Friday, March 11, 2016

Our Cuban Food Adventure...

Last weekend, I was able to extend a work trip into a few days of fun in Miami with my friend Katherine. A big highlight of the trip was experiencing Cuban cuisine on Calle Ocho at the iconic Versailles restaurant. Upon arrival, we knew it was going to be good because there was a line wrapping around the entire side of the building and most of the people looked to be local.

During our wait, I decided to do a quick google search to learn a little more about Cuban food, its origin, and the best dishes to order. I learned that Cuban cuisine is actually a blend of Native American, Spanish, African, and Caribbean influence in spice and flavor.

A typical meal consists of rice and beans, cooked either together or apart. If the rice is cooked together with the beans it is called either Congri or Moros. Another common side dish is Platanos Maduros which are just plantains pan fried in oil until golden brown – aye caramba they were good!

Meat is usually paired with the rice and beans and served in a light sauce. The most popular sauce is called Mojo which is made from oil, garlic, onion, oregano, and bitter orange or lime juice. Another prevalent meat dish is called Ropa Vieja which is a beef dish simmered in a tomato-based sauce until the meat falls apart. If you know Spanish you know that Ropa Vieja actually translates as “old clothes”. Pretty clever, huh?

After the long awaited entry, we sat down at our table, opened our menus, and upon viewing the prices our jaws dropped to the floor. Everything was so cheap! Well either that or we were getting used to the South Beach price tag. It didn’t take us long to decide we were going to order a few different dishes and share so we could try as much as possible.

The first dish we shared was an appetizer platter which included an assortment of croquettes and empanadas. We had ham, chicken, and yuca croquettes served with a cilantro sauce. My favorite was the yuca which is a common starchy root vegetable in Cuba that is a deep purple color. We also tried stuffed green plantains with shrimp creole, pineapple, and cilantro. We could have left after the appetizers and would have been completely satisfied. They were delicious!

But it wouldn’t be a successful first Cuban food experience without getting a little bit of the meat sweats! For my main dish I went with the trusty Cuban mojo beef. Katherine went with a sampler platter which included Picadillo, roasted pork, and a Cuban tamale. Picadillo is another traditional Latin dish that is made of ground beef, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, onions stewed together with cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaves. I’ve actually made Picadillo before but Versailles Picadillo put my attempt to shame!

And if all that wasn’t enough food we decided it would be frowned upon if we didn’t try traditional Cuban flan and café Cubano. We also couldn’t resist stopping at the Versailles bakery next door to pick up some sweet treats for later. Overall, Versailles treated us very well. It goes without saying that Versaille is a must if you find yourself in beautiful Miami. I already know what I am going to order on my next visit!

Another area we loved was the neighborhood called the WynWood Art District.  It is located in a struggling neighborhood in an attempt to revitalize the area. If you visit, you will find yourself surrounded by a lively bar and restaurant scene that showcases some pretty talented graffiti artists. In the very center of the district you can visit the WynWood Walls for a pretty spectacular outdoor venue of art. The bars also had a pretty great selection of local craft beers. It is a great area to check-out for a few drinks!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna

This week I have been trying to work out twice a day and eat healthy to prepare for a planned girls trip to Miami Beach! While I was meal planning, I asked my boyfriend for suggestions and he offered the idea of ahi tuna steak. At first, I almost didn’t even consider it because I had no idea how to prepare it.

After trying this recipe, I now know it is as easy as pressing on sesame seeds on the fish and cooking it for 2 minutes per side. I won’t lie every time I see ahi tuna sitting there all pink and beautiful in the seafood counter behind the glass I am always tempted to buy it. I think now this is going to be a more frequent occurrence for me!

Ahi tuna steak could honestly be topped on pretty much any assortment of salad ingredients or pair with any side of veggies. I even think the fish mixed with the right salsa would make for an awesome taco! I can’t stress how easy the preparation is. Just think of how much money you could save by making this at home rather than ordering something similar at an Asian fusion or sushi restaurant.

What is better than feeling like you’re a professional sushi chef?


3 cups mixed salad greens
1 red pepper, chopped
½ cup cooked edamame
¼ cup carrots, julienned
1 avocado, sliced
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
¼ cup wonton strips

1 pound ahi tuna
1 tablespoon EVOO
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds

2 teaspoons wasabi paste
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon ginger, grated

Spicy Mayo:
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce
1 teaspoon lime juice

Assemble vinaigrette, spicy mayo, and salad then set aside. Press sesame seeds into the tuna on all sides. Heat EVOO in a pan over medium-high heat and sear tuna in pan for 2 minutes per side. Transfer to cutting board to slice. Top salad with tuna and drizzle your desired amount of vinaigrette and spicy mayo.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 tbsp cornstarch
½ tsp black pepper
1 tbsp canola oil
½ cup soy sauce
4 tbsp rice wine vinegar
4 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup cashews
½ cup green onions

Chop chicken into 1 inch pieces. Put chicken in Ziploc bag, add cornstarch, and shake until chicken is completely coated with cornstarch. In a skillet, heat canola and cook chicken for about 2 minutes per side until browned. Transfer chicken to crockpot. Mix the remaining ingredients (except cashews and green onions) and pour over chicken in crockpot. Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours. Stir in cashews and green onions right before serving.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Sweet Potato Black Bean Bowl

Recently, it seems meatless “bowls” are the new food fad! Every restaurant I have visited in the past couple months seems to offer some sort of veggie bowl variety. So, of course, I wanted to give it a try! I absolutely love roasted sweet potatoes so I knew I wanted to add them to my bowl. Adding cumin and chili powder definitely boosted the sweet potato flavor – I don’t think I will make them any other way from now on! Although it was a close race with the spiced sweet potatoes, my favorite part of this dish was actually the cilantro cream. I don’t know about you but sometimes my taste buds need a little relief from the heat. Hope you guys enjoy and share with me your own “bowl” test run! I always love hearing a creative take on an existing recipe.  


Roasted Sweet Potato:

2 medium sweet potatoes

1 teaspoon EVOO

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt



1 cup quinoa

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Juice of half a lime


Cilantro Cream:

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup cilantro

1/4 teaspoon honey

Juice of half a lime

Pinch of salt, garlic powder, and chili powder

Other Ingredients:

1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained

Cilantro for garnishing

Lime for garnishing




Peel and dice sweet potatoes and mix with EVOO and spices. Roast in a 425 degree F oven for 15 minutes, stirring half way through with a spatula. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook quinoa according to the packaged instructions. Don’t forget to rinse before you boil! Remove from heat and stir in spices and lime juice.

In a food processor add cilantro cream ingredients. Blend well.

Assemble in bowl in this order: quinoa, black beans, sweet potatoes, cilantro cream, cilantro, lime slices. Feel free to add salsa, corn, jalapeños, etc.

Dig in and ponder why you aren’t a vegetarian!

Coconut Curry Mussels

Not much beats a date night in accompanied with a big pot of steaming mussels and good conversation. I am a seafood fanatic and I constantly crave mussels. Stephen is a devoted bread lover and welcomes any opportunity to consume an entire loaf. I will admit, I do love dipping fresh baguette in any type of broth. For our most recent date night I wanted to get away from the typical buttery garlic shallot broth. I had coconut milk and red curry paste sitting in my kitchen cupboard just waiting to be used, so I gave it a try. I am glad I did because let me tell you... coconut milk and red curry paste are a winning combination! The week after I made this recipe, I used the same broth to make a veggie shrimp soup. Mmmm!


2.5 pounds fresh mussels

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon EVOO

1 sweet onion

2 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons red curry paste

1 (14-oz) can of coconut milk

¼ cup chicken stock

2 green onions

Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub, clean, and remove beards from mussels and place in a large bowl of ice cold water.

In a large stockpot, heat butter and EVOO. Stir in onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook until slightly softened. Stir in curry paste and continue to stir. Add coconut milk and chicken broth.

Bring mixture to a simmer then reduce the heat to medium low. Add mussels and cook for about 5 minutes. Garnish with green onion and serve with a few slices of French baguette.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Spanish Beef and Avocado Rice Bowls

Serves 4

1 cup brown rice
3/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
1/4 cup pitted green olives, sliced
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
16 oz sirloin steak
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
4 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 avocado
salt and pepper to taste  

Place fresh sirloin steak in freezer for 45 minutes. Remove and slice thinly.

Cook brown rice according to package directions.

Combine roasted red peppers, olives, capers, and vinegar.

Heat EVOO in a skillet, add cumin, and cook sirloin steak as desired.

Divide rice evenly and top evening with lettuce, meat, avocado and red pepper-caper-olive mix. 


Monday, January 11, 2016

Jack Stack BBQ Beans

Since living in Kansas City, I have been pretty spoiled with barbecue. Every time I have visitors I have to show off at least one famous barbecue restaurant. Although many would probably argue, I think Jack Stack is the best. I say this solely due to their beans. No other barbecue restaurant in KC even compares. A side dish of their beans could be a meal in itself with how generous they are with their tender large hunks of brisket. My mouth is watering just thinking about them! Trust me, ordering their original BBQ sauce off their website will be well worth it for a big pan of these beans. They are soooooooooo good!



32 oz pork n beans

1 cup chopped brisket

1 cup Jack Stack BBQ sauce

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon chili powder

½ cup ketchup

½ cup water

1 teaspoon liquid smoke



Boil in saucepan. Simmer 20 minutes. Serve. Try not to lick your bowl.