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Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Drinks, Popular, Recipes

Cranberry Agua Fresca with Mint and Lime

November 22, 2016
Cranberry Agua Fresca with Fresh Mint and Lime Recipe

Hi There! How’s your Thanksgiving planning going?

Cranberry Agua Fresca with Fresh Mint and Lime Recipe

Not that I want to stress you out, but I have one more thing you might want to add to it. Okay, maybe two, but that’s going to depend on how the rest of this week goes—so let’s be safe and just say one and its a beautiful cranberry agua fresca so we’re going to be okay.

Cranberry Agua Fresca with Fresh Mint and Lime Recipe

Let’s Make Cranberry Agua Fresca

Lucky for you it is a very easy one. A drink! For the kiddos, and non-drinkers, and pregnant ladies. It is very festive—made with fresh cranberries. You are essentially making homemade cranberry juice—pretty cool, right? But it is much easier than it sounds. Just combine fresh cranberries with water and cook until they release their juice (even better if you can let this mixture sit overnight). Strain out the cranberries, add sugar, and your done!

Let’s Make Fun Ice Cubes

The ice cubes make this drink for two reasons:

1. They look super fancy and red carpet.

2. When the ice starts to melt into the drink, the flavor of the fresh mint and lime seeps in to the agua fresca, so it’s perfectly okay, and, actually better, to put the ice in the pitcher and fill it with the agua fresca before guests arrive so the ice has a chance to melt a little bit.

Cranberry Agua Fresca with Fresh Mint and Lime Recipe

Let’s Make It Sparkle

To make it even more special you can make it sparkling by filling the glass halfway with the cranberry agua fresca and then topping it off with sparkling mineral water. We are a Topo Chico house but you can use any sparkling water you’d like.

Cranberry Agua Fresca with Fresh Mint and Lime

Okay, that’s it! As my kids would say, easy peasy lemon squeezy! Now go out there and crush Thanksgiving you turkey maven, you!

Photos courtesy of Beard + Bonnet

Cranberry Agua Fresca with Fresh Mint and Lime Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

A fun, non-alcoholic drink made with fresh cranberries and festive lime and mint ice cubes.

For a sparkling version, fill a cup two thirds of the way with ice and agua fresca, top with sparkling water and serve.


  • 2 (12-ounce) bags fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • For the ice cubes:
  • 2 key limes, or regular Persian limes, sliced
  • the leaves from 1 small bunch mint


  1. Wash cranberries and combine them in a pot with the water. Bring to a boil and let gently boil until all cranberries have popped and softened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
  2. Strain the cranberry juice into a clean pot, discard cranberries. Add sugar to the juice and bring to a boil again, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat, let cool, then refrigerate until cold.
  3. To make the ice, divide lime slices and mint leaves between the wells of a muffin tin. Fill each tin with water and freeze until solid.
  4. To serve, pop the ice cubes out of the tin by running the bottoms under warm water until they loosen. Place in a pitcher and pour agua fresca over the top.

Apps, Comida Latina, Popular, Recipes, Snacks

Manchego Chipotle Cheese Ball

November 16, 2015
This manchego chipotle cheese ball is perfect for parties; coated with pumpkin and poppy seeds, and chives its a real crowd pleaser. Gluten-free!

“What is a cheese ball?” My husband asked me yesterday as I was manipulating a bowl of soft cream cheese into a rounded shape. I think what he wanted to ask me was, “Why would one do what you are doing right now?”

Manchego Cream Cheese Ball

I agree, it is a strange, rather retro concept to mold a pile of cheese into a shape and cover it with crunchy things then make it hard again and serve it with crackers and wine, but the cheese ball is one of those things that seems appropriate for this time of year. It has that essence of holiday decadence that I crave come late fall.

Manchego Chipotle Cheese Ball

With Thanksgiving being but a little more than a week away we are coming down to the wire with menu planning and I wanted to share with you a few make-ahead appetizer ideas this week that you could add at the last minute.

Manchego Chipotle Onion Cheese Ball

When I host a dinner party, the very last thing I always consider are the appetizers. I’m embarrassed to admit what normally happens is The Professor asks me about 12 1/2 minutes before the guests arrive what we have to set out for pre-dinner snacks. Then I hide my distress with annoyance and say something like, “I don’t know, don’t we have some olives in the pantry?!” He then rifles through the pantry to find the olives or quickly runs to the grocery store for some chips and that is how pathetic the cocktail nibbles are in this house.

Chipotle Cream Cheese Ball

Not this year. This year I’m bringing on the fancy with a glorious spicy ball of cheese studded with tiny cubes of tangy Manchego cheese and covered with toasted pepitas, chives, and poppy seeds. I can make the whole thing in advance which will ensure that it’ll actually happen because there’ll be no last minute runs to the store on Thanksgiving—we live in a town where things are actually closed on that day, believe it or not.

Manchego Pumpkin Seed Cheese Ball


Manchego Chipotle Cheese Ball Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This manchego chipotle cheese ball is perfect for parties; coated with pumpkin and poppy seeds, and chives its a real crowd pleaser. Gluten-free! Cheese ball can be made and covered up to a day in advance.
Serves: 8-10 Servings
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 chipotle chiles en adobo, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces Manchego cheese, about ¾ cup cut in small dice
  • ¼ cup minced chives
  • ¼ cup toasted, salted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  1. Heat butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  2. Combine onions, cream cheese, chipotles, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until completely combined. Transfer to a medium bowl and add Manchego cheese. Fold in cheese until incorporated. If cheese is too soft to shape into a ball at this point you can refrigerate for a little bit until is hardens up.
  3. Combine chives, pumpkin seeds, and poppy seeds on a small plate.
  4. Using wet hands form cheese into a ball shape and holding the ball over the plate, sprinkle on the chive topping until cheese ball is completely covered. Place on serving tray and place in refrigerator until solid, about 30 minutes.
  5. Serve with crackers, celery, cucumbers, or tortilla chips.

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Drinks, Popular, Recipes

Thanksgiving Paloma

November 26, 2014


I’ve been thinking about this word: Grateful. I’ve been seeing it everywhere.

In hashtags: #simplygrateful.

In Louisa’s schoolwork: “Write three things you are grateful for.” Her answers were, nature, my house, and my mom; in that order.

Even in Black Friday ads (gross).

I’ve been trying to hone in on what that word means to me, to my family, to this country during this week of such enormous turmoil. A week where we are supposed to be coming together to share good food and love but in reality there are so many people hurting, struggling with reality of what it means to be them in this world.

Yesterday as I was prepping the turkey and listening to NPR there was a story about a father, a musician, who had just released his first album since the death of his daughter who was killed in the Sandy Hook tragedy. And then, all of the sudden, there I was, standing there, covered in achiote paste, knee-deep in turkey, I remembered what the word means.

I am grateful.

If all else fails I can hold my babies in my arms before they go to bed at night. I can rest my head on my husband’s shoulder. That man on the radio can’t do that anymore. Michael Brown’s mama can’t do that anymore. Too many mothers and wives and children of police officers killed in the line of duty can’t do that anymore.

Good Lord, I am grateful.

So tomorrow when we’re toasting and eating and celebrating let’s remember how blessed we are. Let’s be grateful.

Thanksgiving Paloma


Thanksgiving Paloma

Yield: 1 Drink

The pomegranate ice cubes aren't necessary—but they sure are pretty! If you didn't plan ahead you can just add a few seeds to the drink and use regular ice cubes.


  • 1/2 Pomegranate, seeds removed
  • 2 ounces tequila blanco (silver)
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 6 ounces grapefruit soda (preferably Squirt)


  1. Distribute pomegranate seeds between the wells of an ice cube tray. Fill with water and freeze solid.
  2. Combine tequila and lime juice in a tall glass. Place several of the pomegranate ice cubes in the glass and top with soda.

Popular, Recipes, Sweets

Maple Pecan Pumpkin Pie + Balloons Over Broadway

November 12, 2013
 As I write this, with the sun just barely peeking up over the horizon, I can hear my kids in their bedroom planning their escape. Hiro has been trying to get Louisa out of bed for the last 20 minutes so she can pull him up and out of his crib and she is finally relenting. I adore listening to their conversations, it amazes me how much they communicate without making complete sentences. Right now it is going a little something like this:

Hiro: Hessa (that’s what he calls Louisa) out.
Louisa: Okay, okay. Just let me turn this off first (meaning their night light).
Hiro: Okay, Hessa.
Louisa: Urgh (struggling to lift her brother whose body weight is about the same as hers). There you go. 
Hiro: OUT! (with major exclamation points of excitement).

Normally I don’t wait for my 5-year-old to fetch my toddler out of bed but it is their little trick and they get such a kick out of pulling it off. That’s one of the benefits of living in our tiny house. I can hear all their intimate conversations, jokes, and secret plans and they are never the wiser. Imagine if they slept on a different floor and all the belly laughs I’d miss out on.

This year our minute abode will be packed to the brim with friends for Thanksgiving. We had planned a very simple affair, had some friends coming from Wisconsin with their daughter, but all the sudden it seems the guest list has exploded. Which is great. I love Thanksgiving and always welcome extra guests. I have no idea where they will all sit, but it gives me a perfect excuse to make more food.


Maple Pecan Pumpkin Pie

 This fragrant pumpkin pie will definitely be making an appearance. I love the crunchy contrast of the pecans with the creamy, rich pumpkin custard. It is like two favorites wrapped up in one with a glug of maple syrup to boot.

I also have a highly seasonal, partially educational, and overall fantastic book to tell you about from my friends over at Zoobean. It is called Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet. Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade has always been one of the day’s highlights for me and this book tells how it all began over eighty years ago with the creativity and imagination of one man.

It is a wonderful tale to help get you in a festive mood and a great story for Grandma to read to the kids while your elbow deep in a turkey.

Need some more Thanksgiving dessert ideas? How about…..
Apple Cranberry Crisp
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust
Vegan Apple Ginger Pandowdy
Pumpkin Walnut Cookies
Mom’s Pumpkin Pie

Maple Pecan Pumpkin Pie + Balloons Over Broadway

Yield: 10-12


    For the Dough:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cold extra virgin coconut oil, lard, or butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3-5 tablespoons ice water
  • For the Filling:
  • 1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups roasted pumpkin purée or 1 (14.5 ounce) can pumpkin purée (not pie filling)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream


  1. To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the coconut oil pieces and cut them into the dough using a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture looks like bread crumbs.
  2. Add the water a couple tablespoons at a time, gently mixing it in with your hands by lifting the flour up from the bottom, squeezing gently, then letting it fall through your fingers. Keep adding water a tablespoon at a time until the dough just holds together when squeezed.
  3. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can make the dough up to a day in advance.)
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350°F.
  5. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8-inch thick then transfer to a 9-inch deep dish pie dish. Trim all but about 1-inch of the dough then, crimp to make a decorative edge.
  6. Prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork, line the dough with parchment paper or foil, and fill with dry beans, rice, or pie weights.
  7. Place the crust on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes on the bottom shelf of the oven.
  8. Remove the parchment and beans and fill the crust with the pecans. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until the center is cooked. Set aside to cool slightly.
  9. Whisk the eggs, sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl until smooth. Add the pumpkin and cream and combine well.
  10. Partially pull the bottom oven rack from the oven and place the baking sheet with the pie crust on it. Carefully pour the filling into the crust and slide the rack back in the oven.
  11. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the filling is just set in the middle, but before it starts to bubble around the edges. Let cool for at least an hour before serving. Pie can be made, cooled, covered, and refrigerated up to a day in advance. Serve cold or room temperature with maple-spiked whipped cream.

Mains, Popular, Recipes, Soups and Stews

Broccoli Cheese Soup

November 13, 2012

I don’t want to hear anymore. Sometimes as a mother I wish I was deaf. And mute. And blind. This is a terrible thing to say, but Helen Keller would’ve made a great mother. At least a very happy one.

There are times when the baby is crying in my face, literally right in my face and Louisa says,
“Mama, how ’bout I’m Shena and you’re Princess Celestia and you say,’There’s my friend Shena, I should go talk to her.'”
And I can’t really hear her because you know the baby and the crying, and I don’t answer her, so she says “Okay, Mama?” “Mama, okay?” “Mama?”

At that moment it is all I can do to not completely lose it.

And I think to myself, if I couldn’t hear anything right now and I couldn’t see the baby all scrunched faced and screaming and there was no way I could talk, so Louisa would never even expect me to repeat back to her the ongoing theatrical production she has going through her brain, I would be so blissed out right now.

I have two children. I think of the Octomom—no wonder she is octocrazy.

When the utility of my senses gets the better of me and I start idealizing Helen Keller, I turn to my taste buds, the sense that undeniably keeps me sane.

Cheese and cream and comforting soups are always my friends—especially during times of sensory overload. I wish it was raw kelp noodles that I turned to in times of need, but more often it is a piping hot bowl of thick, flavorful, creamy soup.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

The broccoli in this soup gets an extra boost from the addition of chard leaves. Broccoli and chard are flavor cousins and together they have an earthy, vegetal character that makes this soup more about the broccoli and less about the cheese. Not that I want to diminish the cheese—its there and adds just enough sharpness and tang—I just want it to play more of a supporting role.

This soup is guaranteed to save you from meltdowns, tantrums, fiscal cliffs and any other sort of impending doom. Make some and pass it on.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Yield: 6

Adapted from CHOW


  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli (about 1 large head)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, large dice
  • 2 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups chopped chard leaves
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese or cheddar and Monterey Jack mix
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Juice of 1 lemon


  1. Remove the florets of the broccoli and cut them into 1-inch pieces. Place half in a large bowl and half in a small bowl. Cut off the bottom of the stalk and use a vegetable peeler to trim away the woody outer layer. Cut the stalk into 1-inch pieces and place them in the large bowl with the florets.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add potato, large bowl of florets and stalks, chicken stock and chard leaves. Season again with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the remaining florets into 1/4-inch pieces.
  3. Purée the soup using a hand blender or carefully transfer to a blender and purée. Add remaining florets to the puréed soup and cook over medium-low heat until florets are tender, about 10 minutes more. Add cheese, cream, and lemon juice and stir to combine. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Dairy Free, Mains, Popular, Recipes

Bay-Brined Roasted Turkey

November 21, 2011
The first turkey I ever roasted was for my brother and his girlfriend in their cookie-cutter apartment in Seattle. I was two or three years into college and had spent the summer before interning in Napa Valley, so I knew everything there is to know about cooking, end of story.

Just kidding, there’s more….

I don’t specifically remember how we brined the turkey, or for how long, but it came out lookin’ good. I was very pleased with myself and proceeded to make gravy from the pan drippings (I’d seen my grandmother do this, so obviously this is what you do). As an aside, I’d also seen my grandmother “roast” many turkeys in a plastic bag so….

That gravy was so salty, but for some reason we ate it anyway. Shortly after the meal, my brother was sprawled out on the couch, moaning in a way that didn’t indicate happiness. He was the kind of uncomfortable a pair of stretchy pants couldn’t cure.

And this, my friends, is what Thanksgiving is all about—not brining your relatives with salty gravy, but those kitchen gaffes that can be retold in years to come. I’ll save the one about cooking a 26-pound turkey in an apartment-sized electric oven with the bottom element burnt out for another time.

Bay-Brined Roasted Turkey

Yield: 12-14


  • 2/3 cup kosher salt
  • 14 dried bay leaves, 10 crushed, 4 left whole
  • 1 whole fresh, or thawed frozen turkey (22 to 24 pounds), neck and giblets removed
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine kosher salt and crushed bay leaves in a small bowl. Rinse inside and outside of turkey and pat dry with paper towels. Rub 2 tablespoons salt mixture evenly inside turkey cavity, 2 tablespoons on each leg, 1 1/2 tablespoons on each wing, and 2 tablespoons on each breast. Set turkey on a baking sheet lined with a rack and refrigerate, uncovered, for 48 hours.
  2. Remove turkey from refrigerator 1 hour before roasting. Combine 1/2 cup olive oil, wine and whole bay leaves in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Heat oven to 425°F and arrange rack in the lowest position. Rinse turkey and pat dry with paper towels. Rub remaining olive oil all over turkey and season with black pepper on all sides and inside the cavity. Place turkey in a rack set over a roasting pan and tie legs together with twine.
  4. Place turkey, legs first into the oven. Roast for 30 minutes, then baste with wine mixture. Reduce temperature to 350°F, rotate pan and return to oven. Continue rotating pan and basting every 30 minutes, for 2 1/2 hours or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh without touching any bone reads 165°F.
  5. Remove from oven, cover with foil and let sit 30 minutes before carving.