Hamentaschen

Hamentaschen are triangular-shaped pastries that are traditionally eaten during the Jewish holiday of Purim. I remember from my childhood my Mom and my Grandmom baking these delicious cookies for Purim. Since then I made them with my Mom many times. Hope you enjoy this family recipe.

The Origin of Hamantaschen

“Hamantaschen” is a Yiddish word meaning “Haman’s pockets.” Haman is the villain in the Purim story, which appears in the Biblical Book of Esther. “Hamantaschen” is a Yiddish word meaning “Haman’s pockets.” Haman is the villain in the Purim story, which appears in the Biblical Book of Esther. In the story, Haman is the Grand Vizier of Persia and a rabid anti-Semite. When Mordechai, a Jewish member of the king’s court and relative of Queen Esther, refuses to bow down to Haman, the Grand Vizier plots to have all the Jews in the kingdom massacred. However, Queen Esther and Mordechai discover Haman’s plot and are able to foil it. In the end, Haman is executed on the gallows he planned to use on Mordechai.

Information and photo credit

Jews eat hamantaschen on Purim as part of the celebration of the holiday, which commemorates how Jews escaped Haman’s dastardly plans.

One explanation for the triangular shape of these pastries is that Haman wore a three-cornered hat. Another explanation is that the three corners represent Queen Esther’s strength and the founders of Judaism: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Popular fillings for hamantaschen are fruit marmalade, cheese or poppy seeds. The poppy seeds are sometimes said to represent all the bribe money Haman collected.

Hamantaschen are also called “oznay Haman,” which means “Haman’s ears” in Hebrew.

For the dough:

  • 200 gm cold unsalted butter
  • 150 gm sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • pinch of salt
  • 100 gm sugar
  • 1 packet vanilla sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Godiva chocolate liquor (or cognac, other liquor or vodka)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda mixed with 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • flour – as much as needed to make the soft dough

 

For the filling:

  •  1/2 lemon finely grated zest
  • 1 lb jam of your choice (peach, plum, apricot, cherry)
  • 1 lb nuts of your choice (walnuts, pecans or almonds)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or more depending on the sweetness of the jam you are using

Optional: Confectioners sugar for dusting

How to make Hamentaschen:

1. In a large bowl add some flour – about 2 cups and grate the butter, mix periodically as you grate the butter to make the base.

2. Add all other ingredients, mix all with a wooden spoon.

3. Add more flour as needed to make the soft dough. It is even easier to use the standing mixer to make the dough.

4. Form the dough into 4 balls, cover with plastic wrap and place in a fridge for at least an hour.

5. Roll out the dough into circles (not too thin)

6. Using a round cookie cutter or a glass cut out circles. In the middle of each circle place about 1 teaspoon of mixture and shape into hamentaschen.

7. Place hamentaschen on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper and bake in preheated oven to 350F  for 25-30 minutes or till slightly golden. Baking time will vary on the oven.

8. Cool completely on a wire rack and dust generously with confectioners sugar.

Enjoy!

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Hamentaschen
 
Prep time
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Hamentaschen cookies for Purim
Author:
Recipe type: Desert
Cuisine: Jewish
Serves: 35
Ingredients
  • For the dough:
  • 200 gm cold unsalted butter
  • 150 gm sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • pinch of salt
  • 100 gm sugar
  • 1 packet vanilla sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Godiva chocolate liquor (or cognac, other liquor or vodka)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda mixed with 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • flour - as much as needed to make the soft dough
  • For the filling:
  • ½ lemon finely grated zest
  • 1 lb jam of your choice (peach, plum, apricot, cherry)
  • 1 lb nuts of your choice (walnuts, pecans or almonds)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or more depending on the sweetness of the jam you are using
  • Optional: Confectioners sugar for dusting
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl add some flour - about 2 cups and grate the butter, mix periodically as you grate the butter to make the base.
  2. Add all other ingredients, mix all with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add more flour as needed to make the soft dough. It is even easier to use the standing mixer to make the dough.
  4. Form the dough into 4 balls, cover with plastic wrap and place in a fridge for at least an hour.
  5. Roll out the dough into circles (not too thin)
  6. Using a round cookie cutter or a glass cut out circles. In the middle of each circle place about 1 teaspoon of mixture and shape into hamentaschen.
  7. Place hamentaschen on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper and bake in preheated oven to 350F for 25-30 minutes or till slightly golden. Baking time will vary on the oven.
  8. Cool completely on a wire rack and dust generously with confectioners sugar.

 

 

Mango Lassi

Mango Lassi

During my recent trip to Europe, while eating breakfast at the hotel, among all juices, smoothies and other drinks was this glass pitcher with luscious looking concoction. The sign next to it said “Mango Lassi”. If it has mango, it’s got to be good, right? This, of course, applies to mango lovers, which I happened to be. I was intrigued and I had to try it. As you can already predict, I wouldn’t be writing about it if it wasn’t good. I have to tell you more – it was that good that I had to replicate it at home myself, so my family could enjoy it as well.

mango-lassi-8

Apparently, Lassi (pronounced [ləs-siː]) is a popular, traditional, yogurt-based drink from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. In the past month or so I tried a few different variations of this drink and this is the one that I will re-use from now on. This one is a combination of a few different recipes I tried and fine-tuned it in my opinion to perfection!

The key to achieving the most delicious mango lassi it to use the fresh, ripest mangoes you can find. The ripeness of the fruit will contribute to a beautiful golden color and an irresistible aroma and flavor of the drink.

Mango Lassi

Ingredients:

3 ripe mangoes
1.5 cups flavored or plain low fat yogurt
1 cup warm low-fat (1%) milk
1/2 cup pineapple coconut ice cream
2 tablespoons honey
pinch of ground cardamom
pinch of saffron threads
1 teaspoon rose water
2 mango wedges or slices (for garnish)

How to make Mango Lassi:

1. Start by placing a pinch of saffron threads in warm milk. Set aside.

mango-lassi-2

2. Wash and peel mangoes.

mango-lassi-3

3. Slice mangoes.

mango-lassi-4

4. Place mango slices (reserve a few for garnish) and all other ingredients into a blender and process till everything is smooth and frothy. I use”Smoothie” setting on my Vitamix and it does a wonderful job.

mango-lassi-5

5. In just a few minutes you will have a divine drink. Poor into glasses, garnish with reserved mango slices and serve. If not using immediately,  transfer into a glass container and refrigerate.

mango-lassi-7

Combination of silky, ripe mangoes, creamy yogurt and a bit of ice cream are the keys to getting the decadent texture of this drink just right.

mango-lassi-6

This drink is so versatile! Have it for breakfast, drink it for desert after a meal or enjoy it anytime you feel like it :)

mango-lassi-9

Cheers!

Enjoy :)

dina-signature

Mango Lassi
 
Prep time
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Delicious mango lassi that boosts a beautiful golden color and an irresistible aroma and flavor.
Author:
Recipe type: Drinks
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 3 ripe mangoes
  • 1.5 cups flavored or plain low fat yogurt
  • 1 cup warm low-fat (1%) milk
  • ½ cup pineapple coconut ice cream
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • pinch of ground cardamom
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon rose water
  • 2 mango wedges or slices (for garnish)
Instructions
  1. Start by placing a pinch of saffron threads in warm milk. Set aside.
  2. Wash and peel mangoes.
  3. Slice mangoes.
  4. Place mango slices (reserve a few for garnish) and all other ingredients into a blender and process till everything is smooth and frothy. I use”Smoothie” setting on my Vitamix and it does a wonderful job.
  5. In just a few minutes you will have a divine drink. Poor into glasses, garnish with reserved mango slices and serve. If not using immediately, transfer into a glass container and refrigerate.

 

Glazed Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

What to do with overripe bananas, which are unless used up quickly, alas end up not being used at all? This is what I do and I truly think this is a perfect “overripe banana saving” solution. And the solution is – baking a scrumptious, pecan-rasins-filled cake! And that is exactly what I did past weekend, but I am just getting around to creating this blog post and sharing with our readers a recipe for this easy to bake, full of flavor and good for you things that go into this cake.

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

This recipe which I worked out to perfection results in delicious, moist and last, but not least – gorgeous cake.

While the intent of this post is not to educate you on the health benefits of certain foods, from time to time I like to to do some research about why certain foods or ingredients are or are not good and equipped with that knowledge I then fine-tune the recipes making sure I use only the best possible components in the food I make for my family.

So I thought I’d share just a few interesting facts for the three staple components of this cake — bananas, pecans, and raisins.

 

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

Bananas: High-potassium food, and one medium banana does pack more than 400 mg of this heart-healthy mineral, which helps to prevent against high blood pressure and reduce stress. Bananas contain tryptophan a protein the body converts into serotonin. The more serotonin in the your brain the more your mood improves. Bananas are also the ultimate hunger buster, packed with resistant starch, a healthy carb that fills you up and helps to boost your metabolism.

Pecans: Pecans are the most antioxidant-rich tree nut and are among the top 15 foods to contain the highest antioxidant capacity. Eating a handful of pecans will also provide you with more than 19 vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and several B vitamins and they are naturally cholesterol-free and sodium-free.

Raisins: A low fat and high energy snack, raisins pack a high dose of antioxidants. Antioxidants play an important role in protecting the body’s cells from damaging compounds. Studies have shown that antioxidants may act as an anti-aging tool for the body and the brain. Some studies have also shown that antioxidants may help to prevent serious diseases like cancer. Raisins can also help to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. While adding raisins to a daily diet can be beneficial to men and women alike, women can reap extra benefits. Raisins contain high levels of Boron, which is a substance that is essential for bone health. Boron is an important substance for women to help fight the onset of Osteoporosis.

 Ingredients for the cake:

1/3 cup butter (room temperature)
1/4 cup kefir or buttermilk
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 medium overripe bananas (pureed)
1/2 cup pecans -  (toasted and cut into small pieces)
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

 

Ingredients for the glaze and topping:

1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
2-3 table spoons whole milk
1/2 cup pecans -  (toasted and cut into small pieces)

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

You will also need a bundt pan like the one shown below or you can certainly use a different one or even a loaf pan (only then you will have a bread and not a cake:)

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

 

How to make Glazed Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins:

1.  In a bowl of stand mixer or using a an electric hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar.

2. Add to the butter and sugar mixture kefir or buttermilk (which ever you are using) and mix well on medium speed.

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

3. In a separate small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add all to the big ball, then add eggs, sugar,  and vanilla extract.

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

4. In a food processor puree bananas. You can also just mash them with a fork by hand. Small pieces are OK and won’t affect the result.

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

5. Toast the pecans constantly mixing them till fragrant and start to develop deep brown color. Should only take a few minutes.

6. Chop toasted pecans into small pieces.

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

7. Add to the bowl with previously mixed ingredients pureed bananas, 1/2 cup chopped pecans and raisins. Combine everything well. I usually use the hand-mixer set to the lowest speed.

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

8. Preheat oven to 350F.

9. Meanwhile, prepare the pan in which you will be baking the cake. I use a bundt pan by Nordic Ware. A link to this pan is available on our Shop page under Bakeware and Baking Accessories. Alternatively, if you wish to purchase this pan, please use this direct link to Amazon.com.

10. Butter and flour well the bundt pan. Turn over the pan over the sink to remove flour access.

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

11. Poor the cake batter into the pan.

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

12. Place the cake in the preheated oven on the middle rack and bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes. Use a cake taster or a thin knife to test the inside of the cake before removing from the oven. Insert the cake taster into the middle of the cake. It should not have any uncooked batter when you remove it.

13. Remove baked cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

14. Turn over the pan to remove the cake. If you buttered and floured the pan well, you shouldn’t have any trouble with this step.

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

15. Next, make the glaze by simply mixing together confectioner’s sugar and milk. Poor the glaze over the top of the cake.

16. Top with toasted pieces of pecans.

All done!

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

Cut into pieces and joy with some tea or coffee.

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

I really do hope you will try baking this delicious cake! And I would be delighted to know what you think of it:)

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

My son and I enjoyed this cake on a sunny Sunday afternoon outside on the deck. It was perfect!

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

Here is another variation of this cake, which I baked some time ago. It is the same cake, only instead of glazing it and topping with pecans, I decorated it with confectioner’s sugar and strawberries. Same delicious cake, just under a different “makeup” :)

Banana Cake with Pecans and Raisins

Enjoy!

dina-signature

 

Stuffed Mushrooms

stuffed-mushrooms-10

The mushroom lives in its own biological kingdom. That means it is not a plant, so it has a very different nutrition profile to that of fruit and vegetables. Whatever your favorite mushrooms are – crimini, enoki, oyster, portobello, shiitake or white button – all mushrooms are loaded with essential nutrients!

Stuffed Mushrooms

Some of the many health benefits of mushrooms are:
- Weight management: Substituting red meat with white button mushrooms can help enhance weight loss.
- Improved nutrition: Mushroom consumption is associated with better diet quality and improved nutrition.
- Mushrooms consumption help with increasing vitamin D levels through your diet. Mushrooms are the only non-animal food to have natural vitamin D, generated automatically when they are exposed to light.
- The mushroom has all the attributes of a superfood – nutrient-rich, flavor-rich, low in kilojoules, high in bioactive compounds, antioxidants, convenient and affordable.

Information regarding mushroom health benefits – Retrieved on August 31, 2013

Stuffed mushrooms are a fabulous appetizer for any occasion. The recipe I am happy to share with our readers today is worth a try!

Ingredients:

8 large white mushrooms
1.3 pound ground beef
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic1 egg yolk from a large egg
1/2 cup white cooking wine
10 ounces cream cheese

8 ounces yellow cheddar cheese
1/2 cup basting oil
salt and pepper to taste
small bunch of parsley for garnish

Stuffed Mushrooms

How to prepare stuffed mushrooms:

1. Wash mushrooms in cold water, then pat dry gently with a paper towel. Cut off stems. Set mushroom cups aside.

2. Finely chop mushroom stems and set aside.

Stuffed Mushrooms

3. In a dutch oven crumble the ground meet and brown it (no oil needed). Once done, remove from the dutch oven, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.

4. Finely dice onion and garlic. To the same dutch oven where you browned the ground meet, add onions and cook on medium heat till translucent (about 2 minutes), then add garlic and cook for another minute or so.

5. Pour white cooking wine to deglaze the bottom of the dutch oven, cook till liquid evaporates.

Stuffed Mushrooms

6. Now add chopped mushroom stems, season with salt and pepper to taste, mix everything and cook for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and transfer the mixture to a plate to cool.

7. Shred the cheddar cheese. In a separate small bowl mix egg yolk, cream cheese and shredded cheddar cheese.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms

8. Add mushroom stems/onion mixture to a bowl with cooled meet, mix then add cheese/egg yolk mixture. Mix well.

9. Poor 2 table spoons of basting oil into a baking dish and using a pastry brush, oil the bottom of the dish.

Stuffed Mushrooms

10. Preheat oven to 350F.

11. Meanwhile, using the same pastry brush, oil the outside of each mushroom cup.

12. Spoon stuffing into the cavity of each mushroom cup creating a mound over the top. Press lightly while stuffing. Arrange stuffed mushrooms in a baking dish.

Stuffed Mushrooms

13. Bake stuffed mushrooms at 350F for 25 minutes or until golden-brown color develops.

Stuffed Mushrooms

14. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a serving platter.

15. Finely chop parsley leaves and garnish the stuffed mushrooms.

Stuffed Mushrooms

These mushrooms are full of goodness and favor!

Stuffed Mushrooms

 

Enjoy!

dina-signature

Stuffed Mushrooms
 
Prep time
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Stuffed mushrooms are a fabulous appetizer for any occasion. The recipe I am happy to share with our readers today is worth a try!
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 8 large white mushrooms
  • 1.3 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic1 egg yolk from a large egg
  • ½ cup white cooking wine
  • 10 ounces cream cheese
  • 8 ounces yellow cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup basting oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • small bunch of parsley for garnish
Instructions
  1. Wash mushrooms in cold water, then pat dry gently with a paper towel. Cut off stems. Set mushroom caps aside.
  2. Finely chop mushroom stems and set aside.
  3. In a dutch oven crumble the ground meet and brown (no oil needed). Once done, remove from the dutch oven and transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.
  4. Finely dice onion and garlic. To the same dutch oven where you browned the ground meet, add onions, cook on medium heat till translucent (about 2 minutes), then add garlic and cook for another minute or so.
  5. Pour white cooking wine to deglaze the bottom of the dutch oven, cook till liquid evaporates.
  6. Now add chopped mushroom stems, season with salt and pepper to taste, mix everything and cook for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and transfer the mixture to a plate to cool.
  7. Shred the cheddar cheese. In a separate small bowl mix together egg yolk, cream cheese and shredded cheddar cheese.
  8. Add mushroom stems/onion mixture to a bowl with cooled meet, mix then add cheese/egg yolk mixture. Mix well.
  9. Poor 2 table spoons of basting oil into a baking dish and using a pastry brush oil the bottom of the dish.
  10. Preheat oven to 350F.
  11. Meanwhile, using the same pastry brush, oil the outside of each mushroom cup creating a mound over the top. Press lightly while stuffing.
  12. Spoon stuffing into the cavity of each mushroom cup. Arrange mushrooms in a baking dish.
  13. Bake stuffed mushrooms at 350F for 25 minutes or until golden-brown color develops.
  14. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a serving platter.
  15. Finely chop parsley leaves and garnish the stuffed mushrooms.

 

Crème Brûlée

creme-brule-featured

Ever since I was a child, before I even knew what it is, hearing these two words - Crème brûlée made me envision something incredibly delicious and unique…. and my intuition didn’t disappoint me!

Crème Brûlée

While this classic French desert is really easy to prepare, a combination of baked cream-rich custard infused with vanilla and then topped with a thin crust of caramelized sugar produces a divine sweet concoction! Creme brulee has become one of my staple deserts which I love to make for my family and friends.

Crème Brûlée

Recipe source: Adapted from Alton Brown’s Crème Brûlée

Ingredients:
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
seasonal berries for decorating (optional)
some hot water

Crème Brûlée

 

The key ingredient in this Creme Brulee is the real vanilla bean. Did you know that Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron because growing the vanilla seed pods is labor-intensive. I was able to purchase premium Bourbon-Madagascar Vanilla Beans from Amazon for a reasonable price. For your convenience, we’ve included a link to a Gourmet Food page within the Shop section of our blog. Or, alternatively, if you’d like to purchase real vanilla beans for making Creme Brulle and your other culinary, needs, please use this direct link.

 

Crème Brûlée

 

How to make Crème Brûlée:
1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
2. Split vanilla bean in half and scrape out the pulp.
3. While the oven is preheating, place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
4. Remove saucepan from the heat, cover with a lid, thus preventing a film to form and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
5. Remove the vanilla bean from the cream and poor the creme through a mesh colander so filter out the vanilla pulp.

 

Crème Brûlée

 

Alton Brown suggests instead of discarding the vanilla bean to rinse it and place in a container with some sugar. Over time, the sugar will absorb the wonderful aroma and flavor of the vanilla bean and you will have a vanilla sugar for your baking needs or even to use when making Creme Brulle.

 

6.Take six large eggs and separate whites from yolks. Reserve whites for another use such as a healthy whites only omelet or make meringue cookies. Place yolks in a bowl.

 

Crème Brûlée

 

7. Add 1/2 cup of sugar to the bowl with yolks.

 

Crème Brûlée

 

8. Now whisk yolks and sugar until well blended and starts to lighten in color. You can use it by hand or use a hand electric mixer on a low speed.

 

Crème Brûlée

 

9. While stirring continually, little by little whisk in cream.

 

Crème Brûlée

 

You should now have a light frothy liquid that will be baked to become a creme brulee.

 

Crème Brûlée

 

10. Pour the liquid into individual ramekins that have capacity of 7 to 8-ounce. You should end up with about 8 to 10 individual creme brulee’s.

 

Crème Brûlée

 

11. Place the ramekins into a large roasting pan and pour enough hot water into the pan, so that it goes up to the halfway of the sides of the ramekins.

 

Crème Brûlée

 

12. Bake creme brulee for 45 minutes on the middle rack of your oven. After 45 minutes, your creme brulee should be lightly-golden in color, sides will be set and the center will be slightly fluid. Even if you think it needs more time in the oven – take it out anyway! As it cools down, creme brulee will set further.

 

Crème Brûlée

 

13. Remove the ramekins from the pan and let them cool till they come to a room temperature. Or you can refrigerate creme brulee for a couple of hours. You’ll want the creme to be cool before using the toarch for the caramelized top coat.
14. Use the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and distribute more or less equally among all of the ramekins. Lightly shake each ramekin to create an even sugary coat.
15. Now perform a little magic – using a torch, melt the sugar on top to form a crispy sweet top.

 

Crème Brûlée

 

If you don’t have a torch, I recommend you check out BonJour Chef’s Torch.
This is the exactly one I used and I am very happy with the ease of use and the results if produces.
As the sugar melts, you will see little golden bubbles appear – pretty!

 

Crème Brûlée

 

16. Let the creme brulee to sit for a few minutes, so that the top coat dries out a bit, if desired, decorate with berries and serve.

 

Crème Brûlée

 

Doesn’t this look beautiful? I would be happy to know if you like it.

 

Crème Brûlée

 

Crème Brûlée

 

Crème Brûlée

 

Enjoy!

dina-signature

Crème Brûlée
 
Baked cream-rich custard infused with vanilla and then topped with a thin crust of caramelized sugar
Author:
Recipe type: Classic French Desert
Cuisine: Frendh
Ingredients
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • seasonal berries for decorating (optional)
  • some hot water
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
  2. Split vanilla bean in half and scrape out the pulp.
  3. While the oven is preheating, place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
  4. Remove saucepan from the heat, cover with a lid, thus preventing a film to form and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the vanilla bean from the cream and poor the creme through a mesh colander so filter out the vanilla pulp.
  6. Take 6 large eggs and separate whites from yolks. Reserve whites for another use such as a healthy whites only omelet or make meringue cookies. Place yolks in a bowl.
  7. Add ½ cup of sugar to the bowl with yolks.
  8. Now whisk yolks and sugar until well blended and starts to lighten in color. You can use it by hand or use a hand electric mixer on a low speed.
  9. While stirring continually, little by little whisk in cream.
  10. Pour the liquid into individual ramekins that have capacity of 7 to 8-ounce. You should end up with about 8 to 10 individual creme brulee’s.
  11. Place the ramekins into a large roasting pan and pour enough hot water into the pan, so that it goes up to the halfway of the sides of the ramekins.
  12. Bake creme brulee for 45 minutes on the middle rack of your oven. After 45 minutes, your creme brulee should be lightly-golden in color, sides will be set and the center will be slightly fluid. Even if you think it needs more time in the oven – take it out anyway! As it cools down, creme brulee will set further.
  13. Remove the ramekins from the pan and let them cool till they come to a room temperature. Or you can refrigerate creme brulee for a couple of hours. You’ll want the creme to be cool before using the toarch for the caramelized top coat.
  14. Use the remaining ½ cup of sugar and distribute more or less equally among all of the ramekins. Lightly shake each ramekin to create an even sugary coat.
  15. Now perform a little magic – using a torch, melt the sugar on top to form a crispy sweet top.
  16. Let the creme brulee to sit for a few minutes, so that the top coat dries out a bit, if desired, decorate with berries and serve.

 

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone / Fage Total Greek Yogurt Cream

honey-roasted-apricot-tart-featured

Making this stunning desert was a pure joy for me. Sweet French crust filled with light silky–smooth cream and topped with beautiful honey roasted apricots and crunchy toasted almonds. Mmmmm… Delightful tart that is sure to impress your sight and taste buds.

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

I am so thankful to Sylvia Fountaine for this recipe! Sylvia runs “Feasting at Home” blog and ALL her creations are truly amazing including her Honey Roasted Apricots Tart which I adapted. While I made slight adjustments to her recipe, the core recipe for the crust and filling was followed to a ‘T’.

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

 Ingredients:

For the Pate Sucree Crust (will yield 2 tart crusts)

  • 1/4 cups half-and-half
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 and 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cups sugar plus 4 table spoons
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

For the Honey Roasted Apricots

  • 1/2 cup honey (divided)
  • 10-12- apricots (depending on how large they are)

For the Mascarpone / Fage Total Greek Yogurt Cream

  • 1 container (8 oz) Mascarpone Cheese
  • 1 cup Fage Total Greek Yogurt 0% fat (plain or vanilla)
  • 1/2 cup toasted almond silvers

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

Start with making the pate sucree crust. If you have a food processor -  making the crust is a piece of cake, or should I say a piece of tart, since this is what we are making? Making the crust by hand is relatively easy as well.

1. Add to a large bowl all dry ingredients – flour, sugar, salt and mix to combine.

2. Add chunks of butter. Make sure the butter is very cold. Best to keep it refrigerated till you are ready to use it.

3. In a small bowl, beat egg yolks and half-and-half.

4. Gradually add beaten egg and half-and-half mixture and mix till the dough forms. Do not over mix.

5. Take the dough out of the bowl and place on a floured surface. Form into ball.

6. Divide the ball of dough into two. Knead lightly into two smaller balls, press down on the balls to form disks, wrap in food wrap.

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

7. Refrigerate one disk of dough for 10-15 minutes. This will make the dough firm and easier to work with the crust.

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

8. Place second dough disk into freezer to use another time (great time saver when you need to make a desert and don’t have a lot of time!)

9. After 10-15 minutes take the dough out of the refrigerator, unwrap it and place on a floured surface. Roll it out to a ¼ inch thickness rolling into circle shape that is slightly larger than the diameter of the tart pan you are using. It should be about 10 inches in diameter.

10. Wrap the dough on the rolling pin and transfer into the tart pan trying to place it so the dough covers the tart.

11. Preheat an oven to 400F.

12. Gently press the dough into the tart pan – bottom and sides, making sure there is a slight overhang on the sides, since the dough will slightly shrink in baking. If any tears occur, just patch it with your fingers.

13. Use fork to prick the bottom and sides, so the crust stays flat and doesn’t puff up.

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

14. Bake the crust in the preheated to 400F oven for 25 minutes or until golden color develops.

15. Take baked crust out of the oven and cool completely in the tart pan.

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

16. Time to roast the apricots! In a small sauce pan poor ½ cup of honey heat till it becomes liquid. It should only take a few minutes.

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

17. Wash apricots, cut in half and remove pits.

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

18. Place halves of apricots into baking dish, open side up and poor all but 3 table spoons of honey on apricots. Use a pastry brush to pick up honey from the dish and brush on apricots making sure they are all nicely coated.

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

19. Roast apricots at 400F for about 7 minutes. If apricots you are using very firm, you might need to toast for additional few minutes. Keep an eye on them as if kept in the oven for too long, they will become mushy. Half way through the roasting process, take the pan out, turn the apricots over and picking up the honey from the bottom of the pan, brush it on apricots.

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

20. Remove roasted apricots and let cool for a few minutes. Then transfer from a pan on to a plate and cool completely.

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

21. Place silvers of almonds into a small pan and roast on medium heat constantly stirring till fragrant and nicely toasted – about 3 minutes.

22. Using a hand electric mixer on low speed of my hand mix mascarpone cheese (room temperature) with 3 table spoons of honey and Fage Total Greek yogurt.

23. Fill completely cooled tart crust with cream and smooth out the top.

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

24. Place halves of roasted apricots on top of the cream arranging them nicely.

25. Sprinkle with toasted almond silvers and drizzle some of the remaining honey from the toasted apricots over the entire tart.

26. Cool the tart in the refrigerator for an hour and serve.

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

My family really enjoyed this delicious desert!

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone/Fage Total Greek Yogurt Filling

Enjoy:)

dina-signature

Honey Roasted Apricots and Almonds Tart with Mascarpone / Fage Total Greek Yogurt Cream
 
Sweet French crust filled with light silky–smooth cream and topped with beautiful honey roasted apricots and crunchy toasted almonds.
Author:
Recipe type: Desert
Cuisine: French
Ingredients
  • For the Pate Sucree Crust (will yield 2 tart crusts)
  • ¼ cups half-and-half
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 and ¾ cups flour
  • ¼ cups sugar plus 4 table spoons
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • For the Honey Roasted Apricots
  • ½ cup honey (divided)
  • 10-12- apricots (depending on how large they are)
  • For the Mascarpone / Fage Total Greek Yogurt Cream
  • 1 container ( 8 oz) Mascarpone Cheese
  • 1 cup Fage Total Greek Yogurt 0% fat (plain or vanilla)
  • ½ cup toasted almond silvers
Instructions
  1. Start with making the pate sucree crust. If you have a food processor – making the crust is a piece of cake, or should I say a piece of tart, since this is what we are making? Making the crust by hand is relatively easy as well. Add to a large bowl all dry ingredients – flour, sugar, salt and mix to combine
  2. Add chunks of butter. Make sure the butter is very cold. Best to keep it refrigerated till you are ready to use it.
  3. In a small bowl, beat egg yolks and half-and-half..
  4. Gradually add beaten egg and half-and-half.mixture and mix till the dough forms. Do not over mix.
  5. Take the dough out of the bowl and place on a floured surface. Form into ball.
  6. Divide the ball of dough into two. Knead lightly into two smaller balls, press down on the balls to form disks, wrap in food wrap.
  7. Refrigerate one disk of dough for 10-15 minutes. This will make the dough firm and easier to work with the crust.
  8. Place second dough disk into freezer to use another time (great time saver when you need to make a desert and don’t have a lot of time!)
  9. After 10-15 minutes take the dough out of the refrigerator, unwrap it and place on a floured surface. Roll it out to a ¼ inch thickness rolling into circle shape that is slightly larger than the diameter of the tart pan you are using. It should be about 10 inches in diameter.
  10. Wrap the dough on the rolling pin and transfer into the tart pan trying to place it so the dough covers the tart.
  11. Preheat an oven to 400F.
  12. Gently press the dough into the tart pan – bottom and sides, making sure there is a slight overhang on the sides, since the dough will slightly shrink in baking. If any tears occur, just patch it with your fingers.
  13. Use fork to prick the bottom and sides, so the crust stays flat and doesn’t puff up.
  14. Bake the crust in the preheated to 400F oven for 25 minutes or until golden color develops.
  15. Take baked crust out of the oven and cool completely in the tart pan.
  16. Time to roast the apricots! In a small sauce pan poor ½ cup of honey heat till it becomes liquid. It should only take a few minutes.
  17. Wash apricots, cut in half and remove pits.
  18. Place halves of apricots into baking dish, open side up and poor all but 3 table spoons of honey on apricots. Use a pastry brush to pick up honey from the dish and brush on apricots making sure they are all nicely coated.
  19. Roast apricots at 400F for about 7 minutes. If apricots you are using very firm, you might need to toast for additional few minutes. Keep an eye on them as if kept in the oven for too long, they will become mushy. Half way through the roasting process, take the pan out, turn the apricots over and picking up the honey from the bottom of the pan, brush it on apricots.
  20. Remove roasted apricots and let cool for a few minutes. Then transfer from a pan on to a plate and cool completely.
  21. Place silvers of almonds into a small pan and roast on medium heat constantly stirring till fragrant and nicely toasted – about 3 minutes.
  22. Using a hand electric mixer on low speed of my hand mix mascarpone cheese (room temperature) with 3 table spoons of honey and Fage Total Greek yogurt.
  23. Fill completely cooled tart crust with half-and-half.and smooth out the top.
  24. Place halves of roasted apricots on top of the cream arranging them nicely.
  25. Sprinkle with toasted almond silvers and drizzle some of the remaining honey from the toasted apricots over the entire tart.
  26. Cool the tart in the refrigerator for an hour and serve.

 

Truffles Trio

Truffles Trio

According to legend, the chocolate truffle was created in the kitchen of French culinary giant Auguste Escoffier during the 1920s. One day, as his stagiaire (apprentice) attempted to make pastry cream, he accidentally poured hot cream into a bowl of chocolate chunks rather than the bowl of sugared egg he should have aimed for. As the chocolate and cream mixture hardened, he found he could work the chocolate paste with his hands to form a bumpy, lopsided ball. After rolling the new creation in cocoa powder, he was struck by their resemblance to the luxurious truffles from the French Périgord region and the Piedmont area of Italy.

Made out of lush chocolate, assorted fillings and an occasional outer coating, the bite-sized treat known as the truffle has a long and tasty history. It has become one of the most popular forms of chocolates to consume and is considered truly decadent by many, with its reputation being one of luxury and extravagance since its birth many years ago.

Essentially, truffles are a treat that can be easily recognized for their small round shapes. I am happy to share with our reader my version of truffles – although not a classic one – made of luscious condensed milk, decadent coconut flakes, crunchy toasted almonds, sweet glazed apricots and then rolled into three variations of coating — Truffles Trio as I called them!

Ingredients:

6 oz glazed apricots (1 1/2 cups)
2 cups sweet coconut flakes and 1/2 cup more for coating
2/3 cup Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup almond slivers (toasted)
powdered sugar (for coating)
chocolate powder (for coating)

 

Sources:
Recipe source: Recipe was adapted from an “Apricot Coconut Balls” recipe featured on Eagle Brand website. Retrieved on July 28, 2013
What are truffles? Retrieved on July 28, 2013 

How to make Truffles Trio:

1.Toast almond slivers in a pan on medium heat mixing constantly till they start to develop some color. It should take about 5 minutes or so. Remove toasted almond slivers from the heat, transfer to a bowl and set aside.

2. Meanwhile chop glazed apricots by pulsing in food processor until finely chopped or mincing on cutting board with sharp knife.

3. Mix toasted almond slivers, chopped apricots and 2 cups of coconut flakes in large bowl until well blended. Stir in sweetened condensed milk until evenly blended.

4. Shape truffles into 1-inch balls.

Continue making truffles till you use up all of the mix.

 

6. Once all truffles have been formed, time to roll them in three different coatings:
  1. powdered sugar
  2. coconut flakes
  3. chocolate powder

Place coating ingredients either on the cutting board or in small bowls.

7. Roll 1/3 of truffles in powdered sugar. 1/3 in chocolate powder,

and roll remaining truffles in coconut flakes.

8. Store your delicious truffles refrigerated.

You should now have about 30 truffles – few more or less depending on the their size.

dina-signature

Truffles Trio
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Truffles Trio: Sweet little candy-size balls made of coconut flakes, glazed apricots, toasted almonds with condensed milk for binding. On a side sauce made of condensed milk and melted dark chocolate.
Author:
Recipe type: Desert
Cuisine: French
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 6 oz glazed apricots (1½ cups)
  • 2 cups sweet coconut flakes and ½ cup more for coating
  • ⅔ cup Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cup almond slivers (toasted)
  • powdered sugar (for coating)
  • chocolate powder (for coating)
Instructions
  1. Toast almond slivers in a pan on medium heat mixing constantly till they start to develop some color. It should take about 5 minutes or so. Remove toasted almond slivers from the heat, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile chop glazed apricots by pulsing in food processor until finely chopped or mincing on cutting board with sharp knife.
  3. Mix toasted almond slivers, chopped apricots and 2 cups of coconut flakes in large bowl until well blended. Stir in sweetened condensed milk until evenly blended.
  4. Shape truffles into 1-inch balls. Continue making truffles till you use up all of the mix.
  5. Once all truffles have been formed, time to roll them in three different coatings:
  6. powdered sugar, coconut flakes and chocolate powder. Place coating ingredients either on the cutting board or in small bowls.
  7. Roll ⅓ of truffles in powdered sugar. ⅓ in chocolate powder and roll remaining truffles in coconut flakes.
Notes
Store your delicious truffles refrigerated. You should now have about 30 truffles – few more or less depending on the their size.

Seaside Tomato and Lobster Gazpacho

seaside-gazpacho-featured

If summer could arrive on a silver spoon, it would be a sip of gazpacho. This chilled soup – made with fleshy chunks of ripe red tomatoes, anise and celery crisper than a cold hilltop morning and topped with cubes of avocado and lobster – can refresh even the hottest July days.

Seaside Tomato and Lobster Gazpacho

That’s one reason the Spaniards and Portuguese developed this regional classic. They blend the garden’s best with garlic, vinegar and olive oil and serve it accompanied by iced glasses of vinbo verde and a view of the turquoise Mediterranean.

Gazpacho not only delivers heaping doses of vegetables, but scientists now thin the carotenes, vitamin C and polyphenols in this soup could work to help lower blood pressure.

Though gazpacho originated as a soup made with bread, today tomato gazpacho recipes are often made with diced vegetables, tomato juice and seasonings, and no bread at all. It’s a different approach, but one that’s just as delicious, especially with a little seaside flair from Old Bay seasoning and lobster or shrimp floated on top.

Seaside Tomato and Lobster Gazpacho

Ingredients:
5 cups low-sodium V8 vegetable juice
1 large orange bell pepper, diced
1 cup diced fennel bulb or celery
1 cup diced celery stalks
1/4 cup fennel fronds and celery leaves
1 cup diced tomato (peel skin)
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped cooked lobster from two 1- to 1 1/4-pound live lobsters
1 cubed avocado

Recipe source: Adapted from a recipe featured in “Eating Well” magazine – August 2013

How to make Seaside Tomato and Lobster Gazpacho

1. Start by dicing the bell pepper, fennel, celery, tomato (peel skin before dicing), and onion. Place diced vegetables in a large bowl.

Seaside Tomato and Lobster Gazpacho

2. Season the vegetables with Old Bay seasoning, salt and pepper.

Seaside Tomato and Lobster Gazpacho

3. Combine vegetable juice, vinegar, and oil and add to vegetables. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Seaside Tomato and Lobster Gazpacho

4.Shell cooked lobster and cut meat into chunks.

Seaside Tomato and Lobster Gazpacho

5. If not serving gazpacho immediately, refrigerate lobster meat.

Seaside Tomato and Lobster Gazpacho

6. Top each serving of gazpacho with 1/2 cup lobster. Garnish with cubes of avocado,  fennel fronds and celery leaves.

Seaside Tomato and Lobster Gazpacho

The aroma of this gazpacho is intoxicating (positively!). It is so fresh and crisp, you almost start feeling healthier just smelling it!

Seaside Tomato and Lobster Gazpacho

Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through step 4. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Finish with steps 5 and 6 just before serving.

Seaside Tomato and Lobster Gazpacho

Be sure to try this delicious, flavor and vitamins packed soup. Enjoy!

dina-signature

Seaside Tomato and Lobster Gazpacho
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Delicious and healthy chilled soup - packed with flavor and vitamins and is a perfect meal on a hot day!
Author:
Recipe type: Chilled Soupt
Cuisine: Spanish
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 5 cups low-sodium V8 vegetable juice
  • 1 large orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup diced fennel bulb or celery
  • 1 cup diced celery stalks
  • ¼ cup fennel fronds and celery leaves
  • 1 cup diced tomato (peel skin)
  • ½ cup finely diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ⅓ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped cooked lobster from two 1- to 1¼-pound live lobsters
  • 1 cubed avocado
Instructions
  1. Start by dicing the bell pepper, fennel, celery, tomato (peel skin before dicing), and onion. Place diced vegetables in a large bowl.
  2. Season the vegetables with Old Bay seasoning, salt and pepper.
  3. Combine vegetable juice, vinegar, and oil and add to vegetables. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
  4. Shell cooked lobster and cut meat into chunks.
  5. If not serving gazpacho immediately, refrigerate lobster meat.
  6. Top each serving of gazpacho with ½ cup lobster. Garnish with cubes of avocado, fennel fronds and celery leaves.
Notes
Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through step 4. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Finish with steps 5 and 6 just before serving.

 

Romanian / Moldovan Placintas

Moldovan Placintas

Plăcintă is a Romanian traditional pastry resembling a thin, small round or square-shaped cake, usually filled with a cheese such as brinza or apples. History of plăcintă goes centuries back… As shown by the etymology of the word, the plăcintă has a Roman origin, and dates from when Romania was a part of the Roman Empire.

Moldovan Placintas

Ancient Greek bakers made their bread with olive oil, herbs and cheese. The secret of making cakes was given to the Romans during the invasion. At first there were only two varieties of cakes, called the libum and the placenta. The libum was a small cake, used as an offering to the gods.As for the placenta, the Romans developed the recipe as a cake made of fine flour covered with cheese, honey, and fragrant bay leaves.Ancient Roman bakers customarily prepared a large placenta which was cut into squares to be offered for sale. 

Growing up in Moldova, I often watched my Grand Mom and Mom make placintas and then not so patiently waiting while they were prepare and inhaling the wonderful aroma. Alas, while childhood is the most wonderful and care-free time of our life, it all ends too quickly before we realize it… Helping to make and enjoying placintas is one of those cherished childhood memories.  Luckily, I learned this simple, yet wonderful recipe from my Mom and happy to share with you :)

Moldovan Placintas

Sources:
What is Plăcintă: Retrieved July 23, 2013

Ingredients for the dough:
250 grams buttermilk
1 large egg
4 table spoons olive oil and more for frying (sun flower oil also can be used)
1 tea spoon salt
1 tea spoon dry instant yeast
700 grams flour

Ingredients for the potato filling:
5 medium potatoes
½ medium onion
salt and black pepper to taste

Ingredients for the cheese filling:
500 grams farmer cheese
1 large egg
small bunch of fresh dill
salt to taste

Moldovan Placintas

How to make placintas:

1. Bread-making machine can do a nice job kneading the dough for you. If you have once, place all liquid ingredients in the machine, then add flour and lastly yeast. Use dough kneading cycle to prepare the dough. This cycle accounts for the intervals during which the dough needs to rise and then kneaded (2 times).

However, if you don’t have a bread-making machine or up for some exercise, then making the dough by hand is another option. Start with the flour and make a well in it. Place all other ingredients in the well and combine with the flour. Knead till the dough forms. The consistency of the dough should be somewhat firm, but not too dry.

2. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, place it in a warm place and let it rise for 25 minutes, then go over the dough kneading it gently (no need to take the dough out of the bowl), let it rise for another 25 minutes and go over it again.

3.  While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Often, following the traditional way, placintas are made with brinza filling. Brinza is a kind of salty cheese, which is popular throughout Eastern Europe and is made from sheep’s milk. It is similar to feta which is used extensively in Moldovan / Romanian cuisine. But you can use variety of fillings for placintas – even fruits! They are great with apple filling. In this recipe, however, potato and farmer cheese fillings were used.

4. To prepare potato filling: Wash, peal potatoes, cut into cubes and boil in slightly salted water with a bay leaf. One the potatoes are cooked and tender (test with a fork), drain the water and mash the potatoes. In a little olive oil sauté chopped onion and add to mashed potatoes. Add salt and mix everything. Taste the filling and adjust salt as needed. Set aside.

5. To prepare cheese filling: Combine farmer cheese with salt and finely chopped dill fronds. Mix all ingredients. Set aside.

6. Once the dough is ready, take it out of the bowl and knead it into a large ball.

7. Divide the ball of dough into 8 equal parts and form little patties.

8. Using the dough roller, roll each patty into a circle approximately 6 inches in diameter.

9. In the middle of each circle place a generous amount of filling. It should cover approximately 1/2 of the dough circle. Spread it a bit.

10. Fold the dough to form the placinta: First fold towards the center the ends of the dough from top, bottom, and sides and press in. This will form a square. Then lightly stretching the dough, fold each of the square corners towards the center and press. Once this is done, using a roller go over the placinta flattening it slightly. Repeat the same with the rest of 8 dough patties and filling till all 8 placintas are formed. You should end up with 4 of them with potato filling and 4 with farmer cheese filling.

10. Fry each placinta on both sides frying the side with folds first in some live olive oil on low-medium heat till cooked through and golden brown color develops.

11. After each placinta is ready, transfer on paper towel to drain excess of oil.

Moldovan Placintas

That’s all there is to it! Placintas are best to be enjoyed warm. Try them with borsh, salad or with a glass of wine or how they say in Moldova: cu un pahar de vin!

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

dina-signature

Romanian / Moldovan Placintas
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Recipe for authentic Romanian / Moldovan Placintas with 2 filling variations - potato and cheese.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Moldovan / Romanian
Serves: 16
Ingredients
  • Ingredients for the dough:
  • 250 grams buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 table spoons olive oil (sun flower oil also can be used) and more for frying
  • 1 tea spoon salt
  • 1 tea spoon dry instant yeast
  • 700 grams flour
  • Ingredients for the potato filling:
  • 5 medium potatoes
  • ½ medium onion
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • Ingredients for the cheese filling:
  • 500 grams farmer cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • small bunch of fresh dill
  • salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Bread-making machine can do a nice job kneading the dough for you. If you have once, place all liquid ingredients in the machine, then add flour and lastly yeast. Use dough kneading cycle to prepare the dough. This cycle accounts for the intervals during which the dough needs to rise and then kneaded (2 times). However, if you don’t have a bread-making machine or up for some exercise, then making the dough by hand is another option. Start with the flour and make a well in it. Place all other ingredients in the well and combine with the flour. Knead till the dough forms. The consistency of the dough should be somewhat firm, but not too dry.
  2. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, place it in a warm place and let it rise for 25 minutes, then go over the dough kneading it gently (no need to take the dough out of the bowl), let it rise for another 25 minutes and go over it again.
  3. While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Often, following the traditional way, placintas are made with brinza filling. Brinza is a kind of salty cheese, which is popular throughout Eastern Europe and is made from sheep’s milk. It is similar to feta which is used extensively in Moldovan / Romanian cuisine. But you can use variety of fillings for placintas – even fruits! They are great with apple filling. In this recipe, however, potato and farmer cheese fillings were used.
  4. To prepare potato filling: Wash, peal potatoes, cut into cubes and boil in slightly salted water with a bay leaf. One the potatoes are cooked and tender (test with a fork), drain the water and mash the potatoes. In a little olive oil sauté chopped onion and add to mashed potatoes. Add salt and mix everything. Taste the filling and adjust salt as needed. Set aside.
  5. To prepare cheese filling: Combine farmer cheese with salt and finely chopped dill fronds. Mix all ingredients. Set aside.
  6. Once the dough is ready, take it out of the bowl and knead it into a large ball.
  7. Divide the ball of dough into 8 equal parts and form little patties.
  8. Using the dough roller, roll each patty into a circle approximately 6 inches in diameter.
  9. In the middle of each circle place a generous amount of filling. It should cover approximately ½ of the dough circle. Spread it a bit.
  10. Fold the dough to form the placinta: First fold towards the center the ends of the dough from top, bottom, and sides and press in. This will form a square. Then lightly stretching the dough, fold each of the square corners towards the center and press. Once this is done, using a roller go over the placinta flattening it slightly. Repeat the same with the rest of 8 dough patties and filling till all 8 placintas are formed. You should end up with 4 of them with potato filling and 4 with farmer cheese filling.
  11. Fry each placinta on both sides frying the side with folds first in some live olive oil on low-medium heat till cooked through and golden brown color develops.
  12. After each placinta is ready, transfer on paper towel to drain excess of oil.

 

Cucumber Yogurt Cold Soup

cucumber-soup-featured

This is a very light and refreshing cucumber summer soup and also extremely healthy! And did you know that cucumber is a fruit and not a vegetable?

Here is a short list of the impressive health benefits that a cucumber carries:

  • Keeps you hydrated. If you are too busy to drink enough water, munch on the cool cucumber, which is 96 percent water. It will cheerfully compensate!
  • Fights heat, both inside and out. Eat cucumber, and your body gets relief from heartburn. Apply cucumber on your skin, and you get relief from sunburn.
  • Flushes out toxins. All that water in cucumber acts as a virtual broom, sweeping waste products out of your system. With regular use, cucumber is known to dissolve kidney stones.
  • Lavishes you with vitamins. A B and C, which boost immunity, give you energy, and keep you radiant. Give it more power by juicing cucumber with carrot and spinach.
  • Supplies skin-friendly minerals: magnesium, potassium, silicon. That’s why cucumber-based treatments abound in spas.
  • Aids in weight loss. Enjoy cucumbers in your salads and soups.
  • Revives the eyes. Placing chilled slices of cucumber on the eyes is a clichéd beauty visual, but it really helps reduce under-eye bags and puffiness.
  • Stabilizes blood pressure. Patients of blood pressure, both high and low, often find that eating cucumber brings relief.
  • Helps digestion. Chewing cucumber gives the jaws a good workout, and the fiber in it is great for digestion.
  • Soothes muscle and joint pain. All those vitamins and minerals in cucumber make it a powerful enemy of muscle and joint pain.
  • Keeps kidneys in shape. Cucumber lowers uric acid levels in your system, keeping the kidneys happy.
  • Good for diabetics. Patients of diabetes can enjoy cucumber while also reaping its health benefits: cucumber contains a hormone needed by the cells of the pancreas for producing insulin.
  • Reduces cholesterol. A compound called sterols in cucumber helps reduce bad cholesterol.

As you can see the benefits are extensive! So pick a handful of firm, dark green cucumbers and pop them into your shopping basket. Congratulations! You have just bought yourself a fruit full of good health!

The other main ingredient of this healthy soup is Fage Total Greek Yogurt.

FAGE Total Strained Greek Yogurt is an extraordinary source of nutrition. Made from an authentic recipe that dates back to 1926 and using 100% natural ingredients, it contains no added sweeteners, thickeners or preservatives and no powdered milk, powdered cream or powdered protein.

Just whole milk, cream and cultures go through our unique straining process to create this blissful, low-calorie taste experience. In fact, approximately 4 pounds of raw milk are needed to make just one pound of FAGE Total Greek Yogurt. It’s part of what makes each thick, creamy bite full of inherent nutritional benefits – protein rich, gluten free, vegetarian, diabetic friendly and pregnancy friendly.

Sources:
2. Superb Health Benefits of Cucumber: Retrieved July 12, 2013

 

Ingredients:

3 medium cucumbers
2 green onions
1 tea spoon salt
1/2 tea spoon dill fronds, and a little more for garnishing
1 tea spoon fresh mint
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 tea spoon olive oil
1/4 tea spoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups plain Fage Total Greek yogurt


How to make Cucumber Yogurt Cold Soup:

1. Wash cucumbers and herbs.

2. Cut cucumbers in quarters lengthwise, remove seeds and chop.  1/2 of one cucumber cut into thin strips and serve for garnishing.

3. Chop green onions and mint.

4. Place the first six ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.

5. Add the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, yogurt and blend until mixed well.

6. Chill in a storage container for 2-3 hours.

7. Serve in small glasses with a frond of dill and a cucumber stick for garnish.

Cucumber Yogurt Cold Soup

Hope you’ll make this smoothy-like soup and let me know what you think :)

Enjoy!

dina-signature

Cucumber Yogurt Cold Soup
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Light and refreshing healthy summer soup. Made from fresh cucumbers, Fage Total Greek Yogurt and herbs. Garnished with slices of cucumber and dill.
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 3 medium cucumbers
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 tea spoon salt
  • ½ tea spoon dill fronds, and a little more for garnishing
  • 1 tea spoon fresh mint
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • ¼ tea spoon olive oil
  • ¼ tea spoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups plain Fage Total Greek yogurt
Instructions
  1. Wash cucumbers and herbs.
  2. Cut cucumbers in quarters lengthwise, remove seeds and chop. ½ of one cucumber cut into thin strips and serve for garnishing.
  3. Chop green onions and mint.
  4. Place the first six ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
  5. Add the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, yogurt and blend until mixed well.
  6. Chill in a storage container for 2-3 hours.
  7. Serve in small glasses with a frond of dill and a cucumber stick for garnish.

 

American Flag Cake

American Flag Cake

Our Dear Readers, I really hope you all had a wonderful time with your friends and family celebrating Independence Day.

Did you know that Americans began observing the Fourth of July as early as 1777, when the first-ever major celebration in Philadelphia included a parade, a thirteen-shot cannon salute, and fireworks, but Congress didn’t make it official until 1870, when it was part of a bill passed to recognize major state holidays at a federal level—like Independence Day, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The Fourth did not become a paid legal holiday until 1938, as part of a that bill that granted holiday leave to employees of the federal government.

On July 4, 1776, America claimed its independence from Britain and Democracy was born. Every day thousands leave their homeland to come to the “land of the free and the home of the brave” so they can begin their American Dream. I was one of them….

4th-of-July

To make this celebration a bit more special for my family, I was excited to make a cake and decorate it as an American flag… Just a few weeks ago, I was browsing Food Network recipes from my favorite chef – Ina Garten and came across Ina’s Flag Cake. An idea of creating a cake and decorating it as an American Flag seemed to be a perfect desert for celebrating America’s Birthday and so here it is – my version, adapted from above mentioned recipe. For the most part, the cake itself, which is a yellow sponge cake, I made according to Ina’s recipe, although I reduced a few ingredients, mainly for the reason, that the dish, in which I baked the cake was a little smaller than the one specified in the recipe. With cream, however, I used completely different recipe, which resulted in amazingly delicious, ice-cream-like-tasting cream. I am sure the original recipe for the cream is great, but seems a bit too heavy with all that butter, so I wanted to use a lighter version of cream.

This cake was such a great success, that I am thinking about making it again sometimes soon! Of course unless I make it again next July 4th, I won’t be decorating it as an American Flag:)

American Flag Cake

Ingredients for the cake:

2 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 1/2 cups sugar
5 extra large eggs
1 cup sour cream at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 teaspoon baking soda

American Flag Cake

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Butter and flour a 15 by 10 by 2-inch pan. I used Pyrex glass bakeware dish.

3. In a bowl of a an electric mixer (or with a hand electric mixer), place butter cut in pieces (room temperature) and sugar.

4. Cream the butter and sugar on high speed, until light and fluffy.

5. Reduce speed to medium and add the eggs, 1 at a time.

6. Add the sour cream and continue mixing on medium speed.

7. Then and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.

8. In a bowl sift the flour, then add cornstarch, salt, and baking soda.

9. Mix all ingredients with a whisk.

10. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.

11. Mix all till all combined and mixture is smooth.

12. Poor the batter into the buttered & floured bakeware.

13. Evenly distribute the batter in the pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

14. Bake in the center of the oven for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. You might need a little less or a little more time depending on your oven.

15. Remove cake from the oven, cool for a few minutes, then remove from the baking dish and cool on cooling rack till room temperature.
Ingredients for the cream and decoration:

12 oz low fat cream cheese
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 vanilla sugar packet
2.5 cups heavy cream
1/2 pint large bluberries
2 pints large raspberries

16. Rinse blueberries and raspberries and set aside on a paper towel to dry.

17. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, (or you can use hand electric mixer) mix on medium speed until smooth cream cheese, mascarpone cheese and sugar.

18. In a separate bowl whip on high speed till hard peaks confectioners’ sugar, vanilla sugar and heavy cream.

19. Combine whipped heavy cream and sugar mixture with cream cheese and mascarpone cheese mixture and mix on low speed till all combined and smooth.

20. Spread with a spatula three-fourths of the cream on the top and sides of the cooled cake.

21. Using a toothpick outline in the top left corner an area where flag will be and place blueberries in rows close one to another. You won’t fit 50 there:) But don’t worry! After all, this is not a history lesson – it is a cake!

22. Place rows of raspberries starting from the bottom and working your way up to the top of the cake.

23. Take a decorating bag (I usually buy Wilton Disposable 12 Inch Decorating Bags) and  fit it with a star tip. I have a whole collection of decorating tips, but Ateco 6-Piece Pastry Tube and Tips Set is a good start. After each row of raspberries, pipe a row of stars.

24. Alternate rows of raspberries and cream stars until the flag patterns is completed. Also, pipe stars around the entire cake.

All done – Enjoy this delicious cake with your family and friends and think, even for just a moment, about the price of freedom…

Happy Birthday, America!

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands. One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Would love to hear what do you think about this cake :)

dina-signature

American Flag Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Delicious yellow sponge cake with light cream and berries -- perfect desert for your Independence Day Celebration!
Author:
Recipe type: Cake
Cuisine: American
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • * Ingredients for the cake: *
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 5 extra large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅔ teaspoon baking soda

  • * Ingredients for the cream and decoration:*
  • 12 oz low fat cream cheese
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 1¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 vanilla sugar packet
  • 2.5 cups heavy cream
  • ½ pint large bluberries
  • 2 pints large raspberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter and flour a 15 by 10 by 2-inch pan. I used Pyrex glass bakeware dish.
  3. In a bowl of a an electric mixer (or with a hand electric mixer), place butter cut in pieces (room temperature) and sugar.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar on high speed, until light and fluffy.
  5. Reduce speed to medium and add the eggs, 1 at a time.
  6. Add the sour cream and continue mixing on medium speed.
  7. Then and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.
  8. In a bowl sift the flour, then add cornstarch, salt, and baking soda.
  9. Mix all ingredients with a whisk.
  10. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.
  11. Mix all till all combined and mixture is smooth.
  12. Poor the batter into the buttered & floured bakeware.
  13. Evenly distribute the batter in the pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  14. Bake in the center of the oven for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. You might need a little less or a little more time depending on your oven.
  15. Remove cake from the oven, cool for a few minutes, then remove from the baking dish and cool on cooling rack till room temperature.
  16. Rinse blueberries and raspberries and set aside on a paper towel to dry.
  17. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, (or you can use hand electric mixer) mix on medium speed until smooth cream cheese, mascarpone cheese and sugar.
  18. In a separate bowl whip on high speed till hard peaks confectioners’ sugar, vanilla sugar and heavy cream.
  19. Combine whipped heavy cream and sugar mixture with cream cheese and mascarpone cheese mixture and mix on low speed till all combined and smooth.
  20. Spread with a spatula three-fourths of the cream on the top and sides of the cooled cake.
  21. Using a toothpick outline in the top left corner an area where flag will be and place blueberries in rows close one to another.
  22. Place rows of raspberries starting from the bottom and working your way up to the top of the cake. You won't fit 50 there:) But don't worry! After all, this is not a history lesson - it is a cake!
  23. Take a decorating bag (I usually buy Wilton Disposable 12 Inch Decorating Bags) and fit it with a star tip. I have a whole collection of decorating tips, but Ateco 6-Piece Pastry Tube and Tips Set is a good start. After each row of raspberries, pipe a row of stars.
  24. Alternate rows of raspberries and cream stars until the flag patterns is completed. Also, pipe stars around the entire cake.

 

 

 

“Okroshka” – Russian Cold Soup

Okroshka

I was curious about the history of this authentic Russian dish, but my research wasn’t very successful. Besides many and then again more variations of Okroshka’s recipes, I couldn’t find much of details related to this dish…. Seems its history has been lost in centuries. Those that know Russian language, for sure will make a connection from the name of the soup to the method of how it is being made, since majority of the ingredients should be finely cut. It literally means “chop” or “крошить” in Russian. Basically, Okroshka is a salad made into a soup! As unusual as this might sound, if you never tried it, be adventurous and try making this light and refreshing, yet filling summer soup. Why summer? Because it is always eaten cold, so perfect for hot summer weather! I absolutely LOVE this soup! Plus…it really doesn’t require much of cooking – the biggest effort is to chop all the ingredients!

Okroshka

Are you still with me? Awesome… here is how I make Okroshka:

Servings:  Hmmm…this is a tough one. It all depends on how much you like this soup. But those that love it, will ask for seconds and thirds:) Nonetheless, if you follow this recipe, you will have plenty for a big company!

Ingredients:

6 medium potatoes
11 radishes
4 cucumbers
9 eggs
7 sausages (Vienna, but other type of meat as ham or bologna will work just fine)
1 quart buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 quart water (boiled and then cooled and refrigerated)
1 medium bunch dill
2 table spoons salt
1 tea spoon black pepper

Okroshka

1. Boil eggs, cool in cold water, peel and set aside. Boil potatoes until they are just tender and can be easily pierced with a fork. Don’t overcook or potatoes will fall apart and turn into mush in the soup. Peel skin off the potatoes and set aside.

2. Wash and trim radishes, wash cucumbers and peel skin.

3. Now cut potatoes, cucumbers, eggs and sausages into small cubes. You can do it by hand or use one of those choppers/cutters if you have one. When it comes to chopping, my helper in this task is a “Salad Chef” . By using this great tool, I significantly reduce the preparation time and it also helps with making the finished product look great, since all the pieces are of the same size. On the photo below is the the exact tool I use.

 

Salad Chef

4. Place cut up potatoes, eggs, cucumbers, and sausages into a deep dish or a pot that is large enough to hold all of the vegetables and liquid (to be added).

5. Take 2/3 of dill and make it into a pasty consistency using a food processor. Remove fronds from the remaining 1/3 of dill. Add dill-paste and dill fronds to the chopped ingredients. Gently mix everything.

OkroshkaOkroshka

6. Now let’s do a little magic and turn this salad into a soup. To make a liquid for the soup — in a bowl, add buttermilk, water (previously boiled, cooled and refrigerated – must be cold), sour cream (adds wonderful touch of creaminess – yum!) salt and pepper and mix everything. Taste the liquid and adjust the seasoning according to your taste. Also, depending on how thick or thin you’d like this soup to be, you might want to adjust the amount of liquid. The ratio of buttermilk and water is 1-to-1, so easy to figure this out. Adding a couple more spoonfuls of sour cream won’t spoil the deal either!

Okroshka

7. Pour the liquid over the chopped ingredients and mix everything gently scooping the thick layer of chopped goodness from the bottom. Taste again and add more salt/pepper if needed.

Okroshka

8. Serve right away or refrigerate. Okroshka can last refrigerated for 2-3 days without loosing its wonderful taste. Just make sure to mix it gently before serving.

Enjoy!! Or how it is said in Russian – Приятного аппетита!

Okroshka

Let me know if you love Okroshka just as much as I do!

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dina-signature

"Okroshka" - Russian Cold Soup
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Light and refreshing, yet filling cold summer soup.
Author:
Recipe type: Cold Soup
Cuisine: Russian
Serves: Many
Ingredients
  • 6 medium potatoes
  • 11 radishes
  • 4 cucumbers
  • 9 eggs
  • 7 sausages (Vienna, but other type of meat as ham or bologna will work just fine)
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 quart water (boiled and then cooled)
  • 1 medium bunch dill
  • 2 table spoons salt
  • 1 tea spoon black pepper
Instructions
  1. Boil eggs, cool in cold water, peel and set aside. Boil potatoes until they are just tender and can be easily pierced with a fork. Don’t overcook or potatoes will fall apart and dissolve in the soup. Peel skin off the potatoes and set aside.
  2. Wash and trim radishes, wash cucumbers and peel skin.
  3. Now cut potatoes, cucumbers, eggs and sausages into small cubes. You can do it by hand or use one of those choppers/cutters if you have one. When it comes to chopping, my helper in this task is a “Salad Chef” . By using this great tool, I significantly cut the preparation time and it also helps with making the finished product look great, since all the pieces are of the same size.
  4. Place cut up potatoes, eggs, and cucumbers into a deep dish or a pot that is large enough to hold all of the vegetables and liquid.
  5. Take ⅔ of dill and make it into a paste using a food processor. Remove fronds from the remaining ⅓ of dill. Add creamed dill and dill fronds to the chopped ingredients. Gently mix everything.
  6. Now let’s do a little magic and turn this salad into a soup. To make a liquid for the soup, in a bowl, add buttermilk, water (previously boiled, cooled and refrigerated – must be cold), sour cream (adds wonderful touch of creaminess – yum!) salt and pepper. Taste the liquid and adjust the seasoning according to your taste.
  7. Pour the liquid over the chopped ingredients and mix everything gently scooping the thick layer of chopped goodness from the bottom. Taste again and add more salt/pepper if needed.
  8. Serve right away or refrigerate. Okroshka can last refrigerated for 2-3 days without loosing its wonderful taste. Just make sure to mix it gently before serving.

Desert Cups with Cream and Berries

desert-cups-cream-berries-9

An idea for making these desert cups came to me while I was shopping last weekend at Whole Foods Market. As I was walking in the store by the isle with all the breads and desert and admiring the variety and beauty of various cakes and pastries (and at the same time thinking to myself that I won’t buy any) I noticed these packages of cups… perfect little cups that can be made quick and easy into a beautiful dessert and so I snatched a package of them and instantly envisioned the end-result – cups filled with sweet cream and berries!

Desert Cups with Cream and Berries

What’s also great about this desert is that it doesn’t require baking! With summer in full swing and temperatures in Phily suburbs climbing to high 90, who wants to turn on the oven? Not me:) Plus… making these little beauties was a breeze – quick and easy. So here it goes….

Servings:  Will yield 6 desert cups

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup whipping cream
3 table spoons condensed milk
3 table spoons mascarpone cheese (room temperature)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tea spoon vanilla sugar

1 cup blueberries
1 cup raspberries
3-4 gooseberries
a small bunch of baby grapes
a few mint leaves for garnishing

This is just a sample of what you can use for topping the sweet cream on these cups. You can, of course, use different berries, small pieces of fruits, nuts, the possibilities are endless!

Desert Cups with Cream and Berries

 

How to make Desert Cups with Cream and Berries

1. Rinse berries, grapes and mint leaves and set aside on a paper towel to dry.

Desert Cups with Cream and Berries

2. To make the cream: Add heavy whipping cream, granulated sugar and vanilla sugar to a bowl and beat till soft peaks on high speed with an electric mixer. Take care not to over beat the cream, since if you over do it, it will become lumpy.

3. Add mascarpone cheese and condensed milk and continue beating on lowest speed for a about a minute, just until everything is well blended. You should end up with with a sweet cream that has a silky-smooth consistency.

4. Now let’s pipe those cups! Take a pastry bag (I usually buy Wilton Disposable 12 Inch Decorating Bags and discard them after each use. One less thing to wash and that’s a good thing!). Fit an end of the pastry bag with a tip that will “draw” cream as flowers or leaves. I have a whole collection of decorating tips, but Ateco 6-Piece Pastry Tube and Tips Set is a good start. Unless you are not going to top the cream with berries or fruits, the pattern won’t be that visible. You can also use a small spoon to scoop the cream and fill the cups.

Desert Cups with Cream and Berries

5. Pipe cream in each cup going around in circles filling the inside of a cup completely.

Desert Cups with Cream and Berries

6. Now the fun part! Use cream on each cup as a white canvas to “paint” a beautiful pattern with berries. I improvised with each one and made them look all different!

Desert Cups with Cream and Berries

7. Alternate berries, switch up how you place them around the cups and in the center. The photos I provided here are just a few ideas for you. I had on hand gooseberries still in their shells that look like thin golden leaves… although not edible, looked so pretty, so I had to use them on a couple of cups as centerpieces:)

Desert Cups with Cream and Berries

8. There you have it! Colorful, light and delicious desert cups made with no baking and in no time!

Desert Cups with Cream and Berries

Consider making this easy desert with your little ones – they will have a blast and for sure will surprise you with their creative ideas for decorating :)

Enjoy!

dina-signature

Desert Cups with Cream and Berries
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Light, colorful and delicious desert that is easy to make and doesn't require baking.
Author:
Recipe type: Desert
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1½ cup whipping cream
  • 3 table spoons condensed milk
  • 3 table spoons mascarpone cheese (room temperature)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tea spoon vanilla sugar
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 3-4 gooseberries
  • a small bunch of baby grapes
  • a few mint leaves for garnishing
Instructions
  1. Rinse berries, grapes and mint leaves and set aside on a paper towel to dry.
  2. To make the cream: Add heavy whipping cream, granulated sugar and vanilla sugar to a bowl and beat till soft peaks on high speed with an electric mixer. Take care not to over beat the cream, since if you over do it, it will become lumpy.
  3. Add mascarpone cheese and condensed milk and continue beating on lowest speed for a about a minute, just until everything is well blended. You should end up with with a sweet cream that has a silky-smooth consistency.
  4. Now let’s pipe those cups! Take a pastry bag (I usually buy Wilton Disposable 12 Inch Decorating Bags and discard them after each use. One less thing to wash and that’s a good thing!). Fit an end of the pastry bag with a tip that will “draw” cream as flowers or leaves. I have a whole collection of decorating tips, but Ateco 6-Piece Pastry Tube and Tips Set is a good start. Unless you are not going to top the cream with berries or fruits, the pattern won’t be that visible. You can also use a small spoon to scoop the cream and fill the cups.
  5. Pipe cream in each cup going around in circles filling the inside of a cup completely.
  6. Now the fun part! Use cream on each cup as a white canvas to “paint” a beautiful pattern with berries. I improvised with each one and made them look all different!
  7. Alternate berries, switch up how you place them around the cups and in the center. The photos I provided here are just a few ideas for you. I had on hand gooseberries still in their shells that look like thin golden leaves… although not edible, looked so pretty, so I had to use them on a couple of cups as centerpieces:)
  8. There you have it! Colorful, light and delicious desert cups made with no baking and in no time!
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 desert cup

Napoleon (Mille-Feuille) Cakes with Strawberries and Chocolate

napoleon-9

Wouldn’t you agree that anything French sounds so romantic? I could just close my eyes and listen to the beautiful flow of French accompanied by the imaginary views of Eiffel tower and kissing couples. And I wouldn’t worry a tiny bit that I don’t understand a single word… well, almost… I do know a few like merci and papillon :) But then I thought that opposed to day dreaming it would be much more useful to make a cake with a French name and so, may I present to you my version of Napoleon, which in French called as Mille-Feuille!

napoleon

Mille-feuille, literally translated as thousand leaves, is a classic French patisserie, traditionally made with three layers of pâte feuilletée (puff pastry), layered with creme patiserrie, whipped cream or jam and dusted with icing sugar or fondant or chocolate. The exact origin of the mille-feuille is unknown. François Pierre La Varenne described a version in Le Cuisinier françois, 1651. It was later improved by Marie-Antoine Carême. Carême, writing in the early 19th century, considered it of “ancient origin”.

Source:
Description of Mille-feuille: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mille-feuille Retrieved on June 14, 2013

Ok, enough of history, let’s get cooking!

While I slightly simplified my Napoleons by using only two layers, there is nothing traditional about them as I added some glamor to them with strawberries and dark chocolate!

napoleon-1

Servings: Will yield 18 individual Napoleon cakes (be nice and share with your friends, or…. divide all ingredients in half and make a smaller batch)

Ingredients:

3 puff pastry sheets (I use puff pastry sheets by Pepperidge Farm: http://www.puffpastry.com/products but any other puff pastry sheets should be fine)
3 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 tea spoon vanilla sugar
8 oz mascarpone cheese (room temperature)
3 tea spoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (divided) confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1 lb fresh strawberries (thinly sliced)
Piece of good dark chocolate

napoleon-2

How to make Napoleon (Mille-Feuille) Cakes with Strawberries and Chocolate:

1. Preheat oven to 425F.

2. It is easier to work with frozen dough. Take out pastry sheets out of the freezer and let them thaw for about 5 minutes. Divide each puff pastry sheet into 6 equal squares – 5 X 5 inches. I used ruler to make even, clean lines. This helps with finished individual Napoleons to look all uniform. You can use either knife or pastry cutting wheel to make squares.

napoleon-3

3. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and place squares of pastry. No need to use baking spray or oil. Pastry sheets have enough butter in them, so they won’t stick. Place in the oven, reduce temperature to 400F and bake for 15-17 minutes, depending on your oven. Your pastry squares should develop golden color.

napoleon-4

4. Take out pastry squares out of the oven, let them cool for a few minutes on a baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

napoleon-6

5. Meanwhile make the cream. Using a hand electric mixer, work the wiping cream and sugar (regular and vanilla) on high speed into soft peaks. Don’t overbeat it… if you do, it will become clumpy or even turn into butter!

6. Add mascarpone cream and 1 tea spoon of lemon juice to wiping cream/sugar mixture and mix on the lowest speed just to incorporate and blend. Delicious and silky-smooth cream is ready.

napoleon-5

7. During baking each of the pastry squares will puff up. Using serrated knife (the one you use to slice the bread) slice each square lengthwise into 2 layers. You will use 2 layers of each pastry square to make individual Napoleons.

napoleon-7

8. Slice strawberries thinly (best to use a mandolin) and drizzle with a tea spoon of lemon juice. Depending on how sweet the strawberries are, you may want to also add a little sugar. Carefully mix taking care not to break the strawberry slices.

9. Using spatula scoop some cream and generously spread on each layer of pastry. Top bottom layer with strawberry slices and cover with another layer cream down. Continue until all of your Napoleons are assembled.

10. Dust top of cakes with confectioners’ sugar. Make some chocolate shavings and sprinkle them on top. I love the slight bitterness of dark chocolate combined with sweet cream! Now, let’s add some color contrast by adding strawberry flowers, hearts or other fun shapes. Use small cookie cutters to cut them out of strawberry pieces. Totally optional, but doesn’t it look lovely?

napoleon-9

Note: Napoleons with strawberries are best to be enjoyed on the same day as strawberry slices will wilt if cakes are kept overnight.

So there you have it – easy enough for a delicious cake with a romantic name Mille-Feuille… well, you get it – Napoleon. Yay! Another French word in my lexique.

Enjoy!

dina-signature

napoleon-8

Napoleon (Mille-Feuille) Cakes with Strawberries and Chocolate
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Napoleon (Mille-Feuille) Cakes with Strawberries and Chocolate
Author:
Recipe type: Cake, Desert
Cuisine: French
Serves: 18
Ingredients
  • 3 puff pastry sheets (I use puff pastry sheets by Pepperidge Farm: http://www.puffpastry.com/products but any other puff pastry sheets should be fine)
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tea spoon vanilla sugar
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese (room temperature)
  • 3 tea spoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (divided) confectioners’ sugar for dusting
  • 1 lb fresh strawberries (thinly sliced)
  • Piece of good dark chocolate
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. It is easier to work with frozen dough. Take out pastry sheets out of the freezer and let them thaw for about 5 minutes. Divide each puff pastry sheet into 6 equal squares – 5 X 5 inches. I used ruler to make even, clean lines. This helps with finished individual Napoleons to look all uniform. You can use either knife or pastry cutting wheel to make squares.
  3. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and place squares of pastry. No need to use baking spray or oil. Pastry sheets have enough butter in them, so they won’t stick. Place in the oven, reduce temperature to 400F and bake for 15-17 minutes, depending on your oven. Your pastry squares should develop golden color.
  4. Take out pastry squares out of the oven, let them cool for a few minutes on a baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  5. Meanwhile make the cream. Using a hand electric mixer, work the wiping cream and sugar (regular and vanilla) on high speed into soft peaks. Don’t overbeat it… if you do, it will become clumpy or even turn into butter!
  6. Add mascarpone cream and 1 tea spoon of lemon juice to wiping cream/sugar mixture and mix on the lowest speed just to incorporate and blend. Delicious and silky-smooth cream is ready.
  7. During baking each of the pastry squares will puff up. Using serrated knife (the one you use to slice the bread) slice each square lengthwise into 2 layers. You will use 2 layers of each pastry square to make individual Napoleons.
  8. Slice strawberries thinly (best to use a mandolin) and drizzle with a tea spoon of lemon juice. Depending on how sweet the strawberries are, you may want to also add a little sugar. Carefully mix taking care not to break the strawberry slices.
  9. Using spatula scoop some cream and generously spread on each layer of pastry. Top bottom layer with strawberry slices and cover with another layer cream down. Continue until all of your Napoleons are assembled.
  10. Dust top of cakes with confectioners’ sugar. Make some chocolate shavings and sprinkle them on top. I love the slight bitterness of dark chocolate combined with sweet cream! Now, let’s add some color contrast by adding strawberry flowers, hearts or other fun shapes. Use small cookie cutters to cut them out of strawberry pieces. Totally optional.Napoleons with strawberries are best to be enjoyed on the same day as strawberry slices will wilt if cakes are kept overnight. Enjoy!

 

Red Caviar Canapé with Quail Eggs and Chives

caviar-canape

Although we all have our favorite dishes we make over and over again when it comes to hosting a dinner for your friends and family, no doubt you want to surprise them with something new and unexpected. Just not too long ago I was hosting a dinner for my relatives and came up with a few new dishes among which was the one I am about to share with you: Red Caviar Canapé with Quail Eggs and Chives. While there is really nothing so unusual about these little o’dourves, they were well received or should I say enjoyed:) Easy to make, healthy and colorful, these canapé might be just what you need as a new addition to your appetizers next time you are hosting a party!

caviar-canape

Did you know that the name canapé comes from the French word for “couch”drawing on the analogy that the garnish sits atop the bread as people do a couch. The French started offering canapés to their guests in the 18th century, and the English adopted the practice at the end of the following century. One modern version of the canapé is the amuse-bouche. Amuse-bouche literally means “mouth amuser”, but is translated more delicately as “palate pleaser”.

Source:
Description of canapé: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canap%C3%A9 Retrieved on June 14, 2013
Read about the health benefits of quail eggs in a post by my fellow chef Natalie for her Quail Egg Roll Ups with Smoked Salmon, Avocado, Cream Cheese and Dill.

Servings:  Will yield 12 canapés

Ingredients:

6 quail eggs
12 french baguette slices
6 oz red caviar
small bunch of fresh chives
4 oz unsalted butter (room temperature)

caviar-canape-2

How to make Red Caviar Canapé with Quail Eggs and Chives:

1. Boil quail eggs. To do that, place quail eggs  in a saucepan and fill it with 2/3 of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes. Turn the heat off and using a slotted spoon remove eggs from the water and place in a bowl with icy cold water. After a few minutes, remove from the water, dry with paper towel and peel very carefully.

2. Slice each egg in half.

3. Rinse, dry and finely chop fresh chives. Cut 12 longer pieces of chives. Set aside.

4. Using a round cookie cutter (approximately 2 inches in diameter), cut out 2 circles from each slice of baguette.

5. Place butter in a pastry decorating bag fitted with a tip that has a small opening.

6. Pipe the butter on each circle of bread and sprinkle on some finely chopped chives.

7. On top of each buttered circle place a half of quail egg with yolk facing up.

8. Top each egg half with about 1/2 tea spoon of red caviar

9. Garnish with longer pieces of chives.

How easy was that?

Enjoy :)

dina-signaturecaviar-canape-3

Red Caviar Canapé with Quail Eggs and Chives
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Red Caviar Canapé with Quail Eggs and Chives
Author:
Recipe type: Canapé, O'dourves
Cuisine: French
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 6 quail eggs
  • 12 french baguette slices
  • 6 oz red caviar
  • small bunch of fresh chives
  • 4 oz unsalted butter (room temperature)
Instructions
  1. Boil quail eggs. To do that, place quail eggs in a saucepan and fill it with ⅔ of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes. Turn the heat off and using a slotted spoon remove eggs from the water and place in a bowl with icy cold water. After a few minutes, remove from the water, dry with paper towel and peel very carefully.
  2. Boil quail eggs. To do that, place quail eggs in a saucepan and fill it with ⅔ of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes. Turn the heat off and using a slotted spoon remove eggs from the water and place in a bowl with icy cold water. After a few minutes, remove from the water, dry with paper towel and peel very carefully.
  3. Slice each egg in half.
  4. Rinse, dry and finely chop fresh chives. Cut 12 longer pieces of chives. Set aside.
  5. Using a round cookie cutter (approximately 2 inches in diameter), cut out 2 circles from each slice of baguette.
  6. Place butter in a pastry decorating bag fitted with a tip that has a small opening.
  7. Pipe the butter on each circle of bread and sprinkle on some finely chopped chives.
  8. On top of each buttered circle place a half of quail egg with yolk facing up.
  9. Top each egg half with about ½ tea spoon of red caviar
  10. Garnish with longer pieces of chives.

 

Rugala with Berries and Rose Petals Jams and Nuts

rugala

This is one of those deserts that is connected to my childhood memories…. Crispy shell covered in powdered sugar abundance and filled with sweet jam and nuts. I can still remember the aroma of freshly baked just-out-of-the-oven rugala baked by my mom and grand mom. I am one lucky girl, as the family recipe has been shared with me and I am very excited to pass it on to you and hope you will make this delicious desert and will fall in love with it just as I did when I was still a little girl.

Rugala

For the dough:

  • 1 1/2 lb flour (I prefer Gold Medal)
  • 1 packets vanilla sugar
  • 1 table spoon baking powder
  • 1 lb sour cream
  • 2 sticks unsalted margarine (soft)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (soft)
  • 1 egg

For the filling:

  • 3/4 lb nuts (You can use a variety of walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, almonds)
  • 1 lb of dark colored jam (blackberry, mixed berries, blueberry)
  • 1 lb rose petal jam
  • 2 table spoons sugar (optional if the jam you are using is sweet enough)
  • Zest of 1 large lemon

How to make Rugala with Berries and Rose Petals Jams and Nuts:

1. First, let’s make the dough. Add sour cream to the bowl of the stand mixer. You can also use bread machine to make the dough.

Rugala

2. Add 2 packets of vanilla sugar and start mixing on a low speed.

Rugala

3. Add soft, cut in small pieces 2 sticks of unsalted margarine and 1 stick of unsalted butter.

Rugala

4. Then add 1 egg.

Rugala

5. Add to the mixture for the dough 1 tea spoon of course salt.

Rugala

6. Then add 1 table spoon of baking powder to 1 lb of flour and mix. Gradually add flour and baking powder to the bowl with other ingredients for the dough. Increase to medium speed and keep mixing till everything is well blended. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl, then continue to mix for a little longer. You might need to adjust the amount of flour.

Rugala

7. Take out the dough on a floured surface and kneed it for a bit. You should end up with soft dough, which then needs to be formed into a ball like this one:

rugala

8. Using a dough cutter or with a knife, slice the ball of dough first into half, then into quarters, then dived each quarter into smaller pieces – 13 total.

rugala

9. You should end up with 13 pieces of dough. Kneed each one into a small ball. Each ball should wait approximately 125 grams. Place on a plate and refrigerate for an hour. Alternatively, you can freeze ball of dough for about 30 minutes.

rugala

Now to make a filling:

10. Use petal jam in combination with a dark jam like blackberry, black currant or mixed berries, you can also add some peach jam – the choice is yours! You’ll need about 1 lb of rose petal jam and 1 lb of another jam(s) of your choice. Place the jam into a bowl and set aside.

11

11. In order for the filling to be not too runny (and more delicious, of course) add some nuts. You can’t go wrong with walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts. Almonds will work too. Chop ¾ lb of nuts in a food processor.

12

12. Chop the nuts and place them into a bowl.

14

13. You should end up with nuts of a consistency shown on this photo.

15

14. Peal zest (with some skin) of 1 large lemon and also place in a food processor to turn into a pasty consistency.

13

15. Use hand electric mixer to mix the jams, nuts and lemon zest. It is easier to use a mixer, since the filling is quite thick.

16

16. Mix till all ingredients are well blended. Filling is ready! Set it aside for now.

17

17. Coming back to work with the dough. Take our of the refrigerator one ball of dough and roll it on a floured surface into a circle that is approximately 14 inches in diameter.

18

18. Using a pastry knife, slice circle of cough like a pizza.

20

19. Place about 1 tea spoon of filling on the wide end of each slice of the dough.

21

20. Start rolling the dough gently smoothing the filling and lightly pressing the dough at each end to prevent the filling from leaking out during baking. Continue rolling.

22

21. Once you are done making rugala out of the first ball of dough, take out of the refrigerator a second one and so on till you use up all 13 balls of dough.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper and oil with cooking spray like Pam. Place rugala on a baking sheet leaving about an inch in between each rugala.

23

22. Pre-heat oven to 350F and bake for 25 minutes or so till rugala develops some color.

24

23. Remove rugala from the baking sheet onto a tray or a cooling rack and let it completely cool.

25

24. Generously dust rugala with confectioners’ sugar. All done!

Enjoy!

dina-signature

26

5.0 from 1 reviews
Rugala with Berries and Rose Petals Jams and Nuts
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Rugala with Berries and Rose Petals Jams and Nuts
Author:
Recipe type: Desert
Ingredients
  • 1½ lb flour (I prefer Gold Medal)
  • 1 packets vanilla sugar
  • 1 table spoon baking powder
  • 1 lb sour cream
  • 2 sticks unsalted margarine (soft)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (soft)
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ lb nuts (You can use a variety of walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, almonds)
  • 1 lb of dark colored jam (blackberry, mixed berries, blueberry)
  • 1 lb rose petal jam
  • 2 table spoons sugar (optional if the jam you are using is sweet enough)
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
Instructions
  1. How to make the dough:
  2. Add sour cream to the bowl of the stand mixer. You can also use bread machine to make the dough.
  3. Add 2 packets of vanilla sugar and start mixing on a low speed.
  4. Add soft, cut in small pieces 2 sticks of unsalted margarine and 1 stick of unsalted butter.
  5. Then add 1 egg.
  6. Add to the mixture for the dough 1 tea spoon of course salt.
  7. Then add 1 table spoon of baking powder to 1 lb of flour and mix. Gradually add flour and baking powder to the bowl with other ingredients for the dough. Increase to medium speed and keep mixing till everything is well blended. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl, then continue to mix for a little longer. You might need to adjust the amount of flour.
  8. Take out the dough on a floured surface and kneed it for a bit. You should end up with soft dough, which then needs to be formed into a ball like this one:
  9. Using a dough cutter or with a knife, slice the ball of dough first into half, then into quarters, then dived each quarter into smaller pieces – 13 total
  10. You should end up with 13 pieces of dough. Kneed each one into a small ball. Each ball should wait approximately 125 grams. Place on a plate and refrigerate for an hour. Alternatively, you can freeze ball of dough for about 30 minutes.
  11. How to make a filling:
  12. Use petal jam in combination with a dark jam like blackberry, black currant or mixed berries, you can also add some peach jam – the choice is yours! You’ll need about 1 lb of rose petal jam and 1 lb of another jam(s) of your choice. Place the jam into a bowl and set aside.
  13. In order for the filling to be not too runny (and more delicious, of course) add some nuts. You can’t go wrong with walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts. Almonds will work too. Chop ¾ lb of nuts in a food processor.
  14. Chop the nuts and place them into a bowl.
  15. You should end up with nuts of a consistency shown on this photo.
  16. Peal zest (with some skin) of 1 large lemon and also place in a food processor to turn into a pasty consistency.
  17. Use hand electric mixer to mix the jams, nuts and lemon zest. It is easier to use a mixer, since the filling is quite thick.
  18. Mix till all ingredients are well blended. Filling is ready! Set it aside for now.
  19. Coming back to work with the dough. Take our of the refrigerator one ball of dough and roll it on a floured surface into a circle that is approximately 14 inches in diameter.
  20. Using a pastry knife, slice circle of cough like a pizza.
  21. Place about 1 tea spoon of filling on the wide end of each slice of the dough.
  22. Start rolling the dough gently smoothing the filling and lightly pressing the dough at each end to prevent the filling from leaking out during baking. Continue rolling.
  23. Once you are done making rugala out of the first ball of dough, take out of the refrigerator a second one and so on till you use up all 13 balls of dough. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and oil with cooking spray like Pam. Place rugala on a baking sheet leaving about an inch in between each rugala.
  24. Pre-heat oven to 350F and bake for 25 minutes or so till rugala develops some color.
  25. Remove rugala from the baking sheet onto a tray or a cooling rack and let it completely cool.
  26. Generously dust rugala with confectioners’ sugar.
  27. All done! Enjoy! :)

 

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