cooking

The Best Ways to Make Mexican, Latino, or Spanish Food the Ways You Like

Image from Pixabay

Just recently, I discovered some techniques on making Latino, Mexican, or Spanish food to my taste as well as satisfy my dietary needs. Below is a list of dishes in those cuisines:

1: Rice

One recipe said to cook the rice in oil before adding the spices and sauce. I, however, could not use the traditional tomato sauce since I am allergic to tomatoes. So, I pureed jarred peppers and used that instead. Guess what—it still came out delicious.

2: Taco meat

I prepared a seasoning with various spices and stored them while using a little at a time per maybe half a pound of ground meat. It tasted as good, if not, better than the premade seasoning mix.

3: Homemade tortilla chips

Don’t have a bag of tortilla chips? No problem. You can cook actual tortillas by either, frying, baking, or even microwaving them. They still come out good, not to mention that they don’t have the extra ingredients that bagged chips contain.

4: Onions in quesadillas

I used to mix salsa with my cheese in my quesadillas. But thanks to my tomato allergy developed in 2017, I can no longer do that. While just cheese is okay, I discovered that chopped onions make it taste better and even a bit sweeter.

5: Plantains

I just learned that it is better to let plantains blacken before you cook them. Then they’ll be sweet. Cook them too soon and they’re not sweet and taste more like a potato.

I hope you enjoyed this post.

fiction

Review of Book, “Cooking with Caroline” by Katharina Marcus

Sixteen-year-old Kirsty Matthews attends an assembly with her school, where a celebrity chef named Caroline Connelly announces a healthy cooking class for students. She learns more about the program as students ask Caroline different questions related to it. She unintentionally signs up for it as well as gets in a little drama with a boy named Jake Deacon. How will things progress? Read the book to find out.

This novel had a lot of unique aspects. One thing that stood out to me was the protagonist being overweight. It is not too common for main characters to have heavy figures—at least not in the ones I have read.

Another part that I found surprising was that every other chapter switched from third-person to first-person and focused merely on Kirsty’s thoughts. While that did displease me a bit, it did not distract me too much nor did it bother me a lot.

The food Caroline made the kids prepare sounded interesting, such as healthy soup and even pasta dishes. Sometimes, my mouth watered just from reading this fictional story. Lol.

From the teen life to the cooking lessons, this book brought lots of different feelings to me. I would rate this 4 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to both kids and adults.

cooking

The Process of My Pumpkin Cheesecake

That above is a pumpkin cheesecake I made from scratch. Why? I’ll tell you.

Reason:

I first had this at the Barnes & Noble café and theirs tasted delicious! But because of the pandemic, I haven’t gone back there. It could be open, but I feel that many places are worthless until we’re back to typical life.

So, I decided that I wanted to make my own. I also had leftover pumpkin for something else I cooked and I had to use it, otherwise it would rot. I finalized with pumpkin cheesecake.

Process:

The process was no easy task. I had to make the crust with graham crackers and butter. Then I had to mix everything else. I cannot remember every ingredient, but it did overwhelm me to the point that I kept putting it off. My mom suggested to break the steps up into little ones at a time.

After the cheesecake finished baking, I had to let it chill for several hours. Then I took it out and decorated it with stabilized whipped cream, but I used cream cheese instead of unflavored gelatin. The recipe called for that. I also chopped pecans and sprinkled them around the interior of the whipped cream.

Result:

It tasted good, but was dense. I could not finish a whole piece. Despite using the amount of sugar that the recipe asked for, the cheesecake did not taste very sweet, unlike the Barnes & Noble one.

Regardless, my family enjoyed it and so did my dad’s staff at work. I also really admired the way I decorated the cheesecake as did everyone else.

cooking

Why I Am Cooking in Advance Now?

Image from Pixabay

Once upon a time, I learned how to cook and would prepare many meals. That was… until I got my driver’s license and was ready to drive alone. I would eat out more, whether it was takeout, delivery, or dine-in.

Then in March, the world went on lockdown. I could no longer go out to restaurants, except to get takeout. Once the times when restaurants could re-open their dining rooms drew nearer, I started getting takeout a little more. Then when I could finally dine out again, I went crazy. I was so happy that I could finally enjoy my favorite places and commercial foods again.

But then I gained weight and felt kind of sluggish and unwell. My mom even got tired of me eating out so much. It had become a daily routine for me.

Then I discovered that my interests have changed since graduating college. Despite earning a BFA in studio art (big mistake!), I now am more passionate about writing. That being said, I still like doing art—I’d just rather keep it as a hobby.

Anyway, I want to get an online certificate in communications. I promised my mom that I would contribute to part of the tuition. That meant I had to cut down on eating out, not just for my health, but also for money purposes. So, that is when I started cooking more homemade food. For the first time ever, I am planning my meals in advance and cooking them ahead of time.

Guess what—it was a smart choice. Not only did I lose weight, and enough that many of my clothes got big on me within a couple of weeks, but I felt better about myself, too. My thinking and productivity sharpened, as well.

I will continue cooking in advance forever. After all, when I live on my own, I will have to watch my spending habits on unnecessary items, including commercial food.

cooking

How I Made My Gnocchi Healthier

Image from Pixabay

I love gnocchi! I used to order it a lot in restaurants, if they had it, before I developed a tomato allergy. 

For some reason, however, I couldn’t find the traditional potato kind at my local grocery store. So, I made it from scratch, which I have done several times before. But this one differed. 

How, you might ask? I added chopped broccoli, cauliflower, and herbs to the dough, as well as protein powder. Regardless of those ingredients, I didn’t use whole wheat flour. I stuck with all-purpose flour. To be honest, I never really liked wheat flour.

Anyway, another perk is that I know what went in the gnocchi since I prepared it from scratch. I also tried cooking it in my pepper marinara sauce (obviously without tomatoes), something I learned from my mom. But I needed to add more water since the dough wasn’t cooking right. Nevertheless, it came out delicious. 

All you need are 2 pounds of potatoes, 1 ½ cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 slightly beaten egg. I cut my potatoes and boil them. Then I puree them in a food processor. I mix the egg with that, too. In a separate bowl or Ziploc bag, I mix the flour and salt. I also added the vegetables, herbs, and protein powder to the dry ingredients. 

I blend the wet and dry stuff together before I roll out the dough, cut small pieces, and boil them. Next time, though, I will stick to the convention way by boiling them in water and letting them ascend to the top.

cooking

How to Cook for Private Events Without Making Yourself Crazy

Image from Pixabay

I have been cooking for many years, ever since I was 12. I first discovered how much I enjoyed it when taking home economics in 7th grade.

Recent years, I have been cooking for many of my private events, such as birthdays. But the reason isn’t for health or money—it’s because I have a few friends with dietary restrictions. One who has come a lot is allergic to nuts and intolerant of soy. So, I have usually cooked the food from scratch, both the dinners and desserts.

I am turning 27 on the 22nd of this month. Because my friend with the nut allergy didn’t come, I could order a cake as well as dinner. I did cook a pasta dish with garlic and oil for another friend, who is voluntarily vegetarian, although we ended up not serving it. 

But last year, for my birthday, I cooked all day for the party. I did not even get a chance to eat lunch. So, for my birthday party next year, I will cook only one thing: a pasta dish. I will also serve premade bread and butter along with salad. If the friend with the nut allergy comes, I will make the cake, filling  and frosting from scratch. Or I will make a pull-apart cupcake cake.

The lesson I learned is less can be more for food at parties. Although my parents are health freaks, and my dad has enforced protein at every meal, especially when I was younger, I can rebel against that for events. I would gladly order pizza, but I am allergic to tomatoes. I developed the allergy in 2017, right after graduating from college.

Anyway, if possible, cook only a little bit or not at all. If you have to cook, then pick up to a few items that are not super involved. It’s not the end of the world if you have a guest with a dietary restriction and you need to accommodate him or her. If their food intolerance or allergy isn’t too severe, then it’s okay to serve something with the ingredient they can’t have as long as you tell them. 

I hope this helps.

cooking

Very Delicious Oreo Pudding

I’ve wanted to make an Oreo dessert for a while. In fact, my first idea was to make a no-bake Oreo mousse pie. The recipe sounded promising. However, something about the steps in that formula made me too lazy to start. So, I kept postponing until I decided on something simpler. That is what you see in the picture above: Oreo pudding.

There were a bunch of exciting recipes in the Google results. But I desired something quicker. I chose the option where the preparation time was 30 minutes. I made a cream cheese frosting with more cream cheese than butter, which the instructions called for, anyway. Then I made the vanilla pudding from a mix, followed by the whipped cream. I then crushed thee Oreos in a bag. At some point, I removed the cream filling from the inside since it was kind of interfering with the smashing of the cookies. After that, I mixed the cream cheese icing with the pudding and placed it in a pan. I then covered it with the crushed Oreos, and repeated the process until I topped it with the whipped cream and sprinkled the remaining cookie crumbs on top.

After chilling it for a half hour, I took it out and ate some. It tasted good, but not as delicious as the next day. I guess it needed more time to be in the refrigerator.

One thing I used less of was sugar. Not that it was a choice, but because I was low on the powdered kind. Therefore, I had to made do with what I owned. Despite that, it still came out great. The Oreos already contained lots of sweetness to begin with. What also matters is that I came back for more. That is a sign of success.

I don’t remember what site I got the recipe from, but if you do a web search for “Oreo pudding,” just look for the one that says it’ll take 30 minutes. If you make it, I would recommend chilling it for at least an hour or 2. That way, the ingredients blend better. I hope this helps.

cooking

Making the Frosting was a Tough, But Happy Journey

That you see there is a frosting I made from scratch. It looks liked whipped cream, and yes, it does contain heavy cream. However, it is whipped buttercream icing.

The process of this was no easy task. In fact, it took time to get right. I don’t just mean that for the specific one pictured. I also am talking about other moments I made icing, whether it was buttercream, cream cheese, or just whipped cream frosting.

You could tell me to just buy a premade frosting from the grocery store. However, my family doesn’t really like that. Not only do those kinds contain ingredients that don’t exactly please my parents or brothers, but they think I can do a better job. After all, I know what goes in the icings and any food I make from scratch.

In fact, this is one of the cases where less is more. Homemade frosting consists of softened butter, powdered or confectionery sugar, vanilla extract, and milk or cream. Of course, you can also use food coloring to dye the icing or cocoa powder to give it a chocolate flavor. You may use shortening or almost extract, as well. That is, if you are not allergic to nuts, nor is anyone you serve the dessert with the frosting.

But one thing that you should take seriously is the amount of liquid you put in your homemade icing. Otherwise, it won’t mix well and the thickness might not please you. What happened to me when I added lots of heavy cream to my buttercream frosting was that there were chunks in it, even though I used an electric mixer. It also tasted sour. My goal was to make a whipped buttercream icing. And what I discovered is that in order to get the right consistency, adding a little at a time is absolutely necessary. I start off with the butter, sugar, and vanilla, followed by two tablespoons of heavy cream. Then I mix them for a few minutes. If I want more, then I add a little extra. The process repeats until the thickness is where I want it to be.

The message you want to take home is that you should take little steps at a time when making icing, even when following a specific recipe. I wouldn’t recommend pouring a lot of liquid with mixed butter. In fact, the only time you should really pour a large amount of fluid is if you are cooking whipped cream icing, and without butter. You would stabilize the whipped cream with unflavored gelatin. But that’s another topic.

Anyway, I hope this post helps. Also, take your time when making frosting. It could take several minutes for your icing to satisfy your desires.

cooking

Mmm… Meaty Marinara Without Tomato

Before I became allergic to tomatoes, I really enjoyed Pizza Hut’s meaty marinara. However, since then, I had to make my own versions of my favorite foods that normally contain tomatoes, except without them. Sadly, they usually don’t taste very good. Or they will only be similar at most. But even that is not satisfying.

Luckily, this one is different. Yes, the recipe calls for tomato sauce and paste. But I use canned pumpkin and puréed roasted peppers instead. I also mix apple sauce with the peppers, which gives it more of a texture like tomatoes. I even include red wine, and that improves the flavor, too.

I think what also makes this taste good is that you have to simmer the sauce for at least an hour. That gives the meat enough time to absorb the sauce and add flavor to it. After that, you mix it with the pasta, top it with shredded mozzarella, and bake it for several minutes. I don’t remember how many, though.

This isn’t something I can make regularly, however. It is time-consuming, so I don’t have the luxury of cooking this often. On the bright side, though, I think it makes the pasta more enjoyable.

I find that when I eat something frequently (not everything), I get tired of it and won’t want it for a while. I’m already beginning to feel sick of eating commercially-made food. When the world was on lockdown in the spring, I couldn’t eat out, although I could receive takeout, curbside pickup, or delivery. But now that restaurants in my area have opened up again, since early summer, I think I went crazy eating out. Now my body hasn’t felt the best. So, I am starting to cut down on the commercially-made food, but gradually, since abrupt changes do not work for me.

Anyway, one thing I am going to try is find copycat recipes of my favorite commercially-made foods. At least I will know what is in them. Hopefully, I will also feel better.

cooking

Lemon Meringue Pie: Delicious!

I’ve first discovered this pie when reading “Amelia Bedelia” as a young child. However, the pie never appealed to me…until recently. I saw a post about it on my Facebook page. That triggered me to want to make it.

It’s kind of involved and not too easy. You have to temper egg yolks into a preserve-like mixture and not end up making scrambled eggs by mistake. That made me kind of nervous, but I succeeded with the tempering.

You also have to blind-bake the crust. What that means is you make the pie dough, put parchment paper on it, and pie weights on it. That will bake some of the crust, but not the whole thing, especially the bottom. It makes the pie crust just right, not too soggy or hard. This is essential with lemon meringue pie.

The process took a while, and to the point where I didn’t experience hunger while cooking it. In spite of never making or eating it before, it came out delicious! In fact, it became addictive. I would eat a few slices a day. I also got excited to tell others about it, including my friends.

One thing you should take seriously, though, is letting it chill several hours. I mean that. Otherwise, the lemon part will be liquid-like, and a bit messy, as in the picture above. I sliced it too soon. If you keep it refrigerated overnight, it’s even better. The pie will look like a pie.

I believe I got the recipe from “Sally’s Baking Addiction”. You can Google something such as, “Lemon meringue pie Sally’s Baking Addiction” and try it. Patience and care are important, though. Take your time with the steps, and hopefully, you’ll enjoy it.