Relleno Guayaco: My mom’s sweet and savory stuffing

By |December 18th, 2012|

I have to confess: when I was a little girl, I was not a fan of my mom’s relleno.  In full disclosure, I was a picky eater, and there was something about raisins and anything related to raisins I despised.  Since this stuffing had raisins, prunes, walnuts and all these “things”, I avoided relleno like one avoids the plague.

Today, I can’t live without it, and I look forward to Christmas to make it and stuff myself with the aforementioned stuffing.  You see, this relleno is different.  If you have been to Ecuador and spent Christmas there, you know what I am talking about.  This stuffing is a combination of sweet and savory; it is a hodgepodge of flavors that one would think they don’t go well together, but upon sampling, you realize, “YEAH!  This is GOOD!”

Christmas in Ecuador is probably THE most important celebration of the year, followed by New Year’s, and the big dinner takes place on December 24th.  Since living in the U.S., I have learned that families go all out for Thanksgiving.  In Ecuador, we go all out for Christmas.  At my home, we would begin the prep work for the Cena Navideña at least a week in advance.  We stocked the pantry, organized the menu and made sure we had enough food for los abuelitos, tios, primos, sobrinos, amigos y conocidos – all the grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, nephews, friends and acquaintances.  It was not uncommon to have random people drop by to wish us Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo, and of course we could not NOT offer a little bit of Cena Navideña to these unexpected guests.


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Humitas – Ecuadorian Tamales

By |August 25th, 2011|

Ahhh. Humitas.  Such a wonderful Ecuadorian comfort food.  I am using the term tamales loosely because it is something a lot of people know and have eaten before.  The concept is similar: a corn batter wrapped in a corn husk.  However, Ecuadorians will tell you flat out:  Humitas ARE NOT tamales!  While a Mexican tamal consists of masa, a corn-based flour, Ecuadorian humitas are made with fresh, ground corn.  Humitas can be sweet or savory.  Here I present you the savory version that has cheese.  The sweet version has sugar and vanilla extract incorporated in the filling.  Another savory version has chicken, and its filling is similar to the ayacas de pollo I posted a while back.

Humitas can be eaten for breakfast, dinner or as an afternoon snack.  My favorite way of eating humitas was for breakfast.  I had the cheese-filled humitas, accompanied by a cafecito caliente.  I have been drinking coffee since I was 8 – don’t judge.  Mind you that said coffee was VERY diluted and with a taste of sugar and cinnamon, which was DELICIOUS.


Kale and Bean Salad

By |July 20th, 2011|

I didn’t know I liked kale until this past April when my sister-in-law made this yummy kale salad for us at a recent family reunion.  She was inspired by this salad she had bought at Whole Foods which had kale, pine nuts and some other goodies I can’t recall.  Probably because I scarfed it down and my brain cells weren’t connecting my mouth functions with my vegetable recognition functions.

Kale is bitter and my sister-in-law got rid of most of the bitterness by salting the kale and rinsing it in between.  She massaged the kale with the salt to extract the bitter juices.  I was concerned about this massaging situation because truth be told, I am not good at giving massages.  Ask El Señor Hubs.  I attempt to massage his shoulders after a long day at work, but my hands just don’t know what to do.  In his exact words, “You suck at massaging.”  So that is that.  The good thing is that kale can’t talk.


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How to make Patacones

By |May 19th, 2011|

Raise your hand if you LOVE patacones (I have both of them up)!  Patacones are fried, smashed green plantains.  Patacones are a very popular side dish in Ecuadorean cuisine, and they are also served throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.  In Ecuador, we say patacones.  Living in New York where there is a large population of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, I’ve learned to say tostones.  They are one and the same, and they are muy ricos.

Patacones are quite easy to make, although in the beginning I had a tough time figuring out how to shape them.  Patacones sort of look like a flat flower.  Years ago when I made them for the first time, I tried to smash them first and then fry them.  Don’t do that; it doesn’t work.  Then, I tried to smash them AFTER frying them completely, but they all fell apart.  It wasn’t until my younger brother came to visit me recently, that I figured out the patacón process.

I think the coolest thing of the learning how to make patacones was that my baby brother taught me how to properly make patacones.  I am supposed to be the one teaching him stuff, not the other way around!  Needless to say, I am so happy and proud of him, and so impressed with his patacones-making abilities.  And now, here I am to share our pearls of patacones wisdom with you.


Ayacas de Papa: Potato Dough Stuffed in Banana Leaves

By |December 23rd, 2009|

This version of the ayaca uses potatoes instead of corn flour, or Maseca, for the version I made here.  The filling is basically the same: chicken, raisins, olives.  The recipe my mom gave me called for longanizas (lohn-gah-NEE-sahs), a.k.a., pork sausage for the protein portion of the filling, as well as chickpeas.  Since […]