Lemon Poppyseed Cake: Here’s to family reunions!


It’s reunion time in our family! Every summer, my uncles, tios, tias, cousins, etc. all get together. Each year the location changes to one city across Texas. This year it happens to be at our house! Joy! I get to cook! So, this afternoon I baked a lemon poppy seed cake. The kitchen smelled divine but mainly because my mom was cooking the tamales that my aunt made earlier. (I will try to get recipe to post-Tamales are GOOD!).


One of my aunts brought a box of items from my grandparents. They include letters written when my Huelito was in World War II. The box also has old photos, cutouts from newspapers, certificates, and other treasured mementos. I hope that this weekend all of us sit down with a cup of coffee, a slice of this cake, and go through the box of treasures as we laugh, relive moments, and for the younger generation, learn something new about our grandparents and life in the 1940s  in Brownsville, Texas, our home town.

Wishing all of you wonderful moments with your families!


For the cake:

1 package (18 oz. approximately) yellow cake mix

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

1 cup plain non-fat yogurt

4 eggs

4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoons lemon rind

2 T. poppy seeds

For the glaze:

1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar

2 T. fresh lemon juice

Combine cake mix and sugar in a large bowl and stir. Add the rest of the ingredients except the poppy seeds. Beat with mixer at medium speed for 5 minutes. Fold in poppy seeds. Add batter to bundt cake pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Loosen cake with knife around the edges and middle of pan. Remove from pan.

Mix the ingredients for lemon glaze. Drizzle on cake. Cook completely. Serve and enjoy!




Garbanzo bean Salad with Pesto dressing



My husband and I recently returned from a fabulous trip to San Francisco! It was wonderful! We joked that our trip was all the of the fabulous meals that we ate with a little sightseeing in between. Every meal was wonderful! I will try to recreate some of the dishes we had during our trip and this is one of them. There is a great cafe called Brioche Bakery and Cafe that is located between North Beach, Chinatown and the Financial District. They served amazing pastries, salads, coffee, sandwiches and bread. We went there three times during our trip because we loved it so much!

We had salad that was similar to this one but had mint instead of basil and had couscous instead of quinoa. While this is not exactly what they served nor is it a recreation of what they served, it is inspired by what they served. I will be posting various dishes that were inspired by our dining experience at this wonderful place with friendly service, wooden tables, baskets or bread, delicious coffee, with Julio Iglesias or Gypsy Flamenco Rumba music in the background.

Ingredients for the Salad:

Chopped greens

Shredded carrots

1/4 cup Fresh parmigiano regiano cheese, grated

3-4 fresh basil leaves

Garbanzo beans/chick peas (2 cans)

1 cup of cooked quinoa (follow package directions)

Olive Oil

2 cloves of garlic


1. Place garbanzo beans on a jelly roll pan or pyrex dish, add olive oil to coat, roast at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Add crushed garlic coated in olive oil and roast an additional 5 minutes. (If you like your garbanzo beans crunch, roast for longer. I like them softer and crunchy).

2. Cook quinoa according to package directions. You will need about 1 cup of cooked quinoa for the salad.

3. Place chopped salad greens, carrots, cheese, basil and quinoa in a serving dish or large salad bowl.

4. Add roasted garbanzo beans. Add pesto dressing. Toss to coat and serve.

Ingredients for the Pesto:

Fresh basil leaves (4 cups)

1 cup of olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 cup of parmesan cheese

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

* My son is allergic to tree nuts so I did not add pine nuts to the pesto. I did roast the pine nuts on the stove on a saucepan on medium heat for 5 minutes and placed them in bowl for the rest of us to add on the salad.


Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree.



Black Beans “A La Veracruzana”



Growing up in South Texas, there was an abundance of seafood. Our dad was a really great cook and made a dish with fish (I am not sure which kind but it was white. I think it might have been trout) and a rich tomato sauce that he served with white rice as I remember. We called it “Pescado a la Veracruzana” from the Veracruz region in Mexico. I wanted to duplicate this dish using my favorite ingredient (black beans). It was a nice variation of the usual beans and rice that we eat often in our house. We enjoyed it and I hope that you do too!

Ready to serve


2 cans of Eden Organic Black Beans, rinsed

1 onion (white or yellow)

2 cloves of garlic

1 24 ounce can of tomato puree ( I used the Central Market Brand)

Olive oil or grapeseed oil

Cumin ( 1 teaspoon)



Fresh Cilantro

Dashes of your favorite hot sauce to taste ( I like Cholula or Tapatio)


1. Chop onion and place in saucepan with olive oil. Saute until onions are caramelized. Add kosher salt and pepper.

2. Add garlic and cumin and continue to saute for a minute or two but be careful not to overcook because garlic can scorch easily.

3. Add tomato sauce followed by the black beans.

4. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Check  intermittently that there is enough liquid that mixture does not scorch. Add water or broth accordingly. Liquid will become thick and rich (and delicious).

5. Uncover. Stir and fold in fresh cilantro.

6. Serve with rice (brown or white), Greek yogurt (or sour cream if you prefer), and avocado slices.

Creamy Avocado Lime Cilantro Dressing

I was looking for a different type of dressing for our salads other than our usual balsamic vinaigrette. Don’t get me wrong, we love our vinaigrette but sometimes it is nice to add some variety. I love the salad dressings from Tacodeli, (a gourmet taco restaurant) in Austin, Texas. They offer a lime dressing and a creamy dressing which are so good we usually ask for both of them. While I do not have the recipe for either of them, I combined elements of both to create this version. I hope you enjoy!

For the Dressing

1/2 cup Oikos nonfat Greek Yogurt

1/3 cup Sour Cream

1/2 avocado

juice of 2 limes

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

2 cloves of garlic, crushed


Splash of Tapatio Sauce

handful of fresh cilantro


Place ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. If mixture is not liquid enough, add extra lime juice or 1 tablespoon of water.


For the salad I used, chopped greens, diced fresh mangoes, chopped cucumbers, rinsed canned black beans, avocado slices, chopped carrots, and fresh cilantro. Enjoy!


Vietnamese Vermicelli Bowls





When I was in college, I was fortunate enough to have a group of friends who were from all around the world, and consequently, my culinary world expanded. I first tried Vietnamese noodles for the first time. I adore the sweet and savory flavors of Vietnamese cuisine. While I love pho, there is nothing like a refreshing vermicelli bown or “bun,” especially in the summer time but I will take a bowl any day of the year. This was my first attempt at recreating the dish at home. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I hope you try this and enjoy.


For the bowl:

sesame oil

1 pack Vermicelli rice noodles ( I actually purchased these at HEB.)

1/2 pack extra firm tofu, in small cubes or slices

3 carrots, shredded

1/2 cucumber in julienne strips

4 scallions/green onions chopped

2 cups of lettuce, choppped

1/4 cup of peanuts chopped

large bunch of mint leaves (from my garden)

Vietnamese Chili Paste or Sriracha to taste

For the Sauce:

1/4 cup sugar

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/2 cup water

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon Vietnamese chili paste or Sriracha


1.  Pan fry tofu (or meat of your choice) in grapeseed oil or sesame oil for 3-4 minutes on each side until crisp.



2. Add noodles to boiling water, cook for 3-4 minutes, rinse with cold water, drain and let cool.


3. Chop up vegetables and components of noodle bowl.


4. Add ingredients in a bowl to make the sauce. Add more water or sugar according to taste.



5. Assemble the bowl. Add sauce to taste. Enjoy!



Free-Form Blueberry Tart

Tart, cooked

Free-Form Blueberry Tart

Contributed by Jeremy Sewall to Food and Wine Magazine

Active Time 30 minutes

Total Time:  3 hours 30 minutes

Servings:  8

This is a FANTASTIC tart.  As you can see in the photograph, I made this with a mixture of nectarines, peaches, and apricots (from the Malibu Farmer’s Market).  I cut the fruit into small blueberry sized pieces.  I use slightly less sugar than the ¼ cup called for in the filling because I prefer my fruit pies and tarts to not be overly sweet.  The candied ginger is a great touch in this crust. Even if you think you don’t like candied ginger, try it becasue it is very subtle but really delicious.  If you can get Meyer lemons definitely use them. When I make this with blueberries, I buy frozen “Wild Blueberries” because I think they have such a great flavor.   I also have served this tart with marscapone with a little bit of vanilla mixed into it.  It is so good.  You will be making this all summer.  It gets easier the more you make it.



1 ½ Cups all-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling

1 Tbs. minced candied ginger (or 2 Tbs.)

¼ tsp salt

1 ½ sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces  (I use unsalted Plugra butter, which is truly my favorite butter)

¼ cup plus 1 Tbs. ice water  (add just the water, not the ice to the flour butter mixture.)


1/4 Cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling

2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

¼ cup all-purpose flour

4 cups blueberries (preferably wild blueberries)

2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1 egg white, beaten


  1. In a food processor, combine the 1 ½ cups of flour with the candied ginger and salt and pulse to mix.  Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas.  Sprinkle on the ice water and pulse just until the pastry starts to come together.  Turn the pastry out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it into a disk.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until firm.
  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to a 14” round about 1/8” thick.  Fold the pastry in half and transfer to a prepared baking sheet.  Unfold the pastry and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix the ¼ cup sugar with the lemon zest and flour.  Fold in the blueberries and lemon juice and let stand for 15 minutes.
  1. Spoon the blueberries in the center of the pastry, leaving a 1 ½ “ border all around.  Fold the pastry border up and over the blueberries, pleating it as necessary.  Brush the egg white on the pastry and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for about 55 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the filing starts to bubble.  Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the tart cool to warm.  Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.  (I think this tastes best warm or slightly warm—if you make it ahead of time, just rewarm it in the oven for a few minutes before serving.

Make Ahead:  The pastry can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Serve with Lemon or Vanilla Ice Cream

Chickpea Patties


I am sorry I don’t have a picture of the these on a plate. They are worth a try, though. My family loved them. I would love to experiment with different sauces for dipping. This time I used Greek yogurt and lime juice.


1 15 ounce can chickpeas (I used Eden Organic)

1/2 cup fresh parsley (from my garden) or fresh basil or cilantro.

1 clove garlic

dash of kosher salt/black pepper

2-2 T. flour

Grapeseed oil (doesn’t burn when heated like Extra Virgin Olive Oil does)

Add rinsed and drained chickpeas to food processor and pulse. Add salt, pepper, and parsley and pulse until smooth. Gently remove blade from food processor. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Add flour a tablespoon at a time. Form patties with hands. If mixture is too moist, add more water.

Add grape seed oil to pan and heat to medium-high heat. Cook patties two to three minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Make dressing by mixing the juice of 2 small limes or 1 lemon into nonfat Greek yogurt. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with salad and bread! Enjoy!