Making Hospital Food Look Good

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Cobb salad, chicken noodle soup and wheat roll.

Cobb salad, chicken noodle soup and wheat roll.

This is my 6th day in the hospital. My water broke on Monday and I’m stuck here until this little one is born. It was a bit scary at first, but now we’ve kind of settled into a hospital routine. I miss my family terribly, but I’m trying to keep busy.

Steel cut oats, fresh fruit, and yogurt parfait.

Steel cut oats, fresh fruit, and yogurt parfait.

Can we talk about hospital food please? I have to say the food here is not that bad, but the options are limited and a lot of it is processed food, canned peaches, boxed mashed potatoes, and stuff like that. It’s funny how it takes something like this to happen so you can appreciate the things you have at home. I don’t cook fancy or complicated meals all the time, but almost everything is done from scratch, and boy does that make a difference!

Strip steak, peppers & onions, green beans, and baked potato.

Strip steak, peppers & onions, green beans, and baked potato.

Since I have all this time on my hands I’ve resolved to make hospital food look good. It’s amazing what a little food styling and editing can do! Hopefully we’ll be out of here soon with a healthy baby girl and a renewed motivation for cooking good, healthy, and fresh food for our family. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Buttermilk Spoonbread

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One of the best things about moving around so much is all the people you meet. We have friends all over the country now, and that’s pretty cool if you ask me. Of course the goodbyes never get easier, no matter how often they happen.

Heat buttermilk and add cornmeal.

Heat buttermilk and add cornmeal.

Add butter and let cool.

Add butter and let cool.

Add egg yolks.

Add egg yolks.

I got this recipe from a new friend, Mary Neville. Mary has been living with celiac disease for over 40 yrs. This however has not stopped her from living her life for one bit. In fact, I would say it has motivated her to raise awareness, raise money for research, be a volunteer tester for new gluten-free products, counseling newly diagnosed patients and families, and working with a local supermarket chain dietician to offer monthly gluten-free baking and cooking seminars.

Mary Neville

Mary Neville

Add whipped egg whites.

Add whipped egg whites.

Fold in.

Fold in.

Pour into ramekins.

Pour into ramekins.

She was gluten-free way before there were gluten-free items on grocery shelves. This means that she had to learn to create her own products using rice flour from the Asian Center, grow her own organic vegetables, and take cooking classes to adapt traditional recipes to be gluten-free. If there was one thing you should now about Mary is that she has a true passion for raising awareness about celiac disease. It is because of people like her that there are now so many gluten-free products available and that many people are diagnosed early on in their lives. Thank you Mary for sharing this recipe with us.

Mary invited us over and we had a mini gluten free feast.

Mary invited us over and we had a mini gluten free feast.

Spoonbread is a traditional southern dish. I have to admit that I had never had spoonbread before, but I was enchanted by it. It has all the wonderful taste of a proper cornmeal based bread, but without the downside of a dry overcooked cornbread. It is exactly what it sounds like, a bread you eat with a spoon, but I would say it is more like a soufflé of sorts. Oh and it’s gluten-free! It pairs well southern classics like grilled pork chop and braised greens. Enjoy!

[If you would like more information on celiac disease, what the symptoms are, how it is diagnosed and treated, visit the A World Celiac Community Foundation website, where Mary Neville is a board member.]

Buttermilk Spoonbread

 Yield: 4 portions

Time:  40 min.

 Ingredients:

Buttermilk 1 ½ cups
Yellow or white cornmeal, stone ground ½ cup
Butter, unsalted 2 tbsp.
Salt, kosher ¾ tsp.
Eggs, separated 3 ea.
Green onions, thinly sliced 3 ea.
Cheddar cheese, sharp ½ cup (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Butter sides and bottom of an 8×8 casserole dish or 4-6 small ramekins.
  2. Heat buttermilk in saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cornmeal and continue stirring until the mixture is thick, about 3 min. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Add egg yolks and green onions to cornmeal mixture and stir well.
  4. Beat egg whites to soft peaks. Fold in to cornmeal mixture using a rubber spatula.
  5. Pour mixture into pan or ramekins.
  6. Bake for 25-30 min. or until puffed and golden brown.
  7. Serve immediately.

Chef Notes:

Recipe adapted from RELISH, a recipe by Nancy Vienneau.

Señor Juan’s Pozole Rojo (Red Chile Pork and Hominy Stew)

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Pozole Rojo

Pozole Rojo

What I wouldn’t give for a huge bowl of pozole! I’m 6 1/2 months pregnant now, and I am so hungry all the time!

Pork shank and pork trotters

Pork leg and pork trotters

Bring to boil in a large pot of water with an onion and garlic cloves.

Bring to boil in a large pot of water with an onion and garlic cloves.

In my recent trip to Mexico I was able to photograph my Tio Juan as he made pozole rojo for our Christmas celebration.  Pozole is a traditional Mexican dish that consists of stewed pork, hominy, and spices. The  ingredients and preparation vary from one region to another. (This particular version is common in Northern Mexico.) My grandmother used to make humongous vats of pozole for Christmas Eve, and it is rumored that only my Tio Juan knows the secret recipe. So I was more than happy to document the whole process, for myself of course, but also to share it with you. Because it’s in moments like these, when you’re a ravenous pregnant woman, or when you’re extremely hung over, that you want to dig into a huge bowl of pozole and never look back.

Remove the seeds and stems from the chiles.

Remove the seeds and stems from the chiles.

From left to right, chile guajillo (left), chile ancho (middle), chile de arbol (right)

From left to right, chile guajillo (left), chile ancho (middle), chile de arbol (right)

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Rinse and cover with water. Bring to a boil.

Rinse and cover with water. Bring to a boil, simmer for 10 min.

poz12_172My Tio Juan has been in the restaurant business for a loong time. His current restaurant is in Mexico, D.F, and it is adequately called Sr. Juan. I haven’t been there yet, sadly, but the menu is a mix of my uncle’s northern Mexican roots and modern Mexican cuisine, with a touch of exotic ingredients. The restaurant also doubles as an art gallery with expositions from Arma Blanca and with live performances from artists such as Alex Ferreira, Gustavo Galindo, Sonido Landon, and Sofi Mayen. If only I lived closer, sigh!

Tio Juan

Tio Juan

Blend chiles with some of the soaking water until smooth. Strain.

Blend chiles with some of the soaking water until smooth. Strain. Cook in lard for 15 min.

The pozole was the highlight of our dinner that night, but spending time with my Tio made me realize how important it is to preserve family recipes. Sometimes, I wish I could go back in time and observe my grandmother while she cooks. Each generation adds a bit of a twist to the classic family dishes, but they remain mostly the same. Especially now that our families are multi-cultural and multi-generational, recipes are truly part of our heritage and are one of the best things we can pass on to our children. Gracias Tio for keeping this recipe alive!(Gracias Tio por compartir tu receta.)

I encourage you to try this recipe at home even if you’re unfamiliar with some of the ingredients. It is Mexican comfort food at its best, and if you happen to be traveling to  the D.F. in the near future, stop by Sr. Juan and try the pozole there. I have adapted this recipe at home to serve 6-8 people. Enjoy!

Remove pork from cooking liquid and remove bones and pull apart.

Remove pork from cooking liquid and remove bones and pull apart.

Rinse hominy and add to cooking liquid.

Rinse hominy and add to pot. Add pork and chile sauce back to pot and cook for 30 min. more

Toast chile piquin.

Toast chile piquin.

Blend with olive oil.

Blend with olive oil. Serve on the side.

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Señor Juan’s Pozole Rojo

 Yield:  6 – 8 servings

Time:  3hrs.

Ingredients:

Pork leg, cut into 2” pieces by butcher 2 ¼ lb.
Pork trotters, cut into 2” pieces by butcher 1 lb.
Garlic, cloves, peeled & crushed 6 ea.
Onion, peeled, cut in 1/2 ½ ea.
Chile guajillo, stemmed and seeded 5 ea.
Chile ancho, stemmed and seeded 2 ea.
Chile de arbol, stemmed and seeded 5 ea.
Lard, pork 2 tbsp.
Hominy, drained & rinsed 1 can (29 oz.)
Radishes, trimmed, julienned 10 ea.
Onion, white, large, minced 1 each
Green cabbage, cored, thinly sliced ¼ ea.
Limes, cut into quarters 4 ea.
Corn chips As needed

Chile Piquin Sauce

Olive Oil ½ cup
Chile piquin, dried ½ oz (1/4 cup)

Preparation:

  1. Place garlic onion, pork leg, pork trotters, and 3 quarts of water in a large heavy pot.  Bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Reduce heat low- medium and simmer for about 2 ½ hrs. or until pork is tender. Skim the surface constantly.
  3. While pork is simmering, remove stems and seeds from the chile ancho, arbol, and guajillo. Rinse and place in a medium pot with water.
  4. Bring pot to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 min.
  5. Drain chiles and transfer them to a blender. Add 3 cups of the chile water and blend until smooth. Strain.
  6. Set a large sauce pot with lard to medium-high heat. Add chile mixture and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for 15 min. Set aside.
  7. Drain hominy, rinse and set aside.
  8. Transfer pork to a large bowl and shred using a fork or your hands. Remove bones and discard onion and garlic cloves.
  9. Return pork to pot and add chile mixture and hominy. Season with salt. Simmer for 30 min. more.
  10. To make the chile piquin sauce: toast the chiles over high heat on a dry sauté pan for 1-2 minutes. Trasnfer to a blender with ½ cup of olive oil. Blend until seeds are no longer visible, but the sauce is not completely smooth. Set aside.
  11. Serve pozole with limes, cut radishes, onion, cabbage, and chile piquin sauce as toppings and corn chips on the side.

Chef’s Notes:

The chile piquin sauce is super hot! If you like your pozole spicy add as much as you please.

Mandu (Korean Pork Dumplings)

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Mandu (Korean Pork Dumplings)

Mandu (Korean Pork Dumplings)

This week I have come to the conclusion that we might be a little bit weird around here.  I don’t think weird is the right word, but when it comes to our customs and the food we eat we definitely do not fit in any sort of box.

Salt cabbage and let sit for 45 min.

Salt cabbage and let sit for 45 min.

I’m Mexican and my husband is Korean-American. We are both professionals in the food world, which means we have been exposed to many different kinds of cuisines and we also cook them in our home. We have a four-year-old son who has tried and eaten more foods than the average American adult. There is no a-la-carte menu at home, so he eats what we make, there is no other option.

Clean mung beans

Clean mung beans

Blanch mung beans in boiling water for 1 min. and run under cold water.

Blanch mung beans in boiling water for 1 min. and run under cold water.

Mexican, American and Korean traditions and customs abound in our home and somehow coexist harmoniously. Sometimes not so much, like the time I made jicama kimchi. Ugh, not good. Other times it just kind of works, like having a traditional Korean 1st birthday party that included a piñata.

Sweet potato noodles.

Sweet potato noodles.

I’m about 6 months pregnant now and for the last couple of weeks I have been craving Korean food pretty badly. There aren’t any Korean restaurants near by, [it's the South!], but we did find a great Korean grocery store in Savannah. Ever since then, I have been eating tons of kimchi. This week, I made Korean dumplings (mandu) to celebrate Chinese New Year. We used them in a traditional rice cake soup called Tteokguk.

Mix all ingredients together and season with salt and pepper.

Mix all ingredients together and season with salt and pepper.

Filling

Filling

My mother-in-law taught me how to make these when I was a newly-wed, so I could make them every year for New Year’s. We didn’t really know each other very well and I was happy that she was willing to share her recipe with me. We made the mix together and had made about 25 dumplings when she announced she was going to the mall and would be back in a couple of hours. She just left me there making over 150 dumplings by myself! We only had one car back then, and the hubby had taken it to work. I think after dumpling 125 I broke down in tears! I don’t know why, I guess I was kind of hurt she just left me. I wanted to impress her, but I really didn’t want to make any more dumplings. Anyway, just newly-wed stuff I guess. I will tell you one thing though, I certainly did learn how to make Korean dumplings!

Place filling in center.

Place filling in center.

Moisten one of the edges with water and fold like a taco.

Moisten one of the edges with water and fold like a taco.

Moisten edge again and make 6 or 7 folds.

Moisten edge again and make 6 or 7 folds.

Yay! Dumplings

Yay! Dumplings

I have included a little video on how to fold the dumplings which could be a little complicated at first. Enjoy!

Kihong’s Mandu (Korean Dumplings)

Yield: 100 ea.

Time: 2-3 hrs.

 Ingredients:

Napa cabbage, cut into ¼ in. strips 5 cups
Pork, ground 1 lb.
Mung beans ½ lb.
Ginger, fresh, minced 1 tbsp.
Garlic, cloves, minced 3 ea.
Green onion, sliced 6 ea.
Onion, yellow, minced ¾ cup
Tofu, extra soft 1 pkg. (11 oz)
Korean vermicelli (sweet potato noodles) 4 oz
Salt, kosher To Taste
Black Pepper, ground To taste
Dumpling skins, round 2 pkgs.
Soy sauce 2/3 cup
Vinegar, white 1/3 cup
Sesame seeds 1 tsp.

 Preparation:

  1. Place cut cabbage in colander and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of salt. Let sit for 45 min. Squeeze water out and set aside.
  2. Place ground pork in a large bowl.
  3. Dunk mung beans in boiling water for 2 min., make sure they’re still crunchy. Remove from pot and run under cold water. Chop mung beans into ¼ in. pieces. Add to pork.
  4. Use a paper towel to dry tofu and crumble it over pork mixture.
  5. Cook noodles as directed by the package, run under cold water, and cut into ¼ inch pieces. Add to pork mixture.
  6. Add ginger, garlic, green onions, cabbage, onion, salt and pepper to the pork mixture. Mix ingredients by hand. This is your filling.
  7. To make sure your mix is seasoned correctly sauté a small patty of the mixture until cooked through. Then you will know if it needs more salt or pepper.
  8. Set up your station: a sheet pan sprinkled with cornmeal, a glass of cold water, dumpling skins wrapped in a moist paper towel to keep from drying out, and pork filling.
  9. To make the dumplings: place about 1 tsp. of the filling in the center of the dumpling skin. Use your finger to wet one edge of the dumpling skin. Fold skin in half, like a taco, and press edges together to seal. Use your fingers to fold the sealed edge of the dumpling 6 times.
  10. Repeat this process with the rest of the pork filling. Place dumplings on the sheet pan..
  11. To make dipping sauce: combine vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame seeds.
  12. You can freeze them the dumplings or steam them for 5 to 6 minutes. Serve with a dipping sauce

Charleston Cheese Spread

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Charleston Cheese Spread with homemade pita chips and vegetables

Charleston Cheese Spread with homemade pita chips and vegetables

We haven’t taken down the Christmas tree yet! Mmmmm, yeah. We have been procrastinating, big time, and today instead of taking it down I made this cheese spread. It’s a great recipe from the Lee brothers cookbook, Charleston Kitchen.

Combine all ingredients

Combine all ingredients

We have been living in the south for about 6 months now, and I’m still trying to figure out how things work around here. I think I’ve come to accept that alligators live among us, and that bugs are just part of the landscape. I continue to learn more and more about the food, but I still haven’t found a nice lady who will teach me the southern ways, which is what I really need. The abundance of oysters and shrimp is almost overwhelming, especially now that I’m pregnant and can’t eat oysters, but the bbq is tangy, smoky, and soo rich. I can definitely eat that! The biscuits for breakfast, the grits, and the greens cooked in bacon fat are all great comfort food, the kind that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and keeps you coming back for more.

Process until smooth.

Process until smooth.

One of those typical southern dishes is pimento cheese. Traditionally it consists of cheddar cheese, pimentos, mayo, Worcestershire, and some kid of hot sauce. It is eaten with crackers, crudité platters, sandwiches, added to grits or even hamburgers. This recipe is reminiscent of pimento cheese, except for one thing, it has no pimentos. Instead it has horseradish, lemon juice, beer, cheddar cheese, and hot sauce; which makes this a savory, tangy, and spicy cheese dip. It’s a crowd pleaser, so be sure to take it to your next party.

Making pita chips.

Making pita chips.

Charleston Cheese Spread

 Yield: 2 cups

Time: 20 min.

Ingredients:

Cheddar cheese, grated 3 cups
Beer, lager or ale ¼ cup
Lemon juice, fresh 3 tbsp.
Ketchup 2 tbsp.
Worcestershire sauce 2 tbsp.
Horseradish, prepared, drained 1 tbsp.
Tabasco 2 tbsp.
Dry mustard 1 ½ tsp.
Garlic clove, minced 1 ea.

Preparation:

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Serve.

Chef’s Notes: 

Recipe adapted from the Lee Brothers Charleston Kitchen. To make pita chips: cut pita bread into 8ths. Toss with oil and spread on a sheet tray with parchment paper. Bake at 350F for 10 to 15 min. or until golden brown.

The Best of 2013: Top 10 Posts on Dora´s Table

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top10

Another year gone by…..let´s take a look at Dora´s Table top 10 posts of 2013.

This year has been a great one, filled with lots of surprises and bittersweet moments. However, I´m looking forward to 2014 and all that it will bring. As this little blog is concerned, I´m excited about where next year will take us. In 2013 we tripled our views and followers!! Hopefully we will continue to grow and share our recipes with you. Thank you for reading, for all of your likes, and your comments, they are truly appreciated.

Top 10 Posts 2013

  1. Chocolate Chip Challah Bread Pudding - You guys sure have a sweet tooth!
  2. Mango-Chile Popsicles (Paletas de Mango con Chile) - A Mexican classic.
  3. Sangrita: The Best Tequila Chaser - This one you need to try! It willl change the way you view tequila.
  4. Bibingka (Filipino Coconut Rice Cake) - This is an old Philipino family recipe given to me by a friend.
  5. Carlota de Limon (Key Lime Icebox Cake) - My favorite cake, after tres leches of course!
  6. “Pinche” Sauce (Creamy Chipotle Sauce) - This vegan sauce will surprise even the meat eaters out there.
  7. Marshmallow Fondant - Step by step instructions on how to make your own.
  8. Quinoa and Zucchini Stuffed Chile Relleno & Creamy Chipotle Sauce - A vegan main course with a Mexican touch.
  9. 5 Things You Should Know Before Marrying Someone in F & B - Are you thinking about marrying someone who works in restuarants? Read this.
  10. Lord Manderly’s Pork Pie - This one is for the fans of Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin

Easy Holiday Hors d’oeuvres

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It´s Christmas Eve!! Are you still looking for some easy hors d’oeuvres to dazzle your guests? Look no further. Here are some from previous years: brie and quince phyllo triangles, bacon wrapped persimmons, Maryland style crab dip, potato blinis with smoked salmon and creme fraiche, and oysters on the half shell with a blood orange mignonette.

The munchkin and I are enjoying lazy mornings in our pjs, long afternoons in my dads restaurant, and many conversations and laughs with our family. I hope you are enjoying a wonderful time with your family. Remember not to stress about the meals, and inevitable drama that comes with these types of gatherings. Have a Merry Christmas!!

Bacon Wrapped Persimmons

Bacon Wrapped Persimmons

Bacon Wrapped Persimmons

 Yield: 12 portions

Prep Time: 10 min.

Ingredients:

Fuyu persimmons, medium 4 ea.
Bacon, applewood smoked 8 slices
Balsamic Vinegar 2 tbsp.

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Peel persimmons and cut into eighths.
  3. Cut each strip of bacon into thirds.
  4. Wrap each persimmon slice with a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick or just place seam side down, 1 inch apart,  on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake for 15 min. and flip persimmon slices. Bake for 15 more minutes until bacon is crispy.
  6. Remove from oven and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Serve

Chef’s Notes:

Choose a Balsamic Vinegar of superior quality.

Brie and Quince Phyllo Triangles

Brie and Quince Phyllo Triangles

Brie and Quince Phyllo Triangles

 Yield: 12 Servings

Prep time: 20 min.

Ingredients:

Brie cheese, cut into 24 (1.5”) triangles 6 oz.
Quince Paste ½ cup
Phyllo dough, defrosted 1 box ( 1 lb)
Butter, unsalted, melted 1 stick (8 tbsp)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Unfold the package of phyllo and keep it covered with a moist paper towel at all times to keep it from drying out.
  3. Lay out 1 sheet of phyllo dough horizontally on top of a cutting board.
  4. Brush with about 1 tbsp. of melted butter. Place a second sheet on top and repeat the process two more times.
  5. Once you have four sheets of phyllo piled on top of each other, cut into 2” strips width-wise.
  6. Align a cheese triangle with the end of one of the strips. Place about 1/4 of tsp. of quince paste on top of cheese.
  7. Fold the corner of phyllo with cheese on it, over unto itself, and continue this process until you have a compact triangle.
  8. Repeat steps 1-6 as many times as necessary.
  9. Place phyllo triangles on a parchment lined sheet tray and brush with butter. Bake for about 15 min. or until phyllo is golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool 2-3 min. before eating.

Chef’s Notes:

Olive oil or any kind of oil blend can be used instead of butter. You can substitute Manchego cheese for the Brie with great results. Quince paste can be found in a can in Hispanic grocery stores, the La Costeña brand is the one most commonly available.

Maryland style crab dip in bread bowl

Maryland style crab dip in bread bowl

Maryland Style Crab Dip

 Yield: 6 -8 servings

Time: 1 hr. 10 min.

 Ingredients:

Cream cheese 1 pkg. (8 oz.)
Mayonnaise ½ cup
Sour cream ¾ cup
Old Bay seasoning 1 tsp.
Worcestershire sauce ½ tsp.
Crab meat, jumbo lump, picked 1 lb.
Swiss or Monterrey Jack cheese ½ cup
Capers, chopped 1 tsp.
White bread, round loaf 1 ea.

Preparation:

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine cream cheese, mayo, sour cream, and old bay seasoning. Mix at medium speed. Add Worcestershire sauce and continue mixing until smooth.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F.
  3. By hand fold in cheese and crab meat. Place mixture in an 8”  x 8” pyrex container and bake for 45 min, or until cheese is melted and dip is bubbling.
  4. Meanwhile cut off the top of the bread and hollow it out.  When crab dip is finished baking, scoop it in the hollowed out bread.
  5. Serve with toasted bread or veggies.
Potato blinis topped with smoked salmon, creme fraiche, capers & dill

Potato blinis topped with smoked salmon, creme fraiche, capers & dill

Potato Blinis

Yield8-10 servings

Time1 hr.

Ingredients:

Potatoes, Idaho, large 2 ea.
Eggs, large 2 ea.
Flour, all-purpose 2 ea.
Salt & Pepper To Taste

Preparation:

  1. Place potatoes in a pot, skin on, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and let simmer until the potatoes are fork tender.
  2. Remove potatoes from pot and let them cool slightly. Peel hot potatoes and pass them through a ricer into a large bowl.
  3. Quickly, whisk the eggs, flour, crème fraiche, salt, and pepper into the potatoes.
  4. The batter should have a consistency similar to pancake batter, if it’s too dry add more crème fraiche.
  5. Heat a griddle to 350F or set a large non-stick sauté pan to medium heat. Pour batter into a large piping bag and pour small dollops onto pan or griddle. Cook for 1 min. then flip. Cook 1 min, on other side, or until they are golden brown. Keep warm.
  6. Serve with toppings of choice.

 Chef Notes:

I topped my blinis with smoked salmon, crème fraiche, capers and dill, but the possibilities are endless. If you’re looking to splurge top them with caviar and crème fraiche.

Pacific Oyster & Grapefruit- Blood Orange Mignonette

Pacific Oyster & Grapefruit- Blood Orange Mignonette

Grapefruit- Blood Orange Mignonette

 Yield: ½ cup

Time: 15 min.

Ingredients:

Shallots, finely minced 1.5 ea.
Serrano Pepper, seeded and minced ½ ea.
Grapefruit, large, segmented ½ ea.
Blood orange, segmented, w/juice ½ ea.
Champagne Vinegar 2 tbsp.
Black Pepper, coarse grind 1/8 tbsp.
Olive oil 1/8 tbsp.
Paprika, sweet 1/8 tbsp.

Preparation:

  1. In a small sauté pan, sweat shallot in ½ tsp. of canola oil at medium-low heat until translucent. Remove from pan, set aside, and let cool.
  2. Cut the orange and grapefruit segments into small dice and combine them with the shallots, juice, Serrano pepper, black pepper, paprika, olive oil, and champagne vinegar.
  3. Season to taste. Serve with raw oysters in the half-shell.

Chef’s Notes:

Leave out the Serrano pepper for a non-spicy version.

 

Hojarascas (Anise-Orange Shortbread Cookies)

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Hojarascas

Hojarascas

Aaaaaagh!! So much to do, so little time. We bought a house two weeks ago and I’m still unpacking, and now between work, Christmas shopping, cookie making, and packing for our trip to Mexico, I’m running out of time! [I would like to publicly apologize to all the working moms I might have looked at with judging eyes, thinking they had it easy, because they at least got to be out in the real world. As I have recently found out, working full-time with children is more demanding than I thought it would be. I wouldn't say it's easier or harder than being a stay-at-home mom, it's just different. That being said, my admiration for single moms has now cuadrupled. Keep at it ladies, you're amazing!]

Cream butter and sugar

Cream butter and sugar

Add orange zest, anise, salt, vanilla, and flour.

Add orange zest, anise, salt, vanilla, and flour.

We did, however, take the time to bake cookies this weekend. The munchkin helped, up until the point he started throwing flour into the air like it was snow!  It was kind of cute but not exactly helpful, so he was promptly relieved from his helping duties. We baked hojarascas, which are a variation of shortbread cookies scented with anise and orange zest, and dusted with cinnamon sugar. They are commonly eaten in North Eastern Mexico, where they are traditionally baked into little balls, cut into shapes, or made into thumbprint cookies.

Mix well.

Mix well.

Roll dough into little balls and bake for 15 min.

Roll dough into little balls and bake for 15 min.

This is the mother of all cookie recipes (cue angelic choir). It might just be one recipe, but you can make many different kinds of cookies, I made 3. On the other hand, if anise and orange isn’t your thing, you can add ground nuts, dried fruits, or even coat them in chocolate. Our favorite cookie out of the three was the small round one dusted in cinnamon-sugar. What makes this particular recipe soo good, is that it is almost equal parts of butter and flour. Which translates into a moist and rich little ball of goodness. Got to go. Enjoy!

Until golden brown

Until golden brown

Coat in cinnamon-sugar

Coat in cinnamon-sugar

Hojarascas (Anise-Orange Shortbread Cookies)

Yield:  4 dozen cookies

Time: 35 min.

Ingredients:

Butter, room temperature 1 lb. + 3 tbsp.     (500g)
Powdered sugar 1.5 cups               (150g)
AP flour 4 cups + 2 tbsp. (550g)
Salt, kosher ¼ tsp.
Vanilla extract 1 tsp.
Orange zest 2 tbsp.
Anise seeds, ground ½ tsp

Cinnamon-Sugar:

Sugar, granulated 1 ¼ cups
Cinnamon, ground 1 tbsp

Preparation:

Cookie #1 –Little Balls

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Cream butter and sugar, in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment.
  3. Add vanilla, orange zest, salt, and ground anise. Mix.
  4. Slowly add flour, with mixer on low speed.  Mix until well combined.
  5. Line 2 sheet-pans with parchment paper. Roll dough into 1-inch balls.
  6. Place balls on tray 1-inch apart.
  7. Bake for 15 min or until bottoms become golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven.  As soon as cookies are cool enough to handle, dust with cinnamon sugar. Place on a wire rack to cool.
Crosshatch cookies

Crosshatch cookies

Cookie # 2 – Crosshatch Cookies

  1. Take some of the already made dough (steps 1 -4), and shape into 2-inch balls.
  2. Place on sheet tray 1-inch apart. Use a fork to press down firmly on top of each ball once in each direction, to form a crisscross pattern.
  3. Bake at 350F for 20 min, or until golden brown on the bottom.
  4. Remove from oven.  As soon as cookies are cool enough to handle, dust with cinnamon sugar. Place on a wire rack to cool.
Thumbprint cookies

Thumbprint cookies

Cookie # 3 – Apricot Thumbprint Cookies

  1. Take some of the already made dough (steps 1 -4), and shape into 1 ¼-inch balls.
  2. Place on sheet tray 1-inch apart. Use your thumb to press down firmly on center of each ball.
  3. Fill center with 1 tsp. of apricot preserves.
  4. Bake at 350F for 20 min., or until golden brown on the bottom.
  5. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

 Chef’s Note:

To make cinnamon-sugar, simply combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well.

Last Minute Thanksgiving Side: Honey-Balsamic Roasted Green Beans

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Hony-balsamic roasted green beans

Hony-balsamic roasted green beans

Sooo…… I realize I haven’t posted in a while, but I have great news! I’m pregnant!! We are so happy and grateful, but I have spent the last 7 weeks trying not to puke all over myself. The nausea has been brutal. It truly has been a humbling experience.  I have barely been able to eat food, much less cook it. I suddenly realized how much time I spend cooking food, eating food, looking at pictures of food, testing out new recipes, and photographing food.

Toss green beans and onion with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 10 min. in oven.

Toss green beans and onion with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 10 min. in oven.

The nausea has finally started to subside and I am very thankful for that. Ironically, the only things that didn’t gross me out in the beginning were beef, chicken, or fish. So I had to temporarily set aside my attempts at a vegan diet. So yes, I’m back to eating my beloved cheese, and boy am I enjoying it! I’m hoping my aversion to beans will subside soon, and then I might be able to go back to being plant-based.

I know you’re busy so I will keep it short today. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones. I leave you with a last minute side dish recipe, just in case you forgot to buy the mushroom soup for the green bean casserole!

Remove from oven and toss with honey, balsamic, and garlic. Roast for 10 min. more.

Remove from oven and toss with honey, balsamic, and garlic. Roast for 10 min. more.

Honey-Balsamic Roasted Green Beans

 Yield: 4 servings

Time: 25 min.

Ingredients:

Green beans, stems trimmed 1.5 lb.
Olive oil 1 tbsp.
Onion, red, sliced thick ½ ea.
Garlic, clove, sliced thin 2 ea.
Balsamic vinegar 1 tbsp.
Honey 1 tbsp.
Salt, kosher To Taste
Pepper, black To Taste

 Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 450F.  Line baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  2. Place green beans and red onions on baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt, & pepper.
  3. Roast in oven for 10min.
  4. In the meantime in a small bowl whisk the balsamic vinegar, the honey, and the garlic slices. Set aside.
  5. Remove beans from oven and pour the balsamic-honey mix over them. Toss with your tongs.
  6. Continue roasting for 10-12 more minutes or until beans have begun to shrivel and brown.
  7. Remove from oven and serve.

Chef’s Notes:

The beans will shrivel and wrinkle in the oven. They might not look as nice as blanched green beans, but they will taste great. These beans taste great cold with a balsamic honey dressing. Even the kids love this recipe! Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated magazine.

5 Things You Should Know Before Marrying Someone in F & B

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Working in F & B (food and beverage) is not for the faint of heart or body, but being married to someone who works in F & B is not a piece of cake either.[When I say food and beverage I mean chefs, cooks, servers, managers, anybody really who works in a restaurant, hotel, or food establishment.]

An article appeared recently in the Huffington Post called, Five Things Nobody Tells You About Marrying a Chef, and the article had some good points, but there are much more relevant things you should know if you are already madly in love and are planning to get married to someone in the industry. Here is my version.

You will struggle financially. Unless your husband/wife is already a celebrity chef or a high payed hotel manager, you will struggle. Most jobs in f & b are not well paid, so it is definitely not a life of luxury, especially if you have children.

There is no such thing as work-life balance. Work always comes first, except in matters of life or death, but otherwise your significant other will be going to work on holidays, weekends, whether they are sick or your son has a soccer game or your daughter has a dance recital. Which means, your spouse will inevitably miss out on almost everything, weddings, births, funerals, first words, first steps, and family gatherings. This can be especially hard on your relationship and your children. Days can go by without the children seeing the parent who works in the industry. If your spouse works the night shift he/she will be asleep when the kids go to school and when he/she gets home the kids will have already been asleep for several hours. It is hard for children to understand that the parent can’t simply take the time to be with them. However, there are some employers more flexible than others, so your spouse might make it to a thing a or two.

Expect to be on the move. If you want to be successful in the industry you will need to find the best job, even if it means moving across the country more than once. This may not always be the case, but it is a likely possibility.

You will be in charge of the household, and I mean everything. You will be taking care of the children, doctor’s appointments, home repairs, paying bills, cleaning, meal making, etc. When your partner in crime works 12 – 14 hr days the last thing they want to do is cook, clean, fix, or worry about anything other than sleep.

Communication with your spouse will need to be short and sweet. Do not try to communicate anything important to your spouse after their shift. It’s not that they don’t care what you have to say, but after a long day of work and dealing with a thousand things at the same time, the time after work is for decompressing. If you do need to inform them of something make it short, ” I need ….., I want….., give me ….., this happened….” It is even better if you do it by text message, that way there’s evidence that you did indeed asked them to do something, or informed them about something that happened at home.

Every couple and every job is different, but these are only some of the realities of a very demanding business. Is it worth it? It will only be worth it if your spouse has real passion for food and beverage, if this is what he/she loves to do, otherwise the sacrifices you and your family will have to make will be pointless. Is it possible to have a long lasting marriage? I don’t know, ask me in about 20 years! However, when I asked my mom, who has been married to restauranteur for 36 years, she emphasized that it was very important that you know that IT IS POSSIBLE, but that it will require two things: sacrifice and genuine love for your spouse.

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