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.

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.

travel

Why Flying First-Class is Worthy if You Can Afford it

Image from Pixabay

Okay, we’re living in a pandemic, and flying for pleasure is discouraged. But there will come a time when travel returns to normal.

I’ll tell you a little something about my travel experience. On certain flights, especially long ones, my family flew first-class. It was totally worth it.

Here are some perks of flying first-class:

Seats that can adjust their positions

You can lay them flat like a bed, or just simply push the headboards back a bit. You may also get blankets and pillows on these extra large seats. Who wouldn’t want that on a very long flight, especially when you’re traveling for pretty much the entire day? Plus, the bathroom was a short walk ahead. On a flight to India, we also got provided pajamas, which I didn’t wear because I didn’t think they were stylish. Anyway, let’s move forward.

Hot food service

Airplane food might not get the best reputation, but it can taste good, especially if you’re hungry. First-class food could taste better. I don’t really remember. I do recall having hot roast beef sandwiches and other goodies. Perhaps, they were higher quality.

Screens with various entertainment to choose from

I don’t remember if economy class got this when I went to India in 2011, but first-class passengers definitely did. We could choose from different games, music, TV shows, and movies. I watched the show, “Family Guy,” because I really love it. It’s super-funny.

Of course, flying first-class is not very cheap. If anything, it’s the opposite. But if you do have the money, it is worth it. There are also flights where you can get your own suites, like a hotel. But I think that’s a little silly. Plus, fewer can afford something like that. Even if I had the money, I wouldn’t spend it on a suite.

I hope these benefits inspire you for when normal travel is safe to resume. Obviously, if you’re on a budget or you can’t afford first-class, then I wouldn’t recommend it. Otherwise, though, you’d love it.

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.

art

Food is Hard to Draw Formally

That you’re looking at is a steak I drew from observation. But it was not from a real one… a photo of one. I know it doesn’t really resemble a steak. That is when I discovered a surprise: food is hard to draw.

It is so weird, because I can usually draw pretty much anything. And no, not because I’ve been doing art since I was very little. In recent years, I took a lot of still-life drawing and painting, figure drawing (which I received an A in in college, not to brag), and much more.

Up until maybe a few weeks ago, I hardly ever did any art. Not because of the stress I’m experiencing during this stupid pandemic, but because I am discovering that I am more of a writer than an artist. That being said, I do enjoy art. I would just rather keep it as a hobby rather than a career focus.

I don’t know if that’s the reason why food is hard to draw accurately, or at least not in an ameteurish manner. I looked up tutorials on how to sketch food. However, the results I received from Google were not exactly the right kids for people like me. They targeted more beginner or naive “artists.”

I guess my approach will be to draw actual foods in person from observation. But not just any kinds… the simple fruits and vegetables, like apples, oranges, and eggplants. I will save drawing things, like steak, pasta, and other complex dishes, for when I feel ready and I have improved the traditional still-life food items.

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

Rainbow Cupcakes, Rainbow Cupcakes, I Loved You

Ooh, pretty colors. Lots of people admire bright prismatic hues, especially in desserts. I am no different. That above is a multi-colored cupcake I baked from scratch.

How did I do it? I used a vanilla chiffon cake recipe, divided the batters into different bowls, dyed them various colors, piled them up in the muffin cups, and then placed them in the oven. I added green frosting to some (not pictured) and consumed those. They were delicious!

That was…just for a few days. Unfortunately, they warmed in the container and went bad. So, I had to throw them away. Bummer! And that recipe had succeeded with me before.

Excellent vanilla cake recipes from scratch are hard to find. Not kidding. In the past, I’ve often preferred boxed cake mixes when it came to the vanilla flavor. However, I have a friend with a peanut allergy and she’s been to many of my parties. Since there aren’t a lot of nut-free bakeries in my area (there are only a few, and several minutes away from my house), when the friend with the nut allergy comes, I have to make the cakes from scratch. They’ve come out good before at every party I’ve had.

Anyway, regardless of the previous success with that recipe, if I choose to make vanilla cake or cupcakes again, I will likely find another formula to follow.

cooking

Signs of Success and Failures in Cooking

Image from Pixabay

Every expert has started out knowing little to nothing about his or her field or hobby, including chefs and people who cook in general. Before someone succeeds in something, he or she will struggle and need help along the way, especially when he or she starts out.

I am no different. I’ve started cooking at age 12, after taking a home economics course in middle school. In my early cooking days, I would constantly throw away foods I made. A little later, like in high school, I baked or cooked more items that people could enjoy, including myself. Now I can make just about anything that people would like.

These are the signs of success in a cooked creation:

-Experiencing a great taste

-Coming back for more

-Making the item again with the same recipe

Of course, this is more common for me now and in recent years. That being said, there are still rare occasions where I throw my cooked items away.

Which brings me to the signs of failure in cooking

-Finding the taste or texture of the food just okay or not good at all

-Letting it sit untouched

-Having to toss it in the trash not long after

Don’t worry if you fail to cook something good. If you keep at it, you will improve, just like with anything.

cooking

The Most Delicious Homemade Brownies Ever…it’s a Miracle!

Homemade cooking involves less preservatives and more control from you. And with the coronavirus forcing people to be in their homes pretty much all the time, I have to do most of my own cooking. I do love going out, and I will admit that prior to the covid-19 crisis, I barely cooked and spent more time eating out, and a lot.

However, now that dining out is no longer an option (only takeout and delivery are available in New York), and I’ve been cooking at home, I’ve noticed that I feel more energetic and am losing weight again.

Okay, this is not a health post. But all of that is true. Anyway, let me talk about the brownies I made.

They taste kind of like the ones made from boxed mixes. I’m not kidding. The only difference is that their textures at the top aren’t flaky, and most importantly, I know what went in them.

My guess of why they are fudgy and not cakelike is that the flour ratio is sort of smaller than the rest of the ingredients. Not once have I seen that in any other homemade brownie recipe. So, bravo to the creator of this one.

I can’t find the recipe again through my Google search. But I do find that the other recipes have similar formulas, by using less flour. So, if you try one of those recipes, you may be satisfied.