Spicy Cheesy White Bean Quinoa Chili

I relish a nice cozy bowl of spicy chili during these cold fall evenings.  The spicy hot sauce in this chili will warm you up and the beans and quinoa will satisfy your hunger.  It is packed with nutrition keeping you healthy during these cold months.  If you would like it to be less spicy, just reduce the amount of arbol chilies or omit them all together.


 This last Sunday my friend Alison invited me to a food and wine charity in Carmel to take pictures of her and her friend Becky who were playing music for the event.  Alison on banjo, Becky on fiddle and an upright bassist named Dan Robbins played some great bluegrass music while attendees sampled food from 12 local chefs and tasted wine from 12 local wineries.

  I met some really cool people at the event and two of them really stood out, chef Zacery and owner Tighe from the LionFish Supper Club in Santa Cruz.  They do catering and also host a really cool pop up dinner series every Tuesday night.  I will have to try it sometime.  Zacery made tiny mushroom tarts topped with ricotta salata.  He offered me one and I told him “unfortunately I don’t like mushrooms”.  His jaw dropped and then he said that he had converted many other mushroom haters and that I should just try one.  Guess what? I absolutely loved it!

Zacery focus is on healthy and sustainable cuisine.  He learned to forage in Oregon, where he grew up.  I was very inspired by his passion for foraging foods like fiddleheads, nettles, mushrooms and wildflowers, which he uses in his cuisine a­­s often as he can.  Ok, so nothing in this chili is foraged but it is still perfect for this time of year.


This chili is great with a Petite Sirah or a Pinot Noir for a red and a Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris or a Sauvignon Blanc for a white.  Or maybe you prefer a ice-cold beer to balance out the heat.  I would try it with a Hefeweizen.


Recipe: 8 – 10 Servings
  • 2 Cups White Beans
  • 16 Cups Filtered Water – divided
  • 1 1/2 Cups Quinoa – (recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 Cups Hot Hot Sauce -( recipe below)
  • 2 Small Red Bell Pepper – roasted – diced
  • 1/2 White Onion – diced
  • 3 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 2 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 Vegetable Bullion Cube – unsalted
  • 2 1/4 Cup Jack Cheese – shredded
  • 1/2 Cup Corn – fresh or frozen
  • Sea Salt to taste (I used about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 Cup Quinoa
  • 1 Cup Filtered Water
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt
 Hot Sauce – this is a half recipe for full recipe click here
  • 4 Dried Ancho Chiles – *Terra Dolce is a great brand for organic chile peppers
  • 7 Dried Arbol Chiles
  • 1/4 White Onion
  • 1 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 Cup White Vinegar
  • 1 1/2  Cups Filtered Water (depends how thin you like it )
  • 1 Teaspoons Sea Salt

Garnish Options

  • Tortilla Chips
  • Radishes
  • Cilantro
  • Serrano Chilies



Add the onions to a 5 1/2 quart pot with the 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.

Add the wine and bouillon cubes, mash the bouillon, cook until wine is reduced and syrupy.

Sort through the beans to remove any rocks and rinse.  Add the beans to the onions and add 12 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and turn to medium-high heat for 1 hour or until soft.  As the beans soften, add the remaining 4 cups of water as the water levels drop.
While the beans are cooking make the quinoa.


In a small sauce pan, add the quinoa, water and salt.  Bring to a boil, cover and turn to medium-low then simmer for 15 minutes. (I recommend using a timer)

 Then let sit with the lid on for 5 more minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking start making the hot sauce.


Hot sauce

in a medium pot, add the chiles and onion then cover with filtered water. Bring to a boil then remove from heat.  Let sit 10 more minutes.

Remove the seeds and stems from the peppers then put peppers, onion, garlic, vinegar and salt in a food processor or blender.  Puree.

Strain through a fine mesh colander over a bowl and press it through with a rubber spatula.  Scrape the outside of the colander to get all the sauce you can. Stir in the water and set aside.


The rest

When the beans are completely cooked add the hot sauce and slowly add the cheese.  When the cheese is melted add the corn and cook for a few more minutes.


Health benefits:

White Beans are a super rich source of dietary fiber, which is good for the prevention of constipation, also helps digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. They are great for heart health because of their significant amounts of folate (support of red blood cell formation, one cup of the cooked beans provides 63.7% of the recommended daily intake for folate) and magnesium (lowers blood pressure).  They are good for helping insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes, and help you balance blood sugar levels while providing steady energy.

Quinoa is a super food that is extremely nutrient rich and it is a complete protein source and high in fiber, which helps digestion heart heath.   It contains more antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients than any other grain. Unlike most grains quinoa has a significant amount of gamma-tocopherol of the vitamin E family, which helps some inflammatory issues.  It is a good source of magnesium (helps metabolism, cardiovascular, and blood vessel function, which is helpful for migraine headaches). Quinoa contains the antioxidant flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol even more than in cranberries.  It is helpful in regulation of blood sugar and also reduces your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

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.

Roasted Poblano Kale Falafel Salad Bowl with Tahini Jalapeno Vinaigrette

This salad is the epitome of comfort food.  It is spicy and it is hearty enough to be considered a meal.  It has so much flavor, texture and nutrition and the tahini jalapeno vinaigrette puts it over the top!


In my early 20’s I would daydream about things I wanted in my life and what it would feel like to have them.  Without realizing it I was practicing the art of positive thinking aka “The Law of Attraction”.  In the last 8 years I have really stepped it up and have been making it a part of my daily thought process.  It hasn’t always been easy but the more I practice, the easier it becomes.  It is almost second nature to me now.

 I first started with the phrase, “I am happy, healthy and safe”.  I would say it over and over again.  Now, I catch myself saying it without even realizing it.  While on my daily walk, I talk to the universe (God), and say thank you so much for everything in my life and I list out whatever comes to my mind at that moment.  It usually goes something like this; thank you for my amazing husband, my wonderful family (especially my mom and dad), thank you for my incredible friends and this magical place we get to experience and live in, thank you for my ability to work on my blog and all the inspiration and creativity in my life, etc.   If there is something specific I am trying to draw to myself, I say thank you for it as if it already existed.  I focus on what it would feel like with thoughts of gratitude and I do this continually.  Some things happen fast and others take time.

You might wonder how this has any effect in your life but trust me it changes everything.  What you focus on expands!  Being grateful for the things in your life attracts even more to be grateful for.  When we stress out or think things like “I could never do that” or “that’s impossible” or even being jealous of someone else’s life, you will attract stress, failure and jealousy into your life. Our thoughts and feelings are like magnets.  Have you ever had a bad day and things just seemed like they kept getting worse?  Have you ever stopped yourself and noticed things getting better?  It’s amazing to me, the many experiences I have drawn into my life.  One of those things was Robby!  We are both constantly saying thank you for all the blessings that have come into our lives.  One of those things is our health; we have made many changes to our diet and lifestyle. This falafel bowl is not only delicious but makes you feel good and has become a staple in our diet!


Because this dish is spicy, it pairs best with a slightly sweet or fruity wine like a Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc or sparkling wine.  For a red you want a spicier wine like a Grenache or Syrah.


Recipe: 4 – 5 servings – 4 – 5 balls per salad

  • 1 Recipe Roasted Poblano Falafel – approx. 20 balls
  • 1 Recipe Roasted Poblano Jalapeno Hummus or Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
  • 1 Recipe Tahini Jalapeno Vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 1 Head Lettuce – your choice – chopped
  • 1 Cucumber – peeled – cut in half – deseed  – thinly slice
  • 2 Tomato (I used Orange Heirloom) – diced
  • 2 Pita Breads – each cut into 12 triangles



Soak the garbanzo beans for both the falafel and the hummus over night.  Cook the beans for the hummus while you roast the poblano for both the falafel and hummus.  Next, make the falafel mix and tahini vinaigrette (recipe below) then refrigerate them both.

Veggies and Hummus

Prepare the lettuce, cucumber and tomato and set them aside in the refrigerator.

When the hummus beans are soft, drain, rinse and let cool.

Make the hummus and set aside in the refrigerator.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Scoop the falafel up with a spoon and toss them from hand to hand to form a 1 inch ball and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes then carefully flip them over for another 5 – 7 minutes.


Turn down the oven to 350 degrees

Cut each pita into 12 triangles and place on one side of a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until hot.

You can serve everything separate and let your guests serve themselves or arrange it for them.


Tahini Jalapeno Vinaigrette

Recipe:  1 1/3 Cup

  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1/2 Cup Roasted Tahini
  • 1/4 Cup Filtered Water
  • 1/4 Cup (about 1) Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt


 Measure all ingredients and puree in a food processor or blender for about 1 – 2 minutes, you just want to make sure the garlic is pureed.


Health benefits:

Garbanzo beans are are super high in protein and extremely high in fiber, just one cup provides 50% of the Daily Value.  Because of the fiber they are great for your heart, lowering blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart attack as well as help prevent constipation and digestive disorders.  Just one cup provides 84.5% of the daily value of manganese, which is a antioxidant that acts as a monitor of the free radicals in the body.  If you are low in energy the high iron content will help and will transports oxygen from the lungs to all the cells in the body.  They also help to balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy. Garbanzo beans are helpful for weight loss as they keep you full longer.

Poblano Peppers are extremely high in vitamin C; just one pepper has 95% of your daily value. They are great for your immune system; poblanos help reduce inflammation like in arthritis and asthma. They contain lycopene (a powerful antioxidant, giving many fruits and vegetables their color, especially tomatoes), which is great for the prevention of cancers in the bladder, prostate, cervix and pancreas. They are also helpful with increasing oxygen so the body can burn more calories 20 minutes after eating peppers.

Tahini is one of the best sources of calcium and a good source of methionine, which aids in liver detoxification. It is high in alkaline minerals helping in weight loss and high in vitamin E, which promotes healthy cell growth and maintain healthy skin and muscle tone.  It is super high in iron helping to prevent anemia.  It’s high in protein, lecithin, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and B15.

Stacked Greek Salad with Fried Halloumi Cheese and Feta Vinaigrette

This is a delicious and elegant salad.  This salad has that classic Greek salad flavors with some added juiciness from the feta vinaigrette and added texture from the halloumi cheese.


If you are into food blogs, you probably already know about the amazing blog “Adventures in Cooking” by Eva Kasmos Flores.  Eva recently traveled to Greece and while she was there, she posted and Snapchatted photos of Greek cats.  This sparked a fond memory of when I spent time on the Greek island of Crete.

My mom and I traveled to Greece to meet her then boyfriend Hal after we had just traveled through Asia.  The moment we arrived to the cute house in Crete where we planed to spend the week, a cat meandered into the house.  She hopped on my bed and started crawling under the covers.  I thought it was very cute.  She left shortly after and came back an hour later with a newborn kitten in her mouth. She jumped upon the bed and dropped the kitten and then left again.  Five hours had passed and still no sign of the mama cat.  We were starting to panic at this point and were thinking oh my God, she left us this kitten and she isn’t coming back.  My mom emptied one of her herbal tinctures and boiled some water to sterilize a dropper.  She sucked up some milk with the dropper and feed the tiny kitten.  Finally, the mama cat reappeared with yet another kitten.  She did this two more times. Yup, we had a total of four baby kittens and one mama cat living with us during our stay in Crete.  We fed the mama cat some fresh liver to give her some strength and also help her to feed the kittens more nutritious milk.  The mama cat and baby kittens were a lot healthier by the time we left. We told the people that we rented the house from about the cats and they said they would continue to look after them.  I still wonder whatever happened to them.


This salad pairs well with a Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir or some Greek Ouzo.


Recipe:  4 serving

  • Feta Vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 4 Oz. Halloumi Cheese – cut into tiny 1/4 inch cubes
  • Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tomatoes – 8 slices thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Cucumber – peeled – 24 slices thinly sliced
  • 1/2  Red Onion – thinly sliced into 4 rings or to taste
  • 10 Oz. Sheep Feta – 4 slices
  • Fresh Oregano – to taste

Feta Vinaigrette – 1 Cup

  • 1/4 Cup Sheep Feta Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoon White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoon Champagne Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4  Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Black Pepper

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



Add garlic to a food processor or blender and mince.  Measure and add all other ingredients and blend well.


Rinse the halloumi and cut it into tiny 1/4 inch cubes.  Dry with paper towel.

Lightly drizzle some olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat.  I used a cast iron skillet. Some liquid will still come out while cooking, that is fine.

When the oil is hot, add the cubes of halloumi and cook for a few minutes to brown then flip the halloumi cubes with a spatula to brown on the other sides.  They don’t need to be browned on all sides, but they should be a nice golden color.  Set aside

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.


While the pita chips are baking, prep all the vegetables.

First lay a tomato slice on a platter, small plate or shallow bowl, then top with 3 slices of cucumber, a piece of feta, a few oregano leaves, a couple rings or more of red onion, 3 more slices of cucumber and a slice of tomato.

Drizzle with the vinaigrette, sprinkle the halloumi on top and around the stacks and sprinkle on some oregano.

 If you like kalamata olives you can arrange some around the bottom of the stack.

 I like to serve this with my Greek Style Lemon Feta Roasted Potatoes.

Other recipes with Feta Vinaigrette – Roasted Vegetable Salad with Feta Vinaigrette  & Greek Style Quinoa Salad with Feta Vinaigrette


Health benefits 

Tomatoes are great for the heart due to the extreme antioxidant support, niacin, folate and vitamin B6 that help the reduction of heart disease.  They are also high in vitamins A, C, K and potassium.  The choline in tomatoes helps assist the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.  It also helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory.  Tomatoes are high in Lycopene the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color.  Cooking tomatoes breaks down the cell walls, which helps to release the lycopene and is better absorbed by the body with a little bit of fat like olive oil.  The Zea-xanthin in them helps filtering harmful ultra-violet rays, which protect eyes from “age-related macular disease.”  They are also a powerful blood purifier and great for skin and bone health.

Cucumber are a good source of A and B vitamins that gives you energy and the skin benefits from the really high content of vitamin C which ironically is primarily in the skin of the cucumber. They help eliminate toxins and keep you hydrated with the water content, which is 95% and the dietary fiber aids the digestion and helps with heartburn.  They are known to dissolve kidney stones by lowering uric acid levels. There is research in connection with reducing the risk of several cancers due to 3 lignin’s it contains. The juice is beneficial to diabetics due to a hormone it contains that help the cells of the pancreas produce insulin. Cucumbers help reduce cholesterol levels and regulating blood pressure so its great for both low blood pressure and high blood pressure.

It is an excellent source of silica, magnesium, and potassium that help promotes joint health by strengthening the connective tissues and is great for you skin, hair and nails.

Garbanzorizo Taco with Roasted Poblano Cayenne Salsa

I am absolutely in love with this new creation!  It is very satisfying, hearty and healthy.  The garbanzo beans have the perfect texture for tacos and the liquid smoke gives it that, I don’t want to say meaty flavor but I will.


Have you ever had soyrizo?  It has a special place in my heart.  I was only 106 pounds when I moved back to L.A from Hood River Oregon.  I am 5 ft. 3 in. and I was verging on looking anorexic.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t anorexic but I was way too skinny.  I had been mildly depressed for the prior 3 years because my heart was no longer in Oregon, it was longing for my roots and friends in L.A.  My diet at the time was a big cup of espresso with half and half for breakfast, a green drink for lunch and a frozen Amy’s dinner or a can of Muir Glen soup for dinner. In a feeble attempt to be healthy, I would top the soup or Amy’s dinner with nutritional yeast and a handful of prepackaged arugula.

I rented a room from my friend Brian when I first moved back to L.A.  His friend Beto had rented the same room prior to me and he would stay with us every time he visited L.A.  Both Brian and Beto were on a mission to put some weight on me.  They both are really good cooks and they would make amazing pinto beans.  Each of them had their own way of cooking them and we ate them regularly. One day, Beto brought over some soyrizo because he knows I’m a vegetarian.  He cooked it up, wrapped it in a tortilla with some homemade beans and sour cream.  Needless to say, I inhaled it!  From that day forward, I craved soyrizo.  Unfortunately, I later found out that I have a soy allergy so I haven’t eaten soyrizo for the last couple years.  Lately, I have been craving soyrizo and I decided to develop a recipe, minus the soy, that would come as close as possible to the original.  The garbanzo beans work really well for this and it’s not as greasy as soyrizo.  So far, I have used it in tacos, burritos and tostadas and am super excited that I now have this new incarnation in my life!


These are great with a Mexican beer of your choice or a Pinot Noir for a red wine and a Albernino or Cava for a white wine.


Recipe: 8 – 10 servings
  • 3/4 Cups Dried Chickpeas uncooked – soaked 12 hours or more – (1 1/2 Cups cooked) – minced in food processor
  • 1/4 Cup Sun-dried Tomatoes – minced with chickpeas
  • 1 Tablespoons  Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 White Onion – minced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 1/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoon Water
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 1/2 Teaspoons Ancho Chili Powder (you can use already ground Ancho or grind your own in a coffee grinder
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Paprika
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Hot paprika
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Chili Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Coriander Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cumin Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Cloves
  • 1 Cup Lettuce
  • 2 Yellow Tomato – diced
  • 8 Radish – thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Cup Red Cabbage – minced
Garnish options
  • Cilantro
  • Limes
  • Sour Cream (optional)
  • Queso Fresco (optional)
  • Corn Chips – for the remaining salsa  (I served it with blue corn and kale/yellow corn chips)


 Soak garbanzo beans overnight for at least 12 hours.  I like to make the salsa the day before but you can make it the same day.

Rinse and dry the garbanzos, then add the garbanzo beans and sun dried tomatoes to a food processor.  (I don’t suggest canned garbanzo beans because they are soaked and cooked, which will make a different texture and flavor.)  Turn on and process until a fine crumble. Set aside.

Mix all ingredients the together for the sauce.  Set aside.

Add the onions to a straight sided pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté on medium-low heat for 5 minutes, add the garlic and continue cooking for 5– 7 more minutes until the garlic starts to brown.

While onions are cooking, prepare the lettuce, tomatoes, radish and cabbage and anything else you want to put in your taco.

When the garlic is golden, add the garbanzo mix and the sauce to the pan and cook on medium low heat.  You have to stir the whole time, for about 10 – 15 minutes. It will stick together at first and then slowly turn into a fine crumble. Just keep smashing down any clumps.  A thin layer will stick to the pan just like the soyrizo but it’s totally fine, it won’t burn.


 This salsa is perfect for these tacos.  It is medium hot with wonderful flavors from the roasted poblano peppers.


 Salsa recipe: Approx. 3 cups

  • 5 Large Tomatoes or 3 Pounds – blanched
  • 1/2 Onion – blanched
  • 3 Small or 1/2 pound Poblano Peppers – roasted
    5 Fresh Cayenne Peppers, or 2 Habanero – roasted
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 1 Jalapeno – (optional) – stem removed – cut into 4 or 5 peices
  • 3 Tablespoons Lime Juice – fresh squeezed
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 1 Cup Cilantro – leaves – packed


Add the tomatoes, onion and water to a large pot, then blanch.

While waiting for the water to boil, roast the cayenne/habanero peppers under the broiler for 3 minutes on one side, then flip the peppers over and roast for 2 more minutes. (keep an eye on them) Remove stems and seeds.  (Wear gloves while handling the peppers to prevent the oils from burning your skin.)

Put the poblano, cayenne/habanero, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice, olive oil and salt in the food processor and pulse until as smooth as can be.

Add the onion then pulse until roughly chopped.

Add the tomatoes and cilantro then blend until desired texture.


 Health benefits:

Garbanzo beans are are super high in protein and extremely high in fiber, just one cup provides 50% of the Daily Value.  Because of the fiber they are great for your heart, lowering blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart attack as well as help prevent constipation and digestive disorders.  Just one cup provides 84.5% of the daily value of manganese, which is a antioxidant that acts as a monitor of the free radicals in the body.  If you are low in energy the high iron content will help and will transports oxygen from the lungs to all the cells in the body.  They also help to balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy. Garbanzo beans are helpful for weight loss as they keep you full longer.

Poblano Peppers are extremely high in vitamin C; just one pepper has 95% of your daily value.  They are great for your immune system and help to reduce inflammation like in arthritis and asthma. They contain lycopene a powerful antioxidant, giving many fruits and vegetables their color, especially tomatoes, which is great for the prevention of cancers in the bladder, prostate, cervix and pancreas. They are also helpful with increasing oxygen so the body can burn more calories 20 minutes after eating peppers.  They’re also full of vitamin A, vitamin K, and potassium.

Black Rice Salad with Roasted Habanero Pesto Vinaigrette

This is a very unique and satisfying salad to say the least.   The habanero in the pesto provide the heat, the black rice gives it a satisfying appeal and the vegetables provide a quality of freshness.  This salad is great either cold or heated up.


I’m sure the most of you can tell by now that I am absolutely obsessed with pesto.  I love pesto whether it’s a sweet, salty, spicy or herbal.  Growing up, my mom would make large batches of basil walnut pesto using basil that she grew herself.  She still makes it to this day and even freezes some of it so that she can have it year round.  She also makes a mean vegan pesto recipe that I plan to post sometime in the near future.  Back when I had my restaurant, I offered my mom’s basil walnut pesto along with a mini baguette from a great local baker in Hood River.  The customers loved it so much that we would run out of it almost daily.  I often experimented with unique kinds of pesto at my restaurant and I would add the winners to the specials menu board.  One of these winners was the Gorgonzola Cilantro and Toasted Hazelnut Pesto.

Adding different kinds of pesto to salads gives them an extra umphh along with the “I can’t stop eating this” feeling.  I plan to continue experimenting with many more kinds of pesto and will post the successes, so be sure to check back.


You will want a crisp white wine to cut through the pesto.  I have enjoyed this salad with a Verdejo and a Sauvignon Blanc.  It would also work well with a Riesling.


Recipe: 8 to 10 servings

  • 1 Recipe Roasted Habanero Pesto – (recipe below)
  • 1 Recipe Black Rice – (recipe below)
  • 1 Fresh Corn Cob – cut off the cob
  • 1 Head Kale  (about 7 cups) – washed – de-ribbed – thinly sliced
  • 2 Cups Radish – thinly sliced
  • 2 Tomatoes (about 2 cups) –  wedged or diced
  • 1/4 Small Red Onion – thinly sliced or minced
  • 1/2 Cup Cilantro – roughly chopped
  • 1 Cup Forbidden Black Rice
  • 1 3/4 Cups Filtered Water
  • 1 Garlic Clove (Optional)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Roasted Habanero Pesto Vinaigrette
  • 2 – 3  Fresh Habanero Peppers
  • 1  1/4 Cup Manchego Cheese – shredded – packed
  • 1 Cup Raw Walnuts
  • 1/2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 1/2 Tablespoons Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Champagne Vinegar
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt


Rice & Corn

Measure rice and water and put into a small sauce pan preferably with a glass lid.

Add the garlic and salt then cover and bring to a boil on high heat then reduce to simmer in-between medium-low and low for 30 – 40 minute.  Check at 30 minutes, if you still see a bit of liquid cook for 5 – 10 more minutes.  Or until water is gone.  Turn off the heat and let the rice sit for 5 more minutes.  Put the cut corn into a large bowl and when the rice has sat for the 5 minutes dump it onto the corn.  This will cook the corn perfectly.


To roast the habanero peppers turn the oven on to broil and lined them in the center or the baking sheet so they are directly under the broiler.

 Place the baking sheet on top shelf of oven for about 3 – 4 minutes and flip for about 1 minute checking on them the whole time.  You want them to be a bit burnt but not completely.

Then remove stem and seeds and put everything in a food processor or blender and puree.  Make sure to wear gloves!


Wash the kale and tear off main rib by holding the end of the stem and sliding off the leaves, dry, then chop into thin strips.

Pick off cilantro leaves and measure.  Add the radish, bell pepper, tomatoes, onion and cilantro.  Mix everything together well.  Add more salt if needed.


Health benefits:

Black rice contains a high amount of anthocyanin like blood oranges.  The research has found that just a spoonful of black rice coating “bran” has more anthocyanin antioxidants than in a spoonful of blueberries, less sugar, more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants.  It is valuable for reducing inflammation and for its anti-aging properties. It is also for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer and helps protect the nervous system from degeneration.