Joyous is an adjective meaning full or joy, happy. There are countless synonyms for the word JOY including delight, jubilation, rejoicing, happiness, gladness, glee, exhilaration, and bliss. Joy is a choice. No matter the circumstances in life, we can always choose joy. I challenge you to do that this Holiday season.

One of my greatest joy is actually cooking and baking for others. That is not to say that I am the world’s best home cook by any means, but I do enjoy it. I especially enjoy sharing memories and traditions with new friends. Baking cookies for neighbors, making hot cocoa for friends, inviting people over to just be together and enjoy a meal… it is all very special to me.

Most of my favorite meals are Puerto Rican. I was taught how to cook them from my mother and grandmother. My favorites are Arroz con Gandules (rice with pigeon peas), Rice and Beans, Bistec Encebollado (thinly sliced steak with onions), Pastelillos (Meat Turnovers), and Tostones (Twice-fried Green Plantains). I remember having Arroz con Gandules at every holiday and celebration because my great grandmother, grandma, or mom would prepare it for us to enjoy. That is one traditional item that I love to share with others.

When I was being taught how to cook new things, my grandma would always say, “This is how I do it but you can do it however you want. If you want to change seasonings or maybe add in something different then try it and make it your own.” I encourage you to do the same!
I recommend this recipe adapted from Delish Dlites

1 T olive oil
1/3 cup sofrito (homemade is simple and tastes best but this can also be purchased pre-made)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped bacon, pulled chicken, or pulled pork
2 cups Goya white rice
3 cups chicken broth (or reserved water from boiling chicken or pork)
1 T italian seasoning or oregano
1 packet sazon
1 packet sazon con achiote y culantro
Adobo seasoning to your liking (watch the sodium content)
1/2 small can tomato sauce
1/4 cup cilantro chopped (you can use leaves and stems)
Cracked black pepper
1 15 oz can gandules (pigeon peas), drained and rinsed

Heat your caldero on medium. Add in olive oil, garlic, sofrito, and ham or bacon if using.
Stir until tender but not browned.
Stir in the sazon and tomato sauce.
Add chicken broth, adobo, and italian seasoning or oregano.
Allow liquid to come to boil, taste test and add any additional seasoning needed.
Add in the rice and bring to boil.
Add pigeon peas and turn down to medium low heat.
Allow to simmer and absorb the liquid about 20-30 minutes.
Garnish with additional cilantro and a sprinkle of pepper.