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? 

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

1 yellow onion
2 slim or 1 thick carrot
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:
-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.


 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.


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