Saturday, May 26

The Week-Cap - It's Back

Here's the deal, I've missed two Week-Cap's in a row. Unacceptable. I could give you my list of excuses...there were Laker games, American Idol finales and house hunting (more on that in the next few weeks). I could tell you I was sick. Which I was. I could also tell you I had finals in my online class. But none of that tells you about what I've been eating or cooking or making for two whole weeks! Booooo!
So here we go.
View from WP24
  • Monday - In the above paragraph I mentioned the Lakers. I will from here on out ignore the fact that they lost miserably on this evening and choose to remember that we got to go to not one, but two of the games. With that said, it was a sad night in our house with both of us being sick and watching our team go away for the summer. Tear. The good news is, I made an amazing cheese and salami board, which I think I'll do a post on. Win.
  • Tuesday - How can I say this? American. Idol. Finale. In person. At the Nokia theater L.A. Live. One of the funnest things I've ever been to! This was followed by a nearly 6 hour stay at one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles, WP24. There was dumplings, there was noodles, there was prawns and there was cocktails. There was one of the best steaks I've ever tried. Followed by Chinese Donuts. Ridiculous. I highly recommend this restaurant if you are ever in Downtown L.A.
  • Wednesday - Sicker than sick, exhausted and buzzing. My couch with a bowl of whole wheat pasta. And Phillip Phillips. Yes.
  • Thursday - Feeling so much better! We took a trip to one of our local hangouts, SideDoor for some beer tasting and food. I had probably one of the best beers I've ever tried, the crisp and cool  Einstök Icelandic White Ale. I haven't looked for it in stores yet, but if you can find it, try it! 
  • Friday - Yummy Grilled Halibut and Vegetables for dinner at Rock 'N Fish. It was also National Wine Day and if you didn't get a chance, check out some of my favorite wine picks right here. Happy Memorial Day Weekend! I hope you have the chance to eat some great BBQ and be with people you love. Comment below and tell me what you ate this weekend! 
Tiny Dumplings at WP24

And finally, shout out to some dear friends who just brought a sweet baby girl into the world this week! Hooray!!

Friday, May 25

Happy National Wine Day!

Well, is this the best food holiday to celebrate or what?! I couldn't think of a better reason to go out and buy that bottle of wine you've been eyeing than it being National Wine Day. Okay, maybe there's a better reason, like it's your anniversary or something, but this comes pretty close! In honor of this day, I thought I'd share a few of the wines that I love to sip over and over again.

Our household tends to favor red wine over white. It goes well with so many different meals and is the greatest accompaniment to cheese that I know. And we love cheese.
Please try anything made by Tobin James. Seriously, this Paso Robles, California winery is one of my all time favorites. If you are ever able to visit the Saloon-style tasting room, you will have a blast! The people are fantastic and the wines are to die for. Try the James Gang Reserve Cabernet Franc or the Ballistic Zinfandel and you will be hooked! On top of it, the prices are extremely reasonable for such a high quality product.
J. Lohr is another fantastic wine to try. This brand is widely available in most markets and I haven't had one that I didn't like. They have a great Pinot Noir as well as a "Seven Oaks" Cabernet Sauvignon that is delicious.

Since we don't drink a lot of whites, I tend to have half empty bottles left hanging around. I love to keep a good, dry chardonnay in the fridge not just for sipping, but also for cooking.
One of the best I've had in a while is the Gary Farrell 2008 Carneros Chardonnay. It's light and crisp with a hint of sweetness and let me tell you, it makes an amazing white wine and mushroom sauce.

If you like sauvignon blanc, or interesting white blends, try another Paso Robles wine I love, Vina Robles. They have very straightforward and easy to please whites that are clean and simple, yet unique. Most of the blends they carry are varietals that I have never even heard of! It's always fun to try something new.

I have to go back to Tobin James for this one. The Liquid Love is absolutely ridiculous. Just buy it. And then buy a dark chocolate bar. And then have them together. You'll see.

Some time back we discovered Chaucers, who used to make a delightful and fruity Ollalieberry dessert wine. I haven't been able to find it in quite some time, but now they sell a Blackberry version that is just as good. It doesn't matter which flavor you are able to find, both are kind of like having a piece of pie, just boozier.

Most if not all of these wines are available at large liquor chains like BevMo or Total Wine, otherwise, you can find them on the websites I've linked to above.


Tuesday, May 22

Cheesy Pepperoni Roll

Here's the thing, I eat healthy. I really do. And by healthy, I mean like a lot of salads, fruit and blah blah blah. The point is, even though I consider my self extremely aware of what kinds of food are best for me, sometimes I just need some hot, fresh, chewy bread. Filled with cheese. And meat. I could keep going, but I don't need to because this simple, super easy Cheesy Pepperoni Roll is what you want for dinner. You can eat a salad tomorrow. 
As much as I love making my own pizza dough (and do on the weekends), most supermarkets offer fresh and really delicious dough right in the deli. It saves a ton of time and opens the door for many different meal ideas. Just roll one bag of dough out into a rectangle on cornmeal and parchment paper placed on a cookie sheet.
Layer your choice of pepperoni (I use nitrite free-gotta slip some healthy in there somewhere) and some good sliced mozzarella. Like the entire ball of mozzarella.
Roll it up and seal the edges tightly with your fingers. You want to try and keep most of the cheese inside the roll. Slit a few holes in the top to release steam, and brush with olive oil.
Now, bake at 450 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven. Keep an eye on it, you want a golden brown crust that's firm to the touch. Be sure to let it cool for a few minutes before cutting.
Slice it up and serve with some warmed up marinara or meat sauce. This is so incredibly good and there are many variations you can play with. Try salami instead of pepperoni, or even chicken. Or, if you want to do a meat free night, just go veggie with something like spinach or bell peppers. It's your dinner, so make it how you like it.


Friday, May 18

What's in Your Fridge Friday: Roasted Caprese Couscous

Can you believe it's already Friday again?? I can, because I literally wait for it all week long. And after one of the busiest weeks in a while, I had quite a lack of grocery items hanging around. So what's in your fridge on this fantastic Friday? Let's see what was in mine.
I always have cherry tomatoes on hand (unless there is something completely wrong with me) because they are my absolute favorite. They are always slightly sweet and juicy and they go well in everything from salad to spaghetti sauce. I also happen to have a new pot of basil that I'm nursing in my backyard and praying that the snails don't find. Growing herbs is a great way to give yourself multiple meal options as it opens up the variety of flavor profiles you can create. And a leftover tub of baby mozzarella balls gave me the idea to make a caprese salad. But seeing as I can have caprese salad anywhere, I decided to spice it up and make it a Roasted Caprese salad. Since I felt like the salad would need a little extra weight behind it to make it a meal, I added the rest of the whole wheat Israeli (or Pearl) Couscous I had in the pantry. Instant classic.
I coated the tomatoes in Olive Oil, salt, pepper, italian herbs, a little garlic and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Then I broiled them....
And they came out like this, perfectly charred and caramelized.

I chopped up the basil and sliced the mozzarella balls in half. You don't have to halve them, but I wanted more cheese throughout the salad.
And here it is, a perfect summertime meal that took about 15 minutes to prepare. I added a few slices of grilled chicken over the top because my basketball playing husband needed some extra protein, but this would make an awesome lunch or dinner just as it is. You should probably make extra. 

Roasted Caprese Couscous Salad
Cherry Tomatoes
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese 
Israeli Couscous
1 tsp. garlic, minced
salt and pepper
Olive oil
Italian seasoning
Balsamic Vinegar

I didn't write the amounts I actually used here because its really up to you. There's no rules as to how many tomatoes or how much cheese you need. Whatever you have is perfectly fine. I'll just share the technique. 
Coat your tomatoes in oil, herbs, salt and pepper, garlic and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Broil on High for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally until they burst and become slightly charred. Cook the couscous according to package directions and place in the fridge to cool off. In a large bowl, combine the mozzarella, basil,  and cooled couscous. When the tomatoes are done, let them cool off for a few minutes as well. Add them to the bowl and coat everything with a bit more salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar. Stir well and place in the fridge until ready to eat. 


Tuesday, May 15

Banana Chocolate Chip Coffe Cake

Is there anything better than a sweet, crumbly and cinnamony streusel topping? A few weeks ago, I would have said no. Until I made this incredibly delicious banana coffee cake and added chocolate chips to an already amazing crumble. I absolutely adore banana bread, and I always have bananas on hand. Unfortunately, my bananas like to turn brown way faster than I can manage to eat them all, especially in the warmer months. It's just as well though, because overripe bananas mean it's time to do some baking and there's nothing wrong with that! But I have to say, as much as I love classic banana bread, I'm pretty tired of it. I wanted something new and interesting and an even better reason to convince myself that coffee cake is a perfectly acceptable breakfast food. Okay, so maybe this is way better as an afternoon indulgence or a sweet after dinner treat. It is VERY chocolately. Make sure to have some almond milk on hand. Or better yet, my Raw Vanilla Cashew Milk. There's nothing wrong with that either!
This is the crumb topping that I refused to put nuts in. Because that would ruin it. Unless you love nuts, in which case, add whatever you like and ignore what I said about it being ruined.
The batter is very thick and sticky, which is good because it will hold it's layers when you spread it into the pan.
How could you even resist this?? It has an amazing trio of flavors combining your favorite classic moist coffee cake with banana, chocolate and cinnamon. In fact, it has an almost 'Mexican Chocolate' flair to it, like a tall cup of Abuelita Hot Cocoa. Mmmmm. 

Banana Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake
Adapted from
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 C sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1 egg
3 bananas, overripe and mashed
3 T buttermilk

Butter and flour an 8 x 8 baking dish. 
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the egg, buttermilk and bananas. In a smaller bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Carefully add the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir just until combined. 

Streusel Topping:
1 1/4 C chocolate chips (I prefer semi-sweet)
2/3 C brown sugar
1/2 C whole oats
1 T cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix. Pour 1/2 of the coffee cake batter into the pan. Sprinkle half of the streusel over the batter. Carefully spread the remaining batter into the pan, and sprinkle evenly with the remaining streusel. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Or covered in melted chocolate. 


Friday, May 11

What's in Your Fridge Friday - Quick Veggie Pasta

You know those days when you feel like you have nothing in your fridge to make for dinner, yet it's completely full? Yeah, me too. Sometimes it's hard to force yourself to work with what you've got because going and buying everything for a recipe you already know is so easy. Last week I decided I was just gonna do with what I had on hand and skip a trip to the market. Then I thought, why not make this a weekly tradition? Let's call it What's in Your Fridge Friday.
I had basically one of every vegetable in my crisper leftover from various other recipes I'd made all week. Luckily, the meal that came out of them was sooooooo delicious, easy, AND bonus: vegetarian! Hooray for forced creativity!
I chopped up all of the veggies to roughly the same size, browned and cooked them down until they were tender. Then I deglazed them with white wine and added in some good old marinara sauce and herbs.
I reduced that down on a low simmer for about 30 minutes and had a fabulous, thick gardeny sauce ready to go in under an hour. I boiled some whole wheat spaghetti, drained it and dropped it into the Veggies to finish cooking. Oh and I added lots of cheese. You can never have too much cheese.
This is a method you can do with any veggies you have in the fridge. Broccoli would be great, as would different types of squash or even celery. Be creative. You'll save a trip to the store, not to mention, money!

Quick Veggie Pasta
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Green Bell Pepper
1/2 yellow onion
1 Carrot
1 zucchini
10 or so green beans
20 or so small tomatoes (I used mini heirlooms)
4 cremini mushrooms
1 baby eggplant
1 tsp. of garlic, minced
1 T fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 C good white wine
1/2 a jar of your favorite marinara sauce
1/4 - 1/2 C grated parmesan cheese

Chop all of the vegetables to roughly the same size. Heat a heavy saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Swirl a tablespoon of olive oil in the pot and dump all of the chopped veggies in, stirring occasionally. After about 10-15 minutes, the veggies will become tender and lightly browned. Add the basil, garlic and salt and pepper and pour in the wine to deglaze the pot. Stir and add the marinara sauce, turning down the heat to low at the same time. Simmer the sauce for another 15 minutes or until slightly reduced and thick.

Meanwhile, boil your favorite pasta. I used whole wheat spaghetti. Just when the pasta becomes al dente, drain it and pour it into the Vegetable sauce. Stir to coat the pasta, add the parmesan cheese, stir again and serve!

Remember, this is just a guideline, you can add whatever veggies you like, and whatever sauce you like. Just make sure to use a really good wine, that you would actually drink. A sip or two while cooking always helps.


Wednesday, May 9

What I ate Last Wednesday....

Last week as I was combing through an endless feed of tweets, I came across one that caught my eye. It had the hashtag WIAW (#wiaw for those of you who know twitter well). It was tweeted by a fellow blogger of mine, whose website I thoroughly enjoy and highly recommend for veggie
But I had no idea what w.i.a.w. stood for, until I did some further investigating and discovered a really fun and interesting blog community project. It stands for What I Ate Wednesday and every Wednesday, bloggers, blog readers, and whoever else are encouraged to share what they ate for one whole day. It doesn't have to be things you eat just on Wednesdays, it can be any day, any time, any place.

So I thought, what better way to introduce myself to WIAW, than with a post about what I ate the day I discovered What I Ate Wednesday. How many times am I gonna write the words what, ate and Wednesday in this post you think?

This is my personal menu from last Wednesday.
Breakfast: Plain, nonfat, Fage greek yogurt with grapefruit wedges, a sprinkling of instant oatmeal and a swirl of raw honey. Plus a cup of one of my favorite teas, Tazo Rest, which smells amazing and tastes like a rose garden.
Lunch: The best meal ever! Coconut brown rice, green beans and Mango lime salsa. I posted the recipe for this one on my blog last week. Right here.
Afternoon Snack: One of my all time favorites, Graham Cracker with Natural, unsalted peanut butter and a banana. That was way under ripe. I didn't finish it.
Dinner: Italian Chicken Wraps. So yummy! Basically, grilled chicken, homemade creamy italian dressing and a simple salad wrapped up in a soft tortilla.

I hope you enjoyed this post, maybe it will even give you ideas for new things to eat in your day. And if you'd like to be apart of WIAW (you don't have to be on twitter to join in), just check it out on

Monday, May 7

Banana Kale Colada Smoothie

Summer is around the corner and warmer days means cooler food. There's a fantastic juice bar in my neighborhood that I often stop into for a delicious fresh pressed beverage or blended smoothie to cool me off. Recently, I tried one of their signature shakes and was shocked at how yummy and filling it was. Unfortunately, the other thing that shocked me was the price. I love eating healthy and I totally think it's worth the extra cost most of the time, but some things are just too easy to recreate at home and save me seven bucks.
 So, the day after I had visited the juice bar, I put together my own version based on what I knew was in the smoothie from the menu. I pulled together a few things I had on hand, as seen above, and voilà...
The perfect recreation in all it's green, bubbly glory. This smoothie was so delicious, quick and easy and it's seriously good for you. If you want to have it as a meal, throw in some protein powder or any meal replacement powder of your choice that is flavorless. Most of the items I used to make this drink are available at Trader Joe's, but you can certainly find them at any well stocked market or health food store. 
With tropical flavors like banana, coconut and pineapple, it's only fitting to drink this bad boy out of one of these right? 
Yep, totally.

Banana Kale Colada Smoothie
3/4 C unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 C coconut water (you can add more if the smoothie is too thick)
1 ripe banana
a large handful of chopped kale
1/3 C frozen pineapple bits
ice (optional)

Pour the coconut milk and water into a blender first, followed by the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and Kale is thoroughly mixed in. You could also add chia or flax seeds for another healthy boost.


Saturday, May 5

The Week-Cap - May Flowers

I never thought I could celebrate one birthday for so long. It's been a nearly 3 week affair, and at this point, I'm feeling pretty spoiled. I could not be more appreciative of all the love I've been given and shown, but I think it's time to move into May and forget about the fact that next year I'll be turning 30. I don't even want to know what kind of celebration that will be!
  • Monday- My final 'birthday' dinner took place at none other than Benihana. Have I mentioned I love this place? If you sign up for their email newsletter and endure one message a month about their latest menu items, you will get a $30.00 gift certificate to use during your birthday month. The only catch is that you can only use it Mon-Thurs. I think that's a pretty amazing deal, considering it would definitely pay for more than one meal. Lots of restaurants have deals like this, so be sure to check them out. It's almost worth making a separate email address for. 
  • Tuesday- And finally a meal at home. After eating out 4 nights straight, my body was a bit wiggy and so happy to get back to home cooked food. I went all out and made Grilled Halibut, Coconut Rice and Mango Salsa...amazing!
  • Wednesday- I posted the recipe for a twist on a classic cocktail that is refreshing and perfect for the warmer months. My Lavender Tom Collins is light and has a subtle floral flavor that I absolutely adore. Plus it has gin. Need I say more?
  • Thursday- I decided I might try a new type of blog post called What's in your Fridge Friday? Considering I had one of just about every vegetable in my crisper, I figured I ought to try and make something out of them. What came out was an amazing meal that I wouldn't have made otherwise. So keep your eye out next week for the post.
  • Friday- Oh yes, Friday once again. That meal I made Tuesday, the one with the Coconut Rice and Mango Salsa? Well I posted it just in time for a new take on salsa for Cinco de Mayo, or a new take on a thai inspired dish. You decide. Me and my new Spring Hair are going shopping.

Friday, May 4

Mango Lime Salsa with Coconut Brown Rice

Being that tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, I thought it only appropriate to share this delicious and fresh salsa that's an alternative to the classic tomato version. Obviously, fruit in salsa is not new, but I came up with this combo after I found my favorite kind of mangos on sale at the market. These mangos are not the traditional green and red skinned ones usually found in the produce aisle, these are champagne (or ataulfo) mangos that have a deep yellow hued rind that is more pliable and thin than the other variety. They are also a bit smaller and I find that they are much more tender and sweet, making them perfect for a spicy, chunky salsa.
This is the kind of salsa you can make for many different dishes and although I could've gone completely mexican with my meal, I decided to stray a bit from the norm. I'll have plenty of time to eat enchiladas and drink margaritas later. For now, let's get a little bit thai. 
Coconut milk is amazing. It's creamy, flavorful and absolutely delicious. I love it in my coffee, and especially in my smoothies, but now my favorite place to put coconut milk is in rice. I cooked brown rice in a lot of canned coconut milk and a little bit of water, then drizzled the fluffy rice with more of the thick white liquid. I served it with a grilled piece of halibut, steamed green beans, and a huge spoonful of the Mango salsa. O.M.G.
The next day, I took the leftover rice, green beans and salsa and had one of the best lunches of my life. Light, healthy and bursting with unique flavors that you just don't get to enjoy everyday. Please try this meal! Or at least the salsa. Or at least the rice. Again, the salsa would be great for a Cinco de Mayo party. Serve it with tortilla chips, or even better, some fresh shrimp tacos and some tequila.

Mango Salsa
2 Champagne mangos, diced
1/4 of a small yellow onion, minced
1 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 - 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (use less if you like mild, more if you like spicy)
Juice of 1/2 a lime
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. That's it! The easiest way to dice a mango is to slice each side slightly off center (to avoid the seed, which is much smaller in champagne mangos). Then score the flesh like a checker board, turn the halves inside out and use your knife to carefully cut the mango away from the skin. 

Coconut Brown Rice
1 C Brown jasmine rice
1 C canned coconut milk (plus more for drizzling)
3/4 C water
pinch of salt
1 inch peeled chunk of ginger

Combine the rice, 1 cup of canned *coconut milk, water, salt and ginger and stir. If you are using a rice cooker, like I did, just turn it on. If you are using a saucepan, cook exactly like you would regular rice. Allow the liquid to boil, then turn the burner all the way down and simmer about 45 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Once cooked, fluff the rice, remove the ginger and drizzle in another 1/4-1/2 C of coconut milk, or the rest of the can if you'd like. This gives the rice a super creamy, almost risotto-like texture.
*a note on canned coconut can use the lite version if you'd like, but the full fat one imparts the best flavor and texture of rice. Use an organic brand if possible and be sure to shake the can well before opening as it often settles at the bottom of the can.


Wednesday, May 2

Lavender Tom Collins

Maybe you remember how I said I love lavender. Maybe you remember the above photo from my Lavender Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. In that post I mentioned how there are countless things you can flavor with this special flower. And this here is one of my favorite obsessions, lavender cocktails. They are rare, and when I see one on any menu, I must order it. The lavender cocktails I have enjoyed are mostly made with Gin. I believe this is because Gin has a very floral flavor already, so they pair very nicely together. Let's imbibe.
I had this baby bottle of Bombay Sapphire hanging around and I couldn't decide what to make with it. I had my little tin of Lavender out while making some yummy thing and I thought, why not infuse the gin with the pretty purple buds?
I let it sit overnight to steep.
Then I strained the lavender buds out of the gin, which turned a tea-like color and smelled absolutely amazing. And tasted even better.
I love love love sparkling water. I also love love love naturally my first thought was to make a Tom Collins. This is a very classic old cocktail that usually has gin, lemon juice and club soda.
I just gave it a Spring makeover.

Lavender Tom Collins
1 tsp. dried lavender buds
2 oz. gin
1 tsp. honey or white sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 bottle or can of club soda

Place the lavender buds in the gin and let steep overnight. Do not let the buds stay in the gin longer than overnight as they might turn the alcohol bitter. You can save the strained gin for as long as you'd like.

In a cocktail shaker, combine ice, infused gin, honey and lemon juice. Shake well and strain into a tall glass over more ice. Top off with about 3-4 oz. of club soda to your taste.

Garnish with a lemon wedge or slice and more lavender buds.

This makes just one fantastically refreshing drink, but can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled.