Red Lentil Piquillo Pepper Bisque

This is a truly delightful and velvety smooth soup!  It has incredible flavor with blended piquillo peppers, tomato, lentils, manchego cheese and toasted almonds!


I made this soup on Wednesday and brought it to the farmers market to let my favorite ceramic artists Tom and Jasper to taste.  They shared it with two other guys and they gave me four thumbs up!  Yayyyy, I love feedback, especially positive feedback.

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of meeting a fellow food blogger that I admire very much!  Her name is Pang from the fantastic blog “Circa Happy“!  If you don’t know about Circa Happy, I highly recommend it!  She has to be one of the sweetest people/blogger out there and her photography is out of this world!  She is so sweet in person and it shows in her posts.  It is so awesome to meet someone that you have only communicated with through the internet.  We met up in San Jose for lunch and a little shopping at a very cool outside mall called Santana Row.  We talked about everything and of course food photography and blogging.  We plan to meet again!   The best part about making a big batch of soup is that it is so nice to be able to heat some up after a long day out and call it a night!


I enjoy this with a red Rioja and a white rioja, so it pretty much goes with any dry red or dry white wine.


Recipe: Approx. 8 – 10 servings

Piquillo Puree

  • 1 10 oz. Jar Piquillo Peppers (without sugar add) – rinse and remove seeds
  •  1 Cup Strained Tomatoes (I used Bionaturae in a glass jar) or 1 Large Tomato – grated, skin discarded
  • 1/2 cup Toasted Almonds
  • 1/2 Cup Manchego Cheese ( I used raw aged 12 months – Mitica)
  • 1 Tablespoon Sherry Vinegar
  • 2 Teaspoons Hot Paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon Sea Salt


  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 White Onions – diced
  • 4 Garlic Cloves – minced
  • 1 Bouillon Cube – vegetarian – unsalted
  • 1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 2 Cups Red Lentils, -sorted  and rinsed
  • 8 Cups Filtered Water

Garnish (optional, but so good)

  • Red Cabbage – thinly sliced
  • Creme Fraiche
  • Toasted Almonds – roughly chopped


Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F

Toast almonds – spread out on a cookie sheet and bake on the middle rack for 18 minutes (put a timer on so you don’t burn).   Let cool, then roughly chop.

While almonds are toasting, dice the onion and add to a 4 to 5 1/2 quart soup pot or dutch oven along with the olive oil.  Sauté on medium heat.
Mince the garlic and add to onions and sauté for about 10 – 15 minutes or until garlic is slightly golden.
 Add wine and bouillon.  Mash bouillon cube to dissolve and cook until wine is syrupy.
While onions are cooking, measure lentils, sort for any rocks and rinse.  Set aside.
When the onions are finished cooking, add water and lentils.  Turn to up heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.  Cook for about 20 minutes or until lentils are soft.
While lentils are cooking, make the piquillo puree.  In a food processor or blender; puree the piquillo peppers, crushed tomato sauce (if using a tomato, cut in half and grate on a cheese grater with the cut side of the tomato down), almonds, cheese, vinegar, paprika and salt.  Add the puree to soup when the lentils are finished cooking.
Puree with a hand held blender (immersion blender) or you can use a food processor but it won’t be as smooth.
Health benefits:
Piquillo peppers are a high source of fiber, and Vitamins C, E, A, and B.  The vitamin C content is as high as a citrus fruit.  They improve the blood circulation and reduce high blood pressure.  They also help reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol and promote healthy cholesterol.
Lentils have very high levels of soluble fiber and a good amount of insoluble fiber, which is a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels giving you a steady steam of energy.  A half-cup provides about a third of the daily requirements.  Not only is the fiber good for your heart the amount of folate and magnesium is very beneficial for cardiovascular health.  They are loaded with an impressive amount of blood-fortifying iron and when paired with a food containing vitamin C, like citrus fruits or peppers the iron is enhanced, which can also increase your energy.  They are also a good source of potassium, calcium, zinc, niacin and vitamin K.  They are truly a nutritional fountain of youth.

Emerald Agave Margarita

Healthy margarita anyone?!  A fresh cucumber and cilantro margarita I call the  “Emerald Agave”!  When you see the color you’ll know why I wanted to name the drink after the “Emerald City”. Click your heels three times and you’ll be transported to another place!


 I am a personal fan of Casamigo’s Tequila, it is so smooth and I particularly like the mineral flavors that come out in the blanco.  This tequila goes well with the savory marg.


Recipe: Makes an 8oz. Cocktail    

  •  2 oz. Casamigos Blanco Tequila
  • 1oz. Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 1oz. Agave Syrup
  • *2oz. Cucumber Cilantro Juice

Profile: Classic/Original Recipe ~  Refreshing & Citrusy

Glass:  Margarita, Martini or a Double rocks glass  

Garnish:  Lime wheel

*Cucumber Cilantro Juice

Recipe:  Makes 2 Cups

  • 1 English Cucumber
  • 2 Cups of Cilantro Leaves (about 2 handfuls)
  • 2 Cups Purified Water


Blend all ingredients in a blender and strain*  or Use a juicer without the water then strain.

Strain all Ingredients twice through a fine mesh strainer.

If you don’t have either, use your muddler and smash the hell out of the cucumber and then add cilantro, shake with the water then strain through strainer;)



Make your *cucumber cilantro juice ahead of time and set aside.  Add all ingredients to a shaker, shake for 5 seconds and strain over ice into cocktail glass (salted rim optional)

Use an 8 oz cocktail glass or serve up as a tequila martini with a salted rim

A Guide About The Skin and A Natural Skin Care Regime

The skin consists of three main layers: the Epidermis, the Dermis and the Superficial Fascia or Subcutaneous.  The skin is the largest organ of the body and will absorb anything you apply to your face.  Therefore, the products you use should be natural and free of chemicals.  The face and neck are the thinnest areas of the skin, the palms and soles are the thickest.


The Epidermis is the outer skin layer, which has five sub layers that are constantly shedding old cells and rebuilding new ones.  The new cells push the old cells towards the surface.

The Dermis is where the collagen and elastin fibers are found, they give the skin strength and elasticity.  The nourishment needed for constant renewal of cells comes from the capillary blood vessels in this layer.  This is where skin rejuvenation takes place.  The rate of cell regeneration is strongly influenced internally by such things as sun exposure, circulation, diet, smoking, drugs and age.

The Superficial Fascia is the bottom layer; it separates the Dermis from the muscles, which allows the skin to move.  The life cycle of each new cell is approximately 6 to 8 weeks, therefore any skin treatment will need 6 to 8 weeks of time before any real improvement can be expected.  We must also remember the delicate skin of the neck and chest.  Generally, all things we do to our face, we should include our neck and chest.  The neck is the first to go!


Best skin care practice to keep the skin youthful.


It is very important for the skin to remain clean.  We are now living in a time where no matter where we go, there is pollution of some kind; car exhaust, cigarette smoke, pesticides, chemicals, and the list goes on.  Toxin elimination happens through the skin’s pores.  It is so vital to keep the pores clean and unplugged so that the toxins have a way to be released and the skin can breath properly.

A good cleanser will thoroughly clean the pores, lift out impurities, improve circulation and bring a brightness to the skin.  The cleanser will be slightly alkaline, which will temporarily change the pH of the skin, allowing the dirt to loosen and attract itself to the cleanser to be easily washed away.  The skin will return to its slightly acidic, pH balance with the assistance of a toner, tonic, or hydrosol.  Our skin typically has an acidic pH of 4.5 to 5.5 the pH scale is 0 to 14, 7.0 being the neutral point.


Young skin cells shed effortlessly, however the process slows down as one ages.  The new cells form in the Basel layer, the deepest sub layer of the Epidermis. The new cells push the old cells to the surface, that is what causes dry patches, which gives the complexion a sallow, dull and lifeless appearance.  The buildup of dead skin cells will also limit how much of your moisturizer will penetrate through.

Exfoliating cleanses the skin while stimulating new cell growth and circulation by sloughing off the dead skin.  This is very helpful in keeping the skin color balanced by unblocking the pores and reducing blackheads, spots and blotchiness.   Exfoliating gives your complexion a bright youthful glow.


Steaming has been an ancient ritual practiced by many.  The Romans believed that steaming was good for cleaning and beautifying the skin.  Today, many estheticians would agree to the benefits of steaming.

Steaming is a very important step in the cleansing process.  It boosts the blood circulation, which is essential for the reproduction of new and healthy cells.  Steam causes the pores to open and perspire which releases trapped toxins and brings them to the surface.  It also loosens dirt and impurities so that the skin may breath.  The moisture softens the surface layer of the skin and this helps reduce wrinkles.  Steam helps to free any dead skin cells, dirt, or bacteria trapped which may cause breakouts and blackheads.

Herbs and essential oils nourish the skin with their healing and rejuvenating qualities by improving circulation, cellular metabolism and regeneration, which brings vitality to the complexion.  It will also allow your skin to better absorb any products you use after the steaming such as a facial oil.  So make sure your moisturizer is chemical free.  Steaming regularly will soften skins and reduce facial lines as well as give a heightened sense of beauty.


For most skin types, a mask is a necessary step in the maintenance and health of the skin, but it is often a forgotten step.  A mask is a deep cleansing process that nourishes, hydrates, revitalizes and soothes the many layers of the skin.  It balances the skin secretions and draws out toxins and impurities that accumulate over time from all the pollutants in the environment.  A mask will soften, tone, tighten and bring a brightness to the complexion.­

Masks will also increase oxygen intake, stimulate blood circulation and remove excess oil out of the pores helping to unclog them.  A hydrosol or toner is used to keep masks moist minimizing the loss of the much needed natural oils and helps keep the moisture balance of the skin.

Masks are best applied after exfoliation of dead skin cells when the surface of the skin is smooth and clean.  This helps the healing and rejuvenating qualities penetrate deep into the pores.

Skin care products work more effectively after the use of a mask.


A toner is an important step of the cleansing process.  It will assure that the skin returns to a normal acidic pH, which helps keep bacteria away.  They help to prevent moisture loss and dry scaly skin, all caused by either over acidic or over alkaline levels.  Overall, a toner restores balance to the skin after cleansing.  They speed up cell regeneration, which reduces the appearance of fine lines.  They also reduce oil secretion and increases blood flow.   Toning your skin also improves the elimination of toxins and it helps to refine and tighten your pores.  Thus, reducing the penetration of impurities and environmental contaminants into your skin giving you a brighter complexion and improved skin tone.


A facial moisturizer/oil is used to help hold in the skins natural moisture as well as it adds moisture to skin if it doesn’t produce enough.  They are also designed to help prevent wrinkles, prematurely aging skin and to balance the sebaceous glands.  Our skin is always adjusting to changes in climate, environment or diet.  A simple light facial oil may be more suitable in summer and a richer moisturizer may be more preferable in winter.

It might seem crazy, but a facial oil can work wonders if you have oily or acne prone skin.  Oils are fantastic for helping to rebalance, condition and repair skin.  Often, using a facial oil on oily skin can help to regulate the skin’s oil production, which in turn reduces congestion and overproduction of sebum.

Daily – skin care regime should be to wash, tone and moisturize.

Weekly or bi-weekly – skin care regime should be wash, exfoliate, steam, mask, tone and moisturize.


Skin Types

Normal skin – is evenly balanced, smooth and firm.  It has finely textured pores, no wrinkles and is very soft.  Normal skin can change to slightly dry in the winter and lightly oily in the summer.

Dry skin – is dry, fine textured skin that usually ages faster than oily skin.  It needs constant replenishment of moisture and oil.  Dry skin has difficultly producing sebum which makes it unable to trap moisture into the skin.  It is best to correct it sooner rather than later, as it usually gets drier with time.  A build up of dead cells usually occurs which makes the skin look flat, dull, thin and sometimes flaky.

Oily skin – shows fewer wrinkles and is generally a thicker skin.  With over production of oil and improper cleansing, this type tends to form pimples and black heads.  The sebaceous glands produce too much sebum causing clogged pores.

Combination skin – is just that, a combination of normal, dry and or oily.  It may also be combined with normal, wrinkled and/or acne.

Acne skin – is more complicated than oily skin.  It can be due to a normal change  in youth or later in life.  Acne is caused by a poor lymphatic flow and overactive sebaceous glands.  Stimulants that aggravate acne are coffee, chocolate, black tea, soda, smoking, etc.  Over drying of the skin with the use of rubbing alcohol or harsh soaps does not correct the problem; instead, it over stimulates the glands causing the production of more oil thus, creating more acne.

Mature/wrinkled – happens as we age and fair skin tends to wrinkle more than darker skin tones.  Over time, being in the sun, not eating healthy and just being around environmental toxins can cause the skin to age.  As we age, the skin’s sebum production slows down and fine lines and wrinkles show up.

Sensitive/fragile skin - is a delicate type, which reacts more to products containing synthetic substances, strong preservatives or chemicals. These products strip away all of the good bacteria as well as the bad.  This makes it impossible for the skin to normalize and keeps the skin sensitive.  Sensitive skin is most likely thin and vulnerable which needs constant care.  Sensitive skin can show symptoms of dryness, rashes and broken capillaries.


Raspberry Ramos

This is a take on the good ol’ classic Ramos Gin Fizz, which is typically made with citrus, cream, orange flower water and gin.  I like to add fresh ingredients to the classic cocktails; fresh raspberries, citrus and a creamy refreshing flavor make this drink even more appealing.  If you are wanting another option for a “brunch/morning” cocktail besides your typical Bloody Mary or Mimosa this is a good alternative.  I used the Maxim Gin because it has a more floral taste profile versus a very juniper flavored gin which may over power the drink.  The Maxim Gin is a french gin by Cognac Ferrand it is a soft, wheat based gin with a hint of violet/lavender to it and the price is right; that’s why I like it!


 I myself am always intrigued by the history behind the Classic Cocktails; I thoroughly enjoy reinventing!  The Ramos Fizz was first mentioned in print history in the 1887 edition of Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide.  The drink became very popular between the years of 1900 and the 1940’s, known as a hometown specialty of New Orleans, the drink in fact became so popular that bars would employ teams of bartenders to take turns shaking the drinks.  You’ll find out what that means if you make your own; *shake, shake, shake, the more frothy the drink will be.



  • 1 1/2 oz Maxim’s Gin ~ Made in France
  • 1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 oz Simple Syrup
  • Dash of Orange Blossom Water
  • 1 Large Egg White
  • 4-5 Fresh Raspberries
  • 1/2 oz Heavy Cream
  • 2 oz Sparkling Soda

Profile:  Classic, Original/ Creamy, Sweet/Citrus, Refreshing

Glass: Collins, Coupe or Julep

Garnish: Fresh Raspberries


Add the fresh raspberries to your shaker tin, muddle a few times, then add all ingredients except the soda and ice.

*(A bartenders hint for shaking a good Ramos: take the curly spring off of your Hawthorne Strainer and put it in the tin while you are dry shaking)

Dry shake for about 8-10 seconds.  Then add the ice and shake for a few seconds to chill.  Pour into your desired glassware and top with sparkling soda.

 Garnish with fresh raspberries.

Kale Salad with Lemon Thyme Pesto Vinaigrette

The flavor combination of this Italian inspired salad is phenomenal!  The sun-dried tomatoes work well with the lemon thyme pesto vinaigrette and the veggies add a great crunchy texture.
 Robby went back to work last week, which would have been hard after spending a whole month together; however, Beto and Paloma stayed with us the whole week while Jill was in Korea.  We had a few beach days and a lot of relaxing time.  Paloma wanted to stay for Robby’s birthday which ended up being a really fun day!
We went downtown and picked up a pink Santa Cruz sweatshirt for Paloma, then we went to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk where Paloma had so much fun on the rides.  Although, she did not like the rollercoaster.  She said I don’t want to go on one ever again.  Awwww.  To top off the day, we went to the “West End Tap and Kitchen” for a great dinner as usual!  After they left, Robby and I assumed our normal routine and tomorrow is the first day I’ll have to myself in a long time and I’m kind of excited about it!  And this salad is a perfect way to start my routine!
 This salad goes great with any white wine! I enjoy it with a glass of Suave.
Recipe: Approx. 4 – 6 servings
  • 1 Head Kale – thinly chopped
  • 1/2 Fennel – cut in half and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 Cups Watermelon Radish – sliced and quartered
  • 1 Cup Red Cabbage – sliced – diced – or minced
  • 1/4 Cup Dry Sun-Dried Tomatoes (not packed in oil) – homemade or store-bought – minced
  • 1/2 Cup Pecorino Cheese – finely shredded – or to taste
  • 1 Cup Lemon Thyme Pesto Vinaigrette (or the whole recipe)
Garnish options:
  • Micro greens,
  • Toasted almonds
  • Finely shredded Pecorino Cheese
If you are making your own sun dried tomatoes, you will need to make them the day before.  Mince and set aside the sun dried tomatoes.
Make the vinaigrette.  Set aside.
 Wash the kale, remove the main rib by holding the end of the steam and pull down with your other hand then discard the main rib.  Chop the kale into thin strips. Add to a large bowl.
Cut stocks off the fennel bulb, cut bulb in half, then cut out the core of one half.  Slice the half in half, and then slice as thin as you can or use a mandolin.  Add to the kale.
Slice the radishes as thin as you can or use a mandolin. Cut the slices into quarters and add to kale.
Thinly slice the cabbage and add to kale along with the vinaigrette.  Mix really well.
Garnish with micro greens, toasted almonds and pecorino. (optional)
Health benefits:
Kale is low in calories, high in fiber and it is a loaded with antioxidants which helps detox the liver. It is also an anti-inflammatory with omega-3 fatty acids, which is helpful for arthritis, joint pain and asthma. Kale has more Iron than beef and more calcium than milk which helps prevents osteoporosis, joint flexibility and helps maintain normal bone health. It is great for cardiovascular support that helps in lowering cholesterol. It is really high in vitamin A, C, and super high in the powerful antioxidant vitamin K (anyone taking anticoagulants should avoid kale because the high level of vitamin K that may interfere with the drugs.)

Radishes help eliminate excess mucus in the body and are great for respiratory disorders, bronchitis and asthma. They are cleansing for the digestive system helping to break down and eliminate stagnant food and toxins that have built up over time as well as eliminate cancer-causing free radicals in the body. They are very high in vitamin C, which improves your immune system.They have a low glycemic index and helps to regulate the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream, which is great for diabetics. Radishes water content keep your body and skin keep hydrated and with their high fiber content they increase regular bowel movements, relieve bloating and help indigestion. They are a powerful detoxifier of the liver and stomach. They are also great for reducing blood pressure with the high potassium content.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes are very high in anti-oxidants; just one cup has 23 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C and 16 percent of vitamin A.  The Vitamin C in dried tomatoes helps your body absorb the high iron content as well. They are high in potassium which helps prevent and lower high blood pressure. These tomatoes are very high in dietary fiber compared to raw tomatoes.

Lemon Thyme has anti-aging properties and boosts the immune system. It helps fight asthma, promotes relaxation, and helps digestion.  Lemon thyme is high in iron and an excellent source of vitamin C.