***My sisters and I are pleased to have guest writer Mei-Ling here on The Kusi Life, sharing what the secret ingredient to cooking is, and a favorite family recipe in our “See the Happy” Series.
Honoring the meaning of this blog’s name, I want to share something that makes me extremely HAPPY: cooking! I believe preparing and making food for your loved ones is a special way to get to their hearts (not just their tummies). I learned to cook watching my mom (and sometimes my dad) when I was a young girl growing up in my native Puerto Rico.
I’ve always believed that the best way to learn is by paying attention to how others do things. Although my mom never really told me how to make specific dishes, I remember just paying attention to how she put together her day-to-day dishes. When I went to live on my own at the age of 16 (leaving my family behind in Puerto Rico), I was “forced” to practice what I had “learned”. I began making simple dishes from memory (mainly rices). You see, rice is the main dish in Puerto Rican cuisine. We eat rice with everything and have mastered to prepare it in many different ways (just like many other cultures do). We mainly make savory dishes with rice can also make some serious rice desserts (like arroz con dulce – a coconut sweet rice eaten mostly during Christmas and the holidays).
Today I’m sharing my recipe for “Arroz con gandules” (spelled “gandures” in some places) or “Rice with pigeon peas” (funny name, right? – No, there are no pigeons involved). Pigeon peas are a tropical pea-like seed from the legume family. They are rich in potassium, protein, and fiber and are delicious if you ask me. They may look like green peas but they are different in texture and taste. Although Puerto Ricans eat this “arroz con gandules” all year-round, for the most part, this is seeing as a holiday dish.
My friends and family love when I make it. Because I no longer cook for my family on a daily basis (we are separated by distance), when we get together for any special occasion, I get requests to make my Puerto Rican dishes. Arroz con gandules is front and center during Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. As I share my recipe with the readers of The Kusi Life, I want to let you in on a secret: no matter what you make or which recipes you try, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS let LOVE be the main ingredient. As I throw ingredients in a pot I think of how happy my loved ones will be as they taste the dish (dishes) I’m making. If you’re a beginner in the kitchen know that you should never take to the kitchen in a bad mood or if you’re feeling sick or sad. I mean, we all go through things, right? But, if you’re in a particular mood (I believe) it will show in your cooking. Always cook (or bake or do anything/everything) from a place of love and you will taste the difference.