Trust me, you want to be the one in charge of beverages this holiday season. Let’s face it, you’re going to want need something to sip on when that crazy uncle corners you in the living room and grills you on the election. Aaaand, if you are indeed participating in awkward family drinking rituals, why not at least make it a beverage of your choosing. My feelings about punch are well documented. They’re easy to make in advance (even encouraged), they’re festive, and they’re absolutely packed with flavor. So, when I tell you that this particular punch is undoubtedly the best I have ever concocted, I don’t say so lightly. Make this punch. Some of the ingredients can be a bit tricky to track down, but I recommend checking a Mexican market. Be sure to make it the night before, not only to save time, but also so that all the goodies can soak together like a big, crowded, friendly, communal spa. Oops, wrong visual . . . but you get the idea!
Ponche Navideño is a traditional Mexican Christmas punch, made with an intoxicating blend of fruits, nuts, and spices. I took a few liberties with my version, namely, I chose to serve it cold rather than hot (although it’s delicious either way). If you’re familiar with the traditional recipe, you’ll notice a few other minor tweaks. However, I made sure to preserve all the ingredients that I believe are vital to giving this punch its unique identity: tejocotes, hibiscus, guavas, and tamarindo, to name a few.
The holidays are all about family and friends and there’s nothing I love more than feasting together, giving gifts and enjoying each other’s company. I consider myself fortunate that we can enjoy something as simple as a home cooked meal together– something many people aren’t able to do. This year, I’ve teamed up with Land O’Lakes to inspire you to bring some good to your gifts. I put together these gift baskets with my favorite Salted White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookie recipe, the ingredients to make the cookies and some other goodies, like measuring spoons and candles. More importantly, I’ve made a donation request in my gift basket by asking my friends to donate money to an organization I support, the LA Regional Food Bank. The LA Regional Food Bank does the amazing work of providing meals to the thousands of people who experience food insecurity in Los Angeles. To encourage people to donate, I’m providing a stamped self-addressed envelope and a letter asking friends to give at certain monetary levels and providing information about the incredible impact their donations will have– for every $1 donated 4 meals are provided for someone in need. Rather than just providing a donation yourself, you are making a bigger impact by asking others to pay it forward. When asking for donations from others, keep in mind to ask for donations directly, provide monetary amounts that they can give at (letting people know how much you are donating is a great way to set an example!) and give compelling facts about what their donation can do and why it is so needed. I sincerely hope you’ll consider doing a gift basket fundraiser for an organization you support and bring some good to your holidays!
Ah, Mexican street corn. This Mexican street snack is one of my favorites. Yes, it’s slathered with mayonnaise and covered in cheese, but if there’s any time to take life’s indulgences to the extreme, it’s now– thank YOU, Thanksgiving! I’ve taken the traditional Mexican street corn cob and turned it into a casserole that is entirely appropriate for your holiday table. It has the same flavors of Mexican street corn but with the perks of being in a casserole form, i.e., easier to face-shovel and no floss required!
If you follow us on Instagram, you probably noticed that I spent last weekend in St. Helena, California at the Napa Valley Film Festival. I attended the festival on behalf of Charles Krug, the oldest winery in Napa Valley, and a leading sponsor of this year’s event. What began as a seemingly straightforward weekend of movies and wine, evolved into so much more. It was a weekend of reflection, imagination, art, and appreciation. One of the many special things about film festivals is getting to listen, and in some cases even participate, in discussions with the actresses/actors, and filmmakers in an intimate setting. Early on in the festival during a conversation with director Lee Daniels (Monster’s Ball, Precious), he mentioned that as an artist, it was critical for him to continue to create in times of struggle. Our country’s current political climate aside, I have been experiencing some personal difficulties of late. I won’t go into detail at the moment, but suffice it to say I immediately related to this notion. Photography is my art, and everyday I’m inspired to explore the world of food, beverages, nature, humanity, history, politics and struggle through my lens. In my experience, there are few things that blend those elements together so consistently, and so intricately as do film and wine.
Another great thing about film festivals is that the town, city, and in this case the whole of the Napa Valley, turns into one big party! As I mentioned, I spent a ton of time at Charles Krug Winery, and I couldn’t have been more grateful. Meeting Peter Mondavi Jr. was a dream come true (as you probably know, the Mondavis are paramount figures in the world of winemaking). The staff at Charles Krug was beyond hospitable. The grounds are extraordinarily beautiful, and ripe with history – included in which is the oldest tasting room in California. It’s hard to find a happier place than in a winery tasting room . . . just sayin’. I absolutely can’t wait to go back! In all honesty, I’m already planning another trip up there as we speak! 😛
It seemed only fitting that a Mexican inspired Thanksgiving feast would end with a finale as delicious and gloriously breathtaking as a crepe cake stacked 50 crepes high, with fluffy dulce de leche cream between each layer and a rich caramel sauce drizzled over the top. Don’t be intimidated. The only tedious part to this recipe is making the multitude of crepes, which can easily be done the night before. And a 3 hour dulce de leche made from scratch? With every stove top and oven in use on Thanksgiving day, do yourself a favor and make a shortcut version of the sauce in 10 minutes flat. Boom. Happy Thanksgiving, friends!