Tuesday, February 28, 2012

So St. Patrick's Day is just a few weeks away.  I'm thinking of something delicious that I can make to celebrate. You know there's always a motive to celebrate!  Of course everything for St. Patty needs to be green!  As usual, I think of things that are tropical (it must be because I'm a native Miamian).  The first thing that comes to mind is KEY LIME!!!! MMMMM!  That can be green, it's cool, tropical and definitely, DELICIOUS!

2 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1  teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cups evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).  Line 12 cup muffin tins with liners
In medium bowl whisk together, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside
Using hand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time until just combined.  Add vanilla extract.  Add evaporated milk and dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix.

Fill muffin tins.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown and center of knife comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Once cool make an X in the middle of each cupcake with a knife.  Pour a bit of the icing let sit for 20/30 seconds to make sure it's absorbed and then frost.

Key Lime Filling & Frosting
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup of soft butter
2 or 3 teaspoons of 2% milk
Zest of 1 Key Lime
1 Tablespoon of Key Lime Juice
2 drops of green food coloring

Combine the confectioners' sugar and the softened butter.  Blend well.
Adding 1 teaspoon at a time, beat in 3 or more teaspoons of milk
Add Key Lime zest and juice and fold into the icing  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

THE SECRET IS THE BUTTERMILK, that is for Red Velvet cake or cupcakes.

As you know, must recipes include the addition of milk.  Some even suggest water.  Red Velvet calls for Buttermilk.  FYI...Buttermilk refers to a number of dairy drinks. Originally, buttermilk was the liquid left behind after churning butter out of cream but no, there is NO butter in buttermilk, and it is lower in fat than sweet milk. The flavor of buttermilk is reminiscent of yogurt and most people prefer it well-chilled. You will find it to be slightly thicker in texture than regular milk but not as heavy as cream. It takes 1 gallon of milk to yield 1/2 pint of true buttermilk. 

White Chocolate filled Red Velvet Cupcakes (mmmmm delicious) with Marscapone Frosting!
3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened shopping list
2 ¼ cups sugar shopping list
3 large eggs, at room temperature shopping list
6 tablespoons red food coloring shopping list
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa shopping list
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract shopping list
1 ½ teaspoons salt shopping list
1 ½ cups buttermilk shopping list
1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar shopping list
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda shopping list
2 Hershey white chocolate bar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and lightly flour three muffin tins. Place cupcake papers in the tins. In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.
In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts, alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overheat.
In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.
Divide the batter in the prepared pans. Bake each tray for 20 minutes, or until a knife is inserted in the center of the cupcakes come out clean. Place a small square of the chocolate bar in center of each cupcake.  Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for 1 hour. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
Marscapone Frosting
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
In a medium bowl all ingredients. Beat with mixer at high speed for a few minutes until mixture comes together, thickens and resembles frosting.
Frost after cupcakes are cool.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Getting ready for Valentines?  Seems like it’s one holiday after another.   You know, all this giving stuff can get really expensive.  Especially that I like to give little things to my mom, in-laws, kids, nieces and nephews, etc.  The best way to keep everyone happy is to cook or bake for them.  This year my daughter and I are planning on baking Red Velvet cupcakes, filled with white chocolate and  mascarpone frosting.  I bought cupcake holder boxes on-line that fit four cupcakes.  I will put a nice ribbon around each box and Walla…Happy Valentine’s Day!  As for my hubby, I want to plan a nice Sunset dinner out on the boat.  Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday so I’m not sure if I will celebrate that day or the prior weekend.  Either way, that’s what I would love to do.   The menu that I am planning for our special evening is simple.  It will consist of Tapas.  For those not familiar with the word, I will give you a bit of background.  It is said that the first Tapas was simply a chunk of bread which was placed over the glass (of wine) to keep the flies out. Hence the word ‘tapas’ was born (which means “lid”).  Throughout the years, Tapas have developed and have become more elaborate although it's still served in small portions or small plates (like an appetizer).  Most bars serve Tapas as a sort of appetizer with a drink.

I will fill you in on my fabulous menu!
Shrimp Ceviche  (I will make the day before)
1 lb. Shrimp, cleaned & deveined
1 red onion diced
2 garlic cloves minced
1 bunch of fresh cilantro (chopped)
Juice of 4 limes
1 tsp white wine vinegar
Sea salt
Dash of pepper

Put it all together in a glass bowl.  Toss, cover and let sit for minimum 2 hours in the refrigerator.  The shrimp will cook in the lemon juice

I serve it in a martini glass and garnish with a cilantro leaf

Mussels in White Wine Sauce
3 pounds cultivated mussels
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup chopped shallots (5 to 7 shallots)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (5 to 6 cloves)
1/2 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes, drained (4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon good saffron threads
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup good white wine
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
To clean the mussels, put them in a large bowl with 2 quarts of water and the flour and soak for 30 minutes, or until the mussels disgorge any sand. Drain the mussels, then remove the "beard" from each with your fingers. If they're dirty, scrub the mussels with a brush under running water. Discard any mussels whose shells aren't tightly shut.
In a large non-aluminum stockpot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes; then add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes, or until the shallots are translucent. Add the tomatoes, saffron, parsley, thyme, wine, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.
Add the mussels, stir well, then cover the pot, and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until all the mussels are opened (discard any that do not open). With the lid on, shake the pot once or twice to be sure the mussels don't burn on the bottom. Pour the mussels and the sauce into a large bowl and serve hot.

Chorizo Cantimpalo ¼ lb. (Spanish Sausage)     
Manchego Cheese  ¼ lb. (Hard Spanish cheese made of goat milk)
Slice each one thin and altérnate; chorizo, cheese, chorizo, etc.!  Put on a nice dish.  You can add several large stuffed green olives in the middle to decorate (and eat).

Baguette of French bread

Red Velvet cupcakes with white chocolate filling and mascarpone frosting

Don’t forget…a nice bottle of chilled Chardonnay!  Doesn't get any better!
Will share pictures ;-)

Friday, January 6, 2012

I just have to share this.  It's a new dish that is absolutely out of this world...no doubt that you will love it.  QUESO A LA CRIOLLA.  It's is great for entertaining too.  First, you have to make a typical Cuban Picadillo.

4 tsp olive oil 
2 lbs lean ground beef 
1 green pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped 
1 medium onion, finely chopped 
2 cloves garlic, minced 
2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp ground black pepper 
Pinch of cumin powder 
1 tsp dried oregano 
2 bay leaves 
1 8-oz can of tomato sauce 
1 cup vino seco or dry white wine 
1/4 cup pimento-stuffed Spanish olives 

In a large pot, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, and brown the meat, stirring occasionally and ensuring that the meat is not scorched. Remove the browned meat and drain any excess fat from the pot.
Add the remaining olive oil, and heat it over medium heat. Then add the green pepper, onion, garlic, and sauté until the onions are translucent.
Return the browned meat to the pot, and add the remaining ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer the picadillo for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently.  

For this recipe, you must make sure that their is no additional oil in the meat.

Next step.  Purchase a 3 lb. full wheel of Wisconsin Gouda Cheese.  Remove the outer hard red (plastic looking) cover.  Cut the wheel in half.  Use a melon ball cutter to scoop out the inside of the cheese on both sides (put all the little balls of cheese in a airtight container for later use).  Leave approximately 1/4 inch of cheese all around on both sides of the cut wheel.  Each side should look like a bowl.   Fill each side with picadillo keeping it even to the surface (not overlapping).  Put back together (it will look like one big ball of cheese.  Wrap in aluminum foil and put in an oven that has been preheated at 350° for approximately 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, remove foil and let cool.  Cut in wedges. It will look like a beautiful pie!  
Serve with a nice salad & garlic bread!!!!!  Try this...it will be a hit.

Don't forget the Merlot!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hi there...I'm back!  Happy New Year!!!!  Well, what can I say except that being home with family and friends is great.  I enjoyed my vacation.  I tried to relax a little, party a little but more importantly, spend quality time with my loved ones.  I did some cooking and a lot of baking for Noche Buena and Christmas (my Ham turned out very good).  After that I decided I would relax and although I did entertain a little, I kept the cooking to a mere minimum! There were a few things that I did prepare; one being my famous Shrimp Extravaganza.  It is simple to make and absolutely delish! 

Cold Shrimp Extravaganza
1 1/2 lb. pre-cooked shrimp (medium size)
1-8 oz cream cheese (softened)
1 cup of shrimp cocktail sauce
1/2 cup of sliced kalamata olives
1/2 cup of red & green peppers (diced)

In round or square (9x13 inch) serving plate spread the cream cheese to cover plate evenly.  Add the cocktail sauce also spreading evenly over the cream cheese. Sprinkle the peppers and kalamata olives over the sauce and then cut the shrimp in half, sprinkle over mixture.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes and serve.  

To keep things light and fresh I also whipped up a quick Martini.  I was trying not to overdo it with the calories so I decided to try something new with Vodka.  I didn't want to use the store bought martini mixers so I went on a hunt.  This is what I put together.

Martini Mixer
1 1/2 oz. Vodka
2 oz. Light Cranberry Juice
2 oz. Key Lime No Calorie Seltzer Water

Pour vodka and cranberry juice in shaker with ice.  Shake and pour in chilled martini glass then add the seltzer. Surprisingly delicious!

Cranberries & Orange Ham
10 lb. Ham (bone-in pre-sliced)
2 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup orange juice
Preheat oven at 350°. Place ham on a baking pan.  In small sauce pan place butter cranberries and orange juice and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes until cranberries are plum and mixture is thickened.  Pour over ham, making sure some of the cranberries fall between the slices.  Cover and bake for 1 hour.  Remove and pour drippings over ham to keep from drying.  Bake another 15 minutes.  Remove and serve.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Feels so nice to be on vacation.  I've shopped at my leisure, watched the Today Show which is my favorite and although some people think I'm totally weird because I use cooking and baking as therapy some times, I've been planning my holiday menu!  This year I'm bringing 3 desserts for Noche Buena at my in-laws; Amaretto Bread Pudding, Guava Cheesecake and Snowballs.  My daughter made these treats.  We had never made these before and they were delicious.  I'm making a ham for Christmas but putting a twist to the recipe...I'm using cranberries and orange juice instead of pineapple.  Since I'm still working on the recipe, I will include it once I'm done and it's been tested ;-P

1/2 cup butter
1 can condensed milk
3 tbs baking cocoa
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups graham crackers crushed
3 1/2 cups flaked coconut (divided)
24-32 large marshmallows
Line a baking sheet with was paper.  In sauce pan combine the butter, milk, cocoa and vanilla.  Cook over medium heat and stir until butter is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat; stir in cracker crumbs and 1 1/2 cup coconut.  Let stand until cool.

Using moist hands, wrap 1 tbs of mixture around the marshmallow (like making a ball); roll in remaining coconut and place in pan.  Freeze in airtight container.  May be frozen for 2 months.
These are a fun treat...enjoy!

Guava Cheesecake
1 1/2 cup vanilla wafer crumbs
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar; divided
6 tbs butter softened
3 8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Guava marmalade
1 Can Guava Paste
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine wafers crumbs, 1/3 cup sugar and softened butter in a small bowl.  Pat the mixture into a 9 inch springform pan; set aside.
Cream softened cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, cream and vanilla in a mixing bowl.  Beat in eggs one at a time, beat well.
Pour over the crust; pour in guava and swirl with a knife, bake for 1 hour or until center is still slightly moist and jiggly.  Remove from oven and let cool on rack.
Spread guava paste over cheesecake evenly.  Bake 5 more minutes.
Remove from oven; place on rack to cool.  Refrigerate 1 hour.  When ready to serve remove sides from pan.  Walla!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

COUNT DOWN!!! 5 days till Christmas!
I personally love to spend time with my family.  Since the kids are big now, I try to incorporate some fun stuff with them during the holiday vacation.  Things that I know they love to do (even if it means dragging along a few of their friends (all of which I love), although I try not to let it interfere with their schedules.  I have a few things planned out for the next few weeks.  How many of them I will succeed in I'm not sure but will give it a try.  What I do know is that I will do my best to enjoy them.

As promised a couple of weeks ago, below are several recipes that I think will make entertaining during the holidays easier.  There is the Arroz Relleno with a Twist (all in one meal), Seafood Pot Pie and for those cool days, a warming Baked Potato Soup.  Of course what are the holidays without cocktails!

Arroz Relleno with a Twist
Congri de frijoles negros or Moros y Cristianos
3 cups dry black beans
4 cups of water
3 tsp. of Olive Oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 tsp.salt
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
1/4 oregano
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
3 cups long grain rice
1 large onion, chopped
1 chorizo (spanish)
Preparation:Soak beans overnight before cooking
Cook beans in 4 cups of water (salt the water 2 tsp.) 15 minutes in pressure cooker.  Remove from heat and wait a few minutes till the pressure is released. Open lid and make sure beans are tender.  In a separate pot, place the olive oil, rice and stir until the rice grains get oily. This prevents the rice grains from sticking to another. Add chorizo chopped as small as possible, garlic, onion, bell pepper, cumin, bay leaf, oregano, black pepper, and salt. Sautee for approx. 3 minutes in medium-high heat.  Add beans with the water, bring to a boil, lower heat and cook covered with aluminum foil or lid to seal in the steam for approx. 15-20 minutes. If rice is still hard, add more water, a little at a time. Cook for an additional 4 to 5 minutes or until, rice is well done.   Remove from heat and let sit.  Fluff with fork to make sure it’s all loose and fluffy.

Pork Loin
2-1/2 lb. fresh pork loin
12 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 large onion chopped
1/2 cup sour orange juice (or 1/4 cup unsweetened orange juice & 1/4 cup lime juice)
2 cups water
1 cup pure Spanish olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 fresh onion sliced into rings
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin

Cut pork into 2 inch chunks. To prepare marinade: mix together garlic, chopped onion, orange juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, oregano, cumin and salt. Pour over pork chunks and marinate for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator.

Remove meat from marinade. Place in pot with two cups of water and 1/2 cup olive oil. Simmer, uncovered until all water boils away -- about 30 to 45 minutes. Brown the pork in the oil until crispy on the outside -- DO NOT overcook!
Once your pork is cooked and cooled off a bit, you’re going to shred apart with a fork.  Now, the good stuff!  In a casserole dish you are going to place the first layer of the rice & beans mix (moros y cristianos), then a layer of the shredded pork and another layer of the rice mix.  Top with slices of sauteed onions.

 All full meal in one dish!  Just add a nice tomato & watercress salad and it is DELICIOSO!

Seafood Pot Pie
½ cup butter
2 garlic cloves minced
1 cup russet potato cubed
½ cup diced carrots
½ cup peas
½ cup green onion
½ cup baby bella’s sliced
1 lb. medium size shrimp
1 lb. Scallops
1 fillet grouper, tilapia (whatever you can find)
1 cup half & half
½ cup chicken broth
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

In large skillet sauté onion & garlic with half the butter (med/low heat) 2 minutes, mix in potatoes, carrots, peas and mushrooms and ¼ of chicken broth.  Cook in medium/high heat for approx. 5 minutes until potatoes are tender.  Add in half & half, all the seafood and salt & pepper.  Cook in medium heat for approx. 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Ladle seafood mixture into 4-6 oven proof soup bowls.  Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Cut pastry into circles, cutting the circles 1 inch larger than the mouth of the soup bowls. Whisk together egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water; brush underside of pastry edges with egg wash and place over bowls, pressing edges to seal. Brush tops with egg wash. Place bowls on baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 12 to 14 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. 

Baked Potato Soup
4 large baking potatoes
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup flour
6 cups milk
4 green onions, chopped
12 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 1/4 cups Cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces sour cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1. Bake potatoes until done. Cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp and set aside.
2. Melt butter in heavy saucepan over low heat; add flour, stirring until smooth.
3. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring over medium heat until thick and
4. Add potato pulp, salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons of the green onion, 1/2 cup bacon and 1 cup
5. Cook until heated thoroughly and stir in sour cream. Add more milk if necessary (but it should
    be served thick).
6. Serve with remaining green onions, bacon and cheese on top.

  • 2 oz Midori
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1 tsp simple syrup
  • maraschino cherry for garnish
Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

La Vie en Rouge
  • 1 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
  • 1 1/2 oz. cranberry juice
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • Fresh rosemary needles
In a tall mixing glass, muddle 10-12 rosemary needles lightly with simple syrup. Add remaining ingredients then add ice and shake vigorously. Strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a rosemary sprig.