Sunday, May 31, 2015

Do You Believe in Magic?

Do you believe in magic?  
When there's no rock 'n' roll?  
When there's no music?  
Do you believe like I believe?  

Well, I was a believer Saturday night! I had the most delicious piece of Magic Chocolate Flan Cake. Oh my goodness, there was no music but it did make me smile and there was music in me...in fact, there was music around the table as everybody took a bite of dessert!


The magic is in the science.  Whomever says there isn't science hasn't baked!  The cake has three layers poured into a bundt pan in this order:  caramel sauce, cake batter, flan mixture.  During baking, the cake raises to the top or the flan sinks to the bottom...either way, they switch places.   It was a perfect combination and I thought it was beautiful!  Another plus for this cake is that it needs to be made a day in advance as it must be refrigerated for 8 hours. allowing the flan to set.

Magic Chocolate Flan Cake
adapted from Cook's Country

Serves:  16
Position oven rack to the middle
Preheat oven:  350°

Plan ahead:  
The cake must be baked in a water bath so you will need to check the size of your bundt and your roasting pan.  It must also chill for 8 hours after baking.  

Cake
1/2 cup caramel sauce
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
4-ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Flan
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2 cups whole milk
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 eggs
4 egg yolks
1 tap vanilla extract

Cake:  Thoroughly grease a 12-cup bundt pan.  Microwave caramel until easily pourable, about 30 seconds.  Pour caramel sauce into the bottom of the bundt pan. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. 

Place chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl, heat until melted, 2 minutes at 50% power. Whisk buttermilk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla into chocolate until incorporated. Add flour mixture and stir until combined. Pour batter over caramel.

Flan:  Add sweetened condensed milk. milk, cream cheese, eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla to a blender, Blend until very smooth, about one minute.  Slowly pour flan mixture over cake batter.

Place a large roasting pan on the oven rack.  Place the bundt pan in the roasting pan.  Pour boiling water halfway up the sides of the bundt pan.  Bake for 75 to 90 minutes, or when a toothpick comes out clean. (Test at 75 minutes.) The flan should register 180°.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.  Refrigerator and chill for at least 8 hours to allow the flan to set.

To unmold, place the bottom of the cake pan in hot water for 1 minute. Place a completely flat cake plate over the bundt pan and flip over. Slowly remove bundt pan allowing the caramel to drizzle over the top of the cake.  Serve with additional caramel sauce drizzled over the top of each piece.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


This was a fun and tasty dessert.  We ate outside on this evening and all I had available was the cell phone.  The pictures aren't the best but you get the idea....

As for the magic science...it has to do with density and displacement or maybe it is gas and physics and chemistry.  Yep, let's be general...it has to do with physics and chemistry.

I also have to fess up....it was my night for appetizers so the cake was prepared by our Master Chef, Bruce!  Thank you, Bruce for a great dessert.

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Kitchen!


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Making Great Basic Meatballs!


For years I approached meatballs as a challenge.  Balls aren't supposed to have sides....How do I keep them round?  Why are they falling apart?  Are they done in the middle?  Why do they taste like a hamburger that was just tossed in a Marinara sauce?  Why go to all of the trouble to be disappointed? Greatly frustrated I took them off the menu...off they go...no more meatballs.

Then, I read an article about the meatball's versatility...I think I rolled my eyes.   The article went on about making various sizes of meatballs...really?????  Just making one normal size meatball stay together and not be flat would be good for me....  Continuing on, the author said that meatballs were fried for extra flavor and a firm texture but that it wasn't necessary.  No frying and no mess?  I was listening...  The answer?  Baking.  The article said that baking the meatballs at a high temperature retains flavor and their texture.  I was paying attention.  No mess...I was smiling.

I learned three basic steps to great basic meatballs: mixing, shaping and cooking.

Mixing:  There are two steps.  Before adding the meat, blend all of the other ingredients together thoroughly.  Add the meat and combine using a fork.  The idea is not to overmix and compact the meat which will yield tough meatballs.

Shaping:  Use a scoop!  Why didn't I think of that?  Scooping and then rolling the meat into a ball gives uniformity.  (I turned in the two spoons that I had been using.  They worked for mom and they worked for my cousin...I never mastered spoons!)

Cooking:  Place the meatballs on a baking sheet after rolling them.  Pour in enough beef broth or stock to cover the bottom of the pan.  The beef broth keeps the meatballs juicy.  The drippings can be saved and used later in a sauce, if you like.


Basic Meatballs
adapted from Cuisine at Home, October 2002

Yield:  30 meatballs (about 1 1/2 oz each)
Preheat oven:  450°

1 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cup Romano or Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup beef broth or stock
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. ground black pepper (I always use less....it's a matter of taste.)
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of nutmeg

1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground pork
1 cup or more beef broth or stock for to cover the bottom of the pan.

In a large bowl, stir together all of the ingredients (except the ground meat).  Combine the meats with the bread crumb mixture.  Stir thoroughly with a fork. Using a scoop or two spoons, shape the meat mixture into balls that are about 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches in diameter.

Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.  Space the meatballs on the pan so that they are not touching or crowded.

Cover the bottom of the pan with beef broth.  Bake for 25 minutes or until the meatballs are just cooked through.  Reserve the pan juices for a sauce, if desired.

Notes:
The original recipe calls for 2 pounds of ground chuck.  I like to use a mixture of beef and pork.  If you do not want a spicy meatball, reduce the amount of red pepper flakes by half.

The recipe makes more meatballs that we need for one meal.  I freeze the extra meatballs in a freezer bag for future use.

PRINTABLE RECIPE



I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Simple and Sweet Restaurant-Style Coleslaw




I am a coleslaw lover.  I have been since I was a little girl.   Ironically, I rarely make it but I will order it when it is offered as a side.  For years I have tried to make it, but it just never tasted like I wanted it to taste.  I must have some little taste tester sitting in my mind that is picky when it comes to a good slaw.  One would think that I could make this very easy salad blindfolded....I have tired and I have made some really bad coleslaws.

What I have learned and need to remind myself of, is that sometimes, simple is best.  That is the case with coleslaw.  It only takes a few everyday ingredients to make a sweet and tasty coleslaw.  I say sweet because I think this particular slaw is on the sweet side.  I didn't mind....I have a sweet tooth that hasn't been treated to anything sweet lately!   Terry asked for seconds and thirds....I think his sweet tooth has been neglected, also.

That said, you may want to cut the sugar in half to start, then taste and add so that the taste tester in your mind will smile and give it a big thumbs up!  I found the recipe while cruising Rebekah's blog, Making Memories.  It was a fun cruise visit.  You may wish to stop by.

Simple and Sweet Restaurant-Style Coleslaw
adapted from Making Memories

1 16-oz. bag coleslaw mix
2/3 cup mayonnaise
3 T. vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp poppy seeds

In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, oil, sugar, vinegar, salt and poppy seeds.

Add the coleslaw mix to the bowl and stir to make certain the sauce is evenly distributed.  Refrigerate the slaw for at least a half hour prior to serving.

The sauce is creamy.  I really like the consistency but, while the salad is resting, the cabbage releases liquid which thins down the sauce quite a bit.  You can add additional cabbage to get the slaw to the cabbage/sauce ratio that pleases your family.

For the two of us, I half the recipe.

PRINTABLE RECIPE

I was thinking that I might substitute celery seed for the poppy seed the next time I make this slaw.  It sounds like a good idea.

I have a recipe for a Spinach Coleslaw that is mighty tasty...you may enjoy it especially if you love coleslaw as I do!






Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Strawberry Fool, Blogger CLUE


Living in California's Central Valley, I have easy access to an abundance of fruits and vegetables. And, this time of year, the strawberries are popping up at roadside stands every day.  It is so hard to drive past those beautiful flats filled with red, luscious strawberries.  You see it is Blogger CLUE time and our theme for this month is "berries"!   Great choice for spring.  Wait! Guess I should hold on a minute as you may be wondering, "What is Blogger CLUE?"

I have participated in this group's recipe exchange for the last two months.  It is so much fun.  Here's how it works:  1) a blog is assigned; 2) a clue is provided, 3) find a recipe that matches the clue!  This was dreamed up by Liz at That Skinny Chick Can Bake.  Thank you Liz and fellow Blogger CLUE helpers...AND, a big thank you to all CLUE. bloggers for sharing some amazing recipes!

So back to the theme, "berries".  I was assigned Liz's blog, That Skinny Chick Can Bake, and after perusing for a loooong time, I selected the raspberry.  I had just seen some beautiful, plump raspberries and was determined that I would find just the right recipe.   Needless to say, I found a few recipes: Raspberry Mousse, Raspberry Chicken and Raspberry Brie Bites.  Yum! Somewhere along the way I learned that Liz is a raspberry fan so what better place to find a recipe using raspberries??  I have followed Liz's blog since 2010, when she started blogging, as we both began about the same time, and I was fascinated by her specialty and love....all of those wonderfully sweet dishes.   Choices were not limited on her blog.

So why is my post about strawberries?  (No, I am not confused.)  You see pictures of strawberries because it seems that the beautiful raspberries I had seen vaporized and in their place were some not so pretty ones.....

Since my choices at Liz's blog are not limited....I was on my way to the roadside stand....moving on to strawberries!  I decided to make the Strawberry Fool.

I made the recipe twice.  The first time I made it to take to a friend's for dinner.  We all loved it.  It had just the right amount of sweetness and the strawberry flavor was perfect....the problem was that I should have doubled the recipe.  There were four of us and it's not that we wanted a lumberjack serving "grin" but a little more would have been nice.

So, I decided to make it again.  This time I doubled the recipe for four people....except that I wanted some additional strawberries for the bottom of the glasses so I added about four more large berries.  I used the martini glasses for the adults and small glasses for my granddaughter and me!


Strawberry Fool

Serves: 4

6 ounces strawberries, hulled and medium dice
1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar, divided
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp finely grated lemon zest
3/4 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
Fresh strawberries and mint for garnish, optional

Cook the diced strawberries, sugar and salt in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally until the mixture starts to simmer.  Add the lemon zest and lemon juice.  Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for two minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature and then chill it in the refrigerator until cold.

Once the berries are cold, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.  Add vanilla and the remaining Tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.  

Reserve about 2 Tablespoons of berries.  Fold the remaining berries into the whipped cream.

Divide the mixture between four serving dishes.  Add a few teaspoons of berries on top of each serving.  Garnish with fresh berries and mint, if desired.

NOTE:  
1) If you desire additional berries so that you can layer it in a serving dish, you may wish to double the strawberry and sugar mixture.  
2) For four people I would suggest increasing the recipe by one half.



If you are curious about how the Fool originated, it is included in my previous post



Sunday, May 10, 2015

Spicy Caribbean Shrimp, SRC


Sometimes there is a reason that we do what we do.  For example, this month I found a recipe the first day I received my Secret Recipe Club assignment, Corey's blog, Learning Patience. There was a bag of shrimp in the freezer so I figured, "Why delay?" We had planned to have shrimp that night anyway, so, Spicy Caribbean Shrimp became the main course.  Besides, I wanted time to try out the other tantalizing recipes that I had found, such as Shrimp, Avocado and Tomato Salad and Asparagus, Mushroom and Artichoke Strata.  I determined that I was going to spend the month cooking yummy things and then choose one for the SRC post.

But then...you know the phrase, "The best laid plans.....?" It's the one by Scottish poet, Robert Burns, "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley." Well, that's what happened.  "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."  Today we most often think of those words in relationship to John Steinbeck who coined the phrase in his work, Of Mice and Men. It became very real for us recently.

As I said, that is exactly what happened.  The mister and I made the shrimp, I took a few pictures and didn't think about it again.  Then, I went to Seattle to do some granddaughter sitting and everything went awry! While I was gone, Terry got very sick and after five days, ended up in the hospital. The chain of events got worse for him as the infection was resistant to the medications he was given. After bringing in an infectious disease specialist, another treatment protocol was determined, he quickly responded, and he is recovering at home.....very weak and doing lots of resting.

It was at that point the I got the reminder about the SRC post.  Thank goodness for reminders.  And, while I didn't get to "cook yummy things all month and choose one..."  I feel very thankful that I was an early bird and prepared the dish right away.  I am also confident about the Spicy Caribbean Shrimp that we made. It was delicious...and we agreed that it was even more flavorful the second day.  We did change the preparation method.  We allowed the shrimp to sit in the marinade for about 15-20 minutes and then Terry put the shrimp on skewers and popped them onto the barbecue.  I made a Caribbean rice to accompany the shrimp and the meal was quite tasty!


Spicy Caribbean Shrimp
adapted from Learning Patience

2 pounds fresh or frozen raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, leave the tails on
4 Tbsp Coconut Rum
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
2 limes, juiced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro, for garnish

Rinse the shrimp and pat dry.  If the shrimp is frozen, be certain to thaw it first. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the rum, olive oil, curry powder, cayenne, allspice and coriander. Set aside. Place the shrimp in a bowl and toss to coat.  OR, place the shrimp in a zip lock bag, pour the marinade over the shrimp and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes.  

Bring out the skillet OR, heat up the grill.

Skillet Method:  Heat the remaining one tablespoon of oil in a large skillet.  Remove the shrimp from the bowl and cook in the skillet a minute or two until done (They are done when they become opaque.)  Sprinkle with salt while cooking.

When the shrimp are cooked, remove them from the pan, toss with lime juice and sprinkle with chopped cilantro!

Grill Method:  Remove the shrimp from the marinade and place on skewers.  Sprinkle with salt. Grill the shrimp 1-2 minutes, turn and grill an additional 30 seconds to a minute. They will become opaque and firm when they are ready.  Watch them closely being careful to not overcook the shrimp.

 Remove the shrimp from the grill and lay the skewers on a platter. Squeeze fresh lime juice over the shrimp and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

PRINTABLE RECIPE

Both of us enjoy Caribbean food so trying this recipe was a no-brainer for us.  I found the subtle flavor of the coconut very nice.  While the spices used in the dish were flavorful and spicy-hot, we did not think the shrimp was too hot.  It was fun to give this recipe a try and see where it would take us....I imagined tropical beaches with palm trees swaying and refreshing drinks with little umbrellas! It was a pleasant journey.

Corey at Learning Patience does just that....journey....she and her husband are quite adventurous and after their first year of married life, they decided to experience the world.  They moved to Trinidad and then to London where they currently reside....oh, and they travel everywhere in-between at every opportunity. Corey's blog is all about cooking, running and traveling. Her adventures are many with some cooking along the way...one must eat, you know!


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