Let’s Start Cinco de Mayo with Soup!!!

Many believe that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day but it is not. Cinco De Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla early in the Franco-Mexican War. In 1861 Mexican president Benito Juarez was indebted to France, Britain and Spain. Because the country was broke he was forced to default on the debts. While Brian and Spain negotiated with Mexico to resolve their issues. Napoleon III decided to use the opportunity to get a stronger foothold in the new world (there you go with that Napoleon complex thing again).

Certain that success would come swiftly, 6,000 French troops under General Charles Latrille de Lorencez (1814-1892) set out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico. From his new headquarters in the north, Juárez rounded up a rag-tag force of 2,000 loyal men—many of them either indigenous Mexicans or of mixed ancestry—and sent them to Puebla. Led by Texas-born (Ya see, ya always need a Texan)General Ignacio Zaragoza (1829-1862), the vastly outnumbered and poorly supplied Mexicans fortified the town and prepared for the French assault. On May 5, 1862, Lorencez drew his army, well provisioned and supported by heavy artillery, before the city of Puebla and led an assault from the north. The battle lasted from daybreak to early evening, and when the French finally retreated they had lost nearly 500 soldiers. Fewer than 100 Mexicans had been killed in the clash .

This was not a strategic win for the Mexican Government, in fact in the annals of the Franco-Mexican War it was of little importance but it did serve to bolster the moral of the Mexican people and six-years later, with political help from the United States, the French withdrew.

Cinco de Mayo has become a day of celebration of the rich Mexican culture with parades, mariachi bands and street festivals. What I’m most impressed about are the vibrantly colorful dresses and men’s elegant suits.

I firmly believe that Cinco de Mayo, like Valentine’s Day, is a commercial day promoted by Corona and Dos Equis and other commercial enterprises. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.




What I like most about Cinco de Mayo is of course the food. Like in any great meal you always start with a delicious soup and nothing is better than a savory Tortilla Soup, that has a little kick, . This recipe is from my friend Laura Johnston Steele.  She got this recipe from Emerile Lagasse some 16 years ago. Needless to say she has added her own touches and made it her own and it’s DAMN GOOD!


Tortilla Soup


  • 1 Roasted Chicken
  • 64 oz. of chicken stock (your favorite)
  • 8 (7 inch) corn tortillas (Trader Joe’s are the best)
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded (about 6 to 8 Romas)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

As a garnish use:

  • 1 large avocado, peeled and diced
  • 2 fresh limes, cut into quarters
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro leaves.
  • Dab of Sour Cream

On starting out get a roasted chicken. Either roast your own, or if you are like me I go to Costco ($4.99, it is the cheapest and the best).  I suggest buying one there because they are invariably juicy and delicious. If you roast one it’s just more prep time and I’m all about simple and gourmet.

So let’s get started with the soup. Preheat a deep frying pan with approximately 2 inches of vegetable oil. Cut half of the tortillas in quarters and thinly slice the other half. Fry both cuts for tortillas in batches, until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and set aside. In a stock pot, over medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions. Season with salt, pepper and oregano. Sauté until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, bay leaf and jalapeno. Continue to sauté for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes. Crush the reserved fried tortilla quarters over the tomatoes. Stir to mix. Stir in the reserved chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes. Using a hand blender, puree the soup until smooth or leave chunky. Re-season the soup. Stir in the reserved diced chicken and cilantro. Simmer for another 5 minutes. To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls. Garnish with the avocados, squeeze of lime juice, fresh cilantro, a dab of sour cream and the fried tortilla strips. Serve warm. You will not believe how savory this is to kick-off a series of Marquita’s.

…and remember…       DSCN0366

Live Well, Eat Well!!

Chef Shay


Every once in a while I am amazed what people can do with their food and food budgets. I received this recipe from a good friend of mine and I want to share it with you because these folks are incredible busy with work and to make life wonderful they have a beautiful 2 year old girl.

No matter how busy one gets you have to take time out to eat and it’s important to eat properly. Going to Mickie D’s, Burger King or Taco Bell, while okay once in a while, it is not good eating. This is not a recipe but how to serve a quick nutritious meal for a family of four at under $10 dollars. All the ingredients in this portrayal is from Trader Joes but their equivalent can be found in any store.


The Meal!

  • 1 lb. Pork Loin Roast  201602289518464495resized
  • Your favorite Dry Rub Don’t got one Lawry’s is always a good choice

Cook on a rack at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Remember we gourmet-ist don’t cook to time – only by temperature.   Your inner temperature needs to be 140 degrees.

To go along with the roast a nice rice pasta with some homemade cheese sauce is always a good for the tummy.

  • Rice Pasta – Trader Joe’s (follow instructions on package)
  • 1 cup whole milk or cream
  • 3 tbsp. Butter
  • 1 cup mixed white cheeses (I like to use ¼ cup of mozzarella and ¼ cup of 4 cheese mix form Trader Joe’s
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.

201602289518470195resizedHeat the mixture in the skillet and pour over the Rice Pasta

To top off the dinner a nice Lemon vinaigrette Kale Salad mix from Trader Joe’s and you goat a meal that any simple gourmets’ will love – again all for around $10.


Live Well – Eat Well

Dannie, I know you do!!!

CINCO DE MAYO !!!  Yee – HAWW! is coming

Queen Mary Staycation Part 2

Before I begin with the conclusion of our Staycation I must first apologize to my readers in getting this blog posted. We had a lot of sickness in the house for the past three weeks   with colds and stomach flues. My husband first got it, then my daughter and finally me. I was down for three solid days, but enough of that on with my bog.

…back on board the famous Queen Mary…

First thing we did was wake up from the slow rocking of the ship against the waves (we wish). We actually had a great night’s sleep. We intended to have breakfast at the Promenade Cafe but it was closed for renovations so we found ourselves back at Chelsea’s. They offered a full menu or a buffet. We checkout the buffet (standard faire – nothing special or unique) and for the amount of money ($18 ea.) we decided to go with the menu. A decent offering of breakfast items. I decided on an omelet and Chris having spent some time in London decided to have a go at the traditional English breakfast. Now England may not be known for its exquisite cuisine, but the English breakfasts are renowned consisting of:

  • 2 eggs Sunnyside-up
  • Bangers
  • Potatoes
  • Fried Tomatoes
  • Pork-n-beans
  • Rashers of Bacon

Food Breakfast

It is a hearty fulfilling breakfast that will carry you through the day. Unfortunately this breakfast was not hearty fulfilling or traditional English. The tomatoes were sliced, they should be halved, and not even grilled. The potatoes had some sort of scary cheese filling that was not very appealing or tasty!

My omelet,Food Breaksast 2 filled with spinach and mushrooms was okay but I had the same type of potatoes as Chris and quite frankly they were gross. My coffee was lukewarm. I don’t like lukewarm coffee.   Enough of breakfast. I wonder, knowing that the kitchens are probably shared on Board it makes me wonder what Sir Winston’s Restaurant would have been like. It’s the five star restaurant on board the ship serving high-end meals of Beef Wellington, Chateaubriand, Dry-Aged New York Steak, Australian Rack of Lamb, and Petaluma Duck. With prices ranging from $36 to $46 per plate. The evening for two with drinks, appetizers, salad, main dish, tax and tip could run you around $250.00.

Check out time was a generous 12:00pm so we had a couple of hours to kill before the Malibu Wine and Scavenger event. We toured the ship and suddenly we realized our breakfast did not go very far so we and ended up in the first class lounge to share some Nachos. Breakfast just was not cutting it and we got hungry. The Nachos served were first class.

Gosh, I’ve almost forgotten the whole purpose of this adventure, the Malibu wine Tasting and Scavenger Hunt on board the famous Queen Mary.Winery At 2:00pm we meander down the promenade and made our way to the stern of the ship and to the rear observation lounge were the event was being held.wine taste 2 On checking in we were greeted with Saddleback Brut champagne. As we sipped on the bubbly we munched on a very nice spread of cheeses and fruit.


Well get a load of this list:

  • Havant Dill
  • Port Salut
  • French Bleu
  • Smoked Gouda
  • Brie
  • Cheddar
  • A wine soaked cheese Toscano
  • Goat Cheese

In addition they served fresh:

  • Grapes
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Honey in a comb
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Crackers and bread

As the bottles of champagne were tuned upside down in the buckets the wine tasting began starting with Sauvignon Blanc, a white wine that is light and crispy and quite refreshing – one of my favorite. Next was the Chardonnay, also a white wine that I find a little too sweet and fruity for my liking; however my husband likes the sweetness. He is a sweetie, of course.wine taste 1

Next the reds began to flow…

  • Semler Grenache
  • Cabernet
  • Zinfandel

All very drinkable. They are wines that have a light body to full body with heavily bouquets.

Though it is supposed to be a bit gouache to have a buzz from wine tasting it was unavoidable. With all due respect the entire party was a bit buzzed and I suppose that was the plan to kick off the scavenger hunt. We formed into teams and given one hour to complete the “hunt.” The ship was ours; no deck restrictions, no hallway unexplored, no ghost undisturbed. We had 25 questions to pursue and the answers were spread across the entire ship – bow to stern – port to starboard. Three of the question to answer were:

  1. How many strands of pearls in the portrait of Queen Mary were there?
  2. The answer was located on the Promenade Deck, mid-ship. There were five.


  1. What was the gray wheel used for? Location on the bridge.
  2. It was the autopilot.


  1. How many life boat are still onboard the Queen MaryLocation; port and starboard shipside, Sun Deck.
  2. There are 24 slots for lifeboats but the real answer was 22 because two have been removed for renovation.

Prizes Unfortunately our team did not win any of the prizes but we retained the Buzz!!!.

wine taste 3

We dropped anchor at 5:00pm., staggered to our car and ended our Staycation very satisfied.





Chef Shay

Live Well – Eat well



Wine – Dinner – and Ghosts!!

My husband and I are members of the Malibu Wine Club. We have been proud members for the last couple of years. The winery is located the Malibu area of the Santa Monica Mountains. They produce some very excellent, award-winning wines. Although I prefer Reds I did enjoy their Sauvignon Blanc (lightly chilled… mind you). Chris favors the more full-bodied wines. Malibu winery has a very nice area located in the Santa Monica Mountains with tasting bars, a nice picnic area and a stage for live music. Over the past year it has become a very chic place to hang out for an afternoon. It is extremely busy on the weekends. They do, however, have several tasting rooms located around the Los Angeles area. As an active producing winery they look for ways to promote their wines and membership into their wine club. Queen MaryThey sponsor many wine theme events. We recently participated in one by spending a delightful weekend on the Queen Mary.

For those whom may not know this is the grand ole’ lady, HMS Queen Mary, the epitome of luxury ocean travel through the ’30 – ’50’s. She has found a permanent home in Long Beach, California where she has become a world-class tourist attraction, museum, and five-star hotel with on board dining.

This particular wine club event was wine tasting of the latest vintages followed by a  ship wide scavenger hunt. As an incentive, the Queen Mary offered an excellent overnight room rate. So hubby and I decided to take a “Staycruise” for the sole purpose of trying out the restaurants and having a run of the ship …. Oh! and of course trying some new wines.

We started our Staycruise with checking into the hotel. We had one of the first class staterooms ($132 including fees and taxes) that had been restored to their opulent beauty. The rooms are elegant with dark wood paneling, armoire for clothing, tubular air vent that provided fresh sea air or warmed air from the engine room, clips on the floor to lock your steamer trunks in place and a shower that gave you the choice of bathing in fresh water or salt water. Salt water considered to therapeutic at that time. We found the accommodations charming and comfortable. The ship amenities included three onboard restaurants; The Promenade Cafe, Chelsea Chowder House and Bar and the five-star, Sir Winton Churchill.

Our dinner reservations were for Chelsea’s Chowder House and Bar. Chelsea BarWe were expecting a nice seafood faire unfortunately that’s not what we found. While there were couple of noteworthy sea food dishes (excluding a standard fish and chips) it was more or less a of a family restaurant theme with burgers, Mac and cheese and salads and a few higher end non-seafood choices.

For dinner I had the Cedar Plank Salmon ($26) consisting of Salmon broiled on the cedar plank served on a bed of brussel sprouts, bacon and acorn squash.


Hubby had the Pan Roasted Chicken ($24). A half roasted chicken, served with roasted pee wee potatoes, ratatouille with a lemon herb pan jus.


Both meals were good but nothing to really write home about (so I blog it – go figure!). The salmon was prepared well, but the brussels sprouts were a little bitter and overpowering. There was lots of bacon but just laid on top in an unceremonious fashion. Chris’ roasted chicken was a little dry but the ratatouille with the lemon pan jus was quite tasty. Clam chowderChris also had a bowl of Clam Chowder (after all it is Chelsea’s Chowder House). The chowder was probably the best dish of the meal. Nice chunks of clams in a creamy silky soup. With drinks, wine and a split Caesar salad the meal came to about $109.00 including tax and tip.

Now, I don’t know why hubby wanted to do this but after dinner we went ghost hunting (ugh!). It is said that there are many spirits on board. So off we go with our loaded Proton Packs (who you gonna call?) but found none. My dumb-**** husband challenged them to come out. Literally going down the hallway daring them manifest. None did, thankfully, but we did find his bottle of mouthwash turned upside down in the sink in our room.

Disappearing Hallway
Disappearing Hallway

One of the fascinating things on board is that the ship is bowed or curved from bow to stern. You can stand down at one end of the long hallway and watch some one disappear from the hallway at the far other end.

After ghost hunting we decided to grab a night cap in the 1st class lounge. The lounge is a perfect example of the Art Deco period.Bar We spent a lovely hour tossing down gin and tonic’s and Screwdrivers ($35) and listening to a Jazz Band. It was a good thing we only had to walk back to the room as my husband was listing – he blamed it on the ship.

Next blog – Breakfast on the Queen Mary and the scavenger hunt that took us over the entire ship.