Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mexican Rice - Salsa Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers

Rice is so good with everything.   I love how the rice becomes a meal onto itself once you add flavorful spices.  This Salsa Rice Stuffed Bell Pepper  is so easy and ready in minutes.    Normally, I would make the salsa from scratch, but then I discovered Pace chunky salsa and it tastes as good as homemade.  My family loves it (even though we're not into  heavy spices) - and it's a great vegetarian alternative.  I used mild salsa and it worked out so well!  (see also Cinco de Mayo)


6-8 green or red bell peppers
3 Tablespoon olive oil or butter
4 teaspoon chopped garlic
4 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3-4 cups cooked rice
1 -24 oz. any salsa ( I used Pace Chunky Salsa Mild)


Cut off  tops of bell peppers and scrape out seeds .  Broil for at least 10-12 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in skillet.  Add garlic and parsley, saute for a minute.  Add salsa and cooked rice.  Cook and stir until well blended.  Divide the mixture and spoon over bell peppers.  Bake for at least 10 minutes.  Serves 6-8


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Chocolate Flan Cake

Flan is a dessert well loved by those of Latin and Asian descent, while Americans have a love affair with chocolate cake (my family at least does!)   This is my new original  recipe.  I've blended the best of both worlds - thus, the Chocolate Flan Cake.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

1  1/2 cup  fat free caramel flavored topping (I used Smucker's)

For the Cake:
1 box Pillsbury Moist Supreme Devil's Food Premium Cake Mix

For the Flan:
2  cans evaporated milk
1  140z can condensed milk
12 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar

1 Large roasting pan

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Spray  tube pan with non-stick cooking spray. 
  • Pour caramel topping into pan.
  • Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Pour evenly over caramel topping.
  • Separate whites and yolks.  Add sugar and milk to yolk.  Slowly hand beat until the sugar is dissolved.  Pour slowly over cake mix.  Make sure you leave at least 2" from top of the pan.   (Don't worry if you see the cake mix pop on top, it will eventually come down).  Any leftover flan mix, set aside or make a bonus flan (optional).
  • Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray (prevents cake from sticking),  and cover pan, coated side down,  tightly.  Place pan in large roasting pan.  Pour water to a depth covering 1/4  of the tube pan or at least 2 inches deep.
  • Bake for 2 hours. 
  • Cool for at least 30 minutes  before refrigerating.  Best served cooled at least overnight.
  • Place plate upside down on top of pan then invert.
Bonus Flan Mix
Prepare a small loaf pan, spray non-stick cooking spray,  pour  the rest of the caramel topping and then pour the leftover flan mix on top.  Cover tightly with foil.  Bake side by side or use the bottom level of the oven and  bake it as long as the cake. 


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cinco de Mayo - Mexico Celebration

Cinco de Mayo, is a commemoration of the 1862 Battle of Puebla when Mexicans first beat the French troops who were attempting to take over Mexico. For this post, I'm going to take you to a trip down the Mexico way by doing a tablescape celebrating Mexico's influence on the American culture.

 Like St. Patrick's Day ,  Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican celebration held on May 5th,  is one of those events that has become part of  American culture.

 One of the things I truly enjoy learning about are the different customs and colorful history of many cultures and how our lives are intertwined. There's something to be said about multi culture - it is the bond of all these cultures that makes a nation great, it is the infusion of all new ideas that makes the country grow and it is in the variety of foods that make us eat healthier (I have to throw that in since we are, after all, interested in dining in style!). 

I didn't have much of anything that represents Mexico except for the little pots, made in Mexico, I acquired when we visited San Diego, CA (which is very near Tijuana, Mexico) so, instead, I am capturing the festivities centering on  the richness of their food by accentuating the table with some of the basics of Mexican cuisine: corn, bell pepper, tomatoes, avocado, chili, and onions. The Farmer's Market has an abundance of these fresh vegetables for a small cost.   I also found some beautiful ceramic vegetables and the Mexican woman from a thrift shop and, lo and behold, they make great centerpiece accessories!  

 There was something about the Mexican woman that captured me - I believe it was her underlying air of hard work and patience, which belies maternal love.   It is befitting to see her surrounded by all the harvested bounty, and now it's up to us to create some delectable Mexican meals out of them!

The History of past civilizations has always fascinated me. Learning about the past, I appreciate the present so much more.  Mexico, before it was ruled by Spain, was a land of many different Indian groups: the Maya, Totlecs and the Aztecs. The Aztecs were originally called the Mexica, and ruled for 100 years, eventually became the dominant empire by the early sixteenth century.  The Aztecs were also the people that introduced our most beloved food  - chocolate!

While looking for items for the table setting, I found an Aztec calendar that was a souvenir gift and the onyx bookends (depicting a Mexican figure sitting aside a cactus) that my husband had for years, which set the stage for the centerpieces. It was fortuitous that the color scheme of the Mexican flag: red, white and green, are similar to Christmas and Valentine's Day  because I am able to reuse some of the place setting, glasses and tablecloth.

The colors of the Mexican  flag are highlighted on the place setting. Green symbolized hope and fertility, white means purity, and red represented blood lost during the independence from Spain for 300 years.  I'm using a white napkin holder to symbolize a final strangle hold on stopping the bloodshed, resulting in peace. 

Mexico Flag
A crest on the white panel was a symbol from the Aztecs  who, according to legend were told by their god to locate their capital in the place where they saw an eagle eating a snake, which they found in Tenochtitlan.  When the Spaniards arrived, they changed the name to Mexico City.

I also borrowed some books about Mexico from the library to add  a conversational piece and a bit of drama to the table.

The red wine glass will be used for Horchata, a Mexican sweet milk and the green goblet for the Margaritas.

To get into the spirit of celebrating Cinco de Mayo, sombreros (acquired from having visited Chili's restaurant)  are worn and Mexican music (borrowed from the library) will be playing in the background while eating.

 Mexican Meal
Sweet Corn Tamale
Mexican Slaw
Whole Wheat Flatbreads with Tomato Avocado Salsa
Salsa Rice Stuffed Roasted Peppers
Double Cheeseburger Tortillas
Chicken Tortilla Layer

Sweet Corn Tamale

Mexican Slaw

Salsa Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers 

Horchata - sweet milk  
Chocolate Flan Cake   
Chocolate Fudge

Chocolate Flan Cake

Ahhh, what will we (at least me) ever do without chocolates?  Thank goodness for the Aztecs!

Shopper's Corner:
TJ Maxx - white plates and red and green tablecloth (years ago)
Dollar  Store - margarita glasses
Goodwill - ceramic vegetable and Mexican woman

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Floral arrangement - White Roses and Wild Blooms

Here I will take some roses that are a little past their prime and show you how good we can make them look! 
Roses are typically very expensive and I couldn't believe these white roses were on sale for a dollar!  They looked  several days old due to some brown petals (which I can peel off), but were still good.  So, I decided to go ahead and bring them home and see what kind of flower arrangements I could come up with.  To preserve the colors and longevity of these white roses, I used about 1 tsp of clorox diluted in water.
We also have a chokecherry tree with vibrant green blossoms (when in prime)  that are so dainty and cute that I wanted to capture before it becomes full blown leaves. 

Here are the variations of my designs:
 Design 1

This next floral design required some tools to make the arch.

Design 2- Arch 1
Design 3 - Arch 2

Design 4 - Arch 3

Design 5 -  with chokecherry blossoms only

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How to - Accentuate Store-bought Flowers

A bunch of flowers and oh my! The thinks you can think up if only you try!  (with apologies to Dr Seuss)

Cut flowers can be expensive, but  fortunately, our  local store has a weekly sale of less than $4.00 on older flowers.

Instead of just displaying the bunch in one vase,  I like to  maximize the flowers by  highlighting colors  and spreading  them throughout the house.  This way, I can enjoy every room with fresh flowers!   Here, I've created 13 designs that will feature the yellows and pinks:


From Simple

to CHIC - by adding a necklace 

to  ELABORATE  - by adding a silk Gladiolous flower

to  COUNTRY CHIC - by adding a glittery netting

to ELEGANT - by adding real leaves as a ribbon

closer look...

to GIRLY - by adding a colorful ribbon  

Evolving flower arrangements from  SIMPLE TO ELEGANT
 By putting 3 similar flowers into a nice vase make this Elegant looking


to EXOTIC - by adding varied backyard leaves

another version with leaves -  creating a butterfly effect

 ESOTERIC - with infinity scarf


to LUSH DAISIES - by   adding silk flowers with same color shade 

For more store bought flower arrangements,
See Also:

Shopper's Corner:
Beverly's - green mesh

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Floral Arrangement - Purple Wildflowers

These purple flowers, or periwinkle, derived from  Myrtle herb (Vinca minor), are very hardy.  It is a perennial and grows wild in our backyard.

Periwinkle is one of my favorite colors as it combines the blue and purple; all of which has a calming effect on me and makes me smile!


  I love bringing the outdoors in.  These flowers are themselves very beautiful.  But, I enjoy enhancing the colors of the flowers  by accessorizing them with a variety of vases. 

Here are 4 Purple-accented Floral Designs:
Design 1- with green pot  

Design 2 - with two other  vases filled with single stems I found these two vases from the dollar store and they are perfect for this flower arrangement 

Design 3
For this flower arrangement, I used my white water jug as a vase to enhance the whitish color in the middle of the flower. 

Design 4
For a more dramatic effect, I bought a few white daisies  to add to this arrangement.  TA-DA --  a vibrant flower arrangement for hardly any cost at all!

See also...

Shopper's Corner:
TJ Maxx - white pitcher
Dollar Store - purple and green vases

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Floral Arrangements - Yellow Wildflowers

Spring -  so  verdant and full of surprises!   The abundance of greenery in the backyard is a feast to the eyes and makes me want to bring the outdoors in. 
These oxalis (or clover)  grow wild in our backyard and if you haven't tried it yet, they stay for more than a week in a vase and even flower.

 Here are some floral designs I came up with:
Design 1
Just a simple wine glass makes these clover look elegant!
For St. Patrick's Day (celebrated in Mid March), I was able to use some indoors.

Design 2
Just by adding some green netting, it gives it a bit of flair.



Thursday, April 4, 2013

White Chocolate Brownie Torte Recipe

Our family loved this White Chocolate Brownie Torte!  I found this delicious recipe from one of the books my mother-in-law gave me years ago. I wrote it down and forgot about it until I started looking for something different to do for Easter dessert.

The crust is really unique because it's made of chocolate brownies.  You can purchase some ready made brownies (make sure they're good quality)  or, like me, use your own favorite brownie recipe.

This recipe normally requires 2 1/2 cups of heavy cream.  I've modified the ingredients to use  2 cups of heavy whipping cream and 1/2 cup of  new-discovered International Delight Coffee Creamer "Sweet Cream".  The family loved it - from now on, I will  keep using the Sweet Cream.

White Chocolate Brownie Torte Recipe

Chocolate brownies, broken in small chunky pieces
2 cups white chocolate, broken into pieces  (I used Hershey's premiere white chips)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup International Delight Sweet Cream
Unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting

Line the sides of an 8 inch springform pan with strip of waxed paper. (Tip: trace the bottom with waxed paper and cutout the  circle. Dampen the waxed paper lightly, it sticks better.)

Break the brownies into chunky pieces and sprinkle over the base. Press lightly to make sure its lightly packed just enough to create a dense base.

Put the white chocolate in a small sauce pan.  Add 2/3 cup of the heavy cream and heat gently until the chocolate has melted.  Stir until smooth, then pour into a bowl, and let it slightly cool.

Whip the remaining heavy cream and sweet cream until it peaks, then gently fold in the white chocolate mixture.  Spread on top of the brownie mix and gently tap the pan to level the mixture.  Cover and freeze overnight.

Before serving, take  out from the freezer and transfer it to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Decorate with a light dusting of cocoa powder just before serving.