This year’s summer vacation is a little different for my family than in years past. I haven’t worked since May of last year, so as you can imagine, funds are a little tight. Last year, we took a family trip to Puerto Rico and absolutely fell in love with the Island, the people and the food! Since a vacation was not an option this summer, my kids and I started looking at videos on Youtube about Puerto Rico. It was our way of traveling and remembering the places we’d visited the year before.
As we traveled around Puerto Rico via Youtube, we found some tutorials on how to make several Puerto Rican dishes and the idea came to me to continue our trip around the island by cooking authentic Puerto Rican dishes. It became fun for us to watch the videos, pick which ones we thought looked most authentic and even learn a little spanish all at the same time! We ended up with three go to tutorials on Youtube. Chef Julio Rodriques (who we call Uncle Philip because he looks like my mother’s oldest brother), Nilda’s Kitchen (who can also be found at www.nildaskitchen.net) and Nydia’s Miami Kitchen. These three really teach you how to bring your dishes to life.
We found our favorite’s and started writing down the ingredients we’d need and then embarked on a scavenger hunt to find the items that weren’t necessarily found at our local grocery store, which made the experience a lot of fun. Certain vegetables could only be found at Asian Markets and since there are two near us, we went to both and not only found some of the items that we needed for our Puerto Rican dishes, we began to learn more about the Asian community as well, just by shopping for food.
Next we hit the Mexican market, Mi Pueblo, and as happened in the Asian Markets, we learned more about the Hispanic community just through shopping and we also found some new items to add to our everyday dishes.
After we gathered all the items we needed, the real fun began and we embarked on cooking our way through Puerto Rico. So far we’ve cooked a chicken dish inspired by Puerto Rican ingredients, we’ve made our own Sofrito, which is the basic ingredient used in most Puerto Rican dishes and we’ve made the following dishes: Arroz Amarillo (Yellow Rice), Garbanzo Frito (Fried Chickpeas), Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas), Empanadas (Patty’s) and from watching one of our favorite tutorials on Youtube, Nydia’s Miami Kitchen, we even learned how to make a Cuban pastry called Pastelito de Guayaba (Guava Pastries)…so good! We’ve even gotten comfortable and have started to substitute brown rice for the white rice to make the dish even healthier.
Taking this “cooking vacation” has done a lot to help maintain the sanity in our house. Since we gotta eat, learning how to cook Puerto Rican style has given us focus, taught us to appreciate other cultures and most of all…we are eating good!