Tag Archives: kid-friendly recipes

Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Caliente – Sweet Memories

1 Feb

For my six-year-old, it was all about the creamy, sweet, warm yumminess of some homemade hot chocolate. For me, it was all about channeling my grandmother.

2014-01-30 04.21.40 chocolateWhen I was a kid and my grandmother was still alive, my brother and I would spend part of our summers in Puerto Rico with her in her breezy 10th floor apartment in metropolitan San Juan.

Why we would need hot chocolate during the summer in a place which rarely dips below 80°F is an abuela’s own private mystery, but it may be a legacy of the Spanish colonial days when liquid chocolate – a New World treasure — would have been a favorite beverage. Chocolate is a huge part of Latin American history; cacao was born in South America and for more on that you need Maricel Presilla’s The New Taste of Chocolate.

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All I know is I have delicious memories of the lovely Old World style package of Chocolate Cortés, a big bar of dusty brown chocolate, and my grandmother breaking off sections and dropping them into a bit of milk. I can still hear the metal spoon swirling against the metal pot as she melted the chunks of chocolate in a bit of milk until it was a thick syrup, then added more milk and served it up in little tea cups with tiny teaspoons.

2014-01-30 04.24.11 chocolate Amazingly enough, in my local suburban Long Island supermarket they sell Chocolate Cortés – which, as it turns out, is a company in the Dominican Republic that began exporting chocolate to Puerto Rico in the 1930s — in the International section, somewhere between the Coco López and dried lentils, and so today when my son got home from school we made hot chocolate the way my grandmother used to do, me stirring up that same sound and those same memories and noticing, not for the first time, that I have her same hard-working stubby-sturdy fingers.

chocolate syrup

chocolate syrup

“This is the best hot chocolate ever!” said the little man with his chocolate mustache.

And yes, although I didn’t have more than a tiny teaspoon to taste, I have to say it was.

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Melt one bar per cup desired in a bit of milk. Stir frequently. When you have a syrup, add one cup milk per cup desired. Heat and serve!

Chocolate Cortés


Frankenbeans! (Hot Dogs and Pink Beans in a Skillet)

18 Feb

It’s a sad irony that I finally have perfected Latin white rice (thanks to my dad’s technique) and the doctor tells me that I have to reduce carbs for my triglycerides or somesuch! Terrible.

But Leandro received no such warning, so he gets to enjoy my now fantastic rice with any number of dishes.

Here’s franks and beans with an ever-so-slightly Latin flavor. Goya’s Latin-style tomato sauce and cilantro and culantro put a little spring in the step of this easy, kid-friendly dish. My parents used to make us something similar when we were kids, so it was fun to try and recreate them. They have very little in common with the sweet gooey canned Franks and Beans you find. This are actually grown-up worthy too!

Beans and Franks

Beans and Franks

I use Applegate Farms Organic Beef Hotdogs. I prefer organic meats as a rule. These also don’t use synthetic nitrites, but it isn’t clear from what I have read that natural nitrites are any better than synthetic. They are more expensive than your standard supermarket dogs, but I feel that they are worth it.

Leandro loves these, and they reheat very well for his lunch thermos the next day. (In the morning, when I am boiling water for tea, I boil extra to pour in the Thermos to warm it up. Then I dump the water, put in the hot food, and it is still warm a few hours later for his lunch ).





1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

½ Cup onion, minced

1 tsp garlic, chopped

3 hot dogs, sliced into ½ inch rounds

1 Tbs fresh cilantro chopped

1 tsp fresh culantro (recao; sawtooth coriander) or other green herb of your choice, chopped, optional

8 oz can Goya Latin Style Tomato Sauce

2 pinches salt

2 pinches hot red pepper flakes

½ tsp ketchup

1 Cup pink beans (soaked or from a can)

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium high and add onions, Stir to coat, lower heat, and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add garlic and cook an additional minute or two, until the house smells good and the vegetables are wilted. Add hot dogs and stir, then add cilantro and culantro or other herbs. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, then add tomato sauce, salt, red pepper, and ketchup to taste. Add beans. You will probably want to add about ¼ Cup water to thin. Simmer for 10 minutes r more and serve with Latin-style white rice.

Latin-Style Yellow Rice (Arroz Amarillo)

10 Jan

“I was looking for a yellow rice recipe on your blog and I couldn’t find one,” says my dear friend Deborah the other day. “What kind of a Puerto Rican are you?”

Since Deborah’s people also hail from the Island of Enchantment, I cannot share my answer on a family blog.

2013-01-10 06.31.28  And in fact, my answer — however clever — did not reflect the exact truth. I am the kind of Puerto Rican who adds a packet of Sazón to the rice and leaves it at that. But I wasn’t telling her that! After all, she is a chef, owner of Cuvée Seafood & Grill at The Greenporter in Long Island’s North Fork, a proponent of real food — not little packages of MSG –, and was asking for a recipe to try out.

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Chicken Breasts in Spicy Creole Sauce (Pechuga de pollo en salsa entomatada)

2 Dec

Today’s post will be very straightforward and workman-like, as today I have to finish up a magazine article and my parents are having their annual holiday cocktail for a group of friends, so we will be busy all day! It suits, however, because for all the vibrant color and flavor of the result, this is one of our everyday, workman-like meals. Continue reading

Back-to-School Freezer Fillers 3: Pollo Guisado (Stewed Chicken)

9 Sep

Pollo Guisado is one of those abuela (grandmother) dishes that Puerto Ricans and other Spanish-Caribbean folks grow up on. It is uncomplicated, but rich in flavor.

Yes, there is both wine and beer in it; that is not an error in the recipe! This is a modified and milder version of the classic Pollo Guisado which I have posted before (which uses  flavorful chicken thighs rather than mild breast, and twice the beer). Very kid-friendly, it is best served with rice. It looks and tastes impressive, but is a cinch to make and is mostly hands-off.

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“Mom. Blog This. Right Now.” (Leandro Makes His First Pesto and Wants You To Know How Great It Was)

11 Aug

It is high season for basil, which means high season for pesto. I forgot to pick up basil from the farm this week, but one of the neighbors’ friends, in gratitude for Sangría Night, sent some over from the overabundance in her own garden.

From Lindsay’s Garden

Between that and my little plants scattered around the yard, I had enough for a quickie pesto for Leandro’s couscous.

From our garden – not the greatest shot, but the other ones showed all the perforations from unknown creatures feasting merrily on my herbs!

And then, BONUS! I had Leandro making his own dinner! He loves the smell of basil, but what he truly couldn’t resist was a go with the pestle. Nothing like offering a five-year-old a club and saying “Have at it, kid. Call me when you’ve beaten this stuff to a pulp.”

The Little Chef at work

He was tremendously excited at every turn, making me smell all the different aromas as we added ingredients to the mortar. We mixed it into couscous for lunch with the grands and wasn’t he so proud to have made The Best Pesto Ever? We were proud too and it really was delicious. I also used some of it to spread on roasted eggplant, peppers and zucchini. What a terrific lunch! And a wonderful kitchen experience!

Note the unorthodox use of walnuts (Poor Marcella Hazan; I use her The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking all the time, but never quite stick to the classical line). I can’t afford to keep pine nuts around so walnuts were a worthy and handy substitute. (Mind you, with the price of walnuts rising — around $18 now for a 3-lb bag at Costco these days, up from $15 not too many months ago — who knows how long I’ll be able to afford those!). Also, this recipe can certainly be increased; I only had a cup of basil.


With Couscous

Hand-Ground Pesto (Mortar and Pestle needed)

1 Cup basil leaves, tightly packed (washed in cold water and patted dry)

1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled

2 Tbs walnuts

 Coarse sea salt (pinch by pinch, to taste)

¼ Cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (additional Tbs romano cheese optional)

¼ Cup extra virgin olive oil

In a mortar and pestle (marble mortar with wooden pestle is what Marcella Hazan recommends; I use all marble) grind basil leaves, garlic, walnuts, and sea salt into a paste. Add cheese and use pestle to mix well. Add the oil in a thin stream, mixing well with a wooden spoon.

If using pasta, this amount will suffice for about a pound, Reserve some of the pasta cooking water to thin the pesto as you turn it into the pasta. If using couscous, start with two Cups dry (Israeli-style couscous – the big kind – preferred)

On stacked grilled veggies

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