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pineapple black bean salad

sprouts

It’s Saturday night, I hear music blaring in the distance and I’m up, trying my best to post this recipe before Sunday hits.  I’m trying to do this so that it can become a part of your Sunday lunch/bunch/dinner.  It should be.  It’s as delicious as it is vibrant- what its colors will do to your eyes its flavors will do to your taste buds.  You simply MUST try this one.

Pineapples are a part of my life.  They are staples here in our house. I picked up two along the roadside (translation: I purchased them from a roadside vendor-many of whom are scattered along the way to Mayaro) when driving down to Mayaro a few days ago and decided to incorporate it into this lovely salad that I learned to make while I was away at school. 

pineapple bean salad ingredients_1closeup

Down here in Trinidad we have something called ‘chow‘.  Traditionally made using mangoes- the best are greener or at least half-ripe (I actually love sweet, ripe mango chow the best, but most will disagree).  Chow is made using the ubiquitous chadon beni (bandania) herb, garlic, salt, pepper, vinegar/lime and a tip of sugar.  It’s sort of a pickled fruit salad? I’m not sure of what’s the best way to describe it, but I’m going to venture out on a limb here and say that Trinidad owns chow!  Ask any Trini about chow and they will begin their description with a nostalgic glean and a mouth ‘full of water’. It’s ours.

before mixing

Pineapple chow has grown in popularity since some genius on the heights of the North coast road en route to Maracas decided to make it.  Since then many have perfected the art of making pineapple chow.  I was lucky enough to have a bit left over and decided to incorporate it in my black bean salad.  I would have to say the decision was a good one! I will definitely be doing a post on pineapple chow in the very near future.

dressing the salad

This served as dinner for me last night and part of lunch today.  I threw in some raw beets because I just love beets.  This salad is filling as a main but works really well as a side too. Of course, since I’m doing the 4 week salad challenge I can’t say I’ve used it as a side…it’s my only focus.  I ate this with grilled chicken breast for dinner and for lunch the next day I had it with a piece of steak.  I’d say the 4 week challenge is in full swing and it’s really causing me to come up with great new salads :)

pineapple bean salad

[yumprint-recipe id=’9′]

grilled oregano pork, string bean salad & greek salad

pork platter & salad finished2

Hi all!

Today marks day 1 of my four week salad challenge! I must say it started off really well, since today’s lunch was wonderfully refreshing, clean, simple and oh so delicious!  The meal is very simple and like I said, clean but the preparation is the hard part (at least for me since I don’t get a huge amount of time to devote to cutting up things since my baby usually comes into the kitchen after 5 minutes of being away and cries out for me to be close) :) sweetness!  Today was different though, I got some extra time to look after our meal since my little one was visiting grans and aunties.  So, I basically reverted to the days when I could leisurely prep for the meal and take photos for the blog.  Was nice!

trimming beans

string bean salad

This meal sticks very nicely to the rules I made for myself (and I hope you too) in the previous post.  The citrus guava cake is gone(I must say I think I’ll have to make this one during guava season since it was a huge hit with the family and friends) and vegetables and fruits have taken it’s place instead.  I got inspiration for this meal from my girl Ina (yep, we are good partners taking in the occasional drink and pork sandwich by Kep’s…hmmm, I wish!). Wanted to find another way to make string beans-got an intimidatingly large bag from Pricesmart recently.  I love string beans, but sometimes I get a bit tired of the same old ‘steam me and put some garlic on me’ routine. So today I mixed it up a bit.

What is great about this string bean salad is that the string beans really take center stage.  I loved the crispness of the beans set against the tart spiciness of the brown spice mustard I used.  I also love the sweet warmth of the roasted garlic in there and the crunchy red onions really added that extra punch. Additionally, this string bean salad can be served at room temperature or cold! How wonderfully great is that?

salad prep

salad dressing greek salad


The other dish I prepared to go along with this was a Greek salad- wow 2 salads in one meal? Good stuff.  Anyway, I love Greek salads, the salty creaminess of feta cheese set against the sweet mellowness of tomatoes and crunchy morsels of cucumber? Come on, it’s so good.  What makes it even better is that it’s so easy!  I mean, you can throw it together in five minutes-I know its my go to salad when I’m not in the mood to make an elaborate dressing.  Speaking of dressings, that’s the other thing I like about Greek salads, the dressing is ridiculously simple.  Now, I don’t know the exact definition of a Greek salad, but I know how I make mine.  The only really essential elements for any salad I want to convert to being Greek are cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions and feta cheese.  Everything else is fair game.

pork seasoning

I ain’t gonna talk too much about the perfectly cooked, delicately seasoned pork chops that went with these salads because, hey, this is about salads, isn’t it? It was good though, real good. 

Will definitely be making these again during this 4 week salad challenge :)

pork string beans & salad pork platter close

[yumprint-recipe id=’8′] 

four week salad challenge


IMG_4204

Good morning!

I hope everyone feels well rested and had a great start to this new week.  I’d like to tell a bit of a ‘story’ if you’d listen (feel a bit like Rose Nylon on The Golden Girls here).

I started this blog back in January, earlier this year and had a very different vision of what it would be and the purpose it would serve.  Since then, the blog has changed a bit-in a very positive way- but it hasn’t really been doing for me what I wanted it to. 

You see, when I started this blog I wanted to use it as an outlet for some bottled up creativity and some excess ‘boredom’- I really dislike that word since I’m not really bored here at home, just you know ‘living in a bit of a routine?’ The idea of starting this blog came from a couple of things…

First, as you all know I have a little one here at home and sometimes, like most mothers tending to their little pumpkins, you try to find things to do to occupy them and yourself.  So it came to me one day to start up a blog where I can log the things we do together while simultaneously showcasing Trinidad.  I wanted to challenge myself to do something new each week so that both of us wouldn’t get stuck in the rut of doing the same things day in and day out. 
The other reason I started this blog is two-fold. One, I needed (and still do) to get rid of some extra weight I’ve been logging around for sometime and thought it would be great to document what I ate; this would give me some accountability-even if no one ever read a single word I’d know that I could ‘see’ what I was doing; just a forum where I can see what I prepare and how I prepare it.  Two, I thought to myself  ‘self, wouldn’t be get great to have a site where you could show off some of the delicious dishes/food from Trinidad, trying to make them healthier or offering tweaked versions while maybe still showing nostalgic Trinis (or other Caribbean-ites) how to make authentic dishes?’  Yes! (I thought). So I did! I started thehiddencook.com and it pretty much covered everything I thought it would and a bit more!  I was happy with the views I got and the wonderful comments…all while hiding out to get it done!

Today, the site’s a bit different.  I’ve decided to focus more on food and less on some of the other things I had initially planned.  But one thing has fallen dreadfully to the side and today is the day that that changes.

I’ve decided to take regain accountability.  I’ve decided to present myself and all of you with a challenge- a 4 week salad challenge.

With the exception of vegetarians, most of us have grown up centering our meals around the meat we eat- we focus on its preparation, the way we need to cook it and what should accompany it.  We seldom think of fruits and vegetables in that light.  We rarely think to ourselves ‘hmm, what would go good with my Greek salad?’ I think it’s sad that we choose to focus on our meats and neglect our vegetables and fruits -and no, I’m not switching to a vegetarian lifestyle- I just think it’s high time my vegetables and fruits take center stage!

So, I am challenging myself and I’m challenging you! Let’s embark on a 4 week salad regime. Let’s shine a bright spotlight on our salads- vegetable and fruit- for the next four weeks and see what happens!

*NOTE* I define a salad as any vegetable/fruit that can be eaten raw, with a dressing of some sort. For instance, 5 fruits
cut up and placed in a bowl with a bit of lemon juice drizzle on top is considered a salad in my books. Likewise, beans steamed and drizzled with a mustard vinaigrette is also a salad. Once it contains vegetables / fruits and adheres to the rules below, it’s a salad!

Here are the Rules~

For the next four weeks this is what I’ll be doing for lunch/dinner/snacks

  • centering my meals around a delicious salad-fruit or vegetable- 3/4 of my plate must be composed of some sort of salad
  • choosing raw vegetables/fruits over cooked ones.  Cooking methods are restricted to
    -steaming
    -broiling
    -roasting
    -pan-sauteeing
    -grilling
  • ABSOLUTELY NONE of the following:
    -sweets: including refined sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave or artificial sweeteners (yuck!)
    -fried food: no doubles, KFC, accras, fried bakes, shark & bake, aloo pies-nothing, none.
    -junk food
    -tv watching while eating-this includes computer watching
  • eating out:
    -only if absolutely necessary AND only salads!
  • drinking lots of WATER
    -12 glasses (8ozs) per day
  • exercising 6 days/week
  • soups are also allowed- once they are full of vegetables
  • snacks will consist of raw fruits/vegetables and a handful (1/4 cup) of nuts/seeds
    -dips like hummus are fine once they’re homemade and contain none of foods from the forbidden list above
  • Olive oil is the only oil to be used- and I’m limiting it to 1 tsp per meal (where applicable)
    Finally, the MOST IMPORTANT rule of all:
  • PRAYER

 

citrus guava cake

guava cake:tea:slice

Ok, so I’ve been having dreams about guava.  I mean, literally.  I’ve been thinking about ways to use this delectable fruit, to the point of obsession. 

guava fruit

Guava is just one of those fruits-sweet, tart, soft, firm…a scent that is undeniable and attributable only to itself.  When cooking guava the entire house smells of it. Why isn’t there a guava scented air freshener?  Hmm, maybe one needs to be created?

guava fruit close

Air fresheners aside, I thought about guava and why I had never tasted a guava cake or any such delight.  Sure, in Trinidad we have guava cheese- a sweet, firm treat made from guava syrup infused with various spices- and guava jam/jelly.  These are both staples in Trinidad and in other parts of the region, but guava cake and other guava sweets just aren’t the popular.  If you know of or have made guava flavored sweets please feel free to leave a comment below, I’d love to hear about them!

It isn’t guava season here in Trinidad, but my family has a tree and we’re always freezing the ripe fruits in order to make juices, jams and ‘cheese’ so I was in luck when my thoughts happened upon creating a delicious guava cake. 

cooking guava guava puree

At first I wanted to make cupcakes but the lack of cupcake trays sort of ruined that idea!  I searched online for recipes that I could modify to create a guava cake and turned to one of my favorite people- the barefoot contessa-Ina Garten.  I always trust her recipes and never second guess them because they always work.  I chose her strawberry country cake as the jumping off point for my citrus cake.  I swapped the sour cream for Greek yogurt and upped the lemon and added lime instead of orange and never bothered to use vanilla extract.  My cake was a lemon/lime blend which I thought would both balance out as well as enhance the guava frosting.  It worked!
I used 1 8-inch pan to make one cake and 2 12-cup mini cupcake trays to make 24 cute little mini cupcakes.

guava cake w:cupcakes

guava cupcake

For the frosting/filling- really, the star of the cake- I spoke to a couple of professionals to get ideas and ultimately chose to do a sort of mix-up of many different ideas.  I considered a mousse or a custard (which I will definitely try in the near future once the guavas reappear) but opted for a smooth butter cream instead.  I loosely followed this recipe for a berry butter cream frosting and found it was very successful!

To top it off I decided to do some candied lime rind as my topping as the flavors spoke for themselves and really didn’t need any additions that might compete or subtract from their tart crispness.  I didn’t cover my rinds with sugar-a step that is quite popular in many recipes- since I felt that 3/4 of a large bag of sugar was, well, sugar enough. 
(Just as an aside-I can totally understand why many pastry chefs are skinny…after you see what goes into these little treats you might never sanely choose to eat them!)

guava cake w:slice

This cake is perfect with tea/ coffee or on it’s own.  The guava is bold and assertive, timidly supported by the fresh, clean tartness of lemons and limes.  The odd guava seed that has found it’s way into the smooth, buttery frosting is a surprising textural delight. 

guava cake slice with tea-sideguave cake slice with tea

This cake is a must for anyone who loves the taste and smell of guavas!

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sweet, sweet blogging life…

…where have you been?

Oh how I have missed you!

It has been far too long. I’ve been occupying myself with lots of crafts these last few days (weeks really).  My baby’s birthday is coming up and I’ve been designing and making (slaving really) over invitations, decor, food ideas…just about everything. Phew…it’s hard work when you want to do it all yourself, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  It gives me a lot of satisfaction doing these things so I’m always happy to do them.

I’ve also been thinking about lots of new ideas for food-both savory and sweet.  I haven’t done any ‘sweet’ posts since I started thehiddencook back in January so I’m thinking one is just about due.

I am very honored to mention as well, that some folks have written asking me about new posts! I’m so happy that my posts seem to be reaching people and that people appreciate the effort that goes into each and every post :) So, thanks for keeping me on track and for checking in on me!

thc-manowar

 

vermicelli soup recipe


My grandmother used to make vermicelli soup on Mondays- she actually had a weekly menu where Mondays were soups, Tuesdays were peas, rice and some meat, Wednesdays offered some sort of pie and so on. I always kind of admired the whole ‘menu’ idea when I was growing up and later came to see the significance of it; being a wife and mother is hard work and I am all for changing things up so that life can be just a bit more manageable. I think my grandmother was on to something!

thc-vermicellisoup-ingredients

This soup signifies comfort food for me.  It’s not rich or fattening, it’s not fried, breaded or cheesy and creamy…but it reminds me of my grandmother.  It reminds me of her house- the smells, the dust, the way she would serve us this with soft white bread, buttered to exquisite perfection, the translucent white plastic bowls with little small stubs for ‘feet’ that she’d serve us this in.  I miss my grandmother- her wisdom, her quietude, the way she did everything ‘just so’.  Bless her, she was a lovely woman. 

Her food was always superbly cooked, just enough of everything good.  Never too salty or spicy and with just the right amount of sugary sweetness.  This soup was no exception.  I always remember being excited when she told us lunch was vermicelli soup- the long thin noodles bathed in a clear broth with bits of floating bubbles (later I found out these were bits of salt-butter micelles) and soft perfectly cooked potatoes. I don’t really remember there being any meat, but after making this soup I now know why!  The meat simply disappears into the background- a stock cooked for hours on end proves too much for the meat’s survival!

thc-vemicelli soup-goldenray1I used chicken- just like my grandmother did-and made a beautifully perfumed chicken stock, but if you have a good, high quality store-bought chicken stock that’s also fine.  I also made a few adjustments to her original vermicelli soup recipe- adding carrots and pasta shells for my little one’s enjoyment.
What’s great about this soup is that the broth provides a nice unobtrusive milieu to which anything can be added.  You can use different types of meat stock/meat- beef would be lovely- and add vegetables to your heart’s content- cabbage would be great. 

thc-vermicelli soup-garni collage

For me, I wanted to try to come up with a vermicelli soup recipe similar to my grandmother’s.  I wanted to stay as true to her delicious light recipe as possible. Since I never got a chance to ask her for her original recipe I had to come up with one that I felt would come close- golden ray salted butter and all.  I think I did a pretty good job… my parents agreed!
thc-vemicelli soup final

thc-vermicelli soup-close final

[yumprint-recipe id=’6′]thc-vermicellisoup-final

vermicelli soup recipe

My grandmother used to make vermicelli soup on Mondays- she actually had a weekly menu where Mondays were soups, Tuesdays were peas, rice and some meat, Wednesdays offered some sort of pie and so on. I always kind of admired the whole ‘menu’ idea when I was growing up and later came to see the significance of it; being a wife and mother is hard work and I am all for changing things up so that life can be just a bit more manageable. I think my grandmother was on to something!

thc-vermicellisoup-ingredients

This soup signifies comfort food for me.  It’s not rich or fattening, it’s not fried, breaded or cheesy and creamy…but it reminds me of my grandmother.  It reminds me of her house- the smells, the dust, the way she would serve us this with soft white bread, buttered to exquisite perfection, the translucent white plastic bowls with little small stubs for ‘feet’ that she’d serve us this in.  I miss my grandmother- her wisdom, her quietude, the way she did everything ‘just so’.  Bless her, she was a lovely woman.

Her food was always superbly cooked, just enough of everything good.  Never too salty or spicy and with just the right amount of sugary sweetness.  This soup was no exception.  I always remember being excited when she told us lunch was vermicelli soup- the long thin noodles bathed in a clear broth with bits of floating bubbles (later I found out these were bits of salt-butter micelles) and soft perfectly cooked potatoes. I don’t really remember there being any meat, but after making this soup I now know why!  The meat simply disappears into the background- a stock cooked for hours on end proves too much for the meat’s survival!

thc-vemicelli soup-goldenray1

I used chicken- just like my grandmother did-and made a beautifully perfumed chicken stock, but if you have a good, high quality store-bought chicken stock that’s also fine.  I also made a few adjustments to her original vermicelli soup recipe- adding carrots and pasta shells for my little one’s enjoyment.
What’s great about this soup is that the broth provides a nice unobtrusive milieu to which anything can be added.  You can use different types of meat stock/meat- beef would be lovely- and add vegetables to your heart’s content- cabbage would be great.

thc-vermicelli soup-garni collage

For me, I wanted to try to come up with a vermicelli soup recipe similar to my grandmother’s.  I wanted to stay as true to her delicious light recipe as possible. Since I never got a chance to ask her for her original recipe I had to come up with one that I felt would come close- golden ray salted butter and all.  I think I did a pretty good job… my parents agreed!

thc-vermicelli soup final

thc-vermicelli soup-close final

 

find the printable recipe and more photos here

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