Monday, October 31, 2011

Bones and eyeballs - a Halloween treat!

I've seen a lot of cool Halloween stuff going around the foodie blogosphere.

Here is my contribution on this spooky, delicious holiday!

Servings: 12 bones
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 10 min
Total time: 45 min

24 regular marshmallows
6 pretzel rod sticks
1 package white chocolate almond bark

Carefully break the pretzel rods in half. Squeeze a marshmallow and poke through one end of the pretzel. Repeat on the other side. Assemble all your marshmallow/pretzel sticks before proceeding with the chocolate.

Break the almond bark into chunks and place in a wide microwavable container. Microwave on 50% power or defrost for 90 seconds. Stir. Keep microwaving at 50% power or defrost for 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until it is completely liquid.

Dip the pretzel/marshmallow sticks in the melted white chocolate and cover completely. Using a pair of tongs, lift them out carefully and shake off the excess. Place them on a flat surface lined with wax paper.

You can leave them out or put them in the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes. Then, eat!

Servings: 16 eyeballs
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 10 min
Total time: 1 hour

8-10 pretzel rods, crumbled
1/4 cup almond butter (or peanut butter)
2 tbsp condensed milk (if using almond butter, otherwise skip)
16 gummy lifesaver candies
16 reese's pieces or M&M's

Mix the crumbled pretzels, almond butter and condensed milk to form a thick paste. Separate into 16 parts and roll into balls. Let them set in the fridge for about 10-30 minutes.

When the balls have hardened a bit, melt the white chocolate the same way described above. Touch a drop of white chocolate on the open hole of each lifesaver and place a reese's pieces candy on top. This will glue it together to avoid the pupil from falling off :)

Roll the balls in the melted chocolate until completely covered. Remove carefully with a set of tongs and set on waxed paper. Press the lifesaver on top. Place in the fridge for the white chocolate to harden for at least 30 minutes.

And that's it!! These are surprisingly delicious and look very cool too!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dijon-maple glazed ham steaks with pineapple

I don't have ham steaks as often as I'd like. As you might have already gathered from almost all my other posts, I love the sweet and salty combination of well, anything salty and anything sweet together.

So with this recipe I wanted to go really sweet on the sauce, and I got cured, deliciously salty ham steaks.

Look at this beauty:

Dijon-maple glazed ham steaks
Servings: 2
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 10 min
Total time: 15 min

2 smoked ham steaks (you pick the size!)
4 pineapple rings
1/2 tsp brown Splenda
1/2 tsp white vinegar
1/8 cup pineapple juice
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste

In a small pot, mix the Splenda, vinegar, juice, mustard, syrup, salt and pepper. Whisk everything together very well over medium-low heat. Let it come to a boil then simmer for about 5 min.

While the sauce is cooking, heat a pan to medium-high heat. Coat with nonstick cooking spray. Cut a couple of gashes into the ham steak and place them on the pan. Cook for about 45 seconds on each side, brushing some of the dijon-maple sauce on. Flip over and cook until warm all through and golden.

Place the pineapple slices in with the ham on the pan, cooking for 45 seconds on each side as well, until warm. Feel free to brush some of the sauce on them too!

To serve, place the steak on a plate, top with the pineapple slices and pour the sauce over it.

Potatoes in any form are pretty good with this dish! The sweetness of the sauce and pineapple with the saltiness of the ham is to die for!

 Bruno's opinion is:
8.3 / 10

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sushi pizzettes

Crazy idea time!

I've been wanting to do this for a while now, and finally it happened! Sushi pizzas! What do you need to make a good pizza? A carb base, cheese, sauce, and meat. Why not use all those things, but sushi style?

Behold my tuna sushi pizzette:

Sushi pizzettes
Servings: 2 mini pizzas
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 5 min
Total time: 15 min

1 pkg precooked sushi rice
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 oz fat free philadelphia cream cheese
2 sheets seaweed
1/4 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 can white tuna in water
2 tbsp light mayonnaise
5 slices onion, minced
dash of salt and pepper
rice topping or sesame seeds

Heat the griddle to medium heat. Heat the sushi rice according to package instructions and let it cool until manageable. Using very wet hands, separate rice into two equal parts and flatten into patties. Place them on the griddle for about 4 minutes on each side, until rice gets crispy. Stir 1 tbsp of the soy sauce and rice vinegar together and lightly brush on either side of the rice patty once you flip it.

When done, spread the cream cheese on top of the rice. Add a layer of seaweed, cut into any fun shape you'd like. Then layer the cucumbers on top.

For the meaty goodness, mix the tuna with the mayo, onion, salt and pepper. Then proceed to place two even portions on top of the cucumbers. Drizzle soy sauce on top of the tuna. Finally top with more seaweed decorations and sprinkle rice topping or sesame seed on top.

Take a big pizza bite!

You can get creative with these, add shrimp, surimi, salmon, maybe a touch of wasabi! I will definitely be making these again :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sopes (Mexican corn-flour patties)

It's been a while!

I miss my kitchen, my recipes, and most importantly, my food!

I took a new job and it has been consuming a lot of my time. I haven't been able to cook for days. Today was it though, I needed it like therapy.

So behold, these quick little Mexican corn-flour patties topped with all the classic stuff: refried beans, lettuce, onion, cream, cheese and salsa!

You can top sopes with anything, I had mine without meat, and Bruno had his with very thin steak cut into thin strips.

Servings: 4 (2 sopes each)
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 5 min
Total time: 25 min

1 cup maseca flour
1 cup warm water
dash of salt
oil for frying

For topping:
1/2 cup red salsa
1 12 oz can refried beans
1/4 small onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup iceberg lettuce, sliced thin
4 tbsp sour cream
4 tbsp crumbled queso fresco

Heat the refried beans in the microwave or stove and cover. Make sure all the other topping ingredients are ready before you begin forming the sopes. When they are finished frying they need to be topped and served right away for the best results.

Mix the flour with the salt and water until a dough is formed. Separate into 4 equal parts. Using your hands or pressing on a non-sticky surface, flatten the ball to a circle about 4 inches in diameter). Using your fingers, pinch the ends of the circle up to form a crown shape. Repeat the process for the remaining 3 parts.

Heat the oil in a skillet to medium-high. Drop the patties face-down into the oil (with the pinched end facing the bottom). Let fry until golden, about 2 minutes, then flip over and fry for an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove from oil and place on paper towels to remove some of the excess oil.

Place the patties on a plate. Place about 2 tbsp of salsa on each. Continue by spreading the refried beans generously on the sauce. Add onions and lettuce. Sprinkle some sour cream and cheese on top to finish. Dig in!

These babies are very fulfilling. Remember you can add any toppings you'd like, including meat and/or chicken, cheeses, mushroom, etc.! This dish is the most basic version, and also my favorite :)

Bruno really liked them, Top 10!

9.2 / 10

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Slowcooker schweinebraten with spätzle

I've had the craving for spätzle for a whiiiile now, I even bought myself a fancy spätzle maker over a month ago ago and I have been looking at it every day trying to reassure it that it would get used soon.

Today was the day. I bought a big piece of pork shoulder (about 2 lbs) and decided my very first homemade späztle would be the best side.

So this dish is a play on the German schweinebraten. Major differences are 1) my pork had no skin, 2) I cooked it with a lot less spices and a lot more bacon, 3) I made it in the slowcooker sans veggies.

And here it is:

(I cut the meat in the wrong direction, woops!)

Slowcooker schweinebraten (German pork roast)
Servings: 2 (or 3)
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 5 hours
Total 5 hours 5 min

2 lb pork roast (with a layer of fat on top)
3 bacon slices, cut in half
2 small garlic cloves, in chunks
1 tbsp herbs de provence
1 cup pork stock (or beef stock)
salt and pepper to taste (be generous!)

For the gravy:
2-3 tbsp flour

Rub the garlic, salt, pepper and herbs all over the pork meat. Place in the center of the slowcooker and cover with the 6 bacon half-slices. Pour the beef stock over it and sprinkle some more herbs for good measure. Cook in the slowcooker for 4-5 hours on high or 8-9 hours on low. Alternatively, you could sear the meat before adding it to the slowcooker to get a juicer result.

This is what you'll get:

Now, pour the leftover liquid, garlic and all, into the blender. Let it cool for a litle bit before you blend until smooth. Then add it to a small pan over medium heat. Add enough flour to thicken to your preferred gravy consistency.

When adding the flour, dissolve 1 tbsp of flour at a time in a little bit of water, then pour into the pot and stir. Keep warm.

Serve a couple of slices (make sure you cut it the right way!) with plenty of gravy and a side of spätzle.

Traditional spätzle (flour noodles)
Servings: 2
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 5 min
Total time: 15 min

This recipe is from ...and then I ate it!

1 cup white flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp butter
1/8 cup breadcrumbs

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk together very well. Slowly add the egg and milk mixture to the flour and mix until a uniform dough is formed. Cover and set aside.

In a big pot, bring water to boil. When boiling, reduce the heat to about medium-high. Using a spätzle maker, drop the dough drops into the water. When they float up they are ready to be removed with a slotted spoon. If you have a lot of dough, you can do this in batches.

Now, here's where my dad takes this recipe and makes it even better :) Drain the spätzle using a colander. In a large nonstick pan, melt 1 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the späztle and toss to coat and reheat. In a smaller nonstick pan, melt another tablespoon of butter. Add the breadcrumbs and mix with the butter until they are toasted.

Serve the spätzle with the breadcrumbs on top and a drizzle of gravy.

That's it!! You have yourself a German meal ladies and gentlemen :)

Bruno really liked this, Top 10 baby!
9.2 / 10

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Passion fruit almond cookies

I want to come up with 3 odd yet incredibly delicious cookie recipes. So I've been playing around a lot in the kitchen (eating a lot too...) to see what comes out.

I absolutely love passion fruit, and have ever since I was a kid. They are abundant in Venezuela, and you eat them straight out of the husk with a spoon.

Anyway, I was at the grocery store and saw that Goya had frozen Passion fruit pulp. Light bulb!!! Passion fruit cookies!!!

And here they are:

They are super easy and fast.

Passion fruit almond cookies
Servings: 2 dozen
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 15 min
Total time: 20 min

1 eggs
1 cup Passion Fruit pulp (I used this)
1 cup white sugar
1 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups white flour
1 tbsp condensed milk
1 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Mix all the ingredients, adding one by one in order, except for the slivered almonds.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and drop about 2 tbsp batter per cookie. They won't spread out too much, so don't worry.

Sprinkle the slivered almonds on top and bake for 15 minutes.

That's it!!! The flavor is fruity, with a little sharp kick (that's passion fruit ya'll!)

Let me know if you try them :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mexican chicken empanada halves

I'm trying to design a menu that includes only hors d'oeuvres sized dishes. As part of the design process, I am of course making all the dishes and eating them up :)

Today it was the half empanadas' turn. Basically it is just like a regular empanada, but I cut the dough in half. The filling can of course be anything, but I used chicken tinga (see recipe here).

Mexican chicken empanada halves
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 5 min
Total time: 35 min

Note: Cook time does not include the cooking time for the tinga.

2 cups chicken tinga (recipe here) - alternatively you can use any chicken filling.
10 goya discs
oil for frying

Cut one disc in half and place about 2 tbsp of chicken in the center. Fold the dough over so all the corners meet and flatten out edges with a fork to seal.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet to medium-high heat. Add the empanadas and fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove from the oil and let cool a little bit over a paper towel.

Serve with a dipping sauce if you'd like, or eat 'em up just like that!

Bruno would practically re-marry me 10 times for these. Check out this score:

9.6 / 10

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The only diet that works - a post for Blog Action Day 2011 #bad11

Today is Blog Action Day. On its fourth year, BAD invites bloggers worldwide to write about a special topic, and it just so happens that this year the topic is food.

I know food. I live, breathe and eat (ha!) food. I think about food more than an average person, and my husband and I joke that anything I do is driven by the food that I'll be able to eat. I go to the movies for the popcorn, out to the bar because of the wings or chips and salsa, to social gatherings to check out the catering.

One year ago, I never dreamed of a project like Food College, PA. It was born because I decided to take control of what I eat. So here's my food story.

I'm going to start by sharing something with you I never though I'd have the courage to publish. I feel extremely vulnerable, but I'm also very proud. This is me one year ago and me today:

The weight difference is only 50 pounds, but the life difference is huge.

One year ago I moved to the United States and had to get a doctor's exam for my driver's license. I weighed in at 200 pounds and precisely at that moment I decided to take control of my weight, and my life.

I have the picture on the left in a folder labeled "Motivation" on my desktop. I am an overeater, and I need that picture as a reminder.

So, what did I do? How did I drop that weight, and most importantly, how have I kept it off? Well, by doing the only diet that will ever work.

Do Indulge and Exercise Too

You want to lose weight? Then eat.  I've tried diet after diet since I was 13.  I did Slim Fast, no carb, yes carb, Weight Watchers, lettuce and Splenda, boiled grapefruit skin for breakfast, you name it.  But you know what the problem was? The "diet" mentality.  Diets have a clear beginning and an end.  If you think you're on a diet, then by default you will fail. Why? Because diets end. And what is going to happen when they do?  What are you going to eat then?

Now, I know that there are many programs and diets out there that work for a lot of people. They just never worked for me.  And it's because I would lose a ton of weight, decide it was enough, get off the diet, and eat it all back.  So, the first trick is to NOT diet. Change the way you eat, not what you eat.

Let's face it.  We can't get away from chocolate or fried foods, and frankly I don't know why we would want to.  So the second trick is portion control.  Let's play a little game, I'm going to use my brother's food pictures on Facebook (all delicious stuff by the way) to show you something.

Day's dishJack's dish

Notice anything? His plates are about twice mine! Yes, he's strong, young and growing, but I certainly am not. This is how much we were used to eating ever since we were kids. The plate had to be spilling, and you could not leave the table until you were done. I never developed a sense of being "full", for me it was more about finishing the plate. So imagine my shock when I started counting calories and realized I should actually be eating a lot less per meal, and I would not be hungry or die of starvation.

So that's what I did. I cooked as usual and served less on the plates. And I started realizing it was actually enough. I can now tell when I'm full and that's when I stop eating. The wonderful side to this is I can have ANYTHING. Cheeseburger and fries? Yep. Milkshake? Yes. Don't prohibit anything, remember you're not on a diet! This is my third trick, having trade-offs. If I'm having a meal I know is calorie-packed, then I will compensate at dinner or on the next day by having lighter meals. But don't negate yourself the food you want, just reduce the portion and compensate.

So, how do you reduce the portions? What if you're still hungry? That's the fourth trick: eat less more often. Obviously you're not going to make it to lunch on half a plain bagel. So have a snack in between. Same goes for lunch and dinner. Yeah, you had a light salad, but you will not make it 6 hours on just that, and so you get to dinner famished and over-eat. I never, ever forego my snacks. And I only allow snacks to be fruits, vegetables or yogurt. Nowadays I eat about 5 times a day, 3 small portion meals and 2 snacks. It feels like I'm eating all the time, which takes my mind off food. Do not let yourself go hungry!

And lastly, everyone's favorite: exercise. It is a must. This is the final trick, and perhaps the most difficult. I have always hated exercise with all my heart. But you have to do it. So find something that goes with your lifestyle. Go to a gym and try ALL the classes, maybe you will fall in love with one of them. That's what happened to me. I tried Zumba and never looked back, and now I'm a Zumba instructor and do it regularly about 6-7 times a week. I also discovered yoga, which has changed my relationship with my body and given me control and strength. I exercise anywhere from 7-10 hours a week. I know that sounds crazy, but it isn't if you don't think of it as something mandatory you don't want to do. You know how you set aside the time to watch your favorite show? Well that's Zumba and yoga for me. They aren't optional, and I actually look forward to it!

So, in summary: Do Indulge and Exercise Too. Don't diet, control your portions, have tradeoffs, eat less more often, and exercise.

I don't pretend to believe that this will work for everyone, because we're all different and have different needs. I wanted to share this with you because it changed my life.

Getting control of how I eat and being more involved with my kitchen gave birth to this blog. I love my relationship with food nowadays, and I also love weighing 150 pounds :)

Thank you for letting me have this space, thank you for reading this, thank you for enjoying my recipes, and thank the universe for food!!

Share your Blog Action Day 2011 post too by clicking on the "Add your link" button below:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cheesy chicken crescent pie

I am not proud of the ingredients of this dish. However, I am proud of how incredibly easy and delicious it is. Just goes to show I don't have to be all snobby about making everything from scratch all the time!

So I borrowed a cook book from my good friend Corinna, and there were these like crescent dough rings in there, filled with all sorts of things. Immediately I thought of making something like chicken pie, and then a major lightbulb went on in my head.

You know those things you buy and store in the freezer for months and months because you don't know why you bought them in the first place?

Enter Green Giant's Just for One! Broccoli with Cheese. I've had these things in the freezer for like a year and I just don't ever feel like eating them. This was the perfect occasion for getting rid of those babies in an incredibly delicious way.

I just mixed these babies with chicken and placed it on a ring of crescent dough and voila!

Cheesy chicken crescent pie
Servings: 4
Prep time: 0 min
Cook time: 35 min
Total time: 35 min

1 roll crescent dough
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 Just for One! Broccoli with Cheese Sauce packets, frozen
1/2 cup assorted frozen vegetables
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chicken bouillon powder
1/8 tsp rosemary
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 garlic clove, in chunks
dash of seasoned salt

Preheat the oven to 365 F.

In a small mortar, combine the butter and garlic. Mush the garlic into the butter well and let sit while everything cooks.

Fill a medium sized pot with water and bring to a boil. When boiling, add the chicken breasts and cook on high for 7-10 minutes, until no longer pink inside.

In a big pot, add the four broccoli packets, frozen veggies, salt, rosemary, pepper, paprika and chicken bouillon. Cook with medium-high heat until the cheese melts and starts to boil. Lower the heat to low and let cook while the chicken finishes cooking, about 5 minutes. (If you take a look at my picture, I combined cauliflower and broccoli packets, but it's all the same!)

When the chicken is done, drain the water and cut it up in little chunks. Add the chunks to the broccoli pot and stir together well. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the crescent dough triangles in a circular shape, with the tips facing out.

Fill the center with the chicken and broccoli mixture, then fold the tips over to meet in the center. Brush the top of the dough with the butter-garlic mixture and sprinkle the seasoned salt on top. Parmesan is a good idea too!

Place the pie in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven when done and serve in wedges with some sour cream and tomato slices. Enjoy!

Bruno gives this cute little concoction an:

8.6 / 10

Really awesome for frozen food!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tequeños (Venezuelan cheese sticks)

So I was sitting at the computer trying to think of good hot appetizer foods, and like a true Venezuelan, my mind immediately went to tequeños.

Tequeños are a Venezuelan party staple. A party is not a true Venezuelan party unless tequeños are served. Apparently, the name comes from the children of Los Teques, a town close to Caracas, because they were always wrapped in blankets due to the colder weather there.

At any rate, they are delicious, deep fried white cheese wrapped in a thin semi-sweet dough. The cheese I'm using is not quite right, since cheese varies A LOT country to country, but it is close enough.

Here they are:

So this is one of those foods that I binge on when I go to Venezuela because I can't find them anywhere else. Now they are in my kitchen. This whole cooking thing is changing my life completely!

Venezuelan cheese sticks
Servings: 20-25 pieces
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 5 min
Total time: 35 min

2/3 lb queso blanco, cut into strips
2 cups white flour
1 egg
5 tbsp butter, softened
1/3 cup cold water
2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
oil for frying

Place the flour on a clean surface in a doughnut shape. Add the egg and butter to the center.

Mix the salt, sugar and water together well. Begin mixing the flour with the egg and butter with your hands, and gradually add the water until you form a uniform dough.

Spread out the dough using a roller until it is about 1/8 in thick. Try to get it as rectangular shaped as possible. Cut the dough into strips 6-7 inches long by 1/2 inches wide.

Wrap the strip around the cheese, starting by covering the top and working your way down. Make sure the cheese is completely covered. Seal the edges well.

At this point you can either fry them right away, or you can freeze them. I wrapped mine with parchment paper and plastic wrap and put them in a box in the freezer. They keep for a while, and you can make them anytime straight out of the freezer - do not thaw.

To fry them, heat abundant oil on a skillet to about medium-high heat. Wait until the oil starts shimmering. Add the tequeños and fry them until golden brown on both sides. If you see any of them opening up and the cheese showing, they are ready, so take them out immediately.

Place them on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil until ready to serve.

Aren't they beautiful??

We don't normally dip these babies in anything, but I'm pretty sure any sauce would work well.

And Bruno's rating is:

8.4 / 10

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