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Lucky Salsa


I cooked up ten different recipes for the Friday the 13th Dinner Party and this appetizer was one of the favorites. At least half of the guests asked if it was on the blog. I assured them it would be posted this week, so we might as well start off the week(s) worth of recipes with it.

12 grapes

I had hoped to serve 13 items, but I could only get to 12 before I ran out of time and energy to pull off the last one. In addition to the ten I actually made, I also served grapes, 12 per person for luck, and put out purchased fortune cookies on the dessert table.

add herbsjpg

The base for this salsa recipe is black-eyed peas. For many southerners, consuming this inexpensive legume on the first day of the new year is believed to bring wealth.

According to Wikipedia: “Two popular explanations for the South’s association with the peas and good luck dates back to the Civil War. The first is associated with Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union Army’s March to the Sea, during which they pillaged the food supplies of the Confederates. Stories say peas and salted pork were said to be left untouched because of the belief that they were animal food and not fit for human consumption. Southerners considered themselves lucky to be left with some supplies to help them survive the winter, and black-eyed peas evolved into a representation of good luck. In other traditions, it was a symbol of emancipation for African-Americans who had previously been enslaved before the civil war who became free officially on New Years Day.”

black eye pea salsa

Black-Eyed Pea Salsa

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Zest and juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups cooked black-eyed peas (see note)
  • 3 cups diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 2 ripe but still firm avocados, diced
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • Tortilla chips, for serving

oil vinegar mix

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lemon zest and juice, honey, garlic and oregano. Whisk in the olive oil, taste and season with salt and pepper.

hold out avocado

Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, except the avocado and cilantro, and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours. Thirty minutes before you’re ready to serve, add the avocado and cilantro and then bring back to room temperature for 30 minutes and toss just before serving.

black eyed pea salsa

Serve with tortilla chips.

12 servings

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May 17, 2016   2 Comments

Lucky 13

Today is Friday the 13th and tonight I am hosting a Friday the 13th Dinner Party.

lucky 13

I’ll be posting recipes and party details next week, but since today is also World Cocktail Day, that seems the logical and probably luckiest place to start.

This is a pomegranate cocktail. What is lucky about that?

The pomegranate is hailed as a symbol of luck in a number of cultures and religions, including Ancient Greece, Judaism, Christianity, Armenia and Islam. It’s often a symbol of fertility, but has also been associated with sweetness and fullness of life.

lucky 13 cocktail

Lucky 13 Pomegranate Cocktail

  • 1 ½ ounces (3 tablespoons) silver tequila
  • 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) pomegranate liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) triple sec
  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) pomegranate juice
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) coconut water
  • 1/2 to 1 ounce (1 to 2 tablespoons) fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • 2 lime wheels
  • 26 pomegranate arils (seeds)

To a shaker filled with ice, add the tequila, both liquors, pomegranate juice, coconut water and lemon juice. Shake until well mixed and ice cold.

Pour drink into two chilled martini glasses and garnish each with a lime wheel and 13 fresh pomegranate arils.

Serves 2

Since we’re on the subject of party beverages, I want to share a few of the wines I’ve found to fit my theme.

bailey wine

Bailey felt as though this was the perfect opportunity for her to jump into the photo, nearly knocking over my lucky/unlucky wines. Whatever!

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May 13, 2016   4 Comments

Meyer Lemon Upside-Down Cake

blood and meyer

I made this sweet and tangy cake for a cooking class last week. Since I needed to serve 18 people, I made two cakes, one ahead of time and one in front of the students. For the class cake, I used one Meyer lemon and one blood orange. We decided to serve thin slices from each cake and the students loved them both but especially the the mixed citrus cake.

Either way, this is a simply lovely dessert.

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May 10, 2016   4 Comments

Piñata Cake

How I end of with any baking recipes on here, I’ll never understand. I’m so bad at it, but for some reason, I keep trying.

gorgeous pinata cake

Case in point – this hot mess of a cake.

I know, it looks good on the outside, but if you only knew what it looked like on the inside!

What the heck … I’ll show you!

hot mess

That’s right – this is the lovely cake I baked – from a Boxed Mix! Seriously, could anything be easier to bake than a cake mix? Small children succeed with box mixes all the time!

Even though I greased the pans and let the layers cool the required about of time before turning over, it looked like that! What the heck? I did my best to salvage it by leaving it on the rack, covering it with plastic and refrigerating half the day.

Thankfully, the frosting I made turned out perfect and was the glue that magically held it all together. I found the recipe for the super cute and clever Piñata Cake HERE. As you can see, it called for a homemade cake, and I thought I was taking the safer route with the boxed variety. Oh well, at least it looked good. Not only is this the perfect cake for Cinco de Mayo, but it would be adorable for a birthday party any time of the year.

extra coconut

I did change the original recipe a little. I found the amount of coconut the recipe called for was way too much, so I’ve reduced that. Look at how much extra coconut I have! I feel that I have no choice but to bake up some sugar cookies to use it up. #nothappy#hatetobake

I did follow the frosting recipe to the letter, thank goodness!

break the pinata cake

I brought the cake to my dear friend and neighbor, Lisa’s, annual Cinco de Mayo party last night. I cut the first piece out and hoped for the best. I was certain the whole thing would collapse, but it somehow held up. Although, I did not wait around to see what happened when the subsequent pieces were removed. :-/

Oh well, a piñta is supposed to fall apart, right?

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May 6, 2016   4 Comments

massage your kale

One of my favorite Valley chefs, Kevin Binkley, was the teacher at Les Gourmettes this week. I’ve mentioned Kevin and his stellar restaurant, Binkley’s, many times before on this site.

Chef Kevin Binkley


Kevin was able to do something that no one else has done, make me a kale salad lover – as long as it’s this salad! I could eat it every single day for lunch and dinner and be a happy camper.

dinosaur and curly kale

Kevin calls it a crushed kale salad. It is the same technique you’ll find all over the internet, only they are calling it massaging the kale instead of crushing it. One thing he does differently is to tear the kale into bite-sized pieces instead of cutting it into ribbons or chiffonade.

In this video, I’m holding the camera with my left hand and only using my right to massage the kale. You’ll use both hands.


So why crush or massage the kale? Because doing so helps break down the very strong cell structure of the leaves. After a couple of minutes, you’ll notice a visible difference as you massage the kale; the leaves darken, they shrink and wilt and become quite silky, and most importantly, palatable. Raw kale is bitter and tough, massaging or crushing is key to enjoying it uncooked.

roast walnuts

One big take-away for me from the class was the way Kevin toasts nuts. Instead of spreading them on a dry baking sheet, like I usually do, he tosses the nuts in a little oil and salt. If you’ve ever toasted nuts before, you know that when they are done, they are dry. So dry that salt, sugar, or spice won’t stick to them. Tossing them in the oil and seasoning before toasting is so much better!

Two points I need to make: You’ll notice the recipe calls for raspberries, I didn’t have any, but they are a beautiful, colorful and yummy addition to the salad. Also, be sure to buy bunches of kale, not the bagged chopped up variety. The bagged stuff has the center ribs included, you don’t want the ribs. I used one bunch of dinosaur or black kale and one bunch of curly kale. A mix is a nice way to go.

Oh, and if you’re interested in learning more about Kevin Binkley – enjoy this great documentary.

Binkley's Crushed Kale Salad

Binkley’s Crushed Kale Salad

Toasted Walnuts

  • 1 cup raw walnut halves
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • Egg yolk from 1 small egg (or 1/2 yolk from a large egg)
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and diced shallot
  • 1/4 cup olive oil


  • 2 bunches kale (a mix of dinosaur, curly, and/or red)
  • 1 ½ cups finely shredded Parmesan, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 navel oranges
  • 1 container raspberries

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April 29, 2016   1 Comment

family pasta night

jeff marissa

Marissa and Jeff were in Mexico this past weekend for a wedding and came back through here Sunday and Monday on their way back to Austin. I decided a big pasta dish was just the thing to satisfy everyone for our Sunday dinner.


The dish uses six garlic cloves. Four are peeled and sliced and 2 are left whole. If you hate mincing a bunch of tiny garlic cloves, like I do, this is the perfect way to use those little pains. Gather them up and estimate how many make up a large clove and use them as the whole cloves in this recipe. See, I got rid of eight little ones in one fell swoop.


Meyer Lemon Spaghetti with Parmesan Chicken


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Italian seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil


  • 2 Meyer lemons, well washed
  • 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 6 large peeled garlic cloves, divided; 4 thinly sliced, 2 left whole
  • 3/4 cup Panko
  • 2 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 bunch of Italian parsley, leaves and tender stems, minced

pounding chicken

Chicken: Use This Method to pound out the chicken breasts.

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April 26, 2016   3 Comments

Dad’s Lemon Pie

Meyer lemon bunch

This is the recipe for the lemon pie that my dad requested as his birthday dessert. The recipe for the second, a bananas foster pie, can be found HERE.


I used Meyer lemons for his pie. Once Meyer lemon season has passed, regular Lisbon lemons can be used. I give you that variation in the NOTE at the bottom of the recipe.

Meyer juice

I wasn’t sure how many Myer lemons I’d need for the juice, so I picked four off my tree. My Meyers were so large, I only needed 1 and 1/2 lemons for 3/4 cup of juice! Depending on the size of yours, you might need 2 to 3 Meyers. I know the ones they sell in grocery stores are not nearly as large.

Since the Meyers were huge, I used small lemons of my Lisbon tree for the sugared lemons, either variety will work, just use lemons on the smaller side.

TIP: Since the pie is blind baked, you’ll need to cover the edge with foil to prevent it from over-browning when the lemon filling is being cooked. That is traditionally done by cutting long strips of foil and covering the edges with the strips. It’s harder than it sounds, since the strips are difficult to keep intact.

10 inch

There is an easier way – if you have a 10-inch tart pan you can use this new tip I devised while baking this pie:

tart pan

Remove the ring from a 10-inch tart pan and turn it upside down.

tart ring cover

As you can see, it sits perfectly on top of the pie crust, but it needs some foil strips added to really cover the crust.

slip over crust

The advantage is that the strips hold together easily when attached to the ring. It can then be easily slipped right on top of the pie. It holds together so much better than the old method. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!

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April 20, 2016   1 Comment

the master crimper

I made two pies for my dad’s 85th birthday dinner on Sunday. He requested a lemon pie and then Connor and I decided on a banana pie. Not any old banana cream pie, but a decadent Bananas Foster Pie – a custardy caramely luscious pie!


A little history here: Even though I hate to bake, I’ve always made my pie crusts from scratch. I guess it’s some sort of cooking instructor-pride thing. Now that I think of it, it’s stupid. I also almost never use cake mix either – nearly always making cakes from scratch. Again – kinda idiotic!

I mean, IF I loved to bake, then it would make sense to go all out, but since I don’t, what the heck?!?

crimp one

Anyhow, Connor works in the pantry station at a high-end casual restaurant – meaning he makes the salads, condiments, the Charcuterie Boards, the desserts, etc. When he was over a couple of weeks back and we were talking about Dad’s birthday dinner, I mentioned the pie. He asked me if I wanted him to do the crust. What? YES! Of course, I do!

pie crusts

So Connor came over mid-week to help me with the two pie crusts. It turns out that at his work, they use Pillsbury’s roll out pie crusts (2 to a package) from the refrigerator case.

Who Knew? The fillings for the pies are made from scratch, but not the crusts. I put aside my snobbery and in doing so, discovered that they were excellent, much more consistent and reliable than mine and “easy as pie” to use. And who was the genius who made up that saying? It’s stupid too!

Let’s change that saying to  – “they were easier than pie!” Not “easy as” but Easier!

Can you tell that baking makes me crabby?!?

master crimper

The best part? Connor is a master crimper. Way better than me. Call me impressed. I’m very proud and pleased with my boy and his pie crimping skills! It’s fun discovering all he’s learning and finding out what I can get him to do for me!

Something else – I’ve decided to try to add a video or two to this post. Not sure how well it will work or if you find it helpful or not, so let me know what you think and if you’d like me to add more video content to future posts.

dad and his pie

So back to this pie. The crust is blind baked, which can be done a couple of days before, wrapped well in plastic and refrigerated.  Also, I forgot to sprinkle the top with the pecans. You should make sure you don’t forget. Finally, it should be topped (sweetened whipped cream, caramelized bananas AND pecans) at the last-minute and you might want to enjoy it with a fun rum cocktail! That last part is just an extravagant suggestion and up to your discretion. Enjoy and Happy Birthday, Dad! xoxo [Read more →]

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April 19, 2016   1 Comment

El Alma inspired rellenos

I can’t stop thinking about the chiles rellenos I had at El Alma, while visiting Marissa and Jeff in Austin last week.

el alma rellenos


At the time, I posted about it on Facebook and my high school friend and blog follower, Cynthia said, “I just want you to come home and start making some of those recipes.”

Great idea, Cynthia!

I did. I shared it not only with my family but also with my dear friend, Tram.

So here it is!

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April 14, 2016   3 Comments

chicken tinga for Tram

Tram’s birthday was three weeks ago and we had not yet had time to get together and celebrate. Not until this past Saturday, after the twins were down for the night and Steve was at a Diamondbacks game.

Tram and fam

She had texted me the night before to see if Saturday would work and if it was OK if we stayed in and had take-out. The staying in part was perfect but the take-out … not so much.

chicken tinga

I decided to make my slow cooker version of Chicken Tinga. Chicken breasts and slow cookers aren’t something that always go together. We are so accustomed to cooking with boneless skinless chicken breasts that we sometimes forget how wonderful bone-in and skin-on chicken can be. For this recipe, the bones and the skin are a must – don’t worry – they are both removed and discarded before being served.

The bones and the skin keep the white meat from turning to shoe rubber and being dry and tasteless. They are essential for this long and slow cooking process.

tiny bones

The most important part of this recipe is to take extra time and precautions to find any and all bones and bone fragments that may be left on the meat or in the sauce. See those tiny bones and bone bits on the bottom edge of plate in the photo above? That’s what I’m talking about. Since the chicken cooks a long time, the bones get very brittle and break easily, so follow the recipe on how and when to search them out and discard them. How terrible it would be if someone choked or cracked a tooth!

drain tomatoes

Also be sure to drain the canned tomatoes well. Plenty of juices are given off by the meat and the vegetables during the cooking process. The liquid that remains already needs to be reduced, so having all that extra tomato liquid will make the process take twice as long. Plus I’ll be posting a fabulous recipe later this week where you can put the tomato juice to good use, so save it. Or freeze it and add it to your next batch of soup or pitcher of Bloody Marys.

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April 11, 2016   1 Comment