Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ahh...it's been too long

It's been almost 4 months since my last entry. I have been lost! Lost without my Constant Craver-ness!!

Let me explain why.

As part of reevaluating where I am and where I want to be, I decided that I needed to change the way I eat, and how I approach food in general. I know you have all heard the saying, you need to eat to live, not live to eat, I know it sounds cliche, but it is soo true. You don't realize the stuff you are putting in your body by eating high fat, high sugar, highly processed foods. I personally did a 4 day detox, and cut out soda from my diet and was able to lose 12 pounds in 2 weeks!!

12 pounds in 2 weeks!!

I feel like I sound like an infomercial, but seriously, I'd forgotten what it was like to enjoy all natural, healthy foods that actually taste good.

As this is still sort of new, I am still working through what I like, what I don't like, and how I can take the foods that I love, and make them healthy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Feliz Navidad!

This past weekend I was the ultimate procrastinator in getting my Christmas treats and coquito done for the holiday season! I remember celebrating solstice and making happy brew and loads of cookies.....I mean, I think I gave everyone in my family a LARGE tray of cookies that could feed at least 50 people! Those were the wonderful holiday seasons when my Mother and Grandmother were still around, they were Christmas Fanatics! My grandmother would re-decorate the whole house from top to bottom, she even put out Christmas plates, soaps, and pillow cases!
My mother always went overboard with the lights, her whole house had twinkling lights (that she managed to keep up for at least 3 months after Christmas) from top to bottom it seemed. My dad on the other hand played the role of scrooge and bah humbugged his way through December only to become a kid at a candy store on Christmas Day! I don't know whose face lit up more when I opened my gifts...his or mine....probably his!
Being so far away from home this holiday season perhaps put a slow motion clock on my baking mood, but I did manage to make some yummy treats none the less.


Here is the recipe for my Chocolate Lovers Delight Coquito that I mention on my Being Latino Blog Post on holiday drinks.


1 can Coco Lopez
1 can Evaporated Milk
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
5 scoops Vanilla Ice Cream
1 Pkt. Nestle Cafecito instant coffee, or the new Viva from Starbucks
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped, seeds placed in blender, or you can just use 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 round bars Nestle Abuelita drinking chocolate
1/2 cup Coconut Milk
1 cup Rum (or more to taste) (add last)

1) heat up coconut milk and Abuelita chocolate bars until it is completely melted and is the consistency of choclate syrup, set to the side and cook off for 20 mins
2) Add coco lopez, evaporated and condensed milks and remaining ingredients to your blender.
3) Add 1 cup cooled Abuelita Syrup to the blender and mix for about 1 minute, until the color is consistent.
4) Add Rum
5) Have a glass and enjoy!

Stay tuned for my Rum Bundt Cake Recipe!!

Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 27, 2009

My First Daring Bakers Challenge

I hate to say it, but I am addict.
I am addicted to online food challenges, I don't know why, but I am.
It's not like people can actually taste my food, they have to go by what I write and the pictures I post. I'm not a professional writer or Photographer, and unfortunately they are not hobbies of mine either, so why do I subject myself to the torture of having your pictures judged? I guess I am just a masochistic chef, because once again, I have decided to do a challenge.

I am not just doing any ol' challenge either, I am doing THE DARING BAKERS CHALLENGE, people from all over the world log on once a month ( you must be a member to participate) and happily accept the challenge that is thrown at them.

I guess I couldn't have picked a better time to actually do the Challenge ( i missed last months deadline), than this one. It is one of my FAVORITES. It was of course, Cannoli's. Not only were we making Cannoli's, we were making them from scratch!!!

I've eaten dozens of Cannoli's in my lifetime, but not once have I actually thought of making them at home. It's one of those desserts that just seemed like they just needed to be bought and enjoyed at your favorite Italian Bakery, mine of course being Venieros in NYC.

I was soo excited, I thought for sure I had this one down. I was going to make the best cannoli's my eyes have ever seen...haha...yea right! The Cannoli Gods had another thought in mind for me.

Cannoli dough could possibly be the dough from hell, leaving my other arch nemesis, phyllo, light years behind. Not only is the dough a pain in the butt to mix, and figure out if you even got it right, it is even more of a pain to roll it out and get the right thickness. Some people on the website chose to use a Pasta Machine to thin out the dough, that would have been my option as well....but...I don't have a pasta machine.

After about 5 minutes of trying to beat the crap out of the dough and roll it until it was the thickness of a dollar bill, I decided to cut 3" rounds, and then thin that out by rolling it out some more.

The other part of the challenge was to make the filling. I don't use Ricotta too much, so I thought about using Marscapone or even cream cheese, but then I figured I wanted to stay as close to traditional as possible. I contemplated making my own Ricotta, but I had second thoughts and just went with the store bought stuff.

I had 2 ideas for my fillings, I definitely wanted to make a holiday inspired one, but I also wanted to make the traditional one with the chocolate chips and the candied orange pieces.

Again, the Cannoli gods failed to smile upon me.
Why could I not get the filling to a consistency that is what I remember eating at my beloved Venieros?!

I ended up making a white chocolate peppermint filling, but it was a little runny, probably from the melted white chocolate. I refrigerated the filling and filled the shells the next day.


The Shells, as much of a pain as they were, came out of the fryer beautifully. The first was by far the best, but beggars can't be choosy!


Here are some pictures of the finished product!

CIMG8769

CIMG8767

CIMG8766

CIMG8764

Monday, November 16, 2009

Foodie Fights -- Battle 16 -- Chestnuts & Kumquats (continued)

Crisp Seasonal Pork Dumplings w/ Kumquat infused Dipping Sauce



Don't forget to check out all of the contestants and vote for your favorite!!!




So,
it seems that unless I am signed up for a challenge where I must post my entries onto my blog, the poor thing gets ignored, its like the red headed step child of my cooking world :(

So this month I am of course doing the Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks challenges, but I also signed up for this one called Foodie Fights, you basically send an email saying that you would like to participate in their upcoming battle and they will send you an email telling you if you have been accepted? or I guess if you signed up in time. They then let you know the ingredients you are going to be using. I had the fortunate luck of being involved in Battle 16, Kumquats and Chestnuts.

What is a Kumquat you ask?

any of several trees or shrubs of the genus Fortunella bearing small orange-colored edible fruits with thick sweet-flavored skin and sour pulp
small oval citrus fruit with thin sweet rind and very acid pulp , according to Google and Princeton


Ahh...and Chestnuts, was that your next question?

chestnut - This nut of the chestnut tree was once abundant in America, but most were killed by a fungus at the turn of the century. The many varieties of chestnuts can be boiled, candied, dried, preserved, pureed, roasted, or ground into flour.
According to Google

So here I was extra excited...and then it hit me! I live in PHOENIX ARIZONA....there are no Chestnuts that I have recalled seeing over the last few weeks..and honestly, whens the last time I saw a Kumquat...I went into Mary-mode and started calling every market I could think of...no Kumquats, haven't seen them since spring or summer, sure we'll have chestnuts, they're seasonal, they should be in within the next few weeks.

AWESOME!!! What was I going to do? I figured some place some where is this City would have to have something related to those items...I thought chestnut paste? I could make a pastry! Kumquat Jam, awesome filling....great ideas, but nothing to make these things come to life. Then it came to me, THE ASIAN MARKETS!! I am sure I could substitute water chestnuts for chestnuts, I mean...it does have chestnuts in its name, and I was for sure, totally 100% positive that I had seen Kumquat juice...I think?

As I anticipated going to the market after work I had visions of rolled chicken breasts with a cheese, mushroom and chestnut filling glazed with beautiful Kumquat reduction.

Going to the market was a blast, I zig-zagged my way straight to the Produce section....and as if the gods shone a golden light upon them, there were the beautiful chestnuts in all of their bagged glory...I think I may have jumped up and down as I reached out to touch the golden nuggets of things I can never recall ever really tasting or eating.

As I paced back and forth waiting to see if an attendant would be able to give me a smaller portion, I mean, what was I really going to do with 2 pounds of chestnuts....my eyes fell upon these round bulbous beauties....could it be...FRESH WATER CHESTNUTS....again, I think I jumped up and down...on wednesday I thought I was down and out...and here it is Friday and I am right back in the game! Woo-Hoo!

I was focused on Kumquats...none in the fresh fruit section, no Kumquat juice as I had previously imagined...although, all of the fruit on the juice bottles look the same, unfortunately I can't read Chinese, Korean, Japanese or Thai, so I really don't know what the bottles said, but I know it did not say kumquat outright. My brain was thinking fast and furious...I did not want to substititute kumquats with another citrus fruit unless it was one million percent impossible for me to find anything that contained kumquat....and then, like a bat out of hell, the idea hit me so fast I could barely get to the aisle fast enough...DRIED KUMQUAT....I had been in that aisle a million and one times hoping that by some miracle of sweet baby tasty jesus they would have Hi-Chew imported Japanese yogurt candy, I remember passing jars and bags of fruit that just looked at me and said....grab me, buy me, taste me, and I would not even give them a second glance, and here I was at their mercy!
I crossed my fingers and hoped that I would recognize the Kumquat. Have you ever noticed how many varieties of dried plum there are?
Neither did I! It seemed to be that every dried, preserved and pickled fruit was a plum, I was losing faith.
And then she found it...the freckeled one, with her eagle eyed vision spotted the word Kumquat on a lone package towards the bottom of the rack....my heart fluttered with adoration...and then.....there was a second package of Kumquats...once again I was down and out, and out of nowhere, as if they knew I were coming, there were 2 varieties of Kumquats!

They may not be plump and juicy and fresh, but they are Kumquats!








So as I was saying my brain was in overdrive, I had dreamed of the rolled chicken but thought it would probably be too much of a "safe" entry. I figured why not honor the place where I actually found the ingredients...I would make dumplings....or wontons...or potstickers with a kumquat dipping sauce.

The base for my dumplings would be traditional, ground pork, soy sauce, green onion and corn starch, I would add roasted chestnuts, water chestnuts, cilantro, brown onion, green onion, shitake mushroom, shredded carrot and cabbage. I also figured I would add some apple and kumquat just to give it a hit of sweetness and hopefully the apple would enhance the flavor of the chestnut...which I must say taste very...I guess the best word would be Earthy, I can't say that I have ever tasted a nut with that flavor profile...have you ever opened an avocado seed and smelled/tasted it? Thats sort of what Chestnuts reminded me of.

Anyways, I was extra excited about the Pacquaio/Cotto Fight on saturday night so I decided why not take the time I would use being bored watching the undercard fights and just get my idea rolling. In retrospect, if I had made a "Puerto Rican" style dish I wonder if Cotto would have pulled out a vicotry? I am Puerto Rican (and 1/2 dominican) so maybe I jinxed him by making an asian inspired dish....

So I started out by roasting my chestnuts and water chestnuts, I must admit I kept singing to my self ♪♫♪ chestnuts roasting on an open fire ♪♫♪...I cut cross sections on the chestnuts (to release pressure so they wouldn't explode), and I cut the tops off of the water chestnuts, and off they went into a 350 degree oven for 20 mins.




I was pretty impressed with the way they came out, they looked like perfect little chestnut blooms...until I started to peel the little bundles of joy



It seriously took me 45 mins to get them out of the shell, and their wonderful skin off.



The water chestnuts on the other hand were a breeze, probably about 2 mins to peel.



I then gathered my mise en place:

½ gala apple
waterchestnuts
chestnuts
1/3 medium brown onion

and also:

1 green onion stalk (scallion)
a small handful of cilantro

Into the the food processor it went, I actually passed it thru 2 seperate times because I wanted a smaller chop. I added 1 tablespoon of canola oil to the mix to loosen it up




I then added some chopped kumquats...remember, these are preserved kumquats that I found at the asian market:





The other ingredients were:

1/4 chopped small cabbage
1/3 shredded large carrot
2 chopped shitake mushrooms


1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1/2 teaspoon chinese 5 spice

2 tablespoons white wine (i used chardonnay)
1 teaspoon sesame oil(for flavor)

I also added:

1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 teaspoons of granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon of salt (for flavor enhancement)




All of my ingredients went into 1 1/4 pound of ground pork, 1/2 of the chestnut mixture was used:









I used pre-made dumpling skins....I bet I could have made my own, but why risk it :)





KUMQUAT DIPPING SAUCE:

sliced sweet presevered kumquat
sliced green onion
dash of sesame oil
soysauce to taste


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Daring Cooks Challenge

This is my first Daring Cooks Challenge. The lucky item this month was Sushi, unfortunately I have never been a fan of it, but I decided to give it a try anyway since the freckled one loves it. I opted to just do 2 of the 4 types of rolls because it would definitely be wayyyy too much for just the 2 of us, so here are my final results.



Foodie Fights -- Battle 16 -- Chestnuts & Kumquats

So,
it seems that unless I am signed up for a challenge where I must post my entries onto my blog, the poor thing gets ignored, its like the red headed step child of my cooking world :(

So this month I am of course doing the Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks challenges, but I also signed up for this one called Foodie Fights, you basically send an email saying that you would like to participate in their upcoming battle and they will send you an email telling you if you have been accepted? or I guess if you signed up in time. They then let you know the ingredients you are going to be using. I had the fortunate luck of being involved in Battle 16, Kumquats and Chestnuts.

What is a Kumquat you ask?

any of several trees or shrubs of the genus Fortunella bearing small orange-colored edible fruits with thick sweet-flavored skin and sour pulp
small oval citrus fruit with thin sweet rind and very acid pulp , according to Google and Princeton


Ahh...and Chestnuts, was that your next question?

chestnut - This nut of the chestnut tree was once abundant in America, but most were killed by a fungus at the turn of the century. The many varieties of chestnuts can be boiled, candied, dried, preserved, pureed, roasted, or ground into flour.
According to Google

So here I was extra excited...and then it hit me! I live in PHOENIX ARIZONA....there are no Chestnuts that I have recalled seeing over the last few weeks..and honestly, whens the last time I saw a Kumquat...I went into Mary-mode and started calling every market I could think of...no Kumquats, haven't seen them since spring or summer, sure we'll have chestnuts, they're seasonal, they should be in within the next few weeks.

AWESOME!!! What was I going to do? I figured some place some where is this City would have to have something related to those items...I thought chestnut paste? I could make a pastry! Kumquat Jam, awesome filling....great ideas, but nothing to make these things come to life. Then it came to me, THE ASIAN MARKETS!! I am sure I could substitute water chestnuts for chestnuts, I mean...it does have chestnuts in its name, and I was for sure, totally 100% positive that I had seen Kumquat juice...I think?

As I anticipated going to the market after work I had visions of rolled chicken breasts with a cheese, mushroom and chestnut filling glazed with beautiful Kumquat reduction.

Going to the market was a blast, I zig-zagged my way straight to the Produce section....and as if the gods shone a golden light upon them, there were the beautiful chestnuts in all of their bagged glory...I think I may have jumped up and down as I reached out to touch the golden nuggets of things I can never recall ever really tasting or eating.

As I paced back and forth waiting to see if an attendant would be able to give me a smaller portion, I mean, what was I really going to do with 2 pounds of chestnuts....my eyes fell upon these round bulbous beauties....could it be...FRESH WATER CHESTNUTS....again, I think I jumped up and down...on wednesday I thought I was down and out...and here it is Friday and I am right back in the game! Woo-Hoo!

I was focused on Kumquats...none in the fresh fruit section, no Kumquat juice as I had previously imagined...although, all of the fruit on the juice bottles look the same, unfortunately I can't read Chinese, Korean, Japanese or Thai, so I really don't know what the bottles said, but I know it did not say kumquat outright. My brain was thinking fast and furious...I did not want to substititute kumquats with another citrus fruit unless it was one million percent impossible for me to find anything that contained kumquat....and then, like a bat out of hell, the idea hit me so fast I could barely get to the aisle fast enough...DRIED KUMQUAT....I had been in that aisle a million and one times hoping that by some miracle of sweet baby tasty jesus they would have Hi-Chew imported Japanese yogurt candy, I remember passing jars and bags of fruit that just looked at me and said....grab me, buy me, taste me, and I would not even give them a second glance, and here I was at their mercy!
I crossed my fingers and hoped that I would recognize the Kumquat. Have you ever noticed how many varieties of dried plum there are?
Neither did I! It seemed to be that every dried, preserved and pickled fruit was a plum, I was losing faith.
And then she found it...the freckeled one, with her eagle eyed vision spotted the word Kumquat on a lone package towards the bottom of the rack....my heart fluttered with adoration...and then.....there was a second package of Kumquats...once again I was down and out, and out of nowhere, as if they knew I were coming, there were 2 varieties of Kumquats!

They may not be plump and juicy and fresh, but they are Kumquats!




Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I gave in...

I decided to do the PaperChef challenge at the last minute.
I entered last month, and had lots of fun making my cookie, I figured why not give it another go....unfortunately I decided pretty much at the last minute so I am scrambling to get everything typed up and posted before midnight. As my items are in the oven, I will take advantage and type the recipe, I don't know what I am calling it yet though, so I guess I will type it out, and then edit to add a name. I definitely decided to go with a pastry style dish, I didn't want lentil soup, or lentils as a side in general, so i decided to incorporate somehow. I thought of mashing it with the Yams, but I didn't want to take anything away from the beautiful sweetness that is a yam...i ended up cooking them down and then sauteing them with the chicken and some shredded carrot. I definitely wanted to embrace the sweetness of the Yam, so it will be a sweeter dish rather than ultra savory....ahhh, let me stop rambling away and get to the recipe


Unnamed Dish





Ingredients needed

lentils
Yam
Chicken
Green Tea


Added by me

pastry dough
carrot, shredded
cinnamon, to taste
nutmeg, to taste
lavender 1/4 teaspoon for the chicken and 1/4 teaspoon for the lentils, a pinch for the yams
butter
white wine
sugar
egg (for eggwash)


Sauce (optional)
vanilla yogurt
orange zest
orange juice
vanilla extract


The first thing I did was roughly chop my yams, add some cinnamon, nutmeg, lavender and jasmine green tea leaves to it, and dry roasted for about 30mins, once they came out of the oven, I mashed them, and added a little bit of freshly brewed green tea to the mix


While my potatoes were roasting, I poached the chicken, about 3/4 of the way through I added a mint green tea bag, and about 1/4 teaspoon lavender to the mix, once it was cooked, I took it out and let it cool down before pulling it into shreds.

I let my lentils boil, about 1/2 way through I added about 1/4 teaspoon of jasmine green tea leaves, 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, salt and white pepper for to taste, just to give the lentils some flavor

I also brewed a very strong cup of jasmine green tea to use as a flavor infuser

Once the potatoes were done roasting, I mashed them, adding a little bit of the strong brewed tea for flavor.

I sauteed the carrot in butter, added the chicken, lentils, white wine, and some of the brewed tea, and I let that simmer down for abot 3 mins, I added sugar and butter to finish the sauce.

I will be posting the video once I am done editing so you can see everything I did !









Here is Video # 1

Here is Video #2, still editing #'s 3 & 4


Please check my Facebook Page for other Videos, my Constant Craver Competition, and Step by Step Photo Albums! Happy Cooking!!!!