Fort Wayne – When Youlin Diaz, 36, of Allen County was asked to list her hobbies, she replies, Obviously I like cooking.
She continues, I’m into triathlons, so I’m into running, biking and swimming. I’ve done five or six. I’m training for one now. They’re different distances. Now, it’s a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run. It’s going to be in Muncie.
With two active sons, Esteban, 11, and Marcelo, 9, Diaz is always on the run.
My boys are into soccer, so that is one thing, too, Diaz says. Everything that has to do with kids – fishing, (snow) skiing – that we do as a family. It keeps us away from bad thoughts.
Since moving from Mexico in 2004, Diaz and her husband, Antonio, have also lived in Mississippi and Pennsylvania for his work.
Having an energetic lifestyle, Diaz makes it her goal to make wise food choices for herself and family.
Shrimp pasta is one of Diaz’s go-to meals.
I always try to keep the shrimp in the freezer. You cook it in butter, lemon (juice) and parsley, season with salt, pepper and garlic to your taste, she says.
If I have chicken, it’s fajitas. Fajitas are easy also. I season chicken with barbecue seasoning. I chop onions and peppers, toss with olive oil and barbecue seasoning and there you go. A little bit of shredded cheese on top.
Diaz says she’s always looking for ways to balance her diet.
I need to watch carbs and protein after (exercise and races) for recovery, she says. Morning could be an English muffin with peanut butter, Greek yogurt, eggs or fruit.
Some days, Diaz makes a green breakfast smoothie. In a blender goes two handfuls each of lettuce, spinach and kale. Then Diaz will add some parsley, a banana, a pear, an apple, two to three stalks of celery and one cup of water and blend it all together. She says the mixture will be enough for two to three days, stored in the refrigerator.
It’s a little chunky but tastes good, she says.
Q. What’s your favorite cookbook?
A. It’s a series. It’s the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. She has practical recipes. The other one is The Joy of Cooking. I like the Fine Cooking magazine.
Q. Do you have many cookbooks?
A. About 25 cookbooks, and with Internet it’s so easy to find recipes. I watch Food Network. One of my favorites is Bobby Flay; and Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. She makes it look so easy.
Q. What do you do to keep meals healthy?
A. I use olive oil. I try to grill a lot versus frying.
Q. What’s one thing people won’t find in your refrigerator?
A. Whole milk. I don’t buy whole milk, just skim. Bacon would be (another) one, but my boys really like it so I buy it.
Q. Who’s your cooking idol?
A. I think probably my aunt, my mom’s sister. She made my wedding cake. It’s funny; my mom doesn’t like cooking or baking. My mom says, Yeah, you got it from her, not me.
Q. What’s your favorite American dish?
A. I love the Creole or jambalaya from the southern area. It’s one of my favorites from the South. Pennsylvania – maybe a Philly cheese steak. I don’t know about here. We just moved here last summer. Fort Wayne is very different. People are very friendly.
Pear and pecan bread
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups grated peeled ripe pears, with juice
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-5-inch pan.
Thoroughly whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, vegetable oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and grated pear.
Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture; fold until about three quarters of the dry ingredients are moistened. Add pecans. Fold just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool further on the rack. Makes 1 loaf.
This dish is a traditional hominy-based Mexican stew.
7 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
4 chicken breast halves on the bone, with skin
2 poblano peppers, cored, seeded and quartered
1 pound tomatillos
1 small onion
2 jalapeños, seeded and quartered
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 (15-ounce) cans of hominy, drained
Toppings, as desired or needed:
Finely shredded iceberg lettuce
In a large cast-iron casserole dish, bring the chicken stock and water to boil. Add the chicken breasts, skin side down, cover and simmer over very low heat until they are tender and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Transfer the chicken breasts to a plate and shred the meat. Skim any fat from the cooking liquid and reserve.
In a blender, combine the halved tomatillos with the onion, poblanos, jalapeños, garlic, cilantro and oregano. Pulse until coarsely chopped, scraping down the side. With the machine on, add 1 cup of the cooking liquid and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
In a large deep skillet, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the tomatillo puree and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce turns a deep green, about 12 minutes. Pour the green sauce into the cooking liquid in the casserole.
Add the hominy and bring to simmer over moderate heat. Add the shredded chicken to the stew, season with salt and pepper and cook just until heated through. Serve in bowls and top with your favorite toppings. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Scrambled Eggs and Salmon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped shallots
12 extra-large eggs
6 tablespoons half-and-half
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 ounces sliced smoked salmon, julienned
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, tossing frequently, until the shallots are translucent and they begin to brown. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat together the eggs, half-and-half, salt and pepper with a fork.
When the shallots are cooked, add the eggs to the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan, lifting and folding the eggs to make large curds. Remove from the heat 1 minute before they are completely done, because they will continue cooking in the pan.
Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, chives, parsley and smoked salmon. Mix well, season to taste and serve hot. Makes 6 servings.