Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Banana-Sweet Potato and Mexican Crema Bread

I have to admit, the name of this recipe is perhaps the longest I've ever created. But I figured since it has been eons since I posted any new recipes, this may make up for it.

Okay, not really. I tried.

So you're probably asking yourself, where have I been? Long story short....

  1. Got promotion at work, which means
  2. I am busier than ever, which means
  3. It's been months since I tested any new recipes, which means
  4. My camera is desperate for food porn...and
  5. Oh, yeah, we moved again!
Now that Stella and I are finally settled in our new, fancy-shmancy home, I will--no, I must--cook more, experiment more and just start having fun in the kitchen again. I was inspired on Monday, of all days, to make the bread because I had 2 over-ripe bananas, 1 sweet potato that has just been sitting in the basket for over 2 weeks, left-over Mexican crema I used last Sunday for chilaquiles and an overwhelming need to bake! And so, this bread was created. It is really moist and so good with coffee. Stella loves is warmed up slightly and slathered in butter! What kid doesn't, right? 

Enjoy!


INGREDIENTS (makes 1 loaf)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 small sweet potato, boiled, peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat oven to 350 F Degrees.

Grease 1 loaf pan.

Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla extract and Mexican crema or sour cream and mix just until incorporated. Add flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg, and mix again. Then add mashed bananas and mashed sweet potato and nuts. Mix for another 15 seconds or so. The batter will look curdled, so don't be alarmed.

Pour batter into the well greased loaf pan and bake at 350 F for 1 hour.

Let the bread cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before taking it out.

Stella helping with the batter

Waiting for the "bee-nana" bread to be done.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Baking for Dia de los Muertos


For Dia de los Muertos most Latinos celebrate their dearly departed by remembering them with food, parties, spectacular altars, drinking and creating elaborate skulls and baking "pan de muerto" bread. It is actually a lot of fun and this will be the second year in-a-row that Stella and my family will be doing the "day of the dead" procession in Old Town, San Diego. It is truly is a family event but I have to say, it is VERY emotional.

I find that by making "Pan de Muerto" (bread of the dead) on All Saint's Day (Nov. 1) it makes me feel like I have my tios, my abuelito Tomas, my brother, and all our family that has left this world, with me, in the kitchen, watching me and most likely criticizing my baking technique. But that's what I love about day of the dead because we truly remember our lost loved ones and how much influence they had on us.

***

Okay, okay, I'm getting all emotional already writing this so I'll just move onto the recipe. This bread is lightly flavored with anise seeds, orange peel and sugar. The bread is often shaped into a large round, to symbolize the tomb or grave, with a smaller round on top, which symbolizes the head of the dead relative, and the lateral decorations, symbolizes the bones. I'm not entirely sure why the breads are shaped like this, but lately some fancy bakeries have been shaping them into skulls and even animal shapes, for the dead family pets. You can decorate the breads with colored sugars or gel food coloring, if you want. The best part is that you get to eat the bread, and believe me it's surprisingly good.

RIP Bobby, tio Manuel, tio Armando, abuelito Tomas, great-grandpa Burns, Lindsey and Jenn's mom, Barbara, baby Joanne, Abuelita de Sami and Cali, Annie, Fluffy and Princess. This world is not the same without you.


INGREDIENTS (makes 4 to 6 loaves)

Dough
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons anise seed
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
Glaze
  • 1/2 cup white sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest 
DIRECTIONS

Heat the milk and the butter together in a medium saucepan, until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add them warm water. The mixture should be around 110 degrees F.

In a large bowl combine 1 cup of the flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Beat in the warm milk mixture then add the eggs and orange zest and beat until well combined. Stir in 1/2 cup of flour and continue adding more flour until the dough is soft.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This will take about 1 to 2 hours. Punch the dough down and shape it into 4 to 6 round loaves with a round knob on top and smaller ropes going down laterally (see picture). Place dough onto a baking sheet, loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until just about doubled in size.

Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven let cool slightly then brush with glaze.

To make glaze: In a small saucepan combine the 1/4 cup sugar, orange juice and orange zest. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 2 minutes. Brush over top of bread while still warm. Sprinkle glazed bread with remaining 1/4 cup white sugar (as little or as much as you want!).











Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chicken Tagine


Before you decide to make this recipe, go straight to the Preserved Lemon recipe below and make that first. Then come back in 3 weeks and then let's make the Chicken Tagine.

I'm patient. I'll wait.

Or...you can go to your local Middle Eastern market and buy ready-made preserved lemon, or you can buy it online. But, the point is, you need the preserved lemon in order to make this Moroccan dish work!

Now that we have all the ingredients, let's get ready to Tagine!

***

This recipe may have a lot of ingredients, but most of them are easily found or easily made (like the preserved lemon). And what helps me, and hopefully will help you, is that I am a big believer in mise en place which means, everything in its place. So even before I started making this (or any) recipe I always have all my ingredients washed and dried, cut, chopped, measured, and standing by and ready to go.

Finally, I am lucky I was gifted an authentic Moroccan tagine, so when I present this dish it gets a lot of ooh's and aah's. But if you don't have a tagine, you can cook your couscous and spread it in your favorite large, shallow dish or platter, then top with the chicken and the sauce.

And yes, I know I can cook in my tagine, but I'm a little apprehensive since I have never done it before. Hmm, I think it may be time for me to take a Moroccan cooking class!

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as my parents, my brother and his wife, my ex-laws and my co-workers did!
My mise en place. From top left: minced ginger, butter, Manzanilla olives, turmeric and cinnamon, preserved lemon and lemon zest on top, and minced garlic.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
  • 2 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chicken base
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 preserved lemon (4 quarters), rinsed, pulp removed, and chopped (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup sliced Manzanilla olives with pimentos, drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Couscous, for serving
DIRECTIONS

Pat the chicken dry, and season well with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When pot is hot add chicken and brown on all sides, about 6 minutes per side, 12 minutes total.
Remove chicken and set aside.

Add the onion, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon to the pot and cook until onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add one teaspoon chicken base and add the garlic and lemon zest and stir for a minute. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

Add the browned chicken back into the pot and increase heat. Deglaze with wine, stirring, and allowing it to bubble. Next, add the chicken broth, lemon juice and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cover and simmer gently for 40-45 minutes, or until chicken is done and cooked through.

To the sauce, add the preserved lemon, olives, parsley, and cilantro and heat for 5 more minutes and serve over couscous.


Preserved Lemon


INGREDIENTS
  • 3 lemons, preferably organic, skin scrubbed well and each cut into quarters
  • 3 Tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 4 peppercorns
  • 4 coriander seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lemon, juiced
DIRECTIONS

In a pint jar make layers of lemon, salt, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and repeat, making sure to press firmly after each layer and making sure to use all the spices. Tuck in the bay leaf and add the lemon juice. Slowly cover with water. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Add more water, if needed, to cover the lemons. Close the jar tightly and store in the fridge for 3 weeks.

To use: Remove lemon from the liquid and rinse. Scrape out the pulp. Slice the lemon peels into thin strips or cut into small dices. 

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Stella's Krabby Patties

Well, hello! I know it has been a while since I posted a new recipe and I wished I had a good excuse, but all I can say is that work has been keeping me quite busy and all you smartphone aficionados will thank me next year.

But I did manage to come up with a kid-friendly recipe this week. Although I do eat meat, we rarely eat it at home and we specially rarely eat hamburgers. The main reason: my daughter does not eat meat. Very rarely will she eat chicken, but beef...don't even think about it.

So I decided to try a little Jedi mind trick on my girl and told her I was making "krabby patties" and asked her if she wanted to help me. Well, not only did she help me, but she also told me how to hold the spatula like Sponge Bob and explained to me exactly how many pickles a krabby patty needs to have (yes, I'm beginning to think she's been watching too much Sponge Bob Squarepants lately). Most importantly, she actually ate her "krabby patty!"

Nevertheless, this is what I came up with. I put very little seasoning on the meat because I find that little kids sometimes don't like a lot of seasoning. But you can season with a little salt and pepper while the meat is sizzling on the pan to add more flavor.

Finally, I cooked these a medium to medium-well, again because I don't want to get my kid sick, but for us adults, cook only a minute per side for a medium-rare--if you like medium-rare like I do!

And just a mommy side note: don't let your kids cook without you being 100% in front, supervising them, specially if using a stove. My daughter has grown up watching and helping me cook and I have ingrained in her head the hazards of hot stoves and ovens and that she can only cook while I'm watching her. Just a reminder to be careful when your kids are helping you in the kitchen.


INGREDIENTS (makes 8 sliders)


  1. 1 pound ground beef (87/13 or 90/10)
  2. 1/8 tsp. seasoning salt
  3. 1/8 tsp. garlic pepper
  4. 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  5. 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  6. a few grinds of pepper
  7. 1 egg
  8. Slider buns or Hawaiian buns
  9. Slices of American cheese, cut to fit the sliders
  10. Ketchup
  11. Pickles
DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl combine first 7 ingredients and, using your hands, gently combine them all. Divide meat into 8 portions and roll them into balls (these are slider-sized burgers).

Heat a cast iron or nonstick skillet to medium high. Lightly brush with oil with a paper towel. When hot enough, add four of the balls and wait 30 seconds. With your handy spatula, smash the burgers down to about 2" to 2-1/2" diameter, making sure they are all about the same thickness, and let them sizzle another minute. 

Turn them over and add your slice of cheese. Cook for another minute for medium or two minutes for well done.


Remove from skillet and let rest a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, finish cooking the rest of burgers.

To build a proper Stella krabby patty place a burger on bottom bun, add a little ketchup and two pickle slices then place the top bun.





Friday, July 26, 2013

Cilantro-Lime Basmati Rice


Believe it or not, cooking rice is my Achilles' heel. I think that I just like to experiment and tinker with quantities so much that my rice either comes out underdone or gummy and over-cooked. So, I've taken advice and realized that when it comes to rice cooking, you either have to follow directions or you use a rice cooker. I know eventually I'll get the "formula" right but this time I followed directions...somewhat. I only tweaked the type of rice I used and I added more Serrano peppers to mine (I like it spicy), and I added the lime zest and juice at the end. Anyhoo, here it is, my first somewhat-nice-looking-rice I have ever done!

INGREDIENTS (serves 6)
  • 3 cups packed cilantro leaves (about 3 ounces)
  • 3 medium garlic cloves
  • 2 medium serrano chile, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup minced yellow onion
  • 2 cups Basmati rice (I used Fresh and Easy basmati rice that is already pre-soaked; original recipe calls for 2 cups long grain white rice)
  • 1 teaspoon of kosther salt (original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of salt, so you can add a little more if you're a salty type of person) 
  • Zest of one lime
  • The juice of the lime
  • Wedges of lime, for garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS


Combine cilantro, garlic, chile, and 2 cups broth in a blender and process until smooth; set aside. 

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add onion and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add rice and salt stir to coat in oil and cook until rice becomes lightly browned, about 4 minutes. 

Carefully pour the cilantro mixture and the remaining 1 1/2 cups broth into the rice and stir to combine.


Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low so rice is at a simmer. Cover and cook until rice is tender, about 15-20 minutes. Turn off heat. Add the zest and lime juice, fluff with fork and let rice rest covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork again, garnish with lime wedges and serve.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Diva's Beer-n-Bacon Cupcakes


I admit it: I have a love affair with pork. I've made everything from braised pork belly to chile verde pork to chocolate-covered bacon to bacon-garlic-sauce. I think I love the pig so much because it has that ability to be transformed into a roast, chops, bacon, schnitzel, sausages, etc. But my favorite pork product has got to be bacon. I love the fact that you can take a salty, crispy, sometimes smokey, meat and use it in desserts.

This recipe for beer-n-bacon cupcakes is probably my favorite because you use a cake mix and they are quite moist and rich but not overly sweet. Make sure you use the Betty Crocker brand because I only tested this recipe with that brand and don't over-sweeten the whipped cream.

Lastly, if you ever have any left over bacon from your Saturday morning breakfast (not that you would, of course), you can reuse it as the topping!

INGREDIENTS (makes 16 - 20 cupcakes)
  • 1 box Betty Crocker Supermoist Butter Recipe Yellow Mix
  • 1 bottle of beer (12 ounces, preferably a Stout or IPA)
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 strips of crispy cooked bacon, chopped or crumbled
  • Half pint of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon superfine or regular sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 nonstick cupcake pans with cupcake liners.


In a large bowl add cake mix, beer, butter and eggs. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, then on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Fill cupcake liners three-quarters full with cake batter and bake according to package directions, generally 19 to 24 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

Meanwhile, add the heavy cream to a bowl and 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form or to your desired whipped cream consistancy.

Remove cupcakes from pan and frost each with the whipped cream then sprinkle each equally with the crumbled bacon. Mmmmm, bacon...

my buddy, Scott, enjoying a beer-n-bacon cupcake


Sunday, June 09, 2013

Chakalaka-Khaaan!


Today I saw my friend, Robin. The last time I saw her we were graduating from high school...23 years ago!!! Yet, it seemed like I had not seen her in 23 days. We picked up right where we left off and meeting her wonderful family was such a treat. When I found out her husband was from South Africa, I immediately knew I had to give chakalaka a try.

Chakalaka is a SA condiment that is found in most households, and sometimes they put beans in it, but I like is sans beans. You can add chakalaka to top your sausages, top your quiche or eggs, or even use it as a salsa on tortilla chips. Anyhoo, this is my tribute to my good friend, Robin, her awesome family, the ever righteous Nelson Mandela and to the greatest Star Trek villain ever....Khannnnnn!!!!!

INGREDIENTS (makes 3 cups)

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 White or yellow onions, choppep
  • 2 Bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 Jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely minced
  • 1 Serrano pepper, seeded and finely minced
  • 4 Garlic cloved, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 3 Large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 heaping Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground corriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS 

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers and chile peppers.Saute, stirring frequently, until the onions and peppers are cooked down and wilted, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, curry powder, cumin, coriander and cinnamon. Cook until fragrant, another 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, red pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the brown sugar and 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground, black pepper. Taste and add more salt or pepper, if needed. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro. Let the chakalaka stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Serve either hot or cold. You can keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Swiss Onion Tart


I have come to the conclusion that I don't like Gruyere...I freakin' LOVE it! What's interesting to me is that this cheese has always been around me, I just never really, really tasted it, nor really cared for it unless it was in fondue or some melty casserole.

But then last week I found out that my daughter actually has documented Swiss heritage--it's on Ancestry.com, I checked!--and, well, of course, this explains why she is a cheese aficionado and a chocoholic and loves everything leche. So, then her preschool teacher told me last week that their school is having a multicultural fair and Stella's classroom is representing Switzerland. Hello?!?!!??

Of course you know I was going to try to find a Swiss recipe to test and then bring to her class. And besides cookies and chocolate or pancakes or muesli or recipes using Swiss chard--really?--it was really hard to find a true, authentic savory, Swiss recipe. Finally I came upon a caramelized onion and Gruyere turnover recipe that I was sure I could make for my daughter's school.

One thing I did is omit the homemade pastry and used ready-made puffed pastry instead. Also, I only used  6oz of Gruyere since I wasn't sure how much Gruyere little preschoolers could take. Lastly, I added a small amount of mozzarella and the entire egg/milk mixture was my own addition to make the tart more creamy and kid-friendly. If you don't want to make two tarts, you can totally cut the recipe in half. It still works!

I'm really hoping the kids and parents like my Swiss Onion Tart tomorrow. Auf Wiedersehen!

INGREDIENTS (makes 2 tarts)

The onion mixture:
  • 6 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. Butter
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh ground Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Sugar
The Tart:
  • 1 package puff pasty (Pepperidge Farm), thawed
  • 6 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz. shredded mozzarella
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • Fresh ground pepper
DIRECTIONS

First, make the caramelized onions: You can do this the day before (I did!) then just store in the fridge, up to 4 days, until ready to use.

Get yourself a really large, heavy bottomed pan, and heat to medium-high. Add 3 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and mix well with the oil and butter then just wait...this is going to take about 35 to 45 minutes.

At first the onions will just sweat and seem like nothing is happening, but after 10 minutes add 1/4 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp dried thyme, continue cooking and mixing another 15 minutes, then add 1/2 tsp. sugar and a few grinds of fresh ground black pepper. Continue cooking and mixing and about 10 minutes more (approximately the 35th to 45th minute mark) your onions will just start to caramelize instantly. Don't let them caramelize too much, you want a deep golden, brown color. Once you get there, remove from heat and let them cool completely to room temperature.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Make the filling:

In a large bowl add 4 eggs, 1/2 pint of heavy cream, the Gruyere and mozzarella cheese, 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley and several grinds of ground black pepper. Beat well with a fork or whisk. Add the cooled caramelized onions and beat until combined. Set aside.

Place a piece of parchment paper on two sheet pans and lightly spray with PAM or butter it.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one sheet of puff pasty at a time to 9" x 13" rectangle. The fold in each side about 1/2" in. Dock (aka poking) the inside of the pastry, but not the edges, with a fork.


Then place a piece of lightly oiled foil inside pastry and add beans or baking weights.


Blind bake the pastries for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Carefully remove foil and beans.

Next, divide the onion-cheese filling and pour into each crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes more. Check after 20 minutes and if filling is set and doesn't jiggle, it's ready.

Remove from oven. Let cool completely. Cut into squares and serve right away or at room temp or cold. No matter which temp you serve them, they are divine!

You can half the recipe and only use one puff pastry sheet and it comes out the same--I tried it!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Jimmy Jam's Buttermilk Pancakes


Stella and I fell in love with these pancakes when we visited her Minnesota grandparents last Thanksgiving. Grandpa Jim (who Stella affectionately calls, Jimmy Jam) has been making these pancakes forever. I finally got the recipe and I was astonished as to how many of these pancakes my little girl can chow down. As Jim told me, "the trick to pancakes is minimal mixing...just enough to almost get dry ingredients wet. And don't forget to add the love!"

INGREDIENTS (adapted from Fanny Farmer)

In a large bowl sift together:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
In a 2 cup measuring cup blend:
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter
DIRECTIONS
Add the buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and minimally mix. Do not over stir! The batter will be slightly thick, but don't be tempted to add any more milk. Let stand 10 minutes.


Meanwhile, heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Scoop the batter onto the hot griddle, using approximately 1 heaping tablespoon (or more depending on how big you want your pancakes). Brown on both sides and serve hot.



Monday, April 01, 2013

Holy Coconut Cake, Batman!

First and foremost, if you've never opened a real coconut, go online and check out the YouTube video how-to's because I seriously felt like I was in a Tom and Jerry cartoon when I was trying to open my coconut for this recipe. Once I went online, I was like a pro at opening it.

Second of all, USE A REAL COCONUT. For my peeps in the West Coast, I know we can find coconuts pretty much every where specially in the Asian or Mexican markets. I know this may not be possible in other parts of our country and in that case, use unsweetened coconut flakes and a good, plain coconut water--these are sold pretty much in every grocery store now.

Lastly, don't give up. This cake is a labor of love and you need some time management. If you're a busy person, like me, this is what I did: I grated the coconut three days before, then made the cake two days before and the frosting the day of--which was Easter.

This cake was, simply, quite spectacular. The recipe came straight from my Saveur magazine, which I am so happy to be subscribed to, really! Of course, I did a few changes, but they were minor. I basically just reduced the amount of sugar to both cake and frosting. Still, the cake was fabulous and this is definitely one of those special occasion cakes. Happy baking!

INGREDIENTS (serves 10 - 12)

FOR THE CAKE:
  • 16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour, plus more for pans, sifted
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (original recipe calls for 2 cups)
  • 5 eggs
FOR THE FROSTING:
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (original recipe calls for 2 1/4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup fresh coconut water
  • 3 cups freshly grated coconut
DIRECTIONS
  1. Make the cake: Heat oven to 350°. 
  2. Butter and flour two 9″ cake pans, and set aside. 
  3. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Whisk together buttermilk and vanilla in a bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, alternately add dry ingredients in 3 batches and wet ingredients in 2 batches. Increase speed to high, and beat until batter is smooth, about 5 seconds. 
  4. Divide batter between prepared pans, and smooth top with a rubber spatula; drop pans lightly on a counter to expel large air bubbles. Bake cakes until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cakes cool for 20 minutes in pans; invert onto wire racks, and let cool. Using a serrated knife, halve each cake horizontally, producing four layers; set aside.
  5. Make the frosting: Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form; turn mixer off. 
  6. Bring sugar, syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup tap water to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar; attach a candy thermometer to side of pan, and cook, without stirring, until thermometer reads 250°, 4–5 minutes. 
  7. Turn mixer to medium speed, and very slowly drizzle hot syrup into beating egg whites. Add vanilla, and increase speed to high; beat until meringue forms stiff peaks and is slightly warm to the touch, about 3 minutes.
  8. To assemble, place one layer on a cake stand, drizzle with 3 tbsp. coconut water, spread with 1 1/2 cups frosting, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated coconut; top with another cake, drizzle with 3 tbsp. coconut water, spread with 1 1/2 cups frosting, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup coconut. Place another cake over frosting, drizzle with 3 tbsp. coconut water, spread with 1 1/2 cups frosting, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup coconut; top with remaining cake and drizzle with remaining coconut water. Cover top and sides with remaining frosting, and cover outside of cake with remaining coconut, pressing it lightly to adhere; chill cake to firm frosting. Serve chilled. 

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Baba Ganoush


When life gives you eggplants, make baba ganoush!

I can not express how good this recipe is. In the original recipe I found here, you're supposed to grill the eggplant first then bake it in the oven for 15 minutes. Since it was a perfect day here in San Diego, I was not going to turn the oven on and I forgot to refill the fuel tank for the gas grill, so I ended up blistering the eggplant in my favorite cooking tool, my comal. The coriander, paprika and vinegar are my tweaks to this recipe, but you can omit them and just use fresh lemon juice if you rather not use the vinegar. Make sure to taste after you season the baba ganoush and then whiz in the processor until you get the consistency you desire.

INGREDIENTS (makes about 1 cup)


  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 tablespoon tahini, plus more as needed
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Juice of one fresh lemon, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. ground sweet paprika, plus more for sprinkling
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish



DIRECTIONS

Heat a comal or a large cast iron skillet on medium-high. Add 1/2 teaspoon canola or vegetable oil to pan and with a folded paper towel, swipe the oil making sure to coat the comal or skillet.

Add the eggplant and cook, turning frequently, until the skin blackens and blisters and the flesh just begins to feel soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Transfer the eggplant to a bowl and set aside to let cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the skin.

Place the eggplant flesh in a food processor and add 1 tablespoon tahini, the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, cumin, coriander and paprika and buzz for 5 seconds. Season with salt and pepper and buzz 5 more seconds then taste and add more tahini and/or lemon juice, if needed. Then buzz until you get your desired consistency.

Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and spread with the back of a spoon to form a shallow well. Drizzle the olive oil over and sprinkle with a little more paprika and garnish with parsley.

Serve at room temperature with pita bread.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Salted Caramel Sauce

This Christmas I decided to make homemade gifts to give out to family and friends. I wanted to create something different than cookies or jams or baking mixes. So, I made salted caramel sauce instead. I saw the recipe on Food and Wine magazine and I couldn't believe how easy it was. I followed the recipe as it was written, but my only change is that I used gray salt instead of fleur de sel. Don't worry if your salt doesn't completely melt. I think that's what I like most about this sauce because small, salt crystal stay suspended in the sauce and they make love to your mouth once you eat it straight out of the jar or warmed up and drizzled over some vanilla ice cream.


INGREDIENTS (makes 2 cups)


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel

DIRECTIONS

Put the sugar in a large saucepan and pour the water all around. Add the vanilla bean and seeds and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.


Using a wet pastry brush, wash down any crystals from the side of the pan. Cook without stirring until a deep-amber caramel forms, about 5 minutes. Gently swirl the pan to color the caramel evenly.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the cream. When the bubbling subsides, bring the sauce to a boil and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the hardened caramel is dissolved. Discard the vanilla bean. Stir in the fleur de sel and let cool.





After it cooled, I poured the sauce into clean, sanitized half pint Ball mason jars and closed the lid very tightly. Then I created a custom labels and gave it out as gifts. I'm such a DIY mom!!!


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Linguine with White Clam Sauce


I've had a can of chopped clams in my pantry for about 4 months now and they've just been staring at me, as if saying, "use me...use the clams!" Finally today I couldn't stop glancing at the clams and decided to make linguine with clam sauce. One of my all time favorite clam sauce is from The Old Spaghetti Factory and that's basically the type of sauce I was going for. My creation didn't quite taste like the sauce at OSF, but it was quite yummy. You can use fettuccine, like I did, or spaghetti if you don't have linguine on hand.


INGREDIENTS (serves 4 for lunch or 2 for dinner)

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • half of an onion, chopped
  • 6 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • pinch oregano
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or dry champagne
  • 1/4 cup reserved clam juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 (6.5 ounce) can of minced clams, drained with juice reserved
  • 1 package linguine pasta 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, optional

DIRECTIONS

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and red pepper flakes, and cook stirring constantly until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and pinch of oregano and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook for a couple of minutes, just until fragrant. Pour in the wine and let reduce, about 5 more minutes. Add in the reserved clam juice, and simmer over low heat for another 5 minutes.

Gradually stir the half-and-half cream into the skillet, and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, but do not boil, until it's thickened and sauce reduced by about half. If sauce gets too thick, add in about 1/4 cup pasta water to thin it out a little.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add linguine pasta, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente.

Add clams to the sauce, and cook just until clams are heated through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and serve over linguine pasta  and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Top with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, if useing.




Monday, November 05, 2012

Buttermilk Dinner Rolls


I was cleaning out my refrigerator yesterday morning when I saw I had a quart of buttermilk stashed in the back. Thankfully it was not expired yet but I'd forgotten I bought it a few weeks back because I was determined to make buttermilk biscuits. Then I had a mommy-brain fart, as I do every once in a while, and totally forgot about it.

Anyway, yesterday I found the buttermilk and immediately I started checking my plethora of cookbooks. I browsed through the Joy of Cooking, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, a few of my Czech and German cookbooks and all had good bread recipes using buttermilk but I was looking for something easier, in roll form instead of bread or biscuit or dumplings, and that I didn't have to use a ton of butter in. So, I went to Google and, lo and behold, I found this buttermilk dinner roll recipe via Michael Ruhlman who got it via Saveur which is my favorite gourmet magazine at the moment!

In Ruhlman's recipe, you are advised to let the dough rise until doubled, which should take 2 to 3 hours. I put my covered dough in my turned-off oven and let it rise for just one hour. Then after I placed my rolls in the springform pan, I let it rise another hour, again inside my turned-off oven. I think that seemed to do the trick. Anyhoo, I just happen to have poppy seeds but if you don't have them available, I think you can omit, just make sure you egg wash your rolls before you bake them. Lastly, I don't have a scale so I went with the conventional amounts and my rolls came out A-OK!

INGREDIENTS (makes 12 rolls)
  • 28 ounces/800 grams AP flour (5 1/2 cups)
  • 20 ounces/570 grams buttermilk, room temp or microwaved for 40 to 60 seconds to take the chill off it
  • 1/4 ounce/7 grams (1 package) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 ounce/14 grams kosher salt (1 tablespoon)
  • 1.5 ounces/40 grams honey (2 tablespoons)
  • vegetable spray or butter for greasing a springform pan
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds (or as desired)
DIRECTIONS

Combine the flour, buttermilk, yeast, salt and honey in the bowl of a standing mixer. Mix on medium till the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Cover and let rise till doubled in volume (dough shouldn’t bounce back when you press a finger into it). This will take at least two hours, maybe three or more depending on the temperature of your dough and the temperature of your kitchen.

Turn the dough out onto your counter and give it a good knead. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions (about 4 ounces each). Form each into a tight boule by rolling it on the counter. (Check out this video on how to shape a boule).

Spray or butter a springform pan. Fit the boules into it, cover it with a towel and let the dough rise for an hour.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F./190 degrees C. Whisk the egg till it’s uniformly yellow.

When the rolls have risen again, brush them with the egg wash, sprinkle them with poppy seeds and bake them for 40 minutes. Let them rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with soft butter.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lime Pie or "Pay de Limón"


I'm into "easy" homemade recipes now. I just don't have the time to prep and cook like I used to and taking care of a rambunctious 3 year old by myself sometimes makes it difficult to plan out a fabulous recipe. But, that is not to say I am not cooking. I actually cook a lot more now, specially since I don't want my child to be eating too much junk or processed food. However, my recipes tend to be your homemade chicken nuggets, fish sticks, a gazillion ways to make macaroni, and other kid-friendly recipes.

Nevertheless, I thought of this recipe only because there was a sale on limes at my store (30 limes for .99 cents). These are your typical, Mexican limes, which look kind of Key Limes--they are very small, but they have the flavor of regular, large green limes. Only difference is that the little Mexican ones are a lot juicier and actually have seeds in them. So, I'm not calling this a Key Lime pie, but a distant, Mexican cousin of an American favorite dessert.

Note: although I only used one can of sweetened condensed milk (other recipes called for two!), this pie is very rich and sweet so just a small slice goes a long way.

INGREDIENTS (makes one 9" pie)
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (Mexican or regular limes at your store)
  • 1 tsp. lime zest
  • 1 Graham cracker crust or homemade graham cracker crust
  • Whipped cream (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or a large mixing bowl with a whisk or hand mixer, beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks.


In a large mixing bowl whisk together the egg yolks, lime zest and sweetened condensed milk. Add the lime juice and whisk until combined. Gently fold in about 1/3 of the egg whites to lighten the mixture then add the remaining egg whites and fold until just evenly combined.

Gently spread the mixture in the prepared crust and bake until just set in the center, about 20 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely then refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Before serving, garnish with whipped cream (if using).





Monday, October 15, 2012

Easy Guacamole


Everybody in the world has their own guacamole recipe and I think guacamole is one dip that is always a hit at any party and it is super easy to make. Some people like creamy guac, others more on chunky style, and I've even seen some with crumbled bacon and goat cheese! But below is, what I think, the best and easiest guac. This is specially a hit with the little ones who love to dip tortilla chips in it. Also, if you want your guacamole more on the spicy side, you can add a finely minced, seeded Serrano pepper. 

One final note: add one of the avocado pits to your finished guacamole before you refrigerate. I don't know why we do this, but according to my abuelita, the pit keeps the avocados from turning brown.

INGREDIENTS (Makes about 2 cups)

  • 4 Haas avocados
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 Roma (plum) tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced

DIRECTIONS


Peel the avocados and remove pits. Add avocados to a medium bowl. Mash together the avocados, lime juice, and salt. Mix in onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and garlic. Refrigerate at least 1 hour for best flavor then serve!


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Spinach and Artichoke Dip


For Father's Day it was my task to bring "chips and dip" to our family celebration and this gave me the opportunity to find a new recipe and try something I've never done before. The first thing that came to mind was a spinach and artichoke dip because these are two of my favorite veggies. My search, however, was for a hot dip without mayonnaise! I didn't realize it would be so difficult to find but finally The Pioneer Woman did have a sans mayo dip. I did some very slight modifications and the dip was fabulous. I suggest you make this the night before but don't bake it until the day you will serve it. Also, warmed up pita bread goes fabulous with this dip.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag fresh spinach
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter (additional)
  • 3 Tablespoons Flour
  • 1-1/2 cup half and half (more If Needed), warmed
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 package (8 Ounce) Softened Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Crumbled Feta
  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cups Grated Colby Jack or Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne
  • Pita Wedges
DIRECTIONS
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the half of the minced garlic and cook for a minute until garlic becomes fragrant. Add the spinach, a tiny pinch of salt and raise the heat a little. Stir around the spinach and garlic for three to four minutes or until the spinach wilts.

Remove the spinach from the skillet and put it in a small strainer--put the strainer over the skillet you just used and squeeze the excess juice back into the skillet. Set the spinach aside.

Add the artichokes to the spinach juice and cook over medium high heat for a minute, then add the remainder of the garlic and keep cooking until the liquid is cooked off and artichokes start to get a little color, about 4 minutes. Remove the artichokes and set aside. Chop up the wilted spinach and the cooked artichokes.


Meanwhile, in a 4 quart pot, melt 3 additional tablespoons of butter and whisk in 3 tablespoons of flour. Keep whisking until it makes a paste. Cook over medium-low heat for a minute or two, then pour in the warm half and half. Stir and cook until slightly thickened; splash in more half and half, if needed. Add the chopped jalapeno and cook for 30 seconds then add cream cheese, feta, Parmesan, Jack cheese, and cayenne and stir until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth. Add the chopped spinach and artichokes to the sauce. Stir to combine and remove off heat. Taste and season with a little pepper (I doubt you will need more salt since the feta and Parmesan cheeses are quite salty already).

Pour the dip into buttered baking dish and bake at 375 for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve with pita wedges, chips, or crackers!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Oldie But Goody Re-post: Urban Solace "Watermelon Salad"



I can't believe its been almost 4 years since I first posted the recipe for this salad, and I am happy announce that Urban Solace restaurant is still around. Their watermelon salad is as popular as ever, but now they only serve it seasonally. So get your butt to the restaurant from mid-May to late summer to taste this divine creation.

For this year's Memorial Day I will be making this salad for my family. I'm very excited because I've been craving it for a while now. The actual salad part is for basically for 2 to 3 servings but the vinaigrette recipe makes about 1-1/2 cups, so you can double the salad part and you'll still have enough vinaigrette! The vinaigrette also tastes good on grilled chicken or lamb. Happy Memorial Day, friends!

Pomegranate Vinaigrette
  • 1 Tbsp. minced shallots
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar (I used fig-infused vinegar)
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice (fresh squeezed)
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses (available at specialty stores or middle eastern markets)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • tsp kosher or sea salt
  • 1 pinch fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup canola oil (I used 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 cup vegetable oil)
DIRECTIONS
Place all ingredients except oil in a blender and puree. Slowly add the oil to make a smooth vinaigrette
.

Watermelon Greek Salad (makes one gigantic salad)
  • 3 oz. baby spinach or mesclun mix
  • 1/4 cup diced tomato
  • 1/4 cup diced cucumber
  • 2 Tbsp. currants
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted pecans or pine nuts, chopped
  • A few thin slices of red onion
  • 1 cup watermelon, cubed
  • 2 oz. crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate vinaigrette, or more to taste
DIRECTIONS
In a salad bowl, pour 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette then add the rest of ingredients, except the pecans. Top with another 1/4 cup of vinaigrette (or to taste) then gently toss, making sure everything gets a little coating of the dressing. Serve the salad, and sprinkle the the toasted pecans.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Parmesan Fish Sticks!


Hello friends, it's been a while.

Yes, I know every time I update my blog I say I'll update more often, cook more recipes, blah blah blah, and then, poof, I don't update for almost two months. And I could easily blame it on being a single mom, working too much, or exhaustion from taking care of a 2 and-a-half year old kid; or the fact that I injured my back (that's a true story) and was out of commission for almost two weeks. And yes parts of these are true, but mainly I've just been lazy posting my recipes and pics. I've actually accumulated many recipes, I've been cooking and canning (yes, canning!) a lot and I have a 4GB SD card full of food porn, but it's just finding the time to post, write a bit, and upload my pics. Yes, I know it's simple to blog, it's easy to upload pictures, but I just didn't want to turn this into a generic recipe site where there's no story. No history. No drama like this mama's!!!!

***
So I have this love-hate relationship with Giada De Laurentiis--well, so I seem to think I do. At first I didn't like her because she had such a nice rack but, oh that forehead and those teeth just didn't do it for me! But then I realized I was just jealous of her fabulous life, and that she's maintained her figure after she had her daughter, and yes, well, her rack is still there. THEN one day my Pops made panna cotta for the family and it was fabulous! It was creamy, not too sweet and oh, so freakin' delicious. And all of us, the childrens, asked, "where did you get this recipe?" What do you think my Pop's said?
"From Giada's cookbook!"
I think that day I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

***
So, I have surrendered to Giada; but not surrendered to her as "celebrity chef," but as a busy mom who is a pretty good recipe writer and a very good cook. I hate to say this, but her recipes are easy to medium and they tend to be good for you, too. UGH!
I had recalled I watched an episode where Giada made salmon fish sticks for her daughter (or her nieces, I don't remember) but the recipe seemed incredibly simple and easy, and for crissakes IT IS!!! I made these on Good Friday because, even though I'm not a practicing Catholic, the Catholic guilt is still embedded in me. And you know what? My little girl loved it! Yes, I did cheat a little and I gave my daughter reduced-sugar ketchup instead of Giada's "sour cream-mayo-mustard" dipping sauce, but the fact Stella ate salmon was incredible for me. Also, I followed the recipe to the "T", however I did not bake my fish sticks (it was 80 degrees here in San Diego) so I pan-fried them in extra-virgin olive oil instead. I have to say, I was impressed. Bravo, Giada. Bravo (golf claps).

INGREDIENTS (serves 4 to 6)
  • 1 (18-ounce) center-cut salmon fillet, about 9 by 4 inches, skinned
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
Dipping Sauce
  • 1/3 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup lowfat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or chives

For the Fish Sticks:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Rinse the salmon fillet and pat dry with paper towels. Cut the fish in half to make 2 fillets each about 4 by 4 1/2-inches in size. Starting on the longest edge, slice the fillets into 1/2-inch pieces. Lay the widest pieces, from the center, cut side down, and slice in half lengthways so all the pieces are equally about 1/2 by 1/2 by 4 1/2-inches in size.

Place the flour in a medium bowl and season with the salt and pepper. Place the egg whites in another bowl and beat until frothy, about 30 seconds. Combine the Parmesan and bread crumbs in a third bowl.

Coat the salmon pieces in the seasoned flour and pat to remove any excess flour. Dip the floured salmon in the egg whites and then into the Parmesan mixture, gently pressing the mixture into the fish. Place the breaded salmon pieces on a liberally oiled baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with the olive oil. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

Note: you can pan fry the fish in olive oil or vegetable oil, for about 1 minute per side. Also, you can substitute with Tilapia or Cod, for milder tasting fish.
For the Dipping Sauce:

Mix the mayonnaise, yogurt, Dijon mustard, and parsley (or chives, if using) in a small dipping bowl.


Cook's Note: The fish sticks can also be dipped in ketchup, marinara sauce, pesto, ranch dressing or vinaigrette .