Monday, May 31, 2010

Mil Jugos- Venezuelan Food

Brian spent two years living in Venezuela and fell in love with two things: the band Los Amigos Invisibles and the food. Lucky for him, the band tours to the US a lot and he found the best Venezuelan food restaurant in our neighboring Santa Ana, Mil Jugos. He first took me there when we were first dating, and I'll admit I was a bit sketchy about it. I didn't know anything about Venezuelan food, and had no idea what they cooked down there. But I was pleasantly surprised! I loved it. The restaurant is small and doesn't have a lot of evening hours so we don't make it over there very often, but I for sure wanted to go back. (We just went on Saturday, hence the post.)

Brian orders the national dish called Pabellon, which is not on the menu, but you can ask for it. Pabellon comes with white rice, black beans, slow cooked shredded beef, fried plantains, and an arepa. Of course the beef and beans aren't like ours, they do stuff to them, I don't know what though! And Brian sprinkles sugar on his beans, apparently that's how they do it down there. An arepa is a flat bread made with cornmeal. You can eat it alongside your meal, or you can order an arepa stuffed with chicken, beef, or cheese. I order the arepas and absolutely love them. I think I choose the chicken over the beef though. On Saturday Brian ordered me both, but I could only eat one. They aren't very big, but super filling. Oh, and they have this amazing green sauce, guasacaca, that I douse every bite in. And just this last time we got an empanada. It was fried with chicken in it, but the bread was sweet and not overly heavy. Delicious!

The restaurant's name means 1,000 juices and they make the most amazing juice. I've only ever had the passion fruit juice, but Brian will vouch for the guava, mango, and pineapple too. The juices are mixed up with ice, so are a little thicker, but not as thick as a smoothie.

If you live in the area and looking for a little food adventure, definitely stop by. If you come visit me, I'll take you there. The lady, Nora, who owns it, and her family are so friendly. She always remembers Brian and his friends, and they love speaking to them in Spanish. (I just sit there and smile and nod.) This is really a great little place. They have other salads and sandwiches on the menu, but I'd stick close to the classic Venezuelan dishes for a true experience.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Although one of my cooking goals lately is to try and perfect new salad dressings, this salad, sadly, is not one of those recipes. However, this is my new favorite salad! And it's so easy and easy to have everything on hand. One night I was craving an Chinese chicken salad from Cheesecake factory, CPK or something of the like, but it was midweek, and I didn't want to spend the money or eat out. So I got creative, well not really. I just went to the restaurant web sites and read the list of ingredients in their salads and put together my own. That was the easy part, but it all comes down to the dressing. I wish I could say I whipped up my own, but nope, I didn't. I was previously introduced to the Kraft Asian Toasted Sesame dressing and loved it. (I actually buy the light to cut calories and it is delicious too.) And it was the perfect choice for my salad dressing. I told my mom about it, and of course she doctored it up by mixing the dressing, about half and half, with the juice from the can of mandarin oranges. It is the perfect combo! The list of ingredients is below, I just add however much I think looks good. It's a no recipe recipe!

Mixed greens, spring mix, or greens of your choice
Mandarin oranges, in juice, not syrup
Chicken breast (I'm into quick and easy, so I use canned chicken, works perfect!)
Green onions
Chow Mein Noodles
Kraft Asian Toasted Sesame dressing, mixed with mandarin orange juice (1 to 1)
You could also add almonds, sesame seeds, bean sprouts

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Texas Sheet Cake

Who doesn't love a good Texas sheet cake? That thin cake, the rich chocolate frosting, and the way it soaks up the melting vanilla ice cream is a major weak spot for me. My mom made this cake a lot when we were kids, I think because the recipe makes so much there was plenty to go around. It seemed like we were always taking it to barbecues, the beach or Fourth of July parties. It doesn't have to be a summer dessert, but that is just what this dessert reminds me of. I made this most recently a few weekends ago when Brian and I were visiting family in Utah. Thanks Aunt Sue for letting me cook in your big beautiful kitchen, and thanks boys for always eating my food!

Texas Sheet Cake Recipe
2 cubes butter
1 c. water
4 Tbl. Cocoa powder

Bring above ingredients to a boil. Turn off and cool.

2 eggs, beaten
½ c. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ tsp. soda

Preheat oven to 350. Mix eggs, sour cream and vanilla in large bowl till blended. Blend in sugar, flour, salt and soda. Stir. Then add cooled chocolate mixture. Mixture will be thin.

Pour evenly onto large cookie sheet, sprayed with Pam. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or till center springs back when lightly pressed with fingertip. Make frosting while cake is in oven and spread while cake is warm.

1 cube butter
4 Tbl. Cocoa powder
6 Tbl. Milk

Heat until well blended. Add a 1-pound box of powdered sugar (3 ½ cups). Mix well and pour over warm cake. You can sprinkle chopped nuts on top if desired.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Nothing takes me back to my childhood more than the smell of a roast cooking. Roast was a Sunday dinner staple at our house, and the aroma that filled the house would make my mouth water. My first attempt to make my own roast was in college and it did not go well. The meat was tough and the carrots were hard. The only thing editable was the potatoes, they were soft and quite delicious. I blamed it on everything from to the fact that I bought the meat at Food 4 Less, to my baking dish of choice and the temperature of the oven. It was quite a while before I attempted roast again. Then I figured out that making a roast in a crock pot was 100% foolproof. I’ve been unstoppable ever since. It is so easy, peal the veggies, salt everything very well, add a can of cream of mushroom soup, and throw it all in the crock pot, (or slow cooker people are calling it these days). Cook it on high for four to five hours and you house will fill with amazing aromas. I have a large crock pot and it can cook enough roast to feed six to eight people. Buy the size roast you would need, salt and pepper it and place it in the bottom. Slice up one large onion. I usually peel one potato per person and then throw in a few extras, cut them in half, lengthwise. My family loves the carrots so I peel most of a five-pound bag. I cut them in half, and the thicker end of the carrot in half again. Try to make the same sized carrots sticks. Place the potatoes, carrots, and onions in the pot. Mix them up however they will fit. I usually salt every layer. Place the can of soup on top and spread it around. Put the lid on and cook away! When it’s done you can take the juices and make a nice gravy out of them by adding a little flour and water. It tastes great over everything. And I actually enjoy a little mustard on my roast and carrots. So good!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lemon Yogurt Cake

For me, spring and summer bring back all the yummy lemon recipes, just like fall is is when you break out the pumpkin recipes! I’ve got a list of ones I’m dying to try out so I better get cracking. Last week I whipped up this most delicious lemon cake made with yogurt and oil instead of butter. It’s an Ina recipe, and we all know she never disappoints. The cake was so super moist and oh so delicious. It was a major crowd pleaser and everyone said they liked it the best out of all the lemon cakes so far. It is baked in a large loaf pan, and I sliced it up like a pound cake. A few changes I made: 1) I used vanilla yogurt instead of plain. This was a total mistake. I actually spent five minutes in the grocery store looking for plain instead of vanilla. I thought I found it, and put it in my cart. When I got home, it was vanilla. I thought the cake was delicious, so either would probably be fine. And 2) I ended up adding more sugar to the glaze so it was just a bit thicker and a little sweeter. Oh how we love our lemon frostings!

Lemon Yogurt Cake Recipe

Watch Ina make it here!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Brunch

I had the best Mother's Day with my mom this weekend. She came down to visit her three girls and we ate, laughed, and just had ourselves a good time! She had to drive home on Sunday and didn't want to leave too late, so instead of doing a big dinner, we planned out a fabulous brunch menu. I've never really done a brunch before, in fact, not really sure what exactly qualifies as brunch. But either way, it was so fun and delicious, and another excuse to use every serving dish in my cupboard. Our menu consisted of: watermelon, strawberries and my favorite fruit dip ever, mini frittatas, crepes with the best fillings, lemon bars, and chocolate dipped strawberries. It was a very sweet meal, but light and very mother's dayish. Mom's number one request was chocolate dipped strawberries. It did take a little while to cut everything up and make the crepes, but each item individually is very simple to make. Enjoy the recipes below, make them all together, make just one, but leave a comment if you try some of them out!

Strawberry Fruit Dip:
I'm almost embarrased to put this one up here. And I'm sure most of you have had this or made it before, but if not, it's definitely worth giving a try. This tastes great on all fruit, but my favorite is strawberries.
8 oz. cream cheese
1 jar Marshmallow fluff
mix above together (a hand mixer works best)

Mini Frittatas:
At Christmas I made these using one of Giada's recipes, but this time I just sort of put in what I had. I think this is a great way to serve eggs to a large group of people.

8-10 large eggs
thinly sliced ham, cut into small squares
1 bunch sauteed green onions
cheddar cheese
cream or milk (optional)
Beat eggs in large bowl, add ham, onions, and cheese (all amounts can be adjusted to taste.) Add a few tablespoons of milk for creamer frittatas. (I forgot that this time) Spray a muffin tin, large or small cups, with cooking spray. Fill the cups about half way. Cook at 375 for 10-12 minutes or until eggs are not runny.

Lemon Bars:
I got this recipe from my Aunt Sue who got it from someone else, I think. But it is fabulous and fool proof. Confession: this time my crust cracked when cooking and all the lemony goodness ended up underneath the crust. So they were kind of upside down lemon bars. But generally that doesn't happen. And the taste of these is the perfect combo of sweet and lemon tart!

Grease and flour 9x13 pan.
Beat: 1 cup butter until creamy
Add: 1/2 confectioner's sugar, work in 2 cups flour to make dough smooth.
Press into pan. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Beat 4 large eggs with a mixer.
Mix in:
1 3/4 C sugar
dash of salt
5 Tbsp grated lemon peel
6 Tbsp lemon juice

Then add 1/4 cup flour and stir in.

Pour onto crust and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until set and has a thin brown crust on top. Sprinkle top with confectioners sugar. Cool on wire rack before cutting.

This recipe comes from Brittany's friend, Khadiga, who is from Egypt. She made them for us when she was visiting one summer, and mom couldn't stop talking about them. Hence they made an appearance for Mother's Day brunch. The recipe is very forgiving, and not an exact science. So below is the recipe, as texted to Britt, from Khadiga!
same amount of flour and milk (I did 2 cups each) mix until smooth
add an egg
2-3 spoons of vanilla
2-3 spoons sugar
pinch of salt
couple spoons of melted butter
Make sure the pan is hot before putting in the batter. Coat pan with spray or butter. Batter should be thin enough to spread around, like think pancakes. If too thick add more milk.

I ended up adding quite a bit more milk so the batter was nice and thin, just enough to coat the pan. And the "spoons" vanilla and sugar I used about 3 teaspoons of each. and about 2 tablespoons melted butter. I used my smaller, handy dandy non stick skillet and it worked like a dream. Mikken was actually in charge of crepes and she was flipping those babies in the air with out a spatula. Put the batter in the middle of the skillet and swirl it outward until it fills the pan.

We had a few different fillings. Our favorite is powdered sugar and lemon juice. Brian loves Nutella and bananas. We also had strawberries. Any combo of the above was delicious.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hawaiian Chicken

When Brian and I went to Utah a few weeks ago for his Mom’s college graduation, it turned out that my cousin, Devin, was graduating also. His wife, Lauren, threw him this great little luau themed graduation party with amazing food. Me, and all the other guests, were dying for the recipes. Lauren was kind enough to email them out and last night I fed them to my seven dinner guests. They were a huge hit! I couldn’t take all the credit, obviously, but they were quite good.

The chicken is a super easy recipe and I don’t see how anyone wouldn’t be able to make it. The coconut sweet potatoes had a bit of my spin on them. The recipe calls for sweet potatoes, and Lauren used the ones with the orange flesh. When I was at the grocery store they had sweet potatoes and yams. So I bought the sweet potatoes, only to get home and find out that mine were not orange inside, but more of a yellowish color and had the texture of a white baking potato. So I did some research to find out what the deal was with yams vs. sweet potatoes. Bottom line: either white or orange flesh, they’re all called sweet potatoes, they are just different varieties. People generally call the orange flesh yams, which apparently is in error, but that’s how was do it in America. Turns out the real yams and sweet potatoes aren’t even related botanically. So if you want the orange colored flesh make sure you buy the sweet potatoes with the darker skin. (more sweet potato info here) more info. But the good news is that the recipe turned out with the sweet potatoes just the same. It is a very sweet recipe, I would think about cutting down on the sugar, and the original recipe called for water, but I substituted milk, made more sense to me. But definitely try these out and feel free to post up any other luau recipes!

Hawaiian Chicken Recipe:
About 10-12 chicken breasts
2 cups pineapple juice
2 cups sugar
2 cups soy sauce
1 small can of pineapple (optional)

Throw everything into a pot and bring to a boil. After brought to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Take out the chicken and thicken the sauce with cornstarch. (Mix cornstarch with some of the sauce, instead of water). Put chicken back in and re-warm (if they've gotten cold). Serve over rice

Aloha Sweet Potatoes: (these did not photograph very well)
5-6 medium sweet potatoes (dark flesh, or "yams")
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup coconut
2 tbsp milk

Boil the sweet potatoes in their skins until soft, about 25 minutes. Let them cool, then peel. Cut up into squares. Melt butter in sauce pan, then add brown sugar and coconut and water and mix together. Add potatoes and mix together and rewarm on stove if necessary.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Calphalon Nonstick Skillet

Since I love so many of my kitchen items, I though I'd share with you what I'm loving this week and perhaps every week! This week I am absolutely loving my nonstick Skillets. I have a 10 inch and 12 inch set by Calphalon that I registered for and I couldn't imagine life without them. (Great for all those week night rice and sauce meals!) I don't even use a regular skillet, for anything! I have the contemporary design and the handle is amazing. It is so comfortable to hold and handle. These skillets cook nice and even and clean up like a dream. I do hand wash them, per handling instructions, but since nothing sticks it's not a big deal.

I think I didn't know the joy of cooking with nonstick because my mom never used them. My brother finally gave her one for Christmas last year, and she is constantly talking about how much easier her life is now! Below are some links of where to find these lovely little kitchen helpers. And a few are on sale, half off for two!

Bed Bath and Beyond
Crate and Barrel

Sweet and Sour Chicken

You may notice that many of my go to week night meals involve rice and some sort of sauce/topping to go with it. But we love these dishes. They are quick, easy, and generally a great way to get in the veggies. This recipe for sweet and sour chicken is something my mom use to make when I was growing up, but I have only started making it the past few months. The ingredients are all things it's easy to have on hand, which makes it nice for a week night. No trips to the store!

Sweet and Sour Chicken:
Saute in 1/2 cube of butter:
1 onion
1 green bell pepper

1 C chicken broth
3 tsp. soy sauce
3/4 C pineapple juice
1/4 C water
2 Tbs ketchup
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 C brown sugar

Disolve 2 Tbs cornstarch in a little bit of pineapple juice. Add the cornstarch to sauce stirring slowly and constantly to thicken.

Add in a can or so of pineapple chunks or crushed pineapple and 2 cups of shredded chicken.

Serve over rice

*If you boil and shred your own chicken, which I usually do, you can just use that broth for the chicken broth and water. It works great. And just use the pineapple juice from the can of pineapple chunks. However if you use crushed pineapple it's hard to get the juice, so I have some little cans of just juice that work out great.

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