Sunday, January 28, 2007

Lemon Pasta

Lemon Pasta
My Sunday consisted of recovering from a party I went to last night, taking Princess & Lilu for a long walk, and watching 60 Minutes and Antiques Road Show at the same time (by flipping back and forth, of course). When I'm in recovery mode, I don't get hugry until the hair of the dog is gone. So, since I didn't have much time to plan my evening meal, I made this super quick and great tasting pasta dish. The measurements are approximate because I tend to just "eye-ball it" and you can use olive oil instead of butter, if you prefer.


  • 1/4 cup butter
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Grated Parmesan
  • About a pound of whatever kind of pasta you feel like (I used spaghetti)
  • About 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil

Cook the pasta according to package directions. In the meantime, melt butter in small pot on low heat and add lemon juice. Once pasta is cooked, drain and put the pasta back in pot and add lemon sauce. Add the lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste and chopped basil. Put on serving plate and sprinkle with fresh parmesan and a little more zest. Reserve a little of the pasta water to loosen the sauce, if desired.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Easy Beer Bread

Beer Bread
I was really craving a crusty loaf of bread today so I went to the grocery store to buy one. Most of the bread left was already slightly hard (I went after work) and I didn't feel like paying $1.99 for bread that I would probably throw out the next day. So, I found a recipe for the easiest bread ever! You don't need to kneed it; you don't need to let it rest. And if you're anything like me, I bet you probably have most, if not all, of the ingredients in your kitchen right now.


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon dill seeds (optional)
  • 1 cup finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 12 ounces pale ale beer, or your favorite beer (I used Blue Moon)

Preheat oven to 375. Grease an 8-inch loaf pan.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, dill seed, and cheddar in a large mixing bowl. Slowly stir in beer and mix just until combined. Batter will be thick. Spread in a greased 8-inch loaf pan and bake until golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean, between 45 and 55 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Note: A pale ale works great with this recipe, but you can use a darker beer will give you a deeper flavor.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cheesy-Garlicky Biscuits

mmm, copy cat biscuits....
My family loves the Red Lobster--especially my grandparents. I'm not sure why, but I have a feeling is all the butter they use on all their food! Actually, I like Red Lobster, too, but I especially love their cheddar cheese biscuits. While I was in Minnesota, my brother-in-law, Tim, made us his copycat recipe of Red Lobster's famous biscuits...and you know what? They almost tasted the same. This is a very quick and easy recipe and your kids (and grandparents) will love them.


  • 2 cups buttermilk baking mix, Bisquick
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • ½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 450°

In mixing bowl, mix together baking mix, milk and cheese until a soft dough forms, then beat vigorously 30 seconds. Drop from spoon onto ungreased baking sheet and bake at 450° until golden brown, 9 to 10 minutes.

Mix together butter and garlic powder. Brush over hot biscuits and serve hot. Makes 10 - 12.

**Tim mentioned to us that he tried using the low-fat version of the Bisquick in this recipe before, but the biscuits didn't come out as tender or flaky, so stick to the original stuff.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Goat Cheese Soufflé

Goat Cheese Souffle
I've been noticing that many recipes I find online, in magazines, or that I watch on T.V., usually make 4 or more servings, which is great for big families, but when it's just a family of two, those recipes tend to leave too many leftovers for us. So, I'm determined to find and try out recipes for one or for two people. The recipe below is actually for one, but I modified it so you can make it for two. A simple salad with vinaigrette will go great as an accompaniment with the soufflé. And don't worry if your soufflé doesn't rise--it'll still be yummy.

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream or half and half
  • 1/3 cup goat cheese (preferably crumbled)
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • Pinch of dry thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Completely butter two (5 ounce) ramekins. Crumble goat cheese and separate the egg.

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook until bubbly, about 30 seconds. Reduce heat to low, whisk in milk and stir until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in goat cheese, thyme, and salt and pepper, stirring until cheese is melted. Stir in egg yolk, but make sure you don't let it scramble. Set aside.

In a small, very clean bowl with a clean whisk, whip egg white until soft peaks form (when you lift the whisk, the peaks will stand up, then fold over.) With a rubber spatula, fold egg white into cheese mixture, lifting under and up through batter just until combined (a few streaks of white may remain.)

Spoon into two, 5-ounce ramekins (or one 10-ounce oven-safe dish with straight sides). Smooth top. Then run your pinky finger or a chopstick around the rim of the ramekin--that helps the top rise higher.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, until top is puffy and browned. Serve with a small, green salad.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Mint Meringue Cookies

Dot's Mint Meringue Cookies My husband's grandmother, Dot Blaha, makes these delicious mint meringue cookies for Christmas. And how can you not love cookies that are made by a grandma named Dot? However, we didn't have the recipe and Matthew tried duplicating her recipe. After several tries, the recipe below worked pretty well. You just have to be patient when beating your egg whites to stiffen up. Also, it's very important that you leave the cookies in the oven overnight so that they lose all their moisture. If you've ever had Aeros Mint (the British candy) these cookies taste almost similar to that.

INGREDIENTS (makes about 1-1/2 dozen cookies)

  • 2 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. peppermint oil
  • Green food color
  • 10 oz. mint chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a portable mixer or a stand mixer, beat egg whites, salt and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Slowly beat in sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold in pepperment oil and green food coloring (about 5 to 7 drops). Gently stir in chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls on cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Put cookies in oven then turn oven off and leave in overnight. Do not open door until morning!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict
My dad's favorite breakfast is Eggs Benedict. I also love it, but it was one of those dishes that I would always order at the restaurant because making the hollandaise sauce scared me a little-- I'm not really good at making sauces. However, after making it for the first time this past weekend, I realized it was quite easy. You just have to be patient in the constant whisking of the egg yolks.

EGGS BENEDICT (serves 4)

  • 4 slices Canadian bacon
  • 2 English muffins, split
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Hollandaise sauce, recipe below
  • Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
Warm up the Canadian bacon in a medium skillet and toast the English muffins, cut sides up, on a baking sheet under the broiler.

Fill a 10-inch nonstick skillet half full of water. Add white vinegar to the cooking water. This will make the egg white cook faster so it does not spread. Bring to a slow boil. Gently break 1 of the eggs into the water taking care not to break it. Repeat with remaining eggs. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook 3 1/2 minutes until the egg white is set and yolk remains soft. Remove with a slotted spoon, allowing the egg to drain.

To assemble: Lay a slice of Canadian bacon on top of each muffin half, followed by a poached egg. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon hollandaise sauce over the eggs. Garnish with chopped parsley.


  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Pinch salt
Vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl and until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume. Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler,) the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. whisking the hollandaiseContinue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will scramble. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume. Remove from heat, whisk in cayenne and salt. Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use for the eggs benedict. If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja I just came back from my dentist appointment and guess what? My dental assistant and the dental hygienist are both foodies like me! We started talking about slow-cooked foods and this scrumptious recipe came up: Ropa Vieja. The recipe below is my version of the one I found in the Oprah Magazine and DON'T LET THIS RECIPE SCARE YOU. I know it seems like a lot of work and ingredients, but here are a few tips that helped me:
  1. First, cut all the veggies ahead of time and set them the fridge. I only used red and yellow peppers.
  2. Secondly, I only used one thinly sliced onion.
  3. Third, I didn't used the can of whole tomatoes. Instead, I used a one (7 oz) can of El Pato tomato sauce. I ommited the olives and;
  4. The big secret: I used a 1-1/2 pound brisket instead of flank steak that I cooked the day before and shredded and set in the fridge. On the day of the party, I just finished the rest of the recipe. You can find the original Ropa Vieja recipe I used on, however my tweaked recipe below came out just as good.
  • 1-1/2 to 2 pound Brisket
  • kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. of flour
  • 5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 large Spanish onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 (7-1/4 ounce) can of El Pato Tomato Sauce
Season brisket with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Lightly dust it with the flour.

In a heavy-bottomed 5- to 6-quart pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the brisket to pot and cook until well browned, about 2 minutes per side. Add chicken broth, bay leaves, peppercorns, 1 tsp. of the cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon salt (you can also add any leftover veggies like onions, peppers or carrots). The brisket should be just covered with broth; pour in additional broth or water, if necessary. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until steak is fork-tender, 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 hours. Remove pot from heat and let brisket cool in broth for 30 minutes.

Transfer brisket to a plate. Strain cooking liquid through a sieve set over a bowl; Let liquid stand 5 minutes, then skim off and discard any fat. Set cooking liquid aside. Cut the brisket in half then shred the brisket by pulling off string-like meat. Tip: You can do these steps the day before, set it in the fridge and continue with the rest of the recipe the next day.

In the same pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add thinly sliced onions, red and yellow peppers, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions and peppers soften, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste until vegetables are coated. Stir in the shredded brisket meat and the tomato sauce, until all is coated. Add in 2 1/2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.

Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper if necessary. If not serving immediately, cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days; flavor will only improve upon standing. Serve with Moros y Cristianos or platanos maduros. Ropa Vieja

Ultimate Mint Julep

Mint Julep
I don't know about you, but I absolutely love, love, love mint! Like mint chocolate chips, mint ice cream, mint gum, minty puffy cookies like the ones Matthew's grandma makes, mojitos, Mentos, minty toothpaste, and of course, mint juleps. If you decide to make this delicious mint julep, I beg of thee to not use any bottled mint crap that they sell at the store...use real mint leaves, for crissakes. Believe me, it makes all the difference in the world. Now, one thing I did change in this recipe is that I used Jameson Irish whiskey—yes, I know sacrilege—however the darn thing still tasted pretty good. Cheers, y'all!

INGREDIENTS (makes 1 cocktail)

  • 10 mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
  • 1 ½ teaspoons superfine sugar**
  • Seltzer water
  • Crushed ice
  • 2 ½ ounces Kentucky bourbon whiskey

Place the mint leaves in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass and top with the sugar. Muddle these together until the leaves begin to break down. Add a splash of seltzer water, fill the glass 3/4 full with crushed ice, and add the bourbon. Top with another splash of seltzer, stir, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

**To make superfine sugar, simply put ¼ cup regular white sugar in a food processor. Process until sugar is less grainy, and has a more powdery look to it, about 15 to 30 seconds.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Ultimate Bloody Mary

Hello, my name is Tom
We all have gifts: I have the gift of cooking. Matthew has the gift of handiwork. My sister—and my sister-in-law—have the gift of shopping, and my brother, Tom, has the gift of making excellent Bloody Marys. Below is, more or less, his secret recipe. I was only able to figure [part] of it out by spying on him.

Tom's secret bloody mary recipe

I don't particularly like my bloody Mary’s super spicy, so you can add more Tabasco or Shirasa to yours, if you prefer. Remember to first run a cut lime around the rim of the glass before you dip it in the celery salt. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS (makes 1 cocktail)

  • celery salt
  • 1 ½ - 2 oz vodka
  • dash ground black pepper
  • dash of salt
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 dash Tabasco® sauce
  • 1 dash of Shirasa chili sauce (optional)
  • 2 to 3 green olives
  • 2 to 3 cocktail onions
  • spoonful of baby clams
  • Clamato juice

Rim a tall glass with celery salt. Fill it with clean ice and the rest of the ingredients. Garnish with a celery stick and lime.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Basil Martini

The Vagabond restaurant in South Park is all the rage here in San Diego. I haven't been to it yet, but I plan to go very soon. What I keep hearing from my friends that have eaten there is not only that they have great food, but they also serve spectacular cocktails. One of their signature cocktails is a basil martini. Yes, I know...I cringed a little when I heard about it, too, but surprisingly it is a very refreshing and smooth cocktail. Try to use good vodka, such a Grey Goose or Absolut. YUM! TGIF!!!!

INGREDIENTS (makes 1 martini)

  • 2 Oz Vodka
  • 1 Dash of Dry Vermouth
  • 4-5 Fresh Basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and lightly muddle the basil leaves with the back of a spoon. Let mixture set for 30-60 seconds. Add ice cubes and shake. Strain and serve. Garnish with a basil leaf.


You can use simple syrup in various cocktail recipes such as mojitos, sweet martinis, and even in non-alcoholic drinks such as iced coffee. The recipe is super simple, and you can keep it in your fridge for months at a time.

  1. Put one cup of water in a small saucepan.
  2. Add two cups of sugar.
  3. Heat to a boil while stirring.
  4. Reduce heat and continue to stir until the sugar dissolves.
  5. Cool to room temperature.
  6. Find a clean container that will hold at least a cup and a half.
  7. Using a funnel, pour liquid into container.
  8. Seal and store in refrigerator indefinitely.
  9. Use whenever a recipe calls for simple sugar or simple syrup.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Champurrado - Thick Mexican Hot Chocolate

yummy champurrado
Champurrado is a thick, Mexican hot chocolate based on masa harinaand water or milk. In my family, this drink is usually served during winter or Christmas, and it is especially good when you serve it along with sweet tamales. Champurrado is similar to atole, which is a corn starch based hot drink. Nowadays, one can buy instant mix for champurrado at your favorite Latin grocery store, but if you have time to make it, give it a try. You may need an acquired taste for this hot chocolate because it's quite thick and not overly chocolaty, but gawd it is good on a cold winter's night!

INGREDIENTS (serves 4 - 6)

  • ½ cup masa flour (Maseca, for example)
  • 2 ½ cups cold water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • 1 disk Mexican chocolate (Ibarra, for example)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar plus 2 teaspoons molasses

Place 1/4 cup cold water and the masa harina into the jar of a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a large sized saucepan. Add the remaining 2 1/4 cups cold water, cinnamon stick and vanilla. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until mixture has thickened.

Add the milk, chocolate, sugar and molasses. Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking until the chocolate and sugar is melted and well-blended. Remove the cinnamon stick and strain the mixture through a medium sieve (optional) and serve hot in mugs. We usually don't strain the champurrado because we like it thick and rich!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Kielbasa Stew

Kielbasa Stew
Every day I love my Crock-Pot® more and more. I guess I always had this notion that crock-pots were for crazy old ladies with lots of cats or for lazy cooks who didn't know how to cook, but now I see that crock-pots are the perfect kitchen appliance for everyone, including busy-bees like me! Anyhoo, I've created several crock-pot delights, one of which is this kielbasa stew which I like to serve over egg noodles or even bow-tie pasta. It's very important you use the leanest ground beef, and use turkey kielbasa, if you can find it. Don't forget the crusty bread...this is a total comfort food full of carbs! I love it!!!

INGREDIENTS (feeds an army of 4)

  • 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 lb. Kielbasa sausage, sliced (use turkey kielbasa if you want to cut down on the grease)
  • 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, undrained
  • 9 ounces pkg. frozen French-cut green beans
  • 6 oz. can pitted black olives (whole, drained)
  • 1/2 C. red wine, such as Rosso or Chianti (I used 2-buck chuck, Charles Shaw)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, sliced in rings
  • 1 green pepper, chopped (I used red bell pepper, instead)
  • 1 t. dried basil crushed
  • 1 t. dried oregano crushed
  • 1/2 t. dried thyme crushed
  • 1/4 t. ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. pasta of your choice
  • parmesan cheese

In a medium skillet, sauté ground beef until it's lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. **You do not want to add hot food into a cold crock-pot because it may cause the bowl to crack.

Once ground beef is cooled, add it to the crock-pot along with all the ingredients except the pasta and parmesan. Simmer on low for 6-8 hours.

When you are ready to serve, cook pasta according to package directions. Ladle kielbasa stew over pasta in large bowls. Top with parmesan cheese to garnish and serve yourself a nice glass of Chianti.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Chorizo and Eggs

Photo by Elise @
When I was growing up in Mexico, my mom used to make us chorizo and eggs almost every Saturday morning. Back then we didn't really care (or know) about all the saturated fat in chorizo. Nowadays, I rarely eat chorizo and eggs, but once in a while it's okay to splurge. I've seen leaner chorizo in the grocery store, but to me you have to use the full-fat real Mexican chorizo to get the best taste. You can also make awesome burritos with this recipe. Just add the chorizo and egg mixture into a warm flour tortilla and enjoy!

INGREDIENTS (4 servings)

  • 6 oz Mexican chorizo (spicy raw pork sausage)
  • 8 to 10 large eggs
  • Warm corn tortillas
  • Cilantro, for garnish

Remove casing from chorizo and cook (without oil) in skillet over moderate heat, stirring and breaking up meat, until bubbling and completely separated, 5 to 6 minutes.

Whisk eggs together in a bowl and stir into chorizo. yummy!Cook, stirring, until eggs are scrambled and just set, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately with lots of warm corn tortillas.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Tomato and Avocado Sandwiches A La Blaha

tomato and avocado sandwich
Last month, my papa-in-law and my horno-in-law (I mean brother-in-law, Michael) came to visit us down here in San Diego. Matthew and I took them for a quick tour of the Hotel Del Coronado, and, of course, we went wine tasting. We visited Belle Marie winery and Ferrara Winery, both in Escondido. Since this was a quick tour, we decided to stop at a farm stand near the freeway and we bought farm-fresh tomatoes and avocados. Immediately we all decided we were going to make sandwiches, but we didn't have much time nor any utensils or bread. So we decided to make a quick stop at the grocery store and bought the rest of the ingredients. And yes, Michael made these wonderful sandwiches.

INGREDIENTS (makes 4 sammies)

  • 2 or 3 large, farm fresh tomatoes
  • 3 or 4 ripe avocados (depending on their size)
  • 8 slices of Munster cheese (from the deli counter)
  • packets of Mayo (you can steal, I mean take some from the deli or just buy a small jar)
  • 4 French rolls or your favorite sandwich bread
  • Plastic knife and fork (you can also take a couple from the deli!)
  1. Slice tomatoes in 1/4" thick slices. michael concentrating on cutting perfect slices
  2. Cut avocados by cutting around then removing the pit. Cut into wedges.
  3. Cut open your bread and spread generously with mayo. Divide the tomatoes, avocado wedges and cheese among the four pieces of bread.
  4. Eat like a maniac!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Nathalie's First Cocktails

My handsome husband, Matt and my lovely sister, Nathalie
During Christmastime, my sister, Nathalie, came to San Diego for a visit all the way from Hawaii. And now that she's finally 21, Matthew and I were finally able to take her to The Turf Supper Club in Golden Hill. The Turf Club is a bar and grill restaurant with a very 40's retro feel. Here you cook your own steak in an indoor grill right smack in the middle of the restaurant. The food is good, and very affordable, but I especially like their cocktails. My sister tried two of their best: the sidecar, made with tequila, and, of course, a sex-on-the-beach.



  • 2 ounces 1800 Anejo Tequila
  • 1 ounce Torres Orange Liqueur
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • lemon twist
  • sugar, for the rim

In an ice-filled martini shaker, combine 1800, Torres Orange Liqueur and juice. Shake well and strain mixture into a Martini glass rimmed with sugar. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Nathalie and her Sex-on-the-Beach This cocktail is quite fruity and sweet, and it's specially good for people who are not into hard alcohol. It's usually good to only have one or two of these because sometimes you tend to forget that they are loaded with alcohol.



  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 3/4 oz peach schnapps
  • 1/2 oz crème de cassis
  • 2 oz orange juice
  • 2 oz cranberry juice
  • Orange slice for garnish
  • maraschino cherry for garnish

Pour all the ingredients, except for orange slice and cherry, into a shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with the orange slice and maraschino cherry.