Pernil – Puerto Rican Pork Roast

This is the simplest, best way to cook pork. Those in the Caribbean have got cooking pig down to an art, whether it’s lechón (a whole pig roasted on a spit) or a pernil, a cheap cut of meat that’s often enjoyed around the holidays and easily found here in the States. If you like savory, tender, one-pot dishes and want something to impress your guests, this is it.

My mom is Puerto Rican, so we grew up looking forward to a pernil around Christmas or New Years. I’ve only just started making them myself and they are my husband’s new favorite food. (This, and cheesecake.) It’s garlicky, salty, crunchy on the outside and fall-off-the-bone tender on the inside. Some recipes call for brining it (like this one) which, knowing the benefits of brining having just also made a turkey, sounds like an excellent idea if you have the foresight. I’m going to stick with the original recipe from the stalwart known as Cocina Criolla, the definitive cookbook for Puerto Rican food, available in both English and Spanish.

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Creamy Tomato & Cheese Tortellini Soup

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Not gonna lie, this recipe resembles something you’d find on that drunk, blonde woman’s show “Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee.” It’s a combination of lots of store-bought products that come together to make something super delicious. I’m also not going to pretend that it’s super healthy or nutritious. But, it IS good. Like, make-again good.

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Moroccan Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew

bnut squash and chickpea stew enhanced

My obsession with pumpkin necessarily extends to butternut squash as well. I mentioned in a previous post that they continue to be $1.50 at Trader Joe’s, so I always buy the biggest one they have. They freeze very well, so in just a few minutes you can have the centerpiece to a meal prepped and ready to go.

Ever since visiting Morocco in 2007 I have become completely enamored with the flavors of North African cooking–cumin, cinnamon, lots of turmeric, and a bit of sweet & spicy. This recipe combines all of my great food loves, is easy and incredibly flavorful. It can easily be made vegan, too, if you use water instead of chicken broth like the original recipe (from The Perfect Pantry, my absolute favorite site for all Middle Eastern/North African recipes).

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Snickerdoodles!

When my husband told me last-minute that he needed something to take to a holiday party at work it was a no-brainer for me. Obviously it would be snickerdoodles, their cinnamon-y goodness being perfect for the holidays, but their sweet, kind of cool tartness make them great for any time of year. (I am clearly just justifying my obsession with this cookie. Humor me.)

These call for cream of tartar. What? That’s not a part of your spice cabinet and you don’t want to run to your local supermarket for one, $7 ingredient? Totally fair. You can sub lemon juice at a 1:1 ratio and you’ll be just fine.

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Dried Flower Christmas Ornaments

I know, I know. This is some sort of food blog and here I am being crafty. Truth is, I’m terribly un-crafty. I never craft, I suck at crafts, and honestly have little interest in them. However, when I got married in May 2012, I knew I’d spent too much money and fallen too in love with my wedding flowers to simply toss them at the end of the night. I wasn’t sure just what I’d do with them, but I hung them upside down to dry anyway.

Some of my wedding flowers. © Katherine O'Brien Photography

Some of my wedding flowers. © Katherine O’Brien Photography

A month after getting married we moved across the country and all of our belongings were in storage for three months. On a whim, I put all the dried flowers in mason jars for safe travel. Then, it dawned on me. We (read: my husband) really love Christmas. We’re not religious, but we celebrate nonetheless. Hubby’s birthday is Xmas Eve, we adore homemade egg nog (maybe I can talk my husband into a guest post?) and it doesn’t take much to get us in a festive spirit.

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Neapolitan-Style Pizza with Mozzarella and Arugula

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Homemade pizza is so cheap, easy and infinitely customizable that you will wonder why you ever spent $15 on mediocre pizza delivery. Not to mention that the owners of both Papa John’s and Domino’s really need to keep their mouths shut about politics. (Why do business owners opine about hot-button subjects? I see no advantage to this.)

What’s even better than saving money? Maybe nothing, but watching pizza dough rise is pretty darn cool, and watching the dough come together all of a sudden in your food processer, it’s like magic. I am definitely a meat-eater, but when it comes to pizza I prefer high-quality cheese and veggies. I’m also running high on a new-found obsession with arugula, so I’ve started putting it anywhere I can. This pizza also makes me feel like I’m being kind of healthy since it’s piled high with the color green.

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The Simplest, Most Delicious Homemade Brownies. And All About Fats.

Olive oil from Imperia in Liguria, Italy.

Olive oil from Imperia in Liguria, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is really no reason to make brownies from a box, full of ingredients that are not only hard to pronounce but also not really food, and cups of processed oils. Processed oils, while cheap, are often hydrogenated,  highly refined and full of trans fat. Let’s talk about fats and hydrogenated oils for a minute, because it can get confusing. (I’ll admit, this is as much of a refresher for me as it is for you.) Diets high in trans (and saturated – but this is controversial) fats are linked to chronic diseases, such as heart disease, and saturated fats usually contain lots of cholesterols and often contribute to raising the level of your bad cholesterol. Most saturated fats come from animal and plant sources. So, they’re naturally occurring. All of this is what the American Heart Association and the FDA guidelines will tell you. And it’s true, to an extent. “Everything in moderation, right?”

However, this is not to say that we should be replacing our butter with margarine and eliminate eggs and red meat from our diet. Fats from animal and plant sources provide lots of concentrated energy for our diet and are naturally occurring (as opposed to, say, highly refined vegetable shortening like Crisco). They also provide the building blocks for cell membranes and hormones. Eating rich foods high in fats slows down our nutrient absorption and keeps us feeling fuller, longer. Fats are essential for many bodily processes.  So, the theory that there is a direct relationship between the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet and the incidence of coronary heart disease isn’t necessarily a myth, but it is flawed. Low-fat diets are effective in weight loss but are hard to stick to (causing low energy, difficulty in concentration, and even weight gain!) I’m going to get kind of political on you here (yes, this is supposed to be a post about brownies) so skip right along to the recipe if you like, or keep reading if I’ve piqued your interest…

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Blueberry Kale Smoothie

IMAG0013Ever since we got our Vitamix (have I referenced my Vitamix in every post so far on this blog? Maybe.) we (read: me) have had a green smoothie of some sort nearly every day. Not only are they delicious but they’re filling and absolutely nutritious. I have only made one green smoothie I didn’t like and I blame it on the strawberries. I’m still looking for a strawberry kale smoothie recipe that isn’t weird, if anyone has a suggestion! My friend Paul over at Kalesmoothierecipes.com has lots of delicious combinations if you’re hoping to amplify or simply incorporate a kale smoothie routine into your day.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

pumpkin choc bread pudding

Are you a fan of bread pudding? It seems to be particularly relegated to the South and I’ll admit it took me until about two years ago to actually try it. There are so many variations on a theme that the possibilities for bread pudding are endless… Sweet? Savory? Fruity? Chocolatey? This particular recipe is from the “Well” column in The New York Times and was originally vegan. I threw in a couple eggs for good measure, but they are easily omitted if you’d like. I was excited to have a venue for it at one of our Cincinnati Family Dinners. (Yes, this is a proper title and deserves capitalization.) My husband is from the ‘Nati and we have an extended family of his friends that live here in the District as well. We get together every few weeks for a potluck and it is one of my favorite things about our new home in DC. This was not my favorite bread pudding I’ve ever made (perhaps I’ll post that one another time) but it got an A from one particularly picky member of our Cinci family, so I’ll take that as a sign that it’s post-worthy. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo post-baking as it was a party and I didn’t quite feel like tearing myself away for mobile phone photos of questionable quality. Mine dried out a bit, but I was using an oven that didn’t have a thermostat so I had no idea what the temperature was. 🙂

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