Thursday, October 20, 2005

Macaroni and Cheese

With so much tasting and testing involving ice cream lately, plus the weather that does not decide if it really is going to be fall or not (it was 85 degrees F yesterday), both Matheus and I developed some sore throat… oh well, it was for a good cause!
We had strawberry-banana shake for breakfast, as Matheus did not want to eat anything, so in order to get him to eat something for lunch I decided to make one of his favorites: Macaroni and Cheese.
Pure American food, every kid likes macaroni and cheese here! I had never eaten or heard of it until I came to the US; pasta at my house was usually spaghetti with mom’s tomato sauce on Sundays!
I kind of created my own recipe today, did not measure or anything, and you know what, it was one of the best macaroni and cheese I had! Not many ingredients, very easy to make and Matheus liked it too! I am not the biggest fan of this dish, I much prefer an Alfredo sauce, but this one came out nice, and much better than the boxed stuff (which I don’t like at all).
I cooked the macaroni, drained and reserved. Added a tablespoon of butter to the pan (the same one I used to cook the pasta), and then evaporated milk (about a 1 cup) with some flour dissolved in it (2 teaspoons maybe). Let it sort of cook and thicken a little over medium heat, season with a little bit dry mustard, salt and pepper to taste, then added shredded cheddar cheese until it reached a creamy and cheese consistency. Added back the cooked pasta and stirred.
Easy and simple! Not fancy at all, but definitely comfort food!


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The chocolate sauce experiment…

I don’t know why, but I really got a craving for chocolate sauce this week! Yesterday I decided to try two more recipes in my quest to find the best chocolate sauce. I did some research over different recipes, some had corn syrup (which I don’t like but though would be some sort of key ingredient), others did not have it but had heavy cream instead, and that actually was the key here! It was so obvious and I don’t know why I did not think of it before, the best chocolate sauce had to have some sort of ganache-quality to it!
One of the sauces I tried yesterday had corn syrup in it, and it was definitely not my favorite at all. The other one was almost a ganache sauce, with more liquid than chocolate in it, and this was “the chocolate sauce” I was looking for. I made up the sauce (after reading lots of other recipes), it is super simple and have just a few ingredients, which I measured and took note as I cooked so I could share here with you. I found a great recipe yesterday, and the one I first tried over the weekend ended up not being so bad at all.
I am going to post here the two recipes we liked the most, one is a little “lighter”, and the other one is “super good”! And when it comes to having ice cream, the “super good” category definitely comes first to me!


My Chocolate Sauce!
¼ cup milk
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
3 oz semisweet chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)

Simmer milk, cream, sugar, and butter over medium heat, just to warm them up and get the sugar dissolved. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Simmer over medium heat for 1 or 2 more minutes, until it thickens slightly.

Rich Chocolate Sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup fat-free milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine sugar and cocoa in a small saucepan; stir in milk and butter. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate and vanilla, stirring until chocolate melts. Serve warm or let stand 10 minutes to thicken. Yield: 1 1/2 cups.

Cooking Light, January 2002.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Oatmeal… Yumy!

After a few days without posting I am back to talk about something I love and that instantly brings me comfort just to think about it: oatmeal!
I love oatmeal in everything from cakes, to cookies and muffins too, but the way I like to eat oatmeal the most is in its simplest form, cooked with milk and sugar. My mom used to make this for us all the time for breakfast, especially during the cold months. Sometimes she would also make these bowls of warm oatmeal for us to eat before bedtime. In Brazil it is not usual to have heating systems in the houses, so the oatmeal was more than welcome during the winter, warming up our bodies and soul before we went to bed.

When I had Matheus my mom and my sister came to stay with us and help during the first month (and what a big help that was!), and she made oatmeal for me every night. I would nurse Matheus and come to the kitchen to have some warm and deliciously sweet oatmeal with my mom and my sister, and it was so comfortingly good, sweet and creamy and best of all: made by my mommy! And you know how good it is to have someone special with you when you are going through such adaptation period.

After she went back I still would make my oatmeal every night before going to bed for a few hours of sleep, sometimes I would sit down and enjoy it warm, sometimes the plan didn’t work well as Matheus would wake up just as I sat down to eat, or even when I was in the middle of the cooking/stirring process… so some nights I would end up with cold oatmeal, or no oatmeal at all, but it was worth not to eat it and go comfort my baby boy, as now I have my own company to eat oatmeal with! (Hubby is not a fan of the sutff…) Matheus also loves oatmeal and to sit and enjoy it with me, and this to me is the best thing in the world! Even more because he says my oatmeal is “the best ever”!

Among doctor’s appointments, school projects, swimming lessons, and a lot more, I managed to find some time and made some oatmeal for us on Friday night. Yes, Matheus and I had oatmeal for dinner, and it was the best dinner of the week I might add!

This thyroid hormone thing is still not quite right, so my body is on an adjustment craziness that sometimes get me down a bit, and nothing better than some yummy comfort food to help us feel good again.

I was in need of some pick me up on Friday, so I decided to make oatmeal for dinner and Matheus loved the idea as much as I did. We were talking about it when he suggested we put some fruit in our oatmeal, so I remembered a recipe I saw on CL a few months ago for Oatmeal with Apples, Hazelnuts, and Flaxseeds. I tried to make it as written, and almost succeeded, the only except was that I burnt the hazelnuts… the good thing is that I did not miss them at all!

My mom always cook oatmeal with milk and sugar, and that is what I did with mine (I could not help myself, it was weird to have a "recipe for oatmeal". I always make it my moms way, this time I tried my best to stick to the recipe tough). I made ½ recipe and used more milk than the recipe says (2 cups for ½ recipe), added the sugar during the cooking process (instead of sprinkling on top), I added it to taste, did not measure it at all, and I slightly toasted the almonds we sprinkled on top, just to give them a crunch and bring out their nice flavor. I always make my oatmeal just my mom’s do, cooking it over medium heat, stirring it all the time (so it won’t stick to the bottom of the pan), until thick and creamy. It is soooo good, I LOVE oatmeal!

I liked the apple version; the apples came out nice and soft. I did not use granny smith though, as I like my cooked apples more on the sweet side. As you see I kind of ended up making my moms oatmeal with a few new twists, and I will post here the CL recipe in case you want to try!
(The proportions I always make is 1 cup of milk for 3 heaping tablespoons of oatmeal, sugar to taste)

Today I wanted ice cream with chocolate sauce… we bought the ice cream and I decided to adventure myself with the sauce. It came out good but not exactly as I wanted, not fudgy enough, so I will not post the first recipe I tested. Instead, I am going to experiment during the week and when I find out the right recipe I will share here with you all!

Until then, let me ask you guys, do you have a recipe for some fudgy chocolate sauce? The recipe I tested used cocoa, sugar, milk, butter, and semisweet chocolate chips. It came out nice looking and good tasting too, but still not as I wanted. I am guessing I need some corn syrup to make it sort of fudge-like, right?! (Not a big fan of corn syrup though…)

Just one more thing, off topic and nothing to do with food, but… does your husband (significant other) also doesn’t notice when you get a hair cut or is it just mine?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!
(Yes, oatmeal is comforting and makes you very happy when you get abrand new hair cut!)


Ice cream and chocolate sauce
, first attempt.

Oatmeal with Apples, Hazelnuts, and Flaxseed
1/4 cup hazelnuts
3 cups fat-free milk
1 1/2 cups regular oats
1 1/2 cups diced Granny Smith apple (about 1 medium)
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350°.
Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes, stirring once. Turn nuts out onto a towel. Roll up towel; rub off skins. Finely chop nuts, and set aside.
Combine milk and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir in vanilla. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until thick. Sprinkle with hazelnuts, brown sugar, and almonds.
Cooking Light – May 2005

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Rainy days…

It has been wet and rainy, cloudy for the past 5 or 6 days and I think if it keeps raining like this I am going to start growing mold… I don’t like cold weather, even more when it rains all the time. I want sunshine, please!
As boring as they are, these cold days inspire me to make soup, and soup is always a good thing! Not much cooking yesterday, but Monday I made a soup I like a lot, Acorn Squash and Apple Soup. I got the recipe from a website called justvegetable recipes, but I changed it so much that I don’t even look at the recipe anymore when I am making it. Soup is something that I kind of get inspired to make and eat, and most of the time I just throw whatever I am in the mood for (or have in the fridge) in the pot, some broth and seasonings and there is my soup! There are some soups that I try recipes and others that I look at the recipe and kind of make it my way, which is the case with this one.
I had an acorn squash and some apples from the farmers market, so decided to make this soup once again (I have made this a zillion times, it is one of my favorite soups!). I have also made this one using butternut squash and it is even better than with acorn.
I took a picture of the squash and believe it or not, forgot to take a picture of the final soup… oops! Well, just imagine a thick and orange – yellowish soup, ultra creamy and flavorful, yummy; I guess you’ve got the idea!
I am posting below the way I make the soup, but you can vary it to suit your tastes. You can use different varieties of winter squashes, omit the apple, and add ginger or other spices you might like. It can even be served with a dollop of yogurt on top. I like mine just as is, pure and simple, creamy and velvety smooth!
Besides the soup, I baked an apple cake to use the peels from all the apples I used in the apple pie. The apples are great, but the peels are full of vitamins and fibers, and I did not want to waste it. So I put them in a pan, covered with apple cider and cooked over low heat until the cider evaporated, then processed them in the blender and made a very tasty applesauce, which I used in the cake together with one diced apple. I am going to post the original recipe for the cake below, as it is super simple, and great for the cold months. And besides using the applesauce (for the peels called in the recipe), I used 1 cup of all-purpose and 1 cup of whole-wheat flour, and only 1 cup of sugar (as my applesauce was already sweet due to the apple cider reduction). As you will see I baked mine in muffin tins, so I could easily freeze the leftovers for breakfast.
Very easy to make and tasty too! This recipe I got from a Brazilian site called, a friend named Clemente posted it in the bulletin boards.


Acorn Squash and Apple Soup

1 cooked acorn squash

1 ½ cups chicken broth (may need less or more, depending on how thick you like your soup)

1 diced apple, peeled

¼ cup chopped onions

½ cup apple juice (or cider)

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the apple, onion and ½ cup of broth in a pan, cook over low heat until the apple is soft, about 8 minutes or so. Add cooked squash, apple juice, and remaining chicken broth, until you reach desired consistency. Season to taste and cook covered until flavors have blended and ingredients are tender, about10 minutes more (you may add more broth if needed). Puree soup in blender in batches, return to the pot, add a tablespoon of butter (if desired) and reheat gently.

Notes: To cook the squash you can boil it, bake it (halved, seeded, cut side down in a baking sheet), or microwave it. I learned how to cook it easily in the microwave and have been doing this way ever since: “stab” the whole squash with a knife (just as we do with a fork to baking potato), do it slowly and carefully and make sure to go all the way through the cavity, microwave it for 10 to 20 minutes, until soft and squishy (depends on size of squash). I microwave it whole, then it is easy to cut and remove the seeds, just wait for the squash to cool down a bit, and be careful because it is hot inside. Remove seeds and scoop out the pulp to use in the soup!

Apple and Cinnamon Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
½ cup canola oil
3 apples, cored, peeled, and diced – reserve the peels
3 eggs
1-tablespoon ground cinnamon
1-tablespoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and the diced apples, set aside.
Puree in the blender the apple peels, eggs, oil, and sugar. Add mixture to dry ingredients and mix until combined well. Pour batter into a greased and floured pan and bake in pre-heated oven for 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Notes: muffins baked in 20 minutes.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Apple Pie!

If someday I had to choose a pie it would definitely be apple! I like apples a lot, and during the cold months my favorite way to eat them is either cooked or baked. I love apple crisps (peach and blueberries too!) and cobblers, they are easy to make, warm and comfortingly good!
Since I have had a few disasters with pastry dough I settled myself into making crisps when I wanted some warm desert, and I actually prefer crisps to pie.
However, as challenging as it is, I wanted to make an apple pie this fall. So I went to the farmers market (one of my favorite places) last week to see what I could get and was faced with tons of apples, different varieties, from the tart to the most sweet ones. Needles to say I came back home with a full bag of yummy crispy apples, and some delicious apple cider too!
For eating raw I like the Fuji ones, they are crispy and crunchy, tart and sweet, kind of “cider-like” in taste, but for pies I wanted to have a mix of them, so I filled my bag with a couple of each of the ones that were said to be good in pies and hold their shapes, and there were so many varieties that I don’t even remember which ones I got!
I chose a recipe that was posted on the CL bulletin board, however the recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated. It is called Classic Apple Pie, and is actually not that difficult to make at all. I took my time and got all the right ingredients, made the dough and let it rest in the fridge overnight, Saturday morning I assembled the pie and baked, everything just as the recipe said. And the recipe is good, because I did not have one little bit of problem with the dough, and the pie came out great!

The only thing I did different was to omit the lemon zest (thought it would be too strong), the allspice (did not have), and the nutmeg (not a big fan of it in sweets). Also, I added a tablespoon of flour to the filling (because I was afraid the apples would give out their juices and make the pie wet), and brushed the top with milk instead of egg white. For everything else I followed the recipe and will do the same when I make it again, which is very likely so.
The crust was flaky and crispy and soft, and the apples came out nice, not mushy at all, just perfectly cooked, sweet and “cinnamonwy”! A good pie and I was very proud of myself because this was definitely my best pie of all!
Now I am going ask here a question for those who like to make and eat pies: I used vegetable shortening in the dough, but I am not a big fan of it myself (and now I am stuck with a whole can of the stuff leftover in the pantry). I saw recipes for pie dough that only used butter, but since most of them ask for a combination of butter and shortening I decided to try it this time. My question is: how is pie dough made only with butter? I know that the shortening makes it flaky, but how is it taste wise?
To be true… I don’t really care for the dough, what I like in the pie is the filling, so flakiness is not a big deal with me. I know taste is something very particular to each one of us, and that the best way to see the difference will be trying it myself, but I wanted to ask and see the different opinions in the subject, you know, it is nice to be able to talk to more people and get real reviews about foods you like.
Thanks for visiting and I hope you try the pie too!


Classic Apple Pie (Cook's Illustrated)
Serves 8

Pie Dough
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour , plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter chilled, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
8 tablespoons vegetable shortening (chilled)
6 - 8 tablespoons water (iced)

Apple Filling
2 (cookbook says 1 1/2 pounds) pounds Granny Smith apples (4 medium)
2 pounds McIntosh apples (4 medium)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest from 1 medium lemon
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 egg white , beaten lightly

1. Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor workbowl fitted with the steel blade. Add butter and pulse to mix in five 1-second bursts. Add shortening and continue pulsing until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, four or five more 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl. (To do this by hand, freeze the butter and shortening, grate it into the flour using the large holes of a box grater, and rub the flour-coated pieces between your fingers for a minute until the flour turns pale yellow and coarse.)
2. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water over mixture. Press mixture together with broad side of rubber spatula, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if dough will not hold together. Squeeze dough gently until cohesive and divide into two equal balls. Flatten each into a 4-inch-wide disk. Dust lightly with flour, wrap separately in plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling.
3. Remove dough from refrigerator. If stiff and very cold, let stand until dough is cool but malleable. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 425 degrees.
4. Roll one dough disk on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Fold dough in quarters, then place dough point in center of 9-inch Pyrex regular or deep dish pie pan. Unfold dough.
5. Gently press dough into sides of pan leaving portion that overhangs lip of pie plate in place. Refrigerate while preparing fruit.
6. Peel, core, and cut apples into 1/2-to-3/4-inch slices and toss with 3/4 cup sugar and lemon juice and zest through allspice. Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center. Roll out other dough round and place over filling. Trim top and bottom edges to 1/2 inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute edging or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits at right angles on dough top. Brush egg white onto top of crust and sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
7. Bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees; continue baking until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to almost room temperature, at least 4 hours.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

I want my mommy!

I think I am homesick… I have been missing my family a lot lately. This past few days have been so rainy and gray that I started craving some good comfort food. And one of the best comfort foods my mom makes is Polenta with Stewed Chicken. As polenta I mean the soft kind, and there is something about it that makes even my heart warm!
My grandmother used to make it for the whole family, a big nice pot of creamy polenta in the center of the table and everybody gathered around. Next to it a pan with the best chicken stew, full of flavor, perfectly seasoned, made with a free-range bird that probably came from one of the neighbor’s chicken collection. Oh my, talk about tasty! My mom then would make the same dish at our home, and hers was just as good, the polenta so creamy and delicious and the chicken also divine!
And I don’t know what they both have been hiding from me, but I still cannot get the same flavors when I try to make the chicken myself. It still comes out very good, but there must be something I am missing because the sauce does not come out quite the same, or maybe the fact that someone else made it for you makes it even better and more special, yes, I guess that is it!
I was craving polenta with chicken, but what I really wanted was to ask my mom to make it for me… if only I could go to one place today, that would definitely be my mother’s kitchen, and there I would be mom, and my dad, and my sister, all waiting for me to eat polenta together!
Well, unfortunately all this would not be possible, so I made some polenta for us today, and boy it was good!! It did satisfy my cravings, bringing me back some wonderful memories like no other food could ever do.
I ended up not making the chicken, but made some fresh tomato sauce to go with the polenta, using a bunch of tomatoes that we got from the garden this past week (probably the last bunch, and I was actually surprised to see such bounty this time of the year), and we had it all with roasted chicken. Not quite my ideal for a polenta meal (I missed the stewed chicken), but still it was good, and the polenta came out just as I wanted it to.
I did not use a recipe for the tomato sauce; I sautéed some onions and garlic in olive oil, pureed in the blender a bunch of tomatoes and added them to the pan. Seasoned with salt and pepper and simmered until the flavors were concentrated and the sauce reduced down. At the end I added some fresh chopped parsley, just to brighten up the flavor.
The polenta however I always make the way my mom taught me to! It is the easiest and simplest thing, but you need to have a pressure cooker… that is the only way I make polenta, and here it is how it works: the ratio is for every cup of cornmeal you will need 4 cups of water. (polenta can be made in a normal pot, but you need to stir constantly and as it boils it also splaters all around the stove and makes a huge mess...!)

My mom's Polenta: In the pressure cooker bring to a boil 2 cups of water with 1-tablespoon butter and 1 cube of bouillon (vegetable, chicken, beef, whatever you prefer). In a bowl combine 2 cups of water and 1 cup of cornmeal, whisk together until the cornmeal dissolves. Slowly add the cornmeal mixture to the boiling water in the pan, mixing constantly with a wooden spoon so it won’t lump up. Close the pressure cooker and cook it for 30 minutes at medium heat (start counting the time as soon as the cooker gets pressure – making that “tchu tchu” noise). You can double the recipe, and in that case my mom says you should cook it for 40 minutes. Easy, simple and delicious!
Some people add butter and grated cheese to the hot polenta. However, my mom used to make it the simplest way and that is how I like to eat, but definitely feel free to improve the flavors of the polenta yourself, as butter and cheese makes everything even tastier and creamier.
That is it for today, but come back to visit because I have a nice new recipe to share. It is still cooling in the counter so I will post the recipe and picture tomorrow. Until then I will give you a sneak peak… can you guess what it is?


Thursday, October 06, 2005

D is for…

Doughnut… Cookies that is! Today was Matheu’s show and tell and the letter of the week was D, so we made some “Doughnut Cookies”. When I started with our “letter-baking project” I already know I would be trying this cookies for letter d week. I saw them at Joe’s blog, Culinary in the Desert, and since then was just waiting for an excuse to bake them and have some fun in the kitchen. And fun we had yesterday! The cookies were super simple to make and the dough very easy to work with, plus Matheus had a blast with the decorations; our kitchen was happy and colorful, not to mention full of sprinkles!
I made the dough Tuesday and let it rest in the fridge overnight, baked the cookies yesterday morning and then Matheus and I decorated then in the afternoon. A fun project that was a hit with the kids at preschool!
The cookies are simple and not too sweet (which I like), so the glaze complements them well. Matheus loved his doughnuts and so did daddy, I was glad the recipe yielded a lot (48 cookies). And I could not believe when my “gourmet hubby” said he liked the doughnut cookies better than the macaroons…(can you tell he is definitely NOT a foodie?!?!?!)
A fun day in the kitchen, besides I am very pleased with having accomplished two successful cookie recipes in a row!
Thanks Joe for sharing your recipe for the doughnut cookies!
Now I am trying to find something with E that the kids will like… I can’t think of anything else besides eggplant, endives, and escarole… all of which I don’t think would make for a good snack… and Matheus suggested eggs!


Doughnut Cookie's (adapted from King Arthur Cookie Companion)

2 tbls canola oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs - room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
4 oz confectioners' sugar (1 cup)
10 1/2 oz all-purpose flour (2 1/2 cups)

4 oz confectioners' sugar (1 cup)
4 tsp milk
4 tsp light corn syrup
Your choice of food coloring

Directions - Dough
Beat oil, butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking powder, and sugar until smooth in a medium bowl. Add flour, beating until smooth. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Scoop the dough into 2 teaspoon sized balls. Roll the balls into ropes about 4 inches long and about 1/2 in diameter. Coil the ropes into round doughnut shapes, leaving a small hole in the middle.
Place the cookies on the baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Place in the oven and bake for about 18 minutes. They will have just a slight golden color on top - but will not be brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack and cool completely before icing.

Directions - Icing
Place 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar into 4 tiny bowls. Add 1 tsp milk and 1 tsp corn syrup to each bowl. Stir until you have made a spreadable icing - add milk drop by drop until you reach the desired consistency. Tint the icing in each bowl a different color.
Dip the top of each cookie in one of the icings and place back on rack to let the frosting harden completely.
Yield: 42 cookies

(Check out Joe's post and pictures here:

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

“Squashy” day!

At $0.38 a pound I could not contain myself today when saw such squash sale at the grocery store, and so I bought home a spaghetti, an acorn, and a butternut squash! Yum! However, it wasn’t so difficult to decide which one to make first, as I was craving the flavors of butternut, my favorite squash of all! I like pumpkins and all of the others, but no winter squash is as creamy and delicious as the butternut. It has a firm and bright orange flesh, which turns into perfection once roasted or cooked. Hence its name, it is really buttery and creamy, deliciously loaded with vitamins, healthy and good for you!
So today I made roasted butternut squash. I was thinking about making soup but the squash was so delicious that we ended up eating it just pureed, oh my, talk about creaminess!
Whenever I think about pumpkin I remember my grandmother and when she used to make her “pumpkin compotes” (Doce de Abobora). She would clean up big pumpkins and chunk them, then cook the squash in a large iron pot with cinnamon, cloves, and enough sugar to make it a delectable sweet concoction. The compote itself was really sweet, but every single one in the family simply loved that one, even the non-pumpkin eaters. And for me besides the compote there was also the pumpkin seeds, which she would roast in a skillet, sprinkle some salt and call it a snack. What a nice and crunchy snack it was! I loved the pumpkin compote and those little seeds even more, plus it was fun to watch her shake the skillet swirling all the seeds around, and as they got toasted they would start to pop, cracking and bursting out of the pan, nutrition and entertainment at the same time!
I remember all this from my early years and to this day there is no way I will open a pumpkin (and any sort of squash for that matter) and not separate the seeds for a toasty snack. And I guess some of our tastes may pass to our kids through our genes, because every single time I make pumpkin/squash the first thing Matheus asks is “mommy, did you make those pumpkin seeds?” Once he tried the seed he also fell in love with it. Today I toasted the butternut seeds and I actually like them better than the pumpkin ones, they are smaller and get even crunchier! I toast them in the skillet, as my grandmother did, with a little bit of olive oil and salt to taste; I also add a little bit ground pepper, garlic salt and paprika, so they get spicy and flavorful. As I was toasting the seeds today it came to me that you might even be able to make them sweet, by adding sugar and cinnamon to it. However, I had so much sugar yesterday that the salty ones were perfect for today!
And as I said it was a “squashy” day, because besides the butternut I woke up early and used some leftover pumpkin to bake pumpkin muffins for breakfast this morning. I have seen lots of pumpkin recipes lately and ended up creating my own. It came out so good that I could not even believe it I made them myself! The muffins rose nicely, were moist and tender, with a hint of cinnamon and a not at all overpowering pumpkin flavor, just sweet enough for a warm breakfast treat. Very good, and I liked it a lot!
I will post the recipe here, it was so easy and simple to make that you may also enjoy it yourself. Today I only added cinnamon, but believe that ground cloves would do wonders to the pumpkin flavors on this one (pumpkin pie spice might work even better). I definitely need to buy some ground cloves on my next stop at the grocery store.
Well, that is it for today, happy pumpkin eating for you all too!


Roasted Butternut Squash puree

Toasted seeds

Pumpkin Muffins
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon canola oil
dash salt, optional

Preheat oven to 375 F. Sift together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl mix pumpkin, brown sugar, milk, yogurt, egg, and oil until blended. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients and stir just until incorporated. Pour batter into 9 greased muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Ohh… the Macaroons!

When I saw Marcia’s post about French Macaroons in her blog (A vida escrita a mao) I knew I had to try them. I have always heard about macaroons and never had I seen neither eaten one of those cookies. But as soon as I saw Marcia’s picture I could not resist… it was definitely love at first sight! They were so beautiful and delicate, perfect rounds filled with chocolate that instantly made my mouth water.
There are a few times when I look at a recipe, usually with a picture, that I fell I have to make it. These cookies were one of those recipes and let me tell you: it did not disappoint me a bit!
I love to cook and bake and usually get good results in the kitchen with both cooked and baked goods, but when it comes to cookies… I suck! I do everything the recipe says, I have a thermometer inside my oven and always check the temperature, use butter and everything at the specified temperature, I even bought silpats and one of those cookies scoop, but guess what, something always comes out wrong and I rarely get good results. Except for today!!
These were not only one of the best cookies I have ever tasted, but were also the best ones I have made! I know I don’t have anything else to compare it to, since it was the first time I tried French macaroons, but for me these cookies were perfect. They came out nice looking, just as the ones at Marcia’s blog, and they tasted exactly as she described them there: a dense almond “foot” with a brownie-like consistency and a thin crunchy "dome" on top. You bite into it breaking the delicate dome, then you reach into a wonderful chewy interior and soon the decadent ganache layer… how can it be bad? It is heaven! Everything melts together in your mouth and as Marcia says “your life is changed forever”! And boy, is she right, these cookies are wonderful, delicious and a lot more than that! I can’t even describe it.
It was love at the first sight, even more at the first bite; my culinary life has definitely gained a new dimension of flavors and experience with those French Macaroons. You have no idea how happy I am with my achievement today, a nice day in the kitchen, a perfect cookie day!
Oh yes, chocolate DO makes us happy, very happy indeed!


Marcia's French Macaroons
200g confectioners sugar
110g almond flour
57g granulated sugar
3 egg whites left at room temperature overnight (or at least 8 hours)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (optional)

In a bowl mix confectioners sugar, almond flour and cocoa.
In another bowl beat egg whites with an electric mixer to soft peaks, add granulated sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

Gently fold in egg whites into dry ingredients. Mix until everything is incorporated together and the mixture achieves a “lava consistency”. Put the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with the plain round tip.

Draw 3.5 cm (~1.5 inch) circles onto parchment paper leaving space in between them, turn over the paper and cover a baking sheet. Pipe the mixture in the circles. Let piped cookies rest for 1 to 2 hours, until a skin forms on top.
Bake in preheated oven at 320F (160C) for 10 minutes, leaving the door semi-opened if possible (I stuck a wooden spoon into mine to keep it partially opened).
Let cool and sandwich 2 cookies together using a cooled ganache filling (equal parts chocolate and whipping cream - 200 grams each).

(Check out Marcia’s post and pictures here:

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Turnips for the first time…

Today I tried a new recipe from the October issue of Cooking Light and it was a big hit. Honey-Roasted Root Vegetables was super easy to make and so delicious that I will definitely be repeating this one over and over throughout the winter months. The vegetables got soft and tender, sweet and salty, a perfect combination and balance of flavors! I followed the recipe and added a little bit more salt and a few cloves of garlic to the mixture. There was no way I was going to turn on my oven to roast some veggies and not throw in some garlic cloves… I love garlic, especially roasted! (I like “roasted” anything!)
I don’t even have much to say about this dish, except that it was so good that I am in love with it! The shallots and garlic were perfect and of the veggies my favorite was definitely the sweet potatoes, which happens to be one of Matheus’ favorite veggies too, and he also loved the side dish today!
Besides being a new recipe, it was also the first time I tried Turnips! I have not made it before and don’t actually remember eating it in either my mother or grandmother’s home. A new experience today, something different that I actually liked and will make again for sure!
The veggies were the side dish and coming from an Italian heritage, Sunday is usually “pasta day” around here. Today was no exception and we had Fettuccine Alfredo, another CL recipe. This one is our basic and favorite Alfredo sauce; I have been making it for years. It is creamy, cheesy and best of all it is light, no added cream in this one. Plus, it is not difficult at all to make, and if you want to prevent lumps just try making it as I do: dissolve the flour in the milk and add it all at once to the sautéed garlic, then slowly cook it over low heat so that the flour cooks properly and the sauce thickens without leaving any raw flour taste.
Maybe in the real “cooking world” Fettuccine Alfredo won’t pair up well with Honey-roasted veggies, but we had it together today, along with roasted chicken, and lunch was actually surprisingly good!
Here go the two winner recipes, hope you all like it too! Happy Sunday!


Honey-Roasted Root Vegetables
2 cups coarsely chopped peeled sweet potato (about 1 large)

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped peeled turnip (about 2 medium)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped parsnip (about 2 medium)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped carrot (about 2 medium)
1/4 cup tupelo honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 shallots, halved
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450°.
Combine all ingredients except the cooking spray in a large bowl; toss to coat. Place vegetable mixture on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender and begin to brown, stirring every 15 minutes.
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)
Cooking Light, October 2005
(Notes: recipe says 8 servings, but I would say it serves 6, the veggies shrink a lot… we ate most of it today, and are only 3 people!)

We actually had "spaghetti alfredo" today, as we only had that pasta shape in the house...

Fettuccine Alfredo
1 tablespoon margarine

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 /3 cups milk
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
4 cups cooked fettuccine
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground pepper

Melt margarine in a saucepan over medium heat. Add minced garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in flour. Gradually add skim milk, stirring with a wire whisk until mixture is blended. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly.
Stir in cream cheese; cook 2 minutes. Add 1-cup Parmesan cheese, stirring constantly until Parmesan cheese melts. Pour sauce over hot cooked fettuccine, and toss well to coat. Top fettuccine with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, and pepper.
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 cup)
Cooking Light, January 1996.

I've been tagged!

And I am so happy! Because it means there are people that enjoy my blog and visit me often, and this is such a big deal to me now! I am having lots of fun with this blog, cooking is my passion and being able to share it with others that also like to cook is very gratifying! Especially because those people understand how I fell about food and why I like to talk so much about it. (Believe me, not many people are that excited to listen about food and cooking in general...)
Erika of Tummy Treasure has tagged me for the 23/5 Meme.

This is the 23/5 Meme.
1. Delve into your blog archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog, along with these instructions. Ponder it for meaning, subtext, or hidden agendas.
5. Tag others to do the same

Well, I still do not have 23 posts… so I went back to my very first one, and here is my sentence:
“It is bright and opened so I can see everything, specially my son playing around!”
In this post I was talking about my Kitchen, which happens to be my favorite place in the house! That sentence shows a little description about the kitchen and the characteristics I like most about it!
Cool, I am so excited to be participating to this “blog world”! So now I am going to tag someone else. Since most of the others have been tagged already I will tag Alicat from “Something so Clever”, and Vanessa from “On the Run”.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

So, have you already had Chuchu?

You may know it by chayote or mirliton, depending upon where you live. But for me this mildly flavored squash will always be called “chuchu”! It is definitely not a popular vegetable in the US, but extremely common where I came from, Brazil.
I always liked chuchu and always will. However, not everybody likes it as I do. Chuchu is not a very flavorful squash, it may even be a little bit bland with a slightly sweetness to it, especially when eaten raw, and its flavor and texture changes completely once cooked. I guess not many people is aware of this vegetable, and unfortunately I don’t get to eat it as much as I would like, as the price around here is not that friendly. Last week though I saw it at the grocery store for $0.69/lb and more than quickly filled up a bag with 4 yummy chuchus! I even find it weird to buy chuchu since my grandmother had it growing like crazy in her backyard and we would always get some every weekend when we visited her, all year long. Now, every time we go back to visit my family my mom makes chuchu for me!

The way I like to eat it is by simply cooking it with some sautéed garlic and onions and a little bit of chicken broth. Once cooked it is tender and succulent, but sturdy enough to hold its shape. And talking about shape, I added a whole chuchu to my picture today so you could see how it actually looks like (in case you don’t know it already, obviously). It is shaped like a pear and sometimes has a prickly skin, it has sort of a seed inside which I always take off but have once heard that it is edible too. And even though there may be a hundred recipes that use chuchu I will probably always eat it the simplest way, so I can taste it by itself and bring back memories that no other vegetable will ever do. It is funny how we get to miss the simplest stuff once we cannot have it often, and when it is there all the time we sadly take if for granted.

Lunch today was nothing special: rice, beans, grilled chicken, tomato salad, and the best part: chuchu. And I ate my chuchu as if it was some sort of caviar! Yum!

Changing gears from lunch to dessert… Fall is here to stay, and with it comes all the goodness of bright orange pumpkins! Do I need to say I have been dying to make something with pumpkin this past few days?! Well, today I finally got to it and made some “Pumpkin Custards”, from the book Moosewood Restaurant Low-fat Favorites. So easy to make and so good, with definitely a “fallish” flavor to it! It is basically the filling of pumpkin pie baked in individual ramekins. Deee-li-cious!
I used brown sugar, omitted the ginger (not a big fan), and did not add nutmeg to mine because I don’t like it with sweet stuff (love it with savory though, especially in white sauce or mashed potatoes, but this is another subject…), and I think that if I had ground cloves I would add a little bit to the custards, as I think cinnamon and cloves makes perfect pairing with all things pumpkin sweet!
Here goes the recipe for you all. And I have leftover pumpkin so watch for some more pumpkin goodies this coming week! (Guess what… pumpkin muffins anyone?!!)


(Moosewood Restaurant Low-fat Favorites)

2 cups cooked pumpkin (16-ounce can)
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk (12-ounce can)
2 eggs
3 egg whites
3/4 cup maple syrup or brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350F.
Prepare eight 6-ounce baking custard cups or ramekins, with a light coating of cooking spray. Arrange the cups in a shallow, flat-bottomed baking pan.
Whril all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour the custard into the baking cups. Pour boiling water into the baking pan to about a 2-inch depth. Bake for about 45 to 60 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cups from the hot water and cool at room temperature, then refrigerate.
Serve chilled, garnished with fresh apple slices if desired.