Cuban Night.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Being half-Cuban and from Miami, I often tap into my latin roots and cook something that is reminiscent of home.  The other night I opted for something simple and cheap, yet delicioso: picadillo. Picadillo is a mixture of ground beef, onions, pepper, olives, and raisins served over white rice. My mom (who is American nonetheless) sent me this recipe along with some articles on the picadillo blog war.  Cubans are very proud of their roots and have different opinions on what makes a truly authentic picadillo.  Some may argue if this is an authentic version but in my opinion it surely is!  Either way, it is a staple in Cuban kitchens and is sure to leave all plates wiped clean at the end of a meal!


6 TB olive oil
4 garlic cloves chopped
2 large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
2 green peppers, chopped
1 bay leaf (optional)
3 lb. ground meat
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
1/2 – ¾ cup vino seco (found in the Latin food section or use dry cooking wine)
1 cup pimiento stuffed olives
1 cup of raisins
Salt and pepper to taste

First brown the meat in 2-3 TB olive oil. Drain all fat and set the meat aside. In a large skillet and in medium heat, sautee the garlic, onion, green pepper and bay leaf in the olive oil for about 15- 20 minutes. Add the meat. Turn heat down to medium low. Add the tomato sauce and vino seco. Bring to a slight boil, and reduce temperature again to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes. While it simmers, slice the pimiento stuffed olives. After the 30 minutes are up, remove the lid, add the olives and the raisins and cook, uncovered, in a slow simmer for another 15 minutes. If it is too dry, you can add more tomato sauce. Serve over fluffy, white rice.

Yields: 6-8 servings (Depending if you are Cuban or American!)

I Heart Zara.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

All items via Zara

Call this online window shopping. Yep, after my trip to visit Kristen a few weeks ago I made a pact with myself to give up shopping (limited to clothing and accessories) for the month of May. I found myself becoming way too in love with all the new spring fashions, and errr buying them too, that I had to slap my own wrists and say "No more Kelly!" As I was reading my dose of The Glamourai, I couldn't help but notice her Zara kimono top which then led me to all the wonderfullness [see above] I was missing out on. :::sigh::: Oh, how I wish my wallet and closet were both limitless.

And, no, I have not bought anything during the month of May. Yes, I can't wait for June 1st as I will proceed with caution, hehe!

Carrot Cupcakes for Katie.

Friday, May 20, 2011

My sister requested that I make her favorite dessert for her birthday celebration: carrot cake. I'll be honest, I was never a fan of carrot cake (or so I thought) mainly because it contains nuts and so you know, I am not a fan of nuts at all.  I opted to make carrot cupcakes for the occasion and they were quite enjoyable to bake. Putting shredded carrots in a batter seemed so odd to me which I think is what added to the fun. Since I wanted to try them I was sure to leave a couple of cupcakes without nuts and let me tell you, I was pleasantly surprised. The cupcakes were the perfect degree of moist and not too heavy and the cream cheese frosting was absolutely delicious. This may have been the first time I made this dessert but something tells me it won't be the last!

Carrot Cupcakes

2 ounces white chocolate
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/8 cups white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease 12 muffin cups.
In small saucepan, melt white chocolate over low heat. Stir until smooth, and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Mix in white chocolate, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and orange extract. Gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar until the mixture is fluffy. Mix in heavy cream.

Beat together the eggs, white sugar, and brown sugar in a bowl, and mix in the oil and vanilla. Fold in carrots and pineapple. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Mix flour mixture into the carrot mixture until evenly moist. Fold in 1/2 cup walnuts. Transfer to the prepared muffin cups.

Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool completely on wire racks before topping with the icing and sprinkling with remaining walnuts.

A Rising Star.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

 One of my favorite classes in high school was Photography since it was one of the few courses that I was able to allow my creative juices to flow.  When I stumbled upon Amanda Pham's photography I was instantly in awe at what talent she has at the young age of 14. Yes, you heard right: 14.  I certainly did not create photos as stunning as these at that age (well, at any age for that matter)! I can only imagine where she will be in 5, 10, 15 years. I know one thing for sure is that we will have to keep an eye on this extremely talented photographer.  Meanwhile, I'll be grabbing my own camera to try and develop my own photography skills!

All images via Amanda Pham

A Candy Apple Twist.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

One word to describe the wonderful Bakerella: genius. She combines cake and frosting to make the most delicious and adorable cake pops and cake balls.  This past weekend Kelly and I decided to get our hands messy in the kitchen by making Bakerella's apple shaped cake pops (apples in lieu of the Big Apple). We purchased all of the supplies including the red candy coating and pretzels for the stem but were stumped on what to do about the leaf part of the apple.  That's when Kelly put her brain to work and decided we can make them out of green air heads (which totally brought back some childhood memories).  All went smoothly until we got to the decorating which could more or less be described as a disaster until we finally got the swing of things. After a bit of trial and error we finally were able to produce some decent looking cake pops that were absolutely delectable!

Here are some lessons learned from our baking adventure:
  • Make sure to allow the shaped cake to get very firm in the refrigerator before coating with candy
  • Insert the stick into the coating and then into the shaped cake and allow to completely dry before coating the entire cake
  • Add vegetable oil to the candy coating and mix well to thin it out and get a smoother coating

Apple Cake Pops

1 Box cake mix (bake according to package)
1 16 oz. can of frosting
Red candy melts
Lollipop sticks
Green Air Head
Styrofoam block
Pretzel sticks

After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.

Mix thoroughly with 1 can frosting. (Bakerella uses the back of a large spoon, but it may be easier to use fingers to mix together. But, be warned, it will get messy. Also, you may not need the entire can of frosting, so start out by using almost the entire can and add more if you need to.)

Roll mixture into quarter size balls and shape like an apple by making the top part a bit thicker and making an indent on the top.   Place on a wax paper covered cookie sheet. Place in the refrigerator or freezer to firm.

Meanwhile, shape the leaves by cutting the airheads and cut the pretzel sticks in thirds.

Once the cake balls are firm, melt the red candy coating in the microwave per directions on package. (30 second intervals, stirring in between.)

Dip the tip of your lollipop stick in a little of the melted candy coating and insert into the cake balls. (Insert a little less than halfway.)Place them in the freezer for a little while to firm up.

Once firm, carefully insert the cake ball into the candy coating by holding the lollipop stick and rotating until covered. Once covered remove and softly tap and rotate until the excess chocolate falls off. Don’t tap too hard or the cake ball will fall off, too.

Immediately place pretzel stick and leaf into the cake pop. Place in a styrofoam block to dry.

From the Big Apple to the Beaches.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

For the first time since Kristen has moved to Tampa, I finally decided to pay her a much needed little visit. The weekend was beyond perfect and we both got the sun we craved for. Err, maybe a little too much sun (oopsie). The weekend was filled with some bargain shopping, tons of delicious food (I loved Kristen's picks of Wrights and Burns), some baking (more to come), and the most beautiful beach day. In all, it was the perfect bonding time for us - I cannot wait to go back, I even got a little teary eyed leaving Kristen when she dropped me off at the airport (kinda embarrassing, i know).

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