Why I Cook: Ericka Sanchez from ‘Nibbles & Feasts’

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The cookbook author and blogger behind Nibbles & Feasts, Ericka Sanchez tells us how she cooks Latin American fare to pass on family traditions, and shares a recipe with us, too.

erika sanchez why I cookTaste of Home

Born in Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico, and raised in El Paso, Texas, Ericka Sanchez has her own philosophy: Eat real food. And her “real food” of choice? The traditional Mexican fare on which she was raised.

Her blog, Nibbles & Feasts, and her two cookbooks, ¡Buen Provecho! and Aguas Frescas & Paletas, bring Latin American cuisine to the table in a big—and vibrant!—way.

Taste of Home: What are your first memories of cooking?

Ericka Sanchez: I started cooking during the summers of my childhood, when I would visit my grandma in Torreon. She owned a small convenience store, similar to a bodega, and I helped her prepare frozen treats, aguas frescas and the homemade food she sold to customers.

TOH: What ingredients do you always keep in your kitchen?

ES: Dried chiles, such as guajillo, pasilla and arbol chiles. They keep well and come in handy when a dish needs a bit of spice. They are also lifesavers when you need to prepare a quick salsa recipe.

Toh Am22 Whyicook Erickasanchez4cCourtesy Ericka Sanchez

TOH: What is your favorite traditional Mexican dish?

ES: I am chilaquiles’ number-one fan! And with any kind of sauce: red, green or mole.

TOH: And what’s one you feel is underrated?

ES: Nopalitos, or cooked cactus strips. I cook a ridiculous amount of cactus every week and add it to my scrambled eggs, salads, soups and stews. Cactus is rich in vitamins and antioxidants. It is delicious, too!

TOH: You’re big on fresh produce. What are new ways home cooks can add seasonal bounty to their recipes?

ES: I like to serve chopped fruit with our breakfast and top it with amaranth, granola and honey. Also, fresh fruit, such as strawberries, pineapple, mango and peaches, can be added to pico de gallo, and practically any vegetable, such as squash, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes, can be added to soups or stews. They make dishes more colorful and nutritious.

TOH: Describe writing your cookbook.

ES: I was a bit apprehensive about writing my story and letting readers know more about me. But once I started, I couldn’t stop. I’ve always had a list of recipe “gems,” lots of childhood recipes I’ve held near and dear to my heart, and I just couldn’t publish those in a blog. Those deserved to be printed.

TOH: The recipes in your book are beautiful. Do you have any pointers for plating?

ES: A touch of green always helps. Cilantro sprigs, jalapeno slices or chopped lettuce leaves elevate a dish. You can also add some texture with chopped pepitas or finely crumbled Cotija cheese.

TOH: What is your favorite thing about cooking? The “why” of why you cook!

ES: I love introducing people to ingredients. For example, many people don’t eat cactus or hibiscus because they don’t know how to prepare it. I want to teach people that these inexpensive ingredients are delicious and so good for you. I also want my son to have a collection of recipes that he grew up with and can then pass on to his children. Last but not least, it’s a form of saying “thank you” to my mother and grandmother for instilling their love of cooking in me.

Ericka’s Strawberry, Basil & Honey Paletas

Toh Am22 Whyicook Erickasanchez3cCourtesy Ericka Sanchez

Try one of Ericka’s favorite refreshing desserts, made with colorful, seasonal ingredients. The recipe makes 10 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. fresh strawberries, chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1-1/2 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 3 strawberries

Directions

Step 1: Blend up mixture

In a blender, puree chopped strawberries, basil and lime juice until smooth. Add honey; blend to combine.

Step 2: Divide among molds

Hull and slice whole strawberries. Divide berries among 10 pop molds or cups. Pour pureed mixture into molds until almost full. Top molds with holders. If using cups, top with foil and insert sticks through foil.

Step 3: Freeze

Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Get to know Ericka even better! Follow her on Instagram at @nibblesnfeasts or visit nibblesandfeasts.com.

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Annamarie Higley
Annamarie Higley is an Associate Print Editor for Taste of Home magazine, as well as the brand's special issue publications. A midwestern transplant originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she enjoys hiking, trivia-ing, and—you guessed it!—all things cooking and baking.