Sunday, August 26, 2012

Paella Valenciana

After several months of not updating Good Sazon, I am back! Dear readers, I apologize for being such a bad blogger. All I can tell you is that the past four months have been really hectic - I got a new job that I love but is very demanding, I traveled overseas and also had  several family commitments.  But the fact that I was not posting new recipes does not mean I have not been cooking... read on.

There are several dishes that should only be eaten at restaurants for two reasons (1) they are a pain in the butt to make and (2) no matter how hard you try, the dish just doesn't taste the same. I would definitely put paella in that category. 

I love paella and wanted to make it the right way so the first step was to find a paella pan. You would think that would be easy, right? Well, if you live in Central Pennsylvania, it is not an easy feat. The only specialty store that did sell paella pans had run out of them. So I had to order one from Amazon. A week later, I got my paella pan and it had a huge sticker form the manufacturer at the bottom of it. It took my about 45 minutes to get it off.  I should have taken that as a sign and ended my desire of making the famous Spanish dish. But I didn't see it a sign. Instead, I became more stubborn and decided to make it that weekend.

That Saturday was about 90 degrees and very humid but that did not deter me. I went to the store and got all my ingredients, sans mussels (another sign!) because they had run out of them. Back at home, I decided to make the paella on the grill because for some reason I thought that was how it should be done. We had to carry all of the ingredients to the patio. In the process, my mom dropped some of the vegetables on the ground (another sign). Once I had all the ingredients ready, I turned on the grill and started cooking. Bad decision. The heat from the grill was almost unbearable and I was sweating like a pig. I think my family was chuckling. At some point I noticed that the flame went out... we ran out of gas. So, we had to go back to the kitchen and yes, carry all the ingredients and pans inside. Fortunately, we didn't drop anything this time. Once in the kitchen, I continued cooking and adding the ingredients. At some point I noticed that the rice had absorbed all the water but it was still very hard. So I kept adding water and well, to be honest, I added too much water because it ended up all mushy. After maybe an hour, the paella was ready. 

I wish I could tell you that, after all I went through, it was the best paella I have ever had. It was not. It was good but nothing out of the ordinary... and it was mushy! So the next time I'm craving paella, I'll go to a restaurant. 

And by the way, the paella pan was a fraud. The rice at the bottom of it stuck to it so I had to let it soak in water overnight. The next morning, I realized it had oxidized so badly that I had to return it.

So, if you are brave, here is the recipe. As I said before, it's a good recipe and the results will be fine but it is a pain in the butt. You've been warned.

Paella Valenciana

6 tbs white wine
1 lb. mussels (I used clams instead)
1 cup green beans, cut into small pieces)
1 chicken breast (cut in cubes)
5 oz. pork fillet, cubed
12 shrimps
2 onions chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped.
1 red bell pepper
2 ripe tomatoes
4 tbs. chopped fresh parsley
3 3/4 cups chicken stock (you are going to need more)
Pinch of saffron threads soaked in 2 tbs, hot water
1 3/4 white rice
8 oz. Spanish chorizo (sliced)
1 cup peas
Sal, pepper and paprika.

1. Heat the wine and add the mussels. Cover and steam until opened. Reserve the liquid and mussels, discarding any that do not open. 

2. Heat 4 tbs. of olive oil in  a large paella pan, season the chicken and pork with salt and paprika until browned. Put them on a plate. Fry the shrimp briefly in the same and put them away on another plate.

3. Add more oil to the pan and fry the onions and garlic until golden-brown. Add the red pepper and cook for two minutes, then stir in the chopped tomatoes, green beans, chorizo and parsley. 

4. Add the chicken stock, the mussel liquid and the saffron liquid into the vegetables. Season well with salt and pepper and when then the liquid starts to bubble add the rice. Add the rest of the ingredients (chicken, pork, mussels, shrimp).

5. Cook for about 18 minutes until the rice is cooked. Cover with a lid and leave to stand for 10 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chipotle Chili Corn Bread Bake

Do you remember how during the 80’s it became a trend to cook meals in the microwave? And then, by the 90s, as scrunchies, flannel shirts, MC Hammer pants, fanny packs came into style, microwave cooking was on its way out. I – although I never tried it – always disdained microwave cooking. I guess because I am either “old-school” or a snob. You figure that out. But after trying this recipe, I have changed my mind. Cooking in your microwave does save you time. For example, this dish, which feeds at least four people, was ready in about 20 minutes! Sometimes you just don’t have time to spend too much time in the kitchen preparing dinner. Sometimes, after a long day at work, all you want is something on your table ASAP and the microwave can be your best friend. Now, I won’t lie to you, even after trying this recipe, I do not cook in the microwave often. However, I am now aware that it is an option when I want a nice meal and do not have much time. 

Chipotle Chili Corn Bread Bake is a good, filling, and unpretentious dish. You get what the recipe says you are going to get: chili and corn bread. The interesting thing about this recipe is that you cook the meat in the microwave with the spices and once the meat is cooked, you add on top of it corn bread batter and cook it in the microwave. What you get is one layer of chili and on top of it, a cheesy layer of cornbread. When you cut into it and serve it on a plate, each layer is visible which looks very presentable. However, you have to be careful cutting into the dish because otherwise, it looks somewhat messy. If you haven’t tried microwave cooking, this is a good recipe to start. You’ll realize that it is easy, fast and that you can have a goo meal on your table in 20 minutes. Now, that beats Rachel Ray! 

Chipotle Chili Corn Bread Bake 
Courtesy of The Pampered Chef 
Servings: 8 
Calories per serving: 360 

1 medium green bell pepper 
6 green onions with tops, divided 
1 lb ground beef OR turkey 
1 can (16 oz) Texas-style chili beans in sauce, undrained 
1 cup (250 mL) chunky salsa 
2 tbsp (30 mL) Chipotle Rub 
1 pkg (8.5 oz) corn muffin mix 
1 container (8 oz ) sour cream or plain yogurt 
1 egg ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional) 
1 plum tomato, seeded and diced (optional) 

1. Coarsely chop bell pepper using. Thinly slice green onions separating white and light green bottoms from tops. Reserve 1 tbsp of the onion tops for garnish. 
2. Place remaining tops into a bowl. In a microwave-safe baker with lid (I used Pampered Chef’s Deep Covered Baker), combine bell pepper, onion bottoms and beef; mix well. Microwave, covered, on HIGH 7–9 minutes or until beef is no longer pink, breaking into crumbles halfway through. 
3. Remove baker from microwave and carefully pour off juices (this is very important!). Add beans, salsa and rub to beef mixture; mix well. Cover and microwave on HIGH 5 minutes or until hot. 
4. Meanwhile, combine muffin mix, sour cream and egg in batter bowl; mix well. 
5. Scoop muffin mixture evenly over chili using an ice-cream scoop. Spread evenly to edges of baker. Microwave, covered, on HIGH 7–9 minutes or until center of cornbread springs back when lightly pressed. 
6. Sprinkle cheese over cornbread, if desired; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Garnish with reserved onion tops and tomato, if desired.

Monday, March 26, 2012


I you have been to Italy, it is very likely that you, at some point, had Limoncello – the famous lemon liquor which sweetness innocently hides its powerful effect. However, it is not necessary to cross the Atlantic to enjoy the qualities of this wonderful liquor – you can actually make it at home. Karen Chronister, a friend and fellow blogger, is sharing with us the secret to make this delicious liquor. It is easy to make and you need very few ingredients. 

Click here for the recipe and enjoy Karen’s beautiful writing. 


Karen's Picture of a Glass of Limoncello

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Quesadilla Cups with Nectarine Salsa

I have a confession: whenever I host a party or dinner, the appetizers I serve are – for the most part – bought at a store. In other words, I usually don’t make appetizers from scratch because they tend to be time-consuming and I would rather spend my time preparing the main course and dessert. That is one of the reasons why, up until today, I haven’t posted any appetizer recipes.

This week Jen and I (remember Jen, my partner in crime when it comes to cooking) made two new recipes: quesadilla cups (appetizer) and chipotle chili cornbread bake (main dish, I will tell you about it later). We both were under the impression that the quesadilla cups were going to be time consuming because they looked quite fancy on the recipe card. I am happy to report that we were wrong. The quesadilla cups were very easy to make, were ready in approximately 15 minutes (and gone as fast), and were delicious. In addition, the ingredients are easily available. You can cut the time in half by preparing the accompanying salsa a day or few hours ahead. If you are looking for low-maintenance appetizers that look high-maintenance, this recipe if for you. I assure you, your guests will be asking for the recipe.

Jen eating a quesadilla cup

Quesadilla Cups with Nectarine Salsa
Courtesy of The Pampered Chef (have I told you how much I love their products?)
Servings: 24 cups

4 oz. Chihuahua or Monterrey Jack Cheese
3 flour tortillas (6-inch)
1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium, ripe, nectarine (diced)
¼ cup roasted red peppers (patted dry and diced)
1 Serrano or jalapeno pepper (diced)
2 tbs. finely chopped onion
2 tbs. finely chopped cilantro
1 tbs. lime or lemon juice
Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Cut cheese into twenty-four ½-in. (1-cm) cubes.
2. Brush both sides of tortillas with oil. Stack tortillas and cut into eight wedges (for a total of 24 wedges).
3. Press tortillas into a mini-muffin pan. Place one cheese cube into each cup and bake 5–7 minutes or until edges of tortillas begin to brown and cheese is melted.
4. Meanwhile, for salsa, mix the nectarine, roasted pepper, Serrano pepper, onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper.
5. Remove pan from oven. Cool cups in pan 2–3 minutes. Carefully remove cups from pan to serving platter.
6. Right before serving divide salsa evenly among cups.

a. If you don’t like spicy food, instead of skipping the Serrano pepper, cut it lengthwise and discard the seeds and veins carefully before dicing it. The heat from the pepper does not come from the seeds, it comes from the veins. The seeds are attached to the veins and therefore, people often think that the seeds are the “heat” source.
b. Jen and I believe that replacing the nectarine with diced mango would be a good combination.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wheatberry Apple Salad

Wheat Berry Apple Salad Salads are what I should be eating for about a month after I indulged in eating the most delicious chocolate cake (which was described as addictive by my Father) for about a week. And this one is a great one. I love this salad for many reasons: it’s tasty, it fills you up, and it’s full with nutrients. What else can you ask for?

What attracted me to it initially was the fact that it called for wheatberries. I love them. They have a buttery-nutty flavor that is mildly sweet and very distinctive. They are crunchy and chewy at the same time, which means they’ll fill you up and you won’t feel hungry after eating this salad. However, if you don’t like to chew, they are probably not for you. I digress, the mild sweetness of the wheatberries and salad dressing are a delightful contrast to the tartness of the apples and cranberries. And the leafy greens add freshness to this dish. It is a delicious way to get all the nutrients you need if you are not a big salad fan. So, without further ado, here is the recipe:
Wheatberry Apple Salad
Adapted from Ultimate Party Food Book
Portion: 6 cups


1 cup uncooked wheat berries
 ½ teaspoon salt
2 Apples
½ cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
Grated peel and juice of one medium orange
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Lettuce and spinach leaves

1. Place wheat berries and salt in a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 45 min. to one hour or until what berries are tender, but chewy. You may have to add additional water if what berries become dry during cooking. Drain and let cool.

2. Cut unpeeled apples into bite-size pieces. Combine wheat berries, apples, cranberries, walnuts, orange peel, orange juice, extra virgin olive oil, and vinegar in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to blend. Serve over lettuce and spinach leaves.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut and Rum Frosting

“Where have you been?” you may be asking. Between work, new projects, and family and friends, writing has taken the backseat. However, that does not mean that I have taken a break from cooking and trying new recipes. In fact, I just made my first chocolate cake from scratch (frosting included). My intention was to post this recipe on Sunday so you could make it for your significant other for Valentine’s Day… but, as I mentioned earlier, life got in the way and I didn’t have time to type the recipe. Oh well, you don’t need to wait until next Valentine’s Day because you can make this cake anytime of the year for anyone who occupies a special place in your heart… or when you are going through a bad breakup since there are few things chocolate cannot fix.

Enough chatter. Let’s talk about this recipe. I was looking for good chocolate cake recipe when my friend and coworker Cheryl shared with me a chocolate cake recipe she found online. I read the recipe and it looked easy to make. I decided to make it this past Saturday for Gayle’s birthday (my brother’s girlfriend). I wanted to make her feel special by making her a luscious and decadent chocolate cake. I spent all Saturday morning (and part of the afternoon) baking the cake and making the frosting. When I started decorating the cake, the snow that had been falling since early in the morning, turned into sleet. Not a good sign. Minutes later, cake in hand, we left home to meet Gayle and the family at our favorite Mexican restaurant (which was featuring live Mariachi). Half way there, Mother calls me to cancel. The roads where slippery and they didn’t feel comfortable driving all the way to Harrisburg… Nate and I looked at each other and then looked at the cake that was sitting on the backseat. What to do know? Well, we took it home and could not resist having a piece. Yes, I know it’s rude to eat someone else’s birthday cake but it looked so very good and we are not very good at resisting temptation. We’ve been eating a piece of cake daily… but we saved the other half in the freezer for Gayle.

This chocolate cake is very, very good. The cake is a bit dense with a clear chocolate flavor that is not overwhelming. Although it did not call for it, I decided to use raspberry jelly as filling, which added a bit of tanginess to the sweetness of the cake and frosting. Which reminds me to tell you about the frosting: it was combination of butter (of course), hazelnut cream (I used Nutella), and rum (because rum makes me smile). The cake is very decadent and probably not very good for your figure but it is so worth it. I’m not going to lie to you, making a cake and frosting from scratch is time consuming and at times frustrating. So I recommend you make either the cake or frosting a day ahead of time.

Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut and Rum Frosting


For the Cake
1 1/4 cup of sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup good quality cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the Filling:
3/4 cup raspberry jelly

For the Frosting:
1 cup butter (at room temperature)
1 cup Hazelnut butter (I used Nutella)
1 tbs. dark rum

For the cake:
1. Heat oven to 350 Degrees.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Using an electric mixer, mix at medium speed for 2 minutes.
4. Pour into a floured cake pan/
5. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
6. Once the cake is ready, take it out of the oven and let cool for approximately an hour before removing it from pan.

For the frosting:
1. Beat all the ingredients until completely mixed. Chill for 20 minutes (not more) before using.

To finish the cake:
1. Slice the cake horizontally in half.
2. Spread the raspberry jelly over the bottom part of the cake. Add the top part of the cake.
3. Spread the frosting on top of the case and sides. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Oatmeal Orange Scones

I love to eat scones with my morning coffee. About two years ago I made scones for the first time. Somewhere, I don’t remember where, I found a recipe to make blueberry scones and decided to give it a try. Well, they did not turn out great. I used frozen blueberries which turned the dough into an ugly gray mess. The dough was too runny and as a result, shaping the scones was close to impossible. I had to add more flour which led to very doughy scones. I decided to never make scones again.

However, this past Christmas I found a recipe that I loved courtesy of Liz, my brother-in-law’s wife. She let me try some of the scones she made for Christmas morning and I loved them. She was not only kind enough to give me several scones to take home but she also shared the recipe with me. Two weeks later, on a cold Saturday morning, I decided to make them. However, I made some tweaks to the original recipe: I added orange zest and flax seed, and instead of using raisins, I used dried cranberries. As the scones were baking in the oven, the smell of freshly baked goods filled my kitchen. We could not wait for the scones to be ready. After 20 minutes in the oven, we took them out and they looked gorgeous. And they tasted as good as they looked.

 If you like scones, give this recipe a try. They are easy to make and very filling. You’ll be good to go until lunch time.

Oatmeal Orange Scones

1 ½ cups flour
1 ¼ cups old fashioned oats
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. cream of tartar
½ tsp. salt
Orange zest (1/2 orange)
2 tbs. ground flax seed
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
1 egg, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, mix the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, salt, and ground flax seed.

2. In another bowl mix the butter, milk, orange zest, and egg. Add the dry ingredients and mix. Finally, add the dried cranberries.

3. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 7 flat balls and place on a cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden – about 17 min.

Note: If you prefer triangular scones, once the dough is ready, pat it into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick and use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles. Place on a cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart and bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.