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comfort food

Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Mains, Popular, Recipes, Soups and Stews

Simple Summer Vegetable Soup with Cilantro Pesto Croutons

July 25, 2017
How to make a summer vegetable soup packed with white beans, garden veggies and topped with a crispy crouton slathered with cilantro and baby spinach pesto.

We got back late last night from our European summer adventure.

The two things I’ve been dreaming about for the last couple weeks of the trip have been going for a run and a simple summer vegetable soup. I’m not sure exactly who I have become.

Normally I’m not such a health freak but after six weeks of gluttony my body was in desperate need of a reboot. This morning I hit the pavement vowing never to go on such an extended excursion without my running shoes again and then made a big pot of soup for dinner.

There’s something so intensely satisfying about potatoes and carrots and beans bubbling away in a tomatoey broth. It is the kind of simple food to regroup to, to find your balance, and most importantly, fill your belly.

As you can imagine, I’m a bit exhausted from our trip, but I wanted to share this recipe with you as I have a feeling I’m not alone in the need for simple comforts, getting back on track, or maybe just a recipe to use up your garden’s summer bounty.

The cilantro pesto croutons are obviously optional but I love their crunchy edges and soft middles, plus any extra pesto gets mixed into the soup giving it a happy little herby boost.

Simple Summer Vegetable Soup with Cilantro Pesto Croutons
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 10-12 servings
For the Soup:
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 leeks, halved, washed well, and sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 small yellow potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 1 cup cubed)
  • 1 cup dried large white beans, rinsed (I used lima beans)
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped green beans
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
For the Croutons:
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, thick stems removed (about 2 packed cups of leaves and tender stems)
  • 1 packed cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 baguette
To make the soup:
  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add leeks and onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add carrots and celery and season again with salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes more then add garlic and cook another minute.
  3. Add tomatoes, potatoes, beans, water, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until beans are tender, about 1-1½ hours.
  4. Add green beans and zucchini and continue cooking until tender, about 10 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. I added about 1 teaspoon more.
For the Croutons:
  1. Heat oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine cilantro, spinach, garlic, salt, and pumpkin seeds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add oil and blend until smooth.
  3. Slice baguette into ½-inch thick slices. Spread about ½-1 teaspoon of pesto on one side of each slice then place pesto-side-up on a baking sheet. Bake until outer edges are crisp about 10 minutes.
  4. Spoon any remaining pesto into the soup pot and stir to combine. Ladel soup into bowls and top with one or two croutons.

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, Mains, Recipes

Stacked Enchiladas Suizas with Chicken

May 17, 2017
These Stacked Enchiladas Suizas combine creamy layers of green chile-coated tortillas, poached chicken, and two kinds of cheese into the best comfort food!

For the most part I like to keep things healthy around here. Armando can’t eat dairy, therefore most of my recipes have no cheese, sour cream, or anything of the sort. Because we never eat cheese my kids don’t even like it (what kind of insane beasts am I raising I ask you?!!!) But sometimes I get cravings. Like real. bad. And Enchiladas Suizas have been high on the cravings list for a while now.

One of my first jobs was waiting tables at this Mexican restaurant in Des Moines where I grew up. What I really wanted to do was work in the kitchen but no one wanted to hire me for that job. Probably because I was 16 and more likely because I was a girl. Girl’s waited tables or looked pretty at the hostess stand so that’s what I did. I was not a good waitress. One time a swinging door slammed against a fully loaded tray I was carrying and all the plates of bubbling enchiladas and smoking fajitas went flying everywhere. It was an awkward time.

One thing I did like about that restaurant were the Enchiladas Suizas. Tender chicken and cheese rolled up and coated in a creamy green chile sauce then covered with more cheese and broiled until bubbling, golden perfection. I never even used silverware to eat that dish, just scooped up all the rich, delicious bites with a chip. At least I could eat my feelings.

As mentioned, I don’t make this kind of food very often but bit the bullet and did last Monday because I knew we had dinner guests coming and I wouldn’t embarrassingly eat the whole thing myself. Besides this is the perfect thing to feed a crowd. If you have a graduation or any family celebration coming up I recommend making one or two of these. Initially I thought making them stacked would be remarkably easier than rolling and filling each tortilla but turns out it took me just as long. I loved how each layer revealed hidden pockets of cheese or chicken or sauce so in the end I’m going with that it was a good idea.

Stacked Enchiladas Suizas with Chicken
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
These Stacked Enchiladas Suizas combine creamy layers of green chile-coated tortillas, poached chicken, and two kinds of cheese into the best comfort food!
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 4 pieces chicken (about 2 pounds--I used legs and thighs)
  • 1 large onion, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 pound tomatillos, papery husks removed and washed
  • 3 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeds removed if you'd like it less spicy
  • ½ cup cilantro (about ¼ bunch)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
  • 12 large corn tortillas (6-inches or as big as you can find)
  • 1¼ cups queso fresco, crumbled
  • 2½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 8 ounces)
  • Crumbled cotija cheese, for garnish
  1. Place chicken pieces, ½ of the onion cut into slices, 2 cloves of the garlic, the bay leaf, black peppercorns and 2 teaspoons of the salt in a large saucepan.
  2. Cover with water by 2 inches and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until chicken is very tender, about 1 hour.
  3. Remove chicken from broth (strain and save broth for another use) and let cool. Shred into bite-sized pieces discarding any skin or bone and set aside. You can do this step the day before or use store-bought rotisserie chicken.
  4. Combine tomatillos, remaining onion half, sliced, remaining garlic cloves and, serrano chiles in a large saucepan. Cover with water by an inch and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until vegetables are soft, about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Drain and transfer to a blender with the cilantro, 2 teaspoons salt, and sour cream. Blend on high until smooth. Be careful when blending hot liquid, cover the blender with a thick paper towel instead of the lid to prevent explosions. Pour sauce into a large pie plate or shallow baking dish.
  6. Heat oven to 400°F and grease a 9-inch springform pan.
  7. Heat ½ cup of the vegetable oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Once shimmering, place 1 tortilla into the oil and fry until golden on both sides, about a minute. Transfer to a baking sheet and repeat with remaining tortillas, adding more oil ¼ cup at a time as needed.
  8. Dip a tortilla in the green chile sauce until coated on both sides and place in the bottom of the prepared springform pan. Continue with three more tortillas spreading them out in the bottom of the pan to cover as much surface area as possible.
  9. Top with half of the chicken and a third of each cheese. Repeat with another layer of sauce-coated tortillas, remaining half of the chicken and another third of the cheese. Coat the remaining tortillas in the sauce and place on top and scrape any remaining sauce over the enchiladas spreading to coat evenly. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the tortillas.
  10. Place the enchiladas in the oven and bake until the cheese is browned and the sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove and let sit for 5 minutes before removing the sides of the pan. Sprinkle with crumbled cotija cheese if you'd like.
  11. Slice into wedges and serve. Enchiladas can also be cooled, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw completely, then remove plastic wrap, cover with foil and bake at 400°F until heated through, about 20 minutes.

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!

Breakfast, Comida Latina, Recipes, Sweets

Cinnamon Roll Capirotada {Mexican Bread Pudding}

March 17, 2017
Cinnamon Roll Capriotada Recipe from @holajalapeno

Thanks to La Lechera for sponsoring this post. All ideas and opinions are my own.

We are mid-March and many of you might already be thinking about Easter.

Cinnamon Roll Capriotada Recipe {Mexican Bread Pudding} from @holajalapeno

When I was living in Spain, I was amazed at the pomp and fanfare that surrounded Easter; bigger than Christmas, bigger than New Year’s, without a doubt the grandest celebration of the year. The entire week of Easter (Semana Santa) was an explosion of color and flowers and food and joy, the whole country comes alive.

Cinnamon Roll Capriotada {Mexican Bread Pudding} Recipe from @holajalapeno

In Mexico, Easter and Holy Week are a very big deal as well and the Capirotada or Mexican bread pudding is very traditional at many Easter celebrations. I wanted to share with you a version I am just thrilled about. It is creamier and richer than most Capirotadas because it is made with Nestle’s Media Crema Table Cream. Media Crema is shelf-stable cream at the ready when you need it. It is great in everything from soups to coffee or baking like this recipe for Mexican Bread Pudding.

Cinnamon Roll Capriotada {Mexican Bread Pudding} Recipe from @holajalapeno

How to Make Mexican Bread Pudding

I love this Capirotada recipe; it has everything we love about cinnamon rolls with about a quarter of the work. The day-old or toasted bread is mixed with cinnamon, raisins, a pinch of cardamom, the cream, and sweetened condensed milk. Traditional Mexican Bread Pudding always has cheese so I added Jocoque a Mexican-style Labenh, (strained yogurt cheese) that gives it a subtle tang and richness. If you can’t find Jocoque you can use Labenh or even whole milk Greek yogurt.

Cinnamon Roll Capriotada {Mexican Bread Pudding} Recipe from @holajalapeno

The great thing about Mexican bread pudding is you can (and maybe even should) make it the night before and let the bread sit and soak up all the wonderful flavors, then bake it off the next day when you are ready to serve. The Capirotada can be served warm, room temperature, or cold with copious amounts of whipped cream of course.

Cinnamon Roll Capriotada {Mexican Bread Pudding} Recipe from @holajalapeno

The Giveaway

To celebrate the Easter holiday I am partnering with La Lechera to host an Easter basket giveaway! This Easter basket however will not be filled with jelly beans and chocolate but with all the things that any serious baker would love like baking pans, cake stands, whisks, aprons and the like. The fun part is, just like an Easter basket, it’s a surprise, so no one knows what exactly the Easter Bunny will bring, not even me!

To Enter: Hop on over to Instagram and follow me @holajalapeno. Then between now and Easter (Sunday, April 16) post a picture of your traditional Easter food. What does your family make every year that is special just for Easter? I want to see it! I would love to hear about your tradition too, so tell me the story in the description. Make sure you tag the image @holajalapeno and use the hashtag, #holaeaster. I will select a winner, at random on Monday, April 17! I can’t wait to see your creations!

Cinnamon Roll Capirotada {Mexican Bread Pudding}
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Capirotada is a Mexican bread pudding that is very popular around Christmas and Easter. This creamy version has cinnamon, raisins and a sweet vanilla glaze.
Serves: 10-12 Servings
For the Capirotada:
  • 8 cups cubed, day-old French bread, crusts removed (about 1 large loaf)
  • 4 (7.6 ounce) cans Nestle Media Crema Table Cream
  • 1 (14 ounce) can Nestle Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • ¾ cup Jocoque (strained yogurt cheese)* See Note
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar, optional
For the Glaze:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
To Make the Bread Pudding:
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. If your bread is fresh, spread the cubed bread out on a baking sheet and toast 10 minutes.
  2. Combine media crema, sweetened condensed milk, Jocoque, raisins, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt in a large bowl. Add bread and toss to coat.
  3. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and pour bread mixture into the dish. Let sit 1 hour at room temperature. At this point you can also cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  4. If baking right away, grease a piece of foil and cover (greased-side down) the baking dish. Bake 20 minutes at 350°F. Uncover and bake another 30 minutes or until browned on top. If you made the Capirotada the night before, remove the plastic wrap and follow the same instructions above.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes before drizzling with glaze.
To Make the Glaze:
  1. Combine powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat together until smooth.
  2. Add the milk, a tablespoon at a time until the glaze is pourable, but not too thin.
  3. Drizzle glaze over the bread pudding and sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.
Jocoque is a strained-yogurt cheese similar to Labneh and can be found in the cheese section of many Latin markets. Substitute Labneh or whole milk Greek yogurt if you can’t find it.

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, Mains, Recipes

Freezer-Friendly Picadillo Enchiladas

February 15, 2017
Freezer-Friendly Picadillo Enchiladas Recipe

If there is an easier way to get a homemade, hand-rolled, red-sauced enchilada in my mouth I would want to know what that is. Homemade enchiladas are so good! But also so time-consuming, which is why I rarely make them.

Freezer-Friendly Picadillo Enchiladas Recipe

But then I had an epiphany, one that made me so happy I didn’t even give the lady who is always trying to spread her “strictly homeopathic remedies” advice around at Hiro’s ninja class the stink eye last Tuesday when I thought of it. You know the type, let’s just call her “Annoying Mom” we all know one. By the way, did I tell you Hiro is taking ninja class? It is so stinking cute, he’s all smiles, somersaults, and thumbs-ups.

My epiphany, which is really nothing new—more like a “duh” moment than an “ah-ha”—was that the next time I go to the effort of making enchiladas I should make two pans. One for the freezer and one to eat right away. Why have I not been doing that every single time? I ask you.

Freezer-Friendly Picadillo Enchiladas Recipe

I adore enchiladas of all sorts but these particular enchiladas are the king of comfort food. Stuffed with picadillo (read: ground beef, potatoes, carrots, spices, even a little beer) and covered in homemade red sauce, they are exactly what you want on a chilly, late-winter’s night. Knowing a pan of that is in your freezer is better than a shot of tequila to calm your stressed and tired soul. Which brings me to the freezing part.

Freezer-Friendly Picadillo Enchiladas Recipe

Tips For Freezing the Enchiladas

How you freeze and defrost these picadillo enchiladas is going to depend strictly on your baking dish. If you freeze them in a glass baking dish (like the Princess House one I used) you have to thaw them in the refrigerator or microwave before baking. The temperature change will make the glass shatter and you don’t want that. I’ve exploded glass pans before, it’s not the slightest bit cool. After they are thawed, follow the recipe’s baking instructions as written.

Freezer-Friendly Picadillo Enchiladas Recipe

However, if you have a ceramic or stainless steel pan you can bake the enchiladas straight from the freezer which is pretty darn handy if you forgot to take them out to defrost them and are like, I don’t know, super starving. Bake them for 15 minutes covered, remove the plastic wrap and foil and bake for another 15 uncovered or until hot all the way through and crispy on the edges.

Now On To Storage Containers

As I mentioned above, I have been thoroughly enjoying my new Princess House storage containers. I use recycled dairy-free butter containers as much as the next person, but I know that they are not the best health-wise for heating stuff up in the microwave or using after a few too many runs through the dishwasher which is why I love that these containers from Princess House are made from thermal shock-resistant glass. They can go in the freezer, refrigerator, microwave, and even the oven (up to 450°F) and pretty enough to serve at the table too. Princess House was nice enough to offer a giveaway: All three storage containers shown below (a $99 prize!) which I am hosting over on Instagram from 2/16-2/23 so go check that out!

Freezer Friendly Picadillo Enchiladas Recipe

Freezer-Friendly Picadillo Enchiladas
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Making a large-batch of enchiladas means you can make two pans and freeze one for later! The picadillo filling of ground beef and potatoes is pure comfort.
Serves: 12 servings
For the Filling:
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 medium red potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground paprika
  • ½ cup beer
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped epazote (or same amount fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves)
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
For the Sauce:
  • 4 dried pasilla chiles
  • 8 ripe roma tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 4 serrano chiles
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons salt
For the Enchiladas:
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 24 corn tortillas
  • Crumbled queso fresco or feta, for serving
  • Sour cream, for serving
  • Thinly sliced chiles, for serving
To Make the Picadillo Filling:
  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add ground beef, potatoes, and carrots, and season again with salt and pepper. Cook until beef is browned.
  2. Add measured salt, cumin, paprika, beer, chicken broth, and epazote and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, until liquid has cooked down and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, stir in the mint leaves. Picadillo can be made up to a day in advance.
To Make the Sauce:
  1. Set a small pan of water over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Remove stems from the dried chiles and remove as many seeds as possible. Rinse chiles under cold water removing the rest of the seeds.
  3. Heat a large cast iron skillet or comal over medium-high heat. Place chiles on the hot, dry pan and toast until all the water has evaporated off the chiles and they are beginning to smell fragrant (about 4 minutes), turning frequently. Transfer chiles to the pan of boiling water, submerge under the water, and remove from heat. Set aside until very soft, at least 15 minutes.
  4. Place tomatoes, onion quarters, and serrano chiles on the hot cast iron skillet over medium-high heat (you may need to do this in batches depending on the size of the skillet). Char the vegetables until they have blackened on all sides and are slightly softer, about 10 minutes. Remove stems from serrano chiles and remove seeds if you don't want the sauce to be spicy.
  5. Pour chicken broth into blender then add drained dried chiles, and charred vegetables (you may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your blender). Add salt and blend on high until smooth. Sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance.
To Make the Enchiladas:
  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Have 2 large plates and 2 (at least 7-x-11in) baking dishes near by.
  2. Heat ¼ cup of the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Using tongs, add tortillas, one at a time, and lightly fry each tortilla until slightly soft and a bit crisp on the edges, about 15 seconds per side. Transfer tortillas to one of the plate until all have been fried, adding more oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the pan becomes dry.
  3. Once all the tortillas are fried there should be about 2 tablespoons of oil left in the pan, if not add enough to make 2 tablespoons or pour any extra into a heatproof container. Carefully add enchilada sauce to the pan (it will spatter) and stir until the spattering dies down. Let simmer about 5 minutes then turn the heat to very low.
  4. Spoon enough sauce in the bottom of each dish just to coat.
  5. Using tongs, dip one tortilla into the sauce and flip to coat in sauce. Transfer to the other large plate and place 2 tablespoons of picadillo on one edge. Roll tortilla around the filling then roll up to close. Lay enchilada in the baking dish and repeat with remaining tortillas and filling, coating each tortilla with sauce before filling and rolling it up.
  6. Place twelve enchiladas in each baking dish then divide any remaining sauce over the two dishes, spreading it over the enchiladas.
  7. If you are going to freeze one dish, cover the top tightly with plastic wrap, then cover the plastic wrap with foil. Place in freezer for up to one month. See post for instructions on how to bake from frozen.
  8. To bake the enchiladas, place, uncovered in the hot oven until crispy on the edges and warmed through, about 15 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of cheese and sour cream if you'd like and a few sliced chiles on top.


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!





Mains, Recipes

Friends Who Fete: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

February 9, 2017
Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

Sometime between the holiday’s fading glow and spring’s first warm breezes lies a long, frigid stretch of nights when we huddled in our homes, hunker down from the cold and wind, and heat up leftovers for dinner. There is no better time than now to gather some friends together and throw a party full of cozy comfort food, delicious cocktails, and loads of laughter—An Italian Polenta Party!

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

When Aida of Salt & Wind suggested the idea to myself and Meg from This Mess Is Ours we answered with an enthusiastic, YES! I mean, I am never one to turn down an opportunity to cook and gather together with my friends, especially over creamy mountains of soft polenta and Aida’s sensational creamy pesto.

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

Throwing an Italian Polenta Party is a really fun way to entertain. All you have to do is invite some fun-loving friends, make a few appetizers, a simple cocktail, and then pour out the polenta onto a board in the middle of the table and let everyone dig in!

Here’s All You Need To Know To Throw Your Own Polenta Party

Fiesta: How to Throw An Italian Polenta Party

We all gathered on a late Saturday afternoon and Meg mixed up some sparkling Apple Basil and Prosecco Spritzer cocktails while Meredith finished her sweet herb and floral wreaths to line every plate. Aida arranged Fontina and Prosciutto Puff Pastry Squares and Mushroom Ragout Agrodolce Bites on a marbled wood board along with balsamic roasted apples, several types of cheese, and charcuterie. It was all just the beginning to the main event about to come: The Polenta!!

Italian Polenta Party Menu

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

Here is the rundown of the entire menu. We did one meat topping and one vegetarian topping to go with the polenta but you could always just pick one. It is all the little extras however that make it super fun, so try to have at least three or four different sauces or garnishes that your friends can add to their polenta. Included are the recipes to make these but you could easily make one or two and buy a couple more high-quality versions from the store. Or make the sauces and have toasted pine nuts and grated Parmesan or Pecorino on hand for generous sprinkling.

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party


Apple Basil and Prosecco Spritzer cocktails | This Mess Is Ours

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party


Fontina and Prosciutto Puff Pastry Squares | Salt & Wind

Mushroom Ragout Agrodolce Bites | Salt & Wind

Nuts, Cheese, Sliced Charcuterie, Balsamic Roasted Apples, Crackers, and Fruit

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

The Polenta Board + A Salad

Escarole, Charred Mandarins, Toasted Almond Salad with Rosemary Balsamic Vinaigrette | Salt & Wind

Basic Creamy Polenta | Salt & Wind

Beer Braised Beef Barbacoa| ¡Hola! Jalapeño

Braised Chickpeas with Porcini and Tuscan Kale | This Mess Is Ours

Creamy Basil Pesto | Salt & Wind

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes | Salt & Wind

Red Pepper Romesco Sauce | Salt & Wind

Blood Orange Tart with Vanilla Mascarpone Recipe

Something Sweet

Blood Orange Tart with Vanilla Mascarpone | ¡Hola! Jalapeño

Serving the Polenta

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

For our party of 8 people Aida quadrupled this recipe and we had plenty of leftovers to take home (gratefully). The polenta is really nice because you can start it and then let it basically cook on its own, giving it a stir every now and again until it is ready.

To serve the polenta you’ll need a very large food-safe board. Meg had a gorgeous reclaimed wood board that ran the length of the table from Pasadenaville which worked perfectly as everyone had some polenta right in front of them at the table. A large wood cutting board or tray would also work. Just find your biggest food-safe board and pour the polenta out onto the it. Top half of the polenta with the barbacoa and half with the braised chickpeas and place it in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves. Serve all the sauces and garnishes in small dishes scattered about the table so your friends can add what they please. Aida also made a dairy-free version of the polenta with chicken broth and olive oil instead of the butter, milk, and cheese.

The Place Settings

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

Our very talented friend Meredith created delicate mini wreaths made from fresh (and totally edible) herbs, olive leaves, and straw flowers. They look rustic and pretty on the plates and Louisa turned them into a darling little tiara after the party was over. Get all the details on how to make them here.

Shop The Party

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

Here are a few party essentials we can’t live without:

W/R/F Lab ceramics

Pasadenaville Polenta Board

Pink Shibori Napkins

Linen Napkins

Vintage Roly Poly Cocktail Glasses

Cheese Knives

Denim Cloth Table Covering

All Produce: Melissa’s Produce

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

A humongous thanks goes to Salt & Wind and This Mess Is Ours for all the photos.

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, Recipes, Snacks, Sweets

Chocolate Churro Hearts with Boozy Salted Dulce de Leche

February 3, 2017
Chocolate Churro Hearts with Boozy Dulce de Leche Recipe from @holajalapeno

Thanks to La Lechera for sponsoring this Valentine’s Day post. All ideas and opinions are my own.

 Where’s your head at this Valentine’s Day? Mine is somewhere over in left field, which is exactly why I’m getting a head start with these oh so precious chocolate churro hearts.

Chocolate Churro Hearts with Boozy Dulce de Leche Recipe

My baby boy loves him some churros and I’m going to admit here and now that I had never actually made them at home before I dove head first into testing this recipe. We overzealously tested the heck out of this recipe and continue to make it…for testing purposes of course.

I was looking for some fun inspiration for Valentine’s Day when I came across this recipe for Mini Churros with Dulce de Leche on the La Lechera Pinterest board. They looked easy enough, I had no idea churros are basically fried pate a choux—you know the dough used to make eclairs and profiteroles—read: no mixer required. I was sold.

Chocolate Churro Hearts with Boozy Dulce de Leche Recipe

Chocolate + Eggs

I wanted to bump up the Valentine’s factor and make chocolate churros, which required nothing more than adding some cocoa powder to the dough. The eggs on the other hand require some discussion.

The first few times I made the recipe I added 2 eggs, which made gloriously crispy churros with perfectly eggy middles but were also impossible to form into any shape whatsoever. The final recipe calls for only 1 egg making it firm enough to form into the adorable heart shapes but the result is not as soft and doughy in the middle.

Chocolate Churro Hearts with Boozy Dulce de Leche Recipe

You will have to choose your destiny with this one; cuteness over texture. The chocolate churro hearts are still delicious but are missing the spongy middle of a perfect churro. If you want to add the other egg, just pipe the dough directly into the hot oil using scissors to cut off 4-5 inch ropes of dough as they drop in (it is much easier than it sounds, you can do this).

If you want to make the chocolate churros into heart shapes you will need some muscle to pipe the dough out, if you pipe it while it is still warm this will help. Use a re-useable piping bag if at all possible. I tried it a few times with those disposable piping bags and had to triple up on them (putting three bags on top of each other) to make them sturdy enough to handle the pressure of the dough.

What’s With The Lard?

If you read down, you’ll notice I used vegetable oil AND lard to fry the churros. If you have access to lard, I highly recommend this whenever you deep fry anything from chips to chicharrones. The combination of vegetable oil and lard has the best flavor and fries things more quickly making them less greasy and crispier.

Chocolate Churro Hearts with Boozy Dulce de Leche Recipe

Dulce de Leche Sauce

Traditionally churros are served with a rich chocolate sauce but with the chocolate inside the churro already, I made a simple boozy sauce from La Lechera Dulce de Leche.

I added a splash of my favorite winter liqueur, Cuarenta Y Tres or Licor 43. This is a Spanish liqueur with flavors of citrus and vanilla and I highly recommend keeping a bottle around to add to a shot of espresso every once in a while. Other boozy options for the Dulce de Leche sauce would be dark rum, brandy, or even Kahlua. If you want to skip the alcohol all together you can loosen up the dulce de leche with 1/4 cup of milk.

By definition, chocolate churro hearts are best served minutes out of the oil, almost too hot to eat, crusted with cinnamon and sugar, a generous swath of dulce de leche, and shared with the ones you love. If you happen to make it to proper table so much the better—we never made it passed the kitchen counter.

Chocolate Churro Hearts with Boozy Dulce de Leche
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Celebrate your love this Valentine's Day with crispy chocolate churro hearts dipped in boozy salted dulce de leche sauce. Recipe adapted from La Lechera
Serves: 14 hearts
For the Churros:
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 quart vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 cup lard, for frying (optional)
For the Dulce de Leche Sauce:
  • 1 (13.4 oz) can La Lechera Dulce de Leche
  • ¼ cup Licor 43
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Piping Bag
  • Large star tip (preferably a #8 tip)
To make the Churros:
  1. Combine water, ¼ cup vegetable oil, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla in a 4 quart saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt.
  2. Remove from heat, add flour and cocoa and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let cool slightly (about 5 minutes) then add egg and beat into the mixture until fully incorporated.
  3. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat silicone sheet and spray with baking spray. Transfer dough to the piping bag fitted with the star attachment and pipe into a 10-inch long rope on the prepared sheet. Bend rope to form a heart shape, squeezing the two ends together so they stick and creating a point at the other end. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  4. Combine vegetable oil and lard in a large Dutch oven or deep cast iron pot and attach a deep fat fry thermometer to the side.
  5. Line a baking sheet with a couple layers of paper towels. Combine granulated sugar and cinnamon in a large, wide bowl.
  6. Once oil reaches 375°F add 2-3 churro hearts at a time and fry until crisped, about 2 minutes. Flip and continue to fry 1 more minute on the other side. Watch the oil temperature and raise or lower the heat to keep it as steady as possible.
  7. Remove churros with a bamboo skimmer or tongs to the paper towel-lined sheet. Let cool about a minute then dip in the cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat both sides. Set back on the baking sheet to cool. Repeat with remaining churro hearts.
To make the Dulce de Leche Sauce:
  1. Combine dulce de leche, Licor 43, and salt in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring occasionally until sauce is smooth and well combined. Remove from heat, transfer to a serving bowl and serve warm with the churros.


Comida Latina, Condiments and Salsas, Dairy Free, Mains, Recipes, Sandwiches

Chicken Milanesa Sandwiches with Basil-Lime Mayo

February 1, 2017
Chicken Milanesa Sandwich with Lime-Basil Mayo Recipe

One of my husband’s favorite things in the whole entire world (besides me of course, right?) is milanesa. Pork, beef, chicken milanesa, he loves it all. And most of all when we hit up a good torta or Mexican sandwich spot, a milanesa torta is always on order.

Chicken Milanesa Sandwich with Basil-Lime Mayo Recipe

Now a classic torta de milanesa this is not, but that’s okay, that’s not what I really do anyway—you know me. You won’t find the bun slathered with creamy beans and we are using a thin piece of chicken breast, not steak but I guarantee this sandwich is no less terrific and the sentiment of soft bun, creamy spread, crispy, pan-fried meat is all still there.

Chicken Milanesa Sandwich with Basil-Lime Mayo Recipe

Make a Pickle

Instead of a sharp slice of red onion I’ve added crunch in the form of sweet and sour fennel and carrot pickles. This recipe is based on my favorite way to make pickles which is as easy as boiling a few ingredients that I know you already have in your cupboard, pouring it over some vegetables (this recipe can be used to pickle anything from radishes to avocados—yes, really), and sticking the whole shebang in the fridge. Let them sit at least overnight in the refrigerator if you can to help the veggies really soak up the flavors.

Chicken Milanesa Sandwich with Basil-Lime Mayo Recipe

These pickles are so delicious I found myself making a pile of them on my plate so I could eat a salad-like forkful with every bite of chicken milanese sandwich. I am a sucker for crunch so that might have something to do with it, but still, very good. So try it!!

A Couple of Tips

As for breading the chicken (and in my opinion anything that is going to be fried) I am a Panko girl til I die. Armando makes fun of me for buying Panko by the case at Costco but it is the far superior in the crispy-crunch department and we’ve already discussed how happy that makes me.

Chicken Milanesa Sandwich with Basil-Lime Mayo Recipe

Sometimes you can find thin chicken breast filets ready to go but if not follow the instructions in the recipe to get them thin and ready for breading. You might only need two chicken breast to make four servings if they are super huge. Cutting them in half horizontally will make it easier to pound out thin, then cut them into 4 pieces trying to make the pieces the same size as your bread rolls so you don’t end up with a dry hunk of chicken-less bread at the end.
Chicken Milanesa Sandwich with Basil-Lime Mayo Recipe

Chicken Milanese Sandwiches with Basil-Lime Mayo
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Crispy Panko-breaded chicken milanesa tucked inside a fluffy roll with pickled fennel and carrots and swathed in a creamy basil and lime mayonnaise.
Serves: 4
For the Fennel-Carrot Pickles
  • 1 large head fennel (about 1 pound), bruised outer pieces removed
  • 3 small carrots (about ½ pound), peeled and trimmed
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed
  • 1½ teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
For the Basil-Lime Mayo
  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • juice of ½ a lime
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the Chicken:
  • 14 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 lime, zested
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup vegetable oil, for frying
For the Sandwich:
  • 4 bolillo or hoagie buns
  • baby spinach
To Make the Fennel-Carrot Pickles:
  1. Slice all the vegetables paper-thin using a mandolin if you have one, or sharp knife. Place in a large bowl.
  2. Place cumin seeds in a small saucepan and toast over medium heat, shaking pan occasionally until they are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar, sugar, water, and salt and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Pour over vegetables and let cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer to a container with a tight-sealing lid and refrigerate overnight. Pickles will keep refrigerated for 2 months.
For the Basil-Lime Mayo:
  1. Combine basil leaves, mayonnaise, lime juice, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth.
For the Chicken:
  1. Heat oven to 300°F.
  2. Cut chicken breasts in half horizontally. Place one half on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Pound chicken until it is ½-inch thick using a meat mallet or anything else heavy (rolling pin or wine bottle would also work). Repeat with remaining chicken.
  3. Cut the pounded chicken into 4 equal pieces if you do not have 4 already.
  4. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
  5. Place Panko in a shallow dish. Season with salt and pepper and add lime zest. Mix seasoning into Panko.
  6. Crack egg into a separate shallow dish. Add 1 tablespoon of water, season with salt and pepper and whisk until smooth.
  7. Place flour in a third shallow dish. Season with salt and pepper and mix to combine. Place one or two chicken pieces in the flour mixture and coat on all sides.
  8. Transfer floured chicken to the egg wash and turn to coat. Now place in the Panko mixture and press to coat with Panko on all sides. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.
  9. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
  10. Heat ¼ cup vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, test with a pinch of Panko. If the oil is hot enough the Panko should sizzle immediately.
  11. Slide 1 or 2 Panko-coated chicken breast into the hot oil (don't crowd) and let cook, undisturbed until deep golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side for 3 minutes more.
  12. Transfer chicken to the baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm while you cook the rest of the chicken. You can place the rolls in the oven too if you want them toasted a little bit.
  13. If most of the oil has been used in the pan add a couple more tablespoons of oil to cook the rest of the chicken pieces.
To Make the Sandwiches:
  1. Slice each roll in half and spread some basil-lime mayo on the top and bottom of the rolls. Put a bit of baby spinach on the bottom half then top with a piece of chicken. Pile some pickles on top and cover with the top bun.

Did you love this recipe? 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!

All ceramics by W/R/F Lab

Recipes, Soups and Stews

10 Recipes To Try This Week

November 6, 2016
10 Recipes To Try This Week

10 sweet potato and winter squash comfort food recipes to try and a strong cocktail to get us through this gut-wrenching week of politics.

Hi! Hi! and Happy Sunday! I’m so happy you stopped by for a second. How are you doing?

Is everyone ready for this week? I personally can’t even take it, my nerves are on edge and I might as well hook up an IV of garlicky pasta, soft pretzels, and pumpkin sticky buns to keep my anxiety level to a controllable minimum. So let’s just get to it.

10 Recipes To Try This Week

Kate’s Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Avocado-Pepita Dip seem indulgent but are actually something you can feel good about.

Another seemingly bad-for-you-but-really-not option.

The idea of being able to make a rotisserie chicken without a rotisserie is literally magic.

What we’ll be drinking on Tuesday night.

What we’ll be eating on Tuesday night.

My favorite pasta has lots of garlic, crunchy nuts, and loads of fresh lemon.

Pumpkin Vegan Sticky Buns with Vanilla Bean Frosting from Heart of a Baker has Sunday morning written all over them.

Apples, dried cranberries, pepitas and all the flavors of fall in one salad!

Roasted Pumpkin Soup always sounds good but then add chipotle pepitas and fried sage on top and I’m like, whaaaaa???!!!!

Trying out Taylor’s scalloped sweet potatoes this week for a possible spot at our Thanksgiving table.


Comida Latina, Mains, Recipes

Walking Taco Quesadilla

September 20, 2016
Walking Taco Quesadilla Recipe

¡Hola! This post is sponsored by Society Culinaria and Flatout Flatbread. The recipe and opinions however are all mine. Thanks so much for supporting the business that makes this blog possible!

If you don’t have an elementary-aged child who eats school lunch or have never been to a street fair you may be unfamiliar with the walking taco.

Walking Taco Quesadilla Recipe

Let’s review: Traditionally a walking taco is a bag of corn chips (Purists use Fritos, Millennials use Have’a chips, everyone else uses Doritos). Anyhoo, bag of chips, slit open on the vertical side, and topped with seasoned ground beef (or sometimes chili), iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes (or salsa), shredded orange cheese, and sour cream….all in the bag. They hand you the bag with a fork in it so you can shovel all this crunchy, creamy, savory goodness into your mouth as you walk around—hence the name.

Walking Tacos Quesadilla Recipe

I can’t give you a traditional recipe for walking tacos because my husband thinks they are disgusting and maybe a teensy bit racist (thank goodness he doesn’t read this blog!) But, shhhh, here’s a secret, I think they are delicious so I took all the good bits and traded the whole bag business in for Original Flatout Flatbread!

Walking Taco Quesadilla Recipe

Every flatbread variety is low in fat, a good source of fiber and of course perfect for wraps, pinwheels and super easy pizzas. And because we’re not eight-years-old anymore we should indulge a bit healthier than we used to. That’s why we are going with the low-carb, high-protein flatbreads as well as ground turkey for this recipe instead of the traditional ground beef. If you don’t know where to find Flatout Flatbreads click here, but I’d bet you a million bucks your local grocery store has them.

Walking Taco Quesadilla Recipe

Here’s where we’re going with this: A seasoned ground turkey and cheese quesadilla—but wait— with crunchy, salty, corn chips INSIDE. On top you’ve basically got a salad made from all the traditional Walking Taco elements; the tomato, the avocado, the iceberg lettuce shaved super thin. A big ‘ol pile of sour cream (or Greek yogurt if you’d rather). It is a single quesadilla recipe made for one hungry man (or woman) but there’d probably be enough to share. Or double it up and make two!

Walking Taco Quesadilla Recipe

We love our Flatout Flatbread around here! Take a look at what else we’ve made with them:


Walking Taco Quesadilla Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 1 serving

Gussying up everyone's favorite fair food and stuffing it all inside a delicious chewy-on-the-inside and crunchy-on-the-outside flatbread.


    For the Meat:
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 4 ounces ground turkey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • For the Quesadilla:
  • Baking spray
  • 2 Flatout Flatbread Original Wraps
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup corn chips (I used Fritos)
  • To Garnish:
  • Shredded iceberg lettuce
  • halved cherry tomatoes
  • chopped avocado
  • chopped cilantro
  • sliced scallions
  • sour cream
  • sliced jalapeños


    To make the meat:
  1. Heat oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey and seasonings and stir until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  2. To make the quesadilla:
  3. Heat a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
  4. Spray one side of one piece of flatbread. Lay the flatbread, sprayed-side-down in the frying pan. Top with half the cheese, all the meat, and all the chips. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and place the other flatbread to cover. Spray the outside of the top piece of flatbread with baking spray.
  5. Cook quesadilla until bottom is browned and cheese is beginning to melt. Carefully flip using a large spatula and brown the other piece of flatbread, about 2-3 minutes more.
  6. Transfer to a cutting board, Cut into pieces and place on a serving plate. Top with all the garnishes you'd like and dig in!

Breads, Breakfast, Recipes, Snacks, Sweets

Soft Ricotta Banana Bread

July 21, 2016
Soft Ricotta Banana Bread Recipe

We’ve now been here a little over two weeks and have more or less moved in. A few boxes remain unpacked and will probably stay that way.

Soft Ricotta Banana Bread Recipe

Hiro has learned to ride a bike and Louisa is mastering the art of the jump rope. She will turn eight years old next week and I feel a great sense of gratitude that we are once again throwing her birthday parties on her home turf. I know it’s a bit cliché but I remember that cold and foggy San Francisco afternoon when she was born like yesterday and now she strides into eight like nobody’s business. It makes me not want to celebrate her birthday at all as if that would stop time, but celebrate we will, once again with our friends who have missed the past seven celebrations.

Soft Ricotta Banana Bread Recipe

The new house is starting to feel more like home, but baking some banana bread never hurts the effort. I made this recipe for the first time a few months ago when I had some ricotta cheese lingering in the refrigerator. I took my favorite banana bread recipe and adjusted it here and there to make up for the moisture and fat from the cheese.

Soft Ricotta Banana Bread Recipe

I love the way the ricotta adds a richness without being overpowering. The banana flavor still rings true and prominent but the cheese adds a tenderness and delicate soft texture that makes this bread extra special. This is the bread for brown bananas. The riper they are the more banana flavor there will be. If I have some bananas that are too ripe to eat on the counter I will peel them and slice them then lay the slices in a single layer on a large plate or tray and freeze them. Once frozen, they can be scooped up and placed in a Ziplock until you are ready to bake bread. I always write how many bananas are in the bag on the outside because you know I won’t remember.

Soft Ricotta Banana Bread Recipe

One last thing, the bread is best with whole milk ricotta. If all you can find is low-fat or part-skim that’ll work but the flavor won’t be as rich. Also, I lined the loaf pan with waxed paper which makes it a snap to pull out of the pan (you can also use parchment paper, I just didn’t have any) but sliding a knife around the outside and popping it out of an un-lined pan works well too.

Soft Ricotta Banana Bread Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 55 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 10-12 Servings


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Heat oven to 350°F and arrange a rack on the bottom. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
  2. Pour melted butter into a large bowl. Add bananas and mash into a pulp. Add egg and beat until smooth. Add sugar, ricotta, and vanilla and stir to incorporate.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and stir just until all flour is incorporated, don't overmix. Scrape batter into prepared pan and place on the bottom rack of the oven.
  4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55-65 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and let sit at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan.