Monday, August 25, 2008

Caprese Salad

No mater how you present it, skewered in appetizer form, cut into cubes, with both tomatoes and cheese displayed in a sliced manner, Caprese Salad is one of my favorite summer dishes!
Here we had red and yellow tomatoes, both from out backyard, fresh basil leaves and the sinfully creamy and ultra delicious fresh mozzarella (I love this cheese!), all covered in great olive oil, salt, pepper and a touch of balsamic vinegar.... sooo good! I can have only this for a meal and be happy all day!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Grilled Vegetable Salad, one word: Yum!!

I am sorry I have been absent on these past few days... a sudden and unfortunate death of a dear family member just got me into a very sad state of mind and I was in no real mood to think much about anything else other than how fragile our bodies and life are. Cooking was done by a way of necessity and that's the reason I took this little break. However, life goes on, and here I am, back and with some more good food to share!
(Thanks for letting me vent a little about other aspects of my life here too!)

During the warm months our greatest culinary pleasure is being able to fire up the grill! Everything that comes out is so flavorful and delicious, plus there is no smells or much cleanup to be done inside, and the not-turning-on-the-stove/oven-on-an-absurdly-hot-day factor too!

It is a win-win situation which we truly enjoy! And one of the foods I love most done in the grill are vegetables. You can grill almost any veggie you like in there and the outcome is always tasty; it gets that "charred" flavor that you only get from the grill and there is no mystery on doing it: the easiest way is to simply cut your veggies in similar size pieces, then season them with salt, pepper and a decent amount of good olive oil and throw them in the grill. Keep an eye on them as some veggies do cook a lot faster than others, flip along the way and as both sides get those wonderful grill marks you have a healthy and flavorful meal that can be enjoyed warm or kept for later to be eaten at room temperature or even cold (grilled veggies are great cold too!).

I make grilled vegetables all the time during summer and we never get tired of it!
The ones I like the most are eggplant, red bell peppers and zucchini/yellow squash, which by the way is what I used in the salad pictured above (minus the pepper on that day though!). Corn is also delicious, as are asparagus and onions too!

For the salad I grilled some eggplant and squashes that I had from the farmer's market, to them I added some grape tomatoes from our backyard and little pieces of fresh/soft goat cheese (which I absolutely looooove!), then I topped it all with a simple Dijon mustard vinaigrette that I made by mixing roughly 2 parts rice vinegar (I find this kind of vinegar to be lighter in taste) to about 1part olive oil (a tablespoon or so), a teaspoon honey, a teaspoon Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.
It was the perfect finish to complement the salad, which we enjoyed a whole lot, the vinaigrette added at the end really gave it some extra nice flavors, a great tang to the soft veggies! (Balsamic vinegar is another way I like to dress up roasted vegetables too!)
To me there is no easier or better way to have fun with the vegetables during the summer than making salads, and a grilled one is always welcome too!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I know, I have said this already, but I will have to repeat... I LOVE WATERMELON!!
There isn't anything better during summertime than a cold and refreshingly juicy watermelon! Yumm!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Garden Muffins
First of all I have to mention that my picture doesn't do justice to the goodness of this recipe. That being said, I will only add that these muffins were very good!
The recipe came from the Cooking Light Bulletin Boards, posted by "Canice", and the cornmeal flavor combined with the veggies and Parmesan cheese created some delicious savory muffins.
We really enjoyed these, I made half recipe and they were gone in a matter of seconds!
The Parmesan cheese was my touch to improve the original recipe, so feel free to omit it if you don't like, but we liked the flavor it added a whole lot, especially to the top, where I sprinkled a tad more Parmesan on each of the muffins. As I ate mine I was even thinking about adding pieces of cheese the next time I would make them, which will probably be soon as it has been requested already!
They are very simple but flavorful as could be. Plus it is easy to make, and you could even change the veggies accordingly to what you have on hand - yellow squash instead of zucchini, adding some corn bits would enhance the cornmeal flavor, even peas would be nice here too. These are a great complement to soup or salad, just what you need to round up a light meal!

Garden Muffins
(Adapted from "The City Gardener's Cookbook" )

1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (can add more if desired!)
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and finely diced tomatoes
1/2 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup chopped green onion

Preheat oven to 400F. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, Parmesan cheese, and salt and mix well. In a small bowl, beat together the egg, milk, oil, and butter. Stir in the dry ingredients. Add the tomatoes, zucchini, carrot, and green onions, blending thoroughly. Spoon the batter into greased muffin tins, filling about three-quarters full. Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.
Makes 1 dozen muffins.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Top 10 Kitchen Space!

Valentina invited me to be part of this "Top 10" event that is going around the blogsphere!
I was very happy to be part of it and went right through my archives to select ten recipes we enjoy most at our house and... well, it was really hard!
The recipes I post here are always the ones we really like and will most probably make again, so it wasn't an easy task to select only 10 among the hundreds of recipes we like. But I did it and here are the results.
Hope you all like them as much as we do!

To visualize the recipe just click on its title!

Grilled Eggplant Stacks
These are awesome! I make them all the time during the summer when eggplants and summer squashes are abundant and fresh. They are worth every second it takes to prepare them! The balsamic syrup on top is amazingly good!

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables
This is another dish we truly enjoy! I make it without even looking at the recipe as it is very easy and I have made it many times already. Whenever I make this recipe Matheus cheers at the table, he even knows the name of the recipe and the chef it came from!

Creamy Quinoa Primavera
Now this is one recipe that I love! I chose this one because it is not only quick and delicious but also very conforting. It can be made using any vegetables you have around, fresh, frozen, whatever you prefer and most like. the end result is always creamy, flavorful, and good for you. The texture of this dish could e compared to a "quinoa risotto", so it is definitely a "feel good food" in all senses to me!

Chicken Stuffed with Garlic and Goat Cheese
Another one I enjoy a lot! Chicken is usually my protein of choice and to pair it with goat cheese you can't go wrong. Goat cheese and roasted garlic are two ingredients that are already delicious by themselves, combined in this dish they create the most velvet and flavorfull sauce for the chicken. So good, makes me want to make it for lunch today!

Italian Panzanella
This is Matheus' favorite summer dish, he asks me to make panzanella every week during the warm months! He enjoys the way the bread absorbs the flavors of the vinaigrete and complements the salad with the crunchy vegetables. Plus we both love white beans and cheese, and along with everything else we get a complete and satisfying meal in one bowl! Oh, and lately we have been using little parmesan chuncks for the cheese part... oh so good!

Cornmeal-crusted Ratattouille Tart
Another one of my very favorites! The cruts in this tart is super easy to make and the end product is delicious, flavorfull and crunchy, just as a nice crust should be! Full of vegetables and cheese on top this dish is delicious and filling, another one I like to make when we have a lot of produce around! Can't say enough about this one, I just love it!

Vegan Pumpkin Muffins
I could just not have a top 10 without a Muffin recipe, as muffins are definitely loved around our house and something I make at least once a week. Since we tried this recipe these muffins became the most requested and the ones I make more frequently. They are delicious, chosen by far the best muffins around here!

Now, this would be one of the husband's favorite desserts! And since I also love creamy desserts I opted to choose this one for my top 10. It is not only good but also so easy to make. A simple dessert that it usually enjoyed by everyone!

It just would not be my top 10 withouth something with chocolate in it, right? And when looking through my recipes this one just kept calling me. These were the best "cookies" (if they can be called cookies) I have had, the flavor is great and the textures are so complementing, the delicate crispy shell with the creamy filling.... oh, there are no words to describe it. Plus, it has one of my favorite chocolate confections: ganache! So here it is, the chocolate fix of the top 10!

Mango Sorbet
Fruit also had to be included into my selection as it is present in my table everyday. And so I chose my favorite summer treat of all: Mango Sorbet!! Creamy, delicious, sweet and flavorfull, how can you go wrong with this?? Love, love, love mangoes! My favorite fruit is still watermelon, but mangoes are right up there too, and this sorbet definitely gets on my very top choice of sweet treats!

I know, I know, I already picked 10... so what am I doing here with one more picture?? Well, I just wanted to leave here an honorable mention to the Homemade Ricotta Cheese. We love cheese and ricotta is one of my favorites, plus there is nothing like homemade ricotta! Believe me, the taste and texture are way superior that whatever ricotta you may find at the store. Maybe this should not be considered a "recipe" per se, and I guess that is why I just wanted to mention it at the end, but I had to include the method for making this cheese, which is not only good but extremely versatille and can be used in many delicious recipes out there!

Now, I am supposed to ask for more 5 friends to participate of this event. So I will mention some friends here but will leave it open for them to opt if they want or not to participate! Please, don't feel obligated, ok?!

Fernanda, from Chucrute Com Salsicha
Laurinha, from
Joe, from Culinary in The Dessert
Patricia, from Technicolor Kitchen
Agda, from Agda

Saturday, August 09, 2008

How can you not LOVE Summertime?!!
Spinach, tomatoes and bell peppers salad, all fresh from the farmers market! And the grape tomatoes are from our backyard!
A simple vinaigrete and some fresh goat cheese sprinkled on top and you get a party in your plate, colorful and healthy, can't get much better than that!
Yes, I LOVE this SUMMER, hot weather and all!!!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Since I have been sharing here some of the cakes I have made, here are a couple more!
I made these while in Brazil. The small one was a little gift to my sister's mother in law, thanking her for the pretty basket and treats she sent us while there. And the big one I made with my sister (she wanted to learn and see how to use the fondat!) for my parent's 32nd Anniversary, man, what a milestone!
Hopefully I will celebrate that many years with my hubby too!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Blackberry Sorbet!

Throw in the blender a couple handfuls of blackberries (the ones I used were from our backyard, yum!), two very ripe peaches and a little bunch of fresh cherries, sweeten it lightly with simple syrup* and puree away. A few minutes churning in the ice cream machine and you get the most luscious and flavorful fruit sorbet. Not to mention the pretty color it has!
This was so good there was no leftover. Lovely and super delicious on a hot summer afternoon!

*To make simple syrup: boil together 1 cup water with 1/2 cup sugar until the sugar melts and the mixture becomes syrupy. Let cool and then use to sweeten your beverages or sorbet mixture. Good thing is that this keeps in the fridge for a good couple weeks, so it is always handy for making yummy frozen desserts!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

We are Back!

It's been a week since we came back home and only now it seems like I am getting back to our normal routine.
We had a great time this past month in Brazil! We had lots of time to do things we like, see our family members, and pass some good time with wonderful friends!
It was truly a trip to keep in our hearts, but I have to say that after 5 weeks away from home I was starting to miss my things and it was more than time to come back.
Even though my parents and sister are still all in Brazil now my family is here and this is our home, and as they say... there really is no place like home!
I missed my kitchen and I was glad to be back to my own schedule and way of doing things, which of course include posting on my beloved blog!
And now I promise I will post on a regular basis, I really promise, I do!!
With the summer weather I haven't been cooking much indoors, but I have been grilling and sure have recipes and pictures of goodies we have been making to share, so please visit me again soon because I am really back this time!
So, to get things going I will post some pictures from our trip, and tomorrow I will be back to what this blog is really about: cooking, cooking and more cooking, yay!!

This is a very young coffee plant on my dad's backyard!

Here are some coffee beans...

And here they are opened. The coffee beans are white/yellowish inside when harvested, they only turn black after being roasted. And did you know that when picked like these they are sweet inside? Yep, when we were kids it was a lot of fun to pop the coffee bean into our mouth and suck the sweet nectar that comes from the inside. At first my grandma had one coffee plant, but with the kids spiting beans here and there soon she had about four little plants for us to destroy...!! :o)

While there, I got a beautiful basket of goodies from my brother in-law, it was full of nuts, dried fruits, sesame seed bars and the most delicious natural cookies that I have had! Everything was so delicious, and so pretty. It was all wrapped with bows, both on the outside wrap and on each little baggie of nuts/seeds/fruits inside. We all liked it so much that the basket was into pieces soon after I got it. We started sampling the goodies in a matter of seconds! I should have taken a picture before opening because, believe me, it was beautiful!

He also brought our family some "Pao de Mel", honey cakes covered in chocolate, that his mom makes, oh my, those were really yummy too!

And here is a picture of Matheus having some fun at the pool! Even though it was winter, the weather was nice and I was able to get him into some swimming lessons at an indoor pool. He had some fun and at least had a chance to play with some kids. He is the only child in both sides of the family, so I guesses that seeing someone of his own height would be good for him too!