Let's Get Latin....


      Covering a region that includes South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean, Latin America is expansive and diverse, but one thing is for certain — its food is robust, flavorful and always inventive.
     This richness is no surprise considering Latin cuisine pulls from a colorful cultural history — from the Mayans and Aztecs to European colonizers to modern global transplants — and relies on a spectrum of ingredients ranging from potatoes, corn and other native crops to imported African meat stews, sausages and seasonings.
     Recipes and techniques vary from region to region, but there are popular dishes on almost every Latin American dinner table — tamales, arroz con pollo, plantanos and salsas.
     There are also endless traditional dishes that spotlight the area's fresh seafood, unique agriculture and more. These regional treats are what make Latin American food so much fun to explore. Let this guide — a small sample of its vast offerings — whet your appetite for all things deliciously Latino.
**Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/articles/latin-american-cooking.html?oc=linkback

Stuffed Poblano Peppers (Chilies Rellenos), Serves 4 to 6


4 - 6 poblano peppers
1 lb ground sausage (meat or fish of your choice)
1 cup cooked rice (or 4 cups of any cooked grain)
1 cup salsa
1 15 oz. can of black beans
1 pkg frozen corn kernels
1 pkg frozen chopped onions
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked chipotle powder, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt and freshly ground pepper, EVOO
Shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend)
1 can Campbells Cream of Mushroom Soup
Chopped cilantro for serving (optional)

On a preheated grill (or directly on your gas stove top) roast your poblanos for about 10 minutes or until the skins begin to blister and char. Place into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, add oil to a large skillet and saute the onion until soft, about 5 minutes; add meat and cook until browned.  Add seasonings and stir well, then add salsa, cooked rice, black beans and corn kernels.  Cook another 5 minutes then remove from heat. Let cool about 10 minutes, then add about 1 c. shredded cheese, mix well and set aside.

Prepare a 9 x 13" baking dish with cooking spray and cover the bottom with 1/4 can Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup (I use Healty Request).  Carefully remove skins from poblanos by rubbing gently with your fingers, rubbing with a wet paper towel, or running under warm water.  The pepper should be tender, but not falling apart.  With a paring knife, make a slit in the poblano from bottom to top, reach in and pull out seeds and inner membranes and discard, being careful not to tear the rest of the poblano. With a spoon stuff poblanos with rice mixture and close peppers as best you can. Top each pepper with a pinch more cheese, and drizzle with a sauce made by combining the rest of the mushroom soup, chicken broth to thin & shredded cheese.

Bake covered at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then cover, raise oven to 450 degrees and bake until browned on top, another 10 to 15 minutes.  Enjoy. 

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    Place stuffed poblanos in glass casserole and top with cheese and sauce.

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    Bake at 400 for 25 minutes

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    Serve 2 or 3 per person. Enjoy!

MEXICAN RICE (Arroz a la Mexicana)

Arroz a la Mexicana is very common rice recipe in Mexico, and Latin America. 
2 cups (500 ml) rice
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 cups (1 L) chicken or beef stock
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) canned tomatoes
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
1/2 cup (125 ml) frozen or fresh green peas, cooked
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Optional garnishes: chili pepper “flowers” (fresh, hot chili peppers, sliced from the tip to the stem into 4 or 5 sections and immersed in cold water until they curl back to form “flowers”), fresh coriander or parsley sprigs, 1 large avocado, peeled and sliced.
1. Puree the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and ½ cup (125 ml) of the stock in an electric blender or food processor.
2. Heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté the rice until it turns golden. Add the tomato puree, remaining stock, and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cover until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed (about 15 minutes).
4. Mix in the peas and continue cooking until all the liquid has been absorbed.
5. Garnish with the optional garnishes. 
**Arroz con pollo recipe follows. 

ARROZ CON POLLO (Chicken with Rice)

    Arroz con pollo means "Rice with Chicken" in Spanish. It is a classic dish of Spain and Latin America, and there are many variations, depending on the country you find it in.  See the comments at the end of this recipe to see some wonderful classic versions of this dish. This is a basic arroz con pollo recipe, which which can be adjusted depending on your taste.  Its that kind of dish where you can take out or put in whatever you like. But it's an easy, stove-top, one pan dish, great for family meals. 
For the Chicken
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 broiler-fryer chicken, about 2 1/2-3 pounds, cut into serving pieces, or 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of chicken thighs or breasts, bone-in, with skin on, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 cup of flour for dredging
Freshly ground black pepper
For the Rice
2 tablespoons olive oil (can use up to 1/4 cup)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups of medium or long-grain white rice
3 cups* chicken stock
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste or 1 cup of diced fresh or cooked tomatoes, strained
Pinch of oregano
1 teaspoon salt
*Check the instructions on the rice package for the proportions of liquid to rice. They can range from 1:1 to 2:1. If your rice calls for 2 cups of water for every cup of rice, then for this recipe, use 4 cups of stock for 2 cups of rice.
1 .  Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet (a skillet that has a cover) on medium high heat. Put the flour in a wide bowl, mix in a generous sprinkling of salt, pepper, and paprika. Dredge the chicken pieces lightly in the flour mixture and put in the pan to brown. (You can skip the flour dredging part if you want. It just makes a nicer coating for the chicken.) Cook a few minutes on each side, just enough so that the chicken has browned. Use a slotted spoon to remove from pan and set aside.
2 .   Add the rice to the pan to brown. Add a little more olive oil if necessary. Stir first to coat the rice with the olive oil in the pan. Then don't stir too much or you will prevent it from browning. Let it brown and then stir a little to let more of it brown. Then add the onion and garlic. Cook the onion, garlic and rice mixture, stirring frequently, until the onions have softened, about 4 minutes.
3 .   Place the chicken pieces, skin-side up, on top of the rice. In a separate bowl, mix together the stock, tomato, salt, and oregano. Pour the stock mixture over the rice and chicken. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Let cook for 20-25 minutes, depending on the type of rice and the instructions on the rice package, until the rice and chicken are done. Fluff the rice with a fork. If you want you can sprinkle with some peas. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
1.  Use canned diced tomatoes w/oregano and garlic, and add chopped green olives w/the onions and garlic. Top with rinsed frozen peas and diced fresh red bell peppers for a beautiful presentation.
 2.  Some say that the more powerfully flavorful Puerto Rican version is best, using olives, pimentos and peas. Brown the chicken first, in an Achiote oil, if possible, to give it a nice bright color. There are versions of this dish which originated in the Andalusia region of Spain. The Peruvians also have a version with duck called arroz con pato.  Yum. 
2.  Me?  My version calls for boneless skinless chicken thighs, browned first, then cooked with the rice and lots of chili pepper.  This way there is no fooling with the bones when we eat it!


    This is one of our favorite recipes. It takes only minutes to make, and everyone in the family loves it. Its flexible enough so that you can add or substitute ingredients to taste. Have fun with this one:
4-6 packages Uncle Ben's 90 second rice (White or Brown)
2 tbs olive oil
1 bag frozen chopped onions
1 bag frozen sliced peppers
2 cups chopped chicken or shortcuts
1-2 cups sausage ground or sliced, or kielbasa sliced
1lb shrimp (plain or seasoned like Margaritaville)
2 cans red kidney beans
2 cans petite diced tomatos (or Rotel to add more spice)
Shredded Mexican Blend cheese 
Microwave the rice as directed on the package. 
Saute the chopped onions in large skillet until tender. If your shrimp is frozen, add it now. Add the rest of the ingredients including all meats (as set forth above or any you may have on hand) and frozen sliced peppers. When mixture just comes to a boil and shrimp are almost done, add beans and diced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste. Fold in the rice.
Heat 2 minutes more, sprinkle with cheese or cannelle of sour cream, and Enjoy!


     If you are bored of same old chicken recipes, honey baked chicken, initially a European recipe, is a great alternative. It is different, delicious and goes well with any other dish like rice, salads, bread etc
3 lb. Chicken breast, cut up
1/3 c. butter, melted
1/3 c. honey
2 tbsp. prepared mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. curry powder
**1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Arrange chicken in shallow baking pan.
3. Combine all ingredients and pour over the chicken.
4. Bake 1 1/4 hours, basting every 15 minutes until chicken is tender.
5. Good served with rice or boiled vegetables
**Alternatively, marinate the chicken in all the ingredients for at least a few hours and grill, basting frequently.  BE SURE YOUR GRILL IS OILED SUFFICIENTLY.

HABICHUELAS (Spanish Ham & Beans)


      I made a sprial ham over the weekend, (you don't need a recipe for that, just unwrap and heat). But, unless you are feeding 12, you are going to end up with lots of leftover ham. You will use the bone and attached for the split pea soup in the Soups & Sides section. For the rest, here is something new to use up some of that ham. 
      Habichuelas are a traditional Puerto Rican dish served over rice. You can use it as a side dish, but given the amount of ham I had, we are having it as a main dish, with a salad on the side. You can double or triple the recipe as you need it . 
2 tsp Cooking Oil
2 oz Ham or Bacon Diced or Chopped
1 15.5-oz can Red Beans
1 8-oz can Tomato Sauce
1 packet Sazon Goya w/ Coriander & Annatto
1 packet Sofrito (recipe to follow)
7 Green Spanish Olives with Pimiento (Sliced)
2 tbsp Potatoes Diced (I used the frozen hashbrowns)
4 oz Water 
     In med/ large saucepan add cooking oil on medium heat. Add bacon or ham and cook until brown. Add sofrito and cook for approx 5 minutes on low/med heat. 
     Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil over medium heat for 1 minute. Reduce heat and simmer for approx. 20 minutes. Serve over buttered rice, and garnish with some queso fresco to top it off.
***If you can't find pre packaged Sofrito or Sazon in the ethnic aisle in your supermarket, here are the recipes:
Sazon (1 1/4 tsp equals one packet of Sazon in recipe.) 
1 tsp Salt 
1 tsp Garlic Powder 
1 tsp Cumin 
1 tsp Coriander 
1 tsp Annatto 
1 Large yellow onion 
1 Green Bell Pepper 
1 Red Bell Pepper 
1 Ajies Pepper (red and sweet) 
1 Medium head of Garlic 
1 bunch of fresh Cilantro 
6 Culantro Leaves (Coriander) 
1/4 Cup Pitted Olives 
1 Tbsp Capers 
1 Tbsp Black Pepper 
1 Tbsp Crushed Oregano 
1/2 Cup Olive Oil 
 (Wash Peel and seed everything. Puree and store: 1 week in fridge, 1 month in freezer).