A Lighter Holiday Dinner: Puerto Rican Style

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Gift box on plate and silverware
By Joni Garcia MS, RD, Contributing Blogger

Like many of us, my favorite part of the holidays is visiting with family and getting a taste of the traditional holiday foods you only eat a few times a year. I’m Puerto Rican and our traditional holiday meal is pernil (roast pork shoulder) and arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas). We sometimes eat these foods at other holidays or special occasions, like New Year’s Day or Easter, but it’s always served at Christmas. These dishes are SO delicious, but they’re very rich. By using a leaner cut of meat and brown rice instead of white, I’ve lightened up my favorite dinner and added some fiber to the mix. I usually round out the meal with a big leafy green salad. Check out my lightened versions below.

Pernil (Roast Pork)
3-4 peppercorns
3-4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
3 pounds pork tenderloin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crush peppercorns in a bowl with the back of a spoon, then and add the garlic, olive oil, vinegar, oregano, and salt to the bowl and stir to combine. Rub the peppercorn mixture onto pork. Place into a baking dish, cover, and bake for about 1 ¼ hours or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 145 degrees for 3 minutes.

Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons sofrito*
3-4 green olives
2 teaspoons canned tomato sauce
1 teaspoon capers
½-1 can pigeon peas, drained and rinsed**
1 cup brown rice
1 cup low sodium chicken stock
1 cup water

In a medium sauce pan, combine oil and sofrito over medium heat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture becomes fragrant. Add olives, tomato sauce, and capers. Continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes, and then add the pigeon peas, rice, chicken stock, and water. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Turn down the heat to simmer, cover and let cook for 40 to 50 minutes or until all water is absorbed.

*You can find sofrito in the Spanish food aisle at the market or you can make your own by combining several different types of peppers, like bell peppers and hot peppers (if you like heat), onion, tomato, garlic, cilantro, salt, and pepper and mixing in a food processor.
**Pigeon peas are a type of legume. You can find them canned or dried in the Spanish food aisle at the market.

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