Dulce De Leche (The Easy Way)

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Remember when I slaved over a pot of boiling milk to get about 1 cup of dulce de leche?  Yeah, turns out that’s not going to be happening anymore.  Why?  Ask my kid who finds it fun to tug at my pants and grasp onto my leg for dear life just to be picked up every 5 minutes.  It’s also hilarious when he pretends he has cooked noodles for legs when I try to set him back down.

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You could extend a sigh of frustration with me.  Or, you could ask why a mom who has more than enough on her plate couldn’t just buy a bottle of it?  Or perhaps just not make it altogether because it really isn’t a necessity like maybe … dinner?  I call those non-options.  And, you’ll agree when you see what I’ve done with two beautiful cans of pure decadence, without all the stirring.

Dulce De Leche (The Easy Way)

Ingredients:

  • Cans of sweetened condensed milk
  • Large pot with a heavy bottom with a lid

 Directions:

  1. Place the cans of condensed milk in the pot.  Fill the pot with water.  The water should fully cover the cans.
  2. Place the pot on the stove and bring the water to a boil over medium high heat.
  3. Once at a boil, cover and reduce the heat to medium to keep it at a simmer.
  4. Check the water level every 30 minutes to make sure that the cans are all well submerged.
  5. After three hours, turn off the stove and move the pot with lid off the heat (to another burner).  Jut let everything cool down.  Once the water is cool, remove the cans and place on a towel to cool to room temperature.
  6. Do not use any cold water, ice or any cooling procedure to make the cans colder faster.

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Filed under Custard/Pudding, Desserts, Frostings & Fillings

Blueberry Scones

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Last week was ridiculous.  Between two trips to the emergency room for a baby whose 104-105 fever wouldn’t break for 3 days (with medicine), and work deadlines that didn’t take notice at all of my personal schedule, I’m physically and emotionally spent.

For instance, after 2 days of a high fever, we thought we were in the clear when the baby’s temperature went down to 99.  And, after 48 hours of no sleep, we thought to take a nap at 3:00 a.m.  At 5:00 a.m., turns out the temperature went down to 94, which is bad bad bad.  Helpless is the word.  Oh, and also sleep deprived.

Spent.

As in, I want to hide under my bed covers and sleep for a month….and wake up only for these scones.

I made these scones as a way to use up my frozen blueberries, and to also have a special breakfast treat for several days during the week.  With such a short ingredient list, you’re likely to have everything on hand.  And after a week like mine, I’ll call that a win.  Add a cup of dark coffee, and I can almost see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Blueberry Scones

barely adapted from Tyler Florence

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (if frozen, make sure its thawed and drained)
  • 1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  3. Cut in the butter with a fork until the mixture look like coarse crumbs.
  4. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Be careful and gentle to where you don’t break the blueberries because the color will bleed into the dough.
  5. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough.
  6. Press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12 x 3 x 1.5 inches. Cut the rectangle in half then cut the pieces in half again, giving you 4 squares. Cut each square in half diagonally.
  7. Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with a little heavy cream. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until beautiful and brown.

2 Comments

Filed under baking, Breakfast, Vegetarian

Banana Pudding

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The title should really be – Best. Banana. Pudding. Ever. Ever.

As a Texan, I take my banana pudding pretty seriously.  I’ve seen serious atrocities attempt to pass as banana pudding.  My ideal banana pudding must be vanilla pudding, with banana and vanilla wafer cookies.  The most important part to know is that it’s vanilla pudding with bananas.  Not banana flavored pudding.  But, the banana flavor, after sitting, will get into the vanilla pudding.

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I totally agree the ingredients in this recipe may not be the most traditional, but oh good gravy it’s good.  The sweetened condensed milk adds the perfect amount of sweetness while the whipped cream keeps it light.  The vanilla wafers get cakey after sitting and these seemingly separate ingredients blend wonderfully.  Cohesion – it works.

Banana Pudding

barely adapted from Food Network

Ingredients:

  • 1 box mini vanilla wafers
  • 6 bananas, sliced
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 (5-ounce) box instant French vanilla pudding
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping thawed, or equal amount sweetened whipped cream

Directions:

  1. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch dish with wafers and layer bananas on top.
  2. In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer.
  3. Using another bowl, mix the cream cheese and condensed milk until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. 
  4. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended. 
  5. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining bananas and then cookies.
  6. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

8 Comments

Filed under Custard/Pudding, Desserts, Favorites

Chicken Noodle Soup

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As a kid, my husband’s mother would heat up the famous canned chicken noodle soup and give it to him when he was sick.  We know the bit.  1.  Empty soup can into bowl.  2.  Fill can with water.  3.  Add to soup.  4.  Heat and serve.  Well, he grew up with only steps 1 and 4.  Can we say sodium overload?  Ever since  I’ve known him, he has always kept a can of this soup available for times he gets sick.  

I can’t stand the stuff.  Aside from the taste and sodium, the ingredient list is just too unnatural for my taste.  I have attempted to change him but we all know how that turns out.  (Note: It doesn’t work, friends.)

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Well, that is until he tried to feed it to my sick baby.  Before my death ray stare became an all out smack down, he put the spoon down.  I went through the reasons I don’t want my child to eat this soup.  I argued that I could make it better.  He was still nostalgic.  Then, I offered him hard proof.  I asked what he thought of the chicken in his soup.  He started fishing around for a piece and found red/pink unidentifiable pieces of “chicken” floating around.  Then, he put his spoon down and has never had another bite/slurp of that soup.

In an effort to smooth his harsh defeat, I made him homemade chicken noodle soup.  With a much better ingredient list, this soup offers the same comfort and full flavor, with minimal effort.  My husband asks for it all the time – sick or not.  And, this way he can feed the baby all he wants.

Chicken Noodle Soup

adapted from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 lb chicken breast, chopped
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups cup egg noodles
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt, more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, more to taste

Directions:

  1.  In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter and olive oil.  Add the onions, garlic celery and  carrots, and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the chicken to the vegetables and saute in the pot for about 3 minutes.  You really just want to get a good saute and browning on the outside.  
  2. Add the broth, noodles, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Add more salt and/or pepper, if needed.

6 Comments

Filed under Soup

Lemony Lentil Soup

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My favorite Mediterranean restaurant in Dallas, Afrah’s, serves the most beautiful and bright lemony lentil soup.  I have been attempting to replicate it since I’ve first had it years ago.  Binks ordered it for his whole meal and I scoffed at him for ignoring the other delicious options on the menu filled with juicy grilled meat, soft pita, sauces, and hummus galore.  I have told you before how the old me would never make a meal of soup, let alone order it.  Yet, watching my husband enjoying every bite of his soup made me want to try it instantly.  As if I ever let him eat his meal without stealing a bite.  That’s normal right?  The soup was divine.  Perfectly lemony without being too spiced up, I was determined to find a recipe to closely match the restaurant version.

After trying out a few soups, this recipe has become a family favorite to replace, or dare say replicate, the restaurant soup.  While comforting soups like this are usually eaten during winter for me, the lemon really makes this bright enough to have year round.

Lemony Lentil Soup

adapted from Yummy Supper originally from Soup Love by Rebecca Stevens and Nabil Samadani

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 celery ribs, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cups red split lentils, rinsed
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (the juice from the zested lemon should give you enough)

Directions:

  1. Heat large heavy soup pot over medium-low heat.  Add olive oil and heat.
  2. Add green onions, yellow onions, celery, garlic, bay leaves, lemon zest, cumin, coriander, cloves, salt, and pepper.  Saute the mixture until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Raise the heat to medium-high.  Add lentils, water and vegetable stock to the pot.  Bring to a boil.  Skim off any foam that develops on the top of the water.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes until the lentils are soft and tender.
  5. Add lemon juice.  Cook for another 10 minutes over low heat.
  6. Season with additional salt, if necessary.

4 Comments

Filed under Soup, Vegan, Vegetarian

Isaiah’s Curious George Themed First Birthday Party

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Let’s get some cliché things out of the way:

  1. I can’t believe he’s already 1!
  2. It seems like yesterday I just gave birth to him.
  3. This year has flown by with him.

*He is actually 15 months right now, but this post took a long time.  🙂

Cliché and so so true.  When he turned one I got really sad thinking of how much he’s grown.  From a tiny 7 pound baby to a 20+ pound tubby.  With his big hair, eight teeth and personality, he’s really not at all baby and has become a real boy.  And, it’s been quite an adventure with him.  Just when I think I have something figured out or a semblance of a routine, he changes and then we start again.  There is no relaxing with this kid.

As a crazy obsessed mother, I have been planning his first birthday much earlier than I want to admit.  I wanted it to be cozy and filled with family, close friends and things he loves.  What does this one year old love?  Curious George.  Balloons.  Without being too attached to everything Curious George, we kept the essence through the balloons, colors and some Curious George/monkey-themed items strewn about.  

First, for the invitations, we got a Curious George invitation and door sign, which helped kick off the monkey-themed party.  

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Similar to the one at my surprise birthday, I wanted to have a photo booth for kids to take pictures.  The photo booth was a hit.  Kids, families and parents really got into it.  The only person that didn’t?  The birthday boy.  He couldn’t sit or stand still to take a picture in front of anything.

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My sister, the Pinterest fiend, made a multi-colored balloon garland and decorated corners of the house with bunches of balloons.  This picture doesn’t do it justice.

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One of the main reasons I wanted to post this party is because of all the fun I had planning and putting everything into action.  And, with the menu I had, I had little to no work during the actual party.  I really despise having to be running around finalizing anything after guests arrive.  My house was prepped and ready to go on time.

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As the party was held from 2-5, I didn’t plan a big meal but offered heavy appetizers and desserts.

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We had more than enough variety and just the perfect amount of food but still have a little left over for later grazers – mostly me and my sister.

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Almost everything I made (except the grilled cheese) was make ahead. So, the day of, I was really just warming or baking, which is a much better project than cooking.  The grilled cheese came together in the last 10 minutes.  I will definitely make it again and I’ll show you the method to make grilled cheese for a party.  It’s a game changer.

The day before, I made a smash cake and didn’t focus too much on making it perfect as I fully expected my rambunctious kid to destroy it.  Well, turns out he had no interest in smashing it and preferred to eat it a bite at a time with a spoon!  If he would only do that with soup or any other meal.

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So, because he was so careful with the smash cake, we served it up with the cupcakes.  All of it – gone.  Made me so happy.

Finally, for favors, I wanted a food gift that was quick and easy to make.  Look no further than caramel corn, friends.  I don’t know why I was intimidated at all about trying it.  It was so easy, and a little effort makes a whole bunch of popcorn that really disappear quite fast.  (Recipe coming soon!)  Favors were stacked in Curious George containers to keep the theme of the party even as guests departed.

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If you’ve made it this far in the post, I appreciate you and wanted to share this special day with you.  All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better day with family, friends, and a little boy who eats his smash cake with a spoon.  My outfit was eternally grateful for that, kid.

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Filed under Appetizers, Birthdays, Cake, Cupcake, Favorites, Life, Side Dish, Snacks, Soup

White Chocolate Mango Cheesecake

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Have you seen the movie The Truth About Cats and Dogs?  Fully identifying with Janeane Garofalo’s character, crushing on Ben Chaplin and Uma Thurman, and of course the adorable pets, I loved that movie.  But, looking back, the one thing I remember most is the cheesecake scene.  Do you know the cheesecake scene?  An image-conscious Thurman attempts to refuse cheesecake, but ultimately succumbs to being fed each bite by Chaplin.  Aside from the sheer awkwardness of the moment altogether, I remember studying the cheesecake a little too much.  As a child only left with a stash of Maria cookies (thanks, mom!), I longed for something so decadent.

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As strange as the cheesecake scene, I still think of that movie when I eat cheesecake.  Totally weird.

You can use whatever preserves, jam or fruit butter you have on hand.  Mango and white chocolate were heavenly together, but I know this would also work with raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries.

White Chocolate Mango Cheesecake

adapted from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half cream
  • 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese,
    softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup fruit preserves, jam, coulis or butter

 

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, 3 tbsp white sugar and unsalted butter.  Press mixture into a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. Preheat oven to 325F.
  3. In a double boiler, melt white chocolate chips and half and half, whisking until smooth.  Once smooth,remove from heat and set aside to cool down.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time until each is fully incorporated.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Pour half of the batter over the graham cracker crust in the springform pan.
  5. Spoon half of the fruit preserves.  Pour the remaining batter over the preserves.
  6. Spoon the remaining fruit preserves and marble the preserves with the tip of the knife.  Marble according to your preference.  I wanted more pockets of mango butter so I didn’t marble as much.
  7. Place the springform pan on top of a cookie sheet filled halfway with water.  Carefully move the springform pan and cookie sheet into the oven.
  8. Bake the cheesecake for 55-60 minutes, until the cheesecake is set (no longer jiggling or wet in the middle).  Once set, turn off your oven, and leave the cheesecake in the oven for an hour.  Do not touch it.  Do not open the oven.  Just leave it.
  9. After an hour, remove the cheesecake and allow it to cool.  Once cool, cover with a plastic wrap, touching the cheesecake as you cover and place in fridge for at least 8 hours prior to serving.

 

3 Comments

Filed under baking, Cake