January 2011


It’s raining today in Malibu. I’m not too disappointed in the weather though, especially since yesterday was so sunny and light. I went to the Farmers’ Market in Santa Monica, where I always do at least one pass before buying anything. I never have any clue what I’m going to get and this trip was no exception. I ended up buying color: army green kale, gorgeous rainbow chard, pale orange butternut squash, and carrots in red, orange, yellow, white and purple.

I’ve never once even considered buying these carrots before. To me, carrots are best when 1) dipped in hummus, or 2) shredded into long, skinny strands and used to top salads. I had a great work lunch though on Friday which included slow roasted carrots in a variety of colors and realized that my roasting roster (squash, potato, eggplant, brussel sprouts, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, etc.) was missing a very important ingredient. Even the cross-sections make me smile!

For lunch, I roasted the carrots alongside butternut squash and sweet potatoes. I topped everything with a bit of goat cheese, which somehow manages to make any vegetable taste just a bit better.

Luckily, I bought enough to make more than one meal, because as perfect as this tasted on a sunny Saturday, just imagine how good it will be on a rainy Sunday. MMM!

Another good idea for a day like today?

Last night’s turtle chocolate chip brownies.

Honestly, I don’t bake cookies very often. Except during the holiday season, and then I make them all the time! Sometimes I will get a craving for a real, ooey, gooey chocolate chip cookie and bake a big batch. Growing up, my mom would always whip up brownies and cookies and cakes. The only reason I haven’t entirely embraced this tradition is because while boxed & bagged cookies hold little appeal, I can easily eat an entire batch of something freshly baked in two days.

Case and point, eating a huge Christmas dinner and following that up with a nice half dozen of my dad’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. Get in my belly!

This phenomenon explains why I was both excited and hesitant to try Purely Elizabeth, an organic chocolate chip cookie mix made with almond flour, chia seeds, and coconut palm sugar. Words on the package like “free of refined sugar” mixed with mildly entertaining phrases like “nourish your mind” made me wonder if I’d found a “healthy” homemade cookie.

Check out all the chia seeds!

At the same time, could anything that required applesauce, olive oil and vanilla as the only wet ingredients really take the place of butter and brown sugar?

Well, no. To be fair, I don’t really love loads of olive oil, so that flavor was really dominant for me. Yet I thought all the crunchy seeds and hearty flours were great.

I still have a few bags of this mix, so I think I might try them next with a substitute for the EVOO. Until then, I’ll rely on my favorite cookies of all time:

  1. Homemade chocolate chip (Nestle toll house style. Duh.)
  2. Peanut butter blossoms
  3. Snickers bar cookies – If you haven’t had these before, you are seriously missing out!

I’m really happy it’s already mid-week. Julia and I just made spontaneous plans for homemade Indian food and shopping after work, whoo! Most likely a glass of wine will make it into the mix as well. Speaking of shopping…

What I Wore Wednesday:

Cardigan: Heritage

Tank: Gap

Skirt: American Eagle

Tights: Target

Shoes: Nine West

The striped cardigan I got from my mom for Christmas. Don’t the bright colors make you smile? The sweater and tank top are both definitely weekend wear, but the skirt is work-only. It’s actually light wool and another that I’ve had for ages, but keep in my closet because it’s colorful but the perfect length/material for the office.

Speaking of bright colors, I’ve developed a craving for BEETS lately. Apparently the ones I tried a million years ago weren’t fresh and roasted, because they are ah-mazing when cooked that way. If you can avoid eating them straight from the pan, they taste great paired with mixed greens, roasted brussel sprouts/radishes/onions and goat cheese. No dressing needed!

Just be comfortable with the fact that your hands, countertop, knives and sink will turn a lovely red/purple while preparing these beets. Also, you might have to prepare yourself for a little known side effect: beeturia. It has a name and yes, it’s real.

Saturday night I went on a fabulous dinner date at Luna Park. In my last four years living in LA, I’ve driven past this restaurant literally 100 times. I’ve always wanted to go, but it’s out-of-the-way, and I’ve never had a real reason to try it out. So when I saw a Groupon for this spot, I immediately bought one! It’s been burning a hole in my pocket ever since, and with the expiration date fast approaching, I figured the time was now – or never – to try Luna Park!

Can you tell how excited I was? I genuinely squealed on the drive over.

Luna Park offers an extensive menu, as well as a prix fixe option for any appetizer, entree and dessert for only $30. Considering that a lot of the dinner options are in the $20 range, this deal is a steal! Even better, my coupon was valid for the prix fixe menu, which I was worried might be considered a special deal price and not part of the Groupon. We decided to go all-out and immediately scoured the menu!

The Drinks

We had to wait a few minutes for our table and decided to order drinks from the bar. I got a Coppola Pinot Grigio, while the boy went wild with a Mojito made with fresh mint and lime. We watched the bartender crush huge fistfuls of mint to make this drink and you could taste the extra effort!

We also ordered the Mini Bar flight of three with a Mini Mint Julep, Bitty Luna Park Margarita and a Tiny Ice Breaker (Ciroc Vodka and Pacific Rim Vin de Glacier). My favorite was the Mint Julep, but the Ice Breaker with fresh grapes was pretty good too!

The Appetizers

Of course, there was one thing on the menu that immediately caught my eye: Warm Goat Cheese Fondue with Grilled Bread and Sliced Apples. I’m always poised to try anything with goat cheese, even though the boy was gagging over my choice. I’ve never imagined goat cheese in fondue format but it worked! Served in a cute white bowl over a flame, the goat cheese was smooth and rich. Both the apples and bread (which was brushed with olive oil before being grilled) were just as fresh and delicious.

The boy read my mind and ordered the other appetizer that was calling my name: Crispy Gnocchi with Roasted Root Vegetables, Chanterelles Mushrooms, Truffle Cream Sauce. If you are thinking this sounds really amazing, you’re right. It was. The photo unfortunately cannot do it justice, but the crispy gnocchi reminded me of butter-browned pierogies.

The Entrees

With the prix fixe option, neither of us held back when it came to dinner orders. For him: Braised Boneless Short Ribs with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Kale and a Red Wine Jus. I’m a tough mashed potatoes critic, but these were very flavorful. I thought the kale was a unique vegetable to serve and Luna Park did a good job of making it appetizing for a more general palate.

But the real vegetable winner was in my meal: Ale Marinated Chicken with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash and Natural Jus. The chicken was well-cooked, but the real star was the roasted brussel sprouts. Neither of us could get enough of them! I also loved the butternut squash, which was a little on the sweet side but went nicely with the chicken and heartier brussels. You can see the veggies poking out from underneath…

Dessert

Luckily for me, we were also thinking alike when it came to dessert. The first: Warm Truffled Chocolate Cake Served with Chocolate Ice Cream. I would have liked this even more if it had been fudgier, but it was rich and chocolate-y, so you won’t hear me complaining.

We also got a ridiculously cool, unique dessert as well. Can you tell what it is?

Make Your Own S’mores! Featuring: Molten Marshmallow, Bittersweet Chocolate, and House Made Graham Cookies. UM. YES. We were literally scraping the marshmallow out of the pot and burning our fingers at the end. The homemade graham crackers were better than any I’ve had before. Step aside Nabisco.

From start to finish, this was a great meal with even greater company. I’m so glad I finally tried Luna Park and will definitely be back again for the awesome prix fixe menu!

Last night, the lovely Lynn took me for my very first bowl of pho at Simply Pho You in Koreatown. I love soup. I love vegetables. I really love noodles. Therefore, I honestly have no idea how I’ve never had pho before, but I was definitely excited to give it a try!

After a quick look at the menu, I decided on the vegetarian option. Lynn shared the secret of the sliced raw onion side dishes…

You add your own oyster sauce and chili paste to customize! Hands-on dinner prep at a restaurant? I’m already digging it!

About three minutes after placing our order, we were presented with steaming bowls of pho. I promise there were noodles under there. The vegetables were still a bit crunchy, which I prefer. Best veg? Baby bok choy!

Both of our orders were delicious. I loved adding my own Thai basil, bean sprouts, cilantro and lime to the bowl.

I think Lynn’s broth was a little bit more flavorful (yes, of course we swapped bites) but I kicked mine up a notch with Sriracha. The extra spice was great. Another trick I borrowed from Lynn; I was definitely watching her to make sure I was doing the right thing. Doesn’t she make pho look fabulous??

We chatted away long after our bowls were cooled & emptied and decided to get dessert. Lynn suggested another first for me – Ho Dduk! The truck was next to a grocery store in a parking lot and I never would have thought to try this own my own.

Ho Dduk is a Korean pancake, but it might make more sense if I break it down: hot, sticky, syrupy, cinnamon-y…it reminded me of funnel cake but thicker and doughy. Very delicious!

We snapped our photos fast before digging in!

Hanging out with Lynn was a great end to my crazy day at work. Speaking of work, today was casual Friday, YAY! Is it sad that I get so excited about working 9 hours in jeans?

Top: H&M cropped lightweight striped sweater

Jeans: GAP stirrup jeggings in charcoal gray

Shoes: Nine West wedge boots

Only two outfits posted and already you can tell that I love Nine West shoes and wedges. Not only is the brand SO comfortable for me, I can wear wedges all day and get an extra 4-inches of height with no pain. I’m atrocious at wearing high heels, so wedges are my happy medium.

Also, I’m loving cropped tops but only with skinny jeans. They make me feel dainty for some odd reason.

Jeggings. Sigh. I know. You love ‘em or hate ‘em. This pair I got from GAP with a Groupon, and I honestly wasn’t going to spend the money but I’m so glad I did. They look like jeans. Skintight, skinny, slimming jeans. Unlike many other pairs, they actually have buttons and zippers and pockets. But they are oh so very comfortable.

I’m continuing the comfy theme with flannels and television – a rockin’ Friday night!

I’m having a really overwhelming day. Rather than dwell on that, I’m going to share some pictures I took after reading Janetha’s post about her steezy style. I’m jumping on the bandwagon! Since moving to the West Coast, my look has morphed from preppy and classic to bohemian and classic. You know, staple pieces with some whimsy tossed in. Some days I love my clothes and others I want a new wardrobe. I’m working on filling my drawers with outfits that ALWAYS make me happy. Here’s what I pulled out for work on Tuesday:

Top: Michael Stars

Skirt: American Eagle circa my high school years

Shoes: Nine West ENTIRE wedges

Yup, it’s been warm in LA this week. I’m kind of getting into the mismatched prints look, as long as there is one common color; in this case, purple.

That might just be the Californian in me though. What about where you live? Mismatched prints – yay or nay?

In an unexpected move, my boss gave us Monday off work in honor of Martin Luther King Day. In the history of our company, I’m not sure that this has ever happened, so the news was definitely a pleasant surprise.

Apparently when you don’t work a traditional 9-to-5, five days-a-week type job, you forget which days are national holidays. And, unlike me, you aren’t waiting with bated breath to find out whether or not you’ll get the day off work. Case and point, when the boy heard that my company was closing on Monday, he assumed I meant permanently, as in, losing my job. Makes sense now why he was so bewildered when he asked how I was holding up, and I responded, “Great! It’s Friday and sunny! And I get to eat lunch in 45 minutes.” Clearly, its the little things that make me happy. If I ever give this type of response to bad news, assume there has been some miscommunication. I might be chipper but I’m not THAT good at positive spins.

There was no need to put a positive spin on this weekend though.

It was sunny and gorgeous from start to finish. This weekend I walked to the Malibu farmers’ market, went for a challenging 4 mile paddle board surf and saw some sea lions navigating the waves with me, caught some rays on the beach, and spent lots of quality time with my sister, the boy, Lindsay and Julia.

My camera was rarely seen but I did manage to capture some of my Monday moments. The day started with a very All-American yogurt mess: fage, strawberries (fresh from the farmers’ market!), banana & orange slices, and Kashi Heart-to-Heart warm cinnamon cereal.

Enjoyed with a lovely cup of cinnamon vanilla tea.

This weekend, I finished not one but two books. The first, “Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins, is the second novel in the “Hunger Games” trilogy. I admit, these books are addictive and I can’t wait to get my hands on the third! Ignore that you can find them in the Teen section and believe me when I tell you that they’re better than the “Twilight” books.

I also finished “How to Bake a Perfect Life” by Barbara O’Neal. I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I would consider it a step above chick-lit, with a more developed story. I thought the main characters were relatable and sympathetic. The writer tells the story from three different points of view, which is a style I always like when done well. The central character is a baker and the book goes into all kinds of detail about food and taste and bread. “Chocolate croissants” were referenced so many times I almost felt like I was eating one myself.

Come to think about it, is it any wonder that I purchased not one but two different homemade breads at the farmers’ market?!?

A small sourdough baguette that went great with Sunday night’s lentil soup:

And a sliced loaf of 9-grain:

Which I used to make turkey, avocado and sprout sandwiches for a picnic on the beach — complete with a salt & vinegar Kettle chips!

After lunch, I spent much of the rest of the afternoon outside. The boy joined me for a walk in Malibu on the beach, where the weather was beyond amazing. I was in shorts and a tee shirt and a little bit warm actually. We walked by some gorgeous beachfront houses. I especially liked the ones with upper and lower decks — extra room for sunbathing and people watching and lounging and reading and grilling!

I also took a walk over to Montana Ave. with Julia for Menchies! The frozen yogurt was good, the girl talk even better. Now I am relaxing at home, debating sushi or roasted veggies for dinner. I might go with sushi takeout to prolong my vacation just a little bit…!

For dinner this week, I went back to my new Ellie Krieger cookbook many times. As a carb lover, her many pasta recipes immediately caught my eye. One in particular sounded great, and I meant to follow it exactly, but I ended up switching out quite a few ingredients, turning her Fettuccine with Creamy Red Pepper Sauce into my Linguini with Sweet & Spicy Red Pepper Sauce. Also delicious!

This recipe serves 3. Or, in my case, 1 girl and 1 boy. It’s the perfect amount to make for a couple; of course, feel free to get annoyed as I always do that men can eat more than women without immediately gaining weight!

Ingredients:
1 tsp. EVOO
1 cup diced white onion & shallot
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. sweet piquante peppers
1/4 cup low-soduim vegetable broth
2 oz. goat cheese
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
3 servings whole wheat linguini
Salt and pepper

Toppings:
Chopped fresh parsley
Crushed red pepper
Goat cheese
Freshly grated parmesan

Cook!
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, approximately 5 minutes. Drain, rinse and chop the peppers (I used Trader Joe’s Peppadews). Add to pan until heated through.

Transfer peppers, onion and garlic to a food processor, adding the goat cheese and vegetable broth. Process until smooth.

In the same frying pan, add raw mushrooms and cook on medium heat, turning until soft and golden.

Meanwhile, cook linguini according to package instructions. Save 1/4 cup pasta water after draining to thicken the sauce. Toss the pasta with sauce, adding pasta water as needed. Add cooked mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and divide into three (or, in my case, two) bowls. Add your toppings and serve!

I made his and her versions based on our tastes. His had crushed red pepper and parmesan cheese:

Mine had parsley and goat cheese!

I loved this sauce! The goat cheese made it so rich and creamy, and the peppers were both spicy and sweet. I guess I’ve never had peppadew peppers before, because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ll definitely be cooking with these again! You could also use a jar of regular roasted peppers though for a smoky flavor, or if you don’t like spicy foods.

Unfortunately, I thought all the other ingredients would mask the goat cheese in the sauce. Goat cheese = the boy’s least favorite food. While I could barely taste it, he couldn’t eat more than a few bites. I wasn’t intending to trick him; I actually thought he’d eat it and love it and then I could use goat cheese in our meals more often. Nope. Apparently, when you grow up on a farm in Minnesota, goat cheese tastes like stinky, smelly animals instead of the delicious, creamy perfection everyone else loves. Lesson learned.

But, if you like goat cheese even a little bit, this dish will be a big hit! And don’t worry about the boy’s neglected plate. Leftovers for lunch never tasted so good :)

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