Ensalada Cubana

Spring is here and the weather is getting warmer! With that comes cooler food, like salads, especially salads with a twist.

Came across the recipe of a Cuban salad (ensalada cubana) when I was looking for something original for a potluck. My husband has this awesome Cuban cookbook, where I got the inspiration for this recipe. This was different because the dressing is made with hot oil, to soften the onion and garlic flavor. That is one technique I had never used before, a “stir fry” approach to a salad! The original recipe included shrimp, but I left out the shrimps and bell pepper, and gave it my own spin. The result? A delicious salad, without the pungent onion smell or flavor. I know, onions are great for cooking and salads, but raw onions upset my stomach so this was the perfect solution for me. Definitely making this again!


Ensalada Cubana
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  • 1/2 cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup lemon or lime juice
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper cut in chunks (left out in my version)
  • 4 large red ripe tomatoes sliced thin or
  • (1 cup baby tomatoes, halved)
  • 1 cup cucumber, cubed or sliced
  • cilantro, chopped
  • (Optional: 1 cup chick peas)


  1. Heat oil (don't let it smoke), add onion, garlic and juice. (Add chick peas if using.) Remove pan from heat and stir for two minutes. Let the mixture cool off, season with salt & pepper and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Blanch bell pepper, arrange with tomatoes and cucumber on a platter, drizzle (or toss) with dressing, sprinkle some cilantro on top before serving.



Shrimp and Grits, a true Southern favorite

Last week my husband and I went to Aspens Signature Steaks for dinner and although it is a restaurant famous for its steaks, I was in the mood for seafood. Didn’t want anything fried, so I was eyeing the grilled Shrimp & cheesy Grits.

Only problem was that I don’t really care much for grits… Would they substitute the grits for risotto? When I asked, the waiter said he would check with the chef, because risotto was reserved for the dinner special. I could get mac & cheese or mashed potatoes instead, but he highly recommended the grits, because the chef used a special recipe which made the grits less “gritty.” If I didn’t like the grits, he would substitute it for something else of my choice. Not wanting to be too ‘difficult’ (aka pain in the …) to the (cute) waiter, I decided to give it a try. Aspens gave a little twist to the famous Shrimp & Grits of the South and apparently  many of their guests really liked it.

Well….? He was right!! The cheesy grits were delicious, and not gritty at all!  I didn’t regret my decision to try it out and was happy to enjoy this Southern favorite. It seems they come Georgia, Carolina, Virginia, or Louisiana style (maybe even more, but these are the ones I found on the web), each giving the grits their own flavor.

Aspens Shrimp & Grits

Aspens is a great restaurant in Marietta, Metro Atlanta, and suitable for a nice dinner or special occasion. Good to know that you don’t have to go all the way to Atlanta for a great dining experience, food, wine and service included! I have visited several times and anything I ordered so far was excellent.  This time I choose shrimp & grits, wtih tasso ham, crimini mushrooms, scallions, sweet peppers, cheddar grits, lemon butter sauce and a glass of Waterbrook Sauvignon Blanc of Columbia Valley, Washington. I tried to take  a picture with my phone before the plate was empty, but the ‘romantic’ lighting didn’t help getting a clear photo (sorry! It looked a lot better in person). After dinner we shared Van Gogh’s “Killer” Tiramisu which was embellished with fresh raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. YUM!!

As part of my culinary adventures, I always try to find the recipes to experiment in my own kitchen. My online research resulted in a recipe provided by Aspens’  managing partner, Jimmy Huch, to the bloggers of EveningsEdge.com, who posted the cheesy grits recipe and who also get full credit for the recipe below.

Preparation & cooking time: 15 minutes – Feeds: 10

Cheesy Grits,  a quick and delicious sidedish

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 1/2 cups quick grits
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper

Bring butter, chicken broth, cream and Tabasco to a boil in a stockpot. Slowly add grits and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Add cheese and simmer 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. Be careful because grits can splatter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You can serve the grits with grilled shrimp or fish and a side salad.



Vegetable medley

If you’re a frequent visitor to this blog, you already know that we LOVE vegetables. We eat them 7 out of 7 days 🙂 .  Here’s a colorful and tasty vegetable side dish that will be a pleasure to look at and eat!

You can use fresh vegetables, but I usually get the frozen kind. Not only does it cut in prep time, but frozen veggies seem to be more nutritious than the ‘fresh’ kind in the grocery store. Of course frozen doesn’t beat straight-from-the-garden or fresh market, but you decide!

1 lb broccoli/cauliflower/carrot  mix (also known as California blend)

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

1/2 red bell pepper

1/2 yellow bell pepper

2 chicken cubes

black pepper (optional)

olive oil

Thaw the frozen veggies, or blanch in boiling water. Heat the oil in a wok or large pan to stir fry. First add onions, fry for a few minutes before adding the bell peppers and chicken cube. Stir fry again and add the vegetable medley. Cover the pan for a few minutes to cook the vegetables tender without overcooking (especially if frozen and still cold). Keep stirring to distribute the heat and repeat cover-stir process until the veggies are satisfactory. Some people like crunchy and some like them soft, requiring a little bit more cooking time. If you’re not sure, try both to make up your mind. Just keep in mind that the shorter the cooking time, the better nutrients are retained. Either way your guest will love this side dish, if only for the colors 🙂

Tip:  Add some crushed garlic to onion-pepper mix for additional flavor.

Bon appetit!


Asparagus wrapped in bacon

bacon asparagusThis is a simple recipe to dress up asparagus with bacon and a drizzle of garlic butter to complement your steak or grilled chicken dinner with a festive look. It is a favorite in my family and works as well with green beans (haricot vert). Bacon gives the vegetables a smoky flavor and garlic just finishes it off. With only five ingredients, anyone can make this no-fail dish and brag about making it themselves!

1 bundle asparagusasparagus bacon ingredients

bacon strips, uncooked

2 tbsp butter

2 cloves garlic, finely crushed

1/2 tsp salt

Clean or wash the fresh asparagus, then steam in boiling water with some salt. When the water starts boiling again, take the asparagus out and immediately rinse with cold water until it’s cooled off.

Melt the butter and mix in the garlic.

Wrap 3-4 pieces of asparagus with one (or 1/2) strip of bacon and arrange in a (glass) baking dish until you run out of asparagus or bacon.

Drizzle the garlic butter evenly over the vegetables and bake in a 350 degree  oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the bacon starts cooking a bit.


  1. Substitute asparagus with 1 lb of fresh, uncut (long) green beans. You can also use frozen beans, thawed in cold water.
  2. In stead of butter you could also use olive oil, but to me butter tastes better.




As a teenager I started collecting all kinds of recipes from magazines, especially those with appealing pictures of the dishes. I found this simple recipe in a Dutch magazine (Margriet or Libelle) and it’s more than 20 years old! Still works for me and my guests love it. I hope you will enjoy it too!

Let me know in the Comments below how you like it, or if you have other suggestions.

Pitjil – Javanese steamed vegetables

Pitjil with peanut sauce
Pitjil with peanut sauce

This must be one of the easiest and simplest vegetable dishes ever! It exists of various steamed vegetables, consumed with a spicy peanut sauce. Talking about NO fat! Or maybe it’s low-fat due to the peanut sauce 🙂

In daily Javanese cooking however, vegetables are seldom mixed and this dish is usually served on special occasions during holidays or at parties. It is also sold at food stands on the side of the road and in restaurants.

Dry peanut sauce
Dry peanut sauce

The secret weapon to pitjil is the peanut sauce, which is available in Asian stores or markets.  The sauce can be homemade too, but it seems to be an elaborate process, so I never tried it myself. I have been fortunate enough to receive a steady supply from my family in Suriname. Maybe I can get the recipe and post on this blog for the adventurous cooks 🙂  – Update: I posted the peanut sauce recipe here.


1/2 green cabbage

1 lb green beans (haricot verts)

1/2 lb bean sprouts (fresh)

1 cup peanut sauce

1/2 tsp salt

2 ltr water

Boil water with salt.

Cut the cabbage in big chunks, or 1/2 inch slices (this depends on your preference). The green beans may be fresh or frozen, cut or whole (I like mine whole). Rinse vegetables.

Steamed vegetables
Steamed vegetables

When the water boils, add the cabbage, stirring for even cooking, remove when the water starts boiling again and rinse with cold water. Follow the same procedure for the green beans and bean sprouts, cooking each separately in the same pot of water (otherwise it will take forever).

This method of cooking vegetables is called “blanching” and because the vegetables are not overcooked, they will maintain most of their nutrients.

Arrange the vegetables in a dish and serve with the peanut sauce.  Pitjil can be eaten alone, or with rice and meat.

Selamat Makan!


Experiment with other vegetables such as nappa, bok choy, asparagus, spinach, mustard greens, etc.