Gingerbread, Pizzeles and robot de cuisine

December 20, 2014 § 2 Comments

gingerbreadcookies star2014

“I love baking more than cooking,” I used to say. Maybe it is still a little true. What brings me to the kitchen are the connections with people and food. When those ingredients are there, I can’t stay away. I find time and energy.  My camera is always there too. I like to cut and mix by hand. I like to taste and smell as I go, even the raw eggs. My recipes have been getting larger though.  Some of my food adventures are sometimes events for hundreds.
I am very happy to get appliances for Christmas. They are as “personal gifts” as it gets for me. My husband knows my needs and wants — that makes it special. Thank you hubby. One Christmas I got a Pizzelle iron and 2 years ago my first stand mixer. I sometimes resist adding new appliances to my life, but they have been great help and fun.
I have been happy to use my mortar and pestle, box grater and blenders for over 20 years but I am really excited about this year’s gift – a “robot de cuisine,” (food processor). I always liked hearing the chefs on cooking shows calling it a robot when I lived in France.

Here recipes for a couple of our favorites: Pizzelles, traditional Italian waffle cookies and Gingerbread Cookies, varieties found in many cultures.


For the Pizzelles, I adapted the recipe from the Pizzelle iron box and advice from my friend Dawn Graham.

pizelle iron

The dough looks like cookie batter and it is “baked” or should I say made on a stove top or electric iron. I like to decorate them with fruit sweetened sugars or a dust of powdered sugar.

3 eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted at room temperature
1tsp anise extract
2 teaspoons baking powder

Beat eggs and sugar by hand until just combined. Sift flour and baking powder into the bowl. Mix by hand. Add melted butter, stir to combine.
Place dough on the bottom part, I use an ice cream scoop and drop about 1 tablespoon of batter. Cook on low for 10-15 seconds on each side. Carefully remove cookies from the iron, using a fork to full them out from the iron if needed. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Pizzeles freeze very well.
This recipe can be made with Gluten Free flour.

pizzelle iron2


gingerbread cookies2014

For the Gingerbread Cookies
adapted from Joy of Baking

1.5 cups all purpose flour
1.5 cups of rye flour
1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger, or 1 TBSP fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
Royal Icing Using Egg Whites:
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or more as needed
3 to 4 cups confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted.

Gingerbread Cookies: In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture beating until incorporated.
Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside while you roll out the dough.

gingerbreadcookiesLinaLaracookies made by my children
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch.  Use a floured cookie cutter to cut out the cookies.  With an offset spatula lift the cut out cookies onto the baking sheet, placing the cookies about 1 inch (2.54 cm) apart.
Bake for about 8 – 12 minutes depending on the size of the cookies.  Small ones will take about 8 minutes, larger cookies will take about 12 minutes.  They are done when they are firm and the edges are just beginning to brown.
Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for about 1 minutes.  When they are firm enough to move, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies depending on the size of cookie cutter used.
For Royal Icing with Egg Whites:  In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg whites with the lemon juice.  Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth.  Tint portions of frosting with desired food color.. The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air.  Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.

From my kitchen to little hands at North Troy Holiday Celebration

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Black Bean Chocolate Soup

December 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

IMG_2647blackbeanChocolate soup

This Black Bean Chocolate Soup is not my mother’s recipe. But it started as a Brazilian blended soup. A caldo for a celebration day. Congratulations to Capital Roots for the Grand Opening of the Urban Grow Center, a regional food hub with the goal to nourish 300,000 people with 1,000,000 pounds of fresh food each year. It was my pleasure to join fellow Chefs Consortium members Renee Panetta and Lecco Morris and serve this soup.

blackbeanchocolate soup

Several years back, when I met Chefs Consortium Noah Sheets, I learned that New York grows black beans and I could get it at Honest Weight Food Co-op. Since then, I have learned so much about local food in New York. Recently I felt in love with local ginger from Little Seed Gardens and that I could get that at Troy Farmer’s Market. The Urban Grow Center will help more people have access to local and fresh food. Local food tastes better for so many reasons. The stories and connections make the taste unforgettable.


If you would like to try:

Ellie’s Black Bean Chocolate Soup

for a large crowd

2 pounds of dried NY black beans, cooked with 1 TBSP of salt and 2 bay leaves in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes. Or you can soak the beans overnight in salt, drain and cook in fresh water on a slow cook for 8 hours on low or boil for a couple hours until tender on stove top.
Set aside half of the liquid to be blended back into the soup as needed
Add 1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced or more to taste
1 bunch of cilantro
1 TBSP smoked paprika
1 TBSP ground cumin
1/4 cup of vinegar
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup 100% cocoa powder
Blend the soup, adding reserved liquid as needed
Adjust salt and black pepper to taste
Simmer for 10 minutes.
Garnish with chives, if desired
Serve hot with orange slices.



little hands love hand pies

November 27, 2014 § 1 Comment

sweet potato handpie

I wonder if my girls will remember making sweet potato hand pies with me when they grow up. They wrote the Thanksgiving menu and made their requests. They remembered we had them last year.  I love hand pies because it takes time to make; precious time in the kitchen with my girls. Making hand pies with them are a gift to me. I hope not to forget how their sleeves get caught in the dough and the sweet potato with doce de leche filling land in the floor as they negotiate spoons and forks. They stop to sing and dance. They run outside to eat snow and come back in arguing who gets the pies on the left or the ones on the right. Outside, I spot a heart shape on a tree branch. The snow slows down the pace of the day and makes the kitchen warmer. Happy Thanksgiving.

snow heart

thanksgiving menu2014

Today we used the pie crust recipe from ‘‘America’s Test Kitchen,’’ referred  as ‘‘Foolproof Pie Dough.’’ We used only butter on ours and rolled and folded the dough several times. For the filling, I cooked sweet potatoes and mixed them with doce de leche.

sweet potato hand pie

We baked on a 375 oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden.

sweet potato handpies

handpie crust

A week earlier, I made similar recipe, empanadas, but replaced the unbleached all-purpose flour with a mix of Bob’s Red Mill Glutten Free flour and masa harina and I was really happy with the flavor. We are not glutten free, but I am happy to make this with and for friends who are. It tasted so good that I will use this recipe for savor empanadas again. The flour base of GF mix is chickpea four and it tasted great with the masa and pepper vodka.

gf hand pies2

For the filling we used potatoes, sun dried tomatoes, capers, venison and spices

gf hand pies4

Baked at 425 for 20-25 minutes

gf hand pies3

White Bean Beef Shank Soup

November 19, 2014 § 4 Comments

We always look forward to the Thanksgiving Holiday. A few days ago our backyard looked more like a Christmas scene with our first snow.


I wanted to share something I am thankful for in my kitchen. If you have been reading recent posts, would you guess I am thankful for beans, a good deal on local food, or my pressure cooker? There is a lot more of course, but as far as a dish, one that is made with all the above makes me one thankful cook. To celebrate my new pressure cooker, a gift from my very dear friend Liz, who moved overseas. I made White Bean Beef Shank Soup. I will be thinking of her every time I use this pot. I promised her to keep it in good condition until she returns. I am already missing her, but I am excited for her new adventure. We have eaten together also in France and Brazil. I can’t wait for our next meal together.

Maybe it is way too early for New Year’s resolutions too, but having a goal could be helpful during this gift giving season. If you are considering cooking healthy tasty meals, in less time, a pressure cooker is a kind of pot that could help. I grew up watching my family in Brazil using it everyday. I use mine all the time. I like this infographic. There is some information for electric pressure cookers, which I have not tried yet.

Please see the recipe in pictures bellow. Our family of 4 ate 2 times. First round we ate with bread and the leftovers we ate with brown rice.

1) I got one beef Shank (1.32 pounds ) for $4.25 from a farm up the road.


2) Sear all sides of the meat using a bit of high heat oil. While doing that, I was chopping carrots, onion and celery.


3) Remove the meat and use 2 cups of veggies to “clean” the pan, sweating the veggies on low heat


4) When the vegetables were soft, return the meat to the pan, add 2 cups of dried white beans, a couple of bay leaves, 1 tsp salt

beef shank3

5) Add enough liquid to cover the contents in the pot by 2 inches. I used water. Most pressure cookers have a fill level line, to guide us not to add too much water.


6) I remembered I had some brussel sprout leaves, so I added them!


7) Close the lead according to manufacturer instructions and when the pot take pressure, set the timer for 15 minutes


8) Open the pot according to manufacturer instructions, adjust seasoning and voilá!


9) My youngest requested and got the bone.

shank plate

We blessed our food, and dinner is served.



November 11, 2014 § 8 Comments

The first frost was on its way and I called a farmer friend Rebekah Rice from 9Mile Farm to check if she could use my help with cooking in exchange for some greens. I told her I will work for food! I spent a few hours there and brought home bags of bok choi, napa cabbage, and mustard leaves and bonus: peppers. At Rebekah’s farm, those leaves were going to feed her chickens, so I appreciate very much her sharing with us and I can’t wait for her to taste some of these ferments. With what I had at hand, I could make kimchi, or simple sea salt vegetable ferment.

At first look, why mess with those outer leaves? Food waste is something that is always on my mind, probably because of the gleaning I did with my family, watching my parents save everything, trying to make ends meet. It was the way of life. And it is what I want for myself and my family now. We are blessed with safe and plentiful food our our table, but it is always on my mind that “40% of good food is thrown away in America while millions are food insecure.” The state of Massachusetts has a commercial food waste ban in place that started last month –  “no food waste hits the landfill”, and that is exciting news. Maybe we will see something happening in the residential waste level soon. I am for using the extra food we produce and that is safe to eat. When I see foods destined to be discarded, I see the potential of transformation into something delicious and nutritious. Not all of us will have the time to process cull, some of us may not know how, but there are things we all can do at home, sometimes as simple as eating our leftovers or labeling our leftovers, freezing them and eating later.


I am more than happy to work the entire weekend sorting, cutting and picking snails off organic leaves. The reward? My mouth waters just thinking about those jars of kimchi in my fridge now. So I will pause here to go eat a bowl, but first I stared proudly of what has become of those precious greens.

The next best thing to eating them, is to share them. I posted this photo of my jars on facebook asking if anyone would want to trade food with me. I am trading kimchi with friends for jam, hot peppers, eggs, dried apples and pancake mix! I also got requests for the recipe, so here it is.

My kimchi inspired ferment recipe is a combination of information from books (wild fermentation), online recipes ( fermentation on wheels) , friends recipes, practice and lots of tasting.  This recipe is fish free and uses few hot peppers, but you could add both. I love to be able to incorporate the fermented veggies to recipes or serve as a side dish for my family.

I started a batch at Rebekah’s kitchen a few weeks back, working with her and her father, Michael, good fun to cook together.

kimchi2 kimchi1

here at home:

Kimchi- my base

makes about 2 QT Jars, about 8 cups


5-6 pounds of  combo of veggies:

Mix and cut about 1 to 2 inches wide:
2lbs Chine Cabbage (Napa, pac, bok choi, mustard, etc
1 Whole daikon radish or other radishes, or other roots
1 to 2 carrots


mix spice paste:
1 head of garlic, 6 tablespoons ginger, onions or leeks, scallions, seaweed, lemongrass, hot peppers, a couple of tablespoons paprika, or Korean red pepper powder for heat and color if desired. (You will use this paste after the overnight soak)


Brine: 4 cups of water and 4 tablespoons of salt, double if necessary to cover veggies overnight or 6hrs or so.
I use a plate to weight it down and keep the veggies covered with light fabric. By the morning there will be plenty of liquid.
Strain veggies and taste, if too salty, rinse, if not enough salt, add more. Save the brine in the fridge if you need to keep the veggies under liquid.


Mix paste with strained veggies, using gloves if working with hot peppers

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Pack into jars, make sure vegetables are covered with brine, use the salty water if needed here and a larger leaf as the last layer to keep veggies from floating to the top.

Weight it down. I use covered glass jars filled with water, or a stone. Date the jars.
Ferment 7 to 10 days, watching if the brine starts to dry, press it down and add more brine. Cover with light fabric to keep out dust and flies. Set on a tray. Keep fermenting for a month if desired.
When it taste good to you, take the weight off, remove the top leaf, cover and refrigerate for 6 month to 1 year.

Farms, Food and Photography at Lewis Waite

November 9, 2014 § Leave a comment


October 19 we had an incredible Agricultural Stewardship Association and Arts Center of the Capital Region Farms, Food and Photography class at Lewis Waite Farm. The views at Alan and Nancy Brown’s farm were breathtaking and their hospitality very warm. The photography lesson was on capturing the golden hour, using our long lenses.


After a spectacular fall afternoon walk. It got really cold as we went up the hills to capture the views. On our way back they offered us refuge in their home. We set around their dinning table sampling their smoked beef kielbasa made from their grass-fed beef. We also tasted several local products.



We were all excited to try their meat and the cheese, bread, preserve while enjoying stories and the company. I must also mentioned that Alan had the fire place on at the house where the walls were covered with local bird feathers collected by Nancy and family art. We ate lots of garlic the whole evening. We grow garlic and I feel like we eat a good amount per week, but slices of garlic on bread was just the introduction. We just kept following Alan and Nancy. There were this “garlic shots,” as we decided to call them. A slice of radish, topped with pesto and a slice of raw garlic. Set my month on fire and pleasure all at once. We could not stop eating them. But we were not done, Alan brings a ceramic jar with this golden garlic preserved in honey. The Browns explained that you just pour the honey an the garlic and let it sit out and eat it! It has taken me some time, reading about as I am trying to understand the recipe, why it is probably OK that the garlic sits out in the counter and there is no risk of botulism. So here the recipe I decided to follow:

Yes, just garlic and honey. I am using Unfiltered Buckwheat honey and the garlic we grew.

IMG_1972garlic honey

honey garlic

Update: Keep jars closed and 2x a day “burp” the jars. it is starting to look bubbly in there:

garlic honey2




Caramel Bread Pudding

October 15, 2014 § Leave a comment


A recipe that uses stale bread has a special place in my heart. With fall, I am thinking comfort foods again.  One of my favorites is my mom’s delicious bread pudding with raisins, coconut, and/or fruits she feels like or have at hand. In Brazil, it is called “Pudim de Pão”. Bread Pudding is one of my answers to “what to do with old bread?” Certainly do not compost yet! This recipe is nice because you can freeze the old bread for later; keep it soaking in the fridge for a couple days until you are ready to bake or even freeze the batter or freeze the baked bread pudding and eat within a month. For the Pudim de Pão recipe, I started with my mom’s recipe and modified so I can make for my family of 4 or as I did last month, 100 plus servings for people at events like Story Harvest and Oakwood Community Center Soul Cafe in Troy, NY.  I love the see food being used to build community. Thank you Placid Baker for donating the day old bread to both events. Bread Pudding is one of those recipes that I have tasted while visiting or living in several countries. Historians say Bread Pudding dates back to 11th century . If you have bread, milk and eggs… so please do not toss those old leftover pieces of bread. Do you have a favorite bread pudim recipe?


Mom serving bread pudding during Story Harvest 2014 at the Sanctuary for Independent Media.


To start, caramelize a pan, square or round but one that you can fit inside another pan, to bake in a water bath, “banho maria” like I do for “Pudim

Caramel Bread Pudding, Pudim de Pão

serves 8
8.5 inches oven safe pie plate
12 inches of French or Italian stale bread cut up into cubes (about half baguette)
2 cups of milk (almond milk also works well)
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
plus 1 cup of sugar to caramelize the pan (or use 1/2 cup and serve with maple syrup)

Soak break in milk 3 to 4 hours.
Heat oven on broiler. Add 1/2 cup sugar to an oven safe dish you will use to bake the bread pudim. Let is caramelize, sugar will melt and until liquefied and golden in color (about 10 minutes). Watch here as it burns very fast.
Meanwhile, mix  1/2 cup sugar, 2 eggs, milk and bread in the blender for one minute. Pour mixture into prepared, caramelized dish. Place the pie plate in to the roasting pan and pour hot water into a roasting pan. The water will be around within 1 inch of top of the pie plate.
Bake the bread pudim, in water bath for about 1 hour, test with a knife in the center comes out clean. It will turn golden brown on top and start separating from the sides of the mold. Let it cool, refrigerate at least 4 hours
To serve, run a knife around the pan, carefully invert on serving plate.  Serve hot or cold. Keep leftovers refrigerated.


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