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Human, Woman, Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend & Aspiring Unicorn Breeder

12.23.2014

A Puerto Rican Christmas Tradition: Pasteles (White-o-Rican Style)

This is my interpretation of pasteles (pah-steh-lehs), a classic Puerto Rican dish which is traditionally served during the holidays, Christmas in particular. I have fond memories of watching my grandmother make these and even fonder memories of eating them! 

Traditionally pork is used in the filling, but I don't care for pork, so I use a mixture of turkey and ground beef. Also keep in mind that every Puerto Rican chef prepares their dishes a little differently and that's what makes them so spectacular... That's why there's nothing like your Abuela's arroz con pollo or your Titi's picadillo! 

On a side note I will say that it's much easier to use a food processor to grate the yucca, but preparing it the way I watched my Mama (my grandmother) do brings me a little closer to her since she's no longer with us. That said, either way it is a long and arduous process, one which is best done via an "assembly line" in the company of people you love. 


Masa
:
6 ripe plantains (they need to be almost black)
3 pounds yucca
1 pound potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp achiote (annoto) powder
1 tsp salt

Filling:
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground turkey
1 medium onion (diced)
2 bell peppers (diced)
1 tbsp adobo seasoning
1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp reciato (or sofrito - it's a personal preference really)
1 bay leave
1 small jar manzanilla olives

Assembly:
Parchment paper
Banana leaves
Kitchen twine
1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil

To Prepare to Filling:
Add all of the filling ingredients together in a large skillet *except the olives* and cook until the meat is cooked through.
Drain off the excess juices and discard the bay leaf. Set it aside and let it cool.


To Prepare the Masa:
Peel the plantains like you would a banana and discard the peels. 
Peel the yucca and potatoes with a potato peeler. 
Grate the yucca and potatoes. 
In a bowl add the plantains, grated yucca, grated potatoes, salt, olive oil, and achiote powder. 
Using a potato masher, mash everything together until a thick pasty dough forms. 


To Assemble the Pasteles:
Cut out thirty 16x16 inch sheets of parchment paper.
Cut out thirty 14x4 inch pieces of banana leaf. (These measurements don't have to be exact, by the way...)
Cut thirty 2 ft lengths of twine.
Lay one banana leaf piece on top of one piece of parchment paper.


Brush olive oil on the surface of the leaf.
Top the leaf with 1/4 cup of the masa and spread it out, making sure to leave the edges of the banana leaf bare.
Top the masa with 2 heaping tbsp of the meat filling.
Place an olive in the middle.


Fold the leaf/parchment paper over in half.
Tuck the ends into it to make a package.
Now continue folding it over until you have a rectangle shape package.



Tie the bundle up with a piece of twine.
Repeat thirty times.


Cooking:
At this point you should have thirty pasteles. Though you may be tempted to eat all thirty at once, that's probably not the best idea ever... So you may freeze what you're not going to eat immediately and cook the rest.

To cook the pasteles you simply bring a pot of water to a boil and boil the pasteles for 1 hour.


Once they're done cooking, cut the twine and unwrap them. You will discard the parchment paper, twine, and banana leaf as they have served their purpose! 


Now you just eat and enjoy! Feliz Navidad!! 

12.10.2014

An Open Letter to Certain People.

Dear Certain People,

I know what you see when you look at me, with my fair skin and hazel eyes. And I know my voice betrays who I am; my southern drawl makes you feel like maybe I'm one of you. 

But I'm not. 

And that's why you get comfortable around me, why you loose sight of who I am... and you forget to watch the things you say around me. 

You know my heritage is Puerto Rican & southern white gal, because I'm proud of who I am... but you don't really understand what that means because I just look and sound like another southern white girl to you. 

As far as you're concerned that Latin side of me doesn't count because you can't physically see it. So even though you've heard me say it, over time it stops existing to you. 

You get comfortable with the lily-white skin you see. 

And eventually you let your true thoughts slip around me.

But you need to understand that when you say things around me, such as "those black people are acting like animals and savages" or mock "them" being "so oppressed" you need to know that my Latin heritage includes African people... and Native people... and Hispanic people. And yes, Caucasian people as well. 

You need to know that my mothers family members, MY family members, run the gamut from vanilla to dark chocolate... and everything in between. 

You've got to realize that the blood and DNA that lives in me also resides in the bodies of my black family members... and that I'm connected to them and they're connected to me... and in my family blood is a super glue strength bond, regardless of the color of your skin.

You need to understand that some of my oldest and dearest friends have black or brown skin. And that one of those people is a beautiful little girl my daughters age who I would quite literally kill for, because I love her as if she were my own child. 

And you really need to know that when you say those things around me, you are talking about people I love immensely... and the only reason I continue to sit quietly is because if I were to move or open my mouth there would a stream of profanity in your ears and a riot on your face with my fists.

And I'm not protecting you. Please don't think that... I'm simply protecting myself from jail time. 

You need to understand that not all white people think like you... That my fathers southern, white as snow family were raised very unconventionally by a single mother at a time when that simply wasn't acceptable... and as such weren't raised to be idiotic racists... and as such didn't raise me to be one either. 

You need to get it though your thick skull that when you say things to me like, "you don't really look like one of them" (when you find out my heritage), you're insulting me. Because what do you think THEY look like?

THEY IS ME. 

And you only show your ignorance when you don't know the difference between a Puerto Rican AMERICAN citizen and an illegal Mexican, who, by the way, is probably only here to try and better their circumstances... not to take away your job... or rape, plunder, and pillage your village. 

You need to keep all of that in mind. 

Not only around me, but around every light/white skinned person you meet... because you never know who really lives inside of that white skin. 

You need to remember that old saying: "Never judge a book by it's cover."

Because the cover of my life's story may be white, but the inside of my book is filled with color. 

Don't ever forget that. 

How, exactly, do you perceive me... and why does your perception even matter? Put it away. We're all human. 

12.08.2014

Many Days of Shopping: Old School Seals

truly believe the art of letter writing is in sore need of a revival. Of course if, like me, you're from the South then you still write your thank you notes when you're given a gift and you still send out birthday and Christmas cards. And if you're not from the South and you do those things then good on you! If not, you best get to it! 

Now y'all should know by now that I love all things retro. So I'm going to take it way, way back and present to you a way to add a nostalgic touch to your letters.

You know how in any medieval movie someone is always writing a letter, plopping wax on the envelope and then sealing it up with their bulky, fancy ring? 

Well you can do that too (sans the bulky, fancy ring).

And this is where Old School Seals comes in... They provide you with the equipment to elevate your letter writing a step above the rest with their beautiful seal stamps and waxes. This is a truly personalized gift you give to the person who seemingly has everything.

Let us start with the stamp itself...


With Old School Seals you can go completely custom and send in any design you'd like and they will create a stamp especially for you. 

They've created beautiful designs for Buccella Wines, The Hunger Games Premier Party, Presidential lnauguration invites and more! They've also been featured in Williams Sonoma, Walt Disney Fairy Tale Weddings, and Southern Living magazine! So basically they're amazing.

They also have ready made fonts available for those of us who aren't creative or don't have time to draw up something snazzy. For myself I chose a simple ready made font featuring a solid birch handle. I also opted for two different types of wax. 



This first is the type of wax (above) was used many, many moons ago to seal letters.. and lucky for us lovers of all things old timey you can still get it here.

It's quite easy to do. You simple light the wick, tilt the wax at an angle, and let it drip onto the envelope until you have a little wax puddle about the size of a nickel. (I've blurred names to protect the innocent ha!)


Once you've amassed a nice sized little pool of wax you let it sit for about 30-40 seconds before pressing the seal into it.


Next you will let the stamp sit perfectly still in the wax for another 45-60 seconds before slowly peeling it away to reveal...


Tada! A beautifully sealed envelope with a personalized, rustic touch!

Now if you're not into all the (minimal) work of burning a candle, or if the thought of inadvertently catching yourself on fire frightens you (just kidding), Old School seals also offers a more modern approach... this little gem right here:



Yes, you saw that right. It's a mini gluegun contraption for modern meltable faux wax sticks... Like these:



And they offer several colors beyond the standard red, white, and green Christmas colors. 

The process is roughly the same, except instead of lighting a wick...



...you press a handle! I will admit, although I personally prefer the old school method of wax, this is a little more time-friendly when doing multiple cards.



Once again you will wait a few seconds before pressing the seal into the wax, and a few more seconds before releasing it. 



And once again you have a gorgeous finish to your cards! (You can easily pick off the little stings this leaves... I know you see them.) 

With stamps and accessories starting at under $20, these lovely little letter accoutrements are an affordable (and thoughtful) gift for that hard to shop for person on your list... And at those prices you can treat your gifted to both varieties of wax and even pick up a stamp or two for yourself as well! 

All photos by: Me
Merry shopping, folks!