Rice and beans has just a few ingredients, but for me, cooking it can be surprisingly high maintenance. It’s hard to know just how much water to add and exactly when to turn off the heat, and even with a watchful eye the bottom of the pan always seems to burn. I get it: Mastering the technique is a matter of tradition, a labor of love . . . an art more than a science. But I also just want some yummy rice and beans (or “peas” as they’re called in Jamaica). So, I caved and figured out how to make the dish in my amazing rice cooker and voila! Perfection every time. Here’s your fail proof, modernized Jamaican Rice & Peas recipe.
Quick Rice and Peas in the Rice Cooker
- ¾ cup canned red kidney beans, drained
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 scallions, chopped (white and light green only)
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 2 cups long grain white rice (get the plain kind, like Uncle Ben’s
- 1 cup coconut milk
- a few dots of butter
- Kosher salt and pepper
- about 3 cups water (or, the amount of water needed to fill contents to line on your rice cooker for 3 cups rice)
Heat oil over medium heat. Sautee garlic and scallions until they just begin to brown, then gently add the kidney beans and thyme. Continue sautéing another minute, taking care not to mash or break the beans. Remove from heat.
Pour rice into rice cooker. Add coconut milk, then add the garlic/scallion/bean mixture. Add salt and pepper (about a teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper). Finally add water, enough water to fill the contents up to the line needed for 3 cups of rice in your rice cooker. Turn on rice cooker and cook!
This week I’m making homemade baby food with one of my favorite ingredients, Japanese sweet potatoes. These potatoes have a purplish skin and a pale yellow texture; the texture and flavor is kind of a cross between white starchy potatoes, a yuca, and a sweet potato. To make the baby food here’s all you need to do:
- Bake one sweet potato at 400 degrees for about an hour or until very mushy. Let cool slightly.
- Scoop out the flesh and place in a food processor, blender, or mini prep.
- Add 1/4 cup of water (to start) and pulse until blended and smooth. Keep adding water by the 1/4 cup until desired consistency is reached. For a young baby (5-6 months) you’ll want a smoother puree; for older babies it can be more chunky.
Japanese sweet potatoes make a yummy baby food that’s not overly sweet.
Sometimes you just don’t have the time or patience to shred a breast of chicken or piece of meat with a fork. An amazingly simple alternative is to pop the cooked meat into your stand mixer, and using your paddle attachment, stir until shredded (about 30 seconds). Check out the video—It really works!
From the first time our babysitter Rafaela cooked us this one-pot Dominican chicken, I was obsessed. Per usual we had a few chicken breasts in the freezer and she offered to whip up some dinner using those and a handful of vegetables we had in the fridge. There was a mortar and pestle involved. Fifteen minutes later emerged chicken so flavorful and delicious I begged her to teach me, and she kindly obliged. The recipe is simple enough, but I’ve found it takes some love to perfect. One trick is to use a bit more vinegar (I skipped this ingredient in the video). I think that helps keep the chicken juicy and gives it a lot of character. Also, don’t skimp on the vegetable oil. That’s critical to creating the delicious sauce or “sofrito” around the chicken.
Dominican Chicken Sauté
Dominican chicken is a quick and delicious weeknight meal.
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and cut into 3 inch pieces
- juice of one lemon
- splash of malt vinegar (optional)
- 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
- 1/3 red pepper, chopped
- 1/3 green pepper, chopped
- 1 large carrot sliced super thin with box grater
- ½ medium onion, chopped
- ½ teaspoon oregano, divided
- Sazon seasoning; salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup cilantro, chopped
Place garlic, dash of salt and pepper and half of oregano into a mortar; crush with pestle until blended. Add lemon juice and 2 tablespoons oil and crush some more. Pour over chicken pieces and set aside to marinate about 20 minutes.
Heat 2+ tablespoons vegetable oil in large skillet or (ideally) French oven. Place chicken pieces into pot and cook on one side about 5 minutes until lightly brown, then flip with tongs and cook on the other side (trying to flip only once to cook). When chicken is a couple minutes from being done, add in all the veggies—red pepper, onion, carrot. Add a little more oil if needed and cook everything together, stirring occasionally. Season generously with Sazon, oregano, salt and pepper. When veggies are browned, remove from heat. Add cilantro (it will wilt). Serve over fluffy white rice.
First a little disclaimer: I promise I’m not trying to sabotage your healthy-eating New Year’s resolutions. You could be thinking more “detoxifying juice cleanse” than “delicious, scrumptious pancakes” right now. I get it. I’m sticking more closely to a few of my own rules and eating these egg white pancakes right now, too. But when you’re ready to indulge again —next week, next month, whatever— this is the only pancake recipe you’ll ever need. Why not just use the boxed pancake mix, you ask? Because making them from scratch is about the same amount of work, but is so, so much more satisfying and delicious. I’ve found that the most important tip is to let the batter sit a bit before starting to cook. This delay gives the batter time to rise and thicken for extra fluffy pancakes.
Delicious Pancakes from Scratch (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Pancakes from scratch: fluffy, delicious, and shockingly easy.
- 1 cup bread flour* (spooned and leveled)
- 2-3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil
- 1 large egg
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, butter (or oil), and egg. Add dry ingredients to milk mixture; whisk until just moistened. Let batter sit about 25 minutes to thicken. Heat butter in a heavy skillet or crepe pan. For each pancake spoon 2-3 tablespoons batter into pan. Cook until surface of pancake has bubbles and some have burst. Resist the urge to flip them too early! Ideally, you want to flip only once. Then flip and complete cooking until golden brown. Top with butter, heated syrup, and fresh fruit for pure amazingness.
*Note, bread flour is also known as “high gluten” flour. So while it makes the pancakes super fluffy, it can sometimes upset sensitive bellies. Substitute all-purpose flour instead.
Guests on the way but little time to prep? That’s the story of my life. Whether it’s holiday guests or friends stopping by to visit the new baby, I love having people over, so I try to keep a few things on hand for “impromptu” entertaining. These items include champagne, salty and sweet nibbles, cheese and crackers, good quality tea and (gasp!) premium baking mix. Check out the video for my reasons why!
Always have champagne on hand—it creates an instantly festive mood!
Looking for the perfect gift for your foodie friends and relatives? Yesterday I shared some of my absolute favorite foodie gift ideas with CBS 46. Check out the video, and here’s a summary of my picks.
For your best friend: Nature Box snack subscription; $19.95/month; www.naturebox.com/gift
For your sister: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams; Holiday in the Alps collection; $55; www.jenis.com
For your favorite couple: Garnish & Gather gourmet meal kits; starting at $35 (dinner for two); www.garnishandgather.com
For a great guy: Dreamfarm kitchen gadgets; $5.95–$37.95; www.dreamfarm.com
For your mother-in-law: Le Creuset Cookware; 2 Qt. French Oven; $175; www.lecreuset.com
For the host/hostess:
Jack Rudy Small Batch Tonic & Grenadine; $16/bottle; www.jackrudycocktailco.com
Bonne Maman French preserves; $5.69 per jar; www.bonnemaman.us
I’m thrilled to be hosting a new web cooking series called Watcha Cookin’. This series explores Caribbean-inspired cuisine, and the first episode is all about Jamaica—near and dear to my heart as a proud Jew-maican lady. I’m excited to be a part of the show for many reasons, including the fact that we get out of the “studio” (a.k.a. my kitchen) for some segments in the field, which is great fun and experience. Plus, I’m getting to experiment and develop all kinds of new Caribbean inspired recipes. I’m getting a lot of pointers from our Dominican babysitter Rafaela (who also taught me this) and her nephew Will, who are both amazing cooks.
Check out this episode and let me know what you think!
I love it when a recipe takes just minutes to cook on the stove top—makes it easier to quiet my inner lazy cook and forgo the microwave. This kid-friendly cheese quesadilla is one of those recipes. I’ve been learning a bunch of Latin cooking techniques from our amazing babysitter/adopted “abuela” Rafaela, who is Dominican. When I spotted her toasting the flour tortilla in a bit of vegetable oil, I knew I could never go back to a soggy quesadilla land again. I like to do a blend of cheeses: queso for its mild flavor and melty goodness, and a sharp cheddar for some kick. Plus, you can sneak in some veggies for the kids if you chop them up really small, like we did in this pasta salad recipe. You can also add shredded chicken to this for extra protein, like my Jamaican Jerk style shown here.
This broccoli and cheese quesadilla is quick, easy, and kid-friendly.
- 1 cup Queso style and/or sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup frozen broccoli, cooked & finely chopped
- Large flour tortilla
- Vegetable oil
Heat a teaspoon of oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Place tortilla in pan and heat, turning every 10 seconds or so until bubbles form and tortilla begins to lightly brown. Add cheese and broccoli; cover pan with lid until cheese is melted (about 30 seconds). Fold tortilla in half and cut into wedges. Serve with salsa and sour cream.
Sweet Potato Latkes, Challah Bread Pudding and Cranberry Applesauce for your Thanksgiving and Hannukkah celebration.
Happy Thanksgivingukkah y’all! I hope you’re enjoying this fab amalgamation of holidays. We’re busy trying to get cooking Thanksgiving dinner amid the craziness of some excited kidlets with new Hanukkah presents. There are dry erase markers loose in my living room right now and there’s nothing I can do about it. Anyway, if you happen to catch me on CBS 46 yesterday I shared a few crossover recipes for your Thanksgivingukkah table: sweet potato latkes, cranberry applesauce, challah rum raisin bread pudding and my roasted lemon garlic brussels sprouts (which don’t really have a Jewish twist but I love them!). Here are the recipes!
Sweet Potato Latkes
(makes about 8 latkes)
- 1 Russet Potato, peeled
- 1 Sweet Potato, peeled
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 sprigs worth of fresh thyme (optional)
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Grate potatoes and onion into a bowl using a large box grater. Place mixture into a strainer over another bowl; let drain for 10 minutes or so and then press out as much water from mixture as you can. It’s critical to get the mixture as dry as possible! You can even blot with a paper towel to sop up extra moisture. Another tip: drain the onion on its own first. That’s the major liquid culprit.
- Heat oil over medium heat in a nonstick skillet.
- Add egg, thyme, and seasonings to potato mixture. Blend well. Grab about three tablespoons of the mixture and form into a ball. Place it into the sizzling oil and flatten into a pancake with spatula. Let the latke brown on one side for about 5 minutes, then flip and brown for 5 minutes on the other side. Try not to flip the latke too soon or even peek at the bottom! Letting it be will help it set most nicely into its pancake shape.
- Remove latkes and let them drain on paper towels to remove excess grease.
My challah rum raisin bread pudding has a yummy coconut twist.
For the pudding:
- 1 braided loaf of Challah (A bit stale is better)
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup dark rum
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grab a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. In a small bowl, combine rum and raisins. Set aside.
- Remove the crusts from the challah. Yeah, this is kind of a b*tch given that the loaf is braided. I use a large serrated knife and just work my way around slicing off as much crust as I can off each braid section. It doesn’t have to be perfect! In a food processor, blend the crusts into bread crumbs. Set aside 3 Tablespoons for the pudding and freeze the rest.
- Cube the challah and put it in a large bowl. Add the milk and coconut milk. Set aside to let saturate completely.
- In another bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg & salt. Pour it over the bread mixture, and add the raisins/rum. Stir until well blended.
- Grease the baking dish with some cooking spray. Then pour the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. The pudding will be more of a shallow pudding (about 1-2 inches high), rather than one of those really thick ones. I prefer this because I think it cooks through better. But for serving, you might cut two pieces and layer them on top of each other for a more scrumptious presentation.
Spiced Rum Sauce (adapted from Bon Apetit magazine)
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup spiced rum or dark rum
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- dash of nutmeg
- Stir brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Add cream, rum, and cinnamon and bring to simmer.
- Simmer until sauce thickens and is reduced, about 5 minutes. It should have a nice, gooey, caramel-ly texture. Serve warm.
- Can be saved for leftovers; just reheat before later use.
- 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water (to start)
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 4 large Granny Smith apples
- In a medium sauce pot, combine cranberries, spices, sugar, water and wine. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes.
- Peel and core apples, then cut them into medium chunks (approximately ½-inch cubes), and add to the cranberry mixture.
- Cover sauce and continue to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If sauce begins to stick, add water (about 1/4 cup at a time).
- You might have to break up the apple chunks a little as it simmers, but leave some thicker. It gives the sauce a little more character I think!
- Remove from heat and let it cool before serving.