The Cuban Kitchen

15 Apr

As featured on NPR. Amazing photos from Ellen Silverman.


What I’ve been eating this week…

26 Feb

Stumptown’s French Roast and Girl Scout cookies: Tagalongs & Dulce De Leche… I ate the entire box of that one, sigh.

MIL’s chicken Banh Canh w/ shrimp

Snack alert! Gardettos and Chocolate Covered Gummy Bears purchased from the bulk food section at Winco.

Grilled Ham & Cheese sandwich with baby dill pickles. I like it lightly buttered and crispy.

Brown Rice & Beans Bowl

26 Feb

So this is a verrrrrrrry close knock-off of the “Whole Bowl” and/or Cafe Yumm’s “Yumm Bowl.” What is it you ask? It is widely popular here in Portland and is a bowl of short grain brown rice mixed with black & red beans, sliced black olives, cheddar cheese, cilantro, sour cream, and a secret curry based sauce. The sauce is what melds everything together nicely and gives it much flavor. It’s creamy, garlicky, and lemony. There are a lot of copycat recipes online for the Yumm! Sauce and Whole Bowl’s Tali sauce. I chose to go with the Yumm! Sauce recipe and it turned out awesome. Could it be because of the extra special curry spice I used that  my MIL brought from Vietnam???… who knows but nonetheless, being able to make this sauce at home is like a miracle.

Be aware that this recipe for the sauce yields 4 cups. At first I thought it was too much but it’s so good that I drench my bowls in it (the more the merrier!), and I also eat it with veggies and fries. I can usually make around 12-14 bowls. Yep, 12-14 bowls! We eat it for lunch/dinner for about a week straight. I don’t get sick of it but Ben can only handle about three days worth. It’s one of the very few vegetarian dishes that I find hearty, healthy, and DELICIOUS!

Yumm!/Tali Sauce (adapted from


  • canola oil- 1/4 cup
  • sliced almonds 1/2 cup (substitute almond flour for creamier consistency)
  • nutritional yeast 1/3 cup (available at Whole Foods and in the bulk foods section @ Winco)
  • chickpeas, cooked- 1/2 cup (I used canned. Remember to rinse and drain!)
  • silken tofu- 1/4 cup
  • filtered water- 1/2 cup
  • fresh squeezed lemon juice- 1/2 cup
  • garlic cloves, peeled- 2
  • kosher salt- 1/2 teaspoon
  • curry powder- 1 1/2 teaspoon
  • dried oregano- 1 teaspoon
  1. In a food processor (best in 11-cup to prevent spillage) blend oil, almonds, chickpeas, and tofu.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and puree until the texture becomes creamy.
  3. Pour in a jar, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. Remember the yeast and don’t cover too tight.

Feel free to use as much, little, or none to your liking. To assemble your bowl, you will need:

  • short grain brown rice, cooked :: I eat about 2 cups *oink oink
  • black beans, cooked (I used canned) :: 1 1/2 spoonful
  • red/kidney beans, cooked (I used canned again…) :: 1 1/2 spoonfuls
  • sliced black olives :: 2 spoonfuls
  • avocado, sliced :: 3 slices
  • medium cheddar cheese, shredded :: 2 generous pinches… or 3
  • light sour cream :: a dollop
  • cilantro, chopped :: a couple pinches
  1. Layer everything in the order listed above.
  2. Drizzle the Yumm!/Tali sauce over everything (I like mine saucy).
Optional: I like to also add a little bit of Sriracha sauce, and a little bit more Chalula sauce.
  1. Mix everything together in the bowl with your spoon.
  2. Lick your spoon and then dig in.

Traditional Vietnamese Fried Rice

19 Feb

My favorite kinds of fried rice are (in order):

  1. Traditional Vietnamese.
  2. Kimchi with Spam!
  3. Omurice (a Korean omelet filled with fried rice served with ketchup)
Top Three Reasons to Make Fried Rice:
  1. You have a large quantity of rice leftover.
  2. There’s a potluck.
  3. Everyone likes it! From adults to the little kiddos.

We eat rice with our meals about 2-3 times per week. I always make a little extra just in case and it usually results in having leftover rice more so than not. There’s a large ziplock bag in the freezer reserved for those occasions. It accumulates over time and a full bag will yield enough fried rice to feed 8-10 hungry mouths! If you don’t know already, fried rice is better made with rice that is a day old or has been previously refrigerated/frozen. I don’t recommend using freshly cooked rice at all.

Traditional Vietnamese fried rice is my favorite and I learned how to make it by watching my MIL, YouTube videos, recipes online, and some books. Now I have a go-to recipe that I can always count on. I was able to pick and choose from several different versions and formulate the perfect one, IMO 😉

Traditional Vietnamese Fried Rice


  • fish sauce- 1/4 cup
  • oyster sauce- 1 heaping tablespoon
  • sugar- 1 tablespoon
  • ground black pepper- 2 teaspoon
  • cooked rice **preferably NOT just cooked. if so, let it cool first.**- 6 cups
  • olive oil for the pan
  • eggs- 4
  • water- 1 tablespoon
  • medium onion- diced
  • garlic- 4 cloves chopped finely
  • carrots- 2 diced (I usually blanche diced carrots for about 3-5 minutes beforehand)
  • frozen snow peas- 1 cup
  • small baby shrimp- 1 cup –or– raw shrimp- 1/2 lb peeled, deveined, and cut into 1/4″ pieces
  • Chinese sausage- 2 cut in half length-wise and diced
  • scallions- 2 sliced
  • fresh cilantro- small handful chopped
  • Maggi Seasoning Sauce- 1 tablespoon

First, make your eggs.

  • Set a fry pan over medium-low setting and drizzle with olive oil. Swirl pan to coat evenly.
  • Whisk eggs and water in a bowl.
  • Pour egg mixture into fry pan and let it sit still for about 5-10 minutes.
  • Check every now and then to see if it’s flippable.
  • It might still be slightly runny on top but if you can, gently flip the egg omelet and let it cook another 5-10 minutes.
  • Every stove is different so use your best judgement and make sure the eggs are cooked slow enough to prevent it from browning too fast. You want it to be soft and gently puffed with sponge-like air pockets inside.
  • Remove from pan onto a cutting board. Let it cool.
  • Slice into thin strips and then dice. Set aside.
*************If your wok/pan/skillet/pot isn’t big enough to cook the entire amount of rice, make in two batches!*************
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and black pepper.
  2. Place rice in a large bowl. Set aside within reach of your wok.
  3. Have all your vegetables, shrimp, Chinese sausage, eggs, fish sauce mixture, scallions + cilantro ready to go on the side.
  4. Heat your wok or a large heavy bottomed skillet/pot on medium high.
  5. Add olive oil to coat the pan and swirl to coat evenly.
  6. Add your onions and saute until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat to a little below medium.
  7. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  8. Add shrimp and cook until pink (cook time depends on size of shrimp)
  9. Add carrots and snow peas and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
  10. Add fish sauce mixture and stir to mix everything well.
  11. Add Chinese sausage and continue to stir for another 5 minutes.
  12. Add cooked eggs and stir to combine.
  13. Add your rice and combine well. Continue mixing and cooking over heat for 5 minutes.
  14. Add scallions and cilantro.
  15. Add Maggi Seasoning Sauce and toss everything again to combine.

I like to make this when I have leftover roast meats (ham, turkey, chicken). Typically, I won’t add Chinese sausages if that’s the case because that would be meat overload (but still good!). Omit and add anything as you please. What I love most about a traditional Vietnamese fried rice is the fish sauce mixture, scallions + cilantro, and eggs!

Salad à la Fridge II

17 Feb

Made another “Salad à la Fridge” using leftovers from the previous Oven Fried Chicken.

Combined with baby bella mushrooms, butterleaf lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced hardboiled eggs, and freshly ground black pepper. This was a really delicious/fulfilling salad made fast with what was already on hand. My boyfriend was amazed and had a second, and even third helping of it!

Oven Fried Chicken

17 Feb

One of my favorite meals is fried chicken paired with buttery mashed potatoes… washed down with an ice cold glass of Coke (with a fresh lemon wedge, of course!). The last time I fried up a batch was on July 4th for a small group of friends. It was a blistering hot day and I was deep frying 24 drumsticks for over 2 1/2 hours in the kitchen. Oil splattered everywhere because I used my Lodge cast iron skillet that is 2″ high, and the temperature inside the house kept rising. Everyone stood around waiting for me to finish so that we could all sit down and eat together. It got to the point where some of us became delirious, including myself, and probably delusional. The chicken turned out good but not great.

I decided to give it another shot when I came across Ina Garten’s recipe for Oven Fried Chicken. It enables you to fry it halfway ahead of time and then finish it off in the oven all-together just before guests arrive. Soaking them in buttermilk prior to the day of frying will help ensure juicy-ness. The results? Amazing. Ina Garten never disappoints.

Frying Tips:

  • Use a higher heavy-bottomed stock pot to prevent a whole lot of oil from splattering everywhere. I used my dutch oven.
  • Assembly line and organization helps a LOT when deep frying.
  • Do not get any water in the oil! That’s when it starts popping and splattering like mad!
  • Stay close by and keep an eye out on the temperature of the oil as it heats up. It takes much longer to cool than it does to get hot.
  • A neat trick I learned from my mother is to cut open a few brown paper bags and line the surrounding floor. Clean up is a breeze!
  • Tongs may keep your fingers clean from batter but fingers are the way to go.
  • Invest in a candy thermometer that will latch onto the rim of the pot easily and stay there.

Oven Fried Chicken (adapted from Ina Garten)


  • organic whole chickens- 2 at no more than 4.3 lbs each cut into 8 serving pieces
  • buttermilk- 1 quart (***1 1/2 quarts if you’re using chickens larger than 4 lbs each***)
  • unbleached all purpose flour- 2 cups
  • kosher salt- 1 tablespoon
  • freshly ground black pepper- 1 1/2 tablespoon
  • onion powder- 1 teaspoon
  • garlic powder 3/4 teaspoon
  • cayenne pepper- 1/2 teaspoon (more if you dare!)
  • dried Thyme- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Vegetable oil or any other oil you prefer for deep frying
  1. Place chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour buttermilk to submerge them. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  3. Place a wire rack on top of a sheet pan. Set aside for chicken that have completed frying.
  4. Line another sheet pan with wax or parchment paper. You’ll use this to place battered chicken awaiting their turn to be fried.
  5. Combine flour, salt, black pepper, and all your seasonings in a shallow dish. I used a round 9.5″ Pyrex dish. Set aside near chicken submerged in buttermilk & sheet pan lined with paper.
  6. Heat  1 1/2″ of oil until it reaches 360 degrees on a candy thermometer.
  7. Take chicken out of the buttermilk and evenly coat it with the flour mixture. Place into hot oil. Do not over crowd the pot.
  8. Fry 3 minutes on each side.
  9. Remove and place on wire rack set on sheet pan.
  10. When all the chicken is fried (if you’re using larger chicken, you will need to do two separate batches) place into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. (I checked mine with an instant read thermometer inserted at the thickest part until it reached 160 degrees).

We dug into the first batch while the second finished baking in the oven. By the time we were close to being done, they were hot and ready to go! We love our sauces. Above we have Chalula, Sriracha, Tobasco, and ketchup.

My favorite combo: ketchup + Chalula!

Much better than all those fried chicken chains. Far less salty, higher quality meat, fried in new oil (not from days [maybe even weeks] of use!), and made with love ❤

House Cleaning

11 Feb

After my failed attempt of making Cook’s Illustrated’s Wine Braised Pork Chops, I decided to lay low on making complex dishes. Ben and I moved into our current home a year and a half ago. We have an (as much as I hate to admit it) abandoned blog over on Blogger that we started when we first moved in and documented our daily home improvements. Like most everyone else, we did it to share with family and friends. I took a peek at it again and I must say, we did a great job capturing all of those moments. I consider it a modern alternative to scrap-booking. We’ve started many little projects around the house but haven’t completed them. One of them being the kitchen but we’ll get to that later. Between work and everything else, our home can get majorly cluttered where at any given point a photo is snapped, it captures an eye-sore somewhere in there.

I decided to do something about it one corner at a time. I began with our main bookshelf in the living room. Here is the before shot:

It doesn’t look so bad in the picture but from the outside looking in, it looks scattered and unorganized.

This is what you see at eye level: books, a Swiffer duster, magazines, frames w/o real pictures, miscellaneous figurines, a light bulb, and DVD’s.

Lower level: Cords, camera, CD’s, pots, vases, stuffed animals, a toy car in a box, random large book on dogs.

My sorting method:

  • Moved all DVD’s, CD’s, chargers, cameras, and cords into the entertainment system drawer. To think that all this time we had an enormous empty drawer!
  • Self-help and “For Dummies” books went into the office… I need to clean the office, too.
  • Empty plant pots and vases to the garage.
  • Stuffed animals into the linen closet.
  • The blue fish figurine is now used as a rubberband keeper in a kitchen drawer.
  • Frames with random pictures also went into the entertainment drawer (for now).
  • I put the Swiffer duster away where it belongs- in the laundry room cleaning closet.
My organizing method:
  • Cookbooks and vibrant Travel books placed at eye level for easy access. Books are arranged by type and then by height.
  • Larger books and magazines lay horizontally for character.
  • Small sentimental figurines- wooden bench & a puppy (given by my biological mother & my parents at different times but coincidentally compliment each other very well!) were left on display as a nice change of scenery from the books.
  • Porcelain flying pig placed on the highest shelf, out of reach, and as a statement piece. It casts a really nice shadow, too.
  • Ben made the snowboarding figurine in a jewelry making class back in college. It was used as a filler piece for the lower shelf but he later moved it higher so that Ollie, our Doberman puppy, wouldn’t destroy it.
I don’t find it necessary to fill every inch of empty space. Especially since our living room is small and quaint. I like a good mix of simple, eclectic, and clean. Did you notice the iRobot charger at the very bottom? It’s my new best friend.


Something relaxing to look at.

Eye level

Ahhhhhhhhh so much better!

I’ve got a head start on spring cleaning already.