Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Black Beans - The Quick Tasty Version


  •  1 small can of black beans (goya is good)
  • 2 slices of bacon finely chopped 
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • Salt & Pepper

  1. In a small sauce pan on high heat add the chopped bacon and cook for about 3 minutes
  2. Add the onions and let them become transluscent
  3. Add the garlic and cook another minute
  4. Add the whole can of beans and season with salt and pepper to taste
  5. Lower heat to simmer and cover the pan letting it cook for about 8 to 10 minutes.  Beans will bubble a little bit.  Keep a watch to make sure it's not burning
Whenever I want black beans and I don't want to cook them from scratch or make feijoada I like to use the bacon and the bacon fat to give it that taste I'm looking for.  Definitely do this if you are looking for a better taste than the regular bland taste of canned beans. Serve over rice! 

Thank you for sharing :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Meat Lasagna

Ingredients - for two hefty 9x11 lasagna trays

  • Two boxes of lasagna pasta to boil
  • 2 lbs of lean ground beef
  • 1 lb of chopped portabella mushrooms
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 1 Tbsp of Italian Seasoning blend
  • About 10 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 cups of ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 3 eggs (beaten)
  • 2 Tbsps fresh chopped basil

  1. Boil a large pot of water and cook one box of lasagna pasta at a time.  Re-use boiling water to save time and saving cooked pasta in a drainer for assembly
  2. Place the ground beef in a deep frying pan and season with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning blend, and garlic powder.  Cook on high heat for about 7 minutes or until meat is almost fully cooked
  3. Add the chopped mushrooms to the pan along with the tomato paste and cook on medium heat for another 5 minutes or until mushrooms have released their juice and are cooked.  Set the meat aside for assembly
  4. In a large bowl combine the ricotta, 5 cups of mozzarella (save the rest for the top), parmesan, basil, and eggs with your hands
  5. Spray some cooking spray on two lasagna trays 
  6. Mix the cooked meat with the cheese mix inside the bowl
  7. Preheat the oven to 375
  8. Pour a thin layer of your favorite tomato sauce or my Marinara Sauce on the bottom of the tray
  9. Lay down the lasagna pieces over layering a bit
  10. Gently even out the meat and cheese sauce over the pasta.  You will form two of these meat cheese layers so divide your meat into 4 by making an x in the bowl since you this is a recipe for 2 lasagna trays
  11. Using a ladle pour your sauce over the meat and cheese
  12. Cover with a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese (it acts like glue)
  13. Lay down the lasagna pieces again
  14. Place the meat and cheese mix
  15. Pour the sauce
  16. Cover with shredded mozzarella
  17. Lay down the lasagna pieces one last time
  18. Pour a generous amount of sauce and cover with a generous amount of mozzarella
  19. Make both trays and insert them in the oven to bake for 30 minutes
  20. Let the lasagna rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting square servings with a spatula.  It needs to settle

I had never made lasagna before so I was really excited to try it for the first time.  I wanted to make it as Italian as possible with a sweet marinara sauce.  I definitely recommend you make it with your own fresh sauce I linked right above.  The house smelled great and the taste was AWESOME!  It took about 1 1/2 hours to make the lasagna but it took me longer because I started with cooking the sauce and prepping my tomatoes.  The only way to cook a dish like this is while drinking some good red wine and eating a good appetizer.  Try cutting up some good warm Italian bread (baguettes) and dipping it in an extra virgin olive oil with an Italian seasoning blend and a few drops of red wine vinegar!  You can't stop eating it it's so good!  All in all, this was a lot of fun to prepare.  I will definitely make it more often now.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Marinara Sauce


  • 6 lbs of tomatoes on the vine (I used medium sized ones)
  • 4 medium yellow onions (chopped)
  • 7 garlic cloves (minced)
  • Handful of fresh finely chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp of a good quality dry Italian seasoning blend
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp nutmeg
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3/4 cups of red wine (pinot noir or chardonnay work well)


  1. Open a good bottle of red wine
  2. Pour yourself a glass 
  3. Boil 2 quarts of water
  1. Remove tomatoes from the vine and wash them.  
  2. Cut an X (not too deep) over the stem end of the tomatoes.  This will allow for an easier time peeling the skin off
  3. Prepare a bowl with ice and water and another bowl for placing the peeled tomatoes
  4. Blanch about 8 or 10 tomatoes in the boiling water for about 40 seconds (Not to cook them but to release the skin)
  5. Remove the tomatoes and insert them in the ice water for about 20 seconds so they stop cooking
  6. Place the cooled tomatoes in another bowl and repeat steps 5 and 6 until all tomatoes are done
  7. Peel each tomato and throw away the skin
  8. Add the chopped onions to a hot large enough sauce pan with some extra virgin olive oil
  9. With your fingers break apart and seed the tomato over a strainer to capture the juice and keep the seeds away
  10. Once the onions begin to caramelize (about 8 minutes) add the garlic, and the Italian dry seasoning blend.  Cook for about 2 minutes making sure nothing is burning.  Add olive oil if needed.
  11. Add the wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes
  12. Add the tomatoes and the drained tomato juice to the pan. 
  13. Once everything is boiling add the nutmeg, salt, pepper, and sugar
  14. Mix it well, lower to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook for 2 hours stirring sporadically
  15. Add the parsley
  16. Using a hand blender blend the sauce lightly while still in the pan to thicken it a little bit (optional)
  17. Serve over your favorite pasta and save some for other dishes
I recently went to an Italian festival held by the Jacksonville Italian American Club and asked some of the Italian old ladies about making my own marinara sauce.  The response I got from everyone was the same.  They don't have recipes and they don't cook with recipes.  They just cook!  It's more about the tasting and feel.  I convinced myself I needed to make my own marinara sauce to use on my first lasagna.  It was Christmas Day and I had all day to play around with food!  It was a lot of fun to make but I wish I hadn't used it all on my lasagnas.  I cooked three lasagnas and wound up freezing one of them.  1/3 of this recipe is enough for 1 lasagna in a 9 x 11 lasagna tray.  I was going to use brown sugar instead of regular sugar but I didn't realize I didn't have any.  I'll try it next time!  the result was great. I do suggest, however, that you use your own taste buds in regards to salt.  I used exactly 1 Tbsp but you might like it saltier or less salty.  This was fun to make and I will definitely make it again.  I only wish I could grow my own tomatoes!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Coq Au Vin


  • 12 thick slices of bacon cut into small bite size pieces
  • 4 lbs of chicken pieces - Legs, Thighs, and Wings
  • 1 lb of mini portabella mushrooms 
  • 3 medium onions
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • About 25 pearl onions (Throw onions in boiling water for about 3 minutes.  Remove and throw them in ice cold water.  Peel the skin off and set aside)
  • 2 minced shallots
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 whole head of garlic (use all the cloves)
  • 3 cups of red wine (pinot noir is what I used)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper (season every step)
  • Thyme (dry or fresh)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh parsley 

  1. In a large deep skillet or dutch oven over high heat fry the bacon until crisp
  2. If using a slow cooker preheat it on high 
  3. Season chicken with salt and pepper (generously)
  4. Remove bacon from the pan and set aside over paper towel
  5. Fry the chicken pieces on the bacon fat until the outside is browned  (About 3-4 minutes each side. If your pan is not big enough do it in two or three steps)
  6. Set chicken aside over paper towel and reduce heat to medium high
  7. Place the chopped onions, shallots, pearl onions, and garlic in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes stirring a couple of times
  8. Add the mushrooms and cook until their water is released.  About 5 minutes
  9. Season with salt and pepper
  10. Add tomato paste and sprinkle the flour while mixing the sauce. Cook for a minute.
  11. While stirring add the wine, the chicken stock, the bay leaf, the thyme, the bacon, and the chicken and bring everything to a boil. 
  12. If using a dutch oven cover the pan and place it in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours on 350.  If using a slow cooker transfer all ingredients from the boiling pan to the preheated slow cooker and cook for 1 1/2 hours.  If using a regular deep skillet just cover it and cook on low heat for the same amount of time (I used a slow cooker and that is what I recommend)
  13. Remove all chicken pieces from the slow cooker and set aside covered by aluminum foil
  14. Transfer the remaining sauce to a deep skillet or pan and heat on medium high heat for about 20 minutes or until the sauce is thickened (coats the spoon)
  15. Place the chicken pieces in the crock pot and pour the sauce over them
  16. Let cook on high for another 10 minutes to warm them together before serving
  17. Serving suggestions are with mashed potatoes or rice 


I had the most amazing Thanksgiving Day!  I pretty much cooked from early morning till dinner time and then made Bananas Forster.  I had the pleasure to cook for my family and two good friends from Brazil who were visiting us.  They pretty much sat down and watched me cook all day while drinking wine (lots of wine lol) and eating the different appetizers I prepared.  It was pretty much a major ego boost for me!  I loved the audience and they were very interested in what I was doing.  At least I think they were lol The dish requires time and patience but it's not as complicated as the directions seem to look like.  If you have an understanding of some basic cooking principles it is quite easy to prepare.  I definitely suggest you prepare this for your family or visitors.  I have a tendency to cook things I have never cooked before when I have guests.  I test my new stuff on guests!  My Coq Au Vin (...and yes, the jokes were plenty) will become our tradition.  We don't really care for turkey at all so making this bird for Thanksgiving was a big hit!  I will only cook it on Thanksgiving and make it our family tradition.  Let's see who our guests will be next year!  I sure wouldn't mind having Katia and Raquel over again!  Thanks!  You have no idea how I loved hearing the compliments and I'm flattered you are cooking this for your families this Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mediterranean Stroganoff Fusion


  • 1.5 lbs of skinless chicken breast (2 large halves)
  • 1 hot Italian sausage 
  • 1 tsp of saffron
  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 lb baby portabella mushrooms (sliced in half)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Chili powder
  • 16 oz crushed tomatos (can)
  • 1 Tbsp pepper paste (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato paste
  • 8 oz corn
  • 8 oz heavy cream
  • Parsley
  1. Pour some olive oil in the pan (two swirls) and cook sausage for about 5 minutes on high heat
  2. Generously season chicken breast with salt, pepper, and chili powder
  3. Remove sausage from the pan and set on cutting board.  Add more olive oil and cook breasts for about 3 minutes on each side
  4. Remove breasts from the pan and set on cutting board.  Add more olive oil and on high heat add onions and garlic.
  5. Meanwhile, slice the sausage and chicken into small bite size pieces (They are not fully cooked yet)
  6. Add crushed tomatos, pepper paste, tomato paste, and, saffron, and salt over the onions and cook for about 3 minutes on high heat
  7. Add mushrooms, chicken, and sausage to the sauce and cook for another 5 minutes on medium heat
  8. Add corn and cook and cook a couple more minutes
  9. Taste for salt and check if everything is cooked thoroughly
  10. Turn off the heat and add about 8oz of heavy cream and about a handful of fresh chopped parsley. 
  11. Serve over rice and garnish with potato sticks and vegetable pickles
It can be hard to go out and buy all these ingredients.  Cooking doesn't have to follow a recipe.  It follows a few principles but in the end it's all up to your imagination.  I already had these ingredients because I use them frequently.  I didn't want to just make a Brazilian stroganoff. I wanted to infuse different tastes into it.  I had some sausage in the freezer, some saffron from my last paella, and some pepper paste from the pork a Alentejana dish I prepared a few weeks ago.  Mirella and I loved it!  We ate too much of it!  It took about an hour to make but that's only because I was cleaning up while I cooked and because I had bone in with skin chicken breasts I had to clean.  It'll be faster with tenderloins or boneless chicken breasts.  Also, if you don't have pepper paste from Portugal handy just don't use it.  The dish will still be great!  Just add something else to give it a bit of a kick.  Hot sauce would be okay but not too much.  The potato sticks are of high quality and they totally compliment the dish giving it a crunchy chew every time!  lol