The gods must be crazy…..

Nope, not the ones from that cute and quirky 1980’s movie where a bushman discovers the world beyond his tribe’s village in the African savanah. I mean the cheese gods. The ones that expect me to walk past the cheese section inside Whole Foods only once, when in reality I speed walk several laps around the damn cheese. I pass the tea section, make a right on bread, past the glutten free frozen foods, on past the other healthy crap inside the freezers and right again as I come upon dairy and the overpriced “Irish” double churned butter, right again at the wine section and “walla”! I am back at the sample counter trying the cranberry aged extra sharp cheddar from Wisconsin for the fifth time. This time,  Moe, in all his tattooed and pierced glory eyes me suspiciously, his dread locks swinging violently to all directions as he races away from his knife and cutting board and towards me to ask if I need any assistance…for the third time ( I may or may not smell a faint, funky odor..maybe its just my imagination, or the cheese…) This time he goes into an interminable monologue about grass fed happy cows and the vast acres of green paradise in which they feed! I smile and say thanks…honestly not giving a F**K and making an exaggerated attempt to play my sampling off as a genuine way to decide which cheese to take home….. But no, I just love cheese.. too much…But I am a cook, I don’t make enough money to buy a $15 block of cheese..

The cheese gods must also be crazy for allowing the existence of that bogus cheap yellow “cheeze” that pretends to be chile con queso during the 5 de Mayo craze coming up…. but that’s another story for another time….

For now I will get lost in the creamy sweetness of goat cheese and honey on a warm and crusty baguette! Sweet dreams!

A little bit of this…A little bit of that…

No, I did not fall off the face of Earth since my last post. Nor did I fall victim to a sugar induced coma after eating the entire previous recipe by myself! I have been hiding over at Wheresthefun.us  with my friend Dayhanna sharing healthy recipes that get along with her power boosting training programs! Together we shall fight obesity, lethargy, heart disease, and bring peace to Earth…..well, at least thats the objective! We just want to help people live healthy and joyfully without having to sacrifice fun!

I will still be here posting sinfully delicious recipes of decadent chocolate truffles and all things sweet!! Then after eating all these goodies we can head over to Wheresthefun.us and do the  500 burpee challenge!!

kidding, kidding!!

xoxo,

Marysol

Ps: Stay tuned for more delicious food news!!

Comfort food

The roaring thunder woke me up early this morning, and as I laid in bed listening to the rain crash against my window, I began to remember the many lazy Sunday mornings living with my parents and my brothers back in El Paso, Texas. Having the weekends off is a rarity when you work in the food industry, so I just enjoy this schedule while I have it. This is why Sunday morning is the time to relax, have a huge breakfast and just sit around the house with a cup of coffee all day long!

Back in El Paso, Sunday breakfast was a collaborative effort. My dad brewed the coffee, my brother drove to the bakery for the traditional Mexican sweet bread, and my mother, younger brother and myself stayed behind in the kitchen preparing a Mexican feast. Chilaquiles was always on the menu. This dish is as hearty as it gets when it comes to spicy Mexican food. It consists of tortillas that have been torn into 1 inch pieces then toasted and sauteed with onion. Just as the onion begins to get translucent, they are drowned in a rich and spicy red sauce. They are served immmediately to avoid soggy tortillas and with a fried egg on top and some grated queso blanco.

The secret to the best chilaquiles is to make them as spicy as possible. The hotter the better. I remember my mom always telling me that it was my duty as a Mexican to eat lots of chile and the hotter it was the stronger I became. And so by the time a Mexican child turns 5, they are already eating jalapenos and salsas. A Mexican mother will not ask you if you care for salsa or not, she will plop it down on your tacos, hamburger, rice, beans, eggs, ANYTHING and EVERYTHING, then she will not let you leave the table until you eat everything on your plate, it is very funny in retrospect.

So nowadays, as I learn to cook rustic Italian food at work, from squid ink pastas to goat cheese gnocchi, there are times when I just want to taste the flavors of my childhood and remember the comfort and security that the sizzling of the onion in the pan evoked, the aromas of the freshly brewed coffee and the soft texture of the sweet bread.

Sure enough the hubby and I decided to make chilaquiles for breakfast. It was a collaborative effort, just the way it has always been for me, and it was very comforting. I do not know how happy my stomach was about the whole spicy heat thing however, hmm I suppose I will find out in the next 12 hrs………..

A Delightful Sunday Brunch

Ah, Sunday is here again. The last day to relax before the hustle and bustle of a new week begins. Sunday is the day when you sit back and wish it was still Saturday because a mere 2 day weekend was not enough to do all the things listed on the astrononomical to do list that we anxiously create throughout the week. Well, it is also a day to sit back and just relax. Sleep in, have coffee twice, make breakfast, and treat yourself like no other day of the week.

Leave it up to me to be whisking my morning away as I prepare hollandaise sauce on this Sunday morning. And since Florida weather is still being bi-polar ( we’ve had mid 80s weather all week, then freeze warning on Sunday morning), I decide to have to have my coffee, extra dark roast, twice, followed by the perfect breakfast, eggs benedict.

For those who do not know this, I have a serious obsession to certain foods, some days I can’t help but succumb to the dainty fluffiness of a macaroon ( good thing I run like a mad woman). Other days I can’t help but to indulge on the healthy foods. And then there’s eggs benedict. With its toasty english muffin, perfectly poached egg, and tangy hollandaise, it is the perfect canvas for the culinary artist in all of us. It is also a very complicated dish where technique must be perfectly exectued to avoid curdling disaster or over cooked yolks (nooooooooooo). Tragic! Me and the hubby join forces when we prepare this and while I whisk the crap out of my egg yolks and butter to make the sauce, he concentrates on the poaching, which I must admit he does a hell of a job at it. I have trained him well. Today we were feeling a bit eh, mediterranean, and so we added all the usuall suspects, artichokes, kalamata olives, and garlicky grape tomatoes. The end result was so delightfull that we both agreed the worse part about amazing food is eating it all and having no more to enjoy…….

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Mediterranean eggs benedict. Enjoy your Sunday!

Superfood spotlight: Kale

So, as the old saying goes, “you are what you eat”, so I want to be super, just like Kale!!!

Food is changing everyday, and what is changing is not the food itself, but the image of food. In the year 2012 we are being bombarded with fast food ads everytime we turn on the T.V or flip the pages of a magazine. What is most alarming is that most of these ads are luring the consumer to buy foods that are high in fat, sodium, and sugars. The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale recently published a study in which the link between food ads and overconsumption of these foods is explored. The results, which can be seen here demonstrate just how vulnerable we have become to the ever changing food trends as we allow ourselves to be influenced by what we are told by the media. Food is very much like fashion nowadays, and that is not necesarily a good thing. We follow trends and we eat what everyone else is eating. We thoughtlessly spit out terms like “organic”, and “low fat” without really knowing what they mean and continue to buy food that has been packaged with those labels just because the “top chefs” endorse them. We buy these foods without ever really reading labels and trying to understand their fat, salt, and sugar contents.

In this big convoluted mess of food labeling, food trends, fast food, and foodies we loose sight of what food really is, nourishment. We must take a step away from the supermarket frozen food aisle ( which conviniently lights up as you walk by) and reevaluate what we are putting into our bodies and WHY it is that we chose to eat that. No matter what anyone is trying to sell, we must always think of our health first and try to buy as many unprocessed, unlabeled foods that have no other agenda other than nourishing and energyzing our bodies. Of course, making them taste good comes with a little bit of creativty and effort.

Allow me to introduce you to kale. Kale is just perfect in every way. Not only is the lush green color the perfect addition to an incredibly healthy salad, but its antioxidant and antiinflamatory nutrients help against chronic inflamation and oxidative stress, both of which can be contributing factors to certain types of cancers. Kale is rich in vitamins K, A, and C, and is also rich in fiber. Of course, this is only a brief summary of kale’s superpowers, however, it is trully amazing to see how these simple and natural foods are the ones that keep our body in check. It is a gift of nature and we must learn how to use it by trying to absorb as much education about the food we eat.

So Kale is amazing, that is all I wanted to get across. It is best when bought during the late winter and early spring months when its in season. It can be braised with tomato sauce, baked or dehydrated into kale chips, and tossed with you favorite ingredients for a delicious salad.

Make delicious kale and roasted butternut squash salad by peeling then dicing ( about 1 inch thick) a butternut squash. Toss the cubes in olive oil and roast until tender. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cool. While they cool, remove the kale leaves from the thick stems and wash thoroughly. Once its rinsed well, tear the leaves into bite size pieces with your hands. Drain well and set aside. I love this salad with a curry vinaigrette that I make by mixing 1 tbs of dijon mustard, 1 grated garlic clove, 1 tbs curry powder, 2 tbs golden balsamic vinegar, and 3 tbs olive oil. You can add honey for extra sweetness. Gather dried apricots and cut them into thin strips. Now toss the kale, squash, and apricots with the vinaigrette and top with dry sunflower seeds for an extra crunch and goat cheese for a tangy punch that will pair well with the curry. you can add a poached egg or a chicken breast for extra protein! Enjoy and remember to always eat mindfully!

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Sharing the food you love

Me and the hubby recently took a trip to Serbia. We didn’t pack any bags, or spend hours in an airplane crossing the Atlantic. In fact, we didn’t even have to leave the kitchen or start the car… Ok, we didn’t go to Serbia, but we had a beautiful cultural experience after one of my husband’s co worker and friend drew out a recipe to share with us.  Musaka!

My love for food increased shortly after arriving to Florida. I worked from home as a language translator during the day, but during the night I had an insatiable hunger for exotic flavors. Every Friday we would spend endless hours in the kitchen concocting complicated dishes from Africa, China, and so many other far away lands. At first it was once a week, but soon we were tasting a different culture every night. I closed my eyes and was immediately transported to the vast African continent as I crushed toasted coriander in my mortal and pestle. The sizzle of garlic frying in the golden extra virgin olive oil and it’s pungent aroma would educe images of quaint Italian towns tucked away deep within the Tuscan mountains, sitting there patiently waiting for me to make my way across the pond and visit them. Cooking became a window to the world. A way for me to learn why certain cultures where eating what it was they were eating. Getting classicaly trained in culinary school taught me how to respect each culture and its cuisine. And so our Friday tradition continued… I eagerly searched for new recipes that could take me farther and farther away from that tiny kitchen in central Florida.

So, you can imagine how excited I was when the hubby walked in with the musaka recipe. We posted the hand drawn recipe on the refrigerator door and stared at it intensely as we mis en placed the cooking game plan in our heads. I send him to the market with a list in hand and I sat down to learn more about the traditional foods of Eastern Europe. I always need cultural context, it makes my “traveling” much more fun!

Despite Serbia’s turbulent and often violent past,  I discovered that it remains a region where food brings people together.  It has a rich history that can be seen in the types of foods prepared and eaten. For example, Mussaka, the dish we prepared,  is originally a Turkish dish made with eggplant and a white bechamel sauce.  A lot of Serbian cuisine was influenced by the various groups of people that populated the region throughout the centuries, including the Greek, Ottoman, and Roman empires which extended into much of today’s Serbia and left a notable influence in its culture.  This is a also a region where milk and cheese are abundant. Although meat is now eaten in abundance, (they say Serbia is not a good place for a vegetarian to visit … Eeek) historically poultry was used in cooking and cattle were kept for agricultural purposes. Like Ireland and Russia, Serbia enjoys the benefits of the humble potato, which was introduced into this region during the Columbian Exchange, which was the exchange of crops, animals, and disease between the Americas, Eurasia and Africa after Columbus traveled to the America’s for the first time. The potato helped spark a growth in European population which helped shape events such as the industrial revolution. But I am getting ahead of myself, back to the potato, which is abundant in Serbia, and for this reason is widely used in many dishes like Musaka. I was pleasantly surprised to see this was a pretty well balanced dish nutritiously. It called for ground pork, golden potatoes, garlic, onion, small amount of butter, milk and eggs and small amount of cheese. it is very similar to a potato au gratin or scalloped potatoes and the ingredients are layered like a lasagna; potato layer, meat layer, potato layer, meat layer, potato layer, then a milk and egg top layer which is topped with cheese. it is all bakes together until the potatoes are soft. Below is the original hand drawn recipe…


A beautifully hand drawn recipe shared by a friend who is originally from Serbian region of the world

Before and after baking

It is very true what is said about American culture, it is a melting pot made up of the flavors of the world. We all come here and share a little about our corner of the world with friends. The easiest way of doing this is by sharing our soul food! If you travel to Serbia with this dish, enjoy!!

Picnic with friends!

The days are getting longer and the breeze outside is fresh and crisp. The perfect excuse to enjoy nature before the chocking Florida summer heat rolls in.  About a week ago I found a beautiful wetland preserve right in the middle of town. Mead Gardens is a park that has dedicated its grounds to preserve a piece of nature for all of us city dwellers to enjoy.  The trees are abundant and the lush gardens foster a great variety of colorful butterflies that flutter for our eyes to enjoy! I had to share this with my friends! So we planned a little lunch, got in the car, and headed out to our little picnic.

I packed a Tomato & Mozzarella salad. To share your fresh mozzarella and tomatoes with friends, simply cut up mozzarella balls into 1/2 in cubes, quarter some grape tomatoes, quarter some large queen green olives (or any other variety you like), and pick some basil leaves. I grow my little basil out on the porch, it’s purple basil but any kind will do. I then make a simple vinaigrette made by mixing grated garlic, dijon mustard, and white balsamic in a mixing bowl and slowly adding olive oil until it reaches creamy consistency. Toss all ingredients together and enjoy under a tree, with friends and a nice conversation.

A delicious pita stuffed with black beans, avocado, and cilantro prepared by Dayhanna, tomato salad, and salmon salad on the plate!

Blueberries by Rhea! I can not believe how juicy and sweet these were.

Sweet and tangy Florida oranges

Friends ❤

Pink Petunia for the butterflies

And of course, we could not forget the wine… Thanks Rhea!!

As we walked the trails, we noticed how serene everything seemed. We were suspended in a time and place where all that mattered was the chirp of the birds and the breeze against our faces.  The rest of the world was forgotten if only for a brief moment. A beautiful way to relax indeed. I am grateful for nature, good food, and great friends!