Why we started this idea????

A passion for food, wine, friends and entertaining is a big part of our life. This is a way for us to document our experiences, passion for food & life and also share it with others.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Foodbuzz 24x24: A Baja Ceviche Party

The real bummer about vacation is that "IT'S VACATION" and by definition it has to end. But it's even more of a bummer when you come home from 7 days on a lovely, warm, sunny beach returning to gray, wet, soaked, cold weather like we have during the spring in the Pacific Northwest.

In our attempt to keep that vacation sunny warm feeling alive in our heart from Mexico we decided to host a dinner party highlighting some dishes from a meal out in Todos Santos. And how delighted we are that our party proposal was picked to be part of this month's Foodbuzz 24x24 where 24 bloggers from all over the globe during a 24 hour period prepare and document dinners to be showcased all in one place hosted by Foodbuzz.

Our dinner party was inspired by both Rick Bayless and the Todos Santos Restaurant, Art & Beer as documented on our  April 14th " A Trip to Todos Santos and Art & Beer" post.

Rick's episode inspired our visit to those palapas off the highway and their wonderful ceviche tostadas inspired our dinner party last night.

So we invited some fellow ceviche loving pals over to help us bring those memories back to life.

We placed a few photos of our recent vacation about the house with the Eagle's singing Hotel California in the background to help bring the sense of place forward for our friends too.I set the table for 14 we were tight but cozy.

Our menu for the evening included almost 100% of our recipes coming from Rick's latest cookbook Fiesta at Rick's:

Mango Margaritas

Jalapeno Margaritas
G making jalapeno margaritas to order
Mexican Sangria

A variety of Mexican beers

Bacon and Tomato Guacamole & Chips

Ceviche Tostadas
Frontera Grill's Classic Ceviche- Halibut
Tropical Beach Ceviche - Scallop
Shrimp Ceviche Coctkail
Our Ceviche Tostada Bar

Fresh Shrimp Kabobs (not quite as artfully put together as the ones at Art & Beer but I tried)

Grilled Oysters with Three Sauces:
Negro Sauce, Orange-Habanero Minoneta, Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Additionally our friend Becky brought

caramelized onion and asparagus taquitos

Fresh Fruit Drizzled with Kahlua
(Confession: this dessert was on the menu, fruit prepped and ready to go but too many sangrias and lively conversation prevented us from ever getting to the dessert course last night.)

We had a great meal we started with cocktails on the patio.

We were so thankful for the rain having chosen to hold off which allowed us to spread out to the patio.

We came in and had our main course of ceviche tostadas in the dining room.

Once we were finished with our tostadas we went back out to the patio again so G could grill the oysters.

We had a great evening and although our surroundings weren't quite the same as we had experienced in Mexico it was great to share some our experience with some of our favorite people.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Strawberry Sangria Light

There are few things that I crave more when spring finally arrives here. One being fresh Washington grown strawberries. And two sangria. This strawberry sangria recipe brings them both together in one perfect craving quencher.

Since we have consciously been looking at ways to keep our daily diet a little more on the healthy side currently around here I was excited to experiment with a lighter version of sangria cutting the wine in half by adding soda water in it's place and omitting sugar all together. With strawberries this fresh and sweet no extra sugar is needed trust me you won't miss it.

I love how simple and free you can get with a sangria recipe. Clean and slice some of your favorite fruit combinations. For this one I went with strawberry as the main flavor component. Added some blueberries as well because I love the combo of strawberry and blueberries mixed together. Then I added one half of both a lemon and a lime because with white sangria especially I always like to add a bit of citrus. Sometimes I go with mint as a contrast but since I planted 2 basil plants recently I went with basil this time. I really like the way strawberries and basil play together.

For wine  I went with a Columbia Crest Pinot Gris. I typically use a Sauvignon Blanc or Fume' Blanc but I had this on hand. And given I was adding soda water I didn't want to splurge on the wine. 

The experiment was a hit. A light, fresh and fruity sangria perfectly refreshing.

I was a bit too anxious to give my experiment a try to let the fruit sit in the wine as long as I think it would of really needed to bring out the flavors fully. But even after 3 hours the fruit flavor was there. Pretty sure we'll continue to make lots of non-light sangria recipes in our future but when we do want to be intentional in making sangria a bit more healthy it's great to have a recipe to turn to.

Strawberry Sangria Light Recipe:

  • 1/2 bottle of pinot gris, sauvignon blanc or fume' blanc wine
  • 3 cups soda water
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 pint blueberries
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced
  • 1/2 lime, sliced
  • several sprigs of basil

  • Add fruit and basil to the wine and add 3 cups soda water. Let sit for at least 3 hours in the fridge but preferably over night so fruit soaks up the wine and wine becomes infused with the fruit flavor.

    Wednesday, April 25, 2012

    All About Wine on Wednesday

    JB Neufeld 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

    Vintage:                 2009

    Winery:                  JB Neufeld

    Wine Region:         Yakima, Washington (Red Mountain’s Artz Vineyard)

    Price:                         $30ish  (found on sale for $25 @ Met Market)

    Smell:                        Black berries, chocolate and a bit of spice

    Taste:                         Luscious, full, fine tannins

    Served with:             Our “go to” Fajita Steak Salad

    Overall Impression:  Wonderful Cab, big, perfectly balanced, really liked this

    Occasion for wine: Any occasion is an occasion for wine at our house lately!

    G’s Final Comments: “Had been wanting to give this 100% cab a try since I’m such a huge fan of Red Mountain wines.”

    T’s Final Comments: “I additionally really like this wine. Seems like it’s been awhile since we’ve tried a NEW Cabernet that got me saying…oh this is good”

    Overall Rating: 4

    Monday, April 23, 2012

    Grilled Rack of Lamb with Honey-Pasilla Glaze...Oh How We Love Rick Bayless

    With some beautiful weather hitting us it was time to break out the patio furniture and get grilling. And this meal followed that very familiar Mexican theme again, and again inspired by Rick Bayless. What can we say...we are fairly boring predictable I suppose.We just can't get enough of the flavors his recipes bring to us.

    It was a grilling kind of evening but we weren't in the mood for steaks, fish or burgers so when we found this recipe for Grilled Rack of Lamb with Honey-Pasilla Glaze in his Fiesta At Ricks cookbook and we knew it would be love at first inhale.

    In typical RIck Bayless fashion our dried pasilla chiles were first roasted then soaked back to softness to make the Honey-Pasilla Glaze.

     Once reconstituted the chiles were mixed with some spices, vinegar and honey to make a rich and thick glaze for the lamb to be first marinated in and then basted with on the grill.

    Double the flavor.

    While the lamb marinated we made another of Rick's recipes from Mexican Everyday: Roasted Pepper Salad with Butter Lettuce and Creamy Queso Anejo Dressing.

    We started by roasting the peppers on the grill for the salad.

    The flavor in this salad was so delish. If you love roasted peppers you'll love this salad.

    We also made his recipe for Gulf Coast-Style White Rice Pilaf with additional roasted poblano added to the recipe for a side.

    It was a fantastic "The Patio is Open...we're grilling again" kind of meal.

    To celebrate we opened one of our splurge wines from the basement cellar a 2006 Spanish Clio made with 100% Granache.



    Grilled Rack of Lamb with Honey Pasilla Glaze

    Serves 4
    Recipe from Fiesta At Ricks and linked on Rick's website here


    6 garlic cloves
    6 (about 2 ounces total) dried pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into flat pieces
    1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
    1/8 teaspoon cumin, preferably freshly ground
    1/4 cup honey
    2 tablespoons vinegar (I prefer balsamic here)
    2 lamb racks (each should have 8 rib bones and weigh about 1 3/4 to 2 pounds)
    Olive or vegetable oil to brush or spray on the racks
    1 small red onion, finely chopped
    About 1/4 cup Mexican queso añejo or another garnishing cheese like Romano or Parmesan
    Flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish


    1. The pasilla marinade. Roast the unpeeled garlic on one side of a large skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until soft and blackened in spots, about 15 minutes; cool and peel. While the garlic is roasting, toast the chile pieces a few at a time on another side of the skillet, pressing them down firmly with a spatula for a few seconds, until they release a toasty aroma, then flipping them, and pressing down the other side. Scoop the chiles into a small bowl, cover with hot water and soak 30 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the soaking water.
    In a food processor blender, combine the chiles, 1/3 cup of soaking liquid, garlic, oregano, pepper, cumin, honey, vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt. Blend to a smooth pure, scraping down and stirring frequently. Press through a medium-mesh strainer into a small bowl.

    2. Marinate the lamb. Lay the meat into a baking dish. Smear both sides of the racks with about 1/3 of the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, if time permits.

    3. The salsa. Stir enough water into the remaining marinade to give it drizzleable consistency—it usually takes at least 1/4 cup. Cover and set aside at room temperature (or refrigerate if not using within a couple of hours).

    4. Grill the lamb. Light a gas grill, setting the temperature at medium-high on one side, medium-low on the other; or light a charcoal fire, letting the coals burn until they’re covered with white ash but still very hot, then bank them to one side. Using the side of a spoon, scrape the marinade off the meat, reserving it for basting later. Brush or spray the lamb racks with oil and lay them, meaty “cap”-side down, onto the hottest part of the grill, when they are well seared (“marked” with the grill grate pattern, as we say in the restaurant kitchen), about 2 minutes, flip them over and sear on the boney underside. Baste the top with the reserved marinade, then move them to the cooler part of the grill and let them cook until as done as you like, usually about 5 minutes for medium-rare.

    5. Serve. It’s best to let the meat rest for a few minutes on a very cool part of the grill or in a very low oven, to reabsorb the meat’s tasty juices. Then slice the chops between the bones. Drizzle a little of the salsa on each of 4 warm dinner plates and sprinkle with the onion. Arrange the meat over the top and sprinkle with the cheese and parsley leaves. Serve right away.


    Friday, April 20, 2012

    Chipotle Chorizo Chicken

    Why did it take us so long to learn that chicken thighs are so much more tasty than chicken breasts? Not really sure. I'll guess that it had something to do with that "chicken breasts are healthier" type thing. Regardless how long it's taken we are now fully on the chicken thigh bandwagon.

    Chicken thighs are much more flavor filled and moist than breasts. And additionally they are far less expensive as well.

    So when we put chicken thighs together with two of our favorite flavors chipotle and chorizo you can't go wrong for our pallets.

    Seasoning the chicken initially with some smoked paprika adds another depth of flavor that is fantastic.

    The chicken thighs are first seared to give them color and flavor.

    After cooking the chorizo and then starting the veggies with the chipotle the thighs go back into the Dutch oven (or in this case the French oven.)

    This chunky version of guacamole is a perfect cooling element to the dish. We love that for this dish we keep it chunky as opposed to the "mashed" type version we typically make in our mocajate.

    This is a flavor packed midweek meal that keeps our taste buds Happy. If you like similar flavors I'm guessing yours will be happy too!
    Give it a try.


    Chipotle Chorizo Chicken ( Adapted from Rachael Ray's Chipotle Chicken Thighs with Chunky Guacamole )


    • 4 pieces bone-in chicken thighs
    • Smoked sweet paprika or paprika
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    •  1/3 ground Spanish chorizo, casing removed and crumbled or chopped
    • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
    • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, seeded and finely chopped, plus a tablespoon adobo sauce
    • 1 (15-ounce) can fire roasted tomatoes
    • 1 (7 -ounce)can Mexican tomato sauce (we use El Patio)
    • 1 cup chicken stock
    Chunky Guacamole
    • 2 slightly under-ripe avocados
    • 2 limes , juiced
    • Salt
    • 1 jalapeno, seeded and very thinly sliced
    • 1 vine-ripe tomato, seeded and coarsely chopped
    • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
    • 1/2 small white, chopped or thinly sliced


    Season chicken with paprika and salt and pepper, to taste. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil, a couple of turns of the pan, in a Dutch oven or large high-sided skillet with a lid. Add the chicken and brown on all sides. Remove the chicken to a plate and spoon off the excess fat. Add the chorizo and brown a couple of minutes, then remove it to a plate. Stir in the carrots, onions, garlic, thyme and chipotle, and cover the pot. Reduce heat a bit, and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes and sauce  bring to a bubble, then add the chicken and the chorizo back to the pot and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes more to cook through. Cool completely and store in the refrigerator for a make-ahead meal.

    To reheat, add 1 cup of stock to the chicken in a Dutch oven and cover with a lid. Cook over medium heat, until the sauce bubbles, then gently stir and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

    Halve and gently dice the avocados into large chunks. Add them to a small bowl and douse with the lime juice. Season with salt, to taste, and lightly mash.

    Monday, April 16, 2012

    GCC: Shrimp Au Gratin

    Let's be honest! Monica had me at "Gratin" this week with our Gutsy Cooks Club recipe choices.

    I mean really what could compete with shrimp, cream and delicious comte' cheese. It was a very easy choice for me.
    G on Crystal Mountain- Mt. Rainier in background.
    He looks pretty happy!
    My honey was enjoying the sunshine on the mountain. Sadly for this fair weather skier it would have been a perfect day for me to have went with him. But having still not completely unpacked from Mexico yet I felt a weekend at the mountain would of made my stress level increase in feeling even more behind on the home front. So he skied... I made a yummy dinner for him to return home to. How domestic of us.

    This recipe is from Emeril via the blog Cooking in Sens.

    I went up to The Met and picked out these lovely, pre-cleaned Black Tiger Shrimp. I only had to remove the tails and they were ready to go. Love that.

    I also picked up the comte' cheese that that "Cooking in Sens" recommended. I mean hey it's a French inspired dish, they were cooking in Sens, France ...I trusted them as to what cheese would be best to use. Comte' is a French cows milk cheese very similar in taste and texture to a Gruyere.

    Not having or being a big fan of creole' seasoning I made my own concoction mixing a bit of Johnny's Seasoning with our favorite Smoked Paprika to season the shrimp before sauteing them in butter and oil. (Yeah, this isn't exactly a heart friendly recipe.)

    After the shrimp were sauteed I divided them amongst 2 petite cast iron skillets.

    I prepared the gratin mixture. It smelled immediately heavenly. G arrived home at this point in the meal preparation and said the aroma was only increasing his hunger after his great day "climbing the King." The gratin mixture went over the shrimp.

    I finally added some bread crumbs and a bit more of the comte' cheese before putting them in the oven for 18-20 minutes.

    The came out bubbling hot. But after sitting a few minutes and garnishing with some chopped chives they looked and smelled AMAZING!

    We served the shrimp with some chipotle roasted red potatoes (more about this side dish in a future post.Yum! Worth sharing)  and steamed green beans.

    The shrimp au gratin was as you can imagine quite rich but also very good. The dish paired perfectly with our favorite Washington Chardonnay, by Corvidae Cellars; Mirth.

    Warning! I only lightly sauteed the shrimp before putting them in the dishes knowing they'd cook more in the sauce and this is a key component of the dish. If you were to over saute the shrimp they would be far too overcooked after the oven and become tough.  This would definitely ruin the dish

    The recipe made 3 times more than we could eat. We only ate about 1/4 of our gratin. We plan to use the left overs to pour of pasta later this week.




    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and lightly grease 8 (6 or 8-ounce) shallow ramekins or gratin dishes.

    In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter over high heat until hot. Season the shrimp with the Essence, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper and add them to the hot pan. Cook quickly, turning once, until lightly golden on both sides, 30 seconds to 1 minute per side. Divide the shrimp evenly among the ramekins and set aside.

    In a small saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the remaining butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the flour, whisk to combine, and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes or until fragrant -- do not allow flour to brown. While whisking constantly, add the milk and heavy cream in a thin, steady stream, until mixture is very smooth. Cook, stirring, until sauce comes to a gentle boil, thickens and any floury taste is gone, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the lemon juice, 1 cup shredded cheese, chives, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat and spoon the sauce evenly over the shrimp in the ramekins.

    In another small saucepan melt the remaining tablespoon of butter. Remove from the heat and add the butter to the bread crumbs. Toss to thoroughly combine. Sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded cheese evenly among the tops of the ramekins and then divide the buttered crumbs evenly among the tops of the ramekins.

    Place the ramekins on a large baking sheet and bake until golden brown and bubbly, 15 to 18 minutes.