Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chocolate Creme Brulee

Is it really possible to go crazy over a dessert? I think it is. And frankly, it’s quite normal too. Crème brûlée is one of those desserts that I am bananas about! I knew the moment I was going to go through with this blog that crème brûlée would be one of recipes mentioned here. There is something about this dessert that sounds so fancy. Perhaps it’s the French name, or the misconception that it’s a dessert to be eaten at an expensive restaurant. Kinda’ crazy, but I’ve read that, at one point, crème brûlée was also known as burnt cream. Can you imagine being at a nice restaurant and ordering the burnt cream? Hell, I’d still eat it!  Believe it or not, I was very intimidated about making this dessert in my kitchen. I mean, I’ve heard my friends on the Food Network warn me about whisking in very warm ingredients into egg yolks because they’ll scramble. “Great,” I thought, “this will definitely happen to me.” However, this all changed when I flipped through the pages of a magazine and found this recipe for crème brûlée. I noticed, then and there, that the recipe for this dessert is really not that complicated and that it was time to put on my cooking apron on and overcome my fear. Making this dessert really was easy! Although I did follow the recipe, I will admit that after the whipping cream mixture was done boiling, I let it cool down longer than the 15 minutes suggested on the recipe. After all, I was determined to not mess this recipe up by having the mixture turn into scrambled eggs! I know I’ve already mentioned how crazy I am for this dessert and am happy I get to scratch it off my ‘cooking bucket list’. But this recipe has more of a special meaning to it considering that I made this especially for my husband’s Birthday, which happens to be today. Happy Birthday to ‘my everything,’ the person who always lets me eat the caramelized sugar off of our crème brûlée.

Chocolate Crème Brûlée
Serves 10
1 ¾ cups whipping cream
½  cup sugar
¼ cup half-and-half or light cream
½ of a vanilla bean, split lengthwise (you can substitute 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract for vanilla bean)
6 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon of milk

  1. Preheat oven to 300. In a medium saucepan combine whipping cream, ½ cup of sugar, and half-and-half. Additionally, scrape out seeds from vanilla bean or pour in the 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract into saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat just until mixture comes to boiling. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes to infuse cream mixture with vanilla flavor. Remove vanilla pod; discard or reserve for another use. Also, in a microwave-safe bowl warm chocolate chips with milk for about 30 seconds and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk egg yolks until combined. Gradually whisk warm cream mixture into egg yolks. After, mix in the melted chocolate into mix.
  3. Place ten 2-ounce ramekins in a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Divide cream mixture evenly among ramekins. Place baking pan on an oven rack. Pour hot water into baking pan around ramekins to reach a depth of ¾ inch.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until centers appear set when gently shaken. Remove ramekins from water; cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours.
  5. To serve, sprinkle ¼ cup sugar evenly over tops of custards. Using a culinary blow torch, heat sugar until a bubbly brown crust forms.

Shrimp-A la Diabla

If spicy is what you like, then this recipe is definitely for you! The sauce known as A la Diabla, is a red, sweet, and spicy concoction poured over grilled shrimp. What I enjoy about making this sauce is that I can make it as spicy as I want it to be. Plus, other than possibly having to buy a bag of chiles needed for the recipe, most of the other ingredients I guarantee are already in my kitchen. Now I’ve had this sauce at well known restaurants before, but it doesn’t compare to this sauce. Yup, I will say it again, “this recipe for A la Diabla sauce is by far the best I’ve ever had!” In addition to being a simple dish to prepare, it can be served with different sides. White rice, avocado slices, lime wedges, and tostada chips are commonly paired with this dish. However, on the days when I’m feeling like a ‘bad ass cook’ I whip up a quick guacamole, because paired with the shrimp they make a phenomenal combination. Once, I even turned this dish semi-Italian by pouring the shrimp and sauce over angel hair pasta. (That’s called improvising, or realizing after the dish was made that you have run out of rice to cook.J) Once you have made this sauce with shrimp, feel free to explore and pair it with other seafood. You’ll be amazed at how delightfully tasty this ‘devilish’ sauce really is!

Shrimp- A la Diabla
Serves 3-4

1 ½ lbs of raw or cooked frozen medium sized shrimp
1 large tomato
2 large garlic cloves peeled
2-4 Chiles de Arbol (Use one chile pepper for mild sauce)
½ cup of ketchup
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp of salt, divided in two
½ tsp of black pepper


1.Create an X on the top of the tomato and place in a pot of water. Let this boil for about 15 mins or so on high, or until the skin of the tomato starts to peel off.

 2.Next, if you are using raw shrimp, peel and clean shrimp, but leave the tail on. Make sure you clean both sides of the shrimp. Shrimp have a vein on each side that should be removed. If you are using frozen shrimp, follow thawing directions on the bag which normally consists of running shrimp under cold water in a colander.

 3. Heat the 2 tablespoons of Olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Take the 2-4 chiles you will be using and toast them in the Olive oil ( literally 2 minutes) and remove from oil. Once the tomato is cooked, drain water, let cool, and then peel the skin off of the tomato.
3. Take the tomato, 2 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ cup of ketchup, and your chiles (at this time remove the stems) and blend all together for 2 minutes or until well blend together.
 4.At this point, go ahead and reheat the pan with the Olive oil and cook shrimp. Season shrimp with salt and pepper to taste.
4.Cook shrimp for about 3-4 minutes, or until they have turned color.

5.Pour the sauce in the pan with the shrimp and simmer for about 10  mins on low. If sauce is too thick or spicy add in a little ketchup.
Serve this dish with white rice, avocado slices, and tostadas/chips.

Adapted from original cook, H. Sandoval

Birthday Dinner

Today is everyone’s lucky day! Ya’ll are getting’ two for the price of one! I decided to post two recipes in honor of my husband’s Birthday. He is away for work for the next couple of months, but I wanted to post some of his favorite dishes I would have made for his special day. Although we both enjoy trying new restaurants from local pubs to fine dining, we both love and cherish the simple dinners we end up having at home. I hope you enjoy the following recipes. They’re simple, delicious, yet special enough for a Birthday dinner.

Happy Birthday Babe!!!

Ram and I miss you!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Zucchini- Mushroom Pasta

Hello friends!!

I can’t believe how fast time is flying by! I was trying to add in a few last winter-ish recipes for you guys before I realized that spring was already here! I guess it’s safe to say that this is first “spring recipe” which only means summer is near by! Whenever I hit up my grocery store(s) I always try to buy as many fresh vegetables vs. the frozen kind. I have nothing against frozen vegetables and still buy them occasionally. After all, I do throw them into a pot of rice here and there. But, I just prefer cooking various dishes with fresh vegetables. Whether it’s roasting broccoli, cauliflower, or asparagus, I always find a way to cook them with meals. Considering that at the moment I am buying and cooking food for one person, it’s really hard to not let food go to waste. About two weeks ago, I noticed that I needed to use up the remaining bits and pieces of vegetables I had chillin’ in my fridge. The first time I made this pasta, I used ingredients like butter and whipping cream to make a traditional cheese sauce to accompany this pasta….. and it was gooood! But, considering that I cook for myself and end up eatin’ leftovers, I can’t eat pasta with an extremely heavy cheese sauce all the time. I made this pasta two other times because I knew it had potential. The second time, I tossed the pasta and the cooked down vegetables with olive oil and grated parmesan cheese and that was just as good! However, I kept thinking about this pasta and the cheese sauce. J I thought, maybe I can make this sauce a little lighter by using different ingredients. Now I’m not saying this sauce is fat free; considering that butter and flour are used in this recipe. But the sauce is a little lighter by using 1 or 2% milk and a little less cheese. I figure we’re eating mostly vegetables so throwing on a lighter cheese sauce won’t hurt, right? Besides, with the arrival of this new season, I’m sure we will all be active in this warmer weather, and cooking more with fresh ingredients!

Zucchini- Mushroom Pasta
Serves 4

2 small zucchinis
1 leek ( onion may be used in replace of leek)
1 ½ cups of chopped mushrooms
1 small tomato, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of black pepper
2 tablespoon of olive oil
3 tablespoons of butter
1 ½ teaspoons of all purpose flour
1 cup of 2% milk
½ cup of parmesan cheese
1 dry bay leaf
½ a box of bowtie pasta (wheat bowtie pasta can be used as well)


  1. Begin by cooking pasta according to the box and add in the dry bay leaf into water. Also, cut leeks length wise then roughly chop. Place chopped leeks into a bowl of water. 
  2. Cut and clean zucchinis however you like. I like cutting them length wise then cutting them in half pieces. Also, clean, slice or chop mushrooms and tomatoes.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pot at medium heat.
  4. Drain the leeks and pat dry using a paper towel. Add leeks to the pot and stir.
  5. Let leeks turn color before adding in the zucchinis and mushrooms.
  6. Add in minced garlic, salt, and pepper to the mix.
  7. Add in tomatoes and let vegetables cook until fork tender. Remove from heat when fully cooked.
  8. Drain pasta and set aside
  9. In a medium size pot melt 3 tbsp of butter and stir in 1 ½ tsp of all purpose flour until a lightly brown paste has formed.
  10. Slowly add in 1 cup of 2 % milk and stir.
  11. Add in ½ cup of parmesan cheese and stir mix.
  12. Stir mix occasionally and let sauce come to a slight bubble. (should take about 8 minutes) Add in salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Mix pasta and sauce first, and then add in vegetables. Serve with grated parmesan cheese on top.

Source: L.Chavez. Sweet,Spicy,and Sassy Original

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Holy Mo-lay!!"

Right before I moved last year, I managed to get some of my husband’s favorite recipes cooked by my mother-in-law. Some of them I was a little intimidated to cook because of the list of ingredients and the prepping involved. I know. Somewhere right now, my mother is saying to stop being lazy. J
Mole (pronounced Mo-lay) is one of those dishes that normally require a lot of work.  The Mole recipe I’m sharing today is a dark red, rich flavored and thick sauce served with chicken or turkey that originated from Mexico over 200 years ago. Believe it or not, there numerous types of mole sauces, and they even come in various colors. Interesting, right?! Multiple ingredients like dark chocolate: nuts: seeds: tortillas: bread: fruit: chilies: and a variety of spices have been known to be found in this sauce. I mean, I even found out that lettuce is used in some recipes too! The consistency of this sauce can be compared to a BBQ sauce, but with a little more added heat. To master this sauce, ingredients must be toasted, slightly fried, and poured through a strainer to create that velvety and creamy look.  I know what you’re thinking, “fried?!” But run a lap after dinner and you’ll be fine! Now I don’t mind working my but off in the kitchen. But, let’s keep it real here friends; I’m always looking for shortcuts! Which is why I love the recipe I’m providing even more. My mother and mother-in-law both shared their recipes for this dish which allowed me to pick and choose ingredients needed to make an easier, yet delicious sauce. I feel that this recipe is definitely a win-win situation. An authentic dish with great taste is created… and approachable for all everyday cooks’.

Mole Sauce

7 guajillo chilies
½ roll of Ritz crackers
1 tsp of dried oregano
1 tsp of ground cumin
½ tsp of black pepper
½ tsp of salt
2-3 cloves
3-4 garlic cloves
½ of an onion
1 ¼ cup of low sodium chicken stock
1 tablet of Nestlé’s Abuelita Chocolate
1-2  chile piquin, or chile de arbol (optional)
3 tsp of pumpkin seeds
Sesame seeds (optional)
4 boneless chicken breasts
3 tbsp of oil

  1. Preheat a medium sized pot at medium heat. Toast the pumpkin and sesame seeds separately for about 30 seconds each and set aside. Then heat the 3 tbsp of oil in the same pan.
  2. Take two guajillo chilies at a time and place them in the oil. Turn once and remove from heat once they begin to puff up. (No more than 15 seconds.)
  3. In the same pan take half of the Ritz crackers and lightly toast them. Literally no more than 5 seconds. Continue to the process until all the Ritz crackers have been lightly toasted.
  4. Place Abuelita chocolate in the microwave and heat for 36 seconds.
  5. Remove the stems from the chilies and place in a blender with crackers, oregano, cumin, black pepper, salt, cloves, garlic cloves, ½ an onion, pumpkin seeds, and 1 ¼ cup of chicken stock. Blend all ingredients for about 5 minutes. If you notice that the ingredients are not blending, meaning the sauce is too thick; add in a little more chicken stock. Sauce should have a “BBQ” like consistency.
  6. Re-heat the same pot at low heat and pour sauce from the blender into a pan using a strainer. Heat the sauce for about 10 minutes. If sauce is still very thick add in ¼ cup of chicken stock.
  7. Grill chicken breast with salt and pepper. Once the chicken has cooled, pour sauce over and garnish with sesame seeds.

Source: Adapted from H. Sandoval and E. Martinez

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Normally, I cook five days a week. Now that doesn’t mean I’m cookin’ up Beef Bourguignon each night, but I do manage to make something good. I mean I am pretty creative. After all, I am Mexican, and can make a taco out of almost anything!  Throughout the week, I try to cook red meat once and cook chicken, shrimp, or meatless dishes for the rest of the week. So I have a feeling I will be sharing a lot of chicken recipes with ya’ll. Couple months back, I cooked something for my husband that didn’t turn out so well. Lol! Not surprised. As mentioned somewhere on this blog, I am not a professional and the kitchen is defiantly my playground. It was one of those days where I was in need of something new to make and ran across this recipe in a magazine. Ritz parmesan chicken sounded good, but even better, looked really easy. I had heard of using corn flakes to bread chicken, which I love, but never using Ritz crackers. I went home and made this recipe and was surprised at how much texture and flavor the chicken had. It was like my chicken breast had gotten a “make-over”! The original recipe only calls for using the juice of the lemon; however, I added in the zest into the crumb mixture and it really added flavor and a tad bit of sophistication to my Tuesday night meal. Who would have thought using simple ingredients could create something so delicious.
Ritz Parmesan Chicken

¼ cup of mayo
1 tbsp of lemon juice
25 wheat Ritz crackers
¼ cup of parmesan cheese
2 tsp dried basil
Zest of one lemon
4 boneless chicken breasts


  1. Preheat oven to 400. Mix mayo and lemon juice together and set aside.
  2. Crush the crackers in a zip lock bag and combine with the parmesan cheese, dried basil, and lemon zest.
  3. Clean and trim chicken breast, if needed, and dip chicken breast in mixed mayo mixture then into crumb mix.
  4. Place chicken breast on top of a baking sheet. (Note: If you have a baking rack, place rack on top of a baking sheet so that chicken comes out crispy. Otherwise, the bottom of the chicken breast will come out soggy. Yuck).
  5. Bake chicken for 20 minutes.

Source: Kraft's Food and Family Magazine, Fall 2011.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Poblano Pepper Mostaccoli

Remember the feeling of bringing something to school for show and tell? That excitement you feel when you’re about to show what you brought…is how I feel about this recipe. Lol! I know I’m a dork. But, this recipe really is one of my favorites and most importantly, it brings back a lot of memories of my family. From what I remember, my sister had eaten this pasta once before and asked my mother to make it for her. The first time she made it, I was not really sold on it. I looked at this plate of pasta that was green and wasn’t really sure what flavors to expect.  I thought, green colored sauce could be made with anything like cilantro…broccoli…uh…grass? JK!! Anyway, I ended up eating the pasta that day and years later….it’s still my favorite sauce to put over pasta!

The star of this dish is defiantly the poblano pepper. If you’ve never cooked with poblano peppers, they are spicier than a green pepper, but semi-milder than a jalapeño. Roasting the peppers allows them to become tender as well as for the spicy flavors to come out. Yes, you can roast them over a stove burner, but I prefer to put them in the oven because I’m semi-lazy. J Once the peppers have been roasted, peeled, and blended together with the cream cheese, the mixture creates this creamy, spicy and cheesy sauce. What I like about this sauce is that every time I make it, it comes out slightly different. There have been times when the sauce is very green, or creamier than usual. Other times it can come out very spicy, which I like!
Over the years, my family has made this dish for special holidays and Sunday dinners. Not long ago, I made this dish and remembered all the times my family and I made this dish for each other, and couldn’t help tearing up. Don’t know if I got sad because I miss them, or because I have no one here to make this pasta for me. LOL! I hope you give this recipe a shot. It just might become one of your favorite dishes too.
 Poblano Pepper Mostaccoli

5-6 poblano peppers
1 bar of cream cheese
1/3 cup of milk
2 teaspoons of salt
1 bay leaf
1 box of mostaccoli pasta
1 cup of shredded mozzarella or any brand of quesadilla cheese


  1. Pre-heat oven to 400. Dab a little bit of oil on a paper towel and rub peppers with oil.
  2. Place peppers on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes. Throughout cooking process, turn peppers so that they roast evenly on all sides.
  3. Meanwhile, put water to boil for the mostaccoli and throw in the bay leaf to simmering water.
  4. Once the peppers are done roasting evenly, remove from oven, and transfer into a zip lock bag. (Note: the moisture inside the zip lock bag will make the peeling process a lot easier.) Let peppers stay covered for at least a half hour.
  5. Toss in the mostaccoli and cook according to the box. Before draining the pasta, save ¼ cup of pasta water on the side.
  6. Remove one pepper at a time and peel and remove seeds from the pepper. Additionally, remove the stem from the pepper and discard. (Wash hands immediately with cold water.)
  7. Once all the peppers have been peeled and de-veined, place them in the blender with the softened, not melted, bar of cream cheese, 1/3 cup of milk and salt. Blend well for about 3 minutes.
  8. In a baking dish large enough to fit pasta, mix together the pasta, cream sauce and half a cup of shredded cheese. Use the pasta water that was set a side, if the sauce is too thick.
  9. Add the other half cup of shredded cheese to the top of the pasta and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Source: E.Martinez