Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Arroz Con Pollo Recipe

One of my all time favorite dishes is, of course, one of my mom's specialties. Growing up in Arizona, I knew that arroz con pollo had a Spanish name, but it wasn't until I was much older that I realized this dish wasn't traditional Mexican food. Instead, it's a Caribbean dish that my mom learned to love when she was growing up on Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Now my mom's not Puerto Rican, but a Missouri-born gal who has spent much of her life in southern Arizona. But because of my grandpa's job, she spent most of her childhood living outside of the United States.

As mom remembers it, this dish was common fare in Puerto Rico, and a favorite of her next door neighbors, Don Juan (I kid you not) and his wife. Mom's clearest memory of Don Juan was that he went to a lot of cock fights, which leads her to wonder if that's why they ate this dish so often. Hmmm... don't want to think about that too much, so let's move on!

Mom doesn't have Mrs. Don Juan's recipe. But she found a recipe as an adult, and modified it until it tasted like the arroz con pollo of her childhood memories. And then in typical mom style, she made it for years and years without writing it down, perfecting it to the point where she just eyeballed ingredients.

I guess my mom's love for the dish carried on to me, because this was an often-requested meal when I came home during college (and still is). About two years ago, I asked mom for the recipe so I could have arroz con pollo in my own kitchen. Since she didn't have one, I watched her make it, demanding at every step, "how much did you just put in?" and taking copious notes.

So here - with mom's permission to share - is my mom's wonderful arroz con pollo recipe.

This recipe serves 4 very generously, or probably more like 6. Marinating takes an hour, and the actual cooking takes about an hour as well.


1 whole chicken, cut into pieces (I used 4 leg quarters because they were on sale, but do use bone-in, skin-on chicken. Trust me, the extra calories are worth it.)
6 cloves garlic, divided
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp fresh oregano
1 Tbsp vinegar
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
2 cups white rice
2 tsp capers
1/4 tsp saffron
16 oz bag frozen peas
1 medium tomato, sliced into wedges

Make the marinade by combining 4 cloves garlic (I don't love garlic quite as much as mom, so I use two), salt, oregano, vinegar and olive oil. Mash them in a mortar (or mince everything and mix it a lot) and rub onto the chicken. Marinate for one hour.

In a dutch oven, brown the chicken in remaining tablespoon of oil, working in batches if necessary. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Add onions, bell pepper and garlic to dutch oven, cooking until onions are soft. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return chicken to dutch oven, cover, and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat.

Without stirring the pot, add rice and between 3 and 4 cups of water. I know this is vague, but it really depends on how much liquid the chicken has released. (This is one of the times when mom says, frustratingly, "just add enough.") Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Stir in capers and saffron. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. It will still look soupy at this point, but more water gets absorbed, don't despair.

Add peas and tomato, without stirring. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until peas are cooked.

Isn't that beautiful? Even though I just ate this for supper, my mouth waters just looking at the picture!

One note to share: all that not stirring the pot makes for a crust of rice on the bottom. If you cook over heat that is too hot, it makes a burned crust that is difficult to scrape out of the pan. If you find the elusive "just right" temperature, it makes a beautiful brown crust of crunchy rice that is quite good. I'm obviously still looking for "just right," so I'd better go scrape the bottom of my dutch oven some more...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day

I wanted to show a little love for the awesome Daddy at our house, and say Happy Father's Day to all dads. In honor of the day, here are some extra-special Daddy-Daughter moments from our house...

Jonathan and Hannah

Jonathan and Lydia

Hannah...isn't that the cutest little "I know something you don't" grin?

My favorite picture of these two yet... I can't wait to see what's still to come.

Friday, June 17, 2011

What We've Been Doing (Besides Having a Baby)

These last weeks have been both unbelievably busy and amazingly simple and sweet. Of course, the arrival of our newest and wee-est Warren, Lydia Abigail, has been the biggest thing to happen since, well, Hannah.

Before Lydia "came out of Mama's tummy," as Hannah calls it, I was definitely in nesting mode. Want to see what kind of insanity that produced? First and foremost, making over the nursery. Here's a picture of the much-discussed name banner. I felt very clever when so many of you guessed that the baby's name began with an "A." Hee hee...

In classic nesting style, I decided that the linen closet just couldn't stay in it's current shape for one more minute. So I took everything out, put them in labeled baskets, and finally felt like I could sit down and just wait for that baby to come.

Well, almost. First, we had to make some strawberry jam with all those strawberries we'd picked.

After our hospital say, we spend days and days eating all the wonderful casseroles, desserts, and other goodies that friends made for us. Thanks to all of you! I promise I'll give your dishes back...

Last week, finally, I felt like doing something. Or several somethings. Hannah and I followed this tutorial to make a Rapunzel-esque hair bow holder. Then we ate popcorn and watched Tangled.

Our garden is growing, which never ceases to amaze me! We have several tomatoes in the works, and some squash plants kindly donated by my friend Anne, who had too many. (You can read about her side of the story at FlourSackMama.)

Hannah got at new doll from Grandma, which she has been caring for very diligently. I wish I could tell you the doll's name, but she doesn't really have one. For awhile, her name was Baby Libby (which was also Lydia's name, which is also the name of a friend's new baby). Then it was Curly Bear, after the Sesame Street character. I think Jonathan has finally convinced Hannah to call her Dolly, by explaining that it's like Dollywood. So now the doll is called "Dolly like Dollywood."

In any case, Ambiguously-Named-Doll needed some clothes, so with grand plans, I sat at the sewing machine and made a skirt. Then I got tired and stopped. But in my mind, there will soon be a shirt, pants, some dresses...and part of the grand plan is to include a tutorial, since there seems to be a general absence of 15-inch doll clothes tutorials in Blogland.

It being summer, we've done some summer stuff, like running through the sprinkler in the yard. This is Hannah trying to catch water in her mouth.

We also traveled down to the splash pad at the local park.

I know that I should cut myself some slack, but now that I'm not the size of an elephant (and don't walk like a penguin, as Hannah liked to point out), I REALLY want to get back into my sewing room and do something! But like I said, I keep starting things, and then decided it's time to go to bed, or Lydia decides it's time to eat, or Hannah decides it's time to have some fun.

So here's some fabric I cut, that's just sitting on the sewing table waiting to be sewn together.

And there was a sale, so I finally broke down and bought the serger I've been dream of for months. Only problem is, it's still sitting in its box next to the door, right where it got dumped after we returned from the store.

I did sit and write a magnificent to-do list of all the millions of things I'd like to make ASAP. We'll see how that goes...

But in the end, I've been spending lots of time doing the really important stuff. I've been spending lots of time with my girls, who are the sweetest, cutest, dearest things ever to exist. Lydia is a bundle of joy in every sense of the phrase, and Hannah is the most wonderful big sister.

And this morning, we even had time for the most important hobby of all: finger painting.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Let's Face It...I'm Not a Professional

Since I saved up my pennies for over a year and bought a fancy shmancy camera, I have been really enjoying taking pictures. Some of them have even come out surprisingly well. I've read some books about photography from the library. And I've begun to imagine that the beautiful photographs that the professionals take could be easily duplicated in the comfort of my own home.

Then I got out my fancy camera, created a makeshift studio using our paint drop cloth, and dressed my girls in cute matching outfits. After about thirty seconds, my respect for actual professionals skyrocketed by the minute.

I read in one of my library books to give kids Smarties during a photo shoot (small enough easily pop in the child's mouth, but doesn't turn their lips colors like M&Ms). This worked like a charm in bribing Hannah to pose...until I realized that she wasn't eating the Smarties, but was hording them all in her little fist, only to drop them or eat them at very inopportune moments.

There were no tips about how to get babies to stop crying. Hannah ate half a package of Smarties while I tried to lull Lydia to sleep with milk. No luck. I settled on taking thousands of pictures, hoping that one or two would give the appearance of not crying.

More Smarties were required to get Hannah to lie on her back. Too bad this was just another good position for eating candy...

Also not covered in my library books was what to do when Big Sister is terrified of Little Sister's crying. As Lydia grew more and more unhappy with the entire affair, Hannah grew increasingly skittish. She kept subtly sliding away from Lydia, obviously trying to hold still enough to earn another piece of candy. Although not a photograph fit for hanging on the wall, this picture tells quite a story. Have you ever seen a better "get me out of here" look?

However, this stressed out photo-taking mama was more than pleased with two of the pictures that I took of my girls. The one at the top of this post (with a little help from some editing software) is so sweet, right down to the tutu and ballet slippers Hannah insisted on wearing in spite of my carefully chosen matching outfits. (Which you can't even see in this picture!) And the one below, my favorite, looks nothing like what I had envisioned, but instead shows Hannah's personality and Lydia's incredible 5-day-old cuteness and vulnerability.

So maybe I'm not a professional photographer. Or maybe professionals sometimes feel at the end of their rope and as though none of the photos are going to turn out. But in the end, my kids are really cute, and I consider myself lucky to have caught a little bit of their wonderful-ness on camera.

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