Saturday, February 27, 2010

Simple Chicken Mole

When I was pregnant with my first child a dear friend cooked chicken mole for us and it was delicious! He introduced me to the wonderful mole, this famous thick, rich, chocolate-tinged sauce. Traditional mole recipes call for more than 20 ingredients, including different types of pepper, nuts and a small amount of chocolate. This concoction is boiled for hours until it reduces to a thick, fragrant and unique sauce.

To make mole form scratch is time consuming, so I developed an easy chicken mole recipe inspired by our friend’s dish. It is a simple, economical and tasty recipe that you can serve even to guests. My husband and I love this dish and I hope you will enjoy it as well.

Simple Chicken Mole:

1 ½ lb of chicken breast tenderloins, boneless and skinless
¼ cup of store-bought mole sauce
1/8 cup of fresh lime juice
2 ¼ cups of chicken stock or chicken stock
¼ teaspoon of garlic powder
¼ teaspoon of paprika
¼ teaspoon of onion powder
½ teaspoon of ground cumin
¼ cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 ½ tablespoon of vegetable oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cooked white rice, for serving

Preheat the oven to 375F. Spray a casserole dish with cooking oil. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Meanwhile, season chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and lime juice. When oil is heated, add the seasoned chicken and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning it only once after 5 minutes.Add 2 tablespoon of chicken stock after 5 to 7 minutes to keep the meat from getting dry.

Transfer the chicken to prepared casserole dish. Set aside. Add mole to skillet and slowly add the remaining chicken stock (1 cup at the time). Cook it over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the mole sauce is fully dissolved. Add cumin and let it simmer for about five minutes. Pour sauce over chicken in prepared casserole dish.

Bake it uncovered for 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and top it with chopped cilantro. Serve it hot with cooked rice. Garnish with jalapenos peppers, if desired.

Serves 4.

If you like your chicken mole with beans, here is another simple recipe:

Latin Style Pinto Beans:

15oz (1 can) of pinto beans
1 dry bay leave
½ slice of uncooked bacon
½ cup of water
1 small garlic clove, minced
Salt, to taste

In a sauce pan, cook the bacon over medium heat. Remove bacon from the pan. Add bay leave, garlic and pinto beans with the juice. Stir in water. Season with salt. Simmer over medium low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Crumble bacon and return to the pan, if desired. Serve hot.

Note: You can find mole sauce in the Latin or Hispanic aisle of your grocery store.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

When does food really expire?

The other day I got the milk out of the fridge and it didn’t look good. When I opened the bottle and it didn’t smell good either. Based on the expiration date, I shouldn’t have bad milk for at least another 4 days. I obliviously couldn’t prepare my kids cereal with that milk. Furthermore, I start to wonder what “food expiration dates” really mean? So I did some research.

I found out that there is no substitute to common sense and dates stamped on the packaging of the food you buy can be quite confusing. For example, "sell by" is more a guide for the store to know how long it can display a product for sale. The "best before" or "best if used by" date usually refers to a quality or flavor of the food. "Use by" works more like an expiration date, similar to that on medicines, and taking them after the date is not recommended. However, when it comes to raw meat, you should be extra careful. Food safety experts recommend that consumers should either eat or freeze any type of raw meat within two days of buying. If you decide to freeze your ground meat, remember that it needs to be consumed within three months of being frozen.

Now, let’s talk about my “milk situation”.  I learned that milk starts deteriorating in quality quite quickly. Pasteurized milk may remain fresh for five days after its sell-by date. Interestingly, milk can lose vitamins when exposed to light, which is why it usually comes in opaque plastic or paperboard.  Generally speaking, dairy and raw meat should be kept in the low 30 degrees Fahrenheit, while the home refrigerator's temperature is set around 40 degrees to keep other things in the fridge (like vegetables) from freezing. Therefore, you should place these products where your refrigerator is the coldest. 

When it comes to canned food, most high-acid can stay on shelves for twelve to eighteen months. Low acid foods, such as fish, meat, and some vegetables can be used for two to five years if stored properly. If the can is budging, that means it's infected by some unwanted bacteria and should not be eaten.

After the "use by" or “best” date has passed, you may start to notice gradual changes in the product’s texture, color, or flavor. But as long as item has been stored properly, you can generally consume it beyond this date. The way the food is handled by producers, retailers and consumers can affect the quality and freshness of food. Experts’ points out that most of these dates are not an indicator of safety, rather of quality. Some foods spoil if not refrigerated quickly enough. Ultimately, most of these labels should be used more as a guide, rather than a hard and fast expiration date.

Your best bet for gauging whether a product with this type of date is still of satisfactory quality is to simply smell and taste it first. Always use common sense and discard foods that have developed an unusual odor, flavor or appearance.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Easy and Delicious Black Forest Torte

Today I am posting the last recipe to celebrate National Cherry Month and I would like to share with you one of my favorite desserts: Black Forest Cake. It can be time consuming to make certain desserts from scratch but when you use the help of a cake mix, you can pull it off quickly. I selected a delicious version of the traditional Black Forest cake that you will love!


Black Forest Torte:

1 pkg of dark chocolate fudge cake mix
2 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 1/2 tbsp confectioners' sugar
1 (21 oz) can cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.

Prepare, bake and cool cake according to package directions.

Beat whipping cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add sugar gradually.

To assemble, place one cake layer on serving plate. Spread two-thirds cherry pie filling on cake to within 1/2-inch of edge. Spread 1.5 cups whipped cream mixture over cherry pie filling. Top with second cake layer. Frost sides and top with remaining whipped cream mixture. Spread remaining cherry pie filling on top to within 1-inch of edge. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Copyright © 2009 Pinnacle Foods Group LLC. All Rights Reserved

New Blog layout!

I have been receiving wonderful feedback from all of you and I would like to thank for that. I have getting great suggestions on the blog content, and especially on the old blog background. Several people said the original layout was narrow and kind of dark. To make my blog more pleasant and easier to ready, I eliminated the brown edges and I changed the layout. The text screen is now wider and the colors are softer.

I had to change the NetworkBlogs widget to a badge (placed under the Blog Archive) but everything else remains the same.

I hope you like the new layout better! I am always interested in your thoughts and ideas so feel free to give your feedback at any time!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Happy National Margarita Day!

There are many claims to the invention of the Margarita, the most popular mixed drink ordered in 2008 in the U.S. (representing 18% of all mixed drink sales in the U.S.). It is definitely one of the most famous tequila cocktails recipes.

But the origin of the cocktail is actually unknown. There are claims that a Dallas socialite, named Margarita Sames, created this drink during a party at her vacation home in Acapulco, Mexico. Others believe that Carlos Herrera is the inventor of the Margarita.

Despite of knowing who created this refreshing drink, I would like to know how can something so simple taste so good? A little salt around the rim, a blend of citrus fruit juice and tequila and olé! You have made yourself a wonderful margarita!

When I educated myself a little bit on the art of making the perfect Margarita, I learned that traditionally there are three basic ingredients: tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice. Obviously, good quality ingredients make a better Margarita.

In my opinion, colorless or “blanca” tequilas have a smoother taste than the gold. Also, you should use fresh squeezed lime juice. The limes should be ripe, juicy and soft. Finally, the most appropriate type of salt is considered to be the coarse kosher salt.

I have a great Margarita recipe for two:

Margarita on the Rocks


¾ cup of tequila
¼ cup of triple sec
¼ cup of fresh squeezed of lime juice
1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice
Coarse kosher salt
Lime wedge
Ice cubes
2 packets of sweetener (optional)

Add the tequila, orange liqueur, fruit juices and sweetener in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice cubes. Close it and shake well for about 1 minute.

Moisten the rim of the glass with lime and then salt it. Fill half of the two cocktail glasses with ice. Pour the mixed drink into cocktail glasses and enjoy!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chocolate Dipped Biscotti

Since one of you will soon get a box of biscotti, I got inspired to talk a little bit about these traditional Italian cookies. The origin of this long-shelf-life treat goes back to Roman times. Because biscotti are baked twice, they are completely dry and more durable than other cookies or breads.

During Ancient times, biscotti were considered a convenient food for Roman Legions and other travelers. A Tuscan baker re-introduced the biscotti during the Renaissance by serving it with wine. Centuries later, the Italians still enjoy biscotti dipped in wine at the end of a meal.

Today’s biscotti are made many different flavors and they are a popular accompaniment to cappuccino. They are also great on desserts or dipped in chocolate.

Chocolate dipped Biscotti

6 biscotti
6oz of semi sweet chocolate chips
½ teaspoon of orange zest
1 teaspoon of orange flavor liquor

Place the chocolate chips, orange zest and liquor in a medium bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the pan does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate mixture is fully melted and smooth. Dip each biscotto in the chocolate in a lengthwise position to get a taste of chocolate on each bite. Transfer the dipped biscotti to a wire rack, set over a baking sheet, until the chocolate has hardened. Store in an airtight container.

They pair very well with espresso!

P.S.: Remember to enter my current giveaway here to get a free box of biscotti and a gourmet recipe book!!! 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mamma Roja – A Real taste of Mexico in Oklahoma City

Located in one of the most scenic spots in Oklahoma City, Mamma Roja Mexican Kitchen has being serving wonderful tex-mex food for almost one year.

The restaurant has an inspiring and relaxing atmosphere even before you enter the building. Inside, the authentic pottery, décor and paintings create a very pleasant, southwestern ambience. This relaxing environment makes the dinning experience even more enjoyable.

In addition to the traditional salsas, Mamma Roja’s homemade habenero salsa is unique and flavorsome – the perfect blend of roasted peppers and roasted tomatoes.

My husband ordered the Tijuana Tacos with braised brisket and it was very well accompanied by smoky refried beans. It was really delicious! Unfortunately, I couldn’t have more than one bite. I was too busy enjoying my tasty shrimp fajita, served with grilled peppers and a grilled lemon. The shrimp was flawlessly seasoned and cooked. I enjoyed every single bite of it!

My husband ordered a Mexican flan for dessert that he quoted as “better than his mom’s!” And that’s really impressive! The right amount of condensed milk is definitely the key of this delightful dessert. I agree with my husband, Mamma Roja’s flan is delicious.

I can’t imagine a more relaxing setting to enjoy a Margarita in a hot day than Mamma Roja’s lakeside gazebo. I have no other choice, but to return to Mamma Roja this summer to enjoy a refreshing drink on the patio paired with homemade tamales or fish tacos with mango salsa.

Mama Roja Mexican Kitchen Lake Hefner
9219 Lake Hefner Pkwy
Oklahoma City, OK, 73120
Phone: 405-302-6262

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My very First Giveaway!!!!

I am excited to announce my very first blog giveaway! And it is a double giveaway as a sign of my appreciation for my readers.

One lucky winner will receive the cookbook Cookies & Bars and a box of Hazelnut Biscotti containing six cookies.

Biscotti (meaning "twice-baked") is a traditional Italian dipping cookie perfect for breakfast or with your coffee or with ice-cream. You can also dip them in wine or chocolate like the Italians do.

The winner of this contest will get a box of traditional Hazelnut Biscotti made by Coffaro's bakery. There is a total of 6 individually wrapped biscotti in a box.

The book Cookies & Bars is filled with error-proof recipes, including chocolate cookies, fruity bites, and nut-based morsels. There is also a chapter on exotic cookies you may want to make for special occasions. All of the recipes are presented with detailed instructions and pictures. 

Book information:

ISBN 13:
ISBN 10:
9.25” x 9.25”

 Giveaway Details:

Feb. 18th -28th

Your opinion is really important to me. Please tell me your opinion about my blog. Leave a meaningful comment about how I can improve or topics we would me to discuss. Please give me specific suggestions, such as recipe ideas themes (i.e.: easy dinners, breakfast, low fat desserts) or topics (i.e.: organic food, healthy eating).  

To enter this giveaway, you must:

·        Leave a comment on this post sharing your opinion about my blog and send your e-mail to

For additional entries, you can:

·        Leave one comment on another post as well
·        Blog about my giveaway and post the link here in a separate comment
·        Facebook about my giveaway and let me know in a separate comment
·        Become a Facebook fan and let me know in a separate comment
·        Follow Me on Networked Blogs (badge on left sidebar under Blog Archive) and  let me know in a separate comment

Please send your e-mail address to I will use this information to contact the winner. I will NOT use your personal information for any commercial purposes. I will never share your email with a third party (I promise!). To protect your own personal information, please do not post your e-mail here.

Contest ends February 28, 2010 at 12:00 p.m central time. I will announce the winner here and on my Facebook page on March 1st. There will be only one winner who will be picked via a Random Number Generator service. The winner will be contacted through e-mail and must respond within 72 hours of contact, otherwise a second winner will be selected.

***Contest open to USA and Canada Only – No PO Boxes***

Good Luck to Everyone!!!

Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cherry Mojito

Cherries are great in desserts but they can be a sweet ingredient in cocktails as well. Here is a Cherry Mojito recipe that is ideal for entertaining and may become your new favorite drink. It’s also easy to prepare!


1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups fresh lime juice (about 9 limes)
3 pounds dark cherries, such as Bing or Burlat, pitted
2 1/4 cups best-quality black cherry or plain vodka
1 (750 ml) bottle sparkling water

Bring sugar and 1 1/4 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat; let cool completely. (Makes about 2 cups syrup.) Syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 month.

Put lime juice into a medium nonreactive bowl. Halve 2/3 of the cherries; add all cherries to lime juice. Stir in syrup. Refrigerate at least 1 hour (up to overnight).

Stir cherry mixture and vodka in a large serving bowl. Fill 12 glasses with ice. Spoon 1/2 cup cherry-vodka mixture into each glass. Top with sparkling water; serve immediately.

Serves 12

Note: Omit the vodka to make a delicious cherry soda.

From The Martha Stewart Show, all rights reserved

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Mushrooms without a Picture

After watching a TV show on french fries, my older daughter begged for homemade fries. It didn’t take much for her to talk me into it. When I asked what else she would like to eat, Virginia answered “I can have only French fries, thank you!”.  If I was 8 years old, I am sure I would have asked for a “french fries” meal, but that would not be a nutritional lunch. I wanted to come up with an exciting meal for the entire family but my mind was going blank. I couldn’t think of anything creative beyond “french fries & steak”.

You are probably asking yourself  why I am talking so much about potatoes if this should be a post about a mushroom dish. Well, this is when the mushrooms came into the picture. After searching for side dishes ideas, it suddenly came to me. I could bake the baby Portabella mushrooms I had in the fridge. They would go great with steak, french fries and a nice salad. And I was corrected. These mushrooms paired so well with the rest of our meal that we ate them all before I could take a picture. I am sorry but I don’t have a single photo to show you.

Baked Mushroom Bites:

8z of fresh mushrooms (white or baby portabella)
½ cup of Italian breading
1 ¼ tablespoons of parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of paprika
2 egg whites
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 380F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, place parmesan cheese, breading, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix to combine. Clean mushrooms with a damp kitchen cloth without removing the steams. Leave them aside.

In a different bowl, lightly whisk egg whites. Dip each clean mushroom into the egg whites and then into breadcrumb mixture. Place mushrooms on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes or until crust is crisp and golden.

Cayenne Pepper dipping sauce:

1 cup of mayonnaise
1 small garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon of onion powder
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped
½ tablespoon of lemon juice (optional)

In a small bowl, stir all the ingredients together until well combined. Cover and keep it refrigerated overnight for flavor infusion. Serve it chilled.

This is a quick and tasty recipe is great for parties and for everyday meals!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Dinner at Caffe Pranzo

I was raised in San Paolo, Brazil, a city where the Italian culture has been fully embraced and it is often celebrated. We take proud in the flavorful and authentic Italian food served in restaurants throughout town - from the traditional “cantinas” to the new cuisine eateries. I have always liked the Italian culture and their incredible cuisine. Thus, when I go out to eat with my family, I often pick an Italian restaurant. I have eaten in several Italian restaurants in the Oklahoma City metro area, searching for a genuine Italian eatery.

Last night, my family and I went to Caffe Pranzo, in Oklahoma City, to celebrate Valentine’s Day. We were excited to try a new Italian restaurant. Thought Caffe Pranzo has been open for over ten years, last night I ate there for the first time. We started with fried calamari, my kids’ favorite appetizer. It was precisely cooked and served with a delicate anchovy dipping sauce. It was the best calamari I have had a long time!

Caffé Pranzo offers a wide selection of other starters, from soups to salads. The French onion soup is made with a delicious broth but I wish it was served with the traditional crusty and cheesy toast on top. I also tried the ceaser salad that, in my opinion, lacks flavor. When the entrees were served, I tried my kids’ garlic linguini that was cooked al dente and it was pleasantly seasoned. The tasty meatballs are definitely made with good quality ground beef.

I ordered the “tri formaggi” ravioli stuffed with ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella topped with pesto and marinara sauces. Unfortunately, I was not impressed with my entrée. The creamy pesto sauce was blend and the marinara sauce was a little too sweet. The cheese filling was not well balanced. It tasted mostly like ricotta cheese that is a very mild cheese. When combined with these two sauces, the results were disappointing. On the other hand, my husband enjoyed his angel hair pasta with grilled portabella mushrooms. I tried a bite from his pasta and it was well sautéed with garlic, olive oil and tomatoes.

Lastly, we had to end the evening with dessert. I am a chocolate lover, so I had to order a chocolate dessert to celebrate Valentine’s Day. My girls and I chose the Kahlua torte with whipped cream and raspberry sauce. We rated it as an average dessert. My husband tried the crème brulee and he seemed quite dissatisfied with it. Naturally, many of you may argue the must have dessert in an Italian restaurant is the “tiramisu”. It certainly is! I hear their tiramisu is light and delightful but I personally don’t have any impressions to share with you at this point about this famous Italian dessert.

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Little Girl's Chili

My older daughter is a food enthusiastic and she likes to experiment with flavors and tastes that are familiar to her. But usually she doesn’t want to try new foods. Most of the time, she wants to stay in her comfort zone. As she is growing older, her passion for food is increasing and I noticed that slowing she is adventuring herself into new flavors. A few months ago, she tried chili for the first time and she really liked it! Isn’t that exciting?

Today we tried to “recreate” the chili she ate at the cook-off! It was fun to come up with our own chili recipe. It was even better to work with my 8 year old daughter. For the first time we worked together developing a new recipe. I found a new way to spend quality time with Virginia.

Above all, Virginia is very happy with her chili creation. It was very comforting to eat such a tasty dish in a cold night.

Virginia’s Chili

1lb of ground beef
5oz of pork breakfast sausage
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
cups of chicken stock
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 ¼ cups of onion, chopped
15oz (1 can) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 ½ teaspoon of ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon of paprika
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
½ cup of tomatoes, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic for about 3 minutes. Stir in ground beef and sausage. Cook the meat mixture for about 5 minutes breaking up big chunks of meats with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the meat and its drippings to a 5-qt slow cooker. Add chicken stock, cumin, chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, tomato paste and diced tomato. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 hours in high or for 4 to 5 hours in low. Stir in pinto beans drained and cook for another 30 minutes or until fully heated. Test seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Garnish with shredded cheese and jalapeno peppers if desired.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cappucino Brownie

Today I want to share with you my family’s favorite brownie recipe. My husband calls this brownie "guiltless pleasure"!

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and if you are looking for a chocolaty treat for the occasion, look no further! You will like this light and luscious brownie! I know we already talked about sweets yesterday, but “love” should be celebrated with “chocolate”! Do you agree?

Cappucino Brownie:


For the Brownie:
1/3 cup of butter at room temperature
4oz of semi sweet chocolate
¾ cup of cake flour
½ teaspoon of baking powder
3 eggs at room temperature
2 tablespoons of instant expresso powder
1 1/3 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons of coffee liqueur
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

For the Glaze:
3 oz semi sweet chocolate
½ tablespoon of coffee liqueur
½ tablespoon of whipping cream
½ tablespoon of milk
Chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 355f. Grease 8x8x2 glass pan with oil. Set aside.

In a saucepan, melt butter and chocolate over low heat. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

In a bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Set aside.

Meanwhile, beat eggs, sugar, espresso powder, coffee liqueur and vanilla with an electric mixer until combined. Stir in chocolate mixture and then the flour mixture.

Spread evenly in prepared pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until top is set and dry. When a toothpick is inserted, it should come out clean. Cool in a pan on wire rack.

Chocolate glaze:
In a double boiler, combine all ingredients but nuts. Melt chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly until chocolate is fully melted. Remove from heat and let cool for about 15 minutes. Pour over brownie and top it with chopped nuts, if desired.

Recipe Collection

Now you can find and print all the recipes at:

Complete Recipe Collection

I will be updating the recipe page constantly!

Create your own video slideshow at

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

National Cherry Month

February is the national of month of this red-luscious fruit! The pretty color and sweet flavor make cherries the perfect fruit for Valentine’s Day recipes. It is also commonly connected to George Washington and to President’s day celebrations.

To honor this delicious fruit, I will post a cherry recipe every Wednesday during the month of February.

I will start with a traditional recipe of chocolate covered marshmallows with cherries. Tough this recipe is not one of my creations, my little one has asked to put it on my blog. It is one of her favorite treats! I hope you enjoy it too!

 Marshmallow Cherry Kisses

1 pkg. (8 oz.)  Semi-Sweet Chocolate
16   maraschino cherries with stems
16 large marshmallows

Melt chocolate in small saucepan on low heat, stirring occasionally. Place in small bowl; cool slightly. Meanwhile, drain cherries and thoroughly pat dry.

Make indentation in each marshmallow with your finger, then insert 1 of the cherries into the hole, leaving 1/3 of the stem end of the cherry exposed. Using a fork to support the bottom of the marshmallow, dip the marshmallow into the chocolate, turning to evenly coat the cherry. Gently shake off excess chocolate.

Place on wax paper-covered baking sheet; cover. Refrigerate 20 to 30 minutes or until set. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

© 2010 Kraft Foods Inc. All rights reserved

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Enjoy a Healthy and Tasty Whole Grain Breakfast

When I met my husband, he introduced me to feta cheese and I quickly developed a taste for it. It is lower in calories and high in flavor! Plus, it is filling and it is a good source of calcium.

Another important nutrient to good health is whole grain. It can reduce the risk of heart disease, keep the intestines working smoothly and help you keep a healthy weight. The combination of feta cheese and whole grain makes a satisfying and healthy breakfast. I have a tasty recipe for you that takes only 5 minutes to prepare.

Feta Cheese Breakfast Toast:

2 eggs yolks
4 slices of Whole Grain Sandwich Thins (made by Orowheat)
½ tablespoon of margarine or butter substitute
½ cup of feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup of low fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
¼ cup of lean ham, diced or chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 360F. In a bowl, whisk in feta cheese, mozzarella, egg yolks, salt, pepper and ham. The feta cheese comes already salted, so you should try it before adding salt to your egg mixture. You may not need to season it with salt.

Meanwhile, place the Sandwich Thins slices (soft part up) in a baking pan. Spread margarine on top of each bread slice and topped with the egg and cheese mixture.
Bake for 15 minutes or until egg mixture is fully cooked. Serve hot or at room temperature.

It pairs very well with fruit and orange juice or low fat milk.

Serves 4

Tip: To keep your feta cheese creamy and flavorsome, keep it refrigerated in a brine of 1/2 milk and 1/2 water for up to 3 weeks in an airtight container. If you keep your block of feta cheese in this brine, you also obtain the perfect amount of salt. You can find blocks of feta cheese in Delis and Imports stores.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tres Leches Cake: a Crowd-Pleaser!

This delightful cake is very popular throughout Latin America and the cake batter can be prepared in different ways. A Tres Leches cake (three milk cake in Spanish) in some countries is a butter cake, in others it is a traditional sponge cake. Despite the cake recipe used, it is always soaked in a glaze of three kinds of milk (evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream).  In opinion, it is the glaze that makes this cake just divine!

There is a lot of controversy regarding the origin of the Tres Leches cake. Despite of where it was created, it is a delicious dessert! Every time I serve this moist cake, it is a show stopper! My husband asked me to prepare one for his birthday and it was a big hit!

Tres Leches Cake:


For the cake:

1 ½ tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 cup of cake flour
2/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
5 tablespoon of unsalted butter (at room temperature)
6 large eggs
½  teaspoon of vanilla extract

For the glaze:

1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half-and-half


1 ½ cups of cool whip

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour a 13 by 9-inch metal pan and set aside.
In a bowl, sift flour, stir in salt and baking powder and set aside. 

Beat the butter on medium speed until fluffy. Slowly add the sugar. If necessary, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. Add the vanilla extract and the flour mixture to the batter in 3 or 4 batches and mix just until combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

Allow cake pan to cool for 30 minutes. Poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or fork.

For the glaze:               

Whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and the half-and-half until combined. Pour the glaze over the cake. Refrigerate the cake overnight.
Top the cake with cool whip before serving.

Enjoy it!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Succulent Meatballs for a Party or for Everyday Dinner

When we think of meatballs, we think of Italian meatballs in tomato sauce served with spaghetti. Actually, meatballs are very international and they can be prepared in many different ways. Meatballs are found in almost every cuisine. It’s likely that meatballs were created to avoid waste. Turning leftover meat into a meatball is still an economical way of conserving resources. When grounded or shredded meat is mixed with spices and liquids (i.e.: milk or vinegar), it becomes tender and flavorsome.

Different countries have created their own way of preparing and serving meatballs. In Italy, meatballs are traditionally made with ground beef and pork and they are baked or fried. They can be served with a brandy or herb sauce (more similar to a broth) or they can be stuffed with mozzarella. Above all, they are usually served alone as an entrée. The combination of the spaghetti and meatballs was created to please Americans, who craved red meat with their pasta.

In Brazil, meatballs are deep-fried and often served as part of an entrée paired with side dishes like rice, beans and vegetables. Every time we have these meatballs for dinner, the entire family eats very well! Really! To my husband, this dish is a good representation of southern Brazilian cuisine. These meatballs are also great for parties!

Below is my version of these appetizing dish.

Brazilian Meatballs:

1lb of extra lean ground beef
5oz pf ground pork
2/3 cup of low fat milk
1 cup of fine dried bread crumbs
1 teaspoon of paprika
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup of red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of dried Italian herbs seasoning
¼ cup of parsley, finely chopped (optional)
All purpose flour for dusting
Salt and pepper, to taste
Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Heat a large sauté pan with about 2 inches of vegetable oil to 375F.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine meat, milk, bread crumbs, garlic, onion, paprika, salt, pepper, Italian herbs and parsley. Using a large spoon, mix throughout. Lightly flour your hand and shape into small sized inch meatballs. Push back any piece of onion that poke through the meat or they will burn. Roll them onto flour.

Fry the meatballs over medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning them once after 5 minutes. Work in batches if necessary. Immediately transfer the meatballs to a plate lined with paper towel to remove excess oil or grease. Serve hot or at room temperature.

These meatballs can be added to tomato sauce or served as an appetizer accompanied by dipping sauces.

Preserve meatballs in the refrigerate in a airtight container for about 2 weeks. They can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Makes about 45 meatballs.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tonight is Chicken Night!

I like to develop my own recipes and try new ones too, but there are times when my kids just want a simple familiar dish. As a friend of my mine said once, “My kids don’t eat the food they show in gourmet the magazines”.  Because of that, I often cook roasted and grilled meats that can be eaten with kid’s favorite side dishes (i.e.: pasta, potatoes). To be honest, I like when my family asks for our “old time favorites” because they easy and fast to prepare. If you are in the same shoes, I have a recipe that your family will enjoy:

Skillet Chicken:

1/8 cup (1oz) of lemon juice
¼ teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon of ground paprika
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
½ teaspoon of onion powder
½ teaspoon of chicken flavor bouillon
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt to taste
1 pound of chicken breast tenderloin, skinless
½ teaspoon of vegetable oil

Place the first eight ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk to blend. Pour over chicken breast. Gently fold with a wooden spoon to ensure all the chicken is evenly coated. Put the wooden spoon aside.

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook over medium-low heat, turning it only once. Let it cook for about 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Check and adjust the seasoning. Serve it warm.

Side dish suggestion:

Variation: If you cut the raw chicken breast into smaller pieces, it will make a great appetizer that can be served with yogurt dipping sauce

The belly rules the mind.  ~Spanish Proverb

Organic Ingredients, Not Always Necessary

We all know that pesticides are not good for our bodies. The exposure to toxic chemicals can have an even more adverse effect in children. The metabolism of a fetus, infant and child is less able to metabolize and inactivate toxic chemicals, being more vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides.

Consuming organic food minimizes the problem, but it is generally expensive, and not accessible to everybody. The Environmental Working Group developed a list of vegetables and fruits that contain the highest amount of pesticides, and the ones that are generally clear. So, be wise and don't spend the extra cash when not necessary.

Rank starting with the fruits and veggies with the highest load of pesticides:

1. Peach (highest load of pesticides)
2. Apple
3. Bell Pepper
4. Celery
5. Nectarine
6. Strawberry
7. Cherry
8. Kale
9. Lettuce
10. Grapes - imported
11. Carrot
12. Pear
13. Collard Greens
14. Spinach
15. Potato
16. Green Beans
17. Summer Squash
18. Pepper
19. Cucumber
20. Raspberry
21. Grapes - domestic
22. Plum
23. Orange
24. Cauliflower
25. Tangerine
26. Mushroom
27. Banana
28. Winter Squash
29. Cantaloupe
30. Cranberry
31. Honeydew Melon
32. Grapefruit
33. Sweet Potato
34. Tomato
35. Brocoli
36. Watermelon
37. Papaya
38. Eggplant
39. Cabbage
40. Kiwi
41. Sweet Pea
42. Asparagus
43. Mango
44. Pineapple
45. Sweet Corn
46. Avocado
47. Onion (lowest load of pesticides)

For more information on how to live a healthy and meaningful lifestyle, logon to, or

By Renata B.L.Lerch

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Delicious Creamy Seafood Pasta

Last night we were fortuned to have two of our friends over for dinner. It was a very pleasant surprise! When I learned we would have guests for dinner I had to figure out what to cook. I was craving some sort of pasta with creamy and cheesy sauce, so I just had to think of what else to add to this pasta dish. I remembered I had cooked shrimp and blue crab meat in the fridge and “voila”! I just needed to add some of my other favorite ingredients and a new dish was born!  I hope our friends enjoyed it as much as I did.

Mascarpone Cheese & Seafood Pasta:

1 cup of mascarpone cheese
4 cups of uncooked pasta
1lb of cooked large shrimp
6oz of blue crab meat
3 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup of sliced green onions or scallions
½ of roasted sweet bell pepper, diced
1 cup of tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
½ cup of milk
½ cup of parmesan cheese
1/3 cup of half & half
8oz of fresh baby spinach
1 tablespoon of dried Italian herbs seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water with the starch from the pasta.

In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and roasted bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Add mascarpone cheese, milk, half &half and stir until mascarpone cheese is fully melted. Stir in green onions, Italian seasoning and spinach. Season with salt and pepper.

Fold in cooked pasta, crab meat, shrimp and parmesan cheese. Stir in the reserved cooking water as needed to obtain the desired sauce consistency (1 tablespoon at the time). Check the seasoning. Add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately topped with additional parmesan cheese if desired.

Note: You can add left-over grilled or baked salmon and cooked clams.

Life is too short, and I'm Italian. I'd much rather eat pasta and drink wine than be a size 0.” Sophia Bush

Monday, February 1, 2010

Rio de Janeiro Insight

My sister just had the fortune of being down in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she went to one of her favorite places to eat. She asked me to share with you this inside tip:

"When I am in Rio I love to go to Botequim Informal, a bar & restaurant close to the beach, in Copacabana, and ask for “tilapia with massed potatoes or rice”. Tilapia is a very common fish in Brazil. It’s very soft. Botequim Informal makes it grilled, with curry rice (my favorite) and salad or potato and salad. The portion is enormous and it is a very healthy and tasty food. For those who like  draft beer, Botequim Informal is also a very good choice. Go for it!"

By Carla Aranha

Ratatouille: A promise has been delivered!

Every time we watch the movie Ratatouille (from Pixar) my 4-year old daughter asks me to prepare this dish for her. After putting it off for awhile, I did some research on the topic. I found out that Ratatouille is a vegetarian dish original from the regions of Provence and Nice in France. It is usually served as a side dish, but it may also be served as an entrée accompanied by rice or bread. There is much debate on how to make a traditional Ratatouille. I chose to simply sauté all of the ingredients together but some recipes call for the layering approach.  Basically, Ratatouille can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. Here is my version of this traditional French dish:


½ eggplant
1 zucchini, chopped
2 ½ tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 ½ cup of sweet roasted bell pepper
8oz of pure tomato sauce
½ cup of chicken stock or water
8oz of crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon of butter
2/3 cup of onion, chopped
¼ teaspoon of dried rosemary
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
¼ teaspoon of dried marjoram
2 teaspoons of paprika
3 large leaves of fresh basil, chopped
1 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
1 dried bay leave
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil. Meanwhile, cut eggplant into 2-inch cubes. Cook eggplant for about 5 minutes over medium heat.

Heat olive in a large sauce pan over medium heat, add garlic and onions. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in eggplant and zucchini. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes.  Meanwhile, in the skillet where you cooked the eggplant, melt butter and add mushrooms. Cook in medium heat for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are golden brown.

Stir in the roasted bell pepper and mushrooms to the sauce pan. Add tomato sauce, chicken stock, rosemary, paprika, oregano, marjoram, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Add bay leave and simmer over medium-low heat for 25 to 30 minutes. Stir gently from time to time (be careful not to break the bay leave). Remove the bay leave and check the seasoning. If necessary, add more salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley and basil. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Tip: Mushrooms shouldn’t be cleaned under running water because they became rubbery and more difficult to cook.