Cuchifritos!!!

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Growing up in The Bronx the food landscape represented the people who lived there. From Chinese food to Pizzerias, Jamaican to Chino Latino, Irish Pubs and good old fashioned Diners that served the best breakfasts and burger platters to satisfy your cravings day or night, there was always a place to go to get your comfort food fix, or a taste from your homeland or cultural background. On a side note, did you know that The Bronx is the only one of the 5 boroughs that’s part of the U.S. mainland? 😛

The diversity of the Latin food culture in The Bronx is something that I’ve grown to miss very much since I moved to California many moons ago. There are a few stand out Colombian and Cuban restaurants here in Tinseltown, but there is, at least to me, a lack of the Puerto Rican cuisine that I grew up eating. In particularly, Cuchifrito restaurants. What the flip is or are cuchifritos you ask? Allow me to explain…

Cuchifritos are various types of fried foods that originated in Spain and Puerto Rico, although most Latin and Afro Caribbean cultures have their own variations of them. Cuchi is short for pig or concino, and frito means fried. It was referring to the combination of fried pork prepared with a wide range of ingredients typically prepared in small bite portions and nowadays refers to the types of restaurants that serve this kind of food and frituras.

You’ll also find offerings of Pernil ( roast pork shoulder ) Arroz Con Guandules ( yellow rice with pigeon peas ) P.R. style Fried Chicken, Soups and Stews, Mofongo ( fried plantains mashed up with garlic and chicharron ) and Pasteles ( think tamales made with yuca, potatoes, and plantains instead of corn masa ) just to give you an idea.

It’s basically a full blown starch fest of the most delicious and epic proportions! Some of my favorite cuchifritos are Rellenos de Papa, mashed potato balls filled with seasoned ground beef or cheese and deep fried. So good! Then there’s the various types of Epanadillas that have all kinds of meat and vegetable fillings fried to crispy perfection. And how can I forget Alcapurrias, which is a fritter made with plantain and yautia filled with ground beef and yes… Fried! Absolutely delicious!

Some would say that most of these are an acquired taste, which I suppose is true. But I’m telling you… Once you taste any one of these you’ll be craving them just like I am today. These flavors remind me of my childhood in The Bronx, and both of my Abuela’s cooking. Now that I cook for a living, I have a better understanding and appreciation for it, and I find myself wanting to prepare the food I grew up with for my own family to keep those flavor memories alive and relevant. If you google Cuchifritos, you’ll see what I’m talking about as well as a ton of recipes that I know I’m going to try my hand at and I hope you will, too! Happy Cooking and happy eating!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki 💖✨

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All photos courtesy of google images 😉

Tumeric!

Hello there, Mystic Meows!

Occasionally I get the opportunity to submit a food related quote or two to a major online publication. I posted about this last year on social media when it was first published and figured I’d write about it here on Mystic Meals, since it’s such a great piece, especially looking back on it now and seeing how on point most of the predictions were.

One of Total Beauty s lifestyle contributors, Courtney Leiva, was working on a piece about 13 Food Trends and asked a series of food experts what they thought those foods would be. I chose Tumeric because I was seeing so many of my friends and colleagues not only cooking with it, but using it for its medicinal properties, inner wellness, and incorporating it into their beauty routines in unique and interesting ways. My part of the write up is the 13th ( my lucky number 😊) See below!

I hope you take a look at the article and see if you can spot some of the mentions from it that are trending now. Most of them are and more than a few of them are sure to make your mouth water to try them for yourself, if you haven’t already. I wonder what food beauty trends we’ll be talking about a year from now? Did someone say CBD in just about everything? So many possibilities! Happy cooking and happy reading!

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Cheers, hugs, & meows!

Xo Nikki Meow 💖✨

LA Weekly

Hello there, Mystic Foodies!

Recently I was given the opportunity to submit an article to LA Weekly about some fellow Chef friends of mine who have recently started their own Mexican inspired weekend pop up, Tortilla Con Amor based out of North Hollywood, Ca. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have something I’ve written published in a mainstream publication, and I hope you meows give it read and enjoy the story.

Even if you don’t live anywhere near California, be sure to follow Tortilla Con Amor on social media and watch their food journey unfold, just as my own is blossoming in unexpected ways. I will continue to write for myself, and whoever wants to read about the people, meals, ingredients, and experiences that have and continue to make their impression in my life. You can also keep up with me at Mystic Meals on Instagram!

Happy reading, and happy cooking!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki

https://www.laweekly.com/restaurants/on-the-street-feeling-the-love-at-tortilla-con-amor-10138020

‘‘Tis the season!

Season’s Greetings, dear meows!

Wow! I can’t believe it’s December already! Where did the year go? One more month and then on to 2018! I don’t know about you meows, but 2017 was quite an interesting year for me. Lots of ups and downs, unexpected surprises, a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and a whole bunch of memories! Speaking of memories…

The holiday season is where eating, cooking, and food in general take center stage, at least for me 😉 This year for Thanksgiving, the roasted Turkey I made turned out exceptionally good. Literally picture perfect. See? 😉 ( pat’s self on the back… )

My secret? I dry brined the bird. It’s a great way to impart maximum flavor and ensuring crispy browned skin, while keeping the meat tender and juicy! Here’s a simple and easy dry brine rub that works wonders on Chicken & Turkey! For me, roasting low and slow, then turning up the oven temp towards the end really helps with the end results…

Dry Salt Brine Rub :

3 tablespoons kosher salt 

1 1/2 teaspoons dried herbs, such as thyme, sage, and rosemary, or blend

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (14- to 16-pound) thawed whole turkey (not kosher or pre-salted)

The reason for not using a kosher bird is that they typically have a salted solution added to them. Try to find a bird that has no pre seasoning or solutions injected into it. Use half the amount of rub if you’re using a whole chicken instead of a turkey. Pat your bird dry before adding the rub. They key here is get the dry rub under the skin as best as you can, and using the rest all over the outside of the bird. Then let it rest in the fridge, uncovered for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days max. The process of osmosis will draw out the natural juices from the bird, and then miraculously the meat then reabsorbs them, basically seasoning itself from the outside in. So worth it!

This year for Christmas, I’m not sure what I’m going to make. I’m leaning towards cooking some of the ethnic dishes Colombians and Puerto Rican’s typically prepare around this time of year. Pernil, which is roasted pork shoulder, is always a crowd pleaser and perfect for feeding a ton of meows.

Accompanied by yellow saffron rice, beans, salad and a creamy flan for dessert? Yes, meow! I haven’t made a flan in a while and I hope I haven’t lost my touch!

What are some of your favorite Christmas foods to make? I’ll be back here soon with some more recipes that’ll be great for holidays and beyond! But before I go… Lest we forget to make a yummy cocktail for toasting to the season! I found this one on Pinterest and I’m definitely gonna make a batch of these!

Pomegranate Mules

2oz. Vodka

1oz. pomegranate juice

1 Tbls. pomegranate seeds

1 Tbls. lime juice

1 tsp. honey

1/2 cup ice

Ginger beer or ginger ale

sprig of rosemary

In a cocktail glass, stir together the vodka, pomegranate juice, seeds, lime juice, honey and ice. Top off with the ginger beer and add a sprig of rosemary to garnish.

Thank you meows for being here and I hope to hear from you! Happy Holidays and Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs & meows! Nikki 💖✨😻

Photo credits by Jay Luna, Google images, Micha Morton and Pinterest 😉

Free Products! 

Hello there! 

If you read my Mystic Beauty blog post, then you’ll notice that I mentioned this little gem called Influenster. What’s that you ask? Well, allow me to tell you all about it! Influenster is a website that you sign up for and they email you surveys for different campaigns that they have promoting all kinds of new and tried and true household, beauty, food, and body products. You agree to review the products and tell everyone on your social media outlets that Influenster sent you these products to try for free. 

Based upon your answers to these surveys, Influenster determines whether or not you qualify for that particular campaign’s voxbox of free goodies. They also don’t usually tell you what the campaign is about until you get the email that you’ll be receiving said voxbox. 


I received the Cottonelle voxbox in the mail a few days ago, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting a 6 pack of toilet paper! I thought, perhaps just a roll. So apparently this is a new product in their line, and it’s the Clean Care Mega Roll pack. A six pack of this is equal to buying 24 rolls of their regular toilet paper. And who doesn’t love free toilet paper? That stuff is expensive! When then heck did that happen? 😜

I’ve recieved some great voxbox’s in the past, and they’ve all been pretty varied. From full sized makeup and skincare products, household items and other toiletries, food and snacks, coffee & tea, as well as coupons for free items at the supermarket. I would say that I average between 4 to 6 voxbox’s a year, and that’s not too shabby! So why not sign up and give them a try? Who doesn’t love getting free stuff in the mail! By the way… I’m writing this on my own and this is in no way being sponsored by Influenster. I just thought it would be a cool thing to write about 😋 I hope you meows get lots and lots of awesome products to try! Thanks for hanging with me! Cheers, hugs & meows! 💖✨Click > Influenster

Nikki Meow 

Full Moon Fever! 

Picture of the moon from the Apollo 11 Mission. Photo credit: NASA

How many times in your life have you said or heard the phrase, “It must be a full moon” 😉

Ever notice how crazy things seem to get around the full moon? Electronic gadgets and what not start to act all wonky, or have difficulty working… People start behaving strangely or are either hyper sensitive, really agitated or even angry at the world… Or all of the above! Even Earth’s creatures are effected by the power of the moon. As for me, I tend to start craving sweets like chocolate or cakes and stuff like that. I wonder why? 🤔

What is it about the full moon’s energy that has such an effect upon our planet and its inhabitants? Since it’s September, this month’s full moon is known as The Harvest Moon. And the last lunar eclipse of the year occurs this weekend, coinciding with full moon for a second time in 2016. So the energy level coming from the universe is amped up and emanating some powerful stuff! This is when we need to heed The Caterpillars advise to Alice when he tells her to “Keep your temper”. 😉 And I suppose to ask the universe for whatever help or guidance we may be in need of. Here are some interesting myths and theories about the Mystic powers and occurrences that our full moon provides… 


Before modern lighting, the bright light of the full moon was said to keep people up at night and cause sleep deprivation. Ever notice that you have difficulty falling or even staying asleep around the full moon? There’s definitely a biological connection for sure. 



They say that injuries and visits to the ER tend to increase around the full moon. Why this is, I have no idea! 😝Police even tend to report a higher amount of criminal activity on or around the full moon. People just start acting crazy, wilder even, or like “lunatics”. The term comes from the Roman Goddess of the moon, Luna, which is from the Latin “lucere”, meaning “to shine”. 



Then there’s good old Aunt Flow who likes to come around for a visit once a month, sometimes completely unannounced. RUDE! This doesn’t apply to all women of course… Perhaps it has something to do with the moon’s connection to fertility. The menstrual and lunar cycles are rather similar… 🤔 


February is the only month of the year that can occur without a full moon. The full moon happens every 29.5 days. 

The full moon is considered to be unlucky if it occurs on a Sunday, but lucky if on a Monday. Don’t ask me why… 😜 In fact, the name Monday is from the Middle English “Monenday” meaning, “moon day”. 


I mean, I could go on and on about that celestial satellite of ours. The moon, for whatever it’s purposes helps to bring balance to the force. You can’t have light without dark… Happiness without sadness… And so on. But as I always like to remind myself, knowledge is power. Whether it be fact, theory, or myth… It all helps us be more in tune with the cosmic forces that surround us and have a better understanding of the “stranger things” that happen to us from time to time. Man there are a lot of quotations in this blog, huh? 😝😝😝So next time the full moon rolls around be mentally armed and ready for a bit of restlessness and high energy. That way we’ll be able to deal with whatever gets thrown our way… Maybe. 😉 Thanks for hanging with me, you full moon babies! Cheers, hugs and meows! 


Nikki Meow


Pictures courtesy of NASA and Google 😊

 

French Onion Soup! 

Do you ever just get stumped on what to cook for yourself or your family? As a Chef, there are times when I can be really whimsical and creative in my own home kitchen. But when you have a picky 2 1/2 year old it gets a little crazy sometimes to think up meals that they’ll eat. To be honest though, sometimes it’s easier feeding my daughter than it is to feed myself!

I suppose it’s because of the repetitive aspect. The food rut. That’s where we tend to make and eat the same foods on a loop, over and over again because it’s either quick, easy, doesn’t require too much thought, or all of the above. We all need some inspiration to help motivate us, right?

Well here in SoCal where I live, the weather’s starting to go through “the change”. 😛 Meaning that the temperature’s starting to get a little colder. Out of nowhere I had this wicked craving to make French Onion Soup. Does that ever happen to you? You start craving something all friggin’ day long and you just have to have it or make it? So, that’s exactly what I did.

I started by slicing up 4 medium sized onions. 2 yellow and 2 red. That just happened to be what I had on hand, but you can use whatever combo of onions you like, including shallots, scallions, etc. They all have a delicious flavor profile that will add to the end result of your soup if you decide to make some for yourself.

Then I added about 1/4 cup of olive oil to my cooking pot ( at medium heat) and added in the sliced onions to begin caramelizing them and cook them down. My goal here is to brown the onions and release their natural sugars without burning them. This, for me, took about 25 minutes.

Once my onions were nice and sexy, I added 3 cloves of crushed garlic, thyme, ( fresh or dried) 3 cups of beef stock (I just happened to have some) and 3 cups of water, salt and pepper. That was it. I let that cook on a medium low flame for about 1 1/2 hours, reducing the broth by at least a third to help concentrate those flavors. I found myself adding more salt and about 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar to help balance that savory sweet taste I was looking for.


Of course you can also use chicken stock, vegetable stock, or plain water to make this soup. Just adjust the seasonings to your liking. This recipe is by no means a traditional version of French Onion Soup, just my way of making it, especially when you have to make changes based on what you have in your fridge or cupboard.

However, another key element to this soup is cheese and croutons! When you order this at a restaurant it typically comes garnished with a crouton completely covered in thick, melted, glorious, golden brown bubbly broiled Gruyere or Comte cheese! Well… I didn’t have any of that 😏 I did have some Swiss, Mozzarella, and some good old fashioned white bread! So I fired up the oven to 350 degrees, put my bread on a sheet pan, added the cheeses and let them get nice and toasty for about 20 minutes.

Then I ladled my soup into a bowl, cut up the croutons into bite sized pieces and placed them right on top of the soup. Man oh MAN was this a delicious meal! Granted, it wasn’t exactly what I would make in a restaurant setting or even be served as a diner, but that’s not the point. I was able to achieve the flavors and textures I was looking for simply by working with what I had, and not letting the lack of certain other ingredients prevent me from making the soup anyways.


I think that’s what happens to us in our kitchens as well… We’ll look around and go, I don’t have this, or I only have 3 of the 5 things I need to make it, and then we end up making something else instead of just giving it a go and thinking outside the box. Cooking requires a lot of compromise and last minute changes, and it’s in those moments that we create something really unexpected. One of the most important things to do when cooking is to keep it simple. Simplicity.

And of course, cook with lots of love. From the heart. ❤️ I was really happy with the way the soup came out and was glad that I decided to make it! I hope this helps inspire you to get in your kitchen and make a soup, or even order a bowl of French Onion next time you go out to eat and it’s on the menu. Thanks a lot for hanging with me! Cheers, hugs & meows!
Nikki Meow

Top photo courtesy of Google 😉

Hot Sssauce is Top Boss, Baby!

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They say some like it hot. Although I don’t take my love of spicy food to the atomic level, I do like a nice kick to certain things from time to time. For example… I love a Gyro or Philly Cheesesteak with Tabasco. I also love me some Frank’s Red Hot on a chicken sandwich or of course, buffalo chicken wings! And then there’s Sriracha to drizzle over some noodles or add the perfect amount of spice when I make my own peanut sauce. And Sambal, and Chipotle, and Cholula, and Green Chili and… Ok. You get my drift, right? There’s a whole world of yummy hot sauce’s out there and they all bring both flavor and heat to the table.
Now my boyfriend Jay takes his love of spice to a whole other level. He’ll eat raw spicy chili’s like Jalapeño’s, Serrano’s, Hot Italian Peppers, Red Chili’s and STILL add more hot sauce on top of that with pretty much every meal. As far as he’s concerned, the hotter the better! What is it about eating spicy food that’s so appealing? I mean, it’s almost punishing if the heat keeps building up as you go, yet it also gives you a sort of rush, doesn’t it?
Here’s a few tid bits I’ve learned along my spicy culinary journey…

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Peppers are members of the Nightshade family and are related to Eggplants and Tomatoes, and although we eat them as a vegetable, technically they’re a fruit. We do that with a lot of produce, don’t we? It’s all in the mind… 😉
Capsaicin is the main bio active compound which provides their unique hot taste and other health benefits. Chili peppers are full of vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin C, which helps support your immune system, and is an antioxidant, Vitamin B6 helps to boost your energy and metabolism, Vitamin K1 is important for healthy bones and kidneys, Vitamin A, which starts out as beta carotene in the chilis, Copper, another antioxidant important for strong bones and healthy neurons, and Potassium, which is a mineral that serves a variety of purposes to the body and may help in preventing heart disease.

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Capsaicin also helps to promote weight loss by giving your metabolism a boost. By the way… If you over indulge while eating something spicy, drinking water won’t cool your mouth down. Capsaicin is lipid soluble, so drinking milk, eating rice or even bread helps to break up the heat.
Capsaicin also has this crazy reputation for relieving certain kinds of pain and is even used in topical creams to rub on particular types of wounds and to alleviate Arthritis! How cool is that? Now I’m not saying to start scarfing down raw chilis or taking shot glasses full of hot sauce as a chaser ( although I’m sure we all know someone who would… 😝) but incorporating some spice to your food life might not be such a bad idea.

Make a spicy pico de gallo, or add some sliced Jalapeño’s to your next bowl of soup or chili. Add some to your eggs. Buy some hot sauces to try out and start sprinkling some on your pasta, rice, steak, fish, you name it. Why not? Just remember not to touch your face, eyes and um… other places without washing your hands thoroughly or you’ll be in for quite a spicy, burning surprise!

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It’s the oils from the chili peppers that sticks to our skin. Dish soap actually works really well at getting rid of hot pepper hands 😉
Well meows… I hope this little blog inspires you to be adventurous and gets your mouth watering for something spicy and delicious. I’d love to hear about what some of your favorite hot sauces and spicy dishes are! Thanks for hanging with me 💖 Cheers, hugs & meows!

Nikki Meow

Disclaimer : Some photos courtesy of Google 😊

Honey, Hunny, Huhhneee!

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Honey, Hunny, Huhneee!

We absolutely LOVE honey in our house. We’re almost never without it in our cupboard and our daughter, Nia asks for it by saying “huhhhhneeee!” 😋 Just like my little girl, my own fascination with honey began when I was a child learning how to read. One of my favorite books from my childhood was Winnie the Pooh. I enjoyed looking at the illustrations and got a kick out of some of the shenanigans he would get himself into for his favorite food… “Hunny” 😉
I’ve tried all kinds of honey on my culinary travels and some are far better than others. I find myself purchasing organic honey or straight from the beekeeper at my local farmers market. Wildflower, Orange Blossom, Clover, Tupelo… They all have very distinct colors and flavors. It’s kind of difficult to back peddle into buying and consuming anything less than top shelf golden goodness. Organic raw honey just tastes far superior to most of the store brands that I grew up with.
Most brands of honey are mixed and contain corn syrup or other liquid sweeteners and lose a lot of their nutritional value in the heating process of factory bottling. image Although the price may be a bit higher, I’m willing to dish out the extra bucks for better taste and quality of organic or farmers market honey. Especially since, in my household, we use it for more than just sweetening our oatmeal or tea. Honey has a vast array of uses and has a buttload of health benefits.
The use of honey goes waaaaay back. Like 2,500 years and has been used by so many different cultures for its medicinal qualities as well as it being pretty damn tasty! Here’s a small list of some of it’s various uses and health benefits…

Weight Loss: When honey is consumed with warm water, it helps to digest the fat stored in your body.

Vitamins and Minerals: Honey contains Calcium, Vitamin C, and Iron

Skin Care: There’s a reason that milk and honey are often served together. They both help in maintaining smooth, beautiful skin. Add enough honey to taste in either warm or cold milk. You can also sprinkle a few drops of vanilla extract or even better, half of a fresh vanilla bean for added flavor!

Sleep: Honey helps to trigger melatonin and regulate stress levels in the body, allowing us to just simply relax and achieve REM sleep.

There are like a gazillion other uses and benefits to consuming raw organic honey! It’s crazy how great this stuff is for our bodies and can be substituted for white sugar in almost every recipe. The general rule of thumb for doing this is to reduce the amount in 1/4 cup intervals. So if your recipe calls for 1 cup of white sugar, you can use 1/2 to 2/3rds cup of honey.
Honey also makes killer sauces and marinades. Try making your own honey mustard sauce, or a salad dressing with your favorite vinegar or fresh lemon juice and oil. Honey is so versatile and it’s culinary uses are up to you!
So the next time you’re out shopping or even better, at a farmers market, check out the honey booth and ask for some samples. Even if you don’t end up buying anything, at least you’ll have had your honey fix for the day. I hope this encourages you to get your honey on with your hunny, and be creative with how you use your huhhhhneeee! Cheers, hugs & meows!
Nikki Meow