Tuesday, November 07, 2017

{ Christmas Fruit Cake }

Christmas Fruit Cake

 It's that time of the year.  By now, if you're going to be making Fruit Cakes for Christmas, you need to start baking them or at the very least figuring getting all your ingredients ready to go.  The sooner you make them, the better they turn out.

I actually made my first in October, and today I made another two.  I'm using a completely different recipe, one which I got from one of my favorite vloggers Helen from Wright At Home on Youtube.

This is her grandmother's recipe, and I truly believe that the best recipes are those handed down from generation to generation.  Too often I see people trying to create shortcuts or substitute this for that ingredient in an attempt to make things more glamorous, but it doesn't always turn out well.  It's been my experience that the simplest of ingredients and the simplest of recipes are often the best ones.

This was my first time using Helen's recipe, and I think it may just become my go to and favorite for the holidays.

Christmas Fruit Cake


Christmas Fruit Cake
Source: Helen Wright

200 gr flour
200 gr butter
200 gr sugar (I used half light brown sugar and half white)
4 eggs
800 gr fruit
half tbsp salt
4 tbsp spice and cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped cherries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a bowl, mix all the ingredients, until well incorporated.  I used my kitchenaid which made it easier to mix everything.

Line a cake pan.  The recipe didn't specify the size, but I used a round 8 inch pan for mine.  Make sure to line the bottom and sides of the pan.  Most fruit cakes require you to then wrap the pan in newspaper or brown paper and tie it, but this recipe didn't say to do that.

I was wondering if it would affect the bake, but it didn't and it baked up beautifully.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for one hour and a half to two hours.  The cake is ready when you insert a wooden skewer and it comes out completely dry.  Helen actually makes it a point to say that is what her grandmother used to say, so it needs to be absolutely dry which will help it keep for a long time once it's out of the oven.

Once baked, removed from oven and allow to cool completely, then poke holes with a wooden skewer and pour over either whiskey, brandy or rum. 

Christmas Fruit Cake

I use rum in my cakes, that's our preference.  There really is no measurement but if you need to measure then I would say about 2 tablespoons or so.

Christmas Fruit Cake

Allow it soak in, then double wrap the cake in saran plastic wrap, then double layer of aluminum foil.  You can keep the cakes in a tupperware cake box, or as they are, but keep them out of sunlight and in a dark spot.  I keep my cakes in the pantry.

Every week, until Christmas, unwrap them and feed them again with more drink of your choice.  These cakes will keep for a really long time.

Enjoy :)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Vanilla Popcorn

Vanilla Popcorn

Hey everyone, I know it's a been a while but I have a great recipe to share with you today.

As the year winds down and the holidays kick in, I find myself in the kitchen more.  Holiday baking is something I love doing and I tend to start pretty early, around the beginning of November, even though this year, I seem to have got right into it a little earlier than usual.

I've made one Christmas Fruit Cake already and will be making more this weekend.

But, when it comes to holiday baking, one of the things we most enjoy is snack foods, and I'm talking anything from chocolate peanut clusters to cookies and of course, popcorn.

Vanilla Popcorn is this year's choice, and if you've never made it before, you're going to want to try it.  I think it may even become one of your family's favorite.

Word of advice, make lots of it, because it goes fast.

Word of caution, it is not exactly healthy and it's extremely addictive, I could easily go through a whole batch on my own, so I have to control myself.

Anyway, enough talking let's make popcorn :)

Vanilla Popcorn

Vanilla Popcorn

12 cups popped popcorn (I used 1/2 cup of kernels)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup white corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter or margarine
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla


In a pot add about 3 tablespoons of oil. Turn the heat on, and add 3 kernels of the popcorn to the pot. Once they pop, add the remaining kernels and cover. Shake gently over the heat as the rest of the popcorn pops, to prevent it from burning. Once the popping stops, remove from heat but keep the lid on for a few seconds more in case of any last minute kernels that may pop. Remove any unpopped kernels and pour into a big mixing bowl.

In a microwave safe bowl, add the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and butter, microwave for 30 seconds and give it a stir, then microwave for 2 minutes. Remove, stir again, and microwave for another 2 minutes. Once the time is up, carefully remove the bowl from the microwave (remember it's going to be super hot).

Add baking soda and vanilla and stir until it starts to foam. It will also thicken slightly. Pour over the popcorn and mix very well. Try to be quick because the caramel will start to harden.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, spread the popcorn on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment or foil. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, making sure to stir every 10 minutes or so. Keep an eye on it though so you don't burn the sugar.

Remove from heat, let cool slightly and enjoy. It will be delicious and crunchy!!!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake

In the world of cakes, I am one who prefers simplicity.

Maybe it's the fact that I grew up used to simple homemade vanilla cakes, those that my grandfather would throw together at midnight, just because the 4 grandchildren said they wanted cake.  He was awesome like that.

He never really measured, he never really used a recipe, he actually didn't cook much but we all knew him for his perfect cakes.  There were no rich sweet gloopy frostings slathered on top, or complicated fillings.  They were homemade, plain, not too sweet, with a dusting of powdered sugar, and enjoyed over a cup of tea.

Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake

Those memories have stuck with me my whole life.

I'm not a huge cake fan, I've always been more into savory than sweets, and I really dislike very rich cakes especially with tons of frosting.  They make me feel quite sick, to be honest.  But once in a while I'll get a hankering for a slice of fluffy cake and I have to cave.

And here we are.....

Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake

If you like chocolate oranges, you are in for a treat, because this cake tastes just like one of those. My son loves the chocolate oranges and he was quite excited when I handed him a slice of this cake after photographing for the blog.

The recipe comes from one of my very much loved British cookbooks that I've had for many years.

Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake

Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake


For the cake
1 ½ sticks of butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs
Grated rind of 2 oranges
1 ¾ cups self rising flour, sifted
2 tbsp milk

For the topping
Juice of 2 oranges
½ cup sugar
2 oz. semisweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Grease and line a 7 in. round pan.  Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well.  Add the grated orange rind, flour and milk and fold in with a metal spoon.

Turn into the prepared pan, smooth the top and bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan.

When cool, score the top of the cake lightly with a sharp knife.  Put the orange juice and granulated sugar into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.

Bring to the boil and boil for 1-2 minutes.  Pour over the cake.

When all the juice has soaked in, carefully remove the cake from the pan.  Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the top.

Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake

You can leave it as is, or do a dusting of powdered sugar like I did.

Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake

Monday, September 04, 2017

Fried Okra

Crunchy, golden brown, delicious Okra.

There really is much you can say about this yummy side dish, or appetizer, whatever you wish.

Again, I had no clue what Okra was until I moved to the States, it's not a vegetable that is available in South Africa or Portugal, but boy is it one of my favorite things ever.

Okra is a pretty sticky vegetable to work with which actually makes it quite easy to coat.  You will find a lot of variations and recipes for making the fried okra.  Family recipes, favorite recipes all using either flour, or breadcrumbs or panko crumbs, some using just cornmeal, but I like to use a mixture of both flour and cornmeal.

_MG_8886
Fried Okra

2 lbs Okra, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Buttermilk
Garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
Vegetable oil to fry

Drizzle some buttermilk over the okra, just enough to coat it well. Sprinkle on the flour and mix well to ensure that it's all coated. Sprinkle on the cornmeal and once again give it a good stir until all the okra is coated and doesn't stick together.

Fry until golden brown, remove onto paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve.



Fried Green Tomatoes

I used to loathe tomatoes, like really loathe them.  Growing up, the worst thing you could do was give me tomato in any way, shape or form, it would actually make me gag.  I never quite understood why, but as I grew older I started liking them and now I absolutely love tomatoes.

When I moved to the States 19 years ago, it was the first time I had ever heard of green tomatoes, and especially fried green tomatoes.  Everyone raved about them, especially in the South but I wasn't quite sure that it was something I would enjoy, I mean I had started liking tomatoes but the thought of them fried wasn't exactly appealing to me.

Fast forward to about a year ago when I finally tried them and fell in love, they're now one of my favorite appetizers to get when we eat out.

A few weeks ago, the hubby and I went to the Farmer's Market and I bought beautiful green tomatoes and knew exactly what I would be making with them.

_MG_8888
Fried Green Tomatoes
Source:  Divas can Cook

2 medium-sized green tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried basil
1 cup all-purpose flour (I added some garlic powder to mine)
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1¼ cup yellow cornmeal


Slice tomatoes into ¼- 1/2 inch slices.  Place tomatoes on several layers of paper towels.
Mix together salt, sugar, black pepper and basil in a small bowl.

_MG_8883

Sprinkle tomatoes generously with spice mixture ( may not need all of it) and let sit for about 10-15 minutes to allow the extra tomato juices to drain out.

Meanwhile, prepare your dipping station! In one bowl, add the flour.  In another bowl mix together the buttermilk and egg.  In the last bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and yellow cornmeal.

Start by dipping the tomatoes slices into the flour on both sides and shaking off the excess flour. (be sure to get the sides as well)
Lay the slices into the egg mixture until both sides are coated with the mixture and flour no longer shows.

Place the tomato slices into the breadcrumb mixture and press to coat both sides evenly.  Let tomatoes sit for about 5 minutes to allow the coating to set.

Heat oil in a skillet until hot. (Do a test with a bread crumb first to make sure the oil is at the right temperature. The breadcrumb should begin to fry evenly immediately when placed in the oil.)
Place tomatoes into the skillet, without crowding the pan.  Fry each side for about 4-5 minutes until golden brown.

Place on a cooling rack with paper towels below to absorb the excess oil that drips off.  Serve hot.

Pudim Molotof - Egg White Pudding

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When I was growing up, in Portugal, we used to go out on Saturday afternoons to a Pastelaria (bakery), and we would have an iced cold coke with lemon slices, and then a cake of some sort.  It depended on what I felt like in the moment, but Pudim Molotof was by far one of my favorites.

It's this amazing egg white pudding that just melts in your mouth with each spoonful, and is drizzled with caramel sauce or in some cases an egg sweet sauce almost like a curd, and toasted almonds.  It is absolutely divine.

I grew up loving it, I grew up wanting to learn how to make it, but was always very intimidated by the process.  It's a bit of a finicky recipe and if you mess with it too much it will go terribly wrong, flop and you end up with a chewy meringue instead of fluffy melt in your mouth egg whites.

About two weeks ago I was craving it and decided that it's now or never.  I sweated and my hands shook but I was determined that I would conquer this dessert.

And conquer it I did.  So pleased and now that I've made it it is no longer intimidating and I plan on making it again for Christmas.

Hint:  Do NOT touch the oven when it's baking, do not open the door at all even if you're curious and tempted to take a peek.

_MG_8870

Pudim Molotof - Egg White Pudding

8 egg whites
8 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the caramel:
1 cup sugar (175 gr)
1/2 cup water  (100 ml)


To make the caramel:  In a saucepan add the water and the sugar, stir until well dissolved.  Cook over high heat until caramelized and a beautiful dark brown.  Do not overcook or it will burn the caramel and be extremely bitter.  Once done, pour into a fluted cake pan and swirl all around to cover the bottom, sides and up the middle of the cake pan.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.   Place a baking tray in the oven with water, I usually fill with water about halfway up the baking pan.

In a standing mixer, add the egg whites and whisk until stiff peaks form, slowly add in the sugar a little at a time, and finally the vanilla extract.  Scoop the egg whites into the caramelized cake pan, smooth the top, then smack the pan on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles.  Place the pan into the middle of the baking pan with the water, you're going to cook the pudding in a Bain Marie.

Bake for about 20 minutes (do NOT open the door at all).  Once the 20 minutes are up, turn the oven off and let it sit in the oven with the door closed for another 30 minutes.  Again do not open the door at all, if you do the pudding will deflate.

_MG_8866

Once the time is up, remove from the oven, let it cool down a bit and then remove from pan.  You have to do this really quickly and in one go or you'll end up with caramel sauce all over the place.   Remove the cake pan slowly so the pudding will release without breaking.

You can spoon some of the sauce over the pudding.  Enjoy!!!

Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas

My family loves Mexican food, and my husband's favorite are Fajitas.  It's not something I make too often, but when I saw this recipe for sheet pan fajitas I thought "now that's brilliant".

It saves time, the clean up is easier with everything in one pan and I can pop these in the oven while I get the rest of dinner finished off.

Go ahead and give these a try, you won't be disappointed.

Chicken Fajitas

Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas
Source:  Life Made Simple


3 tbsp. vegetable, grapeseed or avocado oil, divided**
3 bell peppers, seeds removed, ¼-inch thick slices
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 - 1½ lb chicken breasts, ¼-inch thick slices*
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. kosher sea salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. coriander
⅛ tsp. chili flakes or cayenne pepper (optional)
1 lime


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a standard size rimmed baking sheet in the oven while it heats so that it's nice and hot.
In large bowl toss 1 tablespoon oil with the bell peppers and onions. Carefully remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and spread the peppers and onions evenly across the sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the same bowl, combine the remaining oil along with the chicken, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, paprika, coriander and chili flakes.

Remove the sheet from the oven, drain off any excess liquid and add the chicken, making sure to separate the pieces of chicken from each other. Return to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are roasted and the fajitas are golden brown.

Remove, squeeze the lime juice over top and serve with desired toppings.

Chicken Fajitas

Pork Dumplings

I absolutely love dumplings, but as always, with some dishes, I'm a bit intimidated by the thought of making them myself, and so I steer clear.

Well last week while making the new menu plan, I decided that I needed to conquer this fear.  Actually it seems that lately I've been conquering quite a few cooking fears, here and there.  It's a good thing, and I'm really determined to stop being so scared of trying new dishes and to just jump right in and go for it.  What's the worse that could happen?  I have to remake it again?

I actually found this recipe on Tasty.  If you don't know what Tasty is, you have to get on the ball, you can find them all over Facebook, Internet, Youtube and so on.

This was super simple to make, and the only real change I will be putting in effect next time I make these, is that I found the dough a bit too thick and I didn't put quite near enough filling because once it's cooked it tends to shrink. I also need to practice the art of pleating and folding a dumpling, which I am terrible at.

Other than that, they were delicious, with a very big Capital D.

Pork Dumplings

Pork Dumplings
Source:  Tasty
Servings: makes 24-32 dumplings



4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1¼ cups warm water
2 cups red cabbage
2 cups green onions, sliced
cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 pound ground pork
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt


¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


PREPARATION

1. Combine the flour, salt, and warm water and mix until well combined.
2. Roll out dough on a floured surface and knead until smooth.

3. Separate the dough into 4 equal parts.
4. Roll out the piece into a thin log and divide into 6 or 8 pieces depend on the size of dumplings you want.

Pork Dumplings

5. Lightly flour the divided piece of dough and roll out piece to a thin circle roughly 4-inches in diameter.
6. Keep the dumpling wrappers separated with parchment paper, and repeat with remaining dough.

Pork Dumplings

7. Combine cabbage, green onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil and mix until well incorporated. Add pork, salt and pepper. 
8. To assembly dumplings, add roughly 1 heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of a dumpling wrapper.

Pork Dumplings

9. With your finger lightly coat 1 half of the outside of the wrapper with water.
10. Seal the dumplings using your preferred method.
11. With pleating, start from one side and pleat the half of the dumpling closest to you, keeping the other half still.

12. Heat oil on medium high in a pan and add a few dumplings, cooking them in batches.
13. Once the bottom of the dumplings start to brown, add in a splash of water and cover with a lid.
14. Steam for roughly 5 minutes, or until dumplings are cooked and water has evaporated.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Whistle Dogs

Whistle Dogs

If you've ever eaten at a A&W, then you will for sure know about their Whistle Dogs.  Although they've been discontinued from many of the A&W restaurants, you can still enjoy them at home.

They are so easy to make, but definitely take a normal hotdog to another level.  Bacon......melted cheese......sweet relish......all of these combined bring you a hotdog that is amazingly delicious.

Whistle Dogs

Whistle Dogs

Hotdog Buns
Hotdogs
Bacon Slices
American Cheese
Sweet Relish


Begin by cooking your bacon in a skillet, until it is crispy.  Remove and set aside.

Slice the hotdogs in half lengthwise, making sure not to go all the way through.  In essence, you are butterflying the hotdogs.  Cook them in the skillet for a few minutes, then remove them and set them aside.

In the same skillet, toast the buns for a minute or so, until warm.  Remove the buns and return the hotdogs to the pan.  Now take a slice of cheese and top the hotdogs.  Cover with a lid until the cheese gets all melted and gooey.  Place the crispy bacon on top of the cheesy goodness, then using a spatula transfer the hotdogs to the warm buns.

Top with some sweet relish and serve.

Quick, simple, AMAZING!!!

Whistle Dogs

Bacon, Corn and Shallot Spaghetti

This one came about purely out of what I had on hand.  I usually don't mix corn in with my spaghetti, but I wanted a pop of color and it did the job.

Bacon, Corn and Shallot Spaghetti

There is nothing to this spaghetti, no special sauce, or baking or anything involved.  Just a skillet, a couple of ingredients and a delicious pasta dish that everyone will enjoy.

Bacon, Corn and Shallot Spaghetti

Bacon, Corn and Shallot Spaghetti

12 oz Spaghetti noodles
6 slices of bacon
1 shallot, finely diced
1 can of whole kernel corn
Garlic clove, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

In a skillet, cook the bacon until crisp or just tender, however your family prefers.  We all like crispy, except for my son, so I just cooked it until it was done so he would enjoy it as well.

Add in the garlic, the shallot and the corn and mix everything together.  Give it a stir and cook for a minute or two until the shallot is transparent.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In the meantime, cook the spaghetti noodles until al dente, then drain and add to the skillet.  Toss everything together, check the spices, then drizzle on a little olive oil, giving everything a final toss.

Serve with a sprinkle of parsley (if you wish) and some shredded parmesan cheese.

Bacon, Corn and Shallot Spaghetti

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Sometimes you crave something sweet, but you don't want to go to a lot of trouble. You just want something quick and easy to throw together.

This is it. Not a lot of fuss, not a lot of ingredients, just delicious goodness that comes together pretty quick. I think it would be perfect for those days when company arrives without notice.


Cinnamon Coffee Cake


1 cup oil
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
3 cup flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup butter, melted



In a large mixing bowl. combine oil, eggs, vanilla and milk together.  Add in the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. 

In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.

Pour half the batter into a 9x13 pan.   Sprinkle half of the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture, then top with the remaining batter.  Sprinkle the leftover streusel mixture on top.

Drizzle with the melted butter.  (I know it seems like a lot, but it really does make the cake)

Bake, uncovered at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

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