Saturday, August 13, 2016

Grilling Rainbow Caribbean Shrimp and Annual Family Visit

Alot has changed since my family's last visit earlier this summer. Major life changes. We have temporarily relocated and are now in the burbs of Sarasota. We are here to be exact (click link to read my past post on Nokomis Beach). We're also closer to one of my family's favorite beaches now. We're not sure if it will end up being permanent or not. One day at a time. The funny thing is that when my family came down to visit while on our way to Siesta Key Beach together, Papa Smurf and I both told them how much we enjoyed our visit to Sarasota. We told them about how much we liked the city and would've moved there if it was just us but chose not to as we weren't sure it was as child friendly as W.C. Sarasota in contrast to W.C. seems very "cosmo" (as in cosmopolitan) and artsy. The vibe that we received from the city seemed to be a mix of established white collar career driven singletons and senior citizens. However, we absolutely loved it and could see ourselves living there in a different time in life, maybe when the kids got older we thought. Well, be careful what you speak out into the universe! God has a sense of humor because here we are.

Anyways, whenever my family comes down to visit two things are guaranteed, 1. We're going grill, cook up lots of good food and feast like kings; 2. We're going to the beach. In the latest vlogs we venture out to Siesta Key and St. Pete Beach. Siesta's crowds are massive, which usually leads us down to the "residential side" of the beach. But it's less maintained than the tourist side. There are more debris and seaweed. Leaving the water's edge a little murky. It's not as kept up as the tourist side and doesn't have all the bells and whistles. The snack bar, playground, picnic tables, showers, etc are on the "tourist side" and it's newly remodeled. The downside to that side is that parking can be horrendous on the weekends though and nearly impossible to find a park without circling the lot several times like a vulture.

I favor St. Pete Beach as it's less crowded but just as beautiful, esp the water. However, you can't beat Siesta's sugar baby powder sand. Most of the times that we have taken pictures at Siesta Key you can see our legs covered in that sand.

On one of the days we cooked out and feasted we steamed some blue crabs and there were shrimp to be prepared as well. Both are staples with Marylanders, usually steamed and topped with old Bay (among other ingredients). Simple steamed peel and eat shrimp are a standard accompaniment with crabs. However, instead of the usual steamed shrimp with Old Bay my mother and sister were craving something different. Initially, they wanted skewered shrimp / kabobs. Sadly, I was out of skewers so this gem of a dish was born.

Rainbow Caribbean Shrimp

Large shrimp (deveined) ~ 30 count
Large canned pineapple chunks and juice
2-3 Whole garlic cloves (pressed)
1 Cup of diced/ cubed red onions
1 1/2 Cups of green, red, and yellow peppers (we just used green at the time)
1-2 Tablespoons of Jerk Seasoning (Recipe can be found here). Recommend Walkerswood brand jarred jerk seasoning.
1 Bunch of fresh sprigs of thyme (4-5) stems
2 Tablespoons of Oil, EVOO or Canola can be used
Charcoal Grill

Season shrimp generously with jerk seasoning in a large bowl. Toss shrimp to coat. Using garlic press add 2-3 cloves of fresh pressed garlic (garlic press featured in my "How to Make Mojo Criollo Marinade" video). Toss to coat. Add canned pineapples and their juice. Add fresh chopped peppers and red onion. Top with fresh sprigs of thyme. Let the shrimp marinate for up to 30 minutes refrigerated.

In a large skillet (for best results use a skillet with some depth to it instead of a shallow one), drizzle oil across surface. Then dump your shrimp mixture into the skillet topped with the thyme sprigs. Place your skillet on a grill grate over fresh hot goals (glowing and grey). For best results cooking over a medium to high flame is not recommended. Skewers can be used for the shrimp, peppers, onions, and pineapple in place of a skillet. Cook with the grill covered to allow smoke flavor to get into the shrimp, fruit and vegetables. Grill shrimp until they are a pale sherbert orange/ pink. Serve warm or chilled. Suggested sides are grilled corn or rice.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Confessions of a Jerk Lover and Maker

I would like to dedicate this post in loving memory of The Sweet Mango Cafe on New Hampshire Ave NW across from Georgia Ave Metro station, R.I.p. Lord, you know you been gone from your hometown too long when one of your favorite spots changes hands (ownership) for the worst and then closes down unbeknownst to you. I'm hurting! Like I lost a friend for real, a good one...whew. I'm going to be alright.
 (Image credit
(Image credits for food from Sweet Mango Cafe

Papa Smurf and I were married at the RIU in Ocho Rios, JA in '09. It was our second time traveling out of the country and our daughter who was 6 months at the time first time. The RIU Club Hotel Ocho Rios to this day is still a beautiful all inclusive resort and sought after wedding venue. Ours was one of the only ceremonies that week to not be rained on or washed out. We frequented the Jerk Hut on the beach almost daily.

In the latest vlog we're back at the grill making one of our favorites jerk chicken. I based my standard for jerk chicken on two sources. One of them being the dearly departed Mango Cafe. The second source...shout out to the Davis family in Bowie, MD. The Mango Cafe, I first stumbled upon this gem during my undergrad years, 2006 to be exact. I was with a couple of friends for the Caribbean Carnival in D.C. Good old posterity…

The Jerk there had a perfect blend of heat and smoke. It was seasoned throughout, salted but not overly so. The bread was so pillow soft yet dense enough to soak up the flavorful juices of the jerk chicken without getting soggy. It’s been years but I can still taste the smoke flavor, the spice of the scotch bonnet, the thyme, garlic, all spice, ginger, lime and so on.

The Davis family our former neighbors invited us to several family gatherings with open arms and great food. They are a colorful and fun loving family with roots in Jamaica. They even took my younger sister home with them during a vacation once. They always had a delectable spread of goodies inspired by their culinary heritage. Their jerk chicken was chopped and spicy. Marinated in a dark and pasty marinade. Jerked meats do look “blackened” in appearance so a dark and pasty marinade didn’t surprise me. Their jerk was the second standard for how I established the way that jerk should taste. And who better? In their marinade I could taste the thyme, pimiento (all spice) and scotch bonnet are very pronounced. It’s very tasty but quite spicy.

 I have a confession to make though, at home (not events) we use a shelf staple marinade Walkerswood. This is as close to authentic as you can get. And let me tell you there are alot of imposters on the large chain store grocery shelves that just fall short of anything close to authentic let alone a hint of the actual flavor. Be careful with this one though, it’s quite spicy and most stores I have been to do not sell the mild version.

During family events and on Thanksgiving, however, we have our own marinade. It is an adapted recipe, tweaked to match the taste of my two standards for jerk. The origins of our marinade have a heavy basis here. I have alot of insights on my adaption of the recipe. Instead of a whole chicken I use leg quarters. Dark meat, especially leg quarters work best in my opinion. They are excellent candidates for grilling jerk style chicken. I use apple cider vinegar instead of white distilled, I prefer the malt in the cider vinegar. I use an orange juice that is not high in sugar or overly sweetened. If I have a small orange on hand I will use that but my favorite orange juice to use is Simply Orange. I do not use a canned concentrate or a frozen concentrate, I highly recommend avoiding canned orange juice. I also prefer to use fresh fresh ginger root because it’s alot spicier than the powder and more flavorful. I use brown sugar in place of the white sugar and ultimately end up using less sugar. My last tweak is that I use less scotch bonnet peppers, only two. They are quite spicy especially if you keep the seeds and ribs in tact; which I do, I use the whole pepper without the stem. When it comes to herbs like thyme I always opt for fresh thyme over dried. I use both Walkerswood and my homemade marinade for not only chicken but turkey, ribs, and fish.

Jerk Chicken Recipe (Marinade)

4-5 Chicken Leg Quarters
1 Small bunch of fresh thyme (about 5 sprigs/stems)
2 Scotch Bonnet peppers
2 Tablespoons of ground allspice
8 cloves of garlic (unchopped)
3 small yellow onions (chopped)
1 Tablespoon of brown sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons of kosher salt
2 teaspoons of fresh black peppercorns
2 Teaspoons of cinnamon
1-2 Teaspoons of nutmeg
1 1/2 inch of fresh ginger root peeled
1/2 Cup of olive oil
1/2 Cup of soy sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup of fresh orange juice
1 cup of apple cider vinegar

Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until well blended. Next, place chicken in a large bowl, pour at least two cups of marinade over chicken. Then, using gloves rub the marinade into the chicken and under the skin. Marinade the chicken overnight. Bake or grill as usual. We grill over hot coals for at least an hour using the indirect heat method as shown in our upcoming vlog.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Where Have You Been Vegetarian Lasagna!?

I realized that Jaylen is now one month! Time flies! And how much I miss blogging and vlogging. So here I am!

Alot has happened since my months of absence. I am now a mother of 3!

Towards the end I developed the worst acid reflux which took the joy and fun out of cooking and eating. Eat the foods you actually enjoy and there is hell to pay. I felt like a fire breathing dragon. Nothing worked I developed a Tums immunity and even the off brand Maalox I began to take came up with snacks as simple as a PB&J. Meals became boring and definitely not post worthy. Dining out dwindled even further and again not post worthy. Sleep esp comfortable sleep that didn't involve being propped up a distant memory and dream in and of itself. I believe in quality over quantity so thus the leave of absence.

Anyways Jaylen's labor a scheduled induction was botched and fast. I am in the process of posting a birth story so as not to get too far off topic here. There is also a video of American Wiener birthday party to be posted and get caught up with in vlog world.

So what's it like...
Well there's things you don't remember vs things you do. Life has changed not ever to be the same. Busy before does not mean anything remotely near busy now. There's a new normal to adjust and tweak your life to. You don't have much free time anymore. If you're lucky any limited remaining free time goes to showering, sending a quick text, going to the bathroom alone or sleep. If you're really lucky your outlets and things you actually enjoy doing. It's a juggling act to strike a balance to maintain your sanity.

In the midst of the whirlwind of returning to sleepless nights with school and work days I gradually returned to the kitchen for guest star appearances. One of the first things I made in post partum after a trip to our favorite farmers market was my own spin on a Vegetarian Lasagna. I see meat free dishes appearing again and again at our table simply because of the time it saves.

Vegetarian Lasagna

1 Large eggplant
2-3 yellow squash cut down like coins
2 1/2 Cups of Italian breadcrumbs
8 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese more if needed
2 eggs
1/4 Cup Kosher Salt
1 1/2 tsp of Pepper
1 box of lasagna noodles
2 jars of favorite meatless pasta sauce (I used tomato basil)
Canola or vegetable oil
1 quart of ricotta cheese (whole or skim can be used ypur preference)

First, skin your eggplant and cut it into 1/4 of an inch thick discs.
Soak the discs in a large bowl of water. Add enough water to fill the entire bowl. Be sure to add at least 1/4 cup of kosher salt and 1 1/2 tsp of black pepper to the water. (I used to assume that my mother did this to marinate the eggplant. However, it's actually to cut the bitterness of the eggplant. It's funny how we learn and just do it because our grandmas, big mamas, or mothers did it. Not really ever knowing why at least not at first)

Next, prepare your egg wash in a small bowl. Add two eggs and wisk. Set aside.

Then, prepare your Italian breadcrumbs dredge in a shallow dish.

Heat a frying pan or dutch oven with oil, if using a frying pan make sure you have at least an inch of oil all around the entire circumference of the pan. Heat to at least 350 degrees or until a pinch of breadcrumbs will sizzle and pop in the pan. Dip your eggplant disc in the egg wash and then the breadcrumbs. Fry the eggplant until it's a golden brown on both sides. Set aside to cool and drain excess oil off. Use paper towels or a few unused brown paper lunch bags.

Next boil your lasagna noodles until al dente. Be sure to add oil so that the noodles do not stick. Strain well and rinse with cold water while in a strainer to stop from cooking further. Set aside to cool.

Once your noodles and eggplant are cool you can prepare to layer your lasagna.

At the bottom of your lasagna dish apply a thin layer of sauce. This is to keep your lasagna from sticking. Next align a few of your noodles across the dish or pan to completely cover. Next add a few spoonfuls of ricotta cheese down the middle of each noodle. Evenly spread out. I usually do no more than a few using a spoon to smash and spread the spoonfuls. Add a few discs of eggplant evenly throughout, followed by slices of yellow squash top with more sauce and mozzarella. Repeat to the final layer.

Last layer sauce, mozzarella and then squash for garnish.

Bake for 35-40 mins until mozzarella is melted and squash is roasted.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Cinebistro Magnifico and The Holidays!

Cinebistro Magnifico...!

My husband and I celebrated our anniversary the Friday after the date December 10th. We ended up going to Cinebistro at The Grove in Wesley Chapel. First off, we couldn't believe that something like this actually exists and it's brilliant! WOW! We didn't have anything like this back home in Maryland while we lived there. However, I have read that they recently opened a location in Baltimore.

We got there a little late (you should arrive 30 minutes early) but they still had great seats available. We chose our seats on a touch screen. Then our fancy gold and black tickets were printed out and we were sent on our way. Upon entering service was in high gear, most guests already had their appetizers, entrees, and desserts. As soon as we entered, an usher showed us to our seats. We were both given menus (<---- you can check out the menu there) and a waitress explained how the service works. The seats...OMG! Large, extra cushion, leather (or something close to lol), you can just melt in the seats! The seating looks and feels more like someone's posh home theater than a commercial movie theater. In being explained to about the way the service works, we were informed that you receive your appetizer, entree, and dessert all at once. The wait staff does not disturb you once the movie starts or thereafter. We ordered...Mango Habanero Wings, Bistro Burger with Fries, Spareribs Stack in Cherry Coke BBQ Sauce, and the Chocolate Cinecake for dessert. Don't judge us, we're pregnant and it was our anniversary! There is a 17% gratuity that is included, it's not a cheap date but well worth the money in our opinion (at least for a change of your typical dinner and a movie pace). Our total came up to about $75 including gratuity, this did not include the movie tickets which came up to about $35. Our food was out by the time the commercials started but well before the movie itself started so they have speedy service.

The food is superb! I would rank it at 4.5-5* quality. Very artistic plating and the food looks exactly as pictured on the menu. I'm sorry I wanted to take pictures but was not sure of the rules and didn't want to get put out. Details, it's the details like a chocolate lattice around the Cinecake and chocolate filling in the fresh raspberries that accompany it that make it special and a stand out. The wait staff are neatly dressed an have a polished appearance in crisp white shirts, dark slacks, ties and bowties. Once again you are not disturbed once the show starts! Candy and popcorn are also offered along with fountain drinks, cocktails, beer, and hot beverages like coffee, espresso, hot chocolate and cappucino. I can't wait to return here for more dates, dinner and a movie will never be the same for us again!

Get there early. Check out the menu before you arrive, they have alot of choices!

The Holidays...

Christmas went well for us this year. I decided to skip pictures of Christmas (morning) and recorded video of the kids on Christmas morning instead. They woke us up at about 7:45 am! So, the next vlog includes clips from Juliana's winter concert and Christmas morning. I really wanted to include making our prime rib roast in the Christmas mini series but it ended in a #Fail. My advice if you are cooking a prime rib roast, don't bother searing on high heat in the oven or possibly at all. However if you do decide to sear do it on your cooktop better safe than sorry! I will repost that recipe at a later time. Our vlog posting schedule is sporadic and not set yet so if you would like to keep up be sure to subscribe. Though, we are working on schedules for things. 

Anyways, New Years was very chill, we spent the night in, had a good dinner and snacks. Still no champagne for me but we did have Cranberry Ginger Ale, everyone was sold out of Martinelli's :( But I was more than content with that it took me back to my childhood days of ordering Shirley Temples whenever we went to weddings or similar venues with a bar.

Happy New Year to you all! And I hope you enjoyed your holidays!