Time out

Brass deer, Taxco, MexicoI really don’t know what I did to have to face the wall this way!

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Recipe: Jerk Chicken

In a prior post, I promised to provide the recipe for my Jamaican jerk chicken.

First I must declare that I cook by taste, so all recipes are approximate. Also the original recipe called for fresh ingredients mixed into a paste, I have substituted dry to make it easier for you, though I use fresh whenever possible.

Feel free to experiment and find the perfect “flavorful” for you.

B jerk chickenlue Bear make

 Jerk Seasoning Mix

2 Tbsp dried minced onion

2 Tbsp dried minced garlic (or 1 Tbsp powder)

2 1/2 teas dried thyme

2 teas ground allspice

2 teas ground black pepper

1/2 teas ground cinnamon

1/2 teas cayenne pepper

1/2 teas salt

Mix together and store in an airtight glass bottle until time to use.

To prepare jerk chicken: Wash and dry chicken thighs (the whole chicken may be used but dark meat is more compatible with the spice mix.) Rub with a little olive oil and spice mix (it is flavorful, not spicy hot, so feel free to be generous.)

Saute an onion (sliced in thin slivers) in a little oil (I prefer olive). When it starts to turn translucent, stir in several large cloves of garlic (chopped or crushed). Cook and stir for a minute or so (be careful garlic does not burn). Add chicken, sear on first side and turn. Add a teaspoon or so (a little goes a long way) of umboeshi plum vinegar* (available in the oriental section) and brown. Add a little water to create a sauce, cover and let cook until chicken is tender, adding water to keep sauce from burning. (Taste and add more jerk seasoning if you like.)

When chicken is fork tender, remove cover and let sauce thicken to consistency of a glaze.

For large groups, you can bake in 350 degree oven for an hour or so. Add additional liquid to keep chicken from drying out.

*Umboeshi plum vinegar is actually the brine left over from pickling umboeshi plums (a small, tart oriental fruit.) To substitute, you need something tart (I used tamarinds, soaked them and made a paste) and something a little sweet to balance the tart (I used prunes and cranberry juice for more liquid.) Salt to taste.

 Serve your jerk chicken with:

Blue Bear making tropical riceTropical Rice: Cook rice per instructions; if using canned pineapple, substitute juice for part of cooking liquid. Add 1 onion (I like red onions for color) and a clove or two of garlic (chopped) to the rice while cooking. When rice is almost done, add pineapple tidbits, green pepper (chopped) and 2 cups cooked black beans (add a few Tbsp bean liquid, if desired, for more protein.)

Blue Bear frying plantains Fried plantains make a nice side or desert. Just slice and fry on medium heat until browned on both sides. Plantains will suck up oil: use just enough to keep from sticking; if using a non-stick surface this could mean just wiping the pan with a little oil.

Enjoy!

Matchmaker, matchmaker

I am preparing jerk chicken tonight — a Jamaican “flavorful” version that I adapted from my friend, Chelle, who got the recipe from a Jamaican woman.

This reminds me of how I recently prepared a going away dinner for my friend, Sarah, and a group of friends. I had promised to prepare jerk chicken while visiting Mexico last year, however I could not find the ingredients. This year, I brought the spice mix with me, however I had to figure out a substitute for a liquid ingredient essential to the flavor. With a little experimentation with what was available, I pronounced it “close enough.”

After tasting the dish, which was “favorful” (the original meaning of jerk – at least in Jamaica) but not the typical pica (spicy), everyone complimented the cook.

Elena, took it a step further though. She said, “You are a good cook. Now you are ready to get married! Do you want to get married?” and seemed prepared with a list of eligible Mexicans she would be happy to introduce me to.

I told her that I had enough to do to take care of myself, I did not need someone else to cook for or clean up after. (Besides, I am on an adventure!!!) Yet she would not be dissuaded. After a looonnnnng 10 minutes of intense persuasion, she decided to table the discussion until a later time.  Whew!

Good food and good friends — does not get much better than that.

familia VargasWant to make jerk chicken yourself? Watch for the recipe in a future post.

Home

“Home is where you hang your hat.” So said someone.

Yes, we hang our hat at “home,” but what is home? To some, it is a set place in a house, condo, or apartment, even a mobile home — some physical structure in a set place. To others it is a physical structure, such at a tent or motor home, but the set place changes at least from time to time.

But what really is home? I like to think that “home is where the heart is.” (Another idiom, I know.) Yet, truth be told, we do not need a physical structure to have a home. All we really need to be home is shelter from a passing storm, food to satisfy our hunger, and love to warm our heart. If we have those three essential things we can hang our hat most nanywhere.

Though I am technically “home,” I am leaving again tomorrow to be with baby Isaiah and family. That will be my home for the next several weeks, as Taxco has been my home the last few.

Home to me, truly is where I hang my hat.

Peek a boo Blue Bear I guess, my gypsy blood is showing, huh?

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…

So crooned John Denver many years ago.

It is 9:30 am and my bags are packed, except for a few toiletries. Family dinner is at 2:30 when I will officially say “Good-bye” for this trip.  Between now and then, there is little I can do — Taxco “doesn”t wake up until 11 am” so the people I want to see before I go are not available until then.

So here I sit, reminiscing about my time here. About Irma, who so generously opened her home to me and promptly stole my heart. About her family — Carlos and little Natalia; Fany and her girls, Carla and Barbara; Alejandro, Fabian, Ana, Frida, and little Fabian; and Rojelio who all became my family as well. Also about Irma’s other children whom I met briefly, or not, but came to know through her.

I think about the friends I have here, both old and new, and how hard it is to leave everyone behind for half a year or more.

I think of all the wonderful adventures that I have had this visit — walking dirt paths of Cerro Gordo and San Juan, climbing mountains in Tetipac and Taxco, festivals, and fireworks, making new friends in Cuernavaca and San Miguel de Allende, and of course, that crazy slat bridge! (There are so many more adventures that I have still to share with you.)

Yet it is time to leave, and though the leaving is difficult and filled with sadness, I know that the coming back will be and is always joyous.

As I head into the deep freeze that is the Midwest, and from there to the Northeast to welcome, Isaiah, the newest (1 day old) member of the Blue Bear family, I do so with mixed feelings – joy for what lies ahead and sadness for what I must leave behind.

As another old lyric says, “Breaking up is hard to do.”

Hoofin’ it

I went to the copy shop around the corner to make some copies. A few minutes later when I turned around to leave, I almost ran into a burro  “parked” right outside the door.  Oh my!

Delivery by mule., Taxco, Mexico It is not uncommon in some places to see burros on the street. When the streets are narrow and steep (they were originally designed for carts pulled by four-footed creatures, you see) sometimes the best way to get around  is four footed.

mule with child, Taxco, Mexicomules, Mexicomule, San Miguel de Allende

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Taking things for granted – Got gas?

I was riding in a truck, Mexican style; me in the “back seat” (a little seat about 12 inches wide mounted sideways behind the driver) and the back end (outside) filled with people.

The driver pulled over next to a Miscelenea (a little shop that sells most anything – sort of like a mom and pop 7-11) and asks, “Do you have any gas?” Now this seemed like an odd question to me, since we were in the middle of nowhere and there was not a gas pump in sight.

The man nodded, went inside and came out with a red plastic gas “can.” Using a funnel made from a cut down soda bottle and a piece of hose, he poured the gallon of gas into the tank.(Oh, how I wish I had a picture to show you.)

The driver paid and off we went.

Imagine if someone said, “Fill ‘er up!”

For the love of chocolate – gluten-free, low carb brownies

I may not be able to sip hot chocolate at the chocolateria in San Miguel de Allende today but I can satisfy my chocolate cravings with this fabulous low-carb, gluten free brownie recipe courtesy of Bob and Kathy in Cuernavaca. Careful, they are addictive!

img_6330-qprLow Carb Brownies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 1/2 cups cocoa
  • 5-6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 c flax meal
  • 1/2 cup stevia or 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 – 1 cup chopped nuts
  • In a small bowl, mix meals, sugar, nuts, and set aside
  • Melt butter in a sauce pan
  • Add cocoa and stir until smooth, Turn off heat.
  • Add eggs to cocoa mixture, one at a time and stir
  • Add dry ingredients and stir until mixed

Spread evenly in a greased 9×13″ pan; Bake  for 20-25 minutes (Do not over bake)