Brownies with Sel de Cali

There is absolutely no reason to make brownies from a box!  It’s almost too easy to make them from scratch.  You just need some good chocolate and about 10 minutes to chop and mix. I tend to buy the huge, 500 gram bars from Trader Joes, which can make up to 3 or 4 batches of brownies, depending on how chocolaty you want your tasty bars.  I miss nice chocolates at expensive prices from Europe, or even just the access to good chocolate, but the Trader Joe’s dark Belgian chocolate isn’t bad.  I used to make brownies from a box until I moved to Italy where no boxes of brownie mix were found and that is when I discovered the amazing and healthier version of this American desert. When ever a friend had a party or an event I was asked to bring brownies.  I became the brownie and blondie maker.  I’ve passed on my recipe and taught others to make these and am proud to know that people are eating my brownies all over the world.  Now a best friend impresses  guests in South Africa, my Italian mama friend is making them for her kids’ playdates, and my non-baking Mexican friend has now found a love for baking and her children have rediscovered how yummy a real brownie can be.  Brownies from a box are actually disgusting, adding vegetable oil and an egg to a pre-mixed powder of fake-like chocolate isn’t so healthy.  Please pass this recipe on to show how easy it is to make real brownies.  It will take about 10 mins to make and 25 to bake.  The baking part is the key.  You want to  under bake  your brownies.  If you over cook them, they just become regular brownies and are a bit too dry.  If this does happen, just top them with marscapone cheese before serving, but hopefully you will get the timing right to enjoy this chocolate, gooey treat.  The most important part of making brownies is timing and salt!


125 grams butter, cut into pieces (1/2 cup)

100 grams chopped dark chocolate -play around with the dark percentage to find your favorites.

1 cup sugar-superfine sugar works best, but costs more, so just normal white sugar works also

2 pinches of salt

2 large eggs at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup all purpose flour

150 grams chopped chocolate – I use the same dark chocolate used in the melting process, but you can use white chocolate, peanut butter chips, milk chocolate, play around to find your best indulgence.

1/2 cup loosely chopped walnuts optional.

Sel de Cali- a red wine infused salt

Basically you want to chop about 100 grams of good quality, dark chocolate into your cut up butter, place in a pan and melt completely.  Take off heat and add the rest of your ingredients.  Mix sugar completely, add eggs and vanilla, mix with wooden spoon, add two pinches of salt, then add in the flour a bit at a time to avoid lumping.  Next you will want to chop up the 150 grams left of chocolate, you can chop as finely or as loosely as you want.  It all depend if you want more melted chocolate to your brownies, which is what I choose, or if you want chocolate chunks within the brownies.  Then add your walnuts.  Sprinkle this lovely Sel de Cali, making each bite have a mouth-watering red-wine sea salt accent.  It will change your brownies.  Bake for 25 minutes at 350 f or 180 C.  Make sure you do not over cook.  Check your brownies with a toothpick. You want a bit of the brownie to stick to the toothpick.  You just don’t want them too raw, but as it cools, it’s still cooking.











I make a lot of omelette and usually make them with the same base, eggs, milk and cheese.  The rest just kind of depends what’s in the fridge.  This particular omelette was pretty basic, eggs, cheddar cheese, ham and spinach.  I like to saute some shallots and mushrooms, but really it all depends on what’s in the fridge.

I use about 3 eggs per person.  Add some milk and whisk for at least 1 minute.  In the meantime, steam some spinach and once cooked try and press out as much water as possible.  Chop the spinach and set aside.  Chop up some ham, maybe about 6 slices total and put on the side.  Grate or chop some cheese.  Today I had extra cheddar cheese, but goat cheese is lovely in an omelette as well as many other kinds.  Actually, I  think blue cheese is far too strong, but maybe you like that.  Anyway, use about a tablespoon, one good pat of butter.  Heat it up in a non-stick pan.  It’s very important to use a nonstick pan at the beginning as omelette are difficult to make or more like, difficult to keep beautiful looking.  Put your eggs in and let cook for about 20 seconds, start using a spatula to pull the eggs away from the center to the outside.  You need to let the liquid stream down to have a chance to get cooked.  Do this maybe 3 good times, leaving each a few seconds to give the newly added egg to cook.  You don’t want to do it to much, or it may just end up as scrambled eggs.  Lower the heat, if you’ve not already.  SAlt and pepper the eggs and start adding your ham, spinach, cheese or whatever you want.  Take a nice sized spatula and pick-up half the omelette to flip on the other side, making an envelope of deliciousness.  Let cook a bit, just for cheese and ingredients to heat up, but don’t over cook.  Place on a platter for individual servings or carefully plate.  Serve with a veggie or a nice, simple salad.

Great Omelette ideas:

Ham, cheese, tomato and spinach

Ham, Ricotta, Spinach and tomato

Asparagus, goat cheese and chives

Mushroom, shallots, ham and cheese

Tri-colored peppers, onions, cheese and ham

You can just imagine a bunch of different ones.  I think I really love spinach in my omelette as the main vegetable.  It’s so good.  You don’t have to steam your spinach ahead of time either, it worked just tossing in the leaves raw, but I like a lot of spinach and you can’t fit all the amount of raw leaves as you can steamed ones, and it reduces the liquid your omlette would get.

Tacos with a fabulous Guacamole

In the land of fish tacos, Los Angles has some pretty great bites.  The mexican influence with its spicey salsas and yummy dishes are easy to come by in Southern California.  LA has LAfied the taco.  But with all that said, I decided just to make my own tacos tonight. I bought the taco kit… not so authentic, but it will cure the taco fix.  When using the kits,  I usually toss out the spice pack  and the salsa pack.  But tonight I was stressed for time and it just seemed easier to use the premixed spices, this time at least.  I did toss the salsa pack away.

The way I made my tacos:

I used fresh organic hamburger meat about 1/2 pound for 2-3 people.  First, I chopped up some onion and sautéed it slightly with a touch of oil.  I then added the fresh organic ground hamburger meat and then the spice packet with a bit of water, as they advised on the packet instructions.  While this was cooking I moved onto making my salsa.  I will not eat the prepackaged salsa that was in my taco kit, even if time is a constraint.  It’s so easy to make a nice fresh salsa.  I chopped up some red onion, used half for my salsa and put half to the side for my guacamole.  I then chopped about 8 nice plum tomatoes,  a big bunch of cilantro and about 1  jalapeno or any hot pepper .  I put it all together and then for the last touch, I added tons of lime and put it aside.  Meanwhile I checked on my meat and stired it a bit.  It was time to put the taco shells in the oven to warm them up.  While they were heating, I start on my guacamole.  I used about 3 ripe avocados ( You can buy unripped avocados and place them in a paper bag over night, they will be ready by the next day) I smashed the avocado up nicely, not too soupy in consistency and not too chunky.  I cut up one tomato and de seeded it.  Cherry tomatoes are also wonderful to use.  I added the chopped tomatoes to the avocadoes, added some chopped jalapeno, maybe a tablespoon, then a few drops of hot sauce.  Stir it all together.  Add salt and pepper and then a bunch of nicely cut up cilantro. For the final touch stir in about  1 and 1/2 limes juiced.

Yum and more yum  I then open, as guilty as I feel for not making them myself, a can of re-fried beans.  It just adds to the taco’s texture and taste.  I heat it up, chop up some romaine lettuce and place it in a bowl, dice some tomatoes and place them in a separate bowl and then shred some sharp cheddar cheese and put that in a separate bowl as well.  These bowls are for us to assemble our own tacos to our liking.

Beep the oven goes off, we are ready to compile our tacos.  I made myself 3, fabulous tacos and my husband made 4.  This was a definite splurge meal, according to the Dukan diet.  But I feel its’ much healthier, aside from my canned beans, than anything you will get in a fast food, taco restaurant.  I  like cooking at home with the freshest and most natural products possible which makes a big, big difference in taste.  For dessert we had some brownies with red wine salt-Sel de Cali.  Yum a perfect meal.


The two sauces will work just by adding all the ingredients and mixing.  There is no right or wrong way.  Just use yummy ingredients and they will turn out great.  


8 plum tomatoes chopped

a big bunch of cilantro

1 Jalapeno pepper, de seeded and finely chopped

1/2 red onion chopped

1-2 squeezed lime juice




3 ripe avocados

1 big bunch of cilantro

1/2 red onion or sweet yellow onion

1 jalapeno chopped (de see)

1 tomatoe diced and de seeded or 6 cherry tomatoes

a few drops of hot sauce

1 juiced lime



I love pesto but store-bought isn’t as good.  It’s so easy to make, by the time you pick out which brand of pesto you want to try, you could have already made this sumptuous sauce.  If you make a lot it can be frozen in small portion ready containers to freeze.  In Italy I used to just store it in the fridge with a bed of olive oil on top to conserve it, but for some reason, here it’s not keeping as well, so I freeze it.  Triple the recipe if you’d like to have several meals. This meal isn’t exactly part of the Dukan diet, but it works for a splurge meal.

1 big bunch of cleaned basil leaves, you can use stems if you are low on basil

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 garlic clove chopped

tons and tons of olive oil.

I usually do this in the food processor but if you are feeling particularly Italian, that of an old Sicilian woman, do this with a mortar and pestle, but you’ll need a large one.  I put the pine nuts in, give it a spin, add chopped garlic, give it a spin, add basil leaves, give it a spin.  Then I add the parm cheese… yes, you guessed it give it a spin. Take the small top off while spinning and add a stream of olive oil till it’s the consistency you like.

A great way to serve this dish is tossed with cherry tomatoes, some basil leaves and some sort of protein.  Grilled chicken, grilled shrimp or seared scallops are excellent with this.  Enjoy.  It’s a great dish to make for friends.  I usually use a fun shaped pasta with this, but also enjoy fettucine.

Burgers and Veggies-Dukan accepted

burgers and veggies

This was a simple meal.  From past posts, you can see I love zucchini and red onions.  I buy them because they are inexpensive and super easy to cook when grilling.  I just spray a bit of olive oil, add Sel de Vin, if interested I can tell you how to buy some.  It heightens the flavors of just about anything, even brownies!  Anyway, tonight I didn’t really feel like cooking.  My meal took about 5 minutes to prepare and about 10 minutes to cook on our little BBQ that is on our balcony.  I didn’t even make the patties for the burgers.  I bought a pack of Organic, pre-made burgers from, yes, Trader Joes.  I am not in love with the store, but it’s convenient and the organic variety is good.  The variety of veggies isn’t that large, but it does the trick.

We followed, or more like I followed the Dukan diet of no bread during protein and veggie nights, and just had the actual burgers.  We had two each since they are a bit thin.  It was yummy and simple.  Just make sure you add Sel de Vin and pepper to your patties before cooking.

Broathy leek soup

I love leeks but hate the cost.  I found frozen leeks that are pretty inexpensive, but not organic, in the frozen section at Trader Joes.  It’s great to have these because they are already cut and cleaned and can be added to many dishes for flavor and texture.  I didn’t use the frozen leeks in this particular soup though. I bought 3 big, nice looking leeks from the local grocers at a high price.  I don’t understand why one leek is almost $1 and you can’t really even use the whole thing, unless making stock.  I used a home-made veggie stock.  I prefer it to the pre-made ones found around here. I’ve just had no luck in finding a good one that suits my taste.  I would almost prefer a Knorr bouillon cube to the packaged stock, organic or not.

Stock:  Roughly chopped carrots-3, 2 roughly cut up onion, a few stocks of celery with leaves, (if you have, use dark green parts of leeks) peppercorns, laurel leaf, tyme, parsley-cook for about an hour or more.  Strain and voila, you have veggie stock.  You can use it right away or freeze for another day to make a soup, sauce or add flavor to making rice.  Just substitute stock for water when making rice.

Put about 2 tablespoons of butter and add one finely chopped onion and shallot for about two minutes.  Add the leeks and stir occasionally.  Add about 1 quart of stock and 3 chopped turnips.  Cook for about 45 minutes and it’s ready to serve.  This recipe is great with potatoes instead of the turnips but I didn’t want to add them even though I do love potato leek soup, but I wanted to follow my diet of no potatoes, so I used turnips.  This was a very bland soup but perfect for my husband who was very ill.  You can add all sorts of veggies and alter this so I spiced it up with some crushed peppers.  This is especially yummy with some crusty bread and a nice cheese on the side, like St Andree, Chaource or something creamy and soft.

Roast tip with sage and redwine salt-Dukan diet day 5

This meal is something that has become a staple for me– Grilled Tritip.  It’s perfect for so many reasons.  And from past posts you may know I love to use lots of fresh herbs and fresh veggies.  It’s the core in creating a healthy and delicious meal.   Tritip, it’s perfect for two people with enough left overs for the next day.  It’s also wonderful for a  big party, especially when you have friends who are all over the map when it comes to how they like their steak cooked:  rare, medium rare or well-done.  You will likely get all three temperatures!  We love rare, so those are the pieces we eat right away while they are hot.  The cold leftovers, medium and well-done pieces, are tasty when you have them in a sandwich or in a salad.  Today I’m having left overs for lunch, but will just have the meat cold with a bit of mustard.  I love strong Dijon mustard, not Grey Popon or Maille.  I love the staple Amora mustard from France. It’s not fancy and not regarded as high end, but I love it.  I usually stuff my suitcase with it after a summer in France.  Unfortunately I’m a bit low on the mustard stash and have used a few strong ones found at TJMax and trader Joes, it’s not bad, but not the same.  But now, it’s 11am and I’m looking forward to my steak and mustard for lunch.  No salad for me as it’s a protein day.


The best way to season the meat is to first rinse and dry it down with a paper towel.  Add salt- preferably my favorite, Sel De Vin, which is a red wine salt.  It’s Sonoma salt and California red wine, if you are interested, I’ll tell you how to get it.  It’s salt has been infused in red wine for weeks. The flavor of the salt pops on your palate not to mention on your plate.  The red salt adds such color accents that makes any plate look ready for a judging at the Iron Chef table.  Ok, back to the fabulous red wine salt, add it generously and then grind tons of pepper.  For the final, add the herbs.  For this meal, I just made a simple sage topping.  In the past I chopped up garlic, rosemary, thyme, wild basil and some sage.  I really love any fresh herb and think many of them go well together.  You can also do this with dried herbs, but I would do this a bit in advance and put on the tritip, at least an hour to let the flavors open up.  Dried herbs lack in flavor and aroma a fresh herb would yield.  I cooked this on the BBQ for about 15 minutes a side.  It really depends on how thick and big your tritip is.  I hope you enjoy!

Veggies and protein- Dukan diet day 4

Day 4.  Paul has given up on the diet.  He had only lbs to lose, but didn’t want to deal with this diet.  I think the whole protein thing for him was too much.  For me it was pretty easy.  So to celebrate the end of his diet, we had wine.  So I cheated in a way.  But in general, all is on course.  We are now, or I am now in the cruise phase. I’ve about 20 days of it.  I wasn’t very imaginative with our protein, just scallops and shrimp.  I just wanted to use what I had in the fridge. I feel like I’ve been spending a fortune on different proteins.

So again, I used my cilantro and lime dressing.  It’s easy, basically chopped cilantro and lime juice!  The veggies were delicious.  I really missed eating them.  We also had a nice salad.  I made Paul my usual dressing.

2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon strong Dijon mustard.

As for my dressing, I used my very rich, thick balsamic vinegar I had purchased in Italy before leaving.

I had yogurt for desert and one piece of chocolate.  The wine triggered the chocolate attack 🙂

I think at this point I’ve lost 4lbs, but the scale is out of whack.  Either it’s too old or the battery is dying.  Paul never weighed himself.  Oh well.

Tritip with crushed garlic herbed peppercorn sauce

meat with herbs This meal works perfectly for those doing the Dukan diet, but it’s also a great BBQ party pleaser that feeds many. It is a piece of meat that can please the well done, medium and rare crowd all at the same time.  The ends get more well done and the thicker center will be obviously more on the rare side.  This of course is on a BBQ.  I had my first tritip at our poolside mini BBQ party.  My friend brought a pre-marinated, Santa Maria, tritip from Trader Joes.  I thought it was delicious.  However, I bought the same, cooked it and was disappointed.  The pre-marinade, with fake garlic powder was much more prevalent when cooking rare.  My friend had cooked hers well, so I think most of the marinade flavors were cooked off.  But lucky for me, I found un-marinated tritip, at around 5 dollars cheaper than it’s marinated version. I think that meat just cries for fresh herbs, garlic, pepper and salt.  Add that and it’s just delicious.  No need to add anything else.  The good thing about it is it’s just about 15 dollars for a huge piece. It fed Paul and me for a meal, and fed well-about 2-3 big pieces each, with extra for the next day’s lunch. It could serve 4 hungry people or 6 not starving, if you had other things to eat, as well.  I like having the left overs on top of field greens or just cold with some nice, strong Dijon mustard, and veggies.

How to make it. I usually get as much herbs as possible and also the key is fresh herbs.  It works with dried, but I think fresh is best.  Last night I used a handful of each herb:  thyme, rosemary, sage and oregano. I chopped the huge pile up with 5 cloves of garlic. Wash the meat and dry with paper towel.  Place in a bowl and mix in the herb mixture.  Add salt, red wine infused salt works best and add is the best.  Add crushed peppercorns.  You can let marinate in the fridge if you want stronger flavors.  I did for 2 hours in the fridge and it added an extra garlic punch.  I also sometimes use the William Sonoma au poivre sauce.  I love it.  I will try and duplicate the recipe for William Sonoma’s sauce soon as it’s $12 a jar.  If not, I will suck it up and buy another jar.  It does last long, maybe 10 meals and it’s delicious.  Now it’s time to start the grill, get it nice and hot.  Place tritip and sear one side for 3 mins and then the other.  I flip it often and cook for maybe 25 mins total, but I love rare meat. This herb mixture can work well even with just one of the herbs.  I just love all the flavors together. yum, enjoy!

Le Macaron

We went to a wonderful brunch at the Terranea Resort a few weeks ago. It was absolutely delicious and amazing.  There was a table of deserts that my son loved.  He discovered the macaron-macaroon cookie.  It’s not a typical American Macaroon with coconut. It’s a merengue based cookie.  He had a chocolate one and loved it.  I had a coffee one, a pistachio one and it goes on.  They are delicious.  So he asked me to make him some.  Wow, that was a bit intimidating at first.  I looked up many recipes on the net and found so many.  I didn’t have too much trouble making them, but feel the recipe wasn’t the best.  It wasn’t as delicious as the ones I have had in the past at Laduree 

Beaten egg whites
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in Paris, and there was one in Milano as well.  I bought a book at TJMax that was calling my name.  It’s a book of Macaroons with over 30 recipes.  I will stick with the chocolate ones for my son but look forward to trying the pistachio and others out.  Yum again!


3/4 ground almonds

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa

2 extra-large egg whites

1/4 cup superfine sugar

pinch of cream of tartar if you have.


3 1/2 oz or 100g semisweet chocolate chopped

2/3 heavy cream


Place ground almonds, confectioner’s sugar and cocoa in a food processor, process for 20 seconds.  You can also do this in a bowl, if you have no food processor.  You are then supposed to sift the mixture into a bowl.  I never do, but go ahead.

Prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, very important, it will not work without the paper!

Using a spatula, fold in the almond mixture into the meringue mixture.  Oh forgot to tell you need to whip the egg whites before hand until it holds soft peaks.  ONce they hold peaks gradually beat int he superfine sugar to make them firm and glossy.  I have found that adding a pinch of cream of tartar helps.

Pour the batter into a pastry bag with about 1/2 inch tip, if you’ve no bag, use a ziplock and cut a small hole at the tip.  Pipe small circles onto the parchment paper.  Tap the baking sheets firmly onto a surface to remove any air bubbles.  Let stand at room temp for about 30 mins.  Preheat oven to 325F or 160 C

back for about 10-15 mins.  Cool for 10 mins and peel the macaroons off the parchement paper and let cool completely.  Works best if you have a wire, cooling rack.

Make the filling, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Heat the cream in a saucepan until just boiling then pour the hot cream over the chocolate, stir and let cool for about 15-20 mins.  Then you just make a little sandwich.  Delicious!!!

Enjoy and for those of you doing the Dukan diet, this is a great treat for the splurge days.  Or you can try and make a sugar free version!

Français : Macarons, Paris, France
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