July 2010


This weekend I had one of the best breakfasts of my life. Make that two of the Top 5 because we ate at Cafe Pasqual’s twice. This restaurant uses fresh, seasonal, organic and naturally raised foods, which was a pleasant plus. It ended up being a little rainy all weekend so hot coffee was a must. I can’t lie, I snuck in some Splenda the next day since the restaurant only uses natural sweeteners and I needed an added kick.

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The boy got baby cup of espresso with a piece of homemade candied orange peel on the side. So adorable, no?

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For my first meal on vacation, I decided to branch out of my comfort zone and order something that seemed truly Southwestern: Griddled Polenta from Anson Mills, with Niman Ranch Chorizo, Roasted Corn Kernels, Red Chile Sauce and two poached eggs.  It was spicy, savory, and really amazing. I can’t say enough good things about this meal!

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Day 2 I mixed it up and got the whole wheat pancakes. Literally melt-in-your-mouth…I swear these were made with sugar because they were so light and sweet and airy. I would pay for that recipe!

Santa Fe is such a cute town. I couldn’t believe the abundance of adobe buildings though; there must be a law mandating this style!? We ended up wandering through the annual Spanish Market and saw more Catholic art and skeleton paintings than you can possibly imagine. A few streets over we found another area with cowboy hats and fun animal sculptures, like these bears.

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Too cute.

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Speaking of bears, the rain stopped Sunday morning and we accidentally found a great little hiking trail. Bear Canyon anyone?

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See? First blue of the weekend!

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The forest was surprisingly lush! We left the “maintained trail” and went exploring. We also came upon dozens of rock towers. Of course, I was overly fascinated and couldn’t stop taking pictures.

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Sorry that my photos skip from the first morning to the last afternoon, but I guarantee all the moments in between were just as amazing. It was so nice getting out of LA for the weekend; I shelved work and life and just relaxed. Sometimes two days is all you need…although, I would have happily taken a few more :)

I have mixed feelings about Humpday. Sometimes it feels like "how is this week only halfway over?!" and other days I find myself saying, "wow, Wednesday already?!"  Of course I had the obligatory discussion about it being mid-week at work today and someone commented how no matter which way you are feeling, we are headed downhill from here. Smart guy.

So, I’ve been flying downhill toward the weekend all day today and it’s felt great! For some reason, my morning started out slow and then the stars aligned and I ended up having a great rest of the day. Here are the five little things that got me smilin’ :)

1) Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs

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I might be in love. These are amazing! Today I heated some up and mixed them into a big salad, then topped everything with balsamic vinegar. It was so delicious that other people came out of their offices to comment on how good it smelled.

2) William Sonoma Cake Platter

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I came back to my desk after lunch and found this perfect little beauty waiting for me. I love that I work in an office where we get some pretty cool free stuff, and I love even more that my coworker thinks of me when he gets something cooking related and it ends up on my desk. I’m a lucky duck.

3) I spent a good chunk of lunch chatting with Julia. After a decent amount of gushing and squealing (does that happen to everyone or are we just excessively girlie?), I came back to the office feeling 100x lighter.

4) Santa Monica Public Library

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First, this place is beautiful, no? Second, it’s in walking distance from my house. Third, I get emails whenever a book on hold becomes available so I can pick it up. Today the book was Seven Year Switch by Claire Cooke. I hope it’s good!

5) Grilled Veggies

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After work, I trekked out to Malibu to water the boy’s plants while he is out of town. Today I went to World Market AKA THE BEST STORE EVER (besides Target of course) and got a grill pan. I don’t have a grill but he does and I couldn’t NOT take advantage of being able to make some fish, bell peppers, onions and tomatoes in one fell swoop.

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Unfortunately, more than half these veggies slipped right through the cracks and I lost them. Clearly I did something wrong; any tips? At least the red snapper was tasty!

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Friday night I am headed to Santa Fe, NM to visit the boy for the weekend. He’s been gone for 2 1/2 weeks and I’m psyched to see him. I’m racing downhill to takeoff and I can’t wait!

I collect recipes. I’m talking, big black binder stuffed with all kinds of ideas for everything from smoothies and breads to cakes and salads. Yet, I don’t really use recipes all that often. Maybe because I don’t have the ingredients? Or because they seem too elaborate? (AKA because I’m lazy?)

Whatever the reason, you know something has really piqued my interest when I actually take the step beyond tagging to cooking.  When my coworker gave me this copy of Everyday Food: Fresh, Fast, Flavorful, I immediately started flagging recipes.

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I mean, aren’t you drooling over this sandwich? 

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Luckily, all I needed to pick up from the store was a lemon to make the Fig Spread that caught my eye! Ever since moving to California and discovering figs, I regularly buy these Trader Joe’s dried Calimyrna figs. They are oh so good!

The recipe just calls for 4 things – figs, water, sugar and lemon. Instead of sugar, I finally broke into my bag of Nevella, a no calorie sweetener that I won from Jenn at Slim Shoppin’.  I thought the final spread tasted perfect, with no added calories from the sugar!

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In a medium saucepan, combine figs with sugar and 1 1/2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, until most of liquid has evaporated and figs are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp paring knife, about 20 minutes.

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Transfer mixture to a food processor; add lemon juice. Puree until smooth.

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For my sandwich, I put the fig spread & goat cheese on one side and barbecued chicken & arugula on the other. It was incredible!

fig sandwich

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Sweet, savory, contrasting hot & cold with the peppery bite of arugula and the doughy roll – this sandwich ended up tasting better than I imagined. Maybe I should follow recipes more often :)

Now I just need to think of other uses for this fig spread. I’m seeing at least one PB & Fig sandwich in my future.  Also, I haven’t been above swiping my finger in the jar and eating it straight. What can I say? This stuff is delicious!

What a great week! My mom just spent the last ten days with me and Rachel, and we had a fabulous time. Highlights included fireworks & BBQ on the Malibu pier, homemade pierogies, happy hour at Bodega, watching Crazy Heart while eating Indian takeout, Mom’s first raw vegan restaurant experience, a big family dinner at Fritto Misto, and lots of self-serve froyo!

We kicked off with two forms of coastal transportation; first, a bike ride and then a convertible trip down the ocean. It was gorgeous!

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Unfortunately, the clouds kicked in for every single day after this one. While its hot everywhere else in the country, all we’ve been seeing in Santa Monica is gray skies and RAIN. Luckily, the sun peeked out enough yesterday for lunch at Duke’s in Malibu. We sat right alongside the ocean and enjoyed the appropriate vacation-style cocktails!

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I haven’t had fresh fish in ages, and this sea bass definitely didn’t disappoint. Mine was prepared Roasted Firecracker-style, with spicy tomato, chili and cumin aioli with black bean, onion and avocado relish. Plus crisscross fries on the side. It was delicious!

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Later that night, we headed out to experience a little Los Angeles gem – movies at the Hollywood Forever cemetery! Everyone brings blankets and food (we brought sandwiches from Bay Cities deli) and wine & chills out before the movie. See all the mausoleums in the back??

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We played games of gin and snapped photos until the movie started. Some people went all out, with little tables, tea lights, pillows – the works!

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The films are aired at 9 when its completely dark, but they show old movie posters and have a DJ playing music while you wait. Last night’s film was Arsenic and Old Lace, which I’d never seen and was fabulously funny. There’s something great about a movie that doesn’t rely on technology, you know?

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Peter Lorre is in the film and actually buried in this cemetery, in this very building where they played the movie. Only in Hollywood is that a fitting tribute!

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I got some great twilight shots too.

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Now my mom is back in Jersey – I miss her so much already! I’m planning on eating some leftover pierogies in her honor. The recipe is from her Ukrainian grandmother and one of my all-time favorite foods. I can eat two dozen…easily. I’ll just have to make do with the six I have left :)

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Anyone else quasi-obsessed with that Ke$ha song? Boots & Boys, I mean. It kind of drives me nuts, but I can’t stop singing it!

Even though the weather has turned summer-y everywhere BUT California, I’ve been getting in a decent amount of grill time. Actually, I don’t have a grill, but the boy does and he makes a mean burger. I do a pretty good job of chopping veggies into burger-sized rings. Give and take, right?

Anyway, I received an excessive and awesome amount of buns from Nature’s Pride through the Foodbuzz Taste Maker program. Now, I happen to be weird and prefer my burgers bun-less (so I can taste the MEAT, y’all!), but I loved seeing whole wheat flour as the first ingredient and was happy to give these a try. I thought they were decently fluffy, tasty and huge!

We grilled the buns one night along with burgers, onions, bell peppers and corn on the cob…with a side of homemade sweet potato/white potato fries and kale chips. I swear there is a burger under here.

Check out dinner with the front stoop scenery. Pretty sweet, no?

That road is the Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH, which snakes along the ocean. It’s basically mountain alongside water at many points and absolutely gorgeous. The PCH is perfect for long drives…and pictures! Here’s a shot from the other weekend, running errands. Yup, even errands are fun when you take the PCH.

Now all I need is a little HEAT. It’s been 60s/70s down by the beach and my v. white skin is not happy about that. Hopefully the sun will be out this weekend for some bike riding and reading on the sand :)

And because I love you guys so much, I’m posting a little entertainment for an early weekend kickoff! Here’s another look at some of the action found right off the PCH…

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