Pumpkin Pie Paletas

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Autumn is my favorite season and whenever it rolls around I crave pumpkin-flavored everything! So far this season I have gotten my hands on pumpkin donuts, a pumpkin latte, oatmeal raisin pumpkin cookies and I stocked my cabinets with cans of pumpkin as soon as the store put up the display. (Not to mention I’ve been lighting a pumpkin-scented candle to make the house smell like pumpkin.)

I’m loving the chilly mornings and evenings, but during the day it’s still feeling like summer out there. With today’s temperatures predicted to reach a sunny 94 F, I decided we needed something to cool off, and yet that pumpkin craving remains. What to do? Pumpkin pie paletas seemed like a perfect compromise!

Creamy vanilla ice cream is mixed with pumpkin and dark brown sugar, spiced with cinnamon and given a dash of salt to bring out the other flavors. To give the feel of pie, we can’t forget about the crust, so crushed cinnamon graham crackers mixed with melted butter give this popsicle the perfect texture and added richness. This recipe is based off a pumpkin pie recipe we make every year for Thanksgiving and it is so beloved that Carlos and the boys licked the bowl clean while waiting for the paletas!

Pumpkin Pie Paletas

What you need:

4 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
1 cup cinnamon graham crackers, crushed
1 cup canned pumpkin
4 tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Method:

1. In a small bowl, combine melted butter and cinnamon graham cracker crumbs. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine ice cream, pumpkin, dark brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Stir until completely combined.

3. Mix graham cracker crumb mixture into ice cream mixture. Stir just until combined.

4. Pour into popsicle molds. (Optional: You can top with more crushed graham cracker.) Insert the popsicle stick and freeze for 2 to 3 hours until solid. To remove popsicles from molds, run the popsicle mold under warm water, (taking care not to get water on the paletas), until you can gently pull them out.

Pupusas Revueltas with Salsa and Curtido

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I realized the other day that while I made a video on how to make pupusas de queso and recently shared a recipe for making mini pupusas de queso y frijol, I hadn’t posted a recipe or video for Carlos’s favorite – pupusas revueltas!

It was a little difficult for me to quantify everything and give clear directions because I make them a little differently each time, adjusting this and that to make them better – but here is how I made them this time. As you can see, I used ground pork instead of making authentic chicharrones with chunks of pork, but it works well like this and saves you from getting greasy meat all over your food processor when you grind it up.

Now, whenever I make a pupusa video, inevitably I get comments on YouTube asking for curtido and salsa recipes, so I decided to make a video of those too, even though I have variations of both posted here.

So, without further introduction, here are the videos and recipes for pupusas revueltas, salsa and curtido. (And as a special treat, in one of the videos you can see Carlos attempt to make a pupusa by himself!)

Pupusas Revueltas

What you need:

1 lb. fresh ground pork (you can even use turkey or chicken if you don’t eat pork)
1 tbs. minced garlic
1-2 tbs. canola oil
1 medium tomato, washed and quartered
1 medium Poblano or the equivalent green pepper, washed, stem & seeds removed, and quartered
1/2 a medium onion, cut in half
1/2 cup refried beans
1 lb. whole milk mozzarella cheese, softened (directions below)
salt to taste

For the masa/dough:

3 cups MASECA
3 1/4 cups water
a little less than 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:

1. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and garlic. Stir for a few seconds before adding ground pork and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until browned. Remove from heat, set aside. (Note: Many people use chunks of pork in place of ground pork and after cooking, run it through the food processor. This is totally up to you. I’ve used both methods and both work.)

2. In the food processor set to “mince” – Process: the tomato, the Poblano or green pepper, and the onion. Add to the pork and mix to combine. Taste and correct with salt if needed.

3. Add the refried beans. Stir to combine.

4. To soften the cheese, place it in a warm water bath while it is still in the plastic packaging. After about 10 minutes, drain the water and open the package. Knead the cheese by hand until soft. Add to the pork mixture and stir to combine. This will be your pupusa filling. Set the mixture aside.

5. In a large bowl sprinkle salt over MASECA and then pour in water. Mix by hand until combined.

6. To form pupusas, take a large handful of dough, (slightly bigger than a golf ball but not as big as a baseball), and pat it into a tortilla. Cup your hand so the tortilla forms a bowl-like shape. In the hollow, place a large pinch of the pupusa filling. Close your hand gently to fold the sides up around the filling and form the ball again. Pat out into a thick tortilla shape and then place on a hot griddle, comal or non-stick frying pan. (No oil is needed!) Flip to cook on each side. Serve with salsa and curtido.

Salsa

What you need:

3 to 4 fresh large tomatoes (Roma are best), chopped
1 handful fresh cilantro
1/2 of a medium-sized onion, chopped
1/4 of a medium Poblano pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon raw, minced garlic
Salt to taste
A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce (also known as “Salsa Perrins.”)

Directions:

Combine in a blender. Blend until smooth, about one minute. Serve immediately or put in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid and keep refrigerated. You can also pour the salsa into a pot and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes which will brighten the natural red color of the tomatoes and deepen the flavor a little. Use in almost any recipe calling for salsa, or as a side with Latin American dishes. Use within a few days or can it to keep longer.

Possible substitutions: A 32 ounce can of undrained whole tomatoes can be substituted for fresh tomatoes. Green bell pepper can be substituted for the Poblano pepper.

Curtido

What you need:

1 small cabbage, washed and cut into large chunks
1 cup carrots, washed and peeled
1/2 a small onion
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup warm water
salt to taste
oregano to taste

Directions:

1. With the food processor set to “shred” – Process the cabbage and carrots. Switch the food processor to “julienne” for the onion. Combine in a large bowl with remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Gazpacho

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I don’t remember the first time I heard of gazpacho and I can’t remember if I’d ever even eaten it before yesterday, but yesterday, after a couple days of eating too many processed foods, my body began to crave something fresh – something alive. Usually this is when I would seek out a salad, but it’s been so hot that my thirst caused gazpacho to pop into my head.

“I’m going to make gazpacho for dinner,” I said to Carlos.
“Empacho?” he said.
“No, gazpacho,” I responded, “It’s a cold vegetable soup… from Spain, I think.”

If The National Board of Gazpacho is hiring someone in marketing, I probably wouldn’t be a very good candidate. Carlos wasn’t thrilled with my dinner idea but for reasons unknown, didn’t protest despite the unflattering description. I researched a half dozen recipes and several articles about gazpacho to get a general idea of how to make it and was undeterred by the controversy over whether to use bread crumbs or not to use bread crumbs; whether it should be smooth or chunky; whether it’s sacrilege to use tomato juice or V8 to thin the gazpacho; whether a blender or a food processor works best… You get the idea. The last time I saw such passionate debate was when I looked up guacamole recipes.

I made mental notes of what I found useful and discarded what I did not, (a good way to live life in general) and went out to buy my fresh, ripe vegetables. In the kitchen I set to work washing, chopping, measuring, and jotting down notes to myself in case my gazpacho turned out well, which I must say, it really did. The gazpacho is so beautiful and so refreshing with the perfect balance of flavors. Carlos and my boys loved it and I’m eating it again for breakfast today because those vitamin-rich vegetables woke me up better than a cup of Bustelo.

I can’t tell you whether Spaniards would turn their noses up at my gazpacho, deeming it inauthentic, but I can tell you that this is one of the best things I’ve ever made and as much as I look forward to autumn each year, this gazpacho will be one of the only things that makes me long for a hot summer day.

Señora Lopez’s Gazpacho

Ingredients:

1 large cucumber, washed, seeded, chopped (but don’t peel)
4 large Roma tomatoes, washed, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, washed, seeded, chopped
1/4 medium red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 3/4 cups tomato juice
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

1. In a food processor set to chop, process the cucumber but not until smooth. Remove to a large bowl.
2. Repeat step one with the tomato, red bell pepper and onion, one by one, removing each after processing to the large bowl.
3. Mix in all remaining ingredients.
4. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for one hour or more.
5. Serve cold. (This can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days.)

Optional: Serve with a dollop of sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro, with slices of avocado or French bread. Some heathens even dip grilled cheese sandwiches into their gazpacho, (which sounds really good.)

Note: Gazpacho is great for making use of an over abundance of whatever is doing well in your garden, If you’ve got zucchini or other vegetables, try substituting them or adding them in!

(Credit where credit is due: This original recipe was most inspired by The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook’s Gazpacho recipe.)

Señora López’s Fresh Salsa

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This is my fresh salsa recipe, adapted over the years from a recipe given to me by my sister-in-law. Originally she gave it to me so that I could simmer chicken in it, (which is delicious, by the way), but we love it so much that we use this as an accompaniment or ingredient in many dishes at our house. I’ve included variations of this recipe here before, but always as an afterthought tacked on to other recipes. I decided this salsa deserves its own moment to shine.

We use it over curtido to eat with pupusas, we eat it on top of scrambled eggs, we dip tortilla chips in it, we mix it into rice and beans, we pour it over rellenos de ejotes, we serve Salvadoran meatballs in it, and it’s always on the table with our yuca con chicharrón — After you taste it, you’ll be searching for ways to use it at every meal, too.

Señora López’s Fresh Salsa

3 to 4 fresh large tomatoes (Roma are best), chopped
1 handful fresh cilantro
1/2 of a medium-sized onion, chopped
1/4 of a medium Poblano pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon raw, minced garlic
Salt to taste
A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce (also known as “Salsa Perrins.”)
Optional (if you like it spicy) – A few rings of pickled jalapeño

Fresh ingredients ready to blend!

Fresh ingredients ready to blend!

Combine in a blender. Blend until smooth, about one minute. Serve immediately or put in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid and keep refrigerated. You can also pour the salsa into a pot and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes which will brighten the natural red color of the tomatoes and deepen the flavor a little. Use in almost any recipe calling for salsa, or as a side with Latin American dishes. Use within a few days or can it to keep longer.

Possible substitutions: A 32 ounce can of undrained whole tomatoes can be substituted for fresh tomatoes. Green bell pepper can be substituted for the Poblano pepper.

Té de Canela

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Cinnamon is believed to have a lot of health benefits – from boosting the immune system, aiding digestion, and lowering blood sugar to relieving arthritis, fighting bacterial infections and promoting brain function. I’m not a doctor and can’t say for sure if any of this is true, but it’s an easy and refreshing drink when chilled and served over ice.

Té de Canela

Ingredients:

2 cinnamon sticks
2 cups of water
3 tablespoons white table sugar

Directions:

Bring ingredients to a boil then lower to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour through a sieve and serve over ice. Makes two to three glasses.

Note: Cinnamon has been shown to cause medical problems for some people. Talk to your doctor before self-medicating or consuming cinnamon in large quantities or for an extended period of time.

Salvadoran Bento Box Lunch!

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With Back-to-school only weeks away and Día Nacional de la Herencia Salvadoreña Americana (National Salvadoran American Heritage Day) coming up on August 6th – I decided to make a Salvadoran themed bento box which would be ideal for packing for your child’s lunch.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of packing traditional Salvadoran foods for my children when I get a chance. I feel that it roots the boys in their heritage and also gives them a chance to share their culture with classmates.

Although changes have been made to school lunch in the United States, I think they still have a long way to go. Making your child’s lunch gives you control over how much sodium, sugar, fat and calories they’re getting and it allows you to provide healthy foods you know your child likes. This particular bento box contains a balanced alternative to school bought lunches: Bean and cheese mini-pupusas provide plenty of fiber and protein and when cooked without oil, are lower in fat. In place of the traditional cabbage curtido and salsa we have a salad of finely chopped fresh spinach and grape tomatoes which are packed with vitamins. Potato chips are replaced with homemade baked plantain chips cooked without any oil and sprinkled lightly with salt. To drink, horchata stands in for chocolate milk – When made with skim or 1% milk, your child gets calcium for growing bones without extra calories, sugar and fat.

Ready to give this Salvadoran bento box lunch a try? Recipes are below!

Horchata

You need:

Salvadoran horchata mix (find it at your local Latino Market)
Skim or 1% milk
A thermos or bottle that seals tightly
Optional: Sweetener of your choice

Directions:

1. Put a couple tablespoons of the horchata mix into the thermos or bottle. (A funnel may make this easier.) Add a cup of milk – make sure you leave some space at the top so the drink can be shaken at lunch time.

2. Optional: Add sweetener of your choice, but depending on the mix you use, you may find it tastes great without these unneeded calories.

3. Another optional step is to pour the horchata through a sieve to remove any clumps of mix that didn’t dissolve. Otherwise, seal the bottle tightly so it doesn’t leak. At lunch time your child can give it a few shakes to make sure it’s well mixed before opening.

Mini-Pupusas de Queso y Frijol

You need:

A quarter cup softened mozzarella cheese
1/8 cup frijoles molidos or frijoles medio molidos
MASECA Instant Corn Masa Flour prepared as instructions on package indicate. (Use the proportions that yield 4 tortillas: 1/2 cup Maseca, 1/3 cup water, pinch of salt.)

Directions:

1. Mix the cheese and beans by hand until well blended. The beans you use can be molidos (completely pureed) or you can use frijoles medio molidos, (which leaves some of the beans mostly intact or slightly smashed.) I used Salvadoran frijol rojo de seda, which I prepared medio molidos.

(Need help making beans? Click here, here and here.)

2. Now just assemble the pupusas as usual, but using a smaller amount of masa and filling so that the pupusas come out mini-sized. Cook on a hot comal (griddle), flipping once. No need to use any oil on the comal. This will make about 6 mini-pupusas.

(Need pupusa-making tips? Click here.)

Homemade Sweet and Salty Plantain Chips

You need:
1 ripe plantain (yellow with black markings)
Optional: salt

Directions:

1. Cut the peel off the plantain. Slice the plantain into thin coins. Put the plantain rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (No need to add any oil!)

2. Bake at 350 F, turning once to brown on both sides for about 10 to 15 minutes. Optional: Lightly sprinkle with salt. This makes enough for two servings.

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Conserva de Coco

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Conserva de coco is a sweet coconut candy. In my experience, the texture of conserva de coco varies depending on how long ago it was made. My recipe yields a conserva that is at first soft, sticky and pleasantly chewy, but by the next day it hardens a little. On the third day the conserva starts to get crunchy. When I started experimenting with making this it had been years since I had eaten an authentic freshly made conserva de coco so I wanted to be sure it was right – I brought half a batch to a local Salvadoran friend and she was super impressed. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Conserva de Coco

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups fresh shredded coconut, packed
2 cups sugar
11 ounces coconut water (right between 1 1/4 cups and 1 1/2 cups)
5 ounces water (right between a 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup)
3 big pinches of salt

Notes before we get started: Make sure you use coconut water, not coconut milk. Also, be certain that you use fresh shredded coconut, not the flaked coconut you find in the baking aisle. You may be able to find fresh shredded coconut in the freezer section of your grocery store if you don’t want to buy an actual coconut. When you measure the 1 and 3/4 cups of coconut, it should be packed down to ensure you’re getting the correct measurement. It’s highly recommended that you measure the coconut water and water in ounces to get the most accurate measurement.

Directions:

1. Boil everything in a medium-sized pot, uncovered, over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Knowing when the conserva is ready was the tricky part for me the first time I made it. You will see the liquid begin to boil away and the mixture will thicken. Don’t be too eager to get it off the stove when you see it happen. The process can take a good 30 minutes or more. When the conserva really comes together the best indicator is if you see the coconut starting to brown a little – Time to remove it from heat!

2. Spread the conserva out on a flat heat-resistant surface. I found it easiest and less messy to put the conserva into a rectangular glass Pyrex baking dish. (I grease the dish with a little cooking spray to ensure it won’t stick, even though I suspect the natural oil of the coconut would prevent that from happening.)

3. Allow the conserva to cool several hours before cutting into pieces, (cubes, bars or squares.) Once cut in pieces, store in an airtight container. I found that it’s best eaten within 3 days, (I like it best the first and second day.)