Let Them Eat Birthday Cake

I L.O.V.E. LLLLLLLLLOOOOOOVEEEEEEEEEEE my birthday. It’s the one day  when I am queen and protagonist. I like to think, that for 24 hours, my chakras are perfectly aligned, I have perfect skin, my metabolism is supercharged, calories do not count, I namaslay my yoga class, my credit card pays its self, my hair is full of bounce and shine, everyone is smiling at me and being uber kind, luck is on my side, the sun shines brighter on this day, and a super titanium shield blocks me from jerks and all BS floating around the universe. May 20th is my day and for 24 hours I am allowed to do as I please, even  become a narcissist.

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My mother was always BIG on our birthdays and created birthday loving monsters. From the moment the clock strikes 12, it’s MY DAY. I am always giddy to see who will be the first one to “win” and wish me happy birthday at midnight. In the elaborate novela that plays in my mind, the whole world is rivaling against each other (a la Hunger Games) to see who wishes me HBD first! That’s just how narcissistic I am about my special day! #owningmycraziness #sorrynotsorry

Notwithstanding all the hoopla, I am not a fan of birthday parties. That I can totally do without. Parties are suppose to be fun, but parties require alot of work and no one likes to work on their birthday. The insane micromanaging-hostess-with-the-mostest-tyrant in me does not allow for a laissez faire party. What I am huge on is receiving birthday wishes! I love the attention bestowed on me by my loved ones. I love facebook and text messages, thoughtful presents, like smelly candles, yummy creams, kitchen gadgets, gift cards to the spa, and heartfelt written notes. I love how every year, Juan Carlos wishes me happy birthday at midnight. I love how Mirka brings me flowers arranged by her with my cafe con leche. I love how my mother-in-law sends my present with a beautiful prayer attached at 9am sharp. I love how, without fail, my Tio Turi will call and  with his over-the-top personality, scream into the phone “HAPPPPPPPPYYYYYY BIRTHDAYYYYYYYYYYYY JESSIQUITAAAAAAAAAAAAA”.  I love how no matter what, my first email on May 20th is ALWAYS from Judy Stein. I love how my mom sings her idiosyncratic special birthday song “Today is Your Bday”. On hands and knees, I BEG YOU TO watch this video to fully grasp the scoop of my mother’s joie de vivre. You just can’t make this stuff up.

My birthday and Christmas are my favorite days of the year. The pickle is my husband is the grinch who stole birthdays. The man could careless about his birthday, my birthday, Jesus’ birthday (he isn’t so big on Xmas either) and anyone else’s birthday. I am 100% convinced he suffers from some sort of psychological affliction not yet discovered. He gets annoyed if I tell anyone it’s his birthday (take note: January 23). For years (11 to be exact), he, ignorantly, wouldn’t make any commotion concerning my day. How horrible,tragic and grossly apathetic is that? I was too embarrassed (young and stupid) to tell him I HATED HIM on May 20th for being so blase and lukewarm.

Every cloud has a silver lining, once married and living in Dominican Republic, I realized  I no longer had my birthday phalanx (mom, dad, sisters, extended family, girlfriends) to make a HUGE brouhaha for me. I was left with no other option than to take matters in my own hands. I “explained” ( I am 100% sure I lacked composure, civility, a decent decibel, and emotional intelligence) that he needed to buck up, put his birthday aloofness aside,  throw on a party hat and become the leader of Jessica’s HBD Brigade every May 20th for the rest of his life.

And so he did. Since then, every year for my birthday, he gets me flowers, a cake, and several over the top presents (apparently he didn’t get the memo on smelly candles and body cream and I am not complaining nor disclosing).

Warning: My birthday is May 20, a couple weeks away and my obnoxious birthday narcissism is brewing. I have started celebrating early this year and that brings me to the purpose of this post:

BIRTHDAY CAKE

 

 

When life kicks you in the a$$ and you hate everyone around, eat birthday cake. Forgive me for  advocating eating your emotions, but NOTHING in this world can numb your pain like a fluffly, light, moist slice of birthday cake. Well, perhaps some vicodin chased by a glass of merlot. My favorites are Patricia Reyes’ birthday cake, Publix Vanilla Buttercream frosting cake and Edda’s Cake.  In case of emergency, when none of these are readily available and you need a quick fix, I suggest you turn to my favorite alternative: Oreo Cookie Birthday Cake. Boom. Cue mic drop.

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Xanax in the shape of a cookie.

 

Here  is my go to, fool proof, easy homemade vanilla birthday cake recipe. It’s a million times better than the boxed stuff and I promise you it’s crazy easy to make.  It’s good for cupcakes too!

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VANILLA BIRTHDAY CAKE

(adapted from lifelovesugar.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • ¾ cup salted butter, room temp (1stick +3/4 stick)*
  • 1 heavy cup white sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour or cake flour (to make cake flour: 1 cup all purpose flour, remove 2 tbsp of AP flour and add two tbsp of cornstarch. Make sure to sift.)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ cups full fat cow’s milk

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch springform cake pan with non stick spray.
  2. Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
  3. With paddle, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  4. Add egg whites and 1 tbsp vanilla. Beat on medium speed until the batter becomes thick.
  5. On medium speed, slowly add half of the dry mixture to the batter and beat until combined.
  6. Add half of the milk until combined.
  7. Continue alternating adding dry mixture and milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, and beating until incorporated after each addition. The batter will be thick.
  8. If you want to make funfetti cake, now is the time. Fold in 4 tbsp of sprinkles. DO NOT FOLD too much because sprinkles will bleed.
  9. Pour batter in greased 9 in springform pan.
  10. Bake for 33 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. (18 minutes if making cupcakes).
  11. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  12. Remove cake from pan to cooling rack.
  13. Cool completely before frosting.
  • Before all you frenzied, cut throat bakers (Chef Micaela) dive into my jugular, I know you are suppose to bake with unsalted butter, but salted butter works PERFECT in this recipe. For my Dominican housewives, I swear by Rica salted butter.

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VANILLA BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

(I have had this recipe for 10 years. I do not know where it came from, but it is time tested and true. It’s a solid recipe.)

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup (2 sticks)unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar (might need additional cup)
1/4 cup COLD heavy cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
salt, as needed

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Beat softened butter on medium speed with paddle aprox. 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. *Not necessary, but if mixing bowl is cold it’s better. I put mine in the freezer while I wait for butter to soften.
  2. Add powdered sugar, cold heavy cream, and vanilla extract while the mixer running.
  3. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes.
  4. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more heavy cream if mixture is too thick. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more) if frosting is too sweet.
  5. Frost cooled cake as desired with a cold icing spatula.

*Sass it up and top with funfetti sprinkles or colorful non pareils!

IMG_0645What’s your go to cake recipe? I love to try out new recipes!

Follow me on instagram @Jessicathehousewife.  XOXO!

 

Boozy Beurre Noisette Banana Blondies

 

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Confessional: I have a weakness for sweets. Juan Carlos can eat an entire herd of cows, as long as I can have my sweets. I love to bake! Ever since I was a little girl, I had a thing for baking.

Here is a recipe for Boozy Beurre Noisette Banana Blondies. Beurre Noisette means brown butter, which is absolutely one of my favorite techniques for baking. This is real simple  and oh so yummy! Switch it up from your old school blondies, and give these cakey version a try! The recipe is absolutely forgiving, so you can work it to your palate’s desire.

Banana Blondie:

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter*(brown butter)
  • 1 cup of light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsps of vanilla ( I love vanilla so I do 1 tbsp)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (omit if you do not like cakey blondies)
  • 1 ripe banana mashed (1/2 cup)

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Boozey Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup of unsalted butter **
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 1 tbps bourbon ( you can omit, but I like boozy sweets!)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

 

Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8×8 baking dish with foil. Spray with cooking spray.

Begin by making beurre noisette (brown butter). In a light colored pot, over low heat, melt butter.

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The butter will start to foam, stir occasionally.

The butter will change color to a gorgeous honey amber brown.

When it is a pretty golden brown, you are ready to rock -n-roll. There will be a delicious nutty smell. Here is a link to Chef You Tube with details to this fantastic and incredibly delicious technique. You can read a little more about it  here  and  here too!

Let beurre noisette cool down a few minutes.

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Mix flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar.

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Add egg and vanilla. Mix well.

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Slowly add dry ingredients while mixing.

When fully combined, add mashed banana and mix.

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Pour in 8×8 baking pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Remove from oven and let pan cool .

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While the pan is cooling, prepare glaze.

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This beurre noisette version of the glaze.

You can chose which type of glaze: Brown Butter Glaze or Non Brown Butter Glaze.**

A)For the brown butter version: Brown 1/4 unsalted butter. Once the butter is golden brown, add 2 tbsp of whole milk. Stir.

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Brown butter version of the glaze

OR……

B)For the non brown butter glaze: melt butter, add 2 tbsp of whole milk, stir.

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Non brown butter version of the glaze.

After deciding on either option A or option B, bring to a boil and remove from heat.  Add 1 tbsp of Jack Daniel’s bourbon (you can omit if you are fresh out of rehab) and stir.

Let cool for 3-5 minutes.

Whisk in powdered sugar. Let sit for a few minutes.

When Banana blondies are cool, evenly spread glaze over.

Once the blondies and glaze are completely cooled down, cut into squares.

Optional:Fancy them up by drizzling squares with nutella or dark chocolate. ENJOY!

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Boozy Beurre Noisette Banana Blondies with non brown butter glaze
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Beurre Noisette Banana Blondies with Beurre Noisette Bourbon Glaze

 

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Drizzle some nutella!

(Adapted from Cookies & Cup)

*Baker’s Blasphemy: I use salted butter. I know Micaela is going to smack me with a whisk, but I really, really, really love using Rica salted butter (Domincan butter). It’s my absolute favorite and it’s never strayed me the wrong way.

** You do not have to brown the butter for the glaze. It’s up to you. Either way works well!

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GAME OVER!

 

Follow me on instagram @jessicathehousewife and on twitter @jthehousewife.

 

The Spice Girls

One of my culinary pet peeves is to find a mouthwatering recipe and as I’m dancing through my mise en place, pathetically discover I am missing one tiny key ingredient. A spice like cloves or fennel seeds, not stuff you use everyday, but really something so simple that to schlep back to the grocery store for 1/8 teaspoon of cardamom just disintegrates and sours the intent, inertia kicks in, and the result is a cheese sandwich.

I have made a list of spices I always keep stocked in my pantry.

Scratch that. Who am I kidding? This is not helpful at all. I have the Carrie Bradshaw shoe closet of spices.  My very own personal Indian spice market. The truth is, most I use once or twice a year. I have 2 bottles of mustard seeds and I don’t even know what to use mustard seeds for. Anyone? Recipe? So I am turning this ship around and going back to basics.

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I decided to get scientific and collect data (#analyticalhousewife). I created my Kitchen Dream Team composed of my bad ass girlfriends (and Roberto) who KNOW how to cook hard core. These ladies (and Roberto) are kitchen gurus, culinary virtuosos, maestros of the dinner table. Ladies with swoonworthy instagrams. These are the ones you call when a recipe goes awry and your mother-in-law’s E.T.A. is 3.5 minutes. These are the dames (and Roberto) that you fast, for a minimum of 72 hours, prior to their dinner party so you are 1000000% sure you will have ample space in your gut for everything served. They are the best of the best. Some are chefs, others successful restauranteurs, caterers, or just master housewives who slay in the kitchen.

Without further ado, here is my Kitchen Dream Team:

Roberto Blanch  Family friend (framily), who will single-handedly bring Italians to their knees begging for more of his risotto.

Katy Rood  My food soulmate and Culinary Supreme Goddess. ALL HAIL THE QUEEN.

Sarah Troncoso  Casa De Campo’s most coveted  event coordinator and french cuisine master who taught me that “when in doubt add butter.”

Chef Micaela Tolentino My daily food consultant and guide, who happens to be the GREATEST chef ever and my dearest friend. She created my favorite cookie: Deconstructed coconut macaroons. Mica is a culinary scholar.  From simple traditional staples, to elaborate recipes to pastries and health food, she knows the ins and outs and is a walking gastronomical wikipedia. She is a master of her craft and my mentor.

Karina Rizek  My fellow housewife and dinner party expert. Her impeccable design aesthetic flows seamlessly from menu to tablescape, including the perfect playlist and guests to match. Her husband’s wine selection is always on point, but we all know that behind every great man, is a FABULOUS woman telling him what she needs to be done!

Raquel Baquero She taught me to eat REAL sushi. She is a foodie and gifted in the kitchen. She also introduced me to Thai food in 1998, a palate alternating experience. (Thai Toni, South Beach, coconut milk lobster soup.)

Ani Mederos  My FAVORITE instagram account, who has me in an acute state of #foodenvy. Her hashtag #allwetalkaboutisfood will take you on a titillating journey of her culinary art.

Lina Latorre  My really kind and sweet yoga teacher (Full story here) , who is also a vegetarian and health food enthusiast.

Yahaira Attias  Maker of the best cielito lindo and tuna tartare known to man. No matter how many times I try to replicate her tuna tartare, I always fall short.

Chef Patricia Reyes The Dominican Cake Boss. She makes my favorite birthday cake. Her butterceam frosting is sinful. She is also gin tonic expert, and should moonlight as a comedian.

Nuriana Pimentel  My fellow skinnytaste zealot and raw honey connoisseur.

Lesely De La Torre My  foodie sister-in-law, who loves an exotic recipe challenge and a farmer’s market. Her culinary aptitude rivals Anthony Bourdain.

Chef Vanesa Gaviria  Chef and restaurateur, she runs the show at  La Cassina (prepare to salivate). Vanesa, along with Micaela, are responsible for introducing me to my signature cocktail, St. Germain and the best eggs benedict. She studied her art in Paris, her fantastical gastronomic imagination knows no boundaries.

Chef Laura Morell  Vegetarian, dog lover, and health food chef, notorious for the fanciest gourmet pastelitos on planet earth. Here is Laura’s IG.

Terrily Rodriguez  My gorgeous and sexy lifelong bff and wine partner. She introduced me to the crock pot and slow cooking in this house was never the same.

Erika White  My other lifelong bff and favorite food critic. She is painted on the wall of NYC’s The Palm Restaurant. She is ridiculously intelligent, witty  and pretty. I believe she  should hold court on the Michelin team.

Laura Rivera  Representing the Vega-Rivera kitchen (well worth our envy), fellow foodie and also a skinnytaste cult member.

Mari Catano Because it is my dream team and there should always be fun be in the kitchen. She makes me laugh, pours a great glass of wine, is a skinnytaste groupie, and is a schooled housewife, like me.

*Mirka ceremoniously proclaimed she could not participate in any questionnaire because she would never reduce herself to use any seasoning that is not salt, pepper, or dried oregano. Capo di tutti Capi is still bitter over the washing machine (story here). #coldcoffeehasbeenserved

**Jamal Garcia Rubido was immediately eliminated when she responded Publix rotisserie chicken.

I asked The Spice Girls: Besides salt and pepper, what are the top five spices that must be in your kitchen? (Now isn’t this much more practical info?)

I was prepared to google their responses. I swore, without a shadow of a doubt, they must use the most exotic spices. The answers surprised me. For one, EVERY SINGLE PERSON answered that their first choice is always FRESH. Something must be said, when 18 different people first respond the very same thing. Second, they don’t use fancy spices (except for cardamom).

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These are the results:

#1 Cinammon

#2 Garlic Powder

#3 Cumin, Curry, Nutmeg (whole/ground not specified) and Oregano(dried/ground not specified)

#4 Cayenne Pepper, Onion powder, Red Pepper Flakes, Dried Rosemary, and Dried Thyme

#5 Dried Basil, Paprika, and Turmeric

#6 Saffron, Tarragon, Dried Parsley, Cardamom, and Coriander

Loaded with this information, here is a COMPLETE list of spices you can stock to rival my spice pantry.

Red denotes MUST HAVE.

  • Achiote
  • Adobo (recipe below)
  • Allspice (ground)
  • Allspice (whole)
  • Anise (star)
  • Anise seed (Aniseed)
  • Basil (dried)
  • Bay leaf
  • Bouillon –Beef,chicken and vegetable
  • CardamomFULL DISCLOSURE: I have no idea what you use this for besides an indian dish, but 8 members of The Kitchen Dream Team listed it, in the spirit of authenticity concerning the data collected, I had to list it as a must.
  • Cayenne Pepper (ground)
  • Celery Salt
  • Chesapeake Bay Seafood Seasoning
  • Chilli Powder
  • Chives (dried)
  • Cinammon sticks
  • Cinnamon (ground)
  • Cinnamon sugar
  • Cloves (ground)
  • Coriander (ground)
  • Cream of Tartar
  • Cumin (ground)
  • Curry
  • Dill weed
  • Fennel seeds
  • Garam Masala
  • Garlic powder
  • Garlic Salt
  • Ginger (ground)
  • Herbes de Provence w/lavander
  • Herbes de Provence w/out lavander
  • Honey (raw)
  • Italian Seasoning (recipe below)
  • Lemon Pepper Seasoning
  • Liquid Smoke
  • Malaguete pepper (whole)
  • Maple Syrup Grade A
  • Marjoram
  • Molasses
  • Mrs.Dash Salt free
  • Mustard Seeds
  • Nutmeg (ground)
  • Nutmeg (whole)
  • Onion Powder
  • Oregano (dried)
  • Oregano (ground)
  • Paprika
  • Paprika (sweet AKA Pimenton)
  • Paprika (smoked AKA Pimenton De La Vera)
  • Parsley (dried)
  • Pepper -Black Peppercorn Supreme
  • Pepper- Peppercorn medley
  • Pepper-Pure ground pepper
  • Pizza Seasoning
  • Poppy Seeds
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice (recipe below)
  • Red Pepper Flakes/Crushed
  • Rosemary (dried)
  • Saffron Threads
  • Salt -Chardonnay Smoked
  • Salt- Applewood Smoked
  • Salt- Coarse Sea Salt
  • Salt- Iodized salt
  • Salt- Pink Himilayan salt
  • Salt-Broiler salt
  • Salt-Maldon Sea Salt Flakes
  • Salt-Smoked Sea Salt
  • Salt-Truffled Salt
  • Sesame Seeds –Black
  • Sesame Seeds- White
  • Sicilian Seasoning
  • Steak and Burger Seasoning
  • Taco Seasoning (recipe below)
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme (dried)
  • Turmeric
  • Vanilla Beans
  • Vanilla- Dark
  • Vanilla-White

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MSG Free Recipes:

  • Adobo Seasoning Recipe 1 :2 tbps table salt, 2 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp ground black pepper, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp turmeric. Mix in food processor.
  • Adobo Seasoning Recipe 2Recipe here
  • Taco Seasoning Recipe: Recipe Here
  • Pumpkin Spice Recipe 1: 3 tbsp ground cinnamon, 2 tsp ground ginger, 2 tsp ground nutmeg, 1.5 tsp ground allspice and 1.5 tsp ground cloves. Mix together.
  • Italian Seasoning recipe Recipe Here

 

Spice For Thought:

  • Coriander and Cilantro Read Here.
  • Paprika and Pimenton Read Here
  • Anise and Aniseed Read Here
  • Allspice is the same as Dominican malagueta and Jamaican Pepper (nutty flavor). Malaguete pepper is a type of chilli (hot spice). Two different spices.
  • For some odd reason, Americans decided to add lavander to herbes de Provence. Traditional herbes de Provence, from the south of France, does not have lavander.

Tips:

Best tip I ever received was from Maritza Selman. After hearing me complain about having to toss out spices due to lack of freshness, she wisely told me to store my spices in the fridge. BRILLIANT!!! Having a flair for the dramatic, I took it a step further and keep my expensive spices, along with flour (you can buy almond flour or a car, your pick), in the freezer. Best tip ever! Thank you Dona Maritza!

Whole spices hold freshness longer than ground. The flavor is usually stronger as well. Consider this when shopping. #morebangforyourbuck (Alejandro Fernandez would totally approve this tip!)

I keep a 14 inch Lazy Susan/Turntable with the spices I use daily on the counter, away from the stove. The heat from the stove will harm the flavor and freshness.

Dominican Housewives:  I buy all my spices at Carne Y Co. The owner, Anabella de Castro, has scrutinized a perfect selection with superior quality.

What spice can you not live without? Is there any I should add to the list? Anyone have a great recipe for cardamom and mustard seeds? How does your spice pantry measure up to the complete list? Do you have your own Kitchen Dream team? Would love to read your comments below!

Follow me on instagram @jessicathehousewife and on Twitter @jthehousewife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

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  •  1  butternut squash peeled and chopped (1-1.5lbs)
  • 2 whole garlics
  • 1 large leek (white parts only) finely chopped (more or less 1 cup)
  • 1 tbps of butter  (Dominican Republic: I like Rica con sal)
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of reserved water butternut squash boiled in
  • finely chopped rosemary (1 tsp)
  • grated parmesan cheese (to liking)

Boil butternut Squash with garlic in salted water until soft.  Reserve one cup of the water butternut squash boiled in. Drain.

Sautee leeks in 1 tbsp of butter until soft and fragrant.

Combine butternut squash, garlic, cooked leeks, and 2 cups of broth in pot on medium heat. Stir until well combined. Use a handblender to cream. Add reserved water to thin out as needed. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped rosemary and  grated parmesan cheese.

POST NOTES:

If you do not have a handblender ( handblender), the blender will work fine.

This freezes great.

Chicken broth works just as well.

You can substitute rosemary with sage, white onions for leeks, pecorino for parmesan.

You can also sprinkle some crushed toasted pine nuts.

Jose Vega once suggested I add a little siracha.

*Optional: Make a large batch to freeze and keep the texture thick. This way you can also use as a sauce for zoodles, pasta or a lasagna. When you want soup, you heat the portion needed and add vegetable or chicken broth to thin out.

ENJOY!

Follow me on instagram @jessicathehousewife and twitter:@jthehousewife

 

 

 

 

Meatless Monday Coup D’Etat

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The Salad that brought down The Meatless Reign.
And just like that, the people revolted. I lost all control. I was dethroned and almost beheaded.

I implemented Meatless Monday at home. It didn’t happen overnight, it took 2 years of tedious slyness. With the patience of Job, I slowly transitioned the carnivores to omnivores to herbivores for one day a week. My husband loves a chunk of flesh, therefore I would reduce the portion of the meat until one day it was a butcher free plate.

Monday has been a seamless day of eating delicous meatless meals. Beautiful quinoa medleys, delicious butternut squash enchiladas, scrumptious chickpea currys adorned our table and replaced chicken, pork chops, and big fat T-bone steaks. It was glorious! I had my people eating healthy and there were no complaints from Juanki, Mirka, or Marco (our 6’5″, former marine, gentle giant driver). All hail the Queen of Meatless Monday!

I thought I would run with this lucky streak, and for the last few weeks I had extended it to meatless Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Like all tyrants, I thought no one was the wiser. I was going to push it to the limit. It was for the good of my people and one day they would realize that this imposed rule was because I love them. Besides, I had total control of the menu and the groceries. I was on top. Who would or could defy me? I had introduced living on greens and grains to the people of this home and no one was missing meat, chicken or pork. Or so I thought.

Like all rulers with absolute control, my demise was near. The people were not happy. I was reveling in the joy of their repose to my meatless week, while in reality they were disgruntled. I took my tyranny in the kitchen too far. Murmurs in the pantry were sounding. Hidden turkey sandwiches were being smuggled around. Secret missions to burger joints were taking place. Little did I know the rebels were plotting against me.

All it took was one salad. It was one salad too many. Last Monday, a beautiful compilation of Super Fresh Market’s gorgeous bounty was served for lunch. A mixture of boston lettuce and arugula joined by alfa sprouts, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, avocado, radish, a boiled egg, some low fat cottage cheese drizzled with a homemade cilantro-greek yogurt dressing was served.  Juan Carlos and I sat down for our usual 1:30pm lunch. I served him a healthy portion, then served myself. I placed my napkin on my lap, took a bite, when out of nowhere, I was blindsided. My husband’s ferocious, scary, loud and firm voice protested (yelled):  “NO MAS HIERBA” (no more grass). He pushed the plate away, threw his napkin on the table, stood up and stormed away.

Come again? What does he mean by no more grass? Is he boycotting my salad?

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The Revolt.
Juan Carlos forced his way into the kitchen, demanded Mirka make him a sandwich, a ham,salami, and cheese sandwich. Mirka did not know what to do. At this very moment, she had to decide should she go with the rebel forces or play it safe and stay with her tyrant. How quick the mighty fall. She jumped ship. She made him the meaty sandwich. Behind Juanki, was Marco, defying the embargo on poultry and offering his secret stash of chicken, rice, and beans (secretly purchased at the cafeteria nearby while I was at yoga). The conspiracy was now out in the open. The people have rebelled. Violence ensues. A frozen roast beef is pulled out of the freezer.  I have been toppled by a ham and salami sandwich. The resistence was pushing forward. Mirka served herself some of Marco’s chicken. I had been dethroned.

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Ham and Salami Sandwich, the rebellions weapon of choice.
I had to make nice with the rebels. I was ousted in one sitting. If I wanted, at the very least, to keep  Meatless Monday, I was going to have show them that we were now a democratic kitchen. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays were going to have to be for the people, by the people. I scoured my recipes. I devoured bonappetit.com, until it just appeared in my mailbox. An email from the heavens, Gina Homolka  from Skinnytaste. A beautiful balsamic chicken with roasted vegetables. ( Recipe Here ) This meal would be my peace offering. It would also be my way back into the hearts and good graces of the rebels.

The roast was a hit! They  were seeing a new era. They were eating meat on a Tuesday. As Wednesday rolled around, a churrasco ( Carne y Co) salad made its way to the table. Again, smiles and cheers! Thursday’s fare was pork chops ( Carne y Co ) and they roared! They had not seen the likes of a pork chop in ages. They were dazed and in bliss!

I had officially been ousted. The Meatless Era was over. There will be meat in this house. I tried my best, but I took it too far. For fear of martial law, I had to back down. Like all dictators before me, the day of reckoning is inevitable. I was not going to end up like Fernindad Marcos or Duvalier. I needed to find middle ground where I would be welcomed and not feared in the kitchen.

With Mirka working as a savy ally and mediator, a treaty was accorded. We have agreed on Meatless Monday. Juan Carlos will participate only on said day. Mirka will be meatless with me throughout the week, but remains open to fish and chicken. Marco will not enter this convention and will have meat everyday.

Little do the rebels realize that we are in time of Lent….no meat on Fridays for 40 days. Perhaps this is a good time to weed out meat on fridays, FOREVER. HMMMMM……

Here are some of my favorite go to recipes for Meatless Monday:

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Butternut Squash and Black bean Enchiladas

 

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Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

If you have not tried Meatless Monday, I really do suggest you try. It’s not as complicated or as restrictive as you may think. My favorite sources are skinnytaste and meatlessmonday.

Please follow me on instagram @jessicathehousewife  and on Twitter @ jthehousewife

*I dedicate this post to my meat-loving, lamb chop obsessed friend, Monica Delgado, leader of the Meatless Coup. She adamantly believes that I am torturing my husband and that my meatless menus are a violation of The Geneva Convention.

 

 

 

 

 

Ratatouille Quinoa Stuffed Red Peppers

 

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Maria Elena, my DROP DEAD gorgeous, ever so sexy, happy, and utterly loving friend, knows how I love to cook vegetarian recipes, so she sent me a basket of her most coveted Bria Produce.

 

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Maria Elena and her hubby, Claudio. Aren’t they the Hottest Farmers ever!

 

I am on a roll. Yesterday, Uchi, my BFF, who embodies fabulousity to the infinite potential, sent me artisanal coconut sweets from Jarabacoa. At this rate, I might have to play the lotto! #score

 

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Artisinal Coconut goodies. Thank You Uchi!

 

Back to Maria Elena: I am OBSSESED with Bria’s eggplants, peppers and tomatoes. The quality is over the top. They are so fleshy, firm, bright, and beautiful (just like Maria Elena), that they look like pieces of art!

 

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Horrible picture of me, just focus on the BIGGEST EGGPLANT I HAVE EVER SEEN!

 

A little back story: I have somehow become a pescatarian. There is no moral high road to it, so the totalitarian vegans can back off when I use chicken broth. Simply, I have SEVERE acid reflux and I find eating vegetables and fish are much kinder to my body. I try to eat meat whenever the spirit moves me, but it’s usually a big fat fail and end up ill. I am not a chicken lover, especially after the traumatic experience of watching Food Inc. This documentary will make anyone want to survive on water and air, and never want to touch food in general again. So fish and veggies it is. Poor Juanki, Mirka and Marco! They have had to join the bandwagon by default. Come Saturday, they all have this crazy, unabatED craving for a 16oz steak!

Yesterday, we made Ratatouille Quinoa Stuffed Peppers with the bounty Maria Elena sent. The pictures speak for themselves. None have been altered. The red peppers are REALLY that red! Now this is not the classic french ratatouille, it is Mirka’s spin on it, and I have to say, I actually like it better!

 

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Reddest Red Peppers!
  • 4 red peppers
  • vegetable spray
  • 1/2 cup white quinoa
  • 1/2 cup onion chopped (for quinoa)
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups vegetable brot
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 eggplant chopped
  • 1 zucchini chopped
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 5 tomatoes chopped
  • 1 tbps chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbps chopped leek
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantrico
  • 2 garlics minced

 

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Mise En Place!

 

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut red peppers lengthwise in half.  Salt and Pepper. Spray pan with vegetable spray. Place red peppers open-side down. Bake in oven at 350 for 20 minutes.

 

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Sexiest Red peppers ever!

 

Rinse quinoa. Heat pot on medium-high, add butter. When butter is melted, add 1/2 cup of chopped onions and cook until translucent. Add quinoa. Stir for about 30 seconds. Add vegetable broth. When it starts to boil, bring heat to low, simmer and cover. Stir occasionally. Quinoa is ready when liquid is absorbed and you can see the little “worm”. Fluff with fork.

 

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Quinoa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFpW7eoZxoY

Heat medium sized pot on high. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add garlic, onion and tomato paste. Sautee until onions are a bit translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add tomatos, zucchini, eggplant, and onions. Salt and pepper. Add cilantro, leek, and cilantrico. Lower temperature and continue to stir until all vegetables are soft.

Stir quinoa into vegetable pot. Mix well together.

 

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Stuff about 2 tbsp of the filling into the red pepper. Add a little low fat ricotta cheese (feta would be nice too!).  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes and serve!

 

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ENJOY!!!

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Truffled Spaghetti Squash

 

I found some beautiful spaghetti squash at Super Fresh Market in Santo Domingo. You don’t always find variety here, so this was a great novelty! It’s all about the little things in life!

 

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Truffled Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms

Here is a really easy  recipe you can make for meatless monday or whenver you are in the mood for a light fare.

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 16oz mushrooms sliced
  • 4 garlics minced
  • 1/4 cup of ribboned sage
  • 1/4 cup of dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • white truffle oil

Heat oven to 400f. Cut spaghetti squash lengthwise.  Place flesh side down on wax paper on baking sheet. Bake approximately 45 minutes or until soft. ( You can also soften the spaghetti squash by piercing it with a fork and in putting in the microwave on high for 12 minutes. When done, you cut lengthwinse.)

Remove fibers and seeds. With a fork, shred the flesh of the spaghetti squash. it should look like a noodle.

Heat up a pan. Put in olive oil and butter. When hot, add onions. Cook until onions are translucent (about 3-5 minutes).  Add mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms soften a bit. Add garlic and sage. Sauté for about 30 seconds. Next add in the wine. Mix well. When mushrooms have a nice golden color and the wine has reduced a bit, lower heat, add cheese. When it is mixed in well, turn off heat, drizzle (who are we kidding..POUR) White truffle oil. Serve!

*note: you need to salt pepper as you go along.

** It makes a great side dish as well.

 

 

 

Due Diligence Prevents Panic Attacks, Fires, and Judgey Mother-In-laws.

I was not born with culinary aptitude. I can’t just open the fridge and whip up a delicious instagram-worthy meal with 2 eggs, a jar of pickles, half a carton of milk, strawberry preserves, a can of spam,and ketchup. I leave that talent to my food soulmate, Katy. She can glance at her pantry and in a blink of an eye, without breaking a sweat or running to allrecipes.com, produce a five course meal (fondant dessert included) worthy of 3 Michelin stars. My girlfriend’s dishes can make Gordon Ramsey weep and Iron Chefs bow in her presence.

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October 2015. Katy, my food soulmate. Love this little blonde bombshell!

I am no Katy, nor do I pretend to be. I am the antithesis!  Structure, guidelines, directions, visuals, research, an array of comparisons, and ATLEAST 5 solid reviews are required  before I can fully commit to a recipe.  Most importantly, I need a recipe with detailed quantifications. The “pinch of salt” directive doesn’t work for me. The common Dominican phrase “hechale un chin” (add a little bit) , “un chorrito” (a splash)  or my Cuban mother’s go to measurement, “a ojo de buen cubero”(eyeballing it) does not factor into my vocabulary. This gibberish absolutely blindsides me, sending me into a frenzied tailspin. What if it is not enough or  what if it is toooooo much?  This oblivion brings me to my knees begging for mercy and praying a novena to Our Lady of  Julia Childs to guide and protect me from the fiasco of not knowing how or if this meal has a glimmer of hope. (My husband fancies himself a food critic, which does not help my cause nor my nerves.)

Therefore, for my mental health and the physical safety of those around me, I strategize all meals.

One of the best methods I have implemented is that I clean, peel, cut, chop, dice, shred, and measure all ingredients before hand and place them in ramekins. This rigid, OCD behavior is known as mise en place  ([mi zɑ̃ ˈplas]). It is, by far, the absolute best cheat sheet, foolproof, cooking-for-dummies-can’t-mess-up method for preparing meals with precision, cleanliness, and meticulous efficiency.

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For one, it prevents from missing  key ingredients. What could be worse than baking brownies only to find out you are out of eggs half way through the process? Someone didn’t do their due diligence and therefore project brownies is a bust. Mise en place, people. MISE. EN. PLACE.

You are making your signature lasagna for Sunday’s family gathering and guess what? Not enough mozzarella to top it off. Could have avoided this fiasco had you simply measured your 3 cups of Mozzarella before we started cooking. Now your lasagna has (gasp) kraft american cheese topping it off and your mother-in-law is judging you…harshly. Mise en place, people. MISE. EN. PLACE.

You start sauteing garlic until golden brown. Need to add the chopped onions right after. Well my friends, garlic browns in less than 30 seconds. Unless you worked at Benihana, I highly doubt you can chop up that onion under 20 seconds! We now have burnt garlic. Debacle. Fail. Game over. Mise en place, people. MISE. EN. PLACE.

I do my due diligence in the kitchen. My mom never taught me to cook. l adore the woman. She adamantly believes pouring cold water into a pot of boiling hot oil while frying french fries makes them crunchier. See where I am going? No further explanation necessary.

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My mom, Teresita, proving that pouring cold water into a pot of hot oil makes french fries crunchier.

Once I was married and in my own home, it was learn as you go. I was left to my own devices, which was not very much to speak of. I just do not have Katy’s clandestine trouble shooting skills and do not have the culinary creativity or imagination to leave anything to chance. Mise en place prevents castrophes, fires, judgey in-laws, and full blown panic attacks.

Crucial to evolving in any project one approaches, be it the kitchen or boardroom, is to identify and embrace your weakness and try to figure out ways to make that weakness work. I have found that the extra time and effort put into menu planning, creating a well thought out grocery list, a properly stocked pantry, researching and comparing recipes, and finally mise en place are key to pulling out a scrumptious, or atleast edible dinners without any casualties of war.

It has been a good 9 years learning the art of cooking via Le Cordon Google with Chef You Tube, and I can finally say I feel some semblance of comfort and accomplishment in the kitchen, but I NEVER, NEVER, NEVER stray from my measuring spoons, measuring cups or my mise en place!