How I Got Inspired at NYCWFF’s Tacos & Tequila Party

In case you weren’t aware, last week was New York City Wine & Food Fest. I was a pretty busy bee for work and, I admit, not really eating as healthy as I could be. It all culminated in one of the best nights of my life–the Olmeca Altos Tequila Tacos & Tequila Party hosted by Bobby Flay. And, surprisingly enough, I came away inspired!

I was at the party representing Latina magazine and The Latin Kitchen, of course, and was madly instagramming from both accounts the entire time. I also brought my friend Justin Schwartz, a fantastic cookbook editor and blogger behind JustCookNYC. Together, we went around with my very determined mission to try EVERY SINGLE TACO.

We succeeded (mostly) and I was honestly surprised by the sheer amount of variety that we found at this party. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, since the chefs were all pretty amazing, but trying all of the crazy, typical, fusion (and more!) varieties left me completely in awe–and even more inspired to create new recipes than I could have imagined.

In the meantime, as I work to get back to the kitchen after an utterly exhausting and wonderful week, here’s a recap of what happened (and what went in my belly!) at the Tacos & Tequila party. Trust me, it was all GOOD.

NYCWFF_TacosTequila_SalvationTaco

Salvation Taco: Headcheese Tostada with Local Vegetables en Escabeche. This was the first one we approached, and I was immediately drawn to how pretty these jars are. Doesn’t it just make you want to start pickling something? Continue reading

My Healthy Taco Party for Hispanic Heritage Month

HealthyLatinFood-HispanicHeritageMonthTacos

If there’s one thing I can’t imagine my life without these days, it’s the joy of throwing a really good dinner party. I’ve always been a social person and, in fact, I remember putting together many themed get-togethers when I was in high school.

Back then, it was getting everyone to dress up in pirate costumes just for fun to celebrate the return of school. These days, with me weighing almost 100 pounds less than I did back then, I count down the days until I can invite my friends over again for a different kind of get together–this time it’s a themed dinner party.

Ever since I started cooking healthy, I’ve yearned to have others taste my dishes. It started slowly at first, sure, but now I have friends asking me when the next dinner is or even coming up with the themes for me to execute. And I love it!

There’s something about the combination of cooking for those I love, feeding them delicious and good-for-them meals, and just spending some quality time together that fills my heart with more joy than I can describe. Nothing motivates me to cook like making food for these special people, which is why I happily took on the challenge of making a healthy DIY taco bar dinner party in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

HealthyLatinFood-HispanicHeritageMonthTacoParty Continue reading

The Start of Healthy Latin Food

IrinaGonzalez_HealthyLatinFood_CubanSandwichAnyone that knows me is pretty well aware that I love to eat, and I love to cook. But what a lot of people don’t know about me is that, just over four years ago, I was morbidly obese.

Weighing in at 230 pounds on a 5’2″ frame, I was never happy with my body and constantly going on one failed diet after another. Although I had a lot of success with Weight Watchers in college, ultimately I made the difficult decision to undergo a gastric bypass on January 13, 2009.

I still remember waking up from the operation, and hating everything. My stomach hurt and I immediately regretted the decision. But that was then. A few days later, I recovered and began the arduous journey of losing weight once and for all. And it was a long weight loss journey, too, which eventually led me to a completely new lifestyle.

IrinaGonzalez_HealthyLatinFood_RoastedChickenAfter a lifetime of picky eating, I forced myself to try new vegetables, started cooking healthier, sharing my desserts and trying to exercise. The working out still isn’t going too well, but my eating habits are wildly different. I started learning about different ways of eating, completed a health coaching degree from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and have really grown to love my new healthy habits. I still laugh remembering how much I claimed to hate broccoli five years ago, and how much I love it now. I even love to cook healthy for my friends and family (like last year’s Christmas chicken roast).

When I first started cooking healthier, my absolute favorite thing to do was learn how to make a childhood favorite in a healthy way. And since I grew up in a Cuban-Russian-American household, many of the dishes I made included brown rice with black beans, homemade chimichurri sauce and, most recently, baked sweet plantains.

IrinaGonzalez_HealthyLatinFood_CuttingParsleyFor a while, I was sharing my recipes on a now-defunct blog before I had to give it up because life, and work, got too busy. Now I find that I’m missing writing about my adventures in (and out of) the kitchen, so here I am again–at Healthy Latin Food.

To be honest, I have a couple of pounds to lose, too. At my smallest, I was 120. These days I’m a little closer to 140 and, while I think I still look great, I’m not exactly thrilled with the number. Now I am using this (new) blog to propel me to lose a little weight, maybe start exercising and definitely to share my favorite healthy recipes. And, as you can probably guess from the title, it’s all about doing it with a delicious Latin twist.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of cooking, weight loss and learning how to keep the weight off, it’s that good-for-you food can definitely taste good. It’s about fresh ingredients, unprocessed foods and, most of all, a great spice rack. I hope you’ll join me on this journey, cook some of my recipes and share food with plenty of sabor!

What is your favorite Latin recipe that you want to see made healthier?

Want more Healthy Latin Food? Follow me on Twitter and Instagram, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive e-mail updates. And if you have any questions about cooking healthy or weight loss, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!

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