Dulce de Leche Valentine Cookies

Dulce de Leche Valentine's Day Cookies

Yesterday I got a sweet craving, and re-discovered a jar of dulce de leche in the refrigerator. Instead of eating it with a spoon like a heathen (not that I haven’t done exactly that before), I decided to make a batch of simple sugar cookies since I was all out of galletas Marias. Naturally since Valentine’s Day is coming up, I grabbed a heart-shaped cookie cutter from the drawer, and thus Dulce de Leche Valentine’s Day Cookies were born. When dusted with powdered sugar, they’re kind of like alfajores! … Make a batch for your corazón de melon, your niños, or even yourself.

Dulce de Leche Valentine’s Day Cookies

You Need:

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
a little less than a 1/4 teaspoon salt

1 jar or can of your favorite dulce de leche
powdered sugar for sprinkling

Method:

1. Beat the softened butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract.

2. Add flour, baking powder, and salt – sprinkling the baking powder and salt so it’s evenly distributed on the flour. (This is a short cut to avoid having to combine dry ingredients separately in another bowl!) Use a rubber spatula to mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture.

3. Form the dough into a large ball and cover tightly with plastic wrap inside the bowl. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill for 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. While the oven heats, work with small amounts of dough, (leaving the rest covered in the refrigerator), to cut out the cookies. You can use a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface, but it isn’t necessary. You can simply flatten a small amount with your palm right on the parchment paper covered baking sheet, then use a heart-shaped cookie cutter on the flattened dough. Remove the excess dough from the edges of the heart shape and re-use for the next cookie you cut out.

5. Bake cookies about 1 to 2 inches apart, (if the dough has been properly chilled and your pan is not hot before going into the oven, it shouldn’t spread and will maintain its shape.)

6. Bake about 10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. (Bake time may be slightly less or more, depending on the size and thickness of your cookies. My heart-shaped cookies were about palm-sized and no more than a 1/4 inch thick.)

7. Remove cookies to cool on clean, dry paper towels, (or on wire racks if you’re fancy. I personally don’t own any of those.)

8. For the first few hours these cookies will be mostly soft and chewy, but if you make them in the evening and wait until the next morning (which is what I prefer), the texture becomes chewy on the inside but more crisp on the outside.

heart-cookie

9. Use a butter knife to spread your favorite dulce de leche either on top of the cookies, or on the bottom of one to sandwich it between two cookies.

dulce-de-leche-cookie

10. Dust with powdered sugar. (I recommend doing this by putting a small amount of powdered sugar in a fine mesh sieve and gently tapping it over the cookies to avoid large clumps of powdered sugar.)

11. Give to your valentine before you eat them all yourself.

Agua de Berenjena (Eggplant Water)

eggplant-water

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Con el tiempo Carlos va tomando más responsibilidad en su salud. Hay un edad cuando uno se da cuenta que el pan dulce es para de vez en cuando y no cada día, y lamentablemente esos días están aquí para Carlos y yo.

Una de las preocupaciones Carlos tiene es sobre el colesterol porque es un problema hereditario para él, (y bueno, un amor para hamburguesas no ayuda.)

Recientemente Carlos mencionó la reducción del colesterol a su hermana y ella recomendó el agua de berenjena. Ella dijo que su suegra corta una berenjena en pedazos (con la piel), y la pone en una pichel de agua durante la noche. Durante los próximos días, se bebe una taza de agua berenjena cada día.

Busque alrededor de la internet y parece que esto es un remedio casero muy conocido en la comunidad Latina para todo tipo de problemas de salud. ¿Alguna vez has oído hablar de Agua de Berenjena? ¿Lo has probado?

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

As Carlos grows older he takes more and more responsibility with his health. There’s an age when one realizes that pan dulce is a once-in-awhile food, not an everyday food, and unfortunately those days are here for Carlos and myself.

One of Carlos’s concerns is about his cholesterol because cholesterol problems are hereditary in his family, (and well, a love of hamburgers doesn’t help anything.)

Recently Carlos mentioned reducing cholesterol to his sister and she recommended Eggplant Water. She said her mother-in-law cuts an eggplant in pieces (with the skin), and she puts it in a pitcher of water overnight. Over the next few days, her suegra drinks a cup of the Eggplant Water each day.

I looked around the internet and it seems this is a well-known home remedy for all kinds of health issues in the Latino community. Have you heard of Eggplant Water? Have you tried it?

Hot Dog & Egg Tacos

hotdog-eggs

On occasion I’ve been known to make hot dog and scrambled egg tacos for breakfast. I was actually introduced to the use of hot dogs like this by my suegra. To be honest, for many years I thought it was just one of her weird inventions but when we went to El Salvador there were hot dog slices on pizza and finely diced hot dog pieces in Chinese fried rice, so I began to get the idea that this unconventional use of hot dogs wasn’t just a suegra thing.

If you want to give it a try, here’s my recipe for hot dog and egg tacos. Feel free to experiment and give it your own spin!

Hot Dog & Egg Tacos

You need:

2 eggs per person
1 hot dog per person
diced Poblano or Anaheim pepper (about 1 pepper)
finely diced vidalia onion (a small handful)

salt to taste
white corn tortillas, warmed and lightly toasted
Cholula (optional) or Salsa Verde (optional)

Directions:

1. Crack eggs into a large bowl and lightly whisk. Set aside.

2. Cut hot dogs in circles or dice – whichever you like. (Diced is safer for little kids.) Add to a non-stick pan with the onion and Poblano pepper over medium heat, stirring for a couple minutes until hot dog is lightly toasted and the onion and pepper have become slightly tender but not soft.

3. Add the eggs to the pan. Use a spatula or flat ended wooden spoon to gently move the eggs around as they cook. Try not to brown the eggs. Remove from heat.

4. Salt to taste if desired. Serve inside warmed and lightly toasted tortillas with a little Cholula hot sauce or salsa verde.

Optional: If you happen to have frijoles molidos on hand, you can spread those on the tortilla before putting the egg and hot dog mixture into it!

Tamales y Creencias

tamal-pollo-salsa-roja

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Ayer no tuve tiempo por escribir para Spanish Friday porque estaba haciendo tamales para una reunion que voy a tener con mi familia. Este año hice tamales de pollo en salsa roja y también tamales de rajas con queso. Yo estaba un poco nerviosa porque cambié muchas cosas este año. Para los vegetarianos en la familia en vez de usar manteca en la masa, usé aceite. Y en vez de caldo de pollo usé caldo de verduras. Déjame darte un consejo que aprendí: Cuando utilizas el aceite en tu masa, cocinar el aceite primero en una olla. Traer el aceite a hervir por un minuto y luego dejar que se enfríe. En este video, la señora dice que da un mejor sabor.

Este año también usé MASECA para tamales porque mi tienda no tenía MASECA normal (y en mi opinión, la textura fue mejor – es un poco más gruesa.)

Las proporciones aproximadas que utilicé para mi masa vegetariana (porque alguien pidió que la compartiera) fueron:

1 2/3 tazas de aceite de canola (“pre-cocinado”)
32 oz de caldo de verduras (marca Swanson)
4 a 6 tazas de MASECA Tamal (Lo que dice “para hacer deliciosos TAMALES”)
1 a 2 cucharaditas de polvo para hornear de doble acción
1 a 2 cucharaditas de sal
1/4 a 1/2 taza de salsa roja (mi receta está aquí)

(¡Lo siento que estos son sólo aproximaciones, ya que no escribo esto mientras yo cocinaba!)

Primero mezclé la MASECA y polvo para hornear con la mano. Añadir sal al gusto. (Cuando puse una pizca de la masa seca en mi lengua, sabía sólo un poco salada.) Añadir el aceite y mezclar con la mano. Añadir la salsa y luego poco a poco el caldo de verduras. Mezclar con la mano hasta que la masa esté bien combinada. Dejé la masa a temperatura ambiente cubierta con plástico por una hora, no sé si eso hace diferencia o no. Esta cantidad de masa fue suficiente para hacer alrededor de 36 tamales de tamaño mediano.

Finalmente, usé el consejo que aprendí en el blog La Mija Chronicles de Lesley Tellez. Ella dice que en México hay una creencia de que si quieres que salgan bien tus tamales, tienes que tratar bien a tu olla. Algunas personas atan tiras de hoja de maíz a los mangos de la olla, cuenten chisme a la olla o cantan a ella. Según Lesley esto evita “mala onda”. Qué interesante, ¿verdad?

¿Cuāles consejos, secretos o creencias sobre como hacer tamales tienes tú?

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Yesterday I didn’t have time to write for Spanish Friday because I was making tamales for a family get together. This year I made tamales de pollo en salsa roja and also tamales de rajas con queso. I was a little nervous because I changed a lot of things this year. For the vegetarians in the family I used oil instead of lard. And instead of chicken broth I used vegetable broth. Let me give you a tip I learned: When you use oil in your masa, “cook” the oil first in a pot. Bring the oil to a boil for a minute and then let it cool. In this video, the woman says it gives the oil a better flavor.

This year I also used MASECA for tamales because my store was out of the regular MASECA (and in my opinion the texture was better – it’s a little coarser.)

The approximate proportions I used for my vegetarian masa (because someone asked me to share) were:

1 2/3 cups “pre-cooked” canola oil
32 ounces vegetable broth (Swanson brand)
4 to 6 cups MASECA Tamal (the one that says “para hacer deliciosos TAMALES”)
1 to 2 teaspoons double acting baking powder
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup salsa roja (my recipe is here)

First mix the MASECA and baking powder by hand. Add salt to taste. (When I tasted a pinch on my tongue, it tasted just slightly salty.) Add the oil and mix in by hand. Add the salsa and then the vegetable broth little by little. Mix by hand until everything is well combined. I let the masa sit at room temperature covered in plastic wrap for an hour, I don’t know if that makes a difference or not. This amount of masa made about 36 medium-sized tamales.

Finally, I used the advice I learned on the blog La Mija Chronicles by Lesley Tellez. She says in Mexico there’s a belief that if you want the tamales to come out well, you have to treat the pot well. Some people tie strips of corn husk to the handles of the pot, tell the pot gossip, or sing to it. According to Lesley this helps avoid any “mala onda.” Interesting, right?

What advice, secrets or beliefs do you have about tamales?

Leche Poleada (Salvadoran Vanilla Custard)

leche poleada salvadoreña

I decided to surprise Carlos by making a batch of leche poleada today but I tweaked my usual recipe and it came out even better, so of course I want to share the new version with all of you!

Leche Poleada (Salvadoran Vanilla Custard)

Ingredients:

5 rounded tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups 1% milk
3 egg yolks
1 cinnamon stick
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

ground cinnamon (for sprinkling on top)

Directions:

1. In a blender add milk, sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch. Blend for 15 to 30 seconds until well combined.

2. Pour the mixture into a pot over medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick and vanilla extract.

3. Stir regularly until the mixture thickens. (Don’t be too quick to remove it from the stove. You want it to be the texture of pudding. After 5 minutes, if it isn’t thickening, turn the heat up a little and stir a little less regularly.)

4. Remove from heat. Remove the cinnamon stick.

5. To serve warm, serve immediately. To serve cold pour into individual ramekins, bowls or even disposable plastic cups, and allow to chill in the refrigerator for a couple hours. Right before serving sprinkle ground cinnamon on top.

This recipe makes about 6 servings.

Leche Poleada - Salvadoran Vanilla Custard

Rajas con Crema Taco Casserole

Rajas Con Crema Taco Casserole

Rajas con Crema is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of strips of roasted Poblano peppers and onion simmered in Mexican cream. The rajas are then usually eaten in corn tortillas as tacos or atop rice. It’s one of the few vegetarian dishes that leaves me totally satisfied. Here’s my version of the dish made into a casserole; it’s perfect for potlucks or for when you want a meal you can prep in the morning then pop into the oven at dinnertime.

Rajas con Crema Taco Casserole

You need:

6 – 8 chiles poblanos
16 oz. crema Mexicana (I used Lala brand)
2 cups shredded mozzarella or shredded queso chihuahua
half of one medium red onion, (about 1/2 cup when later cut into strips)
12 corn tortillas, lightly toasted on a dry comal and cut in 1 inch strips
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
salt
cooking spray for greasing the pan

Note: A pizza cutter works great to cut the tortillas into strips

Method:

1. Roast the whole chiles until the skin is blackend, either over fire if you have gas stove, or on a dry comal (griddle.)

At this time you will also cut the onion half in quarters and place on the comal, moving as needed to slightly roast all flat sides. Remove the onion to cool for a moment before slicing in tiny, thin strips. Measure out ½ cup onion for this recipe.

2. Wrap the chiles in a paper towel and seal inside a large paper or plastic bag for at least 5 minutes. (This process is called “sweating” the chiles.)

3. Remove the chiles from the bag and the paper towel. Use your fingers, a knife or spoon to scrape most of the blackened skin off the chiles. It’s okay to leave some behind. Do not wash the chiles in water.

4. Use a knife to cut off the stem and slice the chiles open. Cut off and discard the seeds and membrane, then slice the chiles into ½ inch to 1 inch strips. It’s okay if a few seeds remain, just be aware that the more you use, the spicier the dish will be.

5. In a greased 9×13 glass or metal pan, put down a layer of tortilla strips, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with a little salt. Next add a layer of chili strips and a layer of onion, using all your chili and onion.

6. Drop crema by the spoonful on top of the chiles and onion, spreading in an even layer with the back of the spoon.

rajas-steps-collage

7. Top with another layer of tortilla strips, sprinkle with salt, and then add the cheese. Drizzle the melted butter over the top.

8. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes uncovered, then broil high for 1 minute to get some nice, toasty brown spots on the cheese. Cut and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

Tip: Cooking for a crowd? Double the ingredients and layers! (This may require a slightly longer bake time.)

rajas-1

Café Mayorga

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Hace mucho tiempo he querido visitar Café Mayorga en Wheaton Mall en el estado de Maryland. Finalmente fuimos el fin de semana pasado para tomar un cafecito y comer algocito dulce. Aquí hay unas fotos de nuestra visita.

cafe-latino-1

elephant-ear-cafe

carlos-coffee

cubanito-alfajor

alfajor-1

Tomamos unos cafés cubanitos pero Carlos tuvo que añadir mucha leche y azúcar. A pesar de que añadió un montón de leche y azúcar me dijo que todavia era demasiado fuerte para él. (¡Es café expreso! No sé qué esperaba.) Con mi café disfruté de un alfajor y Carlos comió una oreja de elefante. Por la mayor parte él utilizó el café sólo para remojar la oreja de elefante pero a mi me gustó tanto como mi café y la galleta.

Nuestra visita a “Café Latino” salió un poco caro, pero entiendo que es por calidad y me gusta apoyar las empresas que tratan bien a sus fuentes, socios y trabajadores en América Latina – y eso hace Café Mayorga. Si pasas por el área, te recomiendo parar por un cafecito auténtico y una delicia.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

For quite awhile I’ve wanted to visit Café Mayorga in Wheaton Mall in Maryland. Finally we went this past weekend to have a cup of coffee and a little something sweet. Here are a few photos from our visit.

We drank little Cubano coffees but Carlos had to add a lot of milk and sugar. Even though he added a mountain of milk and sugar he told me it was still too strong for him. (It’s espresso! I’m not sure what he was expecting.) With my coffee I enjoyed an alfajor and Carlos ate an elephant ear. For the most part Carlos used his coffee to dip his elephant ear into, but as for me, I really liked both my coffee and cookie.

Our visit to “Café Latino” turned out a little expensive but I understand it’s for the quality and I like to support businesses that treat their sources, partners and workers in Latin America well – and Café Mayorga does. If you pass by the area, I recommend you stop by for a little authentic coffee and a treat.