Saturday, June 25

Tres Leches Cake

It was time to resurrect a dessert that should have been delicious but did not turn out the very first time I made it.  The dessert I’m referring to ‘Tres Leches’ cake.  A few years ago my husband, his mom, and I went to a Mexican restaurant to celebrate his birthday.  After we finished our meal we ordered a large slice of cake and shared it.  The cake was white and had strawberries on top.  It didn’t look like anything special or out of the ordinary, BUT WOW, it was no ordinary cake!  The cake was super moist and even liquid-y.  You could tell it had been soaked in something. 

After we left the restaurant I went on a search to find out what type of cake this was and how to re-create it (IF such a heavenly item can be re-created).  The name, Tres Leches, is Spanish for 3 Milks.  Tres Leches cake is a very popular dessert in Latin America and can be found in the U.S. at most Mexican restaurants.  The cake has such a moist consistency because it’s soaked in 3 kinds of milk: evaporated, condensed, & heavy cream or regular milk.  It’s also very sponge like so that it can absorb a good amount of milk and not become soggy.  To get a good idea of how moist this cake is, imagine pressing down on a slice of cake and liquid flowing out.  I know it sounds a little odd, especially when you think about the traditional cakes you’ve eaten, but it is so amazing that you must try it for yourself.

I made it for my parents the very first time I tried making it.  Something went wrong with the cake batter and it didn’t absorb all the milk.  The end result did not look good at all and I was MAD it didn’t turn out.  Ryan made the best of the situation and insisted we should all try it because it would still taste good.  We did and although it looked like someone put mush on our plates and topped it with berries, it still tasted really good.  I never knew until recently that my dad remembered that cake and loved it.  Who knew!  That’s why I decided it was the perfect time to re-create it for Father’s day. 

I found a new recipe hoping that this time everything would work like a charm.  The cake batter is quite easy to make as there aren’t many ingredients, however I will share these useful tips I learned along the way.  The recipe calls for self-rising flour.   I had no idea what this meant.  I thought it was probably just a fancy term for the flour I already had in my kitchen, but it wasn’t.   Glad I didn’t use it after all!  Self-rising flour has leavening agents in it already (baking powder & salt).  If you don’t have self-rising flour at home you can make your own using these proportions: 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  

This is very important, if you have baking powder in your kitchen over a year old, trash it!  I’ve had mine for a while as I don’t use it all the time so I was curious as to how long it lasts.  I read that it’s good for about a year tops and may not even last that long.  If you see clumps within your powder this is a sign that there’s moisture and it’s no longer good.  When I read this I knew mine had clumps but I had always assumed that over time it was normal.  I checked the bottom of my can and found that mine was 2 years old!  So I tossed it right away and bought a new one for this recipe.   

What?!  Best if used by Nov. '09! 

The finished batter
This time the batter cooked perfectly until it was golden brown.  You’ll notice that this cake does not rise very much.  I was worried that I should have used a smaller pan so it would be thicker, but the cake expands in size after the milk is absorbed.  Before you pour the milk mixture on top, let the cake cool, and then use a fork to puncture it with many holes.  This will help the cake absorb the liquid even better.  When you look at the milk mixture you’ll think there’s no way it will all be absorbed, but it does!  Just pour the milk very slowly and take breaks until it’s absorbed.  All the reviews I’ve read say to let the cake sit over night in the fridge to get the best flavor.  If you need to serve the cake the same day, at the very minimum let the cake refrigerate for a few hours.

Puncture all over with holes

The cake absorbing the milk
The cake is typically frosted with a meringue or butter cream frosting but I took the easy way out and frosted it with Cool Whip.  I find that using Cool Whip is very easy and it has a nice summery feel with the added berries.  

This time the cake turned out great!  The cake texture was perfect, the milk was fully absorbed, and it tasted wonderfully refreshing after we came in from being out in the sun all day.  Here's my dad and I celebrating Father’s Day  :)  Did I mention my dad was the one who taught me how to bake when I was younger?  He did!  I think that's where my cooking passion stems from and where I acquired a lot of my cooking skills.  Recently he's made his own mean creation of Creamed Cucumbers that everyone loves.  It's a great summer dish if you've never tried it.  Maybe that can be a future, featured recipe on this blog. 

Tresh Leches
Adapted from Tres Leches ‘Three Milks’ by Blanca,
Serves: 10
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes (not including milk absorption after cake is baked)



  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tub of Cool Whip
  • Fresh Berries for topping



  1. Grease a 8 x 12 or 9 x 13  inch pan. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2. Separate 5 eggs, reserving the yolks and adding the egg whites to a large mixing bowl.  Beat the egg whites and slowly add 1 cup sugar, beating constantly.
  3. Add the yolks one by one, beating well after each addition. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add the flour into the egg mixture; stirring. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until done. Cool.
  5. Use fork to puncture cake with holes.
  6. Frost with Cool Whip and top with berries such as blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries.

Thursday, June 16

Dry-Rubbed Salmon with Cucumber Relish

I came across this recipe for Salmon in one of the library cookbooks that I checked out.  I have heard of dry-rubbed ribs, but I’ve never heard of dry-rubbed salmon.  It sounded easy since all the ingredients for the rub were just spices and seasonings.  When I saw the fish was topped with a cucumber relish (what a perfect summer dish!) I decided it was definitely worth trying. 

The ingredients for the salmon couldn’t get any easier.  You may have to buy some of the spices if you don’t use these ones often, but fortunately I was luckily and had everything on hand except for dried thyme.  Please keep in mind the original recipes serves 4.  I didn’t want to mess with halving tablespoons and ¼ teaspoons, so instead I made the full amount of spice mixture.  We had large, thick salmon fillets (1lb. split between the 2 of us) and when I covered the fillets with the spice mixture I almost used the full amount.  The little that I had left, I discarded.

Before placing the fillets onto the pan make sure you line your pan with foil and lightly coat it with butter.  I found this is a great way to cook fish in the oven and it’ll help save a lot of clean up time afterwards.   When the salmon is coated with the dry-rub mixture place the fillets on the pan and begin broiling.  You can then begin to make the cucumber relish as it’s just enough time to prepare while the fish cooks.  

As a side, I served quinoa (previously featured recipe) with this meal.  I know I say this a lot, but when everything was ready, I really thought it looked like a dish you’d be served in a restaurant.  I was excited to try it and had high hopes because while it was cooking Ryan kept telling me how good it smelled.  This was definitely a winner in our house.  I tried a bite without the relish and thought the salmon tasted great alone.  You’ll notice the mixture has some spicier elements but the brown sugar adds a nice hint of sweetness to balance it out.  Paired with the cucumber relish, I thought they were a great combo and made for a really nice summer meal.  Ryan really liked this dish too.  At one point he said “It’s like fireworks in my mouth!”.  It seemed as if the dish got even better as he continued to eat, as the compliments got even sweeter.  Ending with a smile and…“Babe you’re an amazing cook.”

Dry-Rubbed Salmon with Cucumber Relish
Adapted from The Best of Cooking Light Everyday Favorites: Over 500 of Our All-Time Greatest Recipes ,by the Editors of Cooking Light Magazine (Amazon affiliate link)
Serves: 2
Prep Time: 10 mins.
Total Time: 25-30 mins.

Dry-Rub Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4  teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 salmon fillets

Cucumber Relish Ingredients:
  • 1 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced fine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat broiler to 400˚F.  Line a jelly roll pan with tin foil and lightly with butter to prevent sticking.
  2. Combine all of the dry-rub ingredients (except the salmon).  Mix thoroughly.  Sprinkle and pat spice mixture on top & sides of salmon fillets until covered thoroughly.  Discard remaining spice mixture.
  3. Place fish on jelly roll pan and broil for 8-10 minutes (thin fillets) or 12-14 minutes (thick fillets).  Fish should flake easily with a fork when ready.
  4. While fish is broiling combine all cucumber relish ingredients.
  5. When ready, serve fish fillets topped with cucumber relish.

Sunday, June 12

Quinoa, Pea, & Mint Salad

Over the weekend I purchased a steal at a garage sale.  A Martha Stewart recipe book for only $1!  It’s has some great dinner recipes and really nice pictures that go along with them.  As I was browsing through all the recipes I found this one for quinoa salad.  I like couscous and quinoa looks very similar so I decided to try it.  Right next to the recipe Martha has a description about quinoa.  Quinoa is a grain (pronounced “KEEN-wah”) that has a nutty flavor.  It’s an excellent source of protein and is the only non-animal protein that contains all the essential amino acids.  It’s also rich in iron, calcium, vitamins E & B. 

Oddly enough, the hardest part about making this dish is rinsing the quinoa.  I know, it sounds very easy right?  Wrong.  Quinoa is super fine and so small that if you were to rinse it with using a strainer it would fall through.  I put the quinoa into a small bowl, poured water on top of it, swirled it around and then became stumped as to how I would strain the water out.  I went online to see what type of help I could find and I found a video demonstration that shows how to accomplish this.  By using 2 bowls (1 to hold the quinoa and the water, 1 to stain the water) you can separate the grains from the water.  You might think, well maybe I’ll just skip rinsing the grains but if quinoa is not rinsed properly before it’s cooked, it will have a bitter flavor.  So don’t skip this important step.

Look how tiny the grains are!

The quinoa cooks on the stove for a little while and is supposed to absorb the chicken stock, just like how rice absorbs water when it cooks.  I started to panic a little bit as mine did not look like it was absorbing the chicken stock fully, but when I pulled the lid off after it cooked the full time almost all the liquid was absorbed.  With the small amount of stock that remained in the pan I just ended up draining it.  

The mixture after the water has been absorbed.

 More than anything I was excited to find a side-dish so high in protein.  I ate the salad at room temperature and I found the flavors pleasing but I’m not quite sure I’d go out of my way to make the dish again.  The only flavor I wasn’t sure about was the mint.  I can’t say I didn’t like it but I can’t say I liked it either.  Overall I think the mixture tasted good and had a really nice texture.  I was surprised as I didn’t think Ryan would care for the dish that much but he actually said it tasted good and that it was a nice change.  Next time I make this again I would use this recipe as a base and try finding other recipes that include nuts and perhaps dried fruit.  I think these additions would make for an even more interesting combination.

Quinoa, Pea, & Mint Salad
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Dinner at Home: 52 Quick Meals to Cook for Family and Friends, by Martha Stewart (Amazon affiliate link)
Serves: 6-8
Prep Time:  5 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup white quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped
  • salt
  • pepper

  1. Bring chicken stock and quinoa to a hard boil in large saucepan.
  2. Reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook 10 minutes.
  3. Add peas.  Cover and cook until quinoa is tender but still chewy and has absorbed the liquid (approximately 5-10 minutes).
  4. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes.  Fluff with fork.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the olive oil, stirring to combine well. 
  6. Let mixture cool slightly cool (about 5 minutes) before adding the mint.
  7. Best served warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, June 5

Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella Poppers

I love fresh tomatoes!  Whether roma, traditional beefsteak, or grape tomatoes.  Oh la la.  Juicy, red, ripe tomatoes scream summer time.  If you want to experience one of the most amazing smells just rub the leaves of a tomato plant between your fingers.    If only this scent could be bottled for a pick-me-up during the harsh winter months!

Our fridge is always stocked with cool, crisp, cherry tomatoes in the summer.  They make a refreshing snack by themselves, but I’ve found a great way to kick them up a notch.   To turn them into a crowd pleaser, simply pair them with fresh basil and mozzarella.  This combination belongs together like butter and popcorn.  

The best part is that you can assemble these appetizers for a party in 15 minutes.  They look fancy, but putting them together is cinch.  All you’ll need is long decorative toothpicks (sandwich or cocktail size; like these), cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and bocconcini.  If you’re wondering what ‘bocconcini’ is, it’s fresh mozzarella that’s packed in water.  It sounds odd, but wow the taste is amazing.  You can find this cheese at your local grocery store next to the fresh, premium cheese.  They’re shaped in small balls (think the size of a grape tomato) that you’ll simply cut in half for this recipe.  

Once you have all the ingredients just follow the steps below as these couldn’t be easier to put together.  When you’re done, it will look like you slaved in the kitchen perfecting these.   That’s okay, let your guests think that!  Trust me, these one bite wonders will go fast.  It might be a good idea to plan on making two batches!  Enjoy!  

Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella Poppers
Original recipe by Alissa Hebert
Serves: 24
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes

  • 24 cherry tomatoes
  • 24 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 (8 oz.) tub bocconcini (fresh mozzarella)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

  1. Drain water from cheese tub and cut cheese balls in half (or to preferred size).
  2. Assemble in this order on the toothpick: tomato, basil leaf (folded in half & pierced through middle), bocconcini.
  3. In a small bowl combine olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine.
  4. Use a spoon or cooking brush to lightly drizzle or brush olive mixture onto the assembled poppers.
  5. Refrigerate and serve cold.

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