Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Struffoli - Italian Christmas Fritters

Struffoli or honey balls are a traditional dessert in Naples around Christmas. These treats are served after Christmas dinner but I like to make them anytime of the year. Even though I have never been to Italy, there are many Italians in Brazil and I found this recipe while browsing my first recipe notebook. The dough balls are fried, sizzled with honey and sprinkles and then piled to form a cone or wreath. Serve them after Christmas dinner. Easy and yummy, and you can make them in advance.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas!

2 eggs
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon limoncello (rum or brandy)
2 tablespoons butter
Grated zest of one orange (or lime)
1 2/3 cups sifted all purpose flour

Oil for deep frying

1 cup honey
Colored sprinkles and pignole nuts.

1) In a large bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, rum and butter until foamy. Add orange zest and baking powder. Add flour and knead until it forms a soft dough. Let it rest covered for half an hour in the fridge.

2) Divide dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a 1/2 inch thick rope. Using a sharp knife, cut the rope to obtain half-inch balls.

3) Deep-fry the balls, 6 to 8 at a time until they are light golden brown. Turn them regularly. Drain on paper towel.

4) Heat honey in a saucepan and coat struffoli. Pile onto a serving dish and decorate with sprinkles and pignole nuts.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A thank you note

A recipe exchange... a giveaway... and I won!!! Woo hoo!!! Thank you Overwhelmed with Joy! for the beautiful recipe cards and for the sweet card.

Seeking delicious holiday recipes? Look no further, the Holiday Cooking, Blogger style recipe exchange is the right place to find a tasty collection of recipes for your holidays!

My entry for the recipe exchange is here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Green beans and a coconut milk sauce

A Thanksgiving dinner with a twist... that's what I did last year... I like to spice up holiday meals with a different sauce or side dish. The coconut milk sauce is usually served with fish and shrimp, but I think it adds a dash of spice to the tradition and it is a great combination to go with any vegetable dish... including green beans!

This is my entry to the last day of the "Giving Thanks" celebration over at Kelli's blog. Thank you Kelli for hosting this wonderful event.
Green beans with basil and almonds
Adapted from Taste of home

1 pound fresh green beans
1/4 cup water
2 to 3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 garlic clove, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh basil
2 oz sliced almonds
Salt to taste

Place beans and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook, uncovered, for 7 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain; add the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook for 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Coconut milk sauce
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon curry powder or saffron
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat, sauté garlic and onion until garlic is fragrant. Stir in coconut milk, curry powder, red pepper flakes. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with vegetables or fish.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Giving Thanks - A pumpkin cheesecake

Last year I made a pumpkin cheesecake instead of the traditional pumpkin pie for our Thanksgiving dinner and I think it was a winner, because I have already received requests to make it again this year!

The pumpkin cheesecake is actually a combination of two classic recipes, the cheesecake and the pumpkin pie with a chocolate crust.
Kelli at There is no place like home is hosting the Giving Thanks week. Please join this celebration with recipes or anything related to Thanksgiving!

You can check my posts from last year here.

Pumpkin cheesecake

For the chocolate crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 320°F (160°C). Mix all ingredientes and press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

4 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin)
1 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash ground cloves
3 tablespoons flour

1) With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar, flour and the vanilla until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition. Add pumpkin and mix until smooth. Stir spices into batter.

2) Pour the batter into prepared pan. Bake 55 min. to 65 min. or until center is almost set. Run knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen cake; cover with another pan or foil so your cheesecake won't crack... Cool before removing rim. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.

I decorate the top of the cheesecake with whipped cream and candied orange.

Source: Kraft foods - Pumpkin swirl cheesecake

Friday, November 7, 2008

Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style - A too good to eat fruitcake

Thanksgiving approaches... then suddenly we realize that holiday season is just around the corner! It is so nice that the 3rd Holiday Cooking recipe exchange at Overwhelmed with Joy is here already so we can start collecting recipes! This year I am sharing the best ever Christmas cake I have ever had!

The combination of saffron and honey is just out of this world... This is a light cake and so easy to make. You can make it ahead of time or at the last minute! The recipe was adapted from the British magazine Good Food, that I received as a gift from a friend.

All recipes I tried from the December 2007 issue were a hit with my family!

The conversions are rounded up or down as appropriate. I use grams and cups... but many people use ounces. For the dried fruits, you can get 2 handfuls of mixed fruits and it will work great, no need to be precise...

Honey saffron Christmas cake
2 tbsp brandy
A pinch of saffron powder (about 1⁄4tsp strands)
1 cup (8oz/225g) golden caster sugar
2 sticks (8oz/225g) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
4 eggs
1 2/3 cups (225g) plain flour
2 oz/50g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
11 oz/300g raisins or sultanas
4 oz/100 g apricots, sliced
4 oz/100g cherries, halved
4 oz/100g dates, sliced
3 oz/85g mixed peel (I used candied orange peels)
2 oz/50g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
 2 oz/50g walnuts, pieces

 To soak
3 tbsp brandy
2 tbsp honey

1) Heat oven to 360°F/180°C. Grease a round, deep 8inch/20cm cake pan. -> I used a ring mould and it baked more quickly.

2) Heat the brandy in a small pan, then add the saffron and leave to infuse off the heat for a few minutes. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a bowl, then beat together until creamy and smooth. Mix the fruit, nuts and brandy saffron mix into the batter and stir well.

3) Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour if using the ring mould.

Or... if you like a darker cake... you might want to cover loosely with foil to stop the top over-browning. Turn oven down to 280°F/140°C and cook for 1 hour more OR until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan then, while it's still warm, prod the cake all over with a skewer.

4) Mix the honey (microwave honey for 15s) and brandy together and spoon over the cake. Garnish with confectioner's sugar, pipe some whipped cream and dress up with fruits in season. I washed the fruits and coated them with confectioner's sugar.

You can wrap up the plain cake in foil and keep it in an airtight container until Christmas, feeding with more honeyed brandy every so often. Well, I made one last year on Christmas Eve and decorated right away... and still... it tasted great!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Holiday Cooking, Blogger Style - calling all blogs!

Overwhelmed with Joy is hosting her annual recipe exchange on November 7th and is inviting everyone to participate! She will give one set of 20 personalized recipe cards to one lucky winner! I can't wait to join!

My post from last year is here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Creamy cucumber dip

This dip has a story behind it... it is about a 20-year friendship that started in choir class when I was an AFS exchange student. Karla and I became good friends, her parents treated me as a member of their family. We used to hang around a lot, we used to go "Hills" and to the mall. She also taught me a lot of slang words!

Anyway, we did keep in touch for a while after I returned home, writing long letters, then she moved, and I lost contact. One day I found her address on the internet! So I picked up the phone and called... Karla was speechless. Now we chat online almost everyday. Last time I saw her she had just had a baby, her youngest, and it was great to be together on such special occasion.

Karla learned so many recipes from her mother and this creamy cucumber dip she shared online with me one day we wanted to know what each other was having for dinner.

Creamy cucumber dip
1 cucumber, unpeeled, coarsely grated or diced
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
Black pepper

Soak cucumber in salt water for one hour, then rinse and pat dry. Add remaining ingredients. Serve with your favorite toasted bread, crackers, chips or toasted pita triangles.

If you like cucumber, try these:
Ginger Vinaigrette
Cucumber relish

Monday, October 13, 2008

Foodbuzz Publisher Community Launches

See the foodbuzz icons on my side bar?

From our home to yours is a featured publisher of Foodbuzz and today they are officially launching their blogger community with more than 1,000 blog partners! A global food blogging event and an online platform that captures the real-people, real-time power of food publishing in every corner of the world. At launch, the Foodbuzz community ranks as one of the top-10 Internet destinations for food and dining (Quantcast), with bloggers based in 45 countries and 863 cities serving up daily food content!

To read the complete press release, please go to Foodbuzz!

Congratulations Foodbuzz, I am proud to be buzzing!!!

About Foodbuzz, Inc.

Based in San Francisco, Foodbuzz, Inc., launched its beta Web site, foodbuzz.com, in 2007. In less than a year, Fooduzz.com and its community of over 1,000 exclusive partner food blogs have grown into an extended online property that reaches more than three million users.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Spanish caramel flan

I love to try new things and recipes for guests... We had a family gathering and when I told my mom I was going to make Spanish caramel flan, a flan without condensed milk I received fake smiles and nods from everyone in the kitchen... The reason? My mom makes the best Condensend milk flan I have ever tried, a traditional recipe in Brazil that is so easy to make that I think no one bothers to try a new recipe!

I had been willing to try a different flan recipe for quite some time... and on the way to my parents' house I bookmarked the Spanish flan from the book Perfect Desserts - a collection of over 100 essential recipes (Parragon Publishing) that I got from a friend. Well... the dessert turned out superb and no one was disappointed!

For the Custard
2 1/2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
1/2 orange with 2 long, thin pieces of rind removed
1 vanilla bean, split, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks

For the caramel
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons water
a few drops of orange juice

1 5-cup flan dish (quiche dish), a round mould or 4 to 6 ramekins
1 large baking/roasting pan for the water bath

1) Pour the milk into a pan with the orange rind and vanilla bean and extract. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and stir in half cup of sugar. Set aside 30 minutes to infuse.

2) Meanwhile make the caramel: put 1/2 cup sugar and 4 tablespoons of water in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves, then boil without stirring until the caramel turns deep golden brown. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and squeeze in a few drops of orange juice to stop the cooking. Pour into a lightly greased flan dish or ramekins and swirl to cover the base.

3) Return the pan of infused milk to the heat and bring to a simmer. Beat the whole eggs and egg yolks together in a heatproof bowl. Pour the warm milk into the eggs, whisking constantly. Strain into the flan dish.

4) Place the flan dish in a baking pan and fill with enough boiling water come halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake in a preheated oven 325° F/160° C for 60-75 minutes until set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the flan dish from the baking pan and set aside to cool completely. Cover and let chill overnight. To serve, run a metal spatula round the flan, then invert onto a serving plate, shaking firmly to release.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Annatto... Flower, seeds and a food coloring

Anatto or achiotte, (bixa orellana L.) is a plant is grown mostly in South America and Brazil is the main producer and exporter. Known here as urucum or colorau the seeds are used as a natural red food coloring in the food industry, comestics (lipsticks) and also in the Brazilian cuisine. The color result is similar to paprika, although it does not alter the flavor of the food. Also, Brazilian indians and other Latin-American indians use the seeds to make body paint.

The most common way to make annatto powder is to heat the seeds in oil, then transfer the seeds to a mortar, add fine cornmeal and grind them with the pestle. Pour through a fine mesh to separate seed skins from powder and you are ready to go.

Anatto Flower on Foodista

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ginger Ribs with Red Rice

My mother-in-law introduced me to red rice some 15 years ago... At the time, I came back home with 2 pounds of red rice and tried it different ways, using different ingredients like chicken shrimp, codfish, sausage and even sweet potato. This whole grain rice (sativa L specie) was carried to Brazil from Portugal, back in the XVI century. Some people call it Camargue rice, if grown in France. Even though it has been in our country for many years, just now it is gaining popularity with Slow Food.

This is my entry for The Royal Foodie Joust that has whole grain, citrus and ginger as the main ingredients.

For every cup rice, use 4 cups water. Soak the rice at least 2 hours before cooking.

Ingredients for the rice
2 cups red rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
8 cups water

Heat a large pan and sauté garlic and onion. Add rice, salt water and cook for about 45 minutes in low heat. After 30 minutes add the cooked ribs.

Ingredients for the ribs
2 pounds pork baby back ribs
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon salt
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pepper to taste

1) Marinate baby ribs for 2 hours in lime juice, salt, pepper, onion, olive oil, garlic and ginger powder.

2) In a large pan or pressure cooker, add the meat without the marinade and brown lightly, adding a little more oil if necessary. Add the marinade, cover and cook in low heat for one hour or until meat is tender. Add water as needed, then allow water to dry at the end.

3) Add the cooked rice to the meat, cook it for another 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Yucca stew - Grow Your Own 1st anniversary

I say manioc (cassava), you say yucca. Many people have tried yucca without even knowing it, like when you use tapioca flour... does this ring a bell?

This entry celebrates Grow Your Own's first anniversary! Congratulations Andrea! Thank you for planting the seed of friendship with your event!

This is a simple recipe for chilly nights. I had some yucca in the freezer from the family farm and I added harissa, the Tunisian spice blend, to the stew to spice it up.

Harissa has the power to turn an ordinary dish into a gourmet dish!

Yucca stew
  • Peel and strip the yucca root before cooking (remove the long stringy fibers in the middle)
  • Cut into chunks and cook it in water until soft (it can take from 20 minutes to over one hour, use a pressure cooker if you have one)
3 pounds (1.5 kg) cooked yucca, smashed
10 to 12 cups water or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon salt (omit the salt if using stock)
1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 oz bacon, cooked, lightly browned
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon harissa (or any pepper)
2 cups watercress, chopped (or kale)

1) Sauté onion and garlic in oil and olive oil. Add smashed yucca, water (or stock), salt and harissa. Bring to a boil, then simmer until stew is thickened. Using an immersion hand blender (or a blender), puree stew until smooth.

2) Towards the end, add the watercress and the cooked bacon, turn off heat and cover for a few minutes before serving. Serve warm.
  • This recipe can be adapted for the slow cooker.
Yucca plantation

You can check all the entries for the 1st anniversary here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Harissa, a traditional Tunisian blend at our table

Harissa is a traditional Tunisian spice blend made from peppers and condiments. This one was a gift and was made by my friend's mother-in-law who lives in Tunisia. We frequently use harissa to spice up many dishes. With its intense flavor it is well paired with seafood, meat, soups and stews, pizza, pasta etc.

Jenn, at the Leftover Queen teaches how to make harissa paste.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Brazilian carrot cake

Our children's favorite cake. This is a simple carrot cake I make and I think every mother here knows how to make it, as it is a very popular and traditional recipe in Brazil. Since I was not a big fan of carrot cakes, even though I like carrots, I started to add cinnamon to give it a twist. Very different from the carrot cakes you probably know, this one does not have nuts and fruits, and it is topped with chocolate icing!

This recipe also makes great cupcakes and I add chocolate chips on top before taking them to the oven!
Brazilian carrot cake
3 small raw carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup canola oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Grease and flour a 12-inch (30 cm) round pan. Preheat oven to 380°F (190°C).

1) Place carrots, eggs, and oil into a blender and puree.

2) In a bowl, add flour, baking
powder, cinnamon and sugar. Pour the carrot mixture and mix until well blended. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake at 380°F (190°C) for 30 minutes.

Chocolate glaze
(mom's recipe)

4 tablespoons milk or water
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa

In a small sauce pan, cook all ingredients at low heat until it thickens, stirring constantly. Spread over cake immediately.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Summer Salad - Healthy Cooking event

On a hot Summer day this refreshing salad works as a one-dish meal to me. My kids love to tease me about my salad bowls, they say that they look like a colorful garden. Children say funny things and whenever I can I write them down.

I have salad with almost every meal, and this works for me as an effective way to have a healthy diet and keep a slim figure.

Salads are low fat, depending on the dressing you choose... So, adding nuts, beans, tofu, yogurt or cheese power up the content of protein.

This is my entry to the Healthy Cooking - A Cookbook Givevaway Event. You can win a cookbook, so hurry! The deadline is July 21st!
For the salad:
(quantities may vary)

- Swiss chard, chopped
(source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, iron, vitamin E and dietary fiber)
- Romaine lettuce
(source of vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin C, manganese and chromium)
- Strawberries, sliced
(source of vitamin C and manganese, among others)
- Cashew nuts, crushed
(source of fiber and protein, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, copper and B vitamins)

In a large salad bowl, combine swiss chard, lettuce, strawberries and cashew nuts. Pour the orange dressing over the salad.

For the orange dressing
Recipe adapted from Lica's blog (in Portuguese)

1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped very fine
Salt and black pepper to taste

Combine orange juice, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix well and cook until thickened. Remove from heat, let cool. Use as salad dressing.

Nutrition source: The World's Healthiest Foods

Friday, July 11, 2008

Recycling with style

I found this cute utensil holder that is made of recycled wood at a country restaurant in my hometown. Hands on... with recycling materials we don't need to spend a lot of money to add a special touch to our homes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Spiced Hot Grape Punch - Grow Your Own #11

Winter is just around the corner here and I have been fixing this hot punch for friends and family in our small group that meets once a week. It is a non-alcoholic beverage, the aroma fills the air, and you can enjoy it slowly, as it is served hot. In the Summer, you can serve it cold.

This is my entry for Grow Your Own event and you can participate too! This event is about homegrown products, so if you have a garden why not celebrate the bounty of the season with a unique dish prepared with foods that you grow?

My spiced hot grape punch is made with fresh ginger from my mom and dad's garden.

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons honey
Rind of 2 oranges
Rind of 1 lime
2 oz (50 to 60 g) sliced fresh ginger
4 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 apples, cored, peeled and chopped
4 cups (1 liter) unsweetened red grape juice

1) In a large sauce pan over medium combine sugar and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil to dissolve sugar.

2) Add honey, sliced ginger, cinnamon stick, cloves, lime and orange rinds. Simmer 4 minutes. Remove rinds.

3) Add 1 cup water and simmer 5 minutes. Then add the chopped apples, the grape juice and bring to a boil again for 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Brazil and Japan - 100-year friendship

A friendship that started 100 years ago when the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the port of Santos aboard the steamship Kasato Maru on June 18, 1908. Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito is visiting the country to take part in the celebrations. An anniversary that certainly deserves to be celebrated in a special way.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Gruyere Gougères - Savory Cheese Puffs

Gougères are savory puffs or cheese balls (Pâte à choux) made with gruyere or any kind of cheese that melts and stretches... These are easy, fast and great starters for parties. That's why I am submitting this recipe for the Monthly Mingle event that Mansi at Food and Fun is hosting this month with Appetizers & Hors'Doeuvres. It is an event that Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey? started.

1 cup water
1/3 cup butter
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
3/4 cup grated gruyere
4 tablespoons chopped onion
Italian seasoning to taste (or any kind of dried herbs - parsley, oregano, thyme, etc.)

1) Preheat the oven to 425
ºF (220 ºC). Grease or line two cookie sheets (no need to grease if using non-stick sheets).

Place the water and butter into a saucepan and bring to a boil. On low heat add the salt and flour at once, stirring with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball.

3) Remove from heat.
Transfer the mixture into a mixing bowl and let cool for a bit. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until the mixture is creamy. Add the cheese, the onion and the seasonings.

Drop the balls of the mixture onto a greased or lined cookie sheet using a small cookie scoop or one tablespoon, 2 inches apart.
  • You can also pipe the mixture, but I prefer the cookie scoop.

5) Bake at 425ºF
(220 ºC) for 15 to 20 minutes until puffs are golden brown. Serve them hot, plain or with any kind of filling, I had some eggplant antipasto and it was a great combination!

Recipe from the kitchen of: Luna

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rice with black-eyed peas - Grow your own #10

Rice and beans... another staple food here in Brazil. Every time we visit the family farm, which is in another state, the lady who works and lives there gives me black-eyed-peas that her family grows. She taught me how to make this dish called "baiao-de-dois" that is popular in the Northeast part of Brazil. This is the simplified version as you will hardly find the type of clarified butter (bottle butter) they use to cook this and the coalho cheese (a type of curd cheese).

This is my entry for this month's Grow Your Own event. If you grow or raise anything in your garden or if you received something as a gift that the giver has personally grown or raised you can participate too.

1 cup black-eyed peas, cooked
2 cups of rice
4 cups water
1 cup frying cheese, cubed
1/2 cup italian smoked sausage or chorizo, sliced (I omit this sometimes)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped onions
cilantro leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Heat oil in a large pan. Add onions, garlic and sausage and sautée until tender. Add rice and fry it stirring it frequently. Add cooked beans, water, salt and pepper and cook for about 15 minutes until most of the water gets absorbed.

2) Add the cubed cheese and the cilantro. Turn off stove and let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.