Wednesday, April 27, 2016

My Top 5 Kitchen Tools



I've ran the gammut of kitchen tools. I've had so many come through my kitchen drawers and cabinets over my years of cooking (er...learning to cook). But I've finally come to the conclusion that less is more. Oh wait, isn't that pretty much the norm with most anything in life??!!

So I decided to go through my drawers and cabinets, and pick out my very favorite kitchen tools. I've thrown out a bunch of tools I've purchased through the years and just didn't get any use out of. But this group, has stood the test of time.


1. John Boos Reversible Maple Cutting BoardThis baby has only been in my life for a couple of months. It was a gift. It arrived on my counter top and has not occupied another spot since it's appearance. It's a work horse. I realize this is NOT a kitchen "tool" in my drawer, but it's a new favorite I just cannot ignore. I've never taken such a liking to a cutting board before. This one is reversible maple wood board...MADE IN THE USA! It has grips on the sides, making it easy to grab and transport to the sink. It's heavy, so you definitely need the grips. It is recommended it be treated with John Boos Mystery Oil and Board Cream Set.

2. Lemon/Lime Squeezer- Another work horse in my kitchen. Yes, I know it's just as simple to press on the lemon on a flat surface with your hand as you roll it, cut in half and squeeze with your hands. But with this bad boy, you get every last drop of juice out, keeps the seeds from dropping in, AND, have you ever had a cut on your hands when you squeezed a lemon? Case made.

3. Pampered Chef Avocado Peeler- This is the only avocado peeler I have ever used, and the only one I ever want to use. I have no need to try any others. I've had this very same peeler for 10 years and perfectly cuts right through my avocado, I pick the pit out with the tip and scrape all the creamy avocado out of the peel in one perfect half avocado shape. It's perfect when I want to serve it with some salssa in the middle or a corn and tomato concoction...makes for a very beautiful presentation. I never can quite get the same results with just a knife and a spoon...plus I end up getting two items dirty instead of just the one.

4. Kitchen Shears- I did not grow up with shears you could actually use on food in the kitchen. I was introduced to the concept of shears for food at a William Sonoma cooking class I attended over a decade ago, to open up a whole chicken and cut off unwanted parts. I purchased my shears and have used them for everything from cutting meat, opening packages, chopping herbs in a small bowl, I've even cut through pizza before. And again, I've had the same pair for over 10 years. One small investment, for an item that gets used almost daily.

5. Garlic PressI am sure this tool has paid itself over several dozen times. Garlic is fairly inexpensive to buy, and squeezing fresh garlic as needed with this handy tool is very easy and efficient.

What are some of your favorite tools? I'd love to hear if there's anything else out there I'm missing out on.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Homemade Guacamole

Today was a beautiful sunny day in California. My BF made a trip to Costco and came home with 5 large ripe avocados and asked for guacamole. My baby wants guacamole...my baby gets guacamole (reference to movie The Breakup here..)




So here's the quick and delicious recipe:

2 large ripe avocados, mashed**
1 tomato chopped
1/4 onion chopped
1/4 bunch of cilantro chopped
1/2 lemon juice
3 garlic heads diced
salt to taste

Mix it all together together, chill for about an hour and serve up with your favorite tortilla chips, or over tacos, or just spread over toast for lunch.

If you want to be everyone's hero, try making your own tortilla chips. Just cut up corn tortillas into triangles and follow the homemade tostada instructions. Don't forget to sprinkle sea salt over them as soon as they come out of the fryer.


**Tip to mash the avocado just perfectly...use a molcajete!! Just place the peeled avocado in the bowl and start mashing away. You can even use the molcajete as a bowl for your guacamole.






It was a perfect snack with organic tortilla chips and margaritas out in our patio.

Enjoy!



Thursday, January 28, 2016

Frijoles Pintos - Pinto Beans




I have been cooking (and burning) beans for years.I've diligently followed my mother's recipe, but if you've been following us for a while, you'll know she doesn't provide us with specific quantities on ingredients. It's usually a little of this, a handful of that, etc. 

So the taste {and texture} of my beans always seems to waver a bit. Never quite as delicious as mom's, or grandma's, of course....

And, then a big percentage of the time I burn them. And if you've ever let a pot of beans burn, you know you'll have that reminder for the next 24 hours. Heck, the very first time I ever attempted to cook them, they dried out and burned so badly the neighbors could smell it!! Needless to say, they laughed at me. It was quite comical actually.

The thing about beans is that they take so long to cook, you have to make sure you'll be home for several hours to make sure they have enough time to cook thoroughly.

So I finally decided one day when I was craving "frijoles" and had to step out for a few errands...why not try the slow cooker? Wow. This took my beans to the next level. Here's how you too can make that happen.





Ingredients:

You'll need a Slow Cooker.

2 cups of whole pinto beans
1 quarter white onion
salt to taste

For added flavor:
1 strip of raw bacon OR 1 cube / 1 tablespoon of Knorr Suiza Bouillon  

Sort the pinto beans to search for rocks, dirt, debris, etc. Wash the beans. Place them in the slow cooker. Pour water in the slow cooker, enough to cover 3/4 of the pot.  Add onion, salt, bacon or Knorr Suiza Bouillon.

Turn slow cooker to High, and set to cook for 5 hours. Mine has never ran out of water, therefore, never burning. It covers the house in that yummy goodness fragrance, and the beans are soft and perfect!

Throw out the onion and bacon strip and serve up in a bowl with queso and avocado sprinkled on top, or refry them. 

Try it and let us know how it works out for you.

Provecho!!

Sonia and Sandy


Thursday, January 21, 2016

How to make (fry) homemade tostada shells



Hey there!

We previously posted a recipe for mom's awesome tostadas. This is by far one of my family's favorite recipes. It's a good day in our home when it's TOSTADA day. Anyhow, the recipe previously posted called for buying premade tostadas at the store. There is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with premade tostadas...heck, I've got some in my pantry as we speak....er, as I type.

But if you want to step it up a notch....or 10....make your own. Depending on how many you want to make, could be time-consuming. But, it's a fairly simple process that will take the taste of your tostadas to whole other level. 

This is something you can make a day ahead if you don't want to cook the beans, refry the beans, cook the meat and make the sauce all on the same day. 

HOMEMADE TOSTADAS SHELLS

- corn tortillas- as many as you'll need. I usually calculate 4 per person
- vegetable oil- I start with about 2 cups

Pour the oil in a pan and heat at medium heat. Once it's heated add your first tortilla. I fry one at a time because they're temperamental, and that's why I say it could be time-consuming depending on how many you're frying.

I use tongs to push the tortilla down to make sure it's under the oil. I lift it every so often to check the bottom. Once it's golden brown, I flip over. I like mine brownish because they're crunchier that way. But you can play with the level of crunchiness you prefer.

Once it's golden brown on both sides, pick it up out of the oil with your tongs so the oil drips off as much as possible, then place the tostada shell on a plate with paper towels on it, 2-3,so the paper towels soak up more oil.



Put the next tortilla in the oil and repeat for each tortilla.

Helpful Tips:

-The first tostada will take longer to fry. The rest will become progressively quicker to fry, as the heat rises in temperature.

- You will notice the oil level will decrease. Add oil as you start to see that the tortilla can't be submerged in the oil as easily.

- Oil splatters...they happen! It can be cleaned up off your appliances and countertops, no problem. A bit of a mess. However, if it splatters on your skin, or eye, not so bueno. I use this handy oil splatter screen and it has made a world of a difference! We did not have these growing up. But I recently came across these and they make safety and clean up that much easier! You place it to rest on top of your pan so it covers the entire opening of your. Of course, when I'm prodding and flipping my tostadas, you can't just lay it to rest. I hold it in such a way that it's protecting my face and I lift it up on the side opposite my face, so I can get my tongs in there and push the tortilla down and flip, etc. When you're comfortable just leaving the tortilla alone to fry, you can simply lay it to rest on top of your pan...and no splatters!



I hope you take the time to make these. You'll never want to buy tostadas again...unless you have no time, and are having wine with a friend and you run out of time to fry....which is how I ended up with store bought tostadas in my pantry....

Until next time and buen provecho!!



Sunday, December 6, 2015

Ginger Tea - Té de Jengibre



My mother always had some sort of 'remedio' to take care of our ailments while growing up. Many times I felt like 'what in the world?' But as I grew older and had my own children, it occurred to me that all these meds we're putting into our kids bodies can't be good (ie: antibiotics, etc.).

What really struck a cord with me was when my youngest son used to suffer from chronic ear infections. One Friday morning he woke up once again with an ear infection. I knew exactly how things would go that day. After my chiropractor appointment I would call his pediatrician, make an appointment for that morning, they'd see him, and prescribe antibiotics. Because even though you can't know for sure it's an ear infection at this early stage, just in case he does he'll get the antibiotics so they can start working their magic. 

So at my appointment I mentioned the ear infection we had to deal with that day to my chiropractor. He told me to consider seeing his partner as he specialized in chiropractic for children and he was really good. They fit me in to see him that same morning and once he checked him out said the discs in his head were dislocated and no matter how many antibiotics he took, he was always going to suffer from that 'chronic ear infection'. Because it wasn't an ear infection at all. He adjusted his head that very moment. We went back on Monday for another adjustment and that was the last 'ear infection' he had. 

He spoke to me about natural remedies a bit. And after starting my own research I started doing 'remedios' on my kids. I became my mother!! If only I could be half the woman she is...

As an ode to those 'remedios' and to my AH-HA moment, I've decided to share this tasty ginger tea. I recently had this at my mom's and boy did it hit home. 

Ginger has many proven health benefits as seen in this article. It helps with nausea (including morning sickness), reduces muscle pain and soreness, is anti-inflammatory, lowers blood sugar and improves heart disease risk factors, may  help prevent cancer, helps with menstrual pains improves brain function and protects against Alzheimer's disease amongst other things.

Ginger Tea

2 cups of water
1/4" fresh ginger sliced thinly 
1/4" fresh ginger squeezed with garlic press
Agave to taste

Boil water. Place sliced ginger in a cup and squeeze the other 1/4" of ginger in the cup (I throw portion left in the garlic press into the cup as well). Pour boiling water in the cup and sweeten to taste with agave. You can even throw a lemon slice in it for taste.

Enjoy your cup of tea and reap the benefits of this all-natural, warm beverage.

XOXO,
Sonia

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A heartfelt Thanks




Who knew when Sandy and I started this blog that we would end up making so many friends with people across the globe...over Mexican food. We are thoroughly humbled by your support and friendship. May you enjoy today, with your family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sonia and Sandy
-Mexican Family  Recipes



Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Recipe for Creativity- Memories With My Grandmother and Cable Knit Pillows




From a very young age I've been pegged as being creative. So I've grown up thinking that and just figured I have a talent. I'm always creating something whether it's scrapbooking, sewing, decorating, knitting, drawing, gardening, hot gluing, or even designing ads for my work. 

But I've recently come to realize that all this creativity, I've channeled from my grandmothers and my mom. I grew up watching my mom be creative with her resources. She used to make our costumes.  She crocheted these beautiful bedspreads when we were kids. She even took fashion design courses. My paternal grandmother, from what I understand, was also great at sewing and very talented in making very precise patterns for garments with no formal training. I guess creativity was a part of living back then. My ancestors had to be creative with their limited resources. It's just the way it was.

But some of my greatest memories of creativity are with my maternal grandmother. My Nina Chayo. I used to spend time during the summer with her at her home in Mexico. This place called El Chante, Jalisco. A little ranch we very quickly learned to love when we were kids. Those were days of carefree fun, when we could through caution to the wind. Walk to the local market unsupervised, stay out "late", ride horses, swim in the river, etc. I made great memories with my cousins. To say that we LOVED visiting my grandparents in El Chante, is an understatement.

So back to my memories of creativity. I spent vacations with my grandmother and on many occasions it was just her and I. So after getting up in the morning, helping with chores and running small errands for my grandma, like going to buy freshly made tortillas...yum, oh the memories of the smell in the tortilleria...Ok back to the story....She would tend to her jungle of plants and trees. Out of bordome, I joined her. This is where she would teach me to prune them, and pick the ripe fruit, and eat the fruit right off the tree...forget washing them, just eat them right up. She taught me that plants need love too. Talk to them with kindness and tenderness, like they're your babies. When they're not doing well, provide encouraging words, and compliment them when they're beautiful.

So again....back to the creativity portion of this blog....it's so easy for me to get lost in those memories. On our down time, my Nina Chayo taught me to make tortillas, make a pinata with crepe paper and a cantaro, cross stitch, embroider, crochet (although my mom started this lesson back at home in California), and she taught me to improve my knitting. From the age of 10 to 15, my father moved us to Mexico City where my cousin and I took a. knitting class. So on my next trip to El Chante I took my knitting. And guess what, my Nina Chayo knew how to do that too. And so she taught me a couple new stitches and we sat and knitted together. The details of those memories, of actually sitting there and talking for hours on end have faded. But I know we did it. I know that when I felt home sick she comforted me with her hugs, kisses, love and our little creative projects.

So last year when I received my fall Pottery Barn catalog and I oogled over the beautiful chunky cable knit pillow covers that grazed their glossy pages, I decided that since I know how to knit it was impossible for me to justify paying for mass produced knitted pillow covers. So I when out and bought chunky yarn and knitted a pillow. To my surprise, my friends and family loved it. So I made a couple and gave them as Christmas gifts. And when they were well received, it was suggested I sell them, and that's how my Etsy Shop came to be, DeLaCustom Boutique.



As I sit here and knit cable-knit pillow after cable-knit pillow, I can't help but to remember that my Nina Chayo was a huge contributor to my creativity and to my love of crafts and creations. I can't help but to remember the hours we spent together in her ranch home in El Chante, Jalisco. And although Alzheimer's and Dementia have robbed her of those memories, I still hold them very near and dear to my heart, for the both of us.


XOXO,

Sonia

Friday, May 29, 2015

Salsa Verde / Mild Green Sauce






I've been making this salsa at home lately that everyone seems to like. You know it's a winner when EVERYONE likes it, so I thought it would be a good idea to share it.

Ingredients:
4 tomatillos
2 jalapenos (add more if you want it spicy, but two will ensure it's mild)
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 bunch of cilantro
salt to taste
pepper to taste


 
Boil the tomatillos until they're cooked through, around 8 minutes. Do not throw out the boiled water. Place all ingredients in a blender. Add some of the boiled water, just a little so you can add more later if needed. Blend until desired consistency is reached. If you'd like it more runny, add more boiled water. Refrigerate until it chills and enjoy.

This can be served over tacos, eggs, quesadillas, chilaquiles and even for dipping tortilla chips.


Enjoy!


Sonia

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Posole




I love me a bowl of posole. Specially on a nice, crisp, chilly day. I've always thought it was difficult to cook, since we used to only have it on special occasions growing up. But I've also always wanted to learn to cook it. So when my son asked me for posole for his 13th birthday, I knew it was time. I called up mom. Hanging on to every last instruction she gave me over the phone, I wrote everything down...and I couldn't help to but say "that's it?". Really? That's it? This didn't sound difficult at all. And it wasn't! 

Mom's posole recipe is made with pork and red sauce. Many people will make it with chicken and with no "color" to their broth, aka red sauce. But given that my intent here is to cook like my mom, I've used her recipe.

For those of you who are not familiar with posole, it is a hearty Mexican stew made with pork or chicken, hominy and aromatics. Some of us add a red sauce to it for extra flavors...yum!




Ingredients:
1 can Juanita's Mexican Style Hominy, drained and washed
*3 lbs. Pork shank or shoulder
**3-4 dried guajillo chiles, soaked in warm water for 20-30 minutes
3 garlic cloves
salt to taste

For garnishing:
lemons cut in quarters
chopped onion
shredded green cabbage
sliced radishes, I don't use these but mom does
salt
tostadas- I buy Guerrero tostadas, or you can fry your own.

*I purchased my ingredients at a Mexican market and requested the "carne para posole", pork meat specifically for posole. Make sure you get the bones too, it adds flavor. You can take the meat off and shred it later.

**Sometimes you can find the dried guajillos as chile entero, chile New Mexico, and other names. But here is a picture of what it looks like and if it looks like this, it works!


Place the pork in a pot of water, a garlic clove and salt. Bring to a boil and boil for about 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure there's enough water in the pot to cover the pork and the hominy that will go in it. 

While pork is boiling prep the sauce. Cut the stem off the chiles and take out the seeds if you dont' want it too spicy. I just cut off the stem and whatever seeds come out I just leave out, but I don't make it a point to empty out the chile entirely. You can also take out the seeds before you soak them, it might be easier that way. Blend the chiles with 2 garlic cloves. Add the chile sauce to the water with the homini. Continue boiling until the pork is cooked and tender.

Take the meat out and cut into bite size pieces or shred, if the pieces of meat are too big to serve. Put the meat back in the pot with the hominy.

Serve in bowls and provide lemon, cabbage, onion, radishes, salt, and Tabasco for garnishing.


So a Happy Birthday we celebrated for the new teenager in the house. He loved it and nothing warms my heart more than my family enjoying my home cooking! Well, maybe sometimes a bowl of my mom's posole... ;-)

Provecho!

Please tell me how it went if you try this recipe, or send in your questions either on the blog or on Facebook.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cooking School Day 6: Meat

Although I intended to take one class per day, following the schedule TheKitchn had set up, I ended up getting busy with a temporary full time decorating gig and got sidetracked. But I'm back to finish my cooking lessons.

I have to admit, meat intimidates me. I never quite know which cut is good for what. So I rely on my butcher or what's called out in recipes to know what to buy and how long to cook. This lesson was somewhat helpful, but for me, I'd have to spend a lot more time on this subject to really learn more about the different cuts of meat...and I will. Just not now.

What I took away from this lesson were two very cool tips:

1) Cook perfectly tasty meat, pork chops or chicken everytime with a quick brine.
2) How to make sauces

Quick Brine in 6 easy steps:
1) Mix 4 tablespoons of any type of salt with 4 cups of water.
2) Place your meat in a shallow dish.
3) Pour the brine over your meat until it's submerged completely.
4) Add aromatics like peppercorns, bay leaves and thyme.
5) Let it sit for 15 minutes up to 4 hours. If you're going to let it sit for more than 30 minutes, place it in the refrigerator.
6) Pour out the brine, pat dry and cook as per your recipe.
Voila!

I tried this last night and I must say it worked. Tasty and moist grilled chicken. I used basil leaves, peppercorn and fresh rosemary from my garden :-) I love saying that...or typing it! One day I will have a good sized herb and vegetable garden. For now, it's basil and rosemary...but it's a garden and it's mine...so I get to say "fresh from my garden" :-)
 
Brining my chicken for 30 minutes

Making Quick Sauces:
You know when you go to a restaurant they always have these delicious sauces over meat that just makes the dish even more delicious...my boyfriend loves these! They're actually very easy to make.
1) Clear the pan you cooked your meat in, but don't clean it! Pour out all fat or cooking oil except for 1 tablespoon.
2) Saute a minced shallot in the fat for about 3 minutes. You can skip this if you don't like shallots, or substitute with mushrooms.
3) Pour in 1/4 cup of wine, beer, bourbon, or alcohol of your choice and let it come to a quick simmer, scraping the bits from the pan.
4) Reduce the alcohol by half.
5) Pour in 3/4 cup of vegetable, beef or chicken stock and let it come to a rapid simmer.
6) Reduce by about half, 3-5 minutes.
7) Pour in 2 tablespoons of butter or a splash of cream and whisk until dissolved.
8) For a thicker creamier sauce, whisk in 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch pre-whisked in 2 tablespoons of water. Let it simmer for a few seconds until thickened.
9) Pour the sauce over your meat and presto!! 
I intended to make a sauce last night to, but since I grilled the chicken on the barbeque grill outside I didn't have a pan with bits stuck on it to use. I thought maybe I'd scrape the grill grates and use that, but it was dark and cold outside and just didn't want to take the time to do that. But when I do try it, I will come back and update this post.

Now go impress your guests with a quick and delicious sauce and tell me all about it please, either here or on our Facebook page!


Until next time!

Sonia

PS: I guess this isn't much of a Meat lesson recap...


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cooking Class Day 5: Chicken & Poultry

Today's lesson was all about poultry which includes chicken, quail, turkey and other winged birds. Apparently chicken is now the most popular animal protein in American beating out beef in 2012. That's good news for health.

My take away from today's lesson is that a chicken is cooked when it reaches 165 degrees F. 

Chicken is one of those foods that can be cooked right out of the package, with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I liked to add spices ranging from spicy chili, to lemon and herbs, and sometimes even marinade it in different sauces.

Just a couple days before this lesson I decided to slow cook an entire chicken. Wow! Super delicious, easy and no fuss. I just spread butter all over the chicken, stuffed it with chopped onions, and sprinkled dried thyme, salt and pepper all over. I then squeezed an entire lemon over it, covered it and let it cook for five hours. Once, done I just let it sit in the slow cooker until the rest of the meal was ready. I cut it up and served it with mashed potatoes and gravy. Oh, and I used the juices from the chicken to make the gravy with some butter, flour, salt and pepper. Yum. The chicken was so tender it was falling right off the bone and it was perfectly delicious, and healthy.

Take a look at the lesson. They included a recipe for roasting a chicken which is very similar to my slow cooker method, just throw it in the oven and cook for an hour. You can use your chicken in salads, quesadillas, tacos, tostadas, etc.

I'm really enjoying The Kitchn's Cooking School and really feel that I learn something daily I can put to use immediately. Have you checked it out?

Good cooking!
Sonia

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Best QUESO FRESCO this side of the border

I love my cheese and one of the foods I miss the most from my days living in Mexico City is queso fresco. You can now find queso fresco in just about every grocery store packaged up in a round bag from various different food manufacturers. 

I've been following Chef Marcela Valladolid from Tijuana. She had a show on The Food Network by the name of Mexican Made Easy and a cookbook by the same name. As of late, her Food Network show is The Kitchen, which I love to watch. She recently introduced a line of foods at Vons and it's affiliated stores and I have not been disappointed by one yet. These foods include the most delicious tortillas, marinated meats, chips and my latest buy....QUESOS! This is by far the best queso fresco I've had this side of the border. Try it and check her out on Instagram under @chemarcela



I can eat it straight out of the package! Provecho!!

Sonia

Cooking School Day 4: Eggs

Today's lesson was eggs. They're used in so many recipes and meals. They can be cooked for breakfast and sometimes even make dinner. They're used for baking and holding ingredients together as in meatloaf and meatballs.

My biggest takeaways is that you can separate an egg easiest when it's still cold. So if a recipe calls for separating the egg white from the yolk, but use it at room temperature in the recipe, separate them when they're cold, and then let the rest to room temperature separately.

We also learned how to crack an egg with one hand, and this is what I did for homework! I managed to do it right on the firs try. 


One of the homework options was for those of us who want to improve our skills, and it was to make a souffle. I don't think I've ever even had one of these, but I definitely want to make one just for kicks. Heck, the purpose of this challenge is to become a better cook so why not make this the first time I have a souffle. 

Happy cooking!

Sonia
 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cooking School Day 3: Vegetables

Today's lesson was about vegetables, which I use a lot of in my cooking. Basically, vegetables will take longer to cook the larger the piece of vegetable is. That's why when I cook potatoes even if I'm going to make mashed potatoes, I cut them into cubes so I can get them to cook quicker.

My biggest take away tip from this lesson is that to best cut a piece of vegetable, or even fruit, cut off one end to create a flat surface. Then turn the vegetable on that end to slice or cut the rest of it, so it has a surface to sit on and it's not rolling around. This seems like a completely logically, duh kind of moment, but I just hadn't thought about it before!!

For homework I chose to cut up a butternut squash and roast it at 450 degrees. I cut it into two separate pieces, where the shape obviously changes. Then I sliced off one end on each and cut off the skin slicing from top to bottom, and cut the piece in half. I seeded it with a spoon, then sliced into strips, and diced into cubes. After I diced it I spritzed it with olive oil, and sprinkled with sea salt and pepper, placed it in a baking dish and into the oven. I checked on it every 5 minutes until it reached a point of tenderness I was  happy with. I used my toaster oven and not the oven on my stove because it's over 90 degrees today and I didn't want to heat up the entire house. So it took a little longer than it would usually take in my big oven, but no big deal. 20 to 25 minutes of roasting and voila! Delicioso!


 
I sauteed some kale in a bit of melted butter, sprinkled some salt and pepper over it and tossed it around for about 3-4 minutes. I added in the cooked squashed and gently tossed together. Made the perfect side dish for my pesto chicken topped with the caramelized onions from yesterday's lesson. Seriously delicious! Hope my boys like it as much as I did!


Buen provecho and happy cooking!

Sonia

Cooking School Day 2: Onions & Garlic

Yes, this was yesterday's lesson, and although I did take my lesson yesterday, I only had time to blog about my experience today cause I had a Tom Petty concert to get to!!! More on the Tom Petty concert at the end of today's blog...you don't want to miss it...!!

Onions and garlic are so largely used in cooking that The Kitchn School dedicated a whole day to them instead of lumping them with vegetables. I learned so much from watching all the videos. They explained how to peel a garlic, how to mince them, how to dice and slice onions and how to caramelize onions. 

Wow! Great info here. I dislike using store bought minced garlic, and opt for mincing my own. However, I have been using a garlic press for years. So I was glad to see their instructions on how to mince them with a knife...super easy! Did you know there are 3 ways to peel a garlic? There's flattening a clove with the side of your knife, there's squeezing it like a lemon, and then there's shaking it in a cocktail shaker where you can actually peel a whole garlic head at once. And you don't ever have to use fancy tools again!! I have several garlic dicing, mincing and peeling tools I now feel silly of owning and having spent money on. And they're such a pain to look for in my drawer of handy tools I probably would be better off without. And then there's the washing of the little tools and their accessories to scrape out the garlic, etc. So with one good, sharp, handy knife I can accomplish all! 


Don't need these anymore


Also covered was chopping, dicing, slicing an onion....never really knew if I was doing it correctly. So another great lesson for me. Watch here How to Properly Dice an Onion.
Now I am one of these people that owns a chopper and I used to use it all the time for chopping onions but it's just a pain again to find in my cupboards when needed and to wash, specially when you're only chopping one or two onions which is usually my case. Now if I'm chopping a bunch  like when I entertain, then the chopper is definitely the way to go. Now if I can just find a way to stop crying when handling onions...not covered in the lesson today, but I wear my glasses in an effort to decrease the amount of crying I do.

One of my favorite lessons from today was How to Caramelize Onions. I've caramelized onions before for burgers and oh my what a difference it makes. So delish!! But I just kinda did it by instinct and base on what I saw a chef do once at a party. But didn't really know the ins and outs and The Kitchn really explained what happens to the flavors and the fond (the stuff that gets stuck on the bottom of the  pan) and how you want the fond is not the enemy but definitely something you want. Caramelized onions does take about an hour to do if you're cooking 3-4. So it's recommended you caramelize a bunch at once even if you don't need them right away. They keep in the fridge for a week, and they keep well in the freezer. The can be used on sandwiches, burgers, over a baguette, in soups and stews, in other recipes...yummmm. Oh the possibilities!

So for homework I opted to practice slicing an onion, yay me!, and caramelizing it!! I tasted it every 5 minutes as recommended to learn the difference in taste at each stage.  i added balsamic vinegar and salt once they were done and only cooked for 40 minutes since I only used one onion. It's amazing how the taste starts changing as it's getting cooked and the smell of the house is divine.

I'll be using my caramelized onion (I only had one in the house) for dinner tonight. But will definitely make it a habit to have some in my freezer from time to time. I'll save it in small batches so I can use just what I need.

Did you try today's lesson?

And regarding the Tom Petty concert....wait for it....I missed it!!! Can you believe it???? I wasn't feeling well all day, took some meds, took a nap in the afternoon as I so desperately wanted to feel better for the concert. We get picked up in a limo, go to a nice dinner where I had the most fabulous lobster tacos and head to the concert. On the ride there I felt worse by the minute. Arriving at the concert I spent the first 30 minutes in the bathroom getting rid of my wonderful lobster tacos (eeewww, I know sorry), the lights and the music were pounding on my head and finally decided to go sleep it off in the limo so as to not ruin my boyfriend's and our friends night. Waaaaahhh, waaaahhh, boo for headaches and feeling sick :-( I woke up after 2 hours feeling better and thinking I can head back into the concert, only to find everyone was already walking out of the venue. On the way back home we were all planning on going back for the Stevie Knicks concert in a couple months and someone asked "so should we only purchase 7 tickets instead of 8?"...didn't take long for the jokes so start and I'm not going to live this down for a long time!


-Sonia

Monday, October 6, 2014

Cooking School Day 1: Knife Skills

So The Kitchn Cooking School kicked off today and I couldn't be more excited. One of my friends signed up so we can do it together. She read through all the classes being offered and told me that she once took a local cooking class that covered all the same subjects, but for a cost of $300!!! So a big THANK YOU to The Kitchn for this wonderful treat.

 Today's lesson was Knife Skills.These are my take away points:

1. Stabilize your cutting board with a towel or rubber.


2. Hold your knife with a full grip or with your thumb and index finger where the blade and the handle meet.


3. Claw your hand to hold the food being cut.




4. And make sure your knife is sharp!

They provided 3 options for homework, so I decided to Practice my use of The Claw for tonight's dinner. I've seen chefs do it on TV when they hold their knives at the front of the handle. It does feel odd, but I can see how this offers more control over my cuts.

Another homework option is to have our knives sharpened as we will be using them a ton through this cooking course. So I decided to tackle that one too. I've looked up a Knife Sharpening service and found one on yelp with great reviews about 30 miles from my house so I'll have to make a trip out there sometime this week. If anybody knows of a good knife sharpening service in the Chino Hills surrounding area, please let me know!! I've so desperately been in need of sharpening my knife. It's my favorite by Pampered Chef (pictured above), I love the way it feels on my hand, and it just seems to work so well for me...except that it has lost that sharpness of cutting right through a tomato as if it was warm butter.

So as I make my taco bar tonight and chop my rotisserie chicken, onions and avocado, I will continue practicing my knife skills.

Did you take today's class? Have you done your homework?

Sonia

Sunday, October 5, 2014

20 Days, 20 Lessons to Become a Better Cook

Hello friends!

I've been MIA for a while and I'm not quite sure why. I love to cook and I cook quite a bit for my boys at home. Fresh, homemade meals are always healthiest and most economical. And when you've got to feed the Mr. plus up to 3 teenage boys on any given day, home cooking is the way to go for our family. But I guess taking care of these boys has made life busy and the blog has been neglected.

But... I just joined a cooking class with The Kitchn and am so excited I wanted to share my experience with you all. It starts tomorrow Monday, October 6 through October 31. It's 20 days, 20 lessons to become a better cook and they will be going over essential cooking topics and explaining what we should know. And there will be tasty homework every day!!! I'm so excited I'm giddy!! I know, I know, I'm a bit of a nerd that way. Anywho, I'll be sharing my experience and homework with you everyday. So if you want to join me in this quest, go to The Kitchn Cooking Class and sign up. You'll get an email everyday. Then come back and share your experience and homework in your comments below, or on our Facebook page at Mexican Family Recipes Facebook Page .


http://www.thekitchn.com/join-the-kitchns-cooking-school-the-kitchns-cooking-school-211087
Here is the schedule:
Day 1:  Knife Skills
Day 2: Onions and Garlic
Day 3: Vegetables
Day 4: Eggs
Day 5: Poultry
Day 6: Meat
Day 7: Seafood
Day 8: Tofu & Tempeh
Day 9: Herbs & Spices
Day 10: Rice & Grains
Day 11: Beans
Day 12: Pasta & Noodles
Day 13: Sauces
Day 14: Saute
Day 15: Simmer
Day 16: Steam
Day 17: Roast
Day 18: Braise
Day 19: Broil
Day 20: Bake

I'm personally super excited about Knife Skills because I want to learn how to use them and how to keep them nice and sharp, Herbs & Spices because I'm trying to grow my own herbs and Braise because I had a fabulous Slow Braised Kobe Beef at Geoffrey's in Malibu last night. Which one are you most excited about?

I've invited my friends to join me in the fun and some are traveling, but it won't matter because it's virtual and we can all doing at our leisure from wherever we are in the world. So let's do this together...who's in??

Sonia

Friday, February 28, 2014

Chicharrones en Salsa Verde

I haven't had these in years...and by years I mean decades!! Mom used to make these when we lived in Mexico City, back in my teens. I'm not sure why she didn't frequent this delectable recipe once we returned to the States. They're delicious and super simple to make. I'm so glad I learned to make these. Here you go!


INGREDIENTS:
15 tomatillos, peeled and washed
1/2 onion
1 /2 bunch cilantro
1 chile pasilla (this was not in mom's recipe, but we added it :-) )
2 garlic cloves (mom said 1 but I used 2)
1/2 lb. of chicharrones, broken into small pieces
salt to taste
vegetable oil
*fried pork rinds found in a mexican market

Roast pasilla over open flame on the stove. You'll need to move it around with tongs, to allow the entire pasilla to get black. Once blackened, place in a plastic bag and let it steam, the black skin will loosen. You can either remove the skin using your hands by rubbing the chile over the bag, or rinse the chile with water. Cut the stem off.


Place all tomatillos in a pot, cover with water and boil.


Blend the cooked tomatillos with onion, cilantro, pasilla and garlic.
Take in the smell of the salsa....YUM!
 

 

Now I'm thinking this salsa can be used on just about anything...enchiladas maybe??!! I'll try it and let you know later.

Warm oil in a pan. Add the salsa with a little water, not too runny.
Add chicharron a few pieces at a time, they don't all fit in the pan until they soften, stirring frequently. You may not need the entire chicharron. Stop adding it to the pan once you see that you still have some salsa. Add salt to taste.


 

 


Serve with refried beans and enjoy!!