Mexican Cole Slaw with Avocado Verde Dressing

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I was walking through my local grocery store a couple days ago, when I came across a little corner of the produce aisle that I more-or-less can call the “Latin” section. It had yellow and green plantains, boniato (a.k.a. Cuban white sweet potato, one of my favorites for mashing) and–gasp!–jicama, something I’ve only seen in restaurants until now.

In case you didn’t know, jicama is an edible root vegetable similar to a turnip. It originates in Mexico, and is often known as a Mexican turnip or Mexican yam. And although it looks like a yam, its texture is crunchy and sweet–just like a turnip. Immediately, I had the idea to take this crunchy veggie and incorporate it into a Mexican-style cole slawContinue reading

Thai Soba Noodles with Cachucha Peppers

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I first learned about cachucha peppers when my mother started growing them in her garden. As her plant flourished, the native Cuban peppers (or aji cachucha as they’re known in Spanish) made their way into my kitchen.

The peppers are a variety of the South American sweet pepper, which make their way into dishes like Venezuelan Hallaca (a savory tamale-style dish) and Puerto Rican sofrito (a sauce with onions, peppers, garlic and tomatoes). With a similar look to the habanero, they range in color from pale green to bright red and orange, and are actually surprisingly mild. I love the smoky and sweet flavor that I’ve used in everything from roasted tomato salsa to a classic arroz con pollo. Although I often use it to make Latin dishes, I’ve started to learned just how versatile this little red pepper is. Continue reading

Roasted Heirloom Tomato & Cachucha Peppers Salsa

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I’ve always been one of those people who loves her birthday, and celebrating turning 28 years old this past Saturday with some of my best friends was absolutely wonderful. But of course, it wouldn’t be my birthday if I didn’t have a special little treat for everyone.

This year I made a variation on my Spicy Cuban Cheese Ball, some pomegranate margaritas and a roasted heirloom tomato and cachucha peppers salsa. Well, to be honest, I’ve actually been making this one since my Christmas party–and it’s been a huge hit! Typically, I serve it with whole wheat tortilla chips but I’ve also tried it with celery and baby carrots and that’s been great, too.  Continue reading

Brazilian Garlicky Collard Greens (Couve a Mineira)

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One of my favorite parts of visiting my parents over the Holidays is coming back with goodies from my mom’s garden. It’s only been happening for the past couple of years, really, since they moved and she started growing all kinds of fruit and vegetables.

This year I brought back some collard greens, and I’m thrilled to share this delicious recipe with you. It’s actually become my go-to recipe for collards because of how easy it is and how great it tastes. After learning this traditional Brazilian recipe for collard greens, I started playing around with it by occasionally adding different spices or flavorings. The best I’ve had, though, is with some added lemon juice and zest. And that’s how I’m serving up these Brazilian garlicky collard greens (a.k.a. couve a mineira). Continue reading

Spicy Sweet Potato & Black Bean Salad

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When I was younger, you couldn’t pay me to eat a salad. I remember my mami begging me to try one: a Caesar, some spinach, anything! But I refused and stayed a stubborn, picky eater. Now, after having lost 100 pounds, I definitely know better.

I can almost surprise myself with how differently I eat these days. Instead of avoiding salads like the plague, I eat all kinds of greens. I also enjoy seasonal produce, clean eating (you know, as little processed stuff as possible) and making healthy choices as much as possible. That’s why a couple weeks ago, when I saw Fall produce begin to appear in farmer’s markets stalls across New York City, I had to buy a few sweet potatoes. Plus I just had to get some pomegranate seeds. And I admit: I was actually craving a salad.

After thinking about what I had in my cupboards (black beans) and what dressing I recently fell in love with (the avocado vinaigrette), I decided that what I really wanted was to make a spicy sweet potato and black bean saladContinue reading

Easiest Ever Avocado Vinaigrette

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Do you know how easy it is to make your own vinaigrette? Up until a year ago, I didn’t. The truth is I had never really tried. I was always happy just buying whatever I fancied from the store without thinking about it much. Man, was it boring!

Then my friend Alejandra of AlwaysOrderDessert.com told me the basic ratio for a simple vinaigrette, and I took off running. For me, part of eating healthy is eating unprocessed. In fact, I did my best to eat unprocessed in October as part of Eating Rules’ October Unprocessed 2013. That’s when I first came up with the idea of making an avocado vinaigrette for the salads I was frequently having that month.

The best part of this vinaigrette is that it instantly makes your salad much healthier than a Caesar dressing, since avocados have tons of potassium (more than a banana!), are one of the only high-protein fruits (4 grams per avocado) and also contain vitamins C, K, folate and B6, healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, and amino acids. Seriously, is there any better reason to make this avocado vinaigrette ASAP? Try it.

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How To Make a Big Batch of Traditional Cuban Sofrito

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The first thing my mami taught me how to cook is a traditional Cuban sofrito. I remember my mom, who worked during the week and would typically cook on weekends, leaning over the pressure cooker pot and following the very specific steps to making the base that is at the start of many Cuban dishes.

I didn’t take into account just how important this all was back then. It really wasn’t until college, when I started to cook on my own, that I realized I needed to learn more. Finally, one day I asked my mom to teach me to make Cuban black beans. On her next visit, she did, but first she explained that I needed to start at the beginning.

A sofrito is a sauce that is used as a base in many Cuban dishes. In fact, it is the base of many Latin dishes–but we all do it a little differently. A traditional Cuban sofrito is made with onions, bell peppers and garlic all being cooked in a particular order.

When I started cooking healthier, I realized that having sofrito always on hand was a good way to start almost any dish. The flavors from the fragrant onions, peppers and garlic combination is now something I keep in my refrigerator at all times. It started slowly but these days I’m in the habit of making a big batch of traditional Cuban sofrito, then storing it in my fridge for the next few months. I think mami would be proud. Continue reading

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