Category Archive : From the Kitchen

I’m so thankful for my recent opportunity to help Verify TV during their search to find the best tamales in North Texas. While it’s always a fun adventure to participate with them, this particular assignment meant a great deal to me personally.

It’s not Christmas until the tamales are made. For my family, and so many others, it’s a tradition that involves participation from everyone — in many ways a rite of passage.

I remember very clearly the day I was first allowed to help. It was at my Grandma Ollie’s ranch, and I must have been around six or seven. Sitting around the long counter right next to my Ma, I was handed an oja (corn husk) and a spoon.

My job was to spread masa on as many ojas as I could. I recall my Grandma helping me figure out how to hold the oja in my little hand.

There’s a distinct way to gently use the spoon to smooth out the masa in swift strokes. I was so frustrated at first.

I recall feeling like each oja took FOREVER to do!

But, I was at the table. And, that’s what mattered.

An assembly line of family members laughing, working, and celebrating an extraordinary culinary experience rooted in my heritage — a memory that would imprint on my heart forever.

To be able to continue the tradition — right next to my Ma and with Grandma Ollie at 99 years and still in charge of the crew — means everything to me and more.

Merry Christmas. May your own family traditions during the holiday season be as special to you as mine are to me.

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*song used for entertainment only – no copyright infringement intended*

If you’re anything like me, things are a little nuts right now. It’s the busiest time of the year. Fourth quarter craziness at work. Family, friends, holiday shopping (online or in person), and food preparations have you running non-stop.

So, why not have an impromptu holiday happy hour and volunteer to bring the food!?!?

Because that’s what I did!

Insane? Maybe. Fun? Of course, it was. And, here’s how I survived.

First, don’t cook. That’s right. I said it. You can still put together some elegant snacks without spending hours on end in the kitchen and then trying to figure out how to transfer everything. Plus, you even get to take a shower and get ready!

Smoked Salmon Stuffed Tomatoes with Chive Cream Cheese

1 package of plump cherry tomatoes

1 package of cream cheese

3 TBS chives, chopped

1/2 package of smoked salmon, chopped

2 TBS capers

Slice 1/8 off the vine end and 1/16 off the opposite end of each tomato. Using a paring knife, carefully hollow each tomato from the wider vine end without piercing the bottom.

Soften the cream cheese and mix with the chives. Set aside.

Fill the hollowed tomatoes with smoked salmon, add a few capers, then pipe the chive cream cheese over the top to cover.

Tasty Trio on a Toothpick

1 wedge of Manchego cheese

1 package of Prosciutto di Parma

1 small jar of pitted Castelvetrano Italian olives

Cut Manchego in 1/2 inch bars. Slice prosciutto into 1/2 inch slices and roll up. Remove olives from the brine.

Assemble with the cheese on the bottom, prosciutto in the middle and olive on top, and secure with a toothpick.

Congratulations! You’re a hero! And, if you’re feeling like an overachiever, make some deviled eggs and top with fresh dill and bacon.

Most importantly, have fun at your holiday happy hour!!

Freedom from complicated recipes and hours in the kitchen is what this super simple summer salad serves up! (alliteration, anyone?)

This is one of the best salads to make using my absolute favorite Greek salad dressing, John the Greek Original Salad Dressing. I first saw it at a Texas specialty grocer, Central Market — a brand close to my heart since I used to work for them years ago. And, I fell in love!

I don’t know what John put in that dressing, but it’s zippy and makes my tastebuds happy. Plus, it’s sugar free — another plus in my book. Here’s the quick and easy recipe to enjoy on any summer day.

12 Petit Cucumbers, 1/4 inch sliced
2 Roma Tomatoes, cubed
1/4 Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 TBS Fresh Dill, chopped
3/4 Btl John the Greek Original Salad Dressing

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate in a covered bowl for at least one hour. Serve as a side salad or over grilled meats and veggies.

Last week, Chef Rick Bayless posted a challenge to create a personalized version of Classic Roasted Tomato Salsa and a dish you’d use it in. I’ve always been a sucker for a good salsa. And, when he announced this salsa contest, I armed myself with fire and tongs. (more…)