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Mango-Nectarine Sangria


Mango Nectarine Sangria

Time: This shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes for one batch, but if you are making multiple batches for a party, it can be time consuming to cut up the fruit. It’s also best if you make it 24 hours or so before drinking.

Serves: This recipe yields about 5 large wine goblet sized glasses, or 8 smaller glasses.

Inspired by: I went to Joya in Palo Alto with my good friends Christine and Kristi a couple of months ago to celebrate Kristi’s birthday. The bartender gave us a taste of their peach sangria and it was yummy! It was the first time I had white sangria. I hosted a Spanish themed-party last night and finally got a chance to try something similar. Peaches aren’t in season right now, but I did find nectarines and I love mangos so decided to give that a try with ingredients similar to my red sangria recipe. We all thought this was really yummy. The flavors of the fruit really came through!


  • 1 bottle of white wine  (see notes below)
  • 1/2 cup Grand Marnier
  • 1 mango, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 nectarines, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 lime, cut into thin circles (optional – good to include if the wine is a very low acid wine)
  • ¼ cup mint leaves
  • ¼ cup sugar (optional)

Preparation: Put the Grand Marnier, wine, mango, nectarines and lime in an airtight container (ideally something easy to shake). Refrigerate it overnight and taste it the next day. If you’d like it to be a bit sweeter, dissolve the sugar in boiling water, let it cool to room temperature, add it to your sangria and shake it well. You might want to add a little bit at a time and taste it until it reaches your desired sweetness. A few hours before serving, stir in the mint leaves. Serve chilled.

Notes: Viongier or Torrontes seem like great options for this sangria because of their fabulous aromatics. However, I’ve even tried this with a fairly rich chardonnay and surprisingly, that worked just fine too. Most sangria recipes suggest adding sugar when you combine all the initial ingredients, but I thought it turned out a bit too sweet when I did this the first time. The type of wine and fruit you use will influence the sweetness, and sweetness is also a matter of personal preference. This is why I’ve suggested waiting to add the sugar after it sits overnight so you can get it to your desired sweetness.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts


Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Time: 10 minutes to prepare; approximately 15-20 minutes to cook.

Serves: 4

Inspired by: My good friend Jeanette brought these to the Thanksgiving dinner I hosted this past year. That dinner reminded me how much I love them and I’ve been making them much more often ever since. I don’t know why so many people turn up their noses to brussel sprouts. It makes me wonder if they’ve had them cooked properly. When they get roasted like this with olive oil, they get soft and even a bit sweet. I think the key is to cook them really well – I don’t even mind if they get pretty charred – yum!


  • 3 cups brussel sprouts, washed and cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • Toss the halved brussel sprouts with the olive oil on a cookie sheet or in a baking dish – keep them spread out well.
  • Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes.
  • How fast they cook depends a bit on your oven. If one side seems to be cooking much faster than the other, you can flip them over with a spatula or thongs about half way through cooking.

Kahlua Coffee Sauce over Vanilla Bean Ice Cream



Kahlua Coffee Sauce over Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Kahlua Coffee Sauce over Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Time: 10-15 minutes to make; 1 hour to cool.

Serves: 8-12

Inspired by: My mom made this for me as a kid and I loved it. I never forgot it! I have no idea where she got the recipe. These flavors are very December “holiday-ish”.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons espresso (or, the original recipe called for 1 teaspoon instant coffee)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua
  • 1 quart of your favorite vanilla bean or french vanilla ice cream

Preparation: Boil sugar and water  for 5-10 minutes until it begins to thicken. Add spices and espresso and continue boiling for about 5 minutes. Take off heat and stir in Kahlua. If you prefer the alcohol to burn off or want it to thicken a bit more, you can continue to boil it for another minute or two. Let cool to room temperature and serve over ice cream.

Papaya-Cucumber Salad


Papaya Cucumber Salad

Serves: 4-6 as a side dish

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Inspired by: Tony Khalife, amazing musician/artist. He taught me so much about the beauty and nuances of food.  This was one of those many salads that he just threw together one day because it sounded good and we had the ingredients. It has become a favorite because it balances out many of the spicy dishes I love to make, and when I’m in Mexico, which is quite often in the winter, I can easily find all the ingredients at a tiny market. It is often my contribution to potluck parties there with friends.

Ingredients – Salad:

  • Papaya  – 1 cup diced
  • Cucumber – 1 cup diced
  • Slivered almonds – 1/2 cup
  • Jicama – 1 cup diced (optional)
  • Avocado – ripe but firm (optional) – 1 cup diced

Ingredients – Dressing:

Preparation: Put all ingredients into glass bowl and toss gently (if you include avocado add this at the end). I do not normally add the spice, but this is fun if you want to add some zing.

Notes: This is an easy salad to bring to a party. Use the entire papaya with the same cucumber and almond proportions. Dice the cucumber and papaya in advance and add the almonds and dressing near serving time.

Spicy Shrimp – Pan Fried


Spicy Shrimp - Pan Fried

Time: 5 -8 minutes

Serves: 2 – 4

Inspired by: Minimal ingredients in the kitchen and being so hungry that I want to make something yummy in minutes! These are great on salad, pasta and quinoa or just to nibble on their own. Normally I prefer not to cook during a party, but I hosted a party last night and it was so easy to make these while everyone was hanging around the kitchen because it just took minutes.


Preparation: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet or saute pan. Once it is hot, add the shrimp. Sprinkle with the spice (any amount to your liking – a small amount goes a pretty long way) and cook for about 2 minutes on each side and serve.

Wine Suggestions: These are yummy with any off-dry white such as a Riesling or possibly a Viongier or Condrieu. They are also nice with a medium-bodied red with some nice fruitiness or spice such as a fairly ripe Spanish Rioja, Southern Rhone or Merlot.

Easy Chocolate Mousse

Easy Chocolate Mouse

Easy Chocolate Mouse

Time: only 10 minutes to prepare plus 5 minutes to make the whipped cream; chill for 50 minutes or longer.

Serves: 10 very small espresso cups or 6 larger servings per above picture.

Inspired By: This is a Rachel Ray recipe. I was watching a show once that had her on at the end and she whipped these up in less than 5 minutes. I love easy so I had to try it. She calls these “Chocolate Cups with Whipped Cream”. I think they are very chocolate mouse-like although perhaps a bit denser/richer. One of these days I’m going to try this with white chocolate or even butterscotch chips – I’d probably use a bit of amaretto when I do that.


  • 1 cup semi sweet chips
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons booze; amaretto, Kahlua, dark rum, hazelnut liqueur or whatever sounds good – I prefer Kahlua
  • 2/3 cup boiling milk
  • Whipping cream (plus a little sugar and vanilla to add in when whipping it)
  • Four mint leaves


  • Put your milk in a small pan on the stovetop and heat to a boil.
  • Put first five ingredients into a blender. Blend well – about 1 minute. Then stream in the boiling milk and blend until smooth – about 1 minute. The hot milk will cook the egg.
  • Pour into cappuccino or espresso cups and refrigerate for 50 minutes (or more – you can make these hours ahead, or even a day ahead).
  • Whip the cream with some sugar and vanilla (usually only 2-3 minutes).
  • Chill for 50 minutes. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and mint sprig.

Notes: These are very rich so I think they are even better with strawberries. Dip the strawberries into the chocolate – yum!!

Wine Suggestions: I would skip the wine – these are so rich, but I’ll add the same notes here I included with the chewy cherry brownies. I often hear people say they like red wine and chocolate. I can see how this might work in some unique cases of overripe, almost sweet wines, but I prefer my wine to be a bit sweeter than my dessert. I think a late harvest zinfandel or a tawny port could be awesome with chocolate, and fortified fruity wines like Banyules and Ruby Ports typically have cocoa or chocolate in the nose, as well as other berry fruits like cherry and raspberry and are classic companions to chocolate.

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