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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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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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!