Family * Travel * Food

Dec 3, 2017

Callaloo Box Makes The Perfect Gift (Giveaway)

I have been living in South Carolina for close to two decades now. It’s hard to believe that so many years have passed that quickly. I have watched the city of Columbia really grow and get a lot more diverse. Sadly it still lacks something very important to me, culturally. We have so few West Indian/Caribbean grocery stores, and the ones we do have aren’t great and don’t carry all of what I need.

A couple months ago, I was so lucky to get connected with Callaloo Box. If you'd like, you can read this post for a little background. Callaloo Box is a U.S. based subscription service that brings you many of those hard-to-find Caribbean sauces, snacks, and other food products right to your doorstep. I can’t even begin to tell you all how excited I get when a box shows up at my house. It’s like Christmas every time! Speaking of Christmas, the December box is themed for the holiday season and they didn’t miss a thing.

I felt so nostalgic the moment I saw the contents. It’s as if I was transported to my childhood during Christmastime. Here’s what is in the December 2017 Callaloo Box:
Dried Sorrel- which is dried hibiscus. You boil it with cinnamon sticks, cloves, bay leaves and ginger, then sweeten to taste. You can also make alcoholic beverages with it.
Mauby Bark & Spices- It is dried buckthorn bark, which is a species of tree found in many Caribbean islands. It’s been likened to root beer by many. You prepare it just as you would the sorrel.
Mixed Essence- Growing up, we called extract ‘essence’. This is a key ingredient in ice cream, baked goods and certain beverages like mauby. I remember my mom used to make freshly squeezed lemonade or limeade, and always added a few drops of essence.
Lime Flavoured Hot Sauce- A blend of hot peppers, lime & herbs, pickled in vinegar. It’s perfect with any dish, especially seafood and fish. It has the perfect zesty kick.
Hot Chow aka Chow Chow- It’s a spicy, mustard-based pickled relish that’s the Caribbean’s version of the English “Piccalilli”condiment. It contains small chunks of vegetables and tropical fruits. It’s got quite a kick!
Split Channa- It’s salted fried chickpeas spiced with pepper. It was a common snack in our house, and my dad used to make it for us and fill it in jars. This one tastes exactly like I remember.
Black Cake- This is a true sign of Christmas time. My mom made this cake every year and would soak her dried fruits in rum months in advance. I can remember the smell in the kitchen as they baked. She made the best black cake ever. Now let me tell you, this cake tasted exactly what my mom used to make. I got a little teary-eyed being transported back to my childhood. It is the star of this box!

The ladies of Callaloo Box did a great job with the items they chose to make this box perfectly themed for Christmas. I think this one is my favorite so far, but all of them are my favorite! You can tell that they hand pack the boxes with love, and leave no details out. They include an information sheet with descriptions and suggestions of how to use or serve each product.  I am also so happy that they are now offering items for sale individually. Their prices beat Amazon hands down! I ordered a couple packs of pholourie mix since I can’t find it anywhere locally. I'm also very proud to help support a small business at the same time. By the way, they have pretty speedy shipping, which is always a plus.

Not only does Callaloo Box offer monthly boxes, they also have a new snack box ($29.99) and product bundles (ranging in prices under $30). If you or someone you know is interested in Caribbean/West Indian cooking or simply can’t get many products locally, Callaloo Box is for you. It makes such a great Christmas gift, and the recipient would LOVE it. The monthly boxes are $39.99 and if you use this code: MOMFILES5, you will get $5 off your first box with subscription or a 1 time box purchase.

Our generous friends from Callaloo Box want you to experience a box for yourself. One reader will win the December box valued at $39.99. Enter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway is open to U.S. Residents only and will end on December 15, 2017. Please follow entry rules in Rafflecopter widget. Mom Files is not responsible for any lost or stolen prizes. Good luck!

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Sep 4, 2017

Get The Flavors Of The Caribbean Delivered To Your Doorstep With The Callaloo Box

For those of you who have been following my blog for some time now, you know that I am from Guyana. I grew up in Miami, FL for most of my childhood and was heavily immersed in the Guyanese-Caribbean culture. We had so many West Indian shops nearby and never went without the kitchen staples. I remember when I moved to Columbia, SC more than 18 years ago. It was major culture shock for us. Having access to my West Indian food items was pretty much non-existent. I depended on my relatives in Florida to send me stuff. We have one West Indian store here and the pickings are VERY slim. The prices are ridiculous and when I look at the expiration dates, you can tell the items have been sitting around for a long time. 

I have shopped around on Amazon and can't believe how expensive some of the most basic things are. I was lucky to get connected with a new business called Callaloo Box on Instagram. Callaloo Box is a new U.S. based subscription box service featuring seasonings, marinades, and hot sauces from the Caribbean twin-islands of Trinidad & Tobago. Trinidad is Guyana's neighbor and we use the same exact products for the most part. The founder and co-founders are 3 girlfriends who are all immigrants from Trinidad currently living in the U.S. and Canada. Their aim is to get these products into the hands of anyone interested in Caribbean cooking that live in the U.S. and don't have easy access to them, or anyone who simply loves food, cooking, and experimenting. This made me so happy! 
The September Callaloo Box did not disappoint! It came with 3 Chief brand products: Hot & Tasty Pepper Sauce, Green Seasoning, and Kuchela (mango chutney). Also a bottle of the classic Angostura Aromatic Bitters, as well as a package of curry powder.

The pepper sauce is so spicy and delicious. It is the perfect addition for if you want a little hot kick to your meal. It tastes very similar to what my mom used to make. The green seasoning is similar to what I make which is a blended mixture of green onion, garlic, hot pepper, and herbs. It is so convenient to have it already made in a bottle so you can marinate your poultry or meat with ease. I also add it in soups and stews for extra Caribbean flavor.

Kuchela is what Guyanese people call mango achar. It is shredded green mango with hot pepper, garlic, and spices. I remember my mom cooking achar on the stove top early on a Saturday morning, and all of our eyes and noses would be burning from the hot, HOT pepper. Now that my mother is no longer around, I'm happy to have access to it, without the tears. Every West Indian home has a bottle (or three) of Angostura Aromatic Bitters. What is it?: It is an aromatic botanically infused alcoholic mixture consisting of water, ethanol, gentian, herbs and spices. Although the product contains 44.7% alcohol by volume, each dash contains an insignificant amount of alcohol and therefore remains non-alcoholic. Suggested Uses: It is a well-known key ingredient in many alcoholic cocktails, but is also widely used to flavor non-alcoholic drinks, baking, and cooking. I personally add a few drops to certain savory dishes when I feel like it is missing something. It will balance out the flavors nicely. Also, I have learned that bitters never expire. This is good to know in the event you have had a bottle lingering around for a long time.

Last item in the box is curry powder which is is a blend of turmeric, coriander, cumin, salt and spices. Growing up Guyanese, we curried everything under the sun from meats, poultry, vegetables, chick peas (channa) and even eggs. I have a new tradition that started this year where I cook curry every Saturday morning. The family really does look forward to it!

One of the things I love to share with my family and friends is my passion for cooking. No matter what I'm making, I love to add my Indian-Guyanese twist into my dishes. I am so thrilled that I have access to my West Indian goodies via the Callaloo Box. I was quite surprised at how heavy the package was and it is a great value at $39.99 a month (cancel any time), or you can pre-pay a year for $419. If it sounds expensive to you, I challenge you to look up the products I listed above on Amazon and see for yourself what a value you are getting.

Right now Mom Files readers can use the code: MOMFILES5 for $5 off of your 1st box when signing up for a month-to-month subscription. I am so happy with my first box and think you would be, too. Give Callaloo Box a try today!

You can find Callallo Box here and please be sure to follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for product updates, promotions, and sneak peeks into upcoming boxes. Please let me know if you decide to give them a try. I would never recommend anything I did not believe in. Thanks for stopping by today and big thanks to Callaloo box for providing a sample box for us to try.
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Jan 11, 2017

From My Kitchen- Caribbean Style Roasted Chicken Recipe

I have been getting so many nagging requests lately about posting my recipes on the blog from friends. I promised to do better this year and will be sharing more of my family favorite recipes and tips. I cooked a whole roasted chicken over the weekend and it was the best I've ever made. I didn't know I would end up sharing the recipe, so I have no step-by-step photos to share-- just the delicious end result. This chicken was full of Caribbean flavor and super juicy and tender.


1 whole chicken, 5-8 pounds
one handful each of fresh cilantro and Italian parsley
One large green onion
3 cloves of fresh garlic
small piece of hot pepper like habanero or scotch bonnet (optional and highly recommended)
dried seasonings- here are my faves
*1/2 cup Mojo marinade

Helpful items: A large/wide bowl or glass dishware for marinating, a large baking sheet, parchment paper, aluminum foil

What to do:

Start with splitting your whole chicken down the back to remove backbone and excess fat. I prefer this method to get more even cooking and browning. Wash chicken with lime or lemon and pat dry with paper towels.  You will have to apply some pressure to get the breast to flatten a bit. Do not remove skin! Sprinkle chicken on both sides with your dried seasonings to your taste. In a blender or vegetable chopper, grind garlic, herbs, green onion and hot pepper with a small amount of water just enough to make a puree. Pour herb puree and mojo marinade all over, and leave chicken in the fridge for 2 hours or even overnight. Preheat oven at 385 degrees. Place chicken breast side up on pan lined with foil and parchment paper. Bake for around one hour depending on your oven. I use the convection setting on my oven for extra crispiness and deeper browning. If your wings start browning too quickly, you can wrap them loosely with foil and remove in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Let your chicken rest at least 15 minutes before cutting/carving.

Serve with your favorite side dishes. I recommend my favorite Guyanese cook-up rice to make this a real authentic Caribbean meal. My family raves over this chicken and an 8 pound bird was devoured in a couple days with no waste! Don't forget to Pin this recipe for later! Enjoy and thanks for stopping by.

*This post contains affiliate links. I posted the products in case you can't find them locally.  

Jul 19, 2012

Guyanese "Cook-up" Rice Recipe

Today I am sharing a recipe with you all that is a very common Guyanese main/side dish called "cook-up" rice. I think it is one of those meals that you almost always have the ingredients on hand to make and it is very versatile. In all the different West Indian countries this dish is called by different names like rice & peas, peas & rice or pilau. I have always known it to be called cook-up rice and it can be made with any type of rice or beans/legumes. Typically you would use pigeon peas, black eyed peas or red beans.
One of the main ingredients that makes this rice dish so special is the use of coconut milk, herbs and spices. Everyone makes their own version and today I will share mine. Please be aware that my recipes are seldom done in precise measurements so I did my best to estimate to make it easier for you.


-1 1/2 tbs butter
-1 small onion chopped
-2 cloves garlic minced
-herbs~ You must use dried thyme but can also add anything else you like, both fresh or dried. I also used fresh thyme and cilantro
-hot pepper (optional) You can use scotch bonnet, habanero or wiri wiri pepper but leave it whole.
-1 chicken bullion cube
-1 tsp of Kitchen Bouquet browning sauce (optional)
-Salt, pepper, garlic powder, Creole seasoning and any Spanish style seasoning. I like Badia best
-1 1/2 cups of parboiled rice ( I sometimes use Jasmine)
-1 can of coconut milk
-1 can of your choice of beans rinse and drained (I love red)

Note: you can cook this dish with meat but I prefer it as a side dish.

How to make it:

I melt the butter and saute the onion for a couple minutes. I then add the garlic and hot pepper (leave it whole). Next, I add the can of coconut milk, can of beans, some dried thyme, the bullion cube and the remaining seasoning except the salt. I bring all of that to a boil to dissolve the bullion cube and then add the rice and browning sauce and some water. I then taste for salt and add if needed. At this point (if desired) you can press the whole hot pepper with your cooking spoon to release some heat and flavor. Turn it down to medium/low heat and make sure you have enough water in there for the rice to cook properly. It can take about 20-30 minutes cooking time. Once all the liquid is absorbed, I add some fresh chopped cilantro and toss it around. That's it!

I served it with some wonderful broiled salmon and it was a big hit with the family. You can also serve it with chicken, steak or pork chops. If you want to keep it meat free then you can add salad or roasted veggies on the side. The only thing this meal was missing was some fried plantains. I couldn't find any ripe ones in the store.

I hope you find this recipe simple enough to try it for yourself. If you do try it, please let me know how it turned out! Enjoy :)
Shelly, Mom Files

Apr 27, 2012

A typical Guyanese breakfast

I often times get a lot of questions about my Guyanese heritage. So many want to know what language is spoken in Guyana, what types of food is eaten and what some customs might be. Although I was born in Guyana, I left when I was 3. My parents did bring me and my siblings up with a lot of Guyanese culture. I wanted to show you what a typical breakfast in a Guyanese household might looks like.

This dish is what we would call "Channa and boiled egg". It is very simple and is nothing more than heavily seasoned chick peas/garbanzo beans and a boiled egg. I make it by starting off with some sliced onion, scallion and tomato. I saute my veggies in a splash of oil for a few and add one can of chick peas with the liquid. I season with Spanish style seasonings, Creole seasoning, black pepper, garlic powder, cumin and hot pepper sauce. I cook it until it gets tender. I serve it with fresh, sliced scallion on top and a boiled egg cut in half. Simple, filling and flavorful. I made this dish today because I had a taste for it. 

I will periodically share recipes and interesting facts from my culture. If there is anything you are curious about please leave me a comment or you can always email me. Have a great weekend! :)

Shelly, Mom Files
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