Christmas Black Forest Parfait

Parfait

 It’s only six more days until Christmas and I’ve already had to let out 1 more inch from my (already) stretchy pants. What the heck, one more rich dessert couldn’t possibly hurt my waistline, could it?

This recipe is so easy that even Santa (aka ‘Father Christmas’) could whip up this dessert in a hurry in-between his drops down the chimney.

This Black Forest Parfait combines layers of crushed chocolate wafers (or brownies), a creamy ricotta mixture and cherry compote. This recipe evokes the wonderful flavor of a Black Forest Cake, without the fuss of having to make one.

Counting down to Christmas, five, four, three ……

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

Parfait (2 of 2) (1 of 1)

 

Black Forest Christmas Parfait
Yields 4
Layers of cream, cherry compote and 'cheats' Black Forest cake make this a perfect dessert for Christmas
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For the cherry compote
  1. 2 cups fresh cherries
  2. 1/2 cup water
  3. 2 tbsp sugar
  4. 1 tsp lemon juice
  5. Pinch salt
  6. 1 tbsp blueberry or strawberry preserves (optional)
  7. 1 tbsp. cornstarch
For the Parfait
  1. 1 cup ricotta cheese
  2. ½ cup cream cheese
  3. 2 tbsp sugar
  4. 1 tbsp maple syrup
  5. 1 tsp lemon juice
  6. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  7. 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
  8. 12 chocolate wafers, crushed or 1 ½ cups chocolate brownies, crumbed *
Instructions
  1. Remove stems and pits from the cherries; place cherries in a saucepan with water, sugar, lemon juice, salt and preserves (optional). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes until the cherries soften.
  2. Mix the cornstarch with a little water to form a paste, then add to the pan. Simmer for a few more minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Place the ricotta cheese, cream cheese and sugar in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the maple syrup, lemon juice and vanilla extract and process until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream with electric beaters until peaks form. Fold in the whipped cream to the ricotta cheese mixture.
  5. To assemble the dessert, place approximately 2 tablespoons of the crushed chocolate wafers (or crumbed chocolate brownies) in the bottom of each parfait glass. Top with 2 – 3 heaping tablespoons of the ricotta cheese mixture, followed by a heaping tablespoon of the cherry compote. Repeat the layers and top with a mint leaf for decoration (optional). Refrigerate for several hours prior to serving.
Notes
  1. * Here, you could substitute crushed chocolate Oreo cookies.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

Southwest Corn Pudding

 

Corn Pudding 2

On a recent trip to Borrego Springs in the California desert, I was inspired to try some rustic Southwestern cooking. ‘Southwest cuisine’ is a blend of Spanish, Mexican and Native American food and is popular in New Mexico, California, Arizona and Utah. It is similar to Mexican cuisine and is known for its use of spices, such as chile peppers.

Although this recipe is called ‘Corn Pudding’ it is not a sweet dish. Creamed corn is blended with cream, eggs, cheese and green chiles to form a firm pudding. This dish pairs beautifully with chilli con carne or any other spicy meat dish.

Some corn pudding recipes call for white flour, but I think that yellow cornmeal gives a richer texture. I’ve used one can of creamed corn for my recipe, but you can use a can of ordinary corn or fresh corn, if desired.

Corn Pudding (1 of 1) (1 of 1)

 

Here are some photos from my recent trip to Borrego Springs, located in the Anza Borrego desert in California. The brilliant sunrises and sunsets, the red mountains jutting up from the desert floor, the feeling of solitude within the vast expanse of the desert, all gave me inspiration to try conjuring up some new Southwest recipes.

 Borrego 1 (2)Borrego 2Borrego 4Borrego 5

 

Southwest Corn Pudding
Serves 6
A creamy corn pudding beautifully paired with chili or any spicy meat dish
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Ingredients
  1. ¾ cup yellow cornmeal or polenta
  2. 1 tsp baking powder
  3. ½ tsp salt
  4. Pinch of ground black pepper
  5. 1 (15-ounce) can creamed corn or regular corn
  6. ½ cup chopped green onions (spring onions)
  7. ½ cup roasted red bell pepper, diced
  8. 1 roasted green or red chile, peeled, seeded and diced
  9. 1 cup cheddar cheese
  10. 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese
  11. ½ cup melted butter
  12. 1 cup heavy cream
  13. 2 eggs, beaten
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
  2. Lightly brush the inside of a Dutch oven or casserole dish with melted butter or vegetable oil.
  3. Combine the cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl.
  4. In order to roast the green or red chile pepper, slice it in half and remove the seeds. Rub the skin with olive oil and bake in oven for 10 – 15 minutes until the skin blisters. Remove from oven and let cool; peel the skin off and dice into small pieces.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the corn, green onions, roasted red bell pepper, diced chile and cheeses. Stir in the dry ingredients, then add the melted butter, cream and eggs and mix well.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the Dutch oven or casserole dish, cover and bake for around 30 minutes. Remove the cover from the dish and let bake for another 10 – 15 minutes until the mixture firms and turns golden on top. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Notes
  1. You can use a can of ordinary corn instead of creamed corn, if desired.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

 

 

 

Charlotte Malakoff- an afternoon with Julia Child

 Charlotte 16 final

 

I just spent an afternoon with Julia Child- making her Charlotte Malakoff dessert! I’ve always been intrigued with this recipe after studying the diagrams and explanations in Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook. I decided to give this dessert a try and at the same time have a close encounter with Julia. How did I do this? By watching (studying!) the re-play of Julia demonstrating this recipe in 1964 on her TV show The French Chef.

This show had none of the slick nuances of today’s cooking shows. Julia was able to float effortlessly through several small mistakes and blunders, while presenting us with a delicious cake at the end that makes us believe (even 50 years later) that we can do it too!

At one point, Julia’s electric mixer was going too fast as she creamed the butter and sugar together: sugar flew off the side of the bowl in a whispy cloud. Did she panic? No, she just said, “Heavens- that’s going too fast, let’s slow it down!”

“Heavens! That’s going to fast!” (sugar flying off the side)

JC Sugar incident

During another incident, Julia mistakenly said that the recipe called for 1/2 cup almond extract to be added to the cream filling.  Twenty seconds later, she realised her mistake, screwed up her face and said, “Oops, did I say 1/2 cup almond extract? Wow, what a dessert that would be! It should only be 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.”

“Oops, did I say 1/2 cup almond extract?”

Screen JC face

And finally, when Julia tried to unmold the cake and it got stuck, she advised her viewers to “never get upset” and to try again.”

“You see, never get upset. I’ll just go around this again (with the knife).”

JC unmolding

 “And there she comes, there it tis!”

JC final 2

When Julia finally unmolded her Charlotte Malakoff, you’ll notice that one of the ladyfingers broke off on the right side of the plate and that part of the cake looks a little scraggly. In typical ‘Julia style,’ she acted like nothing had happened and just kept on going: “And there it tis!”

So once again, Julia has taught us that mistakes are OK and even an important part of our learning experience.

The Dessert

Charlotte Malakoff is a very rich  dessert, with a crown of soft ladyfingers surrounding layers of whipped cream, butter, ground almonds and strawberries. As Julia says, “You have to pay in calories if you want an elegant desert like this.” It’s not very difficult to make, but it can be tricky to keep the ladyfingers in tact when you unmold the dessert. That’s why Julia had a bit of trouble and that’s why I added an outer layer of creamy filling on the bottom of my cake. This was to patch up some of the ladyfingers that broke off when I unmolded the dessert (there, I admitted it!)

Here are some essentials for this recipe:

  • use a high-sided cylindrical mold for this recipe, preferably 4 inches high. You can buy a charlotte mold at a specialty store, however I used a casserole dish with sides 3 inches high and 7 inches across.
  • Julia said you could even “use a high-sided plant pot for your mold because you want to have drama in your dessert.” (That might be taking it too far in my opinion!)
  • Your mold should hold at least 8 cups of filling. If you have filling leftover from the recipe, you can use it as frosting (icing) for the outside of your dessert (as I did).
  • You should have at least 24 ladyfingers for this recipe. You can buy them at some stores but it is best to make them yourself. As Julia says, “Store-bought ladyfingers are loathsome things, limp and soggy.” Insead, they should be dry and tender.
  • You do not butter your mold, but use a layer of waxed paper on the bottom. Next time I make this recipe, I will try placing wax paper also around the sides of the mold to prevent the ladyfingers from sticking to the sides and then breaking apart.
  • I added a few decorations to my Charlotte Malakoff: some whipped cream rosettes and a strawberry on top- I believe this adds some elegance to the dessert.

For the Ladyfingers:

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs separated
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (or cake flour)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • confectioner’s sugar to dust tops of ladyfingers

 Directions

  •  Pre-heat the oven to 400 F (205 C). Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.
  • Using an electric beater, mix together 4 egg whites and salt until soft peaks form.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale in color. Beat in the vanilla flavouring.
  • Sift together the flour and baking powder together on a sheet of parchment paper.
  • Fold in 1/2 of the egg whites to the egg yolk/sugar mixture. Then fold in 1/2 of the flour mixture to the egg yolks. Repeat, adding the rest of the egg whites and then the remainder of the flour to the egg yolks. The mixture should be thick and airy.
  • Transfer the mixture to the a large piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round opening. Pipe the ladyfingers onto the prepared baking sheet, making them 4 inches long and 1 inch wide (you could also spoon them onto the tray). Dust the tops of the ladyfingers with confectioner’s sugar. Bake for 8 minutes until they turn light brown.
  • Remove from oven and transfer immediately to a wire wrack to cool.

Pipe ladyfingers onto parchment paper, about 4 inches long and 1 inch wide

Charlotte 13 of 13 (1 of 1)For the Charlotte Malakoff Cream Mixture

 Ingredients

  • 16 fresh strawberries (approximate)
  • 1/3 cup orange liqueur (Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 24 ladyfingers
  • 2 sticks butter (1/2 lb) softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 1/3 cups pulverised almonds
  • 2 cups chilled whipping cream

Directions

  • Hull the strawberries, wash and set aside. Combine 2/3 cup water and1/3 cup orange liqueur in a soup plate or other flat container. Dip each ladyfinger quickly into this mixture and let drain on a wire rack.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar until smooth using electric beaters. Add the orange liqueur, almond extract and pulverised almonds (I used my food processor to grind the almonds to a fine consistency).
  • In a separate bowl, whip the cream with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Gradually fold in the cream into the butter and almond mixture.(Julia folds her cream in by working the spatula from the outside of the bowl towards the center). The mixture should be thick and airy: do not over-mix.

Charlotte 5 of 5) (1 of 1)

  • Line the bottom of the mold with unbuttered wax paper. Line the sides of the mold with the ladyfingers placed closely together, rounded sides facing outwards.

Charlotte 4  of 4) (1 of 1)

  •  Fill the inside of the mold with 1/2 of the almond/cream mixture. Place a layer of strawberries on top of the mixture, heads facing down.

Charlotte 7 of 7 (1 of 1)

  •  Place a layer of ladyfingers on top of the strawberries, placing them closely together.

Charlotte 8 of 8 (1 of 1)

  • Add another layer of the almond/cream mixture, almost to the top of the mold. Add another layer of strawberries and finish with layer of ladyfingers. Trim the tips of the ladyfingers so they lie flat with the edge of the mold. (This will wind up being the bottom of your Charlotte cake, so it doesn’t matter what it looks like here)!

Tips of the ladyfingers have been trimmed.

Charlotte 10 of 10 (1 of 1)

  • Place a round piece of wax paper on top of the ladyfingers, cover with a plate and then add a heavy weight on top of the plate. (I placed a can of beans on top, while Julia placed a large glass of water).
  • Place in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight; this chills the butter firm so the dessert will not collapse when unmolded.
  • When ready to serve, remove the waxed paper and run a knife closely around the edge of the mold. Reverse onto a chilled serving plate and remove the remaining piece of waxed paper. Decorate with rosettes of whipped cream and strawberries.

Charlotte 12 of 12 (1 of 1)

 

 

Charlotte Malakoff
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For the Ladyfingers
  1. 4 eggs separated
  2. pinch
  3. 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. white sugar
  4. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 1 cup all-purpose flour (or cake flour)
  6. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  7. confectioner's sugar to dust tops of ladyfingers
For the Cream Mixture
  1. 16 fresh strawberries (approximate)
  2. 1/3 cup orange liqueur (Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
  3. 2/3 cup water
  4. 24 ladyfingers
  5. 2 sticks butter (1/2 lb) softened
  6. 1 cup sugar
  7. 1/4 cup orange liqueur
  8. 1/4 tsp almond extract
  9. 1 1/3 cups pulverised almonds
  10. 2 cups chilled whipping cream
For the Ladyfingers
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F (205 C). Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Using an electric beater, mix together 4 egg whites and salt until soft peaks form.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale in color. Beat in the vanilla flavouring.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder together on a sheet of wax paper.
  5. Fold in 1/2 of the egg whites to the egg yolk/sugar mixture. Then fold in 1/2 of the flour mixture to the egg yolks. Repeat, adding the rest of the egg whites and then the remainder of the flour to the egg yolks. The mixture should be thick and airy.
  6. Transfer the mixture to the a large piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round opening. Pipe the ladyfingers onto the prepared baking sheet, making them 4 inches long and 1 inch wide (you could also spoon them onto the tray). Dust the tops of the ladyfingers with confectioner’s sugar. Bake for 8 minutes until they turn light brown.
  7. Remove from oven and transfer immediately to a wire wrack to cool.
For the Cream Mixture
  1. Hull the strawberries, wash and set aside. Combine 2/3 cup water and1/3 cup orange liqueur in a soup plate or other flat container. Dip each ladyfinger quickly into this mixture and let drain on a wire rack.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar until smooth, using electric beaters. Add the orange liqueur, almond extract and pulverised almonds (I used my food processor to grind the almonds to a fine consistency).
  3. In a separate bowl, whip the cream with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Gradually fold in the cream into the butter and almond mixture.(Julia folds her cream in by working the spatula from the outside of the bowl towards the center). The mixture should be thick and airy: do not over-mix.
  4. Line the bottom of the mold with unbuttered wax paper. Line the sides of the mold with the ladyfingers placed closely together, rounded sides facing outwards.
  5. Fill the inside of the mold with 1/2 of the almond/cream mixture. Place a layer of strawberries on top of the mixture, heads facing down. Place a layer of ladyfingers on top of the strawberries, placing them closely together.
  6. Add another layer of the almond/cream mixture, almost to the top of the mold. Add another layer of strawberries and finish with layer of ladyfingers. Trim the tips of the ladyfingers so they lie flat with the edge of the mold. (This will wind up being the bottom of your Charlotte cake, so it doesn't matter what it looks like here)!
  7. Place a round piece of wax paper on top of the ladyfingers, cover with a plate and then add a heavy weight on top of the plate. (I placed a can of beans on top, while Julia placed a large glass of water).
  8. Place in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight; this chills the butter firm so the dessert will not collapse when unmolded.
  9. When ready to serve, remove the waxed paper and run a knife closely around the edge of the mold. Reverse onto a chilled serving plate and remove the remaining piece of waxed paper. Decorate with rosettes of whipped cream and strawberries.
Notes
  1. Use a mold with sides preferably 4 inches high with an 8-cup capacity. Depending on the size of your mold, you can add more layers of cream, strawberries and ladyfingers, if you have enough ingredients left over.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

 

 

Maple- Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries and Pecans

Yams 2 of 2) (1 of 1)

Looking for that perfect Sweet Potato side dish for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner? Look no further – this recipe for Maple- Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries and Pecans provides that perfect combination of starchy sweet potatoes,  cranberry tartness and maple flavored yumminess.

Sweet potatoes (or yams) were cultivated in Central America at least 5,000 year ago and are grown all over the world in tropical or temperate climates. One town in the USA has gone ‘absolutely bananas’ over sweet potatoes: for the past 65 years, the town of Opelousas, Louisiana has held a Yambilee Festival, combining music, rides and yam pie-baking contests and crowns a yam queen and king (last year’s Yam King was named ‘Willyam‘).

You can tell that Opelousas citizens take their sweet potatoes (AKA Yams) seriously, when they promise that “You’ll have a Yam-Good time” when you attend their annual festival. Why, even Popeye has given up his beloved spinach in favor of yams, as seen in this Yambilee poster:

Yambilee larger

The Method

Enough of yam jokes- let’s get back to this easy recipe. First, peel the yams and cook in boiling salted water for about 15 minutes until the outer flesh softens. Let cool and slice the yams cross-wise into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Arrange in a dish with the slices overlapping each other.

 Overlapping yams

Next, heat the maple syrup, butter and cranberries together until the cranberries soften. Pour the mixture over the yams and add the chopped pecans. Bake for about 10 minutes and there you have it!

 Yams (3 of 3) (1 of 1)

 (P.S. If you enjoyed this post, please do ‘like’ my G’day Souffle’ Facebook page!)

Maple-Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries and Pecans
Serves 6
A perfect sweet potato side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas or anytime
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Ingredients
  1. 2 - 3 yellow sweet potatoes or yams
  2. 1 tsp salt
  3. 1 cup Maple Syrup
  4. 2 tablespoons real butter
  5. 1 cup fresh cranberries
  6. 2 tbsp. chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven at 350 F.
  2. Peel the sweet potatoes, slice in half cross-wise and place in boiling salted water. Reduce heat and simmer until the outer flesh can be easily pierced by a fork (about 15 minutes). Remove from water and let cool.
  3. Slice the sweet potatoes cross-wise into 1/4 inch slices. Arrange in overlapping slices in a casserole dish.
  4. Heat the maple syrup and butter on medium heat until the butter melts. Add the fresh cranberries and heat until the cranberries 'pop' and become soft (about 5 - 6 minutes).
  5. Pour the mixture over the sweet potato slices. Add the chopped pecans on top and bake uncovered for 10 minutes at 350 F. Serve warm.
Notes
  1. Be careful not to over-sweeten the sweet potatoes with the maple syrup mixture. Adjust the maple syrup mixture accordingly.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico – land of food and wine!

 

Finca food Pulpos Baja California- where have you been?

Growing up in Chula Vista, California near the Mexican border, my family and I frequently went camping in Ensenada, Baja California. After my father retired and bought a little trailer cabana in Ensenada, Mexico became a second home for us. However, about 15 years ago, everything changed. The frequent violence and kidnappings caused by the drug cartels caused our family and friends to say, “No, you can’t go to Mexico anymore, it’s too dangerous.” As a result, we sealed Mexico off from our minds.

But things are now changing again. Travel and wine magazines are gushing that Baja California is now one of the ‘food and wine capitals of the world.’ This is particularly true for the region called Valle de Guadalupe, located 1 1/2 hours from the U.S./Mexican border near Ensenada. Known for its porous soil and ideal climate, this area is ideal for growing grapes for wine cultivation. This region is also known for its Baja Med style of cooking, combining gourmet techniques with traditional Mexican dishes, while adding locally sourced ingredients such as olive oils, seafood and tomatoes.

Intrigued by the media frenzy, my husband and I decided to see for ourselves. Instead of going it alone, we joined the group, Club Tengo Hambre (meaning ‘I am hungry’ in Spanish) to guide us on the trip. CTH describes themselves as a ‘roving supper club’ and are experts in guiding small groups into Baja, California.

We met the group on the US side of the border in front of McDonalds (a good start to our culinary adventure!) and then walked across the border together. That was easy, no lines, just walking through a turnstile. However, I knew it would be a different matter returning to the US from the looks of the pedestrian line coming the other way- it must have been 1/4 mile long.  After crossing the border, a van awaited us to take us on our all-day trip south of the border. After passing around a bottle of Tequila for each of us to pour a tipple, we felt relaxed. I peered out the side windows of our van to see if I recognised the Tijuana that I used to know- the hovels were still there on the side of the hills, but were slowly being replaced by more modern housing. I heaved a sigh of relief, there were no bandits following us and no need to ride shotgun – we were safe.

Valle de Guadalupe

 As we approached the valley, it appeared to be rather dry with low scrub and various kinds of cactus. Most of the wineries ‘dry farm’ their crops, drawing water from reservoirs and wells, rather than relying on rainfall.

photo attributed to Sarah Gilbert of theguardian.com

Valle pix  Las Nubes Winery

Las Nubes

The first winery we visited was Las Nubes (“The Clouds”). This winery offered sweeping views of the valley and its thick stone walls, reminded me of a Tuscan farm house. Located on 75 acres, the winery grows 15 kinds of grapes, including sauvignon blanc, syrah and chardonnay. Most of the wines are named after clouds such as Cumulus, Nimbus and Nebbiolo, although the wine I chose was called Selección de Barricas, a young, red blend that includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Grenache and Syrah. 

Delicious full-bodied red wine Las-Nubes-bottles  Lovely views of the Guadalupe Valley at La NubesLas nubes 2  After several hours of wine tasting, we were ready to have our meal at the Finca Altozano restaurant. This is an outdoor restaurant in a rustic setting, owned by well-known Mexican chef, Javier Plascencia. Most of the food on the menu comes from local ingredients sourced from the Valle de Guadalupe and local seafood. The atmosphere is relaxed; you could easily believe you were having lunch in a ranch 60 years ago, with no nearby freeways roaring past to distract you. The open kitchen allows you to watch the meat being barbequed and the bread being baked in a wide-fired oven.

Finca Altozano open-air restaurant Finca Restaurant Quails being barbequed over wood fire Fire Roast at FincaOpen kitchen where you can watch the food being cooked Finca kitchen One of the house specialities is Pulpo del Pacifico, tender pieces of marinated octopus served with citrus, ginger, peanuts and cilantro. I normally don’t care for octopus, but these tender morcels were delicious. Pulpo VDG Another dish on the menu was Lengua des Res- ‘Such a beautiful name in Spanish,’ I said to myself. Only when the dish arrived at my table did I realise it was beef tongue, not something I’d ordinarily order for myself, but delicious none the less, served on top of a soft tortilla.

Lengua des Res Lengua To finish off our meal, we were served barbequed quail and shrimp- my mind is now made up- I’m definitely going to come back to this restaurant again!

 Clos de Tres Cantos Winery

The last winery we visited was Clos de Tres Cantos. The owners, Joaquin and Maria, started this winery with sustainability and regard for the local environment in mind. This is evident in the use of local materials in the winery’s buildings: the use of reclaimed wood and recycled bottles creates stunning architectural effects on the grounds.        

The exterior walls of this winery looked Mayan in appearance, while the interior looked almost like a chapel.

Mayan influence with the architecture

IMG_7507

 Inside the Winery- almost like a chapelProcessed with VSCOcam with c2 presetStunning effects created with recycled wine bottles

IMG_7499As our group travelled the 1 1/2 hours back towards the US border, I was apprehensive; how long would we have to wait to cross the border- one hour? two hours? It was getting dark and I wasn’t looking forward to standing in line for two hours. The wait turned out to be 1 hour 15 minutes to cross the pedestrian border and go through customs. This was not too bad but I noted with envy that those people who had Sentri passes were able to march right up to the front of the line (I’m definitely applying for one of those passes for the next time). 

All in all, was it an enjoyable experience? Yes! Club Tengo Hambre were excellent tour leaders and I’d highly recommend them. The best thing, though, was being able to re-visit Mexico again and to see how it has blossomed with its food and wine offerings. Next time you find yourself saying “Tengo Hambre” (I’m hungry), be sure to plan a trip to the Valle de Guadalupe in Baja, California!

 

 

 

 

Albóndigas Mexican Meatballs

Mexican Meatballs (1 of 1) (1 of 1)

I’m so embarrassed! I was in the midst of photographing these Mexican Meatballs when my camera shutter button jammed. I was stuck- no more pictures! I was worried that my meatballs would go stale on me, so I drove 17 miles to a camera repair shop, only to be told that my camera worked fine. I just needed to recharge the camera batteries! That was one of those embarrassing moments that I’d like to forget.

Now back to the Mexican Meatballs. ‘Albóndigas’ means ‘meatballs’ in Spanish and are a popular Spanish tapas dish. The thing that makes them Mexican Meatballs is the addition of a chipotle chile in the sauce. Chipotles are smoked jalapeno peppers and they give a nice smoky taste to the dish. I’ve used chipotles in several other of my dishes: Smoky Chipotle Chicken with Chorizo and Smoky Chipotle Eggs Baked in a Skillet. You can find chipotles in various supermarkets (particularly in Southern California) or in Mexican specialty markets.

To make the meatballs, you combine minced beef and pork together with diced onion, breadcrumbs, egg, cumin and oregano. After browning the meatballs, the mouth watering sauce or ‘soup’ is made with diced tomatoes, a chipotle pepper, beef stock and seasonings. It’s enough to make you want to grab that nearby piece of bread and sop up the juices.

Words to describe this dish would be ‘spicy, delicious, appetizing, inviting, tasty, delectable and toothsome’… oh hell, I’m running out of words here. But be sure and have your camera batteries charged before photographing this dish!

 Mexican Meatballs (2 of 2) (1 of 1)

 

Albóndigas Mexican Meatballs
Serves 6
Spicy meatballs served in a mouth watering chipotle sauce
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For the Mexican Meatballs
  1. 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  2. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  3. 1/2 lb ground beef
  4. 1/2 lb ground pork
  5. 3 tbsp. Mexican beef or pork chorizo (optional)
  6. 1/4 cup ground breadcrumbs
  7. 1 raw egg
  8. 1 tsp ground cumin
  9. 1/2 tsp oregano
  10. 1 tsp salt
For the sauce/soup
  1. 1 small onion, diced
  2. 2 cloves garlic, diced
  3. 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, chopped
  4. 1/4 tsp cumin
  5. 2 cups beef stock
  6. 1 can chopped tomatoes
  7. 1 tsp salt
  8. juice from 1 lime
To serve
  1. 1 - 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, minced
  2. cooked white rice
For the meatballs
  1. Sauté the chopped onions and garlic in olive or vegetable oil for several minutes until soft.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the raw beef, pork and Mexican chorizo, breadcrumbs, raw egg, cooked onions and garlic, cumin, oregano and salt.
  3. Form the mixture into meatballs about 1 - 1.5 inches wide and brown for several minutes over medium heat for several minutes. Set aside.
For the sauce/soup
  1. In a large skillet or casserole dish, sauté the chopped onions and garlic in olive or vegetable oil until soft. Add the chopped chipotle chile, cumin, beef stock, diced tomatoes, salt and lime juice to the pan. Stir over medium heat for several minutes.
  2. Add the browned meatballs to the pan, cover and let simmer for at least 10 minutes until the meat is thoroughly cooked. Serve over rice and garnish with chopped coriander.
Notes
  1. Adjust the amount of cumin and chipotle chile according to your personal taste. The addition of the 3 tbsp. of Mexican chorizo to the meatballs is optional- I added the chorizo to give the meat more flavour.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

Spiced Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls 6 of 6) (1 of 1)Cinnamon Rolls 7 of 7) (1 of 1)Cinnamon Rolls (2 of 2) (1 of 1)

It’s that time of year when we are apt to say, “Oh God, not another pumpkin recipe!” Now that we are approaching Halloween and Thanksgiving, we are flooded with pumpkin recipes: McDonalds has pumpkin pancakes, there’s pumpkin beer and I’ve even seen a recipe called Red Curry Pig’s Feet with Pumpkin. But the one that amuses me the most is the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks, complete with a jack-o-lantern image on top:

Pumpkin latteHowever, some people think we have gone too far with our pumpkin-loving recipes, as shown here:

Brace Yourself

What do you think, have we gone too far with pumpkin flavored everything? In my view, pumpkins remind me of the approaching Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. and brings on images of being with family and friends and stuffing ourselves with turkey and pumpkin pie. Nice warm fuzzy feelings tucked in my mind and ‘stomach memory.’ So excuse me, here is one more pumpkin recipe to digest, Spiced Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls.

With this recipe, you first form a yeast dough and then let it rise and double in size. Then roll out the dough in a rectangle shape and spread the spiced pumpkin filling on top. The dough is then rolled up lengthwise and sliced into pieces 1.5 inches thick and allowed to rise again. Bake and then top with a delicious cream cheese icing- you’ll never feel bad about making just one more pumpkin recipe!

 Glaze with Sour Cream Icing:

IMG_8621

 

Spiced Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Yields 10
Cinnamon rolls filled with spiced pumpkin and slathered with a delicious cream cheese icing
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For the dough
  1. 1 cup milk
  2. 1/2 cup (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter
  3. 1 packet dry yeast (1/4 oz or 5 g)
  4. 1/4 cup white sugar
  5. 1 tsp salt
  6. 1 tsp cinnamon
  7. 3 cups plain white flour
For the pumpkin filling
  1. 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  2. 1/4 cup brown sugar
  3. 1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice (or 3/4 tsp cinnamon + 1/8 tsp nutmeg)
For the icing
  1. 1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature
  2. 3 tbsp. melted butter
  3. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  4. 3/4 cup powdered sugar
For the pumpkin pie filling
  1. Combine the pumpkin puree with the brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice until smooth. Set aside
For the dough
  1. Heat the milk and butter on the stovetop until hot but not boiling. Let cool to about 110 F. Add the packet of yeast and let rest for about 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar,salt and cinnamon and stir in the yeast/butter mixture until smooth. Gradually add the flour to the mixture, working it in with your hands or using the dough hook of your electric mixer. The dough should be rather moist and elastic.
  3. Form a ball with the dough and knead on a lightly-floured surface for several minutes. Place the dough in a bowl that has been oiled with a light coat of vegetable oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise for about 1 hour until double in size.
  4. Punch down the dough and rollout into a thin rectangular shape on a lightly-floured surface. Brush the surface of the dough with melted butter (about 3 tbsp.) Then spread a thin layer of the pumpkin filling on top. Roll-up the dough tightly lengthwise into a tube shape then slice into pieces about 1.5 to 2 inches thick using a serrated bread knife. This should yield about 10 rolls.
  5. Place the rolls into a buttered round (or square) dish and let rise for another 1 hour. Bake for about 20-25 minutes at 350 F. until the rolls are light brown. Turn the rolls out onto a large plate, let cool and glaze with the cream cheese icing.
For the icing
  1. Combine the melted butter, cream cheese, vanilla extract and powdered sugar until smooth, using an electric mixer. The mixture should be silky and smooth. If the icing is too dry, moisten with a little milk or cream.
Notes
  1. Note: I used Butternut Pumpkin (squash) for my filling since it is easier to handle than the typical larger pumpkin.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

 

 

 

Pork Pot Stickers with Achiote Sauce and Pineapple Salsa

 

Pot Stickers (1 of 1) (1 of 1) How do you spell A-C-H-I-O-T-E please?

I grew up in Chula Vista, California near the Mexican border so Mexican food was a regular part of my life. I frequently downed tacos, enchiladas, refried beans and fried rice and sometimes snuck in a chimichanga or two. I even considered myself somewhat of an expert on Mexican food until I was invited to a preview tasting for the annual Taste of Downtown event held in San Diego on October 2, 2014.

With over 30 restaurants taking part in this event, several other food bloggers and I were given preliminary tastings at 8 of these venues, including several Mexican bar and grill restaurants. I was expecting the waiters to bring out the usual tacos and enchiladas, but instead was presented with dishes like Pot Stickers with Achiote Sauce and Grilled Pineapple Salsa and Hicama Sticks with Sriracha-Lime Aioli.

“Whatever happened to the simple old Mexican dishes?” I asked myself. Leaning over towards a fellow blogger I whispered, “How do you spell ‘achiote’? What is sriacha sauce? HICAMA WHO?”  The other bloggers were scribbling away like old hands as they took notes and were eying me with suspicion. “Where has she been all these years?” they were probably asking themselves.

Anyway, I had to fast-foward 10 years really quickly and get up-to-scratch on what’s been happening to Mexican food, at least in SoCal and some other parts of the US. Traditional Mexican food has now morphed into something called Baja Med, a blend of Mexican food with Asian and Merditerranean influences, often blending the magnificent seafood of Baja California with olive oils, fruits and vegetables found in the San Quintin Valley and Guadalupe Valley of Baja.

I’d love to do a full blog post one day on Baja Med cuisine, but for now I’d like to present the recipe for Pork Pot Stickers with Achiote Sauce and Grilled Pineapple Salsa. This was one of the tasting dishes from the San Diego restaurant Comun Grill and Tavern so here is my version of the dish.

A pork shoulder roast is first cooked for several hours on the stovetop until the meat falls apart and is then blended with some achiote paste. The mixture is then placed inside a wonton wrapper (called a ‘pot sticker’) and baked in the oven and finally served with a spicy grilled pineapple salsa. This dish makes a great appetiser.

Achiote paste is made from ground annatto seeds and is mixed with cumin and other spices. It is used as flavouring in Mexico, the Carribbeans and in the Philippines and gives a nice smoky taste and vibrant red coloring to food. You can purchase achiote paste in Mexican food specialty stores or online at Mexgrocer.com or Amazon.com.

 Olé! Who said that Mexican food was still stuck in the past?

 Pot Stickers 2 of 2) (1 of 1)      Pork Pot Stickers with Achiote Sauce and Grilled Pineapple Salsa  

    Ingredients

    Pork Pot Stickers

  • 1 pork shoulder roast
  • water to cover the roast in a pot or Dutch Oven
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, whole
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 3 cups of the pork cooking liquid
  • 3 tbsp. achiote paste
  • 2 -3 tsp Mexican chili powder
  • salt to taste
  • wonton wrappers

  Grilled Pineapple Salsa

  • 1 fresh pineapple, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (coriander)
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 red chili, seeded and finely diced
  • salt to taste

 Directions

  • Place the pork, garlic, salt, peppercorns and onion in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add enough water to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and simmer until the meat is tender and falls off the bone (about 2 hours).
  • When the meat is cooked, transfer to a bowl and set aside. Strain the remaining cooking broth through a sieve; there should be at least three cups of broth remaining (if not, top-up with more water).
  • After the meat cools, shred using several forks. Add the reserved pork cooking broth to the shredded pork; start by adding 2 cups of the broth and then gradually add the remaining broth until the meat becomes moist but not runny.
  • Add the achiote paste and Mexican chili powder to the meat; add more seasoning if required. Add salt to taste.
  • Place a small ball of the pork mixture on top of each wanton wrapper (about 1 tsp) then brush the outter edge of the wrapper with water. Fold the edges of each wrapper together and then pinch the sides together.

 

  •  Brush the pot stickers with olive oil and bake for 6 – 7 minutes at 350 F. on a parchment-lined tray until the outsides turn golden brown. Turn each one several times while baking for even coloration.

For the Grilled Pineapple Salsa

  • Peel and core a fresh pineapple and dice into 1/2 inch cubes. Combine with the chopped onions, cilantro, lime juice, diced chili and salt.
  • Serve the salsa on top of a banana leaf (optional) and arrange the pot stickers around the side of he dish.

 

 

         

Coconut-Curried Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles

 

  Zuchinni Noodles 3 of 3) (1 of 1)Someone recently gave me a ‘Spirooli’ Spirilizer as a present and I love it! You attach a vegetable (like a zucchini) to the little machine, crank the handle, and out comes ‘miles’ of pasta-like noodles. It’s a nice variation to the traditional spaghetti pasta- here your noodles are made of vegetables instead of pasta. If your kids are squeamish about eating their veggies, try transforming them into something fun like these zucchini noodles.

So far, I’ve only used it to make zucchini noodles, but they are also great for making onion rings and curly fries, or how about Beet and Apple Spirals to dress up your salads? The opportunities are endless …

With Autumn coming on in the northern hemisphere, I’ve decided to try a recipe with some warmth to it: Coconut-Curried Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles.  If you don’t have a spirilizer, you can use a julienne peeler instead to slice your zucchini. Which ever way you decide to slice it, you’ll enjoy both the spicy warmth of the curry paste and the sweetness of the coconut milk.      

 Zuchinni Noodles 4 of 4

Coconut-Curried Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles
Serves 3
Shrimp flavored with spicy curry paste and sweetened with coconut milk- and the zucchini spirals will add some fun to your dish!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 medium zucchinis, cut into noodles or thin julienne slices
  2. 1 shallot, finely diced
  3. 2 garlic cloves, diced
  4. 2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  5. 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  6. 1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
  7. 1 – 2 tbsp red curry paste (depending on taste)
  8. 2 tsp brown sugar
  9. 2 tsp fish sauce
  10. Juice from 1 lime
  11. 12-16 large shrimp or prawns, shelled and deveined
  12. Several fresh basil leaves to garnish
Instructions
  1. Add oil to fry pan and sauté the shallot and garlic cloves over medium heat until they become translucent in color.
  2. Add the grated ginger, coconut milk, curry paste, brown sugar, fish sauce and lime juice to the pan, Lower the heat and let simmer for several minutes until the sauce thickens a bit.
  3. Remove the shells from the shrimp and devein them (or you could use already shelled shrimp). Add them to the sauce and cook for several minutes until they turn pink in color.
  4. Add the ‘spirilized’ (or julienned) zucchini noodles to the pan. Cook the zucchini only until warm (about 1 minute) to prevent them from getting soggy.
  5. Garnish each serving with a few fresh basil leaves.
Notes
  1. Adjust the amount of curry paste according to your taste. I like my food spicy so I used 2 tablespoons of the curry paste to the recipe.
Adapted from San Diego Union Tribune Food Section
Adapted from San Diego Union Tribune Food Section
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

Vanilla Ice Cream with Hibiscus and Rum Sauce & Baby Bananas

 

 

Rum and Ice Cream photoI just arrived back home from my three months in Paris. There are things I miss about Paris – the opportunity to speak French, the street markets, the fresh fish markets and some of the quaint ancient streets. I especially remember the relationship with my local Paris fishmonger who advised me to begin filleting  my Turbot “with the white side facing up’ so you can more clearly identify where the backbone is.” But it is always good to be back home.

While in Paris, I had been introduced to several recipes using dried Hibiscus flowers and decided to give this a go. “Where in the world am I going to find dried Hibiscus flowers?” I asked myself. I looked out the window to my front yard and there was the answer: I already had a ready and willing Hibiscus plant, ready to give up its pretty red flowers (however you can buy them at your local wholefoods store or on Amazon).

Hibiscus flowers will give a delicious fruity taste to your recipes and are good for lowering your blood pressure and your cholesterol. Give it a try!

When using Hibiscus flowers in a recipe, you first need to remove the stamens and then dry the flowers. I dried mine by first pulling the flowers apart and then placing them in a low oven at 200 F (100 C) for 30 minutes. I then turned off the oven and let the flowers sit for another 30 minutes to completely dry out.

                        Hibiscus Flowers Hibiscus whole

You then re-hydrate the flowers by placing them in boiling water and letting them steep (or infuse) in the water for at least 15 minutes, then straining out the flowers. You can either just drink this Hibiscus ‘tea’ on its own or use it as a base to flavour other dishes, which I have done here for my recipe ‘Vanilla Ice Cream with Hibiscus Rum Sauce & Baby Bananas.’  

 

Vanilla Ice Cream with Hibiscus and Rum Sauce and Baby Bananas
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. Vanilla Ice Cream to serve 4
  2. 2 cups (5 g) dried Hibiscus flowers
  3. 1 cup boiled water
  4. 1 tbsp. grated ginger
  5. ½ cup orange juice
  6. 30 ml rum
  7. 1 cinnamon stick
For the sugar syrup
  1. ¼ cup sugar combined with ¼ cup water
Garnish
  1. Grated lime zest
  2. Raspberries or strawberries
Instructions
  1. To dry the Hibiscus flowers, place the petals on a tray and heat in oven at 200 F for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the flowers in the oven for another 30 minutes to dry.
  2. Place the dried flowers in a cup of boiled water; add the grated ginger and let steep (infuse) for at least 15 minutes. Strain the flowers and ginger from the liquid. Add the orange juice to the Hibiscus liquid; place in a saucepan and over medium heat, reduce to ¾ of the original volume.
  3. To make the sugar syrup, add ¼ cup sugar and ¼ cup water together in a saucepan. Heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens a little.
  4. Add the rum and cinnamon stick to the Hibiscus/orange juice mixture and gradually add some sugar syrup until the sauce sweetens to your taste.
  5. To assemble the dessert, add some of the Hibiscus sauce to the bottom of a serving dish. Slice each baby banana in half and place several slices vertically on the side of each dish. Add the vanilla ice cream in the center of the dish, add some more sauce on top of the ice cream. Add some grated lime zest and top with either a raspberry or strawberry.
Notes
  1. Omit the rum if serving to children.
  2. The sauce will thicken more when allowed to cool to room temperature. Add more sugar syrup to the Hibiscus sauce if you wish to thicken it further.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/
 Rum and Ice Cream 2