Thursday, February 17, 2011

Seared Top Sirloin with Crispy Smashed Potatoes

Steak makes rare appearances on my table, and I'm not talking about how cooked the meat is. Steaks have always been something that's intimidating for me to cook as I always seem to manage to over cook the meat so that it's dry and tough. When I found Ina Garten's recipe for Steakhouse Steaks, I decided that I would give it a try for my special Valentine's Day dinner. Her instructions are specific, making the process of cooking the steak very simple.

It never fails to amaze me how a simple seasoning of salt and pepper is all you need to make a flavorful steak. It's so simple yet the meat comes out very tasty. In Ina's recipe, she uses filet mignon but I substituted that with a very large cut of top sirloin. I reduced the cooking time by a few minutes since my steak was thinner than Ina's steak.

For the potatoes, I wanted to do something different than the usual garlicky mashed potatoes I do, so I used a recipe that Ann Burrell's team on Worst Cooks in America made a couple weeks ago. These Crispy Smashed Potatoes taste wonderful and are very simple to make. I added onion and omitted the red pepper flakes because I'm not a fan of heat. 

Finally, I finished up our steak and potato meal with some frozen baby carrots and green beans that I steamed and seasoned with paprika and salt.

Seared Top Sirloin
Adapted from Ina Garten

1.5 lb sirloin steak
1 T Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Rub your steak with salt and pepper to taste while you heat a pan with the olive oil. Once the pan is very hot, sear both sides so that each side is browned, about 2 minutes each side. Only flip your steak 1 time and don't press down on it with your fork/tongs/spatula. Place your steak on a sheet pan and bake in the oven for about 6 minutes or until the juices from the steak come our clear and not red. Once finished, remove from the oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes. 

NOTE: I've learned that the resting period is very important in composition of the finished product. If you cut the steak or flip it around a bunch of times, you'll end up with dry steak that's hard to chew. So please, do yourself a favor and resist the urge to poke and prod your steak until it's rested for atleast 10 minutes. 

Crispy Smashed Potatoes
Adapted from Ann Burrell

3 Red potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
3T Olive oil
2 Cloves of garlic, minced
1 Small onion, sliced

Place the potatoes in a pot of salted cold water and boil until the potatoes are soft. Drain the potatoes and heat the olive oil, garlic, and onions in a pan with high sides. Once the pan is hot, add the potatoes and smash them with the  back of a large cooking spoon. Allow the potatoes to get crispy then flip sort of like you would a pan cake to crisp the other side. Be sure to watch the potatoes, they can go from crispy to burnt quickly because you're using a very hot pan. 

I sliced the steak into thin strips and served on top of the smashed potatoes on a large serving platter then rimmed the plate with my steamed vegetables.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Adventures in Cake Decorating: Day 3 & Valentine's Challenge

Welcome back to another installment of Adventures in Cake Decorating. In case you missed the first two installments, let me catch you up. I'm trying to teach myself how to decorate cakes so I can make a beautiful cake for my sons 1st birthday in August. Here's some pictures of my work thus far:

Day 1

Day 2

By now you should surely know I'm a true beginner at this craft. So, now onto my third day of practice. I began with a batch of chocolate butter cream decided to focus on the particular skills I wanted to use on my Valentine's Day cake; the shell and  crown border. Here's how it went:

I'd say it went a lot better than last time, but there is still room for improvement. Isn't there always? As you can see, I also got a little crafty and spelled out the type of piping I did in frosting as well. Even when I'm writing in butter cream, my penmanship leaves more to be desired. ha ha 

Now onto the Valentine's Day challenge. I wanted to make a cake for my love using the skills I've been practicing for the past couple of weeks. This was the first time I've actually piped onto a cake, so I got a 'real' feeling of what it's like to decorate on a cake and not on wax paper. I made a butter cake with a chocolate ganache filling and then covered it in plain white butter cream. Once I was done with the basic coat of frosting, I separated the remaining frosting into 2 containers and added pink coloring to one of the half and left the other half white. I did a shell border around the bottom and then used a straight edge of a grater to mark lines on the top of the cake to use as a guide. It helped A LOT! I did the crown border last so it could cover up the ends of each of the lines. I had to stick the piping bag with pink frosting in the refrigerator for a few minutes so it could stiffen up a little. I learned it makes a really big difference in the quality of work you do when the icing is the correct consistency.

Here's the final product of all that hard work.

I have to say I'm pretty proud of this cake. It turned out a lot better than I expected, based on my previous piping experiments. I was so happy, that I actually did a little happy dance in my kitchen when I was done. My son who was watching me from the comfort of his high chair thought that was hilarious. My husband asked if I had bought the cake from the store. He's a sweetheart.

My next challenge will be an Easter challenge. Not sure if I should do cupcakes or a another cakes, what do you think

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

When I'm doing my weekly grocery run, I'll occasionally pick up a loaf of cinnamon raisin swirl bread for my husband as a special treat. He can devourer the entire loaf in 1 weekend. So when I found this recipe for Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread on, I wanted to see how the home made version fared against the store bought version. As expected, it was no competition whatsoever. 

I'm usually not a fan of raisin's but I could not stop eating this bread!  Neither could my husband, of course. It didn't take long for the loaf to be completely gone between my husband and I. In fact, my husband asked me to make a 2nd loaf almost immediately! The bread turned out crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The flavor of the cinnamon, sugar, and raisins are perfectly matched and don't overpower each other.

I was sort of nervous because I haven't worked with yeast before and I've heard it can be temperamental but the instructions are simple to follow and if you follow them correctly, your outcome will be a beautiful loaf of Cinnamon Raisin bread. 

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread
Adapted from
Yields 1 loaf


Bread Dough:
1 1/8 tsp. instant (rapid rise) yeast
1 c warm milk
3 1/4 (17oz) all-purpose flour
4 T butter, at room temperature
1/4 c sugar
1 large egg
1 1/4 t salt
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 c raisins
Vegetable oil 

Cinnamon Filling:
3/4 c sugar
1 T ground cinnamon
1 T water
2 T butter, melted

1 egg, lightly beaten
In a stand mixer or food processor, mix all of the ingredients except for raisins and vegetable oil until dough forms, about 30 seconds. If you're using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook and knead on low until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl. This will take approximately 3 minutes. If you're kneading by hand, knead on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and is no longer sticking to your hands, about 4 minutes. The dough will be very sticky after you first combine it, so it would be a good idea to flour your hands and sprinkle a little flour on the top of the dough as well. 
Combine the raisins and knead the dough for another 3 minutes making sure the raisins are evenly dispersed. Form the dough into a ball and add it to an oiled bowl. Turn the dough around in the oiled bowl so it is lightly covered in the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean clothe and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This took an hour and a half for me, but the original recipe only calls for an hour. Just keep an eye on it. 

 Before rising
After rising

Once the dough has doubled, put the dough onto a floured surface and pat it into a round about 10 to 11 inches in diameter.

Fold the round in thirds, like a business letter. 

Then fold into thirds again using the short ends of the dough. Press down on the dough so it sticks to itself and return to your oiled bowl. Allow the dough to double again, roughly an hour. 

Using butter or cooking spray, grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and set aside. Then in a medium sized bowl, mix all of the filling ingredients except for the egg. The filling should be thick. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it's formed a 10 x 12 rectangle. Brush lightly with the beaten egg and then spread out the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly, leaving an inch around the sides uncovered.

Fold the uncovered sides over onto the sprinkled surface.

Starting with one of the short ends, roll the dough into a log pressing as you go. Once your log is formed, pinch the ends and the seam along the side.

Place the dough in your greased bread pan, seam side down, and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean towel. Allow the dough to rise until it's just barely risen above the top of the loaf pan. This will take roughly 3o minutes. Preheat your oven to 425 degree Fahrenheit while your dough is rising.  

Once your dough has risen, brush with the beaten egg and bake for 40 minutes. Rotate the loaf pan halfway through baking. If the top of the bread has sufficiently browned before your bake time is up, loosely cover the pan with foil. I had to do this about 15 minutes into baking. Some of the filling oozed out of the sides of my pan when I was baking it. You may want to put your loaf pan on top of a baking sheet to avoid a mess in the bottom of your oven.
Take your bread out of the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring out of the pan and onto a wire rack to cool. Once on the wire wrack, allow the bread to cool until it's cool enough to manage with your hands. It's easiest to slice with a serrated edge knife.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lomo Saltado/ Peruvian Stir Fry

This is one of my favorite Peruvian dishes because it tastes great, and is a cinch to make. In my experience, Peruvian food can be quite labor intensive, but this dish is very simple and quick to make. The sweetness of balsamic vinegar and saltiness of soy sauce give the meat a unique flavor. As with 99% of Peruvian dishes, this is served with a side of white rice. In the words of my husband, this dish is 'que rico'!

Lomo Saltado
Adapted from

1 lb flank steak
1/2 c soy sauce
1/2 c balsamic vinegar
Juice from 2 small limes
1 t garlic powder
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 medium red potatoes
3 T olive oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Cut beef into strips 1 inch in length and 1/4 inch in width. Combine soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, lime juice, garlic powder, and pepper in a medium bowl add beef. Allow the beef to marinate for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After  beef has  been marinading for approximately 30 minutes, saute tomatoes and onion over medium high heat until tomatoes begin break down and onions are translucent. Add beef mixture, including marinade. Turn the head down to medium low and let the mixture cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reduces and thickens. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit cut the potatoes into eighths and toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes. 

Combine the cooked potatoes and beef mixture and serve immediately with rice. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Adventures in Cake Decorating: Day 2

Hello again! I've been busy finding the perfect recipes for a very special Valentines dinner for my husband and I but I took a break to practice my piping skills some more. This time I dyed the icing with Wilton's Moss Green color. One thing I noticed about the icing coloring was that the color seemed to deepen after sitting for a couple minutes. 

I'm using the Cake Decorating Beginners Guide by Wilton to teach myself basic skills of decorating a cake with icing. I like this book because it shows you the angles your bag should be at for particular tips and styles you're trying to do. It also has some very fun cake designs that incorporate your new found decorating skills. So far I've been using the Wilton recipe for basic buttercream icing. This recipe produces icing that is of medium consistency and is very easy to work with. 

Now onto the good stuff... the practice pictures.

I started off with using the round tip #8 to try my hand at some dot flowers. I started with the center dot and then used the perimeter as my guide to pipe the petals. As you can see, I did well on the first few petals on the left flower, but I lost my stride towards the bottom. The petals are too far apart on the flower that's on the right. Once I was finished with the flowers, I gave doing some spirals with the round tip. Those came more naturally to me than the flowers did. They're pretty simple as long as you start from the inside and work your way out. I have no idea what I was trying to accomplish with the spiral on the far right, haha.  After I was done practicing with the spirals, I changed to the star tip #16 to work on some zig zags. The first zig zag (top) went a lot better than the second (bottom). I think the consistency of my icing was too thin and my lack of hand-eye coordination were the culprits that prevented me from making the perfect zig zag.

I moved on to rosettes after my zigzag attempt. I tried making a flower out of the rosettes just as I had out of the dots. I started with the inside rosette and worked my way around that.I had a problem keeping the rosette together. I need to work on keeping the swirls together when making the rosettes. All in all, I'd say it didn't turn out as bad as other attempts I made this time around.  
Next, I switched to the closed star tip #27 and made an attempt at some swirl drop flowers. At the time, I thought that me and swirl drop flowers just weren't meant to be partners. But then I realized that I was using the wrong kind of tip! I should have been using the drop flower tip #1B but like I said before I was using the closed star tip. No wonder they turned out as horrifically as they did. This is proof that this is a dreadfully honest account of a first time cake decorator! haha 

And last but certainly not least... leaves. As you can tell, that failed miserably. I have no words for these other than I need A LOT of practice. 

This is my second attempt at the art of piping icing. I am optimistic about my progress for the future. I have nowhere to go but up, right?! Please stay tuned for the next installment of Adventures in Cake Decorating! 

Friday, February 4, 2011


One advantage to having a husband who grew up in Peru, besides the accent of course, is getting to explore their cuisine! Peruvian food is known all over the world for the variety of ingredients and the adaptability of their recipes to other cultures. They're home to more than 200 different kinds of potatoes, have integrated dozens of different cultures into their cuisine (Asian, African, and Italian, to name a few), and has some of the best civeche in Latin America.

One delicacy in particular caught my eye when I was at a dinner with fellow Peruvian-Americans and their families, the humita. Essentially, an humita is a sweet corn tamale. I had never imagined a tamale being anything other than savory, fatty, and filled with shredded pork or beef (that's my Texan roots shining through) until I tried this delicious dish. I knew I wanted to attempt to recreate it and see how it fared to my Peruvian food snob of a husband.

In researching the recipe for humitas (which wasn't so easy considering most of the recipes are in Spanish) I realized that all of the variations have the same basic ingredients to go off of: sugar, corn, and evaporated milk. I finally decided to go with's recipe for Humitas Dulces (Sweet Tamales, translated).

Before you shutter at the idea of how labor intensive tamales are rumored to be, I must say that I was very, pleasantly, surprised at how EASY they were. Sure, the process from start to finish took a while, but as far as the level of difficulty, it's not that bad. I hope you enjoy these humitas as much as my husband and I did!

Adapted from

8 ears of corn
1 12oz can of evaporated milk (1 1/2 cups)
5 oz of raisins
1 cup of sugar
4 T of margarine (I used butter)
3-4 cinnamon sticks
Pinch of salt
Husks from ears of corn
Corn cobs

Carefully peel back the husks from the corn and set aside. Be sure to save the corn cobs also. Using a chefs knife, cut the corn off of each ear of corn and blend with the evaporated milk.

Melt the butter in a large pot and add corn mixture, raisins, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat until the mixture is thick and glossy, about 20-25 minutes. Be sure to stir the mixture constantly so it doesn't stick. Once the mixture is thick and glossy remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool completely.

While the corn mixture is cooling, add the husks from the corn  to a large pot and boil for about 10 minutes. This keeps the husks moist so when they're being steamed they won't burn. Drain the water and allow the husks to cool until you can handle them with bare hands.

Spoon a tablespoon or two onto each husk and fold the husk around the mixture. If corn is coming out of the sides when you're folding the husk, remove some of the mixture and try refolding. Tie the husks with kitchen string or a shred of the corn husk.

Place the corn cops at the bottom of a large pot and fill the pot with enough water to almost cover the corn cobs. Then delicately stack the humitas on top of the corn cobs. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Steam the humitas for roughly 45 minutes or until the mixture no longer sticks to the corn husk when unwrapped. Add more water to the bottom of the pot if you need to steam the humitas longer.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Adventures in Cake Decorating: Day 1

I've always been fascinated by those cake shows on Food Network and TLC. The cakes on those shows are tall and pristine. Almost too beautiful to eat, almost. It's an art form this artistically challenged momma has always wanted to learn. The one thing I lacked was the motivation to get started.

Upon the eve of my little guys 6 month birthday, it's dawned on me that he'll be having a 1st birthday party in 6 months (duh)! Then I thought to myself how cool it would be if I could make his birthday cake. After the initial excitement wore off, a little knot in my stomach showed up reminding me how little artistic capacity I have. So, I have set a goal to practice 'icing art', as I like to call it, so that by next August I'll have enough skill to make a pretty (notice I didn't say beautiful) cake for my sons 1st birthday. What better way to keep track of my progress than to chronicle it on my blog! So, please grab your popcorn, sodas, pickles, whatever you'd like and enjoy the show. You're in for some highly entertaining pictures.

To begin this journey, I ventured over to to order some supplies I'd need to practice with. After comparing the different kits they offered, I finally decided on the Wilton 53 Piece Supreme Cake Decorating Set . I chose this set because it included a Beginners Guide, an offset spatula, disposable piping bags, 2 tip couplers, icing coloring, and good amount of tips. That's pretty much everything you need to decorate a cake besides the frosting.

After whipping up a batch of buttercream icing, I fitted a piping bag with a coupler, added a tip and filled that sucker up with some icing. This was my very first time ever holding a piping bag in my hand. At first I found it very awkward to hold the soft, squishy bag. Once I got used to the feel of the bag, I tried squeezing out some buttercream I made to make a ribbon. Simple, right? Well, you can see for yourself:

I tried to make a ribbon first. As you can see, my first attempt turned out a little less than pleasant. Apparently I was holding the bag so that the tip was upside down, oops. Ribbon number 2 shows the most improvement, in my opinion. Ribbon number 3 is the most eye catching out of the three. Once I was done with the ribbons, I switched tips and tried doing some rosettes. They're not the best, but not awful either. The tail end of the rosettes kept sticking up and not lying flat. That's something I'll need to work on. I think my icing was too thick, I'll have to make a thinner batch next time.

Next, I tried doing the traditional shell edge. It's a pretty basic cake decorating technique and is seen on most cakes you buy from the bakery nowadays. One thing that felt odd to me was that you start from the right  and work your way left. Obviously this went against the Western doctrine of doing everything left to right that is ingrained  in me. It started out quite well, for a beginner, but by shell number six I lost my stride.

 After the shelled edge, I tried my hand at a zigzag puff. As you can tell, that crashed and burned miserably. It was so bad, I didn't even attempt it a second time. I needed something that I could pull off somewhat decently to give me to ego boost to carry on the mission at hand. So I switched tips and tried to do a basket weave. It was surprisingly simple, even though it doesn't look that great. But hey, it's my first time. Finally, I ended with some simple dots. At least I thought they would be simple. Those little suckers look deceptively easy. One would think that piping a dot of frosting would be the simplest thing ever, right? Well, this artistically challenged momma proved that theory wrong. As you can tell, I have A LOT to learn. But it's a start. Overall I think I did well for a beginner.

For fun, I piped on a cookie I had left over for my husband. It's supposed to be a heart and arrow with 'A + N' written inside. If you look very closely, you can sort of make it out.

As you all can see I have a lot to learn in the realm of cake decorating. But this is my start and I look forward to documenting my progress. A short term goal of mine is to be able to pipe a shelled edge around the perimeter of a heart shaped cake for Valentine's Day. We'll see how that goes.