Sometimes you feel like a NUTELLA!

Anamaris 3 Comments

There’s this beautiful blog I lurk around in, it makes me feel all perp-like and hungry. Paula from Bell’alimento  puts out the most amazing Italian recipes, she also started a Nutella Challenge. This being one of her favorite food items, she opened her blog to foodies who would like to try their hand at making life better one Nutella bite at a time.

So, I’m taking a bite at the challenge; this one is not a complicated treat. Yesterday was so rainy in Houston that I wanted some sunny homey comfort, I halved my mami’s basic cake recipe and added Nutella to make it a marble cake. I also baked it in a tart pan, but you can use a regular 9-inch pan. Easy, breazy and oh so yummy! Give it a try.


Mami’s Nutella Marble Cake
1-1/2 sticks butter, softened
7 ozs sugar (just under 2/3 cp)
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1-1/4 cp flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cp Nutella
Preheat oven to 350°. Get ingredients ready: combine the milk, vanilla and almond extracts in measuring cup, separately combine the flour, baking powder and nutmeg. Set aside.

This is best done using a mixer, add the butter and sugar in the bowl and beat until the sugar grains are dissolved-if the butter is soft, it will take about 10 minutes or so. Add the eggs one at a time.

Add 1/3 of the flour and mix until incorporated, then alternate with 1/2 of the milk. Then flour, rest of the milk and end with flour. Take care not to overbeat, just mix long enough to get all the flour into the batter.

Grease and flour the cake pan and add the batter to it. Drop Nutella by tablespoonfuls on top of the batter.

Use a knife to swirl the Nutella into the batter. Pop it in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when you pierce the center of the cake.

Enjoy it plain or with some ice cream!

Cookingly yours,

This is how we do it

Anamaris 4 Comments

Do you like beef? Do you like beef stew? When was the last time you made stew? I like, no, I love beef. Beef stew in its traditional way, not so much. I don’t really care for the boiled in potatoes and carrots. I don’t know what it is about them, the mushy texture, the taste they develop. I don’t know. Anyway. I make stew a bit more latinized, is that even a word? Carne guisada is what I make and what I like.

It may be a culture thing, but I prefer my meats fatty, especially when they’ll undergo a fair amount of braising. For this dish I would suggest using something like a shoulder or butt roast, these cuts are very forgiving. You will notice this has no root veggies, feel free to add some if you prefer them. I’m partial to onions and bell peppers which go in fairly early and will essentially dissolve into the sauce, so you don’t have to worry about fancing cutting. This recipe is pretty easy to make and I hope you will try it!

Carne Guisada
2-3 lb shoulder roast
3 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp garlic puree)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp Jugo Maggi
1 tsp oregano, crushed
1 tsp black pepper, ground
3 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cp cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cp dark beer

Chop the roast into cubes, about 2-inches wide; season with garlic, salt, oregano, black pepper and Jugo Maggi. Set aside and chop the rest of your vegetables. In a medium pan or dutch oven type, heat up the oil then brown the beef cubes on all sides, you may need to do this in batches. Once done browning all the beef, set it aside. 

Add onions and bell peppers to the oil in the saucepan and cook until onions are translucent. Stir in the cilantro and tomato paste, then the beer. Incorporate all of this and check the seasoning. Keep in mind you don’t want it to be salty, it will braise for a while and the flavors will intensify. Add the beef and stir to make sure it is all covered in the braising liquid. Allow it to come to a boil, then lower temperature to medium low and cover. Simmer it this way for about 45-60 minutes, stirring it ocassionally.

When the beef is fork tender, remove the lid and allow it to cook for another 15 minutes. This allows the sauce to thicken a bit. You’re done, serve with rice.

Reality TV

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Feeling squirrely?

Years ago, I would’ve sworn you would NEVER, EEEEVAH catch me watching reality TV. I felt it was  the furthest thing from reality and, IF that was what reality had become, I wanted nothing to do with it.

Times have changed and the Machiavellian machine has won me over. I must confess. I have become addicted to reality TV. My caveat is that I’m only addicted to the niche stuff (I say that because it makes me feel better about my weakness). I’m all up into HGTV Design Star (I think that’s how it started), Project Runway, and Flipping Out.

Then there’s the cooking stuff. Oh boy. Iron Chef America, Chopped, Food Network Star, Top Chef in any of its incarnations, and most recently Chef Academy (looooooooove Chef Novelli!). Do you watch any of these?

Top Chef will be over this week, do you have a favorite? I was disappointed to see Jennifer go, I secretly hoped that Michael V, the youngest of the brothers, didn’t make it. I knew better, though. My prediction for the finalists 3 or so weeks ago was this: Michael V, Kevin, Jen.

Although I believed Bryan, the oldest brother, was a strong chef, he just didn’t seem able to get it together. Then Jen just lost it! I wasn’t surprised to see her eliminated this week. Sigh. Now for the finale… Kevin’s my man!

Who are you rooting for?

Oops! Hmmm. O-oh!

Anamaris 0 Comments

When was the last time you completed a task you were looking forward to only to find out it was a dud, then you miraculously managed to save the day? Have you ever taken a shot of something you loved only to realize you were out of focus? Then as you look at the digital image you find something in that same shot that is completely interesting? Or, have you gotten directions to a new restaurant and once there realize there’s a 2-hour wait, so you just walk down the block to a little hole-in-the-wall which has now become your fave place?

Well, I did something of the sort. Actually, I’ve done all of the above, but most recently I hit a total dud on a dish that I had been thinking about for DAYS, weeks even. Then somehow I was able to repurpose it the next day and wound up with a great save. There’s no real original recipe here, just some slight modifications to a standard.

For weeks, I had been thinking about carnitas: tender fatty pork pieces cooked in their own fat. I have made these successfully before but wanted to document it AND wanted to try out this new Le Creuset-like dutch oven I just won on Ebay. Well, between random pieces of pork, defects on the enamel of my new used pot and a battle with allergy-induced bronchitis, my carnitas were disappointing. Nothing especially wrong with them; taste was ok (though I won’t try that combination of spices again), the texture was a different story.

Yeah, no love at first sight here

Some of it got stuck to the bottom of the dutch oven, it kinda crumbled and broke into weird little strands, and I wasn’t able to get the golden brown color I love. But I wasn’t about to dunk all that meat when there wasn’t anything ‘really’ wrong with it.

What is a disappointed girl to do? I asked myself. Off to work I went, the carnitas fiasco heavily looming over me. When I was back, I remembered I had plantains that had ripened too much to use as tajadas, that’s when the foodie lightbulb hit me between coughing attacks! Have you ever heard of pastelon? It is a Latin dish which varies slightly from country to country, but its basically a shepherd’s pie prepared with easily accessible produce. Most commonly, you will find it prepared with ripe plantains instead of potatoes and ground beef rather than lamb as is customary in England.

Sorry, I just realized how long this tale got. Bottom line is this. If you have some leftover meat of any kind you can use it for this; dont be shy. It could be chicken, turkey, beef, anything you have hanging around your fridge will work. Here’s what I did:

 For the topping:
3 very ripe plantains
1/4 tsp salt
2 slices bacon, diced
Trim the ends of the plantains and peel. Once peeled, cut them into thirds, then slice each third lenghtwise and cut to 1/4-inch cubes. Put the cubed plantains in a medium saucepan, add the salt and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium (to a slow simmer). Cook them for 4 minutes then drain and set aside.
In that same saucepan, cook the bacon until lightly brown; remove from the heat. Add the drained plantains to the bacon. You want to stir it in, incorporating the bacon bits and fat. The plantains will be mashed. Set aside.

Ingredients for the meat filling:
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cp ea Italian parsley and cilantro, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed (1 tsp garlic puree)
1/4 cp white wine (vermouth)
3 cps leftover meat, diced or shreded
2 tbsp ketchup
Habanero sauce, to taste (optional)
1/2 cp water
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium high heat, add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic, cilantro and parsley stir to combine. Add the wine and flame it (optional) to cook the alcohol out, it will reduce a bit. Add the habanero, ketchup and water; mix well. Finally add the meat you will use. Stir it well and cover. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°. Rub a bit of oil around the sides of a baking dish; I used a 9-inch pie pyrex for this recipe. Put all of the meat mixture on the bottom of the pan, then top with the plantain mash. Place in the middle rack of your oven and bake for 20 minutes. At the end of that time, turn on the broiler and allow it to brown a bit on top. Pull it out of the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Done! Hope you like it as much as we did.


Cookingly yours,

Autumn in a puff

Anamaris 5 Comments

It’s possible I’m addicted to contests now. I know, I went for years without entertaining the thought of participating in one, to signing up for 2 recipe contests and 3 just throw in your name ones in a 2 week period. Yikes! This might be serious.

In any case, I submitted this entry to Pepperidge Farms. I *literally* threw these ingredients together just so I would have something to submit. That aside, these turned out AWESOME! I wasn’t completely sure of the gorgonzola, I thought I might need something more pungent, but it worked beautifully. There’s something about the sweetness of the potato, combined with depth of the cheese and the meatiness of the sausage that just works.


2 sheets puff pastry
2 cups sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
1/2 lb sage breakfast sausage
1/3 cup Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 egg yolk, beaten
1/4 cp heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove pastry sheets from freezer or fridge and allow to thaw.

Cook the breakfast sausage as directed, making sure it is a fine crumble. Allow it to cool. In the same pan, add the mashed sweet potatoes and cheese, taste your seasonings and adjust as necessary. Now add the yolk and stir it into the mash. Set aside.

I used a 2-inch biscuit cutter, but a smaller one will yield more of these puffs. Lay out the pastry sheets and cut out using the cutter. Moisten the edges of each circle with a bit of water, then drop about 1 tablespoon of filling onto the center of half of the circles.

Now top the filled circles with one of the other halves. Press the edges together and flutter them out or crimp them with a fork.

Place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Keep them about an inch apart. Now brush the tops with the heavy cream. Using a fork or paring knife, pierce the tops of each puff, this will allow the steam to come out and will keep the puffs intact, otherwise they will burst. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Note: If you don’t have a cutter, simply use a knife and follow the folds on the sheets. You will end up with 9 squares per sheet.


Entertaining – Thanksgiving Dinner

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We don’t do a formal Thanksgiving thing, we don’t really celebrate it. We just love turkey and having permission to overstuff ourselves, so we do.

This year, five of us got together at our place to overindulge. It was Linz and I, Dodo, Danny and Cindy. Dodo and Cindy are my friendsters-I’ve known them since I moved to the US. That makes them my oldest friends and the family I have here in Houston. Danny and Dorothy (Dodo) have been married forEVAH!

Entertaining should be fun for all involved. That means your guests and YOU. Really. Think about the last time you went to someone’s home, if the hosts seemed to be frazzled and tense, didn’t that take away a bit of the fun? I like entertaining and used to be a bit anal about everything being perfect. These days, I just kinda roll with it and I have to say, I have SO much more fun now. I love being able to enjoy my friends in the intimate setting of my home.

For Thanksgiving, I got some flowers and pulled out the folding table since our dining table is so small. I keep a tablecloth and napkins I bought on eBay for less than I could buy paper ones. Linz and I made the turkey, gravy and potatoes. Cindy and Dodo helped finish the cocktail and rolls. We ate and ate and talked and talked. It was perfect!

That's me lighting candles and finishing touches

Friends are always happy to help finish things up.

The Friendsters rule!

And the spread… Yah, it WAS 5 of us.

On the menu for the day, we had:
Brined Turkey with Gravy
Pesto Rolls
Cranberry Cooler
Mashed Potatoes
with Onion Butter Sauce
Cindy’s Traditional Green Bean Casserole
Dodo’s Cornbread Dressing
Dodo’s Strawberry Pizza Pie (aka MY favorite dessert in the world!)

Thanks go to Dodo and Cindy for being photographers on this day. Thanks chicas!

Making whoopie. I mean, gravy

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Every turkey and dressing needs it. You must have gravy. It’s just the way it is, don’t ask why, don’t try to make sense of it. Just whip some up. Here’s my ode to gravy.


After you pulled the bird out of the oven, you’ll want to collect the drippings. I got about 6 cps of liquid, including fat; separate the fat from the liquid. Preheat a saucepan over medium high and add 5 tbsp of the fat collected. Once it is hot, add 5 tbsp flour and mix vigorously to make sure no lumps are formed. Keep stirring for about 5 minutes or until the roux is golden brown .


Quickly add 3 cps of reserved drippings and 1 cp beer. You  need to allow the gravy to come to a boil in order for it to thicken. Season as necessary and serve.

Pesto Rolls

Anamaris 3 Comments

Hubby and I love bread. Various types of it. We can’t get enough. I wanted fresh rolls for dinner without actually having to work too much to get them. So, I grabbed a couple of cans of crescent rolls and a bottle of ready made pesto sauce from the store.

As you can see, I kept the little squares–essentially using 2 crescent rolls and smeared each square with a bit of the pesto sauce. Roll lengthwise, then roll it into a coil and bake.

I spread a bit of butter on top of each roll after they came out of the even. Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Cookingly yours,

I like red

Anamaris 1 Comment

I wanted a festive looking cocktail to serve to my fam-friends on Thursday. I wanted something red and tart, sweet and refreshing. This is what I came up with. I’m calling it a Cranberry Cooler. I served it as punch for Thanksgiving dinner, but I’m giving you measurements for a couple of tumblers.

First I made some cranberry infused simple syrup by combining 1 cp fresh cranberries, 2 cps sugar, 2 cps water and the peel of 1/2 orange (optional). Bring this to a boil until the berries get puffy, then strain mashing the berries.

Cranberry Cooler
3 tbsp Cranberry syrup
2 oz white rum
1 oz triple sec
1 oz orange juice
Juice of 1 lime

Mix all the ingredients and pour into 2 tumblers filled with ice. Top it off with diet ginger ale or sparkling water.

Oh yeah!

Lasagna for Tia Doria

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Tia (Aunt) Doria is one of my mom’s youngest sisters. About 22 years ago, I went to stay with her in Oklahoma after a bad fall that left her leg in a cast. To this day Doria claims I made her a lasagna with like 17 different cheeses. I keep telling her that’s not possible. I know this, because I don’t think I knew 17 types of cheeses back then. But, in her honor and at her request, here’s my version of my Mami’s Lasagna. It has 4 different cheeses: Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan and Ricotta, and homemade meat and bechamel sauces.

Now, I feel I should mention a few things about making lasagna. I don’t believe this is a difficult dish to make. It IS, however, labor intensive and step abundant. I make my own meat sauce, just getting it on the stove took me about 2 hours. That’s from beginning–roasting peppers and tomatoes and chopping ingredients–to end, once all the ingredients are in the pot and about to simmer. I think it was another hour to assemble the trays.

I like making the sauce a day ahead to allow all the flavors to come together. Then assemble the trays and put them in the fridge for a few hours to allow it settle in. This time I assembled the trays just a few hours after I finished simmering the meat sauce and it had come to room temperature. I didn’t bake the tray until the next day. So it hung out in the fridge for about 18-24 hours. Mind you, this step isn’t mandatory. I just picked that tip up when I worked in a kitchen.

All this said, it is a DELICIOUS recipe, well worth the effort. I hope you will try it. One last thing, yield. This recipe made enough for 1 full 9×13 tray, which gave us 12 healthy servings, and 1 more tray that only filled about 3/4 of the way. The servings from that will probably be closer to 9 or so. We’ve frozen the 2nd tray for future enjoyment. Now, without further ado, Doria, this one’s for you!

Meat Sauce Ingredients
2 lbs ground chuck
1/2 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cps onions, chopped (about 2 medium)
1 tbsp sea salt
1 cp carrots, finely diced (about 2 medium)
1 cp celery, finely diced (about 3 stalks)
2 cps button mushrooms, diced
1 cp red bell pepper (about 2 medium)
5 Roma tomatoes
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed (about 2 tsp garlic puree)
1 tsp black pepper
1-1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1-1/2 tsp dried basil
2 tsps sugar
3 bay leaves
1/2 cp parsley, chopped
2 cps red wine or beer
1 cp water
3 tbsp tomato paste

Roast the reds (optional) – You can roast the bell peppers and tomatoes over a stove burner. Get the skins scorched all the way around, then dunk in a bowl with cool water and peel. Remove the seeds from both, the tomatoes and peppers before dicing.

Heat up a large saucepan and add the ground beef, sausage and salt. Stir the salt in and make sure you break the meats apart, you want it to resemble coarse meal.  The moisture in the beef will come out, so initially it will cook in its own liquid. Once the liquid evaporates, you will be able to begin browning the meats.

As the meat browns over medium high heat, add the onions, carrots and celery, cook it until the onions begin to look translucent. Then add the mushrooms, garlic, black pepper, Italian seasoning, pepper flakes, basil and bay leaves. Mix all the herbs in before adding all the tomatoes, bell peppers and parsley. Stir it all very well, taking care to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any drippings that may be stuck. Now you can add the wine, water, sugar and paste; stir everything well and allow it to come to a boil.

Once this comes to a boil, bring temperature to low and cover it with a lid. Allow it to simmer stirring it occasionally. It will need to simmer for about an hour. Remove from the heat and let it cool.

Bechamel Sauce
Ingredients and Process
5 tbsp unsalted butter
5 tbsp flour
4 cps milk
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Heat up the milk in the microwave until it is very hot, you’ll be able to see vapors rising up. Keep it hot. In the meantime, in a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium heat until there is foam on the top. Add the flour at once, and stir quickly with a wire whisk. This will make a roux, however, you want to keep the mixture light in color–bechamel sauce is a white sauce. You need to allow the flour to cook, otherwise the raw flavor will come through in the sauce. The process of making the roux, will take about 6 minutes and will be lightly golden.

Add the milk as quickly as you can, while still whisking it in to avoid lumps. Once you have incorporated all the milk, season the sauce with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens, it will take about 15 minutes to achieve the consistency of soft yogurt. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Ricotta filling: Combine 2 cps of ricotta cheese with 2 eggs, 1/4 cp chopped parsley, 1/2 cp Parmesan cheese. Mix and set aside.


Lasagna Ingredients and Process:
1 lb lasagna noodles
1/2 lb Provolone cheese, sliced
2/3 lb Mozarella cheese, sliced
1 cp Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 lb Salami, sliced

Layering the Lasagna
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tbsp sea salt, 1 tbsp oil before adding the noodles. The oil will help prevent them from sticking to each other, but you should still stir them around a bit. Make sure you keep the water at a soft boil and cook noodles for about 8 to 10 minutes. You want the noodles to be pliable but still too firm to eat. Drain noodles and dump them into a bowl of cold water.

You need to make sure the noodles are completely dry before layering. I usually take them out of the cool water and lay them across a kitchen towel before setting them aside.

It’s assembly time! In a 9×13 baking dish, spread about a cup of meat sauce in the bottom. Arrange 3-4 noodles lengthwise over the sauce. Depending on the length of your noodles and dish, you may need to trim the end of the noodle to fit. Spread with enough bechamel sauce to cover the noodles, then top the bechamel with chopped salami. Now add another layer of noodles to cover. Top the second layer of noodles with the ricotta cheese mixture.  Now top the ricotta with more meat sauce, be more generous this time.

Top the meat sauce with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, then layer with provolone and mozzarella. And begin again with a layer of noodles with bechamel and salami between the 2 layers of noodles, then ricotta. The final layer will be meat sauce covered with cheeses. This is likely your last layer, so you can go a bit crazy with the cheeses.

I would recommend allowing the tray to settle for at least 3 hours in the fridge, longer if you have the time. Cover with a short layer of plastic wrap then foil.

Baking the lasagna
Preheat oven to 375. Remove the plastic wrap and cover loosely with the  foil, otherwise you’ll end up with all the cheese stuck to it. Bake for 25 minutes with foil, then remove foil and bake for 25 minutes more. Allow the tray to cool for about 15 minutes before cutting into it.