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!