varenyky recipe

The first time that I tried this meal I think it was at my beloved grandma’s. But also¬†one of my¬†sisters in law, Neny, -from Ukrainian ancestry- prepares this deliciousness every now and then and whenever I’m visiting her in Argentina, I asked her to prepare varenyky for me. They are amazing!

I grew up in Posadas, the capital of Misiones. This state was home to¬†a lot of immigrants from different places of the world. In fact,¬†each year Misiones¬†celebrate the National Immigrant Festival where different communities sell their traditional food/drinks while offering live music or dances from their country.¬†It’s a very important festival during the year and it’s a great moment¬†to visit if you’re ever visiting Argentina¬†ūüôā

Back to the varenyky recipe.¬†I had to do my research and experiment with different recipes because the family one that¬†I had wasn’t working here¬†since the flour is different.

So, after my experiments I got to this one that’s pretty, pretty… amazing!

You’ll need:

  • 2 1/4 cups organic all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon canola¬†oil
  • 2 tablespoons grass-fed butter
  • 1 organic egg yolk
  • 1 organic egg
  • 1 cup organic sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • extra: ¬†1/8 cup organic all purpose flour

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour and salt.

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In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted grass-fed butter (it doesn’t have to be hot!), organic sour cream, organic eggs, yolk and canola oil.

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Add the wet ingredients into the flour and stir until blended. Cover the bowl with a cloth, and let it rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.

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Transfer dough to a floured surface¬†and use a rolling pin to make it thinner. Add the 1/8 cup¬†extra flour if you need to, so it doesn’t stick to the rolling pin.

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Use a cookie cutter to make¬†the¬†circles. You can also use a regular mug or glass if you don’t have a cookie cutter; just¬†add¬†a little bit of flour to¬†the borders so it doesn’t stick to the dough.

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Add a spoon of the filling to each circle of dough and use your fingers to fold them over into half-circles and press to seal the edges. If you find it difficult to seal them, you can use just some drops of water to the edge to help you to seal the dough.

*I used a ricotta filling made with this ricotta, salt and pepper.

Place varenyky¬†on a cookie sheet, and freeze. Once they’re frozen, you can transfer them to freezer bags.

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Whenever you want to cook the varenyky, just bring a large pot of¬†water to a boil and cook them until they float to the top. It’s about 3-5 minutes (depending on the size).¬†

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Remove the varenyky with a slotted spoon and serve immediately.

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You can add some warm heavy cream and/or tomato sauce.

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They are a delicious winter meal.

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Enjoy!

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sweet meringue cookies

I love having some homemade cookies that last a week or so that we can enjoy as a sweet treat in the afternoon with an espresso.

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Here goes my recipe for these meringue cookies. You’ll need:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup organic sugar

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Prepare non-stick cookie sheet.

Start mixing the egg whites (speed 4 for 2 minutes then 6) and add the sugar slowly.

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Mix until the meringue is stiff.

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Add the meringue to a pastry bag or a ziploc one if you don’t have a more professional pastry bag ūüėõ

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IMG_7694It’s always nice to have some extra help ūüôā

Place small drops of the meringue on the cookie sheets.

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Bake at 250 degrees F for 1:15 h or until they start to get a golden color. Remove the tray from the oven. Let the cookies cool before putting them in a cookie container.

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Enjoy!

mbeju recipe

Hi folks, I decided to start this new week sharing a new South American recipe on the blog: Mbeju.

Let’s say that it’s great for breakfast, dinner or as a snack. You’ll feel satisfied and won’t get hungry for several hours after eating this cheesy, gluten-free tortilla-like.

Actually it’s a recipe from Paraguay, but you guys now that I was born in Misiones, just a river separates us from our brothers in Paraguay. In both sides, we grow tapioca¬†(mandioca) and its flour it’s a fundamental ingredient in the diet of these regions… or was ūüėõ

More about this food here.

For one mbej√ļ, you’ll need (did I mention that it’s actually shareable?)

  • 1 cup tapioca flour (available in Whole Foods, Latin Grocery Markets and guess what? Some Asian markets also carry tapioca starch or flour and it’s super cheap, something like $0.79 per pound).
  • 1/2 cup gouda cheese (curds or grated)
  • 1/8 cup organic milk
  • 1/8 cup water (room temperature)
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Begin by combining the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the melted butter.

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When it has a crumble consistency, add the milk, cheese and then the water. Use your hands to integrate them after each addition.

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It will have this crumble look. Don’t worry, it’s going to become something in a few minutes.

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Add a little butter to a large pan and set it to medium heat.

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Add the mixture to the pan and set it to a lower heat.

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Use a spoon to give a more flatten look to this crumble mixture.

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When the cheese starts melting it might be the moment to turn it over. You’ll see that’s¬†it’s easy to unstick it from the pan using a spatula when it’s done.

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Usually, I slide the mbeju to a dish using a spatula and then flip it with the help of another dish.

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Use what’s easier for you to flip the mbeju and cook it on the other side for another 3-5 minutes. Serve warm.

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All those golden-brown pieces of deliciousness…

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Serve warm.

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Enjoy it with a cup of mate cocido!

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Yum! 

stuffed spaghetti squash

Since I moved to the USA, I had to learn how to cook with local ingredients.

We’re subscribed to our CSA monthly box¬†of local and organic fruits and veggies, so now that it’s -finally- fall in San Jose, CA we’ve received something I never saw before when I was living in Argentina. It’s spaghetti squash and it’s great.

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I thought of preparing it stuffed with a meat-tomato sauce, as they do it in Argentina with other kind of pumpkins. For the stuffing, I’ve changed the beef for pork ground (which I also received monthly from a local ranch) and I also added some lingui√ßa (portuguese pork sausage) for more flavor. This is a great¬†recipe¬†for autumn/wintery days. I hope you enjoy it!

You’ll need:

  • 1¬†medium spaghetti squash
  • 2¬†tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 link of lingui√ßa
  • 1 lb ¬†ground¬†pork
  • 1 small organic onion, diced
  • 1/2¬†small organic red pepper, diced
  • 1¬†organic¬†garlic clove,¬†without the sprout
  • 1 tbsp green onions
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce (easy, non-fat, homemade recipe here)
  • 1 slice of¬†fresh¬†mozzarella
  • 2 tbsp organic ricotta (I used the same than I did with this other recipe)
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

Now, let’s do this.

First, cut the squash in half and brush the inner flesh of the spaghetti squash with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.

Bake it, skin side up, in a preheated 375F oven until tender, about 30-45 minutes.

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Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a large pan and add the diced onions and the garlic. Cook about 3-4 minutes and then add the peppers.

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Cook about 2-3 minutes more and add the ground pork and the sausage (linguiça). Let it cook thoroughly stirring it from time to time with a wooden spoon.

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Add the tomato sauce, dried oregano, basil, salt and pepper and a bay leaf. Let it cook for 10 minutes at low heat.

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When the meat is totally cooked, turn off the stove and let it rest at room temperature until you’re going to use it.

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When the squash is done, remove it from the oven.

 

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Use a fork to fluff up some of the inside flesh of each half to form the spaghetti.

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Add some of the ground pork linguiça tomato sauce, the ricotta and the mozzarella pieces over the spaghetti in each half.

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Broil  until the cheese has melted and turned a light golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.

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Serve and enjoy!

IMG_1712Wait… what? Is this pasta?

 

 

homemade bagels

One of the things that one can surely miss from living in New York is, definitely, a fresh bagel.

Last¬†Sunday, I woke up at 6am (that’s the latest that we get up ever since Marco was born hehe!) and started preparing the dough for the bagels. By 9¬†am we were enjoying some great bagels!

For this recipe, you’ll need:

  • 2¬†cups organic unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1¬†tbsp organic sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup¬†warm water
  • 1 egg white
  • 1¬†tablespoon water

In a large mixing bowl add the sugar, salt, undissolved yeast and 1 cup of flour. Stir gently.

Attach the kneading hook to your kitchen aid and slowly add 1/2 cup of the warm water into the bowl while mixing on medium speed.

Add the rest of the flour and the rest of the water gradually. Scrape the bowl if necessary. Knead for about 10 minutes.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dry kitchen cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes. This dough will rise but it won’t double in bulk.

After that resting time, transfer the dough to a floured surface. Cut small balls of the dough and make the bagel shape by creating the whole in the middle of the ball using your thumb.

Place the bagels over a baking sheet using parchment paper below.

Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 more minutes.

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After the resting time, bring water to a boil in a big sauce pan. Simmer bagels for 3 minutes on each side and remove them.

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Place them on the parchment paper covered baking sheets. Let it cool for 5 minutes. If your want, this is the moment when you can sprinkle some sesame or poppy seeds to the bagels.

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Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Remove them and brush them with the slightly beaten egg white with the tablespoon of cold water. Return bagels to the oven and bake for 12-15 more minutes. Remove from oven and let it cool.

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Enjoy with some cream cheese and scallions!

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Or…¬†Maybe some homemade organic jam ¬†or, like Marco in the picture… with salted butter!

IMG_8044 Yum!

argentinian sweet aniseed breadsticks

These sweet aniseed breadsticks were one of my favorites back in my childhood.

If I’m right, they are actually Spanish but, as so many other things, we adopted it from our Spanish immigrants and make this sweet bread a classic at any bakery (specially in the Northeast of Argentina).

For this recipe, you’ll need:

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp dry yeast
1/3 cup organic sugar
2 tsp aniseed
3/4 cup water
4 tbsp unsalted butter (I use Kerrygold, made from grass-fed cows, the most similar to the Argentinian butter)
1/4 tsp salt
1 large organic egg

In a small sauce pan bring to a low heat the water with the aniseed. Don’t let it boil, it has to be just a little bit warm.

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In a mixing bowl, add the flour, salt, sugar,  dry yeast. Stir Gently.

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Attach the mixing hook to your kitchen-aid and pour the warm water with the aniseed slowly into the bowl with the dry ingredients.

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Add the egg and the butter. Feel free to add a little bit more of flour if the dough needs it (in this case I added about 1/8 cup more). Once the dough is sticky but uniform, cover it with plastic wrap or a kitchen cloth and let it rest for 1 hour.

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After its resting time, put the dough over a floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes.

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Cut pieces of the dough and shape them into little sticks. if you turn them two or three times, you’ll get the shape of traditional breadsticks.

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Put them on a non-stick cookie pan or use parchment paper below. As you see in the picture, I used both methods. I prefer the parchment paper because it’s less messy afterwards.

 

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Cover them with plastic wrap and let it rest for unless 30 minutes.

 

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Take out the plastic wrap and bake them at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

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Optional and delicious: You can glaze them with a light syrup made with 3 tbsp of sugar for 1/2 cup water and 1 tsp of aniseed.

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Let it cool for 15 minutes before serving these sweet breadsticks.

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They go perfect with a latte or capuccino!

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Enjoy!

argentinian marinated eggplant

Hello friends!
This week I’m sharing another recipe from Argentina, marinated eggplants or “berenjenas en escabeche”.
I’ve learnt to appreciate this kind of “pickles” while I was living in Buenos Aires. While¬†I was working at Turner (CNN, Cartoon Network, etc.) I used to go to a little food shop on my lunch break where a very grumpy old lady sold the most delicious sandwiches with cheese, chicken milanesa (kind of a fried breadcrumbed chicken) and these marinated eggplants.
Going to that little shop was something like the soup nazi episode from Seinfeld.¬†The sandwiches were amazing, so we used to ordered quickly, pay and leave before the old lady yell at us ūüėõ
So, here’s my recipe for the marinated eggplants. Nowadays, I used them on¬†a grilled cheese sandwich. It gives it an extra special garlic-oily-spicy flavor that it’s amazing!
You’ll need:
  • 1 large organic eggplant
  • 2 organic bay leaves
  • 1 organic garlic
  • 1¬†cup white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

Peel and cut the eggplant in thick slices (about 0.4 inches each).

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Put the slices in a colander and sprinkle the teaspoon of salt over them. Let them rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

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Prepare the spices and the olive oil.

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Mix the spices -oregano, garlic, red chili pepper- with the olive oil in a bowl and stir it with a spoon.

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Remove the slices of eggplant from the colander, quickly run some cold water over them and pat dry with a paper towel.

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In a medium sauce pan, mix the vinegar with the water.

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Bring the water already mixed with the vinegar to a boil and add the bay leaves. Cut slices of the eggplant and add them to the boiling water.

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Let it cook for about 5 minutes and remove the eggplants.

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Let them drain.

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In a sterilized jar, add about 1/4 cup of the olive oil and spices mixture.

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Add part of the eggplants and some more of the olive oil mixture.

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Continue doing this until, layer by layer, until finished.

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Let it cool at room temperature and then save it on the fridge.  You can eat them the day after if you want, but the more days go by, the more tasteful it will be!

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Enjoy!

cucumber pickles

Summer is here, what means… pickling cucumbers are available at the farmers market!

My mom, being of German heritage, used to almost always prepare this huge jars with pickles. Not only cucumbers, she also used other vegetables, like onions and carrots, she even used to make pickled eggs (that one was not my favorite, but still, we had a lot of these pickles jars at home).

You’ll find a lot of different recipes calling for a lot of ingredients, specially seeds or spices that -unless you cook a lot with them- are not always at just any home.

This is like… “the easiest version”. A quick illustration to make a summary of the recipe.

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Now, in detail. For this recipe, you’ll need:

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  • 1 large sterilized jar and lid (wash well the containers, rinse and then boil them in water for 10 minutes. For more details,¬†click¬†here)
  • 3¬†pickling cucumbers
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 organic garlic cloves
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 tbsp organic sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pepper
  • *Optional: If you have dill, add it to this recipe. It gives that particular¬†taste of¬†cucumber¬†pickles.

Add the sugar, salt, garlic cloves without the sprout, bay leaf and some grains of pepper into the sterilized jar.

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Add the sliced cucumbers and pour the cup of white vinegar and finally the cup of boiling water.

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Close the lid while the jar is still hot.

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Let it rest at room temperature for about 2 days.¬†Once it’s opened, you can keep it in the fridge for about 2 months.

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Add these delicious pickles to your burgers or tuna sandwiches. They are yum!

Enjoy!

argentinian sweet ricotta cheese pie

This week, I’m baking another of my favorites argentinian pies!

We’ll use the pastafrola¬†pie crust but this time, we’ll filled it with ricotta cheese and honey. Delicious.

You’ll need:

  • 1 pastafrola pie crust
  • 1 1/2 cups organic ricotta cheese (if you find the Organic Valley made from pasture-raised cows, better. The taste it’s pretty similar to argentinian ricotta cheese).
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • about 1 tbsp honey

Put the yolk, the ricotta and the sugar into a medium bowl. Stir all the ingredients.

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Add the honey and stir.

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Grease and flour a pie or cake baking pan.

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Put the pastafrola crust in the pie/cake pan; the pie dough must be at room temperature to use it.

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Use the leftovers of the dough to garnish the pie.

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Bake the pie for 45 to 50 minutes at 350F.

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Let it rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

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Prepare some “cortado” (machiato) and imagine yourself in any Caf√© Porte√Īo (coffee shop from Buenos Aires).

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Enjoy!

quince pastafrola

I LOVE pastafrola. It’s an italian dessert that it feels like argentinian to me because I have it all my life and it’s a pie that you’ll find in any bakery in Argentina.

The pie crust for this recipe was adapted from the “Baking with Julia: Sicilian Desserts” TV shows. I made some changes, of course.

The rest, it’s my family recipe, what my dear grandma taught me about pastafrola.

For this amazing pie, you’ll need:

  • 2¬†cups¬†unbleached¬†all purpose flour
  • 1/3 organic sugar
  • 1¬†stick organic unsalted butter
  • 1/4¬†tsp salt
  • 1/2¬†tsp baking powder
  • 2 organic large¬†eggs
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1¬†lb quince sweet (dulce de membrillo, Trader Joe’s usually sells one but otherwise, the best argentinian membrillo is this one). Note* This time, I used the Esnaola brand but¬†I didn’t know it has high fructose corn syrup until I got it on my door from Amazon.¬†I won’t use it again, I rather stick to the Arcor brand which doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup.

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First, add the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt) to a large mixing bowl and mix them together.

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Ad the butter already cut in cubes and keep on mixing until it gets like a crumble.

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Add the eggs, one at a time.

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Keep mixing on low until the mixture become mostly one dough, something like the picture below.

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Transfer dough to a floured surface.

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Knead just a little bit until it becomes one ball.

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You’ll now need a¬†a rolling pin and some flour.

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Give the dough a pie shape.

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Here there are 3 ways to do this. You choose was best for you.

The first and most difficult one: wrap your dough in plastic wrapping paper, let it chill in the refrigerator for about two hours. Let it rest then at room temperature for 10 minutes before using it.

The second, since this dough will make 2 small pies, you can freeze one!

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Just roll one of the pies dough using parchment paper in between, then cover it with plastic and put it in the freezer to use in some other time. IMG_6870

When you need to use it, just thaw overnight or let it at room temperature for about 3 hours.

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Now, the third way to do this. Let’s just use the pie crust¬†right away!¬†For this, you need the pie pan to be greased and floured.

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A friend of mine gave me this idea and it’s great! You can use the tin of the quince/sweet potato as a pie pan! (yes, you can do pastafrola filled with argentinian creamed sweet potato and the flavor it’s absolutely different from american¬†canned¬†sweet potato).

Now, put the pie crust on the pan and filled it with the membrillo/quince sweet.

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This is another useful idea. Sometimes the dough sticks to some parts of the surface where you were kneading it. Use a knife¬†-if you don’t have a special spatula- to help you pick it up without breaking it.

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To prepare the quince for the filling, you’ll need a fork and about 1/8 cup of hot water.

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Just add the water and smash the quince until you get a texture similar to the picture below. Some people add a little bit of cognac to this part, others add lemon juice. For us plain hot water is perfectly fine.

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Fill the pie with the quince.

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Us the leftovers of the dough to garnish the top of your pie.

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And voil√°! This pie is ready to go to the oven at 350F for about 35 minutes.

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Now, brew some coffee and enjoy it as an afternoon snack.. or how we call it in Argentina: Merienda.

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Quince Pastafrola it’s my favorite!

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Enjoy!

white cake recipe

During my last years in Buenos Aires, I used to bake and sell muffins, cookies and cakes. I had very good recipes that made delicious treats.

But then I moved to the US and everything changed. My cooking changed completely. Flour, sugar and butter weren’t the same quality and what is a dessert without those primary ingredients? The final product was never the same as the one I used to get.

So I had to learn, everything. Even how to bake in electric ovens (that was the easy part for desserts and breads, not for savory recipes involving meat!) and now I was trying to get a very very good white cake recipe.

I looked so much for a good for it and I finally can say that I found a very good recipe for a white cake here.

The only thing that I didn’t like from this recipe is that it contains vegetable shortening and I don’t like the ingredients that the companies use for shortening… Not at all healthy!

But, since we were going to eat this cake just once in this whole year, I went ahead and made it. Also, even with shortening a cake made from scratch at home is always better than any one that you can buy.

First, I prepared the ingredients for them to be at room temperature; grease the cake pan and turn on the oven at 350F.

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Afterwards, I put the soft butter (1 cup) and the shortening (1/2 cup) in the mixing bowl and starting mixing them until light and fluffy. IMG_6227

Then, I added the organic sugar one cup at a time (3 cups). Then, the eggs one at a time also (5 eggs at room temperature) making sure to fully incorporate each egg before adding another.

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In a separate bowl, I put the 3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (always in patisserie you need to sift the flour first…) with 2 tsp of baking powder and 1/4 tsp of salt.

In another bowl, I prepared 1/2 cup of low fat buttermilk with 1 cup of whole organic milk and 2 tsp of vanilla extract.

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After all this preparation, I carefully started adding alternately the milk mixture and the dry ingredients a little bit every time to the butter/shortening mixture while still mixing on low speed. The recipe also says that you have to begin and end with dry ingredients.

Once the mixture was combined with no lumps, it was time to pour the batter into the baking pan.

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Evenly distribute cake batter between cake pans and place pans into oven.

I baked it¬†for 25-30 minutes at 350 and about 20 more minutes at 325F¬†(remember also that you can always check inserting a toothpick in the middle of the cake, if it comes out clean.. it’s ready!)

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This cake doesn’t grow much but it’s the perfect point of tender and moist.

 

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After it was at room temperature (about 1.30 h later) I cut it in the middle with a knife.

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Filled it with strawberries and Chantilly (beat heavy whipping cream and sugar for that!)IMG_6280

Covered it with more Chantilly…

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And we enjoyed this cake at Marco’s school when we celebrated his birthday with his little friends.IMG_6295

The construction candle is from Wilton Cakes on Amazon; 3 and the star from Dollar Tree.

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Someone really enjoys blowing candles!

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Let me know if you try this recipe or if you get a perfect recipe for a white cake without shortening ūüôā

Enjoy!

 

the most amazing buttermilk chocolate cake

Folks, my friend Hello Truelove was totally right. This is -by far- the most amazing chocolate cake I’ve ever made. Period.

So, if you’re a chocolate lover like us… go for this recipe.

I made just a few changes to¬†the recipe¬†for this cake and also I added were some raspberries when I filled it with the ganache. You’ll see the pictures below. I thought it was a good combination… the sweet cake, with the dark chocolate ganache and¬†the acid of the berries

So, what I did was that I placed 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, 2 1/4 cups organic sugar, 1 tbsp + 1tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder sifted (I used one I bought at Trader Joe’s) in the mixing bowl and started my kitchen-aid on low so all the dry ingredients mix well..

Then I added 1 1/3 cup canola oil, 1 1/2 cup LOW fat buttermilk, 3 large organic eggs (1 at a time) and keep on mixing. Then I slowly poured 1 1/2 cup of hot coffee (I used my espresso machine, so I brewed one lungo and two small shots) to the mixture. Finally, I added 1 tsp of vanilla extract and I mixed it until the batter was smooth. It was the thinner batter that I made for a cake.

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I pour this mixture in an already greased and floured cake pan and baked it at 350 for 30 minutes and then 235 for 20 more minutes. This is tricky because the original recipe calls for only 35 minutes… I think it depends on your oven. Anyway, if you’re hesitant use the¬†toothpick trick to know if it’s ready. I let it rest for about 30 minutes.

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For the ganache, I used 18 oz (1lb) of dark chocolate from Trader Joe’s and 3/4 cup of heavy whipping cream.

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I let the chocolate melt a little bit using a double broiler and then started stirring slowly using whisk.

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First, my little helper tested that the ganache was fine.

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Then I filled the cake with the ganache (when it was at room temperature) and I added some raspberries in the center.

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And used the rest to cover the whole cake.

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Since my son is a total fanatic of cars and trucks, I wanted to give a “tire” look to the cake.

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So, I used a toothpick to draw lines like the ones you see on some tires.

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I bought these trucks candles from Wilton at Amazon and let me tell you.. This little one loved his cake so much! IMG_6093Blowing up the candles!

The cake was absolutely delicious. Moist, smooth, sweet with that special taste¬†of the raspberries… And a lot of chocolate!

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We loved this cake! Thank you Katie for the recipe!IMG_6154

Enjoy!

the most delicious brioche recipe I’ve ever tried

Friends,

After I tried this brioche I was amazed at the quality of what I baked. This is an excellent recipe that I found here but it says that belongs to my beloved american chef Julia Child!

It takes a long time, it’s not easy but it’s not difficult.

You just need to have your mise en place (everything measured, ready to use and at room temperature) and dedicate yourself to this preparation… In 16 hours or so, you’ll enjoy the most delicious brioche that you’ever tasted and you’ll feel super proud of yourself!

I’m sharing the recipe that you can also find here¬†plus my own¬†comments and recommendations¬†for the mere purposes of keeping my cooking recipes available for me (I’m my own reader!)

Like many other bread recipes, first we start with the sponge. These are the ingredients for this part:

  • 1‚ĀĄ3cup warm organic whole milk (100- 110 degrees F)
  • 2¬†1‚ĀĄ4teaspoons dry yeast
  • 1¬†large organic egg
  • 2¬†cups¬†unbleached all-purpose flour

Dissolve the yeast in the milk. Put the milk-yeast mixture, the egg and 1 cup of the flour in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer. Start mixing the ingredients with a spatula until everything is blended.

Sprinkle over the remaining cup of flour to cover the sponge and let it rest uncovered for 30-40 minutes.

After this resting time, the flour coating will crack, that’s indicating¬†that everything is moving along properly (the yeast is alive and working!)

Now let’s move to the dough. Ingredients for the dough:

  • 1‚ĀĄ3cup organic¬†sugar
  • 1¬†teaspoon¬†¬†salt
  • 4¬†large organic¬†eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature
  • 1¬†1‚ĀĄ2cups¬†¬†unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 6¬†ounces grass-fed¬†butter, room temperature (I use Kerrygold)

Add the sugar, salt, eggs, and 1 cup of the flour to the sponge and mix on low speed for a minute or two, just until the ingredients look as if they are about to come together.

Now sprinkle 1/2 cup more flour.

When the flour is incorporated, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 15 minutes, stopping to scrape down the hook and bowl as needed.

Before incorporating the butter to the dough, we first need to work it until it has the same consistency to the dough.

I did this using a rubber spatula. The original recipe says “you can bash the butter into submission with a rolling pin or give it kinder and gentler handling by using a dough scraper to smear it bit by bit across a smooth work surface” but the rubber spatula was enough for me ūüėČ

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When it is ready, the butter will be smooth, soft, and still cool- not warm, oily or greasy.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time.

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At this is the point you’ll see that the dough will appear to fall apart… don’t worry, carry on.

When all of the butter has been added, raise the mixer speed to medium-high for a minute, then reduce the speed to medium and beat the dough for about 5 minutes. Clean the sides of the bowl frequently as you work.

When you’re finished, the dough should feel somewhat cool.

It will be soft and sill sticky and may cling slightly to the sides and bottom of the bowl.

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Now it’s the time for the first rise.

The recipe calls to transfer the dough to a buttered bowl and cover it in plastic wrap. I didn’t do this.

I just covered the bowl that I was using with the plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 2 1/2 hours.

Now let’s move to the second rise. Wait.. What? Yes! I told you that this will take a while!

Deflate the dough by placing your fingers under it, lifting a part of dough, and then letting it fall back into the bowl.

I also took another shortcut after this part and after deflating it, I put it straight to the buttered baking-pan that I was going to use later. I covered it with plastic wrap and sent it to the refrigerator overnight.

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I woke up next morning at 5 am and took out of the fridge the bread and let the dough rest for 2 hours at room temperature (still covered in its plastic wrap).

After those 2 hours, I didn’t brush the brioche with egg neither I shaped it in the traditional way. Enough calories already and with all the butter that it had it will get¬†brownish.

After the resting time, I took it out of the plastic wrap and put¬†it in¬†the oven at 375 for 30 minutes (please remember to have your oven at the temperature needed when¬†you’re going to bake the brioche!)

When the 30 minutes where done, I let it cool at room temperature for about 15′ and served it.

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The brioche was absolutely delicious! I felt like I bought that brioche from the most fancy bakery that I could find in New York, San Francisco or Buenos Aires (or in any street vendor in Paris of course!).

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And let me tell you, I felt so happy and proud of what I made that I wanted to share with you the joy sharing the recipe.

Baking is amazing! <3

 

IMG_4605  Enjoy!

yorkshire puddings

Today, I’m sharing a British cooking recipe and¬†one of my husband’s favorites things:¬†Yorkshire Puddings.

The main “secret” to get this recipe right is that the oil in the muffin pan (in this case) has to be HOT. So please, prepare this with caution!

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 4 large organic free range eggs
  • 1 cup organic whole milk
  • canola oil, for cooking (about 3 tbsp)
  • salt & pepper

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Heat the oven to 400F.

Pour a little bit of the canola oil in a 12-whole non-stick muffin pan and place the pan in the oven to heat through.

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You need to make the batter quickly because the muffin pan is getting ready in the oven.

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To make the batter, pour the flour into a bowl and beat in the eggs until smooth.

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Gradually add the milk and carry on beating until the mix is completely lump-free.

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Season with salt and pepper. Pour the batter into a jar or a batter bowl.

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Remove the hot tins from the oven. Handle it with caution because the oil might be VERY HOT!

Carefully and evenly pour the batter into the holes.

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Place it back in the oven and leave undisturbed for 20-25 mins until the puddings have puffed up and browned.

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Take a picture and serve immediately!

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I also made an additional and different version adding some ground beef that I cooked before in a skillet with onions, red bell peppers, raisins, olives and oregano.

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For this version you’ll need to pour a little of the batter.

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Then, add a spoon full of the beef mixture and cover it with a little bit more of batter. Remember that they will grow in the oven so cover just about 3/4 of the whole in the muffin pan.

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Enjoy!

sweet potatoes dumplings

Since I love to cook and eat new things, God sent me the kid who doesn’t like to eat veggies or some food because of their “texture”.

Nevertheless, my son is not going to win this war, he might try to appear as a picky eater but sooner or later, mommy is going to win! I’m confident!

Since he already love my spinach dumplings (knödel), I tried the same idea but with another ingredient: sweet potatoes!

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 lb sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 organic large egg
  • 1/2¬†cup unbleached all purpose flour

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Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake the sweet potatoes for 30 minutes or until soft. Remove from the oven and set aside. Once the potatoes are cool enough to work with, remove thee peels.

Mash the sweet potatoes and add the mix to a large bowl.

IMG_4857Add the egg and the vegetable oil and stir.

Mix in the salt and stir. Add the flour already mixed with the baking powder  a little at a time until you have soft dough. Use more or less flour as needed.

Transfer the mixture to a floured surface.

Roll the dough out in several long rolls.

Cut little pieces of the rolls using a knife (add some flour to the sharped part of the knife so it doesn’t get sticky).

 

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Is you want to freeze your preparation, this is the time to do it (just remember to add a little bit of flour to the base of the container¬†so they don’t get sticked to the base!). Note: You don’t need to thaw the dumplings, just put them in boiling water straight from the freezer.

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If you’re going to prepare them right away, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop¬†the little pieces of dough into the boiling water.

Allow them to cook until they float to the surface.

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Remove the floating pieces with a slotted spoon or drain using a colander.

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Serve with butter and pecorino cheese or with a sage butter sauce ūüėȬ†

Enjoy!

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easy black beans (feijoada style)

I was born and raised in Posadas, the capital city of the state of Misiones, in the extreme north east of Argentina.

During my childhood years, our holidays used to be in one of Brazil’s southern beaches: Cap√£o Da Canoa, a small village in the state of Rio Grande do Sul where habitants¬†from Porto Alegre used to go for a beach getaway.

We even had an apartment, so we used to go very often. And in every visit, we ate at small local eateries where all of their dishes were first serve with a hot, flavorful and delicious: feijoada with white rice.

Originally, it’s a stew with mostly black beans and meat (pork feet, bacon, sausage, etc) that takes a lot of time to cook, as any stew!

So today, I want to share¬†my abbreviated¬†version of feijoada. This one, you’ll see,¬†¬†it’s an easy recipe and even though¬†it doesn’t include all the ingredients of a traditional feijoada from Rio Grande do Sul… it’s still¬†delicious!

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb California Grown Black Valentine Beans
  • 1 large organic yellow onion chopped
  • 3 thick slices applewood smoked bacon (always try to choose¬†products¬†with no antibiotics and humanely raised)
  • 1 bavarian sausage fully cooked (I used this one from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 organic red bell pepper
  • 1 organic garlic clove without the sprout
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp spices (I used Trader Joe’s 21 seasoning¬†salute¬†but any oregano, parsley, dried garlic, etc will work)
  • salt, pepper
  • water

First, let’s talk about what beans I used. I bought 1lb of Black Valentine Beans and I let them in a bowl covered with water on my kitchen top overnight. ¬†Then, I drained the beans, gave them a quick rinse with cold water and set them aside.

In a large sauce pot over medium heat, pour the olive oil and add the chopped onions and garlic. Let them cook for 2 minutes and add the bacon and the red bell peppers.

Add the sausage, stir. Finally, add the rinsed beans and enough water to cover all the ingredients.

Add the spices, the salt and pepper. Stir and cover.

That’s my shadow, hi!

Cook on low heat for about 1.30 h or until beans are tender.

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You can serve right away, or like I did, let it cool and freeze in different bowls so you can enjoy this dish on other days!

Usually, you this dish is served with white rice and a few drops of lemon juice over it.

Since we’re a multicultural family, I decided to serve the feijoada with some “tajadas” (fried plantain) and “arepas” (venezuelan corn flatbread) and everything was delicious!

IMG_4580Enjoy!

honey mustard salmon

Hello friends,

First of all, let me tell you something: I love salmon! And even-though I prefer it raw with my chirashi, from time to time I like to try new ways to prepare it.

For this recipe, you’ll need:

  • 1 tbsp melted organic unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp organic mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 organic dry crumbs (available at Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 tsp lime juice (or lemon)
  • 1 tbsp chopped organic green onions (I’m so happy that I grow¬†these in my garden now!)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl, stir together butter, mustard, and honey and set aside.

In another bowl, mix together bread crumbs and the chopped green onions.

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Prepare your fillets on a non-stick baking pan.

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Brush each salmon fillet lightly with the honey mustard mixture and then, sprinkle the bread crumb mixture.

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Bake salmon 12 minutes in the preheated oven and then use the broil for 2 more minutes (if you you oven doesn’t¬†have a “broil” function, just bake the salmon¬†for 15 minutes).

Season with salt and pepper.

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Enjoy!

israeli couscous recipe

I fell in love with this dish while I was¬†living¬†in Brooklyn, NY. So, if you’re ever in¬†Downtown Brooklyn, head to the Brooklyn Fare, they sell a delicious Israeli Couscous.

But, since I’ve moved from my beloved Brooklyn in 2013… I had to learn how to cook¬†it myself!

This is what you”ll need:

  • 1 3/4 cup israeli couscous (you’ll find a decent quality one at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 3/4 cup hot water
  • 2/3 cup¬†saut√©ed¬†fennel and/or¬†roasted brussels sprouts (Trader Joe’s sell some great ready-to-eat brussels sprouts)
  • 1/2 cup organic dried cranberries
  • 1/8 cup raw sliced almonds
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp organic apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • optional: ground black pepper

For the couscous:

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil on medium-high heat.

Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Pour the hot water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside to cool.

Add the sautéed fennel or roasted brussels (or both, why not?), the dried cranberries and the almonds.

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For the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the organic apple cider vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper.    

Pour the vinaigrette over the couscous and toss to coat evenly.

 

I usually¬†cook this couscous for Thanksgiving as well, since it’s a great side dish for the turkey roast!

20141128_Thanksgiving_byLorena_18Our 2014 Thanksgiving table photographed by the coolest Bay Area Photographer ByLorena

Happy cooking!

carrot cake

Friends, I need to say it… I’m so proud of this recipe!

This carrot cake is moist and¬†fluffy… It’s just great, one of my favorites.

Today, I’m also adding to this post a short video to show you how easy this recipe is.

Now, friends, this is what you’ll need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4¬†cup sugar
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp¬†salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cup grated carrots

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Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350F.¬†Grease a¬†9×5 inch pan.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla.

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Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and mix.

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Add the grated carrots and fold using a spatula.

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Pour mixture into prepared pan.

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Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

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Let cool in pan for 20¬†minutes, then turn out onto a plate¬†and until it’s¬†completely cool.

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Enjoy!

useful cooking tips

These are two quick and very useful tips that I’ve learnt over the years cooking and baking and that today I want to share with you.

wooden spoons

  • Buy 2 wooden spoons.¬†You wouldn’t like¬†a slight taste of garlic¬†in your sweet rice pudding, right? ¬†So, buy 2 wooden spoons and mark them, one¬†for savory dishes and another for sweet¬†recipes.

Use a sharp knife

  • How to stop chop onions without tears: I tried a lot of tips during my life but¬†no one of them worked until I went to the¬†most prestigious cooking school in Argentina and learned that the only¬†thing that actually works: Use a very sharp knife.

So, stop wasting water, biting your tongue, using vinegar or any other crazy idea the Internet can give you. Just sharp your knife!

Happy cooking!

beef stir-fry

Today, I’m sharing a quick and easy beef stir-fry recipe¬†specially created for those “I don’t have much time¬†to cook dinner but I don’t want to order” nights.

Prepare ahead for those days¬†buying these¬†items from your grocery market, you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 trader joe’s asian vegetable stir fry¬†package
  • 1/2 lbs. tri-tip steak (choose grass-fed for better taste and a healthier choice)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (*optional, but gives great taste!)
  • 1 tsp mirin¬†sweet cooking sake¬†(*optional, but gives great taste!)
  • 1/2 tsp sesame seeds (*optional, but gives great taste!))

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over high-medium heat.  Add the meat. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes.

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Add the sesame oil, the vegetables and the mirin. Cook and stir for about 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce. Stir, cook for 1 more minute and serve.

IMG_1770Enjoy!

flan recipe

Last week I was craving for a flan but for the kind of flan that you can have at any restaurant in Buenos Aires.

I went through my argentinian cooking books but I must confess, I didn’t have the will to cook something¬†with a¬†crazy amount egg¬†yolks.

So after a little research online, I got to this argentinian TV chef’s recipe. I pretty much follow the recipe but I made just 2 quick changes (no vanilla, different bake method and time).

Here’s what you’ll need for the adjusted recipe:

  • 1 can of sweet condensed milk (you can get organic condensed milk at Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 1/2 cans* of warm water¬†(*use the can from the sweet condensed milk)
  • 4 organic large eggs
  • 2/3 cup organic sugar

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In a bowl, mix the sweet condensed milk with the warm water. Slighlty beat the eggs in another bowl and then add it to the condensed milk and water mixture.

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Prepare a caramel on a deep pie pan and let it cool.

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Once the caramel is cool, add the mix to the caramel pan.

Place the filled pan into a larger one and add 1 inch of hot water to the outer pan and bake in a preheated oven at 365F for 50 minutes.

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Cool one hour on wire rack, then chill in refrigerator 6 hours or overnight.

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Serve chill and…

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 Enjoy!

eggs in a basket

This is an easy recipe for breakfast.

You’ll need:

  • 1 organic large egg
  • 1 piece of toast
  • 1¬†tbsp unsalted butter
  • cookie cutter (the shape you like)

Spread 1/2 tbsp of butter on both sides. Use the cookie cutter in the center of the slice of bread.

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Heat a frying pan with 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Place the bread into the pan.

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Break the egg in the hole of the bread, add a pinch of salt.

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Let it cook for about 2 minutes, flip it with a spatula and let it cook for 2 more minutes at a low temperature.

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Serve warm with some orange juice and coffee.

IMG_2833Enjoy!

pancakes

I love American style pancakes¬†so¬†today I’m sharing my favorite pancake recipe!

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup organic all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp organic sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp organic unsalted butter
  • 3/4 organic 2%¬†milk
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar

Start by adding the tablespoon of white vinegar to the 3/4 cup of milk. Let it rest for about 5 minutes. Yes, it’s weird but trust me, this recipe is¬†amazing.

In a bowl, add the melted butter (15 seconds in the microwave might do the trick, beware that the butter isn’t hot before the next step), the slightly beaten egg and the¬†milk already combined with¬†the vinegar.¬†Then, add the dry ingredients.

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Mix it until there are no lumps left.

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Heat a skillet and add a pinch of butter or cooking spray and start cooking your pancakes until bubbles appear on the surface (the mixture is a little thick, so you might need a spoon or a spatula to help to spread the mixture a little bit over the skillet).

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Flip the pancake and cook until the other side is golden brown as well.

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This recipe will give you about 5 fluffy pancakes. Serve them warm. I usually add a thick slice of maple bacon that goes perfect with my pancakes!

IMG_2483Enjoy it!

cheesy corn souffle (torta de choclo)

Hello friends! In¬†this #meatlessmonday I’m sharing another family recipe: torta de choclo or¬†chipa guaz√ļ (that’s the name in guaran√≠)¬†and it’s¬†something like¬†a cheesy corn souffl√©.

In Misiones (north east of Argentina) and in Paraguay, this dish is always present whenever there’s an¬†asado (BBQ) and it’s also a classic during the Christmas dinner.

It’s a meal¬†that it’s high in calories but… Hey! You have a lot of proteins and fiber in it, right? ūüėČ

You’ll need:
  • 8 corns on the cob
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour* (opt. you can avoid it if you want a¬†gluten-free dish)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¬†1 cup grated gouda cheese
In a sauce pan, sauté the chopped onions with some olive oil and a pinch of salt over medium heat until translucent. Set aside.

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Cut the corn kernel off the cob.¬†Place the corn in a bowl, add the egg, vegetable oil, salt, milk and mix with a manual blender. You don’t have to over mix it,¬†you’ll need to have some pieces of corn in between the mixture.

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Add the baking powder and the tbsp of all purpose flour to the mixture (if you want this dish to be gluten-free, avoid the flour).

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Transfer the onions with all of the remaining juices and oil to a baking dish. Spread a layer of the corn mixture over the onions and then add a layer of the cheese. Repeat this step.

Bake it at 350F for 50 minutes or until the top becomes golden brown. Serve warm.

IMG_1872Enjoy it!

hallacas

Hallacas is¬†a traditional venezuelan meal¬†that is served during¬†Christmas holiday. It’s a recipe that gathers the family on its preparation and it also transmits the multicultural heritage of Venezuela since it needs¬†ingredients from different continents.

I’ve only tried this dish twice in my life before attempting¬†cook it. Both times the same presentation was the same¬†but the stew that was inside and also t he dough was different in taste.¬†That’s because it has a lot of variations and of course, each family has kind of their own way of doing it.

Nevertheless, I like challenges. So, I searched and found a recipe that could be adapted to the ingredients that I could find in America and guide me a little. I also watched some videos on Youtube and of course, I had the best guide: Victor, who ate Hallacas  a million times in his life so he was kind of my guide thru this almost impossible task.

I bought everything I needed in the 16th and Mission (latin neighborhood in San Francisco) and at Mexicana Produce in Downtown San Bruno. I needed 24 hours to do everything BUT if you have more time, it’s absolutely¬†better. All the flavors of the stew will arise with unless one more day.

I have to say that I’m very proud of myself on accomplishing this task and preparing a delicious¬†meal that can also transmit part of my husband’s family cultural heritage.

So,¬†today I’m proudly sharing with you the most difficult recipe that I’ve ever done: my own adapted recipe¬†of Hallacas.

You’ll need:

For the Stew

  • 1 hen (about 2.5 lbs)
  • 8¬†cups water (enough to cover chicken)
  • 1/2 cup celery
  • 1/2 cup scallions
  • 2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1‚ĀĄ2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs pork shoulder, with some fat remaining
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups white onion, diced (about 2 medium onions, I used the already sliced from Trader Joe‚Äôs)
  • 1 cup leeks, white and pale green portion only, thinly sliced (I used the frozen ones from Trader Joe‚Äôs)
  • 1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups red bell, green and yellow peppers sliced (I used the frozen and sliced from Trader Joe‚Äôs)
  • 1 can organic diced tomatoes
  • 1‚ĀĄ4 cup capers, finely diced
  • 1‚ĀĄ2 cup pimiento-stuffed olives, sliced
  • 1‚ĀĄ2 cup muscatel (Muscat) wine
  • 1‚ĀĄ2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp lime juice
  • 1/2 cup organic raisins
  • 1 cup shredded papelon / piloncillo (sugar cane cones sold al Latin stores) dissolved in 1 cup water.
  • 1 tbs worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp salt

First, put the water and the hen in a large sauce pot. Bring it to a boil and add the celery, scallion and garlic salt. Cook for about 30 minutes at a medium heat.

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Transfer the hen to a plate and save stock. When the hen is at room temperature, pull the meat from the bones and shred it using your hands.

In a large sauce pot, heat oil and add the pork and ground beef to cook. Stir frequently until the has brown a little.

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 My nephew Washington stayed with us for the Holidays and he helped us with the stew preparation.

Reduce heat to medium-minimun and add more vegetable oil. Then, add the leeks, green onions, onions and garlic. Add 1 cup of the saved hen stock and stir frequently. Don’t let the vegetables go brown.

Add peppers, diced tomatoes and 1 more cup of the stock. Let it cook for 10 minutes at low heat.

Add the diced capers, olives, the papelon already dissolved in warm water, the organic raisins, sliced olives, muscat wine, worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, lime juice and one more cup of the stock.  Let it cook on low heat for 30 minutes stirring ocassionally.

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Finally add the shredded hen. Let it cook for 30 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Remove from heat and let it covered until it’s cool. Refrigerate overnight until 2 hours before using it.

For the Dough:

  • 1 package of Harina PAN (pre-cooked white corn flour, available at Latin grocery stores).
  • 3 cups of hen stock
  • 4¬†sticks of unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp of achiote paste (available at Latin grocery stores)
  • 1 tbsp salt

Place the achiote paste with the butter in a pan and warm it until they dissolve and create a reddish liquid. Set aside.

Using a large bowl, mix the flour and the salt. Slowly add 1 cup of the melted reddish butter to the flour and start mixing it. Then, add 1 cup of hen stock and continue kneading the dough. Repeat the steps adding fat and then the stock until you get a soft but firm consistency. The dough should be a dark yellow/orange color, smooth with no lumps.

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Make medium balls of the dough using and your hands, set aside and cover with a humid cloth. By the way, your  hands should be very shiny from the fat used on the dough. If they are not, add more butter or shortening to the dough.

Wrapping:

  • 2 packages of frozen plantain leaves (available at Latin grocery stores).
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 piece of clean kitchen cloth or papel towels
  • cooking twine

The day before using the leaves, thraw the frozen package in the refrigerator overnight and leave it at room temperature 2 hours before cleaning them.

Use the the cloth or paper towel damped in the vinegar dissolved water to rapidly clean the leaves over the two sides. Set aside for the hallaca assembly.

Each hallaca uses 3 leaves. You should cut them prior to its use.

The first leaf -the base- should be about 10 x 14 inches. The second, also called the ‚Äúshirt‚ÄĚ, should be about 8 x 10 and the last one, called ‚Äúbelt‚ÄĚ, should be about 4 x 6 inches. I‚Äôm not completely sure about this meassures, but they can work as an approximetely. I suggest you watch some videos to learn how to properly wrap the hallaca since I‚Äôm not and expert AT ALL in that matter (Victor is!).

Cut about 1 yard of twine for each hallaca. For this recipe you’ll need about 20 yards.

Assembly 

You’ll need:

  • stew (room temperature)
  • 20 colored medium dough balls
  • plantain leaves already cut
  • 20 yards already cut cooking twine
  • 3/4 cup colored butter (made with achiote paste and regular organic butter, like the one for the dough)
  • garnish ingredients

Garnish Ingredients 

  • 1 cup roasted peppers (sold in jars at Trader Joe‚Äôs)
  • 2 medium sliced onions (in rings)
  • 1 cup sliced olives
  • 1/2 cup capers
  • 1/2 cup organic raisins
  • 1/2 whole or sliced raw almonds
  • 1/4 cauliflower pickled style (this is optional, I just had this in my fridge and thought of adding it)

Prepare your mise en place -prepare and organize everything you’ll need- for the assembly.

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Arrange the base leaf and add 1/2 tsp of red-colored butter. Use your fingers or a cooking brush to spread it through the leaf.

Put a medium dough ball in the center of the leaf. Flatten the dough, we used a plastic cutting board for this process, covered with a piece of plastic bag so the dough doesn’t stick to the board.

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Add 1/4 cup of the stew in the middle of the dough. Add the garnish ingredients.

Fold over the plantain leaf carefully so it doesn’t break, first one side, then the opposite. Finally bring the ends of the leaf up covering the filling.

Place the hallaca over the second square of the plantain leaf and fold it again. Finally use the third leaf (belt) to hold the two pieces of leaf under it, wrapping the hallaca around with it.

Tie the hallaca using the cooking twine to keep it secure during the cooking process.

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Final process!

Bring water to a boil in large sauce pot. Place the hallacas in the pot, they must be covered by the water. Cook for 1.30h to low heat but keeping the water boiling, add more water if it needs it.

Remove it from the water and allow them to drain for 5 minutes standing on one of its sides over a plate.

IMG_1401Yay! We did it!

If you want to freeze them, only cook them for 1 hour and then remove them from the water and let them cool down to freeze them. When you’d like to eat the hallacas, you’ll just need to cook them (frozen) for 30 more minutes. You cannot reheat them in the microwave.

Serving

Use kitchen scissors to remove the twine and the plantain leaves, remove them carefully. Serve immediately.

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Our Christmas dinner: hallacas, pan de jamon (ham bread), and ensalada de gallina (hen salad).

Enjoy it!

venezuelan ham bread (pan de jamón)

Hello friends! I hope this new year find you well and with new hope for this 2015!

As many of you already know, we celebrate Christmas having a traditional¬†Venezuelan dinner so today I’m sharing one of those recipes: Ham Bread (Pan de Jam√≥n).

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It’s a brioche-like, semi-sweet bread stuffed¬†with ham, bacon, olives and raisins. Sounds delicious, right? It is.

Since I’m not Venezuelan, I had to do a little research and I found this great video that helped me a lot!

I did some changes to the recipe since I prefer butter over margarine, the taste is different and the nutritional facts are better for the butter (no trans fat, less chemical ingredients and sometimes even less saturated fat). I frequently use Kerrygold natural irish butter, made with milk from grass-fed cows.

This is what you’ll need for the dough:

  • 4¬†cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup organic warm milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted melted butter
  • 2 slightly beaten organic large eggs
  • 1/8 cup organic sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tsp dried yeast

Start by adding the flour, sugar, salt to a bowl and mix. Dissolve the yeast on the warm milk and add it to the bowl.

Then, add the slightly beaten eggs and the melted butter (be careful that the butter is at room temperature, not hot!) and start kneading until it become a sticky dough. Using the Kitchen-Aid, this process will take you 5 to 10 minutes.

When finished, cover the bowl with a cloth and let it rest for about 1 hour so the yeast works its magic.

After the dough has doubled in shape, place it on a slightly floured surface and use a rolling pin to stretch it. Fill the dough with the following ingredients:

  • 8 oz black forest ham
  • 4 slices of¬†bacon smoked or uncured, previously cooked (I just cook the slices for a few minutes each side on a pan at medium heat)
  • 1/2 cup olives
  • 1/8 cup raisins
  • Optional: 1 beaten egg

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Roll the dough and let it rest cover with a cloth for 45 minutes.

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Prick the bread lightly with a fork and¬†brush it -if you want to- with the optional beaten egg white.¬†Bake the roll in a preheated 350¬įF oven for 45¬†minutes¬†or¬†until it’s golden brown.

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Remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool for 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

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Enjoy it!

meatless monday: hummus

I like Hummus so much that I wanted to try to do it at home.

After reading a lot of recipes on the internet, I made some changes and this is the Hummus recipe that I created.

Let me know if you try it!

You’ll need:

1 can garbanzo beans

1 garlic clove

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup tahini

1 tablespoon lime juice

salt

crushed red pepper (optional)

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Using a manual blender or food processor, blend until smooth the garbanzo beans, the garlic clove without the sprout, the tahini sauce, the lime juice, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the salt.

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Place the mixture on a bowl and pour the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the mixture and add some chilli flakes to give a spicy flavor to some areas.

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You can serve it right away or refrigerate until you’re going to use it!

Enjoy it! 

meatless monday: pizza dough recipe

On this #meatlessmonday I’m sharing my favorite, super easy, quick and pretty healthy pizza dough recipe.

You’ll need:

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  • 2 cups of all purpose flour (you can mix 1 cup all purpose and 3/4¬†cup whole grain, so the¬†dough will have more fiber).
  • 2 teaspoons dried instant yeast.
  • 1 cup of warm water.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  • 1/2 tsp salt

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Dissolve the instant yeast in the warm water and then put it with the rest of the ingredients in your mixer and knead it for about 8 minutes. Marco is a great little helper with this recipe!

Note: You can also just add all the ingredients to your mixing bowl and let it knead until it integrates. This recipe is for a super-busy cook¬†ūüôā¬†

Once it looks like an integrated dough, let it rest cover with a kitchen cloth for a minimum of 30 minutes.

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In the meantime, we can prepare the sauce. You’ll need one can of organic diced tomatoes and one clove of garlic.

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Blend the tomatoes and put the tomato purée, the garlic (cut it in half and remove the sprout, first), salt and a pinch of sugar in a sauce-pan. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to minimum and let it cook for 5 minutes.

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Turn the oven to 350F. Prepare a non-stick cookie pan.

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I don’t use oil on the pan because it’s non-stick, but if you need you can spray some oil on it to prevent the dough to adhere to the pan. If you don’t have a rolling pin, try to flat the dough with your hands, use extra flour if you need (but not much!)

I like thicker pizzas and my husband likes thiner pizzas. We vary from time to time so everyone gets what we want.

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Extend the dough thru the cookie pan and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

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The pizza dough is now ready.¬†At this point you can also let it cool and freeze it if you’d like to. This dough lasts 3 months in your freezer.

Add the sauce, organic mozzarella cheese and everything you’d like on top of it.¬†I made mine with just plain organic mozzarella and other with asparagus and some brie cheese.

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Bake the pizza for 6 more minutes.

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You can also bake it a little longer (8-10 minutes) and broil it for 2 -4 minutes for an extra golden look.

IMG_5383Thin Pizza РPortuguese Sausage Version (Linguiça, for other recipes with linguiça click here)

For extra flavor: in a small bowl mixed 1 tbsp or dried oregano, 1/2 cup olive oil and 1 crushed garlic. Add drops of these flavored oil all around your pizza 3 minutes before taking it our of the oven… No one will resist!

IMG_1676I bought a new round pizza bakeware! Pepperoni and Tomato & Mozzarella

Enjoy!

meatless monday: spinach knödel

I was born and raised in Argentina.

That means, that I used to get my proteins from meat mostly everyday of the week. Specially, beef. Why? Because Argentina is a country where grass-fed cows was one of its mains commodities (unfortunately, feed-lots are now also being used but not as much as in the US; also MGO grains like soya is one of the main products that Argentina is producing).

But nutrition was not a issue that worried me while I was a young adult, until I got to a class of Neurophysiology during my psychology studies in the early 2000s.

You might be wondering: what has Neurophysiology to do with Nutrition? Well, on that class, the¬†professor was talking about a particular process that takes place in the brain when suddenly he said: “(…) then a Calcium molecull has to access¬†the¬†cell in order so this can¬†happen (…)”

And that was when the lighting hit me.

Calcium? Calcium… and how does that Calcium gets in there? And¬†in any case, how¬†does everything that we need come from? Of what we eat, of course!
Since that moment on, my life changed.

I started reading more about nutrition, I’ve started also to read nutritional labels and ingredients, I’ve even begin¬†to learn how to cook better.

On that path, I’ve discovered that it wasn’t only cooking, but what comes first… I had to learn how, where and when to buy. I’ve learnt why eating local and seasonly is important.

I also did some courses.¬†One of them was Child Nutrition and Cooking by ¬†Dr.¬†Maya Adam from¬†Stanford¬†University, it’s free and online and¬†I deeply recommend it. Not only if you have kids or live in the US, because the food industry is becoming global and the same process is¬†also taking place in¬†in other countries.

So, as part of this path that I’ve started so many years ago, I’ve been trying¬†to eat less meat¬†by trying a #meatlesssmonday at home.

That’s why I’m sharing with you a recipe for this very special monday. It’s a family recipe from my german great-grandmother, on my mother side. So, it’s a very special one as well ūüôā

Spinat Knödel (feeds 4)

You’ll need:

  • 6oz organic spinach (1 package of Trader Joe’s baby spinach is about 6 oz).
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 15 tablespoons of all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup organic milk
  • salt

Combine the spinach, egg, olive oil, milk and salt in a bowl and using a blender integrate all the ingredients together. Once that it started to mix, add the flour.

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Mix it until you a get a batter with a similar consistency to the one of the pancakes, but more dense.

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Bring water to a boil on a pan. Prepare two spoons.

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Use the spoons to grab the batter and put it on the boiling water. Do it carefully but as quick as you can so all the dumplings will cook at the same time.

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Let it boil for 6 minutes.

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Drain and serve with butter and parmesan cheese or the sauce that you prefer.

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This recipe was one of my favorites as a kid and now my toddler also loves it ūüôā

Enjoy!

PS: If you want to know more about the #meatlessmonday movement, click here.