Friday, July 22, 2011

Crème Brulee

With this, I would like to take off for summer! Yes, I need to prepare for the Mediterranean trip coming up in late August. Have a happy and safe summer my friends!!

This is THE easiest of Crème brulee recipes one can ever come across! Believe me on this. Only a few everyday ingredients that most of us have on hand, well in this case, in our refrigerators! And you can whip up this easy yet elegant dessert in no time. The only time consuming process is the chilling of the brulees in the fridge. Mine is a low cal, low fat version as I used Splenda and evaporated milk instead of sugar and heavy cream. I believe this is a nutritious dessert(!) as we are using egg yolks which are full of egg nutrients(don't think about cholesterol, you are not going to eat all 6 brulees!), all the protein and calcium from milk. Crusty sugary layer, broken into pieces, smooth velvety custard--with a hot cup of cappuccino! Aha… now that's what I called floating on the cloud 9.

Crème Brulee
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup Splenda
2 cups evaporated milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp sugar for sprinkling on top of brulees
How to:
Preheat the oven to 250° F.
Mix first 4 ingredients with hand mixer and pour on ramekins.
Place in the hot oven with the ovenproof bowl filled with hot water.
Bake for about an hour or until completely set.
Cool and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Sprinkle sugar on top, caramelize the tops with blowtorch or simply place the ramekins under the broiler till the sugar caramelizes on top.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Little Taste of Mexico

I've been to Mexico for almost 4-5 times now. Every time I go there, I look for mango & pomegranate trees, bougainvillea & Plumeria(Champa) flowers and of course, great Mexican food. There we don't get hard shell tacos! It's only for Americans & Canadians. Their tacos are tortillas, with the plateful of different beans, meat and potatoes that they either fill and roll up or eat just like we Indians do!

Empanadas are Mexican samosas! Literally! Our Indian samosas are puff pastry filled with either minced meat or potato mixture or cooked lentils. Empanadas are also puff pastry filled with minced meat, bean and potato mixture or anything. When I first saw empanada moulds here in North America, which was almost 2 decades ago, I thought why Indians here are making samosas in this shape?! Silly me! It didn't take me long to figure out that those moulds are not for samosas, they are for empanadas. This dish was on my to-do list for a long time. Only last month I got a chance to make empanadas at home. They were delicious. With sour cream and home made salsa, those empanadas were melt-in-your-mouth treat. I served it with my famous caramelized onions and mushrooms quesadillas. That transported us back to Mexico in no time.

Chicken Empanadas

For pastry:
1 cup AP flour
1/4 cup butter

For filling:
1 lb ground chicken
1 onion, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Mexican chili powder
1 tbsp dry oregano
Red chili powder to taste
1 egg

How to:

For pastry: mix flour, butter and salt till it is crumbly. Slowly add a tbsp of cold water till the dough forms. Gather the dough bits and place it in a plastic wrap. Keep it in the refrigerator for about an hour.

In the mean time, prepare filling. Cook everything till the mixture is nice and dry. Cool.

Roll out the dough in a big sheet, about 1/4" thick. With the rim of the glass or a cookie cutter, cut rounds of the sheet. Place the round in the empanada mould, fill with a couple of tablespoons of filling mixture and fold it over. If you don't have the mould, just fill half of the round, fold over, seal tightly with fingers and then make the criss cross design with fork.

Beat the egg. Brush all the empanadas with egg mixture and bake them in the 400°F hot oven till golden brown.

Serve with salsa, guacamole and sour cream.

Caramelized Onions & Mushroom Quesadillas

2 big onions, sliced
1 lb mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp taco spice mix
1 cup cheddar cheese
10 medium tortillas
How to:

Cook onions in the oil on medium slow heat till caramelized, for about 15 minutes. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper, taco spice mix and stir well. Cool down.

Take one tortilla, fill with the onion & mushroom mixture(about 2 tbsp), sprinkle with a tbsp of cheese, fold over. Prepare the rest of the tortillas this way. Place them on a baking sheet.

Spray all the tortillas with Pam. Either grill them or place another baking sheet on top of the prepared tortillas and bake in the 400°F oven for about 10 minutes.

Serve with salsa, sour cream and guac.

Friday, July 15, 2011


 Lasagna….I believe this is the most popular yet dreaded pasta dish ever! I've seen and tasted horribly made lasagna that in no sense can be called lasagna. Just the mix of noodles, veggies, pasta sauce and lots of sprinkling of cheese…. That's it. The real lasagna asks for so much TLC! You need to arrange the layers of slow cooked meat sauce, noodles, blend of cheeses…. Then repeat. This gives you the delectable pasta that no one can have enough of. It's pretty time consuming to make lasagna with love. I mean anyone can make this with store-bought pasta sauce, noodles and cheese blend. But to get the restaurant style dish at home needs careful planning and layering and baking!

My family loves pasta, any kind of pasta. I make lasagna when I have lots of time on hand. I make my meat sauce which is slow-cooked for hours. This meat sauce is the secret of the best lasagna. Vegetarians could use Nutrela soy granules in place of meat but to me, they don't bind together that well in sauce form. Maybe some sort of beans would help there.

Meat Lasagna
For Sauce:
1 can crushed tomatoes(32 oz)
1 can tomato paste(6 oz)
1 big onion, finely chopped
1-2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 whole cinnamon stick
2-3 bay leaves
1 lb. ground meat
1/4 cup olive oil
A handful of fresh basil, oregano, rosemary-chopped(or dried Italian seasoning about a tablespoon)

For lasagna:
1 package noodles
1 container ricotta cheese(10 oz)
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
1 egg

How to:

For sauce: brown the meat, set aside. Heat up the oil. Add chopped onion, celery, carrot and garlic and cook till onion is translucent. Now add tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and meat. Throw in herbs and place the pot on the back burner for at least 2-3 hours to simmer. Uncover and stir from time to time. Add water if it sticks on the bottom of the pot. If this is made a day ahead, even better. Cook it for a few more hours and refrigerate.

Boil the water in a large pot. When it comes to rolling boil, add salt and noodles. Cook for about 2 minutes less than the package directions have asked for to get it ultra al-dente! While pasta is cooking, mix ricotta cheese with egg, set aside.

In 13X9 ovenproof casserole, pour 1/2 cup of sauce. Arrange 3 noodles side by side. Spread 3rd of the ricotta mix, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat the layers, topping it off with sauce. Now sprinkle with the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in hot oven(400° F) for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for 10 or so more minutes till the cheese is golden and bubbly. Pull out of the oven and set aside for at least 15 minutes to get nice and even pieces. Enjoy!

I also make Veggie Lasagna with Spinach and Ricotta cheese. Below is the picture.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bread Sticks

We really miss Olive Garden here! They shut down their restaurants here about 12 or so years ago. We used to go there all the time we craved Italian food. And I was absolutely in love with their salad and bread sticks. I used to doggy bag the entrée and fill up myself on salad and bread only! Even now, whenever we are in the USA, we make sure to visit Olive Garden. Although it's not the same anymore. Their portions have become smaller and prices have gone higher. Still I am in love with their pastas and soups and salad and bread stick. This was my attempt to make the similar bread sticks at home and I guessed I aced it. I've made it now for so many times, I can do it without even looking at the recipe. Before I kept on trying with various portions of the basic bread stick ingredients and then I found the exact measurements and the temperature of the oven to make the bread sticks. Every time I make it, I can't believe how easy this is to prepare. And the joy to share it on the dinner table is out of this world. We have it with salad, soup and saucy pasta. They just come in handy to wipe all the goodness off from the bottom of the plate!

Here's how I make them.

Bread Sticks
4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/3 cup warm water
1 tbsp yeast
2 tsp salt or as needed
1/4 cup olive oil
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning-both as required
Melted butter to brush the sticks

How to:

Place all the ingredients up to olive oil in the food processor. Make the smooth dough by kneading it for about 5 minutes. Let your food processor do the work.

Make about 24 balls and roll them on the counter to make sticks. Place them on the baking tray, covered with the plastic wrap until they rise, almost double in size.

Preheat the oven to 425° F. place a container of boiling water in the oven so that the bread sticks will stay soft. Brush the sticks with melted butter and bake for 5 minutes. Take them out, brush again with melted butter, sprinkle garlic powder and seasoning and bake for another 5-7 minutes. They are done to serve.

Just brush them again with the melted butter and enjoy piping hot bread sticks with soup, salad, pasta or just dip them in the hot Marinara sauce!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Caramilzed Banana Crêpes with Nutella Sauce

Finally, the last batch of crêpes are out of the freezer! I am so glad I made more of these svelte pancakes and froze them. They came in so handy whenever I was in need of a quick dessert. The saying : necessity is the mother of invention is so true! I needed a quick fix dessert and I had crêpes in the freezer, bananas in my fruit basket, Nutella, icing sugar in the pantry and Reddywhip, caramel sauce in the fridge! Perfect ingredients to make caramel banana Nutella crêpes! And needless to say, what's better than to use up the ingredients on hand to make room for new, fresh ingredients?

Actually these crêpes are the first crêpes we were introduced to in 2002. We were on our first cruise to Mexican Riviera and hubby woke me up in the middle of the night with the beautiful platter of this crêpe! He already had his on the top deck restaurant and thought I would definitely love it so he brought me a plate. At first, I was so reluctant to have the crêpe as it was new to me and I didn't want to get up and brush my teeth again at 1 AM in the morning! Still he insisted that I should give it a try, which I am so glad I did. That was one divine dessert I had! I only made one change in this recipe. Instead of using chocolate sauce, I used Nutella. Even better!

Caramel Banana Crêpes with Nutella Sauce


For crêpes, refer to my Strawberry crêpes recipe

For filling

2 ripe bananas, sliced

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 tbsp butter

Nutella as required

How to:

Melt butter in a skillet. Add bananas and brown sugar and cook on medium heat till bananas are caramelized and softened. Fill the crêpes with this mixture and keep warm..

Melt Nutella in the microwave and drizzle over the top of the crêpes. Garnish with sliced strawberries, whipped cream or just go crazy with whatever you have on hand!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Celebrating Red N White with Strawberries N Cheesecake!

Strawberries…. My favourite. Cheesecake… another favorite of mine! Combine two of them, I am in heaven! I was thinking about making my usual red and white dessert for Canada Day last Friday and came up with all these! It's amazing how a simple and basic cheesecake preparation can be turned into something exotic and heavenly delicious. Cheesecake was prepared using the simple method as in my New York Cheesecake. It was turned into these mind blowing desserts and breakfasts.

First one is Strawberry Cheesecake Turnovers. Simple yet yummy. All you need is prepared cheesecake, macerated strawberries(I only used honey and orange zest, go crazy with Basil, balsamic vinegar and what have you!) and look what I got. Seriously, for all us foodies, no recipe for this is required, am I right?

Now comes Strawberry Cheesecake Muffins. Equally easy and melt in mouth beauties. Again, I only combined my blueberry muffin recipe, just changed the fruit and voila!

Strawberry Cheesecake Pancake, now this is something to look forward to every Saturday morning! Super simple and super soft, these fluffy pancakes are less pancakes and more shortcakes! To save me a lot of time in the kitchen, I used Mrs.Betty Crocker's help! Boy, she comes in handy every time I want to whip up pancakes. Love ya Betty!
gorgeous looking plate!
somewhat messed up!
Last but not least, Strawberry Cheesecake Mousse! Yes, you guessed it right. All the ingredients from Strawberry mousse minus the jello powder, combined with simple cheesecake mix, and this fruity, yummy, layered dessert was born!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian friends. 

Happy Independence day in advance to my American friends.

Together we prosper!

Love YA!!