Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Top 10 Culinary Creations of 2013


I've been cooking since I was 3.  But, when it comes to food, I don't think I've learned more, pushed myself more, or have known more joy... as I have this last year.

From trying new cuisines, and new ingredients... to learning more about photography.  This job/hobby/passion is tough.  Now, I'm not complaining, but I've grown to respect my fellow bloggers even more, now that I know what's truly involved.

From the recipe creations.  To the photography... then editing... then arranging on the blog.  And finally writing about it all.  And don't forget the part about putting yourself out there.  Yes, really out there... because if you don't- well, what's the point then?

So, along the way, I've met a ton of great new friends, have done a ton of dishes, and done my darndest to steer clear of the "food blogger 15" (thank goodness for yoga!)

And despite the hard work, it's all been worth it.  A dream come true, even... yes, even those nights I was up at 3am trying to work through writer's block for a deadline.  And even through a few foodie fails.  

Just like in life, the journey is where all the magic happens.  And this year, there was a lot of magic in my kitchen.

As you can see on my right sidebar, there is a list of the top 10 reader favorites, but I thought I'd also share my top 10 favorites.  Creations, that often in theory, seemed to have no rhyme or reason, but in the end tasted absolutely delicious... 

These single serving bowls of goodness are so fun, so flavorful, and SO much better then their retro inspiration.  

A delightful salad, perfect on a bed of spinach or in a croissant.  Rich, creamy, crunchy and don't forget the fresh dill- yum!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

White Chicken Lasagna Petals with Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage- And 15 Years of True Fall


It would be the last time I'd dig my toes into the California sand for over eight years.

We thought we'd be back sooner.  But you know... life happens, and all.

I was 28.  And it felt like the right time.  I braved my 10-year High School reunion the night before, and quit my job two weeks before that.  Not sure if I was just tired of it all.  Or if the grass seemed greener somehow, even in the mountains of North Carolina.  But, we were ready for a change.

We packed up the moving truck and while it was driven across the country, we too, set out for a long adventure.  Me, in my black Camaro, rewinding Sarah McLachlan's side A so many times, I'm surprised the cassette tape didn't snap.  And he in his red Honda Civic, with a stack of Cracker Barrel books on tapes overflowing on the passenger seat.  Not only keeping him entertained, but insuring a stop every few states for a "book swap," and to school us even more on some of the delicacies we'd soon get to know well, in the South.

Hash Brown Casserole. Okra. Cheese Grits. Fried Apples. Country Ham. The fixin's.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Shrimp Sorella Diavolo- You Little Devil, You #WeekdaySupper


Move over Fra (Brother), this Sorella (Sister) is turning up the heat in the kitchen.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo, the traditional shrimp dish, is translated as Brother Devil, in Italian.

Why?  Because it's hot, hot, hot! 

But it's not just for the boys.  From what I've heard, Italian women can be just as spicy, especially when it comes to cooking. 

So, this (part) Italian decided to make a version inspired by the feminine side of the family.  Adding some sweetness and depth to the traditional onions with some smooth, mellow leeks.  And some cream, to add richness... and for just enough pink.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Creamy Chicken Picatta Tortellini with Leeks and Bacon- And three reasons why you won't like this dish


Sometimes not having a plan... can be the best plan of all!

Especially if it involves using ingredients you have on hand, and in ways that you hadn't used them before.


If you don't like rich and creamy comfort food... you're not going to like this dish.
And if you don't like bacon and chicken and braised leeks, oh my... you're not going to like this dish.
And if you don't like dishes that come together in practically no time.  That are cost effective, full of flavor... and have a little spice... you're not going to like this dish.

But I do. Oh yes, I do.  Did I tell you I do? 
Man, oh man, this is one delicious dish.

My first bite, the tang from the cream cheese really hit me as I bit into the herby chicken, making me want to go back for more.  Then the fruity acidity from the lemon blended so beautifully with the cheese filled tortellini.  The next bite offered a braised leek, which gave a deep and mellow onion flavor with a nuttiness from the garlic.  And then another bite of chicken, which was scooped up with some bacon, offering a salty, crunch that perfectly balanced the creaminess of it all.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Groovy Green Guacamole Wraps (Vegan)- Eat Healthy, Save Money for #WeekdaySupper


Green is the new black in food these days.

From the way we eat our food... with farm to table becoming more of a norm in restaurants, rather than a novelty. The way we grow our food... with organic produce more readily accessible, along with local Farmer's Markets popping up in every city. And even what we serve to our family... with Meatless Mondays (and more) becoming more mainstream.

Smarter food choices, more than ever, are seen as a necessity for a healthy, happy life... even in the younger generations.

But it's not just about eating and living green, it's also about saving money.  And using your food resources (including cleaning out the fridge, and your pantry) more wisely.  Which in my book is a great thing, because cooking this way often produce the simplest meals.  And the least amount of dishes.

So, this week's Weekday Supper is all about getting the family back around the dinner table with simple, yet delicious meals.  And this one couldn't be simpler.  But a vegan dish? 

Believe me, you'll barely even miss the meat.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Bold and The Beautiful Balsamic Brussels Bites with Smoked Sausage and Red Grapes


Are you sitting down?

Well, what I'm about to say, might make you want to hold your ground...  and dig your heals in.  But if I'm right... and I'm usually pretty right when it comes to food.  One bite of these Balsamic Brussels Bites, and you'll be brought to your knees begging...

more Brussels Sprouts please!

So, I realize it's usually a love it or hate it thing when it comes to Brussels, but I'm on a quest to change that!  First with my French Pizza (seriously, you need to try this!)  Then, with my Roast Hash.  And now with these amazing appetizers. 

Even my dog loves Brussels Sprouts (I raised you well, Ocean!)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Moistest Ever White Chocolate Pound Cake with Fresh Orange Glaze for Labor Day #SundaySupper


I got married way too young, which I blame almost entirely on my ability to bake.

We were celebrating our third anniversary... which back then seemed incredibly important, yet as I write this now, I can't help but giggle knowing I'm talking about... months.  And true to form, I had spent the entire week planning an elaborate celebration dinner, complete with roses, balloons, and a card table set up in our living room with the good linens... don't forget the Martinelli's (hey, we were 17).  And that entire day baking my most lovely and delicious creation ever... my Mocha Cheesecake.

I was a really bad dater.  I never did well at playing hard to get.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Balsamic Butter Beans with Smoked Sausage and Spinach for Lunchbox #SundaySupper


It was 1973, and along with learning to read, and tying my shoes, I learned that there was nothing as fun and exciting as travel.  Even if it was just a weekend trip to Nana and Grampy's.

My Mom would pack up my pint-sized red flowered suitcase, and off I'd go... for weekends filled with trips to the Farmer's Market for fresh strawberries, that we'd later dip into sugar.  And big, thick steaks, that my Grampy was "in charge of," at the grill... while Nana and I would hang out in the air conditioned house.  Her reading the latest issue of Reader's Digest, and I, the latest adventures of a very curious monkey and The Man with the Yellow Hat.

I was three, and even then, my most vivid memories of my Grandparents were associated with food...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Grilled Chicken with Goat Cheese, Candied Tomatoes and Roasted Olives for #WeekdaySupper


At 8, my favorite puzzle was Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

It had a princess, a prince and an evil dragon queen (nightmares the whole summer). It also had a backside. A two-puzzles-in-one type. Now that's scary.

I'd sit for hours thinking of all the solutions and the best way to make things piece together.  But when it came down to it, the story line often overcame the process.

And the story became more of my guide.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bacon and Brie Potato Bread Strata with Roasted Pears for Breakfast for Dinner #SundaySupper


It all started with a Spudnut.

You mean a donut?

Well, yes.  But this wasn't just your average donut.

I was a little skeptical as I drove by the new donut shop in downtown Santa Barbara when I saw the name... Spudnuts.  And even more skeptical when I found out that the donuts were made using potato flour.
Sounded... starchy.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Vegan Ratatouille Tacos with Shallot & Swiss Chard Hummus (Guest Post for Soni's Food) #healthyluxemeals


Oh, how time flies... especially when it involves good friends, and good food.

And I can't believe that my first post with Sunday Supper was exactly 5 months ago, today. 

I was very new to food blogging, and came across a post on retro cooking.  The recipes had such fun names, and I could tell by reading all of the posts that this was a group I wanted to be a part of.  And joining it has been one of the best things I've ever done.

Not only has it pushed my culinary skills by encouraging creativity in my recipes and cooking outside of my comfort zone.  But it has also led me to the most amazing group of people, many whom I now consider friends... even though we've never actually met in person.

So, today I have the honor of guest posting over at Soni's Food.  I met Soni through Sunday Supper and have loved seeing her Indian inspired recipes.  Soni has a really neat story.  She grew up in India, then lived in the UK for a few years, before settling here.  And her great appreciation for Global Cuisine shows in her style and knowledge of cooking.  Seriously, you're going to want to check out her recipe index!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Deep South Dilly Beans for Preserving the Harvest #SundaySupper #healthyluxemeals


Just when I thought I had seen and tried it all, this week I saw the light.  The coupon clipping light.

It's true.   I clipped, I planned, I even made a list... and I saved.
Oh boy, did I save.  And now I'm hooked.

Not hooked in the way that I'll carry around a five pound coupon binder, price checking every item as I stroll down the aisles.  Or, in the way that I'll dive in your dumpster looking for extra Sunday Circulars...

well not yet, at least.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Low Carb Fines Herbes Crab Cakes with a Dijon, Champagne Vinegar, Maple Syrup Sauce


Fines herbes doesn't have to mean fine dining...

unless you throw in some crab.  And then you might as well bring out the good china.

So, what are fines herbes, and how do pronounce it, anyways?


Bonus points if you say it with a French accent and are wearing a beret.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Citrus Soy Glazed Sirloin Stir-Fry for #WeekdaySupper


It's not often, but this week, "Where's the beef," beat out "Eat mor chikin," in my house.

Maybe because it's grilling season?

Or maybe it's because my man couldn't bear the thought of us actually reaching number 276, in Diana's "500 unusual and interesting ways you never knew that chicken could taste so good" crusade.

Hey, it could happen!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Swedish Blonde Burger for Summer BBQ Party #SundaySupper


You know how there's that one person who can always seem to get a party started? 

Well, that's how I feel about the 4th of July, when it comes to Summer BBQing!

Even if you think you aren't in the mood... your smile grows a bit brighter as you see that flag waving in the wind.  And your eyes become a bit wider as you can't help yourself from pulling off the road for the larger-than-life fireworks tent.  Your man heads off to the "big boom" section, while you head straight to the pink sparklers.  And finally, you know you're hooked, when you search your closet for a bit of blue to add to your red and white outfit, while singing Neil Diamond's Coming to America... out loud, even.

And then out comes the grill.  And the burgers.  And the beans.  And the beer.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Guilt-Free Blueberry Cream Cheese Gingerbread for Desserts in a Jar #SundaySupper


Sometimes I'm a little slow in the kitchen.

Like how it took me 22 years to finally replace that wooden mallet I'd gotten for a wedding gift, with an actual metal meat pounder.  Or how I finally splurged on a microplane after countless bouts with the less-than-successful vegetable peeler.  And now, my first attempt at baking in a jar.  How can it be?

I'm a jelly jar late bloomer.

And the funny thing is, that this new found passion, for just a moment, became a new found addiction.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Smoked Gouda and Dill Fruited Chicken Salad and How you Really Say Gouda


I love all cheeses, Gouda, but I'd have to say you are my cheese soulmate.
I love how you taste.  I love how you sound when I say your name.  And I love that the Danes, and some of my relatives pronounce you as it should be... "how-da."

Sooo Gouda.

Gouda is named after the Dutch city of Gouda, not because it was made there, but has been traditionally traded there.  And people have been enjoying Gouda since it was first made back in 1184... one of the oldest recorded cheeses in the world still made today!

And this creamy, dreamy cheese ended up being the perfect start to my Chicken Salad creation.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lemony Spinach Cilantro Stuffed Summer Squash- and Other Deliciously Healthy Low Carb Lunch Ideas #healthyluxemeals


Each day at around 11:05am, in offices everywhere, starts the lunchtime shuffle. 

What am I going to eat?  Who's going where?  And... oh man, is it noon yet, my tummy's growling.

Menus come out.  Online searching begins.  And bank accounts are checked to see if there is enough for a sit down meal, or if the drive-through dollar menu will have to do.

And there's always that one foodie in the office.  The one you can count on to choose the best restaurants.  While eagerly going office by office, making a list of what everyone wants, plus delivering it right to your door... perfect every time.

No carrots, no nuts, and have them add two extra dressings on the side, please.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

From Chicken Divan to Chicken DIVINE Mini Bread Bowls for #WeekdaySupper


You've got to love the French.

They smoke, they eat bread, they have a relationship with snails that I still quite don't understand.
Yet, they make everything look elegant and sophisticated.  From their clothes, to their je ne sais quoi style... to their sauces.

The perfect blending of attitude and simplicity.

So, what could the French possibly have in common with Chicken Divan?  A retro casserole, which seems about as unsophisticated as you can get... typically boasting mayonnaise, cream of chicken soup and cheddar cheese?

A tie to it's history.

In the 1950's, Chicken Divan was the signature dish of  the New York Restaurant, Divan Parisienne.  And was named so, in hopes of implying continental elegance.  Sounds pretty "French" to me... not to mention that the original base of the dish was a Béchamel Sauce, which originated in... you guessed it, France.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Nut Free Lemon Cardamom Wedding Cookies for Allergy Free #SundaySupper


Growing up, I thought that some foods just tasted itchy... to everyone!

Like carrots, and walnuts, and salmon.

I have food allergies, and luckily I had a good Allergist, because back then there weren't allergy warnings on labels or restaurant menus.  Or even much written on the subject, for that matter.

And while many kids "grew out of it," I never did, which is a shame because some of my very favorite foods are the ones that make me feel the worst.  Like chocolate (yup, I said chocolate), or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Chunky peanut butter, what I would give to eat you.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Crispy Avocado Tonkatsu (Pork Tenderloin) Club with a Daikon and Pea Shoot Salad

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Markdown meat may not sound very glamorous, but man, will it save you a lot of money.

I love a good sale.

Heart racing, palms sweating.  And that euphoric feeling, as without hesitation, I toss the markdown package with the red label, and the sometimes up to 75% off, in my shopping cart.

And it's not just meat. There's a lot to score in the cheese department, too.  Big chunks of brie, Havarti, and Gruyere.  And, sure, it expires tomorrow, but in my house, seriously?  We would eat cheese on our corn flakes if we could (well, we could, but we'd never admit to it).

Just don't hesitate.  You'd better grab it and go.  Because, believe me, before you know it, it will be gone.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mint, Mayo, Mediterranean and Don't Forget Mario for May #FoodieFinds


“The kitchen is a country in which there are always
discoveries to be made.”~Grimod de la Reynière

This quote rang especially true as I read it today, because I think I'm finally at a wiser point in my life.  A place where I realize the best culinary adventures don't have to revolve around airline travel, or a racked up American Express bill from a Michelin Starred Restaurant.

Now, don't get me wrong... I love those things too.  But, these days I'm also finding much joy in the simpler things, like a new ingredient, technique, or a markdown cookbook that turns out to be a new favorite.  Here are a few of my new discoveries from the month of May.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Roasted Strawberry Tarragon Butter for Summer Berries #SundaySupper


If you don't like strawberries, you're "weird."

It's true!  According to a recent National Survey, people labeled strawberry lovers as "health conscious, fun loving, intelligent and happy." Non-strawberry lovers, on the other hand, were described as "weird, boring, stuffy-picky, fussy eaters who avoid healthy foods."

OK, so I'm not really sure about the credibility of this survey, and I, of course, would never say anyone is weird.  But I found it on the Internet, and everything you find on the Internet is true, right?

I also found out that strawberries are the fruit of love, they are the only fruit to have seeds on the outside, and ironically are known to have a cooling effect...

an unexpected bonus today seeing as our air conditioning went out, on the hottest day of the year so far.

We weren't feeling the love.

Friday, May 31, 2013

5 Minute Salted Caramel Apple Muffins- Food Trend or Taste-Setter?


So, the flavor of the week seems to be avocado.  Avocado hummus, avocado smoothies... avocado cupcakes?

And I'm cringing just as much now, as I did when I took my first taste of avocado ice cream back in 1984, at a 4-H convention... well, at least when it comes to the sweet stuff.

Guess even in food, everything old is new again.

But, it's been fun watching the food trends over the last 5 months that I've been blogging.

First Nutella (wonder if Giada is getting royalties?)  Then the healthier snacks, like kale chips and roasted chick peas.  The rice and pizza crust replacer, cauliflower (you all are just finally trying this?)  Grains made good again, like quinoa and the newly touted super grain farro (my vegan friends are smiling).  And don't forget Srirach, which like the white sauce at a Japanese Hibachi Grill... is "good on everything," or at least the bloggers have told me so.  Sorry people, spice wimp here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Leftover Potato Salad Shepherd's Pie- A Meat and Potatoes Lover's Paradise


"Cook with your nose first, and then with your heart." ~Chef Di

It all started with a jar of Prego Spaghetti Sauce... the plain one.  I was in my early 20's and after spending years cooking in B&B's I'll admit, I'd had my fill of quiche and popovers, not to mention the white dusting of flour that always seemed to grace my clothes, my car... and my hair.  I didn't wear black for 8 years.
So, I set out to conquer some dinner dishes, and like most things in life, I got a little bored with the basics so I decided to mix it up.

But I needed a plan, because being a newly married girl on a budget, I could only afford to start with some small creative culinary adventures.  Baby steps, thus out came the Prego to build from.

I lined up all my spices on the counter, and decided that if I was going to understand flavors... really understand flavors, I'd have to close my eyes, and just smell.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Creamy Potato Salad with Roasted Pears, Cilantro and Romano Cheese for Picnic #SundaySupper


I've never liked Potato Salad

OK, there I said it.  And while it's practically un-American to admit, (especially seeing as today's Sunday Supper theme is all about picnic food), I'd much sooner reach for the pasta or fruit salad before I allowed some one-note, mushy white glob of potatoey goo take up a spot on my picnic plate.

But, how could it be?  When you think about it, Potato Salad has some of my very favorite ingredients... potatoes and mayonnaise.  So perhaps the problem doesn't lie in the potato, but in the putting together of it all.

So, my mission this week was to create a picnic-perfect Potato Salad.  And what I came up with, well, lets just say... move over hot dogs, chicken and steak, because this Potato Salad is taking center stage on my picnic plate.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Asian Style Honey Lime Steak with Chimichurri Sauce


I guess you could say I've always been a dreamer.

Which is fine by me, because like they say...

dream big, or go home, right?

Well, this week, I dreamed big, but it was a very different type of dream.

I dreamed of food.  And like they also say, you only really know a foreign language when you dream in it.  Guess that means I'm a true foodie now, right?  Only took 42 years...

But this wasn't just a dream about food, like dinners in exotic locations, or homey comfort foods at family get togethers.  But a recipe.  This recipe.  And the funny thing is that I've never made a chimichurri, let alone tasted one.

It was right on (well, with a few fun twist).  From the ingredients, to the mise en place, to the execution and even the presentation of it all. Yup, it was pretty much an all night dream.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cali Girl meets Southern Gal's Jambalaya for Low and Slow #SundaySupper


The garage door creaked, as it slowly made it's way up.  Hat on.  Hair in a ponytail.  Top down.

It had become a weekly thing.  And each week, as the engine roared to a start, after being tucked away neatly in the garage, there were sighs of relief.  Kind of like after those long holidays, where you hope your car starts after sitting in the airport parking lot... just one day too long.

We'd been living on the edge.

I didn't think I'd ever understand why a few months back, my man would even consider buying this 1999 Camaro.  Although, as a child of the 70's, it didn't sound all that old, until I did the math.  Fourteen years old, to be exact.  And a mileage that with previous cars, would have also led us to the dealership, but for very different reasons.

A play car.  And a convertible- well, that's fun, right?  But it's loud.  And it reminds me of a high school kid, revving his engine, with much to prove.  Racing with the wind- not to mention anything or anyone on the road up for a challenge.   A bronze beast that's completely opposite of my beloved car... which is now known as my "old lady car."  Huh?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Apple Pie and Brie Bruschetta Satisfies Your Sweet Tooth


My first real job out of college was at Sansum Medical Clinic, in Santa Barbara.  This might have seemed like a step down after I quit my Nursing Program, to some.  But it was a step up to me- even though it was just at the new patient check-in desk. 

I was newly married, and excited not only for a new direction in life, but also that my office was only 12 blocks from our new apartment, so I could walk to work every day (rolling my eyes now, partly irritated that I was so motivated back then.  And even more irritated that my proverbial butt mark in the couch is getting deeper and deeper by the day, some 20+ years later).

Yes, I had a car, and even though I came to find out pretty quickly that patient care wasn't my thing (way too sensitive... and kind of have a thing with germs, and egos), I still tried to live in health.  And also be my best as I checked in patients who were stressed, scared, and probably wondering just how much their insurance would be paying, since we had some of the best Doctors in the world.

Well, at least the apples were free.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Green Pea Salad with Leeks, Bacon and Goat Cheese- Pass the Peas, Please!

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If I could eat anything every day, all day long...

it would be pasta.

Perhaps it's the part Italian in me.  Or perhaps it's because pasta is so comforting, so delicious, so versatile, and so cute- coming in all shapes and sizes for just about any type of meal.

Not an easy thing to crave when you're following a low carb diet.

And today I craved pasta salad.  Which, lucky for me, isn't the easiest thing to find at my local stores.

But, I decided to give in, and I set out to make one of my own.  I wrote down all my favorite flavors like leeks, bacon, goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes, and did I say bacon?  Lots of bacon.

And then it hit me... what if I change out peas for the pasta?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tarte Flambee (A Simple and Delicious French Pizza) for #WeekdaySupper


When I think of Pizza, I think of two things.  My first job, and Paris.

OK, so my first job didn't last long.  Little Caesars, a place that left me smelling of pepperoni for years.

And Paris?  Yes, the night in Paris, that an angel on a bike, delivering pizzas, saved our lives.

It was our first day there, and my Mom and I (read more about the trip here) clothed ourselves in black, with scarfs and hats (sooo chic!) and hit the streets.  We had a map, but neither of us spoke the language (well, besides the cramming I did with her at the airport and on the plane with French flash cards).

It was PARIS!!!  She had been several times before, but it was all so new and exciting to me, and we walked, and ate, and let the time get away from us.

Before we knew it, the sun was setting, and we were a long walk (because everyone walks in Paris) away from our hotel.  I was grateful that we opted to stay in a hotel that was in a neighborhood, so we could really live, eat and breathe a more realistic version of Paris, rather than the touristy areas.  But, that night, walking down dark alleys, and getting turned around in unlit streets... well, lets just say that when I saw that nervous look in my Mom's eyes, I've never been more freaked out.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mexaratinis and Fedoras for Cinco de Mayo #SundaySupper


It was an ordinary Saturday.  I grabbed my tennies and my dog, and off we went for our daily walk around the block.  But, what I saw, as we turned the first corner, was anything but normal.

And what I saw, to this day, still leaves me wondering if it really happened, or if I was seeing things, likely due to too many Mexaratinis the night before.

Paul, in shorts.  And an old t-shirt.  Mowing his lawn.

I met my neighbor Paul earlier that year, and I not only liked him, but was intrigued by him, something that doesn't happen often.  Perhaps it was his Jim Carrey-like animation and quick wit, his English accent, or the fact that he wore a suit, French cuffs, and a fedora...
each and every day.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Deconstructed Pork Tamales for Face your Fear #SundaySupper


I'll never forget my High School Spanish Teacher, Mr. Ochi.  A short Japanese man, who wore a suit every day to class, made students tremble in their seats, as he called their name to conjugate the verb "to be," and had a contagious passion for the Spanish language.

It's the best language there is, he'd say.  The most logical of all languages.  And it's so romantic... as he'd trill his r's and make even the most basic phrases like "my name is," "where are you from?" and how are you today," in Spanish, sound like lines from a love song.
But it wasn't just the language that intrigued me, (and became my second language) but also the culture.  And living in Santa Barbara, I got a pretty accurate taste of it...

Mariachi Bands on Thursdays over Carnitas.  Streets filled with colorful confetti for weeks after our yearly Fiesta celebration, and the two women who came by our office every day at lunch selling freshly homemade tamales.

So, this week's #SundaySupper, hosted by Conni from The Foodie Army Wife, is all about facing your foodie fears, and trying something you've never tried before, so my first thought?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Clean, Lean and Green Crispy Skin Apple Cinnamon Chicken with Goat Cheese and Braised Leeks #healthyluxemeals

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was the first thing that came to mind as I read the e-mail from my development, and saw in bold print with exclamation points and assumed smiley faces...

"The pool is now open!!!"

And with those 5 little words came a feeling of dread, wondering how it could already be swimsuit season...

we're not even 5 months in.  I was so not smiling.

Didn't they get the memo?  Everyone knows that Spring is when you start thinking about whether your air conditioner will work, you're reminded that those slimming salads really are as good if not better than those heavy stews, and you gradually start peeling off the layers, in clothing and then some (yikes!).  It's a delicate transition, and one not to be rushed.

But in this case, looks like I'll need to dive in head first.  No sinking for this gal, I choose swim.

Because, oh yea, did I tell you...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sound of Music Spinach Salad with Roasted Golden Beets, Zucchini Noodles, Goat Cheese and a Hot Bacon Orange Cilantro Dressing


Ever have one of those embarassing moments that you're sure you'll never live down?

Well, mine happened (almost) on stage.
Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera's backstage, to be exact.

I was in college, and how the heck did I get a role in The Sound of Music, anyways.  My family sings.  I cook... well, and design.  But sing?  OK, so I made it in the chorus, and actually had a part... thank you "On my Own" from Les Miserables, the song I sang and almost threw up to before, during, and after the audition.  Have you not yet realized, that I'm an introvert?

And if that wasn't bad enough... here's me.  Loreli (the maid) about to go on stage, opening night.  When the Director (whom I hadn't even been brave enough to speak two words to, since I was cast), grabbed me and pulled me aside not a minute to soon, frantically waving over fellow cast members, and laughing so loudly that the audience must have heard her, while pointing at my behind.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Creamy Asparagus Soup Shooters with Shrimp and 7 Wildflowers for April Showers #SundaySupper


I didn't sleep much that night, but I'll never forget my dream.  The dream that changed my life forever.

You see, earlier that day, I was on a quest.  A quest for romance, for soul mates, for the kind of love that sees you though all the seasons of your life.  And as I placed those 7 wildflowers under my pillow, I didn't really know what my dreams might bring, but I hoped.  I hoped so badly that he'd be the one...

And he was.

Every year, near the Summer Solstice, Swedes celebrate Midsummer, one of their most important holidays of the year.  It's considered a time of magic, and a time of fertility.  And a time when, according to old traditions, maidens should pick seven wildflowers and put them under their pillow that night, in order to dream about the man they are going to marry.

But they have to be wildflowers.  And they all have to be different.  And if you pick one from a church yard, the power increases even more.

Just make sure you go alone, and speak to no one... or the magic might be lost.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Artichoke Stems, Trail Cooking and Eric Ripert- a Culinary Triple Threat for April #FoodieFinds


There's nothing I enjoy more, than learning new things about food.  So, I decided to start a mid-monthly review of the top tips, techniques and trends I've discovered along the way.  Whether it's a new recipe that's now a family favorite, or a new way to cook a favorite food,  I can't wait to share my monthly #foodiefinds with you.  Please join in and add your #foodiefinds to the comment section below, or on my Facebook page too!

1) Hulu #foodiefind

I have a foodie crush.  And no, it's not on artichokes or bacon, but on Eric Ripert.   So I guess you'd really call it a celebrity crush.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Channel Road Inn's Heavenly Buttery Peaches and Cream Scones and an Excerpt from my Novel


Ever experienced something that you just can't seem to get off of your mind, no matter how many years later?

Like a movie, or a song, perhaps a lost love, or even something you did that you wish you could take back... or act on when you chose to remain complacent?

Well, I have a few of those too.

The first, believe it or not... a scone.

We were newly married, and too naive to realize that racking up our credit cards on travel might not be very wise.   Yet, in retrospect, I admire us for really living life and seeking out so many adventures. 

I spent most of the first decade of my life in Santa Monica, so we decided to stay the weekend at The Channel Road Inn, and man, were we happy to find this gem by the beach!  Unpretentious, yet beautifully kept.  Homey, comfy, and most of all- friendly.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Georgia Byrd's Chicken Tchoupitoulas Pasta for Movie Inspired #SundaySupper


Some people might say the best summer of their life was travelling to an exotic location, or one of those high school summers filled with a new romance at the beach.  Or maybe even just a staycation, catching up on your reading list and sleeping until ten every day.
But the best summer of my life...

was in summer school. 

And yes, I said summer school.  But this wasn't just any school... it was film school.
When I was 30, I went back to school to finally get my degree.  I planned to get a degree in Atmospheric Science (inspired by my smartie Pop, who was an Aerospace Engineer- I know!) And I had even hoped to some day be on the Weather Channel... ahem. Hey, it could have happened.

But after my first news writing course, I was hooked.  I immediately switched my major to Mass Communication and gleefully signed up for 3 film classes for the summer semester.

6 weeks of watching and discussing films all day long.  And getting lost in the place you only find when you're sitting in the dark, with a big screen and so many surround sound speakers that you feel like you are right there with Georgia in the church singing "Why Lord," on the dam when Kragen chickens out of base jumping, and when Sean finds Georgia's "possibilities" book.

So, this week I was so excited to find out that our #SundaySupper theme, hosted by one of my favorite food bloggers, Heather from girlichef, is all about food inspired by the movies.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

California Chicken with Mediterranean Pilaf and the Color Yellow for #WeekdaySupper


Sometimes messy foods are the most fun.

Have you ever cooked with turmeric?

It's a spice my Mom used when she introduced me to this dish, and I still love how it turns just about everything in the kitchen... yellow! 

Yellow spoon, yellow spills on the counter, yellow stained plate, and a rice that is so rich in color, it might as well be gold... see what I mean?

So they say that psychologically, the color yellow makes us the happiest.
And while I'll admit my favorite color is pink, yellow is a close second.  It's the color I painted my bedroom and wake up to, reminded of sunshine every morning.  The color of sunflowers, baby chicks, daffodils, lemons, Picasso's yellow spot, several favorite songs like Yellow Submarine, Mellow Yellow, this all time favorite...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tarragon Chicken Lettuce Leaf Wraps and Lessons from a Food Blogger- Month 5


They say, don't ask for what you really want, unless you're prepared to receive it.

And received it, I have.

It kind of snuck up on me, as I was just having a little fun while getting my Drizzles ready for production.  But now, at month 5, with over 50K page views (I know... crazy, and thank you all!) and now averaging over 20K views/month...

I no longer just live, breathe and dream about food, but I think I can now safely say, I'm a Food Blogger...

and I've got a butt dent on my couch to prove it.

And, whether you're a newbie or a seasoned food blogger, here are some tips that I've learned along the way.  Hopefully they'll help keep you motivated, happy, and overflowing with creativity!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

San Francisco Special Breakfast Burritos and a Ton of Tips for Budget #SundaySupper


For some, eating on a budget means pantries lined with ramen noodles, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or Frosted Flakes for dinner.

But for me, it means eating all the things I love like fresh fruits and roasted vegetables, beautiful meats, artisan cheeses and wine.  Yes, even wine.

No coupon clipping.  No fast or frozen food.  Just smarter shopping, and a lot more of it.

This week's #SundaySupper, hosted by the lovely Lane from Supper for a Steal and Pam from Blueberries and Blessings is all about budget meals.  And this one is right up my alley.

So, I cook.  I cook every day.  And I don't do any of that semi-homemade stuff, but homemade beautiful and nutritious meals bought daily from farmers markets and the grocery store.


Yes, daily.  I love to grocery shop, and not only is it a great break from working at home, not to mention what I call therapy (we'll talk about that another time), but it also saves me money.
hink about it.  How many times have you come home with a week's worth of groceries, only to find you're either too tired to cook, or what sounded good four days ago doesn't really fit your mood today?  Perfectly good food, and money down the drain- with likely even more money spent, as you drive away from that restaurant wondering where all your money went.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Great Expectations Ham and Swiss Chicken Roulades with Meyer Lemon Cream Sauce


Ever get the feeling that your reality may never live up to your expectations?

This week I had that feeling.

Perhaps it's because my birthday and my 25th High School Reunion are coming up.
Or maybe it's because I had the most horrific encounter with a spider in all my 42 years, at 2am the other night, as I felt it crawl up (no, make that- aggressively try to attack) my leg... while I was in the bathroom.  Glad I'm a foodie... my Bon Appetit magazine may have just saved my life.
And then to make matters worse, my cable box/DVR died the next morning.

And we all know what that means- months and months of creating the most perfect "scheduled recordings" list... gone.  Plus a trip to the cable store to wait in lines so long they put the DMV during lunch hour, and the Honeybaked Ham store on the day before Easter, to shame. 

Which all led to a day of blogger's block.  And me wondering if I was sillier for heading down this new career path, or for sitting on the couch, curled up in a ball, too scared of spiders...and my life, to let my feet touch the ground.

Feeling defeated, I called my Man.

And after a long drawn out one-way conversation involving rants and complaining and mostly silence on his end... he finally said one word.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Frozen Lemon Dessert for Citrus #SundaySupper


I'm allergic to chocolate.

A baker allergic to chocolate? Say it isn't so.

I'm also allergic to soy, nuts, and just about everything orange, well, except oranges themselves.

But, back to the Chocolate.

You see, I've lived most of my life convincing myself that Skittles were as good as Kit Kats and Starburst, even better than Twix.  But on Easter, nothing could compare with chocolate bunnies, right?

Well, this year Easter falls on the 31st, and shares the day with National Oranges and Lemons day... hurray!  So our theme of the day is Citrus, and believe me, these Sunday Supper recipes will get you puckering up!

And mine?  I dug deep in the old recipe files for this one.

My Mom used to serve this Frozen Lemon Dessert for dinner parties, smart, as this is a perfect do ahead dessert.  And I'll never forget me sneaking into the kitchen whispering to my Mom as she was clearing the dishes, asking "are they done, yet?" so I could help myself to whatever was left in the pan.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Honey Panna Cotta with Grand Marnier Mixed Berries and Easter Bunnies for #SundaySupper


When it comes to Easter baskets, candy is always nice... especially if it's See's Candy.

But it's the bunnies that make me smile the most.

First, the Beatrix Potter stuffed bunnies, early on.

(not quite so photogenic back then)

Then my real-life bunny for Easter in my Junior High years.

Yes, I had a rabbit for 4-H, and I named him Satin.  But, when I filled out his showing papers I mistakenly put Satan.  He was not a good bunny.  It stuck.