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Last weekend, Ingrid and I hosted a party for our local friends to celebrate the launch of our new website! Friday and Saturday were marathon cooking sessions as we prepared (almost) all of the dishes that we’ve featured on the website so far. Of course, running out of food at a food website launch party would be unforgivable, so we tripled or sextupled all of the recipes. And in spite of the unusually mild winter we’ve had in our area, it started to snow just as the party started!

We’d like to thank everyone who braved the snow to come to our launch party. We’d especially like to thank our good friends, Ryan and Diane Owen, who volunteered their home for the party as soon as they heard about it (before we could even ask). We feel we’re off to a great start with much more to come!

Ingrid slicing Lemon Poppyseed Cake
Rob shredding the Cuban Pork Roast
Rob & Ingrid serving for the party

What is the best way to end a dinner party or gathering? In my opinion, it’s dessert! Nothing like a small morsel of sweetness to wrap up your festivities. If you want to leave a “sweet” impression with your friends (see what I did there—ha!) then may I recommend the following desserts: A Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting or our Buttermilk Doughnuts.

If you’re going for an elevated dessert, you can’t go wrong with the Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. We perfected this recipe for my sister Astrid’s (our photographer) wedding and it turned out delicious. I’m not the biggest fan of lemon desserts, so this cake needed to have a good balance between the lemon and poppyseed flavoring. The result was a harmonious combination of both! This cake is also very beautiful aesthetically. It works well in both a relaxed but also an elegant setting.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Buttermilk is a deliciously powerful substance that has the potential to make any food addictive! And it’s no different for these Buttermilk Doughnuts, I’m warning you now, you’re going to get addicted. Doughnuts are a friendly dessert that appeals to almost everyone! So going with this recipe is a safe bet. You can leave them as they are (that’s the way I like them) or you can sprinkle them in a mix of cinnamon and sugar. Do both! The best part about the process of making these doughnuts is that they don’t contain yeast, so there’s no waiting time. Mmmmm… Doughnuts.

Buttermilk Doughnuts

You’ve been invited to a dinner or a party in a couple of weeks. Fun! The host asks you to bring a side dish. No problem! Then a few days before the party, you sit down to figure out what to make. That’s when the trouble begins. What’s the main dish? What is everyone else bringing? Is anyone a vegetarian? Suddenly the simple side dish is starting to be a big problem.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We’ve put together a few side dish recipes that go well with nearly any main dish. We’ve also opted for some less common main ingredients (for the U.S., at least) so it’s unlikely that anyone else will be bringing a similar dish. And to top it all off, they’re all vegetarian so everyone can enjoy them!

We started with a staple of North African cuisine, couscous. Couscous resembles small bits of pasta and, in fact, is made from the same kind of wheat. And since couscous comes from the Mediterranean region, we stuck with some classic Mediterranean flavors for our Couscous Salad, like garlic, bell peppers, and onion. Finally, we tossed in some toasted almonds to add a rich, nutty flavor.

Couscous Salad

Next, we turned to quinoa, a traditional South American grain that’s been gaining a lot of popularity lately. And we went with a soup, an often overlooked option for side dishes. Our Black Bean and Quinoa Soup relies on a mix of flavors: onion, garlic, tomato, and carrot contribute some classic European flavors while cumin and red pepper flakes add a taste of Tex-Mex (and just a little heat). A garnish of delicious avocado finishes this soup perfectly.

Black Bean and Quinoa Soup

For our last dish, we look a second look at our menu from last week. Beans and rice make a fantastic side dish. Our original Cuban Black Beans and Rice recipe calls for salt pork but we don’t want to forget our vegetarian friends. So this week we’re publishing a vegetarian version of that same recipe.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

Ingrid and I are thrilled to be launching our website! To celebrate, we’re planning a party for later this month and inviting everyone we know. And what better way to start things off than with the recipes we’ll be cooking for the launch party? All this month, then, we’ll be sharing those recipes as well as some of our thoughts about cooking for parties.

This week, we’ll focus on hosting a dinner party. We’ll borrow the menu we used at a dinner party we hosted not too long ago. A thaw in America’s relations with Cuba had just been announced, so we thought a Cuban-themed menu would be fun.

It started with Cuban Pork Roast, known there as lechón asado. Cuba’s take on the classic pork roast combines garlic and orange juice. This is a recipe that takes a long time to make; the pork roast brines overnight, then roasts for about 6 hours, and finally rests for an hour before serving. But we can actually use that fact to our advantage because we can prepare other recipes while the meat roasts in the oven.

Cuban Pork Roast Blog

And of course, you can’t have Cuban pork without Cuban Black Beans and Rice, also known as moros y cristianos. Cuba’s take on beans and rice gets a flavor boost from their version of a sofrito, which is a flavorful mix of onions, garlic, and bell peppers used in many Cuban dishes. This recipe also requires planning ahead as the beans have to soak overnight. After that, most of the cooking is on the stove top except the final step, which requires the oven. That’s no problem, though, since the beans and rice can go into oven just as the pork roast comes out to have its hour rest.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

With a Latin American menu like that, there has to be a Latin American dessert. Tres leches would be a great choice but we decided on Almond Flan instead. Both Ingrid and I love custards so we couldn’t pass up the chance to make the region’s most famous custard. And flan is a great choice for dinner parties because it must be made in advance. Just make it the evening before your party and as soon as it is cool enough, put it in the refrigerator. By the next day, the flan is perfectly chilled and ready to unmold and serve.

Flan

Rob & Ingrid, Dipping

Life’s a journey not a destination
And I just can’t tell what tomorrow brings

Aerosmith, “Amazing”

We like to think of life not just as a journey, but especially as a culinary journey. And we are thrilled to start sharing our culinary journey with everyone! To introduce ourselves, we thought we’d share what how our journeys began:

Rob

As a kid, I loved breakfast on Saturday. Cold cereal was fine for hectic weekdays when I had to rush off to school but Saturday was different. On Saturday, there was time to make breakfast. French toast, pancakes, and waffles were the staples of Saturday morning as I grew up. After a while, I wanted to make them myself. Mom and Dad taught me how and before long, I was the family’s Saturday morning chef. I was hooked.

Years later, when I met Ingrid, I decided I wanted to impress her. And what better way to impress than with a fancy dessert like crème brûlée? I showed up at her apartment with two ramekins already prepared with custard. To make sure I really dazzled her, though, I sprinkled the sugar and browned it with a mini-torch right there in front of her. We’ve been sharing our culinary journey ever since.

Ingrid

Coming from a Guatemalan family means I was always surrounded by delicious food. Tamales at Christmas time, carne asada for summer barbecues, and delectable Sunday dinners my mother still cooks for us to this day. I’ve yet to find anyone that cooks black beans better than my mother does! The food never disappoints, but my first love has always been gathering around the table and making memories with my family. Food brings people together, and that’s exactly what I love about cooking.

In my early twenties I became friends with the Stone family and they introduced me to an array of new ingredients. I remember loving the endless amount of spices in their kitchen, the huge collection of cookbooks, their tomato garden, and lemon tree. They gave me my first cookbook, Gourmet Cookbook. I gained inspiration to experience and create beautiful, tasty dishes in the kitchen, and took on a hobby of urban gardening, which I’m still trying to master.


The next stage of our journey is, of course, this site. We’ve been working on it for a while now and it’s exhilarating to finally unveil it! But we’re not done. In addition to the blog posts and great recipes that we’ll be publishing, we’ll continue to work on the site itself; we hope to make it into an essential tool that you won’t want to cook without.

Finally, we’d like to give a special thanks to Ingrid’s sister Astrid. She’s been helping us with the photography since day one and we couldn’t have done it without her.