Dripping-free gravy

Time to get your stretchy pants on, it’s that time of the year where calories don’t count. Every time the holidays roll around the one thing I always look forward to is the holiday meal spreads. From turkeys and prime rib to honey baked ham every family has their own traditions and special dishes they bring to the table (figuratively and literally).

Thanksgiving dinner/ photo by me

My family is the traditional turkey kind of crowd which means traditional dishes and spreads, no complaints here! 

Okay, maybe one complaint. 

Gravy disappears from the gravy boat every year so we have to make sure we have plenty on hand.

No matter how juicy the turkey is it’s essential to have a large amount of gravy to drizzle on top of the whole plate. But what about when you have leftovers and there’s no leftover gravy? 

Listen, my family LOVES gravy. Nothing dampens a feast as much as running out of it. 

I’m going to let you into a quick an easy recipe you can whip up without drippings to satisfy your family’s gravy needs without having to resort to powdered or canned gravy. 

Stay tuned for more kitchen holiday hacks in the next few weeks!

Recipe

Gravy/ Photo by Food Network
  • 3 cups of water
  • 3 TB of chicken bullion
  • 3 TB of beef bullion
  • 4 TB of butter
  • 4 TB of flour
  • 1 tsp salt (you can always adjust salt to taste after)
  • 1 TB pepper
  • 1 TB garlic powder
  • 1 TB onion powder
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  1. Bring water with bullion to a boil over medium heat.
  2. In a separate saucepan over medium heat melt butter with garlic and onion powder until combined with a whisk.
  3. Add flour while whisking, maintaining a smooth texture .
  4. Once butter and flour have formed a roux, slowly add bullion and water mixture while whisking vigorously to avoid lumps.
  5. When liquid is fully incorporated mix until it begins to thicken into a gravy consistency.
  6. Add Worcestershire sauce and continue to mix for 1 minute.

Enjoy!

One pot roast to rule them all

It’s hard to believe the holidays are around the corner. If you’re anything like me, the part you look forward to the most is staying in and enjoying good company. Whether the company you choose is family, friends or both there’s no doubting that the thing everyone looks forward to is the delicious food that comes from the holidays. 

Pot roast/ Photo by Kristen Chidsey

I’m going to share with you my favorite recipe for cold nights, pot roast. 

The great thing about a pot roast is that it’s one of those recipes you can set in the oven, crockpot or pressure cooker and just forget about it until its ready. 

As with any recipe you’re able to inject your own flavor into this pot roast. I personally prefer fresh herbs and copious amounts of garlic and vegetables so when they cook you have not only the pot roast but tender carrots, celery, and potatoes. And of course, the star of the show the rich and delicious gravy.

Low and slow is the best way to make your pot roast and ensuring you have the right cooking dish should be a priority. I have found that using a cast iron Dutch oven with a lid has yielded the best results in ensuring the moisture stays in the pan. You don’t have to spend a fortune on kitchen equipment, this Dutch oven from Macys is great!  If you are going the crock pot or pressure cooker, then no need to worry about retaining the moisture as much.

The perfect cut of meat for a pot roast would be chuck roast since it falls apart when cooked, easy to shred and tender. You get the best bang for your buck at stores like Costco or Sam’s Club since you can get a nice sized chuck for a decent price compared to Vons or Ralphs.

Seasoning/ Photo by Marina Market

I will say the secret to the perfect gravy is the right seasonings, no one wants a bland gravy. I will argue that the best part of this dish is getting a ladle full of gravy drenched over mashed potatoes and pot roast.  

I’m going to share with you a recipe I have tweaked over the years that has given me the most flavorful, tender pot roast that’s perfect for chilly weather and family gatherings.

As always, there aren’t mistakes in the kitchen just tweaks that weren’t planned. 

Let’s get to cooking!

Recipe

  • 3 lb chuck roast
  • 2 celery stalks chopped
  • 1 lb baby carrots
  • 1 large yellow onion chopped
  • 1 lb potatoes cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic powder
  • 6 peeled garlic cloves
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 cups of dry red wine for deglazing
  • 2 cups of low sodium beef broth
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While that’s heating up, in your dutch oven add the olive oil and turn on the heat on high.
  2. Pat dry the roast, dusting it with flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder, placing it in the dutch oven to sear on all sides until brown.
  3. Once seared on all sides add red wine to deglaze the pan.
  4. Add carrots, celery, onion, potatoes and garlic cloves evenly around the roast.
  5. Cover with beef broth and add thyme and rosemary.
  6. Cover and place into the oven for 2 hours and 45 minutes until fork tender.
  7. Remove from pan and serve over mashed potatoes and spinach.
  8. Enjoy!

Holiday must-haves for your kitchen

Graphic by MGN for ABC

Holidays are just around the corner! If you’re anything like me, you get excited by all the new kitchen gadgets you can get this season. 

Luckily for us many retailers have begun their holiday discounts early with the ever so elusive Black Friday deals hitting the web as we speak. I thought I would share some of the best kitchen finds to help you make sure you can master any recipe. 

Black Friday shopping is the best time to get deals on air fryers, knives and if you feel adventurous a Sous Vide. Of course, sales come and go and prices fluctuate so this list will be updated as I find other deals that can help us at home cooks feel like master chefs.

There are a few kitchen tools I feel are essential for someone who wants to be in the kitchen this holiday season and beyond without spending too much for quality products. Quality can come from big box retailers like Macys not just boutique stores like Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma. 

Let’s get saving on some kitchen must-haves!

I have compiled a list of the best finds you can get your hands on before the holiday rush.

KitchenAid mixer/ Photo by KitchenAid for BestBuy
  • This KitchenAid 5 quart mixer has hit its best price of the year, BestBuy has it on sale for $219.99 from $499.99 (thats almost $300 dollars in savings!)
Cuisinart knives/ Photo by Cuisinart for Macys
  • Don’t let the price fool you, these Cuisinart knives are great and easy to sharpen. I’ve had my set for over 4 years that I use daily and for $13.99 its a steal.

Bella Pro Series air fryer/ Photo by Bella Pro for BestBuy
  • If you don’t have an air fryer yet, nows your chance! This Bella Pro Series 8 quart air fryer is what you need in your life. For $49.99 you get the convenience of frying or baking without having to turn you oven on for a small meal. Nonstick and easy to put away this will save you time and the headache of cleaning up.
Ninja Blender and Food Processor/ Photo by Ninja for Macys
  • This Ninja Blender and Food Processor will make kneading or mixing dough a breeze! On sale at Macys for $99.99 its a kitchen staple that won’t take up too much space.

The berry best trifle

Berry Trifle photograph by Alexandra Grablewski

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite desserts to look at is a berry trifle. Maybe its because it’s one of those desserts that looks difficult to make and paired with the fact that’s it’s served so you can see every single delicate layer upon layer, makes it a show stopping feast for your eyes.

Let’s go back to the basics, what is a trifle? It’s a layered dessert that include berries, cream and cake. Some recipes can include lemon curd or even pudding. The beauty of this dessert comes from its presentation in a trifle bowl or if you can’t find one, any deep bowl with tall edges like a glass serving bowl.

The trifle originated in England in the 18th century and was traditionally served in round bowls so you could see the layers of jam, cake and fruits. The American version of the trifle allows for more freedom when choosing what to layer. Recipes will vary by region with some choosing to use yogurt instead of cream or pudding and deciding what kind of cake to use.

I find that if you are going to be getting store bought cake the best options taste wise are Costco and Vons pound cake, they are rich without feeling heavy or dry. Of course, you can also use angel food cake for a lighter fare.

The beauty of this dessert is that you can take complete freedom of what you choose to put into it to make it your own. I personally prefer to use pound cake, homemade whipped cream and instant pudding, specifically the Jello brand vanilla flavor since it adds a nice thickness to contrast the fluffy whipped cream.

Needless to say its a beautiful dish to impress at parties or picnics!

Here are some tips and tricks for your trifle assembly:

  • You can use homemade whipped cream, Cool Whip or instant pudding
  • Angel food cake or pound cake hold up the best if you keep it in the fridge overnight
  • Use seasonal berries for optimum freshness
  • Pay close attention to how the layers look on the outside of the bowl for the best presentation
  • If using angel food cake, stick to lighter layers of pudding or whipped cream
  • Trifles can also be made in individual cups or flutes if you are serving them at a party.
  • Farmers markets are a great source of local seasonal berries.

Recipe

Berry Trifle

Layered berry trifle/ Photograph by me

Tools

  • trifle bowl/ glass serving dish/ glass mixing bowl
  • hand whisk or mixer

Ingredients

  • 1 large package of strawberries
  • 1 medium package of blueberries or blackberries
  • 1 large package of raspberries
  • 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 powdered sugar
  • 1 package of Jello vanilla instant pudding
  • 1 angel food cake or 1 pound cake cut into 1 inch cubes
  1. Prepare Jello as instructed on the box.
  2. In a mixing bowl whisk together the heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar until it forms still peaks.
  3. Wash all berries and cut strawberries into thin slices.
  4. Begin by laying a thicker layer of pudding and adding cake, followed by a layer of whipped cream and berries. Make sure the berries on the edge of the bowl are placed delicately for the aesthetics.
  5. Continue layering alternating layers of pudding, cake, whipped cream and berries until you reach the top of the bowl where you will finish off with a layer of whipped cream topped with leftover berries.
  6. If possible leave in the fridge overnight with cling wrap as a second skin pressed lightly enough to touch to prevent the whipped cream from drying out at the top.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

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Talk about a journey

Do you ever wonder what would have happened if you hadn’t done something? I think about it often when I think about the culinary journey I have been on. Mind you, I didn’t go to culinary school I just so happened to end up taking culinary in high school because it was elective. 

Me and my high school culinary teacher Kellie Joe at her pizza business in San Francisco / Photograph by me

If I hadn’t been curious about cooking I would have never met the teacher that changed my life. Going into high school I was as quiet and introverted as you could be, but being in this class forced me to be vocal. That partnered with having a teacher that was passionate about what she was teaching kept me in the class the entirety of my high school experience. 

My hope for the future is that I can pull a Julia Child later on in life and attend the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

Moral of this post is that you never know what will lead to your next passion, learn to embrace failure as a stepping stone to becoming better (just try not to burn anything down in the process). 


Stay tuned for my next post on making a  berry trifle  that is sure to impress for the holidays!

Food can be healing

I found myself struggling when dealing with death in my life, especially when I lost my grandmother. That was the first personal loss I ever dealt with at the ripe age of 23. I struggled… hard.

One of the ways I was “coping” was by avoiding food that reminded me of my grandmother, all my favorite comfort food that I grew up enjoying with her became things that I avoided. This led to me do developing disordered eating, I ate by myself in my room instead of with my family and avoided any conversation that would remind me of what I was going through mentally.

I started to heal when I started to cook food that reminded me of good times, of my culture and my family. I resurrected recipes with my mom that made me feel like a child again visiting my grandma in Mexico.

Basically, what I’m trying to share with you is that food doesn’t just fuel you. It can be a memory trigger, healing and can bring you closer to your family or your roots like it did to me. While I still struggle with loss, I find comfort knowing that I’m just a step away from cooking something that can help me feel connected to those I love.

How does food impact your life?

Let’s Get Rollin’

How often have you wandered into a restaurant and chosen your meal based on something you wouldn’t know how to make at home? Trust me, you’re not the only one. Often food can be intimidating simply because of how complex it looks. From the prefect medium rare steak to a show stopping croquembouche, just on appearance alone we can be too intimidated to try to recreate it at home. Now, I’m not saying that dishes like these are easy to master but they do require two key elements… patience and time.

Perfect pork roulade/ Photograph provided by Natasha’s Kitchen

Let’s turn to our next challenge which is a dinner party staple that allows you to get as creative as you want, pork roulade. Out of all the meats to cook I would say pork would be one of the trickiest to master. Underdone and you’re sick, overcooked and its tough. This is where a meat thermometer would come most handy. According to the FDA pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees with a three minute rest time. As always, we have to make sure to wipe down all surfaces and wash our hands and utensils with soap and hot water every time we come into contact with raw meat. 

Know your cuts! / Infographic provided by Smithfield

So, what is a pork roulade? It’s a dish made from pork loin which is one of the most tender, lean cuts of meat. As I mentioned before, working with a lean cut of meat means there is a chance it may dry out if cooked for too long at a high temperature. The loin is sliced through and pounded to your desired thickness. and filled with a filling that can consist of mushrooms, stuffing, apples, cranberries to name a few options. Once your filling is in, you roll it up and tie every four inches with butchers twine and into the oven it goes!

Here are some tips and tricks to help you make the perfect pork loin:

  • Purchasing at a wholesaler like Costco or Sam’s Club usually offers the best price.
  • When pounding out the loin, make sure it’s even all the way across to avoid over or undercooking the pork. 
  • The filling for your pork roulade can be tailored to suit any palate, so get creative!
  • A meat thermometer will help ensure you cook the pork to the correct temperature.
  • Pinot Noir pairs well with pork.
  • Take your time!

Recipe:

Pork roulade/ Photograph provided by me
  • 1 pork tenderloin (3/4 pound)
  • salt & pepper as needed
  • 3 tablespoons of garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped peeled Granny Smith apple
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs or panko crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons of chopped celery
  • 1 chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon cranberries or raisins ( personal preference)
  • 3/4 cup broth of choice ( I used low sodium chicken broth)
  1. Cut down center of tenderloin to within 1/2 in. of bottom so it lays open like a book. Cover with plastic wrap and flatten to roughly 1/2-in. thickness all around. Once at desired thickness season with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder.
  2. In a bowl combine the apple, bread crumbs, celery and onion, Add 1/2 cup of broth to soak. Spoon evenly over pork and roll up, starting at a long side; tie with butcher twine and secure ends. 
  3. Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan coated with high heat cooking oil . Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Then cover with foil to retain moisture for the remaining 20 minutes or until meat juices run clear and a thermometer reads at least 145 degrees. Let rest for a few minutes before slicing to ensure it stays moist!

A plate of inspiration

When I share with family members or friends pictures of what I’ve cooked in the kitchen I’m met with a similar response every time, “Really? YOU made that? Are you sure?”. 

Homemade Thanksgiving dinner, it wasn’t perfect but I felt so accomplished to be able to make this meal for 5 / Photograph provided by me

I always respond politely but what I really wish I could say, stays in my head. Once you find something that you’re passionate about its easy to immerse yourself in a way that allows you to refine that craft. 

For me “basic” cooking isn’t something I will want to do. I don’t want to make grilled chicken; however, I am inspired to make Chicken Cordon Bleu. The challenges of creating something is what feeds my passion for food and its presentation and of course food must not only taste good but look good because we eat with our eyes.

Thanksgiving dinner from Gordon Ramsey Steak in Las Vegas, restaurant dinners can sometimes be underwhelming and that’s okay! This inspired me to cook Thanksgiving dinner the following year/ Photograph provided by me

I welcome the challenge of learning something new in the kitchen and in life, for example if I go to France of course I’m going to try escargot. Just because something seems odd or unusual to the Western palate. Food should not only be fun but exciting, don’t let the fear of one dish going bad or a previous bad experience cooking keep you from being confident in the kitchen. 

STOP PAYING $30 FOR FILET MIGNON

Know your cuts of beef infographic provided by Otto Wilde

How often have you passed the butcher section in your local grocery store and seen the most appetizing piece of filet mignon only to pass it up because at $15 a piece for USDA Prime beef … you’re not going to take the risk of trying to cook it. Trust me, there was a time where cooking the perfect medium steak seemed like an impossible task to me. I’m going to share some tips and tricks with along with my favorite fool-proof recipe to help you make the perfect filet mignon that will leave you feeling like a pro!

No matter whether you’re a professional chef or first time cook, it’s important to know your ingredients. Filet mignon comes from the smaller end of the tenderloin. Its name actually means “cute filet” in French. Not only is it one of the most tender steaks available but it also has a low fat content making it one of the trickier cuts of meat to cook. If the filet is overcooked it can lead to a chewy, dry texture which is less than desirable for this expensive cut.

Let’s talk about meat temperature. Besides just how you prefer your meat cooked from rare to well-done (no judgement here), like any animal product you cook the filet has to be cooked to a safe temperature to prevent food borne illness which for beef it’s 145 F.  I would strongly recommend investing in a digital food thermometer for the most accurate reading. Amazon offers thermometers at various prices to fit into your budget. I suggest the BRAPILOT digital thermometer. To make sure you have the most tender, moist outcome we should aim for our internal temperature to be 145 F (medium). 

Steak Doneness chart what do you prefer? provided by Nolan Ryan Beef

Another important aspect when cooking a filet is to ensure we are properly seasoning our meat. For such a delicate piece of meat keeping it simple is the way to go, a generous amount of salt and pepper. Using sea salt and freshly ground pepper will ensure that we get the most authentic taste. I know what you’re thinking! That’s all for seasoning? Worry not, we’ll be getting a ton of flavor incorporated once the steak hits the pan. Now that we have gotten to know some important aspects of preparing a filet mignon let’s get started with my favorite fool-proof way to prepare a steak that will leave you feeling like a pro.

TIPS & TRICKS

  • Remove steak from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you cook it, this allows for a more even cook throughout
  • Make sure your pan has enough room for your steaks if cooking more than one at a time
  • Season well, don’t be afraid of flavor!
  • Sear in a HOT pan, reduces the chances of the steak sticking and gives you the perfect crust on your steak
  • Use a thermometer
  • Enjoy the process!

Simply Delicious Filet

Delicious Filet Mignon provided by me

yields 2 servings

4 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp garlic powder

Kosher salt to taste

2 (6-oz.) filet mignon

8 tbsp. unsalted butter

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

10 fresh asparagus spears

4 russet potatoes

1/3 cup of sour cream

1 cup of heavy cream

4 cloves fresh shaved garlic

1/2 cup Cabernet for deglazing

  1. Preheat your oven until it reaches 400 F.
  2. Season steak with salt, pepper and garlic powder until evenly coated all around.
  3. In a pan on high heat add 2 tbsp of olive oil until hot (its important that the steak sizzles as soon as it hits the pan!).
  4. Place the steak on the pan, remember to not turn more than 1 in order to get the perfect crust, for about 4 minutes on each side until golden brown and well seared.
  5. Once all sides are golden brown transfer the pan into the oven for 8 minutes, remember to use your thermometer to ensure you’re reaching the right temperature. In a sheet pan season and toss asparagus with olive oil and place into oven for 15 minutes until done.
  6. In a sauce pot place diced potatoes to boiling water and cook until done, remove from heat and drain. Mash into desired texture, add sour cream and heavy cream with shaved garlic. Set aside.
  7. Once you reach an internal temperature of 145 F (medium), remove from oven and return to stovetop, add 4 tbsp of butter to pan with the rosemary sprig and baste for 2 minutes.
  8. Remove steak and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing to maintain moisture.
  9. Add 1/2 cup of Cabernet to the pan turn on heat and reduce until you reach a sauce like texture.
  10. Enjoy! When garnishing remember to use odd numbers!

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