Monday, April 30, 2007

A Happy, Happy Day!

It was my birthday yesterday and I could not let my 28th celebration go by without a little treat, right? I felt like I should have actually baked a cake for myself, but after a few kitchen disasters over the weekend I just decided to relax, stepped out of the kitchen, and went out to enjoy my day with the husband and Matheus!

We started the day with a yummy pancake breakfast filled with fruits, honey, yogurt and milk! Matheus loves pancakes for breakfast and asked if I could make some for my birthday. Sure, easy and simple enough, he was happy and I even more to have breakfast with both of them! (it is sometimes hard for the three of us to sit down together for breakfast on weekdays...).

I even got a few gifts too, cute ear rings and necklace that my mom sent from Brazil (Thanks mom!) and a "new camera" from my boys! Our camera was not behaving nicely lately so my husband heard my complains and got us a new one, this way, according to him, I can be happy taking my food pictures!

And since it was "My Day", the Husband said I could pick wherever I wanted to go for lunch, and I chose the "Foster's Market"! It is a little far from our home (about 30 minutes) and not a place we go often, in fact it was my second time there. The place's owner is Sara Foster, who is the author of a couple of cookbooks that I have and loooooove. Besides the Cafe's cool atmosphere, my main reason to pick this place was simply because the food is healthy and delicious! Everything is freshly made there, everyday; they have salads, sandwiches, and the best soup I have had in a restaurant, really yummy!
We had wraps, sandwiches and soup, and although yesterday they didn't have the soup I wanted the one we tried was very flavorful too.
I left the camera in the car so I can't show you the food, but I managed to take a picture of the outside before we left. As I said before, nothing fancy, but really good food! (and that is what I am all about!)

The Foster's Market:


















After lunch we went strawberry picking! So much fun, and the berries are the best you can get, super fresh, ultra sweet and juicy! Gotta love strawberry season, huh?!!









And, to finish it all, of course we had to sing happy birthday and blow out a candle. As it is with most kids, Matheus cannot picture a birthday without a cake, so I ended up making cupcakes, which were surrounded by the wonderful strawberries and his favorite party treat: brigadeiros! Chocolate and strawberries together, how could we go wrong??!












You know, I got older but also a lot happier! My husband and my son were amazing at making my day as good as could be! Thank you guys, I love you both more than anything!
Happy Birthday To Me!!!
Ana!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

After reading such good reviews and seeing the goodies that Joe from "Culinary in the Dessert" made, I just had to check out the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book from the local library. And I am so glad I did!
The book is awesome, full of baked goods, from muffins to tarts, pies, and all sorts of yeast breads. It even has an assortment of cracker recipes, including my favorite: graham crackers!
And the best thing about this is that all, and I mean ALL the recipes are made with whole grains, yay! I am the BIGGEST whole grain fan!
I loved the book, need to return it this week, and am already talking the husband into getting a copy for me so that I can try all the recipes I marked on the library book. Even if I had renewed it 3 times, it would not be enough time, there are tons of my very favorite: oat recipes! (I have even gotten oat and barley flour in order to try some of the recipes in the book!)
The first recipe I tried was an absolute hit at our home. First imagine me, opening and checking out recipes from a baking book, what could I possibly go look at first?? Muffins, of course!!!
I am not sure how this would be called a real muffin, as to me its mixing method is not as a muffin making should be. However, these Sour Cream Muffins were sooooo delicious that after the first bite the way it was made didn't even matter anymore to me.
They were stated as being very versatile in terms of flavoring and additions you could incorporate to the batter, and at my first trial I already put its adaptability to the test.
These were made by creaming butter and sugar, adding eggs and incorporating the rest of ingredients rather than how a "usual" muffin would be done (separately mixing dry and wet ingredients, adding wet to dry and mixing just until everything is wet enough, never minding a few lumps here and there). This different process resulted in a sort of coffee cake batter, more dense and compact, the opposite of how a muffin batter would look like (more loose and "lumpy")
But even though it was different at first, the end result was a super nice and tender muffin, the flavor was delicious, even with the simplest ingredients it called for.
We just loved the muffins! They had the greatest texture and tenderness to it, plus the right amount of sweetness.
I divided my batter in two and added chopped frozen cherries to half of it and toffee bits to the other half. Both came up delicious and tasty; the husband liked the cherry muffins, and me and Matheus were all about the toffee bits ones. Oh my, I can't say how good they were!
I found a bag of toffee bits in my pantry that I have bought a while ago in order to try in baked goods and decided to use for this muffins. It was the happiest idea ever, the muffins were incredibly tasty and delicious, plus I think that the toffee flavor totally complemented the flavors in the batter.
As we were eating the last two toffee bits muffins for breakfast the other day, Matheus asked if I could make more of them as those were the best toffee bits muffins he ever had!(it was his first time eating the toffee bits!). Then I said, of course, and that I could try adding the bits to our favorite oatmeal muffin recipe since I didn't have any sour cream on hand that particular day, I barely finished saying that and he stated "Oh no mommy, you have to make this recipe, these are the best"!!! Is he cute or what?!!! I mean, the muffins were good, really good!
I bought sour cream today to make this again, and just had to come here and share the recipe with you. Really delicious, it seems these are jumping to the top of our list!
The recipe says that letting the batter rest for one hour may provide even better results, I didn't have the time and ended up just letting it rest for about 20 minutes.Truly, I can't imagine these being better than they came out, so I might even try the 1 hour in the fridge thing next time to see if it makes such a difference. Oh, and my change for this one was to use 3/4 cup sugar.... and they were plenty sweet for us!
Enjoy!!
Ana

Sour Cream Muffins
(Adapted from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking)

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups any fruits you might like, fresh, frozen or dried.
Sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Grease muffin tins, reserve.
Mix together the flours, baking powder, salt and baking soda, set aside.
With a mixer cream butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time while beating. Add vanilla and sour cream, beat until all incorporated. Add dry ingredients mixing just until the batter is smooth. Fold in fruits and refrigerate batter for one hour.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Scoop the batter into the muffin cups, sprinkle tops with coarse sugar if desired and bake for about 22 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Quick transformation...

Before
: cute baby roma tomatoes that simply screamed my name in the store.... they looked so pretty!









After: baby cuties were stuffed with creamy goat cheese and topped with a mixture of bread crumbs, grated Parmesan, parsley and olive oil. A couple of minutes under the broiler and we got deliciously yummy warm tomato gooeyness, and a crispy cheesy top!










Ana!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Yellowish veggies...

Not just pretty, but full of flavor too! I have been experimenting with curries and every time I make it I love it more!!
I usually am not able to eat this type of food outside our home due to the spiciness present in restaurant dishes (my stomach ulcer just cannot handle it...), but since it can be so yummy I try to make it at home, using spices at a level where I can eat without any side effects.
For this one I used a lot of vegetables and one of my favorite foods: chickpeas! I sauteed onion and garlic, added a can of chickpeas and chopped veggies that where hanging around in the fridge (zucchini, carrots, red peppers, and some spinach leaves), sauteed them a little more; next came curry powder, cumin and tumeric - I just love the yellowish color it gives to food, makes it look soooo yummy and happy!!
I also add some vegetable broth to make a little sauce, season with salt to taste and serve over brown rice. Yum, no, double yum!
It was delicious, and everyone at home agreed!!
Ana

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Yum...

Lunch today was simple but so good... baked halibut (seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice) on top of brown rice, a few leaves of steamed spinach, topped with saute├ęd tomatoes, onions and garlic, served with roasted asparagus. Again, YUM!!
Ana

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Strawberry Tarts

As promised, I am back to share the recipe with you! It may look difficult, but making these little tarts is not too hard, you just have to program yourself and set some time to complete the process. Not complicated, but you need to wait until the crust is cool to add the filling and also make sure the custard filling is completely cool before adding the jell-o on top (or it will not set up properly, besides being absorbed by the creme and crust).
I have other recipes but this time decided to try one I found at Cybercook's discussion forum, which was posted a while ago by Bell Ricci.
The only thing I would do differently next time I make would be trying to reduce the sugar amount in the crust. I didn't have any difficulties with the dough, except I think it was way to sweet for my tastes. It came out crisp and beautiful, and with no cracks at all. I really liked the crust and working with it, it was certainly worth trying the original recipe the first time around, and for the next trials I may just try making it less sweet.
If you enjoy sweet desserts, then absolutely do it as the recipe says. It was sweet for me, but my husband loved it and said it was perfect! Go figure!
The filling was easy to make and very delicious, just the custard with the strawberries alone would already make a yummy dessert - something to keep in mind if you don't want to bother with the crust...
My sister loves Strawberry Tart and I was thinking about her all the time while making and enjoying these treats. I wish she could be here to taste it with us... Well, if she comes during summertime then I may make these again! This is for you sister, love and miss you much!!
Ana

Strawberry Tart
crust:
3 cups flour (don't put it all at once, you might need less than this)
100 grams butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until it forms a dough. (It might seem a little dry, but don't worry, it will magically come together while it rests in the fridge, really!!) Shape dough into a small disc, wrap it with plastic and put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 (180C).
Using your fingertips, press the dough into a 9-inch (24 cm) tart pan or pie plate. Make it as even as possible, trying to not leave the bottom too thin.
Bake the crust for about 10 to 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't get dark. Remove from oven and let cool. Meanwhile, make the filling:

Custard Filling
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups (500ml) milk
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until it reaches a boil and the cream thickens. Let it cool a bit and then pour it over the cooled crust. (you might want to cover it with plastic wrap directly in contact with the surface of the cream so it won't form a crust - or simply don't bother with that, remove the "top skin" with a spoon and set it aside for yourself, it is yummy, and yes, I do love the skin on puddings too!!)
Let the filled crust cool in the refrigerator for a while.

Wash, stem, and halve enough strawberries to put on top of the crust. Fit as many as you want, making any pattern you like. Be gentle so the strawberries don't "squish" into the creme. Put tje tart in the fridge while you prepare one box of Strawberry jell-o according to the package directions. Put jell-o on a bowl and park it in the fridge. Let it cool down and set up until it reaches an "egg white" consistency. Keep checking constantly after about 20 minutes so that it won't set to hard. You still want it to be pourable, not too thick, but not too liquidy that the crust would absorb it. (I hope you guys can understand what I mean... if not, please contact me and I will certainly help!)
Carefully pour the jell-o on top of the strawberries in the tart. Do this very slowly, using the help of a spoon if needed, so the jell-o doesn't overflow. Alternatively, you might want to spoon it on top of the tart, instead of pouring it directly. Do whatever feels more comfortable for you. I pour when making bigger tarts (using a spoon to smooth it out and get the jell-o in between the fruit) and spoon it when making "mini" ones, which was the case this time I made them.
Put the tart in the fridge and let cool until the gelatin is set on top. A few minutes more and it will be ready for dessert.
Enjoy!!

Yield: 1 big tart, or several small ones, depending on the size of your mini pans. I was able to make 6 small tarts using half recipe!


Want a bite?!

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Happy Easter Everyone!!!
The best of wishes and lots of yummy chocolate eggs to all of you today!
Ana

PS: this was our "easter dessert"; recipe to come... I promise!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Inspirations!

Lunch yesterday was inspired by two recipes I have seen and marked to try.
The first one was a vegetable couscous topped with zucchini ribbons that I once saw at my Cooking Light magazine! You can see the original recipe here.
I made couscous and used the ribbons idea, but nor I followed the recipe neither used the same ingredients. For my dish I used whole wheat couscous, chopped yellow bell peppers, tomatoes, and the pieces left from the zucchini when I could not manage to get more ribbons out of it (oh yes, no waste around my kitchen!). I sauteed the vegetables with olive oil, chopped onions and garlic, and added them to the couscous, which I simply mixed with boiling vegetable broth and let it sit covered for about 5 minutes before the broth was absorbed and I was able to fluff it up with a fork. To round the flavors up I added a tablespoon of butter and a few shakes grated Parmesan and incorporated it all.
This couscous was so delicious that it seemed we could not get enough of it. By the way, I think couscous is my new favorite, you can fix it up so many different ways, it tastes good, AND it takes about 5 minutes to make, you can't get much better than this!! I guess we will be turning into a couscous family around here!!! (Can't wait to try it in salad versions during summertime!)

The next dish I made was inspired by Fernanda's recipe for Halibut Supreme, that she posted here in Portugues, but that she actually got from this website, and it is in English version.
You will have to excuse my picture, as it was not as pretty as Fernanda's, but I have to say that the taste was delicious! We gobbled this up in no time and everyone enjoyed the flavor and yummy "meaty" texture of the Halibut.
For this one I omitted the bacon and used a layer of sliced onions on the bottom of the dish, which got very soft and created a delicious sauce underneath the fish, the Husband loved the sauce. And since I don't usually have sour cream in the house I used Greek yogurt in its place. I haven't tasted the sour cream version, but ours was good enough to be repeated this way!
Thanks Fernanda, for the yummy idea!










And finally, just to add a little more veggies into our plates and because I wanted to eat peas... I simply cooked some sweet green peas with mint for an extra flavor. I love the way mint compliments the pea flavor, it is so good! Next time I will chop up the leaves (I used them whole this time) so I can get more of a "minty" flavor to them. After cooking them in water I drained, added a tablespoon of butter and seasoned with salt. Simple but yummy!










It was a colorful and healthy meal we all enjoyed, pretty good, huh?!!
Ana!