Roasted Leek Manchego Pesto

 The combination of roasted leek and manchego cheese is outright delicious!


Robby and I have been watching a lot of Jacques Pepin lately and he uses a lot of leek in his dishes.  He has inspired me to use them more frequently.  Roasting them gives them such a depth of flavor and works brilliant with manchego.


I like this pesto with a Spanish wine like a Ruada, Albariño, white Rioja, red Rioja, Tempranillo or a Garnacha.

Roasted-Leek-and-Manchego-Pesto Recipe:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 Cups Leek (1 Large)
  • 1 Cup Manchego Cheese
  • 1 Cup Raw Walnuts
  • 3/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Hot Paprika
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt or to taste (start with a 1/4 teaspoon due to the sprinkling on the leeks, taste and see if it needs more)


Start by washing the leek really well.  There is always dirt on the inside.  Watch this how to video if you have never cooked with leek before.  Cut the roots off, cut in half and cut the halves in half.

Spread the leeks on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper

Roast in a 400 degree pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes or until edges start to brown a bit, measure and add to a food processor

Finely shred the cheese, measure and add to a food processor

Juice the lemon with a hand held juicer, measure and add to a food processor

Measure walnuts, olive oil, paprika and salt and add to food processor along with the garlic cloves, puree and scrape down the sides at least once

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Rosemary Peach Smash

 The cocktails I am inclined to create are usually inspired by a delicious, perfectly ripe fruit that is in season. Peaches are juicy, sweet and perfectly tart right now; great for a whiskey smash.

The rosemary peach smash is a delicious, strong, summer drink for those whiskey/bourbon lovers.


This cocktail is easy to make, it’s complex in flavor; you can impress your whiskey or bourbon loving friends on the fly with this one.

Rosemary-Peach-Smash... copy

One may ask “What classifies a smash?” I particularly like the way Imbibe defines it…

Smashes have been popular for over a century”…

” it’s good to keep one constant in mind from the get-go: a smash is a julep, but a julep is not always a smash. That’s probably the only hard and fast rule of the smash

As for the rest of its story—like many classic drinks—that’s open to interpretation

Rosemary-Peach-Smash copy

Recipe: Makes 1 Cocktail                    Profile:  Strong, Sweet, Fresh ~ Classic/Original Recipe

  • 2oz Whiskey or Bourbon (I used Four Roses)
  • 1 1/2oz Honey Syrup
  • 1/2 Fresh Peach
  • 1 Sprig of Rosemary

Glass: Old Fashioned/Double Rocks   Garnish:  Rosemary Sprig


Peel the skin from the peach, cut the peach in half, cut into 4 slices

Add peaches and simple syrup to shaker glass, muddle the two together until the peach is broken up

Next add the rosemary sprig, whiskey and ice; shake and dump the entire shaker including the ice into a glass, top with more ice if needed

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Puréed Coconut Squash Leek Soup

This is a silky creamy soup without cream.  What is great about this soup is that it is delicious served either warm or chilled.


I tend to crave soup regardless of the weather.  I found these cute little round squashes called Mayan squash at the farmer’s market.  They taste like zucchini which is a perfect substitute if you can’t find the squash.

Check out this video  SECRET GARDEN DINING EXPERIENCE !  What a cool concept, I want to go to one : )


This is best paired with a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris or a Riesling.


 Recipe: 4-6 Servings

  • 2 Mayan Squash or 3 – 4 zucchini  (4 cups cut into small chunks)
  • 1 Leek
  • 1/2 White Onion
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Vegetarian Bullion Cubes
  • 1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt or to taste
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper or to taste
  • 1 Can Full Fat Coconut Milk
  • 2 Cups Water


Cut the squash into small cubes and set aside

You want to wash the leek really well.  There is always dirt on the inside.   Watch this how to video if you have never cooked with leek before.

Chop the leek and set aside

Dice the onion, mince the shallot and garlic, put into a 5 1/2 quart pot and add 2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Saute on medium low until the onions are fairly soft (about 10 minutes)

Add the wine and bullion, reduce to a syrup (about 2 -3 minutes)

Add the squash and the leek, cook until soft (about 3 – 5 minutes)

Add the water, coconut milk, bay leaf, chili flakes, salt and pepper

Continue to cook on medium low heat until squash is cooked all the way

Transfer to a food processor, purée in 3 stages, then transfer to pot, heat it up and serve

Health Benefits:

Squash is a very good source of potassium and is a heart-friendly electrolyte which helps reduce blood pressure. Its peel is good source of dietary fiber. They are a good source of vitamin C, that helps your body metabolize cholesterol and keeps your tissues strong.  Squash also contains lutein and zeaxanthin that promote healthy eyesight.

Leeks allicin content reduces cholesterol production, blood pressure, blood vessel stiffness and protects the lining. Leeks help chronic low-level inflammations like in diabetes, obesity and rheumatoid arthritis.  They contain polyphenols that are known to be strong antioxidants that fight against free radicals, which help with chronic disease and aging. They are a good sources of vitamin-A, C and K.

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Sesame Kale Chips

Kale chips are a snack that won’t even make it in the bag after baking; they’ll be gone in seconds so make extra!


It took me quite some time to master the perfect crispness of the kale chip, it requires much patience.  Although you can use any strain of kale I found the Lucinato Kale is the best



  • 6 Cups Lucinato Kale leaves without rib
  • 4 Tablespoons Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Tamari, Braggs Amino Acids or Soy Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of ground Ginger
  • 3 Tablespoons Sesame Seeds


Pre~heat oven to 275 degrees.

Starting with the fresh kale, remove the rib by holding onto it and tearing the leaf downward; cut or tear into chip size pieces and set aside in a large bowl

In a separate small bowl mix all of the ingredients except the sesame seeds.  Pour the marinade over the kale, using your hands massage into the kale.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and lightly toss to coat the kale.

 Lay parchment paper on a cooking sheet,  spread kale out making sure it is not over lapping so the kale bakes evenly.

 Bake for 10 min and turn the cookie sheet then bake for another 12-15 min. Let cool on sheet then remove after 3 minutes.  The kale will continue to crisp up after it cools.

*Notes:  If you want to get experimental and try other flavors just note that  using too much liquid (not oil) will make the kale soggy and doesn’t seem to ever get crispy.  Cooking kale chips at a higher temperature may make the kale burn more easily or taste burnt.

Kale is low in calories, high in fiber and it is a loaded with antioxidants which helps detox the liver. It is 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.)    More on kale 

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Spicy Spanish Mac and Cheese with Roasted Peppers

This is such a flavorful and creamy mac and cheese with its four Spanish cheeses, roasted Hungarian peppers and spicy jalapeno.  It will have you coming back for more.

Spanish Roasted Peppers Mac and Cheese

I am a sucker for a good mac and cheese!   I have been obsessed especially with the crunchy edges ever since I was little.  It is really hard for me to resist if there is one on a restaurant menu.


I love how creamy and spicy this mac and cheese is, not to mention it’s gluten free!


  I drank a Spanish Ruada with this mac and cheese but it also pairs well with a white Rioja or a Cava.


Recipe: 8 – 12 Servings

  • 1 – 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 2 Shallots
  • !/3 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1/4 Cup +2 Tablespoons Brown Rice Flour
  • 5 Cups Milk (I used 1 %)
  • 2 Cups Manchego Cheese
  • 1 1/2 Cups Imberico Cheese
  • 1 Cup Campo De Montalban Cheese
  • 1 Cup Idiazabal Cheese
  • 2 Roasted Hungarian Peppers or Yellow Bell Peppers
  • 1 – 2 Jalapeno Pepper
  • 2 Teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Hot Paprika
  • 1 Pound Brown Rice Elbow Macaroni


Roast the peppers, steam, remove burnt skin, de-stem, de-seed, then dice and set aside

Shred and measure the cheeses and set aside

Mince the jalapeno and set aside

Mince the shallots and garlic, add to a large heavy saucepan, saute in olive oil over med-low heat, stirring until the shallot is softened and the garlic starts to brown, add the wine and let reduce to a syrup

 In a pot of boiling salted water cook the macaroni for about 5 – 6 minutes, you want it less than al dente because the pasta will continue to cook in the oven, drain and put into 3-quart gratin dish

 Next add the butter to the saucepan, when melted stir in the flour, and cook the mixture, stirring, for about 2 minutes

Add the milk while whisking constantly, and bring the liquid to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.  Add the cheese a little at at time, add the peppers and jalapeno stir until the cheese is completely  melted

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta

 Place on the middle shelf of a pre-heated 350 degree F oven for 30 – 40  minutes or until it is golden and bubbly.

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Mango Habanero Lime Collins

My inspiration for this drink comes from a recent nostalgic replay of a fond memory.  As a child my friend and I would go to the La Cucineria and buy these mango flavored lollipops that were covered in chili; they were sweet, tart and a little spicy.  Being in Mexico sparked this memory when I saw a local vendor on the beach selling his fresh, chili, lime mangos; I had to have one, it was absolutely delicious!


I love how addicting this drink is; it’s refreshing, sweet and the spice keeps you coming back for more


Recipe:  Makes 1 8oz Cocktail                   Profile:  Sweet, Spicy, Refreshing ~ Original Recipe

  • 2oz Hangar Mandarin Vodka
  • 1/2oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • *1/2oz Habanero Simple Syrup
  • 1oz Fresh Mango Puree

Glass: Collins                                       Garnish:  Fresh Lime Wheel


There are a couple things you’ll need to prepare ahead with this cocktail.  First make the *Habanero Simple Syrup.  Then prepare the mango puree which simply is fresh mango and 4 Tablespoons of simple syrup pureed in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Then add all ingredients to a shaker without ice, pour in a collins glass filled with ice and top with sparkling water

*Habanero Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 Cup Organic Cane Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Filtered Hot Water
  • 1 Fresh De-seeded Habanero


 Use 1/4 cup of the cooled simple syrup and 1 fresh habanero with no seeds to a food processor, blend until pureed well.

Then strain the habanero from the simple syrup leaving the spice but no pulp.

Lastly you will add the remaining syrup to the mix to dilute the heat as needed or as you like

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Honeydew Melon Gazpacho with Mint Chèvre Pesto

 This Gazpacho has just the right balance of salty, spicy and sweetness.  The Mint Chèvre Pesto adds such a great touch and enhances the flavor of the soup.


 I love this soup on a hot sunny day!  We have been having a lot of really nice days lately, so I thought it was the perfect time to make a chilled soup.  I prefer to leave the seeds in the jalapeno which adds a nice contrast to this chilled slightly sweet soup.


This soup goes great with a sparkling wine, like a Cave, Prosecco, Txakoli or Champagne.  It also goes with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or with Ang’s  Kiwi Honeydew Sangria.


Recipe: 4 – 6 Servings

  • 1 Honeydew Melon (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1 Large or 2 Small Cucumber (2 cups)
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Tarragon
  • 2 Shallots or a 1/4 cup
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1Tablespoon Fresh Squeezed lemon Juice
  • 1 Jalapeno
  •  Mint Chèvre Pesto & Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 2 Tablespoons Pesto to 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil


Make the Mint Chevre Pesto (half batch will be more than enough)

Mince and saute shallots and garlic with the olive oil on medium-low heat until the onions are translucent and the garlic has started to brown. Add the wine and reduce to a syrup and set aside to cool

Cut the melon in half, scoop out the seeds and scoop out the flesh.  Measure and add the flesh to the food processor

Peel the cucumber, scoop out the seeds and cut into 1 inch chunks. Measure and add to the food processor

Pick the leaves off the tarragon sprigs. Measure and add to the food processor

Cut the stem off the jalapeno, cut into 1 inch chunks.  Add to the food processor (remove the seeds If you don’t want it too spicy)  Puree the soup until smooth

Mix the pesto with olive oil in a 2 to 1 ratio.  Drizzle the mixture over the finished soup (I add about 1 teaspoon of this mixture per cup of soup)

Serve chilled or at room temperature

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Mint Chèvre Pesto

 This is a delicious and savory mint pesto with the added bonus of a creamy chèvre cheese!  I love this pesto!  It is so perfect for a summer sandwich or salad.


 This was a fun weekend: Robby and I did our normal Friday night dinner and Saturday lunch.  After our Saturday lunch, we headed off to the Scotts Valley Wine and Art Festival.  What I love about wine festivals is the ability to try a bunch of different winery’s wines all in one place.  I love talking with the wine makers; they are always so enthusiastic about each varietal and the process in general.  It’s kind of sad that I can’t drink red wine anymore because I LOVE red wine.  It makes me feel woozy and heavy-headed.  But, there were enough whites to be had. : )  My two favorites were a Chardonnay from Wargin Wines, and a Chardonnay from 37th Parallel Winery which is saying a lot because I’m not always a fan of Chardonnays.  Many tend to be too heavy and over oaked for my taste.  These two were very crisp and I could actually taste the grape with just a hint of oak.  37th Parallel has three Sauvignon Blancs which are my favorite varietal.  Unfortunately, they were not available at the tasting, so I am going to have to visit them!  On Sunday I made and took photos of this delicious mint pesto.


This pesto screams white wine!  It is great with a crisp non oaky Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc.  This pesto would also be amazing on a hot afternoon with a nice Riesling with some fresh fruit, goat cheese and crackers.



  • 2 Cups Fresh Mint
  • 1/2 Cup or 4 oz. Chèvre Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Raw Almonds
  • 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt


Measure the almonds then put them into a food processor and turn on until the nuts are a finely ground

Wash and dry the mint then pick off the leaves, measure and add to the almonds

Add the garlic, measure the cheese, olive oil, lemon and salt then add to the food processor and puree.  Scrape the sides at least once

Health Benefits:

Mint activates the salivary glands just by the aroma alone, which helps to promote digestion. It relaxes the muscular lining of the digestive tract, improves the flow of bile through the stomach and it soothes the stomach, indigestion, inflammation, abdominal pain, nausea and discomfort associated with IBS.  People who suffer from allergies and asthma can benefit from regular use because it is a relaxant and relieves congestion. Mint contains potent antioxidants that decrease levels of free radicals that can cause damage to cells. It is an excellent source of potassium, calcium, iron, manganese and magnesium.

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