Vegetarian January

Happy New Year! This blog has become my go to for the recipes we’ve made that we want to make again. Forget browser bookmarks!

For a long time I had wanted to do a vegetarian themed menu. It took some serious coaxing before the husband would agree to it. But overall, it turned out great — even with the brief, wife-winning argument about how to deal with the lasagna noodles.

Here is the vegetarian menu:

Artichoke Crostini

Artichoke Crostini

The crostini was super easy and delicious.

Grilled Vegetable Salad

Grilled Vegetable Salad

Grilled vegetable salad looked good and was good. The minestrone felt healthy eating it.

Chocolate Cheesecake

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

And the triple chocolate cheesecake, well, was over the top!

As for the lasagna, I probably would not make it again. It was OK, but it didn’t have the wonderful visual appeal I was hoping for. I did win the argument with N’Gai about the noodles though. The recipe called for no boil noodles. I don’t care what the box says, I am not a fan of not boiling noodles! I think it makes them chewy and they never turn out right. I ALMOST pulled the, “I’m Italian, you aren’t.” card, but decided not to go there. It was the right choice in the end but overall I think the recipe could use the addition of lots of vegetables.

Definitely make the crostini, grilled vegetable salad, and minestrone!

Life is Peachy!

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Life is Peachy in August – continuing the tradition of our monthly dinner party!

For a while I was stuck on having a BBQ type menu – or at least a take on American BBQ. I even found barbecue napkins that were super cute so I figured it must be a sign.

But after our trip to San Francisco last month, we kept thinking about the peaches we bought and ate from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. They were so sweet, and of course in season too. So we thought we would take a similar approach as our April’s Ode to Lemon and pick one ingredient – peaches – and incorporate it throughout the meal. It ended up working out great!

The menu really complemented the summer month of August:

I also like the fact that we diversified our recipe sources for this month.

We subscribe to Cooking Light magazine and have had really good luck with their recipes. At least one of their recipes is included in our lineup. But every recipe in this month’s theme is from a different source, and it all came together really nicely.

The only things I didn’t care for was the Peach Bellini and the beer. The Bellini wasn’t sweet enough (a little simple syrup would do it some good) and the peach beer tasted more like peach juice.

But the salad, rice, and dessert totally made up for the drinks being so-so! All in all, another successful dinner!

Food & Comedy in San Francisco

Day 1: Friday

That’s right. 12 balconies. The condo we recently stayed in while visiting San Francisco had 12 balconies in it and it was on the 21st floor of a building in the financial district!

When our friends Darin and Vanessa (also our monthly dinner friends) invited us to hang out for the weekend, we had no idea what was in store for us. Vanessa had stayed in this place before and didn’t let on any details. Which was kind of cool, because it was a lovely surprise.

Not only was the condo a-mazing, but the whole weekend trip was one of my favorite visits to the city. N’Gai and I were in the city for my 30th birthday 5 years ago and this recent trip was the week before my 35th. I’ve been back since for business trips but it was nice for us to take this trip together again. Everything we did was fun!

Tommaso's

Tommaso’s

We went to Tommaso’s Italian Restaurant in North Beach for dinner the first night. It was in walking distance from our condo, which except for Tipsy Pig (more on that later!) everything was! If you check Tommaso’s Yelp reviews you’ll see that they get 4.5 stars out of 5. And we agreed!

We ordered their spinach pizza that almost faked me into believing I was eating salad They make the pizza and then put fresh spinach on top right after it cooks so that when it arrives at the table, it’s just barely wilting but tastes fresh and slightly crunchy. So good! Of course I followed up that “salad” with a plate full of carbs and ordered their Macaroni w/Mushrooms, Olive Oil, Garlic, Parsley, & Sausage. Paleo what?

Tommaso's Spinach Pizza

Tommaso’s Spinach Pizza

Later that evening we went to Punch Line Comedy Club, also walked there from the condo. This walk was very necessary! There we saw Joe Klocek open for The Sklar Brothers. The Brothers were good, Joe was better. He was funnier, more natural and un-rehearsed, and killed it. I hope he comes to The Comedy Store in La Jolla so we can see him again.

Here are some additional pictures of our trip, posted to my Facebook.

Day 2: Saturday

I’ve never been to the San Francisco Ferry Building and felt especially fortunate that we got to experience the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning. We have farmer’s market’s in San Diego, but they are nothing like this! In fact, the next time I plan a weekend trip to San Francisco, I’m going to make a point of visiting this market again.

From San Francisco's Farmer's Market

Grapes, Manchego, and Rosemary Bread from the Ferry Building’s Farmer’s Market

We had so much fun eating, looking at all of the vendor’s goods, and buying a few things to bring back to the condo. Namely, grapes that looked like they rode the truck to the city, straight from wine country, manchego cheese, and rosemary bread from Acme Bread. I want to live in San Francisco just to eat this as a snack every Saturday!

I also bought a bottle of olive oil from Stonehouse California Olive Oil. I liked the idea of buying semi-local olive oil. Plus, it’s good.

Since July was Darin and Vanessa’s turn to make our monthly dinner, they instead took us out to dinner at the Tipsy Pig in the Marina District. Wow! The food was SO good! As you can see from my Facebook album, it wasn’t exactly swimsuit food. But it was really great and we ordered a variety of items on the menu to try.

Overall, it was our most fun trip to the city and we thank Darin and Vanessa for inviting us along!

Hawaiian June

Hawaiian Food

Hawaiian June

This month’s dinner theme was tough to nail down. My husband wanted seafood, I was thinking vegetarian, and neither of us had a solid menu to go from. So… I was researching dinner theme ideas and came across Hawaiian cuisine. We love the Hawaiian islands! And the theme worked perfectly for June, the month that ushers in summer. Plus, BevMo! was having their 5¢ sale, so it was great time to try some new white wine! Here is the menu we created:

Libations

Grove Mill Sauvignon Blanc, 2009, New Zealand

Appetizers

Coconut Shrimp with Spicy Dipping Sauce
Ono Spareribs

Entrée & Sides

Blackened Tuna Steaks with Mango Salsa
Hawaiian Rice
Roasted Asparagus

Dessert
Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Although the coconut shrimp was fantastic, the dipping sauce (which I pulled from another recipe) was my least favorite item on the menu. It consisted of 1/2 cup orange marmalade, 2 tsp stone ground mustard, and 1 tsp horseradish. I didn’t care for the overall taste, so I added salt and sriracha to cut down the bitter sweetness. It helped, but I recommend going with a sauce that you know you like!

The blackened tuna was so good that we made it again about a week later. We bought the tuna from Marukai Japanese Food Specialty Store, which is where we get a lot of our fresh fish.

Banana Cake

Banana Cake

But the best part of this dinner was the banana cake. WOW! My husband started early in the morning on the recipe so that the cake was cooled and settled in plenty of time for our guests. It was definitely one of my favorite desserts we’ve made. It was fluffier and more moist than banana bread. If you like cake, MAKE THIS RECIPE! You will not be disappointed!

April Ode to Lemon

Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons

April’s dinner was fantastic! Our theme was all things Meyer lemon. We got the idea from a group of recipes in a spring issue of Cooking Light magazine. We often find and make recipes from this magazine, and they are almost always good!

Here was the lineup:

Libations

Sparkling Lemon Cocktail with Vodka, Sparkling Wine, Rosemary
Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and California

Appetizer

Seared Scallops with Lemon Beurre Blanc, White Wine, Shallots, Thyme

Salad

Fennel Salad with Lemon, Parsley, Shallots, Olive Oil, Goat Cheese

Entrée & Side

Lemon Chicken Piccata Sautéed in Sauvignon Blanc
Roasted Asparagus with Brown Butter and Thyme Lemon Rind

Dessert

Lemon Curd Tart with a Macadamia Nut Vanilla Crust, Topped with Meringues

And here were the results!

April Meyer Lemon

April Ode to Lemon

Apple Orchard Inn

Apple Orchard Inn

Cortland Cottage at Apple Orchard Inn, Durango, CO

My husband and I enjoyed a fun trip to Durango, Colorado to go snowboarding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. For the first time in our 9 nears of travel together, we stayed at a bed and breakfast and really enjoyed it.

The Apple Orchard Inn has set the standard for any B&B we consider staying at in the future. The Inn has rooms in the main house, as well as six private cottages, all named after different varieties of apples. We stayed in the Cortland Cottage shown in the picture. And it was as cozy as the picture looks!

Kathi, the owner, was so sweet and an wow what an amazing cook too! Homemade breakfast every day, just a few steps away from our cottage was one of the best vacation experiences we’ve ever had! My husband and I really enjoyed meeting new people every morning too. I hope we get a chance to go back, maybe during the summer when it’s green and warm.

French February

This year we were excited to cook French food for French February.

Heart Sourdough

Valentine Sourdough

We decided on a dinner menu that we thought would be a lovely. And while it was… it seemed like a few things went right and a few things didn’t. But I think that had to do with our skills (or lack thereof) vs. the actual recipes. What Julia Child had – we do not. But it was fun anyway! Here’s what we made:

Last year I made a special dinner for my Valentine. It was based on a Chicken Vol Au Vent recipe that Champagne Bakery in Del Mar served, before they Americanized their menu. Because I made up my version, I was wise enough to write down what I did, and here it is for you to also try!

Chicken Vol Au Vent
Valentine's Day 2010

Valentine's Day 2010

Ingredients

leeks
garlic
cremini mushrooms
spinach
unsalted butter
white wine
extra virgin olive oil
1% milk
sour cream
kosher salt
pepper
puff pastry
egg white
chicken breast
Method
Sauté cremini mushrooms in olive oil, white wine, and unsalted butter. Add leeks and continue sautéing. Then add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes before adding spinach. Then add small amount of milk and sour cream, salt and pepper to taste. Cook chicken separate and add at the end.
Cut pastry into circle for bottom and cut another for top. Cut a smaller circle or other shape in the middle of the top pastry (in my case, I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter that my Grandma Barb gave me). Poke holes in the middle of the bottom pastry, and stack top on bottom with egg white in between. If desired, you can add another layer of pastry between the bottom and the top (with a section cut out) to add a more depth and bowl-like shape. Bake pastry according to instructions (don’t forget to also bake the special shape if you made one!) then add the chicken filling just before serving with the pastry shape on top. Voilà!