Thursday, March 29, 2007

Chocolate Éclair Cake

Cream puffs and éclairs always catch my attention at every bakery, imagine then a whole cake made with this pastry. I found this recipe on Kerri's blog, and decided to give it a shot. A week later, it was my husband's birthday, and guess what he asked me to make? So, here is his favorite cake recipe.

1 cup of water
½ cup butter of margarine
½ tsp. Salt
1 cup plain flour
4 eggs

1) Put water and butter in a medium saucepan, bring water to boil & simmer until butter melts. Remove from heat.

2) Mix salt & flour & add all at once to water & butter mixture. Stir until dough forms a ball.

3) Add one egg at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition. Spread in a
greased jelly roll pan (15x10x1 inches) (38x25x2.5 cm) I think a 13x9 (33x23) pan would work if you don’t have the bigger one.

4) Bake at 400ºF/205
ºC for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and press flat (wait a minute or two so you don’t burn yourself). Cool.

5) Spread filling, topping and glaze over crust. Serve cold.

2 packages of instant vanilla pudding.
2 ½ cups of milk
1 8oz (227 g)package of cream cheese, softened

With electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and add just a little milk at first (if you add too much at once you’ll end up with lumps of cream cheese). Keep adding milk gradually while beating. Then add the 2 puddings and beat until thick. Spread over crust.

1 8oz tub of Cool Whip

Spread on top of pudding mixture.

½ cup of chocolate chips
2 tbsp. Butter or margarine
1 cup confectioner's sugar (icing sugar for the Aussies)

Melt choc chips with butter in the microwave or on the stove. Stir in confectioner's sugar.
Drizzle over the Cool Whip.

Make at least 2 days ahead so crust can soften and flavors blend.
(I never make it ahead and it tastes wonderful anyway.)

I use this pastry cream recipe instead of the vanilla/cream cheese filling:
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 can milk (use the can to measure)
1 tablespoon cornstarch

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sweetened condensed milk, milk and cornstarch. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. The mixture will thicken. Add the vanilla. Transfer to a shallow bowl and press plastic wrap directly to prevent a skin from forming. Use as a filling for cakes, éclairs etc.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fresh Tomato Salsa

Mexican food has this distinct flavor that to me has to do with cumin and cilantro. Salsa means sauce in the Spanish language, and this is my favorite recipe.

For the salsa:
1 pound/500g fresh tomatoes, finely diced
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1/2 cup bell pepper (red or green - stems, ribs and seeds removed), diced
2 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
Juice of one lime (I do not use it)
1/2 teaspoon ground cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt, oregano and pepper to taste

If you like a creamy salsa, add some tomato sauce.

Place all ingredients in a medium size bowl. Let sit, loosely covered, at room temperature for the flavors to blend. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve within 4 hours. For nachos, chicken, fish, vegetables, tortillas, tacos etc., and this does the trick for barbecues too!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cardamom Coffee and Cream Granita

There is no limit for the use of cardamom. It is a sophisticated, intensely fragrant spice with digestive properties. My first contact with cardamom was through Anneke, who cooked this Thai rice for us long time ago. And Valentina inspired me to use cardamom for the first time! I fell in love with its aromatic fragrance!

And as Spring has sprung, let's celebrate with this refreshing granita, that tastes like a capuccino!

(Adapted from Fine Living)

5 cardamom pods
2 cups strong, freshly brewed coffee
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
Ground cinnamon (sprinkle over granita)

1) Split cardamom pods, grind the seeds with a mortar and pestle, and sprinkle seeds in with coffee when brewing.
2) Combine coffee and sweetened condensed milk with a hand-mixer.
3) Place mixture in metal bowl and freeze for 4 to 5 hours, and remember to spoon it sometimes.
4) The granita is ready when it has a creamy consistency with little ice crystals. Spoon into shotglasses or cups, sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy this frozen capuccino!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Country Cooking

A country restaurant in a nearby town with taste of yesteryear... More pictures here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Deep Fried Calamaris (Squids)

What to do for happy hour? Calamari rings are so easy to make, they go well with tartar sauce as an appetizer or even as a main dish.

1 pound calamari, cut into 5mm/¼in rings (I used frozen rings)
Salt, pepper, lemon juice, and garlic to taste, let it stand for one hour.
Vegetable oil for deep frying

For the crust:

1 cup plain flour
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk

1) Rinse the rings, under cold running water, pat dry. Add alt, pepper, lemon juice, and garlic to taste, let it stand for one hour.

2) Beat the eggs and milk in a shallow bowl, set aside.

3) In plastic bag combine crust ingredients: flour, pepper, paprika, cornstarch, salt and baking powder. Add a few squids at a time, shake well until well coated. Shake off excess flour (I use a sieve).

4) Dip rings in eggs, then in flour mixture again. Repeat egg and flour steps one more time if necessary. Place in freezer for 10 minutes before frying.

4) Deep fry five pieces at a time until golden brown. Remove from the oil and briefly drain on kitchen paper before serving with tartar sauce, slices of lemon, tzatziki, etc. for dipping.

For the tartar sauce:
200ml/7fl oz mayonnaise
1/4 cup cucumber pickles
Mix all ingredients together and use for dipping fish, shrimp etc.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Cucumber Relish

This recipe reminds me of the cucumber relish served in a fast food chain that sells hamburgers all over the world.

Cucumber Relish
(Cortesy of Haidi)

2 pounds cucumber
1 cup onions
1 sweet green bell pepper
1 sweet green yellow pepper
1 sweet red bell pepper
2 tablespoons salt

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1 teaspon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cloves

1. Grind cucumber, onions, and sweet peppers. In a large bowl add salt and cover with cold water and refrigerate overnight or for at least 3 hours.

2. Drain mixture well and press out all excess liquid.

3. Place the remaining ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Add vegetables; simmer for 5 minutes.

- If you are interested in packing relish into sterilized jars, you can find more information on home canning at Andrea's Recipes.

- The cucumber relish gives an added crunch to burgers and hot dogs.

- The relish can be mixed with mayonnaise to make tartar sauce.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Stroganoff Beef Cups

Dinner time, after a busy day, nothing works better than a quick recipe. The beef cups take only a few minutes, and you can bake them while kids take a shower!

Elise has a great Beef Stroganoff recipe on her Simply Recipes site. It is such a popular recipe with kids, and I serve over rice and chips. If you do not want to make the Beef Stroganoff, try the substitute I mentioned below.

Stroganoff Beef Cups

12 slices of bread (you can use wholewheat bread)
3 tablespoons softened butter
Beef stroganoff leftovers
¾ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter one side of each slice of bread and press each one butter-side down into the cups of a muffin tin. Fill each bread cup with the stroganoff or the cooked ground beef mixture below. Sprinkle shredded Cheddar cheese over the tops. Bake for 15 minutes.

Substitute stroganoff: cook 1 pound ground beef, 1 small onion. Add one can condensed cream of mushroom soup (or heavy cream), salt and pepper to taste, combine and fill the bread cups, sprinkle cheese on top, and bake 15 minutes. Serve with potato chips on top.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Persimmon Muffins

Portuguese version: click here

It is fun: to go to the farmer's market, pick out fresh fruits in season and then make up a recipe that will go with them. I bought persimmons on impulse and wanted to give them a happy ending. I had not done muffins for quite a while, and decided to take the chance with this recipe. My second son, who's a picky eater, said it was one of the best muffins he ever had. He was the first one to try it and even took it to school.

Persimmon Muffins

1/2 cup pureed persimmons
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 cup margarine -- softened
1 cup sugar
2 ggs
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 oz (100 g) honey-flavored yogurt or plain yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (lime)
1 tablespoon Bourbon (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease 12 muffin cups or use paper baking cups.

2. Put the pureed persimmons in a small bowl and stir in the baking soda. Set aside.

3. Mix margarine and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and beat well. Add flour, salt and cinnamon; beat until blended. Add vanilla, lemon juice, yogurt and bourbon. Stir in the pureed persimmons. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from muffin pans and let cool. Serve warm.