Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dear Bobby Flay, please do not mess up with Arepas!

What was Bobby Flay thinking?

He should know better than mess with a classic: the traditional Arepas recipe! Do not get me wrong, I LOVE Bobby Flay, I do! But he added milk to the dough and cooked some lobster and octopus and put it on the top vs. inside the Arepas.

Well done to the girls at Caracas Arepas Bar. Two of my good friends took me there on one of my NYC trips, so yummy, I felt so homesick!

Check the video:



And here is my recipe in case you are hungry now! Arepas con Perico

Easy Zucchini and Yellow Squash Soup



I got zucchinis and yellow squash today!!  I love this time a year in where we are finally eating the freshest vegetables ever from the garden. Literally, I have been going to the garden everyday to see what is ripe, then I go up to the kitchen and cook it! all within a half hour - it does not get fresher than that!!!

So today I had a few yellow squashes and a zucchini, so I decided to make my daughter a soup. Her favorite soup ever is broccoli, and this one is her #2 - Who said 5 year olds do not eat vegetables?

This is probably one of the easiest soup that I make.


Ingredients:
  • Zucchinis
  • Yellow Squashes (if you do not have these - it works great with only zucchinis)
  • Chicken stock cubes or powder
  • Powdered milk (or liquid milk if you do not have it - just use less water when cooking)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Wash and cut your zucchinis and yellow squashes in big pieces.


 In a soup pan, put your pieces and cover with water (just to cover them, no more). Put the pot on medium flame and let it boil.



When it is boiling add the chicken stock cube (approximately 1 cube per 4 cups of water used). Boil the vegetables until the zucchinis are soft - keep an eye on it  and add a little water if it evaporates too much.

With a hand blender, blend the vegetables, add about 1 spoonful of powered milk per cup of water used (or 1/8 of a cup per serving if you use liquid). Keep blending. Add salt and pepper to taste.





That is it!!! you are done... enjoy!

Wordless Wednesdays: I will crochet you a tree!!




Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One Zucchini plant down... Not a happy bunny!

I had to pull out one of my zucchini plants this weekend. It was certainly diseased. I am not quite sure with exactly what. It also had a few bugs feeding of it. These I am certain they were Western Corn rootworm beetles. I could not take a photo of them as they were too quick. But here is one I borrowed from wikipedia:


The good news is that this plant did not give me any zucchinis, despite having lots and lots of flowers (all males). I did enjoy its blossoms in several recipes.

When you have a plant that is obviously diseased, and you do not know how to fix it, the best thing you can do is to pull it out to avoid getting your whole crop infected. I am sure I could have found a chemical to fix the plant, but as you know I am doing this the organic way so no chemicals allowed!!

I first noticed the plant was in bad shape when I saw a brown spot that appeared soft on the stem near the roots. Slowly, the leaves were turning brown from the bottom up. I waited to see if it could get better. Then the bugs came (diseased plants are more prone to get attacked by pests). Then is when I made my decision to pull it out.

When I cut the stem, it was hollow and it has some soft brown stuff inside it. Does anyone know what this is? how did it get it? how to prevent it?



I hope the other ones and my cucumbers that are nearby do not get it.

As per the beetle! well they seem to be harmless to the plants (they were feeding on the pollen) but they will be real bad to corn if I were to plant them in the same spot where this plant was next year. apparently they lay eggs in the ground. The eggs survive the winter and when you plant corn the little larvae will hatch and eat the roots... nice ha? I am sooo not planting corn there.

I had my few corn plants this year behind this zucchini, I got only one ear... they either collapsed in the storms or did not grow at all. Finally the last 2 I had were eaten stem and all by a big animal (I know it was big as it left a chunk out of one of my low hanging big tomatoes). I guess it was a raccoon. Yikes.... not a good day for  the garden : (

Monday, August 29, 2011

Little PIM Spanish: Product Review, Giveaway and 15% off to all my readers!!! - CLOSED

Little Pim Word Bag iPhone App

Let me introduce you to little PIM. A fun, cute Panda bear who speak Spanish (amongst other languages) that got invited to my house a few days ago!!

I was lucky enough to receive a DVD, a CD and an Ipad game about this little bear to review, and I have to say I LOVED it! and so did my 5 year old daughter.

Little PIM has won many awards (22 in total) as a series to teach foreign languages to preschoolers and babies (0-5 years old). It was created by a former language teacher and mother of 2, Julia Pimsleur.



Here is what we (my daughter and I) though about it:

DVD:

The DVD was excellent! It kept my 5 year old engaged the whole time. It is a combination of cartoon characters and real life kids playing and interacting with day to day objects. The DVD is completely in Spanish, but uses repetition of very basic phrases and words combined with the visuals to teach kids the concept/meaning of what it is being shown. It sort of reminded me of the series Little Einsteins. It is very well produced and it has a great image quality.

CD:

I cannot tell you how excited I was when I got the CD as I immediately saw the Dan Zanes was one of the singers!! I love him!! I played the CD in the car and I did enjoy the majority of the songs. I do not even have to tell you that the Dan Zanes song: Son Boriqueno has become one of my favorites! Now, my daughter did enjoy some of the others too!! She is still to start singing them, but I know it will come soon. The CD comes with a booklet with all the lyrics - in case you need them!

iPad app:

This is the one that we did not like as much, both for different reasons. The app is OK, the quality of the images are good and it covers a good range of words (about 60). However, I did not like that the instructions of the game are repeated again and again and in English - It sort of go against the whole immersion gain of the DVD in my opinion. However, I can see how it does help the child know what they are supposed to do, particularly if this is the first time they are exposed to Spanish.

My daughter did not care much about it, but it was because of her age. I do think this is a game for much younger children. She did however play with it for a while.

All in all, I think Little PIM came to my house to stay. I will certainly be on the look out for more DVD's. I am actually going to buy them in French too and I will sit with the kids to watch. I did find them very entertaining - even at my old age.

Now, the little PIM team is allowing me to introduce you to the fun bear by doing a giveaway. A lucky winner can get a FREE Little PIM DVD #3 - Playtime! in the language of his/her choice!! ($17.95 value) and if you do not win, do not worry, they are also offering us a 15% discount on all online purchases, just type the offer code: PimMommy upon check out on their online store: Little PIM Online Store

Rules: I will be choosing a winner randomly using random.org's sequence generator on September 25th at 10:00pm CST. US Only.

Required entry:
  • Write us a comment on what tools do you use to teach your kids a foreign language, including in which language would you like your DVD
Additional entries (Place one comment per item to increase your chances of winning):
  • Like Little PIM facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/mylittlepim
  • Like P-ART-Y facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/thepartyartist
  • Follow me with Google Connect
  • Subscribe to my RSS
  • Share this review and giveaway on your facebook page (s) - one entry per page - leave us the link
  • Share this review in twitter and use @partyartist1 #littlepimgiveaway and link them back to this page
  • Follow me on twitter @partyartist1
Good luck!!!

To learn more about Little PIM, visit their website: http://www.littlepim.com/

Disclaimer: I received free product as stated above to do this review. However, the opinions given are truly my own. This post has not been edited by third parties.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gardening 101: How to harvest Garlic?




I just harvested my first garlic crop and I am so happy! The bulbs are a
Iittle smaller than the ones you get at the supermarket, but I know they will be ten times as good. These are hardneck garlic and I cannot wait to try them. I did pull a few a couple of months ago to eat as green garlic and they were yummy.





You will know when your garlic is ready when the foliage dies. Then, you simply pull then out of the ground. Let them dry outside for a day and voila you have garlic!

I wanted to do the beautiful garlic braids that you see at some markets but I could'nt as the stems were too hard. I will find out why and let you know. Maybe it was the type of garlic.

In a few weeks it will be time to plant the garlic again. Click here for instructions on how to plant garlic in the Fall

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Garden Caprese Salad: My Way!




My tomato plants are busy right now and I am very happy with their flavor this summer. I have had lots of cherry tomatoes and a few huge Brandywines ( ohhh so goood ones! ).




So I decided to celebrate my tomatoes with the best and easiest tomato salad ever: a Caprese, done my way, off course!



Ingredients:

Fresh tomatoes (about one medium tomato per person)
Fresh basil ( I used 2 types )
Wisconsin fresh cheddar cheese curds
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Note I am not giving you amounts, this is a salad that you can do at your own taste - you cannot get it wrong, so if you like cheese or basil, put tons in! Why not?

Chop your tomatos. I used cherry tomatos for this one, so I cut them into 4 wedges so they were about the same size as the cheese curds. If you have bigger tomatoes, you can do slices or cubes.

Add the cheese, the chopped fresh herbs, a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well, and let it rest for a few minutes so the flavors blend in.











Serve as a side salad or on top of freshly baked french bread!

Yummy!

The traditional caprese is made with mozzarella cheese, so if you cannot find fresh cheddar curds, you can replace them with mozzarella cheese.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Everything happens for a reason!

I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason, so the fact that I have a blog, despite being the least likely person to have one, shows me that there is a door somewhere there that I have not opened yet and that will take me to a better place!

I have been meaning to write a post about why do I write a blog for a long time. But for whatever reason I have not done it yet. Then I see a nice e-mail from another Latino blogger inviting us to participate in a contest to win tickets to go to Blogalicious, and guess what the entry requirement is: a post about why do you blog. So here it is:

It all started with my cakes. People kept telling me they were so nice, so I created P-ART-Y with the intention of showing people how to do the cakes. Then I realized that I did enjoy writing about things, in particular my hobbies. The posts expanded to cooking, I continued with the "how to" format. As I believe a blog needs to add value to its readers. So what could I offer? I do not think I am super funny (I get lucky some days!!!). My knowledge, good or bad, that, I could share. So "how to's" became the norm in my blog.

Gardening was a no brainer, as it have been a passion of mine all my life, and I cook what I grow, so lots of posts came that way.

Finally, my kids and my journey to teach them my language. And believe me it has been a journey.

During all this time, I have also enjoyed the learning, my brain needed a different outlet, a creative outlet. And even though I knew nothing about technology- I still know little - I managed somehow to navigate through blogger and html.

Finally, one of the most important reasons I now write for, are the amazing friends I have met online. I have joined groups of ladies like me, we share interest and stories. I even got reunited with family members by complete chance!! That is the reason I want to go to blogalicious, to finally meet some of this amazing people in person, to be able to sit down and have a coffee and chat, and to learn even more so I can write even more.


Wordless Wednesday: Mishu's best photo!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Let your kids watch TV: In Spanish that is!

Another tool that we have to  help our kids get some more Spanish in their brains is TV. I have unfortunately had 2 big barriers stopping me from letting the kids watch more TV in Spanish. The first one has a name: My husband!!! and the second one is the poor child friendly content/timing that we used to get here in the US.

My husband is a big believer that TV is NO GOOD!! (hmmm but he watches countless hours of comedy series everyday....) so let me rephrase: TV is NO GOOD for KIDS! so I had to work with the 30 minutes a day allowance my kids had after they turned 2 years old (no TV before that age at all!!). Again, by the time the kids were 2, they were already fluent in English, so the Spanish was left behind...

But when we were allowed to watch TV, I looked as much as I could on what was available. What a disappointment - either there were no children programs at the time we were up or if they were they were awful! badly dubbed or very very old... none of the nice series my kids enjoyed in the English language TV.

So my case was lost... but not for you. If you have a kid in pre-school age today, you have a great learning tool in the relatively new cable network Vme. (by the way - I am not receiving compensation for this post - my good comments on Vme have not been requested by then and are truly mine as a satisfied viewer!)

Vme is in partnership with PBS so you get all the cool and in fashion shows like Thomas the Tank, Caillou, Angelina Ballerina, Bob the builder and you name it... These are programs that the kids DO want to watch (and secretly I like them too! I still love cartoons). Now the best of all is that they are on every morning at decent times (no need to get up at 5am to catch them).

If you are curious, go to their website http://www.vmetv.com/ and find out which channel do they have on your region and enjoy at last good children's TV in Spanish.

BTW, their adult programming is awesome too.

Double Garlic Soup My Way: Green Garlic and Garlic Scapes




As you know I had a few Garlic Scapes this year from my garden so I went to the net to find out what to do with them. I did found a few recipes, but this one from the New York Times caught my attention - it is a double garlic soup made with Green Garlic (immature garlic bulb usually picked at the time the scapes are ready - you use a bit of the stalk too) and Garlic Scapes (New York Times recipe).

I read the recipe and decided to do it, but as usual I changed a few things - the result was a velvety deliciously smooth cream of soup with a mild garlic flavor. You need to try it!!! It is so easy - So here it is:

Ingredients:


  • 4 to 5 big potatoes
  • 1 green garlic clove
  • 5 to 6 garlic scapes
  • Fresh Thyme (2-3 sprigs)
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 4 cups of water
  • Chicken stock cubes (enough to make 4 cups of chicken stock 0 read quantities from your usual brand)
  •  Milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Nutmeg
  • Splash of lemon
Peel and cut the potatoes into medium size cubes. Cut the garlic scapes into chunks - this soup will be blend into a cream, so do not spend too much time cutting things perfectly. Peel and chop the green garlic. Chop the thyme leaves.




Melt the butter in a soup pan. Add the Garlic Scapes and the Green Garlic and fry them a little (less than a minute). Add the potatoes, the water, thyme and the chicken stock cubes. Let it boil until potatoes are tender.







With a manual blender ( you can use a regular blender too), mix everything adding milk as you go to achieve the desire consistency (nice and smooth!!!). If you want you can strain the soup as this stage (particularly if your Garlic Scapes were a little woody). Put back on the stove and add salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg to taste. Put some lemon juice and you are done!.



Serve and enjoy!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Teaching Spanish or Playing Games?

As promised here are some of the games that I have been playing (or have played) with my kids so they get more exposure to Spanish. They actually like them and are learning without realizing. I have had to use some of these as you know my kids - particularly my boy have been quite resistant to learn Spanish. Somehow, he still thinks he is playing games and not learning Spanish - It works for me!!!

The majority of the games are car games, which we play as we drive to and from everywhere we go/

Name the item: This one worked when they were little (up to 3 years old). I will drive a point at things in the street and say the name of the item in Spanish. They had to repeat  the word. Once they turned 3 years old, they did not find this amusing anymore so I changed to Veo Veo!

Veo Veo: This is the Spanish version of the "I spy" game and goes like this (it has a little song - I wish I can sing it to you):

Me: Veo Veo!!
Kids: Qué ves?
Me: Una cosita
Kids: Y qué cosita és?
Me: Empieza...
Kids: Por la letra?
Me: Then I say the first letter of the name of a thing that I see, like "c" for carro

Whomever guesses the correct word, starts the next Veo Veo and so on!! the kids still love this game.

En la Maleta del carro de la Tia Gladys: This is the latest addition (we started it this summer as it requires a little more vocabulary and memory). The game consists of remembering what is inside Tia Gladys' car trunk. With each turn the person repeats the introductory sentence: En la maleta del carro de la tía Gladys encontré" then all the words previously said by others and adds a new word at the end. The game goes on until somebody forgets the series, that person is then "out" and you keep going until there is only one person standing. This game is soooo good - it keeps your brain working so you do not need to be a child not to be learning Spanish to enjoy it and benefit from it!!

Here is an example:

Person 1: En la maleta del carro de la Tía Gladys encontré una pelota
Person 2: En la maleta del carro de la Tía Gladys encontré una pelota y una flor
Person 3: En la maleta del carro de la Tía Gladys encontré una pelota, una flor y un avión.... and so on!!!

The microphone: This is a game or tool that the teachers at Language Stars use to get the kids to speak. I love it!!! as my daughter is a bit reserved when talking to strangers and particularly in Spanish - for her the microphone gives her permission to speak. It also worked for my son who is super extrovert - so for him it is time to shine!

Basically, the teacher has a toy microphone (the big thick ones you can buy at Toys are us - they amplify your voice but not to loud). She starts by talking at the microphone and asking a question like: My nombre es Rosa, Cuál es tu nombre? then she hands the microphone to a kid, who has to say his/her name, ask the same question and pass it along. It is so simple but it works brilliantly!


I also sing a lot in the car - (not that you want to hear me:) ) but the kids do not mind the sometimes out of tune songs!! I tried to choose fun and active songs that can keep them engage or even better that they can interact with like Maria Moñitos, Dónde estabas tú periquito?, Los maderos de San Juan, etc.

What games do you play?
 
Disclosure: I will receive discounted tuition from Language Stars as compensation for this post. However all facts and opinions expressed in this post are true and my own. Language Stars have not asked me to write about anything in particular, only my true and honest opinion about my experience with their program.  This post have not been edited by a third person.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Beer Battered Zucchini Blossoms stuffed with Garlic Scapes and Bacon



OK I know, the name of this dish sounds weird! Garlic Scapes? What is that? Zucchini Blossoms? Can we really eat that? The answer is yes and they are so delicious. A true farmers market delicatessen, or in my case a short trip to my organic garden at back!

I first tried zucchini blossoms in a very posh LA restaurant (Courtney Cox was sitting at the bar – a mere 10 steps from our table!!!). Theirs were stuffed with crab and lightly battered with a tempura mix. We dipped them in Ponzu sauce and went to heaven and back with each delicate bite. I was hooked!!!

Here is my own invention of what to do with the blossoms – again, I cook with I have on hand. I was just lucky to have some Garlic Scapes and bacon so I went for it. I wish I had some ricotta – it would have been better, so feel free to add that to your recipe.

Ingredients:



  • 12- 18 zucchini blossoms
  • 1 Small onion chopped
  • 4-5 Garlic Scapes
  • 6 rashes of Bacon
  • 1 zucchini
  • Half a bar of cream cheese or a cup of cottage cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 cups of oil for frying
For the batter:

  • 1 can of beer
  • 1 egg
  • Some flour (3 – 4 spoonful)


You can buy the zucchini flowers and Garlic scapes at your local farmers market when in season. If you have zucchini plants on your garden, carefully clip the male flowers from your plant early in the morning. Save them in the fridge for no more than 3 days. The male flowers can be recognized as they only have a stalk attached to them. The female flowers are the ones that bare fruits and they are attached to a small zucchini!

First make your filling:

Chopped your bacon, onion and your Garlic Scapes.



In a pan, fry the bacon, when it starts to brown add the onion and the scapes, fry for about 1 minute.



Add the zucchini grated, the cream or cottage cheese and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.





Keep cooking for a few minutes until thick enough to hold on its own (when scraped with a spoon it will not return to fill the pan). Let it cool down.



In the meantime, clean the flowers. Wash each flower very gently under a running tap with cold water. You have to be very careful as they are tender. Open each flower with care and with some scissors remove the stem.



Cut the stalk with a knife as close as possible to the flower. Reserve. Heat the oil at medium flame.



Once the filling is cool. Stuff each flower by carefully opening all the petals, placing a small amount of filling in it, not too much so you can close it and twist the edges so they stay together. Put in a place and continue until all the flowers are done.



Make you batter: Open the egg and mix it with half a can of beer. Start adding flower one spoon at a time until you have a light runny batter – it takes about 4 spoonfuls. Season with salt and pepper to taste.



Before frying the flowers, make sure the oil is hot enough by dropping a little batter in it. If it fizzles and fries immediately you are good to go. If not, you need to wait until the oil is very hot.

Frying the flowers is very quick, so you need everything ready. Hold each flower from the twisted top and dip in the batter. Remove from batter and let it drip a little.



Immediately put the flower in the oil – it will fry quite fast, turn the flower once and remove from the oil as soon as it start to brown (this takes only a few seconds).



Place the flower on a plate on top of a paper towel to remove the excess oil. Then fry the next flower and so on. You can keep the fried flower inside the oven with a low grill on to keep them hot, but I have found that if you are only doing 12 or so, you will be able to finish the frying before they cool down.



Serve the zucchini blossoms immediately with some fresh cut chives. You can dip them in Ponzu sauce if you like, but this is not a requirement – they are delicious by themselves too!



Enjoy!

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