What's Cooking in Carolina?

Mainly creative menus and recipes (usually healthy) and always from scratch with tips for party planning, theme parties, weddings and decorating tips so you can give swank parties or dinners to delight your guests from a part time caterer, owner/operator of a coming soon Entree Vous, but mainly a cook and eater who grows much of her own food and loves to laugh.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas In Puerto Rico

What a week!

We just returned from a week in Puerto Rico. We love to go there during the holidays for many reasons: to leave the mad rush with the traffic and crowds, to go to a warm climate, to get away. We have gone to Vieques many time and do love it. Last time, we stayed Christmas Eve nite in Old San Juan and knew we had to come back. We had so much to see and do. So this time we did it all. Not the laid back beach vacation reading, swimming, snorkeling and sleeping, but seeing all that we could and enjoying the very different areas of the island. We drove most of the island and hiked in several forrests. We are glad we had this eco-tour. It was great exercise and the views were incredible. We even hiked to the top of El Yunque and could see Vieques and St. Thomas!
It sits in a cloud most of the time and we were fortunate to be at the top one of the few clear days!

First, if you have never been to PR, Christmas is a wonderful time to go. Most houses are decorated and it is very colorful.
They too are out shopping and getting ready for the holidays just like the madness we are trying to run away from. However, for us this means when we go to the 'sites' we have little, if any crowds. They are all out shopping. The major tourist crowds come after Christmas.

So what about the food? This is a food blog, after all. Well, to be honest, we are not big fans of typical Puerto Rican food sold in restaurants. I do love rice and beans, and they are widely available, but one can not live by rice and beans alone. There is much, too much, fried food for our taste. After a few days, we start craving salads and the best ones are not at the PR restaurants.

We did have two memorable meals. The first was at Guavate where there are 20 or more lechoneras that serve piping fresh, hot hunks of spit roasted pig and chicken, including sausages. Apparently, it is a big weekend destination for people coming to 'pig out'. We stopped by after a long hike and it was yummy, including the cracklings. Being from the south, it was comfort food to us (and not fried). Fresh, juicy, hot and spicy. The other was filete de chillo (snapper) at a seafood restaurant just east of Arecibo. Fresh fish and Medalla, the local beer. It was great!

When we were in Old San Juan two years ago on Christmas Eve night, we were having tapas at the Cafe Puerto Rico on the Plaza Colon when they closed and brought out the home made 'egg nog', called Coquito and boy was it good. Coconut flavor, rum and nutmeg was all I remember. So I went down to the bar in the hotel we were staying at and asked it they some. I was told that they don't serve it in the bar but bring it for their own consumption. The person that made it was very generous to give me a cup. I later went back down to thank her and get the recipe. I am sorry to say, I don't know her name, but a sweet, generous waitress at the Radisson Ambassador Plaza on Condado gets the credit. Here is her recipe.Coquito: Puerto Rican Egg Nog

Now that I know the ingredients, I know why I like it so much. Not good for you but good, non-the-less. Try it! I think you will love it.

Just don't drink much, but it 'tis the season!

Hope yours is merry and bright!

We would love to hear from you!


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Potato Soup Recipe: Baked Potato Soup

Almost everyone loves soup, when the weather gets cold. Some of us like it all year around. We are going to post a soup recipe every week or so during the winter. We're starting with one everyone is sure to love, even the kids. It's Baked Potato Soup. We've picked the simplest version, with onions, sour cream, cheese and bacon; but we think you can add whatever you love. If everyone in your house likes their potatoes different, make the normal additions and serve them as toppings. An example would be to steam broccoli and keep all the toppping as accompaniments that everyone would add at the table. You could even make a potato soup 'bar' and have everyone serve themselves. If you don't want the fat free version, you can always make it with whole milk and cheese and 'real' sour cream.

Baked Potato Soup

4 large russet potatoes for baking, about 3 lbs
2/3 c all purpose flour
5 cups skim milk (or 1/2 skim milk and 1/2 fat free half and half)
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese (or 2% 4-cheese shredded blend)
1 tea salt
1/2 tea black pepper, fresh ground
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
3/4 cup chopped greed onions
8 slices lower fat bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Pierce potatoes with a fork. Microwave on high for 16 minutes (4 minutes per potato).
Transfer to oven and bake about 30 minutes or until tender. Cool. Cut in half. Scoop out potato. Coarsely chop potato. Discard skin.
Put flour in large pot. Add milk, whisking until smooth and unlumpy. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Add potato, 3/4 cup cheese, salt, pepper, and stir until cheese melts. remove from heat.
Add sour cream and 1/2 cup onions. Simmer until heated through, trying not to boil.
Serve, topping each with cheese, onions and bacon.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Enjoy! And is you get a few minutes between cooking, shopping, wrapping, decorating and resting, send us a line! We's love to hear from you! Check out our website where you'll find more recipes, menus and party ideas.

Until next time, have a safe and healthy holiday!

Pookah and Di

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Leftover Turkey Recipes and Ideas

Our favorite part of turkey is the leftovers. We always cook too much on purpose because we love the recipes with the
leftovers. We are sure everyone has there favorites; we just hope that we can add some new ideas to your turkey leftovers choices.

You start with a perfectly cooked turkey. We think fresh and organic is the best, simply roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper
and stuffed with an onion to help with the gravy flavors. After the main meal, slice what you want for sandwiches; then take the remainder and cover it with water and simmer on low a good while: until the meat falls off the bone. Separate the meat and broth discarding the rest. Chill the meat and broth. After it chills, defat and you have the basis for all of the ideas below.

My husband's absolute favorite turkey leftover is turkey pot pie. Other ideas are turkey noodle soup, turkey rice soup,
turkey hash, turkey gumbo, turkey and dumplings, turkey divan, turkey pozole,
turkey fricassee, turkey tetrazzini and turkey vegetable soup. What is turkey hash, you ask? It is one of the comfort foods from my childhood, served by my mother and my grandma. You take lots of the shredded turkey, with an equal amount of broth. Thicken with a roux (several T butter, melted, add flour and whisk until browned and add to the meat and broth, off heat whisking to remove any lumps) or for a fat free version, put 1/4 cup flour in a jar, add 3/4 cup hot water. Put lid on jar and shake well until well combined. Add to meat and broth. Cook until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. My favorite way to serve is over toast. It's like a soul warming turkey and gravy to die for. Some people call it open faced hot turkey sandwich. You can also serve it over noodles, mashed potatoes or rice.

Did you know about a common breakfast in China called Congee (or jook). It is a porridge of broth and rice, cooked until the rice pretty much falls apart. It is served with condiments (chopped scallions, meat, whatever) and dim sum. When in Hong Kong, we found this to be the most comforting breakfast we have ever eaten. We had the Chinese breakfast every morning even though we had a choice of American Style or Chinese. It just seems so right. So below, we are going to give you our version of congee, made with turkey and turkey stock. You can try it for lunch or as an appetizer for dinner; however, we would highly recommend you try it for breakfast on a cold winter day. We think you will love it.

To make congee, use raw rice, not leftover rice. You should use about 1 cup rice to 3 quarts liquid. It should be the consistency of a thin porridge. Bring liquid to a simmer. Add rice. Simmer 30 minutes, uncovered. Cover and simmer several hours. This will serve 6-8 and can be frozen and reheated.

If we get requests, next time we'll post the requested recipes.

It may be too late for Thanksgiving, but hopefully, you'll get some ideas you can use at Christmas or another time!

Eat, drink, love, laugh!

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