Flan

FlanThat’s the Flan
The older I get the more I notice how time is speeding up. The month of April is gone and I seriously have no idea where it went. It’s crazy to believe that we are now in the Month of May. But if it is early in the month of May you know what that means…

For me, Cinco de Mayo is just another excuse to make Mexican food which, frankly, I make a lot. However, for Cinco de Mayo I like to step up my game. I try to dig a little deeper into Mexican cuisine and get to the good stuff beyond tacos and enchiladas.

One such dish is flan.

True, flan is not exactly unheard of. You can basically get it in any Mexican restaurant but it’s not something that your average home cook just whips up. I will whip up a batch of guacamole at the drop of a hat. Flan? Not so much.

Flan can be sort of polarizing. I have found that people either like it or they hate it. There is not a lot of grey area. For the most part, it’s a texture thing. Not everybody likes that eggy custard mouthfeel. Personally, I love it. Though it may seem daunting, Mexican flan is not difficult to make especially if you do individual servings. I have had more difficulties with the bigger versions coming out clean.

When making flan, ingredients matter because the recipe is so simple. Make sure you use good quality vanilla. You can also use the seeds from a vanilla bean if you want big vanilla flavor. I like to add a little cinnamon to mine. Try to use a true Ceylon cinnamon if you can.

Regardless of what you serve at your fiesta this weekend, enjoy the great weather, good food, and good friends. And, most of all be safe.

Flan 
Adapted from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy
Yields approximately 8 servings Read more…

Turkey Chili

Turkey ChiliShut Off the Hose!
Ok. I’m done with the water. I wake up every morning and dread looking at the weather report. I fear I’m starting to grow webbed feet. On top of all that, it’s been rather cold. And, don’t get me started about the snow.

In all fairness, February is usually a rainy, gloomy month but this is unreal. I can honestly say that in all of my 45 years, while I have always heard them urge caution and carry chains, I have never heard of the Highway Patrol and other transit authorities asking people to not drive up to Tahoe because it’s just that bad. Squaw Valley reported this morning that their snowfall total on the upper mountain for February was 300 inches. That’s 25 feet people. It’s great if you’re a skier (or a ski resort) but that’s just nuts.

And if I hear the phrase, ”well, we need the water” again I’m going to lose it. It may be true and it’s always good to have more than we need but I think we’re good for now. The draught map of California shows most of the state with no drought conditions as of February 19. It’s time to shut off the hose…

Weather like what we have been experiencing always makes me think of soups, stews, and chilis. There is something about a rainy night and a hot bowl of goodness that just seems right. Over the weekend I made this turkey chili. It’s fast. It’s tasty. And it goes great with cornbread.

I made sure to stash the leftovers in the freezer for warmer days when the sun is shining—when watching a baseball game. And, a chili dog is the perfect accompaniment.

Turkey Chili 
Yields 6 servings (at least!) Read more…

Southwestern Chicken Stew

Southwestern Chicken StewSoup Switch
My whole life I have been a rule follower. I was that kid in the class who never put a toe out of line for fear of the punishments. I have never really been the kind of person to significantly test the boundaries of anything, though I have always wanted to be that person. A rebel. A maverick. I am pretty sure this is why I cook from recipes instead of off the cuff.

To be fair, I will change a recipe to suit my tastes but only after I have made it at least a couple of times. Rarely do I mess with things from the get-go. Last weekend though, my inner culinary rebel surfaced and I took a left turn…

What started out as an adaptation of a chicken stew with peppers from the Basque region turned into more of a southwest stew/chili/gumbo type thing. There was something about the combination of ingredients that had me reaching for the black beans and cumin. Served over rice, the flavors were reminiscent of the southwest with the hearty whole meal feel of the bayou.

Maybe it was innovation or maybe it was just muscle memory that made me assume that tomatoes and peppers should also have beans and a squeeze of lime but it turned out tasty. I made enough to store some in the freezer for a future mid-week dinner on the run.

Tonight the future is here…as is a tasty dinner!

Southwestern Chicken Stew
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Stir Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and Shrimp

Stir Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and ShrimpBaby, I have a cold
For this first normal day of the new year, I had intended to write about my plan for better eating habits for 2019 and I DO plan on eating better. My biggest problem right now though is that I cannot shake this cold! To make things worse, I know I am not alone in my quest. The number of friends, family, and coworkers who are fighting this same battle is astounding. So instead of outlining my plan to be healthier in 2019, I’m trying to figure out just how to get healthy.

We sell a Jasmine Green Iced Tea here at the store from Teas Tea that I love. The best thing about it, other than the taste, is the fact that it is loaded with vitamin C. Plus, it’s a great way to stay hydrated. This is why I have been having it every day since I got sick. Of course, you can always drink the hot version too. The heat will help with your sinuses.

Soups are a no-brainer when you are sick, especially this Chicken Soup with Dill or my favorite, depending on my energy level, Mexican Matzo Ball Soup. Choosing any one of these options is a good way to go as well: Thai Hot and Sour Chicken Soup, Minestrone, and Spicy Chicken and Rice Flu Chaser Soup.

Because anytime you have a cold and have stuffed sinuses it can be hard to taste anything, I tend to eat spicy foods when I am under the weather. A spicy stir-fry is my go-to for a few reasons. The first is if it’s spicy, I am able to taste it. Second, ingredients like ginger, garlic, and chilies, which are most often found in stir-fry, are great natural remedies for illness. Lastly, it’s fast and filling and not boring so the rest of the family will eat it too.

For those of you out there fighting this battle along with me, carry your tissue packs with pride and know that we shall eventually persevere. We will get through this!

Stir-Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and Shrimp
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 6 servings with rice or noodles  Read more…

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons dipped in chocolateCookie Collection
This time of year is the season of constant dinner parties. In fact, I had a few friends over last night to talk about the upcoming baseball season and to eat drink and be merry. The food was great (and the wine was even better). But, having something sweet to end the meal and fuel the after-dinner conversation is essential. I have found that plates of assorted cookies are the perfect solution. The only challenge is coming up with a nice variety for the plate.

Some may say that forcing yourself to make a bunch of cookies isn’t a bad thing. And, it’s not. Though, having that many cookies lying around the house can be dangerous to your waistline!

It can be fun to come up with the perfect mix. Start with some ginger cookies. Add a few layer bars. Maybe chocolate crackle cookies. Definitely some shortbread. If you’re feeling crafty, make some stained glass cookies or some nutty rugelach. No matter what combination you decide to throw together, for me there almost always needs to be coconut macaroons on the plate.

I love coconut macaroons—and making them couldn’t be easier. Bonus! They are gluten-free for those friends who can’t eat gluten. I like to melt some bittersweet chocolate and either dip the macaroons or drizzle it on top for a little added holiday cheer.

Coconut Macaroons
Yields 20 to 22 cookies Read more…