A Little Bit of Brazil in Downtown Denver

Denver is quite an international city as far as food goes.  There is a rich and diverse food culture all throughout the Denver metro area.  Brazil is one of the countries represented through food and there are a few Brazilian restaurants located around town.  One of our favorites is Rodizio Grill, the Brazilian Steakhouse, which you can contact at rodizio.com.  We do not go there very often, but we love it when we do.  You have to make sure you bring a good, hearty appetite when visiting, because the food just keeps coming, and it is all so good, it is really hard to stop.

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We have never eaten at any other Brazilian steakhouses, but from what I hear Rodizio is pretty typical of how they work.  You are given a block that is red and green.   Green means go, and when the green side is up, the waiters just keep bringing around different kinds of meat that they cut and serve right at your table.  Red means stop.  Once the red side is up, the waiters know not to come back to your table, unless they see the green side up again.  There is no limit except for what your tummy can hold.  The waiters are almost always typically men, dressed in traditional gaucho style attire.  The gauchos are the cowboys of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, and were once the national symbols of these countries.  The gauchos were very proud, traditional horsemen.  Their diets were almost exclusively meats, and that is why the Brazilian steakhouses offer so much meat and so many meat varieties as their menu.

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Once we were seated, our server brought up some hot fried bananas rolled in cinnamon, known as banana fritas.  These are delicious, and best when they are eaten hot.

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Although the main attraction in a Brazilian steakhouse is meat, and lots of it, in many different varieties, there is also a delicious and extensive salad bar too, serving both American style salads as well as Brazilian style salads and vegetables.  There were two sides to this salad bar, with a side bar that served hot vegetables and bread.   Unless you are there for the salads, which are all very good, DON’T fill up on the salads though.  The main attraction is on it’s way, and does not stop coming until you say so.

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This is just a small representation of the different items served on the salad bar.  I had some marinated mushrooms, beets, olives, quinoa salad and some crab salad.  I was already full, after this, but the main attraction is the meat, and I was not about to pass that up.

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The gaucho waiters are serving up lots of varieties of meats, directly off the hot skewers.  A Brazilian steakhouse is a carnivore’s dream.  There are so many different types of meats, that just keep coming, until they red side of the block is up.  This is just a mere sampling of what they offered.  There were many different varieties of steak, wild boar, chicken, pork, sausage, and so much more.  We tried little slivers of all of these, but we were so full after.  You wouldn’t think a bit or two of so many different meats would fill you up so much, but trust me, they do.  Those little bites or two quickly add up to a lot of little bites.  We certainly could not eat like this on a regular basis, but it is a fun dining experience when we do.

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Sesame Chicken

We eat and love a wide variety of foods, and we love all kinds of ethnic foods too.  We had not had any Chinese food in a while, so I decided to make some sesame chicken.  The funny thing is that the day after I made it, we went out with my husband’s brother, ironically for Chinese food.  Needless to say, neither of us ordered the sesame chicken since we just had it, but mine looked just as good as the Chinese restaurant’s version.  I can’t help myself.  I am very competitive, in many areas, and I always like to see where I stand and how I compare to others.  Maybe that’s why I have always been good in sport too, but I digress.  That’s a totally different story.

I served my sesame chicken over white rice and with sauteed green beans with red peppers, mushrooms, garlic and onions, some fried potstickers and a glass or two of a crisp chardonnay with hints of apple and melon.  The fruity chardonnay complimented the spicy/sweet combination of the sesame chicken very well.

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Sesame Chicken

2 TBSP flour

2 TBSP cornstarch

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

2 TBSP soy sauce (I used light soy sauce)

1 TBSP dry sherry

2 TBSP water

1 tsp canola or olive oil

dash of sesame oil (I used sesame chili oil)

1 lb chicken, cubed

cooking oil

 

Mix all the dry ingredients together, then add the soy sauce, sherry, water, oil, and sesame sauce.  Mix together well, then add the chicken cubes and let marinate for at least 20 minutes before cooking.

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 The Sauce

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup sugar

2 TBSP white vinegar

2 TBSP soy sauce

2 TBSP sesame oil

1 TBSP chili paste

1 TBSP garlic

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 1/2 TBSP dried orange peel and/or orange spice (I used orange ginger spice)

3/4 cup water

2 TBSP toasted sesame seeds

green onions, sliced Asian style (optional for topping)

 

Mix the chicken broth, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, chili paste, garlic and orange spice together in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Mix the cornstarch and the water together well, making sure all the cornstarch is dissolved and mix with the sauce.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking for about 2 minutes or until the sauce thickens.  If the sauce is too thick, add a little more water as needed.

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In a deep fryer, heat the oil  to 375* F, and add the chicken pieces, a few at a time.  Cook for about 3 minutes or until the chicken is is golden brown and floats to the top.  Continue until all the chicken is cooked.  Your chicken should be light and crispy.

Once everything is cooked, serve the chicken over rice and top with the sauce and the toasted sesame seeds and green onion, if using.  this is better than Chinese take-out, and it is in the comfort of your own home.

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Savory Sweet Pumpkin-Parmesan Bread

I love pumpkin.  I love everything pumpkin.  In the fall, I usually get into my pumpkin moods, and make a lot of dishes with some kind of pumpkin.  Pumpkin is just the perfect fall food, I think.  I love the taste of pumpkins, but they are also very healthy for you too.  The Flavors of Fall

I am definitely a bread person, and love to have bread of some sort with my dinner.  So when I came across this recipe for pumpkin-Parmesan bread, I was very excited to try it out.  Boy, am I glad I did too.  I love it!  It is a little bit sweet, from the pumpkin and the sugar, but with the addition of the Parmesan cheese and sage, it makes it a bit more savory.  The combinations of flavors work perfectly together.  You can top it with a little butter or creme fraiche, whichever you prefer.  I served it with my beef short ribs.  It made for a perfect fall meal.  A Simple Fall Feast

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Pumpkin-Parmesan Bread

3 1/2 cups flour

1 1/3 cups sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp black pepper

5 large eggs,

1 1/4 cup canola oil

1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree

1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided

1/3 cup fresh sage or rosemary, or a combination of both

 

Preheat the oven to 350*F

Spray 2 loaf pans with cooking spray

 

Mix the flour and all the dry ingredients together and set aside.  Slightly beat the eggs, then mix with the canola oil and add to the flour mixture.  Once those are combined well, add the pumpkin and about 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, and mix well.

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Divide the batter equally into the two loaf pans, and spread it evenly in the pans.   Top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and bake for about 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick that is inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let cool before eating.  then sit back and enjoy the flavors of the season.

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With all the eggs, it came out so light and fluffy.  Delicious!

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To Use or Not Use A Slow Cooker

Recently, a dear friend of mine asked me if I ever used a slow cooker.  Sure I do.  I admit, I don’t use it all that much, but I do use it for quite a few things.  Some things just need to be cooked slow and easy in order for all the flavors to really come to life.  I don’t know about most people, but I do know that I do not have enough time to stay at home watching over a pot of something that needs hours and hours to cook.  I am way too busy to do that.  That’s what slow cookers are for.  Put your ingredients into the slow cooker, turn it on the appropriate heat and temperature, cook it for as long as it needs to cook and walk away.   A few hours later, Voila!  Your dish is done.

Usually when I cook ribs, especially when I cook beef short ribs.  I will cook them in a slow cooker.  I have tried them in the oven, and I have tried boiling them before putting them on the grill, but to me, they come out best when cooked nice and slow, in the slow cooker.  The meat just falls right off the bone, and melts in your mouth.  I think that is rib perfection when that happens.  And this is exactly what I did for last night’s dinner.  I slow cooked some beef short ribs for about 6 1/2 hours, at a medium-high temperature.  When I took them out of the slow cooker, they were so tender and juicy.  I topped them with an apple butter BBQ sauce that I made, and served them with the leftover scalloped potatoes and some steamed vegetables.  I also made some pumpkin parmesan cheese bread to serve along side, with a glass of zinfandel to complete the meal.  It was just the perfect warm, comforting meal for a cold, frigid day.

 

Ribs are like so may other dishes where people brag about their ribs and how they cook them, and often times the recipes are handed down through the generations..  So I don’t dare tell anyone how to cook them.  Those are waters I don’t care to venture in.  There are so many different methods and good sauces and rubs out there, so I say, to each his/her own, and make them the way you like them.  I am only offering up one other way to make them.  Even I try them out in different ways all the time too, and make different sauces as well.   This time I used an orange-ginger rub, dried onions, garlic and cinnamon, about 1 heaping TBSP of each.  I placed the ribs in the slow cooker, then added my flavorings and topped the slow cooker with water, probably about 4 cups of water.  I cooked them at a medium-high temperature, or setting #3 on my slow cooker, for about 6 1/2 hours.

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While the ribs were cooking, I made my sauce.  Again, I use and make all kinds of different sauces all the time.  This time, I made a more fall-like sauce to go with the season.

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Apple-Butter BBQ Sauce

1 heaping TBSP garlic

1/4 cup dried onions

3-4 TBSP molasses

1 1/2 cups apple butter

3-4 TBSP Edith’s Best Triple A Sauce

1 TBSP cinnamon

1 TBSP orange-ginger rub

Mix everything together chill before serving.

 

**** Sadly to say, I have now used up all my Edith’s Best Triple A Sauce, and now I need to get some more.  Since I do not live in Florida, I am going to have to order some from Amazon until they start selling it in stores nationwide.  If you have an opportunity to try this sauce, do so.  It is absolutely delicious! Sauce It Up with Edith’s Best

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A Simple Fall Feast

Again, our weather is cold and crisp outside.  Today we even have hints of snow in the air, though none has fallen yet.  It is a perfect day for something warm and comforting right out of the oven.  It is a perfect day for roasted chicken, with scalloped potatoes and roasted fall vegetables.

Since I work nights, I usually get everything prepared and leave my husband cooking instructions for later, if it is something that I cannot finish before going to work.  Sometimes he listens and sometimes he doesn’t.  I left specific cooking instructions for the chicken, with the cookbook opened to the page for him to read the directions, but this was one of those times when he decided to do his own thing, and not follow the cooking directions.  So my roasted chicken is not as crispy or as golden brown as I would have done it, but what am I going to do.  He tried.  The chicken still tasted very good, and that’s the main thing.

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I made a garlic herb butter and put it all over the chicken, under the skin.  Then I coated it with salt & pepper and olive oil before putting it in the oven.

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I added about 1-1 1/2 tsp of each fresh basil, thyme, oregano and sage, along with about 1 TBSP of garlic to softened butter and mixed it all up.

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Before filing the chicken, pat it dry with a paper towel, then gently lift the skin away from the meat of the chicken, and spread the garlic-herb butter mixture all over the meat of the chicken.  This is to keep it moist as well as to flavor the whole chicken.  Once you have spread the butter mixture over the whole chicken, gently bring back the skin as best as possible, then coat it with salt & pepper and olive oil.  This is to give the skin a nice and shiny, crispy coat.   You can rub the chicken with your butter, as well as the salt & pepper on the skin, up to about 48 hours before roasting it.  I would not coat it with the olive oil until right before placing it in the oven though.

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Preheat the oven to 400*F

Place the chicken in a rack, in a large baking pan.  I usually line my pan with aluminum foil to make cleaning much easier.   Wrap the tips of the wings with small pieces of foil so they don’t burn.  Place the chicken in the center of the oven and cook the chicken at 400*F for about 15-20 minutes, breast side down.  Reduce the heat to 375*F, flip the chicken over, breast side up, and continue to cook for about another hour, or until the internal temperature reaches at least 165* F, longer if you prefer it cooked more.

Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it rest for about 15 minutes or so before cutting it.

I served the roasted chicken with cheesey scalloped potatoes and roasted pumpkin and Brussels sprouts.  The Flavors of Fall  I completed the meal with a chardonnay that had hints of apples, citrus and melon.  This was a simple fall feast, jut perfect when the temperatures outside start to chill.

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Soup It Up

Fall is here.  As I look out my window right now, I am seeing all the beautiful colors of the fall season.  The trees and bushes are all various stages of greens, golds, oranges, and reds.  It is just so beautiful and colorful.   The fall season has also brought a dramatic drop in the temperature as well.  These last few days, we have had highs in the high 30’s and low 40’s.  I LOVE it!!!!  I say bring it on!  When the weather starts to get cold outside, there is nothing better than a nice hot soup to warm you up from the inside out.  It is most definitely soup weather, so I made a delicious fall soup with sausage, Northern white beans, pumpkin, and lots of fall vegetables.  As my dad would have said, “it warmed the cockles of my heart”.

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Let’s get this soup started.  I used fresh spinach, kobaishi squash (AKA pumpkin), Anaheim chilies, jalapeno, garlic, onions, and tomatoes, along with  spicy Kielbasa sausage and Northern white beans.  To kick it up even a bit more, I added cinnamon and allspice too, and I simmered it all in chicken broth for about 2-3 hours, and Voila!  It was time for soup.

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Sausage, White Beans and Fall Vegetable Soup

2 lbs cooked sausage of your choice, diced small

1 lb bag of uncooked Northern white beans (cook according to directions on the package) or 2 cans of beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups pumpkin or hard squash of your choice, medium cube

2 Anaheim peppers, diced, small

1 jalapeno pepper, diced fine

1 medium onion, diced fine

1-2 heaping TBSP garlic

4 cups fresh spinach, stemmed and chopped in a rough cut

2-3 tomatoes, diced small

about 8 cups of chicken broth – in the picture I show Swanson’s chicken broth, but I actually made my own and used that instead

1 TBSP cinnamon

1-2 tsp allspice

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil

 

Saute the heartier vegetables in olive oil until the onions are translucent and the pumpkin is semi-tender.  Add the sausage and continue to cook until the sausage is cooked completely.

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Once the sausage and vegetables were cooked, I added the beans, the chicken broth, cinnamon, allspice and salt & pepper, as well as the additional sausage and peppers I had.  I brought it up to a boil, then reduced the heat to a simmer, and let simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.

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Add the spinach and tomatoes right at the end, and let it cook for just a few minutes more.  Then serve it up.

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This is one of my recipes that the more stuff I have, the better it gets.  No real recipe, but, again, as I always say, use what you have and use what you like.  I love all kinds of vegetables, so for me, that’s easy.   I always have a ton of different vegetables on hand.  I just put in a little of this and a little of that, stir my magic wooden spoon, and magic in the kitchen just happens.  I had some leftover sausage with mushrooms, peppers and onions in a spicy marinara sauce, so I added that to my soup as well.  I figured, I was already adding tomatoes and sausage, so why not add a bit more.  It made the soup really hearty.  I just might have to do that again, the next time I make this soup.

Time for soup.  I served it with a couple of slices of warmed rosemary bread and a very smooth, full bodied zinfandel with lots hints of black cherry.  The fruitiness of the wine accompanied the spice of the soup just perfectly.   Bon Appetit!

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Pumpkin Biscotti

I know, yesterday I said I did not need to bake any more sweets, but I just had to make these.  Not so much to satisfy my sweet tooth, although that is certainly true, but I had some leftover white chocolate ganache from when I made my lemon-thyme truffles White Chocolate Lemon-Thyme Truffles that I just had to use before it went bad.  It was eating away at me.  I had to find a use for it.  And I did.  I made pumpkin biscotti.

It’s pumpkin season, and I just love pumpkin.  I love it every which way it can be cooked.  Today, pumpkin biscotti, and tomorrow it will be pumpkin in a different way.

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All you need to make pumpkin biscotti.

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Pumpkin Biscotti

3 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice or 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp allspice

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1 TBSP vanilla

1 1/4 cups toasted pecans, chopped fine

cranberries (optional)

1 cup white chocolate, melted for dipping

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream or more as needed

 

Preheat the oven to 350* F

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper

 

Mix all the dry ingredients, except the nuts, together and set aside.

Mix the eggs, brown sugar, vanilla and pumpkin together in a mixer.  Add 1/2 of the flour and mix, then add the rest of the flour and mix.  Once everything is well combined, gently fold in the nuts and/or cranberries.  Divide the dough in half.

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On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into two logs, about 3×10 and place on the baking sheets.  Bake for about 35 minutes, then remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes.

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Reduce the oven tempeperature to 325* F.  Slice the biscotti logs into slices about 1/2″ thick with a serrated knife, and place back on the baking sheets and return to the oven for about 20-30 more minutes, or until the biscotti is nice and crispy.  After about 10-15 minutes, flip the cookies over onto the other side and return to the oven to continue baking.

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Once the biscotti has cooled completely, melt your white chocolate and cream together  to make your white chocolate ganache.   White Chocolate Lemon-Thyme Truffles

Dip half the cookie into the ganache and shake off the excess.  Repeat until all the cookies are done.  If the ganache gets too cool and becomes difficult to work with, just re-heat it until it becomes liquid again and continue.

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As with any other type of biscotti, these are best when served and/or dipped into a nice cup of coffee, tea or a steaming hot cappuccino.

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***I did not think of using cranberries until I already had them in the oven.  Oh well.  Next time.