One Heck Of A Meal

If you are free, try to checkout this awesome fundraising bake sale! Cupcakes can reduce body temps! It's a fact;)

If you are free, try to check out this awesome fundraising bake sale! Cupcakes can reduce body temps! It’s a fact:)

 

How often do you cook dinner? I usually cook dinner 5 nights a week. That’s a lot of meals. As much as enjoy trying new recipes and making some up, I have those dishes that I always revisit throughout the year. As a kid, my mom’s favorite go-to meals were meatloaf, perch, spaghetti with jarred Ragu, and liver and onions. There was always a half-gallon of milk on the table, and it always had this orange plastic holder with a handle. Why? I’m not sure. Where did my Mom even get that thing? And where did it go?

My go-to meals are salmon (either seared or in cake form), big salads with a ton of stuff in it, good old pasta with a tomato sauce (and I admit, often it is Barilla), and some kind of grain salad, like wheat berry or Farro, with roasted veggies and chicken. But because I cook a lot of meals, I don’t want to get too repetitive, so I look everywhere for new ideas.

I made a meal the other night from an article in the San Diego Union Tribune (http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/Apr/08/Armenian-cookbook-vegan-eggplant-casserole/), and Franz claimed it is one of his favorites. It is so simple to make, it smells awesome, and it is delicious. This will be added to my “go-to” meals without a doubt. The creator of the recipe, Dikranouhi Kirazian, is a local San Diegan who just published Armenian Vegan: A Pure Vegan Cookbook with 200+Recipes Using No Animal Products. I might have come up with a sexier title, but if this recipe is a good example of the rest of her work, I will have to buy this one!

Eggplant Casserole (Any notes in parenthesis, highlighted and in italics are my notes or additions.)

Serves 2 to 4

2 large eggplants

Olive oil (for brushing eggplant)

Salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste (or any herbs you prefer that can withstand being broiled)

For the sauce

2 medium onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped  (I added more because I love garlic.)

1⁄4 cup olive oil

2 cups sliced mushrooms (I added more because I love mushrooms.)

2 bay leaves

1⁄2 teaspoon oregano

1⁄2 teaspoon dried basil

15-ounce can diced tomatoes

8-ounce can tomato sauce (I had a 15 oz jar of tomato sauce from Trader Joe’s, so I added the whole thing. I like it a little saucy!)

Wash eggplant and cut into 1⁄2-inch-thick round slices. Place slices on a large tray, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder ( I had some Santa Maria seasoning that I wanted to use, so I sprinkled that on them.). Turn slices over and repeat on other side. Put under a broiler preheated to between 350 and 400 degrees (I put my oven to 425 degrees to achieve the necessary browning), and broil both sides until a light golden brown. When done, remove from oven and set aside.(I opted to slice each round in half after broiling. I figured it would be a little easier to eat.)

Prepare the sauce while eggplant is cooking: Chop onions and garlic and sauté for several minutes in small amount of olive oil; then add the rest of the olive oil, mushrooms and all other spices. Add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, and stir frequently. Cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, then turn off heat.

Prepare for baking: Pour several spoons of sauce on the bottom of an 11-by-7-inch or 9-by-9-inch casserole dish. Layer the bottom of casserole dish with eggplant slices. Spoon some of the sauce on this layer; then add new layers, spooning sauce over each. Be sure to keep some sauce to pour over top layer.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and bake casserole dish for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot, as a main dish with rice or any pasta, and with a crunchy baguette. Can also be served cold as an appetizer. (I served this with Barilla’s Linguine.)

Sorry there are no photos.  I didn’t take a picture because I didn’t realize how much I would love it, and the leftovers didn’t look very pretty.  However, if you go to the UT link noted in the beginning, there is a beautiful photo!

I couldn’t leave you without one image.  I found my childhood milk holder!

This is it!!!!

This is it!!!!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

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San Diego Magazine Best Restaurants Kick-Off Party

What’s the best pizza place in San Diego?  If someone says Bronx, do you A) agree because you think it’s pretty darn good B) go on a tirade about how Luigi’s is far superior or C) you can’t name a place because pizza is just too unhealthy so you never eat it?  If you answered C, why are you reading my blog?  If you answered A, pick up the June edition of San Diego Magazine and leisurely peruse the list of Best Restaurants.  If you answered A, pick up the magazine, and do what I do and yell (in your own head) that you completely disagree with over half of the winners.  I say this because I actually like to read lists just so I can disagree with them.  Don’t most people?

Wednesday night, two friends, my husband, and I attended the San Diego Magazine Best Restaurants Kick-Off Party at Fixtures Living off of Miramar Road (http://www.fixturesliving.com/).  I bought a ticket for $40 which included this party and the big blow-out party on August 23rd in Point Loma.  One year, a bunch of my friends and I attend the Point Loma event and we had a great time sampling food and drinks from a slew of places.  I wasn’t even aware of the pre-party!  Big mistake!  Initially, I was weary of the venue.  For those not familiar with the area known as Carroll Canyon Business Park, it looks as exciting as its name.  Fixtures Living will open at the UTC mall down the road in the Fall which will make it more convenient to stop in and browse.  It ended up being the perfect location.  I had never been in this store before.  It is expansive, and it has room after room of high-end items for the kitchen.   It was so fun eating and drinking in staged kitchens with ranges that cost $50,000!  “Oh, this old La Cornue Grand Palais 180? Who doesn’t have one in their kitchen?”  That is a sentence I did not hear once during the evening.

There were only a couple of food stations that I missed.  I was really bummed, but at one point, I could no longer eat anymore.  The highlight of the night was Azucar.  Go to the website if only for the music: http://www.iloveazucar.com/ I find it very interesting that a Cuban Patisserie is in O.B.  I walked into this place some time ago, and, sadly, I never ordered anything.  I am a silly woman.  The desserts they served were fantastic.  If I were alone, the Turron de Havana would have made me weep, but I had to control myself.  However, I did not control how many I had. Three.  Don’t judge me.  The bottom layer is a hazelnut praline crunch.  Is that enough?  It could be, but these baking Gods top that with ooey, gooey caramel, topped again with dark chocolate mousse, and topped again with ganache.  It was heavenly.  My husband loved the Salted Toffee Oatmeal Cookie.  They reminded him of the style of cookies I like to make – on the thinner side, but full of flavor.  The third dessert was a little shot glass with a burst of flavor: white chocolate cake, passion fruit curd, and a pistachio macaron.  I would like to sincerely apologize to this restaurant for not eating your food as often as possible.  I will make it up to you.  There is a small breakfast and lunch menu, so I will have to check that out now.

Azucar Cuban Style Patisserie on Urbanspoon

In my opinion, the best named vendor goes to BadunkaChunk Cookies (http://badunkachunk.com/).  The name fits the cookie.  They are huge and delicious.  When Missy Elliott sings about her badonkadonk, she might be singing about these cookies, or how the cookies created the badonkadonk in the first place.  You can order cookies over the phone, or you can find them at Rubicon (http://therubicondeli.com/) or at MadFix Coffee Cart in Downtown San Diego on C Street between 6th and 7th (http://www.madfixcoffee.com/default.html).

Who Wouldn't Want This Gift Box???

Badunka Chunk 3

Oh Boy!

Another big taste winner for me was Green Acre, a restaurant created by the very popular Brian Malarkey and James Brennan.  It’s in Sorrento Valley which is kind of random, unless you  work here: http://www.sp-land.com/nautilus.html  It’s only open Monday through Friday, 7am until 3pm. ( http://www.greenacresd.com/).  This is possibly a prototype for future work campuses – healthy, delicious, and interesting meals created not for the shopaholics, but for those slaving away in office buildings.  I remember having to choose between Wendy’s and Subway.  Not fair!!  A Beet.L.T was served, and the best part, other than the fact that I love beets, was the Smoked Cheddar on it.  It was prepared like a tuile, so it was super light in weight, but it packed a major cheese punch.  Sadly, this was the first bite I had, and I completely forgot to take a picture.  Oops.

Green Acre on Urbanspoon

Stella Artois and Miramonte Winery (http://www.miramontewinery.com/) supplied the beverages for the evening, and they were gratefully appreciated.  The Sangiovese went so well with my bag of dark chocolate covered nuts, compliments of Marina Kitchen, located inside the San Diego Marriott Marquis.

Don't Mind If I Do

Franz making sure the pouring is done right.  And I’m pretty sure the guy serving the beer was 13. Yep, I’m old.

Hard at Work!

Hard at Work!

Miramonte WineryAnother restaurant that made me really happy?  And now I must go to their location in La Jolla? Puesto! I had read about this place, and then I never got around to checking it out (http://www.eatpuesto.com/).  The chefs made each taco to order.  The tortillas were made on site, too.  God bless them.  They served 2 tacos: Chicken al Pastor (and I was ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the pineapple in it. It made it very special.) and Potato Soy Chorizo.  I loved that they placed the cheese on the hot griddle which basically made a cheese “tortilla” which held the filling together, and that was placed in the tortilla.  They had a couple different sauces to top it off, and sliced some fresh avocado to top the little devils.  It was sweet, spicy, and fresh.  I loved it!

Puesto on Urbanspoon

Few Things In The World Are Better Than Hand Made Tortillas. She Is Doing God's Work!

Few Things In The World Are Better Than Hand Made Tortillas. She Is Doing God’s Work!

Puesto Doesn't Mess Around!

Puesto Doesn’t Mess Around

Truly Tasty!

Truly Tasty!

Royal India won my category of Best Schmoozing Effort (https://royalindia.com/) .  My husband and I got cards to return to their Downtown restaurant for free meals with a purchase of a bottle of wine.  If you read my previous post, you know I love Indian food.  I requested both condiments that were being offered, just to get a taste of everything they offer!  One was sweet and one was spicy, and I loved both!  I will be heading to their restaurant to try their Saag, my favorite dish of all time!

I will see you soon! Get the Paneer Saag ready!

I will see you soon! Get the Paneer Saag ready!

I don’t want to go on too long about this event.  I’ve probably already lost a few people along the way!  I will say that I was really impressed with all of the participants, the venue, and the people from San Diego Magazine.  I met the Editor, Erin Chambers Smith, at the Puesto table.  She was so nice, and it was great seeing people in the publishing and food industry enjoying mingling and eating.

Sorry my fork was in the way of this delicious squid ink pasta from Bencotto.  It was tough juggling food, wine and camera phone!

Sorry my fork was in the way of this delicious squid ink pasta from Bencotto. It was tough juggling food, wine and camera phone!

The ribs were a little sweeter than I prefer from Brooklyn Girl, but I've been to this restaurant before and I loved it! Eat at the bar!  Great people watching!

The ribs were a little sweeter than I prefer from Brooklyn Girl, but I’ve been to this restaurant before and I loved it! Eat at the bar! Great people watching!

I wanted cheese.  I got cheese.  Thanks, Monello!

I wanted cheese. I got cheese. Thanks, Monello!

One of the few stations I didn't get a chance to try.  I know.  I'm horrible. Everyone was raving about this dish from Roppongi.

One of the few stations I didn’t get a chance to try. I know. I’m horrible. Everyone was raving about this dish from Roppongi.

How cool is this martini sink?  It even has an olive on the handle!  You can buy it!

How cool is this martini sink? It even has an olive on the handle! You can buy it!

I had Rubicon Deli the other week and fell in love with them. I was happy to see them at this event!

I had Rubicon Deli the other week and fell in love with them. I was happy to see them at this event!

I'm not a fan of the half bacon and half beef burgers at Slater's 50/50, but I do like their "normal" all beef burgers. I love their Peanut Butter and Jellousy Burger!

I’m not a fan of the half bacon and half beef burgers at Slater’s 50/50, but I do like their “normal” all beef burgers. I love their Peanut Butter and Jellousy Burger!

San Diego Magazine Cover

I highly recommend attending this event next year.  It sells out fast, so keep a look out for it, and buy your tickets!  And you can still enjoy all of the great restaurants in San Diego in one spot!  The Best of San Diego Party takes place August 23rd at Liberty Station in Point Loma.  Get your tickets!  Here’s the link with all of the information you will need: http://www.sandiegomagazine.com/San-Diego-Magazine/January-2013/Best-of-San-Diego-Party/.  Take a look at the San Diego Magazine’s Best Restaurant edition as well.  Let me know if there’s a place you love that should be on their list!  I would love to check it out! Oh, and by the way, Pizzeria Luigi’s rules.

What a great evening! And I forgot to mention Cucina Urbana had some killer pizza coming out of their stone oven. Very appreciated!

What a great evening! And I forgot to mention Cucina Urbana had some killer pizza coming out of their stone oven. Very appreciated!

My partners in food crime - Pete and Marilen.

My partners in (food) crime – Pete and Marilen.

Royal India on Urbanspoon

Monello on Urbanspoon

Brooklyn Girl on Urbanspoon

Bencotto on Urbanspoon

Slater's 50/50 Burgers By Design on Urbanspoon

Cucina Urbana on Urbanspoon

Pizzeria Luigi on Urbanspoon

Marina Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Tomato, Tomaato? Go to Suzie’s Farm and Find Out!

I hope everyone’s week is going well so far!  I have to share the details about my trip out to Suzie’s Farm (http://www.suziesfarm.com/).  If you can’t go, at least check out the website.  There are some great recipes there.  Also, check out the special events planned.  I wish I could attend the Autumnal Equinox Dinner 2012 when chefs from The Linkery and El Take It Easy, Cucina Urbana, and Mision 19 will be part of an amazing event that includes secret gardens, mazes and music at the farm!  Maybe next year?!

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Jackie, a.k.a The Seaside Baker, arranged for a private group tour (Harvesting Tour) of Suzie’s.  Check out her blog: http://theseasidebaker.com/  I love her tagline: Musings of a Mompreneur!  Very cute!  We were greeted by our docents, Jenna and Karissa, by the farm stand.  If you want to buy some produce without taking a tour, you can visit any Saturday between 10am and 2pm. If you just like to have food prepared for you, check out all of the restaurants that buy from this farm.  You might have had Suzie’s tomatoes without even realizing it!  Blind Lady Ale House, Farm House Cafe, Miho Gastrotruck, and Marriott Del Mar are just a few spots where you can get some of this organic and tasty stuff! Another interesting tidbit, our docent, Jenna, has a food blog: http://foodislifeblog.com/  It’ll be interesting to see what recipes and food facts she posts!  I’m looking forward to reading this blog!

The farm is 13 miles south of Downtown San Diego, but you really feel like you are in another world – or at least in another country.  In some ways you are!  You can see the rolling hills of Mexico just beyond the gardens.  The farm is named after a stray dog who wandered onto the land and into the hearts of the owners, Robin Taylor and Lucila De Alejandro.  Future plots were named after dogs as well: Bear and Kiki.  Kiki followed us throughout the tour.  I guess she’s a docent as well!  There is a fourth plot that has just been acquired, but the name is unknown at this time.  I’m hoping for Sweet Pea or Monsieur.  Just throwing that out there.  All four areas will be a total of 100 acres.  I must admit, knowing the owners are such dog lovers makes me love this place even more!

The reason I loved the private tour is that it’s really a peaceful spot to hang out for an hour and a half.  I was told the public tours on the second Saturday of the month are great, but can be crowded.  The Harvesting Tour can be arranged for groups of 10 or more, costs $10 per person, and you get to pick produce right off the vine to put into your grocery bag.  What could be a better way to spend the day? Make sure to bring a bag!  We walked past rows of pumpkins (12 different varieties), tomatoes, Swiss Chard, tomatillo, okra, and Lamb’s Quarters to name a few.  Everything is planted by hand and a butter knife!  You could take a tour during different times of the year and see and taste so many different things.  I’m thinking this will have to be a quarterly trip at least!!  My favorite part was the chicken coop.  Our guides told us to grab an ear of corn to offer the chickens.  They ran to us like Monsieur when I tell him his food is ready!  Check out the website to see all of the details on the various tours offered.

When I got home, I unpacked my loot and tried to figure out what to make.  I decided to keep it simple.  I sautéed the red onions in some olive oil until they had a nice caramelization, then I turned the heat down until they softened and became super sweet.  I threw in a pinch of salt and some ground black pepper, too.  It was Sunday, so we threw some hotdogs on the grill, bought some La Brea bread, and slathered the bread with horseradish.  We topped the hotdogs with the grilled onions (Franz said he could have just had a bowl of the onions alone.), some Stadium Mustard (a nod to Cleveland), and a little ketchup.  Perfect!  As a side, I had Franz grill the mini eggplants from Suzie’s.  I prepared the eggplants by slicing them in half lengthwise, placing them in a bowl with olive oil, honey, and 1 hot pepper from Suzie’s that I sliced lengthwise into 3 slices.  Seriously, you have to do this!  It doesn’t get easier than that??  The pepper packed a punch, but it was a nice balance to the sweetness of the honey and the earthiness of the Eggplant.  The next day, I had some left over grilled eggplants and sautéed red onions, so I improvised.  I cooked some thin spaghetti, and then I added the eggplants (chopped) and onions.  In addition, I took some tomatoes (some from our yard, too) and tore them with my hands and added that to the pasta.  I added some oregano, salt, ground black pepper, chili flakes, extra virgin olive oil, and some garlic.  Once in our bowls, I topped it with a little bit of Parmesan.  Add a glass of red wine and call it a night!  Actually, we ended the night with chocolate chip cookies I made the day before.  I still have some veggies to eat from my trip!  I will let you know what else I come up with during the week!  Also, let me know about a farm near you!

Take Care and Happy Eatings!