Thursday, December 20, 2007

Portuguese French Toast or Brazilian Rabanadas

Many countries celebrate a white Christmas but, since it is Summer time in Brazil, many places have Christmas lights on palm trees. However, we also exchange gifts, decorate our houses with lights, put up trees and have large family reunions. Turkey and roasted pork are traditional dishes during Christmas supper. 

Another Christmas tradition here is the Portuguese French toast or "rabanadas" that were brought from Portugal and consist of french bread, milk, eggs, and cinnamon sugar on top. It is a part of my husband's family memories on Christmas day. My father-in-law usually orders the bread in advance and keeps this tradition going. It is like a magic moment, an opportunity to spend time with the family members during breakfast or the afternoon snack. As this year we are celebrating Christmas with my parents, I already asked my mother-in-law to make "rabanadas" on New Year's day!

Rabanadas - From the kitchen of my mother-in-law

About 20 1-inch-thick (2.5 cm) slices french bread
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk (reserve other half for topping)
2 cups of milk
3 eggs, separated

About 3 tablespoons oil for pan-frying
Sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle, condensed milk or syrup to pour over fried bread

1) If possible, buy the bread the day before, slice it and let it sit overnight in an open container.

2) Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add egg yolks and beat again until thick.

3) In a medium bowl, combine half can of condensed milk with the milk.

4) Soak lightly each slice of bread with the dissolved condensed milk, drain the excess and coat the slice with eggs whites.

5) Fry in hot oil until golden brown on each side. Place on paper towel to drain and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, condensed milk, or syrup. Serve warm.

Does your family have any Christmas traditions?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fruity Pastel Cookies - Christmas cookies from around the world

Baking cookies at Christmas is an old tradition that so many people treasure. I did some research and found out that the tradition of leaving Christmas cookies and milk for Santa isn’t a very old one. It is believed to have started around the 1930s during the time of the Great Depression. So, if you were nice, you thank Santa for the hard work on Christmas Eve, and if you were naughty you can still try to bribe him with some cookies!

I gave these cookies to our children's preschool teachers as a Christmas gift, placed them in clear boxes and attached a bow to the lid.

This is another contribution for Susan at Food Blogga who is hosting the Eat Christmas cookies event until December 24th. To join the fun and share your recipes, please click the red logo on the right for instructions.

3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 package (3 ounces) lime gelatin or flavor of your choice
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Red and green colored sugar and/or sprinkles

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar and gelatin powder. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.

Using a cookie press fitted with the disk of your choice, press dough 2 inches (5 cm) apart onto ungreased baking sheets.

Decorate as desired with colored sugar and/or sprinkles. Bake at 400°F (200 °C) for 6-8 minutes or until set (do not brown). Remove cookies to a wire rack to cool.

6 dozen

From our home to yours:
I used two flavors of gelatin powder and created red and green cookies.
- Remove cookies while they are still hot so they don't stick to the pan.

Adapted from magazine Taste of Home, Dec/Jan 2003

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Holiday Cheese Spread - Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style

Every year my family throws a big Christmas dinner and we invite some friends. My friend Walkiria showed up a few years ago with a tasty snowman cheese spread that was too cute to eat. It "melted away" quickly as everyone wanted to get a taste of it.

This is my entry for the Annual Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style recipe exchange. If you would like to participate, please visit Overwhelmed with Joy for the guidelines. And happy cooking!

3 slices bacon
2 tablespoons butter
1 pkg. (8oz - 240 g) cream cheese softened
2 cups finely shredded Cheddar cheese (I used smoked ricotta)
Garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper to taste.

1) Place bacon on roasting rack, cover with paper towel and microwave at High for 3 to 6 minutes or until brown and crisp. Cool and crumble.

2) Mix butter, cheese, cream cheese, onion powder, garlic powder and pepper in medium bowl until well blended. Add bacon and combine well. Divide mixture in half.

For the snowman:
2 pretzel sticks
black peppercorns
1 whole pimiento
1 pimiento-stuffed green olive
1 baby carrot

1) Divide one half of them mixture into 2 or 3 portions (depending on the type of snowman you want to make). Shape each portion into ball , making balls for head and upper body slightly smaller than base. Stack balls on serving tray.
2) Make snowman's arms by inserting pretzel sticks into cheese. Decorate with peppercorns for the eyes and buttons. Add carrot for the nose. Cut small piece of pimiento for mouth. Cut 1/2 inch-wide strip of pimiento to make scarf. Trim top and bottom of olive and use wooden pick to secure olive to cracker for the hat. Place on head.

For Santa's boot:
Sliced almonds
Black peppercorns
pimiento strips

Shape remaining half of cheese mixture into boot shape. Trim top of boot with sliced almonds to resemble fur. Use peppercorns and pimiento for laces and bow.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Congo Bars and Christmas Cookies around the world

I am so far behind with the Thanksgiving recipes I promised to post here that I decided to switch to Holiday cooking! Last year my old small group organized a Christmas party and there was a gift exchange. It was a lot of fun, the hostess gave away Congo Bars baked in small bundt pans and wrapped in clear cellophane to each of us. I asked for the recipe and she was kind enough to share her secret with us. These make a great gift.

Susan at Food Blogga is hosting an event called Eat Christmas cookies from now through December 24th, and I wanted to share this recipe that tastes so much like cookies and it is so easy to make. To see all the wonderful Christmas cookies recipes from around the world, you just need to click the red logo!

5 tablespoons melted butter
3 eggs
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup chopped Brazilian nuts or walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1) Preheat oven to 350 °F (180 °C). Grease 10 x 15 inch pan. (You can use small bundt pans or 12 muffin cups).

2) Combine butter and sugar in bowl. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt; blend well. Fold in chips and nuts. Turn in pan, spread evenly.

3) Bake until top is lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack; let cool. Cut into bars and sprinkle confectioner's sugar on top. Congo bars will freeze.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rosemary-Roasted Potatoes - Grow Your Own # 4

Easy and ready in 30 minutes while you fix dinner or perform other chores, these rosemary roasted potatoes make a great side dish. At our Thanksgiving we had this as one of our side dishes.

This is my contribution to this month’s Grow Your Own event.

2 pounds (1 kg) large potatoes, unpeeled and cut into halves or quarters
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves (from my mother-in-law's garden)
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon saffron (it makes all the difference)
1/2 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
1/2 cup water

1) Preheat oven to 475°F (245°C).

2) In a large roasting pan or baking sheet, arrange potatoes. Coat with olive oil, garlic, basil, rosemary, parsley, red pepper flakes, safrron,
paprika, salt and water. Toss well to combine.

3) Cover pan with foil and roast for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, turning occasionally to brown on all sides.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Our Thanksgiving

Even though it was not a holiday here, our Thanksgiving dinner was quite traditional. My friend Priscila mentioned she wanted to get together in appreciation for all the blessings this year. It was what my friend Camila and I needed to make our dream come true: cook a Thanksgiving dinner! We had ten-layer salad, turkey and cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, grean beans with basil, cheese spread with garlic and sweet potato biscuits, ginger flavored cauli-flower, pumpkin cheesecake, apple pie and even a roasted pork that our friend Tim fixed. Drinks served included wine, soft drinks and hot spiced cider. One of the highlights of the evening was after dinner, when we shared our blessings and wrote them down on fall colored paper leaves to hang them on the Thankful tree. The room was beautifully decorated and I want to thank my friend Camila for hosting this dinner!

Recipes will be shown in future posts.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Kabocha (or Pumpkin) Spice Bread

Kabocha squash or Japanese pumpkin is very popular in the Japanese cuisine. I use kabocha to cook everything pumpkin, like pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, soup, muffins etc. And... Tis the season for pumpkin spice bread!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup kabocha puree (or canned unsweetened pumpkin)
1 large egg

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour an 8 1/2- x 4 1/2-inch (21 x 11 x 6 cm) loafpan. Sift together first 6 ingredients; stir in salt.

2. Combine sugar, oil, and kabocha puree/canned pumpkin in a large bowl; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add egg, beating until well blended. Gradually add dry ingredients, beating at low speed until blended. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

3. Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 1 hour 5 minutes or until loaf is golden and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove from pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

From our home to yours:
- The dark green skin is very hard and not easy to carve but the pulp is lightly sweet. So, you need to be careful when handling the knife to cut up a kabocha.

- I cooked the kabocha without strings and seeds in the microwave for 20 minutes, an easy and fast way to make a pumpkin puree from scratch.

- This recipe works both with canned pumpkin and kabocha squash puree.

- A different twist to this cake is the cocoa powder added to the batter.

Thank you Kelli for this wonderful Giving thanks week!

If you want to share and visit other blogs with recipes, menus, pictures, poems, and stories, please go to Kelli's blog for more details.

This recipe was adapted from Cottage Living magazine - November 2006

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Corn Bread Stuffing

This dish makes its appearance every year during the holidays and it has been a huge success over the last decade with our family. I use this corn bread stuffing (or dressing) as a side dish, but it is also wonderful as turkey stuffing.

Kelli is hosting a Giving Thanks week in preparation for Thanksgiving. If you want to share recipes, menus, pictures, poems, and stories, please visit her blog for more details.

Corn bread
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk
3 tablespoons melted butter or canola oil
2 eggs

Vegetable mixture:
5 tablespoons butter
2 large celery stalks, diced
1 medium green pepper, diced (I use red bell pepper)
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/3 cup black or green olives, sliced (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup chicken broth

1) Prepare Corn bread: Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Grease a 9 x 13 inch (20 x 30 cm) metal baking pan.

2) In medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With fork beat milk, melted butter and egg into cornmeal mixture just until blended. Spoon batter into baking pan, spreading evenly.

3) Bake corn bread 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in wire rack 10 minutes. Invert, break into large pieces or cube it with a pizza cutter or knife and cool completely.

4) Prepare vegetable mixture: In a small saucepan cook celery, bell pepper and onion in butter until tender. Stir in raisins, olives, salt, black pepper and chicken broth. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat.

5) Prepare stuffing: Into a large mixing bowl, place dry corn bread cubes; add the vegetable mixture. Toss gently to mix well. Transfer to a 2-quart casserole. Bake uncovered in a 325°F (165°C) oven for 30 minutes or until heated through. (Or, if using this stuffing outside of the turkey, place this in the oven during the last 30 minutes of roasting, alongside the turkey).

From our home to yours:
- Start with the corn bread.
- If not making the stuffing right away, you can keep the pieces covered and refrigerated for up to two days.
- I use a pizza cutter to cube the corn bread.
- If you don't like cornbread, use any bread cubes.
- I usually add 5 oz (150g) grated italian smoked sausage to the vegetable mixture and make a sausage corn bread stuffing.

This recipe was adapted from an old Good Housekeeping magazine dated November 1997.

Monday, November 12, 2007

My first Thanksgiving

This time of year brings back fond memories of my first Thanksgiving, exactly 20 years ago. I was an exchange student to the US and I had no idea it was such a big holiday there. I remember my house was filled with guests. Relatives arrived bringing great traditional food I had never dreamed of. I always enjoyed trying new food, and this time around it wasn't any different. I saw a pumpkin pie on the table and that really intrigued me, I had no idea whether it was a pie to eat during, before or after dinner and that kept me busy watching what people were doing to then realize it was a dessert! And that's how I tasted my first pumpkin pie! Of course, I loved it!

Kelli is hosting a Thanksgiving event called "Giving thanks" with prizes! She'll be sharing decorating ideas, crafts, poems, prayers, games, table settings, activities for children and a daily cleaning schedule (with before and after pictures). If you would like to join, please go here for all the details, including pictures of the giveaway prizes!

Here's a pumpkin pie recipe... I am using the pictures of last year's pie for a recipe I've had for years that uses fresh pumpkin and sweetened condensed milk.

Pumpkin Pie
1 recipe pâte brisée (recipe below - or 1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust)
2 cups pumpkin puree (recipe below - or 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon Cloves

1) Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). In a large bowl, whisk pumpkin puree, condensed milk, eggs, spices and salt in medium bowl until smooth. Pour into crust.

2) Bake 15 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°F (175°C) and continue baking 35 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted 1 inch from crust comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Garnish as desired. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

How to cook a pumpkin and make a puree - microwave method:
1) Cut off top of a 2 pound pumpkin (around the stem area) and scoop out stringy contents and seeds. Discard seeds or save to dry and roast and make a delicious snack.

2) Rub skin with oil or butter, wrap with parchment paper.

3) Place wrapped pumpkin on microwave-safe tray and cook on high for 20 minutes or until fork tender.

4) Once pumpkin has cooled, remove flesh using a spoon, discard the skin. Puree pumpkin in food processor or use a potato masher.

Pâte Brisée (Pie dough):
The classic proportion for this recipe is 3:1 (flour:fat)
Makes one 9 inch pie

1 cup flour
1/3 cup butter or shortening cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 to 4 teaspoons cold water (add ice to the water)

1) In a food processor, place the flour, salt and sugar and process briefly to combine.

2) Add the butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Pour ice water with machine running, in a slow, steady stream just until dough holds together no longer than 30 seconds. Do not over process.

3) Form dough into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or until ready to use.

4) Roll pate brisee between 2 pieces of plastic wrap, into a 12-inch circle and fit pastry into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim dough evenly along edge, leaving about a 1/2-inch overhang. Pinch to form a decorative edge. Fill pie shell with pumpkin puree. Makes one 9-inch pie.

Topping suggestions:

You can serve your pie with the following toppings:
1) Grated coconut
2) Chocolate fudge
3) Whipped cream
4) Or just plain!

Recipe adapted from Eagle Brand.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Avocado Lassi - Grow Your Own # 3


Lassi is a typical Indian shake that can be either sweet or salty. It is yogurt-based and it contains spices, like cumin, and fruits, being mango the most common. This is another recipe I came up with for our Summer that is just around the corner. I used avocado and as I did a little research I found out that avocado contains nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including vitamins E, C and B, among others and it has monounsaturated fat, just like olive oil. Also, I wanted to point out a cultural factor: in Brazil avocados are associated mostly with sweet food and not with salty food as in many countries. Another ingredient I used, the lemon balm or melissa, a member of the mint family, is a very resistant perennial plant that grows indoors so well and can be used to make teas, salads or added to juices.

1 avocado
1 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
leaves of fresh lemon balm (from my indoor garden)
1 cup ice (optional)
Sugar to taste

1) Scoop the avocado pulp into a blender. Add the yogurt, honey, lemon balm and sugar to taste. Blend until pureed.

2) Add ice and blend again. Serve cold. You can pour jelly into the cups and add the lassi. I used the avocado peels as bowls.

This is my contribution to Andrea's Recipes monthly event: Grow your own.