Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Cocktail

Easter Cocktail

This week we saw 70°F temperatures and big flakes of snow. My Dad told me it was 89°F in Des Moines on Saturday and on Sunday they woke up to 6-inches of snow. You know what all this means, don't you? That it is spring, of course! And also that it is Easter.

Easter Cocktail

In a few short days friends and families will be gathering around in the middle of the day to eat ham, deviled eggs, and lots and lots of jelly beans and I think a nice morning cocktail is in order. A mimosa is the socially acceptable brunch drink for most and makes the perfect vehicle for other hard liquor that a lot of us need to deal with dried out ham and sugar-crazed children.

Easter Cocktail

This mimosa however has a pretty peachy-pastel hue from a splash of Campari whose bitterness balances out the sweet, freshly-squeezed orange juice and the floral St. Germaine elderflower liqueur. It is a fizzy, dry, and utterly sophisticated way to start your Easter brunch.

Easter Cocktail

Easter Cocktail
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Adapted from Cuffs and Buttons

Makes 1 drink

1 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce St. Germaine
splash Campari
cold, brute champagne
orange twist, for garnish

1. Combine orange juice, St. Germaine, and Campari in a shaker filled with ice.

2. Shake vigorously to combine and chill the ingredients. Strain into a chilled champagne flute or martini glass.

3. Top with champagne, garnish with a orange twist and serve.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mexican Relish Tray

Mexican Relish Tray

My grandmother bestowed many gifts on me—heirloom jewelry, precious old photographs, I'd like to think a smidgeon of her wit. But some of my most prized hand-me-downs are the boxes and boxes of china, glass, and silver I inherited first when she moved to the retirement home ('where people go to die', she would say) and then when she did eventually pass away (I guess she was right).

Mexican Relish Tray

When we were going through her things I found the most beautiful relish tray that I had never seen before. It is stunning cut glass with etched images of fish, olives, vegetables, and pickles in each compartment, making clear for any nervous entertainer what exactly goes where. I've been trying to come up with something worthy of this tray for a long time and now with Easter around the corner I thought I'd share with you some of my fanciest nibbles to fill the slots.

Pickled Cocktail Onions

There are several recipes here and all of them are fabulous on their own. The pickled onions are a vinegar-packed cocktail onion either for adding to a dry martini or munching on while sipping something sweet. They can be made a month in advance and benefit from at least a day or two in the fridge so I'd suggest making a batch just to keep on hand for any impromptu guests.


The requesón is my newest obsession I first read about on The Mija Chronicles. It is a fresh cheese made in Mexico that is very similar to Italian ricotta but made with bitter Seville orange juice instead of vinegar or lemon juice. I couldn't find Seville oranges so I used half lemon and half orange juice with delicious results. When drained for a short period of time (30 minutes or so) it is creamy and tinged with flecks of orange zest and oregano. I've been spreading it on toast and topping it with avocado slices, olive oil, and salt. You can also drain it for longer (an hour or more) and it becomes crumbly and perfect for sprinkling over enchiladas, tostadas, or tacos.

Shrimp Cóctel

The shrimp cóctel is Mexico's version of (you guessed it) shrimp cocktail but instead of just using the sauce as a dip the shrimp gets marinated in the spicy tomato sauce and soaks up all the flavors of lime, chipotle, and Mezcal. You can serve it in the sauce along with some chunks of avocado, a good sprinkling of chopped cilantro, and a hefty squeeze of lime or as I did here, on its own.

Mexican Relish Tray

I'd like to think this Easter Gram will be looking down on me with pride and feel like I did good by her relish tray. I won't kid myself into thinking she would mow down some spicy shrimp cocktail—ABC dip was more her thing—but I hope she will be happy I put the platter to good use—breaking out the good china was her thing.

Mexican Relish Tray
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Pickled Onions and Shrimp Cóctel adapted from Saveur
Requesón adapted from The Wednesday Chef

Makes 4-6 servings


For the Pickled Onions
1 (10-ounce) bag pearl onions
1 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin seeds

For the Requesón
8 cups whole milk
1 cup Seville orange juice or 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon dried oregano

For the Shrimp Cóctel
1 cup Clamato juice
1/4 cup lime juice
2 chipotles en adobo, chopped, plus 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from the can
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 tablespoon Mezcal or tequila
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound cooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp

Peeled, sliced avocado and quartered radishes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt

Fresh or brined Mexican olives


For the onions
1. Bring a small saucepan of heavily salted water to a boil. Add onions and let boil for 4 minutes.

2. Drain and submerge in ice water. When cool enough to handle, remove ends and peel skins. Place onions in a heatproof container.

3.  Combine vinegar, garlic, salt, peppercorns, oregano, and cumin in the saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the salt then pour mixture over the onions and let cool.

4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 days, or up to a month.

For the Requesón
1. Pour milk into a large saucepan and heat over medium heat to 190°F or until almost boiling, about 10 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and slowly add citrus juices, salt, orange zest, and oregano. Let sit 5 minutes.

3. Place a double thick layer of cheesecloth over a fine mesh strainer and set that over a heat proof container. Strain the milk mixture through the cheesecloth and let drain at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.

4. The liquid that is leftover is the whey. You can either throw it away or save for making smoothies or oatmeal or rice or any other number of grains. The requesón will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

For the Shrimp Cóctel

1. Combine all the ingredients, except the shrimp, in a blender. Purée until smooth.

2. Pour over the shrimp and let marinate at least a hour before serving or up to overnight.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Kale, Cara Cara Orange, and Smoked Almond Salad

Kale, Cara Cara Orange, and Smoked Almond Salad

I'm leaving you this weekend with a salad I made one midday when I had nothing but a boatload of vegetables in the refrigerator. I ended up loving the combination so much I now intentionally buy these ingredients so I can eat this salad at least once a week.

Cara cara oranges are becoming hard to come by, but if you can still find them I urge you to make this salad before you have to wait another year for them to return. This salad is sweet, smoky, chewy and incredibly satisfying.

And because I know with Passover and Easter coming up some major menu planning is going down this weekend and I wanted all of you to make this salad for your holiday meals. It is a solid main course salad but also would make a kick-ass side for ham, brisket, or whatever else you've got going on. Not to mention if you've been tasked to bring a salad to the meal, you won't find one that is easier to transport. Just bring the dressing (can you call two ingredients mixed together a dressing? I say, Yes!) in a separate container and drizzle it over the salad right before you eat.

Kale, Cara Cara Orange, and Smoked Almond Salad

If you don't have all these ingredients on hand you can leave some of them out or substitute what you do have. Although I haven't tried it, I'm pretty sure thinly sliced fennel, shaved asparagus, or some thinly sliced red onion would be good here too. The smoked almonds really add something special to this combination. I picked up a bag the last time I was at Trader Joe's, but you can also find the Blue Diamond brand at most grocery stores.

Hope you all have excellent weekends. Happy Planning! xo

Kale, Cara Cara Orange, and Smoked Almond Salad
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Makes 4 servings

3 cups torn kale
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 radishes, ends removed and thinly sliced
1 cup mixed greens
1 cara cara orange, segmented and segments cut in half horizontally
1 carrot, peeled into thin strips
1/4 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped smoked almonds
1/4 cup canned garbanzo beans
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper


1. Combine kale, scallions, radishes, mixed greens, oranges, carrots, and bell pepper strips in a large salad bowl.

2. Sprinkle almonds and garbanzo beans over the top.

3. Mix balsamic and olive oil together and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over salad and serve.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Roasted Asparagus with Sweet Jalapeño Dressing and Garlicky Breadcrumbs

Roasted Asparagus with Sweet Jalapeño Vinaigrette and Garlicky Breadcrumbs

I escaped my house, my family, and North Dakota a couple weeks ago and went to Chicago. If you follow me on the Instagram you can see all my obnoxious food pictures from my trip.

Roasted Asparagus with Sweet Jalapeño Vinaigrette and Garlicky Breadcrumbs

Out in the world all alone is not a state I find myself in too often so I had to take full advantage. I ate out a a lot. And there were many memorable bites; Skinny Geisha cocktails at Union Sushi (which by the end of the night my friend Tess was calling Sad Geishas but let's clarify—we were not sad). Every. Single. Vegetable. at Publican (why were those fries so good?) And I'm embarrassed to say I ate at almost every restaurant outpost at Eataly including La Pizza E La Pasta (twice), Il Pesce, and of course The Nutella Bar (Whaaaat? Why are there not Nutella bars in every mall across the country?!)

Roasted Asparagus with Sweet Jalapeño Vinaigrette and Garlicky Breadcrumbs

But one of the best things I ate, strangely enough, was broccoli tossed with garlicky breadcrumbs and obviously lots of butter at The Purple Pig. I've been fantasizing about this broccoli and not in a healthy way. I wanted to make something similar at home so I've been messing around with the ingredients ever since I got back.

Roasted Asparagus with Sweet Jalapeño Vinaigrette and Garlicky Breadcrumbs

The only problem was that we don't eat a lot of butter around here (with the hubby being all lacto-intolerante) so I had to come up with something else. The result? Nothing like what I ate that windy, freezing day in Chicago.....but still really good.

Roasted Asparagus with Sweet Jalapeño Vinaigrette and Garlicky Breadcrumbs

I decided to go with asparagus because I'm over winter and want to pretend that it is spring (despite the 2 feet of snow that fell last week). Instead of the ton of butter I decided to make a sweet and spicy dressing to drizzle over it, something similar to that addictive chile sauce they serve at Thai restaurants but, you know, more Mexican. The only element of the original dish that stayed the same was the breadcrumbs, (they were the best part) and give such a delicious, undeniable crunch that is so good on any vegetable. I'm not above having a canister of these crispy crumbs sitting on the counter on a regular basis....just 'cause.

Sweet Jalapeño Vinaigrette

Roasted Asparagus with Sweet Jalapeño Dressing and Garlicky Breadcrumbs
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Makes 4 servings


For the dressing
1 jalapeño, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup fresh bread (like Levain or some other Artisan loaf), torn into small pieces
1 clove garlic, minced

For the asparagus
1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 teaspoon olive oil


1. Heat oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the top third.

2. To make the dressing, combine jalapeño, garlic, lime juice, agave syrup, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow stream until completely incorporated. Taste and add more salt if needed.

3. To make the breadcrumbs, heat the oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toss in the oil. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Fry the breadcrumbs until crisp and toasted, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir to combine and remove from heat.

5. Wash and dry the asparagus thoroughly and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer.

6. Roast in the oven until just tender, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and drizzle with the dressing. Serve immediately.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Picadillo {Seasoned Beef with Carrots and Potatoes}

Picadillo {Seasoned Beef with Carrots and Potatoes}

In my fairy-tale, fantasy world I'd like you to believe that I lay out an amazing spread every night. Maybe a slowly simmered mole or a gigantic dish of saucy enchiladas, complete with rice, beans, handmade tortillas and possibly a salsa or two. I'd love to have you convinced that even in North Dakota where, God help us, it is still snowing (!) I provide my family with the notion that we aren't that far away from home, where all it would take is a trip to the burrito truck to get our carne asada fix. But in all honesty most nights it's pasta with tomato sauce or {gasp!} pancakes and bacon if the Professor is working late and won't be home for dinner, neither of which I really want to eat, but I'm too tired by 5:30pm to be creative. I do however, remember, on occasion, that life doesn't have to be all pasta and pancakes. That I can make real-deal Mexican food that is fast and one-pot easy.

Picadillo {Seasoned Beef with Carrots and Potatoes}

What is this easy Mexican milagro, you ask?  Picadillo, of course. Picadillo is one of those universal Latin dishes that has as many versions as there are cooks. You can add a can of chopped tomatoes, fresh corn kernels, fresh chopped cilantro or go Cuban and add sliced green olives and black beans. This particular version I learned to make from my Mother-in-law and is essentially seasoned ground beef mixed with cubed carrots and potatoes that you spoon into warm corn tortillas. It requires one large frying pan and about 30 minutes of your time. Really, truly, very easy.

Picadillo {Seasoned Beef with Carrots and Potatoes}

I like to make it with homemade taco seasoning that I keep handy for just such an occasion, Nana uses the tried and true Sazón flavoring packets which have achiote and dried cilantro and add that special Mexican je ne sais quoi.  Either way you've got yourself a delicious, protein-packed dinner in under an hour that your ravenous family will happily gobble down offering you a solid 10 minutes of peace and the feeling that, yes, even on a weeknight—you nailed it.

One more thing.....if you like what you read and don't want to miss a post, follow me on Bloglovin'! XO

Picadillo {Seasoned Beef with Carrots and Potatoes}
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Taco seasoning adapted from Mommy I'm Hungry the rest adapted from Nana

Makes 4-6 servings

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon homemade taco seasoning (see below)
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
3/4 cup beef broth or water
warm tortillas, sliced jalapeños, sliced scallions, and lime wedges for serving

Taco Seasoning
1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and carrot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook a minute more.

2. Add beef and taco seasoning and stir into onion mixture, breaking up the beef with the back of the spoon. Cook until most of the beef is browned, about 5 more minutes.

3. Add potatoes and broth or water, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Taste and season with more salt if needed.

4. Serve with warm tortillas, sliced jalapeños and scallions, and some lime wedges for squeezing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Jose Garces' Cuban Sandwich

Jose Garces' Cuban Sandwich

My first time with Jose Garces was about ten year ago, (don't worry, not like that). The Professor and I were in Philadelphia visiting my beautiful friend Beth and she took us to Tinto, Jose Garces' Basque wine bar. I don't remember exactly what we ate (please forgive me it was ten years ago and there was a lot of wine involved) but I do remember it was amazing and thinking I have to go every time I'm in Philly.

Jose Garces' Cuban Sandwich

But I never did make it back to Tinto because there were too many other Garces restaurants to try. A couple of years later we found ourselves in Philadelphia for Beth's wedding. It was a jam-packed weekend but somehow between the ceremony and the reception The Professor and I manage to squeeze in Amada, Garces' Spanish tapas restaurant. We had the most incredible house-cured meat, Spanish cheeses, a rhubarb cocktail that I'm still (unsuccessfully) trying to recreate, and a bottle of unbelievable Spanish wine, which may explain my drunken behavior at Beth and Andre's wedding.....still sorry guys.

Jose Garces' Cuban Sandwich

When I was asked to write about Garces' latest cookbook, The Latin Road Home, I immediately jumped at the chance. I couldn't wait to dig in, especially since it spanned all the Latin cultures that quintessentially formed Garces' cooking—many of which I too have visited. This book covers the culinary traditions of Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Cuba, and Spain and not only delves into the recipes but is full of the history and background of these places and how they are forever intertwined.

Jose Garces' Cuban Sandwich

In true chef style many of the recipes are far more complicated than I would ever pull off on a weekly basis, but the flavor combinations and iterations will be influencing my cooking forever. With recipes like Pozole Verde Con Congrejo {Green Hominy Soup with Crab}, Enchilado de Langosta {Lobster in Spicy Tomato Sauce}, and Higos en Almíbar de Miel {Figs in Honey Syrup with Goat Cheese} it reads like a fantasy novel.

Jose Garces' Cuban Sandwich

When it came down to actually cooking one of the recipes I chose one of my favorite sandwiches. Like a Philly Cheesesteak or an Italian Beef a Cuban Sandwich is more than just meat stuffed between bread, it is an homage to a place and the people who live there. A Cuban is Miami and not something you just make willy-nilly at home but this version is the closest I've ever come outside of Florida to the real deal.
Jose Garces' Cuban Sandwich

He calls for pork shoulder which retains it's moisture and lusciousness even after being cured and roasted and chilled. If you can't find a small rolled pork shoulder and you don't have a butcher that can do that for you you can tie it up yourself after you rub it with the salt cure. Speaking of the salt cure, Garces is not afraid of flavor, that being said, it may seem like a lot of salt and in fact I was a bit skeptical, but most of it gets washed off before being roasted and this pork had so much flavor, so don't skimp.

Jose Garces' Cuban Sandwich
Print it! This recipe was taken with permission from The Latin Road Home 

Makes 4 sandwiches


Roast Pork
3 tablespoons kosher salt (divided)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground mustard
2 pounds pork shoulder, tied in an even roll
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground mace (I couldn't find mace so I used ground allspice)
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika (I couldn't find smoked sweet paprika so I used just sweet paprika)

4 (6-inch) light, crisp-crusted bakery rolls
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
12 ounces best-quality domestic ham (unglazed), thinly sliced
4 ounces Swiss or Gruyére cheese, thinly sliced
1 large dill pickle, thinly sliced lengthwise
2 tablespoons unsalted butter


1. To cure the pork, combine 2 tablespoons of the salt with the sugar and ground mustard. Rub the mixture all over the meat, cover, and set it in the refrigerator to cure for 6 hours.

2. Place a rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 325°F.

3. To roast the pork, rinse it under cold running water to remove the seasoning. Pat dry with paper towels. Combine the Dijon mustard, mace, black pepper, paprika, and the remaining 1 tablespoon salt. Rub the mixture all over the meat. Set pork in a roasting pan, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and cook until the internal temperature reaches 175°F, about 45 minutes (mine took more like 90 minutes). Allow the meat to cool completely before slicing.

4. To make the sandwiches, heat a sandwich press or griddle (I made mine in a cast iron skillet) to medium-high. Split the bread lengthwise and pull it open. Spread the mustard on 1 side of each roll and layer on the roast pork, ham, cheese, and pickles.

5. Spread the butter all over the outside of the sandwiches, and griddle until the cheese is melted and the meats are warmed throughout, 3 to 4 minutes. (Alternatively, wrap the sandwich in foil and toast in a 350°F oven for 5 to 7 minutes.) Slice each in half on the diagonal and serve.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bandera Paletas {Grape-Lime-Strawberry Pops} + Niño

Bandera Paletas {Grape-Lime-Strawberry Pops}

It's book time again!!! This is the monthly post where I write about what hot kid's lit has been burning up the bookshelves in our house and give you a great recipe that goes along with it.

My friends over at Zoobean always give me the best book recommendations and if you have any little people in your life I can't urge you enough to head on over there and check them out. You can get curated, handpicked books and apps especially suited for your child either through a digital subscription or the real deal sent directly to your house. It's brilliant!

Bandera Paletas {Grape-Lime-Strawberry Pops}

I'm so excited for this month's book + recipe because they are both Lucha-rific! If you know anything about our house, than you know we are BIG into Lucha libre, so when Hiro got Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales I knew it would be love at first fight.

How can you resist a kid that strips down to his chones during his sisters' nap time and wrestles imaginary villains with expert moves like the tickle tackle and the skull-cracking puzzle. He even escapes the Diablo's grasp by creating a slippery popsicle slick from his drippy, melting bandera paleta.

In Niño's honor I made the kids their own red, white, and green paletas, which come to think of it will also be perfect for Cinco de Mayo. The vivid green, white, and red reflect the colors of Mexico and (super bonus) are made with pure fruit juice and no food coloring!

Bandera Paletas {Grape-Lime-Strawberry Pops}

I used a juicer to get a clear juice with no seeds or pulp but if you want you can make the layers in a blender and strain out the solids. I also added a handful of baby kale to the green grape juice to really make a deep color. The grape juice is so sweet, you'd never know it was in there, but you could use spinach for a milder flavor or try using kiwis instead of grapes. My final word of wisdom is that you'll want each layer to freeze solid before adding the next, otherwise the colors will be all mixed up, (which is fine if you are going for more of a tie-dyed look). This might take a while depending on your freezer power, I had to let mine sit at least 3 hours before adding the next layer.

When you are done you will have a most delicious weapon.....zzzwwaappjust look at that popsicle slick!

Bandera Paletas {Strawberry-Lime-Grape Pops}
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The technicalities of layering the popsicle and inserting the stick is going to depend on the type of mold you are using. The kind that I have has a cap connected to the lid, which makes it impossible to fill with the stick attached, so I filled mine and then inserted the stick after I added the last layer, but I recommend using a mold where you can fill them with the stick in place that is open at the top. Also, if your molds are smaller (or larger) than mine, the amount of juice you will need to make the layers may vary. That being said, you could possibly have a lot of juice leftover which is delicious on its own....drink up!

Makes 6 paletas


2 cups green grapes
1/2 cup baby kale, tightly packed
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup honey, divided (plus more to taste)
1 pound strawberries (about 3 cups), hulled and cut in half if large


1. For the green layer, juice grapes and kale in a juicer and spoon 2 tablespoons of the juice into 6 paleta molds. Use a funnel if you are particular about getting even layers (you don't want any running down the sides of the mold messing up your business).

2. Place in the freezer. Check after about an hour and give a stir with a chopstick to reincorporate any solids that have floated to the top. Freeze until solid, stirring occasionally.

3. Combine lime juice, water, and half the honey. Whisk until honey is dissolved. Taste and add more if it is too tart.

4. Pour 2 tablespoons of juice into each mold, insert popsicle sticks and freeze until solid.

5. Juice the strawberries and taste. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of honey if the juice is tart. Whisk until the honey is dissolved.

6. Remove popsicle sticks, pour 2 tablespoons of the strawberry mixture into each mold, replace the sticks and freeze until solid.

7. To remove from the molds, run the paletas under warm water until they slide out of the mold. Paletas will keep in the freezer for up to a week.