Agua Fresca de Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)


Agua fresca de jamaica is tea made from dry hibiscus flowers. Starbucks sells this tea with a blend of passion fruit, mango, and lemongrass.  I like to stay true to the flavors used in agua fresca, by using cinnamon sticks and a squeeze of lime. You’re probably asking yourself, where do I get dry hibiscus flowers? Well, head on over to the Mexican food market. There you can find loose hibiscus flowers, but you’ll have to ask for it as “jamaica”, and no, you don’t say it how you pronounce that beautiful island, its more like “ham-I-kah.”  

Once you bring home your dry leaves, brew up a big batch for the price of one tall cup from Starbucks tea, keep remaining tea cool in the fridge and just keep pouring as needed. No return trip to Starbucks needed. :)

4C of water
3/4C of sugar (you can add more if you like your tea sweeter)
1C dried hibiscus flowers
1/2 cinnamon stick (optional)
4C of ice water
2T Lime juice (optional)
lime slices for garnish

Put 4 cups of the water, cinnamon, and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat until boiling and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat. 
Stir in the dried hibiscus flowers.
Cover and let sit for 20 minutes. 
Strain into a pitcher and discard the hibiscus flowers and cinnamon stick.

Add remaining 4 cups of ice water to the concentrate, and chill.  Add a little lime juice for a more punch-like flavor.
Serve over ice with a slice of lime.

For a fizzy treat, use soda water instead of the 4 cups of ice water.

Chicken Satay with a Peanut Dipping Sauce Recipe


Who needs take out when you can make this dish quickly, and for a fraction of the cost at home. The flavors hold true to Thai chicken satay and the peanut sauce is a creamy and sweet addition to the dish that takes it to another level. Your weekday chicken dinner has just been taken up a notch. 

You’re welcome. ;)

Chicken Satay-

1/2C coconut milk
1 clove garlic, minced
1t curry powder
1 1/2t brown sugar
1/2t salt
1/2t ground black pepper
1lb skinless, boneless chicken tenders
Stir together 1/2 cup coconut milk, garlic, 1 teaspoon curry powder, brown sugar, salt, and pepper until the sugar has dissolved. Add chicken to the mixture, cover, and marinate for at least 2 hours.
Preheat grill at medium-high heat.
Skewer the marinated chicken, grill for 4 - 5 minutes per side, or until cooked through.
Serve with warm peanut sauce.

Peanut Sauce- 

1C- coconut milk
1T curry powder
1/2C creamy peanut butter
3/4C chicken stock
1/4C brown sugar
2T lime or lemon juice
1t soy sauce
Salt to taste

Bring 1 cup coconut milk, curry powder, peanut butter, chicken stock, and cup brown sugar to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice and soy sauce; season to taste with salt.


Frozen Gin and Tonic Recipe

This is what happens when a Southern California girl experiences her first summer in Phoenix. She makes cocktails in a slushy form. The recipe is easy enough, it’s a traditional gin and tonic with some added sugar for sweetness. You will need an ice cream maker to get the sorbet to the right consistency, but if you have one handy. You’ll be all set. 
2t of lime zest
2T of lime juice
1/2C  sugar
1/3C  gin 
30 ounces of tonic water 
Place the zest and sugar in a small bowl and using a wooden spoon crush them together. Allow the zest to infuse with the sugar for 30 minutes.
Transfer the sugar/zest mixture to a deep pitcher. Stir in the gin and  lime juice.
Slowly pour in the tonic water and stir to dissolve the sugar.
Refrigerate, covered, until chilled. 
Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze until the mixture is turned into a loose sorbet. Transfer to a plastic container, cover and freeze for 30 minutes so the sorbet can set. 

Serve with a garnish of lime and enjoy. 

Turkey Larb Recipe


Commonly made with pork or duck, i’ve taken a classic Thai dish and added a healthy spin by making it out of turkey. It eliminates some of the fat, but keeps all the flavor. Traditionally a meat salad served over lettuce leaves, serving it with rice makes it a complete meal for my carb-oholics I have at home. They love it and although they don’t like the smell of fish sauce in the house, they love the tanginess and sweetness in the dish. 

Turkey Larb Recipe: 

1/2 lb. ground turkey 
1/4C onion, diced
2 T fish sauce for frying chicken
juice of 1 lime 
1 T brown sugar
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 fresh minced green chili
1/2 t dried crushed red pepper flakes
3 green onions, sliced 
1 small red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
oil for stir fry

Place 2 Tbsp. oil in a wok over high heat. Add the diced onions, and ground turkey. As you stir-fry, add the fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, cayenne, green chili, and pepper flakes. 
If the wok becomes dry, add a bit of water. 
Stir-fry until turkey is cooked, about 8 minutes.
Toss in bell peppers, garlic, and green onions (reserve some green onions for garnish), sauté for an additional 2 minutes to warm the veggies. 

Garnish with green onions and serve with white rice.


Cake Batter Ice Cream Recipe


I love cake batter ice cream. I mean, what’s not to love. Its ice cream that tastes just like cake! But what exactly makes ice cream taste like cake? Just like adding vanilla beans, or chocolate, or strawberries, one adds cake mix to get cake batter ice cream. Yes!! It really is that simple. No more trips to the local premium ice cream shop. Now you can make your favorite ice cream at home. Well, almost… You still need an ice cream maker and a bit a patcience since ice cream needs a good amount of time to set after being made. It’s worth the wait because this ice cream is creamy and full of cake flavor. I like to add sprinkles to dress up the ice cream, because everything is better with sprinkles. 

Ice Cream Recipe

1C- milk

1/2C- white sugar

2- egg yolks, slightly beaten

2C- heavy cream

2t- vanilla extract

3/4C- white cake mix, sifted

2T sprinkles, not the nonpareils (they bleed)

In a sauce pan set to medium heat, add the milk, sugar, egg yolks, heavy cream, vanilla, and cake mix.  Whisk the mixture while on the heat until well combined. You shouldn’t have any visible clumps. Continue to whisk to avoid burning the mixture. Heat until the milk reaches a temperature of 160 degrees. The milk will now be thick like a custard. Remove from heat, and transfer to another bowl. Once cooled, cover with plastic wrap and cool completely in the fridge. Once cooled, transfer the custard to your ice cream maker and churn at low speed until the custard is the consistency of soft serve. Transfer the soft serve to lidded plastic container, cover with plastic wrap and cover the container with the lid. Allow the ice cream to completely set in the freezer for at least 3 hours. 

While I wait for the ice cream to set, I like to make fun sugar cones for the kids. The ones below are store bought Keebler cones that have been rimmed with white chocolate and nonpareils sprinkles. 


Pretzel Dog Recipe


Sometimes I crave a blast from the past, a childhood favorite. Today I wanted to transport myself back to the days I would wander around the local mall with no agenda. Just walk around with a few friends grab a bite, and have a good time. Many times that bite would consist of a pretzel dog. Those buttery, soft, and slightly salty pretzels, who could resist? I know I couldn’t.  
Instead of heading to the mall and grabbing some pretzel dogs, I like to make my own. Not much healthier than the mall, but at least I know what’s in them. I like to use Hebrew National dogs, because not only do they taste better, they use premium beef (they are kosher dogs). And who doesn’t like a home that smells like freshly baked bread. They should package that scent in a plug-in and sell it! I would be the #1 customer. :)
These take a little time, but like they say, “All good things are worth waiting for.” These are no exception. 

Pretzel Dogs- 

1 1/2C- warm milk
2T- brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2t- kosher salt
4 1/2 to 5C- all-purpose flour
12 Hebrew National Hot Dogs 
Vegetable oil
3 quarts water
3T baking soda
1 egg, beaten with 1T of cold water
Pretzel Salt, or coarse sea salt

Line half sheet pans with parchment paper and spray with vegetable spray.

Combine the milk, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until bubbly.

Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough does not pull away from the sides of the bowl, it is too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it starts to pull away from the sides. Continue to knead the dough for 4 more minutes until soft. 

Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough and coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Bring the 3 quarts of water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and add the baking soda.

Remove the dough from the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-oiled surface, and roll into a 10x20-inch rectangle.
Cut the dough into 18 1-inch wide strips, then wrap each strip tightly around a hot dog in a spiral, pinching the edges to seal, and leaving the ends open. Dip 2 or 3 dough-wrapped hot dogs into the boiling water for 30 seconds.
Arrange the boiled hot dogs on the prepared baking sheets. Brush each pretzel dog with the egg yolk mixture, and sprinkle with pretzel salt.
Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and enjoy.


Agua de Sandia- Watermelon Water

This is our first summer in AZ, and boy is it HOT! Some days we reach 113 degrees, and the nights don’t cool down much, as we stay in the 80’s (SIGH)
Here, let me give you an example,  It’s been so hot out here since the start of the summer that the water in our pool registers 93 degrees! 93!!! That’s just not right. :( So, much for jumping in the pool. Right now it doesn’t help much. So, we stay indoors and I make agua fresca for the family. A refreshing fruit beverage that can be made with cantaloupe, tamarind, and even watermelon. The sweetness of the fresh fruit served over ice is refreshing and is just what this girl needs to keep cool in this Phoenix heat. 

Agua Fresca de Sandia-

3C- seedless watermelon, diced 
4C- cold water for blending 
1/4C- sugar, or as needed.
6C- cold water
Lime wedges

Puree the diced watermelon with 4 cups cold water in blender. Blend until smooth, and then pour into a pitcher. Add the final 6 cups cold water and add sugar. Sweeten to taste. Taste for sweetness as you go, since you also have to take into account the sweetness of the watermelon. 
Serve, and garnish with lime wedges.

Jalapeño Latkes Recipe

My family and me have been sick for the past few days. It started with me, went on to my husband, and now my two daughters are the latest victims of this bug. I’ve been sick for about a week now, and although I feel better, i’m just not 100% yet. For that reason, my brain tends to crave carbs. Hooray for carbs! I don’t know why but they make me feel better. I know I should have chicken soup, but I just don’t want it. I want something comforting, and quick. With chicken soup, although I can throw everything in the pot, requires diving in the fridge for veggies, and prepping the chicken, and then waiting. Ugh, the waiting… can you tell that my patience is limited? I blame the sickness. 

So what’s a cranky girl to do? Make potato pancakes, of course. Carbs…  check, spicy… check, quick… check. I can feel my happiness coming back already. I love making these little bites of happiness for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It really goes well at any time of the day. They are quick, and spicy because, you know, I wouldn’t be me without some spice. I served them with a fried egg, because fried eggs make everything better. :)

1 large baking potato, peeled

1/2 of a small onion, peeled

1/2 a large jalapeño pepper, diced

1/4C flour

1t baking powder

3/4t kosher salt

1/4t black pepper

1 large egg, lightly beaten

oil for frying

fried eggs to serve 

Using a box grater, grate the onion and potato. Transfer the shredded mixture and diced jalapeño to a cheese cloth and squeeze out as much water as possible. I must warn you, the onion juice makes me cry a bit while draining.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking power, salt, pepper, and eggs together. Stir in the potato mixture until all pieces are evenly coated. 

In small a small skillet heat two tablespoons of oil. Drop a quarter of the mixture into the skillet and flatten with the back of the spatula to the desired diameter of the potato cake. Cook on medium-high heat until the edges are golden brown. Flip the cake and cook on the other side until the edges are golden as well. 

Repeat the process with the remaining mixture working in batches, add more oil as needed. Transfer latkes to a dish and prepare your fried eggs. 

*Note: You can keep latkes warm in the oven at 250 degrees, on a parchment lined baking sheet. 

Torta de Milanesa

Here we go again… I’m making Mexican food. I must really be feeling homesick because I have a whole week of Mexican food planned out. Torta de Milanesa today, Torta Ahogada tomorrow, carne asada, sopes, and so on.  I’m not sure if my hubby had ever had a torta de milanesa before, so today he gets to try one. He loved it. I mean, what’s not to love… you take a chicken fried steak and shove it between bread and call it a sandwich. This is up there with some of my all time favorite sandwiches.

2 eggs
1 can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
6 beef bottom round steak cutlets
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1/2C all purpose flour
1-1/2C ground oatmeal
Oil for frying 
6 bolillos
1C refried beans
1/2C mustard
1/2C sour cream
1 can of pickled jalapeño peppers 
12 tomato slices
6 romaine lettuce leaves
1- sliced avocado

Mix eggs and 2T of adobo sauce in a medium sized flat bowl or baking dish. Set aside.
Set up your dredging flours: Place the flour and oatmeal in two separate flat dishes.
Line up the meat on a cutting board in a single layer, place a layer of plastic wrap over the meat and pound with a meat tenderizer until 1/4” thick. Remove plastic cover and season with salt and pepper on both sides. 
Heat oil in a 12” skillet over medium- high heat. 
Dredge the meat in the flour, shaking off any excess flour remaining on the meat. Dip in the egg and chipotle mixture (also shaking to remove excess egg of the meat), and finally dip in the ground oatmeal.
Fry steak cutlets, turning once, until golden brown on both sides. Using tongs, transfer to paper towel to drain.
Slice your bollios in half and spread beans, mustard, and sour cream on one side of  bread. Continue to layer with the steak, lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado slices. 
Top with the other side of the bread to finish off the torta. Serve with a nice cold beer,  agua fresca, or any beverage really, it’s delicious! 


Singapore Noodles

There are several instances where I purchase specialty items that I need for one recipe. Many times the ingredients get pushed back in the pantry, and I forget all about them. Right when I purchased Mai Fun rice noodles I knew this was going to be one of those items.  I had made some vietnamese spring rolls earlier in the week and I made a point to make something else with them before the week was over. 
I decided to give the Singapore noodle recipe in my Le Cordon Bleu notebook a shot. It had been a while since I made anything from the notes in my cooking notebook, and I was excited to revisit some of the things I learned how to make. The recipe is simple and you can make it all in one wok, but I find that sometimes the egg gets soggy if added and scrambled in the single wok. This is a fool proof way to get it right. 
The recipe below has a few tweaks from the original LCB recipe, for instance using low sodium products and the addition of mushrooms, well because, they were in my fridge. :)

1 (6-ounce) package of Mai Fun noodles
1/2C - low-sodium chicken broth
3T - low-sodium soy sauce
1t- sugar
1/2t- salt
Cooking spray
1T oil 
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2C- red bell pepper strips
1/4C- mushrooms, sliced thin
1T- grated peeled fresh ginger
1/4t- crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast, thinly sliced
1T- curry powder
8 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2C- green onion in 1” slices

Cook rice noodles according to package directions.

Combine broth, soy sauce, sugar, and salt; stir until sugar dissolves.
Heat a large nonstick skillet or a wok, over medium-high heat; coat pan with cooking spray. 
Add 1 teaspoon of oil, egg; stir-fry until scrambled egg consistency. 
Remove from pan, and set aside. Wipe pan clean with a paper towel. 
Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat.
Add bell pepper strips, mushrooms, ginger, crushed red pepper, and garlic; stir-fry 15 seconds. 
Add chicken, and stir-fry for 2 minutes. 
Add curry powder and shrimp; and stir-fry 2 minutes. 
Stir in noodles, broth mixture, and egg; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. 
Sprinkle with green onions and serve.