Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Join the Milk Life - Why Croquetas Are Nutritious For You!

I am working with The National Hispanic Milk Life Campaign and this is part of a sponsored Milk Life Somos Fuertes Hispanic Heritage campaign. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

If you're Cuban and/or live in Miami, there is a particular dish that has worked its way into becoming one of your basic food groups, and that is Croquetas. Croquetas or croquettes are small log-shaped, fried rolls filled with different stuffings. There is something magical and comforting about the little fried morsels of love that transcends countries, politics and diets. While there are many different preparations for croquettes, and the stuffing may vary, there is one basic constant to preparing the perfect crispy bite - and that is Béchamel Sauce.

Béchamel Sauce

Let me tell you, in my family's kitchen, Béchamel Sauce (a creamy milk-based sauce considered one of the "Mother Sauces" in many countries) was a staple. My grandmother would spend hours in the kitchen making croquetas for the week, and we would fight to see who would be the one to lick the béchamel sauce off the spoons once she was done. It became such a favorite, that we eventually began eating the "Salsa Béchamel" from a bowl. The delicious, creamy taste of milk in the sauce, with the hints of onion and butter, became synonymous with comfort and good memories. Of course, my abuelita was happy. She knew we were getting our fair share of nutrients from the sauce because it was made with milk. So thinking back now, I really believe she left those extra spoonfuls laying around because it would help her nietos get the high-quality protein we needed from the milk, which would ensure we were growing up strong and healthy. Plus, since regular milk has no added sugar, but only the one from naturally occurring lactose, we were getting all the good stuff without the added ones that could have negative effects.

My grandmother

But back to our croquetas. I still remember getting in trouble at school and knowing I'd be coming home to a "talk" with my parents (you know what I mean). The only thing that made the tension drop as I was walking through the door, was the smell of those croquetas sitting on the dining room table. Even then, my abuelita was supporting me. I'd munch and chew right through my parents' lectures and she'd wink from the kitchen. She was a smart lady.


 Today, croquetas are still a part of our everyday lives. While we can stop at a ventanita or a cafeteria and pick up a few... there is nothing like making them at home, and saving a bowl of Béchamel Sauce for later. My daughter is addicted to them and she loves to hear the stories of her great grandmother and how she got the recipe from her own mom, who was from Spain. She enjoys hearing how croquetas have always been on the table during many of our lives' pivotal moments, and still remain a family tradition today. Tell you what.... when my family and I found out my daughter was accepted into the university of her choice, we celebrated with homemade croquetas and café con leches.

For me, croquetas are a comfort food, a trigger for childhood memories, and a delicious way to start the day or bring it to a close. Most importantly, it's also a great way to add nutrition and protein to our diet, because milk is one of its ingredients. And we  all know an 8 oz. glass of milk contains 9 essential nutrients, including B vitamins for energy, protein for lean muscle, vitamin A for a healthy immune system and bone-building nutrients, including calcium and Vitamin D.

Nutritious Milk

So go ahead... eat your croquetas and save a bowl of Béchamel Sauce for later. You will be creating your own tasty memories for your family and giving them a nutritious moment to remember.  In the meantime, let me share my grandmother's croquetas recipe so you could try it at home.

My Abuelita's Croquetas Recipe
1 lb of ham, ground
5 tablespoons  butter
1 cup onion, minced fine
1/3 cup flour
1 cup bread crumbs
1 and 1/2 cups of whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 tsp parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten
1 cup dried bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil (for frying)
1) In a large pan, melt the butter, add the onions and saute until translucent.

2) Stir in the flour until it becomes thick. Add more butter if necessary to smoothen it.  Gradually, whisk in the milk to form a smooth sauce. Continue cooking at medium heat until the sauce thickens. Once it's thick, add the parsley. Stir for a couple of minutes and then fold in the ground ham and the bread crumbs.

3) Let simmer for about 5-10 minutes on low heat. Spoon the mixture into a baking pan and refrigerate until it is well chilled (at least one hour). In order to form the mixture into rolls, it needs to be very firm.

4) Shape the mixture into logs about three inches long.

5) Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat until frothy.  Combine the salt and the bread crumbs in a second bowl.

6) Dip the logs into the eggs and roll the logs in the seasoned bread crumbs.  Dip a second time into the eggs and re-roll in the bread crumbs.

7) Cover the logs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about three hours. (If you are going to freeze the croquettes to eat them later, you can do it now).

8) Heat the oil to 350F.  Fry the croquetas in the oil, a few at a time, for three to four minutes. Turn them occasionally until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Serve and enjoy.

For more information on the benefits of drinking milk and including it in your recipes, visit

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