Meet Elena

Meet Elena:

Hi Hi and Thank you for joining me.

My name is Elena, and I am the head cook, writer, editor, photographer, website maintenance-er and voice for SavorParadise.

I love love love food, I especially enjoy the camaraderie that surrounds the planning, excitement, cooking, eating and then congratulating ourselves after we’ve just finished stuffing our face!  That process is what I like to call a magical moment.

My Food Philosophy:

Somedays yes, cooking is just about getting nutrients and moving on to the next item on our never-ending to do lists. But if you can find time to slow down and create a magical moment with loved ones, those you love will not just remember that they enjoyed a good meal but will remember that moment forever and the magic you were able to produce.

I bet you remember your best birthday, or your wedding, or that one vacation and I would also bet that food is attached to that wonderful memory…that is your magical moment! That is why every time you try to recreate your grandmother’s Bundt cake or your mom’s chicken noodle soup it never tastes quite exactly the same. It’s now time for you to create that magical moment with your kids or grandkids and so on.

My husband and I have lived in the Midwest for the majority of the last 28 or so years. We are obsessed with Chicago food culture as well as the family-rooted-farm-raised-ooey-gooeyness warmth of a great Midwest dish. I would describe my family as the epitome of the standard blended Midwest family. My husband’s family has roots in Scandinavia and Britain, while my family has it’s roots in Mexico and Puerto Rico. The final piece of our family has just fallen into place in the form of our beautiful adopted son.

Prior to moving to the Midwest I lived life as a military brat being stationed in Germany for 6 years and Augusta Georgia for 3 and learning all the food that goes with those two wonderful places.

In more recent years we’ve moved closer to a quiet lake community to live a happier lifestyle. Now we love lake life and all the adventures and animals it brings.

Culinary Inspirations from my upbringing:

My Mexican Grandmother and Father:

Food and gathering in the kitchen is just part of life growing up. Watching my grandmother spend all day in the kitchen and then watching all of my aunts and uncles (9 in total) sit around the dining table afterward, drinking and laughing. It wasn’t until much later that I realized all of the traditions my grandmother tried to protect in that process. Also, it never failed at every single family function there was always deep discussion of opening our own family run restaurant (The true American dream). My aunts and uncles trying to make new modern ideas come to life and my grandmother holding on to authentic traditions. A friendly argument that my father and I have now seemed to have taken on as the years have gone by.

My Dad:

What can I say about my dad, the OG grill master (even in the dead of winter), tequila sipper, bacon-wrapped everything eater and there is no such thing as something being too spicy.

Growing up, my dad never really had a set schedule being that he always worked at the mill once he retired from the military, but if he had a Sunday off…it was truly an event! I still have fond memories of waking up to Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, or Luis Miguel blaring from the kitchen and the smell of bacon and eggs, or spicy spaghetti or spicy jambalaya taking over the entire house.

Since the start of my blog, him and I have really enjoyed cooking together and trying to recreate true Mexican dishes from his childhood. I need to start recording him reminiscing about growing up in East Chicago, Indiana and the Mexican community that was there at the time. My dad even shared (before child labor laws) that he would help a young guy deliver tortillas as one of his earliest jobs. I later found out it was for Nuevo Leon! A known tortilla distributor in our area, now served at every grocery store. Super cool.

My Grandmother:

There are so many things I would love to say about my grandmother and not nearly enough time. She is quite an inspiration to me. I can only imagine the hardships she had to endure leaving her life in Guanajuato Mexico to try and make a life in the states, while raising 9 children as a single mother.

However, she did just that. She worked at a Mexican bakery (P.H. Bakery) in the heart of East Chicago, while having my dad sell tamales at the mill (their side hustle) and later would become my pre-school teacher at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. There was always a language barrier between us because I never spoke Spanish and she never spoke English but we could always bond over food.

She knew my favorite dish from her were her chicken flautas, my dad’s favorite was Turkey Mole and so so many others. She instilled in me that Mexican food is not just about tacos but it’s about culture, history and most importantly love. The love to feed others, the ultimate expression! Cooking and writing in this blog is my way of staying connected to her. She made that much of an impact on my life.

My Puerto Rican God-Mother and Mom:

I also get culinary inspiration from my mom and God-mother (my grandmothers sister). These ladies crack me up. They are everything you would expect to see in a Puerto Rican kitchen. Salsa music blaring, dancing, laughing…maybe a little drinking and lots of love in those dishes.

I love Puerto Rican culture, history and food because of its Caribbean roots and amazing spices and seasonings, it’s like nothing else I’ve ever tasted. Also, I love Puerto Rico (my family is from Humacao)! It is just like visiting home away from home. It’s beautiful and filled with culture. I highly recommend if you ever get the chance to go. I think after the passing of my grandmother, I am keen to learn as much from my own mom as possible and together learn more about our culture through food. I’m glad you can read about that journey in these pages. Someday, I would like my son to read these pages and have these recipes readily available for his family.

My German Grandmother and aunt:

Last but not least, I have to mention Gretchen, even though it fits nowhere in this blog, but has had such an impact on my culinary imprint, the sweetest German Grandmother that babysat me while I was growing up in Germany. She had an amazing fresh garden with an asparagus farm and would allow me to hang out with her in the kitchen all day. She was an amazing cook using fresh ingredients and cooking everything from scratch. To this day, I have an amazing fondness for asparagus because of her. Also, My German aunt’s fresh blackberry jam is just one of those memories or my magical moments that is cemented in my brain.

Because of my time in Germany, I forever have a love of other cultures, their foods and the stories (or magical moments) around their dishes. So, I definitely have a traveling problem (in the worst way). I am always planning a trip somewhere and it is always centered around food, and of course the people making the food.

From Analyst to Food Blogger

In 2017, I started SavorParadise as a side hobby and explored many avenues of cooking and having fun with all of it. I also started the blog as a creative outlet because at the time I was just starting IVF and didn’t know what to do with all of the feelings and thoughts that came with it. So, I thought okay, I’ll just cook.

There was no rhyme or reason, just whatever my heart desired. It was cathartic for sure. After years of IVF and in the end nothing to show for it, we then decided to adopt. Insert our new baby!

While all of this was going on, I was working as a Data Analyst (My Masters Degree is in Business Intelligence and Analytics) in corporate life and all the stress that comes with it.

Now after a recent layoff, I’ve decided to go for this whole food blog thing full time. Put all my eggs in one culinary basket so to speak. I still get to do all the data analysis I want, work for myself, work with excitement and passion every day and be home with my new son. Win-win!

My life is much busier now than it has ever been before and I am happier than I have ever been before. I am so excited and cannot wait to get my new son in the kitchen with me.

Life Today:

As you can imagine, I don’t get much sleep these days. So, I cannot function without a good cup of coffee. However, I am so grateful, that I can cook, photograph, and write for a living all from home.

For that I thank you. I feel grateful every single day that each of you takes the time to read my pages and make these recipes.

Let’s stay connected:

Feel free to Contact me. I read through all comments and emails one week out of each month.

I love sharing behind the scenes, travel adventures and everyday life on my Instagram stories. To check these out follow me @savorparadise on Instagram.

If Instagram is not your jam, I also have Facebook, and Pinterest for inspirational dinner ideas.

Media:

The Food Network’s “The Kitchen” Feb 15th, 2o2o, “Mix Up Your Meals” Season 23, Episode 13. Recipe can be found here.

Yahoo’s Lifestyle page and also The Pioneer Woman’s website. Recipe can be found here.

 

 

Interested in meeting in person? Let’s collaborate! Feel free to contact me via email.

Thank you so much for following our Journey.

-Elena

 

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