Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Mom's Albondigas Soup

As promised, I am sharing another treasured family recipe;  My Mom's Albondigas Soup (or Meatball Soup). This soup has been a tradition in my family home since I was a baby. Mom cooks up a big pot at least once a month. I did a little research and found out that Albondigas Soup dates back to the sixth century. I guess the Spanish brought it over to Mexico, hmmmm… and I thought us Mexicans invented it!
    Well you’re in for a treat with my Mom's Albondigas Soup recipe which has been passed on through the generations originating with my Great-Grandmother. It has probably seen some improvement over the years, but honestly, in my book, it has just been perfected.    
I made this soup for our Freezer Meal Swap Group a few months ago and was immediately asked for the recipe. It is hearty and perfect on a cold day. My family usually serves it with warm, homemade tortillas. 
I hope you give the recipe a try and that it becomes a favorite in your home as well!

My Mom's Albondigas Soup
Makes 1 large Pot
Serves 6

 ½ tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium size tomatoes (chopped)
½ of medium yellow onion (chopped)
10 cups of hot water
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
3-4 tablespoons chicken bouillon
2 medium size zucchini (cut into 2” rounds)
3 carrots (cut into 1” slices)
3 stalks of Celery
2 springs of mint
1 cup of cilantro

Albondigas (Meatballs):
2 pounds ground beef 80/20 blend  (or for healthier version , use ground Turkey)
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder (or 1 finely chopped garlic clove)
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder
2 eggs
10 mint leaves finely chopped
½ of medium yellow onion (finely chopped)
½ of medium tomato (finely chopped)
½ cup white rice (NOT cooked and no minute rice)
1 tablespoon cilantro (finely chopped)
½ tablespoon dried oregano

Add oil, tomato, onion to a large soup pot.   Saute at medium heat for 5 minutes

Add 10 cups of hot water. Bring to a boil.
Add pepper, garlic powder, chicken bouillon.  Bring to a boil. Taste for salt ( if you need to, 
add another tablespoon of chicken bouillon).

Reduce heat to medium and let simmer. (Do not zucchini, carrot, celery, mint or cilantro yet)

Making the Albondigas:
Add ground beef and all of the other meatball ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

Using your hands, mix meats until all the ingredients are well combined.   (like meatloaf). But do not over mix.  

Make into ice cream scoop size balls. 

Bring heat back up to high on the soup.  Carefully drop the meatballs into the soup. Do not stir otherwise the meatballs will break.  Once the soup is at boiling point, stir only once. 

Add lid and reduce heat to medium/low. Cook for 30 minutes

After the 30 minutes, add the remaining vegetables and herbs.

Bring heat back up to medium high.  Cook for an additional 20 minute.  Turn stove off, serve hot.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Birthday Cake Oreo Cheesecake "Cupcakes"

 The very first word in the name of our Blog has special meaning to us. Yvonne and I both work in a fast paced industry, where every day means a new deadline and we are continually working a year or more "in the future". Sometimes, in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of life, we forget to LIVE. This is an important reminder for us all to slow it down. To appreciate every single second, whether it's spent stuck in traffic, waiting in line at the DMV, playing with your kids, snuggling on the couch with the one you love or baking a cake....
These Birthday Cake Oreo Cheesecakes Cupcakes are a fun reminder to


** I actually prefer to use my hand mixer for this recipe. It's very important that the cream cheese is softened and that the eggs are room temperature. I usually allow a few hours for the cream cheese to come to room temp.

** Plan ahead - the cream cheese needs several hours to soften. The cupcakes need to chill 8 hours or overnight before serving. This makes a great make ahead dessert! You can make both the cheesecakes and fresh whipped cream the night before you want to serve them!

Birthday Cake Oreo Cheesecake "Cupcakes"
Makes 21 "Cupcakes

1 package Birthday Cake Oreos
2 8ounce packages of Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
Rainbow Sprinkles for garnish
Fresh Whipped Cream for topping


Preheat oven to 325f

Line two 12 cup muffin pans with paper liners (I used white so the Oreos could be visible through the bottom). Remember this recipe yields approx. 21 cupcakes so you only need to line 21 cavities.

Place a whole Oreo in each of the bottoms of the lined muffin pans. 

Place the softened cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with your electric hand mixer set at medium speed until smooth. This should take about 30 seconds if your cream cheese is well softened.

Add the granulated sugar and vanilla extra and beat at medium speed until incorporated (about 20-25 seconds).

Add the eggs one at a time, beating at medium speed just until incorporated and scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition.

Add the sour cream and mix just until combined.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Sprinkle the tops with sprinkles.

Place in the oven and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes. Check at the beginning of the bake time. The cheesecakes should look set and not jiggly but should not be puffy and cracking.

Remove from the oven and place the muffin pans on a wire cooling rack to cool. Remove the cheesecakes from the pans after about 15 minutes and place them on wire cooling racks to cool. Once the cheesecakes have cooled to room temperature, place them in a covered container and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight before serving.

To serve, garnish with fresh whipped cream and more sprinkles! Because life is better with sprinkles!!

Maybe even stick a birthday candle in just because!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

An Amazing Breakfast Hash, A Delicious Potato Gratin and A Cocktail (A San Diego Food Blogger's Cooking Challenge)....courtesy of Melissa's Produce

Yvonne and I were excited to participate in the San Diego Food Bloggers Cooking Challenge featuring products from Melissa's Produce.

If you're not familiar with Melissa's Produce already, they are the largest distributor of specialty produce in the US. Not only do they provide a wide variety of produce, but they offer several great convenience produce items as well. Leeks already sliced and cleaned? Yes, they have them! Fava Beans already cleaned and steamed? Yep! Imagine the time you can save using these conveniently prepared products.

When we received our ingredients from Melissa's Produce, Yvonne and I actually felt like we were on an episode of Chopped, only we were lucky to have some really great ingredients to work with! 

And by great I mean high-quality, convenient to use and delicious! You should have seen the look on our faces when we bit into one of the Ojai Pixies. We were not anticipating how sweet it was. I have to say, it was the most amazing tangerine I have ever tasted in my life, and that's no exaggeration. I had to rush right out the next day and get more! Trust me, you NEED to try the Ojai Pixies!!
So what do you make with so many great ingredients? Well, 3 amazing dishes of course (ok technically one is a drink, but isn't every great meal finished off with a cocktail?).
We're really pleased with the recipes that we came up with. Using Melissa's Produce high quality products definitely made a difference. We hope you give them a try!!

Thank you Melissa's Produce, Nancy Eisman and barbaracooks for organizing this great challenge.


 Chanterelle Mushroom, Quinoa and Baby Dutch Potato Gratin
Serves 4

2 Spicy Chicken Sausage links (purchased from your grocery store meat counter), casing removed
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup cooked Melissa's Red Quinoa
1 cup Melissa's Sliced, Cleaned Leeks + 2 Tablespoons to sprinkle on top
3 cups thinly sliced Melissa's Baby Dutch Potatoes

Sauce Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups half & half, room temp
1 small package of Melissa's Dried Chanterelle Mushrooms, reconstituted and chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded Sharp White Cheddar Cheese


To reconstitute the dried mushrooms - place the mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain the water (save for another use). Remove the tough, woody stems. Chop the remaining part of the mushrooms.

Butter four ramekins and place on baking sheet. Preheat oven to 375f

In a small saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Brown the chicken sausage  over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup cooked quinoa and continue to cook until sausage is cooked through. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

While the sausage mixture is cooling, make the sauce

In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over med-low heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of flour and stir/whisk until light brown. Slowly whisk in half and half. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the chopped Chanterelle Mushrooms. Bring to a boil over low heat to thicken, then remove from heat.

Layer the Gratin

1. Place a thin later of potatoes in the bottom of each ramekin
2. Spoon an even layer of the sausage/quinoa mixture over the potatoes (make sure the potatoes are covered)
3. Top with 2 tablespoon of shredded cheese
4. Top with 4 tablespoons of sauce
5. Repeat the layering process one more time
6. Sprinkle with sliced leeks

Bake uncovered at 375f  for approx. 35 minutes or until golden and bubbly and the potatoes are cooked through.

Allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve warm garnished with some chopped fresh parsley if desired.

Brussel Sprout, Baby Dutch Potato, Fava Bean and Pancetta Breakfast Hash
Serves 2-4

3 cups cleaned and halved Melissa's Baby Dutch Potatoes
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
4 ounces diced Pancetta
2 shallots, large dice
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Melissa's Steamed Fava Beans
3 cups Melissa's Baby Brussel Sprouts, halved (blemished outer leaves removed)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh Italian Parsley for garnish


Par-boil the halved Baby Dutch Potatoes in salted water over low heat for approx. 8 minutes or until just starting to turn tender. Drain and set aside.

In a cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the diced pancetta and cook until fat is rendered and pancetta is crispy. Remove the pancetta, reserving the fat in the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the diced shallots to the pancetta fat in the pan and sauté just until tender. Reduce heat to low and add the garlic. Saute for about 30 seconds or just until fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the drained Fava Beans and carefully toss to coat and warm through. Remove to the bowl with the pancetta.

Add 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil to the skillet and increase heat to medium. Add the halved Baby Brussel Sprouts, season with salt & pepper and cook stirring often for approximately 1-2 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of water and allow to cook off (this helps to ensure the Brussel Sprouts get cooked through). Add a tablespoon of butter and stir to combine.

Add the potatoes, seasoning again with salt & pepper if needed, and continue to cook for approximately 1 minute until potatoes are cooked through and Brussel Sprouts are nice and caramelized.

Add the fava bean-pancetta mixture and toss gently to combine the ingredients.

Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

To serve, cook a few sunny side eggs and serve the hash family style topped with the eggs or plate individually. The yolk from the egg creates a sauce for the potatoes. Or add a sauce (or salsa) of your own! There's a wide variety of great sauce and salsa recipes on Melissa's Website. Just click here for the Recipe Index.

Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and fresh cracked black pepper.

Beet and Tangerine Bloody Mary
Serves 2
* You'll need a juicer for this recipe

1 1/2 fresh tomatoes, juiced
2 Melissa's Ojai Pixies, juiced
2 ounces of Beet Juice (from 2 Melissa's Peeled and Steamed Baby Beets)
2 ounces Vodka
Juice from 1/2 Lime
1/4 tsp grated fresh Horseradish
Dash of Salt & Pepper


Combine all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously to combine and chill. Pour into a glass and garnish with a few Ojai Pixie slices.

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Grandmother Nina's Chicken Mole

  Faye and I have joined forces with two of our friends to do a “Freezer Meal Exchange” every 4 to 6 weeks. What this entails is everyone in the group cooks and freezes a meal for four for every member of the group. These freezer meals come in handy during the busy work when we you don't have time to cook.
I admit, I was a bit skeptical about the concept when it was presented, but honestly it is the best thing ever!  Not only do we get to eat amazing food from awesome cooks, but we also get to try recipes you never would have considered otherwise, and to top it off we get to spend quality time each month with our girlfriends for the exchange lunch.  It really is a win-win situation!
Another great thing that has come out of this cooking adventure, is the time I get to spend cooking with my mom.  I have wanted to do this for some time now, but really have not had the time. The Freezer Meal Exchange has given me the perfect vehicle to do this! Finally, I am able to actually cook with my mom and get her recipes to share on the blog instead of just sitting at the dinner table and enjoying her delicious food.  It’s been difficult through the years to get actual measurements from her since her recipes always involved "a pinch of this", "and handful of that", "should look like this", or "I don't know, it just make it". Honestly, that is years of experience talking.  Since starting this club, we have been able to cook 3 of her recipes together and hopefully more to come! 
  As for this week’s recipe, it's my Grandmother Nina's Mole recipe. What is Mole? It’s a sauce that is added to chicken. It varies in flavor and technique depending on the part of Mexico you were raised.  Traditional Mole takes lots time, lots of ingredients (including chocolate) and lots of love to make. My Grandmother’s recipe is a simplified version, probably due to raising a big family in the mountains of Mexico.  After my Mom married my Father, her Mother-in -Law (my Grandmother) taught my Mom how to make her version of this spicy goodness called Mole since my Dad loved it. so much  I have grown up on this Mole since I was a child and it is delicious!  Rich and flavorful, not spicy, just a mild chile flavor that you will definitely enjoy. It it definitely worth the time to make!
 This Chicken Mole dish was a hit with the Freezer Meal Club so make a big pot of it and freeze the rest for meals throughout the month (if it makes it to the freezer!)
  I really hope you give my Grandmother Nina's Mole  recipe a try and that it becomes a well loved traditional meal for your family, just as it is for ours.
Happy Cooking everyone!       

Grandmother and Grandfather in the 1940's

Mom 2012

Grandma Nina's Chicken Mole
Serves 4-6
For Chicken soup:
1 cut up fryer, or 8 thighs or 4 chicken breast cut in two
½ of a medium onion
2 peeled garlic cloves
½ teaspoon pepper
8-10 cups of water
3-4 tablespoons chicken flavor bouillon

For Mole Sauce:
¾ cup Flour
¼ cup California chile powder
¼ cup Paprika chile
8 ½  cups of the chicken broth (from soup you made)

Directions :
Add chicken, onion, garlic, pepper, and water to a large soup pot. 

Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add chicken bouillon and reduce heat to medium-high

     Cook for about 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

For the Mole Sauce:
     Using a large soup pot set heat to medium.  Add flour and toast.  (to toast flour, just continue to stir. It will become a nice light caramel color).  Once done, set aside and cool for 10 minutes

     Mix together, California powder, paprika with ½ cup of the chicken broth. Set aside.

     Once the toasted flour has cooled, put back on stove at  high heat. Whisk in 2 cups of the chicken broth, continue to add the remaining 6 cups of chicken broth.  Bring to boil.

     Once it is boiling, add the chile mixture you had made.  Whisking it in, reduce the heat to medium.

     Add the cooked chicken pieces and cook for another 8-10 minutes.

           Serve with Mexican rice  and warm corn torillas.



Thursday, March 13, 2014

My Favorite Red Velvet Buttercream

There are Red Velvet lovers and then there are Red Velvet haters. It's just one of those flavors that you either get or you don't. How do you even describe it? I think I have yet to come across an accurate description that actually captures the "flavor" of Red Velvet.
While I do love Red Velvet, I have never made a Red Velvet Cake or even Red Velvet Cupcakes until recently when I posted this Copycat Sprinkles Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe. However, the one thing I've always found lacking with Red Velvet was the chocolate flavor. I always wanted more chocolate...
So I thought why not capture both and let them both be the stars? Enter Red Velvet Buttercream Frosting!! I mean, where have you been all my life? It makes the perfect frosting for your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe and you don't even have to be a Red Velvet lover to enjoy it.
The secret ingredient in this recipe is Red Velvet Emulsion. Somehow, somewhere, someone found a way to capture the essence of Red Velvet in liquid form. I don't even know how to describe it other than....amazing.
I purchased my first bottle of Red Velvet Emulsion at Home Goods. It was on clearance in the Holiday section. I thought it would be one of those ingredients that just sat in my pantry unused until it expired and I would just throw it away. Until one day (one fateful day), I decided to use it and my world changed forever.
Now, you don't have to go scouring Home Goods looking for it because I just recently found out that they sell it at Walmart!
Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Red Velvet Buttercream
Adapted from Baking Robot
Makes enough for 12 cupcakes (liberally frosted)

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4- 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 - 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (use fine, not coarse)
3 teaspoons Red Velvet Bakery Emulsion + more if needed
4-5 tablespoons heavy whipping cream + more if needed

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using your hand held mixer), cream the butter at medium speed.

With mixer running, gradually add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and mix until thoroughly combined.

With mixer running, add the cocoa powder and salt. Then add the Red Velvet Bakery Emulsion.

Increase speed and continue beating. Add a few tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and beat at high speed for a few minutes until fluffy. Gradually add more whipping cream a little at a time (if needed) to reach desired consistency.

** As with all buttercream frosting recipes, the measurements really are to taste. Add more cocoa powder if you prefer a more pronounced chocolate taste. Add more Bakery Emulsion to increase the Red Velvet color and flavor. Adjust the amount of whipping cream to achieve your desired consistency. I prefer my buttercream more on the lighter/fluffier side so I usually whip the frosting for several minutes and add whipping cream as needed.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Quinoa Kale & Brussel Sprout Salad Topped with Chile Marinated Baked Chicken

Ever need a quick, easy, flavorful and impressive meal? Well, this is the meal to make. 
Last month one of my best friends from grade school was in town and I was hosting the "BF dinner".   She doesn't visit too often, but when she does, the girls all try to get together to reminisce about our 20+ years of friendship.  
I told the girls I would take care of the appetizer and main course and they were to bring dessert and wine, lots of wine :-).   The appetizer was easy, I have gotten very good at creating the perfect cheese platter, definitely a blog post for the future.  As for the main course, I had been watching a new show on The Food Network called "The Kitchen". The show is really good, worth watching.  Anyways, Marcela Valladolid was making a chicken salad that really intrigued me.  I later looked up the recipe and decided it was going to be the main course. Yes, I know the rule"you shouldn't experiment with new dishes when hosting a party", but as Faye would say, I don't stick to the rules very often, and my boyfriend would say I don't listen :-).  The good thing I figured out about this salad was that there was a lot of the steps you can make the day before.  
I modified Marcela's original recipe a bit for my taste - changed the rub (using different chilies), changed the way the chicken was cooked (she fried it, I baked) and changed the type of cheese (I used Feta instead of Cotija). 
Honestly this Quinoa, Kale & Brussel Sprout Salad with Chile Marinated Baked Chicken came out AMAZING! This is on my "Crave" list now!  The salad is flavorful, none of that bitterness you get with Kale and Brussels sprouts ( I know, but trust me, its true!).  The dressing mixture of Dijon and lemon give a great combo of creamy and tart flavor.  And the Chicken... just enough spice to leave them guessing... honestly I'm getting hungry just looking at the picture.  
I really hope you give this salad a try! Next time you are hosting your own BF girls dinner at your place, make this salad and ,trust me, you will be receiving many requests for the recipe.

Happy Cooking Everyone!

        "Friendship, good food and good wine go hand in hand "

Quinoa, Kale & Brussel Sprouts Salad with Chile Marinated Baked Chicken
Serves 4
Adapted from here

For Quinoa:

1 cup dried Quinoa

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

For Chicken:

1 ½ pounds Chicken tenders or Two large Chicken Breast (boneless)

2 teaspoons Chile Powder

1 dash of Chipotle powder

1 garlic clove (grated)

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

5 tablespoons olive oil  (3 for pan, 2 for rub)


¼ lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 small shallot finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped (I used my garlic press)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup Virgin Olive Oil

For Salad:

1 Large Bunch of kale or two small ones, stem removed and thinly sliced

12 Brussels sprouts (about 1 pound) cored and thinly sliced

2/3 cup slivered almonds (toasted)

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Prep work:
a.boil 2 cup of water in a small pan with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 pepper.  Once boiling, add 1 cup of quinoa and cover. lower heat to low.  Cook for 15-17 minutes till water has completely absorbed.   Remove from stove and cool.
b. once quinoa is cool, take a fork and fluff it up.

a.  in a 2 quart casserole pan, sprinkle 3 tablespoons of olive oil. make sure pan is completely coated.
b. combine 2 teaspoons chili powder, dash of chipotle ,garlic, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons olive oil together  to make the rub. set aside

c. take chicken (make sure its dry) and rub chili mixture onto each piece and put into pan.

d. bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
e. Remove from oven. Serve warm.
(CAN BE MADE A DAY AHEAD. Warm up in microwave 30 seconds)

3. Dressing
a. Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil into a jar and shake till dressing is nice an thick. set in refrigerator.

a. Take Kale and remove stem from the middle of each leaf. Once you have removed all the center stems, cut kale into very thin strips.

b. take Brussel  sprouts, cut in half, then core the center (I just cut each one out in a triangle shape).  Once all have been cored, cut into  very thin strips.

c. take a fry pan, and toast the almonds . (set stove at medium/high heat, add almond, stir constantly.  They are done quickly.  once you smell them.  do not burn them)(CAN BE MADE THE DAY BEFORE , EXCEPT DO NOT ADD THE ALMOND TO THE BOWL)


1. In a large salad bowl, combine quinoa, kale, brussel sprouts, almonds and all the dressing. Carefully combine till dressing has lightly coated all salad.  Add Feta Cheese, and stir.

2. Cut chicken into slices and serve on top of salad.