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How to get more juice from a lime or lemon:
In order to get more juice out of a lime or lemon, place in the microwave for 20-25 seconds on high; that should be enough time to release its juices. Do not go overboard in heating time, since it could cause the flesh to dry out

How to preserve leafy produce such as Culantro, Mint, etc.:
Prolong the life of your produce by wrapping them loosely on a dry sheetof paper towel and placing them in a ziplock bag. Oxigen is not a friend of veggies, so get as much air out of the bag before sealing. Also, avoid washing until ready to use.  And make sure to leave ample room in your refrigerator and produce drawer. Overstocking can cause less air to flow through the refrigerator, which can cause uneven temps with food expiring faster.

Clean and season protein before freezing:
Purchasing proteins (e.g. meat, fish, poultry) in bulk saves money. However, in order to preserve and prevent freezer burn, open packaging, wash, clean, and season. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and foil, label and date and place in freezer. This will expedite cooking time. Just thaw and cook

Store spices in the right location:
To prolong the life of your spices, keep them in a cool, dark place. Don’t store them on top of the stove, as heat and humidity can alter their flavor. Do not place hot sauce in the refrigerator. Cold temperature will alter the spice and flavor of the hot sauce

Let red meat rest before cutting into it:
Even a well-done steak should never taste dry. To prevent a steak from losing its juicy interior, place it directly on top of aluminum foil after taking it off the stove or grill. Carefully wrap the steak in the foil and let it sit for six to seven minutes. This allows the juices to settle before you cut into the meat. The meat will continue to cook while it is in the foil so if you prefer medium steak, you should take it off when it’s medium rare.

Need to chill drinks but don’t have ice or space in the fridge:
Not enough space in your refrigerator to chill your drink? Place drinks into big tubs or buckets filled with salted ice water – the salt will cause the temperature to drop, giving you icy cold drinks in seconds.

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Platano en Tentacion (Candied Sweet Plantain)

2 sweet plantains, overripe, cut into 1/2 inch thick logs
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces raspadura/panela/piloncillo OR 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup coca cola soda

Heat the butter in a large frying pan or skillet.
Add the plantains and fry them on each side until golden. Place on a plate
with paper towel to remove excess oil.
Place the raspadura/panela/piloncillo with 3/4 cup of water in a cast iron
skillet on medium heat until it melts. OR place the brown sugar with 1/4 cup water in a cast iron skillet on medium heat until it dissolves.
Add butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, lime juice, coca cola, to syrup and continue simmering until plantains are very soft and the syrup is infused with the flavor of the spices, for about 10 minutes.
Serve immediately with your favorite meal
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Panamanian Fruit Cake

Make Ahead: The fruit should soak for at least 30 days. (Or follow quick-soak directions; see NOTES.) The cake can be wrapped and stored in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months (with periodic brushing; see below) or frozen for up to 6 months.

Where to Buy: Liquid burnt sugar, which tastes like a cross between molasses and caramel, is an ingredient often found in Caribbean recipes and can be purchased online or at Caribbean grocery stores. Mincemeat is a blend of raisins, apples and spices, and is traditionally made with beef suet and brandy. Vegetarian versions can be found online and in stores.

You’ll need a 9-inch round cake pan with sides at least 2 inches high.

16 servings

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 teaspoon liquid burnt sugar (see headnote)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups prepared fruits (see NOTE)
  • 1/2 cup mincemeat (with brandy; see headnote)
  • 2 tablespoons rum, or more for long-term storage (see headnote)
  • 2 tablespoons brandy, or more for long-term storage (see headnote)


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease the pan with baker’s spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper.

Combine the butter, shortening and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer; beat on medium speed for several minutes, until light and fluffy. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl until evenly combined, adding the water gradually until well incorporated. Whisk in the liquid burnt sugar and vanilla extract.

Add the egg mixture to the butter-sugar mixture in the mixer bowl, then fold in the prepared fruits and their liquid, plus the mincemeat; this may be best to do by hand, because the mixture can be heavy and could potentially burn out the mixer motor. Add the flour mixture a quarter-cup at a time, combining thoroughly. A spoon should be able to stand up in the middle of the batter.

Spoon the batter into the cake pan and smooth the surface. Bake (middle rack) for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; if that does not happen, reduce the temperature to 300 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in its pan for 1 hour.

Use a toothpick or wooden skewer to poke several holes in the top of the cake, then mix the brandy and rum together and pour on top of the cake. Remove the cake from the pan. The cake can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 6 weeks; brush the top of the cake with 2 teaspoons of brandy or rum once a week to help keep it moist.

NOTE: To make the prepared fruits, combine 1 1/4 cups finely chopped Paradise Extra Fancy Fruit Cake Mix (candied fruits), 1 1/4 cups raisins, 1/2 cup currants, 1/4 cup rum, 2 tablespoons brandy and 2 tablespoons port in an airtight container. Allow the fruits to soak for at least 30 days. If unable to soak for a long period, place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. This quick-cook mixture can be placed in an airtight container and stored in a cool, dark place for several weeks, until ready to use.

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Panama’s key spice is “culantro” (not cilantro), as shown in the picture to the left.  Culantro is a tropical perennial in the Apiaceae family that is widely used as a seasoning in many of our dishes.  It is native to Central and South America and not well known in the United States. It is known as “cha[r]don beni” in Trinidad

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2lbs yuca, peeled (fresh or frozen)
2 teaspoons oil
1 tablespoon salt

1 lb ground beef
1/8 cup oil
1 small oil, chopped fine
1 green sweet pepper, chopped fine
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Oregano, dried
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon Adobo seasoning
1 teaspoon Maggi sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste

Cut yuca into small pieces. Place yuca in a pot with 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Cook for 20 minutes or until tender. Do not overcook or it will get mushy. Drain yuca and let stand for 5 minutes to cool. Remove spine in the center with a peering knife. Grind yuca in a grinder (or food processor). Add oil and salt to the ground yuca and make a dough.

While the yuca is cooking, begin preparing filling. Heat a medium size skillet over medium heat and add oil. Add the onion and green peppers and cook until onions are translucent. Remove from skillet. Place ground beef in skillet and cook until no pink is visible. Add cooked onions and green peppers to cooked beef and add remaining ingredients and stir. Turn heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes to ensure that paste is cooked out. Strain cooked beef until all moisture removed and let cool.

Take yuca dough and divide into equal portions and form into small bowl shape and fill with two teaspoons of ground beef. Close the top of dough like a purse and seal and shape like a football. Place into a pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

To cook, heat the oil for frying in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 350 degrees F. Cook the Carimanolas in the hot oil in batches. If cooking in saucepan, use tongs to turn balls around to ensure even browning, until crispy and golden brown, for about 3 minutes per batch. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate before serving.