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caramel & cocoa

Caramel & Cocoa - cooking, parenting, fashion, diy, eating, living, a blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mexican Lunch (Shredded Pork Tacos, Mango Salsa, Avocado Salad, Spanish Rice)

We had friends over. Yay. It was my first hosting event of the year and I decided to kick it off with what I know best and that is Mexican Food! It was a late lunch/early dinner, our kids were jet-lagged from a trip to California and H had an incredibly busy week at work, so I did something easy & delicious.

Homemade Tortilla Chips
Mango Salsa 
Carnitas Tacos (Mexican Pulled Pork)
Sopa de Arroz (Spanish Rice)
Avocado Salad 

Homemade Tortilla Chips (Baked)

This was quick project  that I made about an hour before the guests arrived- I made my own tortillas because I got a hold of some Maseca (Mexican corn-flour) while in the US. Basically you add water and form into a thin disk. But because Maseca is not always ready accessible I would just buy your favorite, preferably corn tortillas (as they are called in the UK "wraps"). Flour tortillas work well too. 

1. Preheat oven to 175 C (350 F). 
2. Lay one tortilla on a flat surface and brush with corn oil. Flip over and brush the other side with corn oil. 
3. Place another tortilla on top of your first and brush both sides with oil. Keeping doing this, stacking the tortillas in piles of 4. 
4. With a knife cut the tortilla stacks into triangles. 
5. Place the chips on a lined cookie sheet in a single layer. Season with salt. Bake in the oven for about 7 minutes. They should be golden but not burnt. 

Mango Salsa 
The mango salsa is best made the night before so the flavor infuses.  I did make mine the night before. 

1 large ripe/diced mango
2 coarsely chopped seeded tomatoes
1/2 red onion (VERY finely chopped)
fresh cilantro leaves (finely chopped)
Juice from 2 limes
1 minced jalapeno (no seeds, unless you love a real kick)
salt & pepper
garlic powder ( a pinch)

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour but best overnight. Serve with chips. 

Shredded Pork Tacos (Pulled Pork)

This is really one of my favorite "party" dishes. It is very easy to do & creates a really powerful taste. I usually make it the day before and let it sit in the fridge overnight. I have reheated both in the oven and on the hob & it has always been perfect. This is a tweaked version of Martha Stewart's version. 

splash of Olive oil
1 large chopped onion
4 minced garlic cloves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Italian herbs
3 bay leaves
4 tablespoons tomato paste
3 pound boneless pork shoulder
28 ounces whole tomatoes in juice
1 chipotle chile
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1. Cut your pork shoulder in half (lengthwise) and make sure it fits in a heavy pot.  The pot should be big enough for your pork to sit with about 5 cups of liquid and the lid on. 
2. In a very large pot heat your olive oil.. Add the onion, garlic, thyme, Italian herbs and bay leaves. Cook for 10 minutes. Add tomato paste. Add pork, canned tomatoes juice & all, chipotle chile and stock. Let it boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 2.5 to 3 hours until the meat is very tender. 
3. The meat will be very hot so be careful (and use tongs) but transfer the meat to a large bowl and shred it with two forks. There might be some fat - get rid of it here. 
4. Once well shredded return the meat to the pot with the sauce. Salt and pepper. Cook uncovered until sauce is thick. This should take 30 - 45 minutes. 
5. To serve fork into warm tortillas with salsa, cabbage, radishes.

Sopa de Arroz (Spanish Rice)
This is my mom's Mexican rice recipe and well, I really love it. I usually start it about 1.5 to 2 hours before we will be eating because rice tends to stay warm.

2 cups long grain rice
2 garlic cloves
2 - 3 tablespoons of corn oil
1 small can of tomato puree (about 4-6 ounces)
1 head of cilantro leaves (fresh)
1 stock cube

1. Heat the oil in a pot and add garlic cloves.
2. Add the rice to the pot and fry the rice until it is golden brown. You will need to constantly stir so it does not burn. Be patient. This can take up to 20 minutes and is a very important step in the process. You really need to stay on top of the pot!
3. Once the rice is golden brown, remove the garlic cloves and throw them away. Add tomato puree and mix well.
4. Add 4 cups of water and stir. Add the cilantro leaves and stock cube. Stir well. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and cook like normal rice on a low heat.

Avocado Salad 
Oohh - I really enjoy this salad. And the onion and dressing should be prepared the day before and left in the fridge infusing. 

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 medium red onion very finely sliced
juice from 3 limes
1 heaping teaspoon of sugar
cilantro leaves (1/2 cup)
5 avocados 

Combine the olive oil, lime juice, sugar, cilantro leaves and salt. Stir well. This is your dressing. Pour dressing over the red onions and let sit for preferably a day, covered in the fridge. The onion will turn a bright purple color. Before serving, thinly slice the avocados and drizzle onions and dressing over. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

no christmas gift from husband

It is true. My other half did not bother to get me a Christmas gift this year. Being completely forthright, I did not get him anything either ... tra-la-la-lala ... 

Being even more forthright, we, in a very unromantic fashion agreed not to get each other Christmas gifts this year, a tradition which we will likely carry on into the future.  What is most interesting are the reactions I am getting from people over this. 

-Some thought it a very reasonable choice - an avoidance of unnecessary knick-knacks, disappointing gifts, and a silly tradition. 
- Some asked if "I was really ok with that ..."
- and others just expressed concern over things being "tight" financially ...

So why did we do it? Well - it was my idea. One which He loved and embraced as soon as I made the suggestion. I just don't get it - each going out - either trying to guess what the other wants (and usually making a poor choice) or even sillier asking each other and then going out and getting said item - all involved are aware of what they are getting & how much it is going to cost ... It creates pressure, lacks surprise & I think is very unromantic. Anyway, for us, no gifts works. 

It has sparked me to write about my relationship with H who refuses to be named or pictured for this blog. I don't understand why? 90% of my readers know us all! and well at that. 

Well we are not your traditional couple. Our courtship was anything but traditional. I shamed my traditional Mexican roots by moving from California to Spain to live with my European boyfriend who I had met while he was "travelling" for a year. My only demand was that he accompany me to mass on Sundays because being a modern day European lad it was not something he generally did. Almost immediately we were on track to start a family, hoping to have four children (I wanted 5) and a dog and to wed when the kids were between 14 & 20 thus exhibiting the true meanings of "love", "marriage" and "family." 5 months before the birth of our first daughter societal pressure hit rather hard and for reasons relating to tax, immigration, schools, opportunities and family we gave in and began the more traditional path - though we still often try and go against the grain - or like to think we do. 

Being from different backgrounds both culturally and economically, him being a bit older, our views on politics and well all sorts of things (ie he does not believe in God - certainly not the way I do anyway - and I hate reading for pleasure (though I'll never tell my kids that) I don't think we could have been paired up with anyone more different. But it works well for now...!!) and I guess that is what I am trying to say. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cherry & Apple Pie

So tomorrow is Thursday, and my organic fruit and vegetable box is going to arrive and I had some apples I needed to get rid of because, there will, inevitably, be more coming tomorrow. I also had some cherries that I bought as an impulse purchase but did not have a clue what to do with. So I've made up my own cherry and apple pie, based on my basic apple pie found here.

The result is very good, but then again I would say that wouldn't I. This is my foody blog :) try it and let me know what you think.


2 cups (220 grams) all-purpose flour
5 ounces, or 10 tablespoons (150 grams) unsalted butter
pinch of salt
ice water

5 ounces pitted and diced fresh cherries
3 medium, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced apples (wrap in cling film and place in fridge)
3.5 ounces unsalted butter (100 grams)
2 ounces confectioner's (icing) sugar (56 grams)
2 ounces packed light brown sugar (56 grams)
2 ounces white granulated sugar (56 grams)
4 heaping tablespoons of flour
1 ounce of water
teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
cinnamon to taste
and an ounce of milk

1. Heat the oven to 425F (220C / 200C with fan).

2. Make the pie crust - cut 5ounces of butter into small squares and place in the fridge until you need it. It is important that the dough for the crust stays cool so that it is easier to roll out.  Combine the flour and salt into into a large bowl and slowly add 1/3 of the butter, and using your hands mix in the butter.  Keep blending in slowly until you have used all of the butter. Use a tablespoon of ICE water at a time to work it into a dough. Cut in half and form each into a disk. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate until you need it.

3. In a large saucepan melt the butter, add flour and stir well. Add icing sugar, brown sugar and granulated sugar and mix well. Add salt, water and vanilla extract and bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Mix in apples and cherries and set aside off of the heat. Mix it well so that everything is well combined.

4. Take your two disks (crusts) out of the fridge and roll out your dough. Line the bottom of the tin with the dough. Add cherry and apple filling mixture. Sprinkle in some cinnamon if you like.

5. Roll out the top crust and place over the pie. Seal the top and bottom together with milk and flute the edges with a fork.

6. Cut steam slits into the top to look like a cross but they should not connect at the middle. Brush the entire top of the pie with milk.

7. Bake 15 minutes at 425F (220 C/200C with a fan). Reduce the temperature to 350F (175C/155C with fan) and continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes.

8. Let cool completely before cutting into it so that it sets. Serve with ice cream or double cream.

Rolling out the dough can be tricky but the key is to keep your dough cool and to flour your surface.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tapenade (La Jolla, San Diego) - French Cuisine

7612 Fay Avenue, La Jolla, CA 92037

A lovely dinner with my nieces, ages 11 and 16.

Summary: This was a classic French food experience that can be summarized as sophisticated relaxation. I wanted my nieces to be "wowed" by French food and possibly incite an urge to travel and curiosity for food. I am not sure about the urge and curiosity but they were definitely "wowed."

The Food: Wow. Absolutely stellar. I will say the menu itself is not anything extra-ordinary. It really is just classic French food "brilliantly" prepared. As appetizers we had the crab and mango salad and the mushroom raviolis both of which knocked us off of our feet. As my entree I had the lobster with white corn and porcini mushrooms which I chewed very carefully and slowly since I wanted the moment to last as long as possible. Both of my nieces had the sirloin steak which they asked for well-done but were coaxed into having medium rare by the waiter and they LOVED it. I was shocked but very pleased. When the waiter came by to check on us my 11 year-old niece gave a "thumbs up." 

The Atmosphere: Sophisticated and well-lit but lacking something. We were there on a Wednesday night and if I had to guess most of the diners present were "regulars" and knew there wines, or were very good at pretending to know about wine. I know this because I was eavesdropping and taking notes of course. Most diners were couples dressed to the nines though there was one group table and an incredibly well-behaved toddler. I love seeing toddlers at fine restaurants. As for whatever is lacking it was a bit less atmospheric then I would have liked. I think I prefer dimmer settings.

The Service: I was impressed by the service from start to finish, especially the attention given to my nieces. Their coats were checked and our waiter regularly came to check on them. The service was attentive and refined. Chef Jean-Michel Diot greeted us upon arriving and thanked us on our way out as he did the last remaining guests. 

Would I go back? Yes. But probably only for a special occasion (because it is expensive) and I would love to try their lunch.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Blue Boheme (Kensington San Diego) - French Cuisine

4090 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116

Wood and rock interiors lit by candlelight

It was a special occasion and I was in search of a special experience. My experience can be summed up as divine French cuisine in a cool "bohemian" environment. I now consider myself to be both an artist & writer solely for having had a meal there.

Summary: I cannot fault the food, the service or the ambiance since it was all stellar. This restaurant is tucked up near an up & coming area of San Diego with a bit of an urban and artsy edge. I will definitely have to revisit with all future trips to San Diego. It is a bit pricey but the food is made thoughtfully and the service difficult to match anywhere else. This is the type of place to go for a special occasion, to impress inlaws or to spice up and break out of the routine French meals.

The Food: The first course was Salade de Chevre Chaud with duck leg confit followed by the Camembert Fondue dans sa Boite and as main courses we had the Carre d Agneau and Filet Mignon. The salad was crisp; the duck divine; the Camembert perfectly warm and presented beautifully; the lamb and steaks were tender, moist and perfectly seasoned. Having eaten in exquisite fine dining establishments in London, Madrid and San Diego, this is by far my preferred choice.

The Atmosphere: Dark, Candle-lit and Edgy. It is not your traditional French Restaurant and that is what makes it so perfect. In the background you hear lovely French music, something out of the 1920´s I´d say - though I understood very little of it. Dining alongside us were couples of all ages and oddly assembled groups. The attire ranged from casual-grunge to dressed to impress.

The Service: Quite possibly, it was the service that tipped the scale for me. I will admit our hostess was not brilliant in that she answered the phone while we were in front of her. However, our server made up for the rough start. She knew and understood the menu, cooking times and wines, was able to make recommendations and was very thorough and kind. She understood the art of serving and "timing" thus executed her tasks brilliantly.  As we were leaving we were given a very warm thank you from a gentleman from behind the bar, who we believe might have been the owner. As we walked out one word came to mind "SPLENDID."

Would I go back? Yes. I will. I actually cannot wait for my next trip out, just for this reason.