Add a new side this Thanksgiving


Not your 101 Classic Thanksgiving Side dish recipes… Just 6 new side dishes to add this Thanksgiving or any up coming Holiday dinner.

I really get distracted and kind of dizzy when I see these compilations of recipes where there’s too many options. I’m indecisive by nature and these extreme multiple option posts can be overwhelming. I can’t focus. I offer one of my own this year in an effort to add variety rather than replace one of those dear Thanksgiving classics. I narrowed it down to six recipes from the blog that I would love to add to a traditional menu. Some of them are more versatile and unusual to pair with the traditional Turkey dinner but several add pleasant variation in texture or the acid note to balance the richness of traditional dishes. Sometimes “gravyness” can overwhelm us, if you know what I mean.

Something new on the table may attract attention and possibly resistance. Allow your guests to discover the dish on their own terms. This will help you avoid any tension or “pushback” because you have decided to add variation to the meal. With that in mind, I know you will enjoy these dishes and have fun preparing them. During this special meal, please remember to focus on what matters the most at the table: family, friends and being grateful for what we have.

Happy Holidays
Ian and Mariana

Have a wonderful Holiday!

 Add a new side this Thanksgiving

1. Warm Acorn Squash Salad

2. Sweet Potato Salad with Caper Vinaigrette

3. Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Garlic, Herbs & Almonds

4. Root-a–touille a Ratatouille made with root vegetables

5. Sweet Potato Kale and Quinoa Fritters

6. Kale and Lentil Salad with Honey- Mustard Vinaigrette


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Gluten free Cornbread Muffins with Poblano Peppers and Smoked Gouda


This is the time of the year when quick breads like this fill up the house with warmth and delicious comforting aromas. MAKE THEM, It’s a must.
I have had this recipe for about 25 years …from one of my grandma’s best friends. It is one of the first encounters I had with baking. My modern grandma Ana Fernanda used to make this cornbread; she used some canned goods and different chiles from the north part of Mexico including chile California a bright green chile mild in spice. Also she used Chihuahua style cheese and baked it in a big rectangular dish. By the time this corn bread hit the table it was pretty much gone, absolutely delicious.

I decided to adjust the recipe and replace the canned goods by using fresh ingredients. For me it makes such a big difference in flavor and in texture. I used corn meal instead of corn mix, and interchanged the flour for gluten-free flour mix, which gives them a lighter and fluffier texture. The recipe works great with both types of flour, whether if you are using all-purpose flour, or a gluten-free all-purpose mix.

Now, instead of a big rectangular bread, I think to portion them out it’s the ticket! It cuts down the cooking time and each muffin gets an irresistible crusty top. I used Poblano peppers instead of California, Hatch chiles would be also great if you happen to have some frozen ones from this last season. Now, do not worry about the Poblanos, they are mild with just a hint of heat that play really well with the sweet corn. Instead of Chihuahua cheese, since I could not find one of a good quality and flavor, I used Smoked Gouda. Use what you like, perhaps something local, mild with good melting qualities.

These Cornbread Muffins with Poblano peppers and Smoked Gouda will make everybody happy at the table, including your gluten-free guests, they are moist , fluffy and  flavorful, I assure you this babies can be the hit at your Thanksgiving table or any given baking night!…Or Breakfast…Ian and I split them in half, warmed them on the pan with a dash of butter and topped them with a sunny side up egg…you’ve got to love the leftovers, if there are any…

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!


Gluten free Cornbread Muffins with Poblano Peppers and Smoked Gouda

Makes 12 muffins or one 9×13 rectangular baking dish.

1-1/2 cups organic corn meal flour *
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour ** Not gluten-free fan? you can use regular all-purpose flour.
2 teaspoons baking powder***
1 teaspoon plus one pinch kosher salt
4 eggs
½ cup greek yogurt
1-1/2 tablespoons honey
¾ cup corn oil. Grape seed oil, sunflower will work too.
4 tablespoons melted butter
4 small medium fresh ears of sweet corn
1 cup shredded smoked gouda cheese
2 Poblano peppers roasted, skinned, de seeded and sliced into strips. Remember to save some strips to top the muffins!
1 pinch smoked paprika

Topping with:

½ cup shredded cheese
12 thin Poblano strips
smoked paprika to sprinkle on top
12 baking liners

*If you are in Austin, Boggy Creek Farm has the best one, Lamb’s stone ground meal, or Bob’s Red Mill for a national brand.
**The brands I prefer for gluten-free all-purpose flour: Cup4Cup, King Arthur all-purpose gluten-free mix.Not a gluten-free fan, you can use regular unbleached all-purpose flour.

*** I always use aluminum free Baking Powder.


Preparation Method:

1. De-kernel 3 ears of corn and blend on the food processor or immersion hand blender, until a coarse purée. De-kernel the 4th ear of corn and add the kernels to the purée.

2. Preheat your oven at 375F. Line two muffin baking pans with the large muffin liners 6 on each pan alternating spots. (Please: Read bottom note about baking liners and baking times.)
3. In a medium size bowl mix all DRY ingredients, whisk well to incorporate. Add cheese and toss.
4. In another medium size bowl, mix all your WET ingredients, including the corn kernel purée and the poblano strips. Remember to save some poblano strips to top the muffins.

5. Combine wet ingredients into Dry with a wood spatula, until well incorporated, do not over mix.

6. Apply a little oil to a standard size Ice cream scooper, and fill each cup with a well-rounded heaping scoop of the batter. If you are using smaller cups use a leveled scoop.

7. Sprinkle a little cheese, a poblano strip and a dash of paprika on each muffin.

8. Place them into the oven on the lower third rack and LOWER the temperature to 350F.
9. Bake at 350F for 17-20 minutes until golden brown tops and a toothpick comes out almost clean with a few crumbs. Remove from oven and wait for 1-2 minutes, remove from pan into a baking rack or a basket and take them to the table. Enjoy.

Baking liners: I used a large paper cups that overlap if you bake them to close. That’s why I alternate them, and I used two trays. I love the medium size muffins and the raised muffin tops. They take about 17-20 minutes to bake.
If you are using regular cupcake liners I would say you might have more than a dozen, since they are smaller, and they will bake faster, perhaps 12-15 minutes. So, watch out and keep an eye on them.
If you are using dark muffin pans you might have to lower down your oven temperature at 325F since the darker pans retain more heat.




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Mariana’s Mexican Mushroom Soup – a.k.a. M-mmm Soup!


Cold weather, soups and blankets. The time has come and I’m setting you up with the most delicious Mexican mushroom soup. I was planning to make cream of mushrooms since one of my friends asked me for a recipe I made many years ago when I was a student in Guadalajara. (Rosi, if you are reading this please make this soup I think you’re gonna love it more than the cream of mushroom…although the cream of mushroom recipe is in your e-mail by now.)

As usual my brain went in multiple directions when I was at the market. I saw the epazote, smelled it and immediately thought of the Pasilla peppers I had at home. Suddenly it evoked the smells and flavors the recipe which were in my head and I could almost taste this delicious mushroom soup.

As you can see it has nothing to do with the cream of mushrooms I had plan to made, but I have to say that when I trust my instincts and let go, a wonderful recipe arises. I think when the soup was ready, it knock me down it tasted so good and it is so easy to make.

Warm and earthy yet light at the same time, this mushroom soup has the distinct flavor of the Pasilla peppers which tint the broth with a mahogany color and a faint spice. The Cremini mushrooms’ heartiness shine through along with the epazote licorice-minty flavor. The corn masa rue gives the broth a nutty corn flavor and great consistency.
To top it off, I recommend a bit of fresh crema or a dollop of plain greek yogurt which can be added along with some queso panela or queso fresco. For a Vegan version, you can add tofu squares, and a bit of unsweetened coconut cream. If you are looking for a soup that will warm you up with a friendly calorie count this Mariana’s Mexican Mushroom Soup might be just what you where waiting for… Mmm!!!


Mariana’s Mexican Mushroom Soup – a.k.a. M-mmm Soup!

Serves 4 or 2 hungry Mexican Yetis.

1 lb cremini mushrooms, clean and medium thin sliced.
1 large or 2 small dried pasilla chile seedless and cut with scissors
1 tablespoon corn masa-harina “Maseca”
½ medium white onion small diced
1 medium garlic clove finely diced
4 roma tomatoes
4 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock
1 glug corn oil or extra virgin olive oil (what ever flavor you prefer)
2 sprigs of epazote (if you are using Mexican epazote, use just one)
Sea salt to taste.
2-3 cranks of Fresh Black Pepper

Note: Now that I think about it.. it will be delicious if you add some kale or swiss chard, even baby spinach…at the end  of the preparation…yum!

Garnish with:

Fresh Mexican crema, crème fraîche or plain greek yogurt
Queso Panela or queso fresco
Fresh epazote

Vegan substitutions:

Vegetable stock
Garnish with: unsweetened coconut milk, and firm tofu squares.

Preparation method:

1. Cut a little cross on the bottom of each tomato. In a small pot boil your tomatoes until soft. Remove the skins. Reserve one cup of the boiling water and blend them until smooth. Set aside.
2. Remove the stem of the chile pasilla and shake to remove all the seeds and core.With the help of kitchen scissors slice the chile pasilla into an 1/8” inch thin strips.

3. Have everything ready beside your stove to start the soup.
4. In a medium large soup pot, over medium high heat add the oil, wait until warms up and then add the pasilla strips. Toss with a wood spoon for 1-2 minutes until they start looking crispy and they release their flavor. After 2 minutes the color of the oil is orange. Remove the crispy rings from oil and reserve them for garnish.
5. Lower the heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon of the corn-masa harina and stir until slightly golden brown. Add the diced onions and garlic, toss for 1-2 minutes, add the tomato pure, toss and season salt and pepper, bring to a boil.
6. Add the chicken stock, and the epazote sprig. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cremini Mushrooms and crush some of the fried pasilla reserved. Bring to a slow simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes until the mushrooms are tender and the broth has a richer consistency.

7. Taste for salt and pepper. Turn down the heat and let the soup rest for 10 minutes.
8. Meantime prepare your garnishes. Warm up some corn tortillas, serve the soup and garnish with crema, queso panela o fresco, some of the crispy pasilla rings, fresh epazote, and Warm up!

Note: If you are the spicy soul like me, toast some chile de arbol with a little bit of oil and crush some of this spicy chile on top… mmm spicy!



Warm up!

Note: Now that I think about it.. it will be delicious if you add some kale or swiss chard, even baby spinach…at the end  of the preparation…yum!

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Braised Lamb Shanks with Fennel, Cipollini Onions and Cauliflower Parsnip Mash


To braise or not to braise, there’s is no question…. To Braise!

Braising is one of my favorite cooking techniques. I’m always amazed by the results of applying minimal efforts, a little pampering and low and slow heat with a “no rush” time frame. The results are beyond expectations: big warm fully developed flavors, aromas all ingredients in deep harmony. A true feast for kings.

If you follow the 3 golden rules for Braising, you are on the boat of a dinner feast.

1. First, seal, brown, caramelize your well seasoned piece of meat with salt & pepper. Brown all sides over medium heat.
2. Build your saucy broth base, adding the trilogy of all times: celery, carrots and onions, Herbs, good quality chicken or beef stock. Red or white wine that you will drink, a bit of balsamic or sherry vinegar and/or tomatoes. These are acidic ingredients that this braising method needs to break up the collagen in the meat. The combination of all this orchestrated herbs, wine, vegetables, stock with the low moist and dry heat along with time, creates the most tender meat and an amazing rich and flavorful effortless sauce, and tender meat.
3. Cover your meat at 2/3 of the way with stock and wine, cook in the oven at a low temperature for at least 2 and 1/2 hrs…. Low and slow.
The Magic of braising is that it combines a dry and a wet cooking method, creating this juicy and saucy tender meat which also has a crust and slightly roasted top. What could be better?…Now can you imagine the possibilities? different acid components, variety of herbs, vegetables, root vegetables and a cut of meat that is suited for the job.Usually tougher cuts of meat, lamb, pork, rabbit the choice is yours.

Winter is just around the corner. Perhaps there is no better way to warm up your house than with this one pot of Braised Lamb Shanks with Fennel, Cipollini Onions and Cauliflower Parsnip Mash. Oh! did I mentioned the Cauliflower Mashed? I think this is a recipe on its own… extremely easy and surprisingly good, steamed cauliflower and parsnip whipped with a bit of butter and Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt and pepper, its a mashed with an attitude.

This recipe is for two and easily adapted for 4 to 6. I usually make this over the weekend if we are gonna spend the afternoon around the house or on a Lazy Sunday afternoon. Leftovers like this just get better the next day. Effortless love in a pot. Warm up!



Braised Lamb Shanks with Fennel, Cipollini Onions and Cauliflower Parsnip Mash

Serves 2

2 Lamb shanks cut for ossobucco (preferable the front Lamb shanks, since they are the meatiest)
1 glug grapeseed oil for browning the shanks.
1 medium fennel bulb cut in fourths
12 cipolinni onions peeled
2-3 carrots cut in medium pieces
6-8 fingerling potatoes or red new potatoes
2 grated Roma tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock or more if needed.
1 cup Dry white wine
1 – 1/2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence
1 bay leaf
4 garlic cloves unpeeled
1-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh crushed black pepper
2 tablespoons of butter

1 Dutch oven or any enamelware medium size pot with a tight lid.

For the Cauliflower-Parsnip Mash:

1 small cauliflower head
1-2 medium-small Parsnips
2 tablespoons butter
1 little glug extra virgin olive oil
1-2 gluts milk, unsweetened almond milk or soy milk upon your preference.
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation method:

1. Preheat your oven to 425F and prepare all your vegetables, and grate your tomatoes.

2. Pat dry the lamb shanks and season all sides with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Heat up the Dutch oven over medium heat, add the grapeseed oil and wait until rippling hot, add the shanks and brown evenly all sides. Remove from pan set aside.

3. To the same pan add the cipolinni onions and re-season with salt and pepper until they have a bit golden brown color both sides. Remove from pot and set aside.


4. In the same pot add the fennel quarters and the carrots until the fennel shows some color, at this point make a well in the center of the pan and add the grated tomato, sauté for 3-4 minutes, then add the wine and cook for another 3 more minutes.
5. Once that the tomato and wine are bubbling, make room in the pot and add back the lamb shanks, add the chicken stock making sure the shanks are at least 2/3 covered in liquid. Add the Herbes de Provence, bay leaf, garlic cloves and cover with a lid on the stove. Bring to a rapid simmer. Remove the fennel from the pot, cover the pot with a lid and place the pot into the oven at 325F Set your timer for 1 and a half hours.

6.After one and a half hours, carefully turn your lamb over, and add the potatoes, fennel and sautéed cipollini onions,make sure the potatoes are summered into the liquid cover with lid and keep braising for another 45 minutes.

7. Meantime, cut your cauliflower into mini florets, peel and cube the parsnip, steam them on the same pot until soft and tender. Remove from steamer, place in a pot, add butter, salt pepper, extra virgin olive oil and a dash of milk, almond milk or soy milk what ever you prefer. With an inmersion blender whip until creamy and fluffy. A food processor will work well to. Set aside and keep on a warm place.Cauliflower-and-Parsnip-Mashed


8. Remove your Lamb from the oven, remove the lid, add the butter to the sauce and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving. this will allow all the juices to re-distributed and it will bring it to the perfect temperature to serve. I love the consistency of the juices when it comes out of the oven, the consistency of the saucy broth tends to be a little more lose, which for me it is perfect to soak some crusty french country bread.*sigh*… But sometimes, If there is to much liquid, I remove the lid and place the pot back into the oven under the oven broiler for 5-7 minutes,  just to get some extra roasted edges on the meat and veggies and it also helps to evaporate some of the extra juices a bit.
But, If you want your sauce to be  thicker or  to make it in to a glossy gravy, Once you get the pot out of the oven, remove the lamb shanks and vegetables into a platter poor some of the liquid over to avoid drying them out and cover them with some foil paper to keep them warm and moist.  Remove herbs and skim fat if necessary. Place the pot over the stove, and bring the liquids to a boil. Reduce to desired consistency, adjust salt and pepper to taste.


9. To serve, In any of the cases, place your lamb shank over the cauliflower-parsnip mashed, add vegetables on the side and a ladle of the  delicious juicy broth or gravy… do not forget the crusty bread!…Enjoy.



Braised Lamb Shanks with Fennel, Cipollini Onions and Cauliflower Parsnip Mash…

where is the crusty bread?

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