Unexpected Day Off

Last night I was sitting here watching some Netflix when my phone rings… It’s work…No work tomorrow…. Whaaaat?!?!  Totally unexpected.  Yea it had snowed a little bit, but did not seem like enough to call a snow day.  Also, it was not a normal teaching day, it was in-service, which if you don’t know is pretty much like teacher hell.  All day training, where you sit there and get talked at.  So now double whammy, no work and no in-service !!!

I immediately go into my happy dance.  The happy dance is pretty spontaneous and it’s when the joy of my spirit overrides my body. Last night it looked like I was running in place really fast with high knees and my hands waving in the air like I just don’t care.  

This morning I got up and had to race to move the car before DC gave me another ticket only to find pretty much the most most (2x) gross day in the world.  Cold rain + melting snow + gray skies= disgusting!!

I am all about following the signs and going with the flow of the universe, and the universe was clearly telling me to get under the covers and not come out until the sun comes back out. So that is exactly what we did.  Max agreed this would be a good time to veg out… See picture below for evidence.   

 At around 2 pm the sun came roaring out, the clouds cleared, and it was blue skies.  We got the French press going with some yummy Costa Rican coffee and pealed ourselves off the coach to begin a productive afternoon.  In all honesty Max decided it was time to get up… See picture below for evidence. 

 
After some tug of war we:

  1. Booked our spring break vacation to Fort Lauderale spending zero $$ thanks my to citi AAadavatage credit card points!! Score 
  2. Picked up the apt ( boring but necessary )
  3. Did some hardcore yoga with method yoga on YouTube   This dude kicks my but every time.  Warning not for beginners.
  4. Cooked a fun chicken and rice dish for my lunches for the week    

So all in all a pretty awesome day.  I can’t always take the morning off just cause the weather is gross out, but when I can I am going to do it.  

umm + Pura Vida = one with the universe

What is TICOS PACE ?

Be Loyal…

To yourself first, your authentic self. Today I performed some Latino magic on some chicken in my kitchen, made some Spanish rice, and topped it with some Avacados.  Cooking for the sake of making it taste amazing is loyal to my soul.  I love  food, more so when you can tell someone really thought about the flavors and how they play together.  

  
How are you loyal? 

Spring Is On The Way!

This morning I took Max for his morning walk and encountered the smell of spring faintly in the air.  I took a deep breath and let that familiar scent enter my lungs and process in my brain.  I smiled and exhaled with a sigh of relief…spring is on the way! The actual first day of spring is Friday March 20, however in my past experience with mother nature, she does not give a shit about our calendar. She will do what she wants when she wants.  If she decides she is going to bring down one more snow fall in March, she will do it.  Worry NOT, for it does no good…enjoy the transition period and before you know it, spring will be here exactly when it is supposed to be here.

According to the 5 Element Theory the period during the TRANSITION of the  seasons is marked by the element of EARTH.  Earth is the grounding or centering element.   The climate is damp (which would make sense around these parts with all the snow melting).  The organs are the spleen (yin) and the stomach (yang)  The color is yellow, the taste is sweet, and the feeling is thought.

I was introduced to this concept when I attended a presentation titled “Eating for Longevity-A Seasonal Approach” given by Teri Mosey.  The entire talk was fascinating and in stride with TICOS PACE.  We already kind of naturally do this right?…when it’s cold outside most of us crave a hearty soup.  Fruits that are not in season and are flown in, just don’t taste the same (they are also more expensive).  The problem is we get in our own way.  Distractions, media, ego and hectic lifestyles impede us from making decisions that our body actually wants and is good for us.  If we can quiet all the noise and listen to what our soul really needs for nourishment,  we can create harmony with our internal nature and the external world.

Recently, I have been giving a lot more thought to food and playing with ingredients I have never

Playing butternut squash

Playing butternut squash

cooked with before.  Some crazy stuff is happening with butternut squash right now! I am not sure if it will make me one with the universe, but it certainly can’t hurt.  If you are into this you can check out Teri Mosey’s website where she has posted different recipes that go with the seasons and other holistic nutrition services.  You can also check out Rhonda Parkinson’s write-up on The Five Elements Theory of Chinese Cooking.

So embrace this transition period, be thoughtful, and listen to your body…it knows best.  Spring will be here soon!

Ticos in the kitchen-Bolognese sauce

It’s Sunday, so that means it’s time to cook my meal for the week.  This week something new!  I was inspired from my visit last weekend to my sister from another mother Renee.  This is her sister’s recipe and she killed it, so good that I had to make it myself.

Renee making her sister's recipe last weekened

Renee making her sister’s recipe last weekend

WARNING, this is not one of those 15 minute meals, this takes some time, but the flavors are amazing…as I always say “anything worth having takes some time”.  If you are trying to impress a lucky someone, this should be a go-to recipe in your aresnal.  Sandra’s insturctions are on the money, and will leave people highly impressed with your culinary skills. Sandra is Renee’s sister and is soon expecting (congratulations Sandra!!) and her recipe was super easy to follow.  Typically, I am not a recipe follower…I usually rely more on my nose, taste, and latino intuition.  This time I pretty much followed the recipe, but did add a little crushed red peppers to give it a little kick.  I like my coffee strong and my food with a little kick.


Sandra’s Bolognese Sauce

Ingredients:IMG_0538
1 yellow onion
2 slim or 1 thick carrot
Celery
Garlic
Olive oil
2 pounds ground beef (80/20 or close to that)
2 small cans tomato paste
Red wine
Bay leaves, Fresh thyme

1. Chop:
-onion
-carrots
-2 of the celery ribs
-3 cloves of garlic
really really fine. If you have a food processor, just chop into chunks and throw em in and pulse until finely chopped. Otherwise chop really really small pieces.

2. Heat a large sauce pot over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. At least 3 tablespoons, but you can eyeball it.

3. Add your chopped veggies and season liberally with salt and pepper. Cook for about 15 minutes until evenly brown, stirring frequently so they don’t burn. Dark brown is good, black is bad 🙂 Don’t worry if some pieces stick to the bottom it’ll all work out.

4. Add your ground beef and season again with salt and pepper. Brown the beef really well, breaking it up into bits as it cooks. This will take about 10 minutes.

5. Add two small cans of tomato paste and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. Add 2 cups of red wine and deglaze the pan (scrape up the brown bits stuck to the bottom). Let the wine reduce (evaporate) by about half.

7. Add enough water to cover the whole deal by about an inch. Toss in 2 bay leaves and a couple sprigs of fresh thyme. Stir it all up good. Reduce your heat to medium and bring it to a very low simmer. Leave uncovered!

8. For the next 3-4 hours…..
From time to time (check it like every 45 mins or so) add about a cup of water to the sauce and stir it up. The flavor will develop from very wine-y to really robust tomato sauce over a few hours. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you like.

*After the 3 hour mark it starts to taste super awesome! So give it at least 3 to 3.5 hours.

**If adding mushrooms, sauté them separately in olive oil until cooked and add them after step number 7.


This was fun to make and will make your place smell amazing.  Also it involves wine, which means for me I am going to have a few glasses while I cook.  I acutally had to buy another bottle of red for it this morning cause I accidently drank too much of it last night (oops).   While I was making this meal, I was face timing with my mom in Costa Rica…and to my surprise she was cooking “Canalones”.  Maybe I’ll make those week.

Hope you enjoyed,

Much love

Alcides “Tico” Cummins

** I paired this sauce with some whole wheat  Fusilli Pasta (to keep it somewhat healthy) and Shaved Grana Padano Parmesan.  Thank you Trader Joe’s for the ingredients.  The sauce came out amazing, the flavor was so rich, however I will admit, I think Renee made it better.  Something about the consistency of hers was superior to mine.  Maybe it was the the type of wine I used, but I think she just has the touch when it comes to this dish.

Where all the magic happens

Where all the magic happens

Food Love and Family

On most Sundays, I will spend part of the day cooking up a big pot of yummy savory, (somewhat healthy) food for the week.  As I mentioned in my last post, I am a teacher and a coach, which involves long hours during the week.  When I get home I have no energy to prepare a meal and eating out gets expensive, not to mention usually not the healthiest option.  Thankfully, I really enjoy cooking!

My joy of cooking stems from my grandma, we call her Nanny.  It is my understanding that Nanny was the first to hold me when I was born, because  I think my mom was knocked out at the time haha.  She is not one of those drop in grandmas you see on the holidays and talk to now and then.  She has remained close to me my entire life.  Even now, while she lives in Costa Rica and I am in DC we chat it up on Skype and Facebook.  That’s right, my 79 year old Nanny has Facebook and she is my friend.  She is more tech savvy than some of my colleagues at work (sad but true).  Nanny is the BEST grandma anyone could ask for, and when I think about how much I love her my eyes begin to water (I can be emotional, “but I am Latin so I feel whatever I want”…Gloria from Modern Family says it best), and the kicker is she is in no way blood related to ANY OF US.

Here is the story of Shirley Denning, my Nanny and how family transcends blood lines.


NANNY

 It was the 70’s when love was in the air, bell bottoms where the flair, and good times were had

Nanny's Portrait

Nanny’s Portrait

by all.  Costa Rica embraced this bogey time in history just like everyone else.  Chepita was a 20 something year old finding her way as the oldest sibling still under her mother’s household.  She was also the primary bread-winner, working at “MasXMenos”  a chain grocery store in Costa Rica.  However, it was not all work and no play for Chepita.  She found herself hopelessly in love with a much older man we will call Ramon.  First love is always strong, but many times can end in the same explosive manner it began.  Chepita knowing the situation was dire and unwilling to pick up the pieces of her broken heart…she fleed to the Unites States.

Chepita sought refuge with her aunt, Tia Olivia.  As a good little latina house guest she woke up early, did her chores, got a job, and went to Catholic church.  Tia Olivia ran a tight ship, and there was little time for back talk or shenanigans.  Chepita got a job at a factory sewing swim suits.  Her boss was Shirley Denning.  Shirley was tall (at least to Chepita because Chepita was not even 5 feet), slender, and elegant.  Her voice was kind and sweet, and her mere presence could capture a room.  Shirley was in her early 40’s and had already lived a robust life.  In her 20’s, she had been a bikini model, now she helped make them.  Shirley liked to drive fast, smoke cigarets, go fishing, and eat seafood.  She had been married and divorced (I think twice, maybe three times).   She attempted to have children of her own, but that was not in God’s plan.

Nanny through the years

Nanny through the years

 

Chepita spoke very little English and Shirley, zero Spanish.  Shirley began teaching her English, while mentoring her in the ways of the industry, and shielding her from the no good influence of the Puerto Rican factory workers. One Sunday morning, Chepita was in no mood to get up early to go to church.  That was not really an option under the house of Tia Olivia and since the two had a short fuse and the tempers of hurricane Katrina, an explosion erupted.  Chepita was given an ultimatum.  Either she got her lazy ass to church and followed Tia Olivia’s rules or she would need to find another place to live.  And with that, Chepita was out….packed her bags and was out the door.

Chepita had one person to turn to.  Shirley opened up her home to Chepita and allowed her stay  until she got on her feet.  Months turned into years, and years a life time.  Chepita became the daughter that Shirley never had.

A few years later, Chepita found herself with child.  By this time Chepita was 26, and although this was not planned she felt like she was ready for motherhood.  Shirley encouraged her to do what she felt was right.  She would support her not matter what.  Alcides was born 9 months later.  In that instance Shirley became a grandmother! Alcides would grow up calling her Nanny, the same name Shirley called her grandmother.  The beginning of a new family was born.


Families come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and as long as there is love the bond will be true and strong.  Nanny has played a huge role on who I am today, and helped give shape to TICOS PACE.  She taught me the value of traditions, the same traditions I hope to one day teach my kids.  Every Thanksgiving morning we would turn on the parade and I would assist her with cooking the big meal.  Around Christmas time, it was cookie time and

Nanny's Cream Cheese Cookies

Nanny’s Cream Cheese Cookies

together we baked tubs and tubs of different cookies.  When we all moved to Costa Rica, Nanny made tamales, arroz con pollo, and gallo pinto as if she had lived there her whole life.  Nanny is now an avid reader and computer user. She is sharp as a nail and to this day, the primary Chef of the household.  I owe my joy of cooking and so much more to her.

IMG_2482

Love you Nanny

My next post will be on the meal I make for this week.  I usually stick to simple healthy latino dishes that involves some chicken, rice, beans and veggies.  However, this time I am going to change it up and make a Bolognese sauce, inspired by one of my inspirations, Renee Koerner (hi Renee) and use her sister’s recipe to do it.  So stay tuned…

Much love

Alcides “Tico” Cummins