Flan Casero (Homemade Flan)

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Flan is one of my all-time favorite desserts.  I first learned to make flan when visiting my daughter who was studying in Argentina.  The original recipe calls for whole milk but I have made it successfully and deliciously with low fat milk.  Either way, you’ll get 1/2 cup of milk in each serving!

It’s easier than you’d think to make this dessert.  And it serves 8… so have a dinner party or save the extras in the fridge just for you!

Flan Casero (Homemade Flan) serves 8

Caramel:

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

Set out 8 ramekins. In a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, mix sugar and water, stir only to combine. Cover and cook for 8 minutes, until the caramel is amber in color. Remove from heat. Work quickly to pour about 1 tablespoon into each ramekin.

Custard:

4 cups whole milk

3/4 cup sugar

4 eggs plus 2 yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat milk with the sugar over medium heat until mixture starts to steam and bubble around the edges and sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes (do not let it boil).

Using a whisk, beat the eggs and yolks. Add the vanilla. Slowly ladle milk into the eggs, whisking to combine (this is ‘tempering’ the eggs). Add another 2 ladles to eggs and whisk. Slowly pour remaining milk into eggs while whisking to combine. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. Divide strained custard evenly among ramekins. Set ramekins in a baking dish and add enough boiling water to cover halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until custard is just set, about 45 minutes.

Remove ramekins from the water and cool on a baking rack. Place in refrigerator to chill (about 6 hours or up to 3 days). To serve, use a paring knife to cut around the outside of the ramekin and then invert the mold over each serving plate. Enjoy!

Fresh Strawberry Brie Bites

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Need an appetizer for a party?  Or a refreshing dessert after dinner?  This recipe serves both needs!  Fresh strawberries washed and hulled deliver color and sweetness when paired with creamy brie and fresh basil leaves.  Balsamic glaze provides a sweet yet savory finish for a fabulous combination!

Strawberry Brie Bites with Balsamic Glaze (makes 20-24 pieces)

1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled

Fresh basil, one leaf per strawberry (about 20-24)

1 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 pound Brie cheese, cut 1/4-inch slices into 1-inch squares (20-24 pieces)

Toothpicks or small bamboo skewers

Pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and gently simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until the glaze is thick and coats a spoon (consistency of chocolate syrup). Set aside and allow to cool in pan.

Prepare a serving dish with a light coat of oil or cooking spray. Start stacking ingredients with a piece of brie as the base. Add basil (leaf should curve up to catch the glaze).  Next, add the strawberry (hulled side down). Spear stack with toothpick and drizzle with glaze. Arrange on the prepared serving dish. Enjoy!

Note: Any unused balsamic glaze can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for several weeks. 

Going Nuts! Spicy Citrus Party Cashews

Spicy Citrus Party Cashews

It’s about this time every December that I begin making some gifts in my kitchen.  This year, I’m going nuts.  Literally!  These Spicy Citrus Party Cashews were originally inspired by a Martha Stewart recipe a few years back.  This year, I’m packing them up to share and sharing this recipe with you, too!  Enjoy!

Spicy Citrus Party Cashews (makes 12, ¼ cup servings)Homemade gifts

2 teaspoons coarse sea salt

2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 egg white

3 cups raw (unsalted) cashews

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place cashews In a medium bowl, set aside. In a small bowl, combine salt and lime zest, pressing mixture firmly with the back of a spoon to incorporate. Add brown sugar and red pepper. Sprinkle over cashews. Wisk egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Add to cashews and toss to coat.

Spread cashew mixture in a single layer onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden, 30 minutes, stirring mixture at halfway point. (They will be sticky when first out of the oven but will harden when cool). Cool completely before serving.  Store in a covered container.

Homemade Whole Grain Crackers

Homemade crackers

It is sometimes hard to find tasty, pre-packaged, whole grain crackers. That’s why I am excited to share this recipe with you!  It is amazingly easy (trust me!) and there are so many variations to try:  cheese, herbs, spices, nuts and seeds.  These will be a perfect addition to any favorite dips or spreads you may be bringing to parties this season.  Be ready to impress your friends!

I have also provided a gluten-free version of this recipe (see parenthesis) that my friend Suzanne shared.  Please share any variations that you create of this recipe, too! Enjoy!

Thanks, Suzanne!  These crackers look delish!

Thanks, Suzanne! These crackers look delish!

Homemade Whole Grain Crackers (makes 6 dozen, 1-inch crackers)

1 cup all purpose flour (Gluten-free baking flour)

1 cup whole wheat flour (almond meal)

1/4 cup ground flaxseed (chia seeds)

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup warm water

1/3 cup olive oil plus 1 tablespoon for baking sheets

Coarsely ground sea salt

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the flours, flaxseed and salt in a large bowl. Add the warm water, and olive oil to bowl, and stir until all the flour is absorbed (less than a minute).

Divide dough in half, form dough into an oblong shape. Spread dough halves onto 2 baking sheets prepared with oil. First, smooth and shape dough with oiled fingers. Then, with an oiled rolling pin, roll dough to even thickness (about 1/8 inch). Rough edges are perfectly fine! Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 1-inch squares. Lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden. The crackers will continue to harden after they cool. Remove from pan with a metal spatula and allow to cool completely before serving.  Store leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer.  If crackers become soft, they can be baked again, 20-25 minutes at 325 degrees.  Enjoy!

Candy Corn Fruit & Yogurt Cups

Candy Corn Fruit Cups

Just in time for Halloween!  It’s a snack that is both fun and healthy, unique amongst all the sweets & candy of the season.  It mimics candy corn when assembled:  yellow-orange-white as pineapple-oranges-yogurt.  These are easy to make and individually packed for a party or to simply ‘grab & go’.  Enjoy!

Candy Corn Fruit & Yogurt Cups (serves 12)

3 cups low fat vanilla yogurt

2 cans pineapples chunks (in juice), drained

2 cans mandarin oranges, drained

12 plastic, clear, 6-ounce cups

Candy corn, for garnish

Using a spoon, equally distribute pineapple in bottom of each cup.  Repeat process with orange slices.  Top with a 1/4 cup dollop of yogurt.  Garnish with a piece of candy corn.  Now they are ready to share with your favorite goblins!

 

Dreamsicle Smoothie

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School’s out!  My kids are so happy!!  I remember that excitement when I was a kid.  Summer meant lots of time playing outside and listening for the bell of the ice cream truck coming through the neighborhood.  Do you remember Dreamsicles?  The orange sherbet coating on vanilla ice cream bar?  Well, try this healthy smoothie recipe and please let me know if I’ve named it appropriately!

Dreamsicle Smoothie (makes 12 ounces)

1 cup vanilla low- or non-fat yogurt

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup diced peaches

1/2 cup ice cubes

1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds

Blend on high for 1 minute until smooth.  Enjoy!

Caramelized Grapefruit

Carmelized Grapefruit

Refreshing! A new twist to an old favorite!  Yummy!

However you want to describe it, now is the time to treat yourself to Caramelized Grapefruit.  Enjoy it at breakfast, as an afternoon snack or as ‘salad’ for dinner.  It’s easy!

Caramelized Grapefruit (serves 2)

1 large ruby red grapefruit, cut in half at center and chilled

2 teaspoons brown sugar

Preheat broiler 500 degrees.  Set oven rack 6 inches below heating element.

Run a paring knife around each grapefruit section to release.  Spread brown sugar evenly on both halves.

Arrange each half on a baking sheet and place in broiler for 2-3 minutes when sugar begins to caramelize. Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Cows and Chocolate Monkeys

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First, Cows…

This week, I had the privilege of participating in a Dairy Symposium sponsored by the Midwest Dairy Association.  This symposium brought together both dietitians and dairy farmers from the Midwest.  We had great conversations!  From the care of their animals to the high standards they keep, I truly was blown away by the commitment the dairy farmers had for their work and for providing us with the fresh, wholesome milk and other dairy products we enjoy everyday.  I really never thought so much about cows before:

  • One farmer referred to her cows as ‘princesses’.
  • Another farmer and his wife shared that they are the fourth generation on their farm.
  • I learned that 97% of the US dairy farms are family owned and operated.
  • A new friend and farmer told me she takes care of all the new babies on her farm, that’s three a day from their milking herd of 600!
  • It takes less than 48 hours for fresh milk to get from the farm to the grocer’s dairy case (that’s farm to table!).

Now, Chocolate Monkeys…  Chocolate Monkey

This is the name of a popular smoothie at home and at a local high school.  Last week, I had the opportunity to blend smoothie samples for over 120 high school students at the Glenbard North health fair.  Chocolate Monkeys were a favorite.  Did you know the 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend 3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy daily?  Unfortunately on average, Americans consume about 2 servings of dairy daily. Adding one extra serving every day can help us get the nutrition we need. A Chocolate Monkey could do it!  Or simply grab a cheese stick, a glass of milk or a container of your favorite yogurt.  Dairy can be a ‘grab and go’ food, and in our busy lives, that makes getting the nutrition we need super easy!

Chocolate Monkey (makes 20 ounces)

1 banana
1/2 cup skim milk
1 cup lowfat vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup ice
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
Blend ingredients together for 1 minute.  Enjoy!