One Smart Chic

Delicious Food, Crafty Ideas and Rustic Living

Month: January 2015

Back to basics: The creamiest Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding is one of the staple desserts from my beautiful country Peru. It brings so many memories of my childhood.  I became a fan of this simple dessert when I was 12 years old. I remember going outside Lima (capital of Peru and the province I come from) for my cousins wedding.  We stayed at a local hotel in Chincha. (Chincha is south of Lima, about 2 1/2 hours).  Probably this was the biggest hotel in that small city filled with tradition and great food.  The name of the hotel was “El Sausal”.  I remember as if it was yesterday. I spent most of the afternoon playing in the pool with my cousin Ivan (my partner in crime and my buddy thru my entire childhood). My aunt Carmen (Ivan’s mother) bought us their homemade rice pudding.  It was the best rice pudding I had ever tried in my life! The creaminess and sweetness was incomparable! We had 3 rounds of rice pudding each…and we probably could have had more but we needed to get our acts together for the wedding :)

After that day all I wanted to do was be able to replicate that delicate recipe. And after years I was able to do it. I know you must be thinking rice pudding is really not a big deal. Many recipes, many variations, many flavor profiles…but I’m telling you once you try this one it will be a smile on every bite.  My sister in law Monica loves it with lemon peel since she was born and raised part of her life in Spain and for them it is a traditional with the lemon peel but in this recipe specifically I use orange peel. If you like a little more acidic flavor or to balance the sweetness a little more you can substitute my orange peel for lemon peel. Either way it will be delightful.

Sometimes I spend a lot of time trying to think outside the box,  creating new recipes or putting a twist on traditional ones but today my husband asked me to make one of his favorites and that’s why I’m sharing this rice pudding recipe with you.It is back to basics!
I love snow days like today…I get to relax, spend time with my family and I get dirty in the kitchen! I really hope you like this recipe as much as we do.

Carla’s Rice Pudding
1 cup of arborio rice
5 cups of water
2 cans of condensed milk
1 can of evaporated milk
1 tbsp of orange peel (or lemon)
2 tbsp of pure vanilla extract
3 cinnamon sticks
3 cloves
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup of raisins (previously soaked in water to get them soft)
Cinnamon powder
In a large pot put the 5 cups of water with the cinnamon sticks, cloves and citrus peel. Bring to a quick boil and add the arborio rice. Reduce heat to low and let the rice cook. When the rice has absorbed all the water it is ready. Please note that it has to cook at very low heat so it cooks all the way. You don’t want your rice “al dente” when it is about rice pudding ;)
Add the evaporated milk and bring to quick boil, add the 2 cans of condensed milk and start cooking at medium heat moving constantly with a wooden spoon to avoid sticking to the bottom of pot. Add the raisins and vanilla extract. Keep stirring. When the milks and everything starts getting together (about 5 minutes) add the beaten egg yolk. When you add it it has to be very slowly and the pit should be outside the heat to avoid the yolk to cook like scramble egg. The way I do it: I take a little of the milks from rice pudding cooking out to the bowl where I have the beaten egg yolk to temper the yolk. I whisk very fast until we’ll combined. Then I add that mixture to the entire rice pudding. The benefit doing this is that it’s easier to mix it and less risky. If your yolk cooked then it’s easier to replace it for a new one rather than make a whole new rice pudding, don’t you think?
The yolk is necessary because it is the element that makes the milks thicker and give consistency. After this process you just have to mix for another 5 minutes and it is done. Be devoted to your rice pudding…the string process is a main factor.

French Macarons



French Macarons!!! I know what you are thinking: “I’m not even going to attempt to make them because it’s too hard and risky”. Well…I felt the same way before and the first time I made them my meringue didn’t set, the second time they all cracked in the oven but after a while (and because I didn’t give up) I got the right recipe. I will walk you thru in detail and give you the secrets for the perfect french macaron. The airy, chewy meringue and almond flour are the protagonists for this delicate french cookie. I see them retailed from $2.00 all the way to $3.75 each depending on location. I think they cost so much not just because they need expensive ingredients but because people right away think they are so hard to make that they don’t mind paying. What a great idea for a girl party as a goodie bag, on the dessert table or simply as a centerpiece. I have shared the picture of my wedding where we had them as a rustic tree centerpiece for the dessert table. The best part is that you can use you imagination to change colors, flavors and fillings.

In the pictures you will see that I made a mint/chocolate ganache, raspberry with preserves, lemon/blueberry and lemon/lemon curd.
Here is the recipe:
3 egg whites (room temperature)
1/2 cup of powder sugar
1/4 cup of white sugar
1 1/2 cup of almond flour
1/4 tsp of vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
Beat the egg whites on medium speed until they start getting foamy. Add the salt and increase the speed. Add the white sugar little by little as the egg whites become fluffier. Add vanilla at the end. When they form soft peaks is when they are done. I actually turn my mixing bowl backwards and the whites should not fall. On a different bowl sift the almond flour and the powder sugar. Mix them together. Add 1/4 of the egg white mix to the dry ingredients and fold them together. Add the rest and fold them again until they are all well incorporated. If you are going to color and add flavor to them this is the time. Just a few drops of food coloring until you get the desire color and about 1/4 tsp of flavoring. Try to use extract instead of imitation flavoring because it makes a big difference. I find that you need to use just a little bit versus the imitation that you need to add a lot more and it can give your batter a bitter after taste. Put the batter in a piping bag. Make sure there are no air pockets in it. Use wax paper on top of an oven sheet pan. If you are not sure about getting all the macarons the same size you can always draw them on the wax paper with a pencil using a round mold. That way you have a guide. Here is the major secret and what you need to do to have perfect macarons: after they are all piped like in the picture you need to hit the pan against your counter or table to take any extra air out. Maybe about 5 times. Let the macarons sit out for about an hour to an hour and a half. That’s very important to avoid them from cracking. Bake them at 300F for 20 minutes. Let them cool off and fill them with jams, curd, ganache, dulce de leche or Nutella.


Buffalo chicken dip! Doesn’t get any better…

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Scampi Dip…warning: you won’t put your toast down!

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Greek Dip: a healthier choice for the playoffs…

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Valentine’s calls for chocolate…

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Crab and Corn Chowder


This chowder is my favorite of all. I’ve always liked creamy chowders more than brothy or tomato ones. Two years ago my husband and I went on a “lunch date” to Hoboken. We always (as many of you know now) like to go to farms and spend our weekends in the country side but we decided to changed it a bit and we picked Hoboken. As we were walking on Newark St. we saw a board outside a restaurant with the specials. Crab and Corn Chowder was one of them. We definitely wanted to try it out. I had the best chowder ever! Many times I feel like people get cheap on the cream and just use corn starch or more flour than the recipe needs to make it thicker and call it chowder. The recipe I’m about to share with you and that I have made many times is thickened just with the cut potatoes that this recipe calls for (potatoes will release enough starch to be used a the thickener element). I also add a little bacon to mine but if you are a “peschetarian” like I used to be you can leave the piggy out!
Here it is:
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 small red pepper chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
3 medium potatoes (red skin preferably) peeled and cut in small cubes
2 bay leaves
2 cups of heavy cream
3 cups of corn (I prefer to boil fresh corn and then scrape but frozen can be used too)
3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
8 oz of lump crab meat
1 tbsp old bay seasoning
Salt and pepper
In a pot start sautéing the onion, garlic, celery and red pepper on olive oil. If you wanted to add bacon you will add bacon to the olive oil before the veggies are added and stir for about 5 minutes or until the bacon starts getting crispy. After veggies are getting softer add the bay leaves, old bay seasoning, corn kernels and diced potatoes. Stir and add the broth. Lower heat to medium and let it reduce and concentrate for about 15 minutes. Check if potatoes are cooked and lower heat a little more. The broth should start getting starchy and thicker from the potatoes and the time reducing. Add crab meat and heavy cream and let it reduce for another 7 minutes or so until it start getting right texture. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

White Bean and Kale soup


This is probably one of my favorites! I love kale and after reading about all the benefits it has I try to incorporate it on my family’s diet.  I can probably have an entire post just about kale because it really has so much to offer but I will simplify and just tell you that it is an excellent source of vitamin C, it lowers cholesterol and it’s very low in calories but makes you feel fuller between many others.

The wonderful thing about this soup is that it can be a vegetarian option or not. If you are not a kale fan and prefer other leafy green you can use Swiss chard or Spinach.  I make mine with pancetta, chorizo or kielbasa. You can use ground turkey or sweet sausage if you prefer.

Here is the recipe:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion chopped
1 medium carrot chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
4 oz of Spanish chorizo (without casing if wanted), Chopped pancetta or Kialbasa (cut in 1/4″ slices)
1 small bunch of kale (center ribs and stems removed and leaves crossly chopped)
1-14.5 oz of canned cannellini beans (drained)
4 cups of chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Pour the olive oil on a pot and add the meat of choice (if you are making it vegetarian just skipped this part). After the meat is browned a little add the veggies (onion, carrot, celery) and the garlic and mix until onion starts getting a translucent color. Add chicken broth, lower the heat and let it reduce so all the wonderful flavors get concentrated (about 15 min) in lower heat. Add the beans and the kale, salt and pepper. Let simmer for a little longer. Serve with garlic toast or buttered bread. Enjoy!

A New Year filled with delicious recipes

imageHappy New Year all! I wish all of you that follow this blog a prosperous 2015. I hope you keep following this year :) I am ready to keep posting new recipes and ideas and have  fun with them.

Winter is here and we can definitely feel it. My husband and I took the kids yesterday for a ride to the beach and we ended up at the Brickwall Tavern in Asbury Park (not many places open on January 1st) but we definitely had a great time. I have to say that I’ve been eating out more than usual this past month. During holidays season we always find a reason to celebrate, right? What I haven’t found is a new selection of soups at the restaurants. Always the french onion, some kind of chicken soup and if it was a seafood restaurant probably a lobster bisque and/or the regular New England or Manhattan Clams. Winter calls for nice hearty soups but with a little change sometimes, don’t you think?  My dear girlfriend Ilona asked me to post soup recipes as well so I think it is a great idea.

You will get 2 of my favorite soups on the next 2 posts: White bean and kale soup and Crab and Corn Chowder.  If you have any requests for other recipes please feel free to leave me a message. Hope you like them as much as I do :)

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