Guava Cream Cheese Scones

Over the years, I have used guava paste numerous times. I found it was equally as good in both sweet and savory preparations, adding a nice ‘zing’ due to the natural acidity in guava fruit.

This specialty ingredient is made by cooking together guava fruit and sugar until it is very, very thick and then leaving the mixture to dry to remove excess moisture. This results in a paste that keeps well and is very flavorful. Guava paste is typically sold in short, wide cans or plastic packaging.

Guava paste is an ingredient found in many Cuban, Caribbean and South American recipes. A common pairing with cheese as an appetizer or baked into pastries as part of the filling. Also known as goiabada or pasta de guayaba, has a sweet, floral taste lending a distinct and tropical flavor to anything it is used in.

Today, I’m using it in some scones with cream cheese. Should be good!

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Guava Cream Cheese Scones
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a round 8" baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar & baking soda. With fingers, cut in cold butter & cream cheese until mixture resembles small peas. Do NOT over work dough. Carefully stir in guava paste cubes with a fork.
  3. In a small cup, beat egg slightly then combine with buttermilk & vanilla. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stirring ONLY until combined.
  4. Pour dough into lined baking pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake about 20 minutes or until golden & tests done. Slice into 8 wedges & serve warm.

Plantain Ginger Cake Fingers

Plantains aren’t meant for eating right out of the peel, but they are transformed into a gently sweet dessert when caramelized.

It’s easy to confuse a plantain with a banana because they look so much alike. Both fruits come from the same family of plants. Though they look alike, the biggest differences between bananas and plantains is in their flavor profile, size, skin thickness and how they’re used in the kitchen.

Like bananas, they start green and progress to yellow and then a dark brown-black as they ripen. The darker they are, the sweeter they’ll be. Plantains can be eaten at any stage of ripening, but you’ll need a knife to peel them.

Plantains are starchier and usually larger and tougher than bananas, with a much thicker skin. Very versatile in that they can be boiled, baked or fried.

We grew to like plantains after our extended stay in Ecuador some years ago. Every so often they are a nice treat to have again.

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Plantain Ginger Cakes
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Caramelized Plantains
Cake
Course dessert
Cuisine American, Cuban
Servings
Ingredients
Caramelized Plantains
Cake
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Instructions
Caramelized Plantains
  1. Slice plantains into slices of equal thickness. In a small saucepan, combine butter & sugar; cook until butter has melted & sugar has dissolved. Cook until syrup has thickened; add sliced plantains. Gently stir to coat plantain well. In the bottom of 8 ramekin baking dishes, arrange overlapping slices. Divide any remaining syrup between them. Set aside.
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices & salt.
  3. In another bowl, beat the butter with sugar until light & fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time then the vanilla. Slowly add one third of the flour mixture & half a cup of the coconut milk. Mix until incorporated.
  4. Add the second third of the flour mixture & the other half of the coconut milk. Finish with the final third of the flour mixture. Mix until all the ingredients are well combined. The batter is smooth & fluffy. Pour the batter over the caramelized plantains, dividing it evenly between the ramekins.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown & a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Transfer ramekins to a cooling rack & allow to cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the edges of the cake with a spatula & carefully turn each ramekin upside down onto serving plates.
Recipe Notes
  • For something different, I decided to make my plantain cake in an oblong tart pan so I could cut it in 'fingers'. Use whatever baking dish you chose, the cake is very adaptable.

Lime & Guava Cheesecake Truffles

Any season is cheesecake season, but some cheesecake recipes have a bit of an edge. Truffles are the perfect summer dessert, especially when there’s lime and guava involved. You can make these without using your oven and since they are kept in the freezer, perfect for hot days. These truffles have a rich and creamy cheesecake interior with lime undertones, a Maria biscuit base, all topped with some guava cardamom drizzle.

For those who aren’t familiar with Maria biscuits, here’s a bit of food history about them (you might have guessed that was coming). On January 23rd, 1874, Queen Victoria’s second son, Alfred, married the Russian Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna Romanova. Peek Frean, a London bakery, released a biscuit to honor this, naming it after Marie. They imprinted the name Marie right on the cookie and in a nod to architectural styling at the time, put a beaded border on the cookie’s edges. They also had docker holes in them. The biscuit is made from wheat flour, sugar, palm oil or sunflower seed oil and has a vanilla flavor.

That’s how this very international cookie was created. From England to Russia, to the Philippines, India, Mexico and Puerto Rico, today half of the globe considers Maria biscuits a household staple. They are manufactured and sold by multiple companies around the world.

How this biscuit has travelled the whole world and kept its original look and recipe almost intact for over a century is somewhat of a mystery. Maria Brand is well-known in Canada under the President’s Choice biscuit manufacturer.

Marie biscuit crumbs are a nice trade off for the usual graham wafer crumbs used in so many cheesecake bases. It helps that they aren’t to sweet, so they offer a counter to the other sweet ingredients used and even broken they don’t become complete ‘mush’.

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Lime & Guava Cheesecake Truffles
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TRUFFLES
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Servings
TRUFFLES
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Instructions
Base
  1. In a food processor, pulse Maria biscuit cookies until crushed slightly. Remove from processor & set aside.
Cheesecake Truffles
  1. Zest the lime & set aside half the zest for sprinkling on top of truffles for garnish.
  2. In the food processor, place the other half of the zest with the cream cheese, sugar & vanilla. Juice the lime to obtain 3 Tbsp of juice & add to processor. Combine until smooth.
  3. Using a Tbsp or a mini cookie scoop, scoop small balls of cream cheese mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper. Place balls in freezer.
  4. After about 20 minutes, remove balls from freezer & roll in crushed Maria crumbs. Place back in freezer.
Guava Drizzle
  1. Place guava paste, water & cardamom spice in a small microwave bowl. Heat carefully, mixing well. Set aside to cool then drizzle over cheesecake truffles. Sprinkle with remaining lime zest. Keep frozen in a covered container until ready to serve.

Cuban Sugar Cookies w/ Guava & Lime

In a country where sugar has historically represented both the agricultural and industrial goals, desserts are found everywhere. Generally they are very simple, made mainly with fruit and sugar.

Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisines. It differs from other Latin American cuisines and has almost nothing in common with Mexican cuisine. Cuban recipes tend to share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. A small, but noteworthy, Chinese influence can be accounted for, mainly in the Havana area.

The fact that most Cuban desserts are extremely sweet (usually fruits and sugar are in equal quantities) has inspired the custom of eating them along with salted or cream cheese to help offset the sweetness.

The use of the lime and rum flavor in these cookies makes their taste distinctly Cuban. Brings back memories from a past vacation we spent in Cuba.

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Cuban Sugar Cookies w/ Guava & Lime
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Cuisine Cuban
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Course dessert
Cuisine Cuban
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon & salt.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together butter & sugar with a mixer until light. Beat in lime zest & egg followed by lime juice & rum. Gradually beat in the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you work, until it comes together.
  4. Divide dough into three portions, wrapping 2 in plastic wrap & place in refrigerator while you are working on the first piece.
  5. Place the first piece on a lightly floured surface & roll out to 1/3-inch thickness. Using a lightly floured 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles of the dough. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
  6. Cut pieces of guava paste into dime-sized circles or squares ( depending on what shape your guava paste comes in), making each approximately 1/4-inch thick. Lightly press one piece into the top of each cookie.
  7. Bake for 13-16 minutes, until cookies are light gold at the edges. Cool on the baking sheet for 4-5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. If you wish you can dust the cookies with powdered sugar.
Recipe Notes
  • As an alternate idea, assemble them similar to a 'linzer' cookie. Roll half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness; cut with a circular (more decorative) cookie cutter. Repeat with remaining dough but cut small circles in the center of these.
  • On top of each plain cookie, place one with a hole in it. Press a guava 'circle' in the hole & sprinkle with a few chopped pistachios if you wish. 
  • I used this method for the blog picture. Same cookie just a bit fancier.

Pulled Pork w/ Roasted Rhubarb Sauce

Slow cooked meat is definitely not a new thing. Truly authentic pulled pork is actually a barbecue dish, cooked for hours over a charcoal pit until it falls apart, ready to be easily shredded or ‘pulled’ apart to serve.

I’m sure most of us have attended a classic Hawaiian Luau at one time or another in our lives. The main course of this Hawaiian feast is always the ‘kalua’ roast pork. Kalua is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that utilizes an ‘Imu’, a type of underground steam oven.

My experience, was that it was definitely pull-apart tender but far too greasy for my liking. It has taken a lot of years for me to want to make even a North American version of this pulled pork idea. To my surprise, it didn’t turn out greasy and was pretty tasty.

The idea that it has to be roasted in an outdoor pit is really not true. It can be made easily in a standard domestic oven. Of course the seasonings, temperatures and serving methods are all open to debate.

Pork shoulder is ideal for pulling purposes, either bone-in or boneless. It has an optimum fat content that yields to create tender, ‘melty‘ meat, but its essential to cook it slowly to allow the protein to break down properly. Using a dry rub will also help create tenderness and flavor.

There are numerous ways you can serve pulled pork such as on some fresh brioche buns, with cornbread or in tacos. We are going to have ours in corn tortillas with some kohlrabi coleslaw and roasted rhubarb sauce.

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Pulled Pork w/ Roasted Rhubarb Sauce
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Instructions
Pork Shoulder
  1. Drizzle pork with 2 Tbsp of oil; sprinkle with spices & orange zest & rub into meat. Place in a plastic zip-lock bag & refrigerate overnight (about 24 hours).
  2. Bring meat to room temperature. Preheat oven to 275 F. Place meat in a roasting pan & bake until thickest part registers 170 F. on a meat thermometer. Basically, roast until it's falling apart. Remove roast from oven & transfer to a large platter. Allow the meat to rest for about 10 minutes. While still warm, take 2 forks & 'pull' the meat to form shreds. Keep warm until ready to assemble tortillas.
Roasted Rhubarb Sauce
  1. Prepare sauce on the day you START to marinate meat.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & spray generously with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Place chopped rhubarb & garlic cloves on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until rhubarb is soft.
  4. Transfer the rhubarb & garlic to a food processor or blender. Puree with one cup of water until smooth.
  5. Pour the puree into a medium saucepan. Add remaining ingredients & mix well. Add additional water, as needed, until sauce is desired consistency.
  6. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Cool before pouring into a small glass pitcher. Refrigerate any leftovers when meal is finished.
Kohlrabi Coleslaw
  1. Prepare dressing in a screw-top jar; combine vinegar, oil, sugar, salt & pepper. Cover & shake well. In a bowl, combine kohlrabi & carrots; drizzle with dressing.
Assembly
  1. During the roasting time of the meat, prepare kohlrabi coleslaw. When everything is ready, lay out warm tortillas, top with coleslaw & pulled pork shreds. Drizzle with prepared rhubarb sauce. Fold or roll tortilla & enjoy!
Recipe Notes
  • Instead of drizzling the rhubarb sauce, you can put your shredded pork in a bowl with some rhubarb sauce & combine. I find that distributes the sauce more evenly ... just a personal preference.

Spiced Papaya-Banana Muffins

A little touch of exotic seems like a good idea in late February. When you think of bananas and papaya, doesn’t tropical come to mind? I never seem to have much luck when I bake with bananas. I would rather eat them raw, in fact you might say they are a staple at our house. But, I have hung on to this muffin recipe for a long time and never tried it. Papayas are not something I usually buy, but that soft buttery texture and slight musky undertone paired with banana should work magic in this recipe.

You will notice the name of the recipe says ‘spiced’ and when you read it there is only one teaspoon of cardamom spice in it. A little bit of this pungent spice packs a big punch so it is good to use it sparingly. The flavor of cardamom is wonderfully complex … herbal, spicy, floral and slightly sweet.

Cardamom is a spice that’s used in both sweet and savory cooking in many cuisines all over the world. No other spice more completely captures the essence of the exotic and that exactly what I was aiming for.

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Spiced Papaya-Banana Muffins
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cardamom & baking powder. In another bowl, combine mashed banana, papaya, oil & beaten egg.
  3. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stirring gently, then fold in pistachios. Stir ONLY until batter is combined.
  4. Put batter in muffin tray cups lined with paper cups, filling each to about 3/4 full. Top with remaining chopped pistachios.
  5. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until baked through. Remove from oven & let them cool in the tray for 10 minutes, then put the muffins on a wire rack to finish cooling.
Recipe Notes
  • This recipe makes either 7 large muffins or 14 medium size.

Pork & Smoked Oyster Pot Pies

Perhaps one of the ultimate ‘retro’ cocktail party snacks, smoked oysters are something people either love or hate.

Here in our province of Alberta, Canada fresh seafood and fish are definitely not always available. Brion and I enjoy pretty much ‘anything seafood’, so I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate it into our meals. Of course, this means using canned or frozen for most part, so thinking ‘outside the box’ is important.

You can do almost anything with smoked oysters that you do with any seafood. They’re at their freshest when packaged. Canned smoked oysters are usually steamed when they are fresh, smoked for extra flavor and finally packaged in oil.

Over the years, I’ve used them in pate, stew, soup and stuffing, so why wouldn’t they work in pot pie?! Doing a little of my favorite ‘recipe development’ cooking, this is what materialized. We had two for supper and I froze the other two ….. bonus for a later date.

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Pork & Smoked Oyster Pot Pies
Instructions
  1. Prepare pastry for Pot Pies. Preheat oven to 425 F. Dice tenderloin into 1/2-inch cubes & roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven & set aside. Turn oven off, if you wish until ready to bake pot pies.
  2. In a large saucepan, fry bacon until crisp; remove & drain on paper towel. Saute onion, mushrooms & garlic in bacon drippings for a few minutes. Add carrots, celery & potatoes & continue to saute until soft; add flour & seasoning.
  3. Saute for another minute, making sure to coat everything with the flour. Add clam nectar & chicken broth, stirring well to dissolve the flour; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add oysters, roasted tenderloin, crumbled bacon, cream & salt & pepper to taste; stir to combine.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove filling from heat & allow to cool for a few minutes then divide between individual pot pie pastry shells. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until pastry is baked & golden.
Recipe Notes
  • Another pastry that would go real well with this filling would be the one with cornmeal in it.

Spiced Pulled Pork Tortillas w/ Orange Guava Sauce

This pairing of pork, corn tortillas and guava brings me back to some of the flavors we tasted on our adventures in both Cuba and Mexico.

Pulled pork sounds like a lot of work but it simply comes down to a gentle, slow cooking process so it can be literally ‘pulled apart’ when finished. Pork shoulder is the most commonly used joint. The long cooking could dry out some cuts but shoulder is quite a fatty joint, therefore providing a natural baste. During the cooking period, most of the fat will dissolve but most importantly its this long cooking process that breaks down the tough fibrous connective tissue called collagen that tenderizes the meat making it so easy to pull apart. Although smokers are very often used, slow cookers or even traditional ovens will do the job nicely.

When the pork is finally done, it needs to rest for 10 minutes and then it should be ready for pulling apart. Use two forks to shred the meat and you’ve got it! This meal not only has great eye appeal, but the taste is wonderful!

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Spiced Pulled Pork Tortillas w/ Orange Guava Sauce
Instructions
Dry Rub for Pork Shoulder
  1. Drizzle pork with 2 Tbsp of oil; sprinkle with spices & orange zest & rub into meat. Season with salt & pepper. Place in a plastic bag & refrigerate overnight (about 24 hours).
  2. Bring meat to room temperature. Preheat oven to 275 F. Place meat in a roasting pan & bake until thickest part registers 170 F. on a meat thermometer. Basically, roast until it's falling apart. Remove roast from oven & transfer to a large platter. Allow the meat to rest for about 10 minutes. While still warm, take 2 forks & 'pull' the meat to form shreds. Keep warm until ready to assemble tortillas.
Orange Guava Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, saute onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil until tender. Add water (or wine), frozen orange juice concentrate, soy sauce, spices & cubed guava paste. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat slightly & continue to boil gently until mixture reduces slightly. In a cup, combine cornstarch & water & add to sauce continuing to cook about 2-3 minutes more. Taste to see if any spice adjustments are needed.
To Assemble
  1. During the roasting time of the meat, prepare avocados, red onion, cilantro leaves, lime wedges. Drain canned black beans (if using) so they are ready to warm at serving time.
  2. When everything is ready, lay out warm tortillas, top with pulled pork, avocado slices, black beans, red onion, cilantro & drizzle with warm orange guava sauce. Fold or roll tortilla & enjoy!
Recipe Notes
  • If you would rather not have the corn tortillas, cook some rice to serve with pulled pork. Spoon sauce over the meat & serve it with the sliced avocados, red onion & black beans.

Balsamic Glazed Fig & Pork Kabobs

Thirty or more years ago, balsamic vinegar was relatively unknown outside of Italy. Due to our exposure to gourmet food magazines, television cooking shows and celebrity chefs, there is hardly a household without a bottle in its pantry these days.

Balsamic vinegar actually derives its name from the word ‘balm’, which refers to an aromatic resin or odor, as well as a substance that soothes, relieves and heals.

For hundreds of years, wealthy Italian families have made balsamic vinegar for their own consumption, nurturing their supplies over the years. Passed on from generation to generation, gifting small amounts to treasured friends and honored guests and perhaps even bequeathing some to a daughter as part of her ‘dowry’. Balsamic vinegar came to be considered a symbol of peace.

In about 1980, the popularity of balsamic vinegar soared due to Italian chefs discovering how intense flavors complemented modern Mediterranean cuisine. Local families couldn’t gear up production to meet the new demand. New producers developed imitation versions, consequently many of us have yet to taste truly authentic balsamic vinegar or ‘Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale’, as its known in Italian.

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Balsamic Glazed Fig & Pork Kabobs
Instructions
  1. Cut pork into 1-inch cubes. Combine next seven ingredients; place pork cubes in a plastic bag. Toss to coat well; refrigerate until ready to grill. In a small dish, make a glaze by whisking together vinegar, honey, mustard & oil. Set aside.
  2. On water-soaked wooden skewers, thread pork cubes & figs. Grill, covered, on a greased rack over medium-high direct heat, turning occasionally, about 8-10 minutes. During last half of grilling, brush cooked surfaces frequently with glaze.
  3. Let skewers stand 5 minutes; add a tomato to each. Transfer to serving platter & sprinkle lightly with Gorgonzola & basil. Serve some of your Blueberry & Blackberry Rustic Tart for dessert.

Guava Cream Rolls

Today, March 28th, is my mother’s birth date. As we honor her beautiful memory, I’m sure each of my siblings will reflect on special times we shared with her. Forty-one years after her passing, I’m still doing many things in her likeness. Baking was a shared passion for my mother and I. We liked nothing better than to bake something together. After I moved from ‘home’ and would return for a visit, instead of having a coffee and visit we would get busy and bake something while we talked. Such great memories!

In honor of her fabulous kitchen skills, I decided to make some Guava Cream Rolls. If I have a little extra time when I grocery shop, I like to scan the import isles to see if there is something unique I can use in my baking. One of the items that caught my attention was guava paste. Also known as ‘guayabate’ or ‘goiabada’, guava paste is a very thick puree of the guava fruit cooked with sugar and often with added pectin.

Guava is very popular in Cuba, the Caribbean and Spain. This thick paste has a sweet, floral taste like a combination of pear and strawberry. It is often paired with cheese as an appetizer or in the filling of baked goods as well as in savory dishes.

For these rolls, I used a combination of sweet guava paste with savory cream cheese which gave this dessert a very distinct and tropical flavor.


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Guava Cream Rolls

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Guava Filling

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Guava Filling

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Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast & 1 tsp sugar in lukewarm milk. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture, stirring to combine.

  2. In another bowl, combine flour & salt. Add flour mixture, 1 cup at a time, combining with wet mixture. Once all flour has been added, knead dough for about 2 minutes until smooth & elastic consistency, Place dough in a greased bowl & cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour. While the dough is rising, beat together guava paste & softened cream cheese to make filling. Line a 10-inch spring form pan with parchment paper; set aside.

  3. Punch the risen dough down & transfer to a floured surface then divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Divide each of them again into 4 parts, so to have 8 pieces of dough altogether.

  4. Roll each piece of dough out into a roughly rectangular shape with a thickness of 1/4-inch. Spread guava/cream cheese over each piece. Place one piece of rectangular dough over another one & start to roll a cylinder. Do the same with the rest of the dough; you will end up with 4 cylinder rolls altogether.

  5. Cut each roll into three pieces. Slice both ends of the roll ( about 1 1/2-inch long piece from each end) & put these 2 pieces aside. Cut the middle part of each roll into 4 triangles. In the middle of spring form pan, arrange the cut ends of the rolls around each other to form a circle, placing the cut sides down. Arrange the cut triangles to completely surround the middle circle.

  6. Cover pan with a tea towel & allow to rise in a warm place for about 30-40 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat egg with water to make egg wash & carefully brush the top of rolls when they have risen enough. Bake rolls for 30-40 minutes or until baked & golden in color. Remove from oven & brush immediately with melted butter. Remove spring form pan & cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before serving.