Queen Crowned in Curls

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Circa Christmas time 1996 when big hair was always a part of me.

Growing up, I despised my big, curly hair. I had so much hair and no one in my family really has hair like me. No one knew how to take care of it, so I pretty much gave up on dealing with it myself. I’ve spent countless hours sitting on the floor between my mother’s legs while she detangled my hair and during my summers in Puerto Rico, it would be my grandmother dealing with my tresses. After spending an entire afternoon in the pool, she came across a huge knot in the back of my head. Tempted to cut it off, my abuelita drove me to a salon on the island and at just 7 years old, I got my first perm. Since then, I permed my hair every 6 months like clockwork.

I loved the idea that this “treatment” would make my kinks straight. At such a young age, I associated straight hair with beauty. People would tease me about my hair, saying that it resembles a brillo pad or a bush. Latinos, even the women doing my hair would say that I had “pelo malo” (bad hair). Then I would have older Caribbean women tell me how much they wished to have hair like mine. At the time I had no idea why anyone would want my kinks and curls. While I was trying to get rid of them, women were striving for them.

For years, my hair was never growing, never shiny, always begging for moisture and still I strived for straight hair. I never left my house without my hair being bone straight and absolutely refused anyone to see my hair in its natural state. My curls weren’t curls anymore, but I didn’t care. I felt beautiful with my straight hair.

It took me a long time to fully understand the damage these perms were actually doing to my hair. Today I would say that I was in denial about this treatment. By my sophomore year of college, I’ve decided to stop perming my hair but refused to give up the heat! I was still using my flat iron every single day, making sure there were no curls in sight.

I’m not entirely sure why I decided to ditch my flat iron, other than the fact that summer time was approaching and straightening my hair would be pointless with all the humidity in NYC. I went the entire Summer Sixteen without straightening my hair. Just with that, I noticed some length and my curls slowly coming back. I tested out products that my hair loved and products that my hair hated.

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There was a lot of trial and error and it took me forever to love my hair. Now that I’m older, I understand what it means to be satisfied with what was given to me and why all these women were dying for my hair. I can do pretty much anything with my hair. I can choose to do a wash and go and wear it naturally curly. I can do twist-outs or buns, big or small. If I want a change, I can straighten my hair and if I get tired of it, I can just go back to curly!

Don’t get me wrong… There are still days when I just want to shave my head off or go to the salon and get a wash and set! But I just put a little leave in conditioner, put my hair in a bun and conquer my day. Going natural, I had to accept that not everyday is going to be a good hair day. I had to accept that I have different textures in my hair. I’m going to have frizz. Some curls are going to be coily, kinky or loose. But the best part is seeing the transition. My curls are making a come back and I’m finally getting some length and hydration.

So if you’re thinking about going natural- DO IT! Love the crown you have. It’s irreplaceable.

Rasta Pasta

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One of my favorite things about living in New York City is the amount of diverse people. We have a city filled with people from all over the world who bring their food and traditions to one place. I’ve had Jamaican food before, but it would usually be jerk chicken, oxtails and rice and peas. So when a Jamaican friend of mine introduced me to Rasta Pasta, I knew I had to make it! Rasta Pasta is an easy, one pot dish and is probably my favorite pasta meal today. Here’s what you’ll need for it:

  • 1 box of penne pasta
  • 1 green, yellow and red bell pepper (all sliced and seeded)
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 2-3 teaspoons of Jerk Seasoning
  • 1 pack of Knorr Parma Rossa
  • 1 1/2-2 cups of mozzarella cheese

First things first, boil the pasta for about 8 minutes. Usually when the pasta is boiling, I like to chop up all the vegetables. Drain the pasta into a strainer and you can begin to make the Rasta Pasta sauce in the same pot. Sautee the peppers, onion, and garlic in the pot until they have a soft texture to them. Next, add the coconut milk. Be sure to stir the pot continuously in order to not burn the milk. Slowly stir in the Parma Rossa and then the jerk seasoning. Add the mozzarella cheese little by little. I like to stir the pot until the sauce thickens just a bit. Once, that is done, you may pour in your penne pasta and make sure the pasta is covered with all the sauce. Serve and enjoy!

*If a whole box of pasta may seem much, you can use 2-3 cups of pasta, depending on your family size.

**You may also add chicken, if desired. Simply season and grill the chicken and add it in with the pasta.

DIY Lip Scrub

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Unfortunately, the cold weather brings us super dry skin. So it’s important that we stay moisturized, right? Our lips are one of the most sensitive parts of our skin and needs a lot of TLC. Aside from keeping your lips hydrated all winter long, it’s important to get all that dry skin off. Here is my absolute go-to DIY Lip Scrub. It takes less than five minutes and will leave your lips soft and moisturized.

What you’ll need:

We’re going to keep it simple. Combine the honey and the brown sugar until everything sticks together. It’s going to have a gooey consistency. To apply, I suggest you do this over a sink. Dampen your lips with warm water. Scoop some scrub with your finger and rub the scrub into you lips in small circular motions for about one minute. Once you’re done, rinse with warm water, pat your lips dry and use your favorite lip balm. For a more vigorous scrubbing, instead of rubbing the lip scrub in with your finger, you may use a toothbrush. Using a toothbrush alone, gets rid of the dry skin on your lips.

Benefits of honey & brown sugar:

Honey:

  • Moisturizes
  • Soothes and conditions skin
  • Exfoliates skin
  • Adds a natural shine

Brown Sugar:

  • Great as an exfoliator
  • Removes dead skin cells
  • Fights off bacteria
  • Keeps moisture locked in

How do you keep your lips moisturized during the harsh winters? Share with us in the comments below!

Puerto Rican Pasteles

This typical Puerto Rican dish probably is the most fascinating food I have ever tried. At first, I didn’t like it even though all the ingredients were very familiar to me. Nevertheless, after I tried many more times, or I should say after I tried my mother-in-law’s pasteles, I began to like it and very much enjoy it. This year, in memory of my mother-in-law, I and my daughter made it the way she taught me. Typically, this dish is eaten during the holiday season and is very similar to what most know as tamales. I share this recipe with you all.  Happy Cooking!!

For this dish, you will need to make sofrito, a cooking base used in many Latin American dishes.

Ingredients:

SOFRITO

Blend green pepper, onion, garlic, cilantro, recaito in the blender.

FILLING

  • 1 cup of chop meat (pork or chicken)
  • 1/2 cup of garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup of alcaparado (chop green olives)
  • 3 spoonfuls of sofrito

Sautee meat until light brown and add sofrito and alcaparado. Add garbanzo beans when the meat is cooked. Let it cool.

PASTELES INGEDIENTS:

  • 1 cup of shredded plantain (green banana)
  • ½ cup of shredded pumpkin
  • ½ cup of shredded white yautia
  • ½ cup of carnation milk
  • ½ cup of achote oil (mix achote seed and oil, heat it up in low heat)
  • 1 small envelope of sazon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red roasted pepper (canned)
  • Paper (banana leaves is good too. It adds flavor).
  • Cooking string to tie

Use wooden spoon or spatula to mix all Pasteles ingredients. It should be a very smooth mixture and nice shiny light orange color. It is ready to be wrapped.

On a piece of paper, put a dollop of the pasteles mixture, a generous amount of meat with its juice and a slice of roasted red pepper. Fold the paper and tie it with string.

To cook, place the pasteles in boiling salted water for about 45 minutes. Pasteles goes well with simple white rice or with rice and gandules.

Freeze extra batch for future consumption.