Tuesday, April 16, 2013


We recently slipped away to Arizona for a couple weeks and packed in lots of fun with tons of cooking, festive dinner parties and even a professional photo shoot of MOI! in my new chefs coat. Dennis, a former professional photographer, did the 'shooting' and his wife, my dear friend Diana 'staged' me--a total blast!

It was 2 weeks filled with love, laughs and incredible times with good friends in my beloved state of Arizona. We finally made it off the ground in the hot air balloon; this being our 4th attempt. What a ride!
From l to r: My husband Jerry, me, Diana, Anabel, Robb and Dennis
After ballooning at dawn over the Tortolita Mountains we settled in for a lovely and relaxing day of eating, imbibing and sharing stories with our friends. Both couples are excellent chefs so when the six of us are together we do not go hungry!
Hey, there's more to life than cooking and eating...did you think I was one-dimensional?!?!
The first recipe I want to share is a delicious hors d'oeuvre made by Anabel.

1 egg white
1 tsp. cold water
4 cups whole almonds
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
This is how Anabel tweaked the recipe: She used 2 cups of almonds (that's all she had in the house!) with one full egg white; a bit less than 1/2 cup sugar and a little less than 1/4 tsp. salt. She did use the full tsp. of water and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. She stirred and flipped every 10 minutes and let them cool completely.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Lightly grease a 10x15 inch jellyroll pan.
Lightly beat the egg white; add water, and beat until frothy, but not stiff. Add the nuts, and stir until well coated. Mix the sugar, salt, and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the nuts. Toss to coat and spread evenly on the prepared pan.
Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, stirring occasionally until golden. Allow to cool. Store in airtight container.
Here is Anabel serving her Cinnamon Almonds!
I can assure you no nuts were stored on this occasion!
Easter is one of my favorite holidays. This year I did something completely non-traditional and put together a Mexican Easter fiesta. It was so much fun to celebrate in a different way. Here are a couple highlights...
I think it was agreed by all that the favorite hors d'oeuvre was a tiny Mexican meatball made with chorizo and hamburger swimming in hot Mexican red sauce. When we're in Nogales, we live near a store that sells home-made chorizo. It's actually the gas station that happens to have an excellent selection of meats, home-made salsa and queso fresca. Fito's chorizo is spicy, but not incendiary; very flavorful and not too dry.
1/2 pound ground chorizo
1/2 pound hamburger-not the super lean kind
1/2 onion, chopped fine
2 large corn tortillas, toasted and ground
1 Egg
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Pepper
1 tsp. Cumin
3-4 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro, More cilantro for garnish
2 Tbsp. El Pato hot Mexican style tomato sauce (or your favorite brand)
More El Pato sauce for serving
Toast and grind the corn tortillas. I used a mini-max to make a fairly fine crumb. With your hands, gently mix the two meats and all other ingredients. You want to incorporate everything, but do not overmix. If the balls seem dry add a little more El Pato red sauce. If they are too loose add more corn tortilla crumb. Form small (about 1/2 inch) meatballs and set aside in the refrigerator to chill. This falls into my "do-ahead" category which is so important when putting together a big feast. When ready to cook, take the meatballs out of the fridge and bring to room temp for about a half hour. Heat a frying pan with olive oil until almost smoking. Gently drop the meatballs into the pan and cook on all sides for about 10 minutes, or until cooked through, by rolling the pan to keep the meatballs moving. Drop the meat balls into a saucepan of El Pato Hot Mexican style tomato sauce and keep warm until ready to serve. Top with more chopped cilantro. Plate and serve with toothpicks.
Meatballs are in the blue dish top right. We also had guacamole, salsa and chips and a
delicious roasted poblano quesadilla!

Our main course for Easter dinner was Shrimp and Spinach Enchiladas with a beautiful home-made Salsa Verde. This is my 'go-to' green sauce for anything Mexican. Make it thicker (less chicken/veg broth) and it's great with chips. Make it thinner as I did using the following recipe for the enchiladas and it also becomes an excellent sauce for chicken or pork. Sauce can be made a day or two ahead of time. This sauce also freezes well.
12 tomatillos, roughly chopped
1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped.)
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped (Do not touch your eyes after doing this.)
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. mole poblano (optional)
1 Roasted Poblano pepper* (also optional; I just happened to have some on hand)
Saute tomatillos and onion with salt in oil until veg is soft--about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally while veg is cooking. Add 1/2 cup stock and all other ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer 15 minutes uncovered. Cool completely. Blend all ingredients. Taste and adjust for seasoning (salt). This versatile sauce is so simple and so much better than verde sauce in the can. You can also add fresh chopped cilantro or a little green onion. If you like it spicy add some hot pepper.
 * At Easter time in Nogales big barbeques are set up early on Good Friday just outside the super market. Poblanos are roasted all day long. The air is filled with the sweet smell of peppers. These gorgeous poblanos are stuffed into zip lock bags and sold hot right off the grill!
8 large flour tortillas
1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 5 oz. package fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
9 scallions, white and a little green, sliced finely
1 8 oz. pkg. soft cream cheese
1 1/2 cups Monterrey Jack
2 cups Mexican 4-cheese blend; 1/2 cup for topping
4 Tbsp. cilantro, more for garnish
Green tops of scallion, sliced finely for garnish
Salsa Verde sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread 8 tortillas onto the counter. Divide the cream cheese between the tortillas by spreading evenly. Next divide the spinach between the tortillas covering each tortilla in a layer of spinach leaves. Divide the Monterrey Jack between the tortillas. Top with raw shrimp (if the shrimp are fairly small, do not chop, but if you have large shrimp chop them up a bit. THINK: bite size.)  Top the shrimp with 1 1/2 cups Mexican 4-cheese blend, cilantro and green onions. Hint of salt/pepper. Now you are ready to roll them up. Starting at the long side, grab the tortilla and gently start rolling pulling ingredients in with your fingers as you go. If ingredients seep out just pull them back in using your fingers until you have a nice tight roll. Place in a lightly greased baking pan seam side down. Top with a generous spread of Salsa Verde and the last 1/2 cup of Monterrey Jack. Place in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes. The picture above shows the enchiladas topped with the verde, but not the cheese. Once they are baked they get slightly browned and bubbly. Serve with extra verde sauce on the side.
The enchiladas could be served with rice and beans or a simple salad or all three! I served our enchiladas with zucchini broiled with hot spicy oil and a little cumin.
I am going to save our Easter finale for another time. It was an interesting adventure making flan and as I have said so often...It's NOT perfect every time and this time was one of those not so perfect executions, but we recovered and enjoyed a delicious rich custardy flan minus the caramel sauce. Oh well, maybe next time!
Once you wind me up I want to talk about food all day, but I know you have other things to do, too so will sign off for now.
Thank you for sharing another episode of:
Here is a peak at one of my new "professional" photos. Maybe Bobby Flay will see it and invite me on his show?!



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