Thanksgiving Recipes with a Latina Twist

November 21, 2014   

Looking for a dish to take to your next Thanksgiving celebration? Here are some delicious recipes shared by the culinary genies in my life. They're classics with a Latina twist. They work perfect for me because I can't show up to Abuela's house with plain old Mac and Cheese, or stuffing. I've got to make sure my offerings go well with the "traditional" Thanksgiving sides like Yuca and Congri. You know, the staples of any good Hispanic meal.

Cornbread and Chorizo Stuffing

1 pound fresh ground Mexican chorizo
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped 
1 medium yellow or white onion, finely chopped
2 cups coarsely crumbled cornbread
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish (optional)
1/2 cup chicken stock (low-sodium)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the chorizo, making sure to break it up like you would ground beef. Stir occasionally as it cooks, until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, onion and, carrot until the vegetables have browned, about another 10 minutes. Add the crumbled cornbread and cilantro and gradually pour in enough of the stock so that the stuffing is not too dry but at the same time not too wet. Stir gently to mix well.

Butter a small casserole dish. Spread the stuffing in an even layer. Bake until heated thoroughly and lightly browned on top, about 20 minutes. Serve right away, add cilantro to garnish.

Macarroni and Cheese Latin Style
Mac and cheese meets arroz con pollo.  Instead of rice, use creamy, cheesy pasta to complete this classic Thanksgiving dish with a Latin twist.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more to grease the baking dish
1 cup panko bread crumbs
24 ounces sharp or extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 9 cups total)
1 pound elbow macaroni
3 1/4 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Stir in the panko breadcrumbs and heat until golden brown and toasty, then set aside. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the elbow macaroni, about 10-12 minutes. Drain the noodles, without rinsing, and return to the pot they were cooked in. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Add the flour and use a flat-edged heat-safe rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. Scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent burning. Keep stirring until it starts to turn a light brown color, about 3 minutes. SLOWLY add the warm milk and stir constantly until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Add the cheese in small bunches at a time and allow to melt, stirring continuously. Once melted, remove the sauce from heat and add the salt, and pepper. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked elbow macaroni and gently stir to coat the noodles in the sauce. Sprinkle the toasted panko breadcrumbs over top of the entire dish. Serve right away

Guava Infused Cranberry Sauce

2 cans 14oz whole berry cranberry sauce
Juice of one lemon (zest optional)
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup light corn syrup
11oz Jar of guava preserves

Empty jar of guava preserves into a small saucepan, break up and stir over medium heat until it becomes a smooth liquid mixture. Stir in cranberries and allow bring to a boil. Make sure to keep stirring so as to not allow the bottom of the pan to burn. Add a pinch of salt and stir in lemon juice. Lower heat after enough water from the mixture has evaporated and it becomes dense. Remove from heat and allow to cool then serve. Garnish with cinnamon or optional lemon zest.

Hope you enjoy these great recipes, and they become a part of your family traditions. I'd love to hear about some of your favorite dishes. 

WEAR IT FOR LESS: Nikki Reed's Moto Jacket

November 19, 2014   

One of my favorite must-have pieces of the season has to be the motorcycle jacket.  I love how it always pulls any outfit together.  From t-shirt and jeans, to a dress and booties, it simply looks amazing! The versatility is incomparable and looks chic at any age.  Not many jacket trends can say that. I love it so much that I own two of them!

Celebrities everywhere have also been spotted wearing their trusty motos.  Here is Nikki Reed pulling off the look with two-toned BLANKNYC jeans, a striped tee, an AllSaints leather moto jacket, and a She + Lo bag. I must admit, the way she paired up this edgy ensemble with those red Manolo Blahniks and red lips is perfection. It's the icing on the cake!  Here's how you can wear this look for less.

Stripped Tee, Forever 21, $8.99
Two-Toned Skinny Jeans, Forever 21, $16.99 
Textured Faux Leather Carryall, Forever, 21, $29.90
Red Suede Pointed Pumps, Lulu's, $23
Faux Leather Quilted Moto Jacket, Macys, $49.99 SALE  
Revlon Matte Lipstick, Really Red 006, Ulta Beauty, $7.99 (or local drugstore)


Social Interactions: Helping Your Little Wallflower Transition into a Butterfly

November 17, 2014   

Shy. Webster's dictionary defines the word as feeling nervous and uncomfortable about meeting and talking to people. What does it really mean to be shy though? While it is certainly interesting to read the literal definition, it's quite another to live with this label your entire life. I had grown to accept that label and it wasn't until recently that I realized the limitations I had been putting on myself with the excuse of being "shy".

I've felt socially awkward for as long as I can remember. However, over time, I've learned to push past it so that only those who know me well understand what I'm really feeling. Recently, I've begun to notice some of the trademark symptoms of shyness in my own daughter. Naturally, as parents we want our child to be the most social, confident, and well-rounded kid in the room and while I have plenty of time to help steer mine away from labeling herself as "shy", I can't help but be concerned. As a teacher, I see kids with varying levels of social interaction. From the social butterfly to the wall flower. Oddly enough, I find it easier to deal with shyness in my kids at school than with my own daughter at home. When she and I are at the park, I can't threaten the brat hogging the monkey bars with calling her mother if she doesn't play with my little girl (or any of the other thoughts crossing my mind). The level of self-confidence I want her to have is not gained over night but with years of love, patience, and encouragement. In time, I am confident that my little one will come into her own. As a Proverb in the Bible says, "For as a man thinks within himself, so he is" (Proverbs 23:7NASB). With that said, teaching kids the tools to believe in themselves and being positive role models are the greatest gifts we can pass on to them. 

Those tools, much like self-confidence, have to be learned. After speaking to other moms and researching the topic at hand, I found some helpful resources that offer ideas and strategies on how to encourage kids to push themselves outside of their comfort zone. Here are just a few of the ones I found. You can start practicing these with your little one today. I know I have.

  • Encourage your child to be helpful; let him/her help sort the laundry or clear the table. Children who see themselves within a culture that cares about other people are more likely to have better social skills.
  • Set a good example by modeling the behavior you want your child to display. Parents should be polite, respectful and caring to each other if they want their children to act in this way.
  • Role play with your child possible social interactions.  Model how to introduce themselves and invite themselves or others to play.  As easy as "Hi... want to play?" 
  • Role model possible rejection and how to handle it.  If invitation to play is rejected move on to another child that may be interested.  Having your child approach a child that is playing alone is easier than children already in large groups.  
  • Be affectionate to your children -- even if it doesn't come natural to you. Children who are more open and affectionate are more likely to have friends.
  • Value his/her social skills. When your child is thoughtful or polite tell him/her how proud you are of them. Expect and value mutual respect and caring.
  • Reduce the level of competition between children- it only encourages the children to look for the bigger share. Give according to need.
  • Love uniquely. A child who knows he/she is loved for themselves finds it easier to share something of themselves with others. 

Keep in mind that this is a process and consistency is the key.  Don't be discouraged if you don't see an immediate change. In time, your child will begin to come out of their shell and most importantly, build self-confidence.  

I'd love to hear any strategies you have found affective with your little one.  Feel free to share your tricks of the trade below.

Essentials for "Classing Up" Your Thanksgiving Table

November 13, 2014   

Entertaining for the holidays can prove to be overwhelming. Let's face it, even if you're a nut like me who actually looks forward to the season, coming up with new ways to decorate the table for the annual Thanksgiving Feast, and impressing the opinionated in-laws with what you've collected over the years isn't easy. Perhaps it's time to get rid of some of that old stuff. Especially when all the new table decorations put out by retailers are so appealing to the eye. In my attempts to prepare for this day, I hit the Pintrest boards for a bit of inspiration. Which led to these great finds that are gonna class up my Thanksgiving table this year. Can't wait to show them all off!

This easy DIY gold vase floral arrangement brings a touch of elegance and nature to the table. I plan to make a couple of these to spread across the table.
What You'll Need:
Glass Block Vase, Tablecloths Factory, $3.51 
Styrofoam Cube, green, Michaels, $4.49  
Natural Birch Sticks, Michaels, $9.99 
Krylon General Purpose Metallic Enamel, Gold,  Michaels, $6.99 
White flowers of your choice, local flower shop or market

1. Spray the inside of the glass block vase with Gold spray paint and let dry.
2. Spray the natural Birch sticks with Gold spray paint and let dry.
3. Cut the foam so that it fits inside the glass vase.
4. Cut the sticks and flowers using wire cutters to create arrangement.

Love how this collection of platters, dishes, and bowls, combine both modern and traditional style to entertaining essentials.
                 WHERE TO BUY: West Elm
                 1-  Farmhouse Pottery Pie Dish, $19 special 
                 2-  Farmhouse Pottery Turkey Platter, $39 special 
                 3-  Farmhouse Pottery Serving Bowls, $27-31 special
                 4-  Farmhouse Pottery Gravy Pitcher, $23 special

These table dressing must-haves will bring the flare of sophistication I am looking for to make my table stand out from previous years.

                  WHERE TO BUY:
                  1- Gold Charger Plates 13"(set of 6), SaveonCrafts, $12.99     
                  2-  Stamped Leaves Table Runner, Bed Bath and Beyond, $24.99
                  3-  Woven Sheen Placemat, Pier1 Imports, $3.96
                  4-  Beaded Gold and Amber Flower Napkin Ring, Pier1 Imports,$2.80 
                  5-  Metallic-Print Glassware, West Elm, $27 special

What are some ways you plan on "classing it up" this Thanksgiving season?


Staying Cool in the Fall: The Latest Fashion Trends for Kids

November 12, 2014
I'm SO excited that it's finally starting to get cooler in Miami! Though it's only in the mid-70s, the break from the usual scorching heat of the high-90s is refreshing. It's pretty safe to say that South Floridians every where welcome the milder weather and lower humidity. Hopefully soon, (fingers crossed) we'll be getting our occasional cold fronts that take us to the low 60s, which is my version of heaven! With that said, the time has come to get my daughter's autumn/winter clothes in order. As most busy moms, finding the time to remove all the items she has out grown has been difficult. Not to mention, dealing with the flood of nostalgic emotions brought on by looking through the bins in the attic that hold those pieces I just can't let go, and the heart wrenching reminder of how fast she is growing up. Luckily, those sentiments are quickly overshadowed with the excitement of purchasing NEW CLOTHES! Definitely my favorite pastime (at least until the bill comes).  

Shopping for my mini-fashionista is always such a treat. I love seeing what's out there. Especially looking at kids fashion that mimics adult trends with playful and quirky twists. They add so much personality. So, I proceeded with my usual online browsing and came across these must have pieces. Not only are they adorable but keep me well within my budget. Hopefully this time around, she won't be in her NO PANTS phase making mami's life a little more difficult... I mean exciting...   

top row
1) Patterned Dress Lt. Pink $17.95, Jersey Leggings $6.95 
2) Cotton Top $12.95, Knit Tights $9.95-  Laser Cut Skirt, Children's Place, $16
3) Corduroy Pants $12.95, Knit Sweater $14.95, Knit Hat $5.95
bottom row
4) Knit Sweater $17.95, Patterned Treggings $9.95
5) Slim Fit-Pants $12.95, Plaid Cotton Blouse $14.95    
6) Slim Jeans $19.95, Patterned Jersey Top Dk. Blue $6.95  

I even got inspired to look into some boys fashion pieces for those future male trendsetters... 

top row
1) Fine-Knit Sweater $17.95, Slim Jeans $9.95 
2) Twisted Chinos $17.95, Arizona Button-Front Flannel Shirt, JCPenney $14.99
3) Shirt and Sweater Vest $24.95, Skinny Fit Jeans $17.95
bottom row
4) Padded Jacket $34.95
5) Relaxed Jeans $29.95, Long-sleeved T-shirt $6.95
6) Hooded Jacket $14.95, Slim Jeans $9.95