Thursday, January 29, 2009

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Something's Different

I have cooked every single night this week. I know that may not seem like a very impressive thing but considering how busy I have been with school, it is. Luckily enough, Alex has been pretty good about letting me know what he wants for dinner. If I had to decide what to make for dinner each night I think we would eat nothing but cereal. I also think Abuela would kill me for not feeding him better. Alex was in the mood for pasta last night which was perfect because I was in the mood for some mac & cheese. I wanted to make a different kind of mac & cheese and this recipe fit the bill. It was very creamy and cheesy, but the real surprise was the dijon mustard. The recipe doesn't call for much of it, but the taste comes out in every bite. Alex kept saying that something was different about this recipe, which I immediately interpreted it as him saying he hated it. Turns out he liked it...a lot! This recipe is a keeper and will probably be my go to mac & cheese recipe.

Homestyle Mac & Cheese

Source: allrecipes (

Mac & Cheese

3 ½ ounces macaroni
2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon and 1-1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (I used ¾ cup milk, ¼ cup heavy cream)
4 ounces cream cheese

¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (I omitted)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add macaroni pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

In a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and stir in flour. Cook for about 1 minute, until smooth and bubbly; stirring occasionally. Mix in milk, cream cheese, salt, pepper, and Dijon mustard. Continue cooking until sauce is thickened. Add cooked macaroni and Cheddar cheese.

Pour into 2 quart casserole dish. In small bowl mix together bread crumbs, butter and parsley; spread over macaroni and cheese. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and heated through.

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Daring Bakers: Tuile

I was beyond pleased with this month's Daring Bakers selection. It was such a fun and easy recipe to do, which was perfect for me since my free time was starting to diminish. I normally love baking the DB challenges but it's so hard for me to find blocks of time to bake without it disrupting my studying/reading schedule. Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux. I chose to make the recipe by Angélique Schmeink because it was the easiest for me. The tuiles came out amazing. They are such light cookies with a flavor that just screams "pair me up with anything!" I shaped most of the cookies into little cups and filled them with chocolate mousse. This dessert was a hit in our household. I look forward to making them again and creating new sweets to pair them with.

Thank you to Karen and Zorra for this month's selection. There have been a ton of creative interpretations of this recipe so make sure to check them out on the blogroll and in the Kitchen.

Yields: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies are just an example)
Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking.

The cookies
The mousse

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

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Calling All Chocoholics

I recently saw a recipe for Guiness Brownies on Cookie Madness. I was excited with the novelty of using beer in baking instead of cooking. I was even more excited to combine beer and chocolate. I tweaked the recipe a bit and the results were amazing. I attribute the extra chocolatey taste to the Chocolate Stout and the use of semi-sweet chocolate almost exclusively. The beer taste isn't very strong. If you didn't know there was beer in this brownie you would just think the brownies were very rich and deep in flavor. This was an interesting brownie because it looked like a cake but tasted just like you'd expect a fudgy brownie to taste. Delicious!

Chocolate Stout Brownies
Adapted from Cookie Madness (here)

½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup, plus 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted room temperature butter
1 ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup, plus 2 Tbsp Chocolate Stout Beer
½ tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp powedered sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil and coat with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt and set aside.

Melt butter and 1 cup chocolate chips in a double-boiler over low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in melted chocolate until combined. Alternately, mix in the flour mixture and beer beginning and ending with the flour. Then, mix in vanilla.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Top with remaining ½ cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (you may use less).

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.

Remove from oven and let brownies cool to room temperature. Cut into 2-inch squares and dust with powdered sugar.

Serve and enjoy!

Fresh out the oven.
A chocolate lover's dream.
I liked the plain brownies better, but the powdered sugar made them look pretty.

Monday, January 26, 2009

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The End of an Era

I went to New York for the first time 4 years ago. It was a girls trip and one of the things we did was the Sex and the City Tour. Part of the tour included getting a cupcake from Magnolia Bakery. However, Magnolia was renovating so we got vanilla cupcakes from Buttercup Bake Shop instead. The switch made sense since the owner of Buttercup was once one of the owners of Magnolia, so it was almost the same cupcake. That day I fell in love with Buttercup. For the next few years I built up Buttercup in my mind and to Alex. When we went to New York recently we went to Buttercup. I ordered a few cupcakes, we sat and ate inside. Everything was going well and Alex was enjoying himself. Then, I took a picture and was told I was not allowed to take any pictures. As soon as we stepped out Alex said we were never going there again. He hates when people say pictures can't be taken, especially when the picture is going to be posted somewhere that will offer the person/business free publicity. Oh well. There are a ton of cupcake shops out there and, if anything, I can make a mean cupcake. This is the picture I was scolded for:

My order.
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Obsession of the Week

My absolute favorite meal of the day is breakfast. Alex always says that he loves to watch me eat breakfast because of how much I eat. He gets amazed that I am able to eat as much as I do. What can I say? I love breakfast! And I especially love how Mike's Diner does breakfast. They are my absolute favorite place to go to breakfast. They have that diner feel with quick service and great meals. I am obsessed with them and like a good obsessive person I introduced my obsession to my friend Edgar. I am happy to report that he liked them too!

When we went we both had the Emergency Room. This lovely meal comes with two pancakes, two eggs, a meat (ham, bacon, or sausage) and home fries. The pancakes are the best I have ever had and are super buttery.
The first time I ever had home fries was at Mike's and now all home fries compare to these suckers.
Hello, my name is Stephanie and I am obsessed with Mike's Diner. Can you blame me though??
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Andes Cookies

There's no TWD here. I feel kind of bad because I really wanted to try the French Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread chosen by Heather of Sherry Trifle but I just didn't have the time to do it. Being the supportive wife during Alex's interviewing season plus being a full-time student has really taken a toll on my free time. I promise to try this recipe soon though. I did, however, have a chance to make some Andes cookies. Our friend Lauren was kind enough to let us stay at her apartment 2 weeks in a row and I figured I would say "Thank you" by making her some cookies. I picked the right cookies because she really liked them. The cookies were so good. If you like Andes chocolate mint candies then you will definitely like these cookies. They remind me of chocolate chip cookies but with mint chocolate chips and a hint of mint flavoring in the cookie dough.

Andes Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Tootsie Roll Industries Website (here)

1/2 cup salted butter - softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 package (10 oz.) Andes® Crème de Menthe Baking Chips (I used 1 box of Andes and chopped the chocolate pieces)
2-2/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Blend butter, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and eggs until mixed.

Stir in Andes Baking Chips and then flour. Chill approximately one hour in the refrigerator. During the last half hour or so, begin preheating the oven to
350° F. Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Measure out approximately 1 oz. of dough. Form a ball and slightly flatten (I missed the flattening part...oops!). Place the cookies about 1-inch apart. Bake for approximately 8 - 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool on pans for two minutes before setting on cooling rack.

I love that you can see the Andes so well in this picture.

Thanks again Lauren! xoxo

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

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All Caught Up.

I think I have posted everything I had been meaning to post. Thanks for reading and sorry for all the posts in one night. Now I can get back to my normally scheduled blogging :)
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Snow, Snow Go Away

Since the fall I have been saying that this winter was going to be a bad one. I was trying to prepare myself for the impending temperature drops and snow storms. I was secretly hoping that my prediction would be unfounded, but it hasn't turned out to be that way. According to this article Boston has already received 44.2 inches of snow fall this season. And it's only January! The snow keeps falling and it keeps adding to the snow that hasn't had a chance to melt just yet. There are piles of snow that are taller than Alex and poor Perla has no choice but to do her business on the sidewalk because the snow is too high for her to climb on. While it is beautiful to look at and play in, it's a pain in the butt to walk through each day with 30lbs of school on your back.

Our most recent snow storm
My daily path
Check out that pile
How about all the snow that accumulated after just one storm.
And what happens to snow after a few days? It turns into ice.

Isn't northern living fun?? ;-)
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A Trip to the Banc

We went to Banc for dinner in New York. This restaurant was modern with beautiful wood trims and exposed beams. The crowd at Banc is young and vibrant and the menu is made to reflect this. We started the night by ordering the Prosciutto de Parma and Fried Brie appetizer. Prosciutto was an incidental in this appetizer because the main star of the dish was the brie. It was covered in a thick layer of crisp that was crunchy and golden. The cheese on the inside was melted and gooed out. The dish came with a port wine reduction that tasted like a cranberry sauce. This was a perfect condiment to the cheese.
Because it was very cold in New York Alex ordered French onion soup. He loved the soup because it was topped with a thick layer of cheese and bread. Underneath that layer of goodness was a broth filled with sweet and melt-in-your-mouth onions.
For the entree I order the lobster ravioli. The dish was beautiful to look at because the pasta was multi-colored and striped. The ravioli were stuffed with cheese and lobster chunks. The dish also came with shrimp and calamari. The sauce tasted like the juices of the seafood as if the seafood was sauteed and then liquid was added to create a creamy sauce.
Alex ordered the pistachio crusted chicken breast. While he found the chicken to be good, it was too dry. I think it has to do with the fact that the chicken was thin and coated with a thick layer of pistachios.
We were beyond stuffed at this point so we skipped out on dessert. The dessert menu looked great too with items such as molten chocolate cake and oreo cheesecake.

Banc is located on 431 3rd Avenue (corner of 30th Street).
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Moonstruck x2

We recently went to New York for one of Alex's interviews. Our amazing friend Lauren was kind enough to let us stay at her apartment and, after the first day, we were smitten. Not only is her apartment twice the size as ours, but it is also located in a great area surrounded by great restaurants. We couldn't decide were to eat our first night in New York so we walked into Moonstruck. This restaurant has a retro diner feel mixed with modern glam. We loved our dinner so much that we went back two days later for breakfast.

For dinner Alex ordered the bacon burger. This burger was monstrous and topped with huge strips of bacon and huge chunks of onion rings. Between each bite Alex said "this burger is soooo good!"
I order the Wilshire sandwich. This sandwich was composed of grilled chicken, avocado, bacon, and muenster cheese. This combination of ingredients was fantastic. It was extremely flavorful and the chicken was very juicy. They weren't stingy on the avocado at all, which made the sandwich all the more better.
When we went for breakfast we both ordered a glass of OJ. The OJ was fresh squeezed and tasted so refreshing.
Alex ordered the waffle and bacon. The waffle was the size of my head and about 2 inches thick. After eating this waffle Alex proclaimed his love for Moonstruck.
I ordered the silver dollar pancakes, eggs, and ham. The plate comes piled high with pancakes so this isn't for the faint of hearts. The pancakes are buttery and extremely addictive, so beware. The eggs come anyway you want them and the ham is sliced thin and grilled.
Moonstruck is located at 449 3rd Avenue (corner of 31st Street) in New York City.
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Falling In Love With Food Again

I love food. Other than the obvious survival reasons, I don't think I could live without food. All the flavors, textures, smells, and sights. Getting through the day is so much easier when there are so many foods to look forward to and discover. I was reminded of food's greatness when we went to eat at Masa a few weeks back. We had been to Masa several times for brunch and dinner. We loved the restaurant and the southwestern style food. This last time not only reaffirmed our love for this restaurant but it also was a reminder that we need to not go long without heading back.

They start you off with a bread basket of cornbread and some other bread we didn't catch the name of (French, maybe?) accompanied by chipotle, maple butter, and chili hummus spreads. My favorite combination was the cornbread and the chili hummus. The cornbread was slightly sweet and very fluffy. The chipotle spread was a little creamy for our taste and its consistency was more along the lines of a dip. The maple butter was sweet with hints of maple syrup. The chili hummus was slightly tangy with a little bit of heat.
We ordered the spicy arepa with chicharones (pork rind). The arepa was delicious, but not spicy in my opinion. What really made this dish were the chicharones. They were diced up into bite sized pieces and fried to the point where they were crispy but still chewy at the same time. Underneath the arepa was a bean puree that was incredible. I had to stop myself from licking the plate.
Alex ordered the chicken milanesa. This dish was a twist on the classic chicken milanesa dish because it was topped by a fried egg. The chicken itself had a crispy exterior and the moistness of the chicken was enhanced by the tomato sauce. The only thing Alex had an issue with was the mashed potatoes because it had chunks of olives mixed in.
I did something I haven't done in a long, long time. I ordered steak. I almost never order steak but something got into me and I decided to be adventureous. It totally paid off because I ate the whole thing and once again wanted to lick my plate. The steak was one of the best steaks I have ever had in my life. It was so incredibly juicy and tender. The steak was coated in a bourbon sauce that was sweet and slightly smoky.
For dessert I had a chocolate cake wrapped in a tamale leaf. The cake was very rich, smooth, and silky. It was the perfect end to a dinner that reinvigorated my taste buds.
Masa is located in Boston's South End and is worth every penny. The restaurant gets very lively at night so they are perfect for drinks and then a late dinner.
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Guy Harvey's Island Grill

Here's another catch up post. We went to Guy Harvey's Island Grill close to a month ago. It was a Sunday night in Marco Island and, if you know anything about the west coast of Florida, you know that things aren't open very late on Sundays. We decided to go to this one area called The Esplanade because it has a few small shops, restaurants, and a marina with some incredible looking boats. We decided to go to Guy Harvey's since they were open and I was craving fried shrimp.

I got my fried shrimp and it totally hit the spot. The shrimp was lightly battered, tender and succulent. I was surprised by how many shrimp they dish came with, especially since they were so big in size. The fries were slightly sweet and seasoned with Cajun spices.
Alex ordered buffalo chicken. He had been in the mood for buffalo chicken and as soon as he saw this item on the menu he ordered it. He ordered the appetizer size and that was more than enough for him. The chicken was crispy and perfectly coated in the hot sauce.
We shared a dessert since I could barely stop myself from shouting "chocolate cake!" The cake was surprisingly light despite its gooey center. (Please ignore Alex's hand. He couldn't wait 2 seconds for me to get this shot).

If you are ever in Marco Island, FL I definitely recommend going here. The food is great and the atmosphere is very typical of west coast living.
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Remembering Holidays 2008

This post is long overdue. I have been wanting to do a recap post of the holidays and hadn't gotten a chance to do it until now. The past holiday season was great. We were able to spend time in Miami with our families and friends. We were able to go to the beach and enjoy the sun. The best part was that we were able to enjoy all the great Miami food. This holiday season was one of the best ones yet. I was able to truly enjoy every minute of our trip and I can't wait to be in Miami again. Here are a few highlights:

My mother in-law's table setting: This is the most gorgeous
table setting I have ever seen. She really outdid
herself with this one.
Perla enjoying the sun: I think she knew how bad the weather
was going to be back in Boston so she took advantage
and spent every second she could outside.

Our reindeer tradition: this has quickly become a staple.
I don't think the holidays would be the same
without these.
Abuela's Pernil (pork leg): Abuela had everyone eating out of
her hands with this one. By the time this sucker
was carved, we had already picked off
a huge chunk of it.
Fried Turkey: They made a fried turkey for Thanksgiving and
because of how good it came out they made another
one. I am so thankful they did because the
turkey was amazing and juicy.
Mom's Tamales: This is a staple in my mom's house. She
makes these every year and every year I eat
at least 2 of them in one sitting.

Abuela's Flan: One word. Amazing.
Driving from Naples with a huge painting: We went to the Naples Art Festival
and my in-laws saw a gorgeous painting with an amazing price. Let's just
say that I have never seen anything sell quicker than that
painting. Figuring out how to fit it in the car was
another issue.
Santa's Helpers: These girls are too cute for words.
My siblings: They say that the friends you have the longest in your
life are your siblings. I am very lucky to have two of
the best people related to me. It's fun going
on this lifetime journey with them.