Category Archives: food

Chocolate Breath

This post is overdue especially because I partially named my blog site chocolate.  For whatever reason, more emphasis had been geared to the other topics I wanted to share.

But let’s get back to chocolate. I have written how my love for chocolate began when I originally began to blog. My earliest memory is sitting in the back seat of my Mom’s car during a ride to pick up my Aunts from the Tucson airport.  I was eating a Hershey bar. I remember loving the flavor.  And as far as I can remember, it kept me pretty steady while we drove to pick them up.

Once my Aunts greeted me, they both realized the aroma coming from my breath and I probably still had some chocolate stuck around my mouth.  My Aunt Alicia at that point said I had chocolate breath and since I have been nicknamed.

As I grew older, my taste in chocolate has changed.  From a kid to an adult, it went from milk chocolate/very sweet to dark chocolate/less sweet.  I love the rich flavor of dark and the variety.  After years now of eating a piece of chocolate everyday, I had no idea that the medical world would see this as a good thing.  That is eating healthy high cacao rich chocolate is good for you.

In this section of my blog dedicated to chocolate, I’ll share the brands or desserts I have come to love.  If you follow my Instagram account, you will already see I post on this.

 

Parts Truly Unknown

On Friday morning, I get a text at 6 a.m. from my friend Angela informing me that Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.  She knew how much I liked him and knew this would be hard for me to hear. My husband was on his way out for work as I read out the text to him.  He said, “I know. I didn’t want to wake you up with that news.” But he knew, it wouldn’t matter how it came, the news was not good.

The rest of the day and now, I still feel a sense of sadness as I know I am not the only one. The media has continually been interviewing his friends, showing past Parts Unknown (his show on CNN), and my social media is covered with his face.  Mainly, because I follow many chefs. I have a big interest in the culinary scene due to Bourdain.

After a pilgrimage to Italy in 2006 which came with much anxiety because of fear of travel, my craving for food and travel grew.  At that time, to my knowledge, there were not many travel shows other than Rick Steves and Samantha Brown.  Much to my delight, the Travel Channel gave us No Reservations where I first became acquainted with Bourdain’s witty culinary ways.  It right away captured for me an escape from my life in concrete Phoenix suburbia, track house living.

The trip to Italy placed a sense of adventure in me that I knew had to be somewhat contained. Let me preface here, my life is greatly blessed.  To date, my husband and I have traveled abroad two more times after our first Italy trip (London, Paris, Italy again). We travel within the States quite often.  However, I long for travel in the sense that I would like to discover it like Bourdain captured it.  Places not necessarily on the tourist map.

On Sunday’s, I would look forward to his latest episode.  Where was he now? Thailand. Croatia. Turkey. Sicily.  His demeanor was also a familiar connection to me.  He had a bad boy, rebellious nature. Reminded me of my youthful past and the group of friends I hung around with. His taste in music too was much like mine. A like of rock n roll and classics.  His wit also had me laughing as I was amused by how no matter whom he had in his show, he never changed himself to interact with them.  He had them laughing. Giving me a sense that no matter what part of the world you are in, we are all the same.

Once his show went from the Travel Network to CNN, I stayed with it.  I adapted a viewer relationship via his program.  This means about 12 years of fan watching.  And with social media, there became another connection.  It gave the fan a closer connection to his person who we all believed had the best job in the world. Travel and eat the best food. What could be better? He was the one who introduced me to taking pictures of food and share my experience of it.

He was also very vocal on Twitter about social issues.  One in particular had to with the Mexican immigrant and how interwoven their culinary skills are wrapped in America’s fabric.  Always pointing out that if we were to walk into any kitchen across the U.S., you would for sure find Mexicans working the kitchen, citizen or not.

Bourdain was not a believer.  Often on his show, he would give a tidbit on how he couldn’t rationalize believing in a higher power.  I don’t recall him ever pointing out one god over another or Jesus in particular, but he was clear he didn’t believe in any of it. Even when his close friend Eric Rippert was on his show speaking about Buddhism, you could see Bourdain wasn’t fully embracing.  Despite him not having faith, I never heard him bash anyone for believing.  But I know, it would strike him if he felt a religion was, in his view, destroying a people or nation.

So why do I dedicate a blog to him?

Bourdain’s suicide not only shook me, but it had my mind going.  I thought of my cousin Gil who committed suicide in 2010.  Thought of my Godmother who was married to him, his two sons, his family. All of us who went through that day with them. The feeling of life spiraling out of control. The big black hard depth of despair.  The confusion. The pain.

Here we all saw this man Bourdain on TV just about every week or on social media, seeming to live the life we all wanted. Celebration. Laughter. Good food and beautiful environments. But it wasn’t all true. I mean, did he have that?  Yes, I do believe he did. But he also had demons that wouldn’t let him go.

In his early life, he became addicted to heroin.  He spoke about the struggles of it and also shared how he was ‘recovered’, yet always conveying, recovery is day to day. Each day, he worked at it as many recovered addicts do.  I understand this well.  My Dad was a recovered addict. Difference was, my Dad found Jesus and lived his life with freedom from it.

However, from current family who is an addict, heroin is the worst of all drugs you could ever become addicted to.  This is one that has effects for the rest of your life. Now, that’s what I have heard scientifically, but I place all in God and know that if Jesus was in their life, it would be different. And you know, I’m no expert and I don’t want to go into heroin effects, mental illness, when is it not mental illness and we call it a demon, or lack of faith issues.  I don’t have expertise to discuss.

But what I do want to write about is the soul and how our faith responds to someone who has taken their life.

Because Bourdain was a self confessed non believer, my thought process on his passing made me think about the soul like I haven’t encountered before.  Some of his fans were leaving comments on Twitter or Instagram, saying things like “hope you have peace now in heaven or hell wherever you are’, or ‘give them hell’, etc.  I thought what darkness!

In my prayer time and reflection about Gil came forth. Thinking about his time of death and what we as a family learned. Although, Gil did believe in Jesus and was Catholic, family was confused on whether his soul went to heaven. And what I found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church forever changed my outlook.

Suicide

2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

Bourdain stood up for the marginalized. He brought to light topics of the poor, no one else was touching in this form of media. He used his celebrity to bring witness, life that the world sees as dejected because they don’t live like we live.  But in reality showed more riches in their cooking or family members.   In a sense, we saw the Beatitude come to life “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.  And he used that compassion, which I believe was placed in him by God. Even though, he never claim that. And it wasn’t always about the poor, but sharing stories of those living with wars around them.

In God’s mercy, we leave his soul and others who have taken their lives in such despair.  For we really do not know. I for one need to be aware to check on another.  From the one who we think has it all together to the one who looks like they are crumbling.

My food pics and travel will forever have root in Anthony Bourdain. For these I leave…

*******

Help us Lord to be more aware. Help us with courage to speak to those who do not show their belief in you Jesus, so that we may direct them to your love and mercy.  For we know as St. Peter says “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Heaven is not out there only in the sky, but can by the grace of God, can be attained in the heart with true joy.  In how Your peace can allow them to breathe again. +++

Food Somber

From October through first week of January I had been on a roll baking and cooking. I am a fan of cooking shows and love finding recipes on Pinterest.

This Fall/Winter I decided to bake new recipes that were based on the holiday or religious observance.

Here are my creations:

For Dia de los Muertos.  A holiday I’ve never celebrated because I had the wrong education on what the day is about.  I had thought it was about laying out food for past loved ones in your home in an altar format so that their souls could come to it and grab a bite to eat.  Food they were fond of.  This would throw me off because the Church never spoke of souls returning from heaven or anywhere else after death.

However, this is not the tradition.  Tradition is that your deceased loved ones are remembered on All Souls Day by creating an altar with pictures, flowers, and their favorite foods. The favorite foods are eaten by family or friends who knew them. This I had done for years not knowing I was somewhat participating in Dia de Los Muertos. My Dad passed away in 2006, and so on his anniversary I would eat a pastry or have a root beer float.

For this time around, I was excited to observe it and went all out.  I not only made an altar, but also made this delicious bread called ‘Pan de muerto’. It’s a fragrant, tasty bread.  Main flavors are orange, anise, and much butter. It made our home smell so good. The recipe too was enough to feed about 18-20 people.  I think next year I’ll make it in smaller loaves.

Here are some pics of the altar and bread.

IMG_5042 I have to mention as I was building this altar, a flood of memories hit me and the tears flowed.  I appreciate this tradition and do plan on doing one each year.

This past Christmas, my family and I made Tamales. The first time where my family of women gathered in our home to make red chile tamales.  Mom, my sister, niece and I spent a Saturday making almost 18 dozen tamales.  We didn’t just make them, we shared laughter, conversation, and created memories.  My hope is that we will do this every year.  The recipe for these tamales was a bit trial and error, but most of the direction came from my Mom, especially her recipe for red chile.  The flavor is deep.  It can work for several recipes like chili con carne (chuck roast cooked for hours with a red chile sauce).

IMG_5821

For the Epiphany, which is celebrated on January 6, commemorates the Feast of the Three Kings.  The Kings presented the gifts of gold (kingship), frankincense (deity), and myrrh (death) to Jesus at his birth.

Many cultures throughout the world use this Feast to celebrate in what I found in common ways. Most traditional is baking a bread that includes a plastic baby symbolizing Jesus.  If you Google it, you’ll find a slew of recipes from all over the world.

I chose to do this recipe: Rosca de Reyes (King’s cake)

The cake to me seemed similar to the Pan de Muerto I made for Dia de los Muertos, minus anise.  However, I felt like I could decorate this bread more with my own taste.  You can design it how you want.  I went by a few pictures on Pinterest.

I enjoyed the reflection while baking. And including my family to enjoy a bite and too think more about the feast being celebrated.

Rome…veramente!

For the past couple of years, I’ve been bugging my husband about returning to Rome for a vacation.  However, lately, it’s really been aching me.

 

Thankfully, we have been to Italy twice – 2006 and 2008.  Both experiences helped us to see a little bit more of Italy.  Stops in Venice, Orvieto, Assisi, San Gimignano, Pisa, Siena, Chianti, Florence, Castel Gandolfo, and of course, Rome.

Since I was little, I have had a love for all things Italian. My favorite food has always been Italian and to clarify I’m American-Mexican.  My family still to this day likes to joke with me on how this makes no sense.  I can’t deny what it is I have passion for.  How do you fake it?

When we traveled to Rome in 2006 for a pilgrimage, everything catapult to whole new level of love.  I felt a strong connection to the culture, food, art, and spirit.  Needless to say, my Catholic faith grew because it was visibly all around.  Not like back home!

When we went back to Italy in 2008, I went with deeper appreciation, although I was still recovering from CDiff, so I couldn’t fully embrace due to stomach issues.

It’s now been 9 years and lately, I feel like I have some restlessness these days about traveling back.

As we know, the political times are not good.  Talks of war between the U.S. and North Korea are heightened everyday.  My husband feels now isn’t the time to go and when I share about that with others, some say, is it ever the right time?

It makes me sad.  How beautiful and diverse our world is created by our Father God to seek and learn from.   To grow with our neighbor, to share in prosperity of brotherhood, and to reap joy in our differences.  But yet, North Korea has a different outlook and now all the world waits to see what will happen next.  I know I’m not the only one who is praying for this threat to end.

But aside from this, my love for Italy is going a bit bonkers these days.  I live in an area where there isn’t much culture.  There isn’t much variety.  For whatever reason, it just isn’t here.  I would love more self owned bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants that serve more than bar food, gelato shops instead of yogurt (please I’m so done with yogurt spots around here), and entertainment spots.  I try not to get me down, but when you want your heart to be filled with something, 2nd place doesn’t fill the void.

I always say, “if I ever win the lottery”… I would open up a bakery that provides international treats and best Italian coffee.   Name I won’t share. However, I would make sure to hire the appropriate pastry chef who can bake pastries from all over the world.

Question: What do you do when your heart yearns so much for something, but can’t be fulfilled?

     

I think I need to start praying to our Lord more intently and asking Him to replace this because it’s a bit consuming sometimes.

Until we can get to Rome, I’ll continue listening to my favorite Italian Radio http://studiodelta.radio.it/ , buy cappuccinos pretending they taste like Rome, dine at Italian restaurants who somewhat serve like Italy, view images off of Instagram,  and try new recipes.

Viva Roma!

 

This song is by Mario Venuti – Veramente

http://

 

Vegas Food

My husband and I get to Vegas at least twice a year.  I am fortunate to travel with him when he attends a conference first half of year and now for some reason, we love to go during the holidays.  The hotels go all out in their decor and that’s something I like to see and divulge myself in.

Over the years, I’ve become more familiar with the food circuit in Vegas. Either through chance, family reference, or food travel shows.

Vegas to me isn’t about gambling and club life. Vegas to me is food, food, food!!!  Vegas is Disneyland for adults!  It also has become an international mecca for me as it includes cuisine from all over the world.  It is also a spot where many foreigners gather.  Almost makes me feel like I am out of the country.

Here are a few pics of places I’ve gone to.

Places I like to eat/drink when in Vegas:

  • Paris Hotel – Mon Ami Gabi:  French Onion Soup
  • Aria – Carbone:  Bologonese
  • Aria – Todd English:  Fish and Chips
  • Aria – Jean Philippe Patisserie
  • Venetian  – Mario Batali/Otto Enoteca: Squash blossoms, antipasti
  • Venetian – Carlo’s Bakery:  Italian butter cookies
  • Caesar’s Palace – Francois Payard:  Macarons
  • Caesar’s Palace – Bejing Noodle
  • Bellagio – Buffet – Variety
  • Bellagio – Cafe
  • New York New York – Gallagher’s
  • Mirage – BLD:  Adult shakes
  • Cromwell – Giada: Bloody Mary and Rigatoni

 

 

Our Lady of the Rosary – San Diego, California

Our Lady of the Rosary church in Little Italy,  San Diego is a must every time we vacation there.  First of all, Little Italy is one of my favorite destinations.  Yes, because it gives me that Rome I desire everyday in my life.

So on Sunday’s, we attend Mass to begin our beautiful weather day in San Diego.

It’s not a very large parish, but it gives me that old time feel. The architecture, even the way the Priest projects his homily, makes me feel very connected to Our Lord.

The stained glass windows are tall and gives the church much reverence.  It’s hard to not keep staring at them.  And during mass, while the readings are read, I tend to look up at them and reflect. It all works together.

The pictures I have below are from multiple visits.

We were blessed during one of our visits, to celebrate Corpus Christi.  We joined in on the procession after Mass.

There is also a gift shop at the parish where I found my first My Saint My Hero bracelet. Now I have other items of their products and pass onto others as gifts. Look them up!

Their parish community seems to very much treasure what they have.  I always love going there.

I had to post this pic here as well.  On the same side of the church, other corner, there is an Italian bakery called Pappalecco.  Going to mass at Our Lady and then Pappalecco, goes hand in hand.

Everything is delicious.

So when in Little Italy, treat yourself to both.  You will never be disappointed.