Sunday, March 26, 2006

Light Apple Cake

This cake is very easy and quick to make. It's a light cake, very thin, with a crunchy apple topping. The sugar and cinnamon melt on the baking apples creating something that tastes like caramel. It's delicious when served warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice-cream or plain for breakfast.
Light Apple Cake


2 large egg(s)
1/2 cup(s) sugar
1/4 cup(s) fat-free milk
2 tbsp light butter, melted
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup(s) white self-rising flour, sifted
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
2 large apples, green, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Coat an 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray.
Beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in milk, melted butter and vanilla extract.
Combine flour and cornstarch and fold into the cake batter. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
Arrange apple slices on top of cake, sprinkle with combined cinnamon and sugar. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a knife or metal skewer comes out clean when inserted.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Melting Pot

Sunday was a lazy day. Mark and I didn't do much. We read the newspaper with Starbucks Coffee and Cinnamon Rolls. I organized our new pictures on photo albums while he took a nap. We read some more in the afternoon, then another nap... We didn't get much done except for recharging our batteries for another week of hard work. We had reservations for dinner at The Melting Pot. We love fondue. It was a cold night, perfect to sit around a hot fondue pot. We started with a Mushroom Salad, then we had a Traditional Swiss Fondue that comes with bread, carrots, celery, and apples. For dessert with had a Chocolate, Caramel, and Pecan Fondue. It was such a good combination! It comes with a platter of strawberries, pineapples, pound-cake, brownies, marshmallows, and a slice of cheesecake. Every time I go to the Melting Pot I ask myself why I don't have Chocolate Fondue all the time at home. I have two fondue pots that I rarely use. But yesterday was the first day of Spring and it will warm up pretty soon. I guess I'll put my plans for a Fondue Party on hold until next Winter.

Dinner for 4

We invited our friends M and C for dinner on Saturday night. It took me a while to decide on a menu, but I settled on a Brazilian dish. I made some Puffy Cheese Balls (Brazilian Pao de Queijo) and Hot Pepper Jelly and cream cheese with toast to munch on while I was cooking dinner. I made a Brazilian Shrimp Pie with Hearts of Palm (it has a dough similar to a quiche but it's called a pie because the dough covers the filling as well. The filling is made of shrimp, onions, cilantro, and hearts of palm), I also made some steamed broccoli and a Arugula Salad with Pecorino Cheese and Crispy Prosciutto.
I set the table nicely with my new blue placemats. The centerpiece was a square vase with roses and candleholders on both sides of the table.
The dessert was my favorite part! I made Chocolate Crème Brulee for the first time. I have made regular and pumpkin Crème Brulee several times but Chocolate Crème Brulee beats them. I posted my recipe below. That's a winner for sure, it's going to be included on my "Favorite Recipes" binder.
We had a great time, it's always fun to have M and C over. Saturday was a day that I (literally and figuratively) stopped and smelled the roses. In our hurried lives we forget to enjoy life's pleasures: good friends and good food.

Chocolate Creme Brulee

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons sugar for topping

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Mix the cream and vanilla bean together in a double boiler. Heat the mixture for 10 to 15 minutes and stir in the chocolate. Remove the vanilla bean.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Slowly pour the chocolate cream into the egg mix, continuously whisking. Place the bowl over simmering water until the cream mix thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 6 to 8 minutes. Pour into 4 (4-ounce) custard dishes. Place in a large baking pan and add enough water to come up halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake until the custard is set, about 1 hour. Remove from the water and cool. Cover and refrigerate. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar on top of each one and with a brulee torch, caramelize the top and serve.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Italian Coffee

I had a slow(er) commute this morning. It takes me an hour and a half to get to work (from Northern Virginia to Washington, DC). Today it took an extra 30 minutes. I wasn't happy at all. I didn't want to come to work in a bad mood, so I stopped at the Italian Coffee House in the Ronald Reagan Building (The International Trade Center in DC) on the way to my office and got a nice Illy Cafe au Lait and a Banana Nut Bread. It's amazing how a cup of coffee had such a relaxing effect on me. I spent the first hour of my day checking and responding e-mails and sipping my Illy Coffee with a smile on my face.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Old Chickahominy House

We met our friends E, S, and their baby D at the Old Chickahominy House restaurant for lunch on Sunday. Old Chickahominy House is a very interesting and popular restaurant in Williamsburg. It's an old house, decorated with antique-like furniture and accessories and almost everything is for sale. They open for breakfast and lunch only. The restaurant is always packed and they don't take reservations. Their menu has very few items but everything tastes "grandmotherly". The biggest seller is a Special with a cup of stew, ham on biscuits, fruit salad, and homemade pie. The ham is the best ham I have ever had. It was a salty Smithfield Virginia Country Ham. The biscuits are flat, cut lengthwise, and served warm filled with ham. The fruit salad was the only odd thing on the menu, it's a small plate with lettuce, pineapple, peach, some salty cream, and cheddar cheese. It wasn't a winner combination. Their homemade pie was delicious. The crust was just right, not too crumbly, not too buttery. I had a cherry pie and a coconut pie. I had lunch there two days in a row and I would keep coming if I lived nearby. I'm going to try to replicate their ham on biscuits and homemade pie next weekend. Let's cross our fingers, I hope it's going to come out as good as their biscuits.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Colonial Williamsburg

We took a mini-vacation this weekend. We drove to Williamsburg, VA (150 miles away) for a weekend getaway. The weather was perfect! It was the nicest weekend of the year, it's still March but the temperatures went up to the low 80's in the afternoon. Nights were a little cooler down to low 60's. It couldn't be nicer. We stayed in a hotel at the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg from Saturday to Monday. We scheduled our days to give us enough time to see the historic area, rest and relax. On Saturday we arrived at 6 PM. We checked in, took the Shuttle to Market Square. The buildings and the streets make you feel like you traveled back in time. We bought peanut brittle from the Virginia Peanut Shop and a number of gourmet products at the Imported Foods store. Then we went to Aromas for a fondue. I ordered a Crab and Asiago cheese fondue, even though I was a little skeptical of the mix, it turned out to be very good. I didn't taste much of the cheese but you could tell for sure it was made with Chesapeake Bay crabs! I guess the cheese was just a binding ingredient. They served with bread, celery, and carrots. Then we headed back to the hotel to relax and eat all the peanut brittle. On Sunday and Monday we spent most of the day at the historic area, visiting the buildings where they have guided tours but we found time for naps back in the hotel and for a nice and relaxing massage at the Woodland Spa.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Ravioli With Roasted Zucchini

This is one of my husband's favorite recipes. It's quick and easy and it's so good. Sometimes I roast zucchini for pizzas too, in this case I bake for only 10 minutes because they will be baked longer with the pizza dough.

Ravioli With Roasted Zucchini

4 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2/3 cup parmesan cheese, freshly and finely grated
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided (or to taste)
Cheese ravioli (can be store bought or homemade)

Preheat oven to 350°F

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Place the zucchini in a large baking dish in a single layer and drizzle with oil, chili flakes, and 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan; add pepper and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the ravioli and the remaining salt to the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent the ravioli from sticking. Cook the ravioli for 3 minutes after they begin to float. Drain and place in a large bowl.
Drizzle the ravioli with olive oil, toss gently with the roasted zucchini, and half the remaining Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Note: you can replace the cheese ravioli with any kind of pasta with alfredo sauce.