Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Add some flavor to that baked potato!

This is a fast and easy way to add a little flavor to your baked potatoes. You cut open that steamy potato and add lots of toppings...cheese, sour cream, and butter, but once all that is gone, the rest of the potato tends to be pretty bland. The flavor of bay leaf is a great addition to your baked potatoes!

Simply make a deep slit in your uncooked potato and tuck a bay leaf as far down as you can go.
Wrap and bake as you would normally do. Remove the bay leaf before eating. Sometimes I will bake the potato for a couple of minutes just to soften it slightly, which makes it easier to get the bay leaf in there. The fragrant aroma of the bay leaf permeates the flesh of the potato. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Black Pepper and Parmesan Biscotti

I must have thousands of recipes piled into binders, file folders, ripped out of magazines, and bookmarked in the small cookbook collection I feel is worth taking up space on my bookshelf. I've decided to start pulling a handful of recipes out at a time, trying them, and if they are keepers, they'll get filed in my recipe book. These biscotti are delicious. A nice peppery bite and the salty kick from the parmesan cheese. I cut the recipe in half, but you could easily make the entire recipe, and freeze the formed dough or half baked biscotti for a quick snack when unexpected guests arrive. These would be good on their own, but I'd serve them with a quick white bean dip. The creamy subtle flavor of the dip pairs perfectly!

Black Pepper and Parmesan Biscotti
from Gourmet Magazine

1 1/2 T whole black peppercorns
4 cups AP flour, plus additional for dusting board
2 t. baking powder
2 t salt
4 1/2 oz. Parmesan (2 1/4 c)
1 1/2 sticks cold UNsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 L eggs
1 c whole milk

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees
Pulse peppercorns in a spice grinder, or place in a Ziploc and bang out some aggression until they are coarsely ground. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, 2 cups of cheese, and 1 T pepper in a large bowl. Blend in the butter with a pastry cutter or your finger tips until it looks like course meal. Whisk THREE of the eggs with the milk and combine with the flour, using a fork, until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and quarter the dough. Form each into a slightly flattened 12 inch long log. ~ 2 inches wide and 3/4 inches high. Transfer to ungreased baking sheets, spacing about 3 inches apart. Whisk the remaining egg and brush over the top of the logs. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and black pepper. Bake 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half way through. Remove from the oven, cool about 10 minutes, until easy to handle. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Cut the biscotti into 1/2 inch slices and arrange, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake, turning the biscotti over once, about 35-45 minutes. The recipe says the biscotti will keep in an airtight container at room temperature approx. 2 weeks. Serve along side this delicious white bean dip! Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Strawberries and Fresh Whipped Cream

Strawberries and whipped cream has to be one of the most underrated desserts! So simple, fresh, light and easy to whip together. I bought some strawberries from the local grocery store last week and they are sweeter than candy. Ripe and ruby red, so delicious. I whipped some heavy cream with a bit of powdered sugar and vanilla and dolloped it on top of freshly sliced strawberries. So good!

Whipped Cream

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 T sugar

1/2 tspn. vanilla extract

Beat the heavy cream until it starts to thicken. Add the sugar followed by the vanilla and beat until soft peaks form. Do not over beat, or the cream will break and you'll get butter! Which isn't bad, but not with our berries. Dollop over fresh cut strawberries, just before serving. Indulgent!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sofrito Revisted

In Puerto Rican cooking Sofrito is a pureed blend of peppers, onions, and garlic. It is used to season just about any dish you cook. I make enough sofrito to last me a few weeks and keep it in the refrigerator because I go through it so quickly, but it can be portioned in ice cube trays and kept in the freezer until you need it. It's a delicious base flavor for spanish rice, soups, Carne Guisado (beef stew), black beans. You name it! It comes together very quickly and saves you the hassle of dicing onions and peppers for every dish you make. Don't even think about the jarred stuff in the ethnic aisle of the grocery store. Try it, you'll love it!


1 large green pepper

1 aneheim chili pepper

1 bunch culantro

1 bunch cilantro

1 head of garlic (about 12 cloves)

1 large yellow onion

Olive oil

If you cannot find culantro just substitute with a bunch of cilantro, making two bunches total for this recipe.

Cut everything in pieces small enough for your food processor or blender to puree. Add just enough olive oil to keep the blender moving. Puree until smooth and store in a jar in the fridge, or freeze in smaller portions until ready to use.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Brickle! Salty, Chocolatey, Toffee! Yum!

This confection is the most sinful combination of salty and sweet! A salty crunch with the snap of the sweet golden toffee and a melt in your mouth oh so smooth chocolate layer, you'll be reaching for more... and more... and more!

Brickle is very easy to make and will keep in your fridge for quite some time. It can be made on a cookie sheet OR if you can find a square shaped "muffin" pan, you can use that for individual servings. Either works perfectly and is a matter of preference. You may use any chocolate that you prefer. The toffee is rather sweet, so I like using a semi sweet chocolate.

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tspn. baking soda
soda crackers
1 package semi sweet, bitter sweet or milk chocolate chips

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare your baking sheet by lining with parchment. Lay a single layer of soda crackers and set aside. Combine the butter, sugar, and baking soda in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the butter melts. The mixture will foam up. Stir constantly until the foam subsides. Pour the toffee over the crackers making sure to cover each one entirely. Bake for ten minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle chocolate evenly over all the crackers. Let the chocolate harden slightly and place in the refrigerator to set. Break apart and store in an airtight container. Sprinkle the chocolate while still warm with any assortment of toppings such as chopped nuts for an added tecture and taste!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Flan de Queso (Cream Cheese Flan)

This is the most delicious, decadent, and simple dessert to make! Flan de Queso is a cream cheese flan which is much creamier than the traditional flan. My dad, who claims he doesn't have much of a sweet tooth will go back to the fridge several times cutting another slice and yet another! For many people it reminds them of cheesecake and is much easier to make. The custard is cooked in a bano de maria (ban marie) which seems intimidating to many people, but is simply pouring hot water into a larger dish that the custard is baked in.

Flan de Queso

1 8 oz. block cream cheese
6 eggs
1 T vanilla extract
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 cup sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Start by bringing all of your ingredients to room temperature. Pour one cup of sugar in a small saucepan and put it over low heat watching it carefully until it melts and turns golden. This can be the most tricky part of the recipe, but as long as you use a little patience and avoid turning up the heat, you should be fine. Pour the melted sugar in the bottom of a 9 inch glass pie dish and immediately swirl to coat the bottom. The sugar will harded rather quickly. Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add one egg at a time, mixing just until combined, followed by the vanilla. Add the condensed milk and lastly the evaporated. Pour the custard into the dish and cover with foil. Place the dish in a larger roasting pan with enough room for the water to make contact with the entire dish. I place the pan in the oven and then pour the water in, about half the way up. Bake about 50 minutes, although most recipes call for more than an hour of baking. Test the flan with a knife and pull out of the water bath when done, otherwise it will continue to cook.
Chill several hours, preferably overnight. When ready to serve run a knife around the edge of the flan and place a plate over the top and flip. Let the caramel drip down the sides of the flan and serve!
Que Rico!!

Garlic Germ?

A quick and simple solution can bring all your dreams of garlicky goodness back!

If you have a problem digesting garlic this could be the reason why! The center core of the garlic is known as the germ. When garlic is very fresh and young, the center germ is much more tender and less bitter than when it ages. Most people shopping in stores aren't getting garlic at its very best and the germ has begun to turn a bit green and takes on a bitter taste, which is also very difficult to digest.
To eliminate this problem simply slice the clove in half using a pairing knife and pull it away and peel it out. You can see in the photo above that the core comes out in one piece and can be pulled away! I did this when cooking for a boss of mine that complained of this very thing . . . . and it made a big difference! Try it out!