Salvadorian-Style Red Bean & Short Rib Stew with Salsa Cruda

This is an adapted version of the Salvadorian classic, made with ingredients more readily available to American cooks. The stew is rich and saucy, and the salsa cruda (“raw sauce”) is fresh and a perfect flavor compliment.

In the original version, several hard-to-find vegetables are called for, as well as much less meat. I also add onion and garlic when cooking the chicken. Chayote is a fruit that tastes like a cross between a papaya, avocado, and squash; it’s available in my grocery store, but if you can’t find it, leave it out or substitute yellow crookneck squash.

I like to serve this stew over white rice, with one short rib per person. Give everyone a small bowl of salsa cruda for topping, and you’re all set. ¡Muy delicioso!

Red Bean Stew Closeup


  • 2 pounds short ribs
  • 3 cans undrained red beans
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 6 whole peeled garlic cloves
  •  3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 green plantains, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 1 light or dark green chayote (1 pound), pitted, peeled and cut into a 1-inch dice (peel skin with a vegetable peeler, taking off just the top layer of skin)
  • 1/2 medium green cabbage, cut into 1-inch strips
  • salt to taste

for the salsa cruda:

  • 1 pound plum (Roma) tomatoes (4-6 count), seeded and cut into cubes
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 small green pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large cooking pot; simmer 1 hour covered.

When ribs are tender, remove them along with the garlic cloves. In a fry pan, heat oil over medium heat and brown garlic and ribs on all sides (keep pot of beans simmering while you do this).

While the ribs brown, add parsley, cilantro, plantains, chayote, and salt (if needed) to beans; stir. Add ribs and garlic back to pot. Simmer 20 more minutes or until vegetables are getting tender, then add cabbage and cook another 10-15 minutes until all vegetables are done.

Make the salsa while the pot finishes cooking: combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir. Serve immediately. Enjoy!


Spicy Beef Chili

I have about a zillion chili recipes – this is Mike’s favorite! It is also super easy and doesn’t have to sit on the stove all day if you’re in a rush.

It is quite spicy (but we love that). It is naturally gluten free, and very healthy – I always use low or no sodium canned vegetables. The bacon fat is worth the splurge for a little flavor!

As the picture shows, I was really bad and put it on a cheese biscuit (delicious). But a nice, big bowl over some brown rice is just as good.

We like to top this chili with cheese, jalapeno slices, sour cream, cilantro, chives…take your pick. A fried egg on top might send me over the edge.

Spicy Beef Chili

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean (90/10) ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat (or use oil)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 large white onion, chopped
  • 15.5 ounce can spicy chili beans
  • 10 can mild or Original Ro-Tel tomatoes and chiles
  • 15 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained and rinsed
  • 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 1-2 cups broth (beef, chicken or vegetable will work)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon terragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2+ teaspoons salt (to taste)

In a large pot, melt bacon fat over medium heat. Add garlic and onions; simmer 5 minutes or until onion is soft. Turn heat to medium-high and add ground beef, cooking until no longer pink.

Add chili beans, Ro-Tel, corn, beans, and zucchini to pot, then add enough broth to barely cover. Stir in seasonings. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low, simmering 45 minutes to 3 hours, stirring every half hour or so. Season with salt to taste at the end. Enjoy!

Chicken, Black Bean & Plantain Stuffed Arepas

I’m on a roll these past few posts, nothing but Spanish cooking lately!

Today, we travel to Venezuela, famous for their corn flatbreads called arepas. 

I am not a big baker (and baking is even harder for my family since my sister can’t eat anything with gluten), and these are super easy to make. And they’re gluten free!

Even better, the arepas then get stuffed full with delicious fillings like a pita! Oh, yes.

This is my favorite filling combination (slow cooked beef instead of chicken is a close second). But you could fill them with really anything – try scrambled eggs and salsa with cheese for breakfast!

Adriana Lopez of Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen gets credit for inspiring me to add the fried plantain as a filling. Yum.

Arepas are first cooked in a pan before being baked in the oven; I like to cook mine in a cast iron grill pan for the lovely marks it leaves on the bread! But you can use a regular skillet, too.

For the chicken, first make my Pechuga de Pollo a la Plancha recipe.

If you have looked at some other Spanish recipes I’ve posted, you probably noticed the fried plantains on the plate. You can make them from fresh, but I buy them already sliced, fried and frozen (in my store they’re next to the french fries). Goya is a well-known and common Spanish brand that’s widely available here, and they taste just like you made them yourself. Just follow the package directions to bake in the oven or pan fry.

Also, the beans. Making beans from scratch takes hours. Unless I’m making a traditional dish where I need the beans done a certain way, I use canned refried beans (check the label to be sure there’s nothing weird in them, just beans and spices) and add my own extras to them. I also use canned black beans often – the low sodium kind with as few ingredients as possible, and season them myself. From-scratch beans are just not possible for me most of the time!

The arepa preparation I follow is from the cookbook Gran Cocina Latina but a very similar method is described hereAn internet search will show you many different methods, which isn’t surprising since this is one of the most popular and well-known Venezuelan foods. The method I am going to show you has always worked for me. The only variation is I make them larger so there’s 1 per person. Make them small (3 inches) if you like.

The dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for a few days. I have made this sandwich the night before and reheated it for lunch the next day, along with some rice; perfectly delicioso.


Chicken, Black Bean & Plantain Stuffed Arepas

for the arepas:

  • 1 cup precooked white or yellow corn flour, such as Harina P.A.N. brand
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon oil, plus 1/2 tablespoon for frying (preferably corn, but I use canola)
  • Pechuga de Pollo a la Plancha recipe
  • 1-16 ounce can refried black beans
  • 1-4 ounce can chopped hot green chiles
  • fried plantains, made from scratch or store bought frozen and heated per package directions
  • cojita cheese for topping (if you can’t find it, use mozzarella or even a little feta!)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Your chicken should be in the fridge marinating away at this point!

Put the refried beans in a small pan and add 3 tablespoons of the green chiles (more if you like!). Heat on low with the lid on while you prepare the arepas.

The fried plantains I buy take about 25 minutes in the oven; I start them baking now. If you only have one oven, you can microwave or fry them.


to make the arepas:

In a large bowl, mix the corn flour and salt; pour the water and oil over the top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.

After water is absorbed, knead the dough with your hands until smooth. Cover with a damp towel and let rest 5 more minutes.

On a flat surface, knead the dough until it’s not sticky (or only slightly sticky, it should not stick to the bowl but it might stick to your fingers because they’re warm).

Divide into 3 equal parts. I like to weigh the dough out to be sure they’re almost the same.

Form one into a ball, then flatten with the palm of your hand into a round that’s 5 inches wide and a little less than 1/2 inch thick. I do this on the counter rather than holding the dough. Repeat with the other dough balls. (hint: the dough is ready when you can flatten it into a ball and the edges do not crack.)

Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil (or brush the grill pan lightly with oil) and add as many rounds as will fit in your skillet (my 10-inch will hold 2). Make sure the pan is hot; this sets the stage for the arepa to puff up in the oven!

Leave them to cook for a few minutes until beginning to brown (maybe 3 minutes), then flip over.

Move the browned arepas to a baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until puffy.

Remove from the oven but leave on the baking sheet to keep warm.


Cook the chicken now!


To assemble the arepas, cut the bread open about 1/3 of the way along the edge (you can always cut it more if needed). With a dull knife, carefully hollow out the bread edge to edge.

Spread the refried beans on the bottom, then add sliced chicken and plantains. Top with cheese and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Spanish-Style Egg & Rice Bowl

Sometimes, we’re completely out of meat at our house.

Not even a chicken nugget in the freezer.

But I don’t despair. I make eggs!

Did you know how good they are for dinner? Oh, so delicious.

Over easy, hard boiled…let me show you how I make them Spanish-style (of course, right?).

We like to use brown rice or quinoa. Take your pick for the grain!

This is like nutrition on steroids. Fantastically good for you. Healthy proteins and whole grain.

Oh, and do try the pickled jalapeños. They are mildly spicy, pickled in vinegar and spices and canned with slices of carrots and onions. Find them in small cans next to the Spanish/Mexican foods in your grocery store.

And making your own fresh pico de gallo is super easy. I show you how here!

Why are you still reading this? Get to fixin’ it!


[recipe recipe title=”Spanish-Style Egg & Rice Bowl” servings=2]

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (or your grain of choice)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup pico de gallo (or use jarred salsa)
  • pickled japapeños (optional but delicious)
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • Cholula hot sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter, for frying egg

Make your own pico de gallo now, if you choose.

Divide the rice between two plates or wide, shallow bowls. Add black beans.

Fry two eggs to your liking in butter. I like to sometimes leave the yolk a little runny!

While the eggs cook, slice avocado in quarters and remove peel. Slice or dice into bite size pieces and add to the plate.

Garnish with the pickled jalapeños.

Top rice and beans with egg. Drizzle a little olive oil on top and sprinkle with Cholula or your favorite hot sauce.

Top everything with the pico de gallo or salsa. Enjoy![/recipe]

Roasted Green Beans

Here’s a simple, healthy way to make green beans.  Get creative with the seasonings! They make great finger food for little kids!

Roasted Green Beans

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, stems removed
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put green beans in a resealable plastic bag; add oil and seasonings, zip closed and toss to coat.

Spread evenly onto a baking sheet.  Roast for 30-45 minutes, tossing beans around every 15 minutes for even cooking.

Beans are ready when they are browned in places but still slightly firm.

These are great hot or room temperature; try dipping them in ranch dressing or Greek yogurt!  Enjoy!

White Bean Chicken Chili

Happy Start of Football Season!  Even though it’s still 100 degrees in the shade here, I was determined to celebrate appropriately.  Chili came to mind…then white chili.  It is low in calories and fat, but high in flavor and nutrition.  Perfect goodbye-summer-hello-fall food!

Too bad it will be hot here for another 3 months.  Gah.

But where I like to do things a little differently is in the chicken.  Instead of cubed precooked chicken, I like to add the raw chicken directly to the simmering vegetables, and shred it after it has cooked for a few hours, absorbing all those delicious flavors.

So here’s the recipe.  This makes a big ‘ol batch, I usually freeze half of it for another day and the other half will serve 3-4 people.

Top with mozzarella cheese and jalapeno slices.  Or with sour cream and chives.  Or anything you like!

It will be deeee-licious.

White Bean Chicken Chili

Yield 3 1/2 quarts.

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cans white Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 can Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can Ro-tel Original (Mild if you don’t like heat)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 small zucchinis (about 3 cups chopped)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup cilantro (about 1/2 bunch), chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • olive oil for sautéing

In a large cooking pot or dutch oven, sauté the onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the undrained can of Ro-Tel; corn; beans; zucchini; and cilantro.  Add the oregano, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper, and stir to combine.  Pour in the chicken broth, and bring the vegetable mixture to a boil.

Next, add the chicken, covering completely with broth and vegetables.  Cover and simmer 1-2 hours on medium-low heat.

Remove chicken and shred with two forks (if it doesn’t shred easily, return to pot to cook awhile longer).  Return shredded chicken to pot; add some more chicken broth if needed.

Re-cover and simmer on low another hour.

Serve immediately with mozzarella cheese, sour cream, jalapeno slices, scallions, or whatever you like!  Once cooled, the chili can easily be frozen in airtight containers.  Enjoy!