Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Green gift wrapping

Gift wrapping you can do yourself with old envelopes and help the environment... This idea to give a personal touch to my gifts I found on Martha Stewart website.

A nice and green way to reuse the huge amount of envelopes I received and saved throughout the year. Also, I reused some old paper bags.

You can print the template here or just trace the lines of pine cones on a sheet of paper/old envelopes and cut them out. Punch some holes to add ornaments.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Turkey pot pie with cornbread crust

Did you know that pumpkin leaves and flowers are edible? And so are the stalks! I learned this when I was a little child and my parents had  pumpkin vines spread in the backyard. My mom used to fix delicious pumpkin omelettes with leaves and flowers all together.

Here is what I did with some leftover turkey, a pot pie! And as an accompaniment pumpkin leaves and stalks sautéed with olive oil, salt, garlic, onion, and pepper.

Turkey pot pie with cornbread crust

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups turkey gravy or water
2 cups finely chopped roasted turkey
1/2 cup frozen sweet peas
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup corn kernels
1/2 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste

Crust - Cornbread
1 cup flour
1/2 cup white or yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

For the filling:
1) Preheat oven to 400° F (205° C). Spray a 2-quart casserole with cooking spray.

2) In a large sauce pan, heat butter and olive oil. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in  carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Add flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add turkey gravy or water and heat until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Stir in turkey, corn kernels, peas, black pepper and salt if using water. Pour mixture into casserole.

For the crust: In a bowl, stir cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, oregano, and salt. Stir in milk, egg and  oil until well combined. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients stirring until mixed. Spoon the batter evenly on the turkey filling. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 22 to 25 minutes.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cupcake pin cushions, they even smell good

I made them! One of my hobbies... needles and fabric. Quick and easy, a few leftover fabric pieces, small and large yo yos, buttons, cupcake wrappers or individual muffin tins (I reused an old can of Duncan Hines blueberry muffin mix, but tuna cans will do), a few trimmings, stuffing, some potpourri, hot glue and voilá, my pins and needles have elegant pin cushions!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mud hens

As soon as I saw the mud hen bars on Abby's blog, Confabulations in the Kitchen, I went straight to the kitchen  and it was love at first bite! My kids, who do not like nuts, ate mud hens and asked for more! Isn't it nice to find something you were missing out and you didn’t even know about?

Mud Hens

Abby's grandma recipe from her Old Church Cookbook

1/2 cup butter
1 Cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 and a 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chopped nuts (I used Brazil nuts)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla

1) Preheat oven to 350ºF (180º C).
2) Sift dry ingredients.
3) Beat together 1 whole egg plus the yolk of the other. (Save the egg white for later in this recipe)
4) Cream butter and sugar together, add egg mixture. Blend in sifted dry ingredients and vanilla.
5) Spread the thick mixture about 1/3 in. thick in greased shallow baking pan such as a jelly roll pan.
6) Mix unbeaten egg white with brown sugar and nuts and spread as evenly as possible over the mixture.
7) Bake in preheated oven about 20 minutes or until done. Cut into squares while still warm.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Brown butter... and mashed potatoes

I was an  exchange student and today I was chatting with my AFS host mother on facebook and I mentioned that I could never tell whether she was making real or instant mashed potatoes. My host brother liked the instant one and I of course liked the homemade. Ginny's food tasted so good that she fooled both of us and it was impossible not to eat once or twice... I put on 26 pounds when I was an exchange student... The best way to adjust to a new culture is to jump... into the kitchen, don't you think?

Like the first time I saw a salad bar... I was amazed at the variety of food... it was right after I met my host family, coming back from the airport on the way to my new home. A salad bar over 20 years ago was just impossible to imagine having over here in my small Brazilian town... now it is so common.

So many stories... I hope my kids will build strong gastronomic memories the way I did, with my own family and with friends around the world.

This mashed potato recipe is very simple, it is the brown butter that makes it special.

Brown butter mashed potatoes

3 pounds (1.5 kg) potatoes, skin on and whole
1 cup milk (you can also use soy cream or half and half)
1 stick butter
1 small carrot, grated and cooked (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1) Put the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in a large saucepan and add water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. Rinse with cold water and then peel. Return potatoes into empty pan and mash with a potato masher. Add cooked carrot.

2) Melt butter in a small saucepan. Let it foam once, cook over low heat until it begins to brown. Then take off the heat and add milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Pour over the potatoes and cook until desired consistency. Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Two recipes

We celebrated our 15th anniversary on August 6th and when I looked at this picture I thought I'd share two recipes. Pumpkin compote (Doce de abóbora) and Fig compote (Doce de figo).

Compotes are very popular all over Brazil. Fruit compotes are made with pieces of fruits cooked on low heat in a thick syrup with spices, usually cloves and cinnamon sticks or even orange peels. You can smash the fruits at the end or not.

Serve compotes warm or chilled, with whipped cream or farmer's cheese. As you see they are easy to make and are very versatile.
Butternut squash compote
2 pounds (1kg) sweet butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (2.5 cm)
2 cups white sugar

1 cinnamon stick
6-8 whole cloves
3 cups water

1) Over medium heat cook sugar in water with cinnamon sticks and cloves until it becomes a thick syrup.

2) Add the pumpkin cubes and cook until the squash is soft and tender, watch it as the pumpkin needs to be tender, but not breaking down into a mush. Serve warm or cold, plain, with whipped cream or soft cheeses, like farmer's cheese.

Green fig compote
2 pounds (1 kg) fresh green figs
2 cups sugar
3 cups water
6-8 whole cloves

1) Wash figs in warm water, lightly rub each one with a cloth. Cut into 4 wedges and let the edges attached. Boil in hot water for one minute.

2) Over medium heat, cook sugar in water with cloves until it becomes a thick syrup. Add figs and cook until they are soft. Serve with whipped cream or plain.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

That old-time real kitchen...

The right place to have comfort food... I found this old time kitchen in a country inn when traveling with family. When my mom got married, 55 years ago, she had a kitchen with wood stove and she says it was not that fun... mainly when it rained, even though I find it so romantic. My mother-in-law's farm kitchen had a stove like that and we had such great conversations on cold Winter evenings.

Some of my friends built a wood stove in their outdoor kitchens and the best part is that you can have warm food all the time.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

White, red and blue cake

This cake was posted here, and it brings me back good memories of my grandma... I am glad we lived closer and I was able to enjoy precious moments with her. Happy 4th!

Friday, June 19, 2009

A passion (fruit) trifle

Portuguese version
Valentine's day in Brazil was June 12th and this reminded me of passion fruit trifle. An elegant dessert and just perfect for any special occasion, like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Fourth of July, Christmas, New Year's, etc. I usually fix this dessert for big crowds.

Passion fruit is widely used here in juices and desserts. The actual name of this fruit in Portuguese has nothing to do with the translation into English, passion fruit is known here as maracuja.

This dessert is usually served as a passion fruit mousse and only the custard and the topping are arranged in a dish, but this time a friend of mine, Sheila, served it as a trifle and shared her mother's recipe.
For the custard
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can heavy cream (use the condensed milk can to measure)
1/2 cup concentrated passion fruit juice

Whisk the condensed milk, the heavy cream and the passion fruit juice until smooth.

For the whipped cream
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Whisk the cream with an electric mixer in a bowl until soft peaks form.

For the trifle
6 thick slices of sponge cake (you can also use graham crackers or cookies)
6 oz (180 g) milk or white chocolate, shaved or squares

For the passion fruit topping
1/2 cup concentrated passion fruit juice
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 passion fruit

1) Scrape the seeded pulp of the fruit into a saucepan, add water, sugar, cornstarch and passion fruit juice. Boil the mixture over medium heat until the sugar granules dissolve completely and the mixture is clear. Remove the pan from the heat.

2) Assemble the trifle. Arrange a layer of cake pieces in the bottom of a serving dish. Pour some of the custard evenly over the cake, sprinkle shaved chocolate and pour whipped cream. Repeat layering, ending with whipped cream.

3) Pour the passion fruit topping, sprinkle more shaved chocolate. Refrigerate.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Who let the bugs out

Breaking the ice... these fake ants can add some fun to any cookout or picnic.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shrimp and bacon jambalaya

Rice is a staple in Brazil and many people have two portions of rice a day and... there is no minute rice available in our grocery stores, so we really make rice from scratch almost everyday. Since rice freezes well, sometimes I prepare a dish a few days ahead, even when I have combined it with other ingredients.

This month's Royal Food Joust hosted by the Leftover Queen is about rice, tomatoes and bacon and these ingredients made me think of a dish my family loves... Jambalaya!

My first experience with jambalaya wasn't a very good one though. I was in Raleigh, NC on a work assignment, so we went to a restaurant in Cary I think, but the chef must have added pepper twice! It was so hot, I could barely eat it! I did not complain to the waiter and I regret that, but you know those restaurant stories that people tell... And that jambalaya looked so good... So when I came back home I tried to replicate the dish and loved it!
Shrimp and bacon jambalaya
2 cups rice
3 tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (250 g) smoked sausage
1/2 pound (250 g) bacon, cubed
1 red bell pepper
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
1 can peeled tomatoes with juice
thyme or oregano to taste
500 g shrimp, deveined
2 tablespoons scallions, diced

1) In a large pot sauté onion, bell pepper, bacon and sausage in oil for 8 to 10 minutes until they are golden. Add rice and minced garlic, then stir to coat the grains with the oil, season with salt and stir-fry about 2 minutes.

2) Add the water. Add peeled tomatoes, spices, and herbs - do not add shrimp at this time. Cover and cook over low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed.

3) While rice is cooking, season shrimp with salt and pepper in a separate bowl. Check the rice after 15 minutes, stir in seasoned shrimp. Cook, covered, about 5 minutes more or until shrimp turns pink and rice is tender. Add scallions and serve.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Frances O'Neal's fig cake

How good it is to have friends who know you so well that whenever they have a chance they send you your favorite food magazines! My friends in England and Canada are very good at this! This time Fabricia who lives in Canada sent me the April issue of Gourmet magazine. Every time I receive a food magazine I read it over and over again.

I like to read when we travel. We visit my parents who live two hours away and my in-laws who live three hours away once a month and we take turns driving, but I love it when my husband offers to drive and I can catch up with my reading. Then I make a list of the recipes to be tried and keep it inside the cover of the magazine to start working on them over the next few weeks.
Each magazine of mine has a list of must-try recipes inside...

And who gets to try my recipes? My family and the small group that meets once a week here.

This fig cake featured in the magazine is from the Back Porch Restaurant and Wine on Ocracoke Island, outer banks of North Carolina. All I needed to use some homemade figs in syrup that my sister-in-law made for my brother and they gracefully shared two jars with me.

I grew up with fig trees in our backyard and I remember that I used to help my mom to clean green figs with a cloth to make preserved figs in syrup. Food memories last forever...

I want to try this same recipe with other fruits like cranberries, blueberries, strawberries and dried fruits such as raisins, prunes, dates etc.

Frances O'Neal's fig cake
Adapted from Gourmet magazine, April 2009

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
½ cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon warm water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup preserved figs in syrup, drained and chopped
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

1) Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C) with rack in middle. Generously butter a 10 cup bundt pan (I used a tube pan).

2) Sift together flour, salt and spices.

3) Beat eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until light and foamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and beat until pale and thick, about 2 minutes. Add oil and beat 1 minute. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour.

4) Stir together baking soda and water until dissolved, then stir into batter along with vanilla, figs and nuts.

5) Pour batter into pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool completely in pan, about 2 hours. Garnish with confectioners sugar or serve with a cream cheese icing.

Green figs in syrup

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Say cheese!

For an easy appetizer, I season thick provolone slices with red pepper, dried oregano and olive oil, then I wrap each round of cheese in plastic wrap for a couple of hours. When guests arrive, I place the provolone rounds on a cheese board and scatter a few cheese knives around it so they can help themselves!

I love kitchen gadgets and I don't mind receiving them as gifts on my birthday and other special dates. The cheese board and the cheese knives were all given to me a long time ago.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A fun lime pie

How do you get kids involved in the kitchen? I bring their world into my kitchen... and we have fun with the ingredients! For this recipe we used... those wonka nerds candies that kids love...

This lime pie goes to the Leftover Queen Royal Foodie Joust. Jenn came back from Italy recently with her so italian husband and the fun and creative ingredients for this joust are... well, actually they are colors! Red, green and white, the colors of the Italian flag!

Lime pie (torta de limão) is a popular dessert in Brazil made with limes (not lemons), sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream and fresh lime juice (no eggs!) with a meringue topping. To please my kids even more I used the whipped cream on top, instead of the meringue... and they sprinkled the wonka candies themselves.
Lime pie

No-fail pie crust
I've made this no-fail pie crust since I was in College.
It makes two 9-inch (22 cm) crusts for savory or sweet pies.

2 to 2-1/3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
1 egg

Filling - it has a mousse consistency
1 can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
1 cup heavy cream (or soy cream - not soy milk)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (or more if you like it tarter)

Garnish with:
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
2 cups whipped cream
1/2 cup wonka nerds candies or any sprinkle mix

1) Make the crust: combine all crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse untill all ingredients hold together (or blend them all in a bowl).

2) Shape dough into 2 balls. (You only need one.) Roll out one dough into 1/8 inch (0.5 cm) thick. Line bottom and sides of an ungreased pie plate. Poke small holes in the bottom with a fork. Bake in the preheated oven at 390°F (200° C) for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool.
  • Wrap remaining dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days or in the freezer for another use.
3) Make the filling: using a whisk beat the sweetened condensed milk, the heavy cream and the lime juice. Pour the mixture into the baked pie shell. Garnish with whipped cream, lime zest and the wonka nerds.

Monday, March 30, 2009

My Easter decor

Easy, charming and inexpensive decor. I use empty eggshells and my african violets to decorate the house and the table for Easter.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Celebrating with popcorn shrimp

To celebrate the end of the Summer in the Southern hemisphere, Saint Patrick's Day and most importantly, my husband's birthday I fixed popcorn shrimp because it was one of the dishes that our family enjoyed so much at Red Lobster when we lived in the US.

Popcorn shrimp
2 pounds (1 kg) small shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 egg whites, slightly beaten
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons coarse cornmeal
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon paprika
salt and black pepper
1 cup vegetable oil for frying

1) Season shrimp with salt and pepper.

2) In a plastic bag add all dry ingredients, add more salt and pepper too. Dip shrimps in beaten egg whites, drop them in bag and shake until they are fully covered with flour mixture.

3) Refrigerate prepared shrimp for about 10 minutes in freezer.

4) Fry shrimp in hot oil. Serve with tartar sauce, hot chili sauce and lime slices.

Sometimes I fix this appetizer with breadcrumbs. I coat shrimp with flour, wash them in egg mixture, then coat them with seasoned breadcrumbs, refrigerate and then fry.

A simple salt shaker turns into a lovely decor item... To my husband, whose graceful existence touches all who surround him and makes our lives more flavorful and blessed.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Eating your words: coffee talk

We think food... and now it is time to write, spell or draw food! These yummy blogs Savor the Thyme and Tangled Noodle came up with a wonderful idea for bloggers to let the food do the talking.

And here is my contribution, I think coffee a lot... Coffee is about taste, fragrance, the aroma of coffee beans filling the air, and memories... I love traveling... and everywhere I have been to has memories of a coffeehouse, and the good times I had with a friend, the way she holds her cup, the conversation we had, the weather, the special times shared together.

Oh... and the morning coffee... The first sip of coffee is a sweet ritual my husband and I have, nothing can take away the moments we spend together sipping a coffee of cup, as sometimes it might be the only quality time in the busy day we have ahead.

So next time the barista (the Italian term for the coffee expert who makes espresso-based drinks) asks what your name is (oops, sorry, Starbucks is just around the corner...) or what you are having, remember that a simple cup of coffee can hold more than just coffee...

How do you like your coffee? Walking into a coffeehouse or café may be an adventure these days as you try to figure out the words on the board... Not to mention the names in French or Italian that are already part of our coffeehouse menus.

Not sure what to order? Espresso is freshly brewed by steam and pressure and it is more concentrated than the drip or filtered coffee. If you are not sure you like your coffee strong... go with a café americano, that is made with espresso, but diluted with water, and you are still having an espresso! We also have this version in Brazil, it is called "carioca," just in case you visit... Or you can have a cappuccino, the most popular espresso-based drink in the world.

Cappuccino with dulce de leche (milk caramel)

Espresso-based coffees - finely ground coffee brewed by steam and pressure. Just to mention a few espresso beverages I recall seeing on coffeehouse menus:
- Latté: espresso with steamed milk
- Cappuccino: espresso with hot milk and steamed-milk foam, and cinnamon please...
- Mocha: latté with chocolate
- Café au lait: half espresso, half milk
- Espresso com panna: espresso with cream (whipped cream)
- Macchiato: it means stained or marked, so it is an espresso lightly marked with milk.
- Café breve: espresso with steamed half and half, it is creamy.
- And so on...

To join in the fun, blog about your creation, including photos, and add a link back to Savor the Thyme and Tangled Noodle. The details are here.

Coffee beans
Round-up part I: Savor the Thyme
Round-up part II: Tangled Noodle

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chocolate Truffle with Mole Sauce

A friend brought a bottle of mole sauce by Rancho la California from Mexico and I wanted to make something special for my husband. It turns out that he's allergic to one of the sauce ingredients, and I forgot!!! Anyway, since my kids enjoy chocolate truffle so much, with this one it wasn't any different, it was love at the first bite, I had post it! And this recipe goes to my little Valentines...

When you take the first bite you experience a sweet flavor from the milk chocolate, then your taste buds notice the pepper. Inside the truffle the creamy mixture is soft and smooth, with a rich texture that can be enhanced with the addition of grapes, strawberries, cherries, brandy etc.

Chocolate Truffles with Mole Sauce
7 oz (200 g) heavy cream (I used soy cream)
8 oz (250 g) milk chocolate, cut into small pieces
5 oz (150 g) semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon mole sauce (optional - this recipe works without the sauce)

Filling (optional)
Seedless grapes, cherries, blueberries, etc. - these are optional, you can make truffles without any filling and they still taste great!

I think my favorite truffle filling is passion-fruit cream, it tastes so Brazilian!

1/2 cup unsweetened dry cocoa

Make the truffle mixture
In a double boiler, melt milk chocolate and semisweet chocolate. Add heavy cream and stir until smooth. Add mole sauce if using, stir again. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.

Shape and coat truffles
Scoop a teaspoon of chocolate mixture. Use a small cookie scoop to do this or form ball with your hands. If adding a fruit, do it now, then then roll the truffle in cocoa. Store and cool in airtight container until ready to serve.

Yields 22 truffles.
Chocolate Truffles With Mole Sauce on Foodista

Friday, January 30, 2009

Caldo Verde - A Portuguese Soup - Grow Your Own #24

When I first had Caldo Verde, a classic Portuguese "green soup," a friend who had just returned from Portugal fixed it for me the way she was taught there. During a visit, she started telling me about Portugal and the foods she had tried there and to make things short, she went to my kitchen and started cooking for me!!!

I would love to visit Portugal one day... Especially because my mom's maiden name is Portuguese but we never found out any information on relatives because she lost her father when she was very young.

For this recipe you just need potatoes, sausage (chourico), onions, olive oil and kale. It is such an easy recipe, that sometimes I make Caldo Verde from leftover mashed potato and use my slow cooker.

Caldo Verde is so soothing... it means comfort food to me!

This is my contribution to Grow Your Own #24 event that Andrea's Recipes is hosting this month. If you make a dish with ingredients from your own garden or was given something someone grew or raised you can post about it!

I used kale from my mother-in-law's garden that I picked myself.

Caldo Verde

2 pounds (1 kg) potato, peeled, and cubed
8 cups water or chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (and more for drizzling)
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
8 oz (250 g) Portuguese sausage/chorizo, sliced on the diagonal (Italian smoked sausage works great)
1 pound (500 g) kale, stems removed, leaves thinly sliced or shredded
Coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

1) Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and oil in a deep pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion until it softens, about 6 minutes, add garlic and stir until it releases its fragrance. Add the water, potatoes and salt. Simmer about 15 minutes or until potatoes are very tender.

2) Using an immersion blender or your blender, puree the soup. Add the sliced sausage and pepper and boil for about 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Add kale and boil another 3 minutes. Pour the soup into soup bowls, serve warm with a drizzle of olive oil on top.
  • In Portugual Caldo Verde is usually served with a Portuguese cornbread called broa. Here in Brazil we use Italian bread.
  • Sometimes I fry the sliced sausage until they are crispy and then add to the soup. It seems to boost the flavor of this hearty and satisfying soup.


I want to thank my good blogging friend at Tangled Noodle who passed me an award! She loves Brazilian food and thanks to Foodbuzz we became friends and... we even have plans to meet here!

Check all the great recipes for this edition of Grow Your Own visiting the roundup that Andrea posted on her blog.