Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Veggie Lasagne

Do you have some extra produce/veggies and you aren't sure what to do with them? Try this vegetable lasagne - you can use any vegetable you like. This is what I came up with:


15 oz. ricotta cheese
4 cups mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese
1 egg
9 oven-ready lasagne noodles (that way you don't have to boil them)
Sliced carrots
Sliced onion
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1 small can sliced olives
Sliced mushrooms
Sliced zucchini
Sliced green pepper
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1-1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli
1 cup of your favorite vegetarian spaghetti sauce

Combine ricotta cheese with egg and 1/2 cup mozzarella, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and a dash or two of oregano. Add chopped broccoli and mix. Set aside. Slice and chop remaining vegetables. With a little butter or olive oil, saute remaining vegetables beginning with onion and garlic, then add carrot, a dash or basil and oregano- cooking for a couple or three minutes before adding mushrooms, green pepper, olives, tomatoes and finally zucchini (this doesn't take long to cook.) Don't cook the vegetables until they are completely done as they will still cook when you heat them in the lasagne. Add a little of your favorite spaghetti sauce to the vegetables.

Place a small amount of spaghetti sauce (just to moisten and cover) on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Place 3 noodles on top. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture across noodles (it may not look like a lot). Add 1/3 of vegetable/sauce mixture across ricotta mixture. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Follow these steps two more times and top off with mozzarella. Bake covered for approximately 40 minutes. Remove foil the last 10 minutes of baking to help melt the cheese. Let stand for 10-20 minutes before serving.

P.S. I forgot to take a picture of the final product, so here's one of the middle of the process.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Cantaloupe Blend

Do you have a cantaloupe that's just a little too ripe (or way too ripe)? Or even a cantaloupe that you cut into that's underripe? Here's a delicious solution to tossing it - blend it and drink it!

Remove seeds and rind from cantaloupe.
Cut into 1-2 inch pieces
Fill blender 1/2 to 3/4 full of cantaloupe

Add water to just above fruit line
Add plenty of ice cubes
Add sugar to taste (depending on the ripeness of the fruit) or if you add less water, this is even good without sugar! Blend until smooth and enjoy! *This drink is even more delicious after being refrigerated for awhile.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Zucchini Bread (Fruit or Veggie Sweet Bread)

I love looking through my old cookbook full of recipes I've gathered through the years. I have to be careful though cause all the pages are falling out. Each recipe takes me to a different time and place where I shared good times with friends and family. Just this week, I was looking through my book and remembering my dear friend, Katja. (Don't you think we look alike? Everyone we met thought that Annie (my real sister) and I were Katja's sister) Anyway, Katja was an amazing cook and seemed to be able to do just about anything without a recipe - just a dash more of this and a pinch more of that and waaalaaa a delectable masterpiece!

This time of year most of us have a home-grown zucchini laying around (even if we don't have a garden) and need something to do with it. There's lots of creative recipes out there, but this week I decided to go with the traditional zucchini bread. It was delicious! Thanks Katja!

The thing that I love about this recipe is that it can be any kind of bread - read below for different variation ideas.

Stir together the following ingredients:

3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 c chopped nuts (optional)

Beat the following till well blended:

3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup oil

Stir in 1 tsp of vanilla and one of the following:

a) 2 cups coarsley shredded zucchini OR
b) 2 cups chopped seeded & peeled tomatoes OR
c) 2 cups shredded apples & 1 tsp lemon juice OR
d) 1 Tbsp grated orange peel cobined with 1 cup mashed banana & 1 finely chopped orange equalling 2 cups

Pour into greased and floured loaf pans. Bake 50-60 minutes in preheated 350 degree oven. Let stand for 10 minutes, then turn out on rack to cool. Makes 2 loaves.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tres Leches - ¡Feliz Cumpleaños Armando!

Today I surprised Armando for his birthday with his favorite cake called "tres leches" which translates to "three milks." I never realized it until I made this cake, but the cake itself is basically a shortcake and then soaked in a delicious mix of three different milks. As far as the fruit goes - you don't have to use strawberries, you can use any kind of berries or nuts. I've also seen peaches used a lot for a filler in this cake.

1-½ cups All-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Baking powder
½ cup Unsalted butter
2 cups White sugar (divided)
5 Eggs
1-½ teaspoon Vanilla extract (divided)
1 cup Milk
½ of a 14-ounce can Sweetened condensed milk
½ of a 12-ounce can Evaporated milk
1 1/2 - 2 cups fresh sliced strawberries (or any other kind of fruit)
1-½ cups Heavy (whipping) cream

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13-inch baking pan. Sift flour and baking powder together and set aside. Cream the butter and 1 cup of the sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla. Beat well. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing well until blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. (*Note batter will be thicker than your average cake). Bake for 30 minutes.

When cake has finished baking, pierce it in 8 or 10 places with a fork or skewer, and let it cool.

Remove cake from the pan and slice horizontally. Place bottom layer back in pan. Spread fruit across layer. Place top layer on top of fruit. Combine the whole milk, evaporated milk, condensed milk and pour over the top of the cooled cake. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Whipped Cream Topping: When ready to serve, combine the whipping cream and the remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1 cup of sugar, whipping until thick. Spread over top of cake.
Because of the milk in the cake, it is very important that you keep the cake refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve chilled.

¡Feliz Cumpleaños Armando!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fried (Whole) Tilapia

Well, I think the last few posts would confirm that we like fish and seafood. The final dish that Don Israel (Armando's dad) prepared for us was fried whole tilapia (whole - yes, whole as in head, fins, everything). I like Tilapia. But I told them I wouldn't eat the head. I was wrong. I ate every last ounce of meat off of those bones. It was the best meal I've had...well since the Paella I guess. :)

So for those of you who are brave...here's the instructions.

1. Cut open bottom of fish and remove guts.
2. Wash fish thoroughly.

3. Combine flour, salt, and pepper and coat fish generously.

4. Bring enough oil (olive or vegetable) to frying temperature and fry until fish is cooked through.

5. Cover generously with fresh lemon or lime juice. Serve with rice, cabbage salad, and curtido.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Curtido - "Pickled Vegetables"

Again, another touch of my father-in-law's honduran hands in the kitchen - this time it's "Curtido" which according to Wikipedia is basically a relish and depending on the country, it can be very different. Honduran curtido (from what I found at Wikipedia) is very similar to Mexican Curtido and can be served with virtually every dish. (That's what I've found this week.) I didn't think it looked too appetizing, but now that I've tried it, I too am putting it on everything but dessert these days. (Shhhhhh....don't tell Armando - he is cherishing every last bite of it!)

No specific recipe - but here is the list of ingredients.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Sliced Carrots (Slanted)
  • Large pieces of Onion
  • Cauliflower
  • Peppercorns
  • Jalepeños Sliced (Don't include seeds)
  • Garlic Cloves

Fill sealable container (preferably with a large opening with desired vegetables. Pour Apple Cider Vinegar over vegetables - covering them completely and close container. Let vegetables soak in vinegar for a couple or three days before using. This mixture lasts for several weeks. You can serve it basically with any meat or main dish. We had it with fish this week and also with some delicious tacos and fajitas. It was the perfect touch to every dish. Salvadorians make their own kind of curtido with lots of cabbage thinly sliced and garnish pupusas with it. Now, that dish is also delicious. We'll see if I ever get up the courage to make it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Spanish Food 101: Paella Española

I love to cook. But I love it even more when someone else gives me a break. My father-in-law is visiting from Honduras and he's been spending some time in the kitchen, cooking what Armando's misses the most. One of Armando's favorite dishes is Paella Española and his dad made it for us this week. His dad didn't have a written recipe, so I found one that sounded about like what he did online at this site. We didn't have any fresh saffron on hand (which would have been nice) so he used some rice that had saffron in it. It worked and I think this is probably my favorite dish yet.

Herb Blend:
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large garlic gloves, minced

1 cup water
1 teaspoon saffron threads
3 cans (16-ounce) fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
8 jumbo shrimp (about 1/2 pound)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 skinned, boned chicken thighs, cut in half
2 links Spanish chorizo sausage (about 6 1/2 ounces) or turkey kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 4-ounce slice prosciutto or 33 percent-less sodium ham, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups finely chopped onions
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 cups Arborio rice or other short-grain rice**
1 cup frozen green peas
8 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, lemon wedges optional

For the Herb Blend: Combine all ingredients, and set aside

For the Paella: Combine water, saffron, and broth in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer, do not boil. Keep warm over low heat. Peel and devein shrimp, leaving the tails intact; set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large paella pan or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sauté 2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan. Add sausage and proscuitto; sauté 2 minutes. Remove from pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add onion and bell pepper; sauté 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, paprika, and garlic; cook 5 minutes. Add rice; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in herb blend, broth mixture, chicken, sausage mixture and peas. Bring to a low boil; cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mussels to pan, nestling them into rice mixture. Cook 5 minutes or until shells open; discard any unopened shells. Arrange shrimp, heads down, in rice mixture, and cook 5 minutes or until shrimp are done. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Remove from heat; cover with a towel, and let stand 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

** Rice note: Cooks in Spain prefer Valencia rice - which is hard to find in the U.S. You can usually find Italian Arbor rice or California's new Arbor equivalent called Cal Riso. No matter what, don't try to make Paella with long-grain rice. It doesn't cook the same and won't set up correctly.

Bon appetite.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Key Lime Cheesecake

I love cheesecake and this is one of my favorite recipes - the lime flavor makes it the perfect summer dessert.

2 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. grated lime peel

2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

1 HONEY MAID Graham Pie Crust (6 oz.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat cream cheese, sugar, peel, juice and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs; mix just until blended.

Pour into crust.

Bake 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mexican Chicken Salad (Cafe Rio Style)

Serves 10

For those of you who don't know what a Cafe Rio Salad is - #1 you're missing out and #2 you probably won't appreciate the value of this recipe until you've tried one #3 try it, you'll love it.

I've decided that the only instructions in this recipe that you really need to follow with exactness (almost) is the dressing. If you have the dressing, you have it all! So experiment, build the salad to your liking and top it off with the creamy tomatillo / cilantro ranch dressing and you'll be in heaven!

Creamy Tomatillo / Cilantro Ranch Dressing
1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (or 3 Tbsp dry mix)
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 to ½ cup buttermilk
3-4 tomatillos
1 cup fresh cilantro lightly chopped
½ tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic

Take the papery layer off the tomatillos, wash, and chop. Chop the garlic. Wash and cut the cilantro into 1-2” segments. Put all ingredients in the blender and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate. Best made the day before. Keeps covered for several days. Makes 2 cups.

Shredded Lime Chicken
4-5 boneless chicken breasts (about 2.5 to 3 lbs of chicken)
1 ½ cups of 7-up or Sprite (12 oz. can)
½ to 1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 limes

Cook in crock pot on medium heat for 8 hours or 6 hours on high heat until chicken falls apart and shreds with a fork. Stir in the juice of 2 limes before serving. Serves 10 with ½ cup servings.

Cilantro Rice
2 cups uncooked rice
2 cups chopped cilantro
1 tsp salt
1 cup Salsa Verde (Green salsa found in Mexican food aisle of grocery store)
2 Tbsp dried minced onion

Wash and chop cilantro. Blend cilantro with 2 cups of water and pour in the pan for cooking the rice. Add two more cups of water, the salt, Salsa Verde and onion. Bring to a boil. Stir in the rice in the boiling water. Cover and turn down heat to very low and steam for 30 minutes. Makes about 10 servings. *I personally just used some rice I had cooked for my salad, but looking at the recipe, I think it might need just a little chicken boullion to balance out all the other flavors.

Black Beans
Warm canned black beans in a pan on the stove, including all the liquid from the can, until beans are simmering hot. Plan on 1/3 to ½ cup of beans per serving. Serve with a slotted spoon to drain out the liquid from the beans.

Assemble the Salad
For each serving warm a flour tortilla in a microwave or on a griddle. (I prefer the griddle!) Melt shredded chees on the tortilla while warming on the grill. Layer on rice, beans, chicken, and about 1 ½ cups chopped romaine lettuce, fresh cilantro sprigs, parmesean cheese, a few fried corn tortilla strips, and creamy tomatillo dressing. Add salsa, guacamole and juice from a lime wedge to taste.I found that I made a much smaller salad than the one from Cafe Rio which made it so that I could actually finish it!

Pico de Gallo (Fresh Salsa)

6-8 roma tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
½ bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Salt & Pepper
Juice from 1 Lime

Combine tomatoes, onion, green pepper and fresh cilantro, and lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. (This mixture lasts covered a couple of days in the refrigerator). And really this recipe is very versatile. You can add more or take away as much of any ingredient you'd like for your taste-preferences. Some like to add jalepeño. I rarely do.


This is the perfect time of year to put avocados in just about anything. Although they might not look great at the store, I find that by the time I bring them home and wait about 24 hours they are perfect! And they're only 50 cents a pop. They're tasty on salads, sandwiches, in homemade ice cream (if you live in latin-america) and as guacamole!

4 ripe avacados
½ bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
½ small onion, diced
Juice from 1 lime

Mash fresh avocados. Add fresh cilantro, onion, and lime juice. Salt to taste.
*Depending on your texture-likings, you may want to blend the cilantro and onion or food process them so that the guacamole is smooth. I don't mind the contrast, but some people do.

*Secret to keeping guacamole green instead of brown (1 the lime helps) but also, if you save the pit from an avocado and place it in the guacamole when you store it, the avocado will preserve longer.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Fruit Filled Crepes


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

  1. In medium bowl, mix flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in remaining ingredients. Beat with wire whisk until smooth.

  2. Lightly butter 6-inch skillet; heat over medium heat until bubbly. For each crepe, pour slightly less than 1/4 cup batter into skillet; immediately rotate skillet until batter covers bottom. Cook until light brown. Run wide spatula around edge to loosen; turn and cook other side until light brown. Stack crepes, placing waxed paper between each; keep covered.

  3. Fill Crepes with seasonal fruit - I did a mix of fresh blueberries (my favorite), strawberries, and bananas. It was delicious.

  4. Top with Whipped Cream and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fish Tacos with Orange-Avocado Salsa

This recipe comes with very high recommendations. I've made it twice in the last month and Armando has given it a 10 both times. And it's not an easy task to get a 10 out of him. This to me is the perfect summer dinner recipe.

Fish Preparation:
8 Tilapia Filets (or other white fish. I think salmon would be good with this as well)
2 or 3 garlic cloves finely minced
1 fresh lime
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Wash and slice filets into 16 strips. Place fish in a dish they can marinate in for awhile. Mince garlic and spread across both sides of fish strips. Salt and pepper filets and squeeze the juice from one lemon across all filets. Set aside to marinate in the juices and garlic while preparing the rest of the dish.

Cabbage Filler:
1 Tbsp sour cream
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 small red cabbage, very finely shredded (about 2 1/2 cups)
4 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)

Finely shred 1/4 small red cabbage. (You can also use a regular green cabbage if you'd like. I've found that the red cabbage is much more dense and easier to shred into very paper-fine slices.) Slice scallions and add to the cabbage. Salt and Pepper to taste. Add sour cream and lime juice. Stir all ingredients together.

Orange Avocado Salsa:

1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tsp honey
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 large navel oranges
1 firm, ripe avocado, pitted and diced
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

In a medium bowl, whisk lime juice and honey until combined. Season with salt and pepper; set aside. Slice off both ends of each orange. Following the curve of the fruit, slice away peel and white pith. Cut oranges into quarters lengthwise; slice sections crosswise into 1/4-inch thick pieces. Transfer to bowl along with onion and avocado; toss gently to coat with dressing. (Make sure not to stir this up too much or the avocados will fall apart. The mix of the honey and lime with the pepper on the oranges is absolutely divine!) Set aside to serve.

Also, chop 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves and sets aside to serve.

Cooking the Fish:

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; swirl to coat bottom of pan. In two batches (starting with larger pieces), cook fish until golden brown on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes.


8 uncooked flour tortillas (6-inch) (My husband prefers corn tortillas - either are great). While the fish is cooking, warm tortillas according to package instructions.

To make tacos, fill tortillas with slaw, fish, and fresh cilantro leaves. Serve immediately and ENJOY!

**I must give credit to the blog I found this recipe on - Cuisine Nie - perhaps one of the best recipe blogs I've ever seen. Visit it. You'll love what you find! And here's the link to the original recipe as I have changed it up a bit to meet our family's needs and likes. Some of you who like a little more sour cream and the picante jalepeño should trie Nie's recipe.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Keeping Cool - Pineapple Blend

Got one of these sitting around waiting to be eaten? Try drinking it! At our house in the summertime, we like to mix just about any kind of fruit you can imagine into a delicious, refreshing drink to keep us cool in the three-digit temperatures.

1. Slice off the top, bottom, and sides of pineapple skin. (Set aside). Cut pineapple into chunks (do not include center core of pineapple).

2. Place chunks of pineapple in blender with a few ice cubes, sugar to taste and about half full with water.

3. Blend until smooth and ice chunks are gone.
4. Cool in refrigerator and enjoy!
The secret to a delicious fruit blend is the temperature. The colder the better! This recipe is also tasty with milk in place of the water.

Freeze pineapple skins. (I'll share a great recipe for these another day!)