Friday, December 31, 2010

Prosciutto Pillows

These wonderful little 'pillows' are a perfect appetizer. I entered them in a Real Women of Philadelphia contest and even though they didn't win they are great, in my opinion :) I have said in the past that I love savory sweet combinations and these fit the bill. I always make extra and freeze them for unexpected visitors. I wish everyone a very safe and Happy New Year's! See you next year...

2 cans (8 oz) Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
6 oz PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
5-6 slices deli sliced prosciutto ham, chopped
6 oz Major Grey's Mango Chutney
2 TBSP basil, chiffonade

1. Preheat oven to 375º
2. Roll out dough and press perforations to seal
3. Using a biscuit cutter, make rounds (whatever size you would like)
4. Generously spread half of the rounds with cream cheese
5. Place 1 TBSP of prosciutto on top
6. Put about 1 tsp of mango chutney over prosciutto then sprinkle with basil
7. Using the remaining rounds 'cover' and seal the pillows (you can use a fork to seal or a fluted biscuit cutter)
8. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden

Servings 4

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Parmesan Noodle Crisps

These noodle crisps are delicious and different. You can serve them alone or for dipping. They are sturdy too so in most cases they 'hold' better than regular chips. The first time I served these nobody could guess much less believe it was a lasagna noodle cut into strips. I have even used these as 'canapes' topping them with extra cheese, bacon, sour cream and chives - just like a loaded potato skin. They keep well for a few days in an air-tight container or ziploc.

1 (16oz) box lasagna noodles
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
2 tsp each basil, oregano and parsley
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp garlic powder

1. Preheat oven to 400º
2. Cook noodles according to package instructions; drain well and blot dry
3. Brush oil on both sides of noodles
4. Cut each into 2' pieces and place in a single layer on a greased baking sheet
5. Combine parmesan, herbs, red pepper flakes and garlic powder in a small bowl
6. Sprinkle over the noodles evenly
7. Place in the oven and cook for 15-18 minutes

Servings 4

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chicken Chop-Chop

This is a copycat recipe from Chicken Kitchen known as The Original Chop-Chop. It is really very easy and the only things I had to perfect was their signature curry sauce and the marinade for the chicken. I love trying to guess what ingredients are used in great recipes and recreate them. I did a taste test with the original sauce and mine - nobody could tell the difference, mission accomplished! If you go to Chicken Kitchen nowadays there are many variations of the Chop Chop - The Deluxe, The Cuban, The Mexican, The Teriyaki, The Oriental etc... you get the point but my all time favorite is the good ole reliable Original Chop Chop. I normally use turmeric to give the rice the yellow color but I have also made it using a few threads of saffron, both ways are delicious.

Yellow Rice
Prepare regular rice(see post for perfect white rice), add 1/2 tsp turmeric to water for yellow color
4 chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
Chopped iceberg lettuce and tomato
1/2 cup Lea & Perrins Worchestershire for chicken
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 TBSP vegetable oil
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a large plastic bag
2. Add the chicken, seal and marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours
3. Broil, flipping once until no longer pink
4. Chop into bite size pieces keeping each breast separate for equal portions

Curry Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tsp curry powder
Combine all ingredients with a whisk; set aside

To serve: In a large bowl add rice, chicken, lettuce, tomato and drizzle sauce on top

Tip: Serve with a warmed pita bread

Servings 4

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ham & Swiss Cups

These are great for breakfast, brunch or snacks. The possibilities are endless, I have made these with Spinach & Feta Cheese, Mushrooms & Leeks, Asparagus & Gryuere Cheese, Bacon & Swiss get the idea. Make a batch of these cups in the beginning of the week and you will have breakfast all week, just heat in the toaster oven a few minutes.

6 slices bread, crust removed
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/8 tsp black pepper
4 slices deli ham, chopped
1/2 cup swiss cheese, shredded or cubed
1 TBSP parsley

1. Preheat oven to 375º; Grease 6 muffin cups
2. Use a rolling pin to flatten bread; spray both sides or bread
3. Line muffin cups with bread, being gentle not to tear
4. Bake 8 minutes, remove from oven and reduce heat to 350º
5. Whisk egss, milk, pepper and pasrsley
6. Divide ham and cheese among cups
7. Pour in egg mixture evenly
8. Bake 15-20 minutes or until eggs are set

Servings 3

Monday, December 27, 2010

Creamy White Asparagus and Chicken Crepes

If you have never tried white asparagus I highly recommend a trip to the market for a few jars. White asparagus come from the deprivation of light, dirt is kept mounded around the emerging stalk. The plant cannot produce chlorophyll without light, so there is no green color to the stalks. They have a sweet-tart taste and a smooth texture. I like to make the sauce for the crepes very mild so it doesn't overpower the delicate flavor of the asparagus - it is a simple butter and cream sauce. When I have time I like to make my own crepes but if you are short on time you can use store-bought crepes, they will do in a pinch. This recipe calls for 8-10 crepes.

4 eggs
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour
2 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup butter, melted

Combine ingredients in a blender for 1 minute. Refrigerate in blender overnight.
Let batter get to room temperature, blend an additional 30 seconds
Cook in crepe pan (6-7 inch frying pan) until bubbly. Flip and continue with remaining batter
Makes 32-36 crepes (Freeze the extras in between wax paper for later use)

2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
1 1/4 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 cup gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
salt and pepper
16 oz jar white asparagus
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups cream mixed with 2 tsp cornstarch
2 TBSP sherry
1 tsp tarragon
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 cup parmesan cheese

1. To make the filling, cook the onion in the butter until just soft and golden. Remove from heat
2. Stir in the chicken, gruyere cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
3. Divide between the crepes and roll them up (cigar-style) placing 1 white asparagus first and then about 2 TBSP of the filling along the asparagus.
4. Arrange in a greased 8x8 dish; set aside
5. Preheat oven to 375º
6. To make the sauce melt the butter in a medium pan; add the cream, sherry, tarragon, salt and pepper
7. Once heated through add the parmesan and continue to cook until cheese is melted
8. Spoon over the crepes.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly

Servings 4

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mexican Tomato Soup

I love everything that goes into this soup, and the roasted tomato gives it such a great flavor. This is an easy and healthy all in one soup. When serving make sure the soup is very hot, it will heat the chicken and melt the cheese.

12-16 ripe tomatoes, cored but left whole (3-4 tomatoes per person)
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 -3 TBSP olive oil
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
2 avocados, cut into small squares
1/2 lb. Mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
toasted tortillas cut into strips

1. Preheat the oven to 350º
2. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet
3. Sprinkle the onion and garlic over the tomatoes
4. Pour olive oil over top, about 2 TBSP
5. Bake until cooked and wrinkled about 30-45 minutes
6. Let cool slightly, place in blender in batches with skins and seeds, until pureed
7. Place in a medium pot and add vegetable broth, if any is needed until reaching desired consistency
8. Add oregano, salt and pepper

To plate: In a large soup bowl add desired chicken, avocado, and cheese then pour in the soup. Top with cream, cilantro and tortilla strips.

Servings 4

Friday, December 24, 2010

Lil Frank's Smothered in Coke

Although these aren't the ideal fancy Christmas appetizers if you do need a quick, delicious and easy appetizer for unexpected visitors this is a great last resort, kids and adults love these lil' franks. You really can't get much easier than this appetizer recipe, you will be amazed at how delicious and sticky these are. The sugar in the coke carmelizes onto the lil franks so you end up with a savory sweet appetizer - my favorite! Serve with some hot mustard on the side. Merry Christmas!!!

2 pkgs Lil Smokies
2 cans Regular Coke

1. In a heavy pot with a lid, add the 2 pkgs of Little Smokies. Pour the Coke over the Smokies and over medium heat, cook until the coke has reduced and thickened about 45-1 hour. Stirring frequently

Servings 6-8

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Brownies with Sweetened Condensed MIlk

Now here is another 'sweet' post, what is happening to me??? I hate sweets and never eat them but this is a super delicious recipe, I think - I kid, I kid.....I did try quite a few pieces and it was excellent, really moist and rich. Maybe it's the Christmas Season that has me baking but I had a great idea of using sweetened condensed milk to make these brownies. Since I don't eat sweets I will be giving away little brownie bundles on Christmas. I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!

1/2 lb. butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 3/4 cups sifted flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

1. Mix butter and sugar until well combined; add eggs
2. In separate bowl mix baking powder, cocoa, salt and flour
3. Add to the butter mixture; add vamilla
4. Pour half of the batter into an 8x8 greased baking dish
5. Pour in the condensed milk (do not 'swirl' or the condensed milk will burn the bottom of the pan); top with the remaining batter
6. Bake in a pre heated 350º oven for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean
7. Cool slightly, cut into squares and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream

Servings 4

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dolmas (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

After trying a few store bought dolmas I decided to make my own to be able to make the 'stuffing' to suit my tastes. I love mediterranean food, it is tasty and healthy. This recipe is very easy if you use jarred grape leaves but if you can find fresh grape leaves all you need to do is blanche them a few minutes until tender, drain and continue with the recipe. These are great little appetizers, a perfect blend of sweet and tart.

8 ounces grape leaves, in brine (about 40-45 leaves)
Rice Stuffing:
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1/2 cup onion
6 TBSP dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1 large tomato, peeld, seeded and chopped
2 cups cooked rice
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinamon
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 cups hot water

1. Start by draining the grape leaves and placing them in a large heat-proof bowl. Pour just enough boiling water over the leaves to cover and let them soak for about 20 minutes. Drain
2. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the onions and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the cranberries, tomato, rice, mint, lemon zest, sugar, cinnamon, remaining olive oil and salt to taste. Mix thoroughly, making sure the rice is well-coated with oil.

Assembling the Dolmas:
To stuff the grape leaves, spread out one grape leaf in front of you, vein side up and stem end toward you. Place about 2 TBSP of the rice mixture in the center, fold stem end over the filling, bring the sides of the leaf toward the center and roll tightly, forming a cylinder. Repeat until all the filling is used.

Cooking Instructions:
Place the Dolmas close together and seam side down in a large skillet, in a single layer, if possible. If not, separate the layers with extra grape leaves.

Drizzle the lemon juice and an extra 1/4 cup olive oil over the Dolmas and add boiling water to cover. Cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes. Let the dolmas cool in the liquid, then transfer them to a serving platter.

Serve at room temperature with extra lemons.

Makes 40 to 45 appetizers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Soupy Black Beans

The beans are great as a main course since they are high in protein but they also go great with the shredded beef I posted a few weeks ago. Serve with rice, fried plantains and slices of avocado or quartered oranges. 'Sofrito' is a typical base in most latin cuisine, it is a savory, flavorful sauce. The main ingredients are tomatoes and onions finely diced and slowly cooked in olive oil. I know there is a bit of apprehension at eating beans because of their 'effect' but if you make sure to soak the beans overnight AND rinse well before adding fresh water it will be fine (no side-effects) and they are super healthy.

1 1/2 lbs. dried black beans
3 TBSP vegetable oil
1 chicken boullion cube
2 tsp salt
4-6 cups water
1 TBSP olive oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cups tomato, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 TBSP chives
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp tabasco sauce
1 TBSP white vinegar
1 TBSP red wine vinegar
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sugar
3 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 chicken bouillion cube

1. Soak beans overnight in vegetable oil, 2 tsp salt and water to cover; rinse well and drain
2. Heat olive oil in 4-6 quart heavy pot; Add beans, 4-6 cups water, 1 tsp salt, 1 beef boullion cube and dash tabasco
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours or until tender; set aside
4. For the sofrito: Heat a large frying pan with olive oil; Add onion and sauté until translucent
5. Add the rest of the ingredients (tomatoes through boullion cube)
6. Lower heat and allow to simmer about 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently
7. Add the sofrito mixture to the beans and over medium heat allow to cook about 10 minutes.

Servings 6-8

Monday, December 20, 2010

Kiss Me Onion Dip

Can serve with crudites, chips, crackers or toast points. You can also use it as a spread for sandwiches or burgers. Soooooo good! This dip is so easy to make that you will never buy one at the store again.

2 TBSP olive oil
2 Vidalia Onions, finely sliced
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
6 oz PHILADELPHIACream Cheese, @ room temp
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
salt & pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add onions; season with salt and pepper.
2. Cook stirring often about 12 - 15 minutes or until well brown and caramelized.
3. Add the vinegar and let cool
4. In a bowl combine onions, sour cream, cream cheese and salt & pepper to taste
5. Chill about 30 minutes
Tip: Reserve 1 TBSP of the caramelized onion as a topping to the dip. Can serve in a ramekin or in small red pepper.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Perfect Pancakes

I can eat breakfast at any time of the day or night. I love the Denny's Grand Slam so I make my own version at home. The eggs and bacon are pretty straight forward but the pancakes I always had trouble with until now. These are fluffy, light and so good! The picture doesn't highlight the pancakes but you can still see them....yum!

1 cup flour
3 tsp baking powder
2 TBSP sugar
1 egg
1/2 to 3/4 cup milk
2 TBSP butter, melted and cooled

1. Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a medium bowl
2. Beat the egg, milk and butter until blended well
3. Pour milk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just blended
4. Heat a griddle and grease it. Drop the batter in 1/4 cup measurements and cook until the pancake is full of little holes. Flip and bake until lightly browned
5. Continue with the remaining batter. Serve immediately with butter and syrup

Tip: After you drop the batter in the skillet toss in some chocolate chips and a few mini marshmallows. I don't know what happens but it is absolutely magical, you don't even need syrup, the marshmallows get all gooey.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fiery Chicken Wings With Blue Cheese

This is a healthier version of the usual wings I make because they are baked not fried but just as good or better. Serve with celery and carrot sticks. You can also try with corn on the cob - cut ears of corn crosswise into 4-5 pieces each before boiling in water.

4 pounds chicken wings
3 tablespoons cooking oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 pound blue cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
5 teaspoons vinegar
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

1. Heat the oven to 425°. In a large bowl, combine the wings, oil, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and the cayenne, marinade for at least 30 minutes. Arrange the wings in a single layer on two large baking sheets.
2. Bake until just done, about 25 minutes.
3. Meanwhile in a medium glass bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon of the vinegar, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the black pepper.
4. In a large bowl, combine the ketchup, the remaining 4 teaspoons vinegar, and the Tabasco sauce. Add the wings and toss to coat.

Servings 6-8

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mini Hawaiian Pizzas

As you all may know I love savory/sweet. The saltiness of the ham and the sweetness of the pineapple are a perfect match. These freeze well too so make a double batch and freeze half for any time you have a pizza craving.

1 can (13.8 oz) Pillsbury refrigerated classic pizza crust
16 oz jar Old El Paso Salsa (any variety)
4-6 slices deli ham sliced thin into squares
1 can (8 oz) pineapple chunks in unsweetened juice, well drained
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup mexican cheese blend, shredded

1. Pre heat oven to 425°F.
2. Grease a non stick cookie sheet with cooking spray. Unroll dough on a lightly floured surface. Using a biscuit cutter (#65) cut 12 rounds
3. Top each dough round in the following order; add salsa, ham, pineapple, red onion and mexican cheese blend.
4. Bake 16 to 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and cheese has melted.

Tip: If you do not have biscuit cutters you can use a small glass to make the rounds.

10 - 12 mini pizzas

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fish Stew

I love soup this time of year and this is a hearty one. Serve with crusty garlic bread and you have an easy weeknight meal. This stew is very versatile so you can add your favorite white fish.

2 tsp olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped into cubes
1 large garlic clove, pressed
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp each of salt and black pepper
2 1/4 cups water
1 can (14.5 oz) reduced sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 lbs all purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1(8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 lb frozen or fresh white fish fillets (cod, tilapia, halibut), cut into 1" chunks

1. Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions and carrots, stirring often until onions are translucent.
2. Add the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper
3. Add water, broth, potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender
4. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce bring just to a boil and add fish.
5. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until fish is done

Servings 6

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chicken Lasagna

As you can tell from my past recipes, I am a big fan of comfort foods and lasagna is no exception. A plate full of pasta, chicken, spinach and bubbling cheese, sooo good. This lasagna is one of my favorites, it is much lighter than the regular meat lasagna but just as comforting. I first tried this at a restaurant in Colombia and have been perfecting it for a while, I think I got it, give it a try and let me know what you think.

Ingredients For The Sauce
6 TBSP butter
4 TBSP flour
4 cups milk
2 tsp dry sherry
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Ingredients For 'The Stuffing'
2 TBSP butter
1 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
2 (10oz) pkgs. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

Remaining Ingredients
1 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup gouda cheese, shredded
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
9 pre-cooked lasagna noodles
6 pimento stuffed olives
2 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped

Directions For the Sauce
1. Melt the butter in a medium pan; add the flour stirring constantly for 1 minute
2. Remove from heat and slowly add milk stirring constantly so that no clumps form. Place on heat again and continue to cook until thickened, stirring constantly.
3. Add the sherry, dry mustard, salt and pepper; set aside

Directions For 'Stuffing'
1. Melt the butter in a large pan; Add onion and cook until translucent about 5 minutes
2. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking 3-5 minutes
3. Add the spinach, chicken, oregano salt and pepper; set aside

To Assemble
1. Combine the mozzarella, gouda and parmesan in a bowl
2. Preheat oven to 375º
3. Grease a 9x13 baking dish. Spread 1/3 of the sauce mixture in the bottom of the dish. Top with 1/3 of the noodles, sauce, chicken mixture and cheeses. Repeat the layering (noodles, sauce, chicken mixture and cheeses) twice leaving enough cheese to evenly cover the top layer.
4. Arrange olives on top and sprinkle with parsley
5. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until brown & bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes.

Servings 8

Monday, December 13, 2010


Originally from Argentina, chimichurri is a parsley sauce used mostly on meat but can also be used as a marinade for fish, roasted vegetables or you can even add a little to mashed potatoes. The possibilities are endless, let your imagination go wild.

1 large bunch of fresh flat leaf or curly parsley
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Add parsley and garlic to food processor and pulse a few times.
2. Add remaining ingredients except the olive oil and pulse about a minute.
3. Slowly pour oil through the chute, pressing the pulse button until everything is well combined.
4. Store in a glass container, in your refrigerator

The chimichurri keeps for about 5-7 days in the refrigerator.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hot Dogs or Shrimp???

No work on the day of the Lord so I will just leave you all with this impacting childhood anecdote that will forever be engrained in my brain. Like I said in my profile my parents did everything possible to teach us to eat everything. It was a very hard and painful lesson my sister and I had to learn.

On an innocent day we all sat down to a shrimp dinner ( I can't remember what exquisite way of preparation it was all I remember was that it was shrimp) I am sure my parents had been working away for hours in the kitchen preparing our feast.

My sister and I looked at each other and said shrimp again? I will never utter those words again - eat what you are served, smile and give thanks.

Our punishment was hot dogs for a week, at first we were so excited but a few days in we could not look at a hot dog without feeling sick but my parents stuck to their guns - a full 7 days of hot dogs by the end we were both begging for shrimp..please shrimp..... We learned our lesson!

Let me just ask, did you know fish had balls???? That was our first meal during a spring break vacation to the Amazon - salty fish balls??? What and Why??. I always wondered why we couldn't do what normal families did? Pack up the car and go to the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls or many of the other typical vacation spots. After the fact, it was a great trip (not for food that's for sure) but it was an incredible experience. Menu items: monkey....turtle.....oh so many more disturbing things..I was able to manage 3-4 days on only saltines...then they ran out :( I would do GREAT on Survivor! Chocolate covered ants...yummers!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Creamy Corn Filled Tomatoes

These tomatoes not only look beautiful but they are delicious too, they are a great side dish for meat or chicken. They have a little kick with the jalapeño, a little sweet with the corn and a lot of yumminess.

4 medium tomatoes, rinsed, seeded and cored
2 TBSP butter
1 10 oz bag frozen corn, thawed and drained
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 (8oz) package PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese
2 TBSP jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup parmesan
parsley, chopped

1. Pre heat oven to 350º
2. Slice off stem ends. Remove seeds and gently scoop out pulp.
3. Sprinkle the cored and seeded tomatoes with salt and place upside down to drain about 10 minutes.
4. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. Lower heat to low and add cream cheese; stir until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Combine cheese mixture with corn and jalapeño; spoon into tomato shells.
6. Sprinkle parmesan and parsley on top
7. Place in a greased baking dish and bake uncovered 25 minutes or until heated through.
8. Tip: To serve use any leftover corn mixture as a 'bed' when plating the tomato.

Servings 4

Friday, December 10, 2010

Choco - Mini Muffins

As some of you may know I am not a 'sweets' person but occasionally I get the urge to bake something. During Christmas I prefer to make mini-muffins instead of cookies, not sure why because I don't eat either. These mini - muffins are tiny, chocolately, moist and delicious morsels for any occasion. I do taste the final product at least but just one and if I liked chocolate these would be my favorite:)

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375º
2. Spray mini muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray, or line with paper muffin cups.
3. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate in the microwave on medium-high heat for 25 second intervals, stirring in between, until smooth. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream sugar and butter.
5. Beat in eggs, then add sour cream and milk.
6. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
7. Pour flour mixture into butter mixture and stir together using a wooden spoon.
8. Stir in melted chocolate, then chocolate chips.
9. Fill each muffin cup about three-quarters of the way full with batter
10. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes about 50 mini muffins.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Creamy Chickballs

1 cup bread crumbs
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 egg white
1 TBSP olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1 TBSP all purpose flour (dissolved in the broth)
1 8 oz. tub reduced-fat sour cream
2 TBSP parsley, chopped

1. Place chicken in a food processor and pulse until ground
2. Mix chicken with salt, nutmeg, pepper, egg white and breadcrumbs in a medium bowl until well blended.
3. Shape into 16 chickballs (about 1 1/2 inch)
4. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
5. Add chickballs; cook about 6 minutes, browning on all sides.
5. Remove chickballs from pan. Add the chicken broth and flour to pan and stir. Boil and cook for 1 minute until slightly thickened, stirring constantly.
6. Stir in the sour cream and return meatballs to skillet. Reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes or until chicken is done.
7. Sprinkle with parsley and serve

Serving Tip: Serve over a bed of buttered noodles. If you like it extra saucy, the sauce doubles easily.

Servings 4

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Tale Of Two Meals

Today I wanted to share a short essay my sister, Diana wrote a few years ago about our eating habits. I am Mici (a nickname my family gave me when I was young). This little essay shows to what extent we go to eat everything we can in one sitting, 'the system' has been the best culinary invention that I can recall. I think you will be amused, I only included the First Tale of her essay 'A Tale of Two Meals', it is the best! Let me know what you think of our perfect 'system' or if you do anything similar...I hope it is not just us that are food crazy to an extreme!

"We live to eat, Mici and me. For example, before we have finished one meal we are already planning the next meal, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. In extremely ridiculous cases, we are planning meals weeks in advance. It is a bit of an obsession that must run in the family because we are not the only ones with this disorder. We have no complaints though, as food is for certain one the greatest pleasures in life; cooking it and eating it alike. And our family excels at both.
To demonstrate the extent of this obsessive compulsion to eat good food, and eat it frequently and sometimes in fairly large quantities, I will tell the tale of two of the most memorable and most frequently recurring eating experiences of the past year.
The first tale involves a dining establishment that has always been a standard dining destination but it was not until recently that we developed the “system” (I will elaborate on this in coming paragraphs). The second tale involves an unlikely discovery and the beginning of a beautiful thing called Chinese delivery.
First I must add, simply as a point of reference that 2007 also coincides with the relocation of the Bridgepoint Garden of Eatin’. This was the ultimate dining destination in Miami and we cooked and ate great repasts that will surely go down in the family cookbooks. However, as a result of the loss of this particular Garden of Eatin’ our cooking extravaganzas became modified in size and quantity (on some occasions quality was also affected). Quick and simple meals like quesadillas, boxed macaroni & cheese, Lean Cuisine and a flair for reinventing leftovers took precedence over well rounded, family planned meals. We were left to our own devices, and in a time where there were not enough hours in the day, our more elaborate cooking days were whittled down to Sunday’s – if we really and truly felt like it.
So with this brief introduction I will begin the two tales that defined a great part of this past year’s culinary indulgences. Flanigan’s: Coconut Grove & South Miami Big Daddy Joe Flanigan and his chain of restaurants hold a very special place in our hearts. The longing for un-breaded Buffalo chicken wings, baby back ribs, Philly cheese steaks and the comfort of knowing that you will get a consistently good feed is always satisfied by a visit to Flanigan’s. A few paragraphs back I mentioned the “system”. It was developed on one of many visits to Flanigan’s. Mici and I could not decide which of our many favorites to order. Finally, in one blessed moment of serendipity, we knew what we had to do. We would start out the meal with a small order of chicken wings – un-breaded and mild (or medium if Mici was feeling adventurous). After the wings one of us would order a halfrack of the award-winning Flanigan’s baby back ribs and the other would order the Philly cheese steak. Now here is where the beauty of the “system” comes into play; we split our main course so that we can have a bit of everything we crave. The “system” is so perfectly planned that it cannot be tinkered with or altered. We experienced the painful and uncomfortable consequences of messing around with our perfect “system” one fateful afternoon. It happened at the South Miami Flanigan’s. I can’t recall the exact circumstances or who was to blame: ourselves or our outrageous, ravenous appetites. Instead of ordering our prescribed 5 chicken wing starter we ordered 10. Now, you wouldn’t think that this little difference of 5 wings could be disastrous enough to scar our memories, but indeed it did. Those extra 5 wings put us over the edge. By the end of the meal, the lesson had been learned: Stick to the “system” and everything will be fine – stray from the right path of the “system” and pay the price of discomfort and indigestion late into the night.
On nearly each visit to Flanigan’s Mici and I tend to reluctantly remind ourselves of the fact that we have just devoured three different barnyard animals: a chicken, a pig and a cow. That is a lot of meat to consume in a matter of a few hours, if that.
Fortunately, we have always had enough self control to keep our visits sufficiently spaced out to not suffer severe karmic backlash – or so we think. We also agree that the more spaced out the visits the more we can enjoy the meal without it becoming commonplace, as it would be if we went too frequently to indulge. So Flanigan’s as always, remains one of the most satisfying mainstays of Miami cuisine. It is easy, inexpensive and consistent. Best of all, now with our devised “system” we never have to pass on any of our all-time favorites. Perhaps the only downfall would come if you were a guest of ours. A warning: you may feel alienated by our “system” so please accept our apologies in advance."
Written by: Diana M. Holguin

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shredded Beef (Ropa Vieja)

Flank steak can be used as a substitute for the skirt steak, the meat is traditionally served with white rice (to soak up all of the sauce) and fried plantains. I remember having this in Colombia with a few adjustments but here in Miami it is very popular in the large cuban community. I would say this meat is a necessity in Colombia because the beef is very tough..very, very tough... (the cows roam free for their food and as a result build a lot of muscle which equals tough meat) So except a cut called Baby Beef it is best shredded or cooked forever in a pressure cooker until it is like butter. No porterhouse, no sirloins, no t-bones there. The other reason for this is because I think the butchers have no idea what they are doing, that goes for chickens too - you get the strangest most undistinguishable pieces- it is a bit frightening :) You rarely know what you are getting. Another example of this is a meat called 'carne polverizda' which literally means pulverized meat, I will post soon, it's different but really good. When the beef is in small bites it is much easier to eat, which is NOT the case with this recipe using skirt or flank steak - you will get a wonderfully tender and tasty meat dish.

Ingredients For Meat
1 1/2 lbs skirt steak
1 small onion, quartered
1 tomato, quartered
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled

Ingredients To Finish
2 TBSP olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp cumin
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
3 TBSP white wine
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1. Combine beef, quartered onion, tomato, carrot, garlic and 6 cups water in a large pot.
2. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered until very tender about 35 to 45 minutes.
3. Strain the meat, cool slightly and tear it along the grain into thick strips.
4. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat
5. Add the sliced onion until translucent 2-3 minutes. Add the pressed garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes
6. Stir in the meat, cumin, diced tomatoes, white wine, lime juice, salt and pepper.
7. Cook until the meat is well coated and the sauce is reduced about 5-10 minutes

Servings 4

Monday, December 6, 2010

Olive Balls

These are the easiest and tastiest appetizers ever. I always have the ingredients on hand so I can make them at the last minute.

1 jar 8 oz pimento stuffed green olives (about 30 olives)
6 oz PHILADELPHIA Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese, softened
1 sheet Puff Pastry, thawed and cut into 2.5" squares

1. Preheat oven to 400º
2. Place 1 tsp of cream cheese in center of puff pastry square; top with a green olive
3. Fold to make a ball and place on a greased baking sheet; continue with remainder of olives.
4. Bake 15 minutes or until brown and flaky.

Servings 4

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Homemade Beer Mustard

I love making my own mustard because I can add my favorite flavors. This mustard is great for cooking, sandwiches, dipping pretzels or well just about on anything...

3 ozs. of brown or yellow mustard seeds
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. black cracked pepper
1 tsp. of turmeric
1/2 cup beer, your favorite
1/4 cup malt vinegar
pinch ground ginger
pinch ground cinnamon

1. Put the mustard seeds, sugar, salt, pepper, turmeric into a blender and whirl.
2. Gradually add the liquid one tablespoon at a time; you should have a coarse paste, let this stand for 20 minutes.
3. Spoon into a clean jar, cap tightly and store in the refrigerator. This should be ready in about two weeks, let it mellow!

Yield: 1 cup

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mama Lasagna

This is my mom's famous lasagna, she has made it for years and will probably kill me when she sees it on here. Of course she is also known to omit a few key ingredients/tips when giving me recipes - she's so cute! It is a little labor intensive but most lasagnas are right? This freezes really well so make two batches freeze one and next time you are in the mood defrost in refrigerator overnight, allow 1 hour to get to room temperature and bake as below.

1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
3 TBSP olive oil
2 pounds ground meat
2 garlic cloves, pressed
8 oz can tomato sauce
4 oz tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
36 oz water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
2 TBSP boullion, granulated chicken flavor
1/2 cup ketchup
1 pound lasagna noodles
1 pound mozzarella, grated
2 cups parmesan cheese, grated
1 pound gouda cheese, grated

1. Saute onion in oil, add ground meat and garlic, brown well
2. Stir in the rest of the ingredients (from carrots to ketchup), cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours.
3. Cook noodles, drain and dry on paper towels
4. Mix 3 cheeses in a large bowl; set aside
5. In 9x13 pan put a bit of sauce on bottom (abut 1 cup) then a layer of noodles some of the cheese and then sauce repeat layers ending with cheese.
6. Bake uncovered in a 350º preheated oven for 30-45 minutes or until slightly browned and bubbly

Tip: Let rest 5 minutes, decorate with parsley and olives.

Servings 6

Friday, December 3, 2010

Boston Baked Beans

If you have never tried to make baked beans from scratch here is your chance. With the cold weather upon us, well not so much for me (I live in South Florida - but I am a major wimp), you can enjoy a big, warming bowl of baked beans. They do take time to soak/cook but the actual hands on-time is minimal. Menu ideas-I love these baked beans as a side with a grilled cheeseburger and coleslaw.

1 lb northern white beans, dry
1 tsp salt
1 cup ketchup
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
2 tsp dry mustard
2/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup brown sugar

1. Rinse and pick over the dry beans. Soak in water, covering completely overnight
2. Place in a large pot and cover with 5 inches of water.
3. Bring to a boil for about 1 hour, until beans are tender
4. Drain the beans and place in the same pot with the remaining ingredients
5. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 1-2 hours or until all flavors are combined

Servings 6

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Peas, peas and more peas...

This will be my last post related to Colombia at least until I go back to visit. I don't know if I have ever seen fresh peas in the US but I am sure they are available in farmer's markets. In Colombia that is all you can find actually, the only frozen vegetables sold there are corn and carrots. I remember as a little girl sitting in the kitchen shelling peas for hours, you need a huge bag of pea pods for it to be enough for a group.
As you have probably already guessed I love peas...fresh peas - they are so different from the frozen or canned varieties. Well I ate a lot of peas last week and this might sound strange to many but back home you have peas with a dallop of mayo - don't knock it until you try it but I agree it sounds odd. I am not sure if it is customary there or if it's just something my family invented but we all add mayo to our peas. Try the following recipe with or without mayo on top and if you can find fresh peas definitely use those if not it is great with frozen peas too.

Fresh Peas With Mint

2 TBSP butter
2 cups fresh peas or (16 ounces frozen peas, thawed and drained)
1/4 of a white onion, diced small
juice of half a lime
2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 TBSP fresh mint leaves, chopped

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Add peas and cook until tender about 8-10 minutes; drain and set aside
In a large skillet melt the butter, add the onion and cook until translucent about 3-4 minutes
Add the peas, lime juice, seasoned salt and black pepper until heated through
Add mint and stir. Serve Immediately
Tip: Fresh peas take longer than frozen peas. If using frozen peas do not cook just add drained peas to skillet and continue as above.
Servings 4

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Homemade Guava Ketchup

There is nothing better than making certain things at home, the ketchup you normally buy is full of added salt and high fructose corn syrup. The other beauty is that you can adjust to your taste, I love to make this ketchup with guava, I also make it plain and it is delicious! The guava paste gives it a sweet taste that is so good. You can add chipotle peppers to give it a little kick or maybe minced garlic, basil, or peaches - well just about anything.

1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in purée
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup guava paste, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
¼ tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

1. Purée tomatoes in a blender until smooth.
2. Cook onion in oil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until translucent, about 8 minutes.
3. Add puréed tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, guava paste, vinegar, nutmeg, salt and pepper and simmer, uncovered, stirring often, until very thick, about 1 - 2 hours.
4. Let cool slightly and purée ketchup in 2 batches in a blender until smooth. Chill at least 2 hours. Store in a glass jar.

Makes about 2 cups

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Platanos Maduros (Fried Sweet Plantains)

Luckily plantains are found in most supermarkets these days. Depending at what stage you get the plantains it should take about a week for them to turn dark brown to black. Do not store in the refrigerator, leave them out in a dark, cool place. Sweet, spicy and tart you will love this. I dislike sweet things but I love savory sweet...and these are so-ooo savory and sweet with a kick!

3 to 4 very ripe plantains (heavy black spotting to a fully black skin)
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
juice of 1/2 a lime

Peel the plantains and cut (diagonal) into one-inch thick slices. Sprinkle with salt to taste and cayenne pepper. Heat the oil until medium hot. Fry the pieces briefly, about a minute or two per side. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking, turning occasionally until they are brown and caramelized. Squeeze the lime over the pieces and serve.

Tip: You might have to fry the plantains in batches, try not to crowd them in the skillet.

Servings 6

Monday, November 29, 2010

Colombian Exotic Fruits

Maracuyá (pronounced mah-rah-koo-jah) or Passion Fruit

The passion fruit is round to oval, about the size of a grapefruit, with a soft to firm, juicy interior filled with a lot of seeds. The fruit can be eaten raw with a dash of sugar or used for making juice. The unique tropical flavor is a combination of sweet and sour, something like mango mixed with star fruit. Passion fruit flavored juices can be found fairly easily in the US.

Tomate de Árbol (Tree Tomato or Tamarillo)

Tomate de árbol is eaten by scooping the flesh from a halved fruit. It is also great for cooking by adding the pulp to chutneys, soups or stews. In Colombia the juice is very popular too - adding a little water and sugar. The pulp is tangy and a little sweet.


The lulo has orange skin and the flesh looks like a green tomato, it is tart and tangy and is almost exclusively for making juice. It has a citrus flavor sort of like a mixture between a rhubarb and a lime. It does not do well in large-scale cultivation so that is probably why it is not seen much or exported. A special drink in Cali is the Lulada which is made from the pulp of the lulo, mixed with water, sugar and ice cubes.

Cranberry, Pecan Banana Bread

This is one of my favorites, the mild flavor of the banana mixed with the tart cranberry and crunchy pecans....yum. In an earlier post I was explaining how hard it is to bake in Bogotá at such a high altitude - well now you can see for yourselves. My delicious banana bread looks like a flat brick :) I have made this in Miami and it rises over the loaf pan and looks beautiful. My little brick was still delectable though - I love to slice it, spread with a little butter and toast it until crispy.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
2 large very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temp
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups cranberries, dried
6 cardamom pods, crushed

1. Preheat oven to 325º
2. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.
3. Cream together butter & sugar. Beat in eggs.
4. Stir in baking soda and salt into flour - mixing well.
5. Fold in banana; stir in vanilla
6. Add cranberries and pecans into batter. Add the cardomom.
7. Transfer batter to loaf pans evenly. Bake about 50 minutes or until inserted knife comes out clean.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turkey á la King

4 oz can sliced mushrooms, drained
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 1/2 cups leftover turkey, cubed

1. In a medium pot, melt butter and sauté celery 2-3 minutes
2. Add mushrooms and sauté 2-3 minutes
3. Add flour and seasonings; stir for 1 minute
4. Slowly add in broth and then milk; boil, stirring constantly until thickened (about 3-5 minutes)
5. Add turkey and sherry until heated through

Tip: You can also use cooked chicken instead of turkey. Serve over a bed of rice, toast points, biscuits or pasta.

Servings 4

What is a Chiguiro?

Today I would like to share a funny story with you, please follow the link below. It is an excerpt of a post I wrote while in India...things you need to know - I am Mici (family nickname) and Diana is my sister who unfortunately eats just about anything. A chiguiro is the world's largest rodent, that people eat here for some reason, including my dear sister.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Guayaba (Guava)

Guayaba is a very popular and common fruit in Colombia. It is available, like almost every other fruit, as a juice, but is also often found in jams, pastries, and other desserts. This classic tropical flavor is sweet and something like a tangy apple. The skin is also similar to an apple so you do not have to peel it before eating. You can get it as a thick paste as well, for cooking (look for it in the hispanic section in most supermarkets). I have not seen this fruit fresh outside of South America but you can taste it by trying the paste or getting the pulp for juice in the freezer section. I will also be posting a recipe for homemade ketchup with's so good!

Guava and Cream Cheese Pockets

1 puff pastry sheet, thawed and cut into 18- 2.5" squares
1/2 lb block guava paste , cut into 1/2 inch strips
1/2 lb (250g) block PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, chilled cut into 1/2" strips
egg wash (1 egg yolk with 1 tsp milk, whisked)

1. Preheat oven 400º
2. Place 1 strip guava and 1 strip cream cheese on pastry square.
3. Fold the sides of the square over the filling sealing the edges.
4. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Brush the top of each pastry with the egg wash
5. Bake 18-20 minutes.