Sunday, May 20, 2012

Creamy Caramel Flan



Creamy little cup of pure deliciousness is the best way I can describe this dessert. Flan is a custard type of dessert that is not necessarily a Mexican dessert, but a dessert known all over the world. This sweet little concoction is quite popular in a sense that it has a million and one recipes under its name, yet all create a sweet, creamy, and delicious dessert. Some flan recipes call for using cream cheese, condensed or evaporated milk, and sometimes half-half which all give a different texture to the dessert. Also, depending on what ingredients you are working with, the recipe will call for cooking the dessert in a certain way such as: cooking the flan in a microwave: baking the flan in a water bath: and cooking flan as you would gelatin. But before you think that this little dessert only comes in one flavor, think again. Flan can be given a different flavor by adding various extracts like vanilla, almond, lemon, rum, or by even adding canned pumpkin. I have had the privilege of trying many flan recipes and find them all great for their delicious taste. But of course, I truly enjoy my mother’s flan recipe the most. Her flan recipe creates this sweet and lemony dessert with a semi-firmer texture. It is really perfection! Although I love her recipe, I decided to cover this version because my husband and I were in search of a recipe that created a flan with a creamy and soft texture. And I do believe this recipe has ended my search. Enjoy!

 Creamy Caramel Flan

Serves 4

Ingredients:
½ cup sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups half-half or light cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Ground cinnamon (optional)

Directions:
  1. To caramelize sugar, in an 8-inch heavy skillet cook ½ cup sugar over medium-high heat until sugar starts to melt, shaking skillet occasionally. Once sugar starts to melt, reduce heat to low. Cook about 5 minutes or until sugar is syrupy and golden, stirring as needed with a wooden spoon. Divide the caramelized sugar among four 6-once custard cups or ramekins; tilt dishes to coat bottoms. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 F. In a medium bowl combine eggs, half-half, 1/3 cup sugar, and vanilla. Place custard cups in a 2-quart square baking dish. Divide egg mixture among custard cups. If desired, sprinkle with cinnamon.
  3. Place baking dish on an oven rack. Pour boiling water into baking dish around custard cups to a depth of 1 inch. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until a knife inserted near centers comes out clean.
  4. Remove custard cups from water. Cool completely on a wire rack. Using a knife, loosen flans from sides of dishes and invert onto four dessert plates. Spoon any caramelized sugar remaining in custard cups onto flans.                                                                                                                                
Source: Better Homes. Our Best Desserts 2012 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Artichoke-Avocado De-light!



I am totally enjoying this spring weather! I don’t know why but this warm weather really puts me in a good mood and in the mood to eat fresh vegetables. I think I have mentioned this before, but I buy fresh vegetables each week. I purposely buy them so that I can either roast or sauté vegetables, or create phenomenal salads with my meals. Before you put salad in the boring category, try experimenting with different vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other ingredients that could give your salad excellent taste and texture. Also, rather than buying salad dressing from the store, I recommend trying to experiment with different ingredients in your kitchen. Within the last two months I have learned that olive oil, red or white wine vinegar, honey Dijon mustard, honey, lime and lemon juice, freshly squeezed, different herbs, and salt and pepper can create a variety of great tasting salad dressings. Trust me. You’ll never go back to bottled salad dressing again. The recipe I am sharing today is a perfect example of a simple salad with great taste. I originally was introduced to this recipe by one of my sisters a long time ago. I remember having this salad for the first time and tasting the fresh crisp vegetables, soft and salty artichoke hearts, firm boiled egg, creamy avocado, and the light and tangy dressing. I’ll admit. It was love at first bite. I love this salad because it’s really light, yet so satisfying. It really is the perfect salad to have for a light lunch or a great side dish for any type of grilled meat or fish. Next time you’re in the kitchen tryin’ to chop up a salad, give this salad a try. I guarantee you’ll be delightfully surprised…and wanting more!

Artichoke-Avocado De-light!
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 head Romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
1 small red pepper, sliced
1 small yellow pepper, sliced
1 can (14 oz or smaller) artichoke hearts
1 avocado, sliced
3 boiled eggs, cut into quarters.

Red Wine Vinaigrette Dressing

1 cup olive oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon (one squeeze) honey

Directions:

  1. Wisk olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and honey in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Arrange Romaine lettuce on a large flat salad dish. Begin to arrange red and yellow peppers followed by the remaining ingredients. Arrange them however you’d like. Be creative!
  3. Pour red wine vinaigrette dressing all over salad and serve. 

Source: M. De la Vega


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hibiscus-Citrus Tea



It’s funny how things change. I remember throughout my childhood my parents making different types of beverages, also known as ‘agua fresca,’ using fresh fruits, different types of tea, and even rice. I always thought, “Why can’t we be like everyone else and have cool-aid?” Back then, I was definitely not appreciative of these homemade drinks and thought they were nothing spectacular compared to an ice cold Coca Cola. Couple months ago, I was at a book store and ordered a drink to have while I caught up on all my celebrity gossip. The more I drank this tea; I wondered where I had this drink before, considering that the smell and taste of the tea seemed so familiar. I soon realized that the tea I had just purchased was in fact the same hibiscus tea my parents made all these years which they referred to as ‘agua de jamaica. I’ll admit. I was slightly disappointed at that point, because not only did I just pay about 3 dollars for this drink, but I also knew the simple recipe to this drink.
For those who are not too familiar with hibiscus tea, it is literally made from hibiscus flower pedals. The flower pedals are dried and packaged for use. That is why it is important to rinse the hibiscus pedals before use as well as to use a strainer when pouring the tea into a pitcher. Otherwise, you will get a lot of the dirt and dust that naturally is on the hibiscus pedals in your tea. Yuck! Hibiscus tea has a tart taste like cranberry juice and has a really beautiful crimson red color. Although I love this tea as it is, I wanted to recreate this recipe and add additional flavors. I figure if I flavor iced tea with lemons and sometimes peaches, why not add some sort of fruit to this hibiscus tea as well. I may have not liked this drink as a child, but as an adult I have grown to love it for its original and great taste. 



Hibiscus Citrus Tea

Ingredients:

8 cups water, plus 1 for simple syrup
1 cup dry hibiscus flowers (tea)
1 cup sugar
3 oranges

Directions:


  1. Using a strainer, wash hibiscus tea under cold water and pour into a pot with 8 cups of water and bring to a boil (about 15 minutes.)
  2. In a separate small pot, combine 1 cup of sugar, zest of 1 orange and juice of 2 oranges and bring to a boil. Set aside to cool when done.
  3. Once hibiscus tea comes to a boil, set aside to cool. Pour tea into a pitcher using a strainer.
  4. Pour in simple syrup to pitcher. Use as much simple syrup as you’d like. Usually, I use the entire cup. Serve over ice. 
Source: L.Chavez. Sweet,Spicy,and Sassy Original.