It’s hard to believe, we’re at the inception of another school year. My eldest son Michael is in eighth grade and younger son is in fourth. They’re both such beautiful bright boys. I’m sure this year will be met with many challenges for them both, but with each one they successfully get through, I know their confidence will build and they’ll get better and better and overcoming any obstacle they may face….
I pretty much fell in love with Italy from day one, and lately I’ve really been missing my life there. In a place that changes little with the decades, each time I would go out, it often felt like a new experience because there was so much to see; even in the small little town I lived in.
I thought I’d share a super easy desert I enjoyed that is so quintessentially Italian, and yet isn’t a tiramisu or cannoli. Fragole all’aceto balsamico or balsamic vinegar and strawberries pair beautifully; you’ll see this pairing in their cuisine frequently. A strawberry balsamic vinegar reduction as a sauce over steak was a popular dish at a local restaurant, near where I lived. My favorite is a simple combination of the two. You could easily serve these strawberries over a white cake or perhaps even a chocolate cake, but since it’s the summer lets do ice cream and be merry….
When I think “comfort food” I think Cuban food. It’s what I grew up eating, most of my favorite dishes are Cuban and with two little boys home from school requesting comfort food I knew exactly the dish to make them. Ropa Vieja is Spanish for “old clothes”. It is a simple dish that is quite delectable.
I use a pressure cooker to make this recipe and have always done so. I imagine you could make this in a crock pot or on the stove but you’d have to make allowances for time. If you do, try this recipe in a crock pot or on the stove please come back and let me know how it all turned out for you.
- 2 lbs Flank Steak
- 1 whole medium onion peeled- I like the yellow or “sweet” variety.
- 3 bay leafs
- Salt 1 pinch
- Red wine suitable for drinking 2 tablespoons
- 1/4 – 1/2 of a red or green pepper chopped
- 2-3 T olive oil
- 3 cloves chopped garlic
- 1 can tomato sauce
- 1 tsp cocktail sauce
- Spanish olives
- 2 T Sazon completa* (store bought or make your own – recipe to follow.)
- 1 potato
- 1 carrot
- Fill your pressure cooker with water half way to the top.
- Place the Flank steak in the water with the whole onion on top. To easily peel the onion cut off both ends and remove first or second layer of skin.
- Add a pinch of salt to the water along with the bay leaf and wine. Cover the pan and cook over medium/low heat for about one hour to an hour and a half.
- Remove from heat and allow pressure to return to normal.
- Open lit and remove onion and set aside.
- Place steak on a large plate and set aside
- Reserve liquid in separate container
- “shred” meat by separating it with fork. I basically take a fork in each hand and separate the meat.
Step two: Prepare the “sofrito”
- Cut up onion (careful it will be hot) you can also place into a food processor
- Add oil to the pressure cooker. Turn heat on to low.
- Add in onion, chopped garlic, and pepper
- Add meat and brown for a few moments.
- Add in tomato sauce and cocktail sauce and olives and simmer until warm.
Serve over white rice.
Easy white rice recipe in rice cooker
- 2 cups rice
- 2 3/4 cups water
- pinch of salt
- 2 Tbs olive oil
Sazon Completa recipe: Makes 1 1/4 cup.
- 4 T of kosher salt
- 6 T of granulated garlic
- 2 T oregano
- 4 T onion powder
- 2 T cumin
- 2 T black pepper
- 3 T dried lime zest
- 2 T dried parsley
Often times here in Italy when you order a caffè you get a lovely shot of espresso. I usually order a caffè doppio (double shot) and always enjoy the piece of dark chocolate that is sometimes accompanied with the coffee. This recipe combines the two to create a brownie any dark chocolate lover would enjoy.
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons brewed espresso or extra-strong brewed coffee, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Heat oven to 350° F.
Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line with 2 crisscrossed pieces of parchment, buttering in between the pieces to help them stick and leaving an overhang on all sides. Butter the top of the parchment.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.
Combine the butter and unsweetened chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until melted. Let cool slightly.
Whisk in the sugars, eggs, espresso, and vanilla until smooth. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in the bittersweet chocolate. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.
Let cool completely in the pan.
Holding the paper overhang, lift the brownies out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.
Recipe via Real Simple Magazine, September 2014
This afternoon I was craving something hot and sweet that had autumn written all over it. I checked my refrigerator, pantry, and cupboards and managed to concoct a fabulous apple cider recipe, I think I’ll be serving to my guests this Thanksgiving.
I’d made some homemade dulce de leche for my boys the night before (for ice cream sundaes) so I knew it would go perfect in a hot apple cider too.
If you’ve never had dulce de leche it’s a most divine thing (basically caramelized milk.) There are a lot of recipes out there, but I prepare mine by pouring one can of sweetened condensed milk into the top of double-boiler pan, I don’t actually own a double-boiler pan so I make “un baño María” by placing a heat proof deep bowl into a larger pot, add hot water and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour to an hour and a half, or until the milk becomes thick and caramel-colored. Remove from heat and stir briskly until smooth.
You will find recipes that tell you to boil the can in the water, you can do this if you want, I certainly know plenty of Abuelas who have and do. I really can’t imagine how boiling an aluminum can, could be beneficial to your health, especially if it’s not absolutely necessary.
Now on to the cider!
- Apple Cider (I used the bottled store bought kind)
- Dulce de Leche (or caramel sauce would work too)
- Mulling spices: I used what I had on hand:
- Ground ginger
- All Spice
- Whole Nutmeg
- Cayenne Pepper
- Dark Rum (optional)
In a pot simmer the apple cider, dulce de leche, and spices until the cider is imbued with the spices. Add rum if you so desire. Strain the cider as you pour into mugs.
You can rim your mugs with a bit of the dulce de leche as I’ve done.