Times have become so uncertain these days so we've: taken time to either reflect transform or make changes to our day-to-day lives (if you're lucky you've done all three). A part of my reflections have been going back to my roots. I'm first generation American in my family but I have the fondest of memories thinking about my experiences of visiting Jamaica as a child. One very vivid memory I have was staying with a grandaunt out in May Pen. When I say country.... I mean: chickens, cows, well-water, etc. C-O-U-N-T-R=Y!
One fun thing I did learn in my stays there was how to make some of the traditional delicacies, but most of all the treats. Come on, I was a kid! I've always wanted to replicate some of these simply recipes but found myself never having or really making the time to do so, but now with this COVID-19 way of life I can't say I have all the time in the world but there is definitely leftover energy in the day to devote some attention to things I like or enjoy doing.
With that said, I have such an affinity for coconut and ginger, two robust and flavorful ingredients that work so well with many things, but when working in tandem they pack such an amazing 1-2 punch! Please see my recipe for Traditional Grater Cake, which are basically shredded/grated coconut clusters.
How to Make Grater Cake
Brunch, my favorite “meal” of the day!
As far back as I can remember I’ve always loved eating breakfast for lunch and dinner. So as I became an adult and living on my own it was no surprise when I began to cook for family and friends. I started hosting private brunches at my home about 10 years or so ago, long before the “brunch craze” caught on. I’d hand select a different group of guests every brunch since I have a knack for bringing people together, and nothing goes better with food than drinks and thought provoking conversation. In this environment, you can really let down your hair, unplug from the world, and JUST BE for a few hours. For me, it’s all about the laughter coupled with my love for feeding others until they are stuffed (that’s my gratification). I’m always tickled and amazed by the “food for thought” that comes out of the many conversations that are had in one day. You’d be surprised how much you learn about others, your friends and even yourself while interacting in this intimate setting. Through word of mouth I’m always asked “when is the next brunch” and “will I be invited”, I can only say to that “we’ll see” and “stay tuned”!
So until the next brunch, here are some of my favorite homemade brunch recipes I’d like to share:
GRANOLA CRUSTED FRENCH TOAST
3 – Cups of Granola
4 – Large Eggs
2 – Cups of Milk
1 – Loaf of Challah bread
5 – Tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 – Tablespoon of Nutmeg
1 – Tablespoon of Cinnamon
Directions: Cut Challah bread into 1-inch thick slices. In a large bowl mix: milk, eggs, cinnamon and nutmeg (beat until completely combined). Place granola in a small chopper/grinder and blend until granola in finely chopped (set aside). In a large skillet, melt butter. Dip each slice into egg mixture on each side and coat with a layer of granola, place in frying pan with melted butter and brown on each side (approx. 3-4 minutes on each side). Serve hot with syrup.
SPINACH & FETA MINI FRITTATAS
4 – Cups of Spinach
1 – Tablespoon of Butter
1/4 – Cup of Onions, chopped
6 – Large eggs, beaten
1/2 – Cup of Milk
3 – Tablespoons of Feta Cheese, crumbled
Salt and Pepper
Directions: Preheat oven to 375F and spray muffin pan with nonstick spray. Set aside. Cook spinach in boiling water, drain, then set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs and milk until combined. Add onions, drained spinach and a few feta crumbles. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture in muffin pan cups, add feta crumbles on top and bake for approximately 15-20 or until eggs are evenly cooked and golden brown.
Top this off with a nice, simple cocktail of Prosecco and St. Germaine Cocktail, Cheers!
Roasted Beef Tenderloin, what better way to impress your dinner guests for the holidays? Thanksgiving will be here sooner than we know it! The question is how do you intend to spend your holiday, will you be serving or eating? Well if you plan on serving, roasted beef tenderloin is not as difficult to make as you may think it is. This way your guests will be impressed and stomachs content and you will not only look like Martha Stewart to your family, but if cooking for your friends they will think you will be good enough to go up against Bobby Flay (just kidding, no on ever beats Flay, ha!).
Ackee is a derivative of the word “Akey Fufo”, which was originally a native fruit to tropical West Africa (Cameron, Gabon, Ghana, etc.). The fruit was said to be imported from West Africa to Jamaica during the slave trade in the late 1700’s. Since then, Ackee has been introduced to many of the tropical islands like Haiti, Cuba, Barbados, and then eventually to Florida in the U.S. Ackee is the national fruit of the island of Jamaica, and ackee and saltfish is the national dish. Each Ackee fruit has yellow flesh (aril) inside, and three black seeds attached on top. Because of its potential toxicity, ackee should not be picked until fully ripened, or until the skin has opened. Also, the seeds are removed upon exporting this product (which is sold canned).
As a child, I didn’t like to taste of ackee much. However, it was a staple in my home every Sunday morning, along with other Jamaican breakfast items or what we call “provisions,” such as breadfruit, white and yellow yams, green bananas and my favorite, compliment bammy. Ackee has a bit of an acquired taste, and could be confusing to a child at first sight as it can be easily mistaken for scrambled eggs. Now as an adult, ackee and saltfish is not only one of my most favorite dishes to prepare, but it’s pretty easy to make! Now I bring it to you…
1 – 19oz Canned Ackee
1 – 12oz Bag of Saltfish
2 – Riped Cherry Tomatoes
1 – Small Yellow Onion
4 – Sprigs of Thyme
1 – Scotch Bonnet Pepper (or 1tsp of pepper flakes)
1 – Cup of Vegetable Oil
Salt, Pepper and other seasonings to taste
PREPARATION: Boil saltfish in a medium sized pot (This is to remove the excess salt. They don’t call it “saltfish” for nothing). Boil to desired taste. Drain and set aside. In a large frying, pan combine: oil, diced tomatoes, sliced onions, sprigs of thyme and all seasoning. Heat until simmering. Add saltfish. Do this by picking apart the fish with your hands into large pieces. Once combined and simmering, add drained can of ackee (spoon in sparingly as Ackee is very fragile and will break apart easily). Cook for approximately 20 minutes and serve hot. Serves about 8 people.
Today I’d like to share another Caribbean dinner recipe which is a Jamaican-style oxtail recipe. Oxtail is literally the tail of cattle. The meat is usually prepared by slow cooking as a stew or it can be braised. It’s a traditional stock base for soup with meat in it and is recognized both domestically and internationally from many islands of the Caribbean and the United States. You can even find it in places like the United Kingdom and Ireland. Oxtails were a staple in our house growing up. My mother used to make oxtail dinner when we were kids and it would be accompanied with sides like sweet fried plantains, stewed cabbage and the traditional compliment of “rice and peas”. I hope you enjoy the recipe that follows!
2 – Pounds of sliced oxtail meat
1 ½ – Cup of beef broth
3 – Garlic cloves
2 – Sprig of fresh thyme
3 – Scallions (green onions), chopped
2 – Large onion, chopped
2 – Thinly sliced green pepper
1 – Scotch bonnet pepper, chopped
1 ½ – Tsp of sugar of molasses
*Oxtail seasoning, Browning (for coloring), Salt and Black pepper
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
For years, I’ve always detested the taste of soup. It felt like I was like drinking “dirty water”; flavorless and a waste of time. As I’ve grown older and more health conscious (i.e. fasting and clean eating), I’ve learned that homemade soup plays such a positive role in our nutrition. Not only is soup good for the common cold and flu, but also the ingredients in homemade soups provide such a variety of benefits. Homemade soup contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, some fat, as well as, the protein and carbohydrates needed to boost the body’s immune system to help fight off bacteria and strengthen white blood cells. It provides much-needed support to the body when it is not getting the necessary nutrients due to sickness, and has been known to help suppress coughing, as well as, chest and nasal congestion. We all know fresh vegetables are best for the body (in sickness and in health) as we should have about 6-8 servings of them a day anyway. Not to mention it’s so easy to make, nutritional, and low in calories, too!
Many people think of cake baking as a creative process, but I think of it as a science. Just the slightest tweak on a recipe can change the entire dynamic of your cake creation; possibly turning it into a biscuit or even worse, a glob of uncooked dough. One of my favorite things to bake is a pound cake, and little do people know it’s as simply as “4-3-2-1-1″!
POUND CAKE BASICS:
4 – Large Eggs , at room temperature
3 – Cups of flour (preferably self-rising or cake flour, sifted)
2 – Cups of Sugar
1 – Cup of Butter (2 sticks), softened
1 – Cup of Milk
*2 pinches of salt, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 2 teaspoons almond extract*
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch baking pan. In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened butter and sugar together until creamy (the creamier the fluffier you cake will be). In a separate bowl, combine sifted flour and salt and set aside. Beat eggs with an electric mixer then combined to butter/sugar mixture. Add vanilla and almond extracts to wet ingredients, mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Lastly, fold milk into mixture gradually. Once completely combined, pour mixture into a 10-inch pan. Bake for approximately 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes our clean. Let cool. Garnish with fresh cut strawberries and serve!
What’s your favorite thing to bake?
Care to share a recipe?
Even though I love to cook, sometimes it’s extremely difficult to find the time to prep and make full meals for dinner. However I’m not a fan of fast food so my compromise is to have some staple meals that I know I can create in less than 30 minutes that taste great! I’m a lover of seafood and one of my favorite meals to make is shrimp pasta with fresh pesto sauce. So I’m sharing my 20-minute recipe with you here, enjoy!
SHRIMP PASTA WITH PESTO
Basic Ingredients: 2-cups of penne pasta (or your pasta of choice) and 1-dozen shrimp (Medium or Large). Sauce: 2-cups extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil (1-bunch), 1-tablespoon or garlic, 1-cup of fresh parmesan cheese.
What the heck does that mean, you ask? Well, it’s pretty simple: salt, pepper, olive oil and garlic. These are four ingredients which are staples in my kitchen. Now – while I don’t claim to be the perfect eater I do try to eat as cleanly and as consciously as I can (especially with fruits and vegetables). The rule of thumb is “just about anything in its original state is best for your body.”
Olive Oil – extra virgin, please
Digestive health benefits
Decrease risk of heart disease
GARLIC – keeps the vampires away!
What have you parents always told you since childhood:
“EAT YOUR VEGETABLES!”
The American Heart Association suggests that we should be ingesting
Fruits4 servings per day (based on 1,600 calorie diet)
4-5 per day (based on 2,000 calorie diet)
Vegetables3-4 per day (based on 1,600 calorie diet)
4-5 per day (based on 2,000 calorie diet)
“That’s too much”, you say. “How” you ask?
Simple, as we all know variety is the spice of life so diversity: salads, fresh juices, smoothies and cooked vegetables as meals or snacks (instead of a side dish to your meat). I’m so NOT a morning person so much that oft times my stomach is still sleeping as well. One of my biggest issues and challenges when changing my diet and exercising was I never ate breakfast. And as they say “it’s the most important meal of the day” so I decided to “JUICE IT” instead. This not only helped me lose a significant amount of weight but:
“No way”, you say… “It takes too long!”
Nope! But prepping is definitely the key to this process. So here are some pretty quick vegetable recipes that I use with “S.P.O.G”.
Mustard or Collard Greens
(2 – diced tomatoes, 1 – sliced yellow and 1 – green squash, 1 – sliced red onion)
Heat about 3 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a sauce pan. Add 1 tablespoon a minced garlic (stir occasionally). Once garlic is gold brown, remove from heat. Combine with greens about 2-3 cups (i.e. spinach, mustard, collards or sprouts) in a larger sauce pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Continue to stir/toss until vegetables are softened to your desire (approx. 5-7 minutes). *With the squash medley you will combine all ingridents with SPO (toss together) then put in the oven on 375 degree. You will bake this for approx. 10-15 minutes (or whenever vegetables are softened).
What does Christmas mean to me?
Well, it’s been a tradition that has carried over three decades in my home and not just with my immediate family but we would have an influx of 50-60 guests dining and partying the night away with us (aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, parents, friends and so on.) Each year on Christmas Eve, just after dinner and a bevy of “Jamaican style” Christmas carols playing over the speakers then all of the kids would assemble on the living floor, all around the tree and my mother would then read a passage of her selection from the Holy Bible. I don’t know quite how she did it, but no matter how long or short the passage my mother would always finish at exactly 12:01am just in time for all of the kids to run like maniacs – ripping apart every gift in site! It was utter pandemonium and I loved every minute of it! At that point, while all of us (kids) would be in the living room playing with our toys and showing off new clothing all of the adults would slither out of the room into the dining room to really celebrate!
As I became an adult the reins were eventually passed to me and I gladly accepted them wholeheartedly. Till today, although the numbers have dwindled (considerably) we still manage to keep our traditions alive from vast dinners to gifting, bible verses, etc. and I’ve learned that no matter how large or small the group all that really matters is you are celebrating with the one’s you love and that truly love you! So be happy and thankful for all that you’ve had, all that you currently have and things that are yet to come in the New Year!
Keeping up with the spirit of giving I’ve decided to share the “adult” part of Christmas in my house with you, that is the DRANKS!!! So here a couple of my favorite Jamaican Christmas drink recipes:
(Makes approx. 10 cups)
2 ½ cups – Dried sorrel
3oz – Fresh grated ginger
5 Pimento seeds
2 cups – Sugar
2 – Tbsp Lemon Juice
10 cups – Boiling water
1 cup – White rum (preferable Wray & Nephew)
Directions: Combine dried sorrel, pimento and grated ginger. Add to boiling water. Refrigerate over night. Remove from refrigerator, and then strain contents into a large container. Add sugar, lemon juice and rum. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Serve over ice
GUINNESS (STOUT) PUNCH
1 pt – Guinness Stout
½ cup – Condensed Milk
1 ½ Milk or Evaporated milk (or my favorite 3 large scoops of vanilla ice cream)
1 tbpn – Nutmeg
1 tspn -Vanilla extract
Tip: stout has a strong and bitter after taste so you can add additional milk (condensed and regular to dilute if necessary).
What’s your greatest Christmas or holiday memory?
What’s your favorite holiday drink?
My true passion is not just in the science and creativity behind the ingredients of food making but is also in the sense of togetherness and community that food and libations bring to table!