Melissa’s Produce San Diego Food Bloggers Challenge!

Recently, I received an email from Barbara from Barbara Cooks (http://www.barbaracooks.com/) asking if the bloggers of San Diego might be interested in receiving a box of items from Melissa’s Produce (http://www.melissas.com/).  The “Challenge” was to take what was delivered to you and create a delicious recipe.  First, I love getting things shipped to me.  I feel like it’s Christmas!  Second, no surprise, I love food.  Third, I love playing around with food to create something new.  Fourth, I love knowing that a bunch of people out there have the same ingredients and will come up with very different recipes.

I’ve heard of Melissa’s Produce, but I didn’t know much about the company, which the owners, Joe and Sharon Hernandez, named after their daughter.  It’s basically an online grocery store for very unique items.  There’s everything from organic fruit baskets to organic blue agave syrup to Pinot Noir and Chestnut basket.  Can’t find Armenian cucumbers at your grocery store or Farmers’ Market?  Just go to Melissa’s Produce.  There are a ton of recipes online created by their five Corporate Chefs.  Say you bought quinoa at your grocery store and you don’t know how to cook it, or maybe you’ve cooked it a million times and you need a fresh idea for dinner.  Just type in “quinoa” on the website’s recipe search engine, and several recipes are at your fingertips.  Maybe Muscato Cashew Quinoa will strike your fancy.  My only question, are you hiring, Melissa’s Produce???

I must admit that this service is pricey.  Here’s what I received: Fava Beans (shelled, steamed, and ready to eat, 8.8 ounces), Baby Beets (peeled, steamed, and ready to eat, 8 ounces), Brussel Sprouts (10 ounces), Leeks (cleaned and sliced, 6 ounces), Red Quinoa (6 ounces), Dried Chanterelle (.5 ounces), Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes (1.5 pounds), and Ojai Pixie Tangerines (1 pound).  I received smaller quantities than if I were to have ordered the items myself.  I estimate the total amount for the portions I received to be around $40.  For certain items, overnight shipping is required, so you can add almost $20 for the FedEx delivery.  Everything I received was in perfect condition and tasted great.

Melissa Leeks

Melissa Brussel

Melissa Chanterelle

Melissaquinoa

Roasting Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes

Roasting Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes

My mom was visiting from Cleveland, Ohio when the shipment arrived.  She was excited to see what was in the box and what I’d make with it.  A few days after I received the box, I just started sautéing things.  My Mom asked what my plan was, and I honestly wasn’t certain.  It just kind of came together.  We were talking, and I’d roast Brussels Spouts.  We’d talk more, and I chopped Fava Beans.  We’d talk some more, and I sautéed leeks and cook quinoa.  Next thing I knew, I created  Quinoa Stuffed Chicken with a Spicy Soy Orange Glaze and, as I call it, Mish Mosh Potato Salad.

My finished product! This was one tasty potato salad!

My finished product! This was one tasty potato salad!

For the potato salad, I halved the Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes and put them, sliced side down, onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.  I covered the sheet with foil and put them into the oven at around 400 degrees.  Once the potatoes were soft, I removed the foil, flipped those bad Dutch Babies over and continued cooking them in the oven until they were nicely browned.  I roasted the Brussel Sprouts in the oven at around 400 degrees, as well, until they were browned and softened slightly.  Once I removed them from the oven, I did a rough chop on those lovely mini cabbages.  I placed the potatoes and Brussel Sprouts in a large bowl and added the Red Beets which I roughly chopped, as well.  I took walnut oil and balsamic vinegar, whisked it until it emulsified, and added it to the potato salad.  I usually do a ratio of one part vinegar to two parts oil, but I must admit I don’t really measure.  I added a little salt and pepper, too, and that was it!

The final product for the main course!

The final product for the main course!

Like I mentioned earlier, this was a “do whatever I felt like” kind of cooking day.  I love sautéing leeks and garlic, so that’s where I started.  First, I sautéed the leeks in olive oil over medium to medium high heat until the softened and were golden, probably around 6 minutes.  I added a few garlic cloves I had chopped and continued cooking for about a minute.  I added about 2 ounces of white wine (mainly because I felt like a glass of wine while I was cooking), and I raised the heat and cooked for a few minutes.  Right about then, the house smelled amazing.  I had cooked the quinoa in chicken stock earlier, so I added the leek mixture to the quinoa.  Earlier, I had also reconstituted the Chanterelles. I simply boil water, add the mushrooms, turn off the heat, leave the lid on, and let them sit for 30 minutes or until they have softened.  I rinse the mushrooms very well after.  I chopped the Chanterelles and the Fava Beans, and I added them to the quinoa mixture.  I added some ground pepper and salt, to taste.  The amount of quinoa filling was enough for 8-10 chicken breasts.  I didn’t realize just how much it would make, but I love leftovers!

I pounded the chicken and put as much filling as I could in each breast, approximately 1/2 a cup of filling for each.  I folded the chicken breast so that the filling remained inside, and I tied the chicken with kitchen twine.  I put the stuffed chicken into a baking dish coated with olive oil, covered, into the oven (around 375 degrees) for about an hour, or until it reached 165 degrees internally.

While the chicken cooked, I threw together a few items I had on hand for a sauce.  In a bowl, I whisked together orange juice (about 1/2 cup), soy sauce (about 4 tablespoons), agave (4 Tablespoons), white vinegar (2 healthy Tablespoons), and a couple of Tablespoons of chile paste.  If you like it really spicy or not very, this amount can be catered to your taste.  After whisking to combine, I placed the mixture into a pan and brought it to a boil while continuing to whisk.  Once it reached a boil, I reduced the temperature and I let it simmer for about 10 minutes.  It will reduce slightly and thicken.  I added the chicken breasts to the pan and continued cooking at a medium heat while basting the chicken with the sauce.  At this point, the chicken is cooked, I just wanted to really infuse the chicken with the flavors of the sauce.  I got the idea of doing an orange juice based sauce because of the tangerines in the shipment.  I decided to simply eat the tangerines as a dessert.  It was a perfect meal, if I do say so myself!

I can’t wait to read what other local bloggers created!  What a fun idea!  A huge “Thank You” goes out to Barbara and Melissa’s Produce!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Here is the link to see all of the Bloggers who participated: An InLinkz Link-up

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Amazecheezeballs! And Chocolate! And Craft Beer! OH MY!

I feel I need to explain the title of my post. One of my favorite celebs is Giuliana Rancic.  It’s odd how much I like her because I’m not a fan of reality t.v., and I don’t usually care for celebrities. I did cry over meeting Gene Simmons of KISS, but I was about 5 years old, and I was really scared.  I also cried at a few New Kids on the Block concerts.  And a George Michael concert.  OK, maybe I do like SOME celebrities.  Anyway, I started watching G’s reality show, Giuliana and Bill, when she was just starting to have infertility issues and I never missed an episode since.  One of her favorite words is “amazeballs”.  Let me be clear, I hate the word – I can hardly even write it! – balls.  However, if “amaze” or “schweddy” is placed in front of it, it seems ok.

Classic SNL

Now that I got that out of the way, my beer blogging friend (www.hoptologysd.com) suggested that the two of us collaborate and host a pairing of all pairings: cheese, chocolate, and beer.  I could do a cheese, cheese and cheese pairing, so adding two of my other favorite things in the world was a no-brainer!  The plan was that I would pick the cheeses and chocolates, inform him of my selections, and he would select beers to complement.  My first order of business was to get my mind under control.  Why?  Because I could really overthink the options.  I held myself to 5 pairings and had to keep the cost low.  Another thing I had to consider: people’s tastes.  I am happy to have cheeses on my plate that one could swear might get off of the plate and walk away.  I like super funky cheeses.  Having said that, I also love a simple Muenster.  I knew I had to create a nice balance of flavors – not too overwhelming, but not underwhelming.  Then I had to consider the chocolate – some people hate milk chocolate while some hate dark.  My goal was for someone to have thought he or she didn’t like something and discover that, along with the right pairing, it was tastier than the person thought.

The Glasses Are Just Asking To Be Filled!

The Glasses Are Just Asking To Be Filled!

A Little Guidance Navigating the Tastes

A Little Guidance Navigating the Tastes

Here’s how it all went down:

Pairing #1: English Vintage Reserve Cheddar paired with Dark Chocolate Covered Cranberries.  Beer: Ninkasi Total Domination IPA

Pairing #2: Uniekaas Reserve (Aged Gouda) paired with option #1 Chili Infused Dark Chocolate and/or option #2 Chuao Firecracker which consists of dark chocolate, chipotle, sea salt and Pop Rocks.  Beer: Drake’s Black Robusto Porter

Pairing #3: Point Reyes Aged Blue with Dark Chocolate (85%).  Beer: Ommegang Abby Ale

Pairing #4: Cinnamon Apple Goat Cheese (from Trader Joe’s!) with Dark Chocolate (75%) and Almonds.  Beer: Ayinger Brauweisse Hefeweizen

Pairing #5: Le Delice de Bourgogne Triple Cream with a selection of Chocolate Truffles (Participants’ Choice of either a Dark Chocolate Truffle, Godiva Milk Chocolate with Caramel, White Chocolate Ganache and Toffee Truffle, or Chocolate Caramel Truffle).  Beer: St. Bernardus Tripel

Cinnamon Apple Goat Cheese From Trader Joe's Was Fantastic!

Cinnamon Apple Goat Cheese From Trader Joe’s Was Fantastic!

Always Delicious Cheese Choice: Point Reyes Aged Blue (From Whole Foods)

Always Delicious Cheese Choice: Point Reyes Aged Blue (From Whole Foods)

Like Butta (or Butter to some)! Le Delice de Bourgogne Triple Cream From Trader Joe's

Like Butta (or Butter to some)! Le Delice de Bourgogne Triple

Cream From Trader Joe’s

It’s fascinating watching people during a tasting like this.  Some people want to know “the rules”.  What order should I follow?  Do I try the beer first, then the cheese, then the chocolate?  Then you have people who spot a favorite cheese, and just jump in, suggestions be damned!  While others follow suggestions for a bit, then start really playing around with mixing and matching.  This really could be a psychological test!  Hmmmm.  My buddy, Tom, and I gave a little guidance and I prepared a menu with a suggested order and pairing, but we really encouraged experimenting.  People quickly started asking what were the favorites.  It was near impossible to make a decision.  I thought the beer pairings were spot on!  I have a weakness for Blue Cheeses, so the slightly pungent flavor with the creamy texture of the Point Reyes was almost mind blowing with the very slight sweetness of the Ommegang Abby Ale.  And following the Ale, the bite of Dark Chocolate brought that little bit of sweetness back around.   If you ever taste cheese with me, be prepared for an emotional ride!

I think Flo Rida sums it up:

He’s obviously singing about a cheese, chocolate and beer pairing evening!

Another perfect pairing that really threw me for a loop was the Aged Gouda, Porter, and Chuao Firecracker.  Chuao is an amazing Chocolatier located in San Diego.  You can purchase at Cafes in Del Mar or Encinitas.  La Jolla UTC mall used to have one, but it is no longer open.  These creative and tasty chocolates can be found at stores around town and can be purchased online (http://chuaochocolatier.com/).  For this tasting, I bought my Chuao at Bed Bath & Beyond. I love BB&B because I love using coupons!!!   And, regarding the cheese, I picked this Gouda because it is unlike your average Gouda.  There is a snap to it and a smokiness not always tasted in a Gouda.  The chocolate with its hint of chipotle really brought out that smoky flavor and then, BAM!!!, Pop Rocks kick in!  Then, WHAM!!!, a sip of Drake’s roasty Porter!  KAZAAM!  It’s like you are fighting Superheroes in your mouth! Fortunately, with this battle, every one wins!

We had the good fortune of hosting this event on October 26th, so I loved bringing in some Halloween decorations.  Yep, it was one of the best nights EVER!!

Full TableFull Room View with Hanny

Halloween Decor #2 Halloween Decor #1

I Had Way Too Much Fun Creating This Tablecloth!

I Had Way Too Much Fun Creating This Tablecloth!

I Love Adding Little Touches! I Placed A Bowl With "Cobwebs" In The Center Of The Table & Had Spider Rings Coming Out Of It!

I Love Adding Little Touches! I Placed A Bowl With “Cobwebs” In The Center Of The Table & Had Spider Rings Coming Out Of It!

What A Fun Night! And Notice The Decapitated Head In The Background.  I Love Halloween!

What A Fun Night! And Notice The Decapitated Head In The Background. I Love Halloween!

Perfection On A Plate!

Perfection On A Plate!

The Beermeister, His Wife, And Some Guy Off The Street Who Likes Gouda

The Beermeister, His Wife, And Some Guy Off The Street

Who Likes Gouda

I can’t tell you how happy this event made me.  What could be better than getting a group of friends together to eat and drink amazing things and talk about it!  This was a great start to many more Pairing Gatherings!  Have you done something similar?  Let me know!!! And head over to the guy who made this night happen and read his side of the story: www.hoptologysd.com.

Take Care and Happy Pairing!

Honey Do!!!

Hello! It’s been too long since I posted. The Summer was a busy one, and now I’m a little overwhelmed with everything I want to share with you guys. I couldn’t resist telling you about an item I just bought today at Whole Foods in Hillcrest.  A man was handing out spoons with a dab of honey on them, so I couldn’t resist. His flyer claims that this is “The World’s Best Tasting Honey”. Again, how could I turn a taste down? I just wish my in-laws were here because they love honey. When they visit, we usually stop at Julian to pick up a few jars and a pie, of course. My Whole Foods plan was to buy Sencha Tea, and I came out with tea, a container of olives (couldn’t resist that either) and an amazing honey.

White Gold is from northern Canada (www.whitegoldhoney.com) . It is unheated and untreated. It is thick, creamy and has a perfect touch of sweetness. You can use it like any regular honey, but considering how thick and delicious this is, I think I would prefer it on a scone or with some delicious cheese (preferably from Venissimo! http://www.venissimo.com/). It is about $13 for 1 pound 7 ounces.

Whenever I go grocery shopping, I have my list and coupons in hand. I rarely, if ever, deviate from my list. This shopping excursion made me realize I should slow down and take a look at some other products. I love how Whole Foods really searches for those smaller companies who are just so passionate about whatever it is they are creating and selling.

I can’t wait to share some more awesome food spots I checked out over the Summer!  Any let me know about any food spots or products you discovered over the Summer!

SO GOOD!

SO GOOD!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day/ Weekend. I started the Holiday on Thursday by going out to lunch with a friend to an area known as “Little India” (http://littleindiasd.com/). It’s located off of Miramar Road on Black Mountain Road, and it’s close to I-15, so it’s easy to access. “Little India” consists of a few restaurants, some Indian stores, and a grocery store. Miramar Road is a little crazy. There are probably hundreds of stores on the street, and everyone is driving at least 50 miles per hour, so if you are looking for a particular shop or side street (like Black Mountain Road), it can be a little daunting. But if you are in the market for furniture, car window tinting, a growler from AleSmith or Rough Draft Brewing Company, or an Indian feast, look no further than this area.

Mart
If I had to rank my favorite cuisines, Indian would be in my top 3. There’s something so comforting about it. I love the smell of the spices, and the heat of the food combined with lighter components like coconut and cucumber just scratches me where I itch, to quote Kramer.

We decided to have lunch at Surati Farsan Mart which opened in 1986. I was overwhelmed when I looked at the menu. Take a look at their website and you will understand. My friend, Christin, advised that I order Dosa. I had never had one before, so I was excited to try something new. It’s a thin rice crepe that is somewhat crispy. There are a few filling options, so I opted to copy Christin and I ordered the Mysore Masala Dosa. It is stuffed with vegetables that have a little kick that is tamed by the coconut chutney that is served under the Dosa. When you lift it up, you will find the chutney and your silverware. On the side, a delicious vegetable soup is served which can be poured over the crepe, but I opted to dip my Dosa into it. If you have any soup left over, take it with you and pour it over some rice for another great meal at home. We easily could have split one between us, but I didn’t realize just how filling one would be. We ordered an appetizer, Chole Samosa, that was so full of flavor. If you haven’t had a Samosa before, just go here and order any one listed on the menu. You will love it! Just don’t be like Michael Scott from The Office and confuse Samosas with S’mores.

Mysore Masala Dosa

Mysore Masala Dosa

Chole Samosa

Chole Samosa

The one we ordered was topped with a sauce containing chickpeas and onions. The flavors were so fresh and bold. If you want a meal that will wake up your mouth, this is it.

Coconut Chutney - SOOOOO Good!

Coconut Chutney – SOOOOO Good!

I must say that I am so disappointed with myself. I feel like I’m an adventurous person food wise . I must note that in any other aspect, I am not adventurous. I did a zip line over Fremont Street in Las Vegas, and I thought I was Evel Knievel. Anyway, I’ve never ordered an Indian dessert. I never liked the look of them. Again, I’m so mad that I acted that way. Christin ordered a few desserts to take home to her husband, so she let me taste a couple. My hesitation with Indian desserts was that they look super sweet, like baklava. (And I like baklava, it’s just not a favorite of mine.) First, she had me try Jalebi. The orange color was what discouraged me from trying this item. It is coated in honey, which was another deterrent for me. Surprisingly, it wasn’t super sweet. It feels like you are holding fried air, if one could deep fry air. What a wonderful place that would be!

Genius Jalebi

The next dessert my friend introduced me to, which in the past I always passed right by because of the look of it, was Barfi. It had just a hint of sweet from the condensed milk and sugar. It had some crushed cardamom on top that gave the dessert some complexity. I loved it! I bought a box of assorted desserts to share with my husband, and he thought Barfi tasted somewhat similar to cheesecake, possibly a Ricotta Cheesecake because it isn’t creamy at all. I could eat this all day long!
The Chocolate Rose Coconut Roll was my favorite. I loved the color, and Franz loved that they tasted like one of his great loves: Strawberry Zinger.

Chocolate Rose Coconut Rolls

Chocolate Rose Coconut Rolls

Barfi and Rose Kaju Anjir Barfi

Barfi and Rose Kaju Anjir Barfi

The only treat Franz and I did not enjoy was Kaju Badam Roll. Unfortunately, the appearance reminded us of a dog treat. But that wasn’t what we disliked; it was the flavor. It is a cashew roll with an almond filling, but for some reason it had a smoky flavor which reinforced the dog treat idea. It is just not for me. I was happy I tried it though!

Kaju Badam Roll in Foreground

Kaju Badam Roll in Foreground and Rose Anjir Barfi Behind on the Right

Chocolate Badam Barfi was just in the middle of the road for me. It was an almond square layered with chocolate and almond slivers. There was nothing wrong with it, I just preferred some of the other desserts more.

Box of Goodies with Chocolate Badam Barfi on Top Near the back

Box of Goodies with Chocolate Badam Barfi on Top Near the back

The most interesting dessert was Rose Kaju Anjir Barfi. It is similar to a cookie, and it is cut into quarters. You can opt to order just a quarter which would be one bite for most people. It has a fig, cashew and almond filling. Apparently nut allergies are not a problem in India. It is flavored with rose-water, and I am usually not a fan. However, the rose-water was very subtle and it went really well with the other flavors. What I particularly enjoyed was the silver coating. It flaked away so that the bright red of the cookie shows through. I thought it was gorgeous, and I thought it was cool that it was safe to eat! If you go to the store’s website, you can order any of these desserts and have them shipped.
Visiting Surati Farsan reminded me to be open-minded. Sadly, I thought I was! I love when something surprises me!

Have You Tried These?
If you are in the mood to cook an Indian meal at your house, and you are not close to a Little India where you can buy spices, another option is Penzeys Spices ( http://www.penzeys.com/). There’s one in my neighborhood of Hillcrest, but they are located throughout the country (http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/penzeysstores.html). The first one I visited was in Cleveland, Ohio near the West Side Market.  I love visiting this store because they have sample containers around the store so you can smell each herb and spice. See how long it takes before you sneeze. And if you prefer someone else creating a certain blend for you, they sell that as well. For example, they sell Old World Seasoning which could be compared to Lawry’s. Take a look at their online catalogue or, if you are lucky enough to have a store near you, stop in. The people who work there are always happy to help.

I Love This Section of the Store!

I Love This Section of the Store!

They have cute gift packages for special occasions, like a wedding or house-warming party. If you go, let me know what cool stuff you found!

It's Fun To Compare!

It’s Fun To Compare!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Surati Farsan on Urbanspoon

Who Doesn’t Love a Bake Sale?

What are you doing this Saturday? Do you want to enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather forecasted for this weekend? Would you love to enjoy that weather with a delicious homemade dessert in hand? And wouldn’t you love it if you knew all of the proceeds went to an amazing cause like helping hungry children? I can make all of your dreams come true! And if you can’t make it, or if you live out-of-town, there’s still a way you can get involve and help out a worthy cause.  Keep reading!

Food Blogger Bake Sale 2013

I participated in the San Diego Food Blogger Bake Sale last year for the first time.  It was a truly professional bake sale organized by an amazing blogger (and person – yep, she’s real), Marie of Meandering Eats (http://www.meanderingeats.com/).  Once again, Marie has organized another awesome event.  However, she will be off to Medical School soon, so wish her good luck when you see her Saturday!  If you haven’t gone in the past, let me explain that you are getting yourself into a situation.  The desserts look great, the labeling and packaging are so cute, and there are samples just to make sure it tastes as good as it looks (and it does!).  The problem will be that you will want to buy a lot of stuff, maybe even buy some things to eat before you leave the parking lot, and maybe you’ll buy some things to take into the office to share with those silly people who missed it!  It’s alright because the money goes to Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry (http://www.nokidhungry.org/).  This is a national bake sale, as well, so help us beat other cities!  Take that, Pittsburgh!  Just kidding. Or am I???

The bake sale takes place this Saturday, May 4th, at Great News! Cookware and Cooking School in Pacific Beach (http://www.great-news.com/) from 10am-2pm.  The people at Great News! have been awesome supporters of this bake sale, so a huge “THANK YOU, GREAT NEWS!” goes out to them .  If you haven’t had the opportunity to investigate the store before, this will be a great time to do so!  Make sure to sign up for their newsletter so you can get additional discounts every so often!  And there is a Starbucks super close, so go ahead and make a day of it!  Finish it off by driving down to the beach with the family afterwards.  Seriously, can a Saturday get any better?

If you can’t make it, there are other opportunities to get involved.  Simply go to: http://sdbloggersbake.wordpress.com/  There you can enter raffles, donate money, see a tentative menu, and read more about some of the individual bakers who will be offering their goods.

This is such a fun event!  Please pass this information around to friends, family and co-workers.  In 2011, $1750 was raised, in 2012 we raised $3151, and we are hoping to surpass our goal of $3000 this year.  I’m not suggesting we are a competitive bunch of bloggers, but come on!  We want to raise the most money for this organization out of the entire country!  Again, no competitive bone in our bodies.

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Here a Kale, There a Kale, Everywhere a Kale-Kale

I love food trends.  It’s fun to see what people create with the hot item of the season, or the month, or the minute.  I over indulged one weekend in New York City when pork belly was all the rage. Bad idea.  My husband and I couldn’t even look at pork belly for about a month.  Then there was the ramp craze.  That wasn’t a big hit with me.  It was just ok. Then kale got the spotlight.  It was (and seems to still be) everywhere!  Is kale even cool anymore?  I will never tire of it.  Of course you could swap it out for turnip greens or Swiss chard, but I still really enjoy kale.  And there are many types to choose.  Check out this blogger who documents 6 kinds: http://www.pigandvine.com/2013/01/garden-6-kinds-of-kale.html

Top Ten Reasons to Eat Kale

  1. It goes with anything! Just Google recipes for kale, and you will find a combination you like.  Say you don’t eat veggies often (a la Ron Swanson), add some quinoa and some grilled chicken.  You prefer sweet entrees?  Make a nice vinaigrette, add some strawberries, maybe throw in some sautéed shrimp, and dinner is served.
  2.  It is super filling. It’s like eating a bowl of rice.  It seems to really expand, and yet I’ve never felt uncomfortably full.
  3. Talk about healthy!? It’s one of the healthiest foods on the planet! It has a ton of fiber, calcium, vitamin B6, A and K, magnesium, etc., etc.  However, I have read that too much kale may interact with some medications and can interfere with the absorption of calcium, so have that milkshake from Jack in the Box another time, and speak with your doctor about drug interactions. I even think you get health benefits for just reading about it!  So well done.  You’ve just increased your magnesium!
  4. You can eat kale, and then feel ok about that Jack in the Box milkshake you will gulp down later!
  5. It’s really tasty, and you feel good eating it.  You know when you donate to a worthy cause or finish a charity run?  That’s how I feel after eating a bowl of kale.
  6. It doesn’t have to be 100% healthy.  Go ahead, throw a pork belly on it.  It won’t judge you.
  7. You can bake them and eat them like potato chips! Or you can have someone else do the work for you.  Thanks, Trader Joe’s! Kale Chips
  8. I think it keeps one regular.  Just being honest.
  9. You can try growing it and talk about it at farmers’ markets so you sound really cool.
  10. It’s so pretty!  You can use it in a floral or table arrangement!

I had lunch the other weekend at Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas.  My husband had a delicious steak, and I thought it was very reasonably priced for Vegas.  I ordered the Frisee, Kale, and Warm Bacon Salad with a Soft Poached Egg. Divine.  Again, it doesn’t always have to be healthy!  However, I’m in love with a recipe that doesn’t clog the arteries.  I discovered this recipe in Good Housekeeping (April 2013).  It’s a Dr. Oz recipe (and I now love him because through his show I discovered the cleanse I did last month), and I think it’s a great one for people who already love kale and for those who are not so sure about it.  Another option with this recipe is to blanch the kale first or add the quinoa hot if you are not crazy about eating kale raw.  I’ve read that it is even healthier to eat kale cooked.  You have so many options with this simple recipe!

Apple and Baby Kale Salad

  • 3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained (*see note below)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I used avocado oil just because I like to mix it up every so often.)
  • 1 medium Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 6 cups mixed baby kale (Or use any kind of kale you like.  I like them all!)

Cook quinoa according to the directions on the package; let cool.  (I didn’t let it cool that much.  I just threw it in.)

Whisk together mustard, oil, lemon juice, green onion, and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Add apple, kale, and cooked quinoa; toss to combine. And, of course, it’s great topped with sriracha.  Like I even need to mention that (insert eyes rolling).

Why do I love this particular recipe?  First of all, I love the unexpected sweetness of the Granny Smith apples. Second, if you (or someone you know) think you might not like kale, it’s a great introduction.  You could add more quinoa and not use as much kale.  **You could replace the quinoa for something all together – you could add orzo!  Why not?  It would be like a pasta salad with some kale.  Maybe throw in some blue cheese?  OK, I’m just getting hungry now.

Kale and Apple Salad

Even if kale has jumped the shark, I’m not letting this trend go anytime soon!  What’s your favorite food trend?  I’d love to hear about it! And if you head to Vegas anytime soon, check out Mon Ami Gabi.  There’s a patio (no reservations accepted for that area) that is on the strip.  Talk about a great day:  A bottle of wine, steak, kale and watching the lovely people of Vegas walk by!  What could be better?

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Mon Ami Gabi on Urbanspoon

To Cleanse or Not to Cleanse? I Have My Answer!

Hello everyone!

Two very cool things happened this week.  First, I finally have a new computer!  Woohoo! Thanks, Costco!  Now I can finally post to my blog and read other people’s’!  I’m old-fashioned.  I really don’t like reading very much on my phone.  (I need to get used to Windows 8, too.) The other bit of news is that I finished the 30 day Clean Cleanse – without cheating!  I began this cleanse as a test.  I wanted to see how I would feel after giving up processed foods, dairy, alcohol, etc. I’m so happy I did.  Here’s a list of why I loved this cleanse:

  1. My mind seems a little sharper.
  2.  My mood is much brighter. But like I told my husband, this cleanse will not change your personality.  Sometimes (and only sometimes) I can be a bit annoying.  A cleanse is not a cure-all.  Sorry.
  3. I have more energy.  For some reason, I had zero energy on Saturday.  I have no idea why, but I just felt exhausted.  I went for a run with Franz, and I could hardly run a  block.  Again, this cleanse will not make you perfect.
  4. It was fun going out with friends and not thinking about food and drinks.  Sounds crazy, right?  I feel like I take forever studying menus, taking pictures of my food, thinking about what I could write later, etc.  This month felt like a break.  I went to Alpine Beer Company with a group of people, and it was nice just sitting outside and hanging out.  Hopefully I’ll go back for their beer and food another time.  It looked and smelled amazing.  Check out the menu: https://alpinebeerco.wordpress.com/pub-info/pub-menu/
  5. I love that I lost a few pounds – 12 in total.
  6.  I had my blood pressure taken Monday, and the nurse commented that I must have been very calm.  I’ve never had a problem with my blood pressure, but it was really good!

I’ve got a feeling, and it’s all good!

I must mention that I am so impressed with 3 places that enabled me to stick to the cleanse when I wasn’t home.  I went to Mammoth for a ski weekend (about 6 or so hours from San Diego), and I had a blast.  After skiing one day, we went to the food court at Canyon Lodge.  I was expecting not to have too many options.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The woman in charge of the salad bar made me an amazing kale salad with roasted red beets, grilled chicken, and a ton of excellent fresh veggies.  I just pointed and she piled it into a large silver bowl.  She could tell I was hesitant about the dressings available, so she pointed out the vinegar and oil to me, I added them to the bowl, she tossed away, and lunch was served!  Two other restaurants that impressed me were Point Loma Seafoods and Pita Jungle in Hillcrest.  Fresh grilled fish with a gorgeous view of Point Loma Marina and downtown San Diego is a great way to stick to a cleanse.  Pita Jungle has awesome hummus (which is allowed on the cleanse) and a salmon dish that is truly filling and only $12.99.  I went to C-Level and had a meager salmon dish for $30.  It was tasty and fresh, and you can’t ask for a better view of San Diego, but this meal did not satisfy my hunger.  It’s a cleanse, not Hunger Games! Thirty days went by relatively fast.  I plan on sticking with a few things that I’ve done over the past month.

  1. I didn’t eat a whole bunch of processed foods before, but I will further decrease my consumption.  For example, no more Lean Cuisine and I will greatly cutback on cereal.  I plan on treating cereal as a dessert as opposed to breakfast.
  2. I will continue making smoothies for breakfast.  They really give me the energy I need, and it keeps me full until lunch and beyond, if necessary.
  3. I’m obsessed with cooking with coconut oil.  I love the flavor it imparts.  Seriously, give it a try, if you haven’t already.
  4. I will continue snacking on kale chips, almonds, dried kimchi (Trader Joe’s has made me an addict), unsweetened coconut flakes, hummus and almond butter.  All of these things give me energy as opposed to a piece of Ghirardelli chocolate which just makes me want to eat 4 more squares.

The last comment I will make regarding the cleanse is one that may need to be addressed.  A couple of people have asked, so I’m assuming more people out there might have the same question.  It’s a question concerning bowels.  Yep, you might wonder about this aspect of a cleanse.  I will be straight with you.  I’ve never had a problem in that department.  If you do have difficulties, and you start a cleanse, I would guess you may notice a big change.  For me, I noticed that I would go more often throughout the day – usually after a meal or even a snack.  However, it was never a problem.  Depending on your body, you may or may not need this product: http://www.hulu.com/watch/10308

Some of you have mentioned that you are on a cleanse or thinking about starting.  Let me know how it’s going!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

To Cleanse or Not to Cleanse

It’s Day 11 of 30 for me on The Clean Cleanse.  Right about now I’m asking myself “Why did I pick this month to start???”  Reasons why I should have waited: 1) My family was visiting (and they love to eat at new restaurants and old favorites)  2) I’m going skiing with friends for a weekend.  3) St. Patty’s is on a Sunday so that really means it’s St. Patrick’s WEEKEND!

Getting into the St. Patrick's Day mood with my morning shake!

Getting into the St. Patrick’s Day mood with my morning shake!

4) I always love having a huge brunch on Easter Sunday.  4) A good part of the day is spent reading about things like Croissant Bread Pudding.  Hey, thanks a lot, Seaside Baker – Musings of a Mompreneur!

Seriously, check it out: http://theseasidebaker.com/2013/03/13/croissant-bread-pudding/

I mean come on!!!  The truth is that there is never a good time to start this kind of thing.  Something will always pop up.  Also, I have to remember why I decided to do it in the first place.  I’ve been really down, and I wanted to see if all the hype over cleanses had some merit, and I wanted to see if I felt any improvements in my mood.  Other than the first couple of days when I had a headache, it has been relatively simple.  I do have to plan ahead for lunch.  I never want to be in the position where I’m hungry after a workout and decide to grab a foot long sub.  That does sound good though.  On two occasions, I was in a little bind.  This past Sunday, I realized we were out of leftovers from previous meals I made, and there’s no way on God’s green Earth (that’s an expression, right?) I’m going to a supermarket on a Sunday afternoon/evening.  I had some kale, a red pepper, and chicken breasts in the refrigerator.  I seared the chicken with some paprika, and it was served with an impromptu Kale Salad (I chopped some kale, whisked some lemon juice, a small touch of extra virgin olive oil, and red pepper flakes together, added some pine nuts and chopped red pepper.) Voila, dinner was served.  And then on Monday, I didn’t have leftovers from Sunday, and I didn’t have time to make lunch earlier in the day.  I had some hummus and a green pepper which was enough to hold me off until dinner.  I wouldn’t recommend eating so little, but stuff happens.

No more srirach for the rest of the cleanse!

No more srirach for the rest of the cleanse!

I don’t know if it’s in my head, but I do feel like I have more energy.  The biggest difference is that I’m not constantly thinking about running into the kitchen for a piece of chocolate or a bowl of cereal.  In fact, I really haven’t had any cravings.  I did pass a Starbuck’s yesterday inside Target.  As I walked by, the overwhelming smell of mochas, lattes and cappuccinos wafted over me.  I will honestly say that I just purely enjoyed the smell.  Would I have noticed it to the degree I had if I hadn’t stopped drinking coffee 11 days ago?  I don’t think so.  Last night I did get a little hungry.  I opted for some unsweetened coconut flakes and some roasted pumpkin seeds.

The house menu for the week is: Sexy Cilantro Shake, Peach Apple Cobbler Shake, Millet Risotto with Artichoke Hearts, Acorn Squash with Wild Rice, Tuna Salad with Mixed Greens, Baked Falafel with Tahini Sauce, and Clean Salmon Nicoise.  One day I did the Cilantro Shake with fresh papaya and another day without (my papaya wasn’t ripe enough).  I loved it with the papaya.  With the fruit, I added a tablespoon of Flax Seed Oil and some chopped walnuts.  It has been one of my favorites so far. You can’t have peanuts on this cleanse, but many other nuts seem fair game.  I’ve also been adding cinnamon to all of my shakes.  Why not?  It’s tasty and so healthy.

I would highly recommend the Millet Risotto because it was delicious and hearty.  The Salmon Nicoise is a fantastic meal because it is super quick and easy.  I blanched the green beans for a minute or two, just enough to bring out their color, before plunging them into an ice bath.  I prefer my veggies crunchy.

Millet Risotto was killer!

Millet Risotto was killer!

Just had to add a photo of the BEST shake cup ever!

Just had to add a photo of the BEST shake cup ever!

Not a great photo.  I was very hungry that day!

Not a great photo. I was very hungry that day!

I was very surprised by the tuna salad.  I’m a huge fan, so I was a little skeptical of the recipe.

  1. 1 can tuna fish
  2. 1/2 red onion, peeled and diced (**I just added an amount I felt was enough.)
  3. 2 celery stalks, sliced into 1/4 inch crescents (**I added a half of a stalk and had the leftover stalks on the side.)
  4. 1/4 cup capers (**Again, I just eyeballed this amount and put in what I liked.)
  5. 2 heaping tbsp dijon mustard (I did about 1 tbsp.)
  6. 1 heaping tbsp miso
  7. 1/4 cup almond milk (maybe a little less, depending on the consistency you want) (**I did less.)
  8. Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
  9. A handful of fresh dill (or a tablespoon of dried dill)
  10. Butter lettuce leaves

 

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until well-combined. Keep in the fridge, covered, until ready to serve. Serve in lettuce leaves. (**I squirted a Meyer lemon over the salad.)

Refreshing tuna salad with my lemons from my tree.

Refreshing tuna salad with my lemons from my tree.

If your tuna is heavy on the mayo, give this a try.  I was surprised at how much I liked it. It was light and refreshing, and the miso gave it something I’ve never had before in a tuna salad.  I’ll make this one again.

Since I’ve started, I went out to eat twice.  I was a little nervous because I really have been trying to adhere to the rules.  One lunch outing was at Pita Jungle in Hillcrest.  I ordered the Wood-Fired Salmon Salad, and I skipped the dressing.  In lieu of the dressing, I squirted lemon juice over the salad.  I added some sriracha, but I now realize that there’s sugar in it, so I’m refraining from that as well now.  That is a tough one!!!  My friend ordered the Chipotle Black Bean Burger. I’ve had that before, and I loved it.  Pita Jungle is such a great spot.  If you haven’t been there, check it out.  They have a Garlic Dip to die for!!! You might kill someone later with your breath, but oh well.  The food is very fresh, it’s always delicious, and the staff is really friendly.

Pita Jungle's Wood-Fired Salmon Salad

Pita Jungle’s Wood-Fired Salmon Salad

Chipotle Black Bean Burger at Pita Jungle

Chipotle Black Bean Burger at Pita Jungle

My second meal (lunch) out was Point Loma Seafood.  You can order some of the freshest fish and bring your tray upstairs to large open air deck with great views of the Point Loma Marina and downtown San Diego.  Franz opted for sushi, and he couldn’t stop raving about the California Rolls.  He ordered it because he couldn’t recall ever having it with real crab.  He told me the Spicy Tuna Rolls were great, too.  I had to take his word.  It was a bummer not being able to try some, but I’ll be back.  I’ll be back.  My Grilled Ono on a bed of greens was just what I needed.  I like Ono because it is a little heartier, like a cross between halibut and swordfish.  Every single person around me had a fried fish sandwich with fries.  I’m not kidding.  It looked really good.  One child had a Happy Meal from McDonald’s.  Ugh.  I was perfectly happy with my yummy fresh tasting Ono.  Once again, I asked them to hold the dressing, and I grabbed some lemon wedges to use as the dressing.

Not a bad way to cleanse! Point Loma Seafood's Grilled Ono

Not a bad way to cleanse! Point Loma Seafood’s Grilled Ono

I’m not sure if my eyes are whiter or if my skin is more radiant (yet), but I like the way I feel.  I’m surprised that I’ve lost about 8 pounds.  So far, I’m happy I’m giving this a try and I’m looking forward to the next 19 days! Oh God, 19???  haha

All of the Clean Cleanse recipes by Dr. Junger can be found at http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/clean-program-30-day-meal-plan?fb_xd_fragment

If I could cleanse like this everyday, I'd be one very lucky lady! Great views from Point Loma Seafood.

If I could cleanse like this everyday, I’d be one very lucky lady! Great views from Point Loma Seafood.

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Pita Jungle on Urbanspoon

Point Loma Seafoods on Urbanspoon

Finally Another Fabulous Friday!

Life can be crazy.  Let me rephrase.  Life is crazy.  How do we get through it?  I like to focus on the things that make me smile.  So here are some things that really made me happy recently . . .

January Lemons

Finally our Meyer lemon and Mandarin trees in our front yard is producing fruit!  Unfortunately, people seem to be picking them.  I wouldn’t care, but we aren’t getting a ton of fruit yet, and it took about 2 years to get to this point.  However, when I picked these lemons the smell was overwhelming.  I don’t even want to eat them yet!  They are way too pretty!

The other thing that made me smile was celebrating my little Sweet Pea’s birthday.  Monsieur turned 4 this month.  If you love dogs, you get this.  If you don’t, too bad.

Sir Bday Cake YR 4Sir Bday Cake YR 4 -2

Every year we get cupcakes from Sprinkles in La Jolla.  Sir has food allergies, but he never has a problem with their Dog Cupcake.  Of course, we pick up a couple of Human Cupcakes, too!  This year we opted for a Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcake and a Chocolate Marshmallow Cupcake.  They were not our favorites.  I find that Sprinkles can be hit or miss.  I love the Red Velvet Cupcake.  Maybe I should stick with that one?

Sir Bday Cake YR 4- 4

Sir Bday Cake YR 4- 5Sir Bday Cake YR 4 -3Sprinkles Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

The last thing that made me happy was a simple recipe I found in Family Circle of all places!

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers 1

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers (Family Circle, January 2013)

7 sweet peppers (red, orange and yellow) (**I went with the Costco bag of red peppers, and I only used 6)

1 cup quinoa (**Recipe recommends Bob’s Red Mill whole grain quinoa.  Also, I used 1 1/2 cups. I like having leftovers if possible.)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 cup diced sweet onion

1 tsp ground cumin (**I put more in.  I like cumin.)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup dried figs, roughly chopped (**I used prunes.  If you are not a fan of either (which is crazy!), opt for dried cherries.)

1/2 cup unsalted cashews, roughly chopped (**I used walnuts just because I had them on hand.)

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Seed and dice one of the peppers (**The recipe notes to seed and dice one of the cooked peppers.  I do not like cooking peppers ahead of time for any stuffed pepper recipe.  I like the peppers to have a little bit of crunch and life to them.). Slice remaining peppers from stem to bottom; seed.
  2. In a medium lidded pot, bring 2 cups water to a boil (adjust amount if you are using more quinoa).  Stir in quinoa; return to a boil.  Cover, reduce to a medium-low and cook 10 minutes.  Drain; set aside.  (**Sometimes when I cook quinoa, I replace some of the water with chicken stock or orange juice.)
  3. Return pot to stove; place over medium heat.  Add olive oil.  Stir in one diced pepper and onion.  Cook 5 minutes (**or until they are caramelized and soft).  Mix in cumin and cinnamon; cook 1 more minute.  Stir in figs, cashews, quinoa, salt and pepper.  Fill pepper halves with quinoa mixture and place cut-side up in a 9×13-inch baking dish (**I layered the bottom with parchment so they wouldn’t stick.).  Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking for another 30 minutes or until peppers are as tender as you like.

I hope you have a good weekend and survive the rain or snow (depending on which coast you are on!)!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Fabulous Friday Again!

I hope everyone had a great week!  I had a sweet surprise this week.  My husband was craving sweets all week (I’m rubbing off on him!).  Tuesday night he proclaimed that we were going to Jack in the Box for milkshakes.  It was around 8pm, and we were basically in our pajamas.  Life is so good!!  If you haven’t had a Jack in the Box milkshake, I feel very sorry for you.  They are so thick that you have to remove the straw and lick it because the goodness of the shake just won’t flow through the straw.  We always get chocolate.  “Jack” tops the shake with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry.  And it’s super cheap!  And you can take it home and sit on the sofa with your family in your pjs will attempting to slurp the cup o’ ice cream and milk down while watching another episode of Law & Order!

Popular Jack antenna ball (Christmas version)

Merry Christmas from Jack!

In keeping with my new Friday “tradition”, I want to tell you about my favorite thing (other than a milkshake) this week: Pomegranate Molasses.  It can be a little tricky to find in the grocery store, but ask around and you’ll find it.  If you have a Middle Eastern market near you, that’s a great place to look.  I bought mine in San Diego at Specialty Produce (http://www.specialtyproduce.com/).

I need another bottle!

I need another bottle!

I love this product because you can use it on so many things.  It has a very tart and tangy flavor, and it is thick (hence “molasses”) so it is a great saucy topper.  You can drizzle it over sweet or savory dishes.  You can take any grain, for example wheat berry, and some dark greens, like mustard greens or arugula, and drizzle the molasses over it.  Or you can go sweet.  The first time I used Pomegranate Molasses was about 8 years ago when I came across a recipe from Big City Cooking: Recipes for a Fast-Paced World by Matthew Kenney and Joan Schwartz.  It is the most simple recipe, but you have to use the highest quality of ingredients.  Hold onto this recipe until the peak of strawberry season.  I promise people will rave!  And, again, it couldn’t be easier!  Don’t wait for strawberry season to buy it! Go out, find a bottle, and start using it.  The next grain salad you make for dinner, pour a little over each serving.  It will be a great addition to your pantry!

Strawberries with Pomegranate Molasses and Fresh Ricotta by Matthew Kenney Serves 4

1 quart ripe strawberries, stemmed and halved

2 tablespoons sugar

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Kosher salt

(My addition: couple pinches of cinnamon.  I love cinnamon and it’s so healthy, so I always try to add it to recipes.)

1 cup whole ricotta cheese (***Remember, do not use the commercial stuff.  Go to a cheese purveyor and get the good stuff!!)

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, or substitute balsamic syrup (***But don’t!  And I believe the amount is to taste.  You may want a lot more!)

12 mint leaves

In a large bowl, toss the strawberries with sugar.  Whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon and a pinch of salt into the ricotta.  Divide the strawberries among 4 bowls, top with the ricotta mixture, drizzle with pomegranate molasses, and garnish with mint leaves.

Have you used this product before?  If so, tell me how!

Take Care and Happy Eating!