Lemon and Lavender Cake ~ Bolo de Limão e Lavanda

Photos by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by Food52

Brazil is playing well in the Copa America games.  Thursday’s match against Paraguay was a heart stopper.  It was a knotty match.  Just when a Brazilian would break away and head for the goal, the ref would blow his whistle.  The guy paused the game every few seconds.  It’s almost like he was intentionally halting our team’s momentum.

In a few minutes we will face Argentina.  No comment.

Unsalted butter, for the cake pan
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 tablespoon edible dried lavender
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup mild-flavored olive oil
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Confectioners’ sugar, to dust
Sprigs of fresh lavender, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter an 8-inch diameter, 2 1/2-inch deep cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Put the granulated sugar and lavender into a food processor and whizz until the lavender has broken down. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl. Stir in the lavender sugar. In a pitcher, mix the eggs with the yogurt and oil. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and gradually stir in the wet ingredients. Add the lemon zest and juice, but don’t over-mix. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the cake is coming away from the inside of the pan and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Turn it out, peel off the paper, and set on a wire rack until cold. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving and decorate with sprigs of fresh lavender.


O Brasil está jogando bem na Copa America.  Esse último jogo contra o Paraguai foi sofrido.  Achei que fosse ter uma parada cardiaca.  O Galvão falou certo, “Ooo time chato para jogar!”  Não foi fácil.  E o juíz não ajudou.  Apitava toda hora.  Não deixava o Brasil fazer uma jogada.

Na hora dos penalties eu não tive coragem para assistir.  As pernas ficaram bambas e o coração batia a cem por hora.  Tive de ir para a outra sala.  Depois, quando pai gritou que o time do Tite ganhou, veio a euphoria.

Daqui a pouco enfrentaremos a Argentina.  Sem comentarios.

Bolo de Lavanda a Limão

Manteiga sem sal, para untar a fôrma.
1 1/2 de açucar (eu diminui o açucar para um copo)
3/4 colher de sopa de lavanda seca comestível (eu usei quase 2 colheres)
1 1/2 copo de farinha de trigo
1/2 colher de bicarbonato
1/2 colher de chá pó royal (eu usei 1 colher enteira)
1/4 colher de chá sal
2 ovos grandes, levemente batidos
1 copo de iogurte
1/2 copo de azeite de oliva
Raspas (finamente raladas) de 1 limão amarelo e 1 colher de sopa de suco de limão

Aqueça o forno (350F).  Unte as fôrmas com manteiga e forre os fundos com papél pergaminho.  Coloque o açucar e a lavanda num processador e processe até a lavanda desmanchar.  Ponha a farinha com o pó royal, bicarbonato e sal numa tigela e peneire.  Adicione a lavanda e o açucar.  Misture os ovos, o iogurte e o azeite dentro de um jarro.  Faça um buraco no centro dos ingredientes secos e acrescente os ingredientes molhados pouco a pouco.  Adicione as raspas de limão mas não misture excessivamente. Despeje a massa nas fôrmas.  Asse por 45 a 50 minutos ou até o bolo começar a despregar das beiradas da fôrma ou até que um palito enfiado no meio saia limpo.  Tire das fôrmas e remova o papél.  Deixe o bolo esfriar.

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Lemon Cupcakes ~ Cupcake de Limão

At a beach house.  I’m inside making lemon cupcakes.  Just about done piping the frosting on them and sprinkling them with yellow sugar sprinkles.  I hear the door open, salty air permeates, seagulls calling.  Footsteps on the hardwood floor.  I feel his warm body press against my back, the scent of coconut suntan oil.  He gently moves my hair to one side and touches his moist lips to my bare shoulder.  His bristly beard tickles my neck.  Goosebumps.  He reaches around my waist and takes a cupcake from the counter.  I let him lick off the frosting…Mmmmmm…

You like that short story, huh?  Me too.

Lemon Cupcakes

1/4 cup unsalted butter softened (56g)
1/4 cup canola oil (60ml)- I used vegetable oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar (150g)
2 Tablespoons lemon zest (finely grated)
2 large eggs lightly beaten, room temperature preferred
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 185g may substitute cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk 118ml
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter softened (113g)
8 oz cream cheese softened (brick-style, not spreadable) (226g)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract optional
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
4 cups powdered sugar (500g)

Lemon Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and line a 12-count muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.

Place butter in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer) and use an electric mixer (or stand mixer) to beat until creamy.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add oil, sugar, and lemon zest and beat again until creamy and thoroughly combined.  Add eggs and vanilla extract and stir well until completely combined.

In a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large measuring cup, briefly stir together buttermilk and lemon juice.

Using a spoon or spatula, gradually stir about a third of the flour mixture into wet ingredients until just-combined (don’t use an electric mixer here or you’ll be more likely to overmix the batter, resulting in dense/dry cupcakes). Add about half of the buttermilk mixture into the batter and stir until just combined. Repeat adding flour and buttermilk in this way until ingredients are completely combined, but don’t mix more than you need to. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl so all ingredients are combined.

Evenly divide batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling each liner 2/3 of the way full. Transfer to 350F/175C oven and bake for 17-18 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Allow to cool completely before topping with lemon cream cheese frosting.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Combine butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and use an electric mixer (or stand mixer) to beat until well-combined.

Add lemon zest, vanilla extract, lemon extract (if using), salt, and lemon juice and beat well.

Gradually, with mixer on low speed, add powdered sugar until completely combined. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl to make sure ingredients are well incorporated.

Once cupcakes have cooled, spread or pipe lemon cream cheese frosting over cupcakes.

**Hate to ruin the mood from above…but what really happened is this:  I caught my cat on the table, licking the frosting off a cupcake.  The end.


Cupcakes de Limão

56 g manteiga sem sal, temperatura ambiente
60 ml óleo vegetal
150 g açucar
1 colheres de sopa raspas de limão amarelo (finamente ralado)
2 ovos grandes batidos ligeiramente, temperatura ambiente
3/4 colher de chá de extrato de baunilha
185 g farinha de trigo ou farinha de bolo
1 1/2 colher de chá de pó royal
1/4 colhere chá de sal
1/2 copo de leitelho (118 g)
2 colheres de sopa de suco de limão fresco

Cobertura de Limão e Cream Cheese

113 g de manteiga sem sal, temperatura ambiente
226 g de cream cheese em barra, temperatura ambiente
1/2 colher de chá de extrato de baunilha
1/2 colher de sopa extrato de limão
1/4 colher de chá de sal
1 colher de sopa de suco de limão
2 colheres de chá de raspas de limão
500 g de açucar de confeiteiro

Cupcakes de Limão

Pre-aqueça o forno a 175C e coloque as forminhas de papel na forma para 12 cupcakes.

Coloque a manteiga numa tigela grande e bata até ficar cremoso.  Adicione o óleo, açucar e as raspas de limão até incorporar.
Adicione os ovos e a baunilha e misture até ficar homogeneo.

Numa tigela separada bata a farinha, o pó royal, e o sal.  Num copo grande misture o leitelho e o suco de limão.  Usando uma colher ou spatula, pouco a pouco, misture um terço da farinha de trigo com os ingredientes molhados apenas até incorporar (não usa a batedeira).  Adicione a metade da mistura de leite e limão.  Repita, adicionando a farinha e depois o leite, terminando com a farinha. (sempre respando os lados da tigela.

Divide a mistura igualmente entre as forminhas de cupcake, enchendo até 2/3 do topo (a massa cresce um pouco).  Leve para o forno e asse por 17 minutos ou até que um palito enfiado no meio saia com esfarelos úmidos.  Deixe esfriar e coloque a cobertura.

Cobertura de Limão e Cream Cheese

Junte a manteiga e o cream cheese numa tigela grande.  Use uma batedeira elétrica e bata até ficar bem incorporado.  Adicione as raspas de limão, extrato de baunilha, extrato de limão, sal, suco de limão e bata bem.  Diminua a velocidade da batedeira (velocidade baixa) e adicione o açucar de confeiteiro lentamente.  Raspe os lados da tigela para asegurar que os ingredientes incorporem.

Quando esfriarem os cupcakes, espalhe a cobertura de cream cheese.

 

Orange Salted Honey Cake ~ Bolo de Laranja com Mel Salgado

Unfiltered photo by Priscillakittycat, filtered photo by Priscillakittycat’s brother, Alex. Recipe by the Cake Blog.

For Father’s Day I had planned to bake a lemon-lavender cake (love both ingredients) but ditched the idea when I came across this recipe for Orange Salted Honey Cake.  The word “honey” caught me.  I love the word “honey” so much that I call the animals I care for (mostly cats) different combinations of the word, including “honey pie”, “honey bear”, “honey sweetie”, and “honey bunny”.  In case you didn’t know it, in my free time I am an animal rescuer, rehabilitator and foster mom.

The word “honey” in the recipe’s name was one influencer.  The other was a photograph image of the Honey Cake.  It looked so pretty in the Instagram photo of Style Sweet CA.  A few blogs and instagram accounts display the cake’s photo, but not the recipe.  It took forever to trace the original recipe to The Cake Blog.

Let me tell you that I put too much effort into baking and decorating this cake.  Not because Dad isn’t worth the effort, but because all that effort could have been used toward a better cake.  What I mean is the majority of recipes I share with you are for things I find amazing and easy to prepare.  While the appearance of the cake is lovely, the taste is far from a home run.  (Maybe makes it to 2nd base)  Salted caramel just isn’t my thing…and the filling for this cake reminds me of salted caramel.  Then there’s the icing problem.  The icing is way too buttery.  The icing contains 2 ½ cups of butter.  That’s insane.  I wish I had read the recipe more thoroughly before embarking on this baking mission.  Let me offer one positive comment.  By itself (no icing and no filling) the orange cake is really, really, good.  Even though I do have free time, I prefer to play with kittens than to write the recipe and translate it to Portuguese.  I assure you, you’re not missing much.  But if you like salted caramel and feel the need, please visit the Cake Blog.


Eu já estava com tudo pronto para fazer um bolo de limão com lavanda (adoro os dois ingredientes) no Dia dos Pais mas mudei de ideia quando ví a receita para este bolo de laranja com mel salgado.  Geralmente só compartilho as receitas boas e faceis.  Hoje vou fazer algumas criticas.  Sabe aquele negócio (que deve ser invenção dos gringos–kkkk) chamado Salted Caramel?  O recheio do bolo lembra um caramelo salgado.  A cobertura do bolo tem gosto de manteiga pura.  Olha que eu gosto de manteiga–mas esta cobertura é amanteigada demais.  Se tiver que fazer um comentário positivo, seria que o bolo de laranja (ele sozinho, sem recheio ou cobertura) é muito bom.  Prefiro brincar com os gatinhos que cuido do que passar o dia anotando a receita e traduzindo para o Português.  Se você quizer ver a receita, por favor visite o Cake Blog.

 

 

Egg, Spinach, Onion, Red Pepper and Cheese Muffins ~ Muffins de Ovo, Espinafre, Cebola, Pimentão e Queijo

The last of the guests who attended my brother’s wedding were gone last week.  Yes, it was a beautiful week of festivities but it was also a very hectic several months leading up to the wedding.  After it was over, I would have totally sailed to a secluded island to re-center.  Unfortunately, we’re slammed at work…so R and R isn’t an option.

For the Key Largo wedding, my brother rented two large waterfront homes, one for the Russian family and the other for the Brazilians.  What do you get when you put 24 Brazilians together in a house for one week?  Well, when it’s all over you have a lot of stories to tell.  Like the night my mom walked into the bathroom and found someone sleeping in the bathtub.  Apparently, this character wanted a cool, quiet place to rest his alcohol-infused body and the bathtub looked inviting.  It would be improper to divulge most of the other stories on the worldwide web (lol).  Let’s just say the wedding was epic!

Here’s a little something that’s nice to prepare for breakfast guests.  Sorry about not giving credit to the blogger and for not including the exact measurements but I lost the link to the original webpage/blog.  Pretty sure the ingredients and steps are correct, though.

8 large eggs
2 cups Baby Spinach
½ cup chopped roasted pimentos (1/2 jar), chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
Cheese (Feta or your choice)
Olive Oil

Preheat oven 350F.  Heat two tablespoons oil and the onions in a sauté pan.  Cook for ten minutes until the onions are brown and fragrant.  Add the spinach and stir until it wilts.  Season with salt.  Turn off the heat and add the pimentos.  Stir to combine and set aside.

Spray a non-stick muffin pan with cooking spray. Beat the eggs and season with salt.  Divide the onion mixture into each of the muffin holes.  Pour the egg on top, filling ¾ of the way.  (The eggs will expand/rise)  Top with shredded cheese.  Bake for about 25 minutes.


Os últimos convidados se foram. Comemoramos o casamento de meu irmão em Key Largo com 120 amigos e familiares.  Foi espetacular.  Casamentos são ocasiões lindas, mas dão muito trabalho para organizar.  Nos meses antes do casamento o nível de estresse era alto.  Agora que acabou eu queria ir para uma ilha deserta.

As pessoas que perderam o casamento sabem o que perderam.  Foi fora de sério. O meu irmão alugou duas casas grandes em Key Largo. Uma casa para os Brasileiros e outra para os Russos.  Eram 24 pessoas dormindo na Casa Brasil…mas durante o dia a média era de 40 pessoas.  As comemorações geraram muitas histórias engraçadas.  Minha mãe acordou de madrugada para ir no banheiro e encontrou um dos hospedes dormindo na banheira.  Ele explicou que escolheu a banheira porque precisava de um lugar fresco e sossegado. Tem outros casos mas é melhor não compartilhar na net.

A receita que segue é uma boa para o café da manha.  Dá para fazer um monte de quichezinhos quando a casa esta cheia.  Desculpa que não coloquei o nome da blogeira e nem o link para o site mas é que esqueci onde foi que ví a receita.  Acho que é assim:

8 ovos grandes
2 copos de espinafre
1/2 copo de pimentão vermelho, picado (de lata)
1 cebola média picada
Queijo (feta ou qualquer outro)
Azeite de Oliva

Aqueça o forno a 350F.  Coloque duas colheres de azeite numa frigideira com a cebola picada.  Cozinhe até a cebola ficar corada e macia, aproximadamente 10 minutos.  Adicione o espinafre.  Tempere com sal. Cozinhe até murchar.  Desligue of fogo e acrescente o pimentão.

Coloque spray de untar numa fôrma de muffins.  Bata os ovos.  Divida a mistura de cebola entre as fôrminhas.  Acrescente o ovo (somente até 3/4 da altura da fôrma porque os óvos vão expandir).  Adicione o queijo ralado.

Asse no forno por aproximadamente 25 minutos.

 

 

 

 

 

Honey Lavender Hot Chocolate ~ Chocolate Quente com Mel e Lavanda

Recipe by FitFoodieFinds Blog, Photo by Priscillakittycat

Ooooooooo!  I just discovered something so great.  Okay, the discovery actually happened last November when I was in Asheville, NC.  First let me tell you how I ended up in Asheville.  I was there to deliver a very special sentient being named Harley to his new family.  I had helped rescue Harley (and another 9 cats) from a very scary situation in Miami and my good friend Jessy and her partner, Monica, offered to give Harley, a 16 year old kitty, a happy home to live out the rest of his life.  Elated to report that one year later, Harley, who they’ve named Little Buddy, stole the hearts of his family.  He receives so much love and affection.  Little Buddy has a kitty sister, Cutie.  They rule over the household and daily activities revolve around them.  If you’re reading this, “Thank you, Jess and Monica, for all the love you give to Little Buddy!”

Now that you know why I was in Asheville, let’s talk about the hot chocolate part of the story.  There’s this chocolate place called the French Broad in Asheville’s town center.  The name sounded funny and I became curious when the girls told me about it.  I imagined it would be owned by a French Broad or some rough or maybe eccentric red-haired woman with an interesting past.  (Remember, I like to make up my own stories).  Turns out, the history of the French Broad is so unrelated to the story I had come up with.  If you’re curious about the real story, ask Uncle Google.

While at the French Broad, I ordered a Honey Lavender Hot Chocolate.  You can choose to have yours with milk chocolate or dark chocolate.  I love dark chocolate and ohhh boy, do I love lavender.  It was divine!  When I returned to Miami I ordered a bag of Lavender flowers online…but never got around to reproducing the French Broad’s hot chocolate…until today.

Yeah, so what if the temperature in Miami is in the high 70s right now.  In these here parts you can’t wait for cold weather.  Besides, I really want to share this recipe with you…because everyone should have lavender honey simple syrup on hand.  You can use it to sweeten tea, lemonade or anything you’d like.  Make the simple syrup one night ahead of your hot chocolate party. Trust me on this one.  Lavender Honey Hot Chocolate is the cat’s meow!

For the Lavender-Infused Honey Simple Syrup

½ cup filtered water
½ cup all-natural honey
1 tablespoon dried lavender (I used 2 tablespoons)

For the Honey Lavender Hot Chocolate

2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 ounce 60% dark chocolate (i used high quality chocolate)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (if you use high quality cocoa, which i did, then use only 2 tbsps)
3 tablespoons honey lavender simple syrup (i added a little more)

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and turn to medium/high heat.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Stirring consistently until honey dissolves into water.

Place into a container and into the fridge. Let sit overnight or for at least 8 hours to let the lavender infuse even more. Strain lavender before serving.

Place 2 cups of almond milk and 1 ounce of dark chocolate in a small saucepan and turn to medium/high heat. Whisk until dissolved.  Add in cocoa powder and honey lavender simple syrup and whisk until dissolved. Continue whisking until hot cocoa comes to a simmer.


Ahhhhh, descobri algo maravilhoso!  Bem, a descoberta aconteceu na Carolina do Norte, nos EUA em novembro de 2017.  Vou explicar.  Eu fui para a Carolina do Norte para fazer uma entrega muito importante.  A entrega se chamava “Harley”.  Eu tinha resgatado o Harley e mais 8 gatos de uma situação muito perigosa em Miami.

A viagem até Asheville durou 13 horas.  Enquanto eu dirigia, o Harley, muito carinhoso, dormia no meu colo ou no banco do meu lado.  Demoramos mas chegamos bem.  Entregei o Harley, que hoje chama “Little Buddy”, para as novas mãs dele, a Jessica e a Monica.  Não tem nada melhor do que quando a gente encontra uma casa boa para um animal.  Hoje o Little Buddy tem uma irmã e vive como um rei.  Agradeço muito a Jessica e a Monica pelo amor que elas tem proporcionado a ele.

Agora que está explicado como fui parar na Carolina do Norte, podemos falar sobre o chocolate quente.  Na cidade de Asheville tem uma loja de chocolates chamada, “The French Broad”.  Eu logo imaginei que a dona do lugar fosse uma francesa velha, durona, porque o termo “broad” em inglês pode significar uma mulher desse tipo.  A história que inventei estava completamente errada.  Se você quizer saber o que é French Broad…pergunte para o Tio Google.

Okay, voltando ao assunto: chocolate quente.  Quando fomos ao French Broad pedi um chocolate quente com lavanda e mel.  Pense numa coisa dos deuses!  Quando voltei para Miami procurei a receita e comprei as flores de lavanda pela Amazon.  Isso faz tanto tempo.  Ainda bem que as flores de lavanda duram dois anos na embalagem.

Para a Calda de Mel e Lavanda

Esta calda pode ser usada para adoçicar limonada ou até suco de maracuja.  Faça a calda no dia antes ou varios dias antes de fazer o chocolate.
1/2 copo de agua filtrada
1/2 copo mel natural
1 colher de sopa flores de lavanda (eu usei 2 colheres)

Para o Chocolate Quente
2 copos de leite de amendoa sem açucar
1 oz (aproximadamente 30 gramas) de chocolate amargo (60 a 70%)
3 colheres de sopa pó de cacao (eu usei só 2 colheres porque o chocolate era de alta qualidade o que faz o sabor ser mais forte)
3 ou 4 colheres da calda de mel e lavanda

Para a calda de Mel e Lavanda
Coloque todos os ingredientes numa panela pequena e ligue o fogão para o fogo meio alto.  Deixe ferver, reduz o fogo e deixe fervilhar durante 5 minutos sempre mexendo até o mel dissolver na água.

Quando esfriar, transfira para uma jarrinha de vidro e leve para a geladeira durante pelo menos 8 horas.  A calda pode ficar na geladeira varias semanas.

Para o Chocolate Quente
Coloque 2 copos do leite de amendoa e 30 gramas de chocolate numa panela pequena.  Acenda o fogo (meio alto) Use o batedor (não a batedeira) para bater o chocolate no leite até o chocolate derreter.  Adicione o chocolate em pó e o mel (coado).  Bata com o batedor até o leite ferventar.

Winter Wonderland Snowman Cake ~ Bolo Boneco de Neve

Photos by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by Wilton

The New Year is upon us.  Reflecting on the past year, I am thankful for so much.  At the top of the list are friends of all kinds.  There are work friends, yogi friends, cat lady friends, animal friends, cooking friends, classmate friends, teacher friends, far-away friends, and forever friends.  I am thankful for family, good health, legs to run with, eyes to see and admire through, hands to caress and care for animals with, to draw, paint and cook with and a heart to love all sentient beings.

The mind is a gift, too.  It is where the compassion resides and grows.  It is a work in progress. If we train the mind, more compassion will flow through and the New Year will become beautiful, pure and white, like a snow-filled wonderland.

My wish for all humansk is that you be curious, explore and discover what makes your heart glow.  When you find the way, be assured the path will lead to light and love.  Happy New Year!

This Winter Wonderland Snowman Cake takes two days to prepare because the decorations (snowmen and trees) have to be made one day in advance of baking and icing the cake.

Meringue Cookies (Snowmen)

1/4 cup Meringue Powder
2 teaspoons Imitation Clear Vanilla Extract – 8 oz.
1/2 cup water
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 250°F. Prepare cookie pans with parchment paper.

In large bowl, whip Meringue Powder and water with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, gradually add sugar. Whip until stiff peaks. Add vanilla and icing color and whip until well combined, scraping down bottom and sides of bowl as necessary.

Prepare 16 in. decorating bag with tip 2A and meringue batter.

Prepare cookie pan with parchment paper. Use straight side of “B”, “C”, “D” and “E” cut-outs (see Wilton online) to trace circles on back of parchment paper (trace two to three of each size). Additionally, draw two to three circles measuring 1½ in. in size (slightly smaller than “D” cut-out).

Pipe balls following outlines on parchment paper. Bake and cool following recipe instructions.

Bake 45-50 minutes or until outsides of meringues feel firm and crisp. Cool completely on pan. Peel cooled meringues off the parchment paper.

Prepare parchment bag with reserved royal icing.

Using royal icing, assemble snowmen pieces. For large snowman, combine “B” circle for body with “D” circle for head. For medium snowman, combine “C” circle for body with 1½ in. circle for head. For small snowman, combine “D” circle for body with “E” circle for head. You’ll have extra meringues to chose from, so select the best ones!

Using Black icing color, tint ¼ cup royal icing black.

Prepare parchment bag with tip 2 and black icing. Pipe eyes and buttons on snowmen. Using reserved white royal icing, attach jumbo orange nonpareils for noses.

Using decorating brush and Deep Pink Color Dust, brush on cheeks.

Royal Icing (Trees)

3 tablespoons 4 oz. Meringue Powder
4 cups (about 1 lb.) confectioners’ sugar
5 tablespoons warm water

Beat all ingredients together until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer).

Helpful Hints:

  • Keep all utensils completely grease-free for proper icing consistency.
  • For stiff icing: Use 1 tablespoon less water.
  • When using large countertop mixer or for stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
  • For thin icing: To thin for pouring, add 1 teaspoon water per cup of royal icing. Use grease-free spoon or spatula to stir slowly. Add 1/2 teaspoon water at a time until you reach proper consistency.
  • Meringue Powder is a must for this recipe. Do not substitute with raw egg whites (which can be a food safety issue) or dried egg whites; neither will produce the same results as Meringue Powder.
  • To store: Store royal icing in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks. Before reusing, re-whip using a paddle attachment on low speed until it’s back to the correct consistency.Using serrated knife, cut four sugar cones ranging in height from 2½ in. to 4 in. high (leave remaining cone untrimmed).

Helpful Hint: Using a food-safe marker, mark cone at cut line. Dip bottom of cone to mark in hot water. Using a serrated knife, cut off bottom of cone.

Using tapered spatula, ice cones with royal icing. Use spatula to pull out icing from cone, making branches. Immediately sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar (use a sifter or tea strainer to dust trees); set aside to dry overnight. Reserve remaining royal icing.

Cake

Prepare cake batter following recipe instructions. I used a Dulce de Leche Layer Cake recipe for this cake, as it is white, fluffy and yummy.  You can use a chocolate cake recipe, too.  Bake and cool two cake layers. Level, fill and stack cake layers. Using spatula, ice cake, leaving spatula marks on top and on sides of cake.  Top cake with trees and snowmen. Sprinkle with remaining confectioners’ sugar.

Dulce de Leche Layer Cake

Filling

One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons nut-flavored liqueur, such as Frangelico or biscotti liqueur.  I used Disaronno.  Italian, of course.

Cake

2 1/2 cups cake flour 1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups plus 6 tablespoons sugar
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk

Frosting

4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons Frangelico or biscotti liqueur
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Submerge the unopened can of condensed milk in a large, deep pot of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat for 2 hours, adding water as needed to keep the can completely submerged. Carefully remove the can and let cool slightly. Carefully open the can with tongs and transfer the dulce de leche to a bowl: It should resemble creamy caramel. Whisk until smooth, then gradually whisk in the nut liqueur. Let cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 350° and butter two 9-inch cake pans. Line with parchment paper and butter and flour the pans. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the 1 1/2 cups of sugar at medium speed until fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat until smooth. Beat in the dry ingredients and the milk in 3 alternating batches, scraping down the side of the bowl occasionally.

In a clean bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar and beat until glossy. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans. Bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until the cakes are golden and a toothpick in the centers comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack to cool slightly. Run the tip of a knife around the edges and invert the cakes onto the rack to cool completely. Using a serrated knife, split each layer horizontally in half.

In a clean bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil over high heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved and a candy thermometer in the syrup registers 235° for soft-ball stage. Remove from the heat and add the liqueur. With the mixer at medium speed, carefully drizzle the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites. Beat in the lime juice, then beat at high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy and slightly warm to the touch.

Place a cake layer on a large cake plate and top with one-third of the dulce de leche filling. Repeat with the remaining layers and filling, ending with a layer of cake. Spread the frosting all over the cake, swirling decoratively. Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.

 

 

Esfiha

Spinach Filling by Food & Wine Magazine, Photos by Priscillakittycat

Official statistics say there are at least 6 million Lebanese descendants living in Brazil, but the real number is most likely closer to 10 million.  The Lebanese have influenced us in many ways.  The way that interests me is food!  I would like to share the recipe for a Lebanese pastry I love to prepare…and eat.  Esfiha.

The traditional Esfiha filling contains ground meat.  You know what an empanada is, right?  Well, in my opinion, the Esfiha is much better than an empanada.  The dough is remarkably soft and light, almost like an Italian milk bread.  My cousin, Carla, gave me the recipe for her Esfihas and taught me how to prepare them more than 20 years ago.

Esfihas are featured on the blog today because I received a request from my dad: “What’s the name of that thing you make with the meat inside?”  What he meant by the question:  “Can you make that thing with the meat inside?”  The problem with Esfihas is they are just like cats.  You can never have just one.  Let’s make a deal.  Don’t ask me about my cats and I won’t ask you how many Esfihas you ate.

Note: Prepare either of the fillings first and refrigerate. Then work on the dough.

Tangy Spinach Filling

1 small onion, minced
1 tablespoon ground sumac (see Note) or fresh lemon juice
Salt
One 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

In a medium bowl, toss the onion with the sumac and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the spinach and stir in the pine nuts, lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Sumac is a fruity, tangy spice that is ground from the dried berries of a wild Mediterranean bush. It is available at Middle Eastern markets.

Meat  Filling

Raw ground beef
Vegetable oil
Juice from half a lime
Salt to taste
Chopped tomatoes
Cilantro
Onions
Green onions

In a bowl, mix together the ground beef and other ingredients.  Roll the meat into small balls, about 3/4 inch in diameter and place onto a baking sheet and cover the sheet with plastic wrap while you prepare the dough.

Dough

1 ½ cups warm milk
3-4 packets Fleishmann’s active dry yeast
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
salt to taste
1 pinch of sugar
1 kilogram flour

Combine the yeast, butter and flour (Don’t add all the flour at once).  Slowly add the milk while the dough forms.  Add more flour until the dough no longer sticks to the hands.  Knead the dough until it becomes soft and silky.  Pinch a small piece of the dough and roll it into a ball the size of an M&M.  Place it in a cup of cold water and set aside in a quiet spot.  Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with a clean, damp dishtowel.  Set in a quiet spot away from drafts or heat sources.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  When the dough floats to the top of the cup, the dough is ready.  Form the dough into balls (the size of a golf balls).  Roll out each one, then place a meatball inside and pinch to seal, in the form shown in the photos.  Brush egg wash on the formed pastry.  Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for approximately 20-30 min.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  If you like Tabasco or hot sauce, use it.


Hoje pai perguntou: “Como é que chama aquele negocio que você faz…aquele de carne?”  Ele explicou mais um pouco e aí eu lembrei (Esfiha).  E tambem entendi que a pergunta era a maneira dele pedir para eu fazer Esfiha.  Realmente, Esfiha é tudo de bom!

A receita para a massa e o recheio de carne vem da minha prima, Carla.

Massa

1 1/2 copo de leite morno
3 ou 4 pacotinhos de fermento em pó
1 tablete de manteiga
Sal (a gosto)
1 pitada de açucar
Farinha de trigo (+/- 1 kilo)

Junto e fermento, a farinha e a manteiga (não toda a farinha) e va colocando o leite, pouco a pouco.  Acrescente a farinha até a massa não ficar grudando na mão.  (Coloque uma bolinha da massa no copo de vidro com agua e quando a bolinha subir, já pode fazer a esfiha)

Recheio de Espinafre

1 cebola picada
1 colher de suco le limão
Sal
1 pacote de espinafre congelado, descongelado e espremido para secar
1 colher de sopa de pinhões
1 colher de sopa de azeite de oliva, extra virgema

Misture todos os ingredientes.  Abra a massa e coloque uma colher do recheio no meio.  Dobre a massa e aperte para fechar, como mostram as fotos. Passe a gema de ovo por cima da esfiha com um pincel.  Asse no forno entre 20-30 minutos, no fogo (350F).

Recheio de Carne

Carne moida crua
Tomate
Cheiro verde
Cebola
Cebolinha verde
Limão
Sal
Soyu
Azeite

Misture todos os ingredientes do recheio e faça os bolinhos de carne.  Abra a massa e coloque o bolinho de carne no meio.  Dobre a massa e aperte para fechar, como mostram as fotos.  Passe a gema de ovo por cima da esfiha com um pincel.  Asse no forno entre 20-30 minutos, no fogo (350F).

 

 

Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta recipe by http://www.lacucinaitaliana.it and Strawberry Coulis recipe by Epicurious

 

We had to prepare a presentation for Italian class this semester.  My classmate and I chose Italian cuisine as our topic.  As part of the presentation we recorded videos (in Italian) for the recipes we chose to highlight:  Bruschetta and Panna Cotta.  She made the Bruschetta, I made the Panna Cotta.

Panna Cotta is a dessert with origins in the region of Piemonte, in the northwest of Italy.  It is a simple and quick dessert to prepare and is adaptable to all seasons. Think of it as a delicate flan without eggs. You can infuse the panna (cream) and milk with all sorts of flavors, including vanilla, lavender, or pistacchio.  Panna Cotta is often topped with a fruit coulis or syrup.  Try maraschino or chocolate sauce, for example.  I lean toward the tangy toppings.  Raspberry and passion fruit are lovely.  I prepared the one in the photo with strawberry sauce.

The recipe for this Panna Cotta comes from the site, http://www.lacucinaitaliana.it  The essential ingredients of a Panna Cotta are the same.   Take a look at other recipe options online and you will see that the main ingredients are sugar, panna or latte, and gelatin.

Panna Cotta

10 gr gelatin sheets
1 dl milk
½ liter whipping cream
100 gr sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add the gelatin sheets to a bowl containing cold water.  In the meantime, heat 1 dl of milk.  Do not allow it to bowl.  Squeeze the water from the gelatin sheets and add it to the hot milk.  Stir until it incorporates into the milk.  In another pot, heat half a liter of fresh cream (whipping cream) and add 100 grams of sugar.  Stir well so that the sugar melts.  Mix the milk with the cream and add the vanilla.  Pour into small molds that have been rinsed with cold water.  Allow to cool, then refrigerate for 5-6 hours.  Turn the Panna Cotta into dessert plates and top with strawberry sauce.

Strawberry Coulis

1 cup frozen unsweetened strawberries
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon juice

In a medium saucepan, combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Transfer to a blender.

Purée until smooth, strain, and set aside.  Drizzle over desserts, like the Panna Cotta you see pictured.


Para a aula de italiano tivemos de fazer uma apresentação.  Eu a minha colega fizemos a nossa apresentação sobre a culinária Italiana.  Incluímos duas receitas e um video mostrando como preparar a Bruschetta e a Panna Cotta.  Foi bem divertido fazer os videos.  Ultimamente só faço rir.  É tanta coisa engraçada que acontece no meu dia a dia.  A nossa professora de Italiano é um barato.  Sera que um dia o blog vai ter tradução para o Italiano também?!

A Panna Cotta vem da região de Piemonte.  Eu já fui lá e amei.  Faz fronteira com a França e a Suiça.  Os três paises são doceiros.  Aquilo sabe fazer doce, viu!

A Panna Cotta tradicional contem quatro ingredientes básicos: leite e/ou creme de leite, açucar, baunilha e gelatina em folha.  Impossível errar uma receita de Panna Cotta.  Experimente!

10 gr de folhas de gelatina
1 dl de leite
1/2 litro de creme de leite
100 gr de açucar
1 colher de sopa de baunilha

Coloque as folhas de gelatina numa tigela com agua fria.  Enquanto a gelatina tome forma na agua, esquente 1 dl de leite numa panela, sem deixar ferver.  Retire a panela do fogo.  Esprema as folhas de gelatina e adicione ao leite.  Misture bem.

Em outra panela, esquente meio litro de creme de leite fresco (whipping cream) e adicione 100 gr de açucar.  Misture até o  açucar derreter.  Junte o leite ao creme e misture.  Adicione um pouco de baunilha.

Despeje em fôrminhas e deixe esfriar.  Leve para a geladeira durante 5-6 horas.

Coulis de Morango

1 copo de morangos congelados
1/2 copo de açucar
1 colher de sopa de suco de limão

Junte os morangos, o açucar e o suco de limão.  Deixe ferver.  Retire do fogo e despeje num liquificador.  Bata até a mistura ficar com a consistência de calda.  Sirva com a Panna Cotta.

 

Easter ~ A Páscoa

Photos by Priscillakittycat

There is so much to do, so little time.  They say the older we get, the faster time passes.  I concur.  Today, for the first time in several months, I am home on a Saturday night…and I have time to do nothing at all.  I could just sit and watch Diners, Drive-ins and Dives but it seems like a good night to catch up and share some recipes.  By the way, just as I sat down and switched the channel to Guy’s show…he was at the Shrimp Shack in Islamorada.  The Shrimp Shack is now on my list of spots to visit.  I never was into the whole fine dining drama.  Flip flops and t-shirts are so much better.  Besides, what’s the point of paying more for less.

Yes, the Easter holiday has come and gone.  Even so, I believe it’s worth sharing these cookies.  They are the same kind I bake all the time…Maybe you will like the new shapes and get some ideas.  There might be some underlying reason, like repressed childhood desires, to explain this fascination with cookies.  Or it could just be that everywhere I go there are cute-shaped cookie cutters…and I give in to the urge to buy them.  Just Google “cookies” on this blog’s search box and the recipe will pop up.

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Até tinha esquecido como é bom passar um sabado a noite em casa, sem tarefas para fazer ou compromissos para cumprir.  Na televisão está passando “Triple-D”, um show de Guy Fieri: Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  Quem me conhece sabe que prefiro um “copo sujo” do que qualquer restaurante chique.  Por coincidencia, neste episódio o Guy visita o Shrimp Shack de Islamorada.  Fica perto de Miami.  Posso ir.

A Páscoa foi boa.  Eu fiz cookies.  Já deu para perceber que gosto de fazer cookies?  É que tenho todo tipo de fôrminha que você possa imaginar.  Sempre uso a mesma receita para os cookies.  Procure nas postagens anteriores!

Strawberry Shortcake in a Glass ~ Sobremesa de Morango na Taça

Photo by Priscillakittycat

I’m finally getting around to writing and posting new recipes that have accumulated over several months.  The summer’s routine is nice because we have a flex schedule (Mondays off); I have an extra day to write, paint, photograph, go to yoga class…or just veg out.  The veg out part doesn’t really happen because there is always something to do or create.

This dessert came from a birthday idea at work.  Before our boss’s birthday she was asked what type of dessert she would love to have on her birthday.  Her answer was:  Strawberries, Pound Cake and Whipped Cream.  I love people who are easy to please.  For her birthday we layered a large serving plate with Sara Lee pound cake, then added sliced strawberries that had been sprinkled with sugar and left in a bowl for 10 minutes.  Last, we slathered on the Cool Whip, whipped cream.  Our boss was so grateful for this delightful creation.

Although Cool Whip might taste good, I’m afraid to read the list of ingredients.  Something tells me it’s not that healthy.  So for the individual strawberry shortcakes you see in the glasses, I made the whipped cream.  A lot less sugar and most likely more healthy.  This is a dessert that will impress people because it looks pretty and tastes quite good.


Finalmente estou tendo tempo para postar as receitas que vem acumulando.  Durante o verão trabalhamos horas extra durante quatro dias e temos folga no quinto dia.  O meu quinto dia é segunda feira.  Te sendo bom porque tenho mais tempo para pintar, ir na aula de yoga, tirar fotografias, cozinhar, etc…

A ideia para esta sobremesa veio quando perguntamos para a nossa chefa o que ela gostaria de ter de sobremesa no dia do aniversário.  Ela disse:  morangos, bolo Sara Lee e chantilly.  Gosto de pessoas que são faceis de agradar.  No dia do aniversário forramos uma travessa com fatias do bolo e cubrimos com os pedaços de morangos que foram polvilhados com um pouqinho de açucar e reservados durante 10 minutos.  Por ultimo espalhamos os chantilly. Recomendo esta sobremesas para jantares em casa ou festinhas de criança porque é fácil fazer e todo mundo gosta.  Na foto você vê a versão individual que fiz em casa.  Ao inves de usar chantilly comprado, eu preparei o chantilly.  Assim é mais saudável.

 

Smoothie Routine ~ Rotina de Smoothie

Photo by Priscillakittycat

The routine I have for Saturdays is so nice.  I wake up early and feed the family (a slew of cats, a rabbit and birds). Then I prepare a light breakfast that includes a smoothie made of whatever happens to be in the fridge, toast, some yogurt and a hard-boiled egg.  About an hour later I’m headed to yoga class.  I like the 9:00 a.m. class the most because that’s when Maria teaches.  Maria is the best yoga instructor ever.  After yoga I come home and eat some more.  Yes, lot’s of calories are burned during yoga.  After a satisfying brunch I shower and put on something comfy.  Then, despite my true desire to sit at the painting station and start a new project, I begin to feel very relaxed…and sleepy.  I’m on the couch now, with Batgirl (the cat) beside me.  Time for a nap.

You can make a smoothie with almost any fruit or vegetable.  I like to use bananas, celery, cucumbers, carrots, papaya, ginger, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, pears, apples, mint, cilantro, parsley, and fresh squeezed lemon or orange juice.  Really- you can use any combination of these and your smoothie will be great.  Just remember to add water or some sort of liquid to the Magic Bullet or your smoothie will be too think to drink.


Adoro a rotina do sabado.  Acordo cêdo e dou comida para a tropa de gatos, um coelho e três passarinhos.  Depois tomo um café da manha lite:  ovo cozido, smoothie, pão torrado e iogurte. Uma hora depois vou para o studio de yoga.  A professora da aula das 9, Maria, é a melhor de todas. Só falho a aula do sabado quando viajo.  Depois da aula volto para a casa e como mais…um brunch.  A yoga quiema muitas calorias.  Tomo um banho.  E junto a gatinha “Batgirl” caio naquele sono profundo.

O smoothie pode ser feito com qualquer fruta ou verdura. Eu uso o que tiver na geladeira:  aipo, mamão, pepino, cenoura, manjericão, banana, gengibre, maçã, pêra, coentro, e hortelã, morango, limão espremido ou suco de laranja.

Summer Ceviche ~ Ceviche de Verão

Photos and Recipe by PriscillaKittycat

The game is on and I want Juventus to win.  It’s too bad they’re losing 3-1 with about 17 minutes left in the UEFA Champions League Match.  I’m biting the nails on my left hand so this post is taking longer than usual to write.

On to today’s story:  For every type of fish my brothers bring back from our trips to Key Largo, there is a recipe that goes with it.  Over the weekend they caught Tuna, Yellowtail and Mahi Mahi.  The Tuna became Sashimi.  It tastes great seared, too.  The Mahi Mahi made for a great Brazilian-style fish and shrimp stew.  The Yellowtail became Ceviche.  You can also grill it or fry it.  Below is the list of ingredients I use for the ceviche.

A bag of juicy limes, squeezed for juice*
Yellowtail filets, bloodlines and bones removed
Turmeric
Juice from 1/2 an orange (use a whole orange if you make a big batch)
Tabasco sauce
Low Sodium Soy Sauce
Salt
Cilantro, chopped
Red onions, thinly sliced and chopped

Cut the Yellowtail into small cubes and place in a glass bowl.  Pour the lime juice over the fish.  Use enough lime juice to cover the fish and about 1/4 inch above it.  Stir for a a bit.  Let the mixture sit and “cook” for about 20 minutes.  The fish will be a chalky white when ready.

Add the remaining ingredients and serve.  You can also cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Ceviche tastes better the next day, after it absorbs the spices and seasonings.  It will stay fresh for up to 5 days.

*The lime juice should be freshly squeezed, not bottled.


Estou roendo as unhas da mão esquerda e torçendo para o Juventus enquanto escrevo aqui no blog.  Mas tá ruím pro lado do Juventus neste campeonato da UEFA.  Faltam 17 minutos para acabar o jogo e eles estão perdendo de 3 a 1.

Vamos falar de peixe.  Os meus irmãos tem ido pescar muito durante este verão.  Pra cada tipo de peixe que pescam, tenho uma receita boa.  O atúm vira sashimi ou também pode ser salteado.  O Mahi-Mahi fica uma delicia na moqueca de peixe com camarão, grelhado ou frito. E o peixe que dá um bom ceviche chama Yellowtail.  O Yellowtail também pode ser grelhado ou frito.  Segue a lista de ingredientes que uso para fazer o ceviche “10”.

Um saco de limão espremido
Filets de Yellowtail com as linhas de sangue e as espinhas removidas
Curcuma
Suco de meia laranja (use uma laranja enteira se for fazer maior quantidade)
Molho Tabasco
Soyu lite
Sal
Coentro picado
Cebola vermelha, fatias finas picadas

Corte o Yellowtail em cubos pequenos e coloque numa tigela de vidro.  Despeje o suco de limão por cima até cubrir o peixe.  Misture e deixe o peixe “cozinhar” no suco durante 20 minutos, dentro ou fora da geladeira.  O peixe cozido fica branco igual gis. Adicione os outros ingredientes a gosto e sirva.  O ceviche fica melhor se ficar na geladeira durante 24 horas para pegar o gosto dos temperos.

*Use o suco de limão fresco, não de garrafa.

 

 

June 12 is Valentine’s Day in Brazil ~ This is…A True Love Story

IMG_7025 IMG_7021

My dad is a man of few words.  When he speaks, though, it is either something very profound or something so funny it will make you fall off your chair in laughter.  He said something to me many years ago.  He said that when someone really loves you, they will do something about it.  I never recognized the truth behind those words until…

It was June of 1988, summertime in the US, winter in Brazil.  I was 15.  We packed our bags like we had done so many times before; 14 suitcases, army bags and large boxes, between the seven of us.  (Seven because my brother’s nine year old friend, Bradley, joined us)  Inside the boxes:  silk flowers, party favors, cake decorating supplies, and engraved items such as napkins, champagne glasses, and matches, -everything needed for a celebration of high caliber.

I, the typical teenager, wasn’t interested in a fancy party.  But I had to board the plane and go with them.  After all, the party would be for me.

At the duty free shop in Brazil my mom purchased boxes and more boxes of whiskey.  We spent a few days in Belo Horizonte, a city whose name means beautiful horizon.  There we met with the seamstress so I could try on the dresses.  The dresses, fit for a princess, weren’t ready but they would be shipped to my grandmother’s house in Januaria.

Back then, the only safe way to get to my grandmother’s town (my mom’s hometown) was via a very long bus ride.  The bus departed the train station in Belo Horizonte at nine o’clock in the evening.  The road was covered with large potholes that had formed after the rainy season.  We bounced and jiggled around the bus the entire way.  It was cold outside.  I leaned my head back but I couldn’t sleep.  Eight and a half hours into the trip (around 5:20 a.m.) the bus stopped and the driver instructed everyone to exit.

We were at the bank of the Sao Francisco River.  The river’s bank was lined with small clay huts that had straw roofs.  The soil was a thick, burnt-orange color.  Our shoes and the hems of our pants absorbed the powdery soil as we walked.  During the winter season, the Northeastern region of Brazil is hot and arid during the day and cool in the evening.  It was still dark outside; the sun would creep out soon.  Single flickering bulbs dangled from the electrical lines that were strung from hut to hut.  A handful of villagers carried baskets or metal trays containing items such as corn on the cob, fried fish, and bottled drinks.  The villagers weaved between the waiting passengers and offered their goods.

Nothing was wrong with the bus, by the way.  We just had to wait for the barge to arrive from the other side of the river.  When the barge arrived, the larger cargo, including buses and trucks boarded first.  The river was calm, it’s water thick and brown.  If it were daytime you’d see the tones of red.  The thought of boarding a flat piece of metal loaded with heavy vehicles and subsequently being tugged across the river by a small boat seemed risky.  I negotiated with God and asked him get us across the river safely.  Twenty minutes later (felt like longer) the bus drove off the barge, we re-boarded and were back on the road to Januaria.

The town didn’t change much from year to year.  Dilapidated homes lined the cobblestone streets.  My grandmother lived in the city square where the homes maintained the colonial style of the late 1800s.  The square had a bank, a church, a bakery, two drug stores and a hardware store.

The day we arrived my mom informed me I would dance the waltz with someone named Manoel.  According to mom he was the most handsome man in town.  She wanted to be sure the photos would turn out nice, hence the arrangement.  An argument ensued.  There was absolutely no way I would agree to dance the waltz with a complete stranger who was 23 years old.  Creepy!  I proposed that it was only necessary for me to dance with my dad.  The second waltz was reserved for boyfriends and if I didn’t have a boyfriend, we could logically omit that part of the ceremony.

My mom and I argued back and forth on the matter until I finally agreed to her conditions:  If I didn’t have a “boyfriend” by the day of the party I would dance with Manoel. (In the meantime I told myself I would devise a plan to meet and inform this allegedly good-looking man that it wouldn’t be necessary for him to dance with me.)

The next day our family went to the “beach”.  The road that led to the beach was dusty with that thick burnt orange powder.  At the beach we sat under the shade of a tiki hut.  Something was cooking in the hut’s kitchen and it smelled really good.  My parents went from table to table and greeted people. Everyone was really friendly.  We got hugs and kisses from people I had never met before.  My parents found an empty table.  I sat facing the hut’s kitchen because even back then I was curious about food.  My parents had their backs to both the kitchen and to the entrance of the hut.

I looked around and explored our surroundings and quickly noted the contrast in the local’s attire versus mine.   I wore a lime green American-style bathing suit.  The bottom of my bathing suit looked like a diaper compared to the teeny-tiny bikinis worn by all the other girls on the beach.  Good thing I had on a pair of white shorts to cover my diaper butt.  I looked down at my clothes and felt a bit embarrassed.

I heard some laughs and commotion at the back of the hut.  When I looked up, there he was.  He was tall and had dirty blond hair (like Jon Bon Jovi’s).  His eyes were green, set perfectly between a nose that turned slightly upward when he smiled.  He had full lips and perfectly aligned white teeth.  I don’t think I had ever considered a being to be perfect until my eyes scanned downward toward his legs.  Those legs, thick and strong all the way down, completed the package.

My analysis lasted the few seconds it took him to walk to our table and gently pat my mom on the back.  Mom turned and enthusiastically hugged him.  “Manoel!”  Meanwhile, my mind and heart raced at 100 mph.  This was Manoel and he was not the best looking man in town.  He was the best looking man I had ever laid eyes on.  My mom introduced us and told him I was her daughter and would be the one for the waltz.  He flashed a smile and said he would be delighted to dance with me.  Something told me Manoel had been in many other waltz pictures and didn’t seem to mind the attention.  He moved to greet people at other tables.  We were at the elder’s tent.  He disappeared behind me…very likely headed for the young and cool people’s tent.  My pulse and blood pressure returned to normal after a half hour.  Okay, maybe it took a couple of hours.

The party wouldn’t be for another several weeks.  The doorbell rang constantly at my grandmother’s house.  People came to ask for invitations and also brought gifts.  The party planners came over every couple of days to discuss the details.  I stayed out of it.  It seemed to me that this party would be the wedding my mom never had.  She married my dad in a small ceremony.  Dad wasn’t there.  He was in the US and sent a power of attorney for his brother to take his place so that mom could obtain a Visa to come to the US.

I went out almost every night with my cousin who was one year my senior.  She taught me how to fend off unwanted guys.  Brazilians are quite forward when compared to American guys.  I wasn’t used to walking in the street and having a person walk past and say he wished he were the strawberry ice cream I was savouring.

I hadn’t seen Manoel since that day at the beach.  My cousin and I leaned against the wall that ran along the river.  About 20 feet below was the river.  During the rainy season the river would reach the top of the wall and sometimes flow over into the city.  I remember exactly what I wore that night.  It was a gray knit skirt, about an inch above my knee.  My blouse had half sleeves and matched the skirt.  The back of the blouse said:  “Naughty Boys”.  It was a popular brand of clothes in the US at the time.  (For Brazil’s fashion standards, I was still tacky)

Two guys came over to talk to us.  The guys were Paulistas (from Sao Paulo), in town for work.  Their names were Luis Enrique and Olavo. They were your typical city boys, nicely dressed and clean-cut, with Italian last names.  The conversation progressed to our plans for the days ahead.  My cousin mentioned my 15th birthday party and also told them that I would be forced to dance with a guy who I wasn’t interested in.  The Paulista who seemed to take a liking to me, immediately offered to be my partner for the dance.  I smiled and thanked him but didn’t exactly accept.

Cars drove slowly down the street.  Some played loud music.  The boys made passes at the girls.  Across the street there were a number of bars.  The bar directly in front of us was sparsely occupied.  I noticed someone familiar at a table with two girls.  He wore a beige and brown marbled sweater, jeans and a pair of all-stars.  I wondered who the girls were and whether either of them was his girlfriend or maybe a friend with benefits.  I was actually jealous.

Meanwhile, the two Paulistas carried on.  They asked me questions and I answered, mostly using monosyllable replies.  They didn’t notice where my attention was.  You have to keep in mind that I was a very shy girl back then.  I didn’t know what a comfort zone was but you can be sure I was outside of it.  What happened next blows my mind.  My actions would shape my life forever.

I casually informed the Paulistas and my cousin that I would be right back.  I strutted across the street on a mission…poofy hair and high-heel silver pumps (so tacky)…and said hello to Manoel.  I told Manoel that I would like to ask him a question.  He smiled and waited.  By then the girls he was with had eased out of the way.  In a soft and shy-but-confident voice I asked him if he would dance the waltz with me at my 15th birthday party.  He hugged me and said “Of course I will”.

From that moment forward he never let go of me.  Across the way the Paulistas deduced they would not be guests at my party.  My cousin was utterly confused.  Manoel and I were inseparable for the next several weeks.  He’d pick me up each morning and we’d head to the beach.  After the beach he’d drop me off at my grandmother’s house so I could nap.  He’d return later and wake me from my nap—that was nice.  We were together until around midnight, sometimes longer.  I was in love.

On the day of the party Manoel and I, along with my parents and brothers, stood at the reception area of the social club and greeted 600 guests.  (Three kisses on the cheek from each.  My facial muscles were sore.)  I had made some friends since our arrival in Januaria.  But of the 600 guests I could say I only knew 50.  We danced the waltz together just as my mom had planned.  Wink, wink!  Fireworks rang out.  He stood at my side and we cut the four-tier cake. The celebration would come to be known as the Party of the Century.

It is true.  All good things come to an end.  Our time expired just a few days after the party.  Our family had to board the same bus back to Belo Horizonte to then board the flight to Miami.  Manoel and I cried and hugged and cried some more.  I knew he would miss me and I would miss him just as much.

The years passed.  Each time I visited Brazil we would meet. The emotions were the same.  He had a few serious relationships and lived with a woman when he was away at law school.  Eventually he returned home to practice law with his father and became engaged to a local girl whose family owned half the town.  They had supermarkets and gas stations.  I knew he didn’t love her.  He was making the wrong move for the wrong reasons. Money and power are never good reasons to marry.

My family was invited to the wedding. On the eve of his wedding I was at a Karaoke Bar when a young man approached our table and asked if someone could tell him where to find Priscilla.  My aunt pointed at me.  The young man said that someone at the door was waiting to speak with me.

His truck was parked out front.  In small towns, everyone knows everyone…and everyone finds out about everything.  I didn’t care.  I got in the truck.  We talked…he told me he wanted to marry me.  I scolded him and questioned his sincerity.  He said he loved me and that I was the one he wanted to marry.  I didn’t believe him.  Why would he wait all this time to tell me?  On the night before his wedding?  It probably wasn’t true.  So I called his bluff and said that if he wanted to marry me he could.

He stopped the car at my grandmother’s doorstep—another big mistake in a small town where everyone talks.  We talked some more.  Neither of us seemed to care what other people thought that night.  We stared into each other’s teary eyes and didn’t say a word for a few minutes.  Before I closed the door he said he loved me.  I ran up the stairs, buried my head in a pillow and cried.

The next day wasn’t easy.  Remember that the church was in front of my grandmother’s house.  I opened a bottle of wine and sat at the balcony.  The guests began to arrive.  My family and I walked over and sat in one of the back pews.  My hands shook and heart pounded.  Manoel saw my brothers and pretended to choke himself, a Brazilian gesture that refers to the act of getting married.

The wedding happened.  They bride and groom exchanged vows.  At the reception they greeted guests.  I walked past.  His new bride held on to him for dear life.  While still holding her hand he leaned toward me and said something in my ear.  The music was loud so I couldn’t hear him.  I asked him to repeat.   He repeated but I still couldn’t hear.  On the third attempt he said, “Never mind”.

Months and years passed.  I heard rumors about his failing marriage all the time.  He left the house several times.  I saw him every now and then.  He always had a hug for me, a very special hug.  The kind that neither of us wanted to let go of.  After seven years and a number of reconciliation attempts the marriage ended.  (Apparently seven is the magic number for divorces).

Separation after being with a person for a long time is not easy, even if things are bad and the separation is for the better.  But life was really looking good for Manoel after the divorce.  He moved into the space above his law firm. I was happy for him.

My mom was in Januaria in August of that year.  She emailed me pictures of Manoel and said he wanted to see me.  He asked my mom if it would be okay for him to visit me in Miami.  He told my mom he wanted to marry me.  She always liked Manoel so “yes” was her answer.  I told her to let him know that he shouldn’t worry because we would see each other soon.  I had plans to visit in December.  He sent a message back saying that December was too far away.  He said he would come get me sooner.  My mom played along with him and said, “Okay, as you wish”.  After all those years he still referred to my mom as his “sogra” or mother-in-law.

Mom returned to Miami.  We were both excited about my seeing Manoel again.  He was divorced now.  The path was clear.  After also having recently ended a long-term hopeless relationship I was ready for him.  We were ready for each other.  I remember sleeping so peacefully in the weeks that followed.

One morning in late August, not long after her return from Brazil, Mom entered my room with a startled look on her face.  Something was wrong.  “What, mom?”

She told me she had just received a call from my uncle.  Manoel had been in a car accident.  My immediate reaction was, “Okay, but he’s going to be okay, right?  He’s in the hospital, right?”

“No”, she said.  “He died in the accident.”

My world fell apart on that day.  We had waited so long.  How could our plans end this way?  The sadness I felt was deep. His physical life ended on that day.  My spirit died.  My heart was broken.  My life would never be the same.  I promised myself many things.  I would never take time for granted.  I promised I would always do what I wanted to do and say what needed to be said, without holding back. I promised to say yes more, to believe in people more…to love more.

One year later to the day of his death I visited Januaria. Strangely, I walked around town and still expected to see him drive past in his truck and wave.  It was hard to accept his death.  What occurred next was even harder to accept.

Manoel’s mom came to visit.  She brought an envelope with her.  She began to cry as she told this story:

“On the day of his wedding, Manoel drove 100 km to another town and called us to say he would not be there for the wedding.  He told us he did not want to marry her.  He told us he didn’t love her.  He said he loved you and wanted to marry you.”

Manoel’s mom described the events that had transpired on the day of his wedding. She said, “I told Manoel that all the catering had been arranged, the guests had been invited…and he couldn’t just walk away.  I told him he needed to come back.  I told him he needed to respect his family, her family, and the guests.  He refused. We had no choice.  So we sent his brother and sister to pick him up.  We coerced him into marrying his fiancé against his wishes.”

Manoel’s mom was there to apologize to me.  She felt a tremendous amount of guilt for forcing him to marry someone he didn’t love. And now, she felt she would have to carry the guilt of his death with her.  Had he not married her, she reasoned, he might not have started drinking…and therefore the accident wouldn’t have happened.

She opened the envelope and showed me the contents.  One by one she laid them out on my lap.  They were all photos of me, different sizes, different shapes, and different ages.  She had found them in his drawers, hidden in various spots.  She found them while cleaning out his home following the accident.

“He loved you, Priscilla.  His wife knew he loved you.  She despised you because she knew the truth.  She knew he was with you the night before his wedding and she knew he left town on the day of their wedding.”

I was in complete shock.  He really meant it that night.  He really did want to marry me.  I should have believed him.  I should have offered to run away with him.  I would have done it.

Now I, too, was overcome with guilt.  I thought of what our lives would have been like had things happened differently.  I don’t know how our lives would have turned out…but I now know that my dad was right when he said, “when someone loves you they will do something about it”.  Manoel did something about it.  But his family stopped him.

His mom hugged me and we cried.  Before she left she said I should go on with my life and find someone good.  She said that’s what Manoel would have wanted.  He wanted me to be happy.  She said it was time to let him go.

I haven’t returned to Januaria since then.  I prefer to remember the good times we had, the sunsets and sunrises.  The sun set too soon for my Manoel.  I am still blessed with the gift of life and a sun that rises every day. It means I have the responsibility to live a meaningful life and try to make the world a better place.  His love shines in my heart every day.  Happy Valentine’s Day, Manoel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ground Beef and Potato Casserole ~ Escondidinho de Carne Moída

Photos by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by Receitas Caseiras

Photos by Priscillakittycat, Recipe by Receitas Caseiras

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Very rare are the days when I am able to do absolutely nothing.  The recent weeks have been hectic to say the least. The good comes with the bad and it all sort of blends together like a blurry photograph.

Today would have been a beach day were it not for the rain.  Instead, I’m on the couch facing two cream-colored armchairs, a black cat on each, and a black Baby Grand Yamaha piano, orange cat resting on top.  I could be doing nothing as they are.  (The average cat sleeps 18 hours a day)  Alternatively, I could try to catch up and post the rapidly growing backlog of recipes and photos. There’s a championship soccer match on TV.  I can watch it while I type this entry.

You’ve probably noticed that this blog lacks recipes that incorporate red meat. Red meat does not appeal to me. I have a hard time eating parts of sentient beings who once had four legs and walked the earth. However, when the need arises for heartier foods and iron in the diet, ground beef does the job.

The name of this Brazilian dish is “Escondidinho”. The word escondidinho is the dimunutive term for hidden. When translated literally it would mean: Little hidden one. The recipe and the concept are straightforward. Cooked ground beef on the bottom of a casserole dish and mashed potatoes on top. Key things to consider: The texture of the mashed potatoes and cooking time of the ground beef. Aim for moist mashed potatoes and moisture in the meat, as well.

1 kg boiled and peeled and mashed potatoes
1 cup hot milk
1 tbsp butter salt chopped parsley
1 tbsp oil
1 kg ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 chopped tomato
50gr grated parmesan cheese

In a bowl mix together the potato, butter, milk and salt with a spoon until the mixture is smooth and light and set aside. (I used the potato masher to accomplish this task) Heat oil in a pan and cook the ground beef. (The recipe says to allow all the liquid to try but I prefer to leave a little moisture) Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5-10 minutes. Add the tomato, salt and parsley. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Level the cooked ground beef into the bottom of a rectangular glass pyrex and carefully cover with the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
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Nem lembro a última vez que pudi ficar um dia enteiro sem fazer absolutamente nada! Desde fevereiro que a vida tem sido uma correria. Entre as coisas boas e as ruins, tudo se mistura e fica parecendo uma foto desfocada.

Hoje teria sido dia de praia…mas choveu. A vista que aprecio neste momento…Duas poltronas brancas com um gato preto esticado em cada. O adorno de destaque no piano é o Neymar, gato peludo cor de abóbora. Os três dormem profundamente. (Um gato dorme em média 18 horas por dia. Êta vida boa!)

Enquanto assisto um campeonato de futebol tento postar pelo menos uma entrada neste blog. Cozinhar é facil…o que demora mesmo é datilografar. Por falta de tempo as fotos e as receitas vão acumulando.

Quando você for preparar o escondidinho, tente deixar um pouco de caldo na carne. Eu coloquei mais leite e manteiga do que é sugerido na receita para que a batata ficasse bem fofa. Usei a receita de um livrinho de banca de revista, “Receitas Caseiras”.

1 kg de batata cozida e amassada
1 xícara (cha) de leite quente
1 colher (sopa) de manteiga
Sal e salsa picada a gosto
1 colher (sopa) de oleo
1 kg carne moída 1 cebola média picada
2 dentes de alho picados
1 tomato maduro picado
50g de queijo parmesão ralado

Em uma tigela misture a batata com o leite e a manteiga, sal e batata com uma colher até obter uma massa leve e lisa. Reserve. Aqueça uma panela com o óleo e refogue a carne até secar a água (eu prefiro a carne mais molhada) Adicione a cebola, o alho e refogue por 5 minutos. Acrescente o tomate, sal, salsa e misture. Coloque em um refratário médio e cubra com o purê reservado. Polvilhe com o parmesão e leve ao forno médio, preaquecido, por 30 minutos. Decore como desejar e sirva em seguida.

 

 

Pomegranate ~ Romã

Pomegranates fresh from the backyard.  Photos by Priscillakittycat

Pomegranates fresh from the backyard. Photos by Priscillakittycat

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I can’t keep saying, “my favorite fruit is…” because they are all my favorite and I wouldn’t want you to think I’m waffling.  How about I just tell you the ones that top the list? Passion Fruit, Pomegranate, Loquat (Níspero), Raspberries, Surinam Cherries (Pitanga), Papaya, Lemon, Tamarindo, Jaboticaba, and Pineapple.  You’ll notice that with the exception of Papaya, all the others are very tangy or acidic fruits.  When given the choice between a chocolate gelato or a lemon flavored one…nine times out of ten, I’ll choose the lemon.  I remember when we were kids, during the hot and dry summers of Alice, Texas, dad would take us to Baskin Robbins for ice cream.  I always chose the Raspberry Sherbert or the Rainbow Sherbert.

The pomegranates you see in the picture come from the tree I planted in 2010.  Among the other trees that adorn our backyard…you guessed it–the majority are tangy fruits.  We have a Níspero tree that I planted by accident.  The tree grew out of a pot.  I thought it was an avocado tree and proudly showed the pot to my Spanish neighbor, Juancho.  He asked if I was sure that’s what I planted in the pot.  “Yes”, of course I’m sure.  He motioned for me to follow him through the yard to his Níspero (loquat) tree.  I burst out in laughter.  There was no doubt the leaves on my tree were those of a loquat, not an avocado tree.  (Juancho has both in his yard).  I must have tossed a seed or two in the pot after eating one of the fruits off his tree.  Excited that I had managed to accidentally plant an exotic tree, I transferred it to a sunny spot in the front yard.  Juancho expects I’ll have a tree full of loquat next year.  In the meantime, I pick-and-eat the fruits off his tree.

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Ooops, agora que eu me dei conta…esqueci de traduzir os textos mais recentes para o Portugues.  Vou tirar um break e volto já com a tradução!

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Não posso ficar dizendo, “minha fruta favorita é…” porque você vai pensar que sou indecisa.  É porque todas são boas!  A lista das favoritas:  Maracujá, Romã, Loquat, Amora, Pitanga, Mamão, Limão, Tamarindo, Jaboticaba, e Abacaxi. Com exeção ao Mamão todas estas frutas são acidas.  Se me fizer escolher entre um gelato de chocolate ou um de limão, eu escolho o de limão.

As romãs que você vê na foto vieram do quintal onde plantei uma variedade de árvores frutíferas.  Tenho até uma arvore de Níspero que plantei sem saber.  Pensei que era abacate mas quando o meu vizinho espanhol (Juancho) viu a muda, me disse logo que a muda não era de abacate.  Eu provavelmente jogei uma semente de Níspero no pote onde tambem tinha plantado o abacate.  O abacate não pegou, mas o níspero agarrou e agora é uma arvore linda.  O Juancho afirmou que no ano que vem teremos Níspero!