Chicken Gyoza~Potstickers

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Asian cuisine is one of my favorites. Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese… I love it all. So as I get older, I’m trying my best to master some of the dishes that I frequently order when going out to dine, or ordering take out. Gyoza is one of those delicious dumplings that I eat a lot at restaurants, and now make quite often at home.

I pan fry them in a bit of oil to crisp them up, then add a splash of water and cover them to steam cook for a couple of minutes. This was actually a recipe I planned to post a while back, so forgive me if the pictures aren’t that great, ( since I like to think my most recent food pics have gotten much better πŸ˜›) but the recipe itself is pretty easy to prepare and the end result is yummy as all get out!

I think meows get intimidated by the idea of making certain stuffed pasta dishes like ravioli, for example because we have it in our heads that you have to have a certain kitchen skill set to pull it off. I mean, if you can take a circle and fold it over into a half moon, then you can make pot stickers. As with anything, practice makes perfect. I also think it’s the “pleating” of the edges with pot stickers that makes folks think twice about trying their hand at it.

The main reason why most professionals, Chefs included, are good at what they do, is repetition. Doing the same things over and over again until it becomes second nature. That’s all. Cutting, chopping, grilling, sautΓ©ing, pasta making. The more you do it, the better you get. So when making gyozas, just remember that some will look better than others, but in the end, it’s the tlc you put into what you cook that matters.

And by the time you serve them, they’ll be gone in a flash! I also use bagged cole slaw mix in the filling. It already has chopped cabbage and carrots, and is cheaper than buying a large head of cabbage & carrots separately, unless you’re feeling crazy and just wanna go for it. I just try not to buy more than what I’m actually going to use… πŸ˜‰

So here’s the recipe for the chicken gyozas. These also freeze really well if you go all ham and make a bunch more than you’ll eat in one sitting. I hope you have fun making these delicious little bites of yumminess!

Chicken Gyoza Potstickers

1 pound ground chicken

2 pieces of green onions, sliced thin and chopped

1 1/2 cups of cole slaw mix, roughly chopped

1/4 cup of soy sauce

1 large clove of chopped garlic

1 Tbls. sesame oil

1 teas. grated ginger

1. In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together until well combined.

2. Take one Gyoza wrapper and place a heaping teaspoon of the chicken mixture in the center of the disk.

3. With your finger, add a bit of water to the edges of the gyoza wrapper, and seal the wrapper, making a half moon shape.

These were pleated because I’m a fancy pants chef… πŸ˜‚ But don’t you worry about that. Keep going!

4. Place each filled pot sticker sitting up to form a flat base on the bottoms. Continue to fill until you’ve used all the wrappers.

5. In a large non stick frying pan on medium heat, add 2 Tbls. of vegetable oil and place 10 to 12 potstickers in the pan, flat bottom side down. Fry for about 3 to 5 minutes or until golden brown. Turn to brown the sides and cook for about 2 minutes.

6. Add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover the gyoza and let them steam for 3 minutes or until the water is dissolved. Remove from the heat, and continue to cook the gyoza repeating the steps above. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy!

The sauce you see in the bowl is a mixture of soy sauce, chopped green onion, chopped garlic, a rounded Tbls. of brown sugar, Sambal and Sriracha. So good!

And there you have it! Another Mystic Meal to add to your repertoire! It’ll be one of those dishes that will make the meows in your life feel special because of all the love that goes into preparing them. And it’s worth it! Thank you so much for stopping by, dear reader! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!!!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki πŸ’•βœ¨

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Manilla Clams with Spicy Charred Tomatoes and Pancetta

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

I really do love seafood. Heck. I just love food! And I love to eat… and cook, of course! πŸ˜› I especially enjoy clams. Not too big on eating them raw, I must admit, but I can get down on a bowl of some yummy linguine with clams, stuffed clams, clam chowder. I think you get my drift.

When I’m setting out to create these recipe blogs, I’m never really quite sure what I’m going to make until I take a look at what I have in terms of ingredients, and basically work around that. I haven’t had clams in a while, and it’s another one of those dishes that remind me of Summer on the East Coast.

So I set my devilish cooking plan into motion, bought some beautiful Manilla Clams and a bunch of Mother Earth’s bounty from the farmers market, including some freshly baked Ciabatta bread that I used in this recipe. I suppose this dish is a fusion of Italian and Spanish flavors, but also wanted to keep the ingredients fairly simple and easy to prepare. As with any recipe, you can adjust and play around with different ingredients.

One thing’s for sure. The end result is just delicious. The following recipe made enough for about 2 entree portions or enough for 4 people to share as an appetizer. Enjoy!

Manilla Clams with Spicy Charred Tomatoes and Pancetta

3 pounds of Manilla Clams, cleaned and washed

1 pint of ripe cherry or grape tomatoes

4 oz of small diced pancetta ( or 4 slices of bacon)

1/2 medium size yellow onion, sliced thin

2 large cloves of garlic, chopped

1/4 cup of chopped parsley

1 cup of chicken stock, white wine, or water

1 small red chili pepper

1. In a non stick skillet, put the tomatoes in the pan with no oil over medium heat and begin to char the tomatoes, gently shaking the pan to get a nice hard sear on them. They should look like this :

2. Once the tomatoes are charred, reduce the heat a bit and add the diced pancetta or bacon. The pork fat will render out and will help to further cook the tomatoes. Cook until the bacon is nice and crispy. Leave the pork fat in the pan, as it will become part of the sauce itself.

3. Add in the onions, garlic, a few slices of the red chili and saute until the onions just start to wilt. At this point you can smoosh the tomatoes with a fork to start to create the pan sauce.

4. Add in the clams and deglaze the pan with the 1 cup of water, stock, or wine, and cover the pan to allow the clams to open and release their juices. Some of the clams might take a bit longer to open. Discard any dead clams ( you’ll be able to smell which ones) and make sure not to reduce the sauce too much. Add more liquid if you need to.

5. Once all of the clams are open, sprinkle in the parsley, and taste the sauce for salt, pepper, and heat from the chili’s. Add more sliced chili peppers if you like it spicy!

For the bread, I stuck with the stove top, melted some butter and pan toasted the bread slices. I made sure not to burn the bread, but also wanted a nice char on them. Over all I was going for layers of smokiness that lent itself well to this dish.

Put those clams in a bowl, pour the sauce all over them, drizzle with olive oil, slice the bread and add them in with the clams to soak up all the yumminess and go eat!! Mussels would also be fabulous with this sauce as well, but I enjoyed the chewiness of the clams.

I hope you give this one a try sometime. It’s a really nice mystic meal to make for yourself or share with family and friends. Until we eat again, dear reader… Happy Cooking and Happy Eating!!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki πŸ’•βœ¨

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Churro Waffles with Candied Apple Crunch

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

I absolutely love churros! There’s just something about them. They’re crunchy on the outside, soft inside, rolled in cinnamon sugar… Then dunked in chocolate sauce or in some cafe con leche or tea?? Say, WHAT? It’s a delicious treat and being that Cinco de Mayo is upon us, I wanted to make a Mexican inspired version of a breakfast classic… Waffles!

Now truth be told, I’m more of a pancake meow, but every once in a while I get in the mood to change it up and make some waffles. Recently I was shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond, and noticed in the clearance section this cute little red box that had a picture of a mini waffle maker on it. The price was $4.99, and I just fell in love with how tiny and adorable it was ( only 4″ ) and immediately started thinking about how much fun I’d have in the kitchen teaching my 5 year old daughter how to use it.

So fast forward to the brainstorm I had about churros and A. How easy they are to prepare, and B. How to make them in a different way. I knew my trusty little waffle iron was perfect for turning churro dough into the breakfast I had been cooking up in my head. So I went to work on the dough.

The candied apple crunch part was a happy accident. I diced up an apple, and was heating up the sugar in a small non stick pan without any liquid. I wanted the sugar to melt, ( 2 T. ) which it did, just start to caramelize, and then would incorporate the apples. After adding the apples to the slightly caramelize sugar, part of the sugar started to harden and I had all of these pieces of crystallized apple sugar swimming in delicious syrup.

Then I remembered when I was in The Netherlands, Amsterdam to be precise, I tasted my first true Belgian Waffle. This thing blew my mind! It was sweeter than I expected it to be and was perfect in every way. What stood out for me the most was the little bits of sugar throughout the inside of it that added a burst of sweetness and a crunch that was something quite special with every single bite. I knew I had to use that crystallized apple sugar to replicate the feels of a Belgian waffle and garnish the churro dough version with, so I chopped it all up and sprinkled away! Success!

Here’s a recipe for churro dough that’s super simple. The waffles can be made ahead of time and keep well in the freezer for a rainy day. After I made the waffles I fried them to get that authentic churro crunch and coated them with lots of cinnamon sugar. Enjoy!

Churro Dough

1 cup of water

4 oz of unsalted butter

1/4 teas. salt

1 cup of A.P. flour

3 whole eggs

1/2 cup of sugar

1 Tbls. ground cinnamon

1. In a medium sized pot, bring the water, butter and salt to a boil.

2. Add the flour to the salted butter water and stir until you have a dough. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook the dough in the pot for about 2 minutes, turning constantly until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pot.

3. Remove from the heat and add in the eggs one at a time. A wooden spoon or rubber spatula is best. You can also use a hand mixer. The dough will separate at first, but it will come together into a smooth dough after each addition of the eggs.

4. Now your ready to make churro waffles! Don’t forget to fry them up to get them nice and crunchy and cover them with that cinnamon sugar!

Because my waffle iron was so small, I was able to get about 10 pieces out of this amount of dough. I used a heaping tablespoon of dough for each waffle and made enough for 3 servings. Any fruit topping, chocolate, or caramel sauce would be lovely on these! Have a blast giving them a try! Until we eat again dear reader, happy cooking and Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Cheers, hugs, & meows!

Xo Nikki πŸ’•βœ¨

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Bacon and Mushroom Flatbread with Fresh Mozzarella and Fontina Cheese

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

The title says it all. However, what is the difference between flatbread and Pizza? Hmm… πŸ€” The only real difference to me is texture. Flatbread is thinner and crispier. A bit more cracker like around the edges. Pizza tends to be a lot thicker and doughier. They both allow for an endless amount of toppings, and are always fun to make.

You can also use pizza dough to make flatbread by simply rolling the dough out much thinner than you normally would. Flatbreads are usually in the shape of a rectangle, where as most pizzas are round. So is it all in the name? Is a flatbread still a pizza even though we’re calling it a flatbread? Doesn’t it taste just as good?

Hell yeah, it does! I was in the mood for making this for lunch and it was insanely delicious. I’ll just list off what I used rather than an actual recipe, since it’s really up to you the kind of toppings you’ll have on hand. I did use a variety of cooking methods for each ingredient because I knew exactly how I wanted this to be. I like contrasts in texture and taste and how roasting one thing, and grilling another creates those bursts of flavor that make the ordinary, extraordinary. Here’s what I used…

Ingredients:

Bacon cut into small pieces

Button and Oyster mushrooms, sliced

Grilled spring onions, chopped

1 bulb of garlic, roasted

Spinach

Fresh Mozzarella

Fontina Cheese

Parsley & thyme

Olive oil

Salt, pepper, and chili flakes

Now, if you’re feeling wiley and want to make the dough from scratch, I suggest this Classic Pizza Dough by Martha Stewart. It’s fairly easy to prepare and works well for both flatbread style and traditional pizza making. A high quality pre made pizza crust or heck… French bread or baguette will work just as well.

I roasted the garlic bulb in foil with a drizzle of olive oil in a 400 degree oven for about 35 min. I have a cast iron grill and used it to char the spring onions. I sautΓ©ed the bacon until it was nice and barely crisp. Removed it, then sautΓ©ed the mushrooms in the bacon fat. Cause I’m crazy like that and like to extract the most out of everything I cook with. 😜

I then added a pat of butter to the mushrooms, cause the bacon fat wasn’t enough… πŸ˜› some fresh thyme leaves, chopped parsley, seasoned with salt and pepper and deglazed the pan with 1/4 cup of water. I removed the roasted garlic cloves and put them in a small bowl with more thyme and parsley, olive oil, chili flakes, s & p, and smooshed it all together to make a paste. I then shmeared the roasted garlic love on the flatbread dough and proceeded to add the other ingredients.

I put the fontina on first, then the shrooms, spinach, chopped onions, mozzarella, and finally, the bacon. I sprinkled some more chili flakes on top, drizzled with olive oil and baked it at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. My oven runs pretty hot so things cook rather quickly, so check yours after 10 minutes and see if you need more time.

The end result for this was fantastic. From the nuttiness of the garlic, the char from the onions, the earthiness of the mushrooms and herbs, the creaminess of the melted cheeses, and the savory flavor of the bacon, with the perfect amount of heat from the chili flakes on top of the crispy, yet chewy flatbread was culinary magic.

I hope you try your hand at making some pizza & flatbread and have fun with different styles and cooking techniques to make it a mystic meal of your own. Thanks for stopping by, dear reader! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki πŸ’•βœ¨

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All photos taken by moi! πŸ˜‰

Thai Yellow Curry with Chicken and Vegetables

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely LOVE curries. There’s just something about the complexities of the spices involved that make it stand out in such memorable ways. Some people don’t really like curries because of it’s association with heat/chilis, but there is a difference between Thai Curries and Indian Curries. They both contain levels of spiciness, but this depends upon the amount of chili’s used to create the curry paste or mix in the first place.

Indian curries tend to incorporate a wide variety of dried spices like a masala mix, and Thai curries are typically made in the form of a paste using wet ingredients like galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime. Thai curries also tend to be a bit soupier, meaning that the curry sauce itself isn’t as thick as an Indian Curry. And it should be noted that not all Indian curries are coconut milk based.

When I’m out and about on any kind of food shopping excursion, I’m always on the hunt for something new to try and add to my cooking repertoire. Those key ingredients that help make my own mystics meals that much more epic and over the top. I found that in a brand called Mike’s Organic Curry Love and have been hooked on it ever since. The brand has been around since 2008, so it’s not a new thing on the market, it’s just new to me because I’ve only discovered it about 6 months ago.

They make a variety of curry pastes and sauces that are wonderfully authentic in flavor. There are several things I enjoy about the brand itself, including it’s packaging, ease of use, and minimal waste factor. They come in single use pouches and make enough for a nice hearty meal to feed 3 to 4 people, depending on if you even want to share any of it! The instructions are easy to follow, so any home cook at any skill level can create a mystic meal of their own that will impress the daylights out of your friends and loved ones. Trust me. πŸ˜›

I went with the Yellow Thai Curry Paste and added chicken to it, and a slew of veggies that I had that were screaming to be put into this recipe. Below is what I used to create this amazing meal. Enjoy!

Yellow Thai Curry with Chicken and Vegetables

8oz. chicken breast, diced into cubes

1/2 cup cubed sweet potato

1/2 cup cubed yukon potato

1 cup green beans, stems removed and cut in half

3/4 cup of diced yellow onion

1/2 cup of bell peppers, sliced

1 13.5 fl oz can of coconut milk ( I like the Chaokoh brand )

I packet of Mike’s Organic Curry Love’s Yellow Thai Curry Paste

2 T. vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste.

 

1. Boil the potatoes and cook them until they’re tender, but not mushy. I put both kinds together in the same pot with a touch of salt in the water. Once cooked, drain and set aside. Should take about 10 minutes.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the 2 Tbls of oil and the chicken, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and start to brown the meat. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add in the green beans, onions, and bell peppers and continue to sautΓ© together for another 5 to 6 minutes.

3. Add the yellow curry paste and mix into the chicken and vegetables to help break it up and distribute into the ingredients. SautΓ© together for about a minute.

4. Add the can of coconut milk, being sure to scrape all the goodness out of the can, and stir all together. Lower the heat to a simmer, adjust the salt and pepper, and let simmer for about 5 minutes.

5. Add the cooked potatoes, and gently stir into the curry. Remove from the heat and serve. Meow!

 

I opted to serve this with Basmati Rice, but it can be eaten as it is, with some yummy noodles or with some toasty bread. And of course you can make your curry with whatever the flip you want! Meat, no meat, seafood… Anything goes! I hope you give this recipe and this brand of curry pastes a try. It’s so worth it, in particularly if you’re looking to jazz up your next meal and try something new!

Thank you so much for stopping by, dear reader… Until we eat again. Happy Cooking and Happy Eating!

xo Nikki

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Cheesy Poblano Corn Fritters and Garlicky Green Beans with Mushrooms

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

I love making side dishes. For me they often become the center of the meal and I like their versatility when it comes to how to eat and serve them. And I typically throw the rule book out the window when I’m cooking, anyways… πŸ˜› Both of these recipes are vegetarian friendly and perfect for any kind of meal, morning, noon, or night. I’ll start with the Corn Fritters.

Corn can sometimes be a one trick pony in the sense that most of the time, speaking for myself, I prepare it the same way ( with butter and a pinch of salt ) because my daughter’s super picky when it comes to the way she eats. However, she’s becoming increasingly curious about the dishes I’ve been making for these blog posts and is at least “tasting” what I make. It’s a start, right? So I tried out a dish I haven’t made in a long time.

Fritters are made up of a thick batter containing fruits or meats and vegetables depending on the recipe. Some are deep fried in lots of oil and are bit rounded or oval since they’re spoon dropped into it. In this recipe the fritters are more of a pancake shape, use way less oil, and are nice and crispy on both sides thanks to all the yummy cheese getting fried to perfection. They’re really easy to prep and cook and I recommend using fresh corn if you have it, but you can use canned or frozen corn as well. Just make sure you drain and dry the canned corn, and defrost the frozen corn and again, dry it to absorb excess water.

Cheesy Poblano Corn Fritters

2 Cups of corn

1 medium sized Poblano pepper, seeded and small diced

1 half jalapeΓ±o pepper, seeded and small diced

1/4 cup sliced green onion

1/8 cup chopped cilantro

1 large clove of garlic, minced

1 cup shredded jack cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup AP flour

2 large eggs

3/4 cup of milk

3/4 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

1/4 cup vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients, wet and dry. Mix together well. The batter will be VERY thick.

Heat up your favorite frying pan over medium heat and add 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil per batch of Fritters.

Scoop about 1/4 cup of the batter into your frying pan, frying 3 to 4 scoops at a time. Press down with a spatula to round them out, not making them too flat or thin.

Fry for about 4 minutes per side until golden brown on both sides. Serve them warm with sour cream if you’re feeling fancy πŸ˜‰ Makes between 10 to 12 pieces. *Side note: I didn’t feel the need to add any extra salt since the cheeses are pretty savory, but feel free if you want to add more S & P at the end. Btw, my daughter took the tiniest bite… Baby steps. πŸ€ͺ

Now on to the next recipe…

Green beans are one of my favorite vegetables to make as a side dish, however I also love to use them as a salad topper and as a main course. Easy to eat raw or cooked and again, extremely versatile, there are countless ways to incorporate them into your next mystic meal πŸ˜‰βœ¨

I also love mushrooms and combining these two together is always a win-win for me. With so many people taking control of their eating habits by meal prepping for the week, this is a great recipe to add to your next green salad, grilled chicken or fish, grain bowls, etc.

I must admit… I’m from the Julia Child school of butter, and this recipe uses a fair amount, but you can of course use olive oil or cooking oil of choice. I just happen to prefer using butter and for me, it adds a richness to the dish that I love and let’s face it… Butter is delicious, but use as little or as much as you see fit for yourself.

Garlicky Green Beans with Mushrooms

1 pound green beans, cleaned and stems removed

8oz of your favorite mushrooms, sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup thin sliced onion or shallots

1 Tablespoon fresh chopped thyme

1 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

4 Tablespoons of butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil and add the green beans. Cook in rapidly boiling water for no more than 2 minutes. Drain the green beans and cool under cold running water or in an ice bath. Drain and set aside.

In a large pan over medium heat, add the butter, garlic, mushrooms, and onions and sautΓ© until the vegetables just start to caramelize. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Add the green beans and cook together for about 3 minutes. Then add the thyme and parsley, mix together. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve.

There you have it, dear reader! Two very different, vegetarian and easy to prepare side dishes that I hope you try out and add to your next Mystic Meal! Happy Cooking and Happy Eating! And Happy Easter, too!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki πŸ’•

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Spicy Sambal Lobster Salad

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

With Spring upon us and Summer approaching at a rapid pace, ( it’s already almost mid April! ), the abundance of the rainbow colors of fruits and vegetables in our local markets are quite inspiring. Everything just looks so… Fresh!

Even the fish and seafood are impeccably tempting and inviting. With the weather warming up I always find that my tastes change and my desire to cook and create different dishes kicks into high gear. And I start to crave those flavors that remind me of summer and the sea.

On a recent food shopping excursion I was captivated by some incredible looking lobster tails at a great price that I couldn’t resist. Along with some gorgeous brioche bread and herbs, my chefs brain immediately started going through the inventory of what I had both in the pantry and the fridge, and I knew exactly what I was going to make.

So here is the recipe for Spicy Sambal Lobster Salad, which can be put on your favorite bread or toast, lettuce, crackers, or raw veggie chips like jicama, fresh beets, or radishes. Even rice paper for a healthier version of a lobster roll without the bread! That’s what I love most about recipes… You can always change things to make them your own! Enjoy!

Spicy Sambal Lobster Salad

1 pound cooked lobster meat, diced into medium sized pieces

1 piece of green onion, thinly sliced

1/4 c. chives, chopped

1/2. cup of mayonnaise

2 Tbls. Sambal Oelek ( you can find this in the Asian section at the supermarket ) use more or less to taste. I like mine a bit spicy.

2 tsp. Sriracha or a dash of cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and adjust the amount of Sambal, mayo, salt and pepper to suit your palate and set in the fridge for about 10 to 15 minutes for the flavors to marry together. Serve on top of your favorite toasted bread or lettuces. 🦞

I made this for lunch and I used brioche and toasted the bread in a skillet with some butter to brown the sides. I like the sweet butteriness of brioche with lobster. The added heat gave it a nice kick that I really enjoyed and I hope you will too! I was feeling extra fancy and made Garlic Parmesan Fries to go with it, cause… why not? πŸ˜› Until next time, dear reader… Happy Cooking!!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki πŸ’•

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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? πŸ˜›

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 πŸ’–βœ¨

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All photos courtesy of google images πŸ˜‰

French Onion Soup!Β 

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”. πŸ˜› 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 πŸ˜‰

Mystic Beauty

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Some of My Favorite Eyeshadow Palettes

Ok… I know this isn’t food related, but over the past few years I’ve really become somewhat hooked on the art of applying makeup. From time to time I’ll be writing about my obsession with beauty and skincare because it’s one of the things I absolutely love, aside from cooking.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my skin was super hyper sensitive to EVERYTHING. I mean, I couldn’t put so much as a lip balm on my lips without breaking out. If I put any makeup on at all, my skin would break out in rashes or acne. I chalked it up to my hormones going haywire cause I was knocked up! πŸ˜›
I was sooooo bummed out that I couldn’t wear makeup for not only the duration of my pregnancy, but for a few months after that as well. Took quite a while for my skin to get back to normal. Then low and behold I found out I was getting a free voxbox from Influenster. It’s a subscription service that sends you survey’s and qualifies you for FREE boxes of products to try out, as long as you agree to write reviews about it on all your social media platforms. But we’ll get into beauty and other subscription boxes down the road. πŸ˜‰
The box I received was a Mary Kay beauty box and this thing was chock full of makeup. Mascara, eyeshadow, lip cream, blush, brushes… Everything I needed to help kickstart my new and improved beauty regime. I think that everyone should make sure that they take time out in their daily life to do something that is what most folks call “me time” or “you time”… Whatever you want to call it, I think you know what I mean. Makeup was my way of making sure that I always did something that made me feel good about ME. When I apply my makeup it’s because I like doing it and it makes me happy.
Since then, I’ve grown quite the collection of makeup and skin care related items. So much so that I have put myself on a “no buy” for makeup because I literally have more makeup than I could realistically use! Unless it’s something unique and I don’t have something similar already in my collection, if I don’t need it, I’m not gonna buy it!
K. Enough rambling. Let’s get to the point already, which is talking about some of my favorite shadow palettes! Now keep in mind that these are just a few of the ones I really enjoy using, and I love all of my makeup, child! Here we go…

The Balm- In The Balm of Your Hand Vol.1

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I think this was sold exclusively at Kohl’s because I haven’t seen this puppy anyplace else. I absolutely enjoy this palette for many reasons. It’s a literal greatest hits from most of their product line. Hot Mama, Instain in Argyle, and Cabana Boy. All 3 are shadow/blushes. 1 Bahama Mama bronzer, 2 Shady Lady shadows in Insane Jane and Mischevious Marissa, 1 Nude’tude shadow in Sexy, 1 Balm Jovi shadow in Lead Zeppelin, 1 Mary Lou-Manizer highlight, How ‘Bout Them Apples Cheek & Lip Cream in Caramel and The Balm Girls lipstick in Mia Moore.

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I mean this is the perfect all in one pallete! And I love The Balm’s packaging. Rocking that 50’s early 60’s retro vibe. The quality of their products are great with high pigmentation, easy to blend, minimal fallout and long wearing. If you see this one, I highly recommend grabbing one. Also makes a great gift. I think I payed $39.00, which I felt was a great value considering everything you get in the pallete. I reeeeeaaaallly hope they come out with a Vol. 2. I will break my no buy rule if that one hits the market! Umkay… Moving on to…

L’Oreal La Palette Nude 2

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At first glance I wasn’t that impressed with this one. However there was something about it that kept drawing me to it. I’m really glad I purchased it because it’s become one of my go to palettes. It has 6 matte shades, and 4 shimmer/satin shades.

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It’s plummy brown shade range I find to be really versatile and I can create multiple looks from this one palette, which makes it great for travel. It has nice buildable color payoff, minimal fallout, blends out well and I also like the duel ended application tool it comes with. It has a sponge tip on one side and a small synthetic blending brush on the other that works rather nicely. I think at the time I purchased this it was $9.99 although I think the price is slightly higher now. Still, I think it’s worth picking up if you’re looking for another all in one shadow pallete. Minus any lip products and blushes πŸ˜‰
And last but not least…

Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palette

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It seems like everyone and their mother already owns this thing. I know I certainly was late to the party on this baby πŸ˜› But boy howdy do I LOVE this one! Aside from the fact that all of the shadows smell like chocolate, which is awesome and not too overwhelming if you have a thing against scented products, but it’s got so much to offer. It has 16 shadows that go from mattes to shimmers, pinks, plums, browns, and highlight shades.

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It’s a gorgeous palette and the formula is top notch. With colors to compliment any skin tone, if you don’t ever purchase another palette in your life, you will not be disappointed with this one. It’s also the priciest on this list retailing for $49.00, but again, it’s worth it. I’ve had mine for over a year and have yet to hit pan on anything… Yet!

I hope you enjoyed this little foray into some of my personal eyeshadow faves. I’d love to hear about what kinds of shadows that you favor to wear everyday! I’ll be writing more about my beauty collection in the near future. Thanks for hanging with me! Cheers, hugs & meows!

Nikki Meow