Jamaican Rice and Peas

Jamaican Rice and Peas in bowl

We just got back from a wonderful trip to Jamaica. This is our third visit, and it’s always such a welcome treat to dip our toes in the sand, feel the warm tropical breezes, hear birds chirping, and see every shade of blue imaginable all in the middle of winter!

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And the food! Amazing locally grown coffee from the Blue Mountains; fresh caught conch straight from the sea, tropical fruits dazzle with a rainbow of color, coconuts plucked right from the tree, notched open, and a straw stuck in. Sidenote… I didn’t know until our first visit that not all coconuts are brown and “hairy.” By the time a coconut has reached that point, it is already dried up inside, leaving only the meat. The green coconuts, still hanging on the tree, are full of sweet coconut water, ready for drinking. After you finish drinking the water, the coconut can be completely split open allowing you to scoop the soft flesh enjoying it like custard. My daughter loves it sprinkled with sugar before she digs in!

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We ate well everyday… oxtail, curry goat, fish, coconut shrimp, and of course, jerk chicken and pork. Almost every dinner included a side of rice and peas, not green peas, but beans. The rice and peas are steamed in sweet coconut milk with onions, garlic, and thyme; they are perfect to eat on their own or served as a side dish.

Scotchie's

I’ve already made Jamaican Rice and Peas since we’ve been home, and it’s definitely going into the rotation. I served it alongside pork tenderloin that had been marinated in a wet rub of jerk seasoning. But again, this dish works with a wide variety of meats and fish, or stands alone with a simple green salad as a complete meal.

Cook’s notes:  Check for salt as you go along… the coconut milk is naturally sweet, and combined with the low sodium broth, you may find it necessary to add more salt to suit your taste. The hot pepper isn’t required, but it does add the most lovely hint of fruity heat because it’s kept whole. Allspice is a very traditional component of jerk seasoning and I like bringing that flavor into the dish. This recipe uses canned kidney beans as a matter of convenience; feel free to use dried beans that you soak and cook yourself. If you go that route, be sure to save some of the cooking liquid to use for cooking the rice- just swap out an equal amount of chicken broth. Finally, the cooking method, baking the rice in the oven, is from the New York Time’s Cookbook,  “The Perfect Batch of Rice”. It’s hands down my favorite no-fail method of cooking rice.

Jamaican Rice and Peas in bowl

Jamaican Rice and Peas

  • Servings: 8-10 as a side dish
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Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons coconut oil, butter, or extra virgin olive oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 cups long grain white rice, rinsed and drained
salt to taste
3 cups liquid (1 13.5oz can coconut milk + enough chicken broth to total 3 cups combined)
4 sprigs thyme
¼ tsp allspice or 3 allspice berries
1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, left whole
1 15oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat oil or butter bottom in bottom of ovenproof saucepan. Add the finely chopped onion. Stir and cook until onion wilts. Add the smashed garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the rice and stir until the grains are coated. Add salt to taste.

Add the coconut milk and chicken broth. Add hot pepper, thyme, and allspice to the rice and let broth come to a boil.

Stir in kidney beans. Cover pan and place in the oven. Set timer for 17 minutes.

Remove pan from the oven. Let stand 5 minutes, then uncover. Remove thyme, scotch bonnet, garlic clove, and allspice berries if using. Gently fluff rice with fork. Check for seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Ingredients for Jamaican Rices and Peas: rice, beans, coconut milk, chicken broth, onion, thyme, allspice and pepper

Rinsing and draining rice in mesh strainer
Rinse and drain the rice as part of your prep.
Wilting finely chopped onion in saucepan.
Melt butter or coconut oil in ovenproof saucepan. Add finely chopped onion and sauté until wilted.
Adding coconut milk/chicken broth mixture to rice
Add coconut milk/chicken broth mixture to rice.
Timer set for 17 minutes
Set timer for 17 minutes.
Jamaican Rice and Peas
After 17 minutes, remove pan from oven. Let stand for 5 minutes before removing lid.
Fluffing rice with fork
Use a fork to gently fluff rice. Carefully remove pepper, thyme sprigs, garlic clove, and allspice berries (if using). Check seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Jamaican Rice and Peas in bowl
Serve immediately and enjoy!

Honeymoons

Happy Valentine’s Day! As you start your romantic (or not so romantic) evening, why not kick it off with this vintage cocktail, the Honeymoons? Definitely a cocktail- made of gin, lemon, mint, sugar, and plenty of ice; and vintage in my eyes, as this recipe was written in my grandmother’s hand and passed to my mother probably in the 1960s or 70s. I don’t know where my grandmother got the recipe or the name. Did she invent it? I wish I knew… a Google search revealed that there is a vintage cocktail known as a “Honeymoon” but it is nothing like this recipe.  This drink is very refreshing! Tart, crisp, and bright with a touch of sweetness. Have you ever had a Tom Collins? The Honeymoons reminds me of a Tom Collins, but without the splash of soda water. I made it exactly as my grandmother directed, with a teaspoon of fine sugar. I love tart and sour drinks, but next time I’ll make a sugar syrup to ever so slightly better mellow the tartness. It would be the perfect cocktail to hand to your guests on a hot summer night, not exactly Valentine’s Day weather in the Northern Hemisphere, but with a name like Honeymoons I think an exception can be made. Enjoy!  

Honeymoons

  • Servings: 1 drink
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Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons gin
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely chopped and bruised mint leaves
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
plenty of ice

Instructions:
Pour gin and lemon juice into a shaker. Add mint and sugar, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add ice and shake well. Pour into a tall glass and enjoy.

  

Day 3 Quote Challenge: And above all…

And above all quote by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is one of my favorite authors and has been since I was a child. Between my childhood, teaching first grade, and reading to my own children, I think I’ve read almost every one of his books. Roald Dahl’s use of language and the way he played with words is tremendous! One Back to School Night a parent asked what my least favorite word was (my answer was two words, “I can’t”) and then asked what my favorite word was, very quickly I replied, “scrumdiddlyumptious.” Actually quite fitting in retrospect as I now have a food blog!
And above all quote by Roald Dahl
Here Roald Dahl asks us to continue to look at the world with childlike wonder.  Keep an open mind, and your “glittering eyes” can find magic in the most unlikely places.  Beauty is all around us, though sometimes we need to look a little more carefully to find it. This quote is from his last book, The Minpins, and is the last line in the story.

I would like to thank Natascha over at Natascha’s Palace for nominating me for the 3 Day Quote Challenge. Natascha is an elementary school teacher, a Canadian ex-pat in Spain, and an incredible home cook. Her blog is full of delicious food and lovely anecdotes about her life in Spain. Thank you, Natascha for thinking of me!

Rules of the challenge:
Thank the blogger that nominated you.
Share one new quote on three consecutive days on your blog. They can be from anywhere, anyone, or anything.
On each of the three days, nominate three more bloggers to carry on with the fun! No pressure; nominees are free to decline.

My Day 3 nominees are…
Conor from One Man’s Meat
Teagan from Teagan’s Books
Jhuls from The Not So Creative Cook

Day 2 Quote Challenge: No Act of Kindness…

Another quote that has graced our chalkboard is the moral of Aesop’s fable, The Lion and the Mouse. Aesop was an ancient Greek story teller; he is mentioned multiple times by an absolute “who’s who” of ancient Greece. Aristotle references him; Aristophanes writes of reading Aesop’s works; in a poem to Euripides, Sophocles speaks of one of Aesop’s fables, The North Wind and the Sun.

The Lion and the Mouse is the tale of a mighty lion who, after some convincing, agrees to free a timid mouse instead of making a meal of her. Before scurrying away, the mouse promises that one day she will repay the lion for his kindness. Needless to say, a few days later the lion is trapped in a hunter’s net. Hearing the lion roar in frustration the mouse appears and quickly sets to work gnawing through the ropes that bind; the tables have turned and the small mouse frees the ferocious lion.

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“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted” is a good reminder for us all, on several levels. We may do a kindness to someone who one day will repay us in some way. Another way to look at this moral is to understand that no matter how “small” we are, we can make a positive difference in someone’s life- just by being kind. My favorite way to interpret this quote is the idea that even the smallest gesture, one we may not even think about- a smile, opening a door, saying please or thank you, can bring a little light into someone’s day.

I would like to thank Natascha over at Natascha’s Palace for nominating me for the 3 Day Quote Challenge. Natascha is an elementary school teacher, a Canadian ex-pat in Spain, and an incredible home cook. Her blog is full of delicious food and lovely anecdotes about her life in Spain. Thank you, Natascha for thinking of me!

Rules of the challenge:
Thank the blogger that nominated you.
Share one new quote on three consecutive days on your blog. They can be from anywhere, anyone, or anything.
On each of the three days, nominate three more bloggers to carry on with the fun! No pressure; nominees are free to decline.

My Day 2 nominees are…
Francesca from Flora’s Table
Osyth from Half Baked in Paradise
Lynda from Sultanabun

 

Day 1 Quote Challenge: These Require Zero Talent

In my life before kids, I was a first grade teacher and I loved it! Even though I’m no longer an “official” teacher, as a mom (or dad, coach, neighbor, aunt, uncle, human(!)) I still consider myself a teacher. We all are- we all have the opportunity through our actions and words to inspire, model, and teach others, hopefully for the better.

An old fashioned chalkboard hangs in my kitchen and there is usually a quote written on it. In my ideal world, it would be a “quote of the day” or “quote of the week” but in reality, it’s more like “quote of the month.” Oh well, I try! This is the quote that has been hanging up since mid-January. It felt right for the New Year as my gang was heading back to school, sports, and other after school activities. I wish I knew the quote’s author; to be quite honest, I think I saw it on a friend’s Facebook wall and a google search showed lots of posters with the quote, but no author credit.IMG_9487.jpgI would like to thank Natascha over at Natascha’s Palace for nominating me for the 3 Day Quote Challenge. Natascha is an elementary school teacher, a Canadian ex-pat in Spain, and an incredible home cook. Her blog is full of delicious food and lovely anecdotes about her life in Spain. Thank you, Natascha for thinking of me!

Rules of the challenge:

Thank the blogger that nominated you.
Share one new quote on three consecutive days on your blog. They can be from anywhere, anyone, or anything.
On each of the three days, nominate three more bloggers to carry on with the fun! No pressure; nominees are free to decline.

My Day 1 nominees are…
Kathryn from Another Foodie Blogger
Bernie from Dublin Housewife
Cameron from World’s Biggest Fridge Magnet

Longevity Noodles

Longevity Noodles in serving dish with chopsticks

Noodles have long been a part of Chinese cuisine. In fact, back in 2005, a bowl of 4,000 year old noodles was unearthed at an archeological site in northwest China. On birthdays and during Chinese New Year celebrations, Longevity Noodles are often served; the longer the noodle the better, and to be able to eat the noodle without cutting or biting ensures an even better, longer life. This Longevity Noodle recipe comes from Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, a chef and author of 11 Chinese cookbooks.

Tip: The fresh egg noodles are quickly cooked, then rinsed and drained. It’s important that the noodles are drained well, the drier the strands, the better they will absorb the sauce at the end.

Tip: Once you start stir-frying, the recipe comes together very quickly, literally in minutes. Have everything prepped and ready to go; even the sauce should be made in advance so that all you have to do is pour it in.

The Longevity Noodles can be enjoyed on their own or as part of a larger meal. They would be wonderful with grilled chicken, shrimp, or tofu. We enjoyed the dish as is, adding a squeeze of Sriracha and a dash of extra soy sauce at the table.

Wishing you a wonderful Year of the Monkey and best wishes for a long and healthy life!

Longevity Noodles in serving dish with chopsticks

Longevity Noodles

  • Servings: 4
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*slightly adapted recipe by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo for Food & Wine

Ingredients:
2 quarts water
5 oz mung bean sprouts
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ lb fresh Chinese egg noodles
¼ low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 Tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
One ¼ inch thick slice of fresh ginger, lightly smashed
4 oz snow peas
6 canned water chestnuts, sliced ¼ inch thick

Instructions:
Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Put bean sprouts in a strainer, lower into the boiling water and blanch for 10 seconds. Remove the strainer and rinse the sprouts in cold water; drain well.

Add salt to the water in the sauce and bring back to a boil. Add the noodles and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Drain the noodles thoroughly in a colander and rinse them in cold water and drain. Rinse again, then drain, lifting them carefully to separate and dry the strands.

In a small bowl combine the chicken stock with the soy sauce and sesame oil to make the sauce.

Warm a large skillet or wok over high heat for 45 seconds. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the skillet. Stir in the ginger and cook for 10 seconds. Add the snow peas and stir-fry until bright green, about 1 minute. Add the water chestnuts and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the bean sprouts and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Stir the sauce, then add it to the skillet and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and stir-fry until they absorb the sauce, about 2 minutes. Transfer noodles to a platter and serve immediately with Sriracha and soy sauce for passing.

Longevity noodle ingredients: noodles, bean sprouts, snow peas, water chestnuts, ginger, peanut oil, soy sauce, chicken stock, and sesame oil.
Prep and gather all your ingredients, including making the sauce. This recipe comes together in minutes, so it’s important to have everything at the ready.
Blanching bean sprouts
Blanch the bean sprouts for 10 seconds. Remove strainer from water and rinse sprouts under cold water. Drain well.
Peanut oil in skillet
Warm a skillet or wok over high heat for 45 seconds. Add peanut oil and swirl to coat pan.
Add ginger to skillet
Add ginger and cook for 10 seconds.
Adding snow peas to skillet
Add snow peas and stir-fry until bright green, about 1 minute.
Adding water chestnuts to skillet.
Add the sliced water chestnuts, and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
Adding bean sprouts to skillet
Add the bean sprouts, and stir-fry for 1 minute.
Adding sauce to skillet
Stir the sauce, add it to the wok and bring to a boil.
Adding noodles to the skillet
Add the noodles and stir-fry until they absorb the sauce, about 2 minutes.

Longevity Noodles in skillet

Longevity Noodles in skillet

Hot and Sour Soup

Hot and Sour Soup in serving bowl

Happy Chinese New Year! Monday, February 8th marks the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey. Billions, that’s right, billions(!) of people are expected to travel within China over the next couple of weeks. It really is a mass migration as people go home to celebrate this holiday with their families. And when families get together over holidays, there is sure to be delicious food.

Bowl of Clementines

The foods associated with Chinese New Year are very symbolic and are meant to bring good fortune, longevity, and happiness. Oranges and tangerines are often displayed and eating them is said to bring prosperity and luck. The Chinese words for gold and orange sound alike, and the word for tangerine is similar to the word for luck.

Red Snapper

Another play on words is associated with fish. The Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for abundance. Fish is often on the menu for the Chinese New Year, and is served whole signifying a good beginning and ending to the New Year. To serve two fish is even better, one on New Year’s Eve and the other offered on New Year’s Day, guaranteeing good fortune year after year.

Red Snapper

One of my favorite Chinese dishes (New Year’s or not) is Hot and Sour Soup. Unfortunately, so many restaurant versions are too thick and viscous, almost coming off as slimy, victims of cornstarch added by a heavy hand. This homemade version is infinitely tastier. Instead of cornstarch to thicken the soup, eggs are whisked in to add body without muddling the bright tangy flavor of the vinegar or heat of the pepper. Ground pork is not traditional, but is faster than roasted pork. The original recipe comes from Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery and Myers and Chang restaurant in Boston. I’ve cut the ground pork in half, and doubled the amount mushrooms. You can easily make this completely vegetarian by eliminating the pork all together and using a vegetable broth instead of chicken stock. You’re in complete control of the tanginess and the heat, both quickly adjusted to your taste by ramping up or toning down the rice vinegar and Sriracha sauce.

Now, I’m off to make Longevity Noodles. The key is not to cut the noodles… the longer the noodle, the longer your life. Will post Friday!

Hot and Sour Soup in serving bowl

Hot and Sour Soup

  • Servings: 4
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adapted from Flour, Too by Joanne Chang

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, smashed and minced
1 Tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger (about 1 ½ inch piece of ginger)
4 scallions, white and green parts, minced, set aside 2 Tablespoons sliced for garnish
4 oz ground pork
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 lb block firm tofu, (not silken or extra firm) cut into ½ inch cubes
8-10 medium button mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2/3 cup rice vinegar
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon Sriracha sauce
2 large eggs

Instructions:
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and ground pork and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute. Break the pork into smaller pieces, but don’t worry about breaking it down completely. Add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Add the tofu, mushrooms, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, black pepper, sesame oil, and Sriracha sauce and bring the soup back to a simmer over medium high heat. (Taste the soup. If you want it hotter, add more Sriracha; if you want it more sour, add more vinegar.)

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. With the soup at a steady simmer, slowly whisk in the eggs so they form strands. Bring the soup back to a simmer. Divide the soup among four bowls and garnish each with a sprinkling of scallions. Serve immediately. The soup can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Hot and Sour Soup ingredients on cutting board
Prep your Hot and Sour Soup ingredients: garlic, ginger, scallions, ground pork, chicken stock, tofu, mushrooms, sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, Sriracha, and eggs.
Ground pork, garlic, ginger, and scallions in a saucepan
In large saucepan heat oil over medium high heat. Add garlic, ginger, scallions, and ground pork. Cook for 1 minute, breaking up pork, but not completely breaking it down. You want some chunks.
Adding chicken stock to ground pork, garlic, ginger, and scallions
Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
Adding tofu to soup
Add the tofu…
Add mushrooms to soup
Add the mushrooms…
Adding sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, black pepper, sesame oil, and Sriracha to soup
Add sugar, soy sauce, black pepper, sesame oil, and Sriracha (I had all these ingredients in one bowl, as I knew they would be going in all at once).
Adding rice vinegar to soup
Add the rice vinegar and bring the soup back to a simmer over medium high heat.
hot and sour soup in saucepan
Bring soup back to a simmer.
Hot and Sour Soup garnished with scallions in serving bowl
Garnish with scallions and serve immediately.