Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

I would like to thank everyone who has stopped by to visit my blog.

Some of you are old friends, and through this blog I feel fortunate to have found new friendships as well.

I thank you for your comments and suggestions and appreciate all of you.
To all I wish much happiness, good health,  peace and prosperity.

Merry Christmas


Friday, December 24, 2010

Cinnamon/Cranberry Bread Pudding

I'm sorry I've been so absent this week, but workwise, this is one of the busiest times of the year, so I 've stayed away from the kitchen. Last night I got up enough energy to make this bread pudding. I didn't go through the whole picture process as I have posted bread puddings before (click here), but for this one I used some re-hydrated craisins (leftover from Thanksgiving) instead of raisins. I'll be back with more recipes soon. In the meantime, here are some pictures of the snow that fell today.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Semi-Homemade Crackers

So on my last post I told you about everything defrosting in my Garage freezer, well among the defrostees was a package of flat bread.

I had originally bought the bread planning to make pinwheels for a small get-together that was cancelled at the last minute because of a snow storm, so I put the bread in the freezer figuring I'd make something with it sooner or later... I guess it's sooner.

The package came with 4 flat breads. I baked 2.  I layered a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

On one of them I brushed on some olive oil and sprinkled it with sea salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. The second, I brushed with olive oil and sprinkled it with parmesan cheese.  I scored them all with a knife and baked them (one at a time) at 350 F for about 8-10 minutes each. Really good!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dates Wrapped in Bacon

I  usually make dates wrapped in bacon on New Year's Eve. For no particular reason this is the only time of the year that I prepare them. (I made an exception for the blog)

Years ago, late in December, I went to the local supermarket with my daughter (she was about 11) to shop for our New Year's Eve tradition.  The supermarket was packed with last minute shoppers. We could barely get our cart through the masses, and when we reached the produce department we couldn't spot the dates anywhere.  I glanced up and noticed a produce boy wearing his apron.  He must have been about 17 years old.  "Yoo  hoo, young man!"  I waved to get his attention.  "Can you help me? My daughter and I are looking for dates for New Year's and can't seem to find any."  The kid took off through the swinging back doors (to retrieve my dates I assumed), but alas, he was never to be seen again... at least not until we left! LOL

This is very simple to do, and almost silly of me to describe. All you need are dates (preferrably pitted), bacon strips and toothpicks.

If your dates are not pitted (as mine weren't) slice them down the middle and you will see that the seed can be removed very easily. Cut your bacon strip into three equal parts. Wrap your bacon strip around a single date and insert a toothpick. Repeat.  Pre-heat your oven to 350 F.  Place your dates on a rack (if you don't have one, don't worry, just place them on a baking pan) and roast for about 20-30 minutes, just keep your eye on them. You may have to turn on the broiler for the last 3-4 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Oreo Truffles

I had never made this before, but it's really simple, only three ingredients: oreo cookies, cream cheese, and chocolate.

Okay, you know I can't eat this stuff, just looking at it makes me gain weight, so I'm going to make half the recipe. For about 16 truffles you will need:

21 oreo cookies (I actually counted)
4 oz cream cheese (half a package)
8 oz. chocolate morsels (more or less)

Put your Oreo cookies in a plastic bag and crumble them, you can bang them with a rolling pin, or if you wish, you can put them in a food processor. Small chunks are okay. Combine your crumbled cookies with the cream cheese, honestly, you'll have to use your hands to form a ball that sticks together. Place wax paper on a cookie sheet and take one tablespoon of the mixture into your hands and form a small ball. Place your truflles on the cookie sheet. Refrigerate them for one hour.

As for the chocolate, I had never melted chocolate for dipping before and I didn't do a very pretty job, but the instructions say to.... melt your chocolate over medium heat in a double boiler. When all the chocolate is melted turn the heat down to low. Use toothpick inserted into the truffles to dip them one by one into the chocolate. Place them back on the waxed paper and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

That's it, you can be creative with these and add sprinkles, or crumbled cookies, or whatever your heart fancies.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Feed the World

Many years ago there was a time when I had to choose between bus fare to get to work and lunch.  I was very thin then.  :)

We had a client, an elderly man who was working past his retirement years.  He would stop by once every couple of weeks, always around lunch time, and every single time, he would call first and ask if we wanted anything to eat.  I would always reply "no, thank you."  One day he walked in, came right up to me and handed me a Cuban sandwich.  Surprised, I said "I can't pay you for this."  He responded "I know, but you don't deny people food just because they can't pay."

I follow his example to this day.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mama's got a brand new bag

My husband lives in Levi's, and every now and then, it's time to let a pair go. This one was too ripped to donate to charity so I made a large tote out of them. I recycled a Polo shirt for the straps. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Venison Chili

A lot of people up here hunt deer. Friends and relatives are always offering us deer meat. Being unfamiliar with it, I wasn't sure what to make with it. Everyone seems to make chili, so I thought I'd give it a try.  I've made chili many times using beef hamburger, but I'm not a big fan, and I'm no expert. One bowl a year is good for me, but the weather has been unusually cold, and I had this ground venizon in the freezer.... chili it is. This is how I prepared it:

1 1/2 lbs ground venizon (not really sure how much it was, I estimating)
3 strips bacon
4 cups chili beans (I used canned)
4 - 6 oz tomato paste
2 cups diced tomatoes
6-8 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2-3 medium sized onions, chopped
2 cups beef stock (or 2 cups water and bouillon)
1 bay leaf
hot sauce (to your liking)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
cheddar cheese (optional)

Everyone told me that deer meat is very lean (too lean) and that I should combine it with regular ground beef or sausage. I thought that defeated the purpose, so I ignored them, but there was a nagging thought that I should add some sort of "fat" so I cooked three strips of bacon, removed them when crisp and browned my venizon in the bacon fat. Okay, so in a large pot saute your onions and garlic in olive oil, add your cooked venizon and all other ingredients, stir and simmer for about half an hour to let the flavors meld. Serve in a bowl and sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Meatless Monday: Sopa de Papas • Potato Soup

4 medium potatoes, diced
2 cups vegetable broth (I made my own, but canned is fine)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup sour cream
shredded cheddar cheese (optional

In a soup pot boil your potatoes in 2 cups of vegetable broth until tender but not mushy. In the meantime, sauté your onion, celery and garlic in butter. Add this to your soup pot, add the milk and sour cream and season with salt to taste. Stir. Bring to a gentle boil, cover and turn off the heat. Serve in soup bowls and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. (You can refrigerate leftovers but may have to add more broth if it thickens too much when reheating).

P.S. My husband, of course, wanted bacon bits. So if you're not doing the vegetarian thing, go right ahead and sprinkle some bacon bits on top with your cheddar cheese.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Devil's in the Details

I'm really a very practical person. I don't have a problem with paper plates and store bought desserts, dollar store wine glasses and deviled eggs, hand made notes, and plastic flowers... but the designer in me has to make it look good. Presentation is important. Think Hollywood; appearances matter.

During the holidays I believe there are certain things that deserve my hard earned cash, but really, wrapping paper and ribbon is going to end up in the trash (most of the time).  I wouldn't serve a steak on a paper plate, but simple appetizers that will be picked up with a toothpick... c'mon? As long as the food is fresh and tastes delicious, you're good to go!

First Snowfall of the Season

The snow started falling last night...

A view from my window of the white sky this morning.
Good thing we covered the fountain a few weeks ago.
I think the fox we had wondering around earlier this year ate all the rabbits. There are no tracks in the snow.
From the kitchen window.

A couple more inches expected today.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cornbread Stuffing

I was really happy with how this stuffing turned out. I got the recipe from my local supermarket flyer, which, of course, is somewhere in the recycle bin now, but I remember how I made it.

1 lb sausage
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium onons, finely chopped
3 springs celery, finely chopped
2 eggs
1 cup cream
2 1/2 cups chicken or turkey broth
2 cups cornbread
3 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

Brown your sausage in a skillet breaking it up with a wooden spoon, remove the sausage with a slotted spatula and set aside to cool. Saute your celery, onions and garlic in the sausage drippings (you may add a little olive oil). In a very large bowl beat 2 eggs, mix in the cream and broth, add the corn bread and parsley, mix in the cooled sausage and the sauteed celery/onions/garlic. (I used the pre-packaged corn bread stuffing, if you desire you can make your cornbread a day before, and crumble it to add to the stuffing).

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  I laid my stuffing out on a cookie sheet to ensure that everyone got a bit of the browned crunchy top. Bake for about 20 minutes (I didn't really time it, but it didn't take long spread out flat like that. If you put it in a regular baking dish, then allow a bit more time).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I hope you have a wonderful day, and remember we can all find many things to be thankful for.

I will be posting pictures of my turkeys as they roast, in the meantime, my cousin down South has her Thanksgiving turkey ready for the oven ....

Basket weaved with 2 pounds of bacon, seasoned with 3 sticks of butter, lots of garlic and salt. She'll add some wine when she puts it in the oven.

The Butterflied Herb Glazed Turkey is done. Click here.

The Cuban style turkey is done. Click here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Turkey #2: Butterflied Turkey With Herb Glaze

I've never prepared a turkey like this, so I cannot say if it will taste good until Thursday, but from what I read it seemed worthy of the effort.

I followed this recipe directly from this November's House Beautiful pg.88. It calls for a butterflied turkey. Now I've never butterflied a turkey and I had some trepidation about doing this, but I managed although I recommend having your butcher do it for you.

12 lb whole turkey
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup shallots, minced
1/3 cup fred flat-leat parsley, minced
3 tbsp fresh oregano, minced
3 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

3 tbsp melted butter

To butterfly the turkey: Position the bird, breast side down on a cutting board. Using kitchen shears or a large knife, cut along one side of the backbone until the bird is split open. Pull open the halves of the bird and cut down the other side of the backbone to free it. Cut between the rib plates and remove any small pieces of bone. Turn the bird breast-side up, opening as flat as possible. Press it firmly with your hands to break the breastbone and flatten the bird. (I was unable to break the breastbone). Season the turkey with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, mix together the garlic, shallots, parsley, oregano, rosemary, lemon juice and olive oil. Use your fingers to push some of the herb mixture under the skin of the breat and legs. Rub the remaining herb mixture over the surface of the turkey. Place on a roasting pan and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours.

Remove turkey from the refrigerator one hour before roasting. Preheat oven to 375F. (This recipe calls for you to place a rack in the roasting pan under the turkey.) Brush the turkey with the melted butter (breast side up). Roast until the skin is deep brown and an instant thermometer (I don't have one of those) inserted into the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone registers 175 degrees. (about 3 hours)

Turkey #1: Turkey with Cuban Marinade (Mojo)

Now its done!

I bought two small turkeys this year. The first one I'm preparing Cuban style.

For this 12 lb turkey I prepared a mojo (marinade)

10-12 cloves garlic
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lime juice
1 tbsp dry oregano
2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp pepper

A store bought turkey usually brings a bag in the body cavity with the neck and giblets (check the opening on the neck, sometimes there's a bag in there as well). Remove those and rinse your turkey well with cold water.

Prepare your marinade in a bowl by mixing the above ingredients. Pour your marinade over the turkey and into the turkey, use your hand to rub the garlic on the skin. Sprinkle again with salt and paprika (if desired).

Now here's what I do. I put the turkey in a large bowl, breast side down, so that it fits slanted, and I make sure most of the marinade is inside the breast cavity. (If you lay it breast up, the mojo is just going to sit at the bottom of the pan and flavor the back)  Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate 'til Thursday.

Thursday, pre-heat your oven to 325 F. Place your turkey breast side up in a roasting pan. Bake for  approximately 4 hours (for 12 lbs).

The above turkey looks done, but it actually needs about one more hour to become tender. The skin is brown already so I covered the bird loosely with aluminum foil to finish cooking. I don't use thermometers, and although I usually stab the thickest part of the leg with a knife to make sure the liquid come out clear, that does not guarantee that the turkey is done. You have to taste it! I know you don't want to ruin the look of it, so steal a little slice from an inconspicuous place. If it's chewy, baste it with its drippings and put it back in the oven.

Click here for useful information on oven baking times for roasting a turkey

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Music in Another Dimension

My husband decided he was going to get back on the treadmill and needed to buy an iPod Shuffle to listen to music as he exercises.  He shows up with this thing.....

Now this is a man who has ruined two cell phones by not taking them out of his pocket before putting his jeans in the wash.  I know he can't see the little symbols on there without his reading glasses, and his fingers are probably too fat to handle the controls.  I give it less than a month before he loses it, sits on it, washes it or tries to use it as change at a drive through.

What is the purpose of making such tiny electronics?  Why even bother with headphones?  At this point, why not just put all the music on an actual ear piece, like a hearing aid?  Or have they done that already?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fabada Asturiana • White Bean Stew

Oh darn! Was this supposed to be Meatless Monday? ;)

This is a very hearty stew that originated in Asturias, Spain. The word Fabada comes from Fabes a type of white runner bean cultivated in the autonomous community of Asturias. They are also known as 'Judiones'. My first father-in-law was a Spaniard and he made this delicious stew, unfortunately, I never watched him make it and never wrote down the recipe, but I know what's it' supposed to taste like. I searched the internet and found a recipe in Spanish. I'm going to follow it to the best of my ability.

1 lb fava beans (I'm using great northern beans, didn't find fava)
2 smoked ham hocks
2 Spanish chorizo2
2 Morcilla sausage (I can't find this and I don't eat it anyway so I substituted with 3 slices of bacon)
2 small onions or 1 large one
4-6 cloves garlic
1 tsp paprika 
salt to taste at the end

Soak your beans overnight. The next morning pour your beans along with the water it sat in into a large pot, you will have to add more water to cover the beans to double the height.... does that make sense? (If your beans come to 1/3 the height of the pot, then add water to 2/3 the height of the pot). Okay turn the heat on high and start to boil the beans with a drizzle of olive oil. Soon foam will form at the top of the water, skim that out. Add all the ingredients to the pot, lower the heat to a low boil and cover for about 2-3 hours until the beans are tender. Check periodically to make sure the water level is sufficient. You can let it reduce at the end. Before serving remove the large pieces of onion, garlic and bacon. Cut your sausage into slices (remove any artificial casing). Pick out the ham from the ham hocks if you so desire. Grab your spoon a slice of crusty bread! (For a thicker stew, remove some beans and mash them, return to pot).

Note for those of us watching our fat intake: Refrigerate your finished
stew overnight and skim the fat off the top before reheating.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Why I Hate Santa Claus!

It seems that every year I start preparing for Christmas earlier and earlier. I'm not sure if it's because I'm living in a colder climate and it "feels" like Christmas or if it's the ever-so-early decorations in the mall, but I was inspired to tell you this story, early as it may be.

For Cubans, Christmas Day, other than being a religious holiday, is pretty much overlooked. Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) is the night to celebrate (and that we do in a BIG way). In Cuba, during my parent's era, presents were not exchanged until January 6th — Three Kings Day (El Dia de los Reyes Magos).

When we arrived in Florida in 1962, the idea of a fat man in a red suit secretly sneaking into one's home and leaving gifts under a tree on Christmas Day was a relatively new concept. My family knew of Santa Claus having been exposed to him in American movies, advertising, promotions and such, but the whole tradition just didn't click.

Although willing to plunge right into American culture, my parents just weren't quite sure how things worked. After all, it's not as if a handbook was passed out to newly arrived Cuban refugees to explain that (1) Santa Claus came from the North Pole, (2) he was transported on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, and (3) he entered people's homes through their chimneys.  I remember a conversation at the dinner table between my mother and my grandmother that went something like this:

Mom:  "You know in this country, the gifts are exchanged on Christmas day."
Grandma: "Really?"
Mom: "Yes and the children are taught that Santiclos brings gifts. He comes at night and leaves presents under el arbolito de Navidad (Christmas tree)."
Grandma: "Ah, we're going to have to go shopping early then."

My father in particular was quite pleased to learn that Santa (the stalker) was always watching, lurching in the bushes.  For at least one month before Christmas we were constantly threatened into good behavior.
"Eat all your dinner, Santiclos is watching you!"
"You'd better behave or Santiclos won't leave you any presents!"
Santa didn't seem very friendly, but hey, we only got toys once and year, and we didn't care whom they came from!

I remember the first time (Dec. 1964) I became excited about Santa Claus' impending arrival. That Christmas eve my sister and I assisted my mother in putting sugar in our shoes for the camels (I sigh, what can I say?)  and leaving Coca-Cola on the table for Santiclos.  I remember waking the next morning to several unwrapped presents (my poor parents hadn't a clue!) sitting under the tree. 

Skip to a very lean 1968.  We were living in Los Angeles. I had recently turned seven.  By this time my sister and I were quite knowledgeable of how the whole Santa thing worked.  My mother informed us that Santa would only be leaving one present for each of us that year, and that we could choose whichever toy we wanted. 

I remember sitting in my second grade classroom, my hand under my chin, thinking long and hard about my decision.  I watched television every day after school to pick out the toy I would select from the commercials shown.  Finally I decided that the ONE AND ONLY toy I would ask for was a talking doll whose name I could not pronounce.  I quickly wrote the letter to Santa explaining that it was a doll that could talk, and that I had seen it on tv.  I placed the letter in an envelope, addressed it to SNTA, NOR POLL, sealed it, and placed an S&H green stamp on it. The next day on our walk to school I dropped it in the street corner mailbox.

My sister had made up her mind as well; she wanted a doll that could be fed. She was quick to point it out to my mother as we passed the store window of the nearby Sears.  For several days, my mother asked me the name of the doll I wanted:
"I'm not sure mami, but don't worry. I already sent Santiclos the letter, and he'll know which one it is."
"Okay," she responded, "but show it to me on television the next time the commercial comes on."
"Don't wooooorry mami! Santiclos will know."

That Christmas morning my sister and I ran as quickly as we could into the living room, and there sitting atop two brand new desks that my grandfather had built us (the poor soul, like we wanted to do homework, duh), were two sets of black patent leather shoes (yeah, yeah, where are the dolls?) and then... there was the doll that my sister wanted (unwrapped).... and on the other desk.....the doll that my sister wanted!

"Twins!" my sister yelped with glee.
"But... but... but where is my doll?" I asked.
"No, no" my mom exclaimed, her eyes popped out and waving her hands, "there's one for your sister and one for you!"
"Nooooooooooooooooooo! But I've been a good girl! How could you do this to me Santa?!  I hate you! I hate you sooooooooo much! AHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

As I bawled unconsolably I threw that doll down on the ground and stomped on it to my heart's desire. As far as I was concerned I got NOTHING for Christmas!

From that day on I divorced myself of anything Santa. I tore him out of my coloring books, defaced any Christmas card with his wretched face on it and cursed his stupid reindeer!  He became my arch nemesis.

To this day I do not buy Santa Claus decorations or cards.  When my daughter was born I initially refused to teach her about mean ol' Santa but was outvoted by her father's side of the family. (My mother already knew better than to mention his name).  Ironically, my little daughter developed a fear of Santa (I had nothing to do with it, I swear!), and would pee her pants whenever she heard "HO! HO! HO!"

So there you have it.... why I hate Santa Claus.  I think I'll stick with Frosty.