This Dame Cooks A Collection of Recipes from Alaska to the South Pacific and Caribbean

Ginger and Starfruit Jam

11.15.2012 · Posted in Preserves & Condiments, Recipes

Starfruit and Ginger Jam

Hurricane Sandy did a number on some of the beaches in Rincon, taking away the sand right down to the bedrock in some areas.  My friend, Judy, lost several beautiful fan-palms on the beach side of her home leaving an eight foot drop off.  Fortunately the rest of the property was intact and the fruit trees were unharmed.  Judy had one starfruit tree loaded with fruit so I brought home about 10 pounds of fruit for chutney and this jam.

Tropical fruits are very sweet when ripe with delicate flavors and its important not to overcook them or add ingredients that will overpower their intrinsic flavors.  A couple tablespoons of fresh grated ginger was all that was needed to turn a batch of starfruit into a jam with just a hint of sparkle.  Starfruit tastes like a strawberry with apple tones and has the texture of watermelon or ripe pear depending upon the ripeness.

Do give this jam a try and remember jams make lovely Christmas gifts.


  • 2 cups cubed starfruit (about 6 medium sized)
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2  Tbsp liquid pectin


  1. Remove stem, blossom ends and any brown skin from the star points of the fruit.  Cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
  2. Place in a heavy bottom saucepan.  Add water and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until fruit is tender.  If necessary use a potato masher to smash the fruit.
  3. Add lemon juice and pectin, bring to a roiling boil and quickly stir in sugar until dissolved.
  4. Add ginger and bring back to a roiling boil for 1 minute more.  Remove from heat and fill jars.
  5. For long-term storage – wash jars and lids in hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly.  Keep warm until ready to fill.  Fill jars within 1/4 inch of the rim.  Wipe the rim and place lid on finger-tight.  Place jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove to a draft-free area and let sit for 24 hours.  Check lids have sealed before storing.  If lids have not sealed, refrigerate jam.
  6. For more info on canning jams check out YouTube

Snowmen with Paper Mache Clay – Weekend project

11.14.2012 · Posted in Craft Projects


Puerto Ricans are mad about snowmen…who knew!  I suppose its a novelty for those who haven’t seen nor experienced real snow.  I had lots of requests last year for snowmen so I made these little ornaments from 1-1/2 inch and 2 inch styrofoam balls with paper mache clay to form the noses, eyes, buttons and hats.  They’re sitting on cork platforms with paper mache clay filler so they’ll sit by themselves on a mantel.  Red and green pipe cleaners were used for the scarves and ear muffs.  The cap and scarf on the snowman to the far right was made of stretchy T-shirt fabric.

Paper mache clay is one of my favorite mediums for crafting.  Its used in place of paper mache (paper strips and paste) over an armiture.   It’s simply toilet paper soaked in water, squeezed dry then shredded fine in a food processor.  Joint compound, homemade white glue, flour, bleach and gylcerin was whirled with the shredded paper until a smooth dough was achieved.  This recipe is adapted from Ultimate Paper Mache. Check out the recipe video below from Ultimate Paper Mache.  Jonni Good is the author of Make Animal Sculptures with Paper Mache Clay.

Paper Mache Clay Recipe – makes 1 quart or 2 pounds

  • 1 roll Angel Soft toilet tissue
  • 1 cup regular joint compound
  • 3/4 cup homemade white glue (recipe to follow) or Elmer’s Glue All
  • 1/2 cup flour (all-purpose)
  • 1 Tbsp Chlorine Bleach
  • 1 Tbsp Glycerine

Homemade White Glue

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp vinegar

Place homemade glue ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until thickened like a medium thick white sauce.

To prepare the paper mache clay: Remove the cardboard roll from the toilet paper.  Place toilet paper in a bowl of warm water until completely saturated.  Squeeze as much water as possible from the toilet tissue. Break up the roll of toilet paper into chunks and whirl in a salad spinner until it feels just damp.  Transfer to a food processor, pulse and whirl the paper until finely shredded.  Add the remaining ingredients and whirl until its like cookie dough.  Place in a plastic container with tight fitting lid and let set 3-4 hours or overnight.

Three Kings with Paper Mache Clay


Next up – Three Kings statues made with wine bottles and paper mache clay.

Noni Leaf Tea – Detoxes and Boosts Immunity

10.28.2012 · Posted in Beverages, Recipes

Noni Leaf

Noni grows throughout the South Pacific and Caribbean islands.  For centuries the natives used the leaves of the noni plant for medicinal purposes.  Today the fruit and its juice are more commonly known, though I can’t understand why that stinky stuff would appeal to anyone.  The leaves, however, are pleasantly fragrant when dried and steeped for an herbal tea.  It really tastes like another green tea.  Noni Leaf Tea is naturally caffeine-free and to quote :

Studies have shown the leaf to be the most nutrient-rich part of the plant, containing health promoting nutrients including phyto-chemicals, antioxidants and bio-flavonoids. Rich in a number of vitamins and minerals – phosphorus, iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin K1, niacin and more. Noni leaf is rich in plant sterols, protein, glycosides, and anthraquinones.

The leaf has many benefits when taken regularly – will protect us from toxins and pollutants, encourages the body to detox, helps prevent the premature onset of age-related diseases, boosts our immune defences, reduces our risk of developing cancer, aids in better digestion and assimilation, helps to cleanse our intestinal system in a very mild way, reduces inflammation and eases pain, has mild anti-bacterial properties, and helps to maintain normal blood sugar levels.”

For more information about the benefits of drinking Noni Leaf Tea go to and .

Daily use not recommended for people with kidney or liver disease.  Do not take if pregnant or nursing.

To make Noni Leaf Tea place 1 bag in two cups of boiling water and let steep for 3-5minutes.  A little stevia, agave nectar, or cold-pressed honey can be added only if necessary.  To make iced tea, place 2 bags of Noni Leaf Tea in 1 quart (32 ounces) of hot water and let steep over night.  Add a slice of lemon to make it more aromatic.

Noni Leaves grown in Puerto Rico are organic, hand picked, washed and dried, then packaged in individual tea bags.  12 bags to an ounce packaged in mylar bags to maintain freshness and prevent damage during shipping.

12 tea bags (1 ounce)  for $10.00  includes shipping via priority mail to USA & CANADA

Chicken and Mushrooms over Sauteed Polenta

10.04.2012 · Posted in Appetizers, Main Dishes, Recipes

Living alone and cooking for one it seems there are always leftovers.  This dish was just a spur of the moment concoction thrown together with leftover polenta slices, a paillard of chicken breast, some mushrooms and a handful of baby spinach leaves.   It ended up being a tasty main that I will downsize for a starter dish the next time friends come for dinner.

The polenta was seasoned with Rosemary Salt, butter and grated parmigiano then poured into a mini loaf pan and refrigerated overnight.  The next day it popped right out of the pan and was super easy to slice 1/2-inch thick.   I sauteed the slices in nutty brown butter until they turned golden brown.

Next, the sliced mushrooms were sauteed in butter with a drop of oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  When the mushrooms were just about dry I added another nob of butter, the cut up paillard of chicken, along with a minced clove of garlic.  When the chicken pieces were opaque and there was a nice crust of drippings on the bottom of the pan, I splashed in some white wine, a sprig of fresh thyme and a couple dashes of Puerto Rican hot pepper sauce.  Lastly, a handful of baby spinach leaves were added.  Salt and pepper finished the dish off when the spinach was wilted.  Spooned over the sauteed polenta this was so good it really made me smile.

Super simple, tasty and satisfying.  Try this for a starter course.

Lime Pound Cake with Agave Nectar and Agave Marshmallow Fluff

10.03.2012 · Posted in Desserts, Recipes

Have you heard the saying, “40 is the old side of young and 50 is the young side of old?” Well Martha’s son is visiting from Connecticut and turned 50 on Monday so we all met at the Cofresi Resort to wish him Happy Birthday.  Wendell is also a diabetic and fond of agave for sweetening his drinks and desserts.  We had to have a cake of-course and Martha asked me to do the honors of baking Wendell a cake with agave nectar.

This lime pound cake is made with 1/2 cup agave nectar instead of 1 cup of granulated refined sugar.  Everyone enjoyed the cake which was luscious with the zest and juice of a large lime.  I think the agave allowed the lime to really sparkle.

Icing the cake was a problem since its tropical here and there are not too many sugar-free icing recipes out there that would hold up to the heat and humidity of Puerto Rico.  I found a super easy recipe video at Volcanic Nectar  for agave marshmallows that really worked and definitely held up to the humidity and heat.   I’ve made marshmallows before with a hot sugar syrup and egg whites and this recipe was so much easier with simply gelatin, water, agave and vanilla.  The trick is to blend 2 envelopes of plain gelatin in 6 Tbsp of water and heat it for 30 seconds in the microwave before adding it to 1 cup of agave with a pinch of salt.  Then beat the mixture with a handheld mixer for 8-10 minutes and add vanilla extract and beat until blended.  WOW!  The consistency was perfect for spreading and after a few minutes the fluff set a little more so it even worked tinted with food coloring and piped from a pastry bag.

The cake recipe makes 2 layers filled and iced with agave marshmallow fluff.  If you want a traditional pound cake loaf by all means pour the batter into a standard sized loaf pan and adjust the baking time per recipe below.

I’m not going to debate the value of splenda, sweet and low, etc. versus agave nectar but to say that agave is metabolized more slowly and tolerated well by most diabetics.  It is also great to cook with whereas the others are not.  Give agave nectar a try the next time you want a dessert without refined sugar.

Ingredients for Agave Lime Pound Cake:

  • 2 cups flour (all-purpose)
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Agave Nectar
  • zest of 1 large lime
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 10 oz. butter (1-1/4 sticks) at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup milk


  1. Preheat oven 350° F.  Grease and flour 2 9-inch cake tins or a 4×8-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl cream the butter with the Agave Nectar.  Use a hand-mixer or standing mixer.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add the lime zest and lime juice and beat another 30 seconds.
  4. With you mixer on slow speed add 1/3 of the flour mix and 1/3 cup of the milk (that’s half the milk).  Increase the mixer speed until the batter is smooth.  Add 1/2 of the flour mix remaining and the remaining 1/3 cup of milk, mix until smooth then add the remaining flour.
  5. Pour the batter into prepared cake tins or loaf pan spreading the batter smooth and even.  Tap pans on the counter to release any air bubbles.
  6. Bake cake layers for 35 minutes, bake loaf for 1 hour.  The cake is done when the batter pulls away from the side of the pan and a skewer or toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.  Be careful not to over bake.