Susan Spicer’s Duck “PBJ” with Cashew Butter, Pepper Jelly, and Apple-Celery Salad

Susan Spicer is one of my favorite chefs.  Her French Quarter restaurant, Bayona, has special meaning for my husband and me.  We went to dinner there, the night we got engaged.  We have had many wonderful meals there and always try to go whenever we are in New Orleans.  I was so glad when her cookbook, Crescent City Cooking was published and we can now enjoy some of our favorite dishes at home. 

This is a wonderful sandwich! There are various components to prepare but it is worth the effort.


Cashew Butter


1 Cup chopped cashews

½ cup chopped peanuts

3 Tablespoons honey

1 Tablespoon molasses

Kosher Salt

4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) softened butter


Roast the cashews and peanuts for about 7 minutes at 350 degrees; cool completely.  In a food processor, puree the nuts, honey, molasses, and a pinch of salt.  Then add the softened butter and puree.  Add a splash of warm water, if necessary, to thin the mixture to a spreadable, creamy texture.  Keep in mind that cashew butter will be soft while it is warm and will stiffen up as it chills.  It should be at room temperature when spreading it on the sandwiches.


Grilled Red Onions (I omitted these and the sandwich is still great.)


1 large or 2 small red onions, sliced in ¼” thick rings. 

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt & Pepper


Toss the onions with olive oil, and a little salt & pepper.  Grill, broil, or roast for about 5 minutes, until wilted.


Apple-Celery Salad


1 Granny Smith apple

2 celery heart ribs

1 shallot, minced

1 Tablespoon olive oil and 1 Tablespoon walnut oil, optional OR 2 Tablespoons olive oil.

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar



Peel, core, and thinly slice the apple.  Slice the celery hearts thinly on the diagonal.  In a medium bowl, toss the apple and celery with the shallot, olive oil, vinegar, and salt to taste.  This salad is best made right before assembling the sandwiches.



The recipe calls for smoked duck that you can mail order from

However, we made this with sautéed duck breast. 

Mary’s is a good brand that can be found at Whole Foods. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Buy boneless duck breast with the skin on. Score the skin side in cross hatch pattern.  Season with kosher salt and pepper. 

In a large oven-proof sauté pan, heat olive oil or canola oil over medium heat. Sauté the duck breasts, skin side down, until the fat has rendered and the skin is dark golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Turn the duck breasts skin side up and roast in the oven until cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. 


To assemble the sandwiches:

2 teaspoons, softened butter

8 slices multi-grain bread

¾ cup cashew butter, at room temperature

¾ cup hot pepper jelly (My favorite brand is the “Zippy Jalapeño” by Jackie’s Jams, which I’ve found at Whole Foods.)

Apple-Celery Salad

Grilled Red Onions


Spread softened butter on both sides of each slice of bread.  Toast bread to your preference.  Spread 4 slices of bread with cashew butter and the remaining 4 with pepper jelly.  Warm the duck meat (and onions if using) in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes.  Divide the meat and onions on the 4 sandwiches.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add a layer of Apple-Celery salad.  Close, cut, 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.

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!



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!

Easy Red Lentils with Rice

I am always on the lookout for easy, delicious, and nutrition recipes. When a recipe meets all three criteria, I am ecstatic. This is one of them. I hope you enjoy!


1 and 1/2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed and drained ( I purchase mine at Whole Foods)

2 cups water

2 cups of broth

1 cup of tomato sauce or 1/2 can of tomato paste

1 onion, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and chopped

1-2 Tablespoons grapeseed or sunflower oil

3 cloves of garlic, chopped or pressed with garlic press

1 t. cumin

1 t. turmeric

1/2 teaspoon garam masala*

1/2 teaspoon curry powder *

2 dashes hot sauce (Tapatio, Tabasco, or Cholula Sauce works well)*

Fresh cilantro

Brown rice for serving

*Use less for a milder, less pungent flavor


Add onions, carrots into a large pan and sautee with grapeseed or sunflower oil (can tolerate high heat) until onions are translucent. Add spices and continue stir-frying for an additional minute. Add liquids (vegetable broth and water), tomato sauce, garlic, hot sauce, dried lentils. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to simmer. Check periodically to make sure there is enough liquid and add water or broth accordingly. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes.

Serve with rice. ( I use brown basmati rice). Garnish with Fresh Cilantro.


Easy Flatbread Pizza


When you are a busy mom, there are days when you don’t have much time for elaborate meals. This one takes less time to prepare then going through a drive-through, I promise. Plus, it’s loaded with vegetables. And, it’s delicous! Adjust toppings according to your tastes. This combination is perfect for us!


Kangaroo Whole Wheat Flatbread or Tandoori Naan bread
Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade (I use HEB brand
Tomato basil feta or plain feta, crumbled
Chopped artichoke
Chopped sundried tomatoes
Chopped kalamata olives

Fresh Roma tomatoes sliced in half
Parmesan cheese
Pickled jalapeños (optional)


Spread tapenade on flatbread. Top with remaining ingredients. Bake 10 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees.




This dish is like a Mexican or Tex-Mex lasagna.  The great thing about is that it feeds and pleases a crowd and reheats well.  You can serve it at a dinner party with a green salad and it you’re done (except of course for a great dessert!)  Feel free to add or omit ingredients to your taste.

 If you want to make it vegetarian, use drained and rinsed, canned organic black beans instead of the chicken, and add frozen corn kernels in addition to the diced red bell pepper and diced tomatoes. 

 1 box of Organic Chicken Broth, Imagine, Whole Foods, or Wolfgang Puck are great

 Chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, about 3 or 4

 Corn tortillas, torn into pieces (Mission is a good national brand) (1 bag of 12 tortillas—you will probably not use all of them in one recipe.)

 3 small cans/jars or one large can/jar of enchilada sauce Or, if you can find it, 2 jars of El Pinto Green Chile Sauce, pureed. (If you use “El Pinto” Green Chile Sauce, I recommend using 1 jar of “Medium” and 1 jar of “Mild”.

 1 package of Shredded Cheese (Trader Joe’s or Kraft Mexican 4-cheese blend) is great (otherwise, you can use a mixture of freshly grated Monterey Jack and Cheddar Cheese—I really like Tillamook Monterey Jack and White Cheddar)

 Cotija Queso Seco, crumbled

 1 red or yellow bell pepper or one of each, cut into small dice

 2 or 3 fresh tomatoes, cut into small dice

Pour the broth into the saucepan, and put the chicken breasts into it.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer and gently poach the chicken breasts until done.  Remove from broth and let cool.  Shred the chicken and set aside.  You can do this ahead of time or even the day before.  Or, you can buy a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store and save even more time!

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

 In a rectangular casserole dish, start by putting an even layer of tortilla pieces at the bottom of the pan.  Then pour a layer of sauce over them.  Then put a layer of shredded chicken.  Then put a layer of diced bell peppers and a layer of diced tomatoes.  Then add a layer of cheese.  Then add a layer of tortilla pieces and then sauce, then chicken, then cheese, then another layer of tortilla pieces ending with a layer of cheese.  (You can play with this as long as you end with the top two layers being tortillas and cheese (cheese at the very top.)

Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 45 minutes to an hour until golden and bubbly. Make sure it is bubbling in the middle. 

Serve with sour cream and either your favorite guacamole, or mashed avocado with lots of fresh lime or lemon juice and kosher salt.

 Use your favorite brand of enchilada sauce, medium or mild, to your taste.  Some good brands are:  “Old El Paso” “Hatch Green Chile Sauce”, “El Pinto Green Chile Sauce it comes in a jar”—If you use “El Pinto, it is a good idea to puree it in a blender or food processor until smooth because it is very chunky, but it is all natural and really delicious” (  Sometimes I mix one medium and one mild can/jar of sauce.

Barritas: A Toast to South Texas Bakeries (literally)


This is a very simple meal. It is one of those meals that you just put together and I had fun preparing it and sharing  memories about barritas and growing up the Rio Grande Valley.

The origins of “barritas” come from my childhood  in South Texas where there was an abundance of Mexican bakeries or “panaderias.” My sister blogged about this experience. See “Mexican Panaderias”

In South Texas and throughout Mexico, one can buy fresh French bread in addition to pan de dulce (pastries) at these panaderias. The smaller loaves of French bread are called “barritas.” We often sliced and toasted them in the oven if there were any left by the time we got home from the panaderia.  We would top them with butter, with butter, cinnamon, and sugar, or with beans and cheese like this recipe.

I used ciabatta bread from the grocery store since I don’t have easy access to a panaderia like I did growing up. While I missed the real bread from the bakery, the ciabatta bread and was a good substitute. I topped these with mashed pinto beans that I had made in the slow cooker but you could use canned beans for even greater ease. I topped with thin cheddar cheese slices and baked in the oven and served with sauteed asparagus.  Enjoy! If you were at our table, I’d raise my toasted barrita and toast to South Texas bakeries and childhood memories! Cheers!



Ciabatta bread or French bread sliced

Refried beans (mashed pinto beans with crushed garlic, a pinch of kosher salt, and black pepper)

Cheddar cheese (sliced thinly or grated)



Slice bread. Top with pinto beans and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes (watch closely) until the cheese is caramelized.

I served the barritas with sauteed asparagus.

Sauteed Asparagus


1 bunch fresh asparagus (washed with the hard stems cut off)

1 T. Grapeseed Oil

1 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 T. Balsamic Vinegar

Kosher Salt

Black Pepper



Heat grapeseed oil in large pan or wok on medium high heat. Add asparagus and salt and pepper. Saute for 3-4 until asparagus is bright green. Add balsamic vinegar and cook for 1 more minute. Remove from heat. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve.




Mexican Chorizo

Mexican Chorizo

From Simply Mexican by Lourdes Castro

Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley, we had access to the most delicious chorizo.  Chorizo con Huevo breakfast tacos are one of my favorites.  I much prefer to make my own chorizo using great quality lean ground meat, be it pork, beef, chicken or turkey –or any combination thereof. I ran across this recipe in this wonderful cookbook and have made it several times.  I changed the type of vinegar used.  The author calls for red wine vinegar, but I discovered that apple cider vinegar tastes more like the chorizo I grew up with.  I freeze this in small portions so that I can have it for breakfast tacos.  Another great recipe idea in this book is for a Chile, Cheese and Chorizo Melt (queso fundido with chorizo and poblano peppers).

Puree together until you have a smooth paste in a mini food processor:

2 cloves garlic

1 Tbs. kosher salt

½ cup apple cider vinegar

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbs. oregano (preferably Mexican oregano)

1 tsp. sugar

3 Tbs. ancho chile powder

1 canned chipotle

1 Tbs. adobo sauce from canned chipotle

2 Tbs. water

In a large bowl, blend  1 pound of lean ground beef and 1 pound of lean ground pork or if just using one type of meat, place in bowl and pour in the pureed spice mixture.  Using your hands (wear plastic gloves or put small plastic bags over your hands) and work the puree into the meats until well incorporated.  Place the mixture on parchment paper and shape into a log.  Wrap the parchment securely around the chorizo, twisting the ends closed, and refrigerate overnight.  Alternately transfer the mixture into a large plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.

If you are planning to use the chorizo within 2 days, leave it in the refrigerator.  Otherwise, divide the chorizo into small portions (1/4 cup, ½ cup or 1 cup) in place in individual airtight freezer bags and store in the freezer.  The chorizo can be kept frozen for up to 3 months.