On the hunt for stocking stuffers? I’ve got you covered.

Himalayan Salt Shot Glasses from Uncommon Goods

Last week, I was tasked with searching for stocking stuffer ideas for The Latin Kitchen. One caveat: all the gifts had to be under $25! I searched tirelessly and ended up with an armful of funky finds that I think you’re going to love. Some that were a bit over budget didn’t make it to the guide, like these cool Himalayan pink salt shot glasses and sleekly flexible lunch boxes. But the rest did – so take a look and enjoy a fabulous roundup:

Cinco de Mayo: The Perfect Margarita

Cinco de Mayo: The Perfect Margarita from Karina Taveras on Vimeo.

We’re celebrating Cinco de Mayo, the day in 1862 when our Mexican friends beat the French in the Battle of Puebla, with what else? Margaritas! Cindy B., all-around cool chick and mixologist extraordinaire from NYC’s Tao Restaurant is here to share her easy and delicious margarita recipe. So mix up a few and take your friends up to the rooftop. It’s time for alfresco cocktails! All you’ll need is: your favorite tequila, orange liqueur, rose’s lime juice, limes, and if you’re feeling decadent, some St. Germain.

Enjoy and Happy Cinco!

Pommes Dauphinoise and a toast

Making Pommes Dauphinoise

And…exhale. After all the holiday parties, tree-trimming, gift exchanges, and last-minute shopping frenzies, being back in the kitchen again was a perfect opportunity to slow things down. So Ana, my mother-in-law and one of my favorite cooks, and I prepared Pommes Dauphinoise (au gratin potatoes) from the Food 52 Holiday Recipe and Survival Guide cookbook that I reviewed last week. We peeled, sliced, grated, sprinkled, and created a delicate rendition of the classic potato dish, all the while using the iPad as a guide, and infusing the house with mouthwatering aromas of nutty gruyère and lemony thyme. We then served it as one of the main characters in a totally simple, cozy meal of hearty pasteles, glazed ham, avocado salad, and red wine. We toasted to family and to being together. Thanks Alex, for capturing the story with your beautiful images. more »

Heaven-Sent: A Holiday Rompope Dessert

As a holiday treat this week, our guest blogger Jessica Solt shares one of her favorite childhood desserts: Rompope Jello. Growing up in Mexico City, a Christmas holiday was never complete without Rompope, or Mexican eggnog. Learn how Jessica delves into its origins and transforms it into a luscious, boozy dish.

Velvety, creamy and aromatic; no wonder rompope has been a part of Mexican culture and a silent witness to countless table talks for centuries. Known to many as “Mexican eggnog”, rompope is a drink made with eggs, almonds, milk, sugar and vanilla. The yolks give this smooth beverage its yellow hue. Although the Spanish version uses rum—hence the name—traditional recipes use other cane-based liquors. more »

Food 52 Holiday Recipe and Survival Guide

An interactive Holiday cookbook? How brilliant is that! A few days ago, I came across the launch of Food 52 Holiday Recipe and Survival Guide, and was giddy to find its nifty collection of Holiday recipes. I’ve downloaded digital cookbooks before, and they are usually striking and beautiful, but feel that they miss one key component: usability. The digital pages of the Food 52 cookbook for the iPad, on the other hand, are filled with photos, easy-to-follow instructional videos, slideshows, shopping resources – and everything has been integrated seamlessly throughout. It also has user-friendly features like notes and bookmarks that allow you to scribble digital notes and save the recipes you want to make in the future. more »

Latinfoodie Goes to Europe

Hello Friends, I’m thrilled to share with you my first international byline! I have just been published in Sabor, a food magazine distributed in the Netherlands. For their Winter 2011 issue, I had the honor of covering Latin American tamales, prepared throughout the Caribbean and Venezuela during the Holidays. The story has been translated to Dutch, but here’s the original story in English. Hope it’s what you need to kick off a wonderful and blessed Holiday season! ¡Felices Fiestas! more »

An End, but also a Beginning

As a little girl, I looked forward to the Three Kings Day, traditionally celebrated on January 6th of every year. Another day to get presents? Sign me up. The present was always something small-un cariñito-but I knew that after Santa came and left I still had something to look forward to. Back at home in Santo Domingo, this day marked the official end of the holiday season. Mom would finally take down the tree, we would return to school and normal life would resume.

Yet those memories of the Día de los Reyes have stayed with me throughout the years. On the eve of January 6th, my sister and I would leave three small glasses of whiskey (or whatever liquor was at hand in the house) for the “three kings” and a fistful of grass to “feed the camels”. The next morning, we would run to front door and find not only our little gifts, but three empty glasses and, surprise, the grass that we had left for the camels was gone! It was like magic.

So this day, at least in my book, marks an end, but it also signifies a beginning. I wish you all a very sweet year ahead. May all of your dreams become reality and may you rediscover, as I did, a hint of the innocence and wonder that makes everything in life, seem possible.

My Top 10 list for an NYC holiday

A view of the East River from Manhattan

This year, I’ll be celebrating a tropical holiday. After six years in NYC, G and I decided to change things up a bit and follow the sun this year. We have gotten a beating the past few weeks with temperatures in the 20’s, so I’m looking forward to shaking off the cold for a couple of days.

I have to admit there’s something very special about celebrating the holidays in a winter wonderland (especially when the snow starts to fall). So I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 things (food-related, of course) that I will miss about having an NYC holiday.

In the meantime, I hope you have a happy, blessed week with many new discoveries, wherever the holidays find you.

My Top 10 for an NYC Holiday

10. Shopping in the charming outdoor Holiday markets and noshing on cool snacks like olive and feta cheese pretzels (Columbus Circle), almond and sage cookies (Union Square) and Max Brenner’s hot chocolate (Bryant Park).

9. A piping hot bowl of Vietnamese Phó shared with a group of loud and crazy friends over Sunday supper.

8. Early dinners of steamy Halal platters with delicate strips of lamb, the lightest rice on earth and an out of this world yogurt sauce to marry all the ingredients together.

7. Indulging in holiday drinks like “Dominican egg-nog” and after going out for a late-night walk in the cold while feeling warm and fuzzy.

6. Rediscovering the pleasure of drinking tea by tossing aside the familiar and experimenting with flavors like elderflower green tea, gen mai cha and South African rooibos in TeaGschwendner, my new favorite tea shop.

5. Getting creative in the kitchen with squash, brussel sprouts and all the fall produce!

4. Preparing steamy soups that nourish the spirit and warm the belly in my beloved blue pot .

3. A dinner of lemony avgolemono  from Uncle Nick’s, our neighborhood Greek spot.

2. Picnic lunches in the office with fresh baguettes, thin veils of prosciutto, fresh and creamy mozzarella, fig jam and green salad, all from quick runs to Eat-aly!

and the number one thing I will miss about spending my holidays in NYC is:

Eating ice-cream when it’s 20 degrees outside ’cause it means you can take your sweet time and really savor every bite!

Brandy Alexander, it goes down easy

Serve your Brandy Alexander in a pretty glass with some cinammon

I was on a mission to find “Latinized” versions of holiday drinks, like the egg nog and mulled cider that now abound in outdoor market around the city. And I found them. In the December issue of the Food Network magazine, a handy guide perfect for adding to your off-line recipe collection featured how-to’s for Hot Dulce de Leche, Mexican Hot Chocolate and Coconut Nog, as well as festive concoctions perfect for warming us up from the inside out (ei. maple chai) and getting us into the spirit with a little bubbly (ei. kir royale).

But this week, as I read through Melissa Clark’s rediscovery of eggnog in the New York Times, I remembered the holiday traditions of my life back home. Along with an arduous fruit cake production that would tie up the kitchen for days, Mom would always be ready to prepare her own decadent interpretation of one of her favorite drinks, the Brandy Alexander. She whipped up this creamy elixir every time she was ready to entertain (which was almost daily). With exuberant gusto she combined condensed milk, evaporated milk, white rum and crème de cacao, blended it with ice and poured the frosty mixture into delicate rose-colored goblets, topping each glass with a sprinkle of cinnamon. The result was a dreamy, creamy drink that is (almost) worthy of replacing  dessert. As Feist best puts it in her song, this drink definitely “goes down easy”.

This holiday I invite you to make a batch, bottle it up and give it away as homemade gifts. Or keep it, invite your favorite people over for a drink and celebrate how sweet life can be.

Cora’s Brandy Alexander

1 ½ cans of condensed milk
2 ½ cans of evaporated milk
1 can of white rum
1 can of crème de cacao (or your favorite chocolate liqueur)
powdered cinnamon and/or cinnamon stick

note: use one of the empty cans to measure the rum and liqueur

Whisk all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Blend with ice or mix in a cocktail shaker. You can also serve without the ice. Top with cinnamon. Enjoy!

Alexia’s Pastelón

IMG_3548This is the moment you’ve been waiting for.

Throughout the past 5 days, I’ve gotten many requests for this recipe. Although we are now in the December holiday territory, I urge you to make this sweet potato casserole, or pastelón in Dominican. I got the recipe from my cousin Alexia whom I love with all my heart.(gracias alexia!) Now, it is in your hands my friends. All I can say is that once you make this, prepare to be loved, your holidays will never be quite the same again.

Alexia’s Thanksgiving Pastelón

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla*
½ can of evaporated milk
Ground cinnamon*
Pancake syrup*

Peal the sweet potatoes, cut in quarters and boil in salted water for approx 30 minutes or until soft. Drain and mash slowly with a fork. Add the butter, sugar, evaporated milk, vanilla, cinnamon, maple syrup and the egg yolks.
Beat the egg whites and fold in the mixture. Place in baking dish.
Cover with the topping below.

½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons butter (hard)
½ cup chopped walnuts
Ground cinnamon

Bake at 350F for approx. 30 minutes.

* Means: “al ojo” or approximate measurements

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