Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Got Milk? {Tres Leches Cake}

Milk, it does a body good. And it makes for an even better cake!
The Tres Leches cake is a very popular dessert in Mexico. It is a yellow cake soaked in a mixture of three milks. (Don't worry, it's all from a cow!) Now, I've had my share of Tres Leches cakes. Some good, some not so good, a couple were just inedible and few have been extraordinary.

The three milk mixture is easy. Almost every recipe is the same. All you need is evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and either heavy cream or regular milk. Depends on the cook's taste. I prefer my third milk to be half-and-half. (For those of you in Mexico, use a can of Media Crema.)

What makes or breaks a Tres Leches cake is the actual cake. You don't want it to be too sweet because the three milks mixture is sweet enough. Nor do you want the cake to be too heavy, because the three milks mixture won't make it's way through the entire cake.

I've tasted a few Tres Leches cakes that were made with pancake flour. Not bad, but the saltiness of the pancake flour overpowers the sweet creaminess of the milk mixture. The best Tres Leches cake I ever tasted was the one made by a lady at our church for my very first Baby Shower. Mmmm! It was the perfect balance. The cake was tasty with a good texture that didn't get lost in all that milk. I later asked that lady for her recipe and she gladly told me her little secret...Yellow Cake Mix, from a box!

While I lived in the States, I made my Tres Leches cake using Yellow Cake Mix. The result was always the same, delicioso! But that all changed when I moved to Mexico. There were no boxes of yellow cake mix! Now what was I supposed to do? Well, I tried all kinds of recipes. I bought a Mexican cookbook that had every Mexican dessert known to man, but the cake was just plain nasty! I tried a few recipes that called for pancake flour. Pretty good, but not the taste that I was looking for. Finally, I played around with the recipes and came up with one that works well for me. But if you want to use the box mix, go right ahead!

One question remains; to fill or not to fill? I like Tres Leches cakes so much, that it really doesn't matter if it is filled or not. The 2 layer cakes are usually filled with strawberry jam or canned peach slices, which is all very good, but be sure that you bathe the bottom layer with half of the milk mixture, add the filling, then top with the other cake layer. Bathe the top layer with the milk mixture after you've put it in place! This recipe makes one 8 or 9 inch layer cake or one 10 inch one layer cake.

Pastel de Tres Leches

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400º F. Grease bottom of 10-inch round cake pan and line with waxed paper or parchment paper. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.


Add eggs and vanilla to creamed mixture and beat until thoroughly mixed. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with the milk, beating well after each addition. Continue beating one minute. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan to heatproof plate. Poke holes all over cake with a toothpick or wooden skewer. Gradually ladle some of the Three Milks Mixture over cake. Wait a few minutes until cake has had a chance to absorb the milk. (Do NOT pour all of the Three Milks Mixture over cake at once!) Repeat process until all of the Three Milks Mixture has been absorbed. Refrigerate atleast 3 hours or overnight.


To serve, frost cake with Whipped Cream Topping or Sweetened Whipped Cream. Garnish with fresh sliced strawberries. Enjoy!!!




Three Milks Mixture

Ingredients:

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half

Directions:
In a medium bowl, whisk together all three milks until well combined. Gradually spoon over cake.



With Love,
Leslie Limon

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What Happened to Cake and Ice Cream?


Growing up, birthdays always meant cake and ice cream. And things remained that way until I attended my first birthday as a married woman. It was a family birthday party, with lots of food and drink. When it came time for the cake, I was anxious for a little ice cream. Imagine my surprise, when instead of cake and ice cream, all the guests were served cake and jello.  JELLO!!!  I couldn't understand why, but Hubby and the rest of the family explained that this was common practice in Mexico.

Over the years, I have learned to make many gelatin recipes, even invented a few myself. This recipe is my kiddies favorite.  The great thing about this recipe is that it is very versatile. You can vary the jello flavor and the canned fruit to suit your taste. For this recipe I used orange  flavored jello and canned mandarin oranges.

Cream Cheese Gelatin

Ingredients:

  • 2 (6 oz.) boxes jello, any flavor
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (15 oz.) can fruit (mandarin orange slices, fruit cocktail, crushed pineapple, sliced peaches, etc.)

Directions:
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Dissolve one envelope of gelatin in hot water; stir in 1 cup of cold water. Let cool to room temperature.



Pour cooled gelatin into blender cup. Puree with the cream cheese until very smooth. Pour into a 13x9-inch baking dish. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until gelatin has set.



Open can of mandarin oranges, drain but reserve the light syrup in a measuring cup. Arrange mandarin orange slices over cream cheese gelatin.


Pour enough water into syrup from the oranges to equal 1-1/2 cups; set aside.
Bring another 2 cups of water to a boil in the same saucepan as before. Dissolve the other box of gelatin powder in hot water. Stir in reserved juices. Let cool to room temperature. Pour over mandarin oranges. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until gelatin has set.



Enjoy!!!





With Love,
Leslie Limon

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Homemade Mexican Churros

Raising four happy little kiddies can be a pretty easy job.  (Most of the time.) Satisfying their sweet tooth???  Not so easy.  One child loves anything made with chocolate and peanut butter, another likes everything Oreo, one will eat anything as long as it doesn't have nuts or raisins, and the other will only eat what he helps to make.  The one thing my kiddies have in common is that they all love Churros!  There is a vendor downtown that makes delicious churros, but only on the weekends.  And well, sometime we want Churros on a Tuesday afternoon.  Not a problem!  Churros are super easy and quick to make.  And don't worry if you don't have a pastry bag with a star-tip, you can spoon the batter into a large Ziploc bag and cut off the corner tip OR you can have your kiddies help shape the dough into bite-size pieces and make Mini-Churro Bites.

I like to eat my Churros with Mexican Hot Chocolate, if they don't disappear before I reach for my mug, which is what usually happens. 

lacocinadeleslie.com

Churros

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon Sugar (recipe below) 

Directions:
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil until the butter has completely melted; remove from heat.  Quickly stir in the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball.  Mix in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until the dough is smooth.  Spoon the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a wide star tip.

In a deep skillet, heat enough vegetable oil to measure 1-inch over medium-high heat.  Carefully squeeze out strips of dough (or any desired shape) into the hot oil.  Fry until Churros are a deep golden brown on both sides.  Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain off excess oil for a couple of minutes.  Roll the fried Churros in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Enjoy!!! 

lacocinadeleslie.com

For the Mini Churro Bites: Tear off small pieces of dough and roll into 1-1/2 to 2-inch balls.  Fry as directed.

lacocinadeleslie.com

For the Cinnamon Sugar: Mix together 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
















Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Leslie's Best Burgers

I love hamburgers!  Be it chicken, beef, pork, fish, veggie or soy!  I have atleast 50 different hamburger recipes.  (Maybe more.)  But today, I'm only sharing my family's favorite hamburger recipe, which I hope you enjoy as much as we do.

Almost every burger recipe that I have tasted has atleast one "secret" ingredient to increase it's  "WOW" factor, and my recipe is no exception.  What is my "secret" ingredient?  Pineapple!  (I guess it's no longer a secret!)  You can use canned pineapple slices or fresh pineapple.  But if you use fresh, be sure to remove the core.

These burgers taste great grilled, but if you don't have a grill, you can brown the patties on a griddle or skillet. (I would love one of those skillets that leaves the grill marks!)



Leslie's Best Burgers

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 3/4 pound ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Manchego Cheese, sliced (Cheddar works well with this recipe)
  • 1 can sliced pineapple, drained
  • Burger buns
  • Mexican Crema or Mayonnaise
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato, sliced
  • Red Onion, sliced
  • Canned Jalapeño Peppers

Directions:
In large bowl, mix together the ground beef, ground pork, chopped red onion, salts and black pepper until well combined. 

Divide into 8 equal portions and shape into patties.  Grill or brown the patties until desired doneness.  Top each patty with a slice of Manchego cheese; remove patties to a serving plate.

Grill or brown the pineapple slices in the same skillet that you used for the patties.  Let brown until the pineapple is a nice caramel color.

To serve, spread cut sides of burger buns with Mexican crema.  Pour desired amount of ketchup and mustard on bottom bun.  Place pattie on top of ketchup and mustard.  Top with grilled pineapple, jalapeño peppers, red onion, tomato and lettuce.  Enjoy!!!



With Love,
Leslie Limon

Printable Recipe

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Camarones al Mojo de Ajo {Garlic Shrimp}

Don't let the title scare you.  Camarones al Mojo de Ajo is a delicious and aromatic shrimp dish with a butter, onion and garlic sauce.  Yum!

This recipe is super easy.  I've included measurements, which should be considered as suggestions. This is one of those recipes you can prepare however you like.  Add more shrimp, butter or garlic, this recipe is that simple. 

As with my Camarones a la Diabla, I don't peel the shrimp for this recipe.  We like to suck all that buttery goodness out of the shrimp. 

Camarones al Mojo de Ajo
(Garlic Shrimp)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound medium-sized shrimp
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • Chopped Parsley, fresh or dried


Directions:
Heat butter in a large skillet, over medium-high heat.  Once butter has melted, add the garlic and onions; saute for 2 minutes.  Add shrimp to skillet; season with a little salt and black pepper.  Cover skillet and let the shrimp cook in the butter sauce until the shrimp turns a bright pink.  Stir shrimp to make sure that it is evenly cooked.  Turn of the heat.


Serve the shrimp on a plate.  Spoon butter sauce over shrimp.  Garnish with chopped parsley.  Serve over cooked spaghetti or with Mexican Rice, Hushpuppies and a green salad.  Enjoy!!!




You might also like these delicious Mexican shrimp dishes: 







Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sweet Potato Pie



One of the great things about living in Mexico, is the wide variety of things sold in trucks passing through the neighborhood. You name it and I've probably had a truck park outside my house to sell it. A few weeks ago, a truck drove by announcing 3 kilos of Camotes (sweet potatoes) for 20 pesos. I don't know how much sweet potatoes sell for in the States, but I imagine that 6.6 pounds for $1.50 US is quite a bargain.

But what is a person supposed to do with six and a half pounds of sweet potatoes? Easy! Bake them in the oven, or steam them on the stove top, scoop out the flesh and keep it refrigerated in a plastic container. You can substitute the mashed sweet potato in any of your favorite pumpkin recipes.

Sweet Potato Pie

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups mashed sweet potato
  • Unbaked Maseca Pie Crust
  • Sweetened Whipped Cream (Optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425º F. Place all of the ingredients, except the pie crust, in a blender cup. Puree ingredients until smooth. Pour puree mixture into pastry lined pie plate.
Bake at 425º F for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350º F. Bake pie for 45 minutes or just until center of pie sets. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate pie atleast 3 hours or overnight.

Serve with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream. Enjoy!!!

Maseca Pie Crust




I always have Maseca on hand to make corn tortillas, sopes or tamales. I also use Maseca as a substitute for cornmeal in my cornbread, corndog and hushpuppy recipes. If you don´t have Maseca, use cornmeal for this recipe.

Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup Maseca
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons very cold water

Directions:
In medium size mixing bowl, combine flour, Maseca and salt. Using a potato masher, cut butter into flour mixture. Stir in the cold water just until the dough comes together. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface, or between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. (This is to prevent sticking.) Place pie crust in pie plate. Pierce the dough multiple times with the tines of a fork. (This prevents the dough from rising.) Refrigerate dough until ready to use.



Sweetened Whipped Cream

I love whipped cream. Pie isn't pie unless its topped with delicious whipped cream. Whipped cream and whipping cream aren't always available in Yahualica. But, I once heard that any cream can be whipped if it contains atleast 30% fat. Well, my favorite Mexican crema is perfect for that.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup very cold Mexican crema
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:
In medium mixing bowl, beat Mexican crema and sugar at medium-high speed with an electric mixer, until cream has doubled in size. Add vanilla and cinnamon and beat an additional 30 seconds.

With Love,
Leslie Limon

Printable Version

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Traditional Mexican Pozole

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Pozole...this is one of the few Mexican dishes that I did not grow up with. (A real shame if you ask me!) The only kind of Pozole that I ever tasted was the kind you find in a can with a lovely señorita on the label. Pappy bought a can once, thinking it was Menudo. What came out of the can was a few pieces of chopped pork, lots of hominy and a red goop with way too many spices. Although this was our only experience with Pozole, we decided that we weren't Pozole people.

Fast forward to many years later, during my mother-in-law's first visit to the U.S. She prepared a wonderful pork and hominy soup, seasoned with ancho chilies and garlic. When the bowls were served, I noticed that everyone was squeezing fresh lime juice over the soup, then garnishing their bowls with shredded cabbage, chopped onion and sliced radishes. The first taste of this soup was like an explosion of flavors. I had to have more! And I needed to know the name of what I was eating. When my mother-in-law said that it was Pozole, I immediately thought of that canned nightmare. She lovingly laughed, then told me that you can't get good Mexican food from a can!

Pozole is a very traditional dish in Mexico. It is often reserved for special occasions such as birthdays, Christenings, First Communions and during the holiday season. In Mexico, Pozole is prepared using Maiz Negro (dried purple hominy). The Maiz Negro needs to be cooked with lye a day in advanced. This helps to soften the hominy and to remove the outer skin.

Don't get scared! I'm not going to make you do all that work. I'm not a fan of using canned foods, but in this case I've made an exception. The only can that I was able to find was a 3 kilo can. That's 6 pounds of hominy. That's not only a lot, but way too much. I checked online and found that there is a 29-ounce can available. That should be enough. My mother-in-law says that you need equal parts of hominy and meat. So take that into consideration, but feel free to use more hominy.

Traditional Mexican Pozole - lacocinadeleslie.com

Pozole

lacocinadeleslie.com

Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds pork shoulder roast
  • 3 dried ancho chilies
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 (29 oz.) can white hominy, drained and rinsed

Garnish:
  • Limes
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Chopped Onion
  • Sliced Radishes
  • Tapatio Hot Sauce (optional)

Directions:
Cut the pork shoulder into large chunks. Place the pork shoulder in a 6-quart stockpot; add water and 1 teaspoon of the salt to the stockpot. Bring the pork shoulder to a boil over high heat; let boil for 30 minutes, skimming off the foam that forms. Reduce heat to low and let simmer until the meat is tender.

While the meat is simmering, place the ancho chilies in a heatproof bowl. Pour 1 to 2 cups of the meat broth over the chilies. Let the chilies soak until they have softened completely. Remove the stems and seeds from the chilies. Place chilies in blender with the broth they were soaked in and the garlic cloves. Puree until very smooth.

Using a strainer, pour the puree mixture into the stockpot with the meat. (Spoon a couple of ladles full of broth over the chile puree to get all the great chile flavor.) Carefully, add the hominy to the stockpot. Season with the additional teaspoon of salt. Let simmer for atleast 30 minutes. Taste the broth to see if it needs more salt, adding more if necessary. Turn off the Pozole and let sit for about 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

To serve, have all of the garnishes on the table and let your family or guests serve themselves. Be sure to have plenty of crunchy tostadas on the side. Enjoy!!!












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