Category Archives: Travel

Fusions in Puerto Rico

I feel like a few months ago I was all “blah blah blah, I just want it to be summer and for there to be juicy, juicy peaches dripping down my face and onto my summery, summery sun dress” and now it’s all BAM. Summer! Busy! Potential possibilities for exciting things developing! On the verge of feeling overwhelmed but feeling really, really excited about it all! HUMIDITY.

Thankfully, for times such as these, you have people you can turn to. Such as, in my case, parents. In Puerto Rico.

woosh. photo credit: Braeden

Ahh, that’s better.

beach. photo credit: Braeden

As announced long, long ago, the German faction of The Troika Table up and moved to Puerto Rico. From the looks of things, I’d say they’re quite enjoying themselves. Braeden and I cleverly decided that in lieu of an Amazon gift card or some new-fangled, technological gadget for a Christmas present, we’d “settle” with tickets to Puerto Rico over the 4th of July week. (I surround “settle” with quotation marks because I want you to read that in a sarcastic tone. As in, who wouldn’t be fine with tickets to a Caribbean island as a Christmas present?) In other non-shocking news, Puerto Ricans don’t really celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July (although it is a fun beach-going holiday there). We didn’t mind, though – we were too busy eating juicy, juicy pineapple, watching subtitled French chick flicks, and drinking piña coladas. (And yes, since you asked, we also occasionally got caught in the rain.)

Along with a suitable amount of beach-going, sun-soaking, and picture-taking, we ate a lot of food. (This is a food blog, after all.) We sampled tostones, most often made of cooked plantains which were then smashed, fried, and dipped in a sort of ketchup-mayo sauce. At Crash Boat Beach near Aguadilla, we nibbled on pinchos while watching a man manipulate pelicans into doing tricks.

pinchos. photo credit: Braeden

the pelican man. photo credit: Braeden

Driving from Mayagüez to Ponce, we stopped at a cafe situated right above the water, where I finally tried the famed mofongo and a few other Puerto Rican delights.

cafe

Mofongo. photo credit: Braeden

Puerto Rican delights. photo credit: Braeden

Back at my parents’ house, we crafted our own Caribbean-inspired meal, making a variation of this pumpkin curry served with sautéed chayote and steamed breadfruit, which we had picked up at a roadside stand. Mom made pizza loaded with pepperoni, Canadian bacon, broccoli, grilled eggplant, and peppers. There was chipotle meatloaf. There was fried rice. There were breakfast hashes of crispy potatoes, peppers, and eggs. There were sweet-tart quenepas. There was the rainforest and its waterfalls. There were geckos, iguanas, and coqui.  There was rum. There was so much to see, to taste, to smell. I can’t wait to go back.

Puerto Rico

Where the pina coladas are made

fruit stand. photo credit: Braeden

music in Mayaguez

cafe by the sea

quenapas

Bacardi on Bacardi

El Yunque. photo credit: Braeden

GQ-worthy

San Juan fort

San Juan

On the fort

Our recipe today is fusion food at its best: ebleskivers filled with guava paste, drizzled in a guava syrup. Ebleskivers are Danish pancakes and sort of a cross between an American pancake and a popover. You need a special ebleskiver pan to make these little treats, and I’m not sure what else you could use to replace the pan. Buy one online, or just keep your eyes peeled – I found a cast iron ebleskiver pan in an antique store in Gettysburg, PA. It might have cost $10. Mom found her ebleskiver pan before my sister and I were even born, at the tiny Hartline Grocery in good ol’ Hartline, Washington (AKA our homeland). Hartline Grocery was run by a man named Raymond, who happened to be a heavy smoker. Once when mom bought a box of oatmeal, the oats smelled like cigarette smoke. And once, when describing a rather sorry-looking Christmas tree, someone said he had seen more green on a loaf of bread at Raymond’s. Apparently his “fresh” food prices were higher than the bigger grocery stores but he had inventory in his store that had been there for decades and never changed the price stickers. Mom used to buy thread on real wooden spools for 10 cents when it would have cost a dollar or so in a fabric store. Then one day, she came across the ebleskiver pan, which cost maybe $4. When she took it up to the counter, Raymond asked what on earth she was going to do with it, surprised that she actually knew what it was. He had ordered the pans when Danes were farming over across the Coulee and had that one pan left that no one bought. (The Coulee is generally this area, AKA more of our homeland.)

the pan

Mom remembered learning about ebleskivers in a high school home economics class. The teacher was young and ahead of her time in terms of multicultural education, and she looked for people of any ethnic heritage in the community to come in to teach how to make traditional dishes.  They made Basque fish soup, Japanese tempura, and Danish ebleskivers.

For me, ebleskivers mean a special occasion. I remember them most from trips visiting my parents when I was in college, when the breakfasts were late and we could mill about, taking our time, because it was usually the holidays. Maple syrup was my first ebleskiver condiment, with Nutella eventually taking its place. This time, in Puerto Rico, Mom added a tropical twist and filled them with guava paste. If you’ve never had guava paste, I encourage you to go get some. You can definitely find it in a Latin American store, and I’d even think in a well-stocked grocery store (in the Goya section). It comes in fairly sizable blocks or discs and can be used in a variety of recipes from empanadas to pies to muffins to glazes to syrups to just sliced, with a cube of cheese. It also lasts forever (relatively speaking), since it has so much sugar.

ingredients

The stories about the origins of ebleskivers are murky at best, but my favorite comes from a Viking myth: Vikings, famished and returning from a fierce battle, had no pans in which to cook and thus flung their battered shields onto a fire, making pancakes in the indentations. While that might not be quite how ebleskivers came about, we do know that three main islands of the US Virgin Islands were in Danish possession from the 1600s until 1916. Who knows – maybe one of the Danes added guava to his ebleskivers.

Guava ebleskivers with guava syrup
adapted from Julia Peterson Tufford’s Original Scandinavian Recipes
Makes about 28 ebleskivers, can easily be halved

scandinavian cookbook

For the guava ebleskivers:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups buttermilk, or 1 1/4 cups yogurt mixed with 3/4 cups milk, or 1 1/2 cups sour cream mixed with 1/4 cup milk
  • butter, for cooking
  • enough guava paste to fill desired amount of ebleskivers: if making 28, you’ll want 28 1/4-inch or  1/2-inch cubes.

cubes of guava

1. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the eggs and liquid and beat until smooth.

2. Heat your pan over medium to medium high heat. Cut your butter into little dabs so that you can quickly add it to your ebleskiver pan. Like this:

dabs of butter

3. When you add your butter, you want it to sizzle slightly, rather than nonchalantly melting. The sizzle means your pan is at the correct temperature to efficiently cook your ebleskivers through without taking too long. Take a deep breath, you can do it.

4. When your butter is sizzling, drop in the batter so it fills the holes about halfway. Working quickly, tuck a cube or two (depends how much guava you want!) into the batter, but don’t shove it down to the bottom. You want the guava to float in the batter, not get stuck to the pan. Dollop a little more batter on top to cover, and cook until you can slide a fork or knife under to see that the bottom is golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Using a fork or knife or your fingers if you’re an adventurous Viking, flip the ebleskivers to cook on the other side another few minutes.

filling

flipping

They are best enjoyed hot out of the pan, drizzled with this simple guava syrup:

  • water
  • guava paste

In a small sauce pan, add a chunk about the size of a fist and slice it into cubes (you can just slice it right in the pan to avoid more sticky fingers). Over medium to medium-high heat, warm the guava paste with 1/2 cup of water, whisking and breaking up the guava to form a syrup. Once the guava is blended into the water and the syrup is simmering, you can decide if you want a thinner or thicker syrup and add more water or more guava accordingly. Any leftover syrup happens to go quite well with peanut butter, on bread.

a happy 4th of July

¡Buen provecho!

Kara and Tami

the fort

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On Scotland, and Cullen Skink

Scotland is pretty. Scotland is very, very pretty. We were just there for four days, but it was so lovely. Cold, a little rainy at times, but lovely. And you know all those things you’ve heard about English food being kind of gross and bland? (Haven’t you?) And you know how one might also assume that Scottish food could be gross and bland? Don’t believe a word (or assumption) of it. Plus there’s that whole really delicious cask ales and single malt Scotch thing, too. Plus there’s Sticky Toffee Pudding! Really, Scotland has a lot going for it.

    


And here, probably my favorite part of Scotland (or rather my favorite indoor part): The pubs, and cafes, and breakfast.

That basically describes our trip. We did a lot of walking, and ate a lot of food. And, we even came back with a recipe or two.

~~~

If you like clam chowder except for the clams, Cullen Skink is just the right soup for you.  (You can even like clams and still like this soup, har! – Kara) We picked it off the menu in a pub because we were intrigued by the name (plus they were out of the brie and chutney we were eyeing), and it was the perfect thing to warm us down to our toes after a cold evening walk around Edinburgh.  We really didn’t know what to expect, but when the soup bowl arrived and we took a taste, we knew it was one we could reproduce at home.

Cullen Skink

  • ¼ cup finely chopped sweet onion (we would have used a leek, but we were out of them)
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 4 medium cooked potatoes, cut into large cubes
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup light cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 12 oz. can evaporated milk (you need about 3 cups liquid all together – use any combination of milk/cream that you like)
  • ¾ pound smoked fish (haddock is the most authentic, but we found smoked halibut and it was a good substitute – about 330 grams or 11.5 ounces)
  • A sprinkle of dried parsley, marjoram, or other herbs of your choice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a 3-quart or larger saucepan, cook the onion in the butter until it is tender and just beginning to brown.  Add the potato cubes and stir around to coat with the butter, then sprinkle the potatoes and onions with flour, stirring again to coat.  Add the cream/milk and stir occasionally while it heats.  When it is nice and hot, add the smoked fish in chunks.  Season to taste and gently simmer for about ten minutes so the flavors can mingle (stir as needed to prevent sticking).

Tami and Kara

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Breck and chili

At this stage of life (three kids, husband, school, house, laundry, cooking, cleaning… you get the idea!) I sometimes find myself thinking…I need to get away!  This always seems to hit me during the month of October. Coincidentally, my children have a school free week mid month.  Where do we usually go, you may ask?  Living close to the mountains, we have many options, but the town of Breckenridge beckons me like no other.  It is a perfect mountain escape.  Plus the time-share there kinda helps.

It is beautiful and amazing, inviting and charming, quaint yet full of fun outdoorsy activities.

Can you tell I’m obsessed?

The week leading up to our Breck trip is always filled with a lot of crazy running around to get ready, and a lot of pre cooking since we like to balance eating in and eating out on our trip.  This year, we decided to do a big pot of shredded pork chili.  I say we, but actually I did the deciding, and Jason (my husband) did the cooking.  Quite often that’s how our relationship works.  Luckily for me, the boy can cook! I love chili, especially if there are lots and lots of beans.  I have never met a bean I didn’t like, so this is a very beany chili.  I also snuck in some lima beans.  Jason wasn’t originally thrilled but came around when he saw how it thickened the chili in the perfect way!

Shredded Pork Chili (with lots and lots of beans)

  • 3 pounds pork shoulder (country style pork ribs will also work)
  • 2 large yellow onions, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2-4 diced chilies of any kind (poblano, anaheim, jalapeño)
  • 1 16 ounce package dried kidney beans, soaked overnight
  • ½ 16 ounce package dried black beans, soaked overnight
  • ½ 16 ounce package dried lima beans, soaked overnight
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes (14.5 ounces each)
  • 1 can tomato paste (6 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder

Pork Rub

  • 2 teaspoons new mexico chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Chop the pork into fairly large pieces, and sprinkle with the rub.  Massage the rub into the meat.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Sear pork on all sides, place finished pieces in a pressure cooker, working in batches.  After all of the pork is seared and in the pressure cooker, pour the remaining rub on top. Add water to the pan, covering the pork most of the way.  Cook in the pressure cooker for approx. 45 minutes, according to manufacturers instructions.

Since we live at high altitude, it is necessary for us to precook our beans before they cook in the chili.  I place them in a crock-pot for about 4 hours on low, covered with water, and salt added.  If you don’t live at high altitude, disregard this part!

After the meat is finished, remove it from the pan and cool.  Once the liquid has cooled, strain the fat from the top, and set aside.  Shred the cooled pork, and set aside.

In a large stockpot, sauté the onions, garlic, bell peppers, and chilies.   Add the braising liquid, shredded pork, and beans.  Add the cans of tomatoes and the tomato paste.  Add all of the seasoning, and stir thoroughly.  Add enough water until desired consistency is reached.  Simmer the chili for at least an hour, longer if you did not pre cook the beans.

Not only is Breckenridge too cute for words; they have amazing food.  To me, there’s nothing better than grabbing a delicious bite to eat without having to slow down, so we often opt for street food.  Our favorite in Breckenridge is their delightful little crepe stand.

This crepe stand has many options, for the sweet tooth, or not.  Unlike everyone else in my family, I will always take the savory route; their pesto chicken crepe is to die for.  My children and husband will always agree on the nutella, banana, and strawberry combination.  Luckily for me, that means I don’t have to share!

The best part about this place is their patio. Of course, they have tables and chairs, but the best part is the fireplace.  You can warm your fingers and eat all at the same time!

Since we are on vacation, there is no better way to start the day than the hot tub and some delicious Irish coffee.  I think you can figure out the recipe on your own…but if not, here’s a good one. Beware: it’s strong! (Especially if you have not had breakfast….)

  • 6 oz. brewed coffee (the stronger the better)
  • 1 oz. Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 oz. Irish whiskey

Enjoy!

Janessa

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