Thursday, July 31, 2014

Flan de Queso "Cheese Flan"

National cheesecake day was celebrated yesterday, but we didn't have cheesecake at home nor did I have time to make one, so we had leftover cream cheese flan I made earlier this week.  I think that counts?

I'm a firm believer in celebrating as many food holidays as possible!

My husband and I were never huge fans of flan, but my gosh, this one churrascaria we frequent makes THE richest, smoothest, and best flan ever. It's not a thin egg custard that feel water-y to the tongue, which is what I feel is what you get out of those boxed flan mixes.

Those of you new to flan, it's essentially a latin egg custard with a caramel topping that can be jazzed up any number of ways.

We were craving our favorite restaurant's flan, which is a little more dense, and to mimic it, I used cream cheese to give it the smoothness and thickness we wanted. Basically a flan cheesecake sans the crust.

This recipe has a handful of ingredients including a super easy caramel sauce.  I think the hardest part of this recipe is the water bath because I didn't have a baking dish wide enough to fit my baking pan so I winged it and hoped for the best.  Other than that, this is one easy schmeasy dessert that is sure to impress.  The satisfaction you get when you flip that flan out of it's baking dish and into a plate without it breaking deserves a high five.  Luckily husband was around to give me one.

Flan de Queso

1 cup sugar
1 8 oz. block cream cheese, softened
1 14 oz. can condensed milk
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
5 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Have a 9" circle baking dish ready to go.

In a small saucepan, melt sugar over medium heat until it's a beautiful caramel color, stirring constantly.  Don't worry, the sugar crystallizes into large chunks, but then slowly, but surely, the sugar melts and begins to brown. Voila! You have caramel sauce.  Did you know it is THAT easy to make caramel?

Pour the caramel sauce into the baking dish and spread/swirl around as much as possible before it hardens.  Don't worry if you don't get too far with the caramel.  It all comes together at the end.

In a blender, blend cream cheese until smooth. Add the condensed milk and evaporated milk and combine.  Blend in one egg at a time, scraping down the sides after each egg.  Add in the vanilla and give it one last swirl.

Pour the smooth milk/egg mixture over the caramel.

Now for the water bath...find a large enough baking pan to house the baking dish that contains the flan. I just used a large cookie sheet I had with raised edges.  Soak a dish towel and lay it in your empty baking dish.  Place your flan on top of the towel and then fill your empty baking dish with HOT water until it comes up halfway up the sides of the flan dish. My dish didn't allow it to come up halfway, but I just filled my cookie sheet up with water as much as I could.  It was just fine.

Bake for 45-55 minutes.  The flan should have some jiggle, but if you stick a knife in the middle, it should come out clean.  This is when you know it's ready!

Take the flan out and let it cool to room temperature and then stick in the fridge overnight.

The fun refrigeration! Grab a large plate, place it over the flan dish, and flip the flan dish over. Gently tap the dish until the flan falls out onto the plate (hopefully in one piece). The caramel sauce will come out with it.  Feel free to scrape out every last bit of that sauce, or better yet, just lick the dish. No one is watching you. And then give yourself a high five! Garnish with berries, or sprinkle with cinnamon, or eat just as!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lobster Mac N' Cheese

I would like to wish my Muslim readers a very joyous and blessed Eid Mubarak!  I hope that these last 30 days of Ramadan brought peace, granted prayers, community, and perspective to your lives.

Now as we go back to our eating throughout the day lives, I bring for you as an Eid gift, lobster macaroni and cheese. You're welcome.

Disclaimer: It's not healthy.  It's an indulgent, rich, little ginormous bowl of happiness with three kinds of cheese, butter, and lobster.

I was feeling kind of fancy, and I was also fasting, so naturally, I was like, lobster mac n' cheese. Ha, just kidding. I don't even really like lobster! So to say this craving was random, is an understatement.  Lobster is amazing with cheese by the way, even if mixing seafood with cheese is a foodie faux pas.

I figured since I haven't eaten even a quarter of my daily calorie intake since 5am, we could have this for dinner.  This is my logic when I am not eating all day.

To make dinner even more extravagant for a Thursday night, we had it with steak. Sometimes we just have to celebrate a regular ho-hum day with a special meal.

This dish takes some love and good (aka slightly expensive) ingredients.  Please don't use the blue box and add lobster.  It would be blasphemous. Also, if you can find it, use the mini bow tie. Just makes it even FANCIER.  To help with cost, try to grab lobster tails when they are on sale and get the cheese from the deli if they have it available.  You can just ask for a nice chunk that you can take home and shred instead of buying a whole block of cheese for $8-$10 in the refrigerated section of the store.  I even had quite a bit of cheese left from all 3 after I used what I needed. So cheesy omelettes are coming my way for breakfast!

You can have still have champagne tastes on a  beer water budget!

Lobster Mac N' Cheese

serves 2-4
3/4 pound noodle of choice (mini bow tie was mine)
2 cooked lobster tails, chopped into pieces
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups 2% milk
1/2 cup Gruyere, shredded (I used smoked)
1/2 cup Wisconsin Medium Cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup Fontina, shredded
Red Pepper Flakes
Garlic Powder
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook noodles in boiling water until al-dente and drain.

Meanwhile, in a small pot, heat up milk.  DO NOT BOIL! Just get it really hot.

To make the cheese sauce, heat butter in a medium sauce pan on medium heat. Once melted, add flour and whisk until the flour smells nutty and is light brown in color.

Slowly whisk in the hot milk until it's thick and smooth. Now this is important! Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for 30 seconds.  Add ALL the amazing cheese in small batches, stirring in between to make a smooth sauce.  Add the seasonings to your liking and taste. I would drink this with a straw if I could...

Pour the sauce over the cooked and drained noodles and combine.  Stir in lobster pieces.  Throw this beautiful sight into a baking dish, sprinkle the panko crumbs all over the top and stick in the oven until you see the cheese bubbling. Mmmmmm bubbly cheese...should take about 15 minutes.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Creamy Dreamy Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

This post is dedicated to my husband, who will always be a lover of chicken alfredo from Olive Garden.

Before trendy, farm-to-table, let me milk this cow in our backyard farm for your cream sauce, hipster restaurants were the norm, chain restaurants reigned king.  The Olive Gardens and Outback Steakhouses of our childhood have a special place in our hearts, and sometimes you just want the comfort of hot garlic breadsticks and the brown bread, or creamy alfredo sauce that can only be found in these family friendly restaurants.

Although, I no longer frequent the chains as often as I did growing up, sometimes I just want a fresh basket of cheddar bay biscuits.  Who can't eat a whole basket of these gems?

Every year, husband picks a couple dinners for me to make during his birthday week, and every year, it is the same two things, pot roast and chicken alfredo.  So instead of taking him to Luby's or Olive Garden, I make these things for him from scratch. I am realizing that as I type this, I have a spoiled husband with no fault but my own...I love to cook, and he loves to eat. In my eyes, it's a win-win.

I suggest you make this chicken alfredo on a night where you just want to stay at home in your pajamas and make something special for yourself, instead of going out. Do not attempt to make this a healthy recipe by using the cauliflower recipe. I repeat, don't use the cauliflower alfredo recipe. Pinterest may make it look pretty, but the picture is deceiving.  Unless of course, you like a gritty texture cream sauce, then by all means...

Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

serves 4
2 large cooked and seasoned chicken breasts, butterflied and sliced
1 cup raw broccoli florets, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
black pepper
sea salt
chopped parsley
16 oz fettuccine noodles

Cook your fettuccine according to package instructions until al-dente.  Once drained, toss with a little olive oil.

As fettuccine is cooking, heat a saucepan over medium heat and melt butter. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes.  Cook until the garlic is fragrant and not burning.  Slowly add heavy cream and milk.  Heat through.  Add parmesan cheese and whisk until cheese has melted and sauce is smooth. Add lots of black pepper and just a dash of salt to taste.

Add sliced chicken, broccoli and parsley to the sauce. Let all of this heat through and come in harmony, and then toss with your cooked fettuccine!