cooked and curled, carefully remove the dogs from their skewers, skewer through the cooked end and slice uncooked half into quarters lengthwise. Lay the uncooked ends of the dogs on the grill and cook until they are also curled back and you have a spider (or octo-) dog!



Zippy Passionfruit Chipotle Grill-Charred Shrimp: Spicy, Sweet and Speedy!

5 May

You are going to love how fast, easy and flavorful this shrimp dish is!

You would think from my recent posts that I wasn’t cooking at all! It has been a whirlwind of parties and events and educational stuff, but I’ve still been in the kitchen and garden plenty, banging out some of our easy favorites (like 5-Minute Black Beans; Spinach/Chard/Kale Pasta; Caribbean Chicken Soup to name a few reliable and fast ones) and beginning to harvest some baby, baby veggies.

Passionfruit marinade

Passionfruit marinade

Taco Tuesdays have been going strong (although we did a Nacho Tuesday variation not too long ago).  Flex-Mex Shredded Chicken and Basic Seasoned Ground Beef are the usual go-tos as the chicken is just a two-minute prep and I always have batches of prepared beef in the freezer ready-to-go….but I do like to try new variations, especially if there’s another grown-up around willing to accompany me in case Leandro gets fussed. Ashley and I had some work to do on a proposal, so we decided to make it on a Taco Tuesday so I could do some Mexican-inspired shrimp.

Love my Le Creuset grill pan

Love my Le Creuset grill pan

The marinade will taste very spicy when you put the shrimp in, but do not be afraid. Once the shrimp is soaked in it and the grill does its work the spiciness mellows to a pleasant nuance. Do heat the grill pretty hot so you get a good-looking sear fast, without overcooking the shrimp.

Delicious with avocado

Delicious with avocado

Chipotle Passionfruit Grilled Shrimp (makes four servings)

For marinade

1 -2 Tbs chipotle in adobo (remove seeds and chop)

¾ Cup passionfruit (maracuya or parcha in Spanish) pulp, defrosted if using frozen

2 Tbs lime juice

2 Tbs olive oil

1 tsp fresh cilantro, chopped

2 pinches salt


1.5 pounds peeled and defrosted, if frozen. (Larger is better for grilling purposes. The minimum size should be 31-40 per pound).

Mix all marinade ingredients into a sealable refrigerator safe container. Add shrimp and marinate for no less than 15 minutes and no more than 30 (30 is optimal).

Heat grill or grill pan and brush with just enough oil to prevent sticking. When the oil is smoking hot, add shrimp (in batches to avoid crowding). Cook for 2-3 minutes one side, and then flip and cook another minute (or more if using larger shrimp). Remove and serve with chopped avocado, rice, and black beans, or in tacos.

Sauteed Onions and Mushrooms II (This time dairy-free)

14 Jan

The last time I posted  Sauteed mushrooms and onions, it was a rich and unctuous burger-topper sauteed in butter that I learned from my friend Marianne – the wife of one male and mother of two more, and so an expert in crowd-pleasing, no-holds-barred burger toppers and other such make-happy-the-hungry-horde type stuff.

Into the frying pan

Into the frying pan

But now it’s January, the birth month of good intentions (and the trail head of the road to hell, but never mind)  and Marianne and I are looking at ourselves and deciding it is time to try slimmer versions of our favorite meals. We’ve been getting together on Sundays and making good, healthy,veggie, low-whatever refrigerator items for the week.

Thus, this new take on sauteed onions and mushrooms. No dairy (Susu, are you listening?) and yet still unctuous and savory (mushrooms tend to do that). Try it on black bean burgers with quinoa or without and feel truly virtuous!

Golden is good, but wait for it...darker is better

Golden is good, but wait for it…darker is better

Sauteed Onions and Mushrooms

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1.5 Cups sliced onion (slice against the stripes)

10 oz. sliced mushrooms (button or baby bella), woody stems trimmed or removed

2 shakes adobo seasoning (or one pinch each of: garlic powder, onion powder, salt. Oregano is optional, and you can add more of any of them to taste)

Heat the olive oil at medium high in a large skillet until loose and fragrant. Add onions and stir to coat. Add mushrooms and stir to coat. Sprinkle with adobo seasoning, lower heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes, until onions are quite wilted and mushrooms are darkened and soft.

Sweet and Savory Churrasco (Skirt Steak, Grilled)

13 Jan

You may ask whether I am cooking at all lately, seeing as I have been posting more of my dad, Pedro’s recipes than my own.

Truth is, I have been cooking as much as usual, but sticking to my go-to recipes like Spinach Pasta, Pollo Guisado (Stewed Chicken), and the like. I am prepping  for when my semester begins, taking my Leandro-free vacation time to catch up on many things and stocking the freezer!



But during the holidays we were on family vacation in Puerto Rico and between the holiday dishes like Perníl (Roast Pork Shoulder) and Better Than Perfect Latin White Rice and the rare opportunity for me to have the time to really watch him go…well I did  a lot of looming over his shoulder thrusting measuring implements at him and observing and taking notes (which is what we should all be doing around our favorite family cooks). And now I am catching you up on some of my favorite Padushi recipes. (and scroll down for one of my favorite images from our trip!) Continue reading

Hot, Cheap & Easy’s Five Top Posts and Wrap-Up for 2012

31 Dec

Whoo-hoo! This year I became a published book writer for the first time with Eat Your Way Around Puerto Rico – a digital dictionary that tells folks what to eat in Puerto Rico and how to ask for it! I also successfully transitioned my little guy to kindergarten (where he has only had the school lunch three times); was an invited speaker at a variety of events (more related to education than food, but an accomplishment nonetheless) and presenter at others; did a number of articles for publication; and did bunches of other things that I am happy about. In a year full of tension and tragedy, I feel very very fortunate to have made it through so well.

And of course Hot, Cheap & Easy has been rollicking along, with 141 new posts (current total is 291, including this one) getting visits from 149 countries and increasing visitors by 150% over last year. The blog has a Facebook page now (like it!) where I post food news and fun that doesn’t quite fit within the scope of the blog.

So here are the five most-visited posts of the year…followed by a shout-out to my most supportive fellow bloggers! I wish you all a delicious 2013….and THANK YOU, GRACIAS, MERCY BUCKETS for all your visits and comments and suggestions!

DSC_0020Hot, Cheap & Easy’s Top Five Countdown for 2012 Continue reading

Grilled Cornish Game Hens: Three Marinades for a Crowd or for One

26 Dec

Ah the illusions of youth!

Rock Cornish Game Hens were such a fancy thing to eat when I was little. They were so cute and golden when they came out of the oven; a half a bird each for me and my brother, and one each for our parents, basted in a peach sauce that was lovely and sweet. (Keep reading for Puerto Rican, Greek and Mesquite marinades!)

These little birds, almost invariably sold frozen into hand-held cannonballs, seemed to me to be an exotic species (don’t laugh, those of you from Cornwall) and having been an eager reader of all things Annie Oakley and Laura Ingalls Wilder, and other tough girl survivor books in the days before Katniss Everdeen and I imagined that these little birds were hunted by young folks with charming accents, roaming the plains of Cornwall (do you even have plains in Cornwall?) in home-made clothes, with rifles or intriguing traps or somesuch.

Itty bitty

Itty bitty

Continue reading

Grilled Butternut Squash

28 Nov

This simple recipe for grilled butternut squash is another Padushi special, straight out of his crumbling crazy-ass diet (for new readers, the crazy-ass diet is some sort of vegan-gone-completely-over-the-edge thing that consists primarily of carrots, beets, and potatoes, and doesn’t let you combine veggies that grow above the ground with veggies that grow below the ground in the same meal. Don’t ask.)

Use the seed well to mix the oil and spice

He is, thankfully, no longer strictly on it anymore, although there are still moments of madness.

Much of what he made for the crazy-ass diet was okay eating. Some of it was just this side of edible. But this recipe, which takes the unusual step of grilling the squash, is really delicious in its own right.

Great grill marks!

It was especially handy during the power outages following Hurricane Sandy, as butternut squash, a native American squash in the Cucurbita family, is in season, doesn’t need refrigeration and the grill runs on propane, independent of nationalgrid and LIPA. We have the power back, but grilled butternut squash is delicious any time! It also has loads of vitamins (especially A) and minerals (like potassium)

Creamy inside, smoky outside!

Grilled Butternut Squash

1 butternut squash

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp Adobo powder or salty seasoning of your preference (something curried would be nice!)

Heat the grill to high.

Slice squash in half lengthwise and clean out the seeds. Discard seeds or clean, dry and roast for a separate snack.

Pour half the oil and half the seasoning into the bowls of each squash half. Using hands, mix the oil and seasoning, then spread evenly over the entire squash, including skin.

Put on hot grill, skin side first, and close grill. Cook until a fork will easily pierce all the way through (about 30 minutes), turning onto flesh side about halfway through cooking.

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Kendra’s Grilled Lamb Chops and Sauteed Calabaza Pumpkin, and other tasty stuff from Puerto Rico

7 Aug

(This recipe has been corrected to reflect Kendra’s input!)

I have mentioned that I was recently in Puerto Rico at the venerable Caribe Hilton to speak on a panel (for the Triennial Convention of the American Federation of School Administrators). It was a pleasure and an honor to speak with such dedicated professionals! And everything went very well; I learned a great deal and made many interesting acquaintances.

The view from Kendra and Raúl’s in Isla Verde

I was not able to take my son and it was the strangest, and not very pleasant sensation to be so far away. In the annals of never-happy, it is an awful irony that I complain and complain that I never have a moment to myself, and then when I finally do, I am bereft. I can’t stand myself sometimes.

El Jibarito…there was quite a line at 2 p.m., but it moved FAST

But, I recovered my senses. And of course, I ate.

Pernil with mofongo de yuca and the sad, sad, salad that is a Puerto Rican criollo restaurant inevitability…

In Old San Juan, El Jibarito on Calle Sol can be counted on for good old-fashioned comida criollo. I had pernil (roast pork) and mofongo de yuca (yuca with garlic and oil, mashed and fried). I had drinks with José Luis, my beloved Colombian friend whose got the loveliest clothing boutique in Condado (Ambar) . I visited with Emilio, of Oof Restaurants for a long overdue catch-up. Had a leaisurely coffee and tea with the inimitable Chef Norma Llop, who runs much of the gastronomy end of PR Tourism. And had a long visit with my godmother, Carmen Palacios de Ramírez, with a glimpse of godfather Efrén deep in writing a book…yes, I got around a lot in just a few days!


With dear friends David and Sean, I had very good ceviche at Perurrican over most stimulating conversation.

Location, location, location – Perurrican in Condado

And then Kendra, who was for years my partner in mischief all over the Caribbean, my soccer buddy on the Puerto Rico National Team, and is still an all around lioness of a friend, not only made a delicious meal for me in the home she shares with her fabulous partner, Raúl, but showed me how it was done. Before we’d had too much wine to get the recipe down in writing! (Are you listening Adri? It can be done!)

The view from Kendra and Raúl’s at 5 p.m.

It was a wonderful trip!


The monster mash: adobo

The grill

The results!

Kendra’s Grilled Lamb Chops

2 lbs lamb chops, rinsed and patted dry


4 cloves garlic

1-2 sprigs rosemary – just the leaves

¾ tsp salt per pound

Grating of pepper

PLUS extra virgin olive oil, to be added teaspoon by teaspoon

After prepping the lamb chops, place all adobo ingredients except oil in a mortar and pestle and grind down to a rough paste, adding oil a half teaspoon at a time until you reach a spreadable, but non-greasy texture.

Paint both sides of the chops and refrigerate until about ready to use. Give the chops enough time to return to room temperature before grilling.

Heat your grill until just under its high temperature, then scrape grill clean if necessary. Allow to heat up for a couple of minutes, then start.

Place chops on grill. After 1.5 minutes, turn them over. Cook for another 1.5 minutes, then repeat. Stand them up on their sides on the grill for another minute, checking for the density of the chops to firm up. Remove from grill, place on a platter and tent them with aluminum foil for another five minutes. You may check for doneness with a meat thermometer (140°F will be rare, although many chefs stop at 120°-130°). The chops can rest until you are ready to serve.

Continue Scrolling Down for Calabaza Recipe

Cutting the calabaza


Sauteed Calabaza (Caribbean Pumpkin)

2lbs calabaza (acorn squash is the nearest substitute)

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp butter

1 tsp honey

Wash calabaza rind thoroughly. Do not peel. Chop calabaza into 1.5” chunks. Sprinkle sparingly with salt.

Heat oil and butter in a pan at medium high until foaming subsides. Add calabaza, stir to coat and turn down to medium low so you hear a slightly sizzle. Drizzle with honey and cook for a few minutes until beginning to soften, but still resistant to a fork. Turn off burner, cover and leave for at least 5-10 minutes, until a fork passes easily through, and you are ready to serve.

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