Monday, March 29, 2010

We have a winner!

Rachel McGuire is the lucky winner of the "Super Sized Giveaway"! Congratulations Rachel! I hope you will enjoy your honey jar, vegetable slicer and cake mix cookbook.

The Perfect Easter Dinner for two

If you are planning a small Easter dinner and you are wondering what to prepare, I have an amazing and easy menu suggestion for you. You can start with mouth-watering Baked Mushrooms, followed by Beer Roasted Chicken, Au Gratin Potatoes and Spring Mix Salad with Dijon Mustard dressing. To end this dinner in great style, you can enjoy luscious Lemon Bars.

Enjoy it!

Heavenly Tasty Au Gratin Potatoes

A flavorful and creamy side dish filled with flavor that was originally created to please the French royal family.


2 lb of gold potatoes

1 cup of heavy cream

1 cup of milk

1 garlic clove, minced

4 tablespoons of butter

1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated

1 pinch of nutmeg (optional)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 350F.

Peel and slice potatoes using a food processor. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place butter, milk and cream in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add garlic, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Carefully add sliced potatoes and let simmer for 5 to 7 minutes.

Grease a large casserole dish with cooking oil spray. Transfer potatoes with the sauce to prepared dish. Top it with Parmesan cheese.

Bake it uncovered for 45 to 50 minutes and a golden crust has formed. Serve it hot.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

French Sytle Beer Roasted Chicken

This dish has delicious flavors that will please the entire family and it will fill your kitchen with the appetizing aromas of Spring.


1 3lb whole chicken

4 cloves of garlic

2 cups of beer

1 cup of chicken stock

3 thin lemon slices

6 springs of fresh thyme

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 dried bay leave

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, place the chicken, garlic, beer, chicken stock, thyme and bay leave. Refrigerate overnight.
Heat the oven to 350F. Meanwhile, mince 2 or 3 of the garlic cloves. Remove thyme leaves from the stems. Gently ease the skin of the chicken away from the breasts. Place minced garlic and thyme leaves between the meat and the skin.

Transfer chicken to roasting pan and stuff the cavity with remaining garlic, bay leave and lemon slices. Season it with salt and lemon. Drizzle olive oil on top of the chicken. Pour marinate into roasting pan. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until juices run clear.

Pour baking juice on top of the chicken before serving. Serve it hot.

Serves 2 to 3 people.

Enjoy it with your favorite white wine.

Note: If you are baking a larger chicken, adjust the cooking time according to the weight: 20 minutes per pound, plus an extra 20 minutes. You may add another 2 cloves of garlic if your chicken is 5lb or heavier.

Delicious Dijon Mustard Salad Dressing

Homemade salad dressings are healthy, easy to make and they are filled with rich flavors. This Dijon mustard dressing will certainly add a sophisticated flavor to your salad.


1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

2/3 cup of olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

½ tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon of lemon zest (optional)

1 tablespoon of fresh parsley

3oz of fresh chives, thin sliced (optional)

Ground pepper, to taste

Place all the ingredients, except chives, in the bowl of a food processor and pulse for 20 to 30 seconds. Add chives and mix well. Put it in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours for flavor infusion.

Serve it with Spring Mix salad. You can add baby spinach, if desired.

Lemon Bars


1 package of lemon supreme cake mix

2 large eggs

½ cup of vegetable oil

8oz of cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice

Combine cake mix, 1 egg and oil in a large mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until crumbly. Reserve 1 cup of cake mixture for topping. Press remaining mixture into an ungreased 13x9 inch pan.

Bake it at 350F for 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
Meanwhile, beat cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Add sugar, 1 egg and lemon juice beating just until smooth. Pour cream cheese mixture over baked crust. Sprinkle with reserved with reserved cake mixture. Bake it at 350F fro 15 to 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool slightly, cover and chill overnight. Cut into bars.

This recipe is a part of the Cake Mix Miracle recipe book, a courtesy of Viviane Arnold.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mocha Chocolate Terrine

Usually terrine dishes are associated with paté and forcemeat but it can also refer to various appetizers, entrees, salads, and desserts.

Terrine refers to the baking dish originally used to prepare the food (an earthenware cooking dish). The word terrine comes from "terre" that means “earth” in French. 

In my opinion, terrines are simple, versatile and elegant. You can pull it off an easy dessert that can be served on any occasion. Today I would like to share with you my Mocha Chocolate Terrine that is a great finish to your Easter Dinner.

Mocha Chocolate Terrine

2 ½ cups of heavy cream
6oz of semi sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons of powder sugar
1/3 cup of Amaretto or coffee liqueur
1/3 cup of fresh espresso coffee
24 lady finger cookies

Line a 1lb loaf pan with plastic wrap. Set aside.

Place chocolate in a double-boiler and melt it over low heat. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, combine liqueur and 1 tablespoon of espresso. Set aside.

Beat heavy cream with the powder sugar until it forms soft picks. Transfer half of the cream to a clean bowl and mix it with remaining coffee. Using a spatula, fold in the cooled chocolate with the remaining half of freshly whipped cream.

Lightly dip 8 lady fingers into the coffee and liqueur mixture. Work in batches if necessary. Arrange cookies on the bottom of the pan. Spread coffee flavored cream. Cover it with another layer of lady fingers dipped in coffee and liqueur mixture. Then, spread the chocolate flavored cream and top it with a final layer of dipped cookies. Chill for 8 hours or overnight.

Turn terrine out onto a large serving plate. Remove plastic wrap, cut it into slices and serve it.

It pairs very well with fresh berries, including raspberries and strawberries.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Primavera Easter Dinner

In my opinion, Easter dinner doesn’t have to be very time consuming or labor intensive. Thus, I put together a simple menu filled with spring flavors that I am excited to share with you.

Let’s start with two appetizers that you can prepare ahead of time:

Marinated olives:

1 cup of black olives, pitted and drained
1 cup of green olives, pitted and drained
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon of paprika
1 large spring of fresh thyme
3 springs of fresh oregano
1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil
Lemon zest, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 dried bay leave

Remove oregano and thyme leaves from stem and roughly chop the leaves. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients and refrigerate overnight. Serve it cold or at room temperature. Discard bay leave before serving.

Mozzarella & Tomato skewer:

8 ounces of fresh mozzarella, cut into 48 (1/2 inch) cubes
24 cherry tomatoes, halved
12 large basil leaves, cut into 48 (1/2 inch) pieces
Olive oil, to taste
Sea salt, to taste
24 (6-inch) skewers

In a medium bowl, gently toss mozzarella cubes and tomatoes with olive oil and salt. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

To make the skewers, place a tomato halve, then basil, then mozzarella, followed by basil, another tomato halve and a mozzarella cube.

Serve it cold or at room temperature.

After enjoying these delightful appetizers, let’s move to the main course. The star of this course is an original vegetarian dish that will certainly please your guests, especially if there are vegetarians among them. I am talking about a Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi (Italian dumplings), a restaurant quality dish that you can make at home. The second dish is porcini mushroom chicken, just one of the many meat alternatives that pairs well with this gnocchi.

 Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi:

2 ½ lb of fresh spinach, stalks removed
1 ½ tablespoon of olive oil
15oz of ricotta cheese
1 ¼ cup of parmesan cheese, grated
3 eggs
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
½ teaspoon of dried basil
¼ teaspoon of dried marjoram
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/8 cup of all purpose OR whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup of salted butter
1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, chopped

In a large heavy sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Place washed spinach in the pan and cook over low heat for about 7 minutes (or until just wilted).

Drain spinach in a colander. Set aside. Meanwhile lightly beat eggs with garlic powder, basil, marjoram, salt and pepper. Press out remaining liquid from spinach and chop it.

In a large bowl, mix chopped spinach, ricotta, eggs and half of the parmesan cheese. Beat until fully combined. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.

Shift the four and add to the mixture. Add more if necessary to obtain a workable mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

With floured hands, roll mixture into 1 inch balls. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the dumplings and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until they rise to the surface. Remove from pan, drain well, transfer to serving plate and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the oregano and thyme and lower the heat. Cook for about 1 minute stirring constantly. Pour over gnocchi, sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Porcini mushroom Pan Chicken

2 ½ lb of chicken breast, boneless and skinless
¾ cup of chicken stock
6oz of porcini mushroom, sliced
¼ teaspoon of paprika
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of fresh sage, chopped
1 tablespoon of butter (optional)
1 ½ tablespoon of olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Season chicken with paprika, salt and pepper and place it in the pan. Cook for 5 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.

Place garlic in the pan and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushroom to pan and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Move mushroom to the side of the pan and place chicken breast back in the pan. Add chicken stock and sage and cook for 10 to 15 minutes covered. Lower the heat, uncover the pan and simmer for another 7 to 10 minutes. Add the butter and stir until fully melted. Check seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if desired. Serve it immediately.

Serves 6.

To finish this delicious meal, you can serve a creamy and luscious Mocha Chocolate Terrine.   I think that this dessert deserves special attention, so I will have an entire post dedicated to it tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fun and Easy Easter Party Planning!

If you are planning an Easter party or if you are helping someone throw a party, you may feel preparation stress. Venturing into the world of party planning can be stressful at times. But party planning can be just as much fun as the party itself! To make it easier, I have put together some simple tips that will help you plan and prepare a successful party.

First, you set a budget for the party. This information will help you make smart and clear party planning decisions.

Second, you can decide where the party will take place. Will it be at your house party or out at another location. Once the location of the party is defined, you will know if your guest list needs to be limited by the available space and how the food can be served comfortably.

Third, you should create a guest list based on your budget and event location. For your guest to have fun, they should have room to roam and comfortable seating. Also, you should decide if you want to spend your budget on affordable refreshments and food for a bigger group of people, or if you prefer to spend it on a more sophisticated menu for a smaller guest list.

After making these initial decisions, you will be to easily choose between a sit-down or buffet style party. Then, you will be ready to put together the party menu – that’s my favorite part of the process.

When planning a party menu, you should consider your budget, the number of guests, how the food will be served, preparation time and your guests’ life style or healthy needs (i.e.: vegetarians, diabetics, food allergies). Though you should consider all these factors when creating a party menu, it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process.

I will share with you many party menu ideas for the next 10 days. I hope I will be able to inspire you and save you time. Plus, I want to take the guess work out deciding what foods do together well. I have chosen recipes based on their ease of preparation, taste appeal and appropriateness for a buffet or sit-down party type service.

I am excited to share my favorite Easter Party recipes with you and I am looking forward to your feedback.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Great Breakfast Omelet Roll

I found an original and tasty omelet recipe that I would like to share with you:

Omelet Roll:

8 eggs
1 cup  milk
1/3 cup flour
1   red pepper, finely chopped
8 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled
3   green onions, finely chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves, crushed
1 cup  cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup tomato salsa, warmed

Heat oven to 350ºF.

Line 15x10x1-inch pan with parchment paper, with ends extending over shortest sides of pan. Spray with cooking spray.

Beat eggs, milk and flour in large bowl with whisk until well blended. Stir in next 4 ingredients. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 14 to 16 min. or until edges are almost set. Top with cheese; bake 2 min. or until melted.

Roll up omelet immediately, starting at one short end and peeling off paper as omelet is rolled. Place on platter; cut into slices. Serve with salsa.

Source: Kraft Foods

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What can High Fructose Corn Syrup can do to you?

When I first saw television commercials telling us that it is okay to intake corn syrup in moderation, I got worried. In my opinion, it sounds like a confirmation of high fructose corn syrup can really be bad for you. Today I decided to do some research on the topic.

First, I learned that even though the effects of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) seem very damaging, we are eating a lot of it any way. Apparently, the average American eats an astounding 41.5 lbs of high fructose corn syrup per year. I found this information alarming! The consumption of HFCS has been linked to high levels of bad cholesterol, obesity, type 2 diabetes and other metabolism conditions. It is metabolized to fat in your body much faster than any other sugar. There are also other concerns related to how HFCS is processed. Most of the corn that the high fructose corn syrup is made from comes from genetically modified corn and that alone may cause negative effects.

Despite of all these facts, HFCS is commonly found in baked goods, breakfast pastries, breakfast cereals, cookies, canned food, cough syrup, processed meats (i.e.: sausage, ham)  and condiments (i.e.: salad dressings, ketchup). Above all, many of the soft drinks available in the market contain high fructose corn syrup. Perhaps you are wondering why high fructose corn syrup is added to foods and beverages if it seems to be so unhealthy.

The explanation is simple, it is cost effective. Food and beverage manufacturers began switching their sweeteners from table sugar to corn syrup in the 1970s when they discovered that HFCS was not only cheaper to make, it was also much sweeter. Processed HFCS is almost 20 times sweeter than table sugar. 

If you want to reduce or eliminate HFCS from your diet, I suggest you consider taking the following steps:

  • Avoid fast food
  • Read food labels (it is the best way to find out if there is high fructose corn syrup in your food.)
  • Understand what "natural" or "organic" may mean on labels (foods and beverages can be labeled as natural even though they contain high fructose corn syrup. Only foods labeled as 100% organic can be assumed to be HFCS-free.)
  • Avoid canned or bottled beverages (or switch to small bottlers who use pure sugar cane instead of high fructose corn syrup.)
  • Buy fresh produce
  • Avoid processed food as much as possible (try to find easy and healthy recipes that you can prepare even if you have a hectic schedule)

Friday, March 12, 2010

As sweet as Honey

Honey is an organic, natural sugar alternative with no additives that is easy on the stomach, adapts to all cooking processes, and has almost indefinite shelf-life. It contains protein, vitamins and minerals, but no cholesterol. Honey has less than 2% sodium, and because of that, it is labeled as a sodium-free product. Also, its sugar structure gives a quick energy boost. Some experts claim that honey has antibacterial properties as well.

Obviously, there are many reasons to eat honey. Its consumption is as old as written history. Honey was valued highly and often used as a form of currency, tribute, or offering. During the 16th century, peasants in Germany were required to pay their feudal lords in honey and beeswax.

In the past, honey has been used not only in food and beverages, but also to make cement, in furniture polishes and varnishes, and for medicinal purposes.

You can replace honey for sugar in your recipes. In addition, its ability to absorb and retain moisture, can keep your baked goods moist and fresh for longer.

My husband is a honey fanatic. His grandfather used to raise bees and the entire family is big on honey. I am glad that my kids love honey too. They like to eat it with bread and butter. Also, honey is great on fruit such as sliced lemon, strawberries and melon.

We used to have a bulky and ugly honey jar. I tried to put on top of trivets or little plates to avoid sticky messes, but nothing really worked well. When the kids get a spoonful of honey they often left behind a trail of tiny spills. Glass or plastic jars may work well for storing honey, but they are not ideal for serving (especially with you have guests). For quite some time I searched for a cute and efficient honey pot. I recently purchased an adorable one made by MSC International. I like it so much that I asked the manufacturer to donate one for my blog giveaway.

 This ceramic honey pot has a dipper for easy serving. The actual pot is dishwasher safe. I have been washing the wood dipper by hand only. The little bee on the tip is so charming that I want to preserve it!

Please click here for a chance to win this honey pot and more!

***Please go to to visit MSC International online store.***

Super Sized Giveaway!

I am excited to tell you about the new BIG giveaway! This time we have 3 items!

First, we have a cute honey jar just like mine. Please click here to learn more about it.

Second, we have the practical vegetable slicer with a guard that will make your live easier. It works well for slicing firm vegetables like cucumbers, carrots and small potatoes. This gadget will allow you to obtain even slices every time. The winner will receive an ORANGE color slicer. 

These first two giveaways are a courtesy of  MSC International. I have several of their stylish and functional products and I hope you will like them as much as I do. If you want to see their current catalog, please go to .

Lastly, a good friend of mine is donating a great Cake Mix booklet filled with superb and easy recipes. You will find a total of 50 great recipes for any occasion including layer cakes, muffins, cookies, cupcakes, etc. Easter and Mother’s Day are just around the corner and these simple cake mix recipes can be a live saver.

The Cake Mix recipe booklet is distributed by the Entertaining at Home Company and it is a courtesy of Viviane Arnold.

Giveaway Details:

March 12th -28th

To enter this giveaway, you must:

·        Leave a comment on this post.

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 Twitter 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 March 28, 2010 at 12:00 PM central time. I will announce the winner here and on my Facebook page on March 29th. 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!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Truth about Whole Wheat

Wheat is the most important cereal crop in the world and it is used worldwide. Many of us enjoy eating bread, pasta, bagels, crackers, cakes, and muffins, just to list a few of the foods made with this grain.

Wheat, in its natural unrefined state, offers many benefits that are being recognized more and more by consumers. Recent studies show that the consumption of whole wheat can help you manage your weight and lower the risks of developing type 2 diabetes. It is great source of key ingredients like vitamin B &E, iron, fiber and magnesium as well as other valuable antioxidants not found in some fruits and vegetables.

An easy way to increase whole grain intake is to replace some of your refined-grain products with whole grain products. You will benefit from substituting at least half the white flour with whole wheat flour in your regular recipes for cookies, muffins, quick breads, pancakes, etc.

Whole Wheat Focaccia:

1 ¼ cups of whole wheat four
¾ cup of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of olive oil
¼ teaspoon of sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
½ tablespoon of yeast
1 cup of lukewarm water
10oz of low fat mozzarella, sheered
12 kalamata olives, pitted
8 cherry tomatoes, thin sliced
3oz of canned mushrooms, sliced and drained
2 large basil leaves, roughly chopped

Combine the flour, water, salt, yeast, sugar and olive oil in a bowl. Using a large spoon, mix all ingredients until well combined and dough is soft and leaves sides of the bowl.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Spray a separate bowl with cooking oil and transfer dough to prepared bowl. Cover and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until it doubles in size.

Heat the oven to 385F. Spray to 8 inches baking pans with cooking oil. Divide dough in half. Cover the bottom of each pan with dough. Cover and let it rise in a warm place for 15 to 20 minutes. Top it with equal amounts of cheese, olives, mushrooms, tomatoes and basil.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Serves 12

Monday, March 8, 2010

The key to a real Healthy Diet

Most diets are very strict and they may make people think they need to be unrealistically thin to be healthy. But it is really about feeling good. A healthy diet can boost your energy, sharpen your memory and stabilize your mood. You don’t have to deprive yourself of the foods you love to have a good diet. You just need to learn some nutrition basics and use them in a way that works for you. It’s all about “eating smart”.

First, you should set yourself up for success. Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories or measuring portion sizes, think of your diet in terms of balancing different food groups. Focus on foods you like and easy recipes that incorporate fresh ingredients. You don’t need to drastically chance your diet overnight. You can start slow and make chances to your diet overtime. Gradually, your diet will become healthier and tastier. Keep in mind that every change you make to improve your diet matters.

Second, moderation is the key. Try to eat smaller portions and no food should be off limits as long as you have balance. Avoid eating in front of the computer or TV because it often leads to overeating.

Third, eating a plant-based diet is the healthiest option. Focus on eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and some of the healthy fats, like olive and canola oil. You should keep your consumption of red meat, sugary drinks, salty snacks, refined grains and potatoes to a minimum.

Lastly, you should think of exercise as a food group in your diet. I am currently working on finding a physical activity I can do at least 3 days a week in the beginning. I also take a multivitamin every day to ensure I am not missing any nutrients.

I hope you find this information useful.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bulgarian Comfort Food for two

The first time my husband prepared for me a Bulgarian dish called Guvech I couldn’t stop eating it. Guvech is a Bulgarian casserole dish made with crumbled feta cheese, eggs, roasted peppers and whatever else you like. You can add ham or salami or skinless sausage. You can turn it into a fantastic vegetarian casserole by omitting the meat.

It is traditionally made in a clay pot but you can use individual casserole dishes as well. The word guvech means “earthenware casserole” in Turkish and it was probably introduced in Bulgaria during the time they dominated the country. Although I couldn’t find out much about the origin of this casserole dish, one thing is certain: It’s delicious and healthy!

I would like to share with you my first recipe but there are many variations to this recipe.

Eggs & Feta Cheese Guvech

¾ cup of ham or salami, chopped or diced
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup of fresh tomatoes, sliced
¼ cup of peperoncini peppers
¼ cup of green onions, sliced
¾ cup of feta cheese, crumbled
12 kalamata olives, pitted
½ cup of roasted pepper, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon of olive oil
4 eggs
Ground paprika, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 385F.

Divide the first 8 ingredients equally between two 8 inch casserole dishes. Crack two eggs on top of each casserole dish. Season with paprika, salt and pepper. Remember that the olives and the feta cheese may contain a higher amount of salt so you just need to sprinkle some salt on top of the eggs.

Loosely cover the casserole dishes with foil. Use a fork or toothpick to carefully make a few holes on the foil for part of the steam to escape during the cooking process.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until eggs are set.

P.S.: Just omit the meat to turn it into a great vegetarian casserole dish.

Shrimp and Fish Ceviche

My sister’s post about ceviche inspired me to learn more about this flavorsome and healthy dish. I tried for the first time in Mexico. As she said, it is considered a national dish in Peru but many countries in Latin America have their version of this mouth-watering food. It has been one of South America's best-kept secret for centuries, but ceviche is becoming a popular appetizer and it is gaining popularity in North America.

There is a theory that ceviche was created during the ancient Inca civilization in which people used to eat a salted and marinated fish dish. The Spanish contributed the Mediterranean custom of using lemons and onions.

Many Latin American countries have their own version of ceviche (or seviche). In Peru, it is served with slices of cold sweet potatoes or corn-on-the-cob. In Ecuador, it is often served in a large bowl with the guests helping themselves. In Panama, ceviche is accompanied by little pastry shells called “canastitas”. In Mexico, it is usually served with toasted tortillas.

Ceviche is a seafood dish cooked with acidic juices (lemon or lime juice) instead of heat.

It can be eaten as a first course or main dish, depending on what is served with it. I have restaurant quality ceviche recipe for you that anyone can make at home:


2 lb of fresh tilapia or sea bass (or other firm white fish), skinless and boneless
1/3 cup of fresh lime juice
½ cup of lemon juice
¼ cup of tomato juice
¼ cup of kennel corn (optional)
¼ teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup of red onions, finely chopped
½ cup of cilantro, chopped
10 oz of medium cooked shrimp, thawed and divined (tail off)
Salt, to taste

Cut fish fillets into ½ inch cubes. In a ceramic or glass casserole pan, place the fish, tomato juice, salt, cayenne pepper, lemon and lime juice. Gently mix ingredients to combine. All the fish needs to be covered with lemon and lime juices. Refrigerate for about 3 hours covered. Stir fish to ensure it is cooking evenly.

Stir in the remaining ingredients with the exception of the cilantro. Refrigerate for another 6 hours or overnight.

You know the fish is cooked when it has turned from translucent and pinkish to completely opaque and white.

Stir in corn and cilantro before serving. Serve it with corn chips, lime wedges and avocado slices on the side.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Healthy and Delicious South American Food

I would like to share with you my sister’s fun dinning experience that took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil but it took her back to her visits to Ecuador and to the healthy ceviche.

“There are a lot of charming restaurants in Leblon, a wealthy neighborhood by the sea in Rio de Janeiro, where the rich & famous people live. I have recently been to the restaurant“Quadrucci” with friends and we started with appetizers, as we were not very hungry, and they were great. 

One of my friends had a fantastic grilled seafood platter served with a delicate salsa. Everybody else ordered salads. Mine had asparagus and little slices of salmon with a ginger, soy sauce and lots of lettuce. It was very nice! 

I saw they had also ceviche on the menu, and I was very tempted to try it. But there is a “cevicheria” in São Paulo, where I live, that I want to go, so I decided to live it for São Paulo. “Ceviche” is a Peruvian dish. It is basically marinated seafood or fish in a very rich lemon sauce (which “cooks” the fish). It’s absolutely delicious! I tried it when I visited Ecuador. Last year a friend of mine from Peru prepared it at her home and I almost asked for more! I think everybody can make it at home. You just need fresh seafood and/or fish, lemon, onions and salt.”

By Carla Aranha

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Feijoada: A Brazilian National Dish

Feijoada is a type of Bean Stew original from Portugal that is also found in Angola, Brazil and other former Portuguese colonies. It can be made with different types of meat and beans. The name comes from feijão, Portuguese for "beans". In Brazil, the fusion of African and local cuisine, resulted in the famous Brazilian feijoada. An icon of Brazilian cuisine known internationally. Feijoada is the kind of comfort food that brings people together in Brazil. Feijoada lunches can be an all day event involving dancing and lots of fun conversations.

The traditional Brazilian feijoada is prepared with black beans and a variety of salted pork products, such as salted trimmings (ears, tail and feet), bacon and sausage. However, I am not a fan of fatty meats, so I created a slow cooker lean feijoada recipe. The result is an effortless dish that is also healthier and flavorsome.  

In Brazil, feijoada is often enjoyed with family and friends paired with various side dishes and caiprinhas cocktails or beer.  Some of these side dishes are collard greens, rice, peeled oranges and a pepper sauce.

This stew is easy to prepare and it is very economical. You can make a large amount of feijoada with a few low cost ingredients. 

 Brazilian Feijoada:

1 ¼ cups of chicken stock
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb of pork tenderloin OR pork loin
1 (8oz) skinless smoked sausage, sliced
¼ teaspoon of ground cumin
2 dried bay leaves
2 (15oz) cans of Black beans, not seasoned
1 slice of hickory smoked bacon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cooked rice, for serving

Trim excessive fat from pork tenderloin and cut it into 1 inch pieces. Lightly season meat with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Layer the sausage and pork meat in a 4 to 5 quart slow cooker. Sprinkle ground cumin, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour beans and chicken stock over the top. Add the bay leaves and bacon.

Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or until meat is tender. Remove bay leaves before serving. If you like, remove and discard the bacon slice too. Leftovers can be refrigerated for one week.

Serves 8.

Collard Greens

1 lb of fresh collard greens, thin sliced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large sauce pan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute garlic for about 3 minutes and stir in collard greens. Work in batches if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Cook it covered over medium low heat for about 7 to 10 minutes or until tender. Serve immediately.

Serves 8.

Pepper Sauce

¼ cup of roasted peppers, chopped
1/8 cup of jalapeno peppers (or any other hot pepper), chopped
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1/8 cup onion, chopped
1 ½ tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
¾ cup of olive oil
1 dry bay leave
¼ teaspoon of paprika
Ground cayenne pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

In a bowl mix all ingredients together and refrigerate overnight. Remove and discard the bay leave before serving.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Good old Lasagna

You can call me old fashion but I am a big fan of traditional pasta dishes, especially lasagna (spelled “lasagne” in Italy). It is a delicious savory pie! You can layer this broad noodles with pretty much anything you like, including vegetables, cheese, meats and tomatoes.

I prepare this comforting dish in different ways, but today I would like to share with you the lasagna recipe that brings back sweet childhood memories. I will always enjoy this simple lasagna as if I was trying it for the first time.

Lean Ham Lasagna

1 lb of egg roll wrappers
1 lb can crushed tomato
4oz of tomato paste
1 cup of water of chicken broth
8oz of sliced provolone cheese
¼ cup of parmesan cheese, shredded
10oz of mozzarella cheese, sliced
12oz of lean smoked ham, thin sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
6 large leaves of fresh basil, chopped
½ teaspoon of dry oregano
½ teaspoon of dry Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon of sugar
Salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a heavy sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until it is very fragrant. Stir in crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, sugar and tomato paste. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Stir in basil, Italian seasoning and oregano. Season with salt. Simmer for about 10 minutes and remove from heat.

Cover the bottom of a large casserole dish with the marinara sauce. Add a layer of egg roll wrappers, cutting the edges with necessary to make it fir. Apply another layer of sauce, followed by a layer of ham and then sliced cheese. Repeat the layers until there are no more egg roll wrappers. Finish the lasagna with a generous layer of marinara sauce and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

Bake uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes.

Serves 8.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Let's talk Pie!

I don’t miss the pie recipes posted on The Empty Nest every Friday and I would like to share with you some of my favorites. First, I will start with a creamy and rich Chicken Pot Pie with a flaky crust. If you crave homemade comfort food, this savory pie is a great choice.

But if you are craving a sweet treat, you want to try the prize-winning Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie. Another wonderful option is the creamy Pineapple pie (shown above)with cream cheese topping that includes a recipe for pie crust cookies made with left over dough. Lastly, there is the old time favorite, the sweet and tart Apple Pie.

Janet recipes are filled with step by step pictures and several helpful hints to help you make the perfect pie.

We have a Winner!

My first giveaway is over and Ruth is the winner! Congratulations!

I would like to thank everybody for participating and for providing such good feedback! I am working on many of your suggestions and appreciate your support.

I will be annoucing a new giveaway soon!