Fragrant Lime Salt

Do you have a zester? If you don’t, you better get one. Every foodie should have one in their toolbox…I mean, kitchen drawer. It comes in handy when you need to grate some Parmesan cheese, fresh nutmeg, or to zest some citrus. It will make you look like a pro, believe me!

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Every week, I zest some limes, add the zest to some Kosher salt and mix it until I get this beautiful fragrant salt. This lime salt is that special ingredient that turns up the volume in my homemade jalapeño-lime jerky. I sprinkle it on top of the meat once it’s on the dehydrator just before drying.

You can sprinkle it as a finishing salt on fish, chicken…or you can rim a margarita glass. Your choice. The possibilities are endless. It’s very simple to make. Here’s the how to:

Fragrant Lime Salt

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tablespoons of lime zest
  • 1 cup of kosher salt

Put the lime zest in a bowl. Add the kosher salt. Mix well. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid. It keeps for up to a month in the refrigerator.

 

 

 

 

 

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Still-frame of the week: Colors of February

 

I’m probably not the only one who’s planning on celebrating Valentine’s Day on the weekend since it fell on a Tuesday this year. Last year while I was out and about I found these little heart-shaped ramekins by Chantal. I had to have them. I don’t like to collect seasonal dishes but these can be used any time of the year. Why not? There’s plenty of occasions…anniversaries, birthdays, hot dates. As my friend says, “We’re grown-ups. We can do whatever we want.” I can’t disagree.

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February has a special place in my heart. It’s not quite winter. It’s not quite spring. It’s somewhere in between. At least that’s how it’s usually in Houston. The last of the pink blossoms on my peach tree are on the ground and tiny fruit is starting to grow in their place. I’ve trimmed dead branches, planted some seeds, and turned the soil in the raised garden bed.  I can’t wait to harvest some herbs later on this year. For now, here’s a snapshot of my week. I’ll let you see what I’ll be cooking or serving in them. I can’t wait to surprise my sweetheart with something sweet and romantic.

Have a lovely weekend!

-Camila

 

 

Still-frame of the week: Have you tried guayaba yet?

 

Guava or “Guayaba” (Wa-yah-bah), is a tropical  fruit that’s extremely fragrant especially when ripe. I would compare the scent of guayaba to a very sweet, ripe, pineapple sitting among a field of wild flowers or a bouquet of chamomile blooms to be more exact.

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At its peak, this little fruit should be have a smooth, golden color throughout and give slightly when squeezed. The more ripe a guayaba is, the more fragrant and sweeter it gets. The skin is supple and edible but a little tart in contrast to its sweet and creamy center filled with lots of smooth round little seeds which are also edible.

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Guayaba can be found in many Latin desserts. It can also be found as candies, preserves, and jams. You may find “guava paste” at the cheese counter or the international section of your market. It’s fantastic on a cheese platter or paired with a good manchego cheese, but the way I always have it is simple. I pull the fruit apart with my fingers and drizzle some honey on top. It’s like eating a fruity, flowery custard.

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Maybe the next time that you’re at the market, you’ll look for guava and give it a try. These are my still-frames of the week. I hope that your week is just as delicious!

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-Camila

 

Dear Peach Tree

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About a year after my husband and I had bought and moved into our first home, I was eager to have a garden of my own. The drawback for me was that I only had a small patio and balcony to work with. I knew very little about gardening. Growing up I watched mom prune and care for all of her potted plants. She spent hours pruning and watering. She seemed to drift in an almost meditative trance while she worked with her plants. It was one of the few things that mom enjoyed doing just for herself. Every inch surrounding our porch was filled with potted plants, herbs, succulents, aloe vera, and hanging baskets overflowing with beautiful lush foliage. By the time I left for college, mom had several fruit trees including banana, orange, and a couple of papaya trees, all bearing fruit. It wasn’t until I got my own space that I began to take interest in keeping my own plants.

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At first it was all trial and error. The first time that I tried to grow some herbs, I found out all about caterpillars. Each time that I would find new leaves beginning to sprout through the soil, the very next morning the stalks seemed to have been maliciously chopped off. The year after, I learned about slugs and the following year I was introduced to aphids. It went on that way for some time. Eventually I figured out what worked and what didn’t. In the process I earned a green thumb.

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My peach tree was a surprise after I had barely endured the war of all new gardeners. My hopes were almost lost. Luckily, there were times when I would eat fruit or vegetables and I would throw the seeds into the empty flower bed just to see if anything would successfully grow. Two years after, I had a 6 foot peach tree that I had no idea how to care for. This little tree was in the shape of the letter “V” because two thin trunks grew in opposite directions. I don’t know why I thought that it would be a good idea to twist them into a topiary. I know…I just didn’t have the heart to cut off one of those trunks. Don’t judge me. Long story short, my peach tree is now a very funny looking tree but it has been very good to me.

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It took six years before my peach tree began to bloom. By the seventh year I had a tree heavily weighed down by a generous bounty of peaches. We had to tie a rope to keep it standing upright. This little tree found the will and the courage to thrive against all odds and I am grateful for it. I really do enjoy seeing it bloom year after year from our bedroom window each January but what we enjoy most are those very sweet and fragrant peaches.

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Now I just have to figure out what to do with all those peaches. This year I tried canning for the very first time, but that’s a story for another post! Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

-Camila

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A Pound of Carrots

 

Here are a few Still-Frames of my week. I hope that yours are just as delicious.

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Carrot cake isn’t one of those cakes that I crave often because if I had a choice between carrot cake and chocolate cake I wouldn’t have to even think about going for the chocolate cake. Come on! Who isn’t unarmed by delicious chocolate cake?  The last time that I had a slice of carrot cake was years ago at a Black-eyed Pea and before that, I probably had a serving of it with my school cafeteria lunch rotation.  Carrot cake isn’t bad. It’s just not chocolate cake. My better half requested carrot cake so pulled out my recipe folder and looked for Ina Garten’s “Carrot and Pineapple Cake recipe”. I watched her make it on her show once. It looked so tempting that I printed out the recipe and saved it hoping to eventually make it.

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It turned out to be absolutely delicious! This recipe for carrot cake, in my opinion is a lot like a dense, moist, robust banana bread slathered with a sweet, creamy, buttery icing. From now on, carrot cake will not be neglected in this household ever again. Cheers, Mrs. Garten!

Try the recipe here: Ina Garten’s Carrot and Pineapple Cake 

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Masala Chai Tea

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It’s finally February! January breezed by too fast but while it’s still crisp and nippy out, here’s my first post for this new year. Some of you may remember seeing this tea on my former blog. Enjoy!

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I was flipping through the pages of Fine Cooking Magazine and a picture of a steamy mug of creamy tea caught my eye. Along with that picture was a recipe for “masala chai tea”. I had my first taste of chai tea at Starbucks. It was an interesting flavor but it was a bit too sweet and the spices were too bold for my taste. However, it peaked my interest so I thought that I should try a more authentic version of chai tea. Since making a pilgrimage to India was out of the question, doing a little research was my next option. This recipe promised a subtle and more delicate flavor so I had to try it.

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“Masala” refers to a blend of spices used in Indian cuisine, and the word, “chai” is the word for tea. So, “masala chai tea” translates to…”spiced tea, tea. Right? Think about it.

I’m enamored with the idea that there are as many chai tea vendors also known as “chai wallahs” or “chaiwalas” spotting the streets of India as there are coffee houses speckled all over our cities. Each of them as dedicated to the art of making chai tea as a barista is to brewing the perfect cup of espresso. Finding some of the spices was a little adventure and I wasn’t familiar with some of them. Lucky for me, I’m minutes away from a Mediterranean specialty foods market and they carry lots of lovely products.

What I love about this tea is that it’s fragrant, creamy, spicy, and it’s packed with healthy benefits. A tea with all of these wonderful ingredients has to be good for us right? Here’s how this tea is prepared.

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You will need:

  • 1 tablespoon of loose English breakfast or Darjeeling tea
  • 2 cups of water
  • 6 cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • 6 cardamon pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 slice of ginger
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar (more or less to your taste)
  • 1/3 cup of milk

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Meanwhile, crush each cardamon pod with the back of a spoon until you hear a slight pop or the pod slightly opens. Place the loose tea, cloves, peppercorns, cardamon pods, star anise, and the slice of ginger into a mesh tea infuser. Once the water has reached a boil, remove from heat and drop in the cinnamon stick and the tea infuser into the hot water. Allow it to steep uncovered for 5 minutes. Then, remove the cinnamon stick and the infuser from the liquid. Add sugar and the milk. Froth with a whisk until sugar has dissolved and the tea is slightly frothy.

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You should now have a foamy, creamy, fragrant tea. Pour into cups. Grate a little fresh nutmeg on top. Sip. enjoy.

Let me know what you think and have a very romantic February!

Refreshing Chia-Lime Water

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You know, the only thing I like about summer is the fresh foods and drinks that we can prepare to keep cool. I bet you have a few favorites of your own. Let me tell you about one of my summer drinks. I’m talking about my refreshing Chila-Lime water. My mother would always prepare cool pitchers of homemade fruit drinks to keep us hydrated during the hot summers.

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I especially remember that she would stir a few tablespoons of chia seeds into pitchers of limeade. The kids and I used to love it. It doesn’t alter the taste. They’re tiny seeds that swell up by absorbing the liquid that they’re submerged in.

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The really awesome thing about chia seeds is that they are a nutritious powerhouse. Mayan and Aztec warriors and hunters who relied on this tiny seed to give them energy, endurance, and to help keep them satiated and hydrated. Chia seeds also have tons of health benefits such as omega-3, calcium, and antioxidants. They’re also known to help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Consuming them helps with weight loss by helping you feel full longer. Chia seeds are also rich in protein and healthy fats. These are only a few known benefits of these amazing little seeds. Check them out for yourself. Okay, with that said, bellow you’ll see how to prepare this refreshing chia-lime water:

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You will need:

  • 4 cups of cool filtered water
  • 3 to 4 limes
  • 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • Agave nectar or simple syrup

Fill a pitcher with 4 cups of filtered water. Juice the limes and add the juice into the pitcher. Pour the chia seeds into the liquid and stir immediately. Allow seeds to plump, but stir frequently to keep them from clumping.  Sweeten to taste with agave nectar or simple syrup. Pour over ice and enjoy.

Simple right? Let me know what you think. Have a lovely week!

-Camila

Iced Macchiato with Caramel Sauce

 

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Previously, I showed you how easy it is to make an iced cafe au lait in a mason jar. If you haven’t read that post, you’re missing out! To see it, click here. This stuff is awesome!

It’s really hot here in Houston so this is the perfect time for iced coffee. I’m going to share how I prepare my favorite iced coffee drink, iced macchiato. I always try to keep a bottle of this coffee concentrate in the refrigerator so that I can prepare macchiatos any time I want. For cafe au laits, I used, French Market or Cafe Du Monde coffee because they have chicory in the grounds. However, for macchiatos I use an Italian roast or espresso roast coffee. Feel free to experiment with your favorite coffee and see what you like the best.

Okay, let me get right to it. You will need ice, chilled coffee concentrate, cold milk, and caramel sauce. This is how you prepare it:

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Put some ice in cup.

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Pour some milk (about two-thirds of the glass).

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Slowly pour the coffee, gently over the ice (about one-third of the glass).

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Isn’t it a beautiful thing? I love how the coffee swirls barely staining the milk with caramel hues honoring its name, “macchiato”, which means, “marked” or “stained” in Italian. Now all that you have to do is drizzle some of your favorite caramel sauce on top.

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Stir…

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and enjoy.

Easy isn’t it? Please…I insist, try this at home.

Well, I’m off to some new adventures and to sip on this refreshing coffee. Drop a line with any comments or feedback. It’s much appreciated! Enjoy your week!

 

 

Coffee: Iced Café au lait

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I adore coffee served in any form, but my favorite way to drink it is on ice. I prefer it chilled probably because Houston is cold drink-friendly almost year-round. Although, I have been one of those people caught sipping on an iced drink on the coldest days.

My sweetheart and I until recently, were living out of our suitcases. We were on the road for over a year traveling back and forth all over Louisiana and back. Every square inch of our car was packed with suitcases, pots, pans, bird-cage, and all.  I was limited to what I could bring along so I had to plan accordingly. One thing we always must have, is our iced coffee. Can I tell you something? I have a gold card status at Starbucks. Yep, that’s like racking up frequent flyer miles, but the currency here is caffeine. Practically all of the places we were traveling to were off the beaten path so there weren’t any coffee houses nearby much less a Starbucks. I had to get creative so I came up with a way to steer our homesickness away and get our iced-coffee fix without the need for special equipment. That was all possible with a little help from a mason jar. Let me tell you how to prepare a nice cup of iced café au lait.

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The first thing you need to do is prepare a strong cold coffee concentrate. To make this you will need some ground coffee (of your choice). I’m making an iced New Orleans style café au lait, so I will be using the French Market Coffee or Cafe Du Monde coffee. You will also need some cone coffee filters, a tablespoon, and a large 32 oz mason jar.

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Place three generous tablespoons of coffee grounds into each coffee filter or more if you’d like. Limit 4 spoonfuls per filter because if you put too much coffee grounds in a single filter, the grounds will slip out.

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Once you have three or four spoonfuls of coffee in a filter, begin folding the top corner and continue to make folds overlapping over the last. Repeat until you’ve created a sort of envelope.

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Prepare two or three coffee envelopes. Place them inside the jar and fill with clean filtered water to the top. Twist on the cap and let it sit in a cool place in your kitchen overnight or for a minimum of 8 hours. This will allow the coffee to brew without the use of heat. It makes a nice, smooth brew without bitterness.

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After that time has elapsed, it will look like this. Isn’t it a dark beauty? Pull out the coffee filters and discard. If any grounds slip into the liquid. Put a coffee filter over the mouth of another mason jar and pour the liquid through it to strain out the grounds. It’s no big deal. Put the coffee concentrate in the refrigerator to chill for later use or you may use it right away.

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Okay, now comes the fun part.

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Put some ice in a nice cup and pour some of that delicious coffee elixir…or concentrate.

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Then, add a splash of milk or cream. If you’d like to sweeten it, stir in some sugar, coffee sweetener, condensed milk, or simple syrup.

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Stir. Sip. Enjoy. Simple, right? Now go on and try this at home and let me know what you think, leave a comment, or like and share. Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

Watercress

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I fondly remember the times when I would visit my maternal grandparents. I would stay with them for days at a time. They live in the wooded mountains of Mexico, far away enough from the city. They lovingly care for a bountiful orchard that consists vastly of pears, quinces, apples, peaches, and plumbs. I remember waking up early in the morning and seeing my grandmother or my uncle making their way back to the house with a pail of fresh warm milk. I knew that meant breakfast was getting started so I would run out to fetch some eggs and take them to her. My grandparents always knew how to make me feel safe, loved, and they made the best out of anything. If I would hear a strange sound, they would tell me epic stories that would make perfect sense in the creative mind of a child. I remember being scared of the dark and it would take a bit of time for me to get used to not being able to flip on a light switch in the evenings so they would comfort me by the warm wood fire and light up a few candles to brighten the room for me. The gentle crackle of the logs burning would soothe away my fears. I loved walking among the giant pine trees and over the thick carpet of pine needles on the ground. I especially loved taking deep breaths and filling my lungs with the fresh and pure air of the woods. I have nothing but wonderful memories about being with my grandparents in that little paradise.  It was always difficult to leave and go back home.

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Watercress has a very special place in my heart. My cousin and I would run to the creek where wild watercress would grow abundantly in the running water. We gathered handfuls of watercress for grandmother’s refreshing salads. We had fun skipping and hopping from one stone onto the other to avoid getting our shoes wet. Grandmother taught us how to pick the fresh bunches of watercress and then rinse the soil off the leaves and roots in the creek. When we got back to her kitchen, she would pinch off the tender leaves into a bowl and throw out the tougher stems. She would then mix in fresh diced tomatoes, finely diced onion, a minced serrano pepper and seasoned it with lime juice and a sprinkle of salt. These are the ingredients that my memories are made of.

This is how she would prepare it:

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First, rinse the watercress and pat it dry. Then pinch off and keep only the leaves and the tender younger stems with the tiny leaves attached to them. Those are okay to eat. Throw out the tougher, longer stems. Place your watercress into a bowl and add diced tomato and onion. If you like a little spice, (I mean aside from the little kick that watercress already has) add a little finely diced serrano or jalapeño pepper depending on the heat level that you’d like. Toss all of the ingredients to mix well, squeeze the juice of one lime and season with kosher salt or ground sea salt to taste.

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You can serve this salad along with fish or chicken. You can also just scoop it up with some tortilla chips or…you can have it the way we did: wrapped in a warm tortilla. (Also known as a humble “taco”). Yep, watercress tacos. These are really, really good! Especially if you’re craving something refreshing and light. This salad can complement almost any dish but there are no rules. Do as you wish!

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This hydroponically grown watercress doesn’t compare to that one that grew naturally in that running creek at my grandparents ranch but it’s the closest thing to it. I hope that you give this a try. If you’re up to it, leave a comment or send me a message and let me know what you think! Have a beautiful week!