Archive for the 'General' Category

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DE-Licious Disappearing Caramel Corn

This is one of my favorite childhood recipes. It has been probably 30 years since I last made this caramel corn recipe and it was JUST as amazing as I remembered it. With my friend Desi helping me this time, we shared the spoils and I was able to relive my childhood cooking adventures through her eyes. Warning- this recipe is addictive so if you are low on will power, give it all away for fear that this treat will magically disappear before your eyes.

Disappearing Caramel Corn


2 cups brown sugar (light or dark brown sugar is fine)

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

1/2 cup corn syrup (light or dark corn syrup is fine)

6-8 quarts popped corn (I like to have a little less caramel, so I use 8 quarts)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

Pecans, walnuts or cashews (optional)

In a medium size pot, boil butter, sugar and salt for 5 minutes on medium heat. Stir constantly. Remove from heat and add baking soda. Pour evenly over popped corn, mix well to coat and add nuts. Spread onto cookie sheet and place in an 200 degree oven for 1 hour, stirring ever 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in an air tight container.

Lomo Saltado

Lomo Saltado

This is a wonderful Peruvian dish that has delicious Asian undertones. Beef sirloin strips are cooked in vinegar, soy sauce and spices, then stir fried with red onions, cilantro and tomatoes. Like many good Peruvian dishes, two carbs are necessary with this meal, rice and French fried potatoes. This was one of my favorite dishes that Rosa used to prepare. When she came ‘home’ for the holidays I couldn’t wait to make it with her. I can highly recommend this multicultural dish. One try and you’ll be hooked!


2 lb (approximately 6 pieces) of beef sirloin

2 tsps garlic salt

1 tsp pepper

4 TBS oil, used in 1 TBS increments per directions

4 medium sized tomatoes, vine ripened

2 large red onions, thick chopped

½ cup soy sauce

1 TBS oyster sauce (optional)

2 TBS red wine vinegar

¼ cup cilantro, chopped

1 ½ bags of frozen French Fries, cooked according to package directions

3 cups of uncooked white rice, cooked according to package directions


This recipe is very straight forward. That said, the two steps that can be a little tricky are (1) timing the rice and French Fries to be ready at the same time as the main dish and (2) cooking the meat in two batches as to ensure that it does not become overcooked.

Cook rice and French Fries according to package directions. If all of the Lomo Saltado ingredients are prepared to be cooked, the dish will take approximately 15 minutes to cook.

Cut the onions, first in half, once horizontally and 4 times vertical (big pieces) to end up with thick chopped onion wedges. Prepare the tomatoes similarly.

Slice the meat stir fry style, ensuring the pieces are uniform in size for even cooking. Add garlic salt and pepper.

In a large pan add 1 TBS oil on medium high heat. When the oil is very hot add half the quantity of meat. Stir regularly and when cooked, add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar and set aside covered while the second batch of meat is prepared. Cook second batch of meat, set aside and cover to keep warm.

(This is a good time to check the timing on the rice and fries. If needed, hold on finishing this next step until rice and potatoes are ready.)

In the same pan add oil and the onions, cook stirring regularly for at least 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes for another 2 minutes, then return the meat to the pan to heat for approximately one minute. Add the cilantro and serve over white rice with French Fries.

Cranberry Down-side Up Cake

This festive holiday cake is inspired by a recipe from Lindsey Shere, former longtime pastry chef at Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California (one of my favorite restaurants). This is a perfect winter dessert – Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years (okay even Valentine’s Day) are all perfect times to make this treat as fresh cranberries are abundant in the winter months. If you can’t find fresh, then frozen ones will do the trick.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake



4 TBS unsalted butter

3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 lb cranberries


1 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

8 TBS unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, separated

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup milk

1/8 tsp cream of tartar


1 cup heavy cream

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 TBS powdered sugar


Butter a 9-inch round cake pan, line with parchment paper. To make the topping, place the butter and brown sugar in a small pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally, until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved. Pour into prepared pan, making certain to cover evenly. Scatter the cranberries over the butter-sugar mixture. Set aside.

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.

To make the cake, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, (approximately 2-3 minutes). Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk.

In another small bowl, using a whisk or an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Using the spatula, fold the whites into the batter.

Spoon the batter over the cranberries in the cake pan, spreading it evenly. Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 55-60 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert onto a serving plate, let stand for 5 minutes, then lift off the pan.

To make the whipped cream, in a bowl, using a whisk or an electric mixer, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Stir in the vanilla and confectioners sugar.

To serve, cut the cake into wedges and top with the whipped cream.

This recipe is a keeper. File it away, it always gets rave reviews!

Veronica’s Sweet Christmas Tamales

While this may *look* like a complicated recipe, it is *really* quite simple to make tamales. Time consuming, but simple. Don’t be afraid of the length of this recipe. I’ve tried to error on the side of being overly detailed. Since it was my first time making tamales, I wanted to ensure that any other novice tamale makers could also succeed. Total time to prepare and cook this large quantity of tamales (9 dozen) is about six hours. The recipe can certainly be cut in half but I recommend inviting some friends over and making a tamale party of it – extras can be frozen to be enjoyed at a later date.

Sweet Tamale Dough

Sweet Tamale Dough Ingredients

4.4 pounds Instant Corn Masa Mix – masa harina – (9 cups dry mix) or prepared masa without salt

2 TBS baking powder

3 (16 oz) packages shelled corn husks

4 cups sugar or to taste

2 cups vegetable oil

2 TBS vanilla (optional)

8 cups water, warm

red food coloring

green food coloring

Sweet Tamale Directions

Place corn husks in a large bowl, baking dish or pot, cover completely with water, and weigh down with a plate or bowl to fully submerge. Soak until husks are very pliable, about 1-2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. Drain, squeeze out excess water, and wipe dry.

Place raisins in a small bowl, cover with hot water, and soak until plumped, at least 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Using a large bowl or pot mix masa harina and sugar by hand, then add water and mix until a dough is formed with a consistency of thick batter. Mix oil and add vanilla together. Add oil mixture to masa and mix all ingredients until blended. Add baking powder and let dough rest for 5 minutes. Divide dough in half and color half of the dough with the red food coloring and half with green food coloring. Mix until uniform in color.

Place a steamer basket in a large pot (or a tamale pot) and fill the pot with enough water to reach the bottom of the steamer. Cover and bring the water to a simmer over low heat.

Lay a corn husk in the palm of your hand, or on a clean work surface, with the wide edge toward you (this is the bottom). Measure 1/3 cup dough and shape into a cylinder about 3 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Lay dough lengthwise in the center of the husk, leaving about a 1/2-inch border at the bottom.

Tightly close the left side of the husk over the filling and roll to the right as if rolling a cigar. Fold the top of the husk (the empty, tapered edge) back over the filled husk to close. (If your husks are particularly small or they don’t want to stay closed, use a bit of corn husk to tie them closed.) Repeat to make approximately 9 dozen tamales.

Arrange tamales upright in the steamer with the open ends facing up. (If making less than a full recipe, the steamer could be too big to hold all of the tamales snugly together, in which case you can place a small heatproof bowl upside down in the center to stabilize the tamales). Cover with a plastic bag and steam until the dough is set, no longer raw-tasting, and pulls away easily from the husks when unwrapped, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Turn the heat off and let the tamales rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Sweet Tamale Fillings

Sweet Tamale Fillings Optional Ingredients

1 cup coconut

3 apples diced with skin

1 can of pineapple tidbits, without syrup

1-2 cups raisins, plumped in water

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, walnuts or pine nuts

12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips

favorite jams (blackberry, apricot and strawberry are my favorites)

Alternative Filling Mixture

1 large apple, peeled and diced

2 oz package pecan, pieces

6 oz can pineapple pieces, drained

½ cup golden raisins (or plain raisins)

1 cup mozzarella cheese

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup coconut flakes

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Mix and toss until blended. This quantity is enough to fill 30-40 dried corn husks.

Barley Black Bean Burgers with Baked Parsnip Fries

For the last eight months I’ve been obsessed, practically on a quest to find the most amazing veggie burger. I had it narrowed down to a select few restaurants that made the cut, yet I felt there was more that could be done to entice even the stodgiest of carnivores. Mission accomplished- Barley Black Bean Burgers take center stage.

Barley Black Bean Burgers with Pesto Mayo

Barley Black Bean Burgers Ingredients

1 cup barley, cooked

30 oz can black beans, drained

1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 cup mushrooms, minced

1 cup zucchini, minced

1 cup yellow onion, minced

8 slices provolone cheese

3 eggs, lightly beaten

3 TBS garlic powder

1/2 TBS garlic salt

pepper to taste

2 TBS balsamic vinegar

1 cup breadcrumbs


red onion, thinly sliced

mashed avocado


Barley Black Bean Burgers Directions

Bring barley and water to a boil in a saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the barley is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Mash black beans with a fork in a large bowl until thick and pasty. Stir in barley, black beans, basil, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms, zucchini, onion, eggs, garlic powder, garlic salt, and black pepper into mashed black beans. Once well mixed, add in vinegar. Mix bread crumbs into bean mixture to form a sticky batter that holds together, adding more breadcrumbs if needed.

Divide batter into 6-8 patties. Add oil to non-stick frying pan. Cook on medium high heat until a slight dark brown crust forms, then flip using two spatulas. Alternatively, if you wish to grill the patties, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat and lightly oil the grate. Generously grease a sheet of aluminum foil with oil. Place patties on aluminum foil, cook for about 8 minutes on each side.

Mayo Pesto Spread

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup pesto

Baked Parsnip Rosemary Fries

Parsnip Rosemary Fries Ingredients

2 1/2 lbs parsnips, peeled and cut 3-1/2-inches

1 TBS fresh Rosemary, finely chopped

5 sprigs Rosemary

3 TBS olive oil

1 tsp paprika

kosher salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

2 TBS Parmesan cheese, finely grated (or 1/2 tsp cumin)

Parsnip Rosemary Fries Directions

Preheat oven to 450°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Mix parsnips, chopped rosemary, garlic, and oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread out parsnips in a single layer. Scatter rosemary sprigs over. These springs will make the kitchen smell fantastic!

Roast for 10 minutes; turn parsnips and roast until parsnips are tender and browned in spots, 15-20 minutes longer. Crumble leaves from rosemary sprigs over; discard stems and toss to coat. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese, paprika or 1/2 tsp. cumin. Season to taste adding more spices, if desired.

Almond Milk Pumpkin Pie with Chocolate Crust

This is the time of year to be thankful. Thankful for all that we have. Thankful for all of the wonderful people around us and for the lives we lead. And while I sit here to writing this post, I am also grateful for the time I have enjoyed with my Great Aunt Frances.
She passed away this week but has left behind a legacy of memories that I hold near and dear to my heart. She was blessed with a wonderful immediate family – three children, 11 grandchildren and 15 great-grand children (not to mention a full brigade of nieces and nephews AND great nieces and nephews). She was the last of her generation and while I am deeply saddened by her passing I am thankful to have been a small part of her life.

This classic pie, with a sexy chocolate twist, is for you Auntie. Thank you for all of your love and support over the years. Your style, grace and laughter will live on in my heart. >And as far as I am concerned there will never be a better Christmas Eve party than those epic nights we celebrated until the wee hours of the morning at your castle on the hill.< I will add my name to the long list of those who will miss you.

Almond Milk Pumpkin Pie with Chocolate Crust

Crust Ingredients

1 1/4 cups flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup confectioners’sugar

1 stick margarine, cubed

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Filling Ingredients

2 cups pumpkin puree

1 cup almond milk*

2 TBS lemon juice

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground cloves

6 TBS margarine, melted

* If making homemade almond milk, add 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1-1/2 TBS maple syrup or honey.


To prepare crust combine flour, cocoa, and confectioner’s sugar in a food processor. Pulse until combined. Add margarine and process until mixture is crumbly in texture and resembles sand. With food processor running, add vanilla and 4 TBS cold water. Process until smooth dough forms. Chill two hours.

On a well floured surface, roll out dough into an 11-inch circle. Press into a 9-inch pie pan. Chill for 30 minutes.

To prepare filling, in a small bowl combine almond milk and lemon juice. In another bowl, combine brown sugar, cornstarch, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves. Whisk almond milk mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients. Lastly, add in add in pumpkin and margarine.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a fork, make holes in crust, top with parchment paper, and fill with dried beans to weigh down. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, bake crust 10 minutes. Remove parchment paper and beans, bake an additional 5 minutes.

Pour pumpkin filling into crust, decorate with sliced almonds, and bake 45-60 minutes, or until filling is bubbling in center. Pie should be firm when slightly shaken. If it appears to still be soft and liquid in consistency, it needs to be cooked longer. Cool completely before serving.

Hitting the Pause Button

While you know how much I enjoy blogging, I am opting to take a few weeks off. Since so much of blogging is about being transparent, I want to tell you that the pause I am taking is due to the fact that last week we had a fire in our home. We are all fine, though admittedly somewhat shaken up. We are unable to live in our home for the time being, but we consider ourselves very lucky that we are all OK. While I managed to persevere and blog through our kitchen remodel with limited resources, I think it is time to pull the ‘uncle’ card. At this point, we have to eat out, so I am not creating meals in the kitchen. While I realize it seems like a dream come true to many to eat out, if you know me, you know that more than eating out, I L-O-V-E to eat in! To be able to work with the freshest seasonal ingredients to create delectable magic is one of the things that makes me happy. So please understand why that at this time I am going to step back…just for a short while, I hope see you blogside by the 4th of July.

Cyber Dinner Par-tay & Peruvian Minestrone

A food bloggers nirvana – invite a few of your all time favorite bloggers to share a Sunday night dinner with you. The challenge, we all live in different cities. The next best option was to host a virtual pot luck. The invites were sent and I couldn’t be more honored than to have had this group of ladies join me for a night of foodie fun as they sampled recipes from Taste This! The Delicious Sequel. While I hate the expression “It’s a win, win!” I do believe this is just that. Here’s why. Each of us made a dish to share for this virtual dinner party. Those that feasted on a new recipe enjoyed the spoils (WIN), those of you reading this post get sneak peak at a few more recipes from my new cookbook (and new wine pairing suggestions) along with the chance to win a copy of the cookbook (WIN). Add it up and you’ve got the recipe for a WIN WIN. Now let’s get down to business >ahem, I mean cooking!<.

MENU AND BLOGGER (Note: each blogger has book to give away, to find out how to win take a gander at the links below)

Cocktails- Cuban Mojito blogged by Illina Ewens

Appetizer- Gorgonzola Cheese Ball & Olive Tapanade blogged by Ana Picazo

Wine- Carmenère, Malbec, and Sauvignon Blanc Pairing Selections blogged by Stacy DeFino

Main Course- Peruvian Minestrone blogged by ME/see below

Dessert- King’s Cupcakes blogged by Stacy Libby

I’d like to introduce you to the faces behind the blogs.

Cocktails- by Illina Ewens at Dirt and Noise

Appetizer- by Ana Picazo at BonggaMom

Wine- by Stacy DeFino at Wineobee

Dessert- by Stacy Libby at LapTopTVMom

The recipe I made for my special group of friends is one that my dear friend from Peru, Rosa, made for me many years ago. While the shopping list for this recipe is a bit longer than many of the recipes in Taste This! The Delicious Sequel it is worth the little bit of extra time it takes to make this dish.

Peruvian Minestrone

Pesto Ingredients

4 cups basil leaves, stems removed

¼ cup olive oil

¾ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/3 cup ricotta or Queso Fresco

salt and ground black pepper to taste

Soup Ingredients

2 cups (13 oz) pasta (penne, rigatoni, fusilli or bow ties)

½ tsp garlic, crushed

2 lbs top sirloin, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 TBS olive oil

10 cups water

1 cube beef bouillon

salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 cup carrot, diced

1 ½ cups green cabbage, chopped

½ cup leek, cleaned and chopped

½ cup peas

1 cup zucchini, diced

2 large cobs of corn, cut into 1 ½ inch sliced rounds with cob included

2 medium white potatoes, diced

Blend together all pesto ingredients until smooth.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and sprinkle with olive oil. Mix well so that it does not stick together while the rest of the dish is being prepared.

In a large pan, sauté garlic in oil, and brown sirloin. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large soup pot, over high heat, add water, beef bouillon, sirloin, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil, cooking meat until tender. Turn heat to medium and add all vegetables EXCEPT potatoes and corn.

Add potatoes and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add corn and cook an additional 5 minutes on medium-high. Before serving, add pasta to warm it, approximately 2-3 minutes. Finally, add pesto and season to taste.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Note: To save time, a ½ cup high-grade store bought pesto sauce can be substituted in place of basil, olive oil, salt and pepper.

While serving corn rounds in the soup is the tradition for Peruvians, some diners are uncomfortable reaching into the soup with their fingers to eat the corn. If diners are up for the challenge, encourage them to eat the corn last, allowing it to cool. Alternatively, substitute fresh corn kernels cut off of the cob, as opposed to frozen or canned corn, which tend to be too soft.

Serves 6-8

Thank you Ilina, Ana, Stacy D. and Stacy L. it was so much fun having dinner with you this past weekend.

Take a Leap- Bake a Difference

Kahlua Cake - Taste This! The Delicious Sequel

While I am in the midst of a messy kitchen remodel and now challenged to cook each meal in my temporary kitchen, I am determined not to ‘suffer’ through meal time with my family. I’ve decided that dinner must be the one grounding point of our day while the upheaval around us spins in and out of control. There is one other challenge I will give myself this month, I will find a way to bake something with my limited kitchen resources and not just because I am a glutton for sweets. In honor of Leap Year, that one extra day we are given every four years, I want to make a decision that marks this extra day. I want to make it count. I want to do something that can help make a difference – and I hope that you will join me.

(Standing on soap box) I was inspired by an email I received from the ‘Share Our Strength’ foundation asking to help them in the fight to end childhood hunger by registering to host and/or participate in the Great American Bake Sale. Today they are kicking off the 2012 bake sale season, and they’ve got all of the tools you need to plan for and host a fun, exciting and successful bake sale in your community.

I hope you will join me by whipping out your whisk, heating up your oven and recruiting your loved ones of all ages to bake for the No Kid Hungry Campaign. All the money raised in your bake sales will help feed kids across America. Kids shouldn’t have to go to bed hungry anymore. I hope you will take this LEAP with me.

Looking for baking inspiration while surrounded by rubble….

The Search Has Ended …

You may have noticed my new found fascination with the food website, and so it seems the perfect time to introduce you to the LARGEST recipe search site. They bring together recipes from across the web, enabling you to search and compare any recipe, in one consolidated location.

If you’ve ever used kayak for travel, you’ll quickly see the ease of use at And it is as easy as entering a group of ingredients, or a recipe’s name, and Foodily searches every website’s recipes—from top food sites to obscure bloggers. It sifts through all those recipes based on criteria you choose, and instantly delivers you the perfect recipe match.

And for the picky, allergic or otherwise food challenged, this site is going to make your cooking life so much easier. If there is an ingredient you don’t care for or are allergic to, delete it! The site then adapts and finds new recipes that meet your search criteria. I have a feeling that dinner party planning is going to take on an entirely new twist. Now instead of scouring 5-12 food sites, and spending hours pouring over menus on the Internet, you can quickly and easily review options in one location. Voila, this is the shift into the industrial revolution of recipe search.

I am excited to have been invited in to preview the site as a Foodily ambassador; to explore, share recipes and discover new recipes. Here are a few recipes that I’ve got my eye >ahem< rather palate on: Easy Goat Cheese Appetizer
Almond-crusted Fish With Saffron Sauce
Butter Chicken
Monkey Meat
Almond Violet Dessert
Aussie Fruit Stew
Five Spice Ice Cream

I hope you will join me in discovering