Winter Soup / Sopa de Invierno

I’m making a quick stop to write a recipe for a soup that some friends asked me for.
After the Halloween celebrations we usually end up with leftover pumpkin and winter squash and so, I like to make this soup which is great for these winter days. It warms the body and the spirit, and is delicious!

Winter Squash Soup
2 small winter squash, peeled and diced (I used a combination of butternut and white pumpkin)
½ white onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 sprigs of thyme (or your favorite herb)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chicken broth (to keep this vegetarian, I used vegetable broth)
2 Tablespoons cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet, toss first 7 ingredients together. Spread on a single layer and bake for 30-40 minutes or until vegetables have softened and are brown in places. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.
Add vegetables to a food processor or a blender. Add the cinnamon and blend to a smooth puree, adding the broth as needed to help the blender and to obtain the desired consistency (thicker soup would need less broth).
Pour the soup into a pot and simmer over medium heat. Add more salt and pepper to taste. At this point, if using, add the cream and cook until soup is heated through. Serve hot and garnish with a sprinkle of smoke paprika.


Green Drinks / Bebidas Verdes

Green drinks are very popular nowadays and in addition to being very good for our health, they taste great!

I'm not very good at describing the health benefits of these drinks but I can tell you that since I started preparing and consuming a green smoothie every day, I feel less tired and less hungry during the day. I usually prepare mine in the morning to take to work. I drink a small glass for breakfast and a bigger glass for lunch. This fills me up and I'm not hungry until is time for dinner. But I snack on a piece of fruit  and drink water in between meals. One can't forget to drink lots of water during the day.

I get very excited about my smoothies. When I open my jar of green smoothie, and after I take the first drink, you could hear me said "yum, this is so good!". Some of my coworkers cannot understand how I can get so excited with an ugly looking drink and when I tell them what's in it, well... this is just mind-boggling to them.  So, let me tell you how I made today's green drinks.

Green Smoothie

2 large kale leaves, washed and stems removed
2 large Swiss chard leaves, washed and stems removed
1 small unpeeled cucumber, washed 
1/2 unpeeled apple, core and seeds removed (make sure to remove all the seeds, they are toxic!)
1/2 riped persimmon
1/4 inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled
1 heaping tablespoon wheat germ
3/4 cup water

Tear the leaves in small pieces and add them to the blender jar. Cut the fruit in small pieces and add it to the blender together with the ginger and wheat germ. Add the water and process in the liquefying setting to obtain a smooth drink. Done!

I don't use sweeteners because I don't like mine very sweet, the fruit is enough sweet for me. But if you prefer yours sweet, add more fruit or some honey (do not add sugar). Also, add or delete water to get the consistency you like. I place mine in jars and take them to work in a cooler. But if you are going to drink it right away, you can add ice to the blender, it taste great when very cold!

These drinks are very versatile. You can prepare them with many different vegetables or fruits according to your taste. I usually use what I have in my fridge. Here are some options:

1. Romaine lettuce, spinach, parsley, celery, apple, carrots and flax seed.

2. Swiss chard, nopalitos (cactus), spinach, celery papaya, cucumber and wheat germs.

3. Spinach, beets, celery, blueberries, apple and raw almonds (5-6 seeds).

The possibilities are endless, you just have to use your imagination. Just remember to use at least  1/2 of raw vegetables with your fruit.


"When in Rome, do as the Romans do."... / "A donde fueres, haz lo que vieres."...

… Or bring your own traditions. Halloween is widely celebrated in the United States but its origins are from Ireland. I won’t go into the details or history of this holiday but, if you want to know more about it, follow this link

The modern Halloween has influences from many sources - religious, political, horror literature and films, death, and ghosts. Trick-or-treating is a customary celebration for children. They walk around the neighborhood wearing costumes and go from door to door asking for candy. The Irish carvings were made of turnips but in North America, the native pumpkin is used, which is softer and larger and much easier to carve than a turnip.

Halloween is not a common celebration in Mexico - we celebrate the Day of the Dead but Halloween is sometimes celebrated in the border towns. Since I live in the USA, I like to follow the customs and traditions of this country but I also like to share my Mexican traditions. We celebrate Halloween every year in my office with costumes and pumpkin carving contests, candy and, of course, food. Since Halloween and Día de Muertos are so closed to each other, in the last few years I’ve tried to combine both celebrations. I build my Altar de Muertos in the office to share with my coworkers.

Here are some pictures of our Halloween/Día de Muertos celebration in my office:


Pily and Cosas Bellas de Mexico

There is no one better than Pily to show las cosas bellas de México. She has a blog called La Cocina Mexicana de Pily in which she delights us with authentic Mexican food recipes. The photographs she posts to show us her dishes are spectacular. And the way she shares her love of Mexican cuisine and  the love she has for our México are unmatched. Pily definitely makes me proud to be Mexican!

In this patriotic month, Pily invites us once again to help her show the beauty of México. It is a very original and beautiful way to share our recipes. Follow the link to Pily's blog. I know you are going to like it.

So, here is my recipe for honeyed figs. They are in season now but I prepared this preserve so I can continue enjoying them when the fig tree stops bearing fruit.

Honeyed Figs

3 pounds fresh figs
5 cups light brown sugar
5 cups water
1 lime, peeled and thinly sliced
4-6 green cardamom pods
1 stick of cinnamon
4 whole cloves

Wash figs leaving part of the stems intact. Place figs in a big pot with a heavy bottom, add sugar and cover with water. Add lime and spices. Let simmer over low heat until syrup thinkens and it can coat the back of a spoon, about 60-90 minutes. Place figs with syrup in previously sterilized jars and seal. You can store this in a dark cool place but I like them cold so I keep mine in the refrigerator.

If you ask me, the most beautiful thing in México is its people. So, I will leave you with some pictures of my people.


The Enlightened Bharata / La Iluminada Bharata

Temples in Agra - Picture from National Geographic

Indian food is different from that of the rest of the world. The taste and method of cooking is extraordinary and very distinctive.  Indian people are masters in the use of spices and aromatics.  When cooking Indian food, the layers of flavors and aromas are intoxicating. The use of spices like cumin, cardamom, nutmeg and mace impregnate the kitchen and transports you to distant and ancient places where you can experience the romance and satisfaction of a home cooked meal full of exotic flavors. Mmm, I love Indian food!

During the time I spent with my friend Monica, learning how to cook some Indian dishes, I learned some recipes but I also learned some other things -  Religion, region, state, language and caste are what differentiate Indians from one another. Each group has its own unique way of cooking. This is why Indian food is one of the most diverse in the world and there is no specific national dish in India. The food of North India is not as spicy compared to the South. More than 60% of the people in West India are vegetarians while in the East, vegetarianism is not a common practice. The ancient name for India was  Aja Nabha Varsha but another name is Bharata, which means light and knowledge. I like this name a lot, it reminds me of my brother-in-law, Bodhi Ray, who lived in India for many years and was a follower of the enlightened Osho. Some day I will write something about Bodhi Ray and his journey but now, let's continue with my discoveries about India.

I also learned that most Indian people living in the United State have two kitchens - one for western meals and another one they call a spice kitchen. In this kitchen they prepared their Indian food. If they don't have a second kitchen, they cook their spices in a make-shift kitchen in the garage or in an outdoors grill. They do this to avoid the aroma of the spices penetrating around the house. Monica and I discovered that, although in Mexico, we use some of the same spices used in India - cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, coriander and many more, the food doesn't come out tasting the same. However, we concluded that both cuisines are intricate and delicious in their own way. 

Monica took me to an Indian supermarket in San Diego and I was introduced to fresh fenugreek. I knew fenugreek seeds. my mom uses them in a beverage she prepares, like an iced tea. But I've never seen the plant or knew you can cook with it. That day at the Indian market was a day of discovery for me. I found many new spices and learned how to of cook familiar ingredients in a different way; the Indian way. Monica is vegetarian and she told me that when she wants to have the flavor of fried fish, she steams taro roots, smashes them down with the palm of her hand and then she fries them in a little olive oil. "They taste like fish",  she said. I haven't tried this but I bought some taro roots and will try them soon; I think this will be a good treat for my vegetarian husband. I also bought some fresh fenugreek. Monica told me how to cook this in a delicious rice which is the recipe I'm sharing here. It is called methi or fenugreek rice. 

Methi Rice

1 tablespoon oil
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
3/4 inch cinnamon stick
2 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom pod
1/2 inch fresh ginger plus 2 garlic cloves, passed through a garlic press
1/2 cup onion, chopped (I used red onion but you can use any kind)
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped (you can use a spicy pepper like jalapeño or serrano)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon red chili powder
Salt to taste
2 cups fresh fenugreek leaves, washed and chopped
3 cups cooked rice (I used basmati but you can use any long grain rice)

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add whole spices (bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon stick and cardamom), cook until they release their aroma. Add ginger and garlic paste and let it cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the chopped onion and bell pepper. Stir and let it cook until they become a little brown. Stir in the ground spices (cumin, turmeric, coriander and red chili) and cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the fenugreek leaves and salt to taste. Cook for another minute. Add the cook rice and gently mix to combine all the ingredients. Cook until rice heats through. Serve hot.

I have enjoyed exploring the food of the subcontinent and experiencing India in my kitchen. I hope you too are inspired to cook recipes from the enlightened Bharata. 


India In My Kitchen / India En Mi Cocina

Charcoal painting by Monica

To continue with my adventure with Indian food, I’m now sharing the recipe for Malai Kofta. Like I mentioned in my previous post, this dish is a delicious vegetarian meal but, according to my friend Monica, this dish is not to be eaten every day. I agree with her because the dish, although delicious, is heavy and has all those calories that are not very figure friendly. However, once in a while it’s okay to treat yourself to a wonderful, rich and flavorful dish of Indian food. 

Beside the flavors, another pleasure that comes with Indian food is the aromas. When cooking dishes from the subcontinent, the fragrance of all the spices and herbs fill the kitchen and, suddenly, the atmosphere becomes warm and cozy. I just love it! 

Now, put some music on and get ready to experience India in your kitchen! 

Garam Masala: black pepper, clove, cumin, black cardamon, green cardamon, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon and bay leaf 

For the Koftas:
2 medium potatoes, cooked and grated
4-5 oz paneer (homemade or store bought), grated
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon corn starch or all purpose flour*
¼ teaspoon garam masala
½ tablespoon powder milk*
1 table spoon chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
Oil to fry

*1 ½ tablespoons of gram flour can substitute the corn starch and powder milk.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients, form into balls, roll in corn starch or all purpose flour (optional) and let sit in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes (this will firm the balls and harden the surface a little, making them easy to handle) In a shallow pan, heat enough oil to fry the koftas.  Fry until golden brown, drain on paper towels and set aside.

For the sauce:
1 bay leaf
½ inch cinnamon stick
2-3 green cardamom pods
½ cup onion paste
½ inch fresh ginger plus 2 garlic cloves, passed through a garlic press
¼ cup cashew paste
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg 
2 cups water
2 tablespoons golden raisins
Salt to taste
2-3 tablespoons cream (optional)

For garnish:
Slivered almonds and chopped cilantro leaves

Remove some of the oil from the pan were you fried the koftas, leaving about 2 tablespoons. Fry the whole spices; bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom, until they release their aroma. Add the onion paste and fry until it browns. Add ginger and garlic, fry for about a minute and then add the tomato puree and saute for about 3 minutes. Next add the cashew paste and spice powders, stir in the raisins and saute for about 10 minutes.  Add water and continue stirring until sauce thickens and it feels creamy. At this point, if using, you can add cream. Add salt to taste. Let simmer for a few more minutes. Add fried koftas and simmer for a couple more minutes. Serve hot and garnish with slivered almonds and chopped cilantro leaves.

Malai Kofta
Coming soon - Methi Rice


Exploring Dishes From The Subcontinent / Explorando Platos Del Subcontinente

Photo from Knowledge

It all started with a post I read in Saborearte Entusiasma, Carmen’s blog. She awakened my cravings for Indian food. After reading her post I went out for dinner with my husband to Bombay, a local Indian restaurant. We had the most delicious dish that made me want to come home and duplicate the recipe.

The dish was Malai Kofta. The waiter described it as vegetarian meatballs but I would say they were potato dumplings. They were soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. They were covered with a creamy sauce that was sweet and nutty with a little bit of heat. Umm, so good! I promptly wrote the name and the ingredients for the sauce that were listed on the menu; cinnamon, nutmeg, mild spices and malai or cream. Although I had no idea how I was going to do it, I, for sure, was going to try to duplicate this at home!

Remember my office? Yes, my office, the one with employees from all over the world? We have a girl from India who I knew was going to help me with this recipe. Yes, I know, I can get help from the internet… I'd rather ask my friend at work. I like going to the internet for many things, including recipes. But whenever possible and as my first choice, I like asking people for recipes. When I talk to people I learn much more than just the recipe. I learn about the person, their family, their country and how a certain recipe relates to whomever is sharing it with me. I find this fascinating!

Garam Masala Whole

I asked Monica, my friend at work, about the mild spices and I told her the dish tasted like it had some nuts but the menu didn’t mention it. Yes, she told me, the sauce is made with tomatoes, onion and it has ground cashew which is what thickens the sauce. Besides the cinnamon and nutmeg, people use chili powder and other spices but she told me to use garam masala. Monica didn’t have a recipe because, as in many cultures, family recipes are not written, they are passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. She was able to remember how Malai Kofta was made in her home back in India and she shared that with me, which made me very happy!

With Monica’s help and some research I did on the internet, I came up with a recipe for Malai Kofta which was very close to the one we had at the restaurant. I will be giving you the recipe but this is a very long process and it takes several steps, it took me all day! But I’m going to share it in several posts. Today I’m starting with recipes for three pastes; onion paste, tomato puree and cashew paste. I also have a recipe for paneer, an Indian cheese that is used in the making of koftas.

Onion Paste
1 cup chopped onion
1 bay leaf
2-3 cardamom pods
¾ cup water

In a shallow pan cook all the ingredients until the onion becomes translucent and the water evaporates. Let it cool and grind to a paste. Place in a jar and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Tomato Puree
3 medium tomatoes, peeled and cut in half
1 garlic clove
Water as needed
Salt and pepper to taste

In a shallow pan, place the tomatoes and garlic and cover with water. Cook until soft. Transfer only the tomatoes to a blender with salt and pepper to taste. Blend to a smooth puree. Place in a jar and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Cashew Paste
20 whole raw cashews
5 whole raw almonds
Milk as needed

Soak the nuts in hot water for several hours until they become soft and plump. I didn’t want to wait so I cooked them and let them boil for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender and grind to a paste. Add milk as needed to help the blender. The result should be a thick paste. Place in a jar and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

1 quart whole milk
3-4 tablespoon lemon juice

In a heavy bottomed pot, heat the milk over medium heat. When the milk starts boiling, remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Keep stirring until the solid curds separate from the watery whey. Allow the mixture to cool down for a few minutes and then strain through a kitchen towel draped over a bowl. Wrap the towel around itself in order to squeeze out liquid from the curds. Shape the paneer into a round and wrap tightly. You can shape your paneer into a rectangular block making it suitable for slicing and frying. My recipe does not require any specific shape so I just did a flat round. Place a heavy weight on top of the paneer to force out more moisture.  I let my paneer sit under the weight for 15 minutes, after that, it was ready to use in my recipe - for more firm paneer, let it sit longer time.  Remove from the towel and use in your favorite Indian recipe.

The three pastes can be used to season any dish and the paneer can be eaten as is or can be added to many recipes. In my next post I will show you how I used these.