What do you get when you combine the flavors of Europe and Latin America? You get May’s “Foodie of the Fort,” Maria Di Bianca Cavins.
The product of Puerto Rican and Italian families, Cavins, a military spouse, married into a German family. She and her husband, Capt. Lawrence Cavins, came to Fort Leonard Wood for the Engineer Captains Career Course.
“Family and food are very important in my life! Growing up, I was always in the kitchen with my mom, eager to learn new recipes. My parents found it important to expose my brothers and I to new foods and different cultures,” Cavins said.
When Cavins is not in the kitchen, she enjoys the outdoors, spending time with her husband and their “spoiled” Dachshund, Ollie, who also benefits from Cavin’s culinary skills, she said.
Here is Cavins interview:
Q. Do you consider yourself a foodie? Why?
A. Absolutely! I’m always trying my hand at new recipes. My favorite recipes are those passed down through families; you’ll know those are the best because they’ve been vetted by generations of cooks. There’s a spiritual aspect of receiving a recipe from someone. It’s a gesture that says, ‘here’s a piece of my heart. I’ve had many memories around these meals. Continue the tradition.’
Some of my favorite recipes that I have inherited include my 101-year-old Nana’s Italian meatballs, zucchini bread, and eggplant Parmesan, and my mom’s Puerto Rican lechon (roasted pork shoulder), flan, and arroz con pollo (rice with chicken).
My husband comes from a German family and we use recipes passed down from his family like homemade bratwurst and schnitzel. And really, that’s the best part. My husband loves cooking too, so being in the kitchen together is a time for us to talk about our day, laugh, tackle a new project, and experiment with spices and new flavors.
Q. What inspired you to become a foodie?
A. My mom inspired me to be a foodie. She’s the greatest cook. I have learned everything from her and continue to pick her brain on how I can improve my cooking and baking.
Q. What is your favorite thing to prepare?
A. My favorite thing to prepare would either be garlic chicken or protein bowls. For the protein bowl, I roast a bunch of veggies, sauté ground turkey (or really any meat), and I place those over a bed of quinoa cooked in duck or chicken bone broth with fresh avocado and tomato on top and maybe some quick-pickled onions. What’s awesome about this dish is that it’s different every time and the possibilities are truly endless.
Q. What recipe will you share with the Fort Leonard Wood community?
Arroz con Pollo y Tostones (Rice with Chicken and Puerto Rican Fried Plantains)
1/5 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
Salt & pepper
¼ bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
3 Tablespoons Goya salad olives, chopped
2 packets Goya Sazon with saffron
3 Cups water
1.5 Cups rice
Sauté onion and green bell pepper for 3 minutes in a large pot, add garlic; stir until cooked. Add chicken, salt and pepper, and cilantro; stir until chicken is cooked. Add olives, the two packets of Goya seasoning, and water; bring water to a boil. Once boiling, add rice and put the heat on low to simmer the water. Cook for 20 minutes with the lid on the pot. Buen provecho!
Ingredients for the tostones:
¾ Cup vegetable oil
2 green plantains
Heat oil in a frying pan. In the meantime, cut off plantain peels and slice plantains into inch-thick rounds. Once oil is ready for frying, place plantains in oil and fry on both sides until their light yellow color turns to a gold. Take the plantains out and smash the slices one-by-one in between two glass plates. Place the smashed slices back into the oil and fry on both sides until golden brown. Take the tostones out of the oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle salt over them and serve immediately.
(Editor’s note: To nominate a Fort Leonard Wood-connected individual for Foodie of the Fort, email your nominee and why you chose them to email@example.com. Foodies of the Fort are announced on the second Thursday of each month.)