Tag Archives: family

Thanksgiving: The Only November Stuffing I Got!

30 Nov

There is so much tradition involved in holidays and yet families change and thus traditions must. I have a small, but mighty, family. Through death and divorce our table this year was the smallest it has ever been. It was just me, my mama, my 9 year old brother, and my 91 year old grandpa. I didn’t mind, it was all of my favorite people present. My grandpa is used to cafeteria food and my brother was most excited for store-bought cupcakes in the shape of a turkey that he persuaded our mom to buy. Needless to say, the expectations on the food weren’t that high. This is really the best formula for kitchen creativity. I got to create whatever I wanted and it truly was my dream thanksgiving. Last year, we started a tradition of cornish game hens: they are moister, everyone can have their own bird and it is a nice turkey alternative. Unfortunately, my brother is now at the age where he proceeded to call them “Horny Gay Hens.”

This entire meal came together on thanksgiving day eve and thanksgiving day. My mom and I ended up at a gas station to buy gum on T-day and were sold yams by a guy out of his trunk. My mom and I both showed off our spanish skills, she pretended to be from Oaxaca, and within hours I made a yam mash for the table. This was probably one of the more boring dishes on the table but it was a staple that we needed.

As mentioned, this was my holiday now and I needed to include my new favorite veggie: brussel sprouts. My mom told me that when she was married to my step dad she never ate them because he called them devil cabbages. I felt it was my job to re-introduce my vegetable loving mama to these delicious babies cooked up just the way I like them: olive oil, salt and pepper, baked for 35 minutes at 400 degrees with some fried onions on top.

For me, the three most important parts of the food on thanksgiving table are: cranberry sauce, stuffing, and dessert. I have been making my own cranberry sauce for probably six years now. It is so darn easy and I find it unbelievably gratifying to see cranberries pop in the pot. Of course, I made some but when it came to stuffing I knew I had to step it up. I am a fruity girl, hence mission FRUITion, so I always like fruit-centric stuffings. My cooked grape stuffing last year was okay, but this thanksgiving I wanted amazing. I turned to the experts at Williams-Sonoma and made the Corn Bread-Apricot Dressing with Rosemary. I followed the recipe exactly and made the cornbread a day in advance and left it out to dry up uncovered.

Here are the onions, apricots, and herbs sautéing and below is the final cornbread dressing. This was my favorite (food) stuffing I ever had.

For dessert, I was inspired by Bobby Flay’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding but that recipe was far too complicated. Instead I used this much simpler recipe from About.com. The recipe called for French bread but when I saw that my mom had also bought brioche for dinner rolls. I made a quick swap and made pumpkin brioche pudding instead and we served the French bread for dinner. I almost always crave dessert but I rarely know what I want. I am not a chocolate lover, I love fruit but not pie, and this dessert was perfect. Not too sweet because it had a little tartness from cranberries. Plus, bread pudding is the perfect texture compromise, not too creamy and not too carby. This dessert is perfection and will become a new tradition but I’ll always substitute brioche for French bread.

I have done a lot of talking this Thanksgiving about wanting to get some November stuffing. However, even if my dating life is currently not that satisfying I am learning that I can take care of myself. I have a family that I love and adore to no end. I also have a hungry and discerning palate that I could satisfy, and holy shit I can make 90% of a thanksgiving meal with ease. I kind of kicked thanksgiving’s ass this year and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I’ll admit it, I am thankful!

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Costa Rica: Comida Rica

7 Apr

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I just came back from Costa Rica where I took a much needed vacation with my mom and 8 year old brother. For 4 nights and 3 days this was my view. The day before I left Josie and I indulged in My Taco (it is just too easy to make puns with the name of that establishment). I had the camarones rancheros and Josie had the chilaquiles and I was so excited about the vacation I was about to embark on. Josie is a regular at My Taco, in Highland Park, and reminded me that it is owned by the sous-chef of Palate Food + Wine. It was awesome and I can’t wait to go back for the barbacoa (lamb), that Jonathan Gold put as one of his top 10 meals in LA.

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I left the following day for San Jose, Costa Rica and met my mom and brother in Pheonix where we both had to change planes. My brother, Cody, had apparently just met a Lama on the plane but by the time I saw him he screamed, “Hi, my big boobed princess sister. What?!? Mom told me to call you that”. It was around that time that I knew I was going to really miss Josie on this trip as she would fit in just perfectly with my family.

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We were staying at Tabacon Resort which was like 3 hours from the airport near Volcano Arenal. It was a windy trek and my brother ended up getting sick. We got to the hotel late and our awesome driver, Norman, ended up having to carry him in asleep. It was a beautiful place and we ordered too much room service the second we got there. The next day we had a great breakfast and my mom and I both had the tipico breakfast which consisted of two poached eggs with tomato sauce, rice and beans, tortillas, plantains, and a pancake. I, an avid lover of fruit, was introduced to my new favorite fruit passionfruit after Carlos Guapo helped me figure out how to eat it. I also introduced Cody to his new favorite drink the Pina Colada (minus the rum for him) at the pool bar. We were at the 16 mineral pools at the Spa daily and Cody and my mom even got spa treatments. For dinner we dined at Los Tucanes in the hotel and I had the shrimp cannelloni, my mom had the seafood risotto, and Cody had them make their first Hawaiian pizza ever. Thankfully, they have a ton of pineapple on hand.

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The next day we headed for a zip line across the rainforest with Sky Trek. I had no idea what to expect we had hard hats and gear and the workers all began to call my mom “suegra” which means mother-in-law. I laughed all throughout the instructions and two practice zip lines so I was shocked when I was suddenly 500 ft in the air and swinging for a half a mile. It was exhilarating and there were 8 different zip lines. I was ready for the awesome Indonesian Buffet that I had at the Spa restaurant after the adventure.

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The following day we headed on a relaxing float safari. We saw monkeys in the trees above us, Jesus Christ lizards (I am told because they walk on water), cool birds and a ton of other interesting animals. Cody and I were both sad we didn’t see any crocodiles as promised, but apparently the water was too low. After our raft tour we met one of my mom’s friends and her family, who were also staying at our hotel, for dinner. We decided to leave the expensive resort restaurants and have something more authentic. I was waiting for this for my entire trip. All the locals and workers we spoke to were all from Fortuna and they all proclaimed that La Choza was the best restaurant and that is exactly where I wanted to eat. We took a taxi 10 minutes into town and had dinner in one of their many open aired restaurants. I had the chicken soup and camarones con arroz. It was easily my best meal of the trip. Cody had a pina colada and banana split that both come inside a pineapple and nachos. It was so good.

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This morning I had to sadly depart all the fun in order to make it back for my finance midterm tomorrow. I had the buffet this morning and a bellini that left me slightly dizzy (not smart before a very windy road). I also came face to face again with a pizote. It is this racoon like creature that was outside our hotel room door the first morning. I screamed and refused to leave the room until it was gone. It was comforting to see it again this morning by the pancake station when Cody demanded creme anglaise on his pancakes (he is such a foodie in the making…plus he has what I lack…and every foodie has..a love of bacon). I had to say bye to my family and be driven to the airport again by our favorite driver Norman.

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It was a great trip and unfortunately tonight I had to order a Domino’s pizza in North Carolina because everything else is closed. I miss my family. I miss the food. I miss that great country. I miss Tabacon where it seems every night we got a surprise ranging from fruit baskets to flowers to slippers to wine and dessert. Pura Vida, indeed!