Chocoflan

I remember the first time I tasted Chocoflan. I must have been around 12 years old at my best friend Misha’s birthday celebration. I grew up in south Texas right on the border of Mexico, so I was no stranger to delicious Mexican cuisine. I was always a fan of flan on its own, and of course, chocolate cake. When I tasted this magnificent creation, I think I had an out of body experience. I remember thinking it was the best dessert I’d ever tasted in my whole life! I would think about Chocoflan all year until Misha’s birthday on March 14th, then I would get the glorious pleasure of eating it once again. When I became really interested in learning how to cook, specifically, cook my favorite things, I was determined to find a recipe that tasted just like that first memory. I tried a few different ones, and this one was the winner. I have been making this recipe for years now, usually around Christmastime. My family asks for it and people ooh and ahh about how cool it is that the flan is on top of the cake. I don’t do anything special, it’s just a magical creation all on its own. Well, scientifically, the volume of the flan mixture is more dense than the cake batter, therefore it sinks to the bottom of the bundt during the baking process, and when flipped after baking, it is on top. Food science, magic, same difference. I am so excited to finally make this for my blog and share it with all of you, it truly is one of my all time favorite recipes and something very near and dear to my heart. I hope all of you enjoy the holiday season with those you love, eating, laughing, and being merry!

Ingredients

  • 1 box of chocolate cake mix and ingredients according to cake instructions (eggs, oil, water)
  • ½ cup of jarred caramel
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 oz. (1/2 block) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and put rack in the middle. Oil or spray a large (14.5 cup) Bundt pan.
  2. Pour caramel in the pan and tilt side to side to evenly coat. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl mix chocolate cake according to package instructions with an electric mixer and set aside.
  4. To soften the cream cheese, microwave unwrapped 15 seconds.
  5. In a blender or food processor blend the 4 eggs, cream cheese, condensed milk, evaporated milk, and vanilla to make the flan.
  6. Pour chocolate cake batter over the caramel.
  7. Pour flan on top of cake batter. While baking, the flan will sink between the chocolate cake and caramel.
  8. Place the pan inside a roasting pan or large baking dish. Pour hot water in the roasting pan so it’s 1 inch deep (to make a water bath).
  9. Cover Bundt pan with aluminum foil and bake 1 hour. Uncover and cook 30-40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove cake from the roasting pan and allow to cool completely, about 1 hour.
  10. Put a large plate or cake plate inverted over the top of the Bundt pan. Grip the two together and flip over. Store in refrigerator. Serve chilled.

Sparkling Apple Bourbon Sangria

This beverage is the perfect fall inspired spritzer for your holiday menu. Its refreshing and full of flavor, easy to throw together in a pitcher for a crowd of family and friends!

Ingredients

  •  750 mL bottle of Chardonnay, chilled
  • 3/4 C Bourbon Whiskey
  • 1/4 C Grade A Maple Syrup
  • 4 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 1, 1″ Knob of Fresh Ginger, skinned and quartered
  • 2 Honeycrisp or Gala apples, cored and quartered
  • 1.5 cup apple juice
  • 750 mL bottle dry sparkling wine

Instructions

  • In a pitcher, add the apple juice, chardonnay, bourbon, maple syrup, cinnamon sticks, ginger and apples.
  • Stir to incorporate flavors. Cover and chill for at least two hours or up to 24 hours.
  • Just before serving, pour the sparkling wine in the pitcher or individually to top off ice filled glasses. 

Pumpkin Cream Rigatoni

In the fall, we love using pumpkin for all things tasty, but most generally in desserts. I really wanted to find a delicious savory pumpkin recipe that I could make every year during the autumn time. Upon searching the World Wide Web, I found this recipe and made a few adjustments to make it my own. This dish is absolutely a hit. It’s easy to make and pairs nicely with chicken or pork, we did both pan seared chicken thighs as well as an herbed roasted pork loin, the two times we made it this season. And don’t forget, shredded parmesan on top!

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1, 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2–4 teaspoons salt
  • juice of 1 whole lemon, approx. 3 tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon thyme, dried or fresh
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, dried or fresh
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. rigatoni (you will have extra sauce, will be enough for up to 1.5-2 lbs rigatoni if serving a crowd)

Instructions

  • Cook according to package directions. reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. Drain in colander.
  • While the pasta cooks, heat the butter in a skillet over low heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.
  • Add the pumpkin and broth, simmer until smooth. Add the cream, salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary, simmer until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Add the lemon juice. Add cooked pasta to the sauce.
  • Serve pasta in shallow bowls with a sprinkle of shredded parmesan.

Logan’s Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo

Gumbo, one of the most iconic dishes that defines cajun cooking. Originating in Louisiana from creole influence, over the centuries everyone has developed their own take on their style of cooking gumbo. With every gumbo having similarities and many of the same ingredients and spices, different variations and styles is what makes this dish so unique and special. No matter how it’s made, its unbelievably comforting and delicious. This gumbo recipe is one that my husband Logan has perfected over the years, combining the traditional andouille sausage with shrimp, a hybrid of chicken/sausage gumbo and seafood gumbo, we think it’s the best of both worlds.

A short history about Gumbo, is that the world itself derives from a West African word for okra, which is often included in the dish. I personally love adding okra but many people choose to omit. Roux, originating from French cuisine, is a simple flour and fat combination cooked over heat until desired level of color, a gumbo roux should always be dark in color. It always contains the Holy Trinity, which is bell pepper, yellow onion, and celery. Similar to the French mirepoix of carrot, onion, and celery, the Holy Trinity is the basis of all cajun cooking, included in dishes like jambalaya, étouffée, and red beans and rice. Gumbo is complex, yet simple. It requires patience to make and a whole lot of love. When the creoles in New Orleans made gumbo, it was a celebration of culture and family.

Now, the roots of Texas are rich and diverse in history, with many nations that led to the Republic of Texas and now, the U.S. State of Texas. Two of the six flags of Texas, are in fact, France and Spain. Creole people are early French or Spanish settlers of the U.S. Gulf states as well as  person of mixed French or Spanish background. So, gumbo may have not originated in Texas, but Texans love this culture all the same and pay homage to those early creoles that help build Texas into what it is today.

We hope that you enjoy making this very special recipe, as we know that you won’t regret making it and eating it until your heart is content!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Roux

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Ingredients

  • 1.5 # large gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 14 oz andouille sausage, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, or equal parts thyme, oregano, & basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bag of frozen okra, 14-16 oz, or to your liking
  • 1 cup cooked long grain white rice

Instructions

  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large, thick-bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven, on medium high heat, for a few minutes. Whisk in the flour and lower the heat to medium. Stir almost constantly, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir. This part is very important, it is a process that cannot be rushed. to achieve the dark color desired, it takes about 30 minutes of stirring.
  • After the roux is to desired color, sauté the vegetables (bell pepper, onion, and celery), add the salt to this step to help sweat the vegetables. Stir until vegetables appear tender. Add garlic and continue to stir.
  • Add the chicken stock, remaining seasonings, andouille, shrimp. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
  • At this point, add the frozen okra and simmer for another 30. You can cook gumbo on a low simmer to develop flavor for as long as you choose, but at this point, everything is cooked.
  • Serve atop cooked white rice or mixed with rice, if you please!

Mama’s Mexican Chocolate Cake

I grew up eating this cake for every birthday. It was my Grandmother’s specialty and nothing beats it. She called it Mexican chocolate cake because it has a touch of cinnamon in it, however you can omit it if you choose. She would also use vanilla from Mexico, which makes it even more delicious. This cake is easy to make, and you may already have most of the ingredients in your pantry. This no fuss cake will have your guests raving, with little effort on your part. No messing with frosting spatulas or piping bags with this recipe, the warm icing just pours over and soaks into the moist cake a little bit, making for a scrumptious a comforting dessert for any occasion.

Ingredients

FOR THE CAKE

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  •  2 cups granulated sugar
  •  1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1 cup water
  •  1 cup salted butter
  •  6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  •  1/2 cup buttermilk
  •  2 large eggs
  •  1 teaspoon Mexican or regular vanilla extract

FOR THE ICING

  •  6 tablespoons milk
  •  4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  •  1/2 cup butter
  •  3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  •  1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  •  Pinch of salt
  •  3/4 cup chopped pecans, finely chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a large, rimmed 12×18-inch baking sheet (aka a half sheet pan).
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, butter, and cocoa powder and bring to a boil, stirring to make sure there are no lumps.
  • Pour the chocolate mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until combined. 
  • Add the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla, and mix until combined. You can do this with a hand mixer to make sure there are no lumps.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the cake springs back lightly to the touch and has barely started to pull away from the sides of the pan. Do not overbake!
  • Icing:  When the cake is almost done baking, start to make the icing. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, cocoa powder, milk, and salt. Heat, stirring constantly, just until the mixture comes to a simmer.
  • Immediately remove from heat and add the vanilla, then whisk in the powdered sugar until the icing is smooth. Stir in the chopped nuts. If the cake isn’t ready yet, keep the icing warm and stir it every so often so it doesn’t harden on top.
  • Let the cake cool for 10-12 minutes, then pour the hot icing over the warm cake and spread it evenly with a spatula. Let the frosting set for 20 minutes before cutting the cake into squares. The frosting will completely set after 1-2 hours.
  • Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.

Pork Chops in a Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Cold weather recently has me in the mood for complete comfort food. I love this recipe and have made it several times since discovering it. It’s very easy to whip up on a weeknight for the family and makes great leftovers. The key to keeping pork chops moist is to buy thick cut pork chops and searing each side quickly, being careful not to overcook. Pork is notorious for becoming dry during the cooking process because many people assume that it must be cooked like chicken, to 165F degrees internal temp because people feared trichinosis, which is extremely rare today. The minimum cooking temp is 145F degrees, like a medium steak. So don’t be afraid to leave your pork chops a little pink to keep them moist and tender! Note: My hot sauce of choice for this dish is Texas Pete’s, it is not spicy and yields a wonderful flavor. Serve with white rice or wild rice if you choose! Will include link below!

Ingredients (4 servings)

  • 4 boneless thick cut pork chops 
  • ¾ tsp salt or to taste
  • ¼ tsp black pepper or to taste
  • ½ tsp paprika or to taste
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter divided
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 8 oz mushrooms sliced
  • ½ medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp hot sauce (Texas Pete’s)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 Tbsp parsley optional garnish

Instructions

  1. Season pork chops with salt, pepper and paprika. Heat 1 Tbsp butter and 2 tsp oil in a large pan over med/high heat. Once hot, sear chops 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown. Remove pork chops and cover to keep warm.
  2. In the same pan, add 1 Tbsp butter and sliced mushrooms. Cook 2 minutes over medium heat, or until lightly golden.
  3. Add 1 Tbsp butter and onions. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Cook 3-4 minutes, until onions are tender. 
  4. Add minced garlic and saute 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Add flour and stir vigorously for 30 seconds.
  5. Add the chicken broth, hot sauce, whipping cream and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 2 minutes, or until cream begins to thicken. Add pork chops back to the skillet and cover with the mushroom sauce. 
  6. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5-8 minutes, allowing the pork chops to become tender and the flavors of the mushroom sauce to penetrate into the pork chops. Garnish if desired and serve. 

German Wassail

Central Texas is full of rich German influence and history. Upon moving here, I discovered so many delicious German foods, Wassail being one of them! It is a deliciously spiced warm mulled punch very similar to cider, can be served alcoholic (best with Brandy) or non-alcoholic. Wassail doesn’t have specific German roots, as it comes from many Anglo-Saxon countries celebrated during Christmastime and New Years, with festivals dedicated to the consumption of this drink and celebration of the holiday time. derived from the Anglo-Saxon words for “to your health” – “waes hael”, the recipe of the same name was offered to visitors throughout the festive period, or in some cases taken around the community in a large wooden bowl decorated with evergreen leaves (usually holly and ivy) and festoons of bright red ribbons.  There is no definitive recipe for “wassail” the drink, as it varies from region, and was often dependent on local ingredients and libations such as ale, cider, apple juice and fruit, or whatever was used to “top” the wassail bowl up as it was taken around to individual houses in the local community.

I had a lot of fun looking up recipes of what I thought would be most similar to one I had at a Wassail Festival in New Braunfels, TX last year, and I think I came very close! I hope you enjoy this drink as much as I did. Merry Christmas!

Ingredients

  • 4 Cups water
  • 1 Cup sugar 
  • 3-6 sticks cinnamon
  • 8 whole allspice
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 1 clump of crystallized ginger, 1/2 inch chunk fresh ginger, or 1 tsp powdered
  • 1 32 oz bottle unsweetened apple juice
  • 3 Cups pineapple juice
  • 2 Cups unsweetened orange juice
  • 1/2 Cup lemon juice

Instructions

  • Bring water and sugar to a low boil
  • With cheesecloth, create a sachet of the cinnamon, whole allspice, whole cloves, and ginger and tie with butcher’s twine.
  • Add sachet to water and sugar, simmer for 1 hour.
  • Remove sachet and add unsweetened apple juice, pineapple juice and orange juice, lemon juice.
  • Heat to desired temperature.
  • Serve warm or cold, optional* add Brandy to each serving to your desired likeness.

Pumpkin Praline Bread Pudding

As pumpkin season comes to an end and we enter December with all things cinnamon and spice, I couldn’t help but think of this divine pumpkin praline bread pudding I made a few weeks back. This dessert is the epitome of decadence, filling you with warmth and happiness. It is very simple to make, but will easily impress anyone who eats it. I love when I discover those “winner” recipes, the ones that you know you’ll keep up your sleeve for years to come. This is one of them. Make it, you won’t regret it!

Ingredients

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

  • 1 pound loaf day old French bread, torn into small pieces
  • 2 cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 15-ounce can Pumpkin Puree
  • 1-1/2 cups Granulated Sugar
  • 3 tablespoon Melted Butter
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice * (homemade or store-bought)

Praline Sauce

  • 1 cup Unsalted Butter
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Toasted Pecans

Pumpkin Pie Spice

  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Allspice

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray and place torn pieces of bread in the dish.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, half and half, pumpkin, sugar, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice.
  • Slowly pour the batter over the bread pieces in the baking dish. Be sure to cover all the bread pieces.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for about 1 hour.
  • While the bread pudding is baking, make the praline sauce. In a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, stir together the butter, heavy cream, and brown sugar; bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low, and stir pecans into the cream mixture. Simmer until the sauce thickens, for about 5 minutes.
  • Pour over bread pudding to serve.
  • Serve with vanilla ice cream for extra deliciousness!

Salted Whiskey Caramel Corn

Caramel corn and Halloween go hand in hand, and in search for the perfect treat I stumbled upon this incredible recipe that needless to say was an absolute winner. It is irresistible…you can hardly control yourself from grabbing more handfuls of this delicious caramel corn until you feel you’re in a complete sugar coma. What makes this so much better is the contrast of salty and sweet, roasted pecans, and the light whiskey notes. I shared with my friends and family, and plan to make mason jars of the stuff for the holidays. Happy Halloween!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • ¾ cup (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • ¾ teaspoon flaky sea salt (Maldon is a good one)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons Irish whiskey (Jameson is what we used)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Instructions for Stovetop Popcorn

How to Make Stovetop Popcorn

  1. Use a good, heavy-bottomed pot. Cheap pots don’t distribute heat evenly, and you can end up with hot spots that burn the popcorn.
  2. Don’t crank the heat up too high. It’s too easy to burn oil at temperature higher than medium heat, and if you catch even a whiff of smoke coming from the pot, your popcorn is going to taste burnt.
  3. Add the vegetable oil to the pot. Start with two popcorn kernels to gauge the temperature.Once those pop, your oil is hot enough. Add the remaining kernels and remove the pot from the heat for 1 minute. This primes the popcorn to pop without burning the oil.
  4. Tip the lid ever-so-slightly while the popcorn is popping.That way, the popcorn doesn’t steam itself in the pot and lose crispness.
  5. If the popcorn starts overflowing the pot: Simply remove the lid and tip the excess popcorn into a bowl. Return the lid and return the popcorn to the heat until popping slows.

Instructions for the Caramel Corn

  • Dump popped corn into a large, heat-resistant bowl, add the pecans, and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a 3-quart heavy-bottomed sauce pan, melt the butter over medium to medium-high heat.
  • Add to it the brown sugar, corn syrup, and sea salt and stir until it starts to boil.
  • Boil for 4-5 minutes without stirring. If the caramel isn’t dark enough after the time has elapsed, you can cook it longer, but watch it carefully; it will go from perfect to burned in no time if you’re not paying attention.
  • Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract, whiskey, and baking soda. It will bubble up, so be careful not to get burned.
  • Stir until smooth, then quickly pour over the popcorn and pecans.
  • Toss the popcorn and pecans to coat evenly, then spread half in an even layer in one prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the other.
  • Bake for about 30-45 minutes, or until it has reached desired dryness. Every 15 minutes, rotate pans and toss the popcorn a bit, breaking up any big pieces.
  • Store in air-tight containers for up to 3 days.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Turnovers

This is the first night it’s truly felt like autumn to me, there’s a nice cool front and its breezy. The whole day has been gloomy, like those spooky October days that I love. I have the windows open and hear the rustling of the leaves blowing….and it is absolutely perfect. This dessert is just what I needed for an easy fall dessert. It was unbelievably easy to make and will most definitely be gobbled up by all. Best served warm! Happy Hallo-week!

Ingredients

  • Pillsbury Crescents (2 cans)
  • 1 can pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 14 oz of cream cheese (divided)
  • 1 egg at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (divided)

Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 14 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 tbsp milk

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • Melt cream cheese in microwave or on stove until warm and no longer clumpy. Use a mixer to combine 1 egg, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 8 oz. of cream cheese. Mix until well combined. Reserve mixture in bowl.
  • In another bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup of sugar, and the pumpkin pie spice.
  • Get each perforated crescent rolland fill the dough with a spoonful of pumpkin mixture and a spoonful of cream cheese mixture, this is not an exact measurement. Fold the edges of the dough until mixture is covered and not visible.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Allow them to cool a bit before drizzling with glaze. To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and milk until blended together. You can add more or less milk to create desired consistancey.