Monday, July 25, 2016


I'm not much of a custard lover myself but I had yen for flan.

 My sister, Cathy, really liked flan. 

If a Mexican Restuarant didn't serve flan for dessert, she didn't think it was a real Mexican restaurant.    

I dedicate this post to my sister.

While looking for a recipe on  the internet I found a LOT of variations.  Heavy cream, half and half, condensed milk, 3 eggs, 5 eggs.  

Below is the recipe I settled on and I like it.  I like creaminess that sweetened condensed milk adds.  I always make my pumpkin pie with sweetened condensed milk.

 I also thought it would be fun to use a real vanilla bean.  What a messy pain that is.  Good vanilla extract is fine.

Preheat oven to 325

Start with the top, or the bottom.  This is the best part of flan - the caramel on top.

Watch this video to learn how to cook it.

This works perfectly.  I used a glass pie tin and melted the sugar right it.

DO NOT stir the sugar before it melts, it will just get hard

When it begins to melt, stir it in a circular motion, just like the video.  I found it worked better to let it cool and thicken and then move the pan around to coat the sides.

While it's cooling, mix the custard.

  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
  • 1 Tbl vanilla extract

Put the pan in the pan you are going to bake it in.  BEFORE you put the custard in it.  I learned that trick the hard way. 
Pour boiling water to fill the pan halfway.  

I spilled some custard in the water while moving it to the oven but I don't think that hurt anything.  Back 50-60 minutes until the center is still soft but not runny

After it cools what you are supposed to do is run a knife around it and turn it upside down on a plate.  That didn't go so well for me.  Oh well.  It's not the prettiest flan anyone ever made.  But it does taste pretty good.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Tomato Jam & Feta Cheese Spread Crostinis

We have this weird tradition in the Northeastern Iowa Synod Office.   You get a birthday card when you bring treats for everyone.

Well, we have staff that are gluten free and diabetic, so cake and ice cream doesn't really work.  I saw some sample cheese boards on Pinterest and thought "Ah cheese!"

There's a whole thing about cheese boards.  And the things that go with it.  Like nuts and fruit and olives.  Which I don't like, but it sounded like a fun treat to bring.

So I brought a cheese board to the office today.  Well, no actual boards were involved.  

On the menu

  • Sugared pecans
  • Grapes
  • A nice hard salami
  • Marinated mushrooms & artichoke hearts (instead of olives)

And the nice cheese monger at the Hy-Vee helped me pick some good cheeses

  • A VERY sharp Cheddar from Wisconsin
  • An Iowa Cheddar
  • Wisconsin Havarti
  • Smoked Gouda 
  • A soft mild Blue Cheese

It may not jive exactly with the ideal variety of cheeses for a traditional cheese board but they went over very well.

And a delicious tomato jam that paired really well with a feta spread.  Here's the recipe for that:

Tomato jam

  • 1 16 oz container cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 3/4-1 cup sugar (depends on taste)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 4 or 5 leaves basil
  • tsp lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • Pinch red pepper flakes

Cook the tomatoes & garlic on low in tomato sauce until they break down.  You want there to be small, soft pieces, but not mush.  This takes about 10 minutes.  Add sugar.  

Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.  Turn heat down, add salt, pepper flakes, basil and lemon juice and simmer until it is a thick consistency.  This takes about 10 minutes.  Let it cool.  It may get thicker in time.

Feta with Cream Cheese Spread

16 oz cream cheese, room temp
16 oz crumbled feta
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1 Tbl Italian herbs
pinch of salt
2 Tbl olive oil

Mix all this in a bowl.  If you have a small food processor you can do that, but it's easy to mix and I didn't think it was worth dirtying my processor.

Put the cheese spread on a cracker or crostini.  Put a little tomato jam on that.  If you really want to go crazy, top that with shaved parmesan.