It’s Saturday night, I hear music blaring in the distance and I’m up, trying my best to post this recipe before Sunday hits. I’m trying to do this so that it can become a part of your Sunday lunch/bunch/dinner. It should be. It’s as delicious as it is vibrant- what its colors will do to your eyes its flavors will do to your taste buds. You simply MUST try this one.
Pineapples are a part of my life. They are staples here in our house. I picked up two along the roadside (translation: I purchased them from a roadside vendor-many of whom are scattered along the way to Mayaro) when driving down to Mayaro a few days ago and decided to incorporate it into this lovely salad that I learned to make while I was away at school.
Down here in Trinidad we have something called ‘chow‘. Traditionally made using mangoes- the best are greener or at least half-ripe (I actually love sweet, ripe mango chow the best, but most will disagree). Chow is made using the ubiquitous chadon beni (bandania) herb, garlic, salt, pepper, vinegar/lime and a tip of sugar. It’s sort of a pickled fruit salad? I’m not sure of what’s the best way to describe it, but I’m going to venture out on a limb here and say that Trinidad owns chow! Ask any Trini about chow and they will begin their description with a nostalgic glean and a mouth ‘full of water’. It’s ours.
Pineapple chow has grown in popularity since some genius on the heights of the North coast road en route to Maracas decided to make it. Since then many have perfected the art of making pineapple chow. I was lucky enough to have a bit left over and decided to incorporate it in my black bean salad. I would have to say the decision was a good one! I will definitely be doing a post on pineapple chow in the very near future.
This served as dinner for me last night and part of lunch today. I threw in some raw beets because I just love beets. This salad is filling as a main but works really well as a side too. Of course, since I’m doing the 4 week salad challenge I can’t say I’ve used it as a side…it’s my only focus. I ate this with grilled chicken breast for dinner and for lunch the next day I had it with a piece of steak. I’d say the 4 week challenge is in full swing and it’s really causing me to come up with great new salads 🙂
Today marks day 1 of my four week salad challenge! I must say it started off really well, since today’s lunch was wonderfully refreshing, clean, simple and oh so delicious! The meal is very simple and like I said, clean but the preparation is the hard part (at least for me since I don’t get a huge amount of time to devote to cutting up things since my baby usually comes into the kitchen after 5 minutes of being away and cries out for me to be close) 🙂 sweetness! Today was different though, I got some extra time to look after our meal since my little one was visiting grans and aunties. So, I basically reverted to the days when I could leisurely prep for the meal and take photos for the blog. Was nice!
This meal sticks very nicely to the rules I made for myself (and I hope you too) in the previous post. The citrus guava cake is gone(I must say I think I’ll have to make this one during guava season since it was a huge hit with the family and friends) and vegetables and fruits have taken it’s place instead. I got inspiration for this meal from my girl Ina (yep, we are good partners taking in the occasional drink and pork sandwich by Kep’s…hmmm, I wish!). Wanted to find another way to make string beans-got an intimidatingly large bag from Pricesmart recently. I love string beans, but sometimes I get a bit tired of the same old ‘steam me and put some garlic on me’ routine. So today I mixed it up a bit.
What is great about this string bean salad is that the string beans really take center stage. I loved the crispness of the beans set against the tart spiciness of the brown spice mustard I used. I also love the sweet warmth of the roasted garlic in there and the crunchy red onions really added that extra punch. Additionally, this string bean salad can be served at room temperature or cold! How wonderfully great is that?
The other dish I prepared to go along with this was a Greek salad- wow 2 salads in one meal? Good stuff. Anyway, I love Greek salads, the salty creaminess of feta cheese set against the sweet mellowness of tomatoes and crunchy morsels of cucumber? Come on, it’s so good. What makes it even better is that it’s so easy! I mean, you can throw it together in five minutes-I know its my go to salad when I’m not in the mood to make an elaborate dressing. Speaking of dressings, that’s the other thing I like about Greek salads, the dressing is ridiculously simple. Now, I don’t know the exact definition of a Greek salad, but I know how I make mine. The only really essential elements for any salad I want to convert to being Greek are cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions and feta cheese. Everything else is fair game.
I ain’t gonna talk too much about the perfectly cooked, delicately seasoned pork chops that went with these salads because, hey, this is about salads, isn’t it? It was good though, real good.
Will definitely be making these again during this 4 week salad challenge 🙂
I hope everyone feels well rested and had a great start to this new week. I’d like to tell a bit of a ‘story’ if you’d listen (feel a bit like Rose Nylon on The Golden Girls here).
I started this blog back in January, earlier this year and had a very different vision of what it would be and the purpose it would serve. Since then, the blog has changed a bit-in a very positive way- but it hasn’t really been doing for me what I wanted it to.
You see, when I started this blog I wanted to use it as an outlet for some bottled up creativity and some excess ‘boredom’- I really dislike that word since I’m not really bored here at home, just you know ‘living in a bit of a routine?’ The idea of starting this blog came from a couple of things…
First, as you all know I have a little one here at home and sometimes, like most mothers tending to their little pumpkins, you try to find things to do to occupy them and yourself. So it came to me one day to start up a blog where I can log the things we do together while simultaneously showcasing Trinidad. I wanted to challenge myself to do something new each week so that both of us wouldn’t get stuck in the rut of doing the same things day in and day out.
The other reason I started this blog is two-fold. One, I needed (and still do) to get rid of some extra weight I’ve been logging around for sometime and thought it would be great to document what I ate; this would give me some accountability-even if no one ever read a single word I’d know that I could ‘see’ what I was doing; just a forum where I can see what I prepare and how I prepare it. Two, I thought to myself ‘self, wouldn’t be get great to have a site where you could show off some of the delicious dishes/food from Trinidad, trying to make them healthier or offering tweaked versions while maybe still showing nostalgic Trinis (or other Caribbean-ites) how to make authentic dishes?’ Yes! (I thought). So I did! I started thehiddencook.com and it pretty much covered everything I thought it would and a bit more! I was happy with the views I got and the wonderful comments…all while hiding out to get it done!
Today, the site’s a bit different. I’ve decided to focus more on food and less on some of the other things I had initially planned. But one thing has fallen dreadfully to the side and today is the day that that changes.
I’ve decided to take regain accountability. I’ve decided to present myself and all of you with a challenge- a 4 week salad challenge.
With the exception of vegetarians, most of us have grown up centering our meals around the meat we eat- we focus on its preparation, the way we need to cook it and what should accompany it. We seldom think of fruits and vegetables in that light. We rarely think to ourselves ‘hmm, what would go good with my Greek salad?’ I think it’s sad that we choose to focus on our meats and neglect our vegetables and fruits -and no, I’m not switching to a vegetarian lifestyle- I just think it’s high time my vegetables and fruits take center stage!
So, I am challenging myself and I’m challenging you! Let’s embark on a 4 week salad regime. Let’s shine a bright spotlight on our salads- vegetable and fruit- for the next four weeks and see what happens!
*NOTE* I define a salad as any vegetable/fruit that can be eaten raw, with a dressing of some sort. For instance, 5 fruits
cut up and placed in a bowl with a bit of lemon juice drizzle on top is considered a salad in my books. Likewise, beans steamed and drizzled with a mustard vinaigrette is also a salad. Once it contains vegetables / fruits and adheres to the rules below, it’s a salad!
Here are the Rules~
For the next four weeks this is what I’ll be doing for lunch/dinner/snacks
- centering my meals around a delicious salad-fruit or vegetable- 3/4 of my plate must be composed of some sort of salad
- choosing raw vegetables/fruits over cooked ones. Cooking methods are restricted to
- ABSOLUTELY NONE of the following:
–sweets: including refined sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave or artificial sweeteners (yuck!)
–fried food: no doubles, KFC, accras, fried bakes, shark & bake, aloo pies-nothing, none.
–tv watching while eating-this includes computer watching
- eating out:
-only if absolutely necessary AND only salads!
- drinking lots of WATER
-12 glasses (8ozs) per day
- exercising 6 days/week
- soups are also allowed- once they are full of vegetables
- snacks will consist of raw fruits/vegetables and a handful (1/4 cup) of nuts/seeds
-dips like hummus are fine once they’re homemade and contain none of foods from the forbidden list above
- Olive oil is the only oil to be used- and I’m limiting it to 1 tsp per meal (where applicable)
Finally, the MOST IMPORTANT rule of all:
I hope today is going well and that everyone is being as productive as possible 🙂
I’ve become slightly obsessed with beets lately- I’ve been juicing them, roasting them, boiling them and eating them in raw salads- I’ve pretty much been doing anything I can think of with beets! They are not grown here in Trinidad (although that’s about to change because I’m planting them to see what happens) so I purchase them at Hilo. I can’t be totally sure that they aren’t grown here, but from the packaging I can tell you that the ones that I’ve come across don’t. I love the intense, bright fuchsia color of these delectable vegetables and can’t seem to get enough of them. I also cooked swiss chard for the first time ever today! I loved the intensity of the colors in the stems and the mildness of its flavor allowing the fish to be the star of my meal.
Oh fish- getting it, cooking it, eating it…I love it all. I find fish so delicious and varied. One fish just never really tastes like another to me (although strangely enough fish can taste like other meats). I purchased mahi mahi recently (unfortunately it was frozen and not fresh, not something I’m particularly happy about, but beggars can’t be choosers) at Seafood Specialists on Royal Road in San Fernando. I got a filet with skin on- another thing I wasn’t too happy about- I don’t like skin on fish or any other meat unless it’s fried and crispy!
So, I thought to myself ‘what can I make today that lets me use both beets and mahi mahi? Well, it was pretty easy. I spoke to my sibling who gives me tons of cooking advice and teaches me a lot about cuisine and techniques- after all that’s what professionals in the industry do- and I was ready to go! I decided on roasting the vegetables and sautéing the swiss chard. Then it was time to decide on the fish and I chose to pan sear it. I hope all of you try this recipe and enjoy it’s down to earth flavorings and no fuss preparations! You must let me know.
Pan- Seared Mahi Mahi Fish
8 ozs mahi mahi fish- cut into 2 filets
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
2 Tsp olive oil
Salt and Black pepper to taste
1 cup water
1 Tbsp white flour
To prepare the fish so as to ‘kill the freshness‘ wash the fish with a mixture of flour and water before seasoning- the fish can be left to soak in the flour/water mixture for about 2 minutes and then rinse with clean water. The fish is then ready for seasoning. Squeeze lemon juice over the fish filets and season with salt and black pepper to your desired taste. Heat olive oil in sauté pan on high heat and toss in sliced garlic, let the edges brown for about 1 minute. Then add in fish filets skin side down and cook for about 2 minutes on each side. When sufficiently browned off heat and cover fish and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with additional lemon wedges if desired.
6 leaves swiss chard, chopped and thick bottom stems removed
1 Tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Pat of butter (optional)
a squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
a pinch of ground nutmeg
Wash and prepare swiss chard leaves. Heat olive oil in pan at medium heat and brown garlic slightly. Add chopped swiss chard leaves and sauté until wilted. Add a small dash of salt, a squeeze of lemon/butter and a pinch of ground nutmeg. Serve hot, immediately.
2 beets washed and peeled
1 sweet potato washed and peeled
4 oz. squash, peeled and seeds and core removed
4 thyme sprigs
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and black pepper as desired
Preheat oven at 450F for about 10 minutes. Cut all of the vegetables to roughly the same size- I find large chunks to be the best- and place in a roasting pan, add salt, black pepper and the leaves of 4 thyme sprigs. Pour over olive oil and mix all of the vegetables so that the oil is evenly dispersed. Lower oven to 375F and roast uncovered for about 25 minutes or until all vegetables are cooked through. Serve hot.
Serving~ 2 persons
Suggestions~ Prepare and put the vegetables to roast before starting on the fish/swiss chard. When the vegetables are near completion start with the Swiss chard and then cook the fish. Serve with white wine as a perfect compliment, I prefer Chardonnay. Try seasonal vegetables or using different flavored olive oils
So today we ventured back to Marabella market to pick up a few essentials. It’s a bit unusual for us to go during the week since we typically go on Sundays, but I had a craving for some fresh citrus and some sweet, ripe plantains.
I’m sure there is a lot of information out there about plantains and indeed I’ve come across many people from Europe and the US who enjoy their unique taste especially when fried as many islanders do. Plantains can really jazz up the most boring dishes by adding that touch of sweetness to counter the savory dishes we prepare, providing a sort of ‘dessert’ like feel to any dish. It’s particularly good when fried in a small bit of oil and eaten with plain white bread or sada roti. When we lived abroad and couldn’t always get access to the sweetest kinds I’d have to settle for half ripe ones or try to artificially ‘ripe’ them by leaving them in black plastic bags-sometimes it worked! But preparation for the ripe vs the green plantains are a bit different. The ripe ones are easily fried (with or without a batter) while the green ones are preferable when making salted plantain chips – similar to potato chips. It really just depends on what you’d like to try and what you’re feeling for. Also, one thing to note about plantains is that of the color of their skin: the ripe ones are yellow with black marks- the riper the plantain the darker and more abundant the marks- the green ones are well, just that, green.
The other item in my market haul that may be unfamiliar to non-west Indians is the portugal (puttigal). It belongs to the citrus family and is eaten in a similar way to oranges and grapefruits- the skin is exceedingly easy to remove and the pegs are removed and enjoyed. I’m sure at some point I’ll have to do a ‘spotlight’ on the portugal or as we say here in Trinidad- the puttigal. It’s sweetness and distinct scent and flavor makes it easy to differentiate from grapefruits and oranges and in the US/Europe can be likened to mandarins and tangerines. We use it to make ‘saga boy’ mojitos down here in Trinidad and believe me when I tell you, it makes the best tasting mojito you will ever have!
I also purchased some lemons today since I’m planning on making some more fish this week. The lemons here are roughed skin and not that typical ‘lemon-y’ color associated with lemons in the US say. Likewise, oranges in the Caribbean aren’t orange! Their color is very similar to that of a portugal or even a white grapefruit, but their sweetness isn’t dependent on the color of their skins.
The mango is large- as you can see from the photos! It’s called a ‘red mango’ (not to be confused with one of Trinidad’s many roadside snacks ‘red mango preserve’. This mango is so sweet and tasty, I myself was a bit skeptical since it was quite firm to the touch. I paid $TT20 for 3 of them- that’s actually a lot in terms of mangos considering half of us on the island have mango trees in our back yards! But I wanted to try it, especially in my smoothies. I don’t regret it!
Of course, my kymit (cayemite) and pawpaw are starring as usual- two of my favorite fruits!
So with some of the market goods I made another detoxifying smoothie- this time with cilantro, parsley, pineapples and chia seeds. It was really refreshing and I must say I really enjoy the taste of these herbs in a drink form! I find them fresh and clean and the smoothies are always so satisfying- which surprises me!
I hope this market haul serves to inform about some of the delicious fruits and vegetables we have here in Trinidad and that when you come to the islands you wouldn’t be hesitant to try any or all of them
Good morning all!
I thought I’d write a little short post this morning about how I’ve been feeling since starting my new lifestyle. It’s been very difficult to stick with getting healthy and to stick to my 7 simple ‘musts’ to getting healthy and staying healthy. Some days I slip up and other days I’m great and really work hard at doing well.
However, be that as it may, these are a few of the things that I’ve noticed and that are helping me to really stick it out. It may be a series of starts and stops for me, but that’s just for now. I wonder though, the people out there that do ‘have it under control’, the people who have never had to try to stay healthy or that have become healthy over time- how many starts and stops have they made? I imagine that being healthy is always going to be about that anyway, isn’t it?
I mean, I think about Christmas time- all the food and the excess alcohol(which never affects me since I’m not a drinker anyway)- I’m sure during times like that healthy people over indulge and savor their food just as much as the unhealthy- the difference is that the healthy take stock of how all the excess makes them feel and they get back on that horse.
Well, I’ve starting taking a lot of cues from my own body recently and I can tell you: going the unhealthy route just isn’t satisfying me anymore. Sometimes I think about how many years I’ve punished my body and it’s really sad. What I do like now though, is that my body is speaking to me a lot louder these days and I am listening.
A few days ago I had been making a lot more detoxifying smoothies and enjoying them while trying to eat clean. Then, I had to attend some family events and all of a sudden I found myself eating stuff that I know just wasn’t clean. My body retaliated. I started getting stomach aches and having to use the toilet A LOT; but aside from that, I started to feel sick. I hadn’t gotten a headache in quite sometime and all of a sudden for 3 days straight I’d wake up having a headache! I also started to feel a bit ‘foggy’ again- you know, a bit like dreaming or just not having the mental clarity?
WELL NO MORE!!!
I can’t continue to do this to myself. It’s just not healthy and I’m putting too much strain on my body and mind.
So, I’ve gone to the market, I have my arsenal of fresh, clean food and I’ve gotten back up on this horse…this time he’s taking me all the way to the finish line!
So today I made a delicious smoothie and wanted to share the recipe with everyone.
It’s very simple and really, you can use whatever ingredients you like. I’ve been reading a lot about juicing and its benefits and discovered that cilantro/coriander (very similar (although much more muted) to shadon beni/bandania found here in Trinidad) is a really good detoxifying herb. Apparently many nutritionists use this herb (coupled with parsley) as the base of many of the ‘green smoothies/juices’ that are popular today as detox drinks. I’m eager to try some smoothies with the shadon beni/bandania and have already thought up one using tomatoes- should taste like seasoned tomato juice!
1/2 cup fresh organic pineapple
1/2 berry mix- blue/black/raspberries
1 ripe starch mango (substitute with any sweet mango)-equals about 1 cup
10 cilantro stalks with leaves attached
1 red apple
1/2-3/4 cup unsweetened, unprocessed pomegranate juice- Dewlands brand is good if you have access to it.
Wash and roughly chop all the ingredients removing any seeds as applicable. Place all in the blender and pulse, adding juice as required. Blend or pour over ice if desired. Garnish with a strawberry/pineapple wedge and some cilantro leaves. Enjoy!
Serving- 1 person~ 1 1/2 cups
Suggestion- Make this ahead of time using lots of frozen fruit of your choice and keep chilled. Perfect as an afternoon ‘pick me up from my blood sugar drop’ and perfect as a detoxifying agent.