Monthly Archives: March 2016

Rosca de Pascua

Rosca de Pascua is a traditional bread baked for Easter.  There is a very similar one, Rosca de Reyes that is baked for Epiphany, Three Wise Men Day, or January 6th.  My mom would bake this and as often happens to me, I cannot make it as flavorful as she did.  The first thing that is a little off, is the “Agua de Azahar”, which I can’t find anywhere.  “Agua de azahar” is lemon blossom water.  Orange blossom water is every where.  I often use it as a replacement but it really doesn’t add enough flavor to the bread.  I made two of these, one with orange blossom water and one with my homemade lemon extract.  The second one with the lemon was tastier. I’ve been asking around to see if anyone has ever seen agua de azahar.  There are two chefs on the sensory panel that I am on and one of them told me of a market that carries it.  Unfortunately, it’s a couple of hours away in a direction that I don’t often travel.  So, I think I will keep it in mind for the next time I head down to Argentina and pick up a bottle then, or maybe two.  It will be more likely for me to go to Argentina than to go to this market.

The tradition of bringing back food from Argentina is a long one.  My mom once brought back a whole “jamón serrano”, (similar to prosciutto).  We are talking about the hind leg of a pig!  It was made on my cousin’s farm.  He has an employee that makes these unbelievable hams.  Mom wrapped it up and carried it on board.  I still chuckle at the sight of her as she was coming out of the plane carrying this object on her shoulder.  I thought she had brought me back a banjo or something.  Now, this was before 9/11 and security wasn’t as tight but customs was even tougher then.  Three years ago, I brought back some cheese.  I was at my cousin’s house and his wife is an incredible cook.  She makes pastas, pastries and desserts all from scratch and they are truly delicious.  Well, one day, I was commenting on how yummy the mozzarella was.  She suggested I take some home.  Well, I thought about it.  It is processed and I would be able to get a packaged one which would make it through customs easier.  Then, I thought best not deal with it.  We are talking about cheese, right?  The day before my flight, Nelly, my cousin’s spouse, arrives with a 5 kilo mozzarella!  What am I to do?  I packed it and off I went on my 20 hour journey.  When I got to Texas, I declared my cheese.  As I walked through customs, the agent looked at my form and asked me if it was correct.  I said, yes, I have a 10 lb. block of mozzarella in my suitcase.  He started to ask more questions, paused, and told me to go on through with a smile on his face.  Good thing I pack light and had room in my bag.  It would not have been so much fun to travel with it in my hand luggage.  That year, my family, my friends, and my students were able to enjoy that block of cheese.  We ate it all up.  Moral of the story:  Always have extra room in your bags for the return trip.  You never know what you might end up packing.


You will need a glass, cookie cutter or any circular item that can be a “space holder” for the center of the wreath.  I used a clay vessel, kind of like a cup.


6 Tbls. warm Milk

1 packet (50 grams) Yeast

3 Tbls. Sugar

1 pinch Salt

3 Eggs

1 Tbl. Agua de Azahar or Lemon Extract or Vanilla Extract

Grated Peel of 1/2 Lemon

1 cube (8 Tbls.) melted Butter

3 1/2 cups Unbleached Flour

3 raw Eggs (dyed if you wish)

1 Egg Wash

Crema Pastelera

1 Tbl. Flour

1 Egg

4 Tbls. Sugar

1 cup Milk

1 tsp. Vanilla Extract


Grease and flour a cookie sheet.  Warm the Milk to 120-130 degrees.  Place in mixer bowl with Yeast. Combine a little and let Yeast dissolve.  Add Salt, 1 Egg, Lemon Peel, 2 Tbls. Flour and beat.  Add more Flour, Agua de Azahar, some of the Butter, 1 Egg, Sugar and beat.  Continue adding all the ingredients a bit at a time until all is incorporated.  The dough will become a ball.  Beat for a bit longer.  Put the dough on the cookie sheet.  Spread into a circle until it is about 2 – 3 inches thick.  Make a hole in the middle and place your greased and floured “space holder”.  Let rise.


Meanwhile make Crema Pastelera.  Place all the ingredients in a saucepan on low heat.  Stir until it becomes thick and custard-like.


Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.  Once the dough has risen, brush it with the Egg Wash.  Place the Raw Eggs on the top evenly spaced.  Place the Crema Pastelera in a Ziploc bag and cut the end.  Decorate with lines on top of the dough.  Sprinkle sugar and bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.


I dyed the eggs with natural dyes made of tumeric, purple cabbage and tea.  Mom would use white eggs, wash them and put them on.  It’s neat how they come out “hardboiled”.  It makes sense but I still like the idea.

I don’t have any music suggestions for this recipe.  I haven’t made it in a long time, plus I’m hooked on audio-books at the moment.  I was listening to “The Paris Wife”, interesting book.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Peach Pie with Ginger Streusel

Back in August of last year, my local farmer’s market was running a peach pie contest.  The entry was free and I figured I had nothing to lose to sign up.  So, I did.  I have always been of the belief that if you are not very good at something, you need to be really creative to get it noticed.  My daughter and I did this a long time ago, before she honed in on her artistic talents.  There was an art contest of some sort at her school.  She was in second or third grade and her drawing and painting skills weren’t developed yet.  (They are now!)  I advised her to do something creative like make a collage.  We researched how to make paper and decided to make a homemade paper collage.  Well, she won third place.  Now, there is the support for my theory.

As I was thinking about my peach pie, I knew that I had always used a store bought frozen crust and I should really make my own.  That idea was daunting.  All the recipes I found looked very easy if you used a food processor.  I had a barely-used mini-food processor.  A pie crust wouldn’t fit in it.  So, my first step was to buy a larger processor.  I used a Cream Cheese Crust recipe taken from the Joy of Cooking.  I wanted something out of the ordinary so that it wouldn’t compare side by side with the “real good pie baker’s crust”.  It’s good and I have included the recipe below but please use any crust that you like.  I don’t think this particular crust adds much.  It is very buttery.  Then, I had to think about what flavors would work best with peaches.  Ginger! One of my favorite spices and I thought pecans would be a nice addition.  That’s how I came up with the ginger streusel.  Unfortunately, it was this combination that I think took me out of the running for the contest.  I think the judges associated ginger and pecans with autumnal foods and they were really looking for summer tastes.  This is what I tell myself anyway….

I got really excited about entering in this competition.  I had never done anything like this before.  I texted my daughter with the news.  She asked, “When was the last time you baked a peach pie?”  I answered – Never.  That’s what I thought, she replied.  You don’t bake pies. I had to laugh.  She was right but I had so much fun doing it.  I hope you enjoy trying it out.  You could use frozen peaches until the summer comes.  Don’t bother peeling them unless they are fresh.  Everyone who has tried the pie, likes it.  I sure hope you do, too.



1 cup plus 2 Tbl. Unbleached Flour

2 Tbl. Powdered Sugar

1/4 tsp. Salt

6 Tbl. cold Unsalted Butter

3 oz. cold Cream Cheese

2-3 Tbl. cold Heavy Cream

Combine dry ingredients in a food processor for 10 seconds.  Cut the Butter and Cream Cheese into 1/2 in. chunks, scatter over the dry ingredients.  Pulse in 1 – 2 second bursts until the size of peas.  With the machine turned off, drizzle 2 Tbl. Cream evenly over the top.  Pulse until the dough begins to clump.  Press together and form a flat disk, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.



2 lbs. Peaches, peeled, pitted and slices 1/4 in. thick

1/2 – 3/4 cup Sugar

3 Tbl. Cornstarch

2 Tbl. fresh Lemon Juice

1/8 tsp. Salt

Roll dough into a 13 in. round and fit into a 9 in. pie plate.  Refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.


Measure 3 cups of Peaches and combine with Sugar, Cornstarch, Lemon Juice and Salt.  Let stand for 15 min., stirring occasionally.



Pour into the crust.  Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake for 30 min.   Make Streusel topping.


2/3 cups Ginger Snap Crumbs (I used Anna’s)

1/3 cup Brown Sugar

2/3 chopped Pecans

1-2 Tbl. finely chopped Candied Ginger

5 Tbl. Butter


Melt Butter on low.  Turnoff the heat and add Candied Ginger.  Let Ginger and Butter sit for 2 minutes.


Meanwhile, put Ginger Snaps in ziploc bag and with a rolling pin make fine crumbs.  You can use a food processor for this step.


Pour crumbs into a small bowl.  Add Brown Sugar, Pecans and Butter mixture.  Combine well.


Lower the oven to 350 degrees and sprinkle the streusel on top.  Bake another 25 min.


I always listen to Juanes Mi Sangre CD when I’m preparing this pie.  I especially like his “Amame”song which I will listen to over and over again.


Breakfast Scramble

I’ve been eating this simple Scramble for breakfast lately.  I know what you are thinking…Everybody knows how to scramble eggs!  Well, you are right.  I was having a conversation with someone the other day.  I can’t remember who or where it was. It may have been at an Olive Oil Tasting event, no matter.  I was saying how I only have olive oil and butter at home.  That’s all I use to cook.  Then, this person started asking me about different foods and what I used to cook them, Like sauteing vegetables? or frying? or baking?  I kept answering olive oil.  Then, she asked about eggs and I told her, oh, butter, of course, with a smile.  So, you don’t just use olive oil on everything was her response.  Well, no, I always use butter for scrambled or fried eggs and omelettes.  Then, I watched an episode of The American Test Kitchen.  Do you ever watch that show?  I find it so interesting.  I got hooked on it after I heard J. Kenji López-Alt on NPR.  He was so interesting.  He talked about his days at The American Test Kitchen.  He wrote a book with all his findings.  It’s called The Food Lab and it’s an enormous tome.

I usually tape The American Kitchen and watch it at night when there is nothing on TV.  I watched an episode that showed a recipe called Eggs Piperade.  It’s a simple dish of scrambled eggs with sauteed onions and peppers. The interesting thing was that the cook chose to use olive oil in the eggs and the pan.  She claimed that the EVOO made the eggs fluffier.  I sometimes add some milk to my eggs as I beat them but not always.  She also said that overbeating the eggs makes them tough.  This is totally against my beliefs.  So, I tried adding olive oil and I have to say that i think they are fluffier than usual and very tasty.  My scrambled eggs were always tough because I don’t like runny eggs and so I overcooked them to prevent that from happening.  Now, they are still light and well cooked.  Try it next time, you’ll be surprised at how good they are.


2 Eggs

2 – 3 tsp. Olive Oil

handful of fresh Spinach

1 oz. Cheese or to taste

Salt and Pepper to taste

Rinse and chop the Spinach.  Cube or shred the cheese.   Beat the Eggs with 1 tsp. Olive Oil.


Heat 1 – 2 tsp. of Olive Oil in a skillet on medium-high.  Once you see the oil spreading on the pan, add Spinach and cook until wilted.


Add Eggs and Cheese.  Cook stirring for 30 seconds.  Lower heat to medium-low and continue to scramble the eggs.


Salt and Pepper to taste.  That’s it!


Make Ahead Pizza Rolls

I saw a picture of these pizza rolls on Pinterest or it might have been Facebook, which is showing a lot of recipes lately.  It reminded me of the cinnamon rolls that I make ahead.  I remember I saw these pictures around Super Bowl Sunday.  Super Bowl Sunday, in this house, was almost a holiday.  My husband would take the kids out to do the grocery shopping and they could get whatever they wanted to snack on.  We would often have some people over,  planned or dropping by, it didn’t matter.  My husband liked to make his Bar-B-Que pork ribs and I would make stromboli or whatever caught my eye or tastes buds at the time.  He loved pizza and may have even order some pizza that day, too.  It was always festive, even if I really didn’t care that much for the game.  Well, this year, I didn’t figure out my recipe by Super Bowl Sunday and it didn’t matter because the house was pretty quiet.  Still, the idea of making food ahead of a gathering is exciting to me.  I don’t like being stuck in the kitchen while guests are mingling about.

If refrigerating cinnamon rolls the day before baking works so well, why not try it with pizza dough?  So, I did.  They turned out great.  The first batch didn’t have enough toppings inside.  I made sure to put more the second time around but the dough worked out great each time.

I made everything from scratch.  You don’ t have to but I recommend that you make the dough from scratch.  It’s especially easy if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer or another heavy duty mixer with a kneading paddle.  Years ago, I would always knead the dough by hand figuring that it would make it the best.  It’s a time honored method plus I enjoyed the workout.  I tried the dough hook on my mixer and found that the dough was actually better.  So, I threw out the traditional method and am very happy with the mixer method.  The pizza sauce can just be any marinara you have on hand.  Hope you try them next time you have a gathering.  Food always tastes bette when shared with friends.




1 pkg. Active Dry Yeast

1 1/3 cups Warm Water (105 to 115 degrees)

3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups Unbleached Flour

2 Tbls. Olive Oil

1 Tbl. Salt

Pizza Sauce

2 cans (8 oz.) unsalted Tomato Sauce

1 – 2 cloves Garlic, smashed with the blade of a knife

2 tsp. Olive Oil

1 Tbl. Chopped Fresh Oregano (I use Greek Oregano.  Italian Oregano upsets my         stomach.)

– or-

1 tsp. Dried Oregano


1 pkg. (16 oz.) Mozzarella

Pepperoni, Arugula, Mushroom, Olives or whatever you like.




Combine Water (take care of temperature) and Yeast in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of the mixer. Let stand about 5 minutes or until dissolved.


Add Flour, Olive Oil and Salt to Yeast and mix on low speed for a minute or until blended.


Change the mixer’s paddle to the kneading paddle and knead for 10 minutes on low to medium speed until dough is smooth and elastic.



IMG_4332Lightly oil a large bowl.  Put the dough in the bowl and roll it around to coat.  Then cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm place.  In the winter when my house is cool, I put the bowl in the oven with the light on. Let it rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Meanwhile, start the pizza sauce.


Pizza Sauce


In a medium sauce pan, heat the Olive Oil on medium high.  Add the Garlic Clove and slightly brown on both sizes.


Remove the Garlic and add Tomato Sauce and Oregano.  Careful, the Tomato Sauce will splatter.  Reduce heat and simmer for 1/2 hour or so and set aside.


Once the dough has doubled, take off the plastic wrap and punch it.



Spread the dough with a roller and/or by hand into a large rectangle.


Spread Pizza Sauce, Mozzarella and whatever toppings you would like.


These are the pictures from my first attempt.  I’ve figured out that more Sauce, Mozzarella in slices, and overlapping layers of pepperoni makes for a better pizza roll.

Roll the dough, starting from the long end.  Then slice into 12 – 16 slices, depending on how think you want your rolls.


 Place them in slightly oiled 9 x 13 pans.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until 1 hour before serving.  If you are not making ahead, let rise now and follow the baking instructions.

One hour and 15 minutes before serving, take the pizza rolls out of the refrigerator.  Pull off the plastic wrap.  Place on a rack in the oven.  Place on the rack below the rolls, a pan filled 2/3 with boiling water. Leave for 30 minutes.  Empty the oven and set it to 350 degrees.  Brush the rolls with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes.  Then set the oven to 425 degrees and bake until edges are crisp – 10 minutes or so.  Serve. Makes 12-16 rolls.