Feliz Navidad

Puerto Ricans have their own version of the warming, life-affirming chicken soup made by Jewish grandmothers.

Only it’s a drink, which is a heck of a lot more fun, and way tastier.  It’s a spiritous little beverage called coquito.  It’s tempting to say it’s a Puerto Rican eggnog—but don’t.

Sure, there’s egg and dairy in there, and of course booze.  But coquito (little coconut) isn’t just some random carton you grab at the local A&P in early December.  This is a concoction with deep familial roots in Puerto Rico.Every Puerto Rican family has their own super-secret, super-special version.  The recipe for it is normally tightly-guarded and handed down to only the very favorite offspring.

And somehow, I, and by extension you, Gentle Reader, are now in possession of one of those venerated family heirlooms.

A couple years ago I met the then-Durham chief of police, Jose Lopez, and his awesome wife, Becky in line at Costco.  They have become friends, and Becky is now my Puerto Rican food mentor, coach, and head cheerleader.  And in the spirit of friendship for which Puertorriqueños are known, she gave me her family coquito recipe to share. So, here, in her own words, is Becky Lopez’ great-grandmother’s coquito recipe.  And if you’d like to say thanks for her generosity, take a moment and spare a thought or a prayer for the residents of Puerto Rico who are still in dire straits.  If you can do more, visit https://hispanicfederation.org/unidos, where 100% of your donation goes to recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.

Becky’s Family Coquitocoquito ingredients5 fresh cinnamon sticks

1/4 thumb size piece of ginger (about 1/2in.)

2 capfuls of vanilla extract

2 egg yolks (no membrane)

2 cans of evaporated milk

2 cans of coconut milk

1 can of coconut syrup (Coco Lopez)

151 proof dark rum or your choice of dark rum (Important: add only after mixture has cooled down)

Bacardi stopped making 151 last year. I now use Cruzan 151 aged rum.Take cinnamon sticks and smash them in a paper towel with a mallet so that their oils and taste may be released in the boil. Peel the ginger then cut it into thin pieces. Place the cinnamon and ginger in a small pot filled halfway with water and boil it for about 15 min. This should yield no more than 1 cup of liquid mixture.

Open one can of evaporated milk and one can of coconut milk and empty them into large pot. Place egg yolks in this mixture. Stir well until there’s no separation between eggs and liquid. Remove anything floating (remove any egg membrane) and cook on medium for 10 min.  Turn off heat and add the coconut syrup, stir, then add the rest of the ingredients including the vanilla extract, cinnamon and ginger water. Stir well. Cool down and add rum to taste.

Optional: before adding rum, place this mixture in a cold place (fridge or outside) @ 45 degrees or lower overnight then strain the congealed fat from the top.coquitoWhen mixture’s cooled down add rum to your taste.

Because the eggs were slowly cooked this drink can last for years in the fridge. Grandma would always bring out the last year’s Coquito (which always taste better) and served it in shot glasses. With time it thickens and becomes even more creamy.

I have had up to 4-year-old Coquito in my fridge. The trick is to shake your refrigerated bottles at least once a month.

Buen provecho! (Enjoy!)

And from the Matthews’ house to yours, have the most wonderful of holidays, and a happy, peaceful new year.Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at momsequitur@gmail.com.

Eat like a hummingbird

I’ll bet you think this is going to be about dieting, don’t you?

Nope, this is pretty much the opposite.  I’m going to talk about Thanksgiving desserts.  We’ll return to the hummingbird presently.

Last month the Sylvan seniors at Mt Sylvan Methodist Church (5731 N. Roxboro Road) asked me to speak to the group.  I said yes, but was terrified.I’m a talker, not a speaker.  The last time I gave a speech was in junior high, when I ran for 7th grade class president.

I lost.

My talk went well.  I didn’t freeze, or faint, or puke.  And afterward they gave me dessert.  There were many homemade treats, so I enjoyed a sampler plate.  My favorite was a pumpkin bar.  Which is crazy, because I don’t normally like pumpkin. It had great flavor, a delicious gingerbread crust, and a very thin, very crispy top, kind of like a brownie.It was made by Bess Hunnings Smith, the pastor emeritus at Sylvan.  When I requested the recipe, Bess started laughing.  She told me it came from a box.  It was Krusteaz Pumpkin Pie Bar Mix.  It’s available in local stores.

So if you or any of your Thanksgiving guests usually dislike pumpkin, or you desire at least one easy dish for the day, give it a try.When I was a kid, there was a neon-green goo that came in a mini-trash can.  This ‘toy’ really didn’t do anything except gross out adults.  It was called ”Slime”.

When we lived in Puerto Rico, my mom got a fruity gelatin recipe that also was a rather unfortunate shade of green.  My brother christened it Slime.   Even though it isn’t the most appetizing looking dish, it’s really yummy, and everybody in the family loves it.

Ross Family Slimeslime 21 large package lime jello, prepared according to directions, but not set

1-14.5 ounce can of pears, drained

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 envelope Dream Whip (not Cool Whip), prepared according to directions

Put warm-ish prepared jello, cream cheese, and pears into blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Gently fold in Dream Whip.  Pour into 9×13 dish or ring mold and refrigerate until completely set.  Serves 12-16.And now we’ve circled back around to the hummingbird (cake).

You’ve got two simple desserts so far.  This next one is a show stopper that is also simple, but deceptively so.

*Note-no hummingbirds are harmed in the making of this cake.  Rather, it’s full of things that might attract a hummingbird.

Double-glazed hummingbird cakehummingbird cakeCake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple with juice

1 cup canola oil

3 large eggs, beaten

 2 bananas roughly chopped, not mashed

½ cup toasted pecan pieces

2 teaspoons vanilla

Glazes:

hummingbird glaze

2 tablespoon melted butter

1 tablespoon rum

1 can cream of coconut (make sure you get coconut cream, and not piña colada mix)

2 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325.  Generously grease 10 cup Bundt or tube pan.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.Remove 2 tablespoons juice from pineapple.  Set aside for glazes.

Add pineapple, oil, eggs, banana, nuts, and vanilla.  Stir by hand until just blended—don’t beat.

Pour batter into Bundt.  Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean, but moist.  Place cake, still in pan, onto cooling rack set on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes.Mix glaze #1: Whisk 1 cup of powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon pineapple juice, rum, and enough butter to make glaze that can be drizzled.

Invert still hot cake onto rack, and remove cake from pan.  Drizzle with glaze #1.Let cake finish cooling completely.

Glaze #2: Into powdered sugar whisk 1 tablespoon pineapple juice and enough coconut cream to make glaze.  Spoon over cooled cake.  Allow glaze to set before serving.Serves 16.

Any (or all) of these desserts would be great for turkey day.   They’re quick, and can be prepared well in advance.

And to retain some sanity during the holidays, it’s wise take any opportunity to cut yourself some slack.Thanks for your time.