A potpouri of recipes – a trip to puerto rico

 Puerto Rican culture is very lively; very lively people; very warm people; and the food is really great. We’re all about cooking a lot of food and having family around, we’re kind of loud. It’s that sort of vibe and it’s great. – Author: David Lambert

Hi there,

,A few weeks ago we were invited to dinner at a friend’s home. Gathered around the table were old friends of 50 years or more and one new friend, Linette. Linette is what my mother-in-law would say is Joe’s “lady friend”. We had some wonderful conversations about food and I invited Linette to do the following guest post.

I was born in Washington State and lived there until the early 1950’s when my family moved to Washington Heights in Manhattan. For those that are not familiar with “The Heights, watch the movie that just came out.  It is fun to watch and shows a culture that most of you do not recognize.

I grew up with a mom from Puerto Rico and a dad that had blond hair, blues eyes and spoke no Spanish. So we did not grow up speaking Spanish.  But we were given the gift of some wonderful Spanish food, great music, dance, and a passionate culture. As adults my four siblings all embraced our Spanish heritage. We are proud of my Dads side of the family too (Hopkins of the Mayflower). We just found my mom’s so much more colorful. 

City life in the Heights during our time there (1950’s to 1964) was multi-cultural.  We lived in an apartment building that had Spanish families, Greek Families, Irish, German and who knows what other nationalities. It was a wonderful blend of people.  Each building was like one big family.  We had people teaching us their knowledge and we taught them.  We ran errands for the elderly.  We played games from morning until we got called in for food or sleep.   In 1964 we moved to Freehold, New Jersey.  It was a farm town at the time. WHAT A CHANGE! Being young, we adjusted and it was probably the best move that my parents made.  We learned a new culture and had the peace of knowing that we could go anyplace with safety, something that we would not have had once we hit our stride as teenagers in the city. The Heights was becoming, like today, a network of gangs and they no longer just had knives and fists to fight with. They now used guns.  My parents saw the handwriting on the wall. 

It is nice to know that the old neighborhood is now being renovated and is on the upswing from when we left.  It is an architecturally beautiful community near the George Washington Bridge and Hudson River.  I pray that it will continue to revitalize and offer its beauty to a new generation of New Yorkers. 

My parents and all of my Aunts and Uncles, except my Aunt Dalila have passed.  Along with their being gone, many recipes and cultural events have gone with them.  My oldest sister Diana has the best memories of our time in the city and how to cook some of the foods that we ate.  She was old enough to learn from my mom and grandmother.  Our favorites were Rice and Beans, Tostones and Empanadas. 

I have asked her to share the Rice and Beans recipe and the Empanada recipe. 

I have looked up the Tostones recipe.  Enjoy!        Linette (Hopkins / Agostini) Carroll

 note: My mother used a brown paper bag to drain the bananas on after she fried them the first time.  She could not cook these fast enough.  We ate them immediately and had to watch we did not burn our tongue.  The more salt the better.  



2)  EMPANADILLA (AKA–EMPANADA–depends where you grew up)

1 or 2 packages of Goya “discos” **10 per package** 

These round discs of dough will need to be rolled out one at a time on a smooth surface. 

NO flour beneath–only on top so that the dough doesn’t stick to the rolling pin. 

Roll out about an inch to 1.5 inches bigger than package size.  

Fill a small bowl with water and have a fork handy.  

Moisten half the disc with water on fingertips. 

Scoop about 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of picadillo onto the disc and fold like a turnover.

Bring edges together, using the fork to press and seal.

Set onto floured cookie sheet until you’re ready to fry.

Put vegetable oil in a large skillet about 1/4 to 1/2 inch depth. Heat till water droplets sizzle.

Fry 2 or 3 at a time till golden brown. Flip to other side. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot!

Some people bake them….also good but not as crispy and crunchy!


(AKA Picadillo)

Approx. 2 to2.5 lbs. ground beef, browned, drained.

–1 onion, chopped

–1 green pepper, chopped

–1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce (**rinse can with some water and add to pan)

–1 (10.5 oz) jar salad olives, drained and coarsely chopped (save liquid)

–1 (2 oz.) jar capers, drained(save liquid)

–Approx. 2 teaspoons oregano

–Approx. 1-2 teaspoons minced garlic

After meat is cooked and drained of grease, add all ingredients and simmer about 1/2 an hour till sauce thickens and reduces.  ( The olive and caper liquids may be used if you need to add moisture…keep in mind that they are very salty!) 

*If you can, let this mixture sit overnight in the refrigerator.

The final product should be fairly thick…no juiciness. I sometimes put the picadillo in a large strainer to let excess liquids drain. You don’t want liquid inside the empanadilla to leak into the oil and spit!



1)  RICE AND BEANS (for a crowd!)

1 lb. dark small red beans (not kidney bean size)

(follow directions for soaking)

When beans are ready. add to a large pot or slow cooker (approx. 6 hours on Low) with:

–6 cups water

–1 chopped green pepper

–1 large onion, chopped

–2 teaspoons salt

–1/2 teaspoon pepper

–1 ham hock

–1 meaty ham bone OR some smoked pork neck bones 

–2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced

— 1/2 to 1 teaspoon oregano

–1 packet Sazon seasoning (will say “con culantro y achiote”–on the box)

–1 6 oz. can tomato sauce  







3)  FLAN –Melt about 1 cup granulated sugar in iron skillet with a little water. Stir until it begins to melt.–When sugar is melted, pour into the bottom of a 9 X 11 glass baking dish (could be a couple loaf pans too) Let cool….it will harden and then melt again when the flan is baked.–Place a large baking pan on oven rack and fill with 1-2 inches of water. Preheat oven to 350–BLEND: 3 cans evaporated milk                7 eggs                 sugar to taste–fairly sweet                 4 ozs. cream cheese (optional)–Add only one can evap. milk to blender with all eggs and cream cheese. (in order to not overfill)–Add pinch of salt, cinnamon to blender–Finish mixing in large bowl with remaining cans of evaporated milk and sugar. You can use a whisk for this part.–Carefully place baking dish or loaf pans into pre-heated water in large baking pan. –Bake @ 350 degrees for about 45 minutes—-until knife comes out clean.–Refrigerate and serve.

I hope you have enjoyed meeting this fabulous woman and will make this delicious meal. Thank you Linette for sharing your story and recipes.

Talk soon, ❤️💕 Bernadette

19 responses to “A potpouri of recipes – a trip to puerto rico”

  1. Oh my goodness this post is wonderful!!! Empanadas *and* rice and beans!!! (Swoon!) Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve saved it to cook from later.
    There’s a Puerto Rican and Cuban restaurant not far from my house that I adore. Owned by a young couple – she’s Puerto Rican he’s from Cuba… such an interesting menu they have and I’ve tasted almost everything!
    Thanks again for this post!!

  2. Bern, what a treasure trove of Caribbean specialties. Todd and I discovered beef empanadas on our first trip to Grand Cayman Island in 1989. I’ve always been too intimidated to make them because I’m not good at making dough. The Goya Discos will solve that problem! Many thanks to you and Linette for this trifecta post.

    • I never knew about the discos either but you can bet I will be on the lookout for them. I discovered empanadas in 1972 on my honeymoon. Have a great week Elizabeth.

Any comments or suggestions are appreciated. If you like this recipe, please give it to your friends.

%d bloggers like this: