Sometimes in life, you meet a taco that changes you forever. One Sunday, in the parking lot of a country market, I met that taco. This is our story.
On the Central Coast, there is a chef who simply goes by the name “The Unknown Mexican Chef.” Though primarily a private chef and caterer, once a week on Sunday mornings, he runs a popup taco stand outside the Los Berros Country Market. This is where I found the taco of my dreams.
At 10:45 am, 15 minutes before the stand opened, a line was forming. Grill’s burning hot, giant pots of beans and taco consume bubbling on the outdoor stove top. The scent, euphoric. For these are the tacos of legend. The Queso Taco.
The Queso Taco is exactly as it sounds. Copious amounts of cheese are applied directly to the surface of the tortilla, which is then slowly melted before ~the flip~. Now, the cheese meets the surface of the hot flat top, searing to a crisp crunchy coating around the exterior of the taco.
Incidentally, I can’t eat cheese. My body just doesn’t tolerate it. So I ordered my Queso Tacos “sin queso” (without cheese). The result? Still totally, utterly delicious.
This, I’m sure, is because of the filling. Choose from carne asada, chile colorado (chicken), birria (pork), or al pastor (pork). My default is always al pastor, and this one one of the most delicious al pastor tacos I’ve ever had.
Thick chunks of pineapple provide a light sweetness to offset the rich pork, bites of onion and cilantro, the heat of the smoky chipotle salsa and a dash of acid from the squeeze of fresh lime. A perfect bite.
I’ve tried countless tacos in my life, many off a taco truck on the streets of LA. This taco reminded me of those –authentic, delicious, made with love — but it gave me something more.
A container of consume (like a thin, saucey dip) in which to dunk my perfect taco. These tacos require a level of detail, the passion in which you can taste in each bite.
Too on the menu is a giant quesadilla. No, it’s not a cheeky name. It’s quite literally a GIANT quesadilla. Filled with your choice of meat, rice, beans, cilantro, and onion, it’s reminiscent of a burrito, flattened into a rotunda of tastiness.
Finally, the pozole. Oh, pozole. Pork, hominy, that luscious broth. Top it off with some onions, cilantro and a spot of fresh cabbage. Like the tacos, and giant quesadillas, this pozole is worth writing home about.
In this life full of turbulence, of tragedy and uncertainty, we must gather joy wherever we find it. I found joy in these tacos. This perfectly messy, dynamic, thoughtfully constructed food.
With food this good, The Unknown Mexican Chef is destined to become well-known before too long. Perhaps, someday, we’ll call him the Master Mexican Chef instead. These magical tacos, each made to order, are deserving of such recognition and appreciation.
Eating seasonally provides quite a few benefits. For one, since the season is optimal for these fruits and vegetables, they’ll likely have better flavor than when out of season. Better quality produce means better flavor, making them even easier to enjoy.
If you have a local farmers market, look for the winter produce listed here. Purchasing locally grown seasonal produce is more eco-friendly. Why? Out of season produce found in supermarkets is often shipped in from other countries, meaning more emissions. Locally grown means it travelled much less, and you’re likely to get more ripe, fresher produce as well.
Winter season runs from December 21 – March 20.
What’s fruits are in season for Winter?
Citrus may be the most popular winter fruit. They’re able to endure the chilling frost of winter better than other fruits. Pineapple may be the most surprising winter fruit. It’s season begins at the tail end of winter (in March) and continues throughout the spring and summer months. Pears are a winter favorite, though their peak season is short. Get them while you can!
Avocado – January to March
Banana – Year-round
Grapefruit – January to August
Kiwifruit – November to January
Meyer Lemons – November to March
Orange – Fall to Spring
Pears – August to December
Pineapple – March to July
What vegetables are in season for Winter?
Root vegetables and hearty leafy greens are the most popular winter vegetables. Parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas may not be everyone’s first choice, but with the right recipe they transform to delectable side dishes, luscious soups, or even tasty seasoned fries. Winter squash are heartier than summer squash, with thicker skins and firmer flesh, able to endure the winter frost. Look for Kabocha, Acorn, Buttercup, Butternut or Delicata squash at your local farmer’s market.
Cabbage – Fall to Spring
Celery – April to December
Swiss Chard – December to March
Collard Greens – December to March
Kale – November to March
Onion – September to March
Parsnip – September to June
New Potatoes – Late Winter; Russet Potatoes – Year-Round
Here’s five recipes using winter produce to get started.
Kale Chickpea Pasta by Edible Ink
Harness the power of kale and chickpeas in this 30 minute pasta recipe. Great for a nutrient-packed, quick weeknight dinner. This is kale done right; sautéed in a cast iron skillet with garlic and spices.
Cinnamon Maple Roasted Kabocha Squash by Eating Bird Food
Kabocha squash (also called Japanese pumpkin) may be my personal favorite squash. It’s easily roasted, with a great firm texture and only mild sweetness. It can be easily transformed into a soup, curry, or roasted with cinnamon and maple, like in this recipe!
The right combination of spices can turn any vegetable into a tasty masterpiece. Which is exactly what happens in this Parsnip Chips recipe by Chef Aarti Sequeira.
Ultimate Banana Bread by Edible Ink
Banana bread is a tried and true classic. This twist on classic banana bread results in a light cake-like loaf, perfect for a comforting dessert or sweet breakfast.
Orange Espresso Cupcakes
Marbled cupcakes are always sure to impress! This recipe uses winter oranges and a dash of espresso for a fun and refreshing cupcake.
What’s your favorite winter produce recipe? Tried any of the recipes listed in this post? Let us know in the comments below!
The story of a beloved Christmas tradition, the love of family, and one very special cookie.
The scent always lingers. It permeates the fabric of the pillows on the couch, fills every crevice in the cabinets, clings to the air, sitting heavy on each atom. It’s unmistakable, unforgettable. Sweet, a bit like licorice. And for me, completely and wholly synonymous with Christmastime. It’s not gingerbread, or eggnog. It’s biscotti.
Every year at Christmas my grandfather, Papa, and my grandmother, Nana, dedicated a weekend to baking batches on batches of biscotti for the family. But perhaps, the story doesn’t start there. It starts decades earlier when Papa bought an Italian bakery in Southern California.
There, he learned how to make everything. Cookies, pastries, even wedding cakes. He’d spend hours sitting at the kitchen table practicing his piping techniques to get it just right. And it was there, at Masielo’s Bakery, that Papa learned how to make biscotti.
Eventually, the bakery was sold and new businesses bought — a lodge in Tahoe, a used furniture store. But the biscotti remained. The cookies, traditional, the recipe top secret, became like another member of our family. Paying homage to Nana and Papa’s Sicilian heritage, the product of Papa’s hard work and dedication, to be passed down from generation to generation.
Biscotti could be described as the exact opposite of an American cookie. They are hard, crunchy, packed with whole almonds and the bittersweetness of anise. Traditionally, biscotti are dipped in wine. I learned to dip them in a glass of milk, and eventually, at breakfast with a cup of coffee.
There’s an art to eating biscotti, and the key is the dipping. Biscotti are not a cookie of many ingredients. The biscotti Papa made, the biscotti Nana taught me how to make after he passed, consist mainly of whipped eggs, sugar and flour. Baked twice, they can become as hard and crunchy as a piece of overdone toast. And that’s exactly the way they should be.
See, the dunking is the secret. Once the biscotti hits that glass of milk, that cup of coffee, all those lovely air pockets fill with liquid and the cookie softens on impact. That’s how you must eat them, when they are at their peak.
Perhaps what was always so magical about Papa’s biscotti was that they came around only once a year. The process is involved, it’s time-consuming and made ever the more special as an annual Christmas treat. I’ve never known Christmas without biscotti. So when Papa passed, I knew the tradition must carry on. The prospect of a Christmas without Papa, without his joy and his light, was dim.
And, I suppose, that’s how I came to be the biscotti baker. For as you may have guessed, the biscotti are not just a cookie to us. They’re a symbol of our family, our tradition, and the love that Papa shared with us. Making biscotti is not something you do for fun. It’s something you do out of love.
So with Nana as my director, I learned how to make them. I tried and failed and tried again. I learned how 10 degrees difference in the oven affected the cookies, the temperature of the eggs, the amount of anise. With the chicken-scratch short hand of Papa’s recipes and Nana as my official taste-tester, I learned. I felt under-qualified for the responsibility. But somehow, I felt Papa cheering me on, guiding my hands and I knew I must persist.
Yes, I may have cried over a batch of cookies. Whether it was the fact that the cookies came out wrong, or more that I missed Papa, I can’t say. Grief will do that. I pushed on.
Until I presented a batch of biscotti one day to Nana, who sat down to test it with her omnipresent cup of coffee and she said, with a smile, “This is just like Papa’s.” In that moment, it was all worth it. The tradition of the biscotti would not fade, Papa’s legacy would continue, and I vowed to myself, every year to make these not only for my family, but for him.
We all have our own holiday traditions. And while we enjoy the fruits of our labor (with a glass of wine, milk or cup of coffee) who we really do it for is the people we love. From my family to yours, I wish you Buon Natale, a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.
A Jerusalem Artichoke, also called a sunchoke, is the root of a species of Sunflower. It’s an ingredient I’ve seen used in restaurants and on cooking shows, all the while thinking, “Where do I even buy that?” Turns out, at a local farm stand. When I saw them for sale at Rutiz Farms, I knew I had to seize the opportunity.
What does a Jerusalem Artichoke taste like?
Though a root vegetable related to the sunflower, the Jerusalem Artichoke tastes like its name – an artichoke! With a mild flavor, the sunchoke tastes how I imagine a cross between a potato and an artichoke would taste. Hearty and starchy with a hint of artichoke heart.
How do I cook Jerusalem Artichoke?
Bake it, boil it, stick it in a stew! But really, I’d suggest roasting Jerusalem Artichokes in the oven, like you would any other vegetable. It’d be great as chips, but true to form I chose to make them into fries, complete with a nice garlic aioli.
We found that, in cooking the sunchoke or eating it, our brains kept trying to tell us it was a potato. If you’re tempted to cook it as long as you would a potato, watch out. Taste test along the way to monitor progress and make adjustments as needed.
Off Broadway in Santa Maria stands a Mediterranean paradise with the fluffiest falafel you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.
Tucked away off the main streets of Santa Maria lies this hidden gem – The Garden Mediterranean Restaurant & Cafe. Serving up Mediterranean classics like falafel, kofta, and tabbouleh, The Garden is definitely worth a visit!
The outdoor dining is spacious and comfortable. The staff incredibly warm and friendly, and seemingly as enthusiastic about The Garden’s tasty offerings as we were.
We started off with the Spicy Fries. Smothered in a mixture of spicy house sauce, garlic, and cilantro, these fries pack a punch! Served hot and fresh, a great appetizer for any spicy-lover.
Next on the menu, an item listed under The Garden Homemade Bakery section simply titled “Cheese”. Using housemade bread, topped with a Mediterannead cheese, this appetizer was reminiscent of a pizza. Instead of cheese sprinkled on top before baking, it seemed the cheese was added to the dough, and the crust folded over and formed around it.
The result: a beautiful cheese boat! Though this may look like a kind of pizza, the dough was soft and incredibly fluffy, without any crunch of a crust like you’d find on a pizza.
Judging by these two appetizers, I’d say select something that sounds intriguing to you, that caters to your specific tastes (like say, you like spicy or cheese) and order your appetizers based on that alone. You may have never tried anything like what you’ll get, but based on this experience, I’m going to bet you’ll love it.
Entree highlights include the kebabs: chicken; beef; and kofta – a traditional kebab made of seasoned ground beef. The kebab plates are plentiful, and of the four of us that had dinner, no one was able to clear their plate (not for lack of trying).
The rice rich with saffron, peppers perfectly charred — the details in the meals were immaculate. The tahini sauce provided a nice compliment, but the real star of the sauces was that incredible garlic sauce tied so deeply into Mediterranean cuisine. Have it with the kebab, the rice, some pita, on the fries, really anything. I’d by it by the pound if I could.
Vegetarians rejoice! There’s options for you at The Garden too. I had the Vegetarian platter (first photo in post) so I could sample all my favorites of Mediterranean cooking — tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, hummus, warak enab, falafel, and pita. I also requested a side of that delectable garlic sauce for my meal which they accommodated graciously. If you aren’t familiar with Mediterranean cuisine, here’s a quick description of everything that came on the Vegetarian Combo Plate:
Salad of finely chopped parsley, crushed bulgur wheat, tomatoes, onions, and spices, mixed in fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
TASTING NOTES: If you like greek salad, try tabbouleh. It’s got a great zesty kick and powerful freshness to each bite.
Smoky roasted eggplant pureed and blended with tahini, garlic, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
TASTING NOTES: A very basic description of baba ghanoush is like a hummus with roasted eggplant. It’s got a stronger flavor and smoother texture than typical hummus. Eat it with pita!
Puree of garbanzo beans (chickpeas) with tahini, garlic, lemon and extra virgin olive oil.
TASTING NOTES: Most of us have eaten hummus by now, but this one deserves a bit of extra credit because The Garden hummus was just so creamy. If you aren’t a hummus fan, I’d recommend you try this one. It may change your mind!
Grape leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes, onions, parsley and spices. Served cold.
TASTING NOTES: Warak Enab is a Lebanese-style stuffed grape leaf — different than the Greek-style that’s served hot and filled with ground beef. Instead, Warak Enab is vegetarian-friendly and taste great with that tahini sauce.
Fresh garbanzo beans mixed with spices, ground, formed into balls and fried.
TASTING NOTES: Falafel is a cornerstone of Mediterranean cuisine. Typically crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, it’s delicious and filling!
A special note about The Garden’s falafel: They are, without a doubt, the fluffiest falafel I’ve ever had. Sometimes falafel can be more dense on the inside, but still maintain that crunchy exterior. These falafel were different. With the perfect golden brown crust and as light and fluffy as can be on the inside. Perfection.
All in all, I can see why The Garden maintains its 5-star rating. It’s friendly staff and consistently tasty food make it a great place to eat, enjoy, and try new things.
Making a holiday feast that satisfies everyone’s dietary needs can be challenging. But it doesn’t have to be! We’ve searched the internet for the best Thanksgiving Meal Plans for everyone, including plans for Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free and Dairy-Free.
Don’t forget dessert! We’ve also included our favorite picks for Sugar-Free and Vegan desserts to make the holiday meal complete.
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored in any way and based on personal opinion. Here at Edible Ink, we want to help make your holidays as best (and simple) as they can be, with no strings attached!
Mel at A Virtual Vegan goes above and beyond with her Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner Menu, including a shopping list to make preparations for the big day a breeze! Plus a timeline to make cooking a full feast manageable. Dishes include:
Get the full printable Thanksgiving Dinner Menu with Timeline and Shopping List at A Virtual Vegan.
No doubt, large gatherings have been a rare occurrence this year. If your holidays are less grand feasts and more intimate dinners for two, the Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner for 2 may be your ideal menu. Set up as a “choose your own adventure’ of a menu complete with cooking tips, this meal plan is great for small gatherings, or just you and your significant other. Dishes include:
Packed full of gluten-free Thanksgiving options, this Easy, Gluten-free Thanksgiving Menu satisfies every celiac’s holiday food cravings! Here, turkey is still on the menu, with modifications to cornbread, biscuits and gravy. Dishes include:
Nothing makes a lactose intolerant person happier than a big bowl of dairy free mashed potatoes! This list from Cook Nourish Bliss includes a slew of dairy free classic Thanksgiving sides, as well as a few dairy free Thanksgiving desserts. Dishes include:
What are your Thanksgiving plans this year? Are you using any of the meal plans listed here to craft your ultimate Thanksgiving feast? Let us know in the comments below! Like, share and subscribe and don’t forget to tag Edible Ink!
Unlike Food Network cooking shows, Netflix food shows tend toward travel and story-telling. In these shows we learn not only about new foods, but we learn of the culture behind them and the people that make them. Here’s a list of the best shows on Netflix that center around food (in no particular order).
Somebody Feed Phil
Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal travels the world, meeting so many wonderful people along the way. Phil is delightful to watch, his childlike enthusiasm for food, flavor and life always bring joy when watching this show. Many food shows are hosted by Chefs, who know exactly what food is presented to them. Phil has an extremely relatable quality — he’s just a guy who likes to eat, not a professionally trained Chef. While we can’t get out an explore the world, we can watch Phil navigate different countries, cultures and meet new people with unending joy and optimism.
The heart of a city lies with its people, its community. How they connect, gather, communicate. What they value, what traditions have withstood the test of time, of trial and trauma. Somebody Feed Phil dives headfirst into the community, often sharing the missions of local non-profit organizations, connecting with the city’s future generations and allowing us to discover the heart of each place travelled.
Somehow, this show, that focuses on one man traveling the world, trying different foods, restores faith. Through forging connections with the people of each city, their lives, their stories, Somebody Feed Phil reminds us all that no matter how different our lives may seem, we are all people, who, at the end of the day, care about putting forth the best for ourselves, our families and our communities. In his exceedingly lovable way, Phil connects us to places we may never visit and the people who call those places home.
This is high class food, served in restaurants that book a year in advance, with Michelin stars and James Beard awards. This is food reinvented. This is the peak of food as art. And though high class technique and fine dining run through the vein of these restaurants, where the show never compromises is in its soul.
Each episode centers around one chef, picking deep into their life, their backstory, what motivates them, their triumphs and their failures.Here we truly are allowed a window into what drives these chefs to be the best of the best, the arduous hours that reaching that height requires. True, some may say this show borders on idolization of these chefs. And perhaps it does. But that quality is what makes this show so fascinating, so captivating. The depth of exploration into each of these chef’s lives, we find incredible stories of perseverance, innovation and even the elusive, teetering on the edge of insanity quality found in inventors and experimenters of a bygone era. Everything about Chef’s Table, the production quality, music, cinematography make this show spell-bounding and enriching. Chef’s Table is not a show you watch, it’s a show you experience.
Subsequent off-shoots of Chef’s Table focus on chefs that are peak in their industries: pastry and BBQ. Both iterations maintain the integrity of the original series, focusing on the best of the best, providing a rare inside look into the minds of the greatest culinary creators of our day.
The Chef Show
LA chef Roy Choi and producer, writer, director Jon Favreau team up to cook a variety of different dishes. Having worked together on the film, Chef, Choi and Favreau take on friendly teacher and student roles, Choi patiently teaching Favreau not only how to make the dishes, but the processes behind how the dish is made. In this show, we all live vicariously through Favreau, whose so eager to learn everything from casual master chef Roy Choi. Plus, they go hang out with Christina Tosi, Wolfgang Puck, etc. It’s fantastic.
Roy Choi can be called the pioneer of the modern food truck. He started his truck Kogi BBQ Taco Truck in downtown LA. He was one of the first to utilize social media (thank you Twitter) to post the food truck’s location around Los Angeles. Hungry followers could see where the truck was at immediately, and would flock to it. He now owns 6 restaurants and has published a fascinating autobiography/cookbook hybrid LA Son. Roy Choi is a true LA original, combining the delicious power of Mexican street food with his Korean heritage. One of my favorite qualities about Roy Choi though, is how patient and humble he is in the kitchen.
Chef Show possesses an inherently playful nature, lacking the formality of fine dining while holding up the standards of making, quite simply, really good food. From oysters to the pinnacle of grilled cheese, Choi and Favreau present a new kind of cooking show. One thats centered around friendship and culinary discovery.
Street Food: Asia & Street Food: Latin America
While they are two separate shows, Street Food: Asia and Street Food: Latin America center around the same central them (you guessed it): street food. Embracing the region’s cultural backbone, this show hones in on street food vendors, many of whom have never been formally trained as chef, but instead are dedicated to carrying on the traditions of their culture by serving traditional street food every day of the year.
This is the food of the people. And the street vendors who survive are the ones who make the food that people most connect to and love mot deeply, enough to come back day after day for the same delicious dish. For the adventurous traveler, seeking out and trying traditional street food is a quintessential part of any journey. It’s cheap, it’s delicious, and it’s the product of the organic culinary landscape that surrounds it — no imports, no tricks, just decades upon decades of tradition, handed down through generations. The Street Food shows give us unique insight into how these street foods are made and the hard-working, dedicated, passionate hands that make them.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
Based on Samin Nosrat’s book of the same title, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is a limited series, only a mere four episodes that explores the building blocks of any good dish. While the show itself is brief, its value is irreplaceable. Nosrat is at once incredibly knowledgable and infinitely teachable, allowing us to learn from her own deep breadth of experience while simultaneously discovering new culinary territory right alongside her.
The premise behind the book, and the theme of the show, is that when you can master these four elements (salt, fat, acid and heat) you can utilize them in a balance to make anything delicious, with or without a recipe. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is the culmination of decades of experience, and provides a philosophy on how to approach any dish in the kitchen. Going above and beyond a typical cooking tutorial show, Nosrat sets out to educate us on the role that certain foods play in your cooking, what happens when they interact in the right environments and how food can transform by your method of preparation. Overall, it’s an incredible inside look on how the mind of a chef works, and how to understand food beyond following a cut-and-dry recipe.
I respect why the show was only four episodes–it’s concise, following the structure of her book–but I am left wanting more. Though another Netflix show isn’t in the cards at this time, Nosrat is currently producing a podcast called Home Cooking, set to teach us everyday folk how to cook at home.
Ah yes, the season of ghastly ghouls and wicked haunts. There’s something quite spectacular in kicking off the holiday season with the eerie, the ominous and all things spooky. But where did Halloween traditions begin? Why do we carve pumpkins every year? Today, we will investigate!
Plus, we’ll cover some ideas of what to do with your leftover pumpkin, including those ooey gooey pumpkin guts!
Where did Jack O’ Lanterns originate?
The myth of the Jack O’ Lantern has its roots in Irish folklore, with the tale of Stingy Jack. Jack was so stingy and so mischievous he got the Devil himself jealous! In a maniacal duel to prove who was more devious, Jack or the Devil, Jack dug himself in too deep. In attempting to out-trick the Devil, Jack made the Devil promise never to take his soul.
As a result, when Stingy Jack finally passed away, he was cast out from both heaven and refused from hell. The gloating Devil gave Jack a hollowed out turnip with an ember inside to light his way, “marking him a denizen of the netherworld.” All of Jack’s tricks found him destined to haunt the earth for eternity, with only a carved out turnip lamp to guide his trek through infinite darkness.
Yes, I said turnip. Pumpkins were not a common crop in Ireland, and so, as the original story goes, The Devil gave Jack a turnip. When settlers came to America, they found the pumpkin (which is actually a fruit, not a vegetable) a much better vessel to carve and light from within, as a means of keeping the spirit of Stingy Jack away from their homes.
The name Jack O’ Lantern is really a shortened version of “Jack of the Lantern” a reference to Stingy Jack’s dismal fate to wander the earth, undead, illuminated only by a glowing root vegetable.
For the full tale of Stingy Jack, check out this animated folk song!
What To Do with Leftover Pumpkin
This article from The Atlantic takes a deep-dive into exactly what happens to our pumpkins after we’re finished with our Halloween fun. According to the article, “every year, more than 1 billion pounds of pumpkin get tossed out and left to rot in America’s landfills.” That’s about the same weight as 5,000 blue whales! That’s a lot of wasted pumpkin, and waste that can be prevented!
Food waste is one of the top contributors of harmful emissions. What we carve on our pumpkin, in the tradition of Stingy Jack, is just as important as what happens to our pumpkin in the end. Here are some ideas to put your Jack O Lantern scraps to good use.
Save and roast your pumpkin seeds
Roasted pumpkin seeds are a delicious snack! Simply set aside the seeds as you’re carving pumpkins to roast them later.
Here’s an easy recipe to follow to make your own pumpkin seeds at home from scratch. Eat roasted pumpkin seeds by themselves, on salad or sprinkled over your favorite fall soup!
Make pumpkin puree
Instead of using canned pumpkin to make all your favorite fall recipes (and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving) try making your own pumpkin puree out of your Jack O Lantern guts!
This post shows you how to easily make pumpkin puree, and provides additional ideas on how to efficiently use your Halloween pumpkins.
Plant those pumpkin guts
You know what I’m talking about! When you cut the “lid” off your pumpkin and begin scraping out all the stringy insides, with seeds wrapped precariously throughout. The easiest way to deal with them? Dig a shallow hole in your garden and plant them!
No need to rinse the stringy insides off the seeds, simply scoop and plop right into the ground. The insides of the pumpkin will naturally decompose into the dirt, providing extra nutrients for your seeds to start growing. Cover gently with a layer of dirt and water regularly to start your very own pumpkin patch.
Compost your pumpkin
If your pumpkin has turned and is no longer fit for consumption, the best solution is compost! It’s a simple, eco-friendly way to turn your waste into nutrient-rich garden dirt. Chop your pumpkin up into smaller pieces to speed up the compost process.
Oh yes. Today we’re making the traditional Brazilian staple: pão de queijo. Literally translated, it means “bread of cheese” and really, that’s a great description. Soft, fluffy small rounds of cheesy goodness. Let’s get started!
Simply put, pão de queijo is a small cheese puff bread. It’s typically served with most meals in Brazil and eaten for breakfast.
There’s no exact written history of pão, of course, but it’s believed that, around 1700, women who were enslaved typically made pão de queijo for farmers (don’t forget, Brazil was a Portuguese colony before it gained independence in 1822).
Pão de quiejo become a staple of Brazilian cuisine since, growing in popularity. You can now even find frozen versions of pão available in big stores like Costco.
One of the more distinguishing features of pão de queijo is it’s flour — commonly known to us in the US as tapioca starch. Wheat crops didn’t grow well in the northern region of Brazil, where warm weather made growing the grain difficult. Instead, ground, dried cassava root was used in place of flour.
Cassava root aka tapioca starch
Cassava is an incredibly drought-tolerant plant, making it a favorite crop of warmer, tropical regions. In the United States, cassava is also called:
Cassava root is made into cassava flour, which is also called tapioca starch. These alternative names are useful to know when you are shopping for the ingredients to make your very own pão de queijo!
Cassava flour possesses a unique, almost gelatinous quality when baked. Combined with the melted cheese, the pão de queijo becomes impossibly soft, fluffy and chewy!
Tried and tested Pão de Queijo recipe
Let’s get personal for a moment. My dad’s side of the family is very familiar with Brazil and its cuisine. In fact, he lived there with my grandparents during his teenage years. So, it was a natural place for a family reunion.
In 2017, we all went down to Brazil! That’s where I tried pão de queijo for the first time, along with my husband and my parents. Brazil has incredible food, including mousse de maracujá (passion fruit mousse) and of course, the Churrascuria (Brazilian barbecue).
When we returned home, we began testing recipes to replicate the impossibly perfect pão de queijo we had in Brazil. Seriously, it seemed no matter where we went, it was perfect every time!
While we didn’t have access to the specific cheese typically used to make pão (meia cura/minas cheese), we found this substitute combination works beautifully! The sharp saltiness of the parmesan balances well with the mild, gooeyness (yes its a word) of the mozzarella.
For best results, buy the cheese whole and grate it yourself. Pre-shredded cheese sometimes gives off a chalky flavor.
Another non-traditional note: while pão de queijo is typically formed and placed in rounds on a baking sheet, I found it easier to place the dough inside mini muffin tins. The tins helped the pão hold their shape, and made the shaping process much faster than if we were to shape them by hand. Not traditional, no, but effective? Yes.
Pão de Queijo
A traditional Brazilian bread, pão de queijo is easy to make with this straightforward recipe. Parmesan and Mozzarella replace authentic Brazilian cheese that is difficult to find in the United States. The result is a delicious, chewy, puffed cheese bread!
If you purchased pre-grated cheese, skip to next step. Grate the parmesan and shred the mozzarella. After measuring out the required amount, you can mix the cheeses together in a bowl and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Set up your stand mixer so that it's ready to go for the next step. Add the tapioca flour and baking powder to the bowl of the mixer.
In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the wet ingredients (milk, water, oil and salt). Cover and bring to a gentle rolling boil over medium heat. Once boiling, pour over the flour in the mixer.
Turn on the mixer and mix on high until the tapioca flour and wet ingredients are well-incorporated. It will have a stretchy, sticky texture that is to be expected.
Add eggs one at a time. To make things easy, you can crack the two eggs into a small bowl and whisky gently. Pour this in a slow steady stream into the mixer on medium-high speed. Allow the eggs to incorporate in small increments before adding more.
Repeat a similar process with the cheese. Working in small batches, add the cheese into the batter slowly until fully combined.
Spray your mini muffin tin with non-stick spray. Using a small scoop or spoon, scoop the batter into the muffin wells.
I’ve always been fascinated with plant-based cooking. Since I’m lactose intolerant, and therefore don’t eat dairy, I often use vegan recipes as a way to satisfy my cheesy, creamy cravings.
Even if you aren’t all about going meatless, eating more plant-based foods and the occasional plant-based meals bring plenty of benefits. Here are just a few.
1. It’s affordable
Let’s be real. What’s more affordable: fresh produce, bulk grains and some canned beans or fresh meat? Despite what you might see at a local restaurant (for some reason, vegan dishes always seem to be pricey) buying raw ingredients and preparing a meal at home is more affordable when the emphasis is on plants, grains and legumes as opposed to meat.
Here’s a quick and easy recipe I used to make chickpea salad for lunch. I eat it on a piece of toasted bread, with some extra mayo (can easily do vegan mayo, if you’d like) and some leafy greens.
2 cups chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
3 tablespoons mayo of your choice
1 tablespoon mustard of your choice
1 tablespoon horseradish (optional)
Drizzle of olive oil
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped bell peppers
1 tsp of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and chili powder
Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Drain and rinse chickpeas. Use a pastry cutter or potato masher to smash in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste.
That’s it! Seriously!
How easy is that? It takes five minutes, and I use it as a quick and easy lunch while I’m working during the week. It’s full of protein (thanks chickpeas) and veggies. It’s an easy swap to make — instead of tuna, chicken or egg, use chickpeas!
2. It’s better for the environment
Believe it or not, eating more plant-based helps the environment. Here’s one example, a comparison of the resources used to produce dairy milk verses popular plant-based milk alternatives. By far, dairy milk produces more emissions, uses more land and more water than any of the plant-based milk alternatives.
It’s not hard to tell — animals take more resources to raise than plants. By eating less meat, and being selective about where and how you obtain that meat, you can help support a more economical food cycle.
All that said, plant-based dishes CAN be and ARE delicious. There are a multitude of ways to learn to cook vegetables in delicious ways. Some of my favorite real-life inspiration comes from a restaurant in my area called Industrial Eats. They can take a humble vegetable and elevate it into a dish unto itself, not a mere side.
Perhaps that’s the key — we must treat plants like the stars that they are, instead of an obligatory side dish “for our health.” YES vegetables are good for you, but that doesn’t mean they have to taste bad! It’s okay to enjoy a vegetable dish, to fancy it up.
It’s time to break the association of a vegetable as simply being a tasteless item you eat for the sake of health. Where’s the fun, the enjoyment in that? Vegetables can (and often are) as delicious as any other dish you can have. Though make no mistake — I’m not suggesting you throw out all your dry pasta and replace it with spaghetti squash. It’s about integrating vegetables into your meals, so maybe adding some extra eggplant, zuchinni, mushrooms or tomatoes to your pasta instead. Or, enjoy your pasta exactly as you’d like it, with a tasty roasted vegetable dish on the side.
4. Plant-based is a great practice in mindful eating
Strengthen your immune system, fill your body with essential minerals, vitamins and nutrients without spending hundreds of dollars on fancy powders, shakes and diets. Diet culture will try to tell you that you need to purchase special products to be healthy. That’s not true. Unless specifically directed by a doctor or dietitian to follow a certain diet, and include/exclude certain foods, eating more plant-based is only going to help, not harm, you.
Of course, we know that everyone is different. That’s good! This is not about being extreme or exclusive. It’s about being concious about what you’re consuming, how you’re consuming it and what it took to produce it.
Grocery shopping can be a dissociative experience. We don’t see the months that went into growing that head of cauliflower, all we see are dozens of individually wrapped heads of cauliflower in the produce section. Just like we don’t see the slaughterhouse, all we see is the ruby red steaks. Being mindful of our food, where it comes from, and how that process ultimately effects what we put in our body requires a conscious effort. Though I believe, it’s one that begets a deeper appreciation for the farm workers who are out 6 days a week, in rain, heat and falling ash (I’m in California, ok) to put food on our tables.
How to get started eating more plant-based
Sometimes the best way to make a lasting change is to start slowly. Adding more vegetables to your meals, making them the centerpiece instead of meat, is one simple change. Here are some other ways.
Vegan blogs that will change your cooking and your life
Here are four of my favorite vegan guides to get started incorporating more plant-based eating into your life. Cooking vegan dishes will broaden your knowledge of cooking, ingredients, flavors and how to make the most out of what you have. Take a look at each of their websites. I’ve highlighted a dish from each that looked particularly appealing!
A vegetarian blog that produces lots of great plant-based recipes as well. Check out this Layered Panzanella, to eat your veggies and your bread too!
Plant-based cooking requires a wide knowledge of ingredients and creativity in the kitchen. Cooking plant-based limits what you can use but it also expands your abilities, making you use the most of what you have in new ways. You may surprise yourself with what you can create when your options change from what you are accustomed to!
How do you feel about eating plant-based? What did you learn today? Let me know in the comments below!