I always wanted to go to Spain. I mean who wouldn’t want to see the Sagrada Familia, or take a stroll along La Rambla in Barcelona? I would love totour the Alhambra in Granada, go tapas bar hopping in Madrid, watch the tapping of a flamenco dancer in Seville, admire the moorish architecture of Toledo, or relax on a sunny beach in Ibiza. And the food! I would love to eat paella, jamon serrano, churros con chocolate, turron…. Alas, it’s all still just a dream for me. Maybe someday I’ll finally make it to Spain. For now, the closest I can get is to prepare Spanish dishes like this one.
POLLO BASQUAISE (BASQUE CHICKEN)
12 small new potatoes, peeled or unpeeled (your choice)
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 – 4 dried Spanish chorizo sausages (like chorizo de Bilbao), cut diagonally into ¾-inch pieces
10-12 jarred piquillo peppers, drained and halved lengthwise
1 jar (5 ozs.) pimento-stuffed green olives, drained
1 can (15 ozs.) garbanzo beans, drained
Boil potatoes until cooked, drain, and set aside.
In an 8-quart Dutch oven or large, high-sided, cast iron skillet, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.
Add chorizo and cook, turning occasionally, until browned.
Transfer cooked chorizo to a large plate and set aside.
Add remaining olive oil to the pot and raise heat to medium-high.
Season chicken all over with salt and pepper, then add skin side down to pan.
Cook until skin is browned and chicken is cooked through, turning occasionally.
Transfer cooked chicken to the plate with the chorizo.
Lower heat to medium and add onion, garlic, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf.
Sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions become translucent.
Stir in tomato paste and diced tomatoes with the juice.
Cook, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Return the chorizo and chicken to the pot.
Add the wine and chicken stock, and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Add the potatoes, piquillo peppers, olives, and garbanzo beans.
Continue to cook, stirring well, until vegetables are heated through.
Serve hot with white rice.
Buy boneless, skinless chicken or remove the skin if you prefer not to eat it.
If you can’t find piquillo peppers, substitute 1 chopped fresh red bell pepper, and add it in when you add the wine and chicken stock.
You don’t have to use the whole jar of olives or the whole can of garbanzo beans. Feel free to use only as much as you want. Or omit them entirely if you prefer. Old Goat loves garbanzos and my kids love olives so I throw them all in.
I found out that today is National Sandwich Day. Who knew we had a day dedicated to sandwiches? I love sandwiches. They’re the easiest thing to pack for lunch, they’re adorable cut into dainty little shapes for tea, and our family road trips just wouldn’t be the same without a cooler of sandwiches and drinks in the trunk of the car.
It’s commonly believed that the sandwich was the invention of John Montagu who was the 4th Earl of Sandwich in England. I can’t vouch for the truth of that, but the story goes that Lord Sandwich was a notorious gambler. They say he spent long hours at the gaming tables and rather than get up to eat, he would ask the servants to bring him some sliced meat between two pieces of bread so he could hold the food in one hand and keep his cards in the other. His friends embraced the custom and when they got hungry, they would ask for “the same as Sandwich” and that’s how the sandwich got its auspicious beginnings.
Anyway, in deference to National Sandwich Day, I decided to make Croque Monsieur for dinner tonight. Croque Monsieur is typical French bistro fare. Fancy as its name is, it’s basically just a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with béchamel sauce and more cheese. It’s delicious served all hot and melty with a glass of wine or an ice cold beer. If you top a Croque Monsieur with a fried egg, you’ll have what’s called a Croque Madame. But that’s for another post.
CROQUE MONSIEUR (Makes 6 sandwiches)
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
pinch of ground nutmeg
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
12 slices firm white sandwich bread
room temperature butter for spreading on the bread slices
1 jar dijon mustard
6 ozs. thinly sliced Black Forest ham or Virginia ham
My sister-in-law, Anna, loves Biscuits and Gravy. It’s one of her favorite American breakfasts. Whenever she comes to visit, we always make sure to go out for breakfast and invariably, that’s what she orders. Biscuits and Gravy is an old American favorite, especially down south. It’s literally a biscuit topped with sausage gravy, sometimes also called Sawmill Gravy. For this recipe, instead of just baking my biscuits in the oven, I cooked them in a waffle iron. The little wells made by the waffle iron made perfect little pockets to catch more of the savory gravy. Yum! Added to that, they looked so darn cute! If you don’t have a waffle iron or you’re feeling lazy to pull it out, just bake your biscuits in the oven like normal.
WAFFLED BISCUITS AND GRAVY
1 lb. bulk breakfast sausage
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried sage, optional
1/4 tsp. pepper, or to taste
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
8 biscuits, homemade or purchased refrigerated biscuit dough (like Pillsbury)
butter for greasing the waffle iron
Brown sausage in a medium pot, breaking up with a spoon, until completely cooked.
Sprinkle in the flour and stir till flour is all absorbed.
Pour in the milk, stirring well.
Add green onions, sage, pepper, and salt. If using refrigerated biscuits, you may want to omit the salt because store-bought biscuits are pretty darn salty.
Continue to cook, stirring until thickened.
Cover and keep warm over low heat.
Preheat waffle iron on medium-high heat. Brush center lightly with melted butter.
Place 1 biscuit round into waffle iron and gently close without pushing down.
Cook halfway, then close lid completely and continue cooking until biscuits are golden and cooked through.
Repeat with remaining biscuits.
To serve, place a biscuit on a plate and top with sausage gravy.
Unlike its name, French Coconut Pie did not originate in France but was actually invented in America. Wherever it originated from, it’s one of the easiest pies you’ll ever make and tastes amazing to boot! You can make your own pie crust if you want to. I have a great recipe for homemade pie crust here. Or you could just purchase a ready-made pie shell from the grocery and save yourself some work. Either way, this pie turns out delicious! It’s literally a pie to die for.
FRENCH COCONUT PIE
3 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 deep-dish 9-inch pie shell, purchased or homemade
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Bake pie crust for 18-25 minutes until lightly golden on the edges.
Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl until well combined.
Pour filling into pre-baked pie crust. Crust doesn’t have to be cool for this step.
Bake 45-55 minutes or until lightly browned and custard is set.
Transfer pie to a wire rack to cool completely, at least 1 hour, before serving.
It’s blueberry season! Every year, my sister Helen takes her daughters blueberry picking with a bunch of their school friends and their families. They go to this blueberry farm up in the hills and have an absolute blast while they’re there. Helen’s youngest daughter, Sophie, is a little blueberry-picking speed-demon and can fill up a bucket faster than you can say blueberry pie!
Anyway, whenever they go, they always make sure to bring me back a bagful of the beautiful little blue gems. This year was no exception. The berries are always so sweet and juicy. If you’ve never had blueberries fresh off the bush, you’ve got to find a way to try some. Commercially sold blueberries are good, but they pale in comparison to these ones. I think it’s time for some Blueberry Buttermilk Cake!
BLUEBERRY BUTTERMILK CAKE
2 – 2½ cups fresh blueberries
3 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup demerara sugar (or white granulated sugar)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9×13-inch baking pan.
Place blueberries in a small bowl.
Take 2 tablespoons of the flour and toss it with the blueberries. Coating the blueberries with flour helps keep them from sinking to the bottom of the cake as it bakes.
Combine remaining flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
In another bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add vanilla and beat in eggs, one at a time.
Beat in the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, in three additions until completely combined.
Fold in blueberries.
Spread batter in prepared baking pan.
Sprinkle top evenly with demerara sugar.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cake can be served warm or cool completely before serving.
NOTE: If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own homemade buttermilk by placing 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a glass measuring cup. Add enough milk to the cup till it reaches the 1-cup line. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk with a wire whisk for a few seconds.
I saw Ina Garten make these crackers on Food TV and they looked so good that I just had to try them. I decided to make them for our next movie night. They were sort of a cross between a cracker and a savory shortbread. Delicious with a chilled glass of crisp, white wine. I think they’ll also make a great accompaniment to the cocktails at our next cocktail party. Yummm….. Definitely a keeper!
JALAPEÑO CHEDDAR CRACKERS
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
⅛ tsp. baking powder
1¾ sticks cold unsalted butter, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
5 ozs. extra sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated
1 Tbsp. minced and seeded jalapeño pepper
¼ tsp. chipotle chili powder
3 Tbsp. ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. milk, for egg wash
Fleur de sel or sea salt
Place the flour, kosher salt, and baking powder in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse to mix.
Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add the cheese, jalapeño, and chipotle chili powder and pulse again.
Add the ice water all at once and continue pulsing until the mixture begins to form a ball.
Dump the dough onto a floured board, gather and press it into a ball, then roll it into a 14-inch log.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400°F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Cut the dough in 3/8-inch thick slices.
Place the crackers on the prepared sheet pan, brush tops with egg wash, and sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel.
At work a couple of weeks ago, two of my friends and I were reminiscing about Spam. Verna is Hawaiian-Filipino and Kaileigh is Mexican-Filipino. Besides having Filipino blood in common, we all share a love of Spam. Anyway, Kaileigh was telling us about this really easy dish she makes called Chili con Spam and she shared her recipe with us.
Fast forward to today. School is officially over and 3 of my kids came home this morning. I decided to fix a late breakfast to feed everyone…. bacon, eggs, hash browns…. and then I thought it would be a perfect time to try the Chili con Spam recipe. I searched everywhere but couldn’t remember where I saved it! I decided to google it, but only ONE recipe for Chili con Spam came up. It was a recipe submitted by a lady in Guam named Jane Certeza who apparently took 2nd Place for it at The Great Spam Cook-Off Island Style. I looked at it but it had way more ingredients than I remembered Kaileigh’s recipe having so it couldn’t be the same one.
I decided to text Kaileigh and ask her for her recipe again which she promptly sent off to me. Ah…. that was the one I remembered! Super easy with just 4 ingredients. But then another obstacle came along. Kaileigh’s recipe called for yellow wax chilies which I didn’t have. Great. I didn’t want to drive all the way down the hill just for chilies and none of the kids did either. So with wails of, “But I just drove hours to get here, Mama. You want me to drive some more?!?” ringing in my ears, I turned back to the Guamanian recipe which I happened to have all the ingredients for in my pantry.
Guess I’ll have to save Kaileigh’s Chili con Spam for next time. Sigh……. By the way, the Guamanian Chili con Spam was a hit. Everyone loved it and it quickly disappeared.
CHILI CON SPAM
1 can (12 oz.) spam, cubed
1 small onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (15 oz.) stewed tomatoes
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. cumin (I only used 1 Tbsp.)
dash of black pepper
1½ tsp. sugar
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1 can (15 oz.) dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
In skillet, fry spam until light brown on all sides.
Add onions and garlic; sauté until onions are softened.
Stir in stewed tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, and sugar.
Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add tomato sauce and kidney beans.
Simmer over low heat for an additional 10 minutes or so.
I keep trying to create gluten free recipes for my daughter, Spunky. It’s not always easy though. Especially with baked goods. You usually have to use 2 or 3 different non-wheat flours, and add specialty ingredients like xanthan gum, guar gum, gelatin, or agar-agar. And some things just don’t turn out right when you try to convert them using commercial gluten free flours.
That’s why I was so happy to discover Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour at my local grocery store. My sour cream coffee cake turned out great with it! It really took the guesswork out of converting an old family favorite into a gluten free recipe. I decided to research and learned that there are other brands of cup-for-cup flour replacements out there like King Arthur Flour’s Gluten Free Measure for Measure Flour, or Cup4Cup Gluten Free Multipurpose Flour, but since Bob’s Red Mill is what my local grocery store carries, that’s what I used for this recipe. I’ll have to experiment and test the other brands someday. If you have a favorite cup-for-cup gluten free replacement flour, feel free to try it out with this recipe and then let me know how it turned out.
GLUTEN FREE SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE
2 cups Bob’s Red Mill gluten free 1-to-1 baking flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 10-inch tube pan or angel food cake pan.
Mix streusel ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
In another bowl, stir flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
With an electric mixer, cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla until fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Beat in flour mixture alternately with sour cream.
Spread half the batter in the pan, then sprinkle half the streusel over it. Top with the rest of the batter, and finish with the remaining streusel.
Bake for 30-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool cake in pan for 10-15 minutes, then loosen from sides of pan with a knife.
Remove cake from pan and place topping side up on a serving plate.
You can substitute buttermilk or yogurt in place of the sour cream in this recipe.
This cake can be made in a 9×13-inch rectangular baking pan. If you prefer to use a 9×13-inch pan, I would just pour all the batter into the pan and then sprinkle all the streusel on top. It’s a pain to make the layers, though it can certainly be done. Just bear in mind that you’ll have to spread the batter really thinly if you want layers.
Wedge Salad is a typical salad served at classic American steak houses as a starter to your meal. It’s traditionally served with crumbled blue cheese and blue cheese dressing, but blue cheese isn’t one of my kids’ favorite cheeses. I love wedge salad, though, so here’s a version I make for them without any blue cheese in it. If you find you’re really missing the blue cheese flavor, go ahead and sprinkle some crumbled blue cheese on your salad. It’s all good!
(Makes 4 servings)
1 small head iceberg lettuce
6 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 slices sturdy white bread, crusts removed
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
garlic salt, to taste (optional)
1 small tomato, chopped
1/4 small red onion, very thinly sliced
chives, minced (for garnish)
Cut the lettuce into 4 wedges and place them in the refrigerator to keep cold until ready to use.
Fry the bacon until crisp, then transfer to paper towels to drain.
Dice the white bread into small cubes, a little less than a half-inch big.
Melt butter or margarine in a skillet and fry bread cubes, stirring often, until golden and crispy.
Season bread cubes with garlic salt to taste, if desired.
Assemble the salad by placing one wedge of lettuce on each of 4 salad plates.
Pour some dressing over each wedge.
Top with a little tomato, onion, bacon, and croutons.
Garnish with minced chives, if desired.
BACON BUTTERMILK DRESSING
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
Place all ingredients into bowl of a food processor and process until combined.
Chill until ready to serve.
NOTE: Dressing can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept chilled in the fridge.
Maja Blanca is a traditional Filipino dessert. It’s kindof like a coconut pudding studded with kernels of corn. It sounds strange to think of coconut and corn together, but believe me this dessert is sooo good, you’ll find yourself coming back for seconds and thirds. I think Maja Blanca is traditionally topped with latik which is basically coconut milk curds. To make latik, you bring some coconut milk to a simmer and keep simmering till the oil separates from the milk solids which eventually start to fry in the oil and and turn into little brown curds. It’s a lot of work. My shredded coconut topping is way easier.
When you shop for the canned milks for this recipe, you’ll need to buy:
4 cans (13.5 oz. each) coconut milk
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
From the 4 cans of coconut milk, you’ll be able to get 5 cups for the 1st Mixture, but you won’t have enough left over to make 2 cups for the 2nd Mixture. Never fear. What you’re going to do is pour the last of the coconut milk into your 2-cup measure and then add enough of the liquid drained from the whole kernel corn to make 2 cups.
Same thing with the evaporated milk. You won’t have enough in the can to make 2 cups but it’s not worth opening a whole ‘nother can when you’re just a little bit short, so pour the evaporated milk into your measuring cup and then add enough corn liquid drained from the whole kernel corn to make the 2 cups that you’ll need for the 1st Mixture. If you run out of corn liquid, go ahead and use water. It’ll be fine.
5 cups coconut milk
2 cups evaporated milk
2 cups sugar
1 can (14¾ oz.) cream-style corn
1 can (15.25 oz.) whole kernel corn, drain and reserve the liquid
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups cornstarch
Grease a rectangular pyrex glass baking dish or metal baking pan with butter or margarine.
Mix all the ingredients of the 1st Mixture together in a large pot.
In a bowl, mix together the ingredients of the 2nd Mixture using a wire whisk until smooth.
Bring 1st Mixture to a boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally.
When boiling, pour the 2nd Mixture into the pot, scraping it all in with a rubber spatula, and continue to cook, stirring constantly until thick. The mixture will thicken really fast so this step is best done by two people. One person to stir the pot while the other person pours the 2nd Mixture into it.
Quickly pour maja into prepared baking pan.
Toasted Sweet Coconut Topping:
1 cup fresh grated coconut
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine
Melt butter in a frying pan.
Add grated coconut and sugar and toast, stirring constantly until golden brown. Watch carefully because the coconut burns fast!
Sprinkle toasted sweet coconut over maja blanca.
NOTE: If you can’t get fresh grated coconut, you can substitute unsweetened dessicated coconut. If you can’t get unsweetened dessicated coconut, you can use sweetened dessicated coconut but cut the 1/2 cup sugar down to 2 tablespoons.
This is a big recipe so it’s great for potlucks or family gatherings. It makes enough to fill a 9×13 rectagular baking dish with enough left over to fill an 8-inch round pie plate. If you have a dish bigger than 9×13, use it.