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Apps, Dairy Free, Mains, Recipes

Meat-Stuffed Grape Leaves

September 21, 2017
These meat-stuffed grape leaves make a tasty appetizer or the spotlight to a special dinner with warm pita bread, lemony cucumber salad, and creamy hummus.

I’m always on the lookout for something different to switch up the dinner doldrums. Similar to I’m sure many of you I fall into weeknight ruts of either picking up something or making the same old things over and over again. So when the lovely Liz Della Croce asked if I would want to take a peek at the newest edition to her Food From Our Ancestors series: The Ultimate Syrian Sunday Dinner I jumped at the chance. This beautiful compilation of family recipes drive home why they are favorites; comfort food, full of flavor, the dishes our mothers have been making forever, for good reason.

I’ve a weakness for stuffed grape leaves so as soon as I saw Liz’s recipe I knew that those would most certainly make the cut. I’m the gal who buys the Trader Joe’s grape leaves for just about every summer picnic but have never actually made them myself. The recipe looked simple enough and culinary challenges are pretty much my jam so in I dove.

I’ve only ever eaten rice-stuffed grape leaves and was excited that I could actually rationalize these meat-stuffed grape leaves as dinner. Add a salad (I made Liz’s Syrian salad from the book) and a side (again Liz to the rescue with Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions—I told you this book was good!) and now, man I’m getting excited about dinner!

These meat-stuffed grape leaves weren’t even all that hard to pull off. The jar of grape leaves I found at Whole Foods and they easily unfurl to create perfect little wrappers for the meat and rice mixture. One jar was plenty and I even has some leftover, so you know whose going to be making stuffed grape leaves again. Yay, yes, ME!

As far as stuffing and rolling I fell right into rhythm. They were like rolling up tiny little burritos: two sides in, bottom over filling, roll, roll, roll.

Then you pile them in a pot, cover with water, and weigh them down with a plate. Simmer until the rice is cooked—they only take about 15 minutes! They are excellent hot, room temperature, or cold. It’s the lemon that I love, no the mint, no the lemon. Either way, so good.

Liz’s Food From Our Ancestors series are real treasures. You can get the Syrian ebook or buy a bundle of all four: Mexican, Jewish Shabbat, Italian, and Syrian for basically a steal.

Meat-Stuffed Grape Leaves
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6 servings
  • 1 (2-pound) jar of grape leaves (roughly 50 leaves)
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • ½ cup lon-grain white rice, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into thirds, optional
  • 5 cabbage leaves, optional
  • 2 tablespoons dried mint
  1. Line a large pot with celery stalks and loose cabbage leaves (I used extra grape leaves).
  2. Place grape leaves on a plate and trim any large, thick stems off bottom.
  3. In a large bowl, combine ground meat, rice, juice of 1 lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  4. Working one grape leaf at a time, place the leaf flat on a plate and add 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture near stem.
  5. Form meat into thin cigar shapes, then roll the grape leaf starting at the stem all the way to the top. No need to fold in sides but they'll look nicer if you do.
  6. Line stuffed grape leaves in pot, alternating direction with each layer, until the pot is filled ¾ of the way or you've used all your leaves.
  7. Cover the grape leaves with water, making sure there's at least one inch of liquid above the grape leaves. Pour in remaining lemon juice and add dried mint.
  8. Cover grape leaves with a small plate turned upside down to keep them from moving and to weigh them down.
  9. Cover pot with lid and bring to a simmer.
  10. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until rice is fully cooked. Serve with pita bread and cucumber laban.
Liz suggests lining the cooking pot with celery stalks and cabbage leaves. I didn't have either, so I used a few of the torn and tiny grape leaves instead

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Mains, Recipes

How To Make A Beef and Bean Burrito

September 8, 2017
Step-by-step instructions will show you how to make a comfort food classic: the Beef and Bean Burrito. A supersized family favorite for hungry bellies!

I’m pretty sure my son’s the only kindergartener who takes a container of meat to school for lunch.

Yesterday I was cooking the meat for these beef and bean burritos when Hiro sauntered in nose-first. “That smells good Mama, can I have some for my lunch?” He asks. I thought about the logistics for a moment, fearing he wouldn’t be able to open the container, or that it would get cold by the time he got around to eating it, or worse, he’d get made fun of for having a tiny Tupperware of meat but then said, “I don’t have the rest of the burrito stuff ready, but I could put some meat in a container and you could eat it with a spoon?” “Thanks, Mama!” He said. And so it was, he took it. He ate it (the teacher did have to open the container for him) and what little was left he ate in the car on the way home from school. I don’t know why I worry.

It goes without saying that this beef and bean burrito recipe is kid approved.

Here’s how you make them!

First things first, make the filling. I loosely follow a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s The Best Mexican Recipes. If I’m feeling ambitious I’ll make Mexican rice instead of the garlic rice in the recipe. After your filling is ready to go then I feel it is essential to warm the tortillas in a hot, dry frying pan—not in the microwave. The pan lends a toasty flavor to the tortillas and the micro just makes them rubbery. You warm the tortillas because they need to be cooked a little before filling to get rid of that doughy flavor.

As far as the tortillas are concerned, I like to buy the extra-large (12-inch) flour tortillas that they use at the burrito truck. Most Latin markets sell them but most other grocery stores do not. Just buy the biggest ones you can find, but also know the big ones make HUGE burritos, so if you’re feeding little ones the smaller 8 or 10-inch ones are just fine.

After the tortillas are nice and toasty it is time to fill them up. The amount of filling you add will depend on how big you’d like your burrito to be. A hungry man burrito takes about 3/4 cup of beef and 3/4 cup of rice.

You can add other stuff to your burritos too, like cheese, sour cream, guacamole, salsa. We are a dairy-free house so I didn’t add any of the cheesy stuff and I don’t like hot guacamole so none of that inside my burrito either. Armando and Hiro like pico de gallo inside their burritos, but I do not. I think it makes the tortilla soggy and prefer to put mine on the outside, but it’s up to you.

Then its time to roll it up. Sides go in first, then the bottom goes over the filling.

Pull the tortilla tight over the filling then roll all the way up to seal.

The most essential step to a good burrito comes at the end. After you have rolled it up the burrito goes back in the hot, dry frying pan to get a nice, crispy crust. One that seals up the seam and turns that tortilla from rubbery to golden.

Don’t forget more fresh pico on top!

Beef and Bean Burrito Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6
  • 1¼ cups chicken broth
  • ¾ cup long-grain rice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 21 ounces 85 percent ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder (I used New Mexico chile powder, the recipe calls for chipotle--you decide)
  • 1½ cups cooked pinto beans (a 15-ounce can or cook your own )
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • 6 flour tortillas (the biggest you can find, I used 12-inch)
  • Pico de Gallo or your favorite store-bought salsa
  1. Bring chicken broth, rice, garlic, and a generous pinch of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes, fluff with fork, stir in cilantro and cover to keep warm.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add beef, tomato paste, cumin, oregano, and chile powder. Cook, breaking up meat with the back of a wooden spoon and cook until beef is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  5. Using a potato masher mash 1 cup of the beans in a bowl with ½ cup of the bean cooking liquid or the liquid from the can if you are using canned beans. Stir into the beef mixture along with remaining ½ cup whole beans and lime juice. Taste to see if it needs more salt then remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
  6. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Warm the tortillas on both sides for a minute or two but not until they are toasted. Transfer to a baking sheet and mound about ¾ cup beef and ¾ cup rice in the bottom third of the tortillas. Add some pico de gallo if you'd like.
  7. Fold in the sides then roll the bottom of the tortilla over the filling, pulling back on it firmly to tighten it around the filling then roll the rest of the way up to close. Set seam side down on a tray. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.
  8. Place burritos seam side down in a hot dry skillet to seal closed and get a nice golden crust. Flip and toast the other side. Serve immediately with pico de gallo or let cool and wrap tightly with plastic wrap and then foil. Burritos will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer and 5 days in the refrigerator.
  9. To rewarm: Unwrap burritos and place on a baking sheet if you are heating more than one or on a oven-safe frying pan for just one burrito. Heat in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes.




Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Drinks, Popular, Recipes

How to Make a DIY Chambord Sangria Bar

August 17, 2017
A DIY Chambord Sangria Bar is where it's at this summer! You make the fruity sangria base with Chambord and nectarines and let your friends do the rest.

This post has been sponsored by Chambord. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Must be 21 or older to consume alcohol. Please drink responsibly.

A DIY Chambord Sangria Bar is where it's at this summer! You make the fruity sangria base with Chambord and nectarines and let your friends do the rest.

How much time have you spent with your girlfriends this summer? If you have young kids home from school, the answer is probably none. We’ve been off traveling through Europe all summer long which was magical, amazing, memories I will cherish forever, and all that, but I really miss shooting the breeze with my ladies.

There is nothing like an out-and-out pow-wow with your girls. It is something I’m almost positive no mom does enough. So before summer is out I want to encourage you to call up a few friends, kick your adorable husband and children out the house, and have some serious girl time. It feels good to remind yourself every once in a while what life was like before your heart belonged to another.

When my pals at Chambord asked if I would come up with a summer drink recipe it seemed a perfect opportunity to offer up a fun idea for an easy Girls Night Out. These last days of summer always seem to be the hottest so ice-cold sangria is basically all I’m thinking about where entertaining is concerned. But instead of making one pitcher how about you let your friends make their own combinations by putting together a sangria bar?

Here’s the deal: You make a fruity nectar for the sangria by cooking down some fresh nectarines with a little sugar, water and lavender then blending the nectarine mixture with Chambord.

If you’ve never tried Chambord, girl it is time. Chambord is a black raspberry liqueur made with XO cognac. It has a dark berry flavor with hints of vanilla. Aside from making delicious sangria, you can also add a splash or two in a glass of sparkling wine to make one of my favorite Champagne cocktails.  

This nectarine-black raspberry puree will be the base from which everyone can add their preferred type of wine (red or white), their favorite sparkling juice or ginger beer, and their choice of fruits and herbs.

I went for stone fruits because my stone fruit guy was at the Farmer’s market and you’d have to be crazy to pass up his selection of black plums, nectarines, and peaches. But really whatever fruit looks good where you are is game. Other options would be berries of all sorts, watermelon, or really any kind of melon, you get the idea. As for the herbs I like to use fresh basil and mint. The Chambord sangria base has lavender in it, so you could pick up on those notes and have some fresh lavender flowers for adding to the drinks as well. I have lots of lavender growing in my yard, so I pick the flowers to use in my cooking all the time. You can buy lavender online or if you can’t find any, that’s okay, just leave it out.

Cut all the fruit in pieces small enough to fit in the glass and set it out on a table or bar along with the Chambord Sangria Base, washed and dried herb leaves, glasses, ice, open bottles of wine, and a nice selection of sparkling juices and/or ginger beer. The final touch is drink stirrers for combining the cocktail and a cute little recipe card to help everyone know what to add to mix the perfect drink!

Chambord Sangria Bar
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A DIY Chambord Sangria Bar is where it's at this summer! You make the fruity sangria base with Chambord and nectarines and let your friends do the rest.
Serves: 6 drinks
For the Chambord Sangria Base:
  • 3 ripe nectarines, pitted, peeled, and chopped
  • 1½ cups water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 5 lavender buds
  • 1 cup Chambord
  • For the Bar:
  • 1 bottle chilled white wine
  • 1 bottle chilled red wine
  • 1-3 bottles chilled sparkling juice (get a couple of different kinds for variation. I got sparkling lemonade and sparkling berry lemonade)
  • 1-4 bottles chilled ginger beer
  • 3-4 different types of ripe fresh fruit, sliced
  • 1-2 types of fresh herb leaves (about 1 bunch each)
  1. To make the Chambord base, combine nectarines, water, sugar, and lavender in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook until fruit is soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Let cool then transfer mixture to a blender, add Chambord, and blend until smooth. Transfer to a serving pitcher, cover, and chill until cold. You can do this the day before if you’d like.
  3. Arrange all the elements on a table or bar for everyone to help themselves.
  4. To make a drink, add a few pieces of ice to a wine glass. Then add 1 part Chambord base with 1 part wine and 1 part sparkling juice or ginger beer. Add a few pieces of fruit and some herb leaves, stir and enjoy.





Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Mains, Recipes, Soups and Stews

Simple Summer Vegetable Soup with Cilantro Pesto Croutons

July 25, 2017
How to make a summer vegetable soup packed with white beans, garden veggies and topped with a crispy crouton slathered with cilantro and baby spinach pesto.

We got back late last night from our European summer adventure.

The two things I’ve been dreaming about for the last couple weeks of the trip have been going for a run and a simple summer vegetable soup. I’m not sure exactly who I have become.

Normally I’m not such a health freak but after six weeks of gluttony my body was in desperate need of a reboot. This morning I hit the pavement vowing never to go on such an extended excursion without my running shoes again and then made a big pot of soup for dinner.

There’s something so intensely satisfying about potatoes and carrots and beans bubbling away in a tomatoey broth. It is the kind of simple food to regroup to, to find your balance, and most importantly, fill your belly.

As you can imagine, I’m a bit exhausted from our trip, but I wanted to share this recipe with you as I have a feeling I’m not alone in the need for simple comforts, getting back on track, or maybe just a recipe to use up your garden’s summer bounty.

The cilantro pesto croutons are obviously optional but I love their crunchy edges and soft middles, plus any extra pesto gets mixed into the soup giving it a happy little herby boost.

Simple Summer Vegetable Soup with Cilantro Pesto Croutons
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 10-12 servings
For the Soup:
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 leeks, halved, washed well, and sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 small yellow potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 1 cup cubed)
  • 1 cup dried large white beans, rinsed (I used lima beans)
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped green beans
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
For the Croutons:
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, thick stems removed (about 2 packed cups of leaves and tender stems)
  • 1 packed cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 baguette
To make the soup:
  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add leeks and onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add carrots and celery and season again with salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes more then add garlic and cook another minute.
  3. Add tomatoes, potatoes, beans, water, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until beans are tender, about 1-1½ hours.
  4. Add green beans and zucchini and continue cooking until tender, about 10 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. I added about 1 teaspoon more.
For the Croutons:
  1. Heat oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine cilantro, spinach, garlic, salt, and pumpkin seeds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add oil and blend until smooth.
  3. Slice baguette into ½-inch thick slices. Spread about ½-1 teaspoon of pesto on one side of each slice then place pesto-side-up on a baking sheet. Bake until outer edges are crisp about 10 minutes.
  4. Spoon any remaining pesto into the soup pot and stir to combine. Ladel soup into bowls and top with one or two croutons.

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

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Breads, Breakfast, Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Recipes, Snacks, Sweets

Orange Juice Donuts with Zucaritas Sprinkle

July 14, 2017
Super simple baked orange juice donuts packed with bright orange flavor, topped with sweet orange glaze and crushed Zucaritas (aka Mexican Frosted Flakes).

Introducing my first ever donut recipe!

I honestly don’t know what took me so long. I guess I had shunned the idea of baked donuts as simply a muffin baked in a donut shaped pan, but I’ve been wrong before and I’ll surely be wrong again.

These donuts are not at all muffiny, they are tender, soft little pillows full of orange flavor. The Sucaritos sprinkle on top are 110% inspired by my daughter and her love of cereal-topped donuts. When we hit the donut shop she makes a bee-line for the most purple, cereal-loaded donut she can find. Fruity Pebbles, Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops, you name it, she’s on it.

In my consistent motherly effort to make the foods my kids love even the slightest bit healthier I decided to create my own cereal-topped donut with Zucaritas (aka Mexican Frosted Flakes). I fully admit Zucaritas are not, I repeat NOT healthy as far as cereals go, but the donut part IS a bit healthier than your average fried donut shop donut. It is naturally dairy-free; I used fresh-squeezed orange juice instead of milk and only a small amount of vegetable oil instead of butter. And of course, not dunking them in a vat of hot oil also keeps things a bit on the lighter side.

I made batch after batch of these donuts in my new Wolf Gourmet Countertop Oven. I don’t think it is an understatement to say I’m in love. This oven does everything my standard-size oven does but faster, and more accurately. If I didn’t cook professionally out of my home kitchen I would replace my full-sized oven with this countertop version and use that space as extra storage—it is that good. It heats up in under 10 minutes, fits full-sized baking pans (like this donut pan) and comes equipped with an internal temperature probe for cooking meat perfectly every time.

Head on over to Wolf Gourmet’s Food Notes Blog to get the recipe!

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

This post was sponsored by Wolf Gourmet. Opinions are 100% my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make ¡Hola! Jalapeño possible!





Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Drinks, Recipes

Pink Grapefruit & Cilantro Spanish Gin Tonic

July 9, 2017
This pink grapefruit Spanish gin tonic is an ultra-refreshing sipper for summer. Flavored with cilantro-grapefruit syrup and a hefty splash of tonic.

Are you familiar with Spanish Gin Tonics? I wasn’t until a few months ago, and now I can’t stop drinking them. I am normally late to the game. I rely on my well-healed, childless friends to keep me up to date on what happens in the world after 9pm and apparently its Spain, Gin, and Tonic Water, plus other stuff.

Spanish gin tonics are like regular ‘ol English gin and tonics except lighter, more flavorful, and without that bothersome and word in the middle. They are frequently served with lots of garnishes so you can mix and match what you’d like in your drink. They also switch up the tonic and sometimes substitute mineral water, soda water, or (in this case) fresh fruit juice.

pink grapefruit Spanish gin tonics

Here’s how I like to Spanish-up my GT

First, make a herbal syrup. It is pretty common in a Spanish gin tonic bar to have a variety of herbs to choose from when making this style of cocktail because they highlight the flavors in gin. I made a syrup with cilantro and grapefruit rind. At first it might seem like a ridiculous amount of cilantro, but trust me, just do it.

Second part: use a big balloon wine glass. This will make all the difference I swear. Fill the glass halfway with ice then add some of the chilled syrup, your favorite gin, and fresh-squeezed, kinda sour, kinda sweet pink grapefruit juice. Stir until the syrup dissolves and top with fizzy tonic water. Do not use the stuff in the little cans from Trader Joes—it was gross (sorry Trader Joes).

pink grapefruit gin tonic

That’s it. Drink. Repeat. Sit in the sun. Enjoy.

Pink Grapefruit and Cilantro Spanish Gin & Tonic
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This pink grapefruit Spanish gin tonic is an ultra-refreshing sipper for summer. Flavored with cilantro-grapefruit syrup and a hefty splash of tonic.
Serves: 1 drink
For the Grapefruit-Cilantro Syrup:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 3 thick pieces grapefruit rind
For the drink:
  • ice
  • 2 ounces fresh-squeezed pink grapefruit juice
  • 2 ounces gin
  • ½ ounce grapefruit-cilantro syrup
  • 2 ounces tonic water
To make the syrup:
  1. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add cilantro and grapefruit rind and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5 minutes.
  2. Cover and remove from heat. Let cool completely. Strain and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. Keep syrup covered in the refrigerator for up to a month.
To make the drink:
  1. Combine all the ingredients in the order they're listed in a large wine glass. Stir to combine and garnish with a pink grapefruit slice and sprig of cilantro if you'd like.

pink grapefruit gin tonic

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!



Condiments and Salsas, Dairy Free, Recipes, Salads, Side Dishes

Red Lentil Picnic Salad with Sweet Cider Dressing

June 27, 2017
This Red Lentil Picnic Salad is a no-cook salad that won't wilt and is hearty enough to eat on it's own but also an excellent side for picnics or barbecues.

Summer is the time for picnics and barbecues. It is not the time for standing over a hot stove, sweat beading on your brow. This is where the magic of ultra-tender split red lentils come in. Did you know you don’t even have to cook them?!!

I got this idea when I was experimenting with lentils back in April. It was my first attempts at sprouting lentils that lead to the discovery that the red ones didn’t really need to be cooked at all! When I tried to sprout them they instantly became soft and mushy, just a good soaking in water was all it took to turn them from hard seeds to beans so soft you could smash them between your fingers.

Then I thought what if I soaked them briefly, in boiling water. I bet they would be the perfect consistency for a nice crunchy salad, with just enough give to add great texture while still maintaining all their peppery flavor. Not to mention, eating them virtually raw like this keeps their nutrient level high, making them a powerhouse of a meal without the calories or fat of meat or other foods with similar amounts of protein.

Thus this picnic salad was born. I love make-ahead salads to bring to barbecues or picnics that don’t require any last-minute fussiness. Because all the components of this salad are hardy enough to handle a long marinade in the sweet ginger and cider vinegar dressing you don’t need to worry about them wilting or getting water logged by the time you get to where you’re going. That being said, the baby arugula will wilt a bit on especially long road trips so if this is a bother to you, you can always add it right before serving.

Red Lentil Picnic Salad with Sweet Cider Dressing
Prep time
Total time
Serves: 6 servings
  • ½ cup red lentils
  • ¼ cup minced scallions or spring onions
  • 1 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small head broccoli, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ small head red cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 2 large radishes, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons dried cherries
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  1. Pour lentils into a fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold water. Transfer to a heat proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the salad, or at least 30-40 minutes until they are tender but still maintain a slight bite.
  2. Combine scallions, ginger, salt, sugar, and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking continuously until incorporated.
  3. Combine broccoli, cabbage, arugula, radishes, cherries, and sunflower seeds in a large bowl. Drain lentils and add to the vegetables. Pour dressing over the top and toss to combine. Taste and add more salt if needed.

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The opinions and text are all mine. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this blog possible! Follow the hashtag #LetsLentil for great recipes all summer long!


Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Recipes, Snacks, Sweets

Creamy Coconut Lime Paletas

June 21, 2017
Coconut lime paletas are one of my all-time favorite Mexican popsicles. They are so creamy and delicious but are actually vegan, low-cal, and easy to make!

Hey, Hey! 2017 #PaletaWeek is here!!

Thank God and bless the lovely Lola from Lola’s Cocina; she has impeccable timing, because it is HOT and all I want to eat are creamy, dreamy, frozen treats and she’s organized an entire WEEK of them!! Make sure you follow the #PaletaWeek hashtag on social for all the updates.

My contribution is about the easiest paleta you can make (aside from maybe pouring juice in a popsicle mold). It requires no special equipment—you could totally make these in paper cups if you want— and takes about 10 minutes to put together from start to pouring them in the molds.

But oh my are they delicious! Creamy coconut milk and fresh-squeezed lime juice are a dream combination. I sweetened them with agave syrup to save a little on the calories but the secret ingredient is the tiny shreds of lime zest which pool a bit at the bottom of the mold making those first few bites just sing with tart flavor.

I got a new popsicle mold this year and I’m loving it, I feel muy profesional because now my paletas look just like the ones from our local paleta shop. But I’m known to make popsicles in just about anything, juice glasses, paper cups, you name it. What I’m trying to say is there should be absolutely nothing stopping you from making yourself some homemade paletas this summer.

Creamy Coconut Lime Paletas
Prep time
Total time
Serves: 6-8 paletas
  • 1 (13.5 ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 6 tablespoons agave syrup
  • ¼ cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1½ teaspoons finely shredded lime zest
  • pinch of salt
  1. Whisk all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Pour into popsicle molds, insert sticks and place in freezer for 4-8 hours depending on how cold your freezer is.
  3. To remove: run each mold under hot water for 10-20 seconds or until the paleta easily removes from the mold. Return to the freezer until ready to eat.

Head over to Lola’s Cocina for a list of all the Paleta Week Recipes and check out these favorites too!


One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

Apps, Breakfast, Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Recipes, Side Dishes, Snacks, Sweets

The Ultimate Summer Fruit Board

June 12, 2017
One thing Mexico and Italy have in common is their love of fresh fruit. This ultimate summer fruit board combines the two different styles in one board!

This evening precisely at 6pm we will board a plane to Italy where we will stay for the next five weeks, then it is off to London for another week before returning home.

I am so incredibly excited and honestly never thought this day would come. Armando and I spent three months in Italy 15 years ago and I truly thought that I would never be back. There are just so many places on Earth to see I didn’t think (as much as I absolutely fell in love with the country) that I would have the luxury to visit the same place twice. Now, here we are, packing—albeit a much bigger—suitcase, with some of our clothes we bought there last time, and not only returning to Italy but bringing our children with us too.

I will try to post here while I’m gone but I’ll be honest with you, I’m actually looking forward to having a break. I hope to spend most of the time replenishing my creative juices and stocking up on inspiration. I will be posting our journey on Instagram in stories and pictures so make sure to check us out there.

Before I take off however, I wanted to leave you with an idea I’m pretty sure you’ll use all summer long. It is not really a recipe but simply an easy idea that will make every party you throw or attend from Father’s Day to Labor Day. We took this ultimate summer fruit board to our friend’s last night where they were celebrating their son’s 4th birthday and it was loved by everyone from the smallest munchkin to the most sophisticated adult (who was not me, BTW).

This fruit board also ties in to our upcoming trip because if there is one thing Italians and Mexicans have in common it is their love of fresh fruit. I’ve separated the board to highlight the different ways fruit is enjoyed in both places and strangely enough they go very well together; a little sweet, a little spicy, something creamy, something salty. I guess there’s a reason I have such an admiration for both cultures, they are very much in lock step with each other in so many ways.


The most important detail of putting together a delectable fruit board is to choose the ripest, most beautiful fruit you can find. Ideally the Farmer’s Market is the place to shop, but wherever you go, make sure the fruit is fragrant and at it’s peak.

Anything goes as far as which fruits to select. Here’s what I chose:

  • black grapes, mango, kiwi, blueberries, raspberries, papaya, oranges, cherries, red grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon, green grapes, nectarines

For the Italian side of the board I added:

For the Mexican side of the board I added:

Have a wonderful summer my loves!!

Oh, and if you have any recommendations for things to see, do, eat, enjoy in Italy I’d love to hear them. Anyone want to meet up?

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!


Apps, Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Mains, Recipes

Spicy Papaya Lime Shrimp Skewers

June 2, 2017
These spicy papaya lime shrimp skewers are the perfect summertime grilled skewer. Small bites of lime and chili marinated shrimp with juicy papaya.

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The girls and I got together again. You know how we do every few months. Throw a fabulous party, take a bunch of pictures, tell you all about it. Follow #friendswhofete for all the details.

This time it was to celebrate Aida’s elopement and future wedded bliss in an effortlessly elegant bridal shower. We got together at my friend Moana’s studio, drank champagne cocktails, and nibbled on finger foods. It was all kinds of fancy and I’ll be sharing lots of photos and recipes and party tips with you over the next week or so because I know there are at least one or two of you who will be hosting a bridal or baby shower this summer.

One of my contributions were these shrimp and papaya skewers that I had marinated, and skewered in advance and then grilled right before we ate. Which p.s. means they can absolutely be made in advance and are excellent party food.

Let’s talk shrimp

I am a gal who prefers super fresh local shrimp with the heads and shells left on. I was able to get some at the local fish market on the harbor in Santa Barbara. That being said (knowing full well you are probably in mid eye roll right now) this recipe will work perfectly perfect with headless, peeled and deveined shrimp. But if you have access to local shrimp and can get those bad boys with the head on–do it!

The shrimp gets marinated in loads of lime zest, fresh squeeze lime juice, ground California chili powder (or whichever chili powder you prefer) and sugar. In this instance it is a marinade but there is no reason this would not make an amazing dip for spring rolls or pot stickers, so keep that in mind next time you want to doctor up a bag of Trader Joe’s gyoza.

Because these are supposed to be dainty bites I skewered one shrimp between two papaya wedges but if you are serving them as more of a main course situation you can add as many to the skewer as you’d like.

Let’s talk papaya

For this recipe you want a ripe, sweet papaya…but not too ripe. If the papaya is like super duper, kinda starting to mold on the outside ripe, it will fall apart the second you try to skewer it. Look for one that is almost to that stage, but not quite.

Peeling a papaya is best done with a y-peeler. If you don’t have one—what the heck are you waiting for?!! They cost like two cents and perform miracles. Peel it, cut it in half and scoop out the creepy looking black seeds–eat them if you want, they taste like pepper.

The final touch for these skewers was a sprinkle of Jacobsen Salt Company’s habanero salt, just to add a touch of heat. By the way, they are not paying me to say this, but I really do love their salts, and honeys, and oh my god their salty candies which basically taste like the best salt water taffy you’ve ever had. But for these skewers the habanero salt is where its at. If you are not that into spicy, just leave it off but it does give the skewers that perfect je ne sais quoi.

Spicy Papaya Lime Shrimp Skewers
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 24 bamboo or metal skewers
  • 2 tablespoons lime zest
  • 6 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground California chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound shrimp, preferably head-on with shells
  • 2 pounds ripe papaya, peeled, seeded and cut into wedges
  • Habanero salt, for garnish (optional)
  • Lime wedges, for serving (optional)
  1. If using bamboo or wooden skewers, cover with water and let soak for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Combine lime zest, lime juice, sugar, oil, chili powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to dissolve sugar.
  3. I like to use head-on shrimp as I find they have more flavor. I leave the heads and shells on and rinse them well in cold water. If you'd rather get headless shrimp that's fine too. Peel and devein the shrimp if you'd like, either way works. Toss shrimp in marinade, cover, and refrigerate for an hour.
  4. Start the grill and let it heat to medium-high.
  5. Drain the skewers if soaking and thread papaya and shrimp (1 shrimp and 2 papaya pieces per skewer for appetizer bites and more for meal-sized portions) on the skewers. Saving any leftover marinade for brushing.
  6. Grill skewers, brushing with marinade occasionally until shrimp are pink, firm, and cooked through. The timing on these will depend on how hot your grill is. Mine was pretty cool, so they took about 10 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle skewers with a little habanero salt if you'd like and serve with lime wedges.

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

A big thanks goes out to Salt & Wind and This Mess Is Ours for the beautiful photography and to Melissa’s for supplying the fresh produce!