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Monday, April 29, 2013

Weekend in Beautiful Buzios

Knowing we had a long weekend coming up, we decided to check out Buzios, a small beach town that has been called Brazil's St Tropez.  It lived up to every wonderful thing I had heard about the place!  We had such an amazing time there that I'm hoping we will be able to go back again before we leave.

The hotel (pousada) we stayed in was perfect for us.  It is very kid-friendly which is important to me.  This place has a kids pool, a playground, an art room, planned kids activities throughout the day, and a wonderful staff.  Besides being kid-friendly, it is just plain awesome!  It has a beautiful pool, a turkish bath, jacuzzi, gym and a nice pool bar.  Each room has a balcony/patio with a huge hammock (ours also had a jacuzzi tub). The hotel also provides beach chairs and umbrellas that you can carry to the beach which is just two blocks away. Oh yes, and they give you a welcome caipirinha or fresh squeezed juice upon arrival.  Bliss! I guess I should admit that I actually liked the caipirinha!  I have said in the past (frequently) that I am not a fan of this drink but the one at the hotel was really good.

hotel pool and jacuzzi

The of Reagan's favorite things about the hotel

She finds friends wherever we go...

We spent our time on the beach, at the hotel pool and downtown Buzios on Rua de Pedras.  Buzios is made up of seventeen different beaches, each with their own character.  We were next to Geriba beach with is the largest (a little less than 2 miles long).  It was stunningly beautiful!  Clean, beautiful blue water with soft waves.  It was not too crowded (probably because of the cold front here now, highs only in the 80s) but there were enough people there so as not to feel empty.

Beach in the evening, near Rua de Pedras
Rua de Pedras
Rua de Pedras is the main street in Buzios where most of the action is - restaurants, shops, bars, waterfront view, coffee, ice cream, etc.. We had dinner in this area each night of our stay.  One night,  we had moqueca (a Brazilian fish stew popular throughout the country) and it was great!  It was full of seafood and cooked in a coconut milk sauce.  It was served in a giant caldron that was supposedly for 2, but could have easily of fed 4 with leftovers.  
Posing with a statue 

Rolling around in the sand.  I don't really understand why this is fun

Taking a break from walking around to play in the arcade

Reagan at dinner - showing off the marbles she got with her arcade tickets

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Brigadeiros...chocolate heaven

Brigadeiros are the awesome little bonbons that are frequently served at birthday parties.  They are made up of butter, cocoa powder and sweetened condensed milk then rolled in chocolate sprinkles.  They are easy to make but they take a little while.  Worth it, I promise.

Cute story about these little treats. A Brigadier (Brigadeiro) General was running for political office in the 1940's.  His wife made these candies and served them at his political functions.  The candies became so popular, people would ask "have you had the brigadeiros candy?" and there is the history of the name.  Supposedly. Either way, it makes a good story.

2 Tablespoons butter (+ extra for plate and your hands)
1 can (14oz/395g) sweetened condensed milk
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder (I used dark cocoa powder)
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 heaping Tablespoons almond butter
mini baking cups

Confession - I didn't even think about adding the almond butter until the very end of the cooking time.  I love nut butter/chocolate together and as I sat there stirring and stirring and stirring, it came to me in a vision.  I like the addition but if you're not as crazy about chocolate/nut butter, you can always leave it out.

Melt 2 T butter over low head.  Once it's melted add the sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla extract. Stir.  Stir. Stir.  You have to cook this over low heat and it takes a while (took me 25 minutes).  You have to continuously stir it so it doesn't burn.    When it was almost done,  I added the almond butter.  You can add it at the end but I'd just add it at the beginning with the rest of the ingredients.  Once it's reduced down and thickened to where you can part it with a spoon and have it stay apart for a few seconds, it's thick enough.   Pour the mixture onto a buttered plate and place in the fridge to cool.  You want this to be cool enough for you to pick it up and roll it in your hands, so let it cool for at least half an hour.

Once it's cool, butter your hands and roll the mix into small balls.  Next comes the fun part - roll the balls into the chocolate sprinkles and place in mini baking cups (mine were full size because I couldn't find the minis)
.  Put back in fridge for a while to firm up (another 30 minutes, if you can stand it).

There are other toppings you can use on them besides the sprinkles - chopped nuts, coconut flakes, crushed cereal, etc.  Be creative and use what you like.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!

the ingredients

the correct thickness

going into the fridge to cool

ready to roll

finished product

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Favorite Brazilian Dessert (so far)

Fried bananas with cinnamon and ice cream and drizzled with chocolate

1. this is so easy to make (which is always a plus)
2. it's delicious!
3.  it has fruit in it, so it's healthy (right??)

Slice the bananas, saute them in butter (let them stay on one side long enough to caramelize a little before flipping).  Melt some chocolate (microwave or double broiler). Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (I used 2tsp sugar mixed with 1tsp cinnamon but use whatever ratio you prefer). Drizzle with the chocolate and top with a scoop of vanilla or pistachio ice cream. Heavenly!

Terrible picture but taking pictures is the last thing on my mind when this is ready to eat!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spinach Quiche

For dinner Friday, I decided to make a nice vegetable quiche (Catholic = no meat on Fridays in our house).  I found a nice recipe for a spinach quiche on Smitten Kichen's page and played around with it a little and came up with my version - Spinach, caramelized onion and mushroom quiche.

For the crust, this recipe from Martha Stewart is super easy and it makes enough for two crusts which is great because you just freeze the other and have it on hand for the next quiche or pie or whatever.  If you hate the idea of making your own crust, you can always buy a pre-made crust (unless you live in Rio because I have definitely not seen them in the grocery stores here). I made the crust the day before and left in the freezer overnight.  I took it out in the morning and let it defrost in the fridge all day.

For the quiche, preheat the oven to 425.  Then, caramelize the onions and mushrooms.  This takes maybe 30-45 minutes because you want to do it at a low heat and give the onions time to get nice and brown and delicious.  You can always do this earlier in the day (or the day before) to save time.  Once the onions and mushrooms are almost done, throw in a minced garlic clove to add a little more deliciousness. Remove from heat and let cool a little.

Caramelizing the onions/mushrooms.  They aren't quite done here but getting close.
Next,  take the cream cheese and and beat until nice and fluffy.  Then add the eggs, one at a time and beat before adding the next egg.  After that add the half and half.  I couldn't find half and half here so I made it (half milk, half cream, duh).  Next add the onion/mushroom mix, drained spinach, cheese, green onions and salt and pepper.  Mix well and pour into the pie crust.  Bake until the top is nicely browned and the the filling is set (not jiggly). Let cool and rest for a few minutes.

1/2- 1 medium onion, chopped (I used 1/2 an onion but next time will use a whole one)
5 oz shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 3-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup half and half
3 eggs
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 cup grated Gruyere
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

I served this with a nice salad, fresh fruit (mango and papaya) and some extra Gruyere cheese chunks.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chocolate Banana Cranberry Bread

I love the bananas here.  I mean, I love bananas period but here they seem more flavorful and a little sweeter.

So, we had a couple bananas that were getting pretty ripe and I decided banana bread would be perfect. I also have a lot of dried cranberries and some chocolate and thought that might all work together.  And it did!   As I sit here typing this, I can't wait for my afternoon coffee so I have an excuse to have another delicious slice.

Here's the recipe --

1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 small bananas chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate (or you can use chocolate chips)
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat to 350.  Butter or spray a loaf pan.  Cream sugar and butter together.  Add the eggs, one at time, and mix between each one. Fold in the bananas, cranberries and chocolate, water and vanilla.  Add everything else and mix just until its incorporated.  You don't want to over mix it. Bake for about an hour - until the top is nicely brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

Let it cool in the pan for a few minutes then loosen with a knife and put on a pretty dish.

I really like this bread but I think I'll use more chocolate next time. And maybe throw in some nuts.


All recipes are on Petitchef