Tag Archives: tips

Eating Jamaica: A Culinary Tour

I was recently invited by the Jamaica Tourist Board, along with select other bloggers and press, to attend a culinary tour and experience the tastes of Jamaica. Awesome right? Unfortunately, due to a full-time job, I was unable to make it work.  

So instead, a close friend of mine went in my place.  As the editor of Cocktail Enthusiast and booze aficionado, Kevin was the perfect candidate for Jamaican rum tastings.  But in addition to his expertise of cocktails and spirits, Kevin has a refined pallet and appreciates good eats. A perfect fit for the tour!

Lucky for us, Kevin saved a special post exclusively for Cooking with Coley. I’ll let him take it from here…

Before my recent trip to Jamaica, I knew very little about the cuisine. My knowledge started and ended with jerk chicken and rum, so I was anxious to learn more about the country’s food. Naturally, my gluttony assisted me well, as I managed to cram about three weeks’ worth of eating into five days.

Some culinary highlights –

Jerk Chicken

There’s a reason it’s popular. This delicious style of cooking refers to the spice rub that’s applied to chicken, pork and seafood. The jerk seasonings are principally allspice and Scotch Bonnet peppers (more on these guys below), but can also include thyme, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and more. The result is intensely flavored food with a hearty kick. I sampled jerk dishes at several restaurants throughout Jamaica, but found the local favorite, Scotchies, to be the best. In the below photo, A Scotchies’ employee reveals the jerk chicken slow cooking over a pit fire.

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

This native pepper is a ubiquitous flavoring agent in Jamaica, finding its way into jerk seasoning rubs, soups and many sauces. To give

you an idea of the heat using the industry standard Scoville units, Scotch Bonnet peppers have a heat rating of 100,000–350,000 units. The jalapeño, for comparison sake, has a heat rating of around 2,500 to 8,000 units. Remember the fiery heat that a jalapeno’s seeds can give off, then imagine that heat intensified about 50 times. Therein lies the appeal of the Scotch Bonnet pepper. It’s extremely hot, but when used in moderation, it’s a delicious topping to jerk chicken or rice and peas, and it’s a great flavor enhancer for soups.

Speaking of soups, locals noted that Scotch Bonnet peppers are dropped whole into soups during cooking. But they’re always fished out before the soup comes to a boil, as boiling soup can cause the pepper to burst. A single burst pepper can ruin an entire vat of soup, rendering it too hot to eat.

Ackee and Saltfish

This breakfast staple is the national dish of Jamaica, and it quickly became a favorite morning treat, equally valuable for curing hangovers and fueling long travel days. Ackee resembles scrambled eggs, but it’s actually a West African fruit brought over to Jamaica in the 1700s. To prepare the dish, ackee is boiled and then sautéed with salted cod, tomatoes, onions and spices. 

June Plums

This new-to-me fruit grows in tropical climates like the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. Eaten raw, it’s sour and slightly crunchy, like a mixture between a plum and a green apple. Locals often sprinkle the raw fruit with salt, which creates a fun play between sour and salty. The fruit can also be cooked down into jams, relishes and sauces, or stewed with water and sugar to create an applesauce-like treat. The June plum was also featured in a popular, refreshing Jamaican drink of June plum juice sweetened with sugar and spiced up with a hint of ginger.

Thanks Kevin, for doing the heavy lifting and taking one for the team by going to Jamaica.  ;) Luckily, I’m off to explore the region myself in two days to celebrate a close friend’s wedding on 11.11.11. Looking forward to trying those scotch bonnet peppers, and finding out for myself if cod for breakfast is really a good idea.   

Kevin Gray is a Dallas-based journalist and cocktail enthusiast who’s work has also appeared in AOL, The Huffington Post, Gear Patrol, USAToday.com and Where Magazine. Check out Cocktail Enthusiast and follow Kevin’s journey through new spirit tastings and classic cocktail reviews.

Tuesday Tip for the Novice: 15

The candy is all gone and the excuse to dress up is over, but you don’t have to wait until next year to be inspired by the season.

I received a fun tip from Nueva Cocina on what to do with those pumpkins that you didn’t get around to carving.  It’s creative and healthy, so I’d thought I’d pass it along!

Tip:  Don’t toss those pumpkins, use ‘em to make something yummy!


Here’s their recipe:


What you’ll need:

  • 1 Package of Nueva Cocina® Mexican Rice Mix (of course you can use the rice mix of your choice)
  • 4 small pumpkins (3 for serving purposes and 1 for recipe ingredient)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
  • 2 to 3 small pumpkins, depending on serving size, for baking or steaming



Cut pumpkins in half, leaving the rind on.  Remove seeds and strings.  Rub pumpkins with olive oil and some salt. Place halves on baking sheets with rind side up. Place a small amount of water in the pan. Bake for 45 minutes in a 350-degree oven.  If you prefer to steam the pumpkins, place halves in steamer with rind side up. Steam until meat and rind are soft.

Combine 1 Cup of pumpkin meat, peeled and cubed with all the ingredients in a package of the Nueva Cocina® Mexican Rice Mix and follow the cooking directions on the box.  When done, serve the rice in half of a small pumpkin for an excellent presentation and great added texture and flavor.

Note: I haven’t tried this recipe.  In fact, I’ve yet to try any of Nueva Cocina’s products before now, but I like the sound of them – they are 100% natural – which means only premium ingredients with nothing artificial added and no preservatives.  Plus, I dig Latin flavors.  I’m expecting some review samples and will report back soon!


Tuesday Tip for The Novice: 14

Use the juice. Simple words of wisdom.

I love buying pepper rings because it’s like a two-in-one deal: peppers AND a sweet and spicy juice.  Today’s Tuesday Tip for the Novice is simple — don’t toss that extra juice, instead add it to a salad. Whether it’s a pasta salad, a bean salad, or a traditional salad of greens, adding a little juice as part of the “dressing,” adds a ton of flavor without a ton of cals. Barely any in fact.

If you like a little heat, try this out next time you’re fixing up a salad.


Tuesday Tip(s) for the Novice: 12

While deep down I’m still in a state of affliction from the Patriots disappointing loss last week, I can’t deny that I’ll still be in front of the TV for Super Bowl XLV.  I also can’t deny that  part of my affinity for the event is making some yummy snacks. And while I’m all for “cheating” on the weekends and indulging in some of my favorite greasy foods, it can’t hurt to make a few lighter and leaner options when you’re surrounded by fried foods and guilty pleasures.

So whether you are preparing for hosting a big game party, or looking for a distraction because your team isn’t in it, here are some tips and ideas for lower fat, lower calorie game time munchies.  Plus this way you can save some of those cals for game day cocktails. ;)

Here are some suggestions I received today from Carl Germano, RD, CDN and a NY Board certified clinical nutritionist.

1.      Instead of: Beef Sliders with Cheese

Try: Turkey Sliders with sliced tomato

Cooking with Coley  (CWC) add on: look for wheat rolls or serve bun free with a toothpick – they’re even easier to eat that way!

2.      Instead of: Franks in the Blanket with Mustard

Try: Chicken Teriyaki Skewers

3.      Instead of: Nachos with Cheese & Jalapenos

Try: Baked Nachos with Guacamole, Tomatoes and Jalapenos

CWC add on: Buy Multigrain or Baked Tostitos and spice it up with other veggies and a part-skim cheese

4.      Instead of: Beef Chili with Shredded Cheese

Try: Low Fat Turkey Chili with Black Beans, Corn & Salsa

CWC add on: Buy 99% fat free turkey burger and add enough spices that you won’t even know it’s turkey!  Promise!  Ground cumin and dried chipotle peppers can do the trick.  Let me know if you need a recipe.

5.      Instead of: Fried Buffalo Wings with Ranch dip

Try: Baked Chicken Wings with hot sauce dip

CWC add on: Also consider a chicken wing dip – you can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, light cheese and celery for dipping

Tuesday Tip for the Novice: 11

Is there a difference between dry and wet measuring cups? Do you really need both?

The simple answer is yes.  The measurements may not be precise if you don’t use the appropriate cup; this is crucial for baking.

Dry ingredients are easiest measured when you can level the cup. Once the cup is overfilled, you can then use a knife (or other straight edge) to scrape across the top and level the amount to the right measurement (the measuring cup should be filled to the brim).  If you attempt to measure a dry ingredient such as flour in a wet cup, you won’t be able to achieve this exact measurement with the leveling technique.

On the other hand, when measuring a liquid with a dry measuring cup, it’s tough not to spill when filling it to the brim.  However, with a wet measuring cup, you can easily measure the liquid to the appropriate line.