Monday, September 14, 2009

Ingrid Hoffmann of The Food Network's "Simply Delicioso"

Ingrid Hoffmann has always been passionate about food. The daughter of a Cordon Bleu chef, she remembers standing on a stool to reach the stove in order to help her mother cook. The Colombian-raised Hoffmann was a successful business owner before she decided to cater to her passion for cooking, opening Rocca in Miami and hosting cooking segments on South Florida TV stations.

She claimed the national spotlight after a spot on "Martha Stewart" led to the launch of her The Food Network show Simply Delicioso last July; her Spanish-language cooking and style show, Delicioso, airs on Galavision/Univision. She's the latest spokesperson for the famed "Got Milk?" campaign (the photo, above, is from the shoot), and took some time to chat with me about cooking, comfort, and how busy people can make mealtime easier.

What’s your go-to meal to make when you don’t have much time to cook?

My go-to meal when I don’t have time to cook is my “Latin Elvis” -- it’s like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a Latin twist. I love the Latin Elvis because it contains items that I always keep in my house: plantains, peanut butter, and bread containing dried fruit like raisins or cranberries. I like to grill the sandwich or do it on the stove or in a skillet because I’m convinced that a warm meal is so much more wholesome and it sure beats a cold salad. This with a glass of milk is perfect -- a complete, quick meal.

What’s your favorite comfort food?

I would have to say that my favorite comfort food is my Chipotle Tamale Pie. [You can watch Ingrid make this dish in a live cooking demonstration on Sept. 9, 2009, at] It is a great recipe and a great comfort food. The Chipotle Tamale Pie is one of those crowd pleasers that could feed an army on a small budget. It has turkey, beans and milk, lots of rich foods, yet it is surprisingly light. I especially love it because it contains tons of healthy foods like bell peppers and nutritious lowfat milk, yet it doesn’t taste like health food.
I like to use lowfat or fat free milk as opposed to cream or butter because it keeps the dish lighter and healthier. Plus, with lowfat and fat free milk, you are receiving nine essential nutrients that no other beverage can provide. I also like to make this casserole in advance, portion it off and store it in the refrigerator or freezer. Let’s say I come home really tired from a long day at work, all I have to do is quickly warm it up!
What's your favorite food indulgence?
My favorite indulgence is hearty comfort food. Aside from the Chipotle Tamale Pie which I just mentioned, I love to make a Cuban Frita -- it’s a type of Cuban hamburger. What makes it different from an American burger is that I mix the meat with egg, milk, and breadcrumbs and then I top it with shoestring potatoes. It’s a special treat and such a warming comfort food -- it brings back that nostalgia of sharing a meal with my family.
What can busy working moms do to make planning and cooking dinner more manageable?
I think that planning ahead is key. A little thinking ahead immediately helps you utilize your time more efficiently and you will spend less money having to buy foods on the go that end up not being nutritious. Every weekend, sit down and plan your menu for the week and utilize your downtime on the weekend to prepare food in advance for the week. Remember to stock your pantry with key food items that will be a health, go-to snack for you. I always throw an apple or banana, almonds and a pint of milk into my lunch bag every day. That way, when I am in the car or in-between meals, I always have a wholesome snack I can feel good about.
Are you married and do you have children at home?
I am the proud step-mother to my boyfriend’s two children and mother to my little 3-pound doggie.

When I think of Latino food, I don’t tend to think of milk. How do you incorporate it into your cooking?

That’s interesting because traditional Latino food actually utilizes milk a lot in food preparation and cooking. As an example, one of the most traditional soups made in Latin America utilizes water, milk, eggs, and cilantro. History books tell us that Simon Bolivar fed this soup to all of his troops -- so most of South America was conquered on that recipe! Horchata, a drink that came from Spain that you make with rice, nuts or sesame seeds added to milk.

How do you feel about the idea of hiding vegetables in traditionally non-vegetable foods so kids will eat them?

I have to say that “hiding vegetables” is a wise thing to do because sometimes it’s the only way for children to consume their nutrients. At the same time, I think it’s important to remember that kids are imitators of their parents and role models and if you feel the need to hide the nutrient-rich vegetables, it’s sending a mixed message. Kids will mimic what you do and what you eat, and if you eat a balanced, healthy diet, they will too. When I was growing up, there were no “kid’s menus” or “kid's food.” In my opinion, kids should eat everything that grown ups eat, otherwise they will be picky forever and never learn to appreciate food. It’s also important to remember that milk is a food option that you can add to just about anything that adds an instant nutrient boost. Milk is incredibly nutrient-rich, and can enhance your wellness.

What’s the most challenging part, for you, when it comes to juggling work and life?

For me feeling disorganized is the worst. I keep myself organized by building lists every evening before I go to bed. I like lists because it helps me get everything out of my head and onto paper which puts my mind at ease and helps me to get a good night’s sleep. When I understand what is on my plate and have a game plan, I feel in control. Really thinking things through allows you to juggle everything.

You have so many wonderful projects on your plate. What do you do to relax?

Eat! I of course love to eat but I also meditate, exercise and spend time with my loved ones. For me, sharing food around the table and hanging out with my family is my perfect idea of happiness.

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