New Year Wishes / Deseos de Año Nuevo

"May you get all your wishes but one, so you always have something to strive for." - Irish saying

Happy New Year Everyone!


My First Time / Mi Primera Vez

The grecious host

I had heard of cookie swaps before but I really didn't know what they were all about. This year I received an invitation to a cookie swap party for the first time. I have never been to this kind of party, and I got excited! But when Yoly, the lady that hosted the party, told me I have to bring 15 dozen cookies I was like... 15 DOZEN! How can I make that many cookies? I didn't think I was going to go. It turned out that I missunderstood and it was only 5 dozen, phew!, much more manageable. So I started to plan what kind of cookie I would bake and I got even more excited and filled with anticipation.

Yoly explained to me that each attendee would bring 5 dozen of their favorite cookie and copies of the recipe. Then we would share something about why we chose that cookie or what we learned when baking this cookie. Later we would exchange recipes and we would fill our own containers with all kinds of cookies that had been divided equally among the attendees. This sounded good.

The party was last week. When I got to Yoly's house, I was immediately greeted with warmth. The house was completely decorated with a Christmas Tree, beautiful ornaments, candles, and a great collection of Santa Clauses that Yoly said she had been collecting for over 26 years. Everything was just perfect for the occasion. Plus, the aromas from the kitchen were so fragrant and inviting - she was cooking pozole, a Mexican soup traditionally made with pork and hominy and one of my favorite dishes.


So, the party began; she offered pozole to all her guests. We ate, drank and enjoyed each others' company and conversation. Later we gathered at the center of the kitchen where Beatriz, the co-host, shared the history of cookie swap parties, then we started the tour around the house where all the cookies were displayed on beautiful plates that sat among all the beautiful Christmas decorations - it was magical! Each person shared something about their cookies; lots of interesting and funny stories! Then we proceeded to collect and fill our containers with cookies. I came home with more cookies than I could handle but luckily, my husband and mother-in-law were home and they did not have any qualms helping me eat these goodies. 

Oatmeal Cookie from Dawn
Sugar and White Chip Cookie made by Susana
Magic Cookie Bar from Elvia
Potato Chip and Black Pepper Cookie from my kitchen
Balls of Deliciousness make by Marisol
Apricot-Raspberry Rugelach from Beatriz
Butter-Cherry Cookie from Anna
Peanut Butter Cookies made by Lourdes
Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies from María Elena
Cranberry Walnut Oatmeal Cookies from Yoly
Chocolate Chip Chocolate Cookies by Mónica
Coconut Macaroons made by María (Lucy)

All the cookies were great but if I have to choose one, I would say my favorite was the Peanut Butter Dipped in Chocolate and Nuts Cookie - that was amazing, definitely my favorite!

Yoly said this is the first of an annual tradition she is starting. Thank you, Yoly, for inviting me! I had a great time at your cookie swap party. I will definitely go again next year.


Last Minute Ideas / Ideas De Ultimo Momento

If you have not had time to do all your Christmas shopping, don't despair, there is still time to visit some San Diego farmer's market on Wednesday at Adams Avenue and Thursday at North Park. These two markets open at 3:00 PM and closed at dusk. They are full of great produce, bread, jams, nuts, cookies, and candy that are perfect for Christmas presents. But if that doesn't inspire you, there is always some homemade gift that is easy to prepare and it usually can be made with things that you already have laying around your house. Here are some ideas:

Bake a pie for someone special
Invite them over for breakfast
Or take them out for lunch
A bag of their favorite coffee is always a good idea
Or a bag of special beans - recipe included
Homemade cookies are always welcome
A nice selection of beers or wine

The cook will appreciate a basket full of different kinds of eggs

Chocolate and nuts make great gifts

A jar of homemade salsa or mushrooms in escabeche  are easy to prepare and they make delicious gifts

A basket full of seasonal fruit

A live christmas ornament

Homemade granola or homedade cheese

Or a nice picture of the bay

Happy Holidays Everyone!


EEEEK! The Holidays Rush / AAAY! Las Prisas De La Navidad

I'm crazy busy during this holidays season. Time seems to fly away like a migrating bird and there is nothing I can do about it. So, I just stopped by to share a yummy recipe.

This time of the year the farmer's market is full of color. One part of the market is dedicated to vendors selling crafts. It is full of great and  environmentally friendly ideas to use as Christmas presents. Everything is decorated in green, red, gold and other colors commonly used at Christmas but my favorite part of the market during this time is the area where they sell produce. The natural color of pomegranate, pumpkin and squash, peppers, berries and figs make wonderful decorations and excellent Christmas gifts.

This is the season for the bright, sweet and delicious persimmon - one of my favorite fruits. You can find an abundance of this fruit at any farmer's market or grocery stores but I was lucky to receive a bunch of persimmons from my friend Soheila. She has a big persimmon tree in her back yard and every year she gives me tones of these. She knows I love to eat them raw when they are ripe or baked in a pie. This time I made sweet empanadas - a Mexican turnover. If you make them bite size, like I did, they are a nice alternative to bring to a cookie swap party.

Persimmon-Filled Empanadas

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup chilled butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
ice water, as needed (prepared about 2 cups, it is better to have extra than not enough)
milk or egg wash to glaze
sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

For the filling
2 tablespoons butter
4 large persimmons, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon cloves, freshly ground
1 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
1-2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Combine the flour and sugar in a mixing bowl. Rub in the chilled cubes of butter until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. In a separate bowl mix the egg yolk and add to the flour mixture. Add ice water as needed to make a smooth dough. Shape it into a ball. Reserve.
In a coffee or spice grinder, place together cloves and cinnamon and grind to a fine powder (you may use already ground spices). Transfer to a cup. Grate nutmeg and add to the spices. Set aside.
Melt the butter for the filling in a saucepan. Add the persimmons, ground spices and brown sugar and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the water. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes until persimmons are soft and most of the water has evaporated. Stir in walnuts and set the mixture aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 3-inch rounds and spoon on a little of the filling. Dampen the rim of the pastry rounds with water, fold the pastry over the filling and crimp the edges to seal. Carefully place the empanadas on a cookie sheet and brush them with milk- or egg-wash. Bake them for about 15 minutes or until they are golden. Let cool a little, sprinkle with sugar and serve warm.