Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Well it is midnight and we are finally packed for our trip to Mexico tomorrow morning! (please give us first class Delta!) One small roller bag for a one month trip? I hope I am not forgetting anything. Ha! Im the lightest packer ever, and really, as long as I have my camera, we are good to go. I am so excited to see new things, meet new people and of course [as always] document it all!

This trip will be a bit different though, I will be using the old fashioned method of documentation. A pen and paper! That's right my friends, I will be taking break from blogging here and at Viva Cindy while in Mexico. [but still taking many notes and hundreds of pictures to share with you later] My brother Brrrian suggested this to me earlier tonight when I was telling him that I wasn't taking my laptop with me. I don't want to live in internet cafes. I just want to live! (ok, you may see a post here and there, I would probably go into withdrawal if I totally abandon blogging)

If you are curious as to what Ernesto and I will be getting into for the next month, you can follow me on Twitter Ernesto will have his touchy-touch and we will keeps the tweets current!

We will be picking up lots of new recipes for VLC, so please check back with us! 

My tweets are also posted on the right sidebar of my non-food blog!

Adios Amigos! Que tengan un buen mez!

**Picture taken on our last trip to Mexico in December 2007. We were in the Riviera Maya just south of Cancun.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blogging Break! VIVA MEXICO!

Well it is midnight and we are finally packed for our trip to Mexico tomorrow morning!  (please give us first class Delta!) One small roller bag for a one month trip?  I hope I am not forgetting anything.  Ha! Im the lightest packer ever, and really, as long as I have my camera, we are good to go.  I am so excited to see new things, meet new people and of course [as always] document it all!

This trip will be a bit different though, I will be using the old fashioned method of documentation.  A pen and paper!  That's right my friends,  I will be taking  break from Viva Cindy while in Mexico.   [but still taking many notes and hundreds of pictures to share with you  later] My brother Brrrian suggested this to me earlier tonight when I was telling him that I wasn't taking my laptop with me.  I don't want to live in internet cafes.  I just want to live!  (ok, you may see a post here and there, I would probably go into withdrawal if I totally abandon blogging)  

If you are really missing me, or curious as to what Ernesto and I will be getting into for the next month, you can follow me on Twitter Ernesto will have his touchy-touch and we will keeps the tweets current!

My tweets are also posted on the right sidebar of my blog

Adios Amigos! Que tengan un buen mez! 

**Picture taken on our last trip to Mexico in December 2007.  We were in the Riviera Maya just south of Cancun. 

Mini Road Trip

Yesterday we were able to squeeze in a mini road trip to Columbus to see my long-time friend Joanne.  She and I have been friends for about 11 years.  We both worked at Delta and became great travel buddies.  Jamaica, France, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, Peru, and many US stops, we have covered a lot of ground together.  Now its all about the baby.  Joanne and Rick had little Lucy on August 2, 7 days before Eleanor.  She is an absolute beauty!

Since we were in the area of our Alma Mater....The Ohio State University, we took a cruise around campus and it was awesome.  It really brought back memories, some of the best times of my life actually.  
I'm so excited that my niece is going to start here next month.  She really has no idea what is in store for her.  She's going to have so much fun! The middle building below was my dorm my first year.  Kelli's is just next door.  South campus baby!
OSU's campus was huge when I went there,  a mini city even.  I lived on my  rollerblades.  I would litter ally roll into my classes.  It has changed so much since I went there.  So many new buildings and High Street has gotten a total face lift.  Long gone are the bars where I faithfully partied.  But low and behold somethings are still exactly the same.  
Mirror Lake, beautiful serenity in the summer months.  When its cold though and we are about to beat Michigan, hundreds of screaming kids jump into this lake at night after a parade through campus.  Ayyy, school spirit! 
We also drove by our old apartments too.  Here is the first place I ever lived on "my own" The townhouse at 9 E. Norwich.  I loved that place.  Oh, the stories this place could tell you.  We had a disco ball in our living room.  Yep. Good times.
I would love to hear if you have a memory of this apartment, please add it in the comments below.  I want to keep going down  memory lane.  I do miss you Columbus Ohio.  

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Adjusting to "Ohio Time"

Hola, saludos de Ohio! I thought I would start by sharing a beautiful bouquet my mom cut from her garden.
I couldn't believe the heat wave when we walked out of the Akron-Canton airport last week. 90 and humid! It is so nice being home with my family.

Jokingly, I told my dad it would take me 3 days to adjust to the time change. We have been staying up late. The first day I woke up at 1030a, the second 930a and the next at 830a. (I have only ever experienced real jet lag twice and it when I went to China and Turkey) We both knew that this was not due to jet lag. I think I may have grown accustomed to my laid back west coast lifestyle!
Ohio is a faster pace, and I'm fine with it. Change is good! Adapt. So many new things.

#1 one being my new beautiful, tiny, perfect, chubby-cheeked niece Eleanor.

I only found out she was a girl on day she was born, and immediately I decided to get crafty. I had read about how to sew these burping cloths on Smile and Wave and I was inspired. I bought some girly material and went to work. Another project was a frame that I painted and added letters spelling her name, and my favorite, a onesie where I sewed on a big letter E. Great idea right?

My first summer lunch in Ohio? BLT's with home grown tomatoes. I think I had 5 or 6 this week. YUM!

Tomorrow we are driving to Columbus to visit my friend Joanne's new baby Lucy, who is exactly one week older than little Eleanor. I haven't seen Joann for about a year and a half, so I can't wait!

Tuesday or Wednesday we will be taking off to Mexico City where we will relish a few nights alone in a "Heavenly Bed" at the Sheraton or W Hotels. Thank you Starwoods points!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Never Enough Guacamole

I know a guy who doesn't like green food. Period. This makes me laugh. Nothing green? I would always to think of something that could convince him he does in fact like something green. lettuce? celery? lima beans? No? ok maybe I can understand. But Asparagus? Peppers? Broccoli? Snow peas? Come on! And Avocados? This is impossible. You can't not like avocados. Can you?

Its hard to believe because I just love green food. All of it! Avocados are at the top of my list too. Although guacamole is more of a snack or appetizer, there have been many a night where this was my dinner. I can eat a whole bowl and be completely satisfied. The ingredients themselves are beautiful. I like to buy my avocados firm. I made mashed guacamole for years, but in the last year or two have taken to a more chunky style. After slicing down the middle and taking the seed out, I score the avocado into cubes and scoop out with a spoon. (This doesn't work if the avocado is too ripe)

Great Guacamole

4 firm avocados, cubed

3 roma tomatoes, deseeded and cubed

1/2 of one medium red onion, diced

3 serrano peppers (or jalapeƱos), diced

handful of cilantro, chopped

juice of half a lime

salt and pepper

Combine all in a bowl and serve immediately.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Refried Beans

Matt Armendariz's blog MattBites has been in my reader for a long time now. I love his writing style and his photos are phenomenal. When he invited his readers to Summer Fest 2009, I wanted to participate. What a fun idea. Its four weeks of sharing recipes. Pop over to his blog to see what others are posting. The first two weeks of summerfest were delicious with one week of Herbs and another week of Fruits from Trees.

This weeks theme is "Beans & Greens"

Immediately I thought of refried beans. Tortillas. Salsa. Beans. These are all staples of Mexican cooking. Served for breakfast, lunch and dinner, beans are low in fat and high in protein. They are definitely a staple in our house.

You won't believe how easy they are to make either. You can start with dry pinto beans that you have already cooked or use canned beans. We do both ways, but since we make these so frequently, we more often use canned beans. One benefit is that this can be ready in less than 10 minutes, another is that no salt is needed. (canned beans come with enough sodium added. You won't want to rinse these as the juice is key to the consistency.
Refried Beans

1Tbsp canola oil

3-4 dried chile de arbol peppers (available in most grocery stores)

1 24 oz can of whole pinto beans (make sure they aren't cooked with pork)

Heat the canola oil and add peppers. Cook until blackened. Take pan off heat and let cool [or it will splatter] Add beans. Simmer. Mash. Serve. Que rico!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Adios a San Diego

Well our time is up in San Diego, and I'm feeling a bit sad, yet I know that we have a lot of excitement ahead. (which by the way is the key to happiness for me, always having some excitement around the corner)
It has been so wonderful being with Ernesto's family all summer. I will really miss them, and of course this fairy tale life style that we have gotten so used to. (wake up, internet and coffee for a few hours, talk about what to do that day, do it, or don't, eat dinner, play cards, go to bed and get as much sleep as I want) I now have a full understanding of the Espinoza's. I knew they were easy going laid back people, but it really amazes me how consistent it is. There is absolutely no rush, or pressure or obligation to get anything done. A bit different from my mid-west upbringing, but those of you that know me, know that I am a very adaptable person, and live by the "when in Rome" philosophy.

This weekend was a series of goodbye parties. Friday night was with Ernesto's long time buddies (and wives/girlfriend) at a bar downtown. I love seeing him with his friends. There is so much shit talking and laughing, it's fun to be around them. I'm glad I got to know them better this summer.
Saturday there was a party at Ernesto's sister Veronica's house. It was a huge carne asada, with just Ernesto's mom's side of the family. They have the perfect party house overlooking a golf course and with a pool. 
{Veronica y Ernesto's mama}

The 5 million kids were loving the pool, making lots of noise. There was music playing, lots of mingling, and even more tequila drinking. Many people I had not seen for a couple years and they were all impressed by my Spanish improvement (love that!) The afternoon cookout turned into a late night poker game...
...and a few Mexicanos borrachos.  
{Pepe, Ernesto, mi Papa, tio Javier, tio Mario}

**on a side note, this carne asada was "supposed" to start at 1pm and people started arriving between 3-4pm. Can you imagine if you told your family and friends a time and they showed up 2-3 hours late? No one blinks an eye at this (except me)... no excuses, no apologies. This is normal. This is the Espinoza way.

Sunday was our "Last Supper" and so mi mama y yo decided we would do it differently than the regular Sunday family dinners (always a carne asada) and make something other than Mexican and actually sit down together at the dining table. It was a success and I know can really see the importance of sitting down to eat with your family all together, something my family did all our lives.  The table setting was really nice and the food pretty good [even though the fish I made turned out a bit salty and dry and I forgot the ginger, a key ingredient].
We tried the little activity that my friend Maureen told me about. When everyone arrived, they had to draw a name (not their spouse) from a hat. After dinner we went around the table and said one thing that we love about that person. It was so touching. I started since this was my idea, and of course I got all choked up talking about my person: Octavio, mi papa. It started a chain reaction and there was a lot of crying going on. Happy tears. It was a beautiful night that we ended with a family picture.  It has been a great summer, thanks Espinozas
{From front left: Tyler, Beth, mi mama, Erin, Adrianna, Jorge, Maia, Veronica, Andrea, Cariza, Tavo, Pepe, Jorge, Ernesto, Jerry, Alex}

Oh! One last thing!  Besides having goodbyes this weekend, I had a great introduction to a friend of my brother Brrrian.   Melissa is a fellow Ohioan and moved out to San Diego a couple years ago.  Brrrian connected us through email and we decided to meet for coffee.  We had a nice time getting to know each other.  She is really sweet and teaches drawing and painting, I wish we could've gotten together earlier in the summer because she was really inspiring.  I told her I would love to see her artwork, and she whipped out her beautiful business cards.  Made by Moo Cards, they were printed on the front with her actual paintings and the details were on the flip side.  What a great marketing tool.  I loved them.  So Unique and professional.   They have a great deal for 10 free samples too.  Just upload your pictures and wa-la! Professional b-cards. Thanks for the tip Melissa.  
Melissa is in the process of setting up her website to showcase her work, Ill be sure to pass it on when ready.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Gardening Girl

I have been facinated with plants for a long time. Some may call it an obsession. Specifically with succulents. Case in point: jade plants. When we sold our house last year, I counted 30 jade plants in my house. I know. Ridiculous. I couldn't help my self. Every trip to visit my in-laws in San Diego I came home on the plane with Jade clippings. You see, they are the easiest plant to propagate and here in the land of never ending sunshine, they grow like trees. Put the cutting in dirt y ya. You have a new plant! I often find myself taking a little cutting from random plants around San Diego. I started to acquire quite a collection of different succulents.
Which I then planted in these cute pots that I purchased at TjMaxx for $2.99 each! (Yes, they will come on the plane home with me)
On to the next gardening project: Mis suegros front entrance.
My suegra would like a low maintenance, tropical looking garden.
She already has some in place (palms and birds of paradise), but not mush else. As you can see above. The Home Depot garden section is unbelievable in San Diego. There are lots of different plants than those in Georgia. We also went to Armstrong Garden Center, and I was in heaven! Hundreds of fountains were on display and so much pottery. (I go crazy for blue pots. When I finally get all mine in the same city, it will be quite a collection). The biggest selection of succulents I have ever seen! (check out this wall of succulents, also called a "vertical garden" -one day I will make this)

We purchased flagstone stepping stones, borders, mulch, and LOTS of plants:
bouganvillia, cannas, fan palms, coreopsis, lantana, elephant ears, ferns, and many succulents

side note: we took about 40 days to complete this project, even though it could have easily been done in one weekend.

Here are the after shots:
Although the plants may look small now, I know that things grow very very quickly here. We spaced things aparts so they will grow in lush, not crowded. We we come back in January it's going to look so good. Mi Suegra was really happy with the project.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mango, Cucumber & Jicama! Oh my!

One of my favorite things in Latin America is the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables for little cost. While living in Costa Rica, I would always stop for a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a bag of sliced of mangos at the park after my run, or on the street walking to work. They had this delicious hot chile sauce that was made with vinegar. There is something about chile on mangos.

In Mexico you see a lot of cucumber and Jicama in cups with chile powder and lime juice.

Actually I had been thinking about making this treat ever since mi suegra brought home this Jicama from the store. Jicama [pronounced he-ca-ma] is a crispy, sweet, edible root that resembles a turnip in physical appearance, although the plants are not related.

You could use a peeler to take the skin off the Jicama, but I find it very easy to cut the root end off and peel the skin off in one swoop.

Cut jicama, mango, cucumber into matchstick slices. Squeeze juice of one lime over the top and sprinkle on chile powder and salt. So refreshing! 

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Kayaking La Jolla Cove

What a beautiful day in sunny San Diego. Our time is coming to an end here, and one of the activities on our "to do" list was to go kayaking. I have been kayaking several times and really love it! What a great upper body workout, plus you get to enjoy being on the water! We gathered up a few friends and family and made it to La Jolla by 1pm. Apparently the early bird does get the worm [or kayak in this case] because we asked around at several rental shops and all had a wait of a couple hours. No importa. We sat outside at The Shores Restaurant happy as can be with our beers and bloody marys. (thanks again Tavo!)Our wait was not a nuisance in the least bit, but if you have a schedule to stick to, I would advise an earlier start time for the kayaks , or even calling ahead for a reservation. The prices can vary greatly we found, so it's worth it to walk around and get some price quotes. We were told by OEX Dive & Kayak that there was less wait on the double kayaks, and the price was good. $45 for 90 minutes. (we were quoted $38 for a single at another shop)
My first experience kayaking was in La Jolla about 9 years ago. What a difference 10 years can make. I remember being out on the water with no more than 5-10 other kayakers, but this is the scene if you go today.
People and groups and tours and more tours. Crow-ded! You have to use some major maneuvering skills to get where you want to go. Which is the cuevas or caves. Ernesto and I shared a kayak and had a great rhythm going.  Its about a 15 minute paddle from the beach to the most popular spot for kayakers and snorkelers. Here, in front of the caves, the leopard sharks swim, the seal and sea lions bake in the sun.  The water is so blue and is speckled by the bright orange California state fish, the Garibaldi.
A dive instructor told me that the fish must know they are protected because they swim right up to you.  No fear.  The seals and sea lions also seemed accustomed to the many people around them, not only in the water, but on the cliffs too.  You can get very close to them. 
People were snorkeling and swimming close to these huge mammals.  Ernesto was trying to go close to them too, and I had to counter paddle to get away! 
After we turned in our kayaks we drove to the cliff side and took these pics, unfortunately I don't have a waterproof camera, and I although we didn't tip over, I couldn't risk it with Nester. 
On these cliffs there is a dirt trail that winds in front of these million dollar homes overlooking the water. Oh. My. God.  There were huge ridiculous homes and then there was this.
We were tempted to knock on the door and ask "Excuse me, rich ass, what do you do for a living?"

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Introducing Viva la Cocina Blog!!

I have had this idea for months, and finally I would like to introduce you to my new blog:
On Viva la Cocina, [translated: long live the kitchen] we will be documenting our cooking adventures, mostly Mexican style, of course! You will see a lot of changes with VLC in the near future as I am still working on the banner, sidebars and colors. I wanted to go ahead and put it out there because the recipes are ready to go! Please have a look. I would love to hear any feedback you may have!
Thanks everyone and I hope to see you around mi cocina!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Viva Cindy on Coco + Kelley

When I read that Cassandra from the awesome blog  Coco + Kelley was asking for "summer fun" posts from her readers for the month of August I threw together my own and she posted it today.  Thanks Cassandra! 
Take a look here to read it.

Monday, August 03, 2009

A Night Out with the Padres

Ernesto is a big sports fan.  Buckeyes, Chargers, Padres.  This is why I was surprised that we waited all this time to go to Petco Park to see a baseball game.   The fact that they suck this year must have something to do with it.  The good news is that on Friday night they pulled through for us.  It was a really exciting game.  They were trailing 7-2 and came back to win against the Brewers!  I  actually turn into a sports fan with the excitement of a live game!  Since I was driving (ahhhthat is why they let me come) I only had a few beers at the b-ball game. Beer and popcorn with baseball!  I  love summertime!
As you can see I ruined the "brothers night out" .  After the game the four of us (Tavo and Jorge) walked over to the restaurant [during the day] turn club [at night] where Pepe works in the Gaslamp District.  We spent the night dancing. 

Other weekend activities:
Did a little shopping at TjMaxx 
Worked in the garden
Writing furiously for new food blog (coming very soon)
Checked out the Home & Design Show at the San Diego Convention Center
Worked on sewing a tote bag-so cute (I will post pic)
Ate a fat juicy steak at Outback

What about you? Do anything exciting? 

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Ernesto's Shrimp Ceviche

Peru is said to be the birthplace of ceviche. This statement will be disputed, I know. It seems every country in Latin Amercia has their own claim to fame & their own style. One thing is true: It was the birthplace for me. The first time I ever tasted ceviche was on a beach south of Lima, Peru about 10 years ago. I was visiting a friend and he ordered fish ceviche and it came with yucca fries and corn on the cobb. It was love at first taste! In Panama, they served it in little pastry shells, in Ecuador I ate it with corn nuts, in Costa Rica with fried plantains, and in Mexico with crackers or on tostadas. In my house we eat it with good 'ol tortilla chips.
Back in 2002, I wrote in to the Atlanta Journal Constitution about Ernesto's cooking for their Thursday food section. A few weeks later Ernesto was featured in the paper. Re-reading the interview really made me smile. A few things are outdated, but the ceviche recipe he chose to share the is still the best I have ever tasted. If you have ever tried it, you know what Im talking about. If you look at the original article you will see that they advised cooking the shrimp because they did not want to recommend uncooked shrimp to the public. I took that part out below and want to clarify that by NO MEANS should you cook the shrimp for this recipe. There was a great picture that the newspaper took of Ernesto in our tiny tiny kitchen, but unfortunately it's not posted online. So I added this one from a cookout a couple weeks ago.
I posted Ernesto's shrimp ceviche recipe about a month ago on my non-food blog Viva Cindy, and I was amazed at how many people were searching for one. Well, not amazed, I guess, I mean it is one of the best foods in the whole world! Of course people are searching how to make it. I am a bit biased, but this recipe below is my favorite. Please let me know what you think!
Ceviche is raw fish marinated in citrus juice. Though the fish is not technically cooked, the acid in the marinade turns the fish opaque and firms it up. Serve with tortilla chips or as topping for tostadas.

Ernesto's Shrimp Ceviche|

(Preparation time: 20 minutes of chopping , plus 1 hour to marinate)

1 pound large raw tiger shrimp, peeled and deveined

4 roma tomatoes, diced

1 small white onion, chopped

3 serrano peppers, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon clamato juice

1 teaspoon olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

6 limes

Peel, devein and cut shrimp into 1/4-inch pieces. In a bowl, combine shrimp, tomatoes, onion, peppers, cilantro, Clamato juice and olive oil. Season with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze lime over combined ingredients and mix well in large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Drain excess lime juice before serving.


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