Thursday, May 2, 2013

Chewy and Crunchy Cookies and Chocolate Bites - Palha Italiana


My last post was all about celebrating the late arrival of spring up here in Minnesota. Well, I guess I spoke too early. After just a few days of heat and sunshine, the temperature dropped to around 35 degrees. And to make matters worse, there was a mix of rain and SNOW yesterday. Yes, snow on May 1st. That I had not seen yet. But I have only lived here for about 9 years....I guess there is a lot I don't know about this place. 

So, yesterday, when all was dark and cold, I had to make something that yells comfort food to me (and most Brazilians!) - Palha Italiana. It is pretty hard to translate the name of this recipe to English. But all you need to know is that this is a chewy and crunchy treat with chocolate and cookie flavors. But not any cookie, this recipe calls for a cookie made with corn starch (among other things) that is very popular in Latin America. In Brazil we call it, Biscoito de Maizena. During a trip to the grocery store last weekend I found a similar version at the Mexican food aisle: Marias Gamesa cookies (there is picture of the package bellow). Anyway, the good news is that you can make this recipe just like the original one if you can very few ingredients:

Sweetened condensed milk (any brand):


Marias Cookies (most grocery stores that sell Mexican foods have this),  or Biscoito de Maizena (if you live by a Brazilian food market).



And finally, cocoa powder and butter. You will also need a little bit of granulated sugar to coat the treats later.


So all you have to do is to mix together, sweetened condensed milk, butter and cocoa powder in a heavy bottomed pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn down the heat to medium and cook stirring constantly for about 12 minutes, until the mixture is thick and glossy. You know the mixture is ready if you tilt the pan and the whole thing drops in a big blob to the other side of the pan (without sticking to the bottom of the pan).


At that point you can turn off the stove and add the cookies that you broke down in small pieces. My son helped with this:





Stir in the cookies and transfer mixture to a greased (with unsalted butter) baking pan in one uniform layer:


Allow the misture to come to room temperature. Cover it and chill in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. Cut the sweet in small squares:


And coat it in granulated sugar:



And it is done! I keep this treat it in the refrigerator. If you prefer to eat it at room temperature, simply take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving. It is chewy, gooey and crunch and delicious!! Enjoy!!



Palha Italiana
makes about 20 squares 

Ingredients
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
20 Marias cookies, broken in small pieces
granulated sugar for coating

Method
Combine sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter in a heavy bottomed pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for approximately 10 to 12 minutes until the mixture is thick, glossy and pulls away from the sides and bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat, and add the cookies. Stir is well and transfer mixture to a small baking pan greased with unsalted butter. Make sure to spread mixture in one uniform layer. Cool at room temperature. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 40 minutes to 1 hour until it is hard enough to cut. Cut dessert in equal sized squares, coat squares with granulated sugar and serve. Keep in the refrigerator. Served chilled or at room temperature.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring and Key Lime Trifle


It finally feels like spring around here! Last week we went from this:


To this:



The children are enjoying the weather SO much! These kids have been locked up for 6 months and now there is no keeping them in the house! We have played outside for three days straight only coming home to eat and sleep! And speaking of eating, the warm weather certainly changes which foods we crave and the way we eat around our house! I am starting to think fresh, chilled, grilled, crisp! And I am so excited about it!


Last week I shared a recipe over at BettyCrocker.com that translates that change really well: Key Lime Trifle! Made with tangy fresh key lime and super light and fluffy angel food cake, that is the perfect kind of dessert for spring and summer!


To see the step-by-step recipe click HERE.



Happy Spring!!


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hand Surgery and England

I have not shared here yet that I had hand surgery about a month and a half ago. Everything went well and I am getting better each day. I am cooking again, which is a good sign! I hope to be posting more recipes soon!

Today I am leaving on a short vacation with husband. We will me visiting London and Cambridge in the UK. This will be my first time there so I am really excited! I will be sharing photos from our trip here!

Until then,

Paula

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wild Mushroom Soup



Growing up in Brazil I did not have access to fresh wild mushrooms. I ate them for the first time here in U.S. and it was obviously here that I had my first mushroom soup. Unfortunately most mushroom soups I had tried so far were way too creamy for me. You know when a soup has so much cream it is hard to eat even half of it?

A few weeks ago, on a very cold day, I was craving Mushroom soup - but without all the cream! So I decided to make one at home. I searched the internet and found a recipe on FineCooking.com that looked pretty good! It only asks for 1/4 cup of half-and-hlaf. I used the fat free version and I am sure that plain greek yogurt would work great too. The addition of sherry and soy sauce at the end brings the soup together and should not be omitted, in my opinion.This soup was so delicious I decided to share it here. I hope you try it!

p.s.: As you can see from the photo above, I chopped my mushrooms really small. I actually used a food processor and accidentally chopped them too small. Next time I will slice them as asked for on the recipe.

Wild Mushroom Soup
recipe from magazine Fine Cooking

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
3/4 lb. fresh wild mushrooms, wiped clean (steams removed from shiitakes), and thinly sliced to yield about 4 1/2 cups). I used shiitake and baby bella.
2 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups low sodium chicken stock or vegetable broth
1/4 cup half-and-half
3 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

Directions:
Melt butter and olive oil in a 5-qt. or large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until it's beginning to brown., about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the mushroom, 2 Tbs. of the thyme, and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper; cook mushrooms until they become limp, 2 to 4 minutes.

Add broth, scraping up any browned bits in the pot with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil over hight heat, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the mushrooms are tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Tranfer about half of the soup to a stand blender and process until smooth. return the mixture to the pot and stir in the hal-andhal, sherry, and soy douce. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if needed, and reheat. Garnish each serving with a small pinch of the remaining 1 tsp. thyme.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Recipe on BettyCrocker.com. Hazelnut Brownie Tart.


Today on BettyCrocker.com, I am sharing a scrumptious and super easy dessert recipe.  I used chewy brownie as my "tart crust", the filling is made with Greek yogurt, Nutella and vanilla. All topped with crunchy hazelnuts. Oh my! The tangy yogurt adds such a surprising and fresh taste to this super cholotate-y treat! You must try!

Click HERE for the recipe and step-by-step article.


Monday, January 21, 2013

How to make Leek Quiche


During the Holidays when we were busy shopping, visiting with friends, hosting parties, etc, having a quiche in the refrigerator was real life saver. Whether you eat it right out of the oven, or at room temperature the day after, this is a dish that is satisfying and can be made in advance to save your precious time. And even better, it is a crowd pleaser! Who doesn't like a crusty pastry filled with super flavorful cheesy stuff? 

Another great thing about quiche is that it so versatile, it can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Just serve it along with a delicious salad and you are done!


Leek quiche is a very basic one. But you can be creative and add any of your favorite ingredients to the filling! Just make sure they are cooked and seasoned before you add them to the cream/eggs mixture!

I use a food processor to make the dough. The dough is super easy to make but it needs to be chilled for about 1 hour before you roll it out. Also you must pre bake the crust before adding the filling to make sure the crust does not turn out soggy. Thinking of that, I first prepare the dough. While dough is chilling in the refrigerator I prepare the filling. Then I pre bake the dough (which is quick), and finally I bake the quiche.

The dough:

After dough is chilled:

The filling is also very simple to make. Trim the dark green from the leek and slice it. Make sure to rinse the sliced leek because they can have a lot of dirt sometimes.


Now cook the leeks:


In a separate bowl mix the other part of the filling:
Mix the cooked leeks with the cream mixture and pour it into the pre-baled crust:


Top it with gruyere cheese:



And bake until puffed up and golden brown!!


Leek Quiche
Dough recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Filling recipe adapted from Julia Child.

Ingredients:

Crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
2 to 3 tablespoons of ice water

Filling
3 large leeks (trimmed: white and light green parts only), sliced and rinsed
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
3 eggs
1 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
zest from half of a lemon
1/4 cup gruyere cheese, shredded

Directions:

For crust:
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse flour, salt and sugar until combined. Add cold butter and pulse again until butter is pea size.  With the machine running, slowly add ice water through the the feed tube. The dough will start to hold together. To test it, squeeze a small amount of dough, if is still too crumbly, add a little more ice water. Transfer dough to a floured surface and shape it into a ball. Then use a rolling pin to form a disk with the dough. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.

To par-bake the crust, roll out chilled dough on a lightly floured surface with the help of a rolling pin. The dough should be round (2 inches larger all around than your quiche pan). Transfer dough to quiche pan and use your fingers to lightly press dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork at 1/2 inch intervals.

Line pastry with foil or parchment paper and fill it with pie weights (or uncooked rice or beans). Bake crust in a preheated 400F oven for 8 to 9 minutes. Remove foil and pie weights and bake for 2 or 3 minutes more. Crust is ready when it starts to color and begins to shrink from the sides of the pan. Set pre-baked crust aside.

For Filling:
Put leeks, water, butter, and salt in a heavy-bottomed pot. Bring it to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until all liquid has evaporated and leeks are very tender - 20 to 30 minutes. Set it aside.

In a large bowl whisk together eggs, cream, milk, nutmeg, pepper, and lemon zest just until well combined. Stir in the leeks.

To finalize quiche: Preheat oven to 375F. Place oven rack on upper third position. Fill par-baked crust with the filling. Top it with the cheese and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Looking back at our visit to Palute restaurant in Postira, Croatia


This week we purchased our tickets to visit Croatia this Summer. Yes, it seems a little early, but the Winter is hard on us so we need to have something good to look forward to! Also, Croatia is a hot destination, so it gets harder to get good tickets the longer you wait. I guess getting those tickets got me thinking about our last trip there. I then found out that I started to work on a blog post about one of the restaurants we went last Summer but I forgot to finish the post to share with you. So I went ahead and worked on it tonight!

The name of the restaurant is Palute, which seems to be a very common name for businesses in Croatia! If you google it you will find many Palute restaurants, but I did not find the one that I am writing about here. Probably because that is not a typical restaurant as you will find out...

This is one of those places that you go to that end up being an experience you will always remember. It all starts as soon as you enter the place - olive trees, grape vines, peach trees, flowers...all perfectly framed by the most gorgeous sunset.



That alone made me want to stay. As we walked up a little further we were welcomed with a taste of a locally made aperitif.



As that drink burned down my throat, I suddenly realized my children were not next to me (sorry, I was mesmerized by the whole thing!). I quickly found out that they were already at the restaurant's playground with their grandma.



Nice! I could for a moment take it all in without interruptions. I immediately walked towards this gorgeous orange light that I noticed from a distance. I could not tell if it was the sunset  being reflected or something else...



And then I saw the most beautiful scene - a man caring for amazing looking meats in a large wood burning fire. Whole pig, whole lamb, and chicken were looking as golden as can be. That was dinner, and I could not wait for it!


While the family was getting settled at our table, I wondered around and got to meet a couple of very friendly locals. We tried to talk  - some English, some Croatian (about 10 words I know), and lots of gestures!



Palute in Postira, Croatia, serves simple and delicious home cooked style food. It is not your typical restaurant. There, dinner is served at a specific time - for everyone . You must call in advance to make sure you get a table and you must arrive before they set out the food. At dinner time, you line up and serve yourself buffet style. New dishes come from the kitchen while you are eating, so you can go back to the buffet table and help yourself as many times as you wish. There are so many delicious things to try: from a simple salad made with amazingly sweet locally grown tomatoes to lamb that has been roasting on that fire all day long. From amazing freshly caught seafood to fried zucchini cakes. Again, nothing fancy, no mystery sauce...it's simple food cooked by people that care and know what good flavors are. 

What I heard is that Palute used to (or still does?) host and caterer receptions, such as weddings. People that experienced their food during those events were so excited about it that they started to wonder if they also operated as a restaurant - but they didn't.  With time, as the interest in their food grew, they decided to open their doors to dinner some days of the week. And they maintained the buffet style which they were used to doing for big events. 



The kids enjoyed their time at Palute also. They loved to start the evening at their playground. They tried to make friends with kitties (see that one on the roof):

My son, his cousin, and the kitty
And because my daughter was very kind to her brother during a sibling conflict, the waiter gave her (and all the other kids) a treat: they got to see and pet a pony. They still talk about that day at Palute...




I am looking forward to going back to Palute this Summer. I'll make sure to go with a big appetite so I can try as many dishes as I can! 

If you missed my other posts about our last trip to Croatia, here are the links:



If you are trying to plan a trip and is looking for a fun destination, those posts might inspire you to try Croatia :-)


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

On BettyCrocker.com - Lunchbox Idea



Today on BettyCrocker.com I am sharing ideas to fill the kids lunchbox using leftovers from breakfast. Easy and delicious, this pancake BLT turned out super yummy. I confess I ate the whole thing immediately after taking those photos!!


The whole grain pancakes hold up really well and don't get all mushy like some do. It got me excited to try some other combinations like these:

Whipped Chive Cream Cheese with Sliced Cucumbers 

Nutella with Sliced Bananas
Click  HERE for the recipe and article.