Jayne McAllister

Travel Wellness Expert and Author

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Make Your Party Puerto Rican: Ten Recipes for Great Island Food

Be a devil and try recipe #9, ensalada de yuca instead of potato salad at your party this weekend. I’ve made it a bunch of times. Not only is it vegan, so it’s high fiber, but it’s also delicious and makes you look really debonair and international if you serve it. Kind of like when I rolled up to a party once with a lemongrass-jicama slaw, before restaurants were serving jicama slaw. This is your chance to be the trendsetter!

Hot, Cheap & Easy

Whether it’s Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Christmas, the following dishes – most of them quite easy to prepare and using ingredients available in regular supermarkets (especially those that carry Goya products) — are a medley of the best of Puerto Rican food. This is not a complete list, of course, but mix and match them up and you will have a big table of big, bold food that will introduce everyone to new flavor combinations without scaring them off!

Have a terrific weekend everyone! Buen provecho…..

1. Tostones – Our version of french fries…made with plantains. This is the authentic method with some secret steps!

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A Make-Your-Own, Take-Your-Own Healthy Snack For Your Next Trip

Savory Rosemary Almond CrackersFrequent travelers often ask me for good snack ideas.  I’m always happy to share: ditch the dreadful protein bars and pack bags of almonds and goji berries instead, for example.  But imagine… what if… what if there was a yummy healthy snack you could make yourself in no time.  So today we are going to get radical and in half an hour or so while you’re home, returning calls and dealing with the laundry mountain, you can make your own Scooby Snacks to take with you on your next trip.

No way.  I’m far too busy.  I barely have time to unpack and repack while I’m home.”  Well, one of the reasons you work so hard is to enjoy your home.  I have to assume that said home has a kitchen, quite probably a very nice one.  I’m not asking you to make profiteroles.  These crackers are really simple to make and I was even more impressed by the lack of residual mess.  Throwing all the ingredients in a food processor and the use of parchment paper to roll the dough keeps everything really clean.

As for the time factor, it took me 20 minutes to prep these, including going to the garden to get the rosemary and pouring a glass of wine to help the process.

Ta-da!  Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you Savory Almond Rosemary Crackers, a lovely combination of protein and carbohydrate to keep you energetic.  I wish I could claim the recipe as my own, but it comes from my dear friend and fellow health coach, the lovely Gina Knepell (www.NourishMethod.com).

Savory Almond Rosemary Crackers

Prep time: 15 minutes / Cook time: 16 minutes


  • 2 cups almond meal / almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 green onion (spring onion), finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 egg


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a food processor, add all ingredients. Process until smooth and dough forms a ball.  Scrape sides of bowl and process again if necessary.  Place dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll out as thin as possible – especially in the center.  Shape to fit baking sheet.  Remove top piece of parchment paper.  Transfer the bottom piece, with rolled dough, onto a baking sheet.  Cut dough into 2-inch squares with a sharp knife and bake for 14 – 16 minutes, or until lightly golden.  Let crackers cool on baking sheet for 30 minutes before serving.

Avocado puree and homemade crackersHere are the crackers with my delicious avocado puree.  You can check that out in my previous post.

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A Change From Guacamole (And An Interesting Tuna Salad)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had a yearning for guacamole today, as one does. Despite there being three avocados in the fridge, no grocery shopping in a few days and a subsequent dearth of tomatoes nixed Plan A.  However – and I do love howevers – in the recesses of my brain, I recalled a Middle Eastern alternative.  God bless Claudia Roden.  “A Book of Middle Eastern Food” was first published in 1968.  I bought my copy in 1981, the year I began studying Arabic.  Paperback, dog-eared and yellowed, it has traveled with me across the Middle East and into Sudan, where I lived for a year and regularly experimented with recipes from it.  Most vivid are my memories of okra (“ba’amia”) cooked on a charcoal “stove” about the size of a small stool, made from beaten metal.  When the new edition of “A Book of Middle Eastern Food” was published in 2001, it jumped to the top of my Dear Santa list.  The new edition is beautiful but, some of my old favorites are missing from it, not least the recipe for avocado puree that I’m sharing with you today.

As a bonus, I have long been searching for a healthier alternative to mayonnaise-ridden tuna salad, which my husband loves.  Sometimes that which you seek has been sitting on your bookshelf for over 30 years.  See below for Ms Roden’s variation on this dish with tuna.

Some people are terrified of avocados because they’re perceived to be high in calories and fats.  That’s not the subject of today’s blog, so let me give you the quick version.  Avocados are a wonderful food, full of the best kinds of fats.  Add a little to a meal and you’ll feel full for longer and you’ll function better.  I eat at least half an avocado a day, usually more.  Often the people who are afraid of them are eating fried foods and a lot of animal products with saturated fat and cholesterol.  Avocados are full of good fat and have no cholesterol. They help your brain function.  They are your friend.  Please enjoy them.

Avocado Puree by Claudia Roden

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed with salt
  • Salt
  • 1/2 large mild onion, grated (or zapped in food processor – see below*)
  • Ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Cut open and stone the avocados.  Scoop out the flesh and mash it with a fork in a bowl.  (Ms Roden calls for it to be mashed with a silver fork).  Stir in the remaining ingredients and beat to a smooth, creamy paste.  Taste, and adjust the seasoning.  (An electric blender will give you a smoother puree in no time).

This cream is very rich.  Serve it heaped on small crackers or thin toast.

* The recipe calls for the onion to be grated. That part was not fun.  I know that famed chef Mario Batali always says “there’s rustic and there’s lazy.”  Well, I must fall into the latter category.  Grating that onion was ruining the enjoyment of making this delicious dish.  So, I pulled out my mini processor and zapped the onion until it was the same mushy texture as that which I grated.  And – it didn’t make me cry.

Avocado Puree With Tuna

Mash the flesh of 2 ripe avocados to a puree with a *silver* fork.  Drain a 6 3/4 ounce tin of tuna and combine the flaked fish with the avocado puree.  Stir in a *little* mayonnaise, season and serve on small crackers or thin toast.

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Top Ten Easy Latin Bean Recipes (Fiesta de Frijoles y Habichuelas)

I’m borrowing my friend Natalia’s blog post because I love beans and it’s fabulous how she has grouped all her recipes together. Check out my Hot, Cheap & Easy friend.

Hot, Cheap & Easy

Some of you have reported hunting down my bean recipes. Well here are some of my faves, all gathered in one place! Just click on the image to get to the recipe.

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Rules Were Made To Be Broken

Rules were made to be broken.  Who came up with that phrase anyway? I’ve always said that there’s a reason for cliches and I’m holding myself to it on this one.

My diet is pretty much wheat-free, dairy-free, green smoothie laden and low on animal foods these days.  I certainly don’t expect my clients to eat like me – this is the culmination of over 18 months of integrative nutrition on my part. But, there always has to be a dark side, a yang to the yin, a night to day, blah, blah and THAT is why every now and again, you just have to be naughty.

Today was a naughty day. While some people might go and paint the town red, my definition of being utterly rambunctious was hitting the tastes buds with a  few ingredients they hadn’t had in a while. Like cheese. Like prosciutto. Like pastry. Like chocolate that wasn’t raw.

I have the weekend to myself, a rarity in and of itself, so I was itching to do something a little beyond my usual green smoothie or veggie omelet sans fromage. It’s funny how being on your own and having the ultimate luxury of time all to yourself can turn you into a whirling dervish of culinary creativity. “He’s not here; bring out the cheese and prosciutto.” Well, if he were here, he’d probably be thrilled to see them coming out of the fridge because he bought them in the first place despite my protestations.

I digress.  I love eggs and eat pretty much one a day, usually scrambled or in a veggie omelet. I get my eggs at my local farmers’ market and pay way more than one does for “regular” eggs ($5.99 a dozen), but they’re from pasteured chickens  and are free of hormones and antibiotics.  And a word about the price, I look at it like I get a healthy breakfast for 50 cents a day for 12 days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo how thrilled was I to see this recipe as an opportunity to go beyond fried and scrambled to en cocotte but with the lovely twist of prosciutto.  There’s even a green veggie in there.  Even better, it takes no time to prepare so it works mid-week.  Switch on the oven when you first get up and bake the egg while you take your shower.

Individual Prosciutto and Spinach Pies

12 servings (Only making one? Amounts are in italics and parantheses)

  • 12 thin slices prosciutto, halved crosswise (1/2 pound) (1 slice)
  • 10 eggs, slightly beaten (1 egg)
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt (pinch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (smidgen)
  • 1 cup loosely packed spinach, stems trimmed and roughly chopped (small handful)
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese (1 tablespoon)

Pre-heat oven to 350. Lightly butter a 12-cup muffin pan or 12 ramekins. Place prosciutto slices into bottoms and up sides of cups, overlapping in a crisscross pattern.

Combine eggs, salt, and pepper.  Divide spinach and cheese among muffin cups.  Pour egg mixture evenly into muffin cups.

Bake pies 14 to 16 minutes or until just set.  Let stand about 5 minutes.  Loosen pies by running a knife around the edges of each cup, and then lift out of pan with a small spatula. Serve immediately.

Single serving: butter ramekin and line it with prosciutto in criss-cross shape.  Add chopped spinach and grated cheese.  Add beaten, seasoned egg. Bake as above.

When I’m on my own, I like to not have to fuss about meals. If I want to create a magnum opus I can, but if I don’t feel like a performance while flatly refusing to eat something that isn’t made from scratch, here I come. I’d been eyeing up a recipe for an olive and onion tart that I’d pulled out of a magazine. (Can’t remember which one, sorry).

Onion and Olive Tart

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt  had the air of pissaladiere that I’ve had in France. Plus by now, I was deep into a magazine article I was writing and really didn’t have much time to come up for air. Did I have all the ingredients? Frozen puff pastry. Check. Large sweet onion. Check. Arugula or Spinach. Sort of. A bit of spinach (I’d used most of it in the egg recipe) but found kale which is ubiquitous in my house. Olives, because this is an olive and onion tart. Er, the husband has them, along with the spinach but he doesn’t know when he’ll be home. Okay. Ha! Found some homemade tapenade in the fridge, we’ll figure this out.

Defrost the puff pastry but don’t do what I did and leave it for too long so you can’t do anything with it. Since only half is required, I cut the thing in two and rolled it thin. Next time I’ll do it right and read the instructions, just like I never do.

  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh arugula or spinach leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1/2 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped green rip or kalamata olives
  • Fresh arugula leaves (optional)

Preheat oven to 375.  Stir egg yolk in a small bowl.  Place puff pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and cut 1/2-inch-wide strips off each side.  Lightly brush each piece with egg wash.  Place cut pastry strips on top of puff pastry to form raised edges, trimming as needed.  Prick center of pastry with a fork.  Chill 30 minutes.

Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; saute onion 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat to low, add sugar and vinegar, and cook, stirring frequently, 10 minutes or until onion is a dark caramel color.  (Take more time with this if you need to.  Crunchy caramelized onions don’t work.  If it takes longer to soften them, take the time). Set aside.

Puree arugula, garlic, and anchovies, if desired, in a food processor.  Slowly add remaining 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil; process until mixture is thick and creamy.  Stir in breadcrumbs and next 3 ingredients.

Spread arugula mixture over puff pastry, and top evenly with onion.  Bake 30 minutes or until tart edges are golden brown and bottom is firm.  Let cool to room temperature.  Top with olives, and sprinkle with additional arugula, if desired.  Cut tart into squares.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA note. My hubby is still AWOL with the olives so, as you can see, I enjoyed my tart with a dollop or two of the tapenade which I spread atop. It would have been lovely with some mixed greens and a homemade vinaigrette, but alas the greens are also in the back of a car somewhere in Indian River County, Florida.

Not to worry, I washed my tart down with a suitably hearty red wine. A tempranillo/merlot/cabernet sauvignon mix from Navarra, Spain.  A wimpy wine won’t match up to the strong tastes of the arugula paste and the olives so be bold. As one should, if one is being naughty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can see how much I enjoyed my dinner…

My final digression was some delicious mango chilli chocolate that said prosciutto- and cheese-buying husband had stashed in the fridge.  It also went extremely well with the wine.  On reflection, even though my other half was away all weekend and not home in time with some of the goods, I did really well working with what he had provisioned.  He can buy prosciutto, pastry, cheese and chocolate more often!

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It Was Going To Be Vegan But Someone Put Pancetta In The Fridge

Fresh from the farm...

Fresh from the farm…

Having bought a beautiful medley of mushrooms at the farmers’ market, I started dreaming of Italy.  To this day, my husband and I still rave about one of the best pasta dishes we ever had: pappardelle and mushrooms at Rome’s Fiumicino airport of all places.  Am I going to recreate it here? No, sorry.  That was the original intention but as I delved into recipes to find a suitable vehicle for my fabulous funghi, I was distracted.  Kind of like when you go into the kitchen to get a glass of water and forget why you’re there.

Perfect with polenta, pasta, or spaghetti squash.

Perfect with polenta, pasta, or spaghetti squash.

My ‘shroom searching led me to Mario Batali’s Sugo Di Funghi E Porro (Mushroom and Leek Ragu).  Since I’d picked up leeks at the farmers’ market too, it seemed to be emminently auspicious.  A vegan alternative to a traditional ragu bolognese, which I also love, was in order.  Until that is, I found some pancetta in the fridge and, since bacon or its Italian cousin go with everything, I couldn’t resist.

The traditional way...

The traditional way…

Mario serves this with fresh tagliatelle.  We weren’t in the mood to make fresh pasta so I went for two wheat-free options.  I made polenta and then handed it over to the grill-meister. If you’ve never grilled polenta, I highly recommend it.  Then I roasted a spaghetti squash and played pretend.  The sauce is so delicious, you don’t notice the absence of pasta and the squash is filling.  I make double the quantity of sauce and freeze it so I have a quick, easy meal at any time.  You can even serve it over pasta! (My husband had the leftover ragu with rigatoni as you can see above).

Mushroom and Leek Ragu

Serves 6

  • 2 thick slices pancetta (or any bacon that’s in the fridge), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound wild mushrooms (porcini, chanterelles ((if you can find them…)), crimini or oysters, preferably a mix)
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 2 leeks, washed and cut in half lengthways and into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup Mario Batali’s basic tomato sauce or GOOD store-bought marinara sauce
  • Wee bit of red wine or stock
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating

Mario’s basic tomato sauce recipe is at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/basic-tomato-sauce-recipe12/index.html

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12- to 14-inch saute pan over medium-high heat.  Cook pancetta until crispy and fat is rendered.  Remove from pan with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

This ragu is delicious with spaghetti squash.

This ragu is delicious with spaghetti squash.

Increase heat to high and add 2 remaining tablespoons olive oil.  Working in batches, add the mushrooms and saute over high heat until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes per batch.  The mushrooms should not release their juices.  Remove the mushrooms and add the onion, leeks, garlic, thyme leaves and salt and pepper to taste. (Go lightly on the salt; you can adjust the seasoning after you add the pancetta back in).

Cook for 5 more minutes, then add the tomato sauce.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and add the pancetta and mushrooms.  If needed, add stock or red wine by the 1/4 cup (if wine, just make sure it’s not from your glass).  Cook 10 more minutes and set aside.

Serve with pasta, grilled polenta or spaghetti squash.


A Holiday Meal Made For Two

Ready for Serving.The Holidays are about sharing with family and friends, an elaborate meal with all the trimmings. But what if? What if you find yourself in a situation where the family are miles away and they can’t travel to you because they’re set in their own traditions or airfare is too exorbitant.  What if you can’t leave town to travel to them because you have work obligations.  You’re an empty nester. You’re new in town and don’t know anyone. Or, you simply want to enjoy a day or two off in your own space AND cook a sumptuous meal that you can eat whenever you want.

Maybe the football isn’t quite over and you don’t have to worry about missing the end of the game or keeping ten people waiting.  Maybe you don’t want a huge meal with tons of leftovers.  You might be on a journey to health and a traditional dinner would look paltry (meant to be pun on “poultry”) if you tried the light version.  Here’s your answer.

Four years ago, Bon Appetit ran a recipe from Blue Velvet in LA. around the time my husband and I were to have our first Holiday alone. Sounds grim – I mean just the two of us. We weren’t about to embark on an elaborate turkey journey, although we could have.  We’re reluctant to eat the meat of a vulture that eats its own feces but we can play along for the best of parties.

Frankly, I’d rather eat the sides.  But, we’re at a certain age in which we watch our fluctuating waistlines thus we’re really not anxious to be left with a bunch of wilting veg and heavy sides to eat over the course of several days.  So, leafing through the December 2008 issue of Bon Appetit, there it was. A recipe that sounded completely absurd but very interesting.  With no one to answer to but ourselves, we had nothing to lose.

It sounded like we had found the perfect diner a deux. And we were right.  In fact, we have made this our “go to” dinner for Thanksgiving and Christmas since 2008.  I’m delighted to share with you Duck with Lentils and Bacon-Date Puree. 

This warm lentil salad goes beautifully with the duck and the puree.

This warm lentil salad goes beautifully with the duck and the puree.

What’s different about this menu? It’s portion controlled – do one duck breast per two diners. Most of it can be prepared ahead of time (and thus pots cleaned and put away before the main event).  It delivers a huge amount of flavor.  You can argue that it’s healthy or at least healthier than a traditional Holiday dinner.  It reminds me of France.  It ranks up there when I’m asked, “What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?”

Duck with Lentils and Bacon-Date Puree

The recipe seems really long, but you can make the bacon-date puree and the lentils at your leisure, put them into serving dishes, and wash and put away the pans.  When you’re ready to eat, whoever’s in charge of sauteeing the duck can go for it while you sit and have a glass of wine.

6 servings if you have company. If not, I make the full amount of lentils and bacon-date puree, then my husband sears a duck breast as we need it. Be warned – that tends to be just about every day until the puree has gone.

We order our magret de canard (duck breast) fresh from www.dartagnan.com.

Bacon-Date Puree

  • 3 slices thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2 thick pieces
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1 1/2 cups (packed) pitted dates (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 1/4 cups (or more) water


  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup French green lentils (lentilles de puy – you can find them in finer food stores.  They hold their shape the best so hold out for them rather than regular brown or green lentils.  Red lentils are for Indian food).
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 7 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar


  • 3 1-pound Muscovy duck breast halves with skin
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Sherry wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth

Bacon-Date Puree: Saute bacon in small saucepan over medium heat until crisp.  Stir in brandy, scraping up browned bits.  Add dates and 1 1/4 cups water; bring to boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until dates are very soft, about 12 minutes.  Transfer to blender.  Puree date mixuter until smooth, adding more water by tablespoonfuls if too thick to blend.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Can be made 3 days ahead.  Cover and chill.

Lentils: Place 8 cups water, lentils, garlic, and bay leaves in medium saucepan.  Sprinkle with salt.  Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer until lentils are just tender but still firm to bite, about 15 minutes or longer, depending on type of lentils.  Drain; rinse under cold water to coll.  Drain; discard garlic and bay leaves. Transfer to large bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat.  Add carrot, celery, and 1/3 cup shallots.  Saute until carrots and celery are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.  Stir carrot mixture into lentils.  Mix remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons shallots and red wine vinegar in small bowl.  Let mixture soak 5 minutes then whisk in remaining 6 tablespoons oil.  Add vinaigrette to lentil mixture; toss to coat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Can be made 2 hours ahead.  Let stand at room temperature.

Perfectly cooked...

Perfectly cooked…

Duck: Using sharp knife, score skin of duck breasts diagonally to creat 3/4-inch-wide diamond pattern.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 large skillet and 1 medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Place 2 duck breasts in large skillet and 1 duck breast in medium skillet, skin side down.  Cook until skin is brown and crisp, about 8 minutes.

Turn duck, skin side up, and cook until brown and thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 130F, about 6 minutes.  Transfer duck to work surface.  Drain all but 1 tablespoon fat from 1 skillet.  Add shallot and saute until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.  Add Sherry vinegar and stir, scraping up browned bits.  Add broth; bring to boil.  Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Thinly slice duck breasts.  Spoon 1/4 cup date puree in center of each of 6 plates and spread with back of spoon, forming well in center; spoon lentils into each well.  Place duck breast slices atop lentils, divinding equally.  Drizzle sauce over and serve.