Arroz con Pollo by Charlie

mmmmmArroz con pollo is one of my favorite things to cook. This is a variation of my Abuela’s pressure cooker recipe. You get a whole meal in one pot and it’s one of those magic dishes that’s even better the next day (like lasagna). It’s ok if you don’t have a pressure cooker, just increase the rice cooking time appropriately. Thighs and drumsticks are more typical but I use a whole chicken because I like the contrast. If you’re trying to impress your new girlfriend, get some multicolored bell peppers, add diced pimientos and tell her that you used saffron.

1 4-6 lb whole chicken (or thighs and drumsticks)
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
5 oz can of tomato paste
2 bay leaves
small jar of pimiento stuffed olives
1 lb yellow rice
16 oz beer
16 oz water

Break down the chicken into drumsticks, thighs and breasts (discard the wings and carcass or save for stock). Remove the skin from the thighs and breasts (else it becomes soggy) and cut the breasts into 3-4 smaller chunks. Brown the chicken with some olive oil in the pressure cooker over medium-high heat and set aside in a bowl (don’t cook fully). Add more oil if necessary and cook the onions in the chicken juice over medium heat until translucent (5 min). Add the green pepper and cook for few more minutes. Push the pepper and onions to the side of the pot, add the garlic to the exposed bottom and cook another minute until it smells great. Add the tomato paste, stir and cook for a couple of minutes to cook out the raw tomato flavor. Add the water, beer, bay leaves, olives & olive juice, salt and pepper, and stir. Submerge the chicken in the pot along with any collected juice and add the rice to the spaces between the chicken. Raise the heat to high and close the lid tightly. Once the pressure cooker starts making noise, reduce the heat to med-low and set a timer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, wait for the pressure cooker to calm down, open the lid carefully and stir. The rice should be slightly wet, if it’s very wet cook uncovered for another few minutes on low, stirring regularly so the rice on the bottom doesn’t burn. Make sure you don’t drool into the pot. Enjoy!

If you’re having guests over you can do most of the cooking before they arrive and take a short break between adding the chicken and adding the rice. Go entertain your guests, just make sure you leave the pot covered on a low simmer to keep the chicken in the safe zone.

Rex Fabrics is “Lit’rally Buh-nanas”

One of the missions while in Miami was to find THE wedding dress.  In true Jennie-fashion, I printed up about 20 dresses that I had found in magazines and online, totally prepared.  I went to almost every store in Miracle Mile with my very patient cheering squad.   I would walk in, show the bridal salon sales person the print-outs, and they would inevitably say, “oh those are pretty, but we don’t have anything like that.”  With the exception of a handful of dresses almost everything looked the same: strapless on top with a duvet cover garnish on the bottom and tons of “ruching” (I had to google how to spell that).

Don’t get me wrong, most of these dresses were beautiful but they were all the same, and not “me.”  I don’t want a dress that would detract from the purpose of the event, and I don’t want something that looks like something you’d throw on your bed in the winter:

Coco lays upon my duvet

So I would ask the woman helping me, “do you have something maybe with straps or something? And less ruching?  And less poofy.”  So the bridal staff person would bring something like this:

So I would say something like “do you have something a little less Miss Venezuela?” “maybe a little more simple” and then my grandmother would say something in agreement like, “jes, somsing wis less bling bling” (yes, something with less bling bling).  You know there is a communication failure when “bling bling” is used by someone who has learned English as a second language.  Speaking of bling, there was even one dress that had an ARROW made of bling pointing towards the procreation zone.  Is this necessary?

Downward pointing arrow atop the uterus

The women that work at the stores, for the most part, know absolutely nothing about dress making.  They didn’t know what the fabric would look like if you chose it in an alternate shade of white, they didn’t know which fabrics photographed well, they didn’t know what shades would look good on ones skin tone, and they definitely didn’t make any fabulous suggestions on what would look good, a-la Randy on Say Yes To The Dress.  I personally think that individuals selling garments for $3000+, that one will wear for maybe 7 hours, should know a little something about the product. *(See Disclaimer)

I tried on approximately 187 dresses in varying shades of ivory before I decided to check out Rex Fabrics (hereinafter Rex).  I have a friend that works there, and had heard they employ a team of seamstresses that can make you a dress that is limited only by your imagination’s ability to dream it up.  I walked into Rex and was instantly blown away.  The amount of fabrics they have will blow your mind.  The place is literally floor-to-ceiling fabrics.  And not just any fabrics, beautiful fabrics you just HAVE to touch to believe.  **(See Disclaimer)  And not only can they can make you anything you want, the staff knows everything there is to know about fabric.  Next time I’m in Miami I’m going to spend an entire day at this place just looking at what they have.  Here are some pictures I took while inside.

* They weren’t all abysmal idiots.  The women at Chic Parisien, J del Olmo and Miami Couture Bridal were more helpful than the individuals at the other bridal salons I went to.

** Rex Fabrics didn’t pay me to say these things. You really must see it to believe it.

Everybody’s Got a Cousin in Miami

For Christmas we went down to Miami for a week to celebrate the holidays and get some wedding-related things done.  We had to drive because we were bringing Princess Coco Puffs, and it was too cold to fly with her.

Since we were going to hit the road at 4am, we loaded everything that needed to go in the car into the living room.  This is when Coco figured out something was happening.  She wasn’t sure what was going on, but she was sure that she was ready to go “outside.”  Outside means walks, outside means rides in the car, and best of all, outside means the d-o-g-p-a-r-k.   We can’t even say that word now or Coco will look at us with a face that could only mean she’s thinking: “I know those words. YES the dog park! Bananas! Yesssss, we’re going? If we don’t go to the dog park I’m going to keep staring at you with these guilt-tripping-eyes.  Maintain. Eye. Contact. With. Owner. Until. She. Puts. You. In. Car”  In this case, outside meant a whole day in the car, but on the other side would be the bestest d-o-g-p-a-r-k in the world.  Miami.

Not sure why all this crap is in the living room, but you guys aren't leaving me in that crate.

So we got in the car and drove, and drove, and drove.  This is what we saw in the rear view mirror:

And when I reclined the seat to take a nap:

heh heh heh heh heh

The wait was worth it though, because once in Miami she got to play with her new boyfriend Wilson.  Miami was awesome for Coco.  There was Wilson, and sprinklers!  All Coco needed in life was Wilson and sprinklers.

Dog Blur

Miami was Coco’s new favorite place.   She even learned to return footballs!

When in Rome...

She got to play with her cousins Barkley and Wally in Pinecrest.  Barkley even let Coco try out her bed.

Have you eaten pork and yuca?

Madam Barkley

I fit!

The highlight of the trip was going to the beach with her cousins Emma and Mollie.

Wait, let me check if Emma ate pork and yuca!

Water dog

Mother-Daughter photo shoot

Coco even got to put the “nut” back in Coconut at the King Mango Strut Parade.  Her favorite part was sitting on Charlie’s lap the whole time.

Miami also had little tiny humans to play with.

And beds that allowed dogs.

When it was time to jump back in to the car and go back to Virginia Coco was sad to go.

Nothing that a rolled-down window couldn’t fix.

And when we got back to Virginia, Coco was all sorts of depressed for two days.  I’ll guess we’ll have to go back soon.

OMG, snow is my FAVORITE you guys!

I know what you’re thinking, all you want for Christmas is more pictures of Coco. Don’t worry, me too. Luckily it snowed the other day and I got to take these pictures of her playing around.

Consumption Reports: Stone Crab Claws!

A coworker asked about the market price for stone crab claws and I was embarrassed to realize that I didn’t have the slightest idea.  I didn’t even know whether they would be cheaper in South Florida or Northern Virginia… the assumption, of course, being that they’d be cheaper in FL.  Having participated (twice) in pulling stone-crab traps with my step-dad, I felt this was something I should know.  I went straight to the source of all knowledge, Google, but couldn’t find a viable answer.  So, after work, I started calling around the different fish markets in South Florida and Washington, DC.

The first place (Garcia’s) had a Spanish speaker answering the phone, which made me realize, once again, that I don’t practice my Spanish enough because I didn’t know how to say “Stone Crab” in Spanish.  So I went to the source of all Spanish knowledge who I knew would answer her phone, my Grandmother.  Luckily, she was at, what sounded like, a Cuban-older-lady Convention, which turned out just ended up being a lunch in Pinecrest.  She didn’t immediately know the answer because “we didn’t have stone crabs (pronounced: eh-ston-cra’) in Cuba,” so she proposed the question to the group. “(Upside down question mark) Como se dice eston cra‘ en espanol? (How do you say eston cra’ in Spanish?) And then the group began to debate it, everyone speaking at the same time, loudly.  It sounded something like this (All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, is purely coincidental.):

Abuela: Como se dice eston cra’ en Espanol? (How do you say eston cra’ in Spanish?)

Maria Mercedes de la Portilla Balart: Ya tu sabes! (Oh boy!)

La Bacardi: Imaginate tu, eso no existia en Cuba. (Imagine that, we didn’t have those in Cuba.)

Dulce de Leches: Ang-ha, no lo teniamos en Cuba. (Yep, we didn’t have those in Cuba.)

Luz del Marisol: En Cuba teniamos cangrejo de tierra (In Cuba we had land crabs.)

Abuela: Yennie, es que no teniamos eston cra’ en Cuba. (Jennie, everyone agrees we didn’t have those in Cuba)

Turns out, my Grandmother was right, the answer was simple: “We didn’t have those in Cuba.” Unsatisfied, I asked her if they could come up with a guess as to what it would be.  More debating in the background… then they reached a consensus: cangrejo de piedra (crab of stone).  Thanks, I could have come up with that.

So I proceeded to call almost every fish market in South Florida, and two in Northern Virginia.  Here is what I found.  I figured this would be helpful for someone planning on bringing crab claws to their noche buena dinner. Turns out there isn’t a substantial price difference between FL and VA.

Google For The Win

If you love spreadsheets as much as I do, you’ll agree that this link is the best invention in wedding planning EVER (Thanks Isa!):

And many more…

We will be celebrating Charlie’s birthday this weekend!Chachi

Mini Carlos

Happy San’geebing!

If you’re Hispanic, or know someone who is, you’re familiar with the patron saint of Thanksgiving, San Geebing.  This year, we celebrated Thanksgiving with some of my family, and it was my job to bring salad (easy enough) and appetizers for 20 people.  I got the recipe ideas from this food blog, and then kind of made it work with what I had.

First, I made a leek and gruyere quiche, which I like to think of as Don Quichote, because there is so much cream in the recipe it will turn you into Sancho Panza if you eat half of the thing in one sitting (trust me).  You can get the recipe here.  I substituted smashed salad croutons for the breadcrumbs and substituted plain old from-the-lunchmeat-section bacon for the peppercorn bacon.  Also, I didn’t make the crust from scratch, I used pre-made pastry crust.  The only thing I would have done differently would have been to make tiny mini quiches instead of big ol’ pie-sized ones, so I don’t eat half of it in one sitting since their purpose was to be an appetizer.

I also made rosemary dates wrapped in bacon.  I got the recipe from here.  I substituted a pinch of dried rosemary for the fresh stuff (should have used two pinches).  I’m not such a fan of dates but the recipe came out okay.  If I could have done something different it would have been to use the bacon to wrap mini hot dogs (pigs in a leather jacket?).  I’m not such a fan of dates, but my mom loves them.  When I tried to figure out the nutritional value for these San’geebing snacks I found out that prunes only have .6 grams of fiber, where dates have 1.6 grams of fiber.  So, there you go! (Literally)

Consumption Reports: CPK Crispy Thin Crust

If you’re like me, you’ve caught yourself trying to come up with new ideas to nourish your strapping handsome bridegroom.  If you know us well, you know that Charlie cooks (better) more than I do, so you won’t be surprised to know that when presented with the opportunity to cook dinner, I defaulted to picadillo? beef bourguignon? blinking like I Dream of Jeannie hoping real food will appear? a pizza from my grocer’s freezer.  Not just any pizza, a California Pizza Kitchen Crispy Thin Crust Spinach & Artichoke pizza (I’ve seen fatter Cuban crackers).  The website refers to the pizza as “thin and beautiful.”  Labeling something, “thin and beautiful,” despite its having more fat than a vending machine cinnamon sticky bun (I know those things well) explains everything that is wrong with our society, and this pizza is no exception.  “Thin and beautiful” is okay for Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, but just like a model in [insert magazine that doesn’t pay me to mention them] looks okay on the cover, in real life… SIMPLY STARVING.  Take a look at how the cardboard upon which the pizza sat was almost thicker than the food item itself.  How can any respectable woman feed this to her Brawny man?  And then what am I supposed to eat?  A frozen pie crust full of shame?

So whatever you do, don’t let the cheesy spinachy-ness fool you!  Don’t pay $7 thinking this pizza will do anything other than make you think, “gahhh, I’m still hungry.”  Unless you want to follow that up with a hot dog I threw in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Ceremony Site!

Vow exchangeWe have our gravitas, it’s officially official!  The ceremony will be at Coral Gables Congregational.  Mark your GPSs!