Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year’s Eve Party ~ Cocktails - Appetizers - Desserts

Here’a a picture of the infamous Times Square Ball.
On New Year’s Eve it will be raised to the top of the pole and then decended down in time to
ring in the new year.
It’s a time for celebration and some bubbly…champagne.
“Where is the Ball lowered?
The Times Square New Year's Eve Ball descends from a flagpole at the top of One Times Square. It can best be seen along Broadway, from 43rd Street to 50th Street, and along Seventh Avenue, as far north as 59th Street." You can read about the history of the ball here.

“Each year during the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square in Manhattan, New York City, a time ball made by Waterford Crystal and electric lights is raised to the top of a pole on the One Times Square building and then lowered to mark the coming of the New Year. The Ball descends 77 feet (23 m) over the course of a minute, coming to rest at the bottom of its pole at 12:00 am. Toshiba's Times Square billboard directly below the Ball counts down to midnight as well.

Every year up to one million people gather in Times Square to watch the Ball drop, and an estimated 1 billion watch the video of the event, 100 million of them in the United States.”

Have you ever seen the Times Square New Year's Eve Ball drop in New York? It must be so exciting to be with so many people ringing in the new year. Will be adding this to my bucket list for sure!

Now onto New Year’s Eve preparations…


Coquito is a drink my family enjoys during the holidays. This version is an eggless eggnog. You can find the recipe on my blog post,  Coquito ~ Puerto Rican Eggnog.

On to Appetizers… I’m making four appetizers for New Year’s Eve.

#1 Pecan-Cheese Filled Wontons ~

A dollop of soft cheese mixed with crushed pecans are the center of the wonton. Wasabi and ginger-laced soy sauce is used as a dipping sauce for the sauteed wontons. (note: I sautee instead of fry the wontons)

#2 Mini Fish Skewers ~
The skewers consist of cherry tomatoes, scallions and sauteed swordfish. Cilantro vinaigrette is the dipping sauce.

The Cilantro Vinaigrette Sauce can be found in Bobby Flay’s book, Mesa Grill Cookbook.

# 3 Zucchini Bites ~

Zucchini strips are dipped in flour, egg and panko bread crumbs. The panko covered zucchini strips are sauteed in oil and served with an Orange Mustard Marmalade Dipping Sauce. See recipe below.

Orange Mustard Marmalade Dipping Sauce

Adapted by Carmen of Baking is my Zen

½ cup orange marmalade
2 teaspoons Dijon style mustard (or a good Spicy Brown Mustard)
2 teaspoons lemon juice (I omit this)
2 teaspoons orange juice (I omit this)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce or diced jalapeno pepper. Add to taste (my addition)
Cilantro – chopped. Add to taste (my addition)

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix until well blended.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
Use with any appetizers that can be dipped (such as: Panko covered Zucchini strips,  Coconut Shrimp, Crispy Chicken Wings).

# 4 Dipping Oil & Artisanal Bread ~ A Fuss-Free Appetizer

By Carmen of Baking is my Zen
This is so easy to put together. You can purchase any artisanal bread you like, such as Ciabatta (my fav) and a cheese of your choice, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano.

1.Put a plate on the table.
2.Pour some olive oil on plate.
3.Sprinkle with your favorite spices (oregano, basil etc), salt and pepper and mix.
4.Dip warm pieces of artisanal bread into the spiced olive oil. A delightful match for the tastebuds!
5.To make this even better, enjoy the bread & oil with pieces of parmesan cheese (or any cheese you like).
6.Also, (optional) but a nice topper…enjoy this with a glass of wine. After all, it’s for New Year’s Eve.

Time for the best part…Dessert…

I’m baking a Pound Cake for my mom’s birthday. That’s what she requested. She’s not a fan of frosting. So, she doesn’t want a typical birthday cake. I’ve made this many times and it is always well received.
Here’s the pound cake recipe on called  Elvis Presley's Favorite Pound Cake.

Dulce De Leche Blondies is also on my list to bake. Everyone in my family loves this dessert. It has sweetened condensed milk in the center. This makes it heavenly! You can find the recipe on my blog post called

New Year’s Resolutions…Are you one to make new year’s resolutions? I always do. To make sure I have a balance of things to accomplish, I add goals that include mind, body, and soul.

Here’s a New Year’s Resolution Worksheet I found online. Check it out!

I look forward to a great New Year's Eve with my family!
May you also have a blessed and loving time with your family!

I raise my champagne glass to you…
Peace, Love, and Prosperity in the new year!

Welcome 2011…I embrace you with open arms.

Peace and love, Carmen

Baking is my Zen...sweet nibbles for the soul

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from Carmen of Baking is my Zen

Merry Christmas to you and your families!

Below are photos I've taken and posted using a Christmas theme on
This year,  I joined the flickr group Christmas Countdown 2010,
~ Enjoy the different photos depicting Christmas Time ~

Here are the photos in the order they were posted to my

All I Want For Christmas Is You
by Mariah Carey

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (1993 TV Special)
by Johnny Mathis

Frosty The Snowman
by Jimmy Durante

Let it Snow!
by Dean Martin

The Polar Express ~ "Believe"
by Josh Groban

The Christmas Shoes  
By NewSong

Grown-Up Christmas List
By Amy Grant

"I'll Be Home for Christmas"
Rascal Flatts Official Music Video

Step Into Christmas
By Elton John

Last Christmas
by Wham

"Wonderful Christmas Time"
By Paul McCartney

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Beatles Christmas

Happy Xmas –(War is Over)
By John Lennon

Do They Know It's Christmas?
By Band Aid -  (Music Video with Names of Singers)

Jingle Bell Rock  
By Bobby Helms

Merry Christmas Darling
By  The Carpenters - (1992 Remix)

Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town
By Bruce Springsteen

Nat King Cole featuring Natalie Cole ~

Deck the Halls
Sung by Dickens Carolers

I Won't Forget This Christmas
By plusOne

Silver Bells (Christmas Special 1965)
By Andy Williams and Osmond Brothers

Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree
By Brenda Lee

Christmas Canon
Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Feliz Navidad
By José Féliciano

The First Noel
By Phil Wickham

Mary Did You Know?
By Mark Lowry

Joseph's Lullaby
By MercyMe

O Holy Night (Spain, Merida)
By IL Divo

The Virgin's Lullaby
by The Nativity Voices

~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~      ~
What did I  bake for Christmas? I baked Rugelachs for my family.
I'll post that recipe in a future post.

How about you?
What did you bake for Christmas?

Have a blessed and Merry Christmas!


Carmen of Baking is my Zen

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Crepes Suzette ~ A FLAMBE Experience

Hi…I’m Carmen. Welcome to my blog, Baking is my Zen.

Have you ever tried Crepes Suzette? If you tell me ‘no’, then I want to share with you one thing…it’s so delicious, you’ll thank me many times over for bringing it up.

It’s our twelfth Pastry Techniques Class, (12/18/10), at The French Culinary Institute, and we are now playing with FIRE! Well…not really. We made Crepes Suzette. These are crepes flamed with Grand Marnier.

There are four components combined together that deem this dessert to be called ‘sophisticated’:
1- thin crepes
2- orange butter
3- grand marnier
4- garniture: candied julienned orange rind

Crêpe Suzette is a French dessert consisting of a crêpe with beurre Suzette, a sauce of caramelized sugar and butter, tangerine or orange juice, zest, and Grand Marnier or orange Curaçao liqueur on top, served flambé.
The most common way to make Crêpe Suzette is to pour liqueur (usually Grand Marnier) over a freshly cooked crêpe with sugar and light it. This will make the alcohol in the liqueur evaporate, resulting in a fairly thick, caramelised sauce. In a restaurant, a Crêpe Suzette is often prepared in a chafing dish in full view of the guests.”

Check out this video of crepes flamed with Grand Marnier.

PASTRY STUDENTS listen as Instructor/Chef Rebecca Kaiser demonstrates how to make Crepes Suzette. Chef Claudia Silva assists Chef Rebecca in the preparation of the dessert components.

The Crepes Suzettes were flambéed, then plated. The students were invited for a taste test. It’s a wonderful dessert! I dare say, WOW! The candied julienned orange rinds bring a dimension to this dessert that makes it memorable.

FCI pastry arts students in action…

FCI students that appear in this blog:
Angel Han
Caitlin Jensen
Carmen Ortiz
Carrie Cullen
Jose Toro
Lloyd Gould
Shahul Hameed
Soo Hyun Kang
Tomoko Kubo
Xiaoran Zheng

Here’s a recipe for Crepes Suzette and Candied Orange Rind I found online if you’re interested in making this dessert. It’s similar to the one we made in pastry class.

Peace in Baking,

Baking is my Zen…sweet nibbles for the soul




Thank You.

~ Carmen Ortiz - blogger (Baking is my Zen)