My adventures in pregnancy, motherhood and beyond

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Locro de Papas

A few years ago, one of my dad's coworkers went to Ecuador and came back raving about a soup called Locro de Papas, for which she shared this recipe from Laylita. Dad passed this recipe on to his little soup fiend and I've had it sitting in my pantry for years now. A month or so ago, I decided to try it. We could NOT find achiote powder, which is also called annatto powder, or could be made from annatto seeds and I used too few potatoes, so, keeping that in mind, I attempted it again Sunday night. It was a perfect soup night--a storm had moved in and the plastic roof over part of the house magnified the sound of the rain until it was all we could hear. With blankets on the couch and Harry Potter movies being drowned out by the rain, James ventured over the bridge to a Whole Foods to buy a tiny little packet of annatto powder. Upon his return we started peeling and cubing potatoes, dicing onions, mincing garlic and cilantro and using the KitchenAid grater/slicer attachment to grate an entire block of Monterey Jack cheese.

Onions, garlic, cumin and achiote
The coated potatoes
 As soon as we add the achiote to the onions, garlic and cumin, everything turned bright red-orange and it soon smelled like Middle Eastern food. After adding a bit more oil to keep the onions from burning, they had softened up and we added the potato cubes and made sure they were coated with the refrito or base.

After mashing
We added the SEVEN CUPS of water (make sure you have a big pot!!!) and after the potatoes softened, we used out coated potato masher to mash up the potatoes. When mom and dad made this soup, they used an immersion blender to make the soup smoother, so it all depends on what you're looking for. Ours ended up chunky, and almost like a stew once it was served. We then added the cilantro and the cheese. The recipe only calls for 1 cup, but I used the entire block (it was a small block, but still more than a cup).

When the cheese had completely melted, we served it up. I added diced avocado, hot sauce and feta cheese on top. This isn't the most flavourful soup, so salt and pepper will need to be added, but I wouldn't bother adding it until you've served it--the potatoes seem to soak it up when it's still cooking. The hot sauce adds a nice kick and the feta adds to the creaminess. The avocado is fantastic in the soup, and even if you're not the biggest fan of avocados, I'd recommend trying them with the soup. It was a fantastic, filling meal that left us plenty of leftovers that heat up beautifully. Definitely a soup we will make again and again on cold days.
The final product

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Angie and Moose
We need houseguests more often. My friend Angela visited from Germany this past week, and her presence convinced me to make a menu and stick to it for the entire week! It was great; good food, leftovers that we actually used and cooking every night! We had risotto, shrimp bisque, pasties, and shepherd's pie. The dogs absolutely adored Angie; I've never seen them take to anyone as they took to her. It was amazing.

If you're daunted by risotto, DON'T BE! I promise you, it is not that hard to cook. I used this recipe from Real Simple, and it offers not only a nice, fresh, filling meal, but endless variations! James and I added chopped up chicken, but you can add any meat or vegetables you'd like, and even if it's plain it's delicious. The white wine and fresh parsley (it needs to be fresh!) make it taste fresh and light. It's a filling meal that doesn't take that long to cook. The recipe says that 1.75 C of chicken broth should absorb in 8-10 minutes, but that isn't true. It takes much longer. Just allow it to continue simmering, and stir it every now and then until it's creamy. We cook it until almost all the liquid is absorbed, but having it be a bit stew-y makes it nice and creamy, so we leave it like that. Add the pre-cooked chicken at the end with the parsley and parmesan, and top it with more parmesan before serving. So good, and so easy! Save the leftovers for lunches in a few days.

Now for the shrimp bisque. James and I have been making this bisque since coming back from our honeymoon. We went to Breeze's Grand Lido resort, and the first restaurant we went to had a delicious shrimp bisque that had a kick to it. When we got home, I wanted more, so I decided to find a recipe. Off to Real Simple again! Their website and magazine are chock-full of recipes for food that seems fancy, but is pretty easy and quick to make. Their Easy Shrimp Bisque recipe is fantastic, although I'd recommend some alterations. James and I use pre-cooked shrimp (frozen or from the seafood counter) and we only use 1/2 lb since otherwise the shrimp pieces overpower the soup. Allow the chopped and seasoned shrimp to warm up in the butter before adding the brandy (if you have a BevMo nearby, you can stock up on those little bottles, but James and I have a giant bottle that we use only for this recipe), the tomato soup and the heavy cream. I don't ever add the chives, but I do add red pepper flakes to give it just a touch of spiciness. This is a super simple recipe that only takes about 20 minutes and gives you a great cold weather soup to warm up with.

I transcribed the shepherd's pie recipe from a Good Eats episode I saw. It's the same as this recipe, but I've found that this needs plenty of alteration. We added a clove of garlic to the mashed potatoes since we both love garlic, and instead of using fresh herbs, we used dried herbs, since we had both thyme and rosemary on hand. To substitute dried herbs for fresh, simply use half the amount since the dried herbs are more potent than the fresh. Instead of lamb, which will quickly get expensive, we used ground beef, which tastes just fine. I added an extra dash or two of Worcestershire sauce since I love that taste, but the biggest change we made was in the directions. In the episode, it said to bake the shepherd's pie right in the pan used to cook the meat mixture. We decided that wasn't a great idea (read: we couldn't fit the pan we used in the oven), so we switched to an oval pyrex baking dish, which provides built in leftover storage! We did have one problem that led to another alteration: We didn't have enough potatoes to completely cover the meat mixture! We ended up having to use some microwaveable mashed potatoes to completely cover the pie. It tasted fine, but I would use at least two lbs of potatoes, if not three. Be sure to seal around the edges with the mashed potatoes to keep the meat and juices inside. We had some spill-over nonetheless, but still, this is the most delicious meal we've had in a long time. It also will provide plenty of leftovers that will heat up very well!

-San Diego Zoo: This is the best zoo in the world, and that's a fact. Plan a whole day here, since there's so much to see, and make sure that you take the Skyfari at least one way! The children's zoo section is also worth seeing, but skip the sea lion show.
-San Diego Zoo's Safari Park: Quite a ways away, but worth it, is what used to be the Wild Animal Park. It's not as touristy as the zoo, but it is fun, and definitely worth seeing. Plan on a lot of walking, a whole day, and taking the Journey into Africa tram ride (depending on your ticket, it could be an extra $10, but you see so much it's worth it).
-The Prado restaurant: In Balboa Park, which is full of museums to occupy your time, visit the Prado during happy hour, from 4-6 pm every day. Margaritas for $3.50 and plenty of discounted appetizers. I highly recommend the Kobe Beef Roll (not discounted), which is asparagus wrapped in a sushi roll, topped with a slice of raw kobe beef and wasabi cream sauce and served with a delicious dipping sauce. Split it with a friend for a good appetizer portion.
-Old Town San Diego: Incredibly touristy, but it's still fun to wander through the different shops and see what San Diego was like in the old west days.
-Seaport Village: You can't get more tourist-oriented than this, but, again, it's fun to wander around.
-Pacific Beach: Crystal Pier and a great beach to walk around on, full of surfers and sun bathers, even in winter. If you're there around lunch or dinner, stop by World Famous for delicious lobster bisque and a great view.
-Birch Aquarium: In La Jolla, it doesn't compare to Monterey, but the octopus was moving about, the cuttlefish were adorable and there was an entire exhibit on seahorses (including 1 day old seahorses!). Definitely worth seeing.