Tag Archives: holiday food

Stuffed Green Banana Fritters, Alcapurrias


They’re not sweet eating bananas nor are they plantains.  They’re what Hispanics, Indians and island people call “green bananas” and they’re heavenly boiled and made into a salad or cooked with root vegetables but everyone’s favorite is the meat stuffed fritter…the alcapurria, pronounced ahl-cah-POO-ree-ah.  Deep fried and savory, this is what we call “un antojo”, a little craving or whim but there is a bit of work involved to make the fritters, well worth every moment spent.  In Puerto Rico alcapurrias are considered street food, found all over the island but especially at the kiosks which line the beaches.  Hot out of the fat, these crunchy fritters will satisfy all and are rich enough to tide one over until the next meal.  My grandmother never made these and they were never served in her house.  This was before the arrival of food processors and, as I mentioned, a tad bit labor intensive.  Plus the green bananas stain everything they touch once peeled, from ones fingers to cutting boards and clothing.  The making of both alcapurrias and pasteles was considered blue-collar work.  So although these dishes are enjoyed during feast days, holidays and beach outings, they  must be ordered in advance if you aren’t willing to make them yourself.  Many home businesses started with women making their own money by preparing pasteles and alcapurrias then either selling them on the street or taking orders in advance.  This year I made the fritters to celebrate Three Kings Day, the sixth of January, a huge holiday in hispanic countries.  Growing up, my family had Christmas in Fort Lauderdale and, the following day, flew down to Puerto Rico to really start the celebration with Mama’s family.  For my older sister, Cynthia, and me those were the days of dollies, tea sets, literature and the occasional treat of an alcapurria.  Feliz Dia de Los Tres Reyes Magos!


  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 4 ounces cured ham, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, about 5 ounces, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, about 3 ounces, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 sweet chile peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 packet Sazon seasoning, found in the hispanic section of your grocery store
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons green olives stuffed with pimento, roughly chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  1. Place all the above ingredients except the capers, olives and ground beef in a food processor and pulse until a chunky paste is formed.
  2. Add the ground beef and pulse until ingredients are completely incorporated.
  3. To a large skillet add the ground beef mixture, the capers and olives and brown over medium heat.  Stir while cooking to mix in the capers and olives.
  4. When the meat is completely cooked remove from heat, allow to cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Green banana paste (masa):

  1. 10 green bananas, not regular eating bananas or plantains but green cooking bananas
  2. 2 pounds yautia (malanga)
  3. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 2 packets Sazon seasoning
  5. Fill a large bowl halfway with tap water and 2 tablespoons of salt.  Set aside.
  6. Using rubber gloves, score each banana lengthwise three or four times.  Slide your fingernail under the scored peel and remove the entire peel from the banana.  Keep a small paring knife close by to help with any trouble spots.
  7. Drop each peel banana into the salted water and continued until all bananas have been peeled.
  8. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the yautia, rinse under tap water and cut into chunks which will fit your food processor tube.
  9. Fit a food processor with the grating blade which has small holes.
  10. With the motor running continually, grate the bananas and yautia.
  11. Discard the water in the large bowl just used, dry the bowl and transfer the grated contents of the food processor to the bowl.
  12. Fit the food processor with the cutting blade, add the grated mixture, olive oil and the 2 packets of Sazon.  Process until completely smooth.
  13. Spray a small pan with non-stick cooking spray, drop one or two tablespoons of banana mixture and flatten and fry until browned on both sides.  This is to taste for any needed salt of seasoning.  Adjust seasonings accordingly.  It’s good, isn’t it?!
  14. Transfer the banana mixture to a large storage container, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • vegetable oil to fry
  1. When ready to assemble and fry the fritters, heat one inch of oil in a large frying pan to about 300° or medium high.
  2. Tear a small piece of tin foil or parchment paper into a 5X3″ rectangle and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Holding the paper in your hand, spoon 3-4 tablespoons of the green banana mixture onto the paper and gently spread it with the back of the spoon into a 4-5″ circle.  Photos are posted below the recipe.
  4. Top the middle of the mixture with 2-3 teaspoons of the ground beef mixture.
  5. Using the back of the spoon, smooth the banana mixture over the meat completely covering it.  Cover any hole with a bit of the banana from the storage container.  The fritter should be the shape of a torpedo without any meat showing through.
  6. Gently slide the fritter into the hot oil and continue shaping the fritters and adding them to the frying pan until the pan is full.  Leave an inch of space between the frying fritters.
  7. Fry the fritters 4-5 minutes and turn them to fry on the other side for 2-3 minutes.
  8. With a slotted spoon, remove the cooked fritters and drain on paper towels.
  9. Continue assembling and frying the fritters until there is no more of the mixtures.
  10. Serve immediately.




Turkey and Sausage Gumbo…the best way to use your leftover turkey!

I’m not a turkey person.  I’m not.  I go for the “oysters” under the turkey that flank the turkey backbone.  It’s dark meat at its unctuous finest but after that the bird is all yours.  If the oysters “disappear” then I won’t be having turkey that year.  I like having leftovers to pack up for Daddy and the traditional sandwiches the day following Thanksgiving but I find, without fail, I always have bags of turkey meat left over.  Mammoth drumsticks pester me from their gallon freezer bags as do equally huge bags of carved white meat.  “Use me! Use me!”, they taunt.  Okay.  Get ready to be scarfed down and enjoyed.  The secret to this recipe is a good roux which takes no talent at all…just time, shugah.  You must, MUST, continually whisk it in order for the flavor to bloom and to avoid scorching.  Scorch or burn the roux and all you can do is throw it out and start over.  It takes roughly 30 minutes to prepare.  But other than that it’s easy, clear sailing.  I’m not going to prepare turkey pot pie, tetrazzini, turkey soup, spaghetti sauce or anything.  I’m not.  I’ll toss it before I make that stuff.  But gumbo?  Oh, yes, ma’am!   This’ll be a family favorite, I kid you not.  It’s cold out and now it’s the Christmas season.  Try it.  You’ll be glad you did.

Turkey and Sausage Gumbo

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

  • 8 cups turkey meat plus the turkey carcass and any bones you wish to use, it’s fine to use more turkey if you have it
  •  enough water to cover the turkey in the pot
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 12-ounce package Aidell’s andouille sausage or the andouille of your choice
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 5 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grated garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • prepared rice to serve with gumbo
  • scallions, sliced, to garnish
  1. Place turkey in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil then cover and drop temperature to a gentle simmer.
  2. While the stock is being prepared add the vegetable oil and flour to a sauce pan and whisk over medium to medium high heat.
  3. Continue whisking the roux until it becomes a dark chestnut color.  Do not walk away from it at any point or it may scorch or burn and there’s no saving it at that point.  You’ll have to start all over.
  4. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and thyme to the roux and stir, cooking the vegetables over medium-low heat until softened.
  5. Remove roux from heat and set aside.
  6. Cut the sausage in 1/4″ thick rounds.
  7. Add olive oil to a skillet and brown the sausage.
  8. Remove any bones from the turkey stock and shred any large pieces of meat.
  9. Add a cup or two of stock to the roux mixture and stir until smooth.
  10. Add the roux mixture and sausage to the stock.  Stir until all ingredients are completely incorporated into the stock.
  11. Simmer until thickened about 2 hours.
  12. Serve over rice and garnish with sliced scallions.


Warm fig, brie and rosemary bites

Hey, y’all!  I’m going straight into this recipe without chit-chatting about having James home this weekend and getting to smother him and cook for him because he was sick with a cold nor will I regale you with details of the Miami Book Fair because I want you to have plenty of time to get your menu together for Thanksgiving.  These warm and gooey appetizers are the perfect combination of sweet and savory but the best part is the dough is already made, rolled out and waiting for you in the dairy section of your grocery store.  I found a new product by a company I NEVER use, Pillsbury, at the store and thought I’d try it out.  Pillsbury now makes  a thin and a thick pizza dough, rolled up and on parchment paper in a plastic tube alongside the boxed pie shells.  I used the thin dough and it was terrific in that the dough is sturdy enough to hold the heavy cubes of cheese and fig jam unlike phyllo which seemed to always fall apart on me.  The mini-bites may be assembled the night prior to baking if kept chilled in the refrigerator.  Try to find a ripe piece of brie to play up its flavor.  If the cheese isn’t fully developed the taste, the character, will get lost in the fig preserves.  Which isn’t a bad thing…I mean, who doesn’t love figs?!  And that gets me to the figs.  This recipe calls for a jar of fig jam, no fresh figs to be cut.  Gosh, but I love this receipt.  The dough is cut into squares with a ruler and a pizza cutter and the cheese is cubed.  The fig jam is already prepared and the fresh rosemary leaves, waiting in the produce department, are either pinched or clipped off the stalk.   Oh, so easy peasy.  Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Warm fig, brie and rosemary bites

  • Servings: 24 bites
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 10X13″ Pillsbury Pizza Dough, thin crust
  • 8 ounces well-developed brie
  • 1 11.5 ounce jar fig preserves, Braswell’s is great
  • fresh rosemary, about 2 stalks
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°.  Cover a 24-cup mini-muffin tin  with non-stick spray and set aside.
  2. Open dough on counter and, using a rolling pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut into 24 even squares.
  3. Firmly press each square into the muffin tin cups.
  4. Cut the brie into 24 cubes and press into the muffin cups.
  5. Cover each cube of cheese with a teaspoon of fig jam.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Do not over bake!
  7. Cool tin on a rack for 5 minutes and while cooling garnish with small sprigs of fresh rosemary.
  8. Serve immediately.


Puerto Rican Pigeon Peas and Rice, Arroz con Gandules

I know I’ve written of Christmas in Puerto Rico but, truly, it is a thing to behold.  The breezes were balmy and cool especially in the mountains where we spent a considerable amount of time during the Christmas holidays.  My sinfully handsome uncle, Tio Enrique, had serious parties on his farm, the entire family coming from all corners of the island.  Often Mama’s second cousins and their families would come and make merry because, as on any island, everyone is family.  The house was big and airy, several balconies had hammocks strung up.  Set back off the main road and nestled within undulating hills, we looked forward all year to the celebrations at Villa Josefina, the farm named after one of Tio Enrique’s sisters, an aunt who died young before I was born.  My parents gave me a second middle name which I share with Josefina.  Villa Josefina was a favorite destination for all of us when on holiday whether we were little ones, during the gawky, awkward preteen years or sophisticated, cigarette smoking, makeup wearing high schoolers.  My uncle gave us free rein and let us take his horses out for a ride whenever we wanted, without even asking.  You want to chew on a stalk of sugar cane?  Go get a machete and cut it down…go on!  You know how to do it!  He didn’t care if we sneaked a smoke behind one of the massive royal poinsiana trees, its fiery flowers blanketing the ground.  On the contrary, he’d bum cigarettes off us.  No.  We were left to do what we like with the only caveat being we had to stay on the property regardless if the iron gates were locked or had been left open.  To pass unsupervised and without permission through those gates was tantamount to that of jumping off a cliff.  We knew without a doubt we were secure and protected from any harm while behind the lovely iron portal.  Well, except one time.  My little brother and sister, Tommy and Pamela, and Tio Enrique’s sons, Quico and Tommy, were careening down a hill in a wobbly wagon which happened to deposit them right in front of the open gates.  Pamela told me she was miserable and frustrated being excluded just because she was a girl.   The more she tried to be part of the fun and excitement, the more they shut her out.  None of the kid’s were aware of any commotion around them; Tio Enrique shouting and running toward them, frantically gesticulating, fell on deaf and uninterested ears.   He was the cool uncle, nothing he did surprised us.   The boys were occupied with an out of control ride as well as thoroughly enjoying a bothered, angry Pamela so all their attentions were focused on that merriment.  Two of my uncle’s workers ran behind him as fast as their legs could carry them.

Tommy and Pamela back at my grandparent's house after an exhausting day of fighting, arguing and tears. With only a little over one year between them, who would have believed that 45 years later they're still best buds?!
Tommy and Pamela back at our grandparent’s house after an exhausting day of fighting, arguing and tears. With only a little over one year between them, who would have believed that 45 years later they’re still best buds?!

When Pamela turned to look where they were excitedly pointing she turned pale at the site of a monstrous, runaway bull charging down the country road straight at them.  A posse of men followed behind the beast futilely attempting the animal’s capture.  The children froze, eyes as big as dinner plates, while the sound of the thundering hooves rained on their ears.  My uncle and his workers slammed the heavy gates shut with barely a moment to spare, the bull swerved, surprisingly agile for such an enormous creature, and continued down the road.  When relief replaced the fear in Tio Enrique he proceeded to give the young boys a blistering tongue lashing.  I watched them hang their heads with embarrassment as he verbally took them to the woodshed.  Pamela relished every moment.  “Your beautiful cousin could have been killed while you played with your wagon!!!” But she wasn’t and minutes later we were all laughing and teasing each other, some were dancing, some were eating, all were drinking.  Feliz Navidad!


This dish of arroz con gandules is a traditional Christmas treat in Puerto Rico, rich with pigeon peas, pork, olives and capers.  It is typically served with pasteles, lechon asado or roasted pig, salads and root vegetables.  Rum and wine cut beautifully through the richness of these foods so feel free to let the alcohol flow.  Arroz con gandules can be prepared with or without pork so if you’d rather not include it just leave out the steps preparing the meat.  And last, when I prepare white rice it’s almost always medium grain.  Short grain can be too sticky or gummy and long grain is just….I don’t know….wrong.  Oh, and this recipe will feed a crowd, too.  So go tropical.  You’ll love it!


Arroz con Gandules or Puerto Rican Pigeon Peas and Rice

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 7 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean pork, in 1/2″ cubes
  • 8 ounces diced ham, I use Smithfield Ham in cryovac pack
  • 2 cups onion, chopped, divided
  • 2 large bell peppers, chopped, divided
  • 1 large bunch cilantro, rough chopped, divided
  • 1 head garlic, minced, divided
  • 5 cups water, divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  •  4 cups medium grain white rice
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2-3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1  21/4-ounce bottle green olives, drained
  • 1 heaping soup spoon of capers
  • 2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 13-ounce can green pigeon peas, rinsed and drained
  • 5-6 culantro leaves, optional (if your store carries them)

Pork mixture:

  1. Over medium heat, pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed, medium size pot.
  2. Add the cubed pork and cook until lightly browned.
  3.  Add the diced ham, half of the onion, half of the bell pepper and half of half of the garlic.
  4. Stir well to coat all the vegetables with the oil, add salt and pepper to taste and 1 cup of water.
  5. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until the pork is tender but not falling apart.  Set aside.
  6.  In a large, heavy bottomed pot or caldero add the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil and raise heat to medium/medium high.
  7. Add the rice and stir well to coat all the grains with the oil.
  8. Add the oregano and paprika and stir until well combined.
  9. Add the olives, capers and tomato paste and mix well.
  10. Pour the entire pork mixture into the rice and stir to combine making certain the tomato paste has dissolved completely.
  11. Add the pigeon peas and culantro leaves if using, the remaining 4 cups of water and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well.  Remember, rice needs salt or it comes out bland.
  12. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 25 minutes or until all the moisture has been absorbed and the rice is tender and fluffy.
  13. Serve hot.


Brie, Thyme and Fresh Cranberry Stuffed Bread

I wasn’t planning on serving an appetizer Thanksgiving Day.  The family dinner was at our house this year.  Everyone was in town and coming late in the day.  I couldn’t wait to have all my people gathered together again.  The house was ready, the dining room table glittered.   I wasn’t going to have a starter course because there was going to be so much food… for crying out loud, it’s Thanksgiving!  But then I thought it would be more fun to have a little something to nibble on with champagne and drinks before dinner.  Not wanting to break the bank OR break my back I decided a holiday stuffed bread was in order.  And because my motto is “more is better” I made two.  My husband, Jimmy, looked at me as though I had two heads.  “I know, I know.  It’s a lot of food but if no one eats it, well, we just wrap them up and have them tomorrow.”  He knows not to argue when it comes to food, bless his heart.  Let me just cut to the chase.  When the two loaves had been plated and my nieces began to make their way through the house serving, you have never seen so many faces light up.  My family pounced on them as if they hadn’t eaten in weeks.  Grownups were licking their fingers.  My brother followed the girls with their trays around the house tearing off chunks of warm, cheesy bread and making happy boy sounds.  My son, James,


was not happy when he saw me tucking fresh cranberries into the cheese but after his first bite was in complete agreement  that the berries were the perfect clean foil against the gooey, richness of the cheese, olive oil and garlic.  Both loaves were gone in minutes.  Minutes!  This recipe is extremely adaptable in that you can substitute the brie for Gruyère, cheddar, mozzarella or the gooey cheese of your choice.  You can tuck in gorgonzola crumbles or shredded parmesan.  Red pepper flakes are wonderful for a little heat.  Not a fan of cranberries?  Try blackberries or raspberries.  I used whole grain boules but white bread would be fine.  Good looking on a table or passed by hand, this starter is perfect for the holidays.  It can be assembled hours ahead, only make certain to wrap it tightly so the bread doesn’t get stale.  Make certain you have plenty of napkins and enjoy!


Brie, Thyme and Fresh Cranberry Stuffed Bread

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 1-pound boule or round loaf of bread, 6″-7″ diameter works well
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste, a healthy pinch of each will do
  • 1/4 pound brie cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup  shredded Italian 5 cheese, I believe I used Kraft but any brand is fine, store brand or whatever’s on sale
  • 1/2 cup or more fresh cranberries or berry of choice
  • thyme sprigs for garnish, optional
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375°.
  2. Making certain not to cut all the way through to the bottom, slice the bread in roughly half-inch slices.  Turn the bread 90° and make 1/2″ slices, again not cutting all the way through.  I find if I hold the bread firmly it keeps it from shredding or tearing too much.  Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl combine olive oil, garlic, thyme leaves, salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  4. Gently stuff the brie vertically in the bread slices.
  5. Pour half of the olive oil mixture as evenly as you can into the open bread spaces.  Set aside remaining oil.
  6. Toss the thyme leaves with the Italian cheese blend.
  7. Gently stuff the Italian cheese horizontally down into the bread.
  8. Pour the remaining olive oil mixture evenly on the bread.
  9. Tuck the fresh cranberries onto the top of the nooks and crannies of the stuffed bread.
  10. Spray a piece of tin foil with non-stick cooking spray and wrap the bread tightly with the foil.
  11. Place on a baking sheet and bake covered for 25-30 minutes.
  12. Carefully unwrap the bread and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
  13. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs and serve immediately.