Prickly Pear Sangria

It’s Sunday Sangria time!

Sangria is typically more of a holiday drink enjoyed in the fall or winter but it has become a summer tradition at most of our pool parties. Someone will always end up making a large pitcher of sangria to be enjoyed in this desert heat. I have used many different types of fruits, liquors and herbs to make sangria. This prickly pear recipe is not only beautiful but also refreshing and absolutely delicious!  PricklyPearSangria--

Sangria is a traditional European drink made from red wine, chopped fruit, sweetener and brandy although you will find many variations on the drink from other countries with white wine, different types of fruit and liquors.


Recipe: Makes a Pitcher

  • 1 Bottle of Dry White Wine (Pinot Grigio is best)
  • 2 oz Orange Liqueur (Triple Sec or Orange Curacao is best)
  • 4 Prickly Pears peeled and cut in fours
  • 1 Lemon cut into slices

Profile: Classic/Original-Sweet/Refreshing

Glass: Wine Glass

Garnish: Lemon Slice


First prep the prickly pears by cutting the ends off, cutting a slit down the side and peeling back revealing the juicy pink fruit inside.  Remove the fruit and cut into fours. Second, slice the lemon into 1/8” thick wheels.

Pour the bottle of wine into a glass pitcher, add the Triple Sec, and fruit.

Let stand for at least a couple hours. By allowing to marinate for 24 – 48 hours will give the sangria a much richer, sweet flavorful drink.

Before serving strain sangria through a fine mesh strainer to filter out all of the seeds.

Fill wine glass with ice, top with sangria and garnish with lemon wheel.

Yellow Split Pea Basil Soup with Roasted Red and Yellow Peppers

If you have never tried yellow split peas before, do yourself a favor and try them.  They are much more mild than the green variety.  Unlike the green variety, they continue to be bright and cheerful after cooking.  The red, yellow and green colors in this soup are so gorgeous.  The flavor is also phenomenal with the roasted peppers, basil and pecorino cheese.  Seriously guys, it’s delicious!  Serve it with your favorite crusty bread!


Robby and I had a great time this weekend.  Our friends Beto, Jill, Paloma and baby Severin stayed over Saturday night.  Erin, Leif and Taj came over to join us all for a taco dinner.  Erin made an incredibly delicious chocolate basil tart with a grapefruit jam to go on top.  It was a fun night full of food, wine, laughter and nonstop talking as it always is with this group.

On Sunday, we had a beach picnic, which is always a great time with Paloma!  Paloma insisted on becoming a mermaid, so Beto made her a mermaid tail out of sand while Robby made a barricade of seaweed so Paloma wouldn’t get washed away.  They decorated it with seaweed, shells and sand crab shells.  She loved it!


I was just on Thalia’s blog “Butter and Brioche” (if you haven’t been to her blog, check it out!) and she just posted an incredible Tiramisu ice cream dessert.  I thought it was ironic because she is posting a cold ice cream dessert in the middle of the Australian winter while I’m posting a hot soup recipe in the middle of summer in California.  It just goes to show that you can eat whatever you want regardless of the weather!


This soup is perfect with a nice cold glass of Verdejo!  Or a crisp white wine of your choice.


Recipe: 8 – 10 servings

  • 1/2 White Onion – diced
  • 2 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 1/3 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 2 Unsalted Vegetable Bouillon Cubes
  • 10 Cups Filtered Water
  • 2 Cups Dried Yellow Split Peas
  • 2 (about 1 1/4 cup) Red Bell Peppers – roasted – diced
  • 2 (about 1 1/4 cup) Yellow Bell Peppers – roasted – diced
  • 1 Cup Pecorino Romano Cheese – finely shredded – packed
  • 1 Cup Fresh Basil – packed – minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Hot Paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh or Frozen Corn
  • 2 Teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper


Add the onions to a saute pan with olive oil and saute on medium-low heat for 5 minutes, add the garlic and continue cooking for 5 – 7 more minutes until the garlic starts to brown.

Then add the white wine and bouillon cubes, cook until wine is reduced and syrupy.

Add the 10 cups of filtered water to the onions.  Measure and sort thru the peas to ensure that there are no rocks. Rinse them in a colander and add them to the onions.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour or until peas are super soft.

 While the peas are cooking, roast the peppers and then put them into a covered dish to steam for 10 minutes.  Remove the stem and seeds and then dice the peppers. Add them to the peas.

Shred the cheese and mince the basil. Set aside.


Health benefits:

 Bell Peppers are matured green bell peppers and have more nutrition as they mature.  They are super high in vitamin A which helps to support healthy eyesight, especially night vision and are extremely high in vitamin C, so much so they have twice as much as an orange which makes it really good for the skin.  Red peppers are one of the highest veggies in lycopene, and have been successfully tested in the prevention of many cancers.  They have a good source of the antioxidant mineral manganese and B-complex and vitamin E.  They help reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol, helps controls diabetes and helps reduce pain.  They are also a good source of fiber, folate, vitamin K, molybdenum and manganese.

Fresh Basil has anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.  The herb contains exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin A and is rich in zea-xanthin an anti-oxidant that helps protect age-related macular disease.  It has a good amount of Iron and also helps to detoxify the liver.  It contains phytochemicals that may lower cortisol, a hormone secreted when you’re stressed that causes weight gain, so add some fresh basil to you water or tea.

Maple Roasted Fig and Brie Crostini

These crostini are a delectable treat that will surely impress your taste buds!  The savoriness of the Brie adds the perfect balance to the sweetness from the roasted figs, pesto and walnuts.  You can prepare the roasted figs, pesto and walnuts a day ahead.  Then, all you have to do is toast the bread, assemble and pop them in the oven just as your guests arrive.  You will want 3 to 4 crostini per serving.


It’s fig season and I have been on a major fig kick lately.  I am on a mission to redo photos from my old blog posts.  I don’t know if other bloggers do this, but I think each recipe deserves to have great photos.  I have been redoing fig photos over the past 2 weeks including my Roasted Figs in a Maple Wine Sauce,  Maple Roasted Fig Feta and Walnut Crostini,  Fresh Fig Pesto,  Fresh Figs topped with Fig Pesto and Caramelized Walnuts.  I really love creating new appetizers like these crostini that were born from a few of the above recipes.


Serve these with some sparkling wine like a Prosecco, Cava, Rose’ or Txakoli.


Recipe: 3 to 4 servings
  • 12 Maple Roasted Figs Halves
  • 3/4 Cup Fresh Fig Pesto
  • 1/2 Cup Maple Caramelized Walnuts
  • 12 Slices of French Baguette
  • 1 Brie Cheese Wedge – 12 – 1/4 inch slices
Roasted Figs in a Maple Wine Sauce - (whole recipe)
  • 12 Medium Figs – cut off stems – cut in half
  • 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoons Dry White Wine
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla (optional)
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Sea Salt

Fresh Fig Pesto – (whole recipe)

  • 1/4 Cup Bucherondin de Chevre Cheese (Rind optional)
  • 1 1/4 Cups (about 7 to 8) Whole Fresh Black Mission Figs – stems removed – quartered
  • 1/2 Cup Raw Walnuts
  • 2 Tablespoons Virgin Coconut Oil
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
Maple Caramelized Walnuts - (whole recipe)
  • 1/2 Cup Raw Walnuts – roughly chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Pure Maple Syrup (Mildly sweet)
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 12 Slices of Italian Ciabatta or French Bread – 1/2 inch slices
  • Approx. 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Roasted Figs in a Maple Wine Sauce

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut off the stems off the figs and slice them in half.  Place in a 9″ by 14″ baking dish.  Drizzle the syrup mix over all the figs.

Put in oven on the middle shelf for 25 minutes.

Fresh Fig Pesto

 Cut the stems off the figs and add everything to a food processor or blender and puree.

Maple Caramelized Walnuts

Add everything in a saute pan and turn on stove to medium heat.

Stir the whole time.

In about 3 minutes they will start to get sticky. When all moisture is gone, turn off the heat.

Spread onto parchment paper or a baking sheet.  Don’t worry about them sticking together, when cooled you can separate them. Wait a until they are completely cooled.  They will hardened and become crystallized.


Slice the bread into 1/2 inch slices.

Place slices on to a baking sheet and coat both sides with olive oil.

Place on the top shelf of the oven and broil for 1 – 2 minutes then flip them over and broil for about 1 more minute.  Make sure and watch close, they can burn fast.

I usually put the timer on for 1 minute and check then put on for 1 more while watching.  They cook faster on the 2nd side because they are already hot.


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Spread about a tablespoon of pesto onto each crostini, top with a fig half and top with a piece of brie.  Put in the oven on the middle shelf for about 6 minutes.  Top them with the walnuts and serve.

*You can also drizzle a little the sauce from the figs over each crostini.


Gin and Juice

Ever since prohibition ended, the classic gin cocktails have made a slow comeback.  Drinks like the Bees Knees, Vesper, Aviation and many more have infiltrated mixology bars and quite a few home bars as well.  My ultimate favorite gin cocktail is not really a classic, but is true old school and it is probably the most simple to make; they call it “GIN and JUICE”.


In 1994, Snoop Dogg dropped a single that would change the way we drink gin forever.  He makes it clear that “gin and juice” is the drink of choice no matter what the occasion and especially in the summer.

 Whether you are one to mix your cheap gin with some Kool-aid (which I don’t recommend) or the preferred choice of Tanqueray with fresh pressed juice, you’ve got the right idea.


Recipe: Makes 1 8oz cocktail

  •  2 oz Gin (3 oz if you’re gangsta)
  • 2 oz Fresh Juiced Orange (1 orange for approx. 2-3 oz yield)
  • 2oz Fresh Juiced Grapefruit  (1 grapefruit for approx. 2-3 oz yield)

Profile: Refreshing/Old School

Glass: Collins

Garnish: Grapefruit Sliver


First start with juicing your fruits, reserve in a mason jar to the side.

In a 8-10 ounce glass fill with ice, add gin and fresh juices.

Stir and serve…

“with your mind on your money and your money on your mind”


Black Lentil Greek Salad with Grilled Halloumi and Oregano Feta Lemon Pesto

The texture combination of lentils and fried halloumi is fantastic.  The pesto lends an amazing flavor and the vegetables offer a fresh quality to the mix.

Black-Lentil-Greek-Salad - Vegetarian

I have an interesting story to tell you!   My mom and I traveled to Asia back when I was in my twenties.  Her boyfriend at the time Hal asked her if we would like to meet him in Greece. Hell yah!  Shortly after we arrived, Hal asked me if I wanted to go to Santorini to see the black sand beaches or if I would prefer to tour some ruins.  I oddly chose the ruins because who wants to go to black sand beaches?!?!  Ha, Ha!!! We decided to explore the Palamidi Castle in Nafplio.  There is a 913 step climb to reach the castle.  When we arrived, a strange feeling came over me as if I had been there before.  We wandered around checking out all the rooms. The castle had extraordinary views of the city of Náfplio, rugged mountains and the Mediterranean Ocean.  It was amazing!

After my visit to Greece, I flew to London to meet up with my friend Maggie.  We bought a eurail pass and traveled through Europe together.  When I told Maggie that I had just gone to the Palamidi Castle, her jaw dropped.  She told me that she and two of our really close friends (Robby’s too) Bela and Antonia were just in Greece. She said that they also visited the Palamidi Castle just three days after I was there.  She said that it was closed when they arrived so they hopped the fence (that’s my friends for you) and they had the whole place to themselves.  We both kept saying jokingly, “who goes to Nafplio instead of black sand beaches?”  You might think it’s a coincidence but I’d like to think we had all been there together in prior life.  Sounds way cooler, don’t you think?

Black-Lentil-Greek-Salad-with-Oregano-Feta-Pesto - Vegetarian

When I was in Greece, I ate a Greek salad every day if not twice a day.  While there, I discovered that Greek salads varied based on the region.  In some areas, Greek salads included oregano and others used thyme instead of oregano.  Some areas would add green bell peppers and others did not and so on. In this recipe I put my own spin on the Greek salad with the addition of the lentils, halloumi and an oregano feta pesto.  It’s more of a meal than a side salad.

This salad is perfect with a white wine such as a Pinot Gris, Albarino, white Rioja or Sauvignon Blanc.   And for a red a Pinot Noir or a Temperino.

Black-Lentil-Greek-Salad-with-Oregano-Pesto - Vegetarian

Recipe: approx. 6 to 8 servings

  • 1 Cup Dried Black Lentils
  • 1 Cup Oregano Feta Lemon Pesto
  • 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Champagne Vinegar
  • 3 Medium Tomatoes  – sliced into wedges or cubed
  • 1 Cucumber – peeled – deseeded – cut in half – thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Small Red Onion – cut in half and thinly slice each half
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Oregano Leaves
  • 4 to 8 oz. Halloumi – 1/2 inch cubes cubed (I used 8 oz.)

Oregano Feta Lemon Pesto – Approx. 1 1/2 Cups

  • 1/2 Cup Sheep Feta
  • 1 Cup Oregano Leaves
  • 1 Cup Raw Walnuts
  • 3 Tablespoons Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt

Oregano Pita Chips – (optional)

  • 2 or more Pita – cut into 12 wedges
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Oregano – minced
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt – or to taste



Measure the lentils and sort for any rocks then rinse.  Add water to the lentils, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook for about 15 – 20 minutes or until lentils are soft, yet still firm.  Strain and set aside.

While the lentils are cooking start the pesto.


Wash the oregano, dry well and pull of the leaves from the sprigs then measure.  Measure all the other ingredients and put into in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.


Drain the halloumi, rinse and cut it into 1/2 inch (or smaller) cubes.  Dry with paper towels to avoid splattering in the pan.

 Heat a tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat.  (I used a cast iron skillet) When the oil is hot, add the cubes of halloumi and cook for a few minutes to brown.

Flip the halloumi cubes with a spatula to brown on the other side.  They don’t need to be browned on all sides, but they should be a nice golden brown.

Pita Chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roughly chop the oregano then cut each pita bread into quarters and each quarter into thirds to make 12 triangles.  Place them in a bowl and sprinkle lightly with olive oil, oregano and salt. Bake for about 10 minutes, until crisp, turning once.


Mix the lentils with the pesto, vinegar and 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Stir in the cheese, cucumber, onions and oregano.  Then carefully stir in the tomatoes.  Serve with pita chips.


Health benefits:

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. Lentils provide a steady stream of glucose to your brain.  Glucose is a sugar and key source of energy for cells in the body, and is the only fuel your brain can use.  The high fiber regulates the release of the glucose, providing a steady stream of fuel that powers your brain cells, and is a key component in keeping your brain in excellent shape. 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. Lentils originated in Southwestern Asia along the Indus River have been eaten for over 8000 years