Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Shrimp Cocktails, Mexican Style

Campechana at a restaurant in TJMy brothers and I grew up on seafood cocktails. On special occasions, my grandparents or my mom would take us to a seafood restaurant and buy us campechanas as they are called in Baja. Usually, campechanas are full of chopped oysters, octopus, shrimp, and big chucks of avocado. The recipe below only asks for shrimp, but you can certainly add other types of seafood. My mouth is watering already!


  • 1 lb. uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 (15 - 16 oz.) can tomato sauce OR a can of V8 Tomato Juice
  • 1 cup chopped tomato (1 medium)
  • 1/4 cup chopped white onion
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. hot pepper sauce, such as Tapatio or Sonora (do not use Tabasco)
  • 2 avocados, seeded and peeled
  • lime wedges, for garnish
  • cilantro, for garnish
  • tortilla chips
  1. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in 4 quart saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Cook shrimp in boiling water until they form into the shape of the letter "C," about 3 minutes but no more than 5 minutes. Do not overcook. Remove from heat; drain and cool in a cold water bath. Drain again then cut shrimp in half.
  2. Combine tomato sauce or V8 juice, chopped tomato, chopped onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice and hot pepper sauce in a large glass bowl. Add cooled shrimp and refrigerate at least one hour.
  3. To serve: Chop avocados coarsely and add them to the shrimp mixture. Divide the shrimp and cocktail sauce among 4 large seafood cocktail glasses, or large margarita glasses and garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve the Campechanas with lime wedges and tortilla chips on the side and a cold Tecate. Mmmmmm.....

Monday, June 26, 2006

White Corn and Petit Pois Salad

I love to make non-cooked meals during the summertime. This is a perfect summer salad that everyone will enjoy and you don't have to turn on the stove or use the grill. Isn't that fabulous? This salad is great for pic-nics and for parties. This recipe makes 10 to 12 servings, but I usually cut it in half for 4 to 5 servings. Enjoy!


  • 1 16-ounce package frozen white whole kernel corn, thawed
  • 1 16-ounce package frozen baby peas or petit pois, thawed
  • 1 cup chopped, peeled jicama
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped red and/or orange sweet pepper
  • 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh mint
  1. In a large mixing bowl combine the corn, peas, jicama, celery, green onions, and sweet pepper.
  2. For dressing, in a screw-top jar combine the vinegar, brown sugar, parsley, salt, and white pepper. Cover and shake well. Pour over the corn mixture; toss gently to coat. Stir in mint. Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Melon Soup Experiment

I'm pretty sure I was a kitty or a Chihuahua in my previous life because I love basking in the sun. If it's ever under 65 degrees, that is too cold for me--and you wonder how I ever lived in Boston?!?! But with the heat our apartment gets very warm and, even though I love it, my husband doesn't! To keep him cool I experimented with this cold soup. There is no cooking required and it does cool your body down a bit. The soup is quite refreshing and it smells really good. You will need a food processor or a blender for this.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

  • 1 cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1" pieces
  • 4 or 5 mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 large pinch of chili powder (optional)
  • fresh, ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • Crème fraiche or sour cream
In a food processor or blender add the cantaloupe, a pinch of kosher salt, and a large pinch of ground nutmeg, and blend until you get a soupy mixture. It will not be completely smooth. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and set aside.
In the same food processor or blender (no need to clean it), add the cucumber pieces, mint leaves, a pinch of salt, a pinch of black pepper and 1/4 cup cold water. Blend until you get a soupy mixture. Add this into the bowl with the cantaloupe soup. Mix to combine and add the half and half and a pinch of chili powder, if using.
Finally, working in batches, add the soup mixture back into the blender and try to puree until almost smooth. Keep tasting and add more salt or pepper, if needed. Pour it back into the bowl and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Serve soup in bowls and add a dollop of crème fraiche and more fresh nutmeg and enjoy.

Monday, June 19, 2006

$20 a Day - San Diego

I am a big fan of Rachel Ray's $40 a day show because she always finds the good bargains in various cities in the US and around the globe. However, when one is on a budget, even $40 a day, per person, is a lot of mullah. So, in my never-ending quest to find good deals, I decided to start a $20 a day blog on a monthly basis. I'll start with the easiest, which is San Diego, where I am from.


I have to agree with the experts that this is the most important meal of the day. A good, hearty breakfast is essential if you're a very active traveler and especially if you are on a budget.

  • High to mid-priced: influx cafe - 1948 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92102

    The Traditional is a bagel topped with cream cheese, smoked salmon, red onion, tomato and capers. $5.95 + $1.50 coffee

  • Budget: La Posta - (corner of 3rd/Washignton) 3980 3rd Ave. San Diego, CA 92103

    The best freakin' burritos ever! Try the breakfast burrito with eggs, ham and cheese, $2.95

  • High to mid-priced: Phil’s BBQ - 4030 Goldfinch St. @ Washington, San Diego, CA 92103

    This place is always packed and that's because they have the best BBQ west of the Colorado River. For a light, yet delicious lunch, try their Rib Tickler. It includes 3 pork ribs, 2 onion rings, cole slaw, and fries for $5.95.

  • Budget: Roberto's Taco Shop - 2206 Carmel Valley Road, Del Mar, CA 92014 (or any taco shop in San Diego)

    Carne Asada Fries is the epitome of gluttony. It consists of fries topped with carne asada, guacamole, cheese, salsa and sour cream. $4.95. One order can feed 2 people.

  • High to mid-priced: Hodad's - 5010 Newport Ave. Ocean Beach, CA 92107

    This beach joint is famous for their burgers and it has a California cool ambiance of no shoes, no shirt, no problem! Try their special cheeseburger basket, which is an enormous burger, thick-cut fries, and tea, coffee or lemonade, all for $6.25.

  • Budget: Dao Son Noodle House - 2322 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

    The service is so-so, and the restaurant is "quaint" but the food is incredible. Prices range from $2 to $9. My all-time-favorite is the Garlic Fish. It is well-seasoned catfish marinated with garlic, lemongrass and simmered in a deep rich sauce. $5.99. They go by spicy levels of low, medium and hot. The medium in *incredibly* hot...you've been warned!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Butter-Cream Cheese Frosting

The Yummy Cupcakes

My husband is the baker of the family and last Saturday he made cupcakes for Lindsey's 30th birthday party. I think that the frosting is the key to any cupcake or cake. Neither one of us like the canned frosting they sell at the store, so for the cupcakes we made this butter-cream cheese frosting. Since the frosting has butter and cream cheese, it's best to keep the frosted cupcakes in the fridge just before serving. Originally we wanted to make a cupcake tree, but we didn't have enough time to buy the supplies, however cupcakes are a wonderful alternative to a cake and both kids and adults love them!

INGREDIENTS (makes about 2 cups of frosting)

  • 2 pkg. (8 oz each) Philadelphia cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 pounds (32 oz) powdered sugar (about 8 cups), sifted
  • 2 teaspoons good vanilla
  • Food coloring, if using
Make the cupcakes the night before the party and refrigerate them. They will stay firm and will not crumble when you frost them with the icing.

To make the icing: place the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla in a non-reactive bowl and beat with beaters until mixture is combined (you can use a food processor, like I did).

I'm using a food processor Slowly add the powdered sugar, until it's all combined. You can finish mixing it with a spatula. mixing the butter cream-cheese frostingAdd your favorite food coloring, if using. Cover the icing with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator 15 to 20 minutes to set slightly.

You can simply frost your cupcakes with an off-set spatula, or add it into a pastry bag and frost them that way. It's all up to you. We created three different colors of icing and used an inexpensive pastry bag to frost the cupcakes. They were yummylicious!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla SoupMatthew and I just love the tortilla soup they serve at The Prado restaurant in Balboa Park. Last night we both had a craving for it and I tried to recreate the soup. This recipe is my version, and I think it came out almost as good as the Prado's--perhaps mine is a little thicker. I used leftover grilled chicken, but you can use a rotisserie chicken as well.

INGREDIENTS (about 4 servings)

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 can (15oz) low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 can (15 oz) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 corn tortilla, torn into pieces
  • Salt and freshly, ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Tapatio hot sauce
  • 1 cup pre-cooked chicken, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
  • Tortilla chips, broken or crushed
  • Sour cream
  • Cilantro
  1. Pre-heat your broiler. You can also use a grill to char your vegetables.
  2. Rub about one tablespoon of vegetable oil over all the veggies: red bell pepper, tomatoes, peeled garlic cloves, jalapeno and onion. Distribute the vegetables in sheet pan and generously sprinkle kosher salt and black pepper on them.

    Place them directly under the broiler. You want to char the skin on all the veggies. Keep an eye on the veggies as they can get charred very quickly. Keep turning them with tongs to evenly char all sides. The process will take you about 10 minutes.

  3. Place all the roasted vegetables in a platter and remove the skins from the tomatoes and red bell pepper. You can use your tongs to do this. Cut the tomatoes in quarters. Seed the red bell pepper and cut into chunks. Seed the jalapeno pepper (you do not have to peel it).
  4. In a blender, add all the vegetables and any juices from the veggies and puree for 30 seconds.

    Add about 1/3 cup of chicken broth, the dried oregano, cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground, black pepper and puree for 15 seconds more. Add the puree mixture into a 4 or 6-quart pot and heat to medium.

  5. Meanwhile, add the drained pinto beans into the blender, the torn tortilla and the remaining chicken stock.

    Puree for 30 seconds and add the bean puree into the pot with the veggie puree. Add the pre-cooked chicken and 1 tablespoon of Tapatio sauce.

    Stir and cover with a lid. Heat the soup until it simmers, about 10 more minutes.

  6. Before serving the soup, add one tablespoon of chopped cilantro and taste the soup and adjust seasoning, if needed.
    Ladle soup into big bowls and top with crushed tortilla chips, a dollop of sour cream and a few cilantro leaves. Buen provecho!

    Saturday, June 10, 2006

    Strawberry-Avocado Smoothies

    My sister-in-law gave me the idea of adding an avocado to a fruit smoothie. At first I thought that the flavors wouldn't meld, but to my surprise they go amazingly well. Make sure the avocado is slightly ripe, but not over-ripe. I also cleaned, dried and stemmed my strawberries first then froze them. You can also buy a bag of frozen berries and use them instead. Give this smoothie a try, it will definitely surprise you!

    INGREDIENTS (2 large smoothies or 4 small)

    • 10 large frozen strawberries, halved
    • A handful of frozen raspberries, about 5
    • 1 large slightly ripe avocado, cubed
    • 1 banana, cut into chunks
    • 1/4 cup frozen mango, or any tropical fruit
    • 1/3 cup unsweetened or light soy milk
    • 1/4 to 1/3 cup cold water (start with 1/4 cup and add more if smoothie is too thick)
    • 4 packets of Splenda
    In a blender, add all of the ingredients and blend it until you get your desired consistency. Add more water, if needed. Serve in tall glasses and enjoy! These smoothies make a great alternative to breakfast or a light lunch.

    Thursday, June 08, 2006

    Coffee Marinated Steaks

    Xuchi's version of Coffee Steaks
    I first heard the idea of coating a big, juicy piece of steak with coffee grounds from my friend Xuchi. We visited her and her husband last weekend and they grilled us two versions of steaks that we've never had: Herbs de Provence crusted steak and these Coffee Steaks. I know coffee steaks sounds unusual, but they were quite delicious. Don't worry if the steaks look a little charred after you start grilling them; this will give your steaks lots of flavor.

    INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

    • 1/2 cup coarse ground coffee
    • 1/4 cup kosher salt
    • 1/4 cup coarse ground black pepper
    • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
    • 4 (8 ounce) New York or Rib Eye steaks
    To make the dry rub: Place the coffee, salt, pepper and brown sugar in a small bowl and toss gently with a fork to combine. You are probably not going to use the entire rub. Put any leftover rub in a zip-loc bag and store it in the freezer for another time.

    Pat steaks dry with paper towels and generously and evenly coat all sides with the coffee rub. About one to two tablespoon per steak. Loosely cover them with plastic wrap and let them marinate for 30 to 60 minutes.

    In the meantime, setup your grill. Clean it; lubricate it; heat it to medium-high. Place the steaks on the grill for 2 minutes, then move them a quarter turn, and cook for two more minutes. This will give you great grill marks.

    Flip the steaks and grill them on the other side in the same way. This will give you a good medium rare steak, or grill to your preference. Remove steaks from grill and let them rest for 3 minutes before serving.

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    Herb de Provence Crusted Steak

    A nicely crusted Herb de Provence steak Our friends, Xuchi and Josh, grilled us a version of these steaks when we were in San Francisco last weekend. The steaks were wonderful and I really enjoyed the herby taste the Herbs de Provence gave it. If you don't have Herbs de Provence, you can make your own by combining a tablespoon of each of the following: dried basil, dried thyme, dried majoram, dried savory, dried rosemary, fennel seeds, lavender buds, and 1 crumbled bay leaf.


    • 1/2 cup Herbs de Provence, or your favorite mixed dry herbs
    • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
    • 1/2 tablespoon fresh, black pepper
    • 4 steaks, about 3/4" thick
    In a small bowl, combine first 6 ingredients. Spread the mixture and rub well onto each steak. Let the steaks marinate in the fridge 30 minutes, or up to an hour.

    Meanwhile, heat and clean your grill to medium-high. Brush the grill with a light coating of vegetable oil.

    Place the steaks on the grill for 2 minutes, then move them a quarter turn, and cook for two more minutes. This will give you great grill marks.

    Flip the steaks and grill them on the second side in the same way. This will give you a good medium rare steak, or grill to your preference. Remove steaks from grill and let them rest for 3 minutes before serving. Serve them with a side of spring mix salad with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette.

    Friday, June 02, 2006

    Tuscan-Style Steak

    Cooks Illustrated magazine has some wonderful recipes, albeit sometimes they seem a bit difficult or take too long to make. I recently saw this recipe for Tuscan-style steak and I have to say it's delicious. The best part is that it only takes about 30 to 40 minutes to make, including all the prep time. For the best results, use high-quality extra-virgin olive oil and genuine Parmesan cheese. The greens may be washed and dried up to a day ahead of time, but the vinaigrette should be made the same day for the best flavor. If you can't find arugula, you can use fresh spinach. Serve a crusty loaf of bread alongside to sop up any remaining juices from the steak.

    INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)

    • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
    • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
    • Salt and coarsely ground black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
    • 4 boneless strip steaks, 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick (8 to 10 ounces each), trimmed of exterior gristle and patted dried with paper towels
    • 8 cups loosely packed arugula
    • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, cut into thin shavings
    1. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, oregano, and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a small bowl until smooth.
    2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Meanwhile, season the steaks liberally with salt and pepper. Lay the steaks in the pan and cook, without moving, until a well-browned crust forms, about 5 to 6 minutes. Using tongs, flip the steaks. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook 5 to 6 minutes for medium-rare (125 degrees) or to your preference. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 minutes.
    3. Divide the arugula evenly among 4 individual plates. Cut each steak crosswise into thin strips and arrange the steak over the arugula. Drizzle any juices that collected from the meat over the greens. Rewhisk the dressing and drizzle it over the steak and greens. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve immediately.