Grits and Purls

Spinning yarns about the grit of life

When I was a little girl I used to refuse to eat the Picadillo my mother would make because it contained raisins. It was sort of an unreasonable kid thing to do, but I could steadfastly refuse, so I did.

If you aren’t familiar with Picadillo it is a traditional Spanish dish, a kind of a chili that has a couple of surprises: cinnamon and raisins. And, Picadillo is one of my dad’s favorite dishes. Traditionally it is served over rice, and dad always used to eat it with a fried egg on top.

In my recent quest to eat more healthily, I have scoured my cookbooks for recipes that cut the fat but not the taste and that fit into my hectic schedule. I was surprised to find a recipe for Picadillo in a Weight Watchers cookbook. So, I quickly pulled our family cookbook, Fruits, Nuts and Flakes, from its place on the shelf and found my mother’s Picadillo recipe. Mom’s recipe is actually lower fat, higher fiber and lower sodium than the Weight Watcher’s one, so I immediately set forth cooking my mom’s Picadillo.

I hesitated when I reached the point where I was supposed to add the raisins, but I measured the quarter cup and added them, looking toward the ceiling and thinking to myself, “Okay Mom, you win.”

That night when I tasted the Picadillo what I loved most was the gentle sweetness that the raisins added to the dish. The flavors were amazing. I loved it. I wish I had tasted it earlier. All of the sudden Grandpa’s story of Grandma Arduengo cooking Picadillo over the toilet bowl took on a new dimension–one of flavor as well as time and place, and I was able to rejoin my family in a new way.

In cooking a traditional family dish, I connected with all of the other Arduengos who have shared this dish. I tasted a little bit more of my own heritage and history. And, now I can share this tradition with my family. Although, my daughter refuses to eat Picadillo because she doesn’t like beans.

Perhaps one day, she’ll be cooking for her family and…



  • 1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup diced green peper
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 lb. 90% fat free ground sirloin
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano leaves, crumbled
  • 2 cans (14 oz. each) of red kidney beans or black beans
  • 1 can (14 oz) of stewed tomatoes
  • 1 8-oz (small) can of tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup of raisins


  1. In a 10-skillet, heat oil over medium heat, add onion, green pepper and garlic. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Stir in beef, cinnamon, cumin, pepper and oregano and fry for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until meat is broken up and cooked thoroughly.
  3. Stir in remaining ingredients. When they are bubbling, reduce the heat to moderately low, and simmer for 25 minutes.
  4. Serve over rice.
  5. (c) 2010 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

3 thoughts on “Partaking of the Picadillo

  1. Kelly says:

    Thanks for posting the recipe. Alan is looking forward to trying it.

  2. Who’d ever have thought that adding raisins to ‘chili’ would be a good thing? I may give this a try the next time I put kidney beans, canned tomatoes and ground sirloin together. Thanks Michelle, for sharing your family recipe!

  3. Michele Arduengo says:

    Hi Sylvia,
    Well, I certainly resisted for years…but it’s really good. Guess my mom was right after all.


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