So much of our culture relates back to our food. From cookouts in the backyard and gatherings in the kitchen to the meals, music, and stories we share together around the table, our family recipes and traditions have flavorful histories.
In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs each year from September 15 through October 15, a few of our team members are proudly sharing their stories about food, family, and tradition. Celebrate with us this month by creating their recipes at home with your family and reflecting on your own cultural and cuisine connections.
Barbara Crean’s Favorite Flan and Brucheta (Her Grandmother’s Recipes)
Barbara Crean, Pilates instructor at Life Time Coral Gables.
Barbara Crean moved to New York City in 1996 from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she studied culinary and pastry arts. While in New York City, she worked as a pastry chef for several years before her life took her into the world of wellness coaching. In 2020, she was hired as a Pilates instructor at Life Time in Coral Gables, Fla.
“Being in the wellness industry with a culinary background has allowed me to be creative when assisting my clients,” says Crean. “I can provide nutritional and meal advice that helps them reach their goals in a healthy and enjoyable way.”
When Crean was a child, her grandmother used to make flan as a way to make sure Crean got eggs into her diet. Later in life, while working as a pastry chef, Crean often made a French version of that flan recipe — or crème brûlée — as one of her signature desserts.
Crean was also happy to share a traditional brucheta recipe. “It’s a great way to barbecue different meats for parties and family gatherings,” she says. “In Argentina, we love tango music, so these dishes would be wonderful served with that playing in the background while you share stories and enjoy a nice meal together.”
Grandmother’s Flan Recipe
- 1 cup of white sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 can ( 14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
- 1 tbs. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. ginger powder
- 2 cups water
- Dulce de leche for garnish (Crean recommends the brand Cachafaz)
- Preheat the oven at 355 degrees F.
- Add the sugar to the 9-inch round glass pan or flanera (a flan mold), and place it in the oven. Let the sugar melt completely, until it becomes a medium-dark syrup called caramelo. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs using a whisk or electric stand mixer. Add condensed milk, evaporated milk, powdered ginger, and vanilla extract until the mixture is well blended. Pour into the baking dish over the cooled caramelo.
- Place the dish or mold into a deep square oven pan and add the water to the bottom of the pan without splashing it into the flan mix. Bake in the oven for one hour.
- After one hour, remove the flan from the oven and allow it to cool completely before inverting it onto a large plate. The flan should be dark brown on top (the caramelo) and have a bright yellow body.
- Crean recommends adding a dollop of dulce de leche sauce on top for an authentic Argentinian flair.
Traditional Brucheta Recipe
- 1 lb. beef tenderloin, cut in 2-x-2-inch squares
- 4 slices of pancetta or bacon, cut in half
- 10 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 8 baby onions, cut in half
- 1 big zucchini or 2 small ones, cut in 8 slices
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbs. olive oil
- 1/2 cup chimichurri sauce (optional)
- In a mixing bowl, combine the beef squares, halved pancetta or bacon slices, cherry tomatoes, baby onions, zucchini slices, and olive oil with salt and pepper. Add chimichurri sauce if desired. Let rest for 15 minutes.
- Separate the skewers and begin to build on them adding a zucchini, then a half of a tomato, half an onion, half a pancetta slice, and then the tenderloin. Repeat, ending with a half tomato to close the edge and guard the meat with a nice addition of color. Each skewer should have at least two rounds of each ingredient.
- Place the finished skewer on a square tray in preparation for the parrilla (barbecue) or oven.
- When all the skewers are assembled, place them on the parrilla for 12 minutes per side or for 30 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees F.
- Brucheta can be served hot or at room temperature. It’s tradition to serve them on the wooden skewers and allow your guests to enjoy the experience of pulling the pieces off to eat them. Toss with or serve along with a side of chimichurri sauce if desired.
Lucy Sanchez’s Favorite Pozole Verde (Her Mother’s Recipe)
Lucy (right) shares a hug with her mother.
For Lucy Sanchez, a yoga instructor and boutique manager at Life Time San Antonio at the Rim and Life Time San Antonio 281, her favorite food serves up the flavors of home and family.
“I was born in El Paso, Texas, but for most of my childhood lived in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, in Mexico,” says Sanchez. “Being raised by two Mexican parents, I always had the best homemade food. When I moved to San Antonio in 2009, I fell in love with its Hispanic roots and heritage that kept me feeling close to my Mexican background.”
When Sanchez went home from school to visit her family, her mother would always ask her what she’d like her to cook while she was there. “My answer was always the same: pozole verde! It has long been one of my favorite dishes. My mom is an amazing talent in the kitchen, but this one tops my list. I’ve yet to try a better one than hers, and I’m so excited to share it.”
Living in the United States now for quite some time, Sanchez says she often misses the smells, tastes, colors, and textures of her family’s authentic Mexican cuisine. For those wishing to also re-create that experience at home, she encourages making the meal into a group activity.
“This is my mother’s original recipe translated from Spanish, and with this dish, there are so many opportunities to get everyone in the family involved and make it fun together,” says Sanchez. “Little ones can rinse or help with shredding chicken while adults can help prepare anything that involves slicing and cutting. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!”
- 4 chicken thighs (boneless)
- 1/2 onion (whole)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 cubes chicken bouillon
- 1/4 lettuce head
- 4 grilled poblano peppers (peeled and seeds removed)
- 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
- 3 cans (16 oz.) of white hominy (dried white corn soaked in alkali solution)
- Optional garnishes to serve: pico de gallo (diced jalapeños, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and a pinch of salt), sliced avocado, thinly sliced lettuce, thinly diced radish, sliced lemon, or tostadas
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stovetop. Add chicken thighs, onion, garlic cloves, bay leaves, and chicken bouillon. Boil until chicken is fully cooked (about 10 minutes).
- Once chicken is done, drain 2 cups of the broth into a medium pot to save. Set chicken aside.
- In a blender or food processor, add the reserved chicken broth, along with the lettuce, poblano peppers, and cilantro leaves. Blend. (Lettuce gives the broth a thicker consistency.)
- In a separate bowl, rinse the white hominy well with water. Once it is rinsed, drain with the colander, and add to the original large pot where you had cooked the chicken and broth. Add the mix from the blender. Bring to a boil.
- Shred the chicken thighs and add them to the large pot with the broth and white hominy. Bring to a boil again.
- Reduce to low heat and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes to allow flavors to combine.
- Allow guests to serve themselves and provide additional garnishes for topping.
Miguel Gutiérrez Pascual’s Favorite Gazpacho (A Family Recipe)
Miguel and his daughter while enjoying a typical Spanish breakfast of chocolate con churros.
Miguel Gutiérrez Pascual was born in Tenerife in the Canary Islands of Spain. He moved to Minnesota in 2018 to work as a project lead in architecture at the Life Time corporate headquarters in Chanhassen, Minn.
“I always remember, especially during the summer, when I was a child having fun with family and friends at the beach,” says Gutiérrez Pascual. “We would go back to our home, which was very close to the beach, and have a refreshing cup of cold gazpacho to recover some energy for the rest of the day.”
Gazpacho makes for a delicious, savory summer soup because there’s no need for heat or cooking. You can store it in the refrigerator and simply pour to serve. Although its flavor can vary by region, this blended soup can be poured over ice and drunk through a straw or served soup-style in a bowl with accoutrements.
“Because the gazpacho is always served cold, make sure you prepare it ahead to give it plenty of time to chill in the refrigerator,” says Gutiérrez Pascual.
- 1 thick slice of baguette or white bread, crusts removed
- 2 lbs. ripe Roma tomatoes, halved and cored
- 1 small (1/2 lb.) cucumber, peeled and seeded
- 1 medium green bell pepper, cored
- 1/2 small red onion, peeled
- 2 small garlic cloves (or 1 large clove), peeled
- 3 tbs. olive oil
- 2 tbs. sherry vinegar (vinagre de Jerez) or red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. fine sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- Optional garnishes: homemade croutons, chopped fresh herbs, a drizzle of olive oil, or any leftover chopped gazpacho ingredients
- Soak the bread by running it under the sink tap for a few seconds until it is saturated with water. Ring out the excess water.
- Combine all ingredients together and blend until puréed (about one minute) or until it reaches desired consistency.
- Taste and season with additional salt, pepper, and cumin, if desired.
- Pour into a sealed container and refrigerate for three to four hours or until chilled completely.
- Serve cold topped with desired garnishes.
Alejandra Blanco’s Favorite Family-Style Ceviche (Her Mother’s Recipe)
Alejandra and Sergio prepare her mother’s recipe.
Alejandra Blanco is a personal training manager at Life Time in Coral Gables, Fla. Her mother is from Colombia and has a ceviche recipe that Blanco loves — it’s a savory, flavorful combination of healthy ingredients that can easily be prepared ahead of time. (Watch a cooking demonstration of her mother’s ceviche and follow the step-by-step instructions to make it yourself at home.)
Blanco jokes that her mother’s recipe uses “Hispanic units of measurement” to add herbs and spices to your liking rather than exact measurements. “You can always find a way to make it your own,” she says. “For example, not too much cilantro, as it can get overpowering, and we like to add a tablespoon at a time of ketchup — as much tomato flavor as you like.”
- 2 onions (yellow or white), diced
- 10–12 limes (shiny, smooth green skin)
- 1 lb. small frozen shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined
- 1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped
- 2 or 3 tbs. of ketchup (no artificial ingredients or added sweeteners)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Add diced onions to a glass container.
- Squeeze limes using a handheld citrus juicer into a bowl until the onion is fully covered.
- Add the cilantro to the lime and onion mixture.
- Add frozen shrimp to boiling water for about one minute.
- While the shrimp boils, add ketchup into the onion, lime, and cilantro mixture one tablespoon at a time until you achieve your desired level of tomato flavor.
- Drain the shrimp using a colander and add it to the rest of the ceviche mixture. Mix well.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Chill for four to five hours prior to serving, or in the refrigerator overnight, to allow flavors to combine.
- Store in a sealed glass container in the refrigerator for up to eight days.