Sunday, July 31, 2011

Carmine's Restaurant and In The Heights Review

My mom was in town so we decided to go and see In The Heights. In the Heights is a musical on Broadway that follows a group of characters, over the course of three days, that live in the neighborhood of Washington Heights. I heard wonderful things about the show so I was super excited to see it. The music was lively, the characters were funny and witty. I felt like I was there living with them. I loved it. It was one of the more enjoyable, touching shows I have seen on Broadway in a long time. If you haven't seen it, you should! 

After the show we went to Carmine's. Carmine's is a family-style Italian restaurant that has been in the Times Square area since 1992. It can be kind of touristy at times but the food is off the charts. If you want to eat here, advanced reservations are a good idea. Especially since, every time I've ever been here it's been packed. 

We started off with the amazing Spaghetti with meat balls. Ohhhh Mama Mia!!! My mouth is watering on the keyboards just thinking about this dish. The pasta was hot and cooked perfectly al dente. The meatballs were moist and juicy and had the most incredible meaty flavors. The sauce hugged the meatballs like a long- lost lover's embrace and it coated the pasta like a mother covering her child with a blanked on a cold night. Not to mention the sauce was seasoned just right and the consistency was the perfect combination between not too thick and not too soupy.  

My mom loves bread pudding so when they had the special of chocolate chip raisin bread pudding, I knew that was what we would be ordering. It came with a side of fresh whipped cream and strawberries. I am not a huge fan of bread pudding but this version was delicious. The texture was closer to a savory cake. The flavor of cinnamon, chocolate and raisin added a nice sweet element. All in all, if you can get a reservation Carmine's is a restaurant that does not disappoint and it's perfect for large groups. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Alejandra's Flan Recipe

Baby Leah and Me

Alejandra is a family friend, huge Food Network fan and my little baby cousin Leah's Nanny. 

She is an incredible cook, ( I will be posting her out of this world recipe for ceviche soon) and she kindly shared her family recipe for flan with me. I couldn't get enough of it.   

 Flan is a traditional Mexican custard but there are many different versions. This recipe is perfect for a novice or expert.

Alejandra's Flan Recipe

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

   1 & 1/2 cup of sugar
   6 large eggs
   1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
   2 13oz cans of evaporated milk
   1 teaspoon of vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. You will need 6 ramekins or other specialty flan cook ware and a large baking dish to place them in.

Pour 1 cup of sugar in a warm pan over medium heat. Stir the sugar constantly until it browns and becomes caramel. ** Be careful when dealing with warm sugar because if it gets on you skin it can burn you badly.**

Quickly pour approximately 2-3 tablespoons of caramel in each ramekin. Tilt and swirl the caramel around the sides. Reheat the caramel if it starts to harden. 

In a mixer or with a whisk, blend the eggs together. Mix in the condensed and evaporated milks. 

Then slowly mix in the 1/2 cup of sugar, then the vanilla. Blend smooth after each ingredient is added.

Pour custard into caramel lined ramekins.
Place ramekins in a large glass or ceramic baking dish and fill with about 1- 2 inches of hot water. **This technique is called a Bain Marie.**

Bake for 45 minutes in the water bath and check with a knife a little to the side of the center. If the knife comes out clean, it's ready.

Remove and let cool. Let each ramekin cool in refrigerator for 1 hour. 
Invert each ramekin onto a small plate, the caramel sauce will flow over the custard.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Orange Mango Guacamole

I am known for more inventive variations on Guacamole, like my infamous banana guacamole. Having a reputation for this  and a flair for "creative" concoctions, as my brother would say, I came up with an Orange Mango Guacamole that is a twist on the classic and is perfecto for summer. 

It's great on sandwiches, on top of fish, grilled chicken or even a piece of crusty grilled bread. Also, I like to switch up my chip options every once in awhile (especially when I run out of them because I ate them all) and I decided that oyster crackers might be a nice change up.   

Orange Mango Guacamole


3 large ripe avocados
1 small shallot, diced
1/2 to 1 fresh serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few leaves for garnish
About 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 medium ripe mango, peeled, flesh cut from the pit and diced
1/2 Roma tomato, diced


1. Cut and dice the avocado aka "Alligator Pear". 
2. Add the flesh into a large bowl.  Coarsely mash the avocado with a large fork.  
Don't know how then Check out my tip on how to properly cut and dice an avocado. Don't sweat the technique. 
3.  Add the diced shallots, the serrano chile, diced tomato, cilantro and orange juice.
4.  Mix in 2/3 of the diced mango.  Taste and season with salt. 
Want to perfect the art of Mango cutting. Check out my tip on how to properly cut and dice a mango. Make 'em say ummmm.
5. If not using immediately, cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the guacamole so it doesn't turn brown and refrigerate - preferably for no more than a few hour
6.  When you're ready to serve, scoop guacamole into a serving bowl and garnish with the remaining diced mango and cilantro sprigs. Enjoy.

Tip: How to Cut And Dice A Mango

Note: Mangos have a long, flat seed so you can't cut them down the center

Step 1. Lay the Mango with one flat side on the cutting board. Cut the mango lengthwise avoiding the seed. Repeat the same on the other side of the seed until you have 2 halves of mango pulp.
Step 2. Cut the mango pulp lengthwise. (Repeat on the other half).
Step 3. Cut the mango pulp crosswise. (Repeat on the other half).
Step 4. Gently place your fingers on the ends of the mango and push upwards.

Tip: How To Cut And Dice An Avocado

Slide your knife into the flesh until you hit the stone/seed. Continue to slice around the seed. Hold the 2 halves of the Avocado and rotate until they pull apart.

Put the heel end of the knife into the stone/seed and rotate until the seed come out. 


Slice the avocado lengthwise and then crosswise. Be careful not to cut through the skin and nip your fingers. Using a spoon gently scoop the diced pieces out. 

An alternate way to remove the Avocado seed is to slice the flesh around the seed. Then rotate the two halves of the Avocado and remove the pit with a spoon. Then scoop out the Avocado meat gently with a spoon. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pistachio Mint Pesto Recipe

  In the summertime I love making a fresh Pistachio Mint Pesto. It reminds me of the Summers I spent working at a fine-dining Italian restaurant in Atlanta, GA called Ciao Bella. We had this delicious Chicken pesto penne pasta that was out of this world and this recipe I created is inspired by the traditional Pesto sauce that we served.

I really like making this sauce because it's one of those sauces that is easy to make and goes with almost anything. I like to mix it with linguine or put it on top of a beautifully grilled piece of Tilapia. And the great thing about it is you can use it as a sandwich spread for lunch the next day. 

Pistachio Mint Pesto Sauce 
cups fresh basil leaves (from about 3 large bunches)

cup olive oil
cup pistachio
garlic cloves
teaspoon lemon zest
tablespoon lemon juice
cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
teaspoon kosher salt
sprig of mint (optional)

Combine first 6 ingredients and mint together in blender. 

Blend until paste forms, stopping often to push down basil. 

Add cheese and salt; blend until smooth. Transfer pesto into small bowl.

Pesto Tips
By using a blender instead of a food processor the Pesto will be smoother.
This Pesto can be made 1 day in advance. When you store it, top it with 1/2 inch olive oil and place in the refrigerator.
You could also freeze it in ice cube trays and enjoy later.
If you want to use the Pesto as a sauce for pasta, then add 1/4 cup of pasta water to the sauce. Then add the cooked pasta. This will help the sauce adhere to the pasta.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

One Pot Wonder Golden Mushroom Roast Recipe

This is a one pot wonder recipe. "It's a cheap cut of meat that turns into a savory sensation."  - As my mom would say. It takes less than 15 minutes to prep. It's great for those nights where you want a home cooked meal without having to put in the effort. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pie Fries Recipe

I have been craving a slice of cherry pie for the last month so when I went home to Atlanta, GA, my Mom and I made a home made cherry pie together. (cue) Awwww.  

I remembered seeing a clever recipe in Food Network Magazine for a dish called Pie Fries. It was super simple and gave the perfect use for those leftover pie crust scraps. I thought my little 3 year old cousin, who was coming over later to go swimming would love them. 


Pie Fries Recipe (adapted from Food Network Magazine)

Cut Pie Crust with Fluted Pastry Wheel.

Brush with Melted Butter.

Sprinkle with Cinnamon and Sugar.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 375 degrees.
You can also add a Strawberry Jam dipping sauce to make it look like Ketchup and Fries. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Mom's Lasagna Recipe

My Mom's Lasagna
Serves 6

 - 8 ounces of lasagna noodles
 - 2 tablespoons of Salt for cooking water
 - 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
 - 16 ounces Low Fat Ricotta cheese
 - 8 ounces sliced Mozzarella cheese
 - Sauce, below
 - 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 - 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
 - 2 cloves of garlic, minced
 - 3 tablespoons of olive oil 
 - 1 pound ground chuck or round
 - 1 large can (28 ounces) tomatoes
 - 2 teaspoons of Salt
 - 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
 - 2 teaspoons of salt
 - 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
 - 1 teaspoon of sugar
 - 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
 - 2 bay leaves
 - 2 cups of water

Start sauce about 30 to 45 minutes in advance. 
Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onions are soft.
Add ground beef and brown.
Pour off excess fat. Add remaining ingredients. Stir Well.
Simmer Slowly, uncovered for about an hour. 
Cook noodles in boiling, salted water (as directed on the package.)
Stir the noodles frequently to prevent sticking.
Drain; add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Arrange noodles in a shallow 2 1/2 quart baking dish.
Make 3 layers each of noodles, ricotta cheese, Mozzarella cheese, meat sauce and Parmesan cheese. 
Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Southern Style Buttermilk Fried Chicken Recipe


  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 5 cups vegetable oil for frying


  1. Whisk together buttermilk, paprika, mustard, salt and pepper, and cayenne in a bowl, and pour into a resealable plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces, coat with the marinade, squeeze out excess air, and seal the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 8 hours.
  2. When you are ready to cook the chicken, combine the flour, baking powder, garlic powder, and onion powder in the other plastic bag. Shake to mix thoroughly. Transfer one marinated chicken piece at a time into the dry ingredient bag, and shake well to ensure complete coverage. After all chicken pieces are coated, repeat the process by dipping them in the buttermilk marinade and shaking in the dry coating again.
  3. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, making sure not to burn the oil. When oil is hot, fry chicken in batches until golden brown and juices run clear, turning chicken to brown evenly.

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