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.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 1st...the year seems to be slipping away.  Only 30 more days and it will be 2012!  Do you believe it?  Time to start planning for Christmas if you haven't already done so.  The holidays can be very stressful.  They can also become extremely expensive.  It's always nice to give to neighbors, teachers, co-workers, etc. but with the economy, it's not easy.  Below are a few inexpensive gift ideas.  They are fun to put together and are all under $15.00.  Hope you will find this helpful.

Inexpensive Gift ideas

Ornaments!  Purchase clear glass or pearly white glass ornaments at your local craft shop for under $1.50 each.    You can use stencils and paint and write the year, the family name or if you’re really good with art, draw something on it.  It’s a cute gift idea for under $4.00.
Plants!  You can purchase a nice Poinsettia  or a Holly plant at your local home improvement or hardware store for under $6.00 cover it with Holiday cellophane wrapping paper, add a nice holiday bow and for under $10.00 you have a great gift.
Eatable!  Who doesn’t like to receive eatable goods?  Everyone entertains during the holidays.  Make it easy for someone and give the gift of yummy treats!  Purchase plastic goody bags at a party supply store (usually 10 for $1.99), fill each bag (approx. 1 ½ cup each) with different nuts (example: one with cashews, one with roasted nuts, one with almonds) tie with raffia ribbon.  Delicious gift for under $5.00
Purchase a pack of small wood cutting boards (usually 3 in a pack for approx. $6.99), a small block of your favorite cheese (pepper jack, havarti, gouda) and a pack of holiday spread knives (usually a pack of 4 is approx. $5.99).  Put the cheese block (in original wrapper) on the cutting board and wrap.  Tie with the spread knife.   You can put 3 or 4 of these together for less than $13.00 each.
Purchase a nice glass bottle (approx. $6.99) fill with good extra virgin olive oil and put one or two sprigs of your favorite herb (example: Rosemary, Basil, Thyme) and top with a cork bottle pourer or spout.  Tie with a nice holiday ribbon.  Great gift for under $12.00

Remember, try to enjoy the holidays.  It’s not so much about the gift but about sharing time with family and friends!  Be back soon with great drink recipes!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving is almost here.  As you may already know, it’s my favorite holiday.  I love the cooking and baking for Thanksgiving.  The smells that fill the house that day just fascinate me.  I wake up early to stuff the turkey and put in the oven and then I make a monkey bread for breakfast…ahhh the smell of cinnamon!  One of the things that I also enjoy very much is that aside from all the cooking and prepping, it seems to end as a very relaxing evening.  Unlike Christmas, you get to spend a special day with your loved ones without the expense of gifts. 

 My Thanksgiving menu is usually standard; turkey with my simple ham, mushrooms & seasoned bread stuffing, whipped mashed potato, sweet potato casserole (which is so sweet you can use it as a dessert), corn soufflé, asparagus and salad.  The one thing I sometimes make changes to is what I serve for appetizers and the desserts.  I definitely include pumpkin!  It could be a pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pie, pumpkin mousse, pumpkin flan, etc.  This year I’m keeping my appetizers simple.  I will start with the Fall Cheese Spread (recipe included in my November 2nd section) and will also serve stuffed mini portabella mushrooms (recipe attached).   A good Pinot Noir goes fabulous with these appetizers and meal.  I tried Estancia Pinot Noir recently which was wonderful and just today someone recommended the Cupcake Pinot Noir.  I will definitely serve one of the two or maybe both!

This year we will also be celebrating my brother-in-laws birthday and my amazing niece’s future.  She will complete her Bachelors in May and just got a great job offering.  That deserves a champagne toast! 

For desserts I will make everything in mini size this year.   Mini chocolate crust pumpkin cheesecakes, mini smores cakes and mini pumpkin parfaits, (recipes attached).   It will look lovely and taste absolutely delish!  Everyone will have the opportunity to try one of each or more if you have a favorite!

Enjoy the family, enjoy the holiday, enjoy a good meal.

Happy Thanksgiving…stay safe, don’t’ drink and drive!

 Stuffed Mini Bella’s
1 sml box of Green Giant frozen Cream of Spinach (thawed)
1 sml box of regular frozen spinach (thawed)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of fresh garlic crushed
¼ cup Season bread crumbs
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
Wash mushrooms removing stems (put them to the side)
In a med. pot add olive oil and garlic sautéing for approx. 3 minutes (med heat).  Add chopped mushroom stems and simmer another 2-3 minutes.  Add both boxes of thawed spinach and simmer in medium low heat for approximately 10-12 minutes (or until liquid evaporates). 
In separate bowl, combine breads crumbs and parmesan cheese
Place mushrooms in a baking dish (spray with non-stick cooking spray)
Using a small spoon, add mixture into each mushroom cap and top with a spoonful of the dry mix (bread crumbs & cheese)
Sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil
Place in the oven at 325° for approx.  7-10 minutes

Pumpkin Mousse Parfaits
¼ cup dark rum
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin (not pie filling)
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar (packed)
2 xtra large eggs
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups cold heavy cream
8-10 Crushed graham crackers

In large bowl wisk together pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg yolks, and orange yest, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Mix both mixtures together.  In the electric mixer bowl whip heavy cream and vanilla until soft peaks form.  Fold whip cream into the pumpkin mix.
To assemble, spoon some crushed graham crackers into parfait glasses, add a layer of the whipped mixture, then cookies, etc. etc.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours prior to serving

Chocolate Crust Pumpkin Cheesecake
18 Oreo cookies crushed
2 Tbsp. butter melted
3 pkg. (8 0z) Cream Cheese (softened)
¼ cup of condensed milk
¾ cup sugar
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Use a 9 inch springform pan.  Mix cookie crumbs and 2 Tbsp. butter; press firmly onto bottom of pan.  Set aside
Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until well blended.  Add pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice; mix well.  Add eggs one at a time.  After each addition, blend well and pour over crust.
Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until center is almost set; cool slightly.  Run knife or spatula around rim of pan to loosen cake; and remove.
Drizzle chocolate on top

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Ahh, November already!  Have you started your holiday plans?  Have you planned your Thanksgiving dinner yet?  Maybe you're just going to entertain keeping it simple.  It's time to get started.  Below I've listed a few items you can add to the house which will instantly turn it to a warm and cozy home...ready for the Thanksgiving holiday and entertaining!

Candles, candles and more candles - adding Cinnamon or spiced pumpkin scented candles to any room is a great start
A vase with wheat sprigs and fall leaves
A harvest runner on your dining room table
Deep dark warm colors - add cushions in shades of gold, burgandy and dark green to your sofa
An assortment of real nuts; chestnuts, walnuts and almonds in a bowl on a coffee table

Another thing that adds warmth to any gathering is the food you serve.  It seems that during the holidays people tend to entertain more often.  Being the Fall freak that I am, I never get enough of the decorating or the entertaining!  There is nothing better than spending the holiday season with family and friends.  Here are a few recipes to get you started.

2 oz Cranberry Juice
1 oz Triple Sec
2 oz Citrus or plain Vodka
Fresh cranberries
Lime slices

Put all the ingredients in a shaker with a few cubes of ice.  Shake and pour in a cold martini glass.  Throw in a slice of lime and a couple of cranberries for decoration.

1 oz Cranberry Juice
2 oz Pink Grapefruit Juice
1 oz Vanilla Vodka

Pour all the ingredients in a shaker with a few cubes of ice.  Shake and pour in a cold martini glass.

1 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Cranberry Juice

Pour all the ingredients in a shaker with a few cubes of ice.  Shake and pour in a cold martini glass.

Now looking to serve simple inexpensive but delicious appetizers?  Try one of these or try them all!

Fall Cheese Spread
1 pkg. (10 oz. each)  Aged Reserve Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/4 cup  honey
1/4 cup chopped Walnuts
1/4 cup  dried cranberries
1 green apple, sliced
Place cheese on cheeseboard, mix nuts and berries and place mixture on cheese.  Drizzle with honey.  Slice apple and place around cheese.

Olives anyone?
Purchase squash from your supermarket (butternut squash or acorns)
Cut top of squash making a "bowl"
Scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh
Wash & dry well
Slice a thin piece off the bottom so they sit flat
Place on a tray and fill with olives
Asparagus Rolls
1 lb. Asparagus (approx. 19 stalks) trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of salt & pepper
6 - 8 paper thin slices of prosciutto halved lengthwise
Preheat over to 400 degrees F
Cut the dry ends of the asparagus ends and place in bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and toss.  Wrap each stalk with half a slice of prosciutto.  Line in pan and roast asparagus (approx. 15 minutes) until tender.  Remove, cool and serve.
Well, these are just a few appetizers that are sure to make your holiday getty a hit!  Try them and let me know if you agree that they are just DELICIOSO!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday night fondue...

This week started with lots of rain but finally, THE WEEKEND!   We should be having beautiful cool and crisp weather.  For starters, I’m in the mood for a Friday night Fondue get-together.   Nothing too complicated just simple fun.
Cheese Fondue
1 clove garlic, halved
½ cup dry white wine
8 oz. Guyere cheese (shredded)
8 oz. Emmentaler cheese (swiss) (shredded)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Dash Ground white pepper
Dash Nutmeg or Cayenne pepper (depends if you like a kick or not)
1 pk. Cocktail hotdogs or Little Smokies (pre-cooked)
1 Baguette (torn into pieces)
1 Granny Smith Apple (cored and sliced)
Rub the sides of saucepan with the garlic (I leave it inside mixer because I love garlic).  Add wine and bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low.  In a large pan toss the cheeses with the cornstarch.  Slowly add the cheese mixture to the wine, stirring constantly (back and forth) about 4 minutes until melted or smooth. Season to taste with white pepper and nutmeg

Transfer mixture to fondue pot.  Start dipping!
Don't forget the Merlot!

Tips to Fondue
·          If the fondue is too hard…add more wine
·          If the fondue is too soft…add more cheese
·          When you dip, stir in a figure eight (8) pattern
·          Don’t serve cold drinks with fondue…wine is a perfect pair
·          Merlot goes great with any cheese fondue


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Did you know that...

During the Fall, most supermarkets sell specialty teas such as Vanilla Caramel Truffle and Pumpkin Spice?

Dulce de leche Cupcakes

Dulce de Leche Cupcakes!
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 12 Hershey chocolate kisses with caramel filling (this is the trick)
(12 cupcakes or 9x9 pan)
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease or flour a 9x9 inch pan or line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour batter into half of the prepared muffin pan.  Put one chocolate kiss (filled with caramel) in the middle and continue to pour the matter until muffin pan is filled.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes.  It’s done when the toothpick you put in the middle comes out clean.
Let stand for 15 minutes and frost.
Dulce de Leche Buttercream Frosting (Delicious)
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
1 cup powdered sugar

Pour can of condensed milk into a glass pie plate and cover with foil.  Place in larger roasting pan and fill with hot water half way up the plate (for approx. 1 hour and 15 minutes). Remove from oven and let cool. Stir until smooth.  Place egg yolks in mixing bowl.  Stir in sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a small saucepan.  Whisk in the water first then the dulce de leche and bring to a boil in medium heat (1 minute) whisking constantly.  Remove from heat.  Slowly whisk the dulce de leche mixture into the 2 egg yolks.  Stir in the vanilla.  Strain through a wire mesh strainer into a bowl.  Let cool completely (approx. 20 minutes).  Beat the butter on high in a large mixing bowl until it’s fluffy.  Beat in the cooled dulce de leche mixture.  Beat in 1 cup of powdered sugar until smooth and spreadable.  Put a dollop of the dulce de leche buttercream on each cupcake.  READY TO EAT!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Fall...

The Fall is my favorite time of year although  Miami is not the place to see the leaves change!  It seems that once mid October comes around I spring into action and my tastebuds go wild.  All I think of is what to cook and/or bake.  I have a profound love for the warm colors and the scents of cinnamon, apple spice, eucalyptus, pine, etc.  This weekend I am trying a new dessert...Dulce de leche cupcakes.   Yummy! Can't wait to get started.