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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Trader Joe's Run: Seafood Extravaganza

We have been eating healthier since my medical emergency last summer. Of course, as most of you know, taste has not been sacrificed in any way. And there is something absolutely delicious in the idea that you can eat well and lose weight in the process.

Of course, for those of you following the Twitter weekend feed for #KaliFoodGoddess, not everything there is exactly healthy – because you should detour to culinary treats every once in a while. Ain’t nobody gonna give up bacon or fried chicken (but we have new ways to achieve the effect without clogging our hearts).

We did a Trader Joe’s run yesterday, to refill our pantry and fridge with goodies in anticipation of the coming snowstorm. If we end up home-bound for a few days, we’ll need for nothing in the food department.

We were sorry to hear that they’ve discontinued the crab meat, but we still managed to get a few seafood products from their frozen selection. Mom’s favorite, the seafood blend is still available and it is always a good meal. A mix of small shrimp, calamari rings and bay scallops, she usually adds a handful of medium sized shrimp (or lobster balls). And our go-to recipe includes their Asian stir fry veggie bowl which contains a generous amount of already cut baby corn, bamboo shoots, bok choy, broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts, mushrooms, onions (white and red), peppers (green and red), snap peas and snow peas—every once in a while somebody throws in celery, basil… Mom always adds garlic, because of course!

Last night’s version included freshly squeezed lemon juice and its aromatic zest. But because there is no salt content beyond what the seafood contains naturally, you can splurge and use a little soy sauce here, or fish sauce, or Worcestershire sauce. A little Old Bay seasoning wouldn’t hurt it either.  

In all, the seafood blend totals about 80 calories per serving and the veggies add about 25 more, and this gives you some wiggle room if you choose to add carbs to the mix. 

We usually have it with rice, but it's just as lovely with couscous or risotto or noodles. At the same time, there is enough here so that, if you prefer, you could let the stir fry be the entire meal. It will be still be delicious and filling.

One of these days, I want to see if I can pull off seafood fajitas with the blend.

We also got mahi-mahi, tuna, and salmon burgers. While we sometimes make these as lunch on small multi-grain flatbreads; we also make them the protein in our dinner, with at least one salad and vegetables. We’ve forgone rich sauces for the time being, and instead will occasionally use a dollop of Sriracha mayo.

To round up our seafood bounty, we got a couple of packages of the lobster ravioli and two small tubs of their fresh pesto sauce. I know, it’s predictable, but it is so good, we simply trust it will be delicious every time we make it! (And for those interested in such things, the calorie count is a lot lower than you’d expect: the ravioli totals 290 per serving and the pesto 260.)

I know some of you have started the year trying to move towards healthier choices, and I’d like to point to you a great website/app that rates consumer food products for their nutritional values, has a forum (I haven’t explored this feature because I’m not really a joiner), diet and fitness trends, and even recipes: Fooducate   

So, bring on the snow, Mother Nature! We will be pretending we are seaside somewhere warm having fresh seafood and loving life.

 [In the meantime, I experiment with our new AirFryer (currently making a turkey breast—which I will tell you about it later). And whatever is leftover will be the base for a soup. Snow soup is as much fun as rain soup, and I am looking forward to that as well. To those on the path of the coming snowmageddon: stay warm and safe.]

Monday, August 20, 2018

Avocado Flash Recipes for Summer

I think we have established that I love avocados. Growing up in Puerto Rico, I often thought that no meal was complete without avocado. Over the years, I have shared some of my favorite avocado recipes (here, here, and in the Amapola Press Pinterest board). And there is no avocado recipe that doesn’t get my attention!

A summer staple now, we keep flash frozen shrimp in the freezer—always good for a quick meal. Whether boiled with a dash of Old Bay or quickly sautéed with a sprinkling of garlic powder and some sort of crushed pepper, the warm shrimp served with diced avocado and topped with lemon (or lime juice) is the perfect centerpiece to a big salad. And prep and cooking time will never exceed 10 minutes.

The combination of salty and sweet in a creamy marriage is absolutely enchanting! It’s also filling.

And just as easily as you used to make a big salad, you can use the mix for tacos, for a rice bowl with black beans, or as a dollop to dress up a clear broth or a gazpacho.

This is similar but less minimalist

I love ceviche with avocado, and fried fish with avocado, and fish stew with avocado. Avocados are very accommodating that way: they’ll be just as delicious in a tuna salad as in a topping for lobster rolls.

Our latest obsession has been adapting this Venezuelan Avocado Chicken Salad to our taste (though we admit the recipe as written is pretty darn great!). We’ve been making enough so that after a salad we can also have sandwiches the next day. We’ve been adding marinated jalapeño slices to it, Sriracha, a lemon pepper mix Mom loves… We doubled the garlic, of course. And it has been too hot to make arepas, but that’s next (come on autumn!!!).

Our next tasting joy will be trying out a dairy free avocado pesto, which I believe will be the perfect sauce for zoodles and grape tomatoes.

SOURCE: Wikipedia Commons

For the record, avocado goes well with red meat too – though we are trying to limit our consumption of it. We use an avocado crema as a spread for steak sandwiches instead of mayo. I generally whip the avocado with a little lemon juice, pepper, a dash of salt and olive oil, but I love this recipe too.

We’ve moved to a heart healthy menu but we have not sacrificed taste—just added a little less salt to our dishes and relied far more on our little grill to cook our meals. Through it all, I get to continue my love affair with the avocado.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Cookin' Under Pressure: Ground Meats as Staples

It was the perfect storm of details that need no rehashing -- psychotic weather, ailments, grieving, March Madness, and hyperactivity leading to the holiday... 

We found ourselves running out of food and awaiting a springtime snow shower that may leave in its wake anything between a few inches to quite a few. Neither one of us was feeling our best, so the question became what we’d do about dinner. 

Image from

Mom had bought some ground turkey and ground pork to make a different kind of meatloaf—but for any number of reasons we didn’t get around to it.

On Sunday, I divided the turkey in half and the pork in thirds. I broke up the meats, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and garlic powder, and mixed in a bowl. I julienned a small onion and sautéed first the onions and then the meats as I boiled water for pasta. The noodles and my bastardized and tomato-less Bolognese were ready at the same time and I let it bind with prepared pesto sauce.

The turkey is pretty neutral and takes on other more dominant flavors. The sauce is relatively light but it takes well to the pesto (the pork does not dominate the basil sauce). You can add the pesto to the meat before mixing with the noodles, and the turkey will absorb some of it. It’s a comfort taste for a meal that can be prepped in less than 10 minutes and cooked in less than 15!

After a week of insane Easter Bunny duty making cookies and candies, Mom's bum knee declared war and my own body was fighting demonic germs. I thought we should have a soup. Of course, chicken soup is the standard health aid but the only chicken we have is frozen solid.

I still had half the turkey and 2/3 of the pork.

I julienned my remaining small onion, minced the remnant pieces of garlic. I put aside a couple of tablespoons of capers in some brine and about a teaspoon of lemon juice. I used about a third of the pork (somewhere between 6-8 ounces or the amount you’d use for a decent sized burger). I seasoned the meat generously with pepper and Worcestershire sauce.

As I prepped, I started boiling water. Once it started bubbling, I added chicken bouillon. You can use meat or even vegetable stock, but I like the chicken to start. To it, I added a ¼ cup of rice. This is going to seem redundant in a minute, but do it anyway. The rice adds a velvety touch to the soup, and it will make for great leftovers.

Simmer the soup and rice on medium low flame for at least 20 minutes.

Sweat the onions in extra virgin olive oil, over a medium low flame. Once translucent, add the garlic and when it cooks through add the capers (3-5 minutes). Mix well and add the meat. Sauté meat until fully cooked, breaking up further with spatula, for approximately 5-8 minutes. 

At this point the rice is about halfway cooked. Add meat to soup pot and also add pork dumplings. They’ll rise in about 5 fives and finish cooking in another 5 minutes. Taste the liquid and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Needless to say, it is better to under season and rectify at the end than to over season and be left with something inedible.

The salt, pepper, Worcestershire, lemon, capers and brine will give the meat a little smokiness that will lend the dish several layers of flavors. I recommend 4 dumplings and perhaps a serving spoon of the meat/rice mixture per bowl (which will helpfully settle in the bottom of the pot). This leaves you plenty of soupy rice with picadillo as leftovers.

In less than half an hour you’ll have something that has depth, and a little heft, that is far more sophisticated to the palate than it has the right to be! And the best part (for us) is that I left enough for a couple of bowls for the cold day we expect in two days.

And yes, you can have depth and complexity with ground beef, but I find the combination of meats--as with meatloafs--more interesting and satisfying. Pork brings taste and a little fat, turkey and chicken are neutral fillers, veal is lean and beef is more robust.

Staples should always go beyond what's in the spice rack or cupboard. I try to have dumplings in the freezer for quick meals or appetizers. It’d also be cool to have already divided ground meats for fast weekday meals. Most ground meats may be refrigerated for a few days plus a couple more days after cooked. It’s probably best to divide the meats, label, and freeze—it’ll keep between 3 to 4 months, and you can thaw overnight in the fridge.

I have enough turkey and pork for two burgers, which will be grilled and embraced in the gooey goodness of Muenster cheese. And I realize that is a lot of the same thing in the space of 7-10 days, but each dish is sufficiently different to keep the palate happy.

Click for a pretty good recipe for Mexicali Turkey Burger with Jalapeno Muenster

I can make picadillo and combine with black beans for a Cuban rice bowl (with a couple of lime wedges on the side and a couple slices of avocado). Or we could drain it and make savory turnovers (pasties). Or tiny meatballs! I work well under pressure, I don't need a menujust send me to the kitchen, coach!

Click for a recipe for Cuban black bean yellow rice bowl

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Recycling Trader Joe's Tapenade

We recycle. The sentiment extends to food.

We had a friend who'd proudly assert to anyone who’d listen that they hated leftovers and ate absolutely no leftovers, nope, not ever. This left us confused because we know something they apparently do not: Sometimes leftovers are tastier because ingredients get a chance to consummate the marriage, as it were.

This is true of pasta meat sauces as it is of soups, meatloaf and roast pork—let it sit a day or two and I swear to you it will taste better than the moment you first plated it after cooking it! Sometimes in winter we start a soup that morphs from chicken noodle into three different kinds of soup, if not more (leftovers serving as a base for a new batch of soup).

Our friend was not a cook, and perhaps that was part of the problem; though they did not seem to enjoy food in an epicurean way. There was shame and regret, like their religion, but not joy in eating—it filled no voids.

Mom and I start the year recycling elements of the New Year’s meal—leftover caviar becomes a topping to Mom’s birthday omelet. Somewhere between Boxing Day and the Epiphany, we combine leftover cheeses, mousses and pates and make a richly delicious quiche. These are meals made almost entirely out of leftovers but nothing to sneeze at proverbially. Funnily enough, the quiche tastes better as leftovers (so leftovers of leftovers).

This year we discovered a new reason to recycle: Trader Joe’s tapenade. Making your own tapenade is easy enough, but the Trader Joe’s version is pretty darn good. Tapenade can be made in less than 10 minutes, and can be a really satisfying snack/spread/appetizer--but you have to start by buying good quality olives. The beauty of Trader Joe’s is that you can have a variety.

Halkidiki olives (image credit: Olivellas S.A.)

Trader Joe’s carries two varieties of tapenade: the original (and mellower) spread is a blend of Kalamata, black and green olives; and the other includes Kalamata and Chalikidiki olives. Kalamata olives are the large, meaty Greek black or dark brown olives. Chalkidiki (or Halkidiki) olives are large green fruit that have all manner of magical lore attributed to them (including as a PMS cure). The tapenade keeps as long as it remains refrigerated, so you can enjoy it as a snack for as long as it lasts.

So far, my favorite quick meal involves tilapia fillets (2 per person). Spread a tablespoon of olive oil to cover the bottom of an oven pan, season the fish lightly with salt and pepper, top with a tablespoon or two of tapenade and add a sprinkling of grated Parmesan. Bake for 15-20 minutes (temperatures depend on how thin the fillets are -- 375 for thinner fillets up to 425-degrees for heftier pieces, or you can broil for no more than 10 minutes).

I put the fish in oven as water starts to boil for rice and finish both at the same time, but this dish will also go well over pasta or a variety of vegetable side dishes. I suggest finishing it off with some Sriracha—but you can also bake in chopped chilis over the fillets.

The fish will flake easily (and you can use cod, sole, flounder, snapper or any other white fish), and it will simply melt in your mouth, the spread will create a savory and soft crust over the fish. The simpler the better, but you can garnish with fresh parsley, cilantro or dill to taste. If you enjoy rice bowls, I can see adding a fried egg to it and taking it all to a whole new level. 

Next we may try game hens stuffed with tapenade. I’d also love to try some of the tapenade in black bean soup. We are going to recycle the heck out of this tapenade!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Pastelon and Piononos: Puerto Rican Downsizing of a Dish

We knew this woman years ago. I disliked her the moment we were introduced. We rarely saw her, except around the holidays, so as we approach the holidays, I sometimes think of her. I remember having a ridiculous conversation with her as she told me that her boyfriend’s family knew how to have a really classy Christmas. “They’re white,” she explained. “They had lasagna.” She was very impressed. “Really classy,” she repeated it in case I missed it.

Soon she began speaking in pronouncements, Her Majesty did...

I was a little confused because I had spent a cringe-worthy twenty minutes in a fruitless and joyless conversation with her guest (whom I found out was both her boss and lover). The topic of the traditional Hanukkah lasagna had not come up, but he did spend a good portion of the time we were speaking loudly telling me how no one present has living life properly. He had an opinion about how we were each wrong in our approach to [pick a topic]. I drank a LOT that night.

There was no joy in knowing that uppity twit, especially because her premise was that she'd outgrown being Latina and she ascribed true class only to white folks. Her self-hate made me sad. Puerto Ricans tend to relish telling people their soul is stained by plantains. But she was not one of us and her pride tended towards other qualities beyond her ethnicity or nationality. But this is about food, don't worry about whatever happened to her. 

That story comes to mind every time I see the gastro types in Puerto Rico trying to "elevate" the local cuisine, from its "humble, peasant and slave origins." Last spring I saw a recipe circulating around the interwebs about Puerto Rican lasagna… Huh? I was curious what this newfangled pasta dish could be. It turned out to be a pastelón. Not that everything involving alternating layers should be called or likened to a lasagna.

I wrote about it a few years back and included a recipe in the cookbook. A pastelón is a big, meat pie. In the Caribbean there are a few varieties, but traditionally the filling is made of picadillo. Picadillo means chopped or minced (meat). What makes the pastelón unique is a plantain crust—which also makes it gluten free.

In Puerto Rico, the "crust" is generally made of slices of ripe plantain fried to a golden crispness. In the Dominican Republic, the crust is made of extra ripe mashed plantains. I've seen a Cuban combine the two and create a delicious hybrid (mashed bottom and slices up top). Of course, varieties abound and every Caribbean mother and grandmother has her own recipe!
Pastelón can be made with chicken or shrimp fillings too; and, it is rumored, there are vegetarian recipes floating about. While the pastelón is a meal in itself, it can be served with a simple tossed salad, or a little rice. Macaroni salad is surprisingly good with it as well.

1 lb ground beef
2 tbs oil
1 small diced onion
Crushed garlic (to taste)
1 small green pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp oregano
Black ground pepper

Heat oil in pan and sauté onion, garlic and pepper until softened. Add the meat and brown. Add tomato paste and herbs, season and mix. Cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat until meat is fully cooked.
To season you may use a dash of salt or a packet of sazón. As an alternative, you may also season the meat before cooking with a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. You may add a third to a quarter cup of water (which you'll allow to evaporate). You may substitute with red wine vinegar or cooking wine. And, if your heart can take it, a dash or two of hot sauce can add another dimension to the taste. Instead of green peppers, you may substitute with sweet and hot chilies.
The picadillo can include any of the following, depending on your taste: raisins, diced green apples, salad olives with pimentos. You can also add about a cup of frozen peas, green beans or corn (or use mixed vegetables that come already diced for your convenience) -- add at the last minute of cooking to heat through and mix thoroughly.
Ultimately, what you want is moist but not saucy filling.
You can prepare the picadillo a few days ahead and refrigerate. This also allows all the flavors to marry. Heat slightly before filling pastelón or bring to room temperature.

YES: as I always encourage, be a rebel, make it your own. 
I’m giving you the basic steps, you run with it as you wish!

6 ripe plantains (dark skin)
1/4 cup of unsalted butter
1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese

Cut the ends off the plantains, cut in halves or thirds lengthwise, and split the skins (see the archived article on plantains for a more detailed explanation). Place in pot of salted water and boil for about 10 minutes or until very tender. Drain water and remove peels.
Mash plantains with a fork, add soft butter and incorporate into the mashed bananas.
Spray a baking dish (you may use a pie dish or even a lasagna pan, depending on what you have available). Spoon half the plantain mixture on the bottom and smooth out the layer, top with a third of the cheese and a layer of meat. Add cheese to top the meat. Spoon the rest of the plantain mixture and top with cheddar. [NOTE: This is a skinny version, but you can add about 2 or 3 large eggs, beaten, as a binder.]
Place in oven, preheated to 350° F and heat through until cheese is melted and golden brown for about 30-40 minutes. Cooking time depends on whether the filling is already warm, of course.
The result is an enchanting combination of sweet and savory (and picante) flavors. The textures go from soft to crunchy. The bananas harden on the outside to literally create a crust, but the inside will remain soft. The important part is that you can always play around with the filling to meet your exact specifications. It's different and quite comforting. It yields 6-9 portions (depends on whether this is a side dish or the main dish), and all told you can make this dish for less than $10!

For those of you who prefer to downsize, you can try piononos, which are individual servings of the pastelón. It starts with maduros (yellow plantains, with or without spots—the more spots, the sweeter but also the softest to work with). You will cut plantains in half and then slice lengthwise, fry them in oil until browned (the sugars in the fruit will caramelize). Dry them off on paper towels and, until cool enough to handle.
Now you have two choices, you can make rounds and close with toothpicks and fill with picadillo, top with cheese and then egg. You can fry them until the egg sets and the cheese bubbles. A healthier version is to line the inside of a ramekin or a muffin tin with the plantain and then fill with picadillo. You can heat it up at 350-degrees for about 20-30 minutes until the egg sets and the cheese melts and bubbles.
As an alternative to the meat picadillo, you can substitute ground pork for a completely different taste and texture. I usually steam up sausage links, remove the casings, and chop it up before seasoning and cooking with sautéed veggies and herbs. If cheddar is a little strong, you may use a milder cheese. This is a very versatile recipe. If you prefer a more savory taste, you can use plantains that are beginning to ripen but have not reached maturation (skin is green and turning yellow).
I’m thinking it’d go well with a minced curried goat too! And I’ve heard there are crabmeat piononos I have not tasted yet (culinary goals, baby!). A fabulous presentation and a tasty alternative: serve with slices of avocado (plain or with a dash of olive oil and lemon juice).

So, if a pastelón is a Puerto Rican lasagna, the pionono is like a tiny sweet and savory Christmas wreath on the plate. You can prep ahead of time and cook later. Can’t tell you whether it freezes well because I’ve never seen leftovers of this stuff in my whole life! Usually the pastelón is made with rice and beans, but it can just as easily be served with green beans, carrots, or a salad. The piononos make it easier to portion control, if you want to keep it lighter. I personally think it is all very classy indeed!

For a better idea of what each step might look like, check out this: 

For a muffin pan version, you can try this:

Folks in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands
still need your help, if you can offer some 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Good Eggs: My Love Affair with the Tortilla

Let's talk eggs for a minute or two. Just to cleanse our palate of all the bad eggs on the news, shall we? 

When I was a kid, I had a love/hate relationship with eggs. I loved eggs, but not everyone understood the delicate nature of the product. Eggs are versatile in that they’ll let you cook them in variety of ways, temperatures, and mixed with herbs, meats and vegetables of all kinds. But a bad cook can ruin eggs so easily…

So to my literal mind a “bad egg” was not necessarily a morally deficient person but what happened when a bad cook got hold of an egg.

The word tortilla (omelet) carried the promise of adventure because the eggs could be enveloping any number of delicious ingredients; and sometimes they cleverly hid the surprise under a cover of golden richness. But not always.

I had a cousin who drenched everything he ate in ketchup. He did not taste his food. His go-to move was to slather enough ketchup to hide the original offense and then a little more so that the only aftertaste would be whatever Heinz intended it to be.

I have no recollection why I spent the night at their house, though I suspect it may have been at the heels of the Hooker Incident--a story for another blog--and that morning the matriarch in that particular house (being very careful not to “out” her) cooked us breakfast. "I'll make you eggs," she announced. And I got excited at the prospect. But Cousin was circumspect, at best. He took out the ketchup and pointed to it. “You’ll need this,” he said and winked at me. I shook my judgy little head, because although not of school age yet, I knew his culinary crime to be immense.

First, she threw a big soup spoon full of margarine on a small frying pan and then the eggs. She shook a dash of salt into the pan and put on the flame as high as it would go--explaining the presence of a couple of fire extinguishers in the room. I think it may have been intended to be sunny side up until she broke a couple of yolks and we ended up with the inevitably scrambled eggs, or so I was led to believe by my cousin. (Intending to add onions to it but not doing so because they made you cry does not count! But also, I believe she tried to cut an onion one time and then tried to dry a tear and knocked the glasses off her face with the knife. She didn't cook again for weeks.) And while she referred to that abomination she served as a “tortilla”; she didn’t put anything on the eggs, so technically it wasn’t an omelet. It was just plain scrambled eggs. 

I mean, really: she didn't even roll it up pretty on the plate. Come on!

Well, plain, overcooked, slightly burned scrambled eggs with the consistency of soft rubber with one salty spot. But at least the margarine made it all slippery and, thus, easier to swallow. The ketchup hid its imperfections, and added sweet and tangy to something that did not need that type of complexity. Frankly, what that dish needed was a garbage bin and a Requiem Mass so we could, all involved, ask the Lord’s forgiveness for what was done to those poor, defenseless eggs.

That morning, for the first time in my life, I ate toast for breakfast and begged the Universe to reunite me with a good cook soon! I have not prayed much in this lifetime, but when I do, I am a pragmatist.

There is a distinctly Puerto Rican omelet with onions and Vienna sausages that remains a favorite comfort food to this day. One of my first adventures in the kitchen was making cheese omelets. And once I set out on my own, I freestyled with herbs and vegetables, diced ham and tiny shrimp, and then I set to learn the breakfast secrets of my neighbors in Brooklyn.

Certainly, anyone who has found themselves in financial straits knows that eggs-for-dinner is one of the best things to come out of peasant cuisine from around the world! It is also handy to know a few egg dishes when you work long and strange hours and have no desire to spend your free time standing over a hot stove.

One of the things I perfected was taking the simple tortilla de papatas (the world famous Spanish potato omelet) and tweaking it into a meal. I use leftover Spanish potatoes—potato slices cooked with sautéed onions and garlic from an old recipe from some monastery, if I remember correctly. It's really a bastardization of a Cuban omelet.

I remember checking off this photo grid of popular tortillas served in Madrid and pairing them to different wines during our brunch days. Each tortilla had its own personality, some more robust than others, some more fragrant, others delicate and others just badass!

There are places in Spain (from small delis to bars) that serve nothing but omelets (swoon!)

The most memorable entries included tortilla de mariscos (with seafood, including mussels, shrimp, and cuttlefish), tortilla de sardinas (with sardine filets laid over the eggs as they cook), tortilla de atún (with either fresh or canned tuna), tortilla de hígado de pollo (with coarsely chopped chicken livers), and tortilla catalana (made with a spicy Butifarra sausage and cannellini beans).

Whether you chose to have your omelet with a salad, with pan y tomate (brushing off a tomato’s juices over slices of bread), under gravy or over a grain or pasta, all of these Spanish omelets are delicious. And for the flexitarians options run from wild mushrooms, to asparagus, spinach and garlic, roasted tubers, and mixed herbs; and depending on your rules about dairy, an international array of melty cheeses to enchant the palate.

Of course, every culture has its own version of an omelet and you can open your horizons by cooking beyond borders.

(more to come…)

Friday, October 20, 2017

One Million Served. Help Us Do More!

I have been feeling more than a little conflicted about my Food Goddess activities. Nothing I do in that regard is offensive but it feels silly, unimportant, and maybe a little tone deaf knowing that a portion of my audience living in Puerto Rico hasn’t had a decent meal in weeks.

Taino symbol for coquí 
Most of our people are okay (not great, but alive, sustained minimal damage and are ready and eager to move on). Some have sustained more property damage/flooding than others. This isn’t the case for everyone we know. There are a few people “missing” or displaced, and not in a position to communicate. We have elders in hospital, and in no position to be moved. Most still have no cell service, intermittent water, and some have yet to get electricity.

So if you know any Puerto Ricans, you’d have witnessed a high level of neurosis and nervousness, anger, sadness, fatigue, all happening almost simultaneously, fueling us back into action and another round of more intense neurosis.

Our family, friends, our island is in broken and in peril and we feel helpless and broken too. We are warriors and don’t let that bother us! We need to work to bring more help to the island and restore it. It must be restored.

In the meantime, I am left feeling conflicted about my Food Goddess activities. Life must go on, but there are other more important issues to attend to. Gathering and sharing recipes feels trivial.

What’s worst is that as the temperatures start going down and the holidays approach, I am left with the sad realization that the holidays won’t be the same in the island this year – though Puerto Ricans will make the best of whatever the Universe throws at them! In fact, it may be years before there can be holidays like we used to have…

I want to get back to normal, but it may take me some time to get there. But as Food Goddess, may I suggest that you help Puerto Rico by donating to Chef Relief / World Central Kitchen José Andrés has provided over 1 million hot meals all over the island (follow them on Twitter to see how they continue their mission #ChefsForPuertoRico).

I will come back and write about some ridiculously delicious dish that will make you break the current diet. Just not today.

(Watch a resilient little coquí come back after Hurricane Maria to sing his song of freedom: -- and if the coquí can rise above the chaos, so can we!)