Food Network Magazine’s Cinco de Mayo Celebration

Let's get this party started

Last week, Husband and I, along with a couple of other friends got to attend the Cinco De Mayo celebration hosted by Food Network Magazine at The Spanish Kitchen.  Chef Aaron Sanchez (Chefs vs. City, Chopped, The Best Thing I Ever Ate) was on hand and free margaritas and food flowed.

Since we got there a little early, we crossed the street to have a drink at The Belmont.  When 7pm rolled around, we headed back.

The  Spanish Kitchen was a cute space, decorated with a lot of rod iron and tile.  The split level floor plan nicely separated the bar area from the dining room and there was a small patio with tables as well.

Time to get drinking!

First up, margaritas.  There were several offerings: Palomino, passionfruit, pineapple-chili and jalapeño.  Since there were four of us, we each got a different one.  I opted for the Passionfruit.  Not bad…  I tried the pineapple-chili as well.  I liked this one better.  The sweet with the spicy coupled with the acidity of the fruit made for a nice combination.

Freshly made guacamole

We grabbed a table and helped ourselves to the chips and salsa bar.  There was also guacamole so I took a heaping spoonful since I LOOOOVE the stuff.  Fresh, chunky, really good!  Appetizers were also being passed around by waiters.  We tried a shrimp with green sauce, fried artichoke and this potato-olive thing.  The shrimp was perfectly good but I wish I could taste the sauce more.  The fried artichoke was nice, lightly breaded, not overly greasy.  The potato hors d’oeuvre was okay but very briny.  Not a fan, though.

Barbacoa slider, tacos, tamale, chile rellano (clockwise from top)

Chef Aaron Sanchez took the mike and welcomed everyone and then the buffet opened.  Chile rellanos, tamales, beef tacos and barbacoa sliders were on the menu.  I didn’t think the rellanos were that great.  I liked the tamales which were on the sweet side, though the rest of my group were so-so about it.  The beef tacos weren’t disappointing but they weren’t mind-blowing either.  The sliders were really good though.  Moist, great flavor and served with a slaw for crunch, we all went back for more of these (except Husband who ended up eating chips for most of the night since all the food was “tainted” by vegetables).  I think we were also fairly drunk at this point, too, thanks to the free margaritas.  Oy!

Tres Leches cake

Dessert came around, served by waiters.  There was a cup with a chocolate and vanilla pudding mix, topped with Chambord and served with a chocolate-dipped cookie.  Everyone else at the table loved this but I thought it was just okay.  I really fell in love with the other dessert, the tres leches cake.  It was dense, super-moist and just sooooo yummy.  I couldn’t stop eating it even though I was about to burst.

Chef Sanchez chatting with D

Chef Sanchez was going around saying hi to the guests and stopped at our table and chatted with us for a bit.  We all exchanged stories about how we met our significant others.  He was a really cool guy, funny and amiable.  🙂  Later, when I read a wiki to find out more about him and his culinary history, I found out that he competed on Iron Chef Season 2 against Chef Morimoto and TIED.  Massive kudos as I think Morimoto is the supreme Iron Chef and always seems to blow his competition out of the water.

When we left, we were handed goodie bags that included a copy of May’s issue of Food Network Magazine.  Turns out, all the food and margaritas were recipes featured in the magazine!  I can make those sliders and that tres leches cake at home!!

You can find more pictures on my Facebook page.

Almond Strawberry Cake

Kirbie, a fellow food blogger in San Diego posted a wonderfully yummy sounding recipe for an almond tea cake last week.  Thanks to Costco, I had 4lbs of strawberries in my fridge that needed to be consumed quickly so I decided that I would try this recipe and add strawberries to it.

Talk about a quick and simple recipe…  Break out a bowl, whisk and spatula and you’re good to go.  I put together this baby in about 5-10 minutes this morning.

Ingredients
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
sliced almonds for sprinkling

I added:
1 cup strawberries, cut into small pieces
Sliced strawberries for decorating

Mmmm strawberries

1. Set the oven to 350°F.
2. Grease a 9″ pan.  I used a springform pan…my first time ever!
3. Whisk the eggs into the sugar one by one and then add in the salt and extracts.  Mix well.

Mix the egg and sugar

4. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the flour.
5. Fold in the butter and strawberries.

Batter is all done...

6. Pour batter into cake pan and smooth top with spatula.
7. Place sliced strawberries in whatever pattern you desire.  Sprinkle almonds on top.
8. Bake in oven until golden brown.  The original recipe stated 25-30 mins but I found with the strawberries added, I had to bake this cake for about 40 mins.

Bake a pretty cake...

Ready to serve

My first slice...

Since Husband doesn’t do strawberries…or really any sort of fruit (*sigh*), I baked an original recipe version for him.  He liked it and so did our pug….

The original Almond tea cake a la Kirbie

The strawberry version definitely came out more moist than the original but the original isn’t dry by any means.  Both had very strong almond flavors so if you are not an almond fan (is that even possible???), this is not the cake you are looking for.  But if you are an almond fan, welcome to happiness.

I will be making this again, maybe next week to share with friends!  And I think this would go over well at the upcoming baby shower I’m helping host.  I’m thinking of using a mini-muffin pan to make “baby” versions.  Thanks Kirbie!

Visit Kirbie’s site for other great recipes!

Taco cheese dip

A quick and easy dip to make for get-togethers:

1 block of Velveeta
1 package of Jennie-O Taco seasoned ground turkey
milk

Cook turkey in pan and set aside.

Cut up the Velveeta into small blocks and place in microwaveable bowl.  Add a little bit of milk (start with 1 cup).  Microwave till the “cheese” is melted (about 1-2 minutes) and mix together.  Add in the turkey and stir.  If the dip is too thick, add in a little more milk (around 1/4c) and microwave for 1 minute.  Repeat until dip reaches desired consistency.

Works best if you have a small crock pot to keep the dip warm since it will start to thicken/harden up when it cools down.

Serve with tortilla chips.

A different take on sliders

I love the Fall…the cool weather, the leaves changing color, Halloween and, of course, the flavorful hearty food.

In my hunt for new dishes to try, I came across a recipe for pumpkin cinnamon rolls. That got the wheels turning in my head for a sweet and savory mix…pumpkin cinnamon rolls stuffed with sausage which evolved into pumpkin rolls for sliders using pork sausage instead of burger patties and an apple cinnamon chutney to top it off.

During one of my “bad movie nights”, I decided to try this idea out.

Pork sausage patty with sage, ginger cole slaw on a pumpkin roll

I made the dough the night before using this recipe. I admit I have very little experience with making dough; I ended up adding a little too much flour so the rolls came out a little dense but were still edible. The pumpkin flavor was very mild. I would use this recipe again, though I would maybe add a little bit more cinnamon and spice to try and make it less “white bread roll”-tasting.

Due to time constraints, I opted to buy Jimmy Dean’s pork sausage with sage rather than prep my own patties. Surprisingly, these were pretty decent and a time saver!

I thought the sliders needed some “crunch” texture-wise and wanted something to compliment the pork. I scrapped the idea of the chutney and decided on a ginger cole slaw.   I used a bag of pre-cut slaw mix, mayo and a mixture of freshly ground ginger and ginger powder to make it.  In regards to amounts, I just followed the usual mayo to slaw ratio and added ginger till it was to my tastebuds’ liking.   The slaw had a nice crunch, spice and also added some color as well.

The overall consensus by my guests were that these sliders were a hit though some thought I had a heavy hand with the ginger. 😉

It’s an easy dish to make and one where most of the work can be done ahead of time…perfect for a quick meal or for a party.

Sandwich munchie

French baguette
smoked salmon
prepared horseradish
apricot preserves

Makes a great sandwich.  🙂  I think it would also be tasty with a little red onion, romaine lettuce and tomato for fixings.  I just didn’t have any on hand.

The idea hit me yesterday based on a recipe I had adapted before.

Peanut butter chocolate cake

I’ve found myself having to make chocolate cake for various events the past month.  Faced with the decision of what to use for filling, I had to deal with not wanting to use frosting and also deal with a husband who absolutely abhors fruit filling.

In comes Peanut Butter & Co’s Dark Chocolate Dreams – peanut butter blended with dark chocolate.  Peanut butter and chocolate is a classic combination but you don’t really see a lot of chocolate cake with peanut butter filling.  At least I don’t.  Using this was perfect.  The dark color from the chocolate element makes it look like a chocolate filling but when you take a bite, you get a peanut buttery surprise.  I got rave reviews from everyone and even my health-conscious brother-in-law had seconds.

Peanut Butter & Co also has a white chocolate version.  And if you want a hazelnut flavor, try Nutella.

Sweet potato + carrots + honey + ginger = yummy mush

I got the urge to experiment in the kitchen again.

I had bought some sweet potatoes (or are they yams?  the white-fleshed ones) and had some phyllo dough leftover from another experiment…hrm…mashed sweet potato cups!  To flavor up the sweet potatoes, I boiled some carrots, added honey and ginger and some curry seasoning and a little bit of milk and mashed it all together.

Phyllo dough is still a pain in the arse to deal with if you are not very experienced with it.  I managed to line a muffin tin with some decent looking pieces.  I scooped the mixture into it and topped with some minced chili-spiced dried mango.  Baked in the oven till the phyllo was nice and crispy-brown.

It came out tasting really good.  There’s a initial sweetness but at the end of the bite, the ginger and curry come out with a little kick.  The phyllo gave a contrast to the mushy texture and so did the minced mango bits.  I think a regular muffin tin was too big as there was too much filling compared to the amount of phyllo.  A mini-muffin tin should make for better bite-sized pieces and textual ratio.

Since the mixture wasn’t blended well, I got a mosaic of orange carrot, yellow mango and white sweet potato.  A little bit of green would help with the visual…maybe sprinkle some garnish…green onion?

You could opt to leave out the phyllo dough and just serve this as a subsitute for mashed potatoes to change things up.

Sorry, no pictures.  My camera batteries were dead.  😦