Tuesday, January 31, 2006


The husband had lunch with us today and requested an easy and delicious dish, Chicken Stroganoff. It is simple to make but so good! I always liked stroganoff, and when I was younger it was considered sort of a gourmet dish, which means we did not have it very often. Nowadays it has definitely become a common dish, but we still celebrate when my Mom makes stroganoff at home!
I like it made with chicken, and it can be made with beef too. It can be served over noodles, but we like it over rice, and preferably accompanied with potato sticks! Yum! (This is how we normally eat this dish in Brazil, how about here; do you guys have heard of potatoes sticks with stroganoff??)
I also made a new recipe today, as I wanted to serve some sort of veggie along with our lunch. I had bought some nice grapefruit and had spinach in the fridge, so I looked for a recipe and came out with sort of a “winter salad” for us. It may not have been the best accompaniment to the stroganoff, but Wilted Spinach-and-Citrus Salad was actually quite tasty! However, I was the only one who liked it here… luckily I only made half recipe (I knew the husband was not going to eat it). It was a nice way to have some warm spinach, other that the usual sautéed or creamed versions. My grapefruit was very juicy, so I ended up with more dressing than needed, but other than that I enjoyed my little salad!

Oh, and remember I mentioned a dessert yesterday?! Well, it was a flop! Yes, the kitchen is full of successes, but sometimes even with the best of intentions some recipes do not come out right. It was a simple one, but the flavors just did not do it for us. Even though I had a feeling that yogurt and chocolate would not be the best of combinations I decided to try the recipe anyway, I guess I was right in the first place…
So, to compensate for the not so good dessert (none of us was able to finish it) the “boys” asked me for some chocolate pudding, and that is what we are going to have tonight! (Not the boxed stuff though, I made it myself! Let me know if anyone wants and I can post the recipe later)
Planning for a new recipe to come, tune in tomorrow to see!


My Chicken Stroganoff
1 kg chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil (or canola oil)
1 large finely chopped onion (or 2 small)
½ cup tomato extract (or tomato paste)
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons mustard

Salt and pepper to taste
A small jar of whole mushrooms
½ cup heavy cream (more or less as needed)

Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onions for a minute, add chicken and sauté it until it is cooked, stirring constantly. Add the tomato paste, ketchup, and mustard; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes to thicken the sauce a bit. Turn off the heat, add mushrooms, heavy cream and stir. Serve it with rice and potato sticks!

(Not the prettiest picture, I know...)

Wilted Spinach-and-Citrus Salad
2 large grapefruit
2 large oranges
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion, separated into rings
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 cups loosely packed torn spinach leaves
1/4 cup plain croutons

Peel and section grapefruit and oranges over a bowl; squeeze membranes to extract juice. Set sections aside; reserve 1/4 cup juice. Discard membranes.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté 30 seconds. Stir in reserved juice, vinegar, honey, and salt. Add fruit and spinach; cook 1 minute or until spinach begins to wilt, tossing gently. Arrange spinach mixture on individual salad plates; top with croutons. Yield: 4 servings.

Cooking Light, January 1995

Chocolate Pudding, I love it!!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Brazilian or not, these are good!

Today I decided to make some sort of Brazilian savory treats (which I actually believe are not very Brazilian, but anyways…). Very popular in Brazil, Esfihas are sort of a snack that you can find in many places, but mostly at small cafes and eateries in the street. Traditionally these savory pastries are filled with a mixture of ground beef, onions, tomatoes and spices, but nowadays you can find them with different fillings, including chicken, ricotta cheese, and even a type of sausage called calabresa.
I was never very fond of these snacks back in my childhood because the beef version was never very appealing to me, however, a brilliant “esfiha guy” in Tiete had the idea of making them with chicken and then I started to get interested on them.
There are some Mediterranean versions of esfihas that are actually opened, but this version is closed in a triangular shape. The dough is very easy to work with, and not complicated at all to make. The trick here is how to shape them. I took some pictures during the process in an attempt to show how I made them, which is not difficult, but is hard to explain in writing!
First I roll the dough, cut it into circles, and then I put some filling in the middle and close it like a triangle, pressing two sides first and then closing with the third part… see, that is why I took pictures! It is hard to try explaining it, I don’t even know how to write the method!
You can make them as big or small as you want! For my son’s birthdays I used to make them small and would get around 70 from one batch. If you make them bigger, as I did today, you may get about 20.
These freeze beautifully, and are a great snack to have when that “craving for something salty” hits you. Just let them cool, put in a zip bag and stash in the freezer. Whe ready to eat a minute in the microwave will be enough to defrost and warm it up for you.
In the place we get them in Tiete, their chicken esfihas also have a little bit of “catupiry” inside, a type of delicious and creamy cheese that unfortunately I can’t find here. So, to make up for it I sometimes use either cream cheese or pieces of those laughing cow triangles (creamy Swiss cheese thing), and a little dab will do here, don’t put too much or they will explode and you will have opened esfihas.
When we first moved here to the US I wanted to find the perfect recipe for esfihas, and I quickly found it with this one! These are great, easy, simple, and the end result is very good. It is so similar to the real thing we find in Brazil that friends have told me to start a business with my esfihas. Well, maybe someday I will!
Until then I will keep experimenting here in my kitchen space and showing my lovely (and sometimes not so pretty) results with you!
I also made a desert today, but I will post it tomorrow, since we have not tried it yet… wait and see!


The shapping process...
Rolled dough into a circle, filling in the middle

Close the uper portion of the dough, starting to form a triangle...

Close the part that is left and voila, nice triangular esfiha!

Egg wash 'em and into the oven they go!

600 grams flour (or more, as needed)
28 g dry yeast (4 packages)
150 ml canola oil
300 ml warm milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 eggs, separated

To prepare dough: in bowl dissolve yeast in warm milk, let stand 5 minutes. Add sugar, salt, oil and egg whites (reserve the yolks for later use) and mix well. Add 2 cups flour and mix, keep adding flour ½ cup at a time until dough is not too stick and get off your hands (there is no need to knead the dough for too long, just until it comes together and is nice and smooth). Put dough in a bowl coated with cooking spray and let it rise for an hour or until doubled in volume.
Roll dough, cut into circles and assemble the “esfihas” using your favorite filling. Put them seam side down into a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, brush with egg wash (slightly beat the yolks and a tablespoon of milk) and bake for about 18 minutes in a 375F pre-heated oven. (Baking time will depend on size of the “esfihas”).

Traditional meat filling:
500 grams ground beef
1 finely chopped onion
2 small tomatoes, finely chopped (let it sit over a colander to drain some of the liquid before using)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. (this filling is used raw, but don’t worry, it will cook in the oven!)

My chicken filling: Actually I don’t have measurements… sorry!
First, poach some chicken (or use leftover rotisserie chicken) and shred it, reserve.
Then, in a skillet I sauté some onions and garlic; add about ½ cup tomato sauce (or pasta sauce), the shredded chicken, salt and pepper to taste and some seasonings (basil, oregano, parsley). Taste and adjust seasonings as you go. If the mixture seems too watery I add a tablespoon or two of flour just so that it thickens a bit.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Beef Stew

What could be better in the winter months than some warm comfort food? It is not all that cold here in North Carolina (winter is usually colder here), but being the Brazilian girl I am, even a little chilly is already cold enough for me. I love summer and the hot weather, but winter is also good sometimes, especially when talking about steaming soups and hot cocoas, both which I also love!
Yesterday, inspired by the cold weather, I decided to make something warm and comforting, also including my husband’s favorite food, meat. Basic Beef Stew with Carrots and Mushrooms ended up being the perfect food; hearty and full of flavor it satisfied the three of us leaving everybody with the warmest smiles!
The flavors here are very good, but be prepared, because, although not a complicated dish, it takes a little time to make. It requires some prep time also, and since I did not plan on the 2 hours of cooking the recipe stated I had to cut some corners and ended up cooking my stew in the pressure cooker. Yes, I cheated, but the end result was still delicious, the flavors melded and the meat was super tender, not to mention my favorite part: the carrots! I love the carrots in beef stew, they cook to perfection, absorbing the beef flavor and keeping its sweetness at the same time, they get creamy and melt in your mouth, yummm!!

But, back to the pressure cooker thing… basically I followed the recipe (cooking everything in the pressure cooker), and when I returned the beef/onion/mushroom mixture to the pan I added the carrots and potatoes, closed the pressure cooker and let it cook for about 45 minutes. It was quick and made for a nice meal for us!
I made half of the recipe yesterday and we ate it all, so, since it takes a lot of time to make, next time I will definitely make the full thing and freeze the leftovers.
This was the first time I used fresh mushroom in my cooking and I actually liked the results. I like mushrooms but not when they are in their raw form, so I usually don’t go for recipes whit it. This time I decided to really follow the ingredients list and what a nice surprise I had, maybe I will be experimenting more with mushrooms from now on!
This week I am planning on making some new recipes, so please come back to visit!
In the meantime, try the beef stew; I am sure you are going to like it too! Enjoy!


Basic Beef Stew with Carrots and Mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 pound small cremini mushrooms
Cooking spray
2 cups chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
2 pounds lean beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 (14-ounce) cans less-sodium beef broth
1 bay leaf
2 cups (3/4-inch) cubed peeled white potato (about 1 pound)
1 1/2 cups (1-inch) slices carrot (about 12 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme sprigs (optional)

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, and sauté for 5 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown. Spoon mushrooms into a large bowl. Lightly coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion; sauté 10 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add onion mixture to mushroom mixture.
Place flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Dredge beef in flour, shaking off excess. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add half of beef mixture; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Add browned beef to mushroom mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining beef mixture and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Add 1 cup wine to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add thyme, broth, and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Stir in beef mixture. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 1 hour or until beef is just tender.
Stir in potato and carrot. Simmer, uncovered, 1 hour and 15 minutes or until beef and vegetables are very tender and sauce is thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Discard bay leaf. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired. Yield: 8 servings.

Cooking Light, Jan/Feb 2006

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Light and Tasty Lasagna!

As promised here I am with a new recipe. I saw today’s recipe in a magazine in Brazil, it sounded interesting when I read the ingredients, plus the picture looked so good that I could not wait to try it at home. Smoked Turkey and Whole Wheat Bread Lasagna has a different twist on the usual pasta dish, as it does not actually have any pasta in it. The lasagna noodles are replaced here by slices of whole wheat bread, and let me tell you, it worked pretty well with the ingredients in this recipe! (although I am not sure if it would work in a Bolognese type Lasagna…)
One of my favorite lunches during the summertime is turkey sandwich, and this recipe turned out to be a winter version of that! The cheese sauce is creamy and helps blend all the ingredients together. The tomatoes complement nicely both the sauce and the smoked turkey, and nice bread just adds up to all the goodness. I really enjoyed this dish; I made it in a square pan and Matheus and I polished off most of it. It was very easy and quick to make (40 minutes to prep and bake), a light and tasty “Lasagna” which will definitely be repeated pretty soon here at our home!


Smoked Turkey and Whole Wheat Bread Lasagna
1 cup milk
1 cup cottage cheese
1 tablespoon flour
Salt and nutmeg to taste
10 slices smoked turkey breast
8 slices whole wheat bread
2 tomatoes, sliced
Grated Parmesan cheese
Dried oregano

Preheat oven to 375F.
In a blender mix the milk, cottage cheese and flour. Add mixture to a saucepan and cook over medium heat until slightly thickened (~ 4 minutes). Add nutmeg and salt to taste; remove sauce from heat and reserve.
In a pyrex dish add a little bit of the cheese sauce to the bottom, layer half of the bread slices, top with half of the turkey slices, half the tomatoes, and cover with half of the cheese sauce. Make another layer the same way with the rest of ingredients (bread, turkey, tomatoes, sauce), finishing with the cheese sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and dried oregano. Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Serve warm.

Notes: I also sprinkled Parmesan cheese over the cheese sauce in between layers. And after the 15 minutes in the regular oven I let it stay for 2 minutes under the broiler.
Fruits, fruits and more fruits!!

As I have said here before, one of the best things in Brazil is the freshness of the produce, there you will find the sweetest and most delicious fruits you can ever imagine! And yes, I did eat a lot of fruits and fruit juices while in there, savoring every little bite/droplet as possible.
Matheus loved to get fresh fruits in the backyard of my paren'ts house! He was amazed to see the variety of fruits and trees around there, including his favorite, the "bananeira"! ("banana tree"!) Oh, and he also loved drinking Passion Fruit juice and had it every day!
I am trying a new recipe for lunch and am planning on posting it later today, but meanwhile I will leave here a few pictures of some of the delicious fruits we enjoyed there!
(On the picture above: mango, papaya, star fruit, lychee, and a lemon!)


Passion Fruit.... one of my favorites. Passion Fruit Juice is so good!

Papaya, so good, and its so cheap over there. I made sure to have one every day for breakfast!

Another one I love, Guava! Red and white ones in the picture, but I prefer the white ones!

This is called "Pitaya" in Brazil, but I believe they call it here a Dragonfruit (Is that right?!) It was the first time I ate it, quite expensive, and to be truth not really worth its value... The white one was a little sweeter, but overall they did not taste all that good. I would much more prefer a banana over this one! (however we have to consider that I am not familiar with the fruit and may have chosen some that were not very ripe... who knows!)

This is a fruit I like a lot and wish I could eat more often. We call it a "Fruta do Conde" ("count's fruit") or "Pinha", depending on the area you buy it. It has a very sweet pulp, and the only down side is that it has a lot of seeds, which is surrounded by the delicate pulp by the way. How do you call this fruit here in the US?!

Monday, January 23, 2006

We are Back!

Well, first of all Happy New Year for the friends that visit my blog, I hope you are all already having a great 2006! I know, I am a little late with my wishes and all, but we just came back from Brazil and only now I am back to “computer life”! (Yes, my family did have a computer there, but we were having so much fun that I almost did not have time to use it!)
We spent over a month in Brazil and this was one of the best trips ever!! No, we did not go to the beach, or anywhere else while in there, the only and most important thing we did was to enjoy our FAMILY! I was able to see a lot of my relatives and my husband’s family as well. I spent most of the time with some of the most important people of my life: my mom, dad and sister; and Matheus had the time of his life in there! He had tons of fun playing with his aunt, uncles, and especially with grandpa and grandma!
The thing now is trying to explain to him that we cannot go back there so soon… and he would be back there by now if he could. Yes, he wants to go back to Brazil, and I truly wish we could go back to live there too… oh well, maybe some day we will.
Meanwhile I will continue to post here in my blog, sharing with you all not only my recipes but a little bit of us and our stories!
This is it for today, but please come back to visit me because I got some pictures from my trip to share here with you, and I promise I will be posting again pretty soon! (Tomorrow, if everything goes well!)
Now, here I go to the big pile of laundry from the trip… wish me luck!
See you all soon!