Dippalicious

Here are some ideas for quick dips and what to serve with them…

Caramel Dip

Place about 50 caramels and 2/3 cup of half-and half in a heavy saucepan and cook on low heat until the caramels are melted and the mix is blended.

Serve with: cookies, cut-up fresh fruit, pretzels or angel food cake cubes

Cheesy Dip


Mix 15 oz. of cheese spread with 1 cup of sour cream until well blended. Microwave 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through, stirring every 30 seconds.

Serve with: assorted cut-up vegetables, nachos, pretzels or soft breadsticks

Pizza Dip



Mix 1 cup pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup finely chopped pepperoni and 2 Tbsp. finely chopped green peppers in a microwave bowl. Microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds.

Serve with: wheat crackers, bread slices

Creamy Salsa Dip



Mix 8 oz. of cream cheese with 1 cup chunky salsa until well blended.

Serve with: tortilla chips

Fruity Dip



Place 1 cup vanilla yoghurt in a bowl and swirl 2 Tbsp. strawberry jam, jelly or preserves gently.

Serve with: cinnamon cookies, fresh fruit

Virgin Drinks

I know, I have been away quite long, but I have a really good excuse. I’m expecting my first baby! So lots of happiness and also lots of safety measures like no alcohol for example. Just because you can’t drink alcohol doesn’t mean you have to walk around with a glass of tap water at your next party. So here are really cool mixes:

Virgin Mary. Combine low-salt vegetable juice with a squeeze of lemon juice, a shake of pepper, a dash of celery seed, and a splash of Worcestershire and/or Tabasco sauce. Serve over ice with a stalk of celery.

Party punch. Mix equal amounts of orange juice, pineapple juice, and seltzer. Garnish with a slice of orange or fresh pineapple.

Margarita. Combine orange juice, a splash of fresh lime juice, and a sprinkle of margarita mix.

Piña colada. Blend 1 part coconut cream with 3 parts pineapple juice and crushed ice.

Strawberry daiquirí. Blend fresh or frozen strawberries with a splash of lime juice and crushed ice.

Tahitian punch. Blend fresh strawberries, papaya, banana, and pineapple with orange juice and seltzer.

Mimosa. Combine equal amounts of orange juice and seltzer.

It’s a Small Cake After All

It is the beginning of the year and like lots of people, I’m on a diet. I can eat very conscious and eat smaller portions of the naughty things. Whenever I bake I always end up with the problem that after some slices there is too much cake left. When you are on a diet, that is not a good idea. So here is the recipe for a small cake!

1/3 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten

Cream butter and sugar, add beaten eggs, beat together till light. Sift the flour and baking powder together and add to the creamed ingredients, adding milk as you go along mixing.  Mix till smooth. 

Put in a small buttered and floured cake pan and bake at 350F (preheated) for 15 minutes. And easy with the frosting!

Asopao or Chicken Gumbo

My mom makes the most delicious chicken asopao as we call it in Puerto Rico. My cousins seem dissapointed when there is a party at my parents and my mom opted for a different menu. Asopao is a sort of gumbo, a thick hearty soup. You can make giant pots of them to serve with bread slices or fried plantain (my favorite). It is a very affordable way to entertain and a healthy comfort food. And it tastes it’s best the next day. My sister is currently doing the cooking at my house and was more than happy to share the “secret ” recipe.

Ingredients
– 4-5 boneless chicken thighs, seasoned and chopped in small pieces
– 3 tablespoons of olive or canola oil
– 3 tablespoons of sofrito
– 1 envelope of annatto seasoning
– 1 tablespoons of minced garlic
– 1 can of tomato sauce
– 2 chicken bouillon cubes
– 1/2 cup of turkey ham, cubed
– 1 cup carrots, sliced
– 1 big potato, cubed
– 2-3 coriander leaves (optional)
– 1/2 cup rice
– 4 cups water
– salt if needed 
– lots of love (I swear that my sister wrote this part) 

Instructions

Heat the oil in a deep pot and add the annatto, cook the chicken on medium low heat but don’t brown it, just enough to seal it. Add the sofrito, garlic, ham and let it cook from 3-5 minutes. In a saucepan, boil the water with the bouillon cubesand when it is ready add it to the pot with the chicken mixture and mix well. Add the potatoes and carrots. Turn the temperature to medium and cover. Let it simmer until the potatoes are almost done and then add the rice. When the rice is cooked, then is ready to serve. If the soup becomes too thick, you can always add more bouillon.

Frozen Coquito Treats

We Puerto Ricans love coquito, everybody else has eggnog, but we truly love our milky coconut drink with rum during the holidays. We make it, we give bottles of it as gifts, we receive bottles of it as gifts in all the variations. But what do we do with it when we have too much of it? Of course drink it is an option, but you can also divide it in plastic cups or sandwich bags and freeze it.

If you have nothing left or have never heard of this drink, here is the recipe:

2 cans evaporated milk
2 cans condensed milk
1 can coconut cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
white rum to taste

Do you remember how yummy the “limbers de leche” are? Well imagine the goodness of it with coconut and rum included. So go ahead make “limbers de coquito” and keep enjoying it the rest of the year!

Who Wants Cookies???

For some people cookies are a treat, for me they are a nutritional need. Of course like most people I bake the most during the holidays, but why not do it year round? If you want to make a start here is my recipe for Basic Sugar Cookies.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for shaping the cookies
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the egg and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated (the dough will be stiff). Shape into a disk and refrigerate wrapped, for at least an hour and up to three days. If you don’t want to use the whole amount of dough, double wrap a portion in plastic wrap and freeze it.

Roll out dough on a flat, floured surface. Use cutters or a knife to cut out shapes. Bake at 350F on a lined baking sheet, spacing the cookies, until they just begin to brown (12-15 minutes). Transfer to wire racks to cool. Decorate with sugar or icing.

Making Royal Icing from scratch is a bit complicated (raw egg white, anyone?), so feel free to use ready made icings and sugar decorations.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This is a really yummy dessert and requires no baking. The texture is different and is less sweet than the traditional cheesecakes. If you like very sweet desserts, double the amount of sugar in the recipe or serve it with sweetened whipped cream.

INGREDIENTS

¾ cup finely crushed graham crackers
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 8-ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
½ cup sugar
½ cup fat-free milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
¼ cup water 

DIRECTIONS

1.For crust: In a medium bowl, stir together crushed graham crackers and melted butter until crackers are moistened. Press mixture onto bottom of an 8-inch springform pan. Cover and chill while preparing filling.

2.For filling: In a food processor or blender, combine the reduced-fat cream cheese, ¼ cup of the sugar, ¼ cup of the milk, and the vanilla. Cover and process or blend until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl; set aside.

3.In a food processor or blender, combine cream cheese, pumpkin, remaining ¼ cup sugar, remaining ¼ cup milk, and the pumpkin pie spice. Cover and process or blend until smooth.

4.In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over water; let stand for 5 minutes. Cook and stir over low heat until gelatin is dissolved. Stir 1 tablespoon of the gelatin mixture into the white cream cheese mixture and the remaining gelatin mixture into the pumpkin mixture.

5.Pour pumpkin mixture over chilled crust in pan. Carefully pour white cream cheese mixture over pumpkin mixture. Using a narrow, thin-bladed metal spatula or a table knife, swirl pumpkin and white mixtures.

6.Cover and chill overnight before serving. To serve, using a small sharp knife, loosen cheesecake from side of springform pan; remove side of pan. Cut into wedges. Makes 12 servings.

Mellow Yellow Lemon Curd

This past Saturday, I spent a lovely afternoon with my friends having a High Tea at home. The most celebrated recipe was the lemon curd served with fresh baked scones and clotted cream. I want to share the goodness, so here is the recipe…

2 lemons
150 g or 3/4 cups butter
2 eggs
125 g or 1/2 cup white castor sugar (this sugar is grounded finely and kind of sticks together, not to be confused with powdered sugar)

1. Squeeze the lemon juice and add it to a saucepan. Add the butter and let it melt on low temperature.
2. Mix the eggs with the sugar in a bowl. Add the lemon juice-butter mix to the egg mix. Whisk everything until well combined and return to the saucepan. Keep stirring until it boils then turn the temperature low and keep stirring. It will have the consistency of pudding when it is ready.
3. Keep the lemon curd in a clean glass bowl and cover. You can keep it in the fridge for about a week.

Icing, icing baby!

On request of my friend Ruthmaris, here is the recipe for royal icing…

2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

  1. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, egg white, and lemon juice. With a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients together until the icing is thickened and smooth, about 2 minutes.
  2. The icing will keep up to 2 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Before using, beat it with a fork. Stir in very small amounts of water if it seems too thick. Add powder or liquid food coloring to small batches of the icing to create different colors for your cookies.