Herb Crusted Baked Salmon, Veggies, and Better Choices

If you’re anything like me, the start of the new year usually means the end of eating all things that make you happy and the start of New Year Punishment, a ritual that includes the pushing around of sad-looking salads and the unenthusiastic motion of swinging mud-bars to and from your face with a half-grimace during every bite, otherwise known as eating protein or meal replacement bars.

New Year Punishment usually ends somewhere around the fourth or fifth day when a surge of hangry washes over you. This part results in the ceremonial hiding of the empty Cheeto bag just underneath the upside down Chips Ahoy box that’s been strategically placed beneath the brown paper bag from Five Guys that looks very similar to the brown paper bag from Whole Foods.

New year, new you, right?

Well, for me, the idea of “diet” and making drastic changes to my day and expecting my taste buds to suddenly enjoy things I don’t ever dream about eating (I can say with full confidence) doesn’t work. So, this year, I’ve replaced New Year Punishment with New Year Choices – same taste buds, different approach.

I mean, for Pete’s sake (sorry, Pete), I love food. And, the only reason why junk food was ever the last hoorah when the hangry took over was because I’d denied myself so much happiness (otherwise known as cheese, bacon, and chocolate) that I was desperate for anything that remotely resembled the things I love to eat.

Why in the heck was I repeatedly denying my love of food when there are plenty of flavor-packed choices I could have, and guess what, folks??? I can cook!

Geesh. So, I’ve decided to challenge myself. I will create healthier versions of everything I love to eat, and sometimes I’ll just make things I love that don’t need a healthier twist. I am simply making better New Year Choices because I deserve to be around for a long time.

And, come on; with whom else are you going to have passionate conversations about breakfast tacos? And, I am still eating breakfast tacos.

Better choices that celebrate my love of food, remember? Not denial and tasteless choices that make me psychotic.

And, I’ll tell you another thing. I have every friggin’ exercise guru’s VCR (yes, VCR), DVD, BlueRay, poster, flipchart, and dance chart one could possibly imagine. And, I’ve taken just about every class that’s offered by anyone peddling a “fun” workout and been in every gym within a 20 mile radius of my home. In all the years I’ve been wasting money buying crap I don’t use or stopping doing whatever class after the hangry stage, there’s only one exercise that has ever made me happy.

So, Chalene has officially come out of retirement, and we’re gettin’ our Turbo Jam back on.

Want to know why I love me some Turbo Jam?

Because it’s only 20 minutes, has fun music, includes Chalene telling me how awesome I am for making better choices, and I don’t want to kill her. She’s got me jammin’ and jumpin’ and movin’ and shakin’ for 20 minutes, and I don’t feel like I want to seek and destroy, much like many other programs in which I’ve participated. That’s why I love me some Turbo Jam. That’s it. No health aspect. No variety of cardio and strength training blah, blah, blah. No. I don’t want to kill her. I can stand it for 20 minutes. It makes me happy. Ahí esta.

And, this kick-off week to making better choices has been exactly what it should be, flavor-packed and fun. At no point did I find myself crying in a corner while hoarding Ding Dongs. It was good.

Here’s one of the many super-easy and tasty recipes that made the week successful.

Ingredients:
2 Zucchini
1/2 Onion, frenched
2 Cups Asparagus
1/2 Cup Red Bell Pepper
4 Green Onion
6 Grape Tomatoes
1/4 Cup, Plain Panko Japanese Style Bread Crumbs
1 TBS Whole Grain Mustard
1 TBS Fresh Dill
1 TBS Fresh Chives
1 TBS Fresh Parsley
2 6oz Portion of Fresh Salmon
1 TBS Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 TBS C&J Farms Scarborough Fair Herb Blend
Salt/Pepper

Preheat oven to 375°.

Take one asparagus and bend it in half until it breaks on its own. Use that broken asparagus as your guide to trim the rest of your asparagus into a similar length. Set aside.

Cut zucchini and red bell pepper into matchsticks or long slices, and set aside. Slice the green onion on the bias, and set aside. French the onion and slice the grape tomatoes in half, and set aside. Finely chop the dill, chives, and parsley and place in a small bowl. Add the mustard and panko to the herb mixture and set aside.

In a large baking dish, add the zucchini, onion, asparagus, red bell pepper, green onion, and tomatoes. Drizzle with 3/4 TBS of olive oil, reserving the rest for later. Salt and pepper the vegetables, add the Scarborough Herb Blend, and toss everything together to coat evenly with oil and seasoning. Place the two salmon portions directly on top of the seasoned veggies. Salt and pepper each salmon portion.

Stir together the panko, herb, and mustard mixture. Add the rest of the olive oil to the panko mixture. Using a spoon or your fingers, crust the top of the salmon with the panko and herb mixture, ensuring the top of the salmon is completely covered. Bake at 375° for 20-30 minutes, depending on how well-cooked you prefer your salmon. And, enjoy every single flavorful bite – that dill and mustard pop makes every mouthful dance – I’m telling you.

So, here’s to making better choices! I look forward to sharing my adventures with you in 2017, and may you also journey through your own best adventure this year – because you deserve it.

Menudo

There are very few things, if any, that scare me in the kitchen. As an avid eater, I’ll pretty much try anything and love diving into the rich history and culture behind all food. And, for the most part, there really hasn’t been a recipe I’ve come across or food I’ve wondered about that gave me pause when attempting to recreate it in my own kitchen… except for one thing… menudo.

Menudo has always just been there for me. It’s comfort food. I grew up eating it. For those who don’t know about menudo, it’s a traditional Mexican soup that’s made from (just wait, don’t go anywhere) cow’s stomach, pig’s feet, hominy, and seasoned with Mexican oregano and a red chile sauce.

You there? Are you still reading? Hello? Okay, good. I promise. It’s delicious! I love it!

My Aunt Adelma is a Master Menudo Maker, and she was even our “Madrina de Menudo” (Godmother of Menudo) for our wedding! We didn’t have Padrinos de Lazo or Arras (Godparents of the Rosary or Coins) – we had Padrinos de Menudo (Godparents of Menudo), okay? No joke.

That’s how important menudo is in my life.

When I show up on Sunday at any Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurant, it’s on the menu. When we have a Christmas or New Year’s Eve family party, it’s being served. When I take Sunday breakfast over to Grandma Ollie’s, it’s right next to the pan dulce and barbacoa. When I have a hankering for menudo, it’s never more than a few miles away, waiting for me to christen it with a sprinkle of cebollita (onion) and a splash of lime juice. But, I’ve never attempted this sacred dish in my own kitchen.

Why, you ask?

Because even though I know the flavor profile, basic ingredients, history, and process, I was scared it wasn’t going to live up to the menudo in my head! I didn’t know if I was ready to hit up this iconic labor of love. I was terrified that I was somehow going to bring shame to Aunt Adelma’s signature dish and end up with some pathetic, watery mess. (Plus, it takes forever to cook and stinks to high heaven when it first starts to cook. So, I really never had the desire to make the magic happen within my own four walls, especially when I knew where I could order it.)

Yet, two days ago, as I was thumbing through one of my Ma’s favorite recipe books, the menudo bug bit me.

I was going to make it; I was going to stink up my brother’s house to do it, and it was going to be amazing.

After researching for hours, reviewing about 15 menudo recipes, making calls to New Mexico and South Texas to get any input from relatives, I was ready to create my own approach, and I was determined to avoid using any “menudo mix” in the process, a packet of spices most grocery stores carry in the spice aisle. I was going 100% authentic – all the way.

First thing was to create the Chile Colorado, a red chile sauce that gives both the flavor and rich red color to the menudo, and I was going to use Bear’s Grandma Julia’s base recipe to get started. This recipe is something that Bear remembers growing up in Las Cruces, and he said this was the base sauce for many of his grandmother’s dishes. The only thing I added was the onion to help mellow out any bitterness from the chile (I know, total Texan move – sorry, Grandma Julia – I’m not New Mexican enough to do straight chile.)

Chile Colorado Sauce
During this step, be sure to either use gloves and/or avoid touching your eyes. The chile capsaicin will hurt like Hades if you get it in your eyes or any sensitive areas.
4oz Dried Whole New Mexico Chile Pods
1/2 Onion, quartered
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 tsp Salt
Water

Remove the stem from each dried chile pod, and then shake out any seeds from within each pod.

Add the de-stemmed/seeded chile pods, the quartered onion, and salt to a large pot and cover with water just until the pods are covered. Heat over medium-high and bring to a boil, using tongs to flip over the chile pods to ensure all sides are met with boiling water.

omgs-dfw-food-menudo-4Once the chile pods have softened and the onion is cooked through and nearly translucent, use tongs to remove the soft chile pods and onion, and transfer ingredients to a blender. Do not use any of the water that was used in the pot, as it is bitter and will ruin the sauce. Discard the boiled water.

To the warm chile pods and onion in the blender, add minced garlic; then, add fresh water to cover half of the contents only. Blend on high until the mixture creates a paste-like consistency. The sauce will have a similar appearance to a thick/chunky tomato sauce.

Remove the contents of the blender into a fine mesh sieve, and using a spat or spoon, work the contents through the sieve to create a beautifully bright, velvety red sauce absent of any chile or onion pieces. Set aside.

This is Chile Colorado! You can use this sauce as enchilada sauce, seasoning for meats, and/or use it for menudo.

Menudo
2 lbs Beef Tripe
1/2 lb Beef Honeycomb Tripe
2 Pig’s Feet, split
2 TBS Mexican Whole Oregano
1 Large Onion, quartered but attached at the stem
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 Bay Leaf
1/2 Lime Juiced
2-4 tsp Salt
3 15.5oz Can White Hominy
Chile Colorado (4oz recipe above)

Notes: 
It’s very common practice to open the windows or doors when making menudo because the initial boiling of the tripe can be quite aromatic.
Beef tripe can be found in most Hispanic markets, and if honeycomb tripe is unavailable, add 1/2 pound of regular tripe instead.
Honeycomb tripe looks exactly as you think it might, a honeycomb.

Remove one end of the onion, leaving the stem side intact. Using a knife, gently quarter the onion without going all the way through the stem. The onion should hold together and just add flavor this way. Set aside. Thoroughly rinse the tripe and pig’s feet under running cold water in a colander, making sure that every part has been washed over with water.

Cut the rinsed tripe and honeycomb tripe into bite-sized pieces. Add all the rinsed tripe, pig’s feet, quartered onion, minced garlic, 1 TBS of Mexican oregano, 2 tsp of salt, and two bay leaves to a large stockpot (10qt).

Cover the ingredients with water, and fill the 10qt stockpot 3/4 full. Spin the onion if you like a little pizazz while cooking. I know I do.

Bring the stockpot to a full, rolling boil and let boil for approximately three hours, watching the water level closely. You can reduce to a medium-high simmer and cover after the first hour, but a constant low boil is necessary for the full three hours. After three hours, add the Chile Colorado and remaining Mexican oregano to the stockpot. Continue to boil for another hour. After the fourth hour, taste and add the remaining salt if necessary. Add the lime juice and hominy to the stockpot. Continue boiling covered for another 30 minutes.

omgs-dfw-food-menudo-13Menudo will be finished when the tripe is tender and nearly melts in your mouth when chewed. Garnish with chopped fresh onion, additional Mexican oregano, and a squeeze of lime. Accompany your menudo with corn tortillas heated on a comal (South Texas style) or with a buttered and toasted bolillo or hoagie roll (New Mexico style) that can be found in any market.

This was, by far, one of my greatest kitchen accomplishments, and that’s not me bragging. You know I would tell you if it was a disaster. Thank God it wasn’t!

My entire family loved it, and I was just so happy that this labor of love turned out so well that I needed to share the recipe.

It made me so proud to use Grandma Julia’s Chile Colorado base recipe, and it made me proud that my Grandma Ollie loved it so much once it was done.

Never again will I fear a recipe. When you love cooking and love the culture behind the food, that love serves as the perfect seasoning to make any dish sing. Well, that and research and remembering what you did by writing it down. But, you get the picture. ¡Buen Provecho!

Caldo de Pollo

Brrrrrrrrrr… it’s chilly up in here! North Texas may not inspire tundra-like weather, but it has officially hit the freezing mark; and, that can only mean one thing: Caldo!

Growing up in South Texas, it rarely dipped past the 40’s, but when it did, it was like the Bat Signal went up for all the abuelitas to kick into high gear and get those ollas (cooking pots) out and fill them with warm, delicious broth that overflowed with hearty potatoes, calabaza (large green squash), carrots, and celery atop large pieces of chicken that fell right off the bone. And, while I’m nowhere near abuelita status, that doesn’t prevent me from hauling out the ol’ enamel-covered cast iron 7-quart dutch oven I like to call Pun’kin… ‘cus she’s orange, large, and in charge.

You should also know that you can swap out the chicken for large chunks of beef rump roast and swap the Knorr Caldo de Pollo Bouillon Seasoning for Knorr Caldo de Tomate Bouillon Seasoning and get Caldo de Rez (beef soup). If you do this, add some fresh corn cobs cut into thirds when you add the cabbage. Everything else is exactly the same.

In the fitting words of Bernardo, “Vamonos, muchachos!”

Ingredients:
1 Large Green Squash
4 Large Carrots
3 Large Stalks of Celery
5 Medium Potatoes
1 Large Onion
1 Small Whole Green Cabbage
1 Bunch of Cilantro
4 Chicken Quarters or 1 Whole Chicken Cut in Fryer Parts
3 TBS Knorr Caldo de Pollo Bouillon Seasoning
2 TBS Vegetable Oil
6 Garlic Cloves, diced
1 TBS Cumin Seeds
2 tsp Whole Black Peppercorns
Cumin Powder (optional)
Garlic Powder (optional)
Black Pepper (optional)

Rinse and dry all of the vegetables. Cut the squash, carrots, and celery into large 2-inch chunks, and set aside. Cut the potatoes in half, and set aside with the other veggies. Quarter the onion, removing the ends and peeling the outer layer. Core the cabbage, and cut the cabbage in half and then into large chunks. Do not worry about separating the onion or the cabbage, as they will fall apart in the soup. Set all the veggies aside. And, on a separate cutting board, separate the chicken quarters if they are not already cut into fryer parts. Then, liberally season the chicken all over with the Knorr Caldo de Pollo Bouillon Seasoning. You can find this seasoning at your local grocery store right next to the bouillon or in the Mexican/International aisle.

Get out your version of ol’ Pun’kin (large stock pot), heat to medium-high on the stove, and add the vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, add the seasoned chicken to the pot, being careful not to overcrowd the pan at one time. Brown the chicken on one side, then turn over. When you turn over the browned chicken, add the squash, carrots, celery, potatoes, and onion on top of the chicken. Then, cover the ingredients with warm water, leaving some space for stirring and adding the cabbage. At this point, you’re deglazing the pan with water, removing any bits of the chicken from the bottom. Use a pair of tongs to gently stir up the bottom to remove all the wonderful yummy bits, being careful not to splash. Bring the pot to a rolling boil.

When you’re bringing the pot up to a boil, in a separate small skillet, add the cumin seeds. Place the skillet on medium heat, and toast the cumin seeds for about two minutes. Once you can smell the cumin, remove it from the heat, and immediately place the toasted seeds into a molcajete (mortar and pestle). To the cumin seeds, add the diced garlic and peppercorns. Take out any aggressions from a possible bad hair day or any other disaster, and smash those suckers into a paste, just like Grandma Ollie taught us how to do. Then, add some warm water to loosen the paste.

Once the pot is up to a rolling boil, add the watery cumin, garlic, and peppercorn mixture to the soup and stir. If you do not have a molcajete or mortar and pestle, do not fret. Whip out some cumin powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. Add one heaping Tablespoon each of cumin powder and garlic powder; then, add one teaspoon of black pepper. Then, go buy a molcajete. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have one. They are cheap and are needed to truly create that magical seasoned paste that gives life to most Mexican/Tex-Mex dishes.

¡Andale! Go buy one after you eat caldo!

After you’ve stirred in the key magical cumin, garlic, peppercorn mixture, take the cabbage, and simply place the large chunks on top. Rip up the bunch of cilantro, and then place that on top, as well. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover the pot. Let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Be careful not to let the caldo over boil. If needed, leave the lid partially open to prevent overflow of precious caldo broth, and stir occasionally. This is the kind of soup you can leave on the stove simmering all day while you serve from the pot until every last drop is gone.

Once the chicken is falling off the bone, ladle the soup into a bowl, making sure you get at least one of every vegetable in your bowl. Serve with warm corn tortillas and a squeeze of fresh lime.

In our household, my Grandpa always used to eat corn tortillas with mayonnaise (don’t knock it ’til you try it), and that’s exactly how I eat my caldo. I slather some mayo on my corn tortilla, roll it up, and dip it into that warm, comforting broth. It brings back such wonderful memories of Grandma Ollie, as well as my Ma, making caldo and me sitting in my warm pajamas, eating right next to Grandpa at the kitchen table at the ranch.

May this soup warm you up – heart and soul.

 

Thanksgiving Stuffed Winter Acorn Squash

Winter is coming! Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and while many of our tried and true traditional dishes are top of mind, I’m always game when it comes to trying something new, especially if it’s seasonal and easy!

Acorn squash is my absolute favorite winter squash, and this Thanksgiving Stuffed Winter Acorn Squash recipe knocks out two dishes in one, the veggie and the stuffing. And, it’s also a lovely side dish for any roast chicken, duck, or cornish game hen dinners you might be planning this holiday season. Or, if you’re like me, it can serve as dinner on its own! One Acorn Squash serves two people.

Ingredients:
2 Acorn Squash
Olive Oil
Salt/Pepper
16oz Your Favorite Sausage (Sage, Fennel, or Sweet Italian work well)
1 Onion, diced
2 Leek Stalks, split lengthwise and diced
3 Celery Stalks, diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
1/4 Cup Fresh Flat Leaf Italian Parsley, chopped
3 TBS Fresh Rosemary, chopped
3 TBS Fresh Sage, chopped
1/3 Cup Pecans, chopped
1/4 Cup Dried Cranberries
1 Package King’s Hawaiian Classic Stuffing, Herb & Onion
Chicken Stock (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°.

Cut 1/4 inch off the top and bottom of each acorn squash so they sit flat and even.

Core the seeds using a spoon to scoop them out, and discard the seeds.

Drizzle each side of the acorn squash with olive oil, then salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish, and bake at 375° for 30 minutes, turning over half way.

While the acorn squash is roasting, chop your onion, leeks, celery, and bell pepper and set aside in a bowl.

Then, chop your parsley, rosemary, sage, and pecans. Set aside, along with your cranberries.

In a large dutch oven, drizzle olive oil, and then sauté the onion, leeks, celery, and bell pepper on medium high heat for approximately 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Then, add sausage and cook sausage through.

Add King’s Hawaiian Classic Stuffing Herb & Onion to the mixture and continue cooking on medium-high heat until combined and the stuffing starts to absorb the moisture from the mixture. If it appears too dry, you may add a splash of chicken stock to the mixture. Be careful not to add too much liquid to avoid becoming mush.

Add the parsley, rosemary, sage, chopped pecans, and cranberries to the mixture and incorporate well. At this point, the acorn squash should be ready. Fill and mound the empty core of the acorns with the stuffing mixture.

Bake the stuffed acorn squash at 375° for 35-45 minutes or until stuffing is golden brown and the place smells amazing.

Happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Day After Thanksgiving Breakfast Muffins

It’s getting close to Turkey Day, and that means we have some important planning to do.

We have to plan the seating arrangements to ensure all relatives leave unscathed from the annual table conversation (this year should be super fun), and let’s not forget the critical decision regarding which pair of stretchy pants will be worn after the main meal. However, the most important decision you’ll have to make this Thanksgiving is what in the world to do with your leftover stuffing!?!

Have no fear. I’ve got the hookup thanks to my pals over at Empire Baking Company in Dallas, Texas.omgs-dfw-food-omg-baking-at-empire

Saturday I had the pleasure of hanging out to do a sponsored demo all day at Empire, and I created a recipe specifically for them, featuring some of the ingredients sold at their location. Every Friday from now until Thanksgiving, Tamie, Empire’s manager, is creating different dressings using Empire’s amazing bread and products. This past Friday, Tamie put together her grandmother’s famous traditional Texas dressing to sample (it’s sooooooooo goooood), and just like the day after Thanksgiving, we had some dressing left over on Saturday.

So, our focus was all about creating an easy recipe that utilized the leftover stuffing! And, the coolest part is that this recipe works with any dressing recipe – yours included. (Don’t know if you noticed my alternating “dressing” and “stuffing” – for our purposes, they mean the same thing.)

Let’s get started!

Day After Thanksgiving Breakfast Muffins
Yields approximately 8 dozen mini muffins or 2 dozen regular muffins

Base:
16 oz Sage or Spicy Breakfast Sausage (sub 12 oz Applewood Smoked Bacon, diced)
½ Onion, diced
2 TBS Butter
8 Cups Your Refrigerated Thanksgiving Dressing/Stuffing, crumbled
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
3 TBS Valentina Picante Salsa (sub your favorite hot sauce)

Custard:
2 Whole Eggs
4 Egg Yolks
1 Pint Heavy Whipping Cream
2 tsp Chef Milton Atlantic Sea Salt with Rosemary (Found at Empire Baking Company)

Optional Glaze:
Luscombe Farm Jalapeño Pepper Jelly (Found at Empire Baking Company)

Preheat oven to 375°. Butter muffin tins or use a non-stick baking spray to coat the tins.

In a skillet, sauté breakfast sausage until cooked through and set aside to cool. If subbing bacon, cook until bacon is crisp, drain completely, then set aside to cool. In the same skillet, add butter and onion. Sauté until onions are tender and the fond (brown/caramelized goodies stuck to the bottom of the pan) releases from the pan.

omgs-dfw-food-butter-in-pan

Once the onions are tender, remove from pan and set aside with sausage or bacon to cool.

omgs-dfw-food-sausage-and-onionsomgs-dfw-food-bacon-and-onion-prep

 

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks, cream, and Chef Milton Atlantic Sea Salt with Rosemary. Set aside.

omgs-dfw-food-sea-salt-with-rosemary

In a large bowl, add crumbled dressing, shredded cheddar cheese, and cooled sausage or bacon and onions.

omgs-dfw-food-cheese-and-sausage

Combine thoroughly.

omgs-dfw-food-crumble-mix-combined

Pour the custard mixture over the dressing mixture and fold until well incorporated. The mixture will be moist.

omgs-dfw-food-pouring-custardomgs-dfw-food-muffin-mixture

Add in the Valentina Salsa Picante or your favorite hot sauce to add another layer of flavor and mix thoroughly.

omgs-dfw-food-valentina-picante-salsa

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop the mixture into greased mini muffin tins.

omgs-dfw-food-mixture-scoop omgs-dfw-food-ready-to-bake

 

Bake at 375° for 17-20 minutes or until crispy on top and golden brown.

omgs-dfw-food-post-bake

For some added sweet heat, add a small dollop of Luscombe Farm Jalapeño Pepper Jelly to the top of each muffin right before the last five minutes of baking is up, and place back into the oven to create that amazing caramelized glaze.

omgs-dfw-food-luscombe-farm-jalapeno-pepper-jelly

omgs-dfw-food-day-after-thanksgiving-breakfast-muffins-with-jalapeno-pepper-jelly

For regular sized muffins, bake for 30-35 minutes or until crispy on top and golden brown. Let cool for 7 minutes to allow the muffins to set before removing from muffin tins.

Saturday’s adventure, recipe ingredients, and post featuring specific products were sponsored by Empire Baking Company.   

To Tamale or Not To Tamale… That is the Question

Once a year I get this harebrained idea (which I believe stems from my upbringing) that urges me to spend two 19-hour days back to back, standing in a hot kitchen, working with argumentative ingredients that ultimately result in a severe backache and the euphoria that comes from eating a homemade tamale with a hot cup of coffee. Continue reading “To Tamale or Not To Tamale… That is the Question”

Texas Breakfast Taco Battle

Although the state food of Texas is officially chili, most Texans would agree that the breakfast taco should really hold that title.

Growing up in South Texas, the breakfast taco was a daily way of life and an even bigger deal on weekends when barbacoa came out to play. For those who aren’t familiar, barbacoa tacos fall into a special category, “solo el fin de semana,” or just the weekend. Much like menudo and pozole, barbacoa breakfast tacos are usually reserved for Saturday and Sunday only.

I remember we would head to my Uncle Turi’s (short for Arturo) house where we experienced our version of the culinary holy trinity, the trifecta of Sunday breakfasts: menudo, pan dulce, and breakfast tacos (barbacoa included). My Aunt Adelma has always been the official family “madrina de menudo,” the godmother of this most prized Mexican delicacy. She’s like a magician in the kitchen, and to this day, I have yet to figure out what she does differently that makes it so incredibly amazing. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. But, I digress…

Even now, being in North Texas, it’s a Sunday tradition to bring breakfast tacos over to my brother’s house where everyone, including my 97-year old Grandma Ollie, gently tilts our heads to lovingly usher in the fluffy, yet toasted, flour tortilla, edges bursting with heavenly combinations of bean and bacon, potato and egg, chorizo and egg, and of course, barbacoa.

So, it should be no surprise that my history with and my passion for breakfast tacos recently lead me on a spectacular breakfast taco-filled journey when I was chosen to be a guest reporter for Verify, a television show that takes interested viewers on road trips to seek answers to life’s most pressing questions, like “What’s the Breakfast Taco Capital of Texas?”

For two days, we traveled through Austin and San Antonio, tasting the best breakfast tacos each city had to offer, and in the end, I had to choose which city would reign supreme in the Texas breakfast taco battle. Talk about controversial decisions. Anyone see what happened to the last guy who spoke up about the subject? Sensitive topic much?

And, during the week of September 12, 2016, the state of Texas will find out my decision, and hopefully, I won’t be banned from either city (or any city across Texas for that matter).

I love Texas! I love breakfast tacos! I love all tacos!

Now, one would think that after two days straight of nothing but breakfast tacos, it would have some sort of negative impact on my affection for the tasty Texas treats, and yet, no – it did not.

In fact, that’s exactly the opposite of what happened.

The day I returned, and every weekend since (just as it’s always been) I either made or purchased breakfast tacos. For me, it’s about a sense of home.

I can remember early mornings at my grandparents’ ranch as a small child, watching Grandma Ollie masterfully lead a sort of ballet where each long, thin strip of bacon danced with her wooden spoon until they furled gracefully into their perfectly crisp positions in the cast iron skillet.omgsdfwfood - 300 breakfast tacos bacon

Next would come the potatoes, every piece a blank canvas with nothing but that aromatic, smoky base as the paintbrush, adding the perfect amount of salt over each rich, caramelized cube. omgsdfwfood - 300 breakfast tacos fried potatoesThen, the beans would enjoy a bath in that bacony goodness until every one of them had weakened under pressure and transformed into the perfect creamy base for the breakfast taco, refried beans.omgsdfwfood - 300 breakfast tacos refried beans

To this day, I still follow her steps when preparing breakfast tacos at home. The breakfast taco really means so much more to me than a humble meal in the morning or a Texas tradition, even. It’s about my culture, my history, my family – my own Texas experience.

Having to choose between two cities, knowing there were so many other Texas cities not represented, was extremely difficult for me. I found myself getting teary-eyed whenever I thought too long about not being able to include the Rio Grande Valley or Corpus Christi, my South Texas, in my decision. I felt like I was denying the existence of hundreds of little taco stands, taco trucks, breakfast taco joints, and too many family kitchens that were all more than worthy of having a shot at the title. I felt silly that this responsibility was weighing so heavily on my soul, and yet, I felt compelled to try and weave in my concerns at every turn – all because that’s how much it meant to me!

Poor David Schechter can attest that I must have mentioned the variety of breakfast tacos that weren’t in the running at least 50 times while on the road. By the end of the trip, I am positive I interjected my concerns on camera enough times to possibly make it through editing – next week will tell.

And, it was all for the love of my beloved Texas breakfast taco and the desperate need to represent my culture, my history, and my food family well. I truly took this decision to heart.

I’m a proud Texan. I love both Austin and San Antonio. So, when you watch the show during your evening news the week of September 12thon any Texas Tegna station, know that I took the responsibility seriously and had my own personal breakfast taco battle going on internally, one that wasn’t easily calmed with anti-acids.

In the end, I know I made the right decision based on a very clear set of criteria, and I’ll stand by that decision when it comes out.

For now, I’ll just sit back and have a snack… perhaps one of several breakfast tacos I brought back from this past weekend getaway to Austin and San Antonio.OMGs DFW Food - Texas Breakfast Tacos

 

Divine Secrets of a Ya-Ya Get-Together (Cocktail Party)

Do y’all remember The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood? It was that Sandra Bullock film where a group of lifelong friends attempts to rescue a relationship between a mother and a daughter. The movie was a’ight, but more importantly, the part I want to focus on is actually having a Ya-Ya Sisterhood, that group of “ride or die” friends who would do just about anything for you.

Every month (or the first available moment the planets align with all of our schedules), two of my lifelong sister-friends and I hang out for a Ya-Ya Get-Together. It’s when we unplug, forget about the craziness in our lives, and relax with copious amounts of wine and hors d’oeuvres. There are only two rules: each Ya-Ya has a rotation as Get-Together hostess, and the hostess must provide a bottle(s) of wine none of the Ya-Ya’s have tried so we can try it together.

Basically, we have created an excuse to have a mini-cocktail party for just the three of us as often as possible. You get the picture.

This particular spread was my turn hosting a Ya-Ya Get-Together that just happened to double as a birthday celebration for one of the Ya-Ya’s!

OMGs DFW Food - Cocktail Party

Don’t judge. I know this may appear a little overboard for three of us, but you have to remember this is at least a four-hour affair. That’s a long time to be talking and laughing – we need sustenance! Plus, this was special birthday party Ya-Ya material.

In order to prepare for the evening, I took a little trip to one of my absolute favorite culinary destinations in Texas, Central Market. (While I used to work there many, many moons ago, I have zero affiliation with them now, aside from the fact that I’m completely in love with them and still openly profess my love for everything Central Market.)

In less than one hour, I had everything I needed to set out a spread worthy of the Ya-Ya’s. Plus, I even had time to make a pitcher of some lovely Lemon Mint Water.

For the appetizer bites, I bought ready-made mini tart shells and filled them with Central Market’s uh-MAZING Pimento Cheese and creamy Spinach Artichoke Dip. To make it my own signature snack, I fried up some bacon and crumbled the smoky bits neatly over each spinach hors d’oeuvre, then minced up some parsley and sprinkled the parsley over the cheesy pimento tarts.

OMGs DFW Food - Cocktail Party Hordeurvres

For the center cheese board, all I did was take my handy-dandy John Boos cutting board and line up five different cheese options, a hard, soft, goat, cheddar, and smoked, onto the board. Grapes, figs, pears, and strawberries will always find a buddy on the cheese board, and with a little peppered salami, sweet cured salami, and cracker choices, we were set to go! The decorative pieces were simply rosemary sprigs and a few small bowls of Marcona almonds and olives. Simple, quick, and easy!

Pastries were there because of the birthday celebration, but if you’re in Texas and looking for some incredible individual desserts for birthdays or just because you deserve a slice of chocolate cake, Central Market has the hookup!

North Texans, if you haven’t ventured into one of their five DFW locations, RUN; don’t walk! And, go on a Saturday to have the full experience of Foodies offering samples at every corner and of local bands playing live music while you shop! Everyone else in the world, Central Market has several locations across our great state. So, please be sure to visit a Central Market if you come to Texas!

Needless to say, post Ya-Ya Get-Together, in the wee hours of the morning, not a morsel was left. I love my Ya-Ya Sisterhood and our Get-Togethers, and I certainly hope this inspires you to start your own Ya-Ya Get-Together tradition with your friends, lifelong and new alike!

_______________________

Lemon Mint Water
2 Large Lemons Sliced
2 Bunches of Mint Leaves Roughly Chopped
Water
Ice

Muddle the sliced lemons and chopped mint leaves at the bottom of a pitcher. Add water and ice to fill. Then, enjoy this refreshing beverage!

Italian Basil Bomb Sammy

In the spirit of doing everything possible to win a sandwich making contest, here’s another entry I submitted, and it is SOOOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOOD! Plus, I got to do my best Giada impression when I made my recipe video. “SO-pre-SSA-ta!” Continue reading “Italian Basil Bomb Sammy”

South Texican Kitchen Talk with Grandma Ollie: The Molcajete

Last week, Grandma Ollie stayed at our place to visit, and during our many adventures together, I decided to tape some of our conversations (with her permission, of course).

This particular morning, we were admiring one of my molcajetes that my Tia Eloisa had given me. A molcajete is a Mexican-style mortar and pestle made from lava rock and is an essential tool in any Mexican or Tex-Mex kitchen, like mine!

Grandma Ollie is 97 and still inspires me today, as I’ve stated before. She truly is a pistol and plays a huge part in why I do everything for the love of food. She taught me love comes in many forms and can be leveraged as a seasoning.  In this quick video, she demonstrates how to season and use a molcajete!

PS – She’s going to kill me for posting the pic with the sombrero. So, it was nice knowing you all… Ajua!

Verify THIS!

UPDATE: Verify Road Trip will air the week of September 12, 2016 on all Texas stations listed in the video below!

If you’ve been anywhere even remotely close to my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages lately, you noticed I’ve been on a two-day breakfast taco adventure by way of WFAA’s David Schechter and his new show, Verify: Road Trip. I can’t shut up about it and for good reason! This experience was thuh-SHIZnit! It was the bomb diggity damn, and I absolutely loved every second of it!!

Wanted to offer up a little recap of our adventures and also give a HUGE shout out to David Schechter, Alex Krueger, Chance Horner, and Cameron Gott – the elite – the ultimate newscrew/superhero photojournaling/wicked Cirque du Solei balancing/mutli-task wizarding/kung-fu masters of bad-assery team who invited me into their inner circle for two days.

These guys were non-stop, and this was IN ADDITION to other things they were juggling from the home office in DFW while we were on the road. PLUS, they were super cool, funny, and they not only let me ask a million questions, but they offered up some killer advice within their responses. I was taking a friggin’ master class for two days with these guys – a la Oprah, yo. Just amazing.

We have NO IDEA how much work goes into news reporting, folks. No idea. It’s long hours, hard work, integrity-driven commitment to responsible research, and the ability to go with the flow. Be prepared for anything was the motto.

I got a taste of it for two days, and it was so flippin’ awesome but so flippin’ hard. These guys are quick on their feet, so intelligent and witty, constantly churning out ideas and working on the fly – their writing is just off the hook, and their camera work is crazy awesome. The two days were incredibly exhausting, and I just sat in the A/C most of the time while they were scouting locations and carrying equipment around in 90+ degree weather.

I have nuthin’ but love for these guys. Just killer. Nuthin’ but love.

So, here’s a sneak peek at what we did for two days, but if you want to know who reigns supreme as the breakfast taco capital of Texas, you’ll just have to watch any of the Texas stations listed in the video at 10pm during the last week of August!

Livin’ La Vida Taco

My head’s about to explode.

Four days ago, I was scrolling down Facebook and noticed a video in my feed with the title, “Are you a foodie?”

Naturally, I hit pause on the cat video and clicked on the foodie link. It was ABC affiliate WFAA’s David Schechter and a producer, Alex Krueger, asking for one foodie viewer to join them on a road trip to help determine the true breakfast taco capital of Texas.

If ever there were a task I was thoroughly qualified to exceed at, this was it.

To be chosen, you had to fill out a three-question survey and submit a video talking about why you should be the one taking up that last seat in the mini-van.

Here’s how it went down…

YOU HAVE ONLY ONE HOUR TO SAVE THE WORLD FROM A ZOMBIE ATTACK, WHAT DO YOU DO?
I would fry bacon, eat the bacon, and use the hot, rendered fat as a weapon against the zombies, in the hopes that I wouldn’t run into any vegan zombies where pork fat as a weapon would clearly be futile. I would leverage social media and the news outlets to spread the word and help others defend the world using the same method. This way, no matter what happened, people would either die happy or at least not waste pork fat before dying.

WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MEAL? 
In Madrid, Spain, we were fortunate enough to eat at the oldest restaurant in the world, Restaurante Botín. It opened its doors in 1725, and there’s a reason it’s still open and even made its way into Hemingway’s novels. The crisp skin of the roasted suckling pig (cochinillo asado), the fascinating subtleties of the blood sausage (morcilla), the deeply rich and creamy chicken/ham croquettes (croquetas), and the noble cured ham (jamón ibérico) were like food of the gods. Sitting in those tiny chairs, pressed up next to our neighboring tables, listening to Madrileños whip their way through conversations, purposely closing my eyes with every succulent bite, imagining that very room where thousands of patrons had enjoyed a very similar experience… it was something I will never forget.

WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL AND WHY?
Wow. Where do I start? So many colorful spices have been simmering a long time in the magical sauce that’s my life! Caroline McNinch, my smoking, 400 pound, denture-wearing, narcoleptic babysitter, introduced me to the poetry of James Whitcomb Riley when I was just four years old and spent hours teaching me the magic of spoken poetry, all while making the most amazing potato bread that she would promptly toast with a pat of butter straight from the oven. Once seated at the red, retro four-top in the middle of her tiny kitchen, we would swap turns coating the still-warm pillowy delight with sweet, homemade blackberry jam. She taught me how to enjoy life and find joy and humor in all things. My Grandma Ollie still inspires me today at age 97. She’s a pistol and loves to party. Frying bacon in a cast iron skillet on a brisk and fog-laden early morning at the ranch, my Grandma would have five-year old me watch from a stool as she prepared my Grandpa’s breakfast. She taught me love comes in many forms and can be leveraged as a seasoning. And, quickly after breakfast was done, she and my Grandpa would head out to work the ranch, teaching me hard-work and discipline combined with laughter, song, and love. My Grandpa was a World War II veteran and instilled a respect for our country and a passion for education in each of us. He introduced me to PBS, long before cable came to our town, and there I met Julia, Jacques, Rick, Paul, Lidia, Jeff, Martin, Ming, Charlie, Joanne, Sarah, Daisy, and many, many more amazing chefs, all focused on teaching me magnificent skills! I was hooked.

I was incredibly fortunate to have such powerful role models lay the groundwork for me at such an early age. While I could say I’ve been inspired by many a talented and remarkable chef, leader, and mentor, by far, the most inspirational were the ones who nurtured the sparks they could see when creativity met food met love met me.

VIDEO SUBMISSION:

And, guess what???Taco RD Trip OMGSDFWFOOD

We’re going on a road trip, baby!

Don’t worry – I won’t embarrass the family… or maybe I will… nowadays that makes for good television.

Creamy Penne Rigate Recipe for Aunt Sophie

Recently, our Aunt Sophie came up to see my Ma, and in order to make life a little easier and to give Ma some extra time to visit, I offered to make several meals ahead of time for the week. Normally, Ma has to cook dinner for my brother, nephew, and grandmother. So, the goal was to make a few large one stop meals that could be complemented with a quick dinner salad and that’s it. One of the meals was a Creamy Penne Rigate with Chicken, Ham, and Peas in an Alfredo sauce with Panko, Parmesan, and Mozzarella topping. When Aunt Sophie arrived, we all ate dinner together, and it was such a hit that she asked for the recipe so she could make it for her grandchildren when she returned home to San Antonio.

Before I post this, in the spirit of full disclosure, I did use a store bought Alfredo sauce for this particular recipe. I know. I know. It’s a horrible thing to do, but because I was making 7-9 large meals in one afternoon, I didn’t make a bechamel like I would have done normally because I needed to save some time. I did, however, doctor the jar, which made me feel a little bit better about my atrocious deed.

 

Creamy Penne Rigate with Chicken, Ham, and Peas in Alfredo topped with Panko, Parmesan and Mozzarella

1 Large Onion Quartered
2 Individual Packages Baby Carrots
1 Tablespoon Whole Rainbow Peppercorns
2 Tablespoons Knorr Chicken Bouillon (Caldo de Pollo)
4 Large Garlic Cloves Smashed and Peeled
4 Large Boneless Chicken Breasts
2 Cups Whole Smoked Ham Cubed
1 Package Frozen Peas
2 Jars of Best Quality Alfredo Sauce (OR make a bechamel sauce and add copious amounts of Parmesan to the sauce)
1 16oz Box Dry Penne Rigate Pasta
1/2 Cup Panko Crumbs
1 Cup Shredded Parmesan (OR freshly grated)
1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella (OR hand torn in small pieces)
2 Tablespoons Butter Melted

Preheat the oven to 375°

Fill a large 6-8 quart pot with warm water up 3/4 of the side. On medium high heat, add quartered onion, baby carrots, peppercorns, bouillon, garlic and chicken breasts to the water and then bring to a low boil. Once the chicken is cooked thoroughly, remove the chicken and set aside to cool. Taste the broth and adjust seasonings. Strain the broth and transfer the onions, carrots, peppercorns and garlic to a blender. Add broth to the mixture in the blender about half way, just to help liquefy the ingredients. Blend until smooth. Return the ingredients from the blender to the broth and place back on low heat to keep warm. Taste and adjust seasonings, as needed.

Once chicken is cool enough to handle, shred by using your hands or by using two forks to separate the meat. Place shredded chicken in an extra large bowl and add the cubed ham, frozen peas, 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan and 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella, then set aside. Add the two jars of the best quality Alfredo sauce you can purchase, and then when the jar is empty, add the seasoned broth halfway up each jar. Place the lid back on the jar and shake vigorously to remove all sauce from inside the jar, then add both jar remains into the extra large bowl with the other ingredients.

In a separate medium size soup pot, fill 1/2 up with the warm broth and then add warm water up 3/4 of the side of the soup pot. You should still have some broth left in the original pot continuing to stay warm at a low heat. Bring the water/broth mixture to a boil. Add the box of penne rigate to the boiling water/broth mixture, and stir the penne rigate frequently for 6 minutes or until the pasta is almost done but still under cooked. Remove the under cooked pasta from the water/broth mixture and transfer the pasta to the extra large bowl with the other ingredients and thoroughly mix all the ingredients together. Discard the water/broth mixture.

Once all the ingredients are completely incorporated and coated with the sauce, transfer the entire contents of the extra large bowl into a deep lasagna baking dish or large disposable foil roaster for easier clean up. Once the mixture is evenly distributed in the pan, ladle approximately 3/4 cup of the warming broth over the entire mixture. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan, mozzarella, and Panko alternating evenly over the entire surface of the mixture. Using a spoon, drizzle the melted butter evenly over the entire mixture to help the Panko and cheese brown in the oven. Create a loose foil tent to avoid touching the top of the mixture but seal around the ends to cover the pan.

Place in a 375° oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and the Creamy Penne Rigate is warmed through. Remove from the oven and remove the loose foil cover. Place back into the oven and set the oven to Broil. Carefully watch the Creamy Penne Rigate while it is browning under the broiler. Once the browning process starts, it will go fast.

Once the panko and cheese topping becomes golden brown and bubbly, remove the Creamy Penne Rigate from the oven carefully and then turn off the oven completely.

Yields 8-10 Servings

Straight Outta Day Two – IFBC

IFBC - Straight Outta Day 2 - omgsdfwfoodOkay, I have two words for you: mind blown. Get this. Aside from the copious amounts of wine and food samples that surrounded us all day, these people at the International Food Blogger Conference, held by Foodista and Zephyr Adventures, laid out a kick ass day that any food-centric writer would not only expect to see at a food blogger conference but be pretty stoked to attend. So, I can’t go over every single moment because that would take forever, but here are a few highlights.

 

The morning kicked off with our keynote speaker, Kim Severson who is, among many other brilliantly fabulous things, a James Beard award-winning writer who just so happens to report and write for a little ol’ paper you may have heard of – The New York Times. She talked about the digital food revolution and how important authenticity is in our writing. While I completely wish we were best friends and could talk for hours about her day to day, plus chat about any interesting and slightly embarrassing stories she may know about Ruth Reichl, that wasn’t going to happen – at least here – so instead I took away some wonderful tasty nuggets she shared:

  • We are purveyors of great information.
  • Report with humility. Write with authority.
  • If you’re not composing, you’re composting.
  • I procrastinate just as much as you do (paraphrased, but this one hit close to home – oh, look! A squirrel!)

She also said a few things that made me say, “Crap! I knew I should have left that in there!” I oftentimes over-edit myself after writing something because I worry that I need to scrub for a general audience, and what I kept hearing over and over again at this conference was “BE YOU!” After hearing her speak, I rushed to add some things back into some of my work that I’d previously removed, feeling very Norma Rae, “Yeah! Stick it to the man! They DO want to hear about my difficulties describing umami and how my tongue gets ahead of my brain sometimes! I may even talk about my obsession with knives next week!”

After getting all goose-bumpy over my Kim Severson experience and rushing to change words, I panicked when I changed a URL (which Dr. Jean Layton said never to do in an earlier session); so I grabbed the nearest person, frantically asked her to check my site on her phone since I didn’t believe mine, and she assured me I had not blown up my website. Then, I realized it was just a slug I’d changed – technical jargon for “something that won’t blow up your site if you change it.” So, thank you to the wonderful person who helped me, and I am so sorry I didn’t catch your name. You are awesome.

Alright, back to the “BE YOU.” Next up was a pretty remarkable writer’s workshop with talented author, Jess Thomson who really emphasized knowing who you are and being that authentic self through a video of the “Freaky Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar” in Alice in Wonderland when he asks Alice, “Whoooo Aaaarrrre Youuuuu?” It was another lesson in “people want to hear what you say because YOU’RE saying it!” She had us go through two short writing exercises that honestly gave me a little boost of confidence. I completely embraced everything she was saying and even spoke with her afterwards about more writing workshops to further improve my writing style. Her workshop was like coming home and noticing the room had been rearranged, but it was still your home – finding new ways to highlight your talents that are ready to be moved around. Pretty cool.IFBC - omgsdfwfood - Irvin Lin

Another session featured Irvin Lin and Sarah Flotard who spoke about holiday preparation and how to put your best dish forward to help the masses as they prepare for the holiday season. This session was somewhat controversial at our table because the last few hours were all about authenticity and being the honest “you,” and then here we were focused on how to paint a half-baked turkey so it looked finished for you to take pictures of it four days later. It was interesting and was definitely of value in many areas – I will say, aside from some of the “soapy bird” professional food styling bit, I totally dug all the ideas about lighting, props, background, seizing the unplanned moments, and having fun with it. Needless to say, you will not be seeing a painted turkey on my site during the holidays. If I bomb, you’ll know it.

IFBC - omgsdfwfood - Andie Mitchell PanelWe also were introduced to a superhero trio to be reckoned with: Andie Mitchell, food blogger and author, along with prop stylist Jenn Elliott-Blake and award-winning food blogger and photographer Aran Goyoaga. They create the “Justice League” team who collaborated to work on Andie’s cookbook which is being released next spring! They discussed the ins and outs of creating a blog style which can be aesthetically appealing to your audience while highlighting your own personality and vision. And, whatever you do, WASH YOUR LINENS before shooting!

IFBC - Curriculamb - Tracy - omgsdfwfood

Then, the American Lamb Board held a Curriculamb 101 class (parum-pum – I thought it was funny). We learned so much about the different cuts, how to best prepare the lamb, and we got to taste some stellar lamb pate, as well as some incredible smoked lamb… aaaaaaall right after we watched a video about the baby lambs and how cute they are and how the farmers “get attached” to them. O_o Yeah.

BUT, I love meat, and that’s probably not going to change anytime soon. The point was to show us that these lambs are well-taken care of and do live a good, healthy life in a wonderful environment prior to their incorporation to the food chain. We, as consumers, need to know where are food is coming from so we can make better choices with where we purchase our food, and the smaller farms are where it’s at when it comes to sustainability and freshness. My opinion.

 

Did I mention the copious amounts of wine? Right after this last session, we engaged in a grand wine tasting with various wineries and regions, including wines from Trione WineryFranciacorta, and Concannon, right before the pièce de résistance, the Culinary Expo and Fair.

IFBC - Culinary Fair and Expo 2 - omgsdfwfood

 

 

 

 

 

 

IFBC - Culinary Fair - Skillet - omgsdfwfoodWow. There were nearly 30 different vendors and restaurants who filled the room with aromas of fried chicken and waffles from Skillet Street Food, smoked sobrasada chorizo with port soaked figs and Valencia almond from my new favorite Seattle restaurant Lark and everything in betwIFBC - Culinary Fair - Lark - omgsdfwfoodeen. Just zoom in on the grid pics above to see every single vendor who showed their love to all the food bloggers in attendance. Bottom line: killer food, killer drinks, killer peeps, killer vibe.

One more day to report, and I cannot wait to book next year’s conference already! Sorry I was so late today – we can all thank Canlis for that one, but I’ll talk about that later.

 

 

 

Note: While all IFBC posts are completely written based on my own experience and opinion, I was offered a discounted rate in exchange for three general posts about the conference.

Straight Outta Day One – IFBC

IFBC - omgsdfwfood - Straight Outta Day 1As a great, prolific writer once said, “Today was a good day.”

I may not be “Straight Outta Compton,” but I am straight outta the first day of the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) in Seattle, Washington, and it was pretty darn awesome.

For the last six years, Foodista has held this conference for food bloggers everywhere, focusing on writing, food, and technology. And, this is the first year I’m participating in this phenomenally food-centric gathering.

In addition to the conference, I’m also finding some time to hit a few hot spots in Seattle to check out what the locals enjoy on a day to day. Yesterday, I made it to Stateside and Altura, two amazing visits which will get their own features soon, and today, I swung by Purple Cafe and Wine Bar before heading out to my first event with IFBC.

Purple Cafe and Wine Bar - IFBC - omgsdfwfood - Fig and Gorgonzola Pizzetta
Taking the suggestion of my server, Jessica, I opted for the trio lunch plate that featured a beautifully created fig and Gorgonzola pizzetta, along with a butternut squash soup and a strawberry and goat cheese salad. I love figs and am a huge fan of pear and Gorgonzola flatbread; so, I knew this was going to be a winner. This pizzetta was out of this world. The buttery crust was perfectly crisp on the outside and nice and chewy where it counted. It was the perfect way to start my day’s adventures.

Miele USA - Cooking - IFBC - omgsdfwfood

 

Now, while tomorrow marks the first official day of conference sessions, today featured a few excursions for the attendees. My particular group went to the Miele USA Showroom for a hands-on cooking class featuring their top of the line appliances, including an induction cooktop which we were able to utilize during the class. Their sleek, German-engineered, stylish ranges, coffee centers, wine refrigerators, and dishwashers were front and center during our class and proved to not only be appealing but functional.

Miele USA Showroom - Seattle - IFBC - omgsdfwfoodOur group was split into five separate stations where we each made a different dish following Miele recipes while being led by our Miele cooking instructor, Mary. Group number two was where I landed, and I was paired up with Suki, a “super duper fantastic” blogger out of San Francisco who joined me in our take on Pasta e Fagioli. I say, “our take” because we put our own twist on the recipe that may or may not have included adding an entire can of tomato paste to the mix versus a few tablespoons. Whatever the case, the soup rocked, and everyone thought it was a hit!IFBC - omgsdfwfood - Miele USA Cooking Event Food - Paella Souffle Pasta Fagiole Burger Steamed Bun

 

Together with the rest of our larger group, we created Paella, Steamed Pork Buns, Sliders, Greek Salad, and Gruyere Souffle, a feast fit for kings and queens! Everyone did an incredible job and seemed to truly enjoy our outting at Miele. Now, plenty of food later, it was time for another amazing event, registration and the gift suite expo featuring local restaurants and food businesses.

IFBC - Salumi Seattle - Batali - omgsdfwfood

 

Now, for me, the highlight of the gift suite expo was meeting the incomparable Armand Batali, father of famed restaurateur and Food Network icon, Mario Batali. Armand, who is actually an icon in his own right with Salumi Artisan Cured Meats in Seattle, was sampling four different salumis, fennel being the featured one in the pic. Not only was the salumi phenomenal, but Armand was, once again, an absolute delight. I’ve actually stood in line for hours to indulge in one of his handcrafted sandwiches made at Salumi, nearly missing my flight many times because I NEEDED that sandwich!

International Food Blogger Conference - omgsdfwfood - The Echo Devils

 

In addition to the ridiculous amount of goodies received, we had the absolute BEST “background” music by this funkalicious Rockabilly group named The Echo Devils. These guys were on FIE-uh! I’m talking blues, funky fab, James Bond groovy jams that took the event to a whole new level.

 

Lark Seattle - Fig Puff Pastry Tart - IFBC - omgsdfwfood

 

Now, if all that wasn’t enough, I decided that I would top off the night with a visit to Lark, one of Seattle’s best restaurants that features local ingredients from the very best artisans, produce growers and foragers in the Seattle area. Chef Sundstrom has truly hit his stride at this new location off East Seneca. While my particular service experience was initially questionable, they were quick to resolve any issues, and the food was never in question. From start to finish, the dishes were sheer perfection. Ending the night with a delectable black mission fig puff pastry tart was the absolute highlight of the evening… Told you I was a fan of the fig.

I can’t wait what Day Two has in store…

Note: While all IFBC posts are completely written based on my own experience and opinion, I was offered a discounted rate in exchange for three general posts about the conference.

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