Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Brunch and Dinner Ideas...... A Lazy Day In The Sun....

Today is Sunday, a lazy day to take it easy, enjoy with family and ease into the next week's activities (which we have a lot of!...) This is a late morning day for me which is rare since I'm usually up no later than 7am and off and running.... but today I got up late and took advantage of everyone else sleeping in to have the house to myself (and Kitty of course!) to make some fresh ground coffee, look towards the "Popo" and slowly seize the day.....

Rene was the first to greet me and he was hungry so he decided to make himself some "Eggs Benedict Mexican Style", which is a toasted "telera"(a type of hard roll), ham, roasted tomato slice, jalapeno slices, poached eggs, chives, topped with the sauce... he's a wiz in the kitchen and at my elbow when I cook since he's interested in either a culinary career or writing, loves good food and doesn't intend to be dependent on anyone to have the food he's used to (smart guy this one!) so he's already a good cook, perfecting his dish presentation and upgrading his skills. Besides, "Eggs Benedict" is on the Atkins Diet and we're all trying to follow it and it's a fantastic dish.....

Here's a quick and easy Hollandaise Sauce you can make in 2 min. that will make it possible for you to have Hollandaise Sauce anytime! You won't believe it..... we use this all the time not only on eggs (makes a mean Asparragus and Hollandaise Omelette too!) but vegetables and fish as well, plus you can have variations of the sauce as well, like Bearnaise Sauce which is fantastic!

4 egg yolks (save the whites for the omelettes or meringue for later)
1-2 tsp lemon juice
pinch of cayenne or powdered red chile
1 stick of butter

Put the yolks, lemon, pepper in the blender. Put the butter in a small pan and melt on high heat
(don't burn) until it's bubbling. Turn the blender on and leave it running, covered of course but take the center part out so you can pour in the hot butter. Then slowly drizzle the hot butter into the egg mixture, while the blender is running, until all the butter is poured in and your sauce has the texture of a light mayonnaise (this is how you make mayo too!.. real easy), it will only take 1 or 2 min. If you want it thicker, add more yolks.

My idea of Sunday Brunch was an Omelette and since I had so many filling ingredients to choose from, I knew it would be great! According to the BBC food website, the omelette is thought to have originated in ancient Persia. Beaten eggs were mixed with chopped herbs, fried until firm, then sliced into wedges in a dish known as 'kookoo'. This dish is thought to have travelled to Western Europe via the Middle East and North Africa, with each country adapting the original recipe to produce Italian frittata, Spanish tortilla and the French omelette. How about that for some interesting background info.... I love stuff like this!

For a great breakfast, brunch, lunch or even dinner option, learning to make a great omelette is key; it's so flexible you can do almost anything to it: make it sweet or savory, as small or large as you need and as complicated as simple as your tastes. So here's an easy way to get a lovely, fluffy and tasty omelette:


2 large eggs
1-2 egg whites
1-2 tsp heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tbl butter

Fillings, see suggestions below but have them ready. The egg will cook quickly.

Break eggs in a bowl, add cream and whisk to make even and fluffy (you need to insert air into the eggs). Add the salt and pepper. Get a medium sized pan and put on med-high heat. I usually spray some PAM since my pans are old and well worn, but if you have some teflon ones, never mind; Add the butter and melt, now pour in the egg mixture and make sure it covers the bottom of the pan, keep swirling so it covers it well and all the egg mixture jells (I sometimes lift the edge of the egg so that some of the liquid goes under and cooks too)... once there is no more liquid, lift the edge and insure the bottom is getting golden brown, if it is, very carefuly (if you don't think you can just flip it with the pan) use a spatula and turn it over and let cook 1-2 min
to make sure it's cooked well. Now turn it over once more, lower the heat to the lowest setting and place your filling ingredients onto one half of the egg surface (you will be folding the other side over this) and fold over the other side to cover the filling. Cover the whole thing with a lid or another pan for 1-2 min. Turn off the heat and let rest 2-3 min. Serve.

Okay, you've got the omelette down, now how about the fillings. I can tell you to go crazy on this and use anything and everything you've got. I had a mushroom, onion and cheese one, topped with avocado (kind of an abreviated California Omelette) but I made Tarita (my daughter who does NOT cook even though she knows how but hates to do it... go figure), a California Omelette with fresh vegetables like sweet red pepper, onion, mushrooms, zuchinni, sprouts and cheese, also topped with avocado and sour cream.... YUM! Ricardo got a Chorizo and Cheese Omellete topped with sour cream. They are all great! But here's more suggestions for fillings: Smoked Tuna, Onion and Chives with sour cream; Smoked Salmon, Caviar, Sour Cream and Chives; Bacon & Cheese; Ham and Cheese; Sausage, Weiners and Pancetta; Sausage, Marinara Sauce and Cheese; Shredded Chicken, Onion, Sprouts & Cheese topped with Avocado; Ground Beef, Onions, Mushrooms and Sour Cream; you get the idea, anything you feel like, even Straberry Jam and Cream Cheese; Bananas and Cajeta; cook Apples, (or bananas, pears, nectarines, oranges) with some butter and Piloncillo (brown sugar) in a pan until tender, add nuts and top with whipped cream. There are no rules.....

So that takes of the early part of the day yet still leaves me to prepare dinner..... Continuing on our Atkins day and thinking about what's in my fridge I come up with "Arrechera al Carbon", a dish we all love and really enjoy, especially on a weekend when we use the grill.... first to marinade the meat with some olive oil, wine vinegar, salt, pepper, bay leaves a touch of Dijon Mustard. Leave it in a pan, in the fridge, until about 1 hour before cooking so the meat can come to ambient temperature which is best.

As side dishes we will have a great "Guacamole" along with roasted green onions who are dipped in olive oil and lemon and then set on the grill to get nice and blackened. Ricardo (since he's not on a full Atkins, can have some Rice cooked with beef consome, onion and peas), but we will have a green salad with a Mustard Vinaigrette instead.

Anyway, since we've been so good on our diets lately we will have a little reward tonight in the form of a great "Green Lemon Meringue Pie" to keep us motivated to keep going, besides, we all need a little "something" now and then. And as long as we have a small piece, it's ok. Here's a great and very easy recipe to try too.

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon juice (I like the green lemons the best)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
3 egg yolks
1 (8-inch) pie shell or crumb crust (or make your own, see below)

3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream or tartar
1/4 cup sugar

In medium bowl, combine milk, lemon juice, and zest; blend in egg yolks. Pour into cooled crust. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks from. Gradually beat in the sugar until stiff. Spread over filling; seal to edge of crust. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until meringue is golden brown.

NOTE: (Read first): for perfect meringue and pie: Be sure to beat in the sugar very well. It helps to add the sugar a little bit at a time. You must make sure that the filling is VERY hot as the heat from the filling will cook the bottom of the meringue and it won't turn to water. The meringue should be spread evenly over the filling and it must touch the sides of the crust all around. That will give it something to hang onto and the meringue won't shrink. Never cook the meringue in a very hot oven for a short period of time. It just doesn't have enough time to cook that way. Instead, turn the oven down to 325. Cook the pie for at least 20 minutes, but 30 minutes is better if it isn't getting too brown on top. You will have a perfect meringue every time.

PIE CRUST- Made from store bought or home made cookies!

2-3 cups cookies (can be almost any kind as long as they don't have a filling)
1 stick of butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 F. Once done you will bake the cookie crust for about 10 min. and then let cool before filling.

Put the cookies into the blender and blend until you get an almost fine crumb mix. In a bowl, put the crumbs and pour in the melted butter. Mix well until all the crumbs are moist. You can add more or less butter, as long as the crumbs hold together when you pinch them.

Put the crumb mix onto your pie plate and flatten out with a flat bottom glass or large spoon so that it spreads evenly on the whole pan and up the sides. Compact well and make real even. Bake for 8-10 min. Cool then fill.

I've used lemon cookies, ginger snaps, coconut cookies are great for the lemon pie, vanilla wafers; for other types of pies I've used Oreos (but without the cream center, I get the kids to scrape it off). With cookies you don't need to add any more sugar since the cookies are already sweet enough, but try your own combination, you'll see how great this works!

Now you have some ideas for a great weekend menu full of easy dishes you can serve your family that won't take a long time to produce and still leave you plenty of time to enjoy your day's activities. These are great for a day spent at home enjoying the summer weather and your backyard. Hope you have a lovely day! We'll talk soon.....

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