Friday, April 29, 2011

Wise Words by Mom re: my first real job!!!

This week, I made a major decision. I decided between 3 offers for my first job after years and years of school/training and ended up choosing the one that I thought was best. It was a difficult decision as each one presented an unique and promising opportunity. Ultimately, I chose the one that was best for me AND my family.

It is interesting, because I always imagined myself in the other positions, but now that I'm married, happily to J - my life has changed, and my choices as well.  It felt a little bittersweet to turn down the other offers, so I texted my tech savvy mom "I hope I made the right choice."

She texted me back....

"Choice is always a choice. It is good or not depending on how you look at it. Everything has many facets. It is impossible to get all. Facing it positively will bring happiness and good health to your life!"

Wise words.  Comforting words. Thanks Mom!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bake: Red Velvet Revisited. :)

For my friend Shannon's birthday, she requested my red velvet cake. I wanted to try something different, so I made cupcakes! I think they made her happy. :)  I made it pretty much made the cupcakes the same way as I made the cake, but used 3 tablespoons of cocoa and decreased the red food coloring to 1 1/2 bottles - it was definitely still pretty red! Baking time is also reduced to 19 -22 min depending on your oven.  Here is a link to the recipe.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cook: Arugula and Artichoke Salad with Shaved Parmesan and Lemon-Olive Oil Dressing

This is one of our go to salads. It is light, refreshing, and healthy! It is perfect as a side to grilled meats, or baked pasta.

Arugula and Artichoke Salad with Shaved Parmesan and Lemon-Olive Oil Dressing


  • 1 bag of prewashed arugula
  • 1 can of artichoke hearts in water (we like the ones from trader joes)
  • 1-2 lemons
  • olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese (block) 
  1. Place arugula greens in a large salad bowl
  2. drain artichoke hearts, quarter them. Add to bowl
  3. using a cheese shaver (or vegetable peeler), shave a liberal amount of parmesan cheese into salad bowl.
  4. Squeeze 1-2 lemons (depending on your preference)
  5. Drizzle with olive oil
  6. Toss!!!
  7.  Salt and pepper to taste (I usually skip this since the arugula/lemon combo is very flavorful) Enjoy! 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Listen/ Must Do Prince - Purple Rain @ Forum Los Angeles 21 night stand!

This week's music monday features genius Prince.

J and I went to the Forum this past Saturday night to see him in concert. OMG. It was off the hook - ridiculously awesome!!! I've been going to concerts since I was 15 and have seen great bands including Radiohead, U2, Moby... but Prince took it to another level with his incredible singing, music, guitar playing and killer dance moves. I liked his music before the concert, but now I LOVE him!

You must see him LIVE if you can. It is so much better than anything recorded.  He's in LA for a "21 night stand" which began April 14.  In an effort to make the show affordable for all his fans, roughly 85% of all tickets are available for $25, inclusive of service fees.  It is so worth it. It'd be worth it if it cost 10 times that!  Trust me and go.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Must Eat: Gjelina for brunch, lunch, dinner and late night.... :)

Moroccan Baked Eggs with Merguez, Chili, Tomato Sauce, Cilantro and Spiced Yogurt

Gjelina is probably our favorite restaurant in LA. This is a big statement to make in a place where there are so many good eats.
We find ourselves going there again and again, for brunch or dinner or for late night. We have sat inside at the communal tables and have sat outside on the patio. Every time we have gone, we've enjoyed our favorite dishes (brussel sprouts, egg sandwich for brunch), but also tried something new. Pretty much everything we've eaten has been fantastic. The ambience is quite marvelous as well.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cook: Easiest Ever Caprese Salad

This is one of the easiest salads / appetizers you can make!  Happy Friday everyone!  :)

  • cherry or grape tomatoes
  • small sized mozzarella balls
  • fresh basil
  • olive oil 
  • salt and pepper
Cut mozzarella balls in half. Place in bowl with tomatoes. Tear up a few leaves of basil and add to bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Toss lightly. Add freshly ground salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!!! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cook: Pea & Mint Soup with Proscuitto

This is one of my favorite spring/summer soups. It is light and refreshing, and incredibly satisfying. Who knew that peas and mint would make such a good pair!  Apparently, it also makes a good ice cream flavor.  Green pea and mint was the special flavor at Sweet Rose Creamery the other day!

This is a very very easy soup to make. It is also very inexpensive. You can choose omit the creme fraiche to make it dairy free if you prefer. You can also substitute yogurt or sour cream for the creme fraiche.

Pea & Mint Soup with Proscuitto (recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay)
2 tbsp olive oil
4 slices of proscuitto (or pancetta)
sea salt and black pepper
large handful of mint (approx 6 sprigs, leaves only)
1 lb bag of frozen peas
3/4 cup (175ml) of  creme fraiche (you can use sour cream or yogurt)

1. Heat the olive oil in the skillet, sprinke prosuitto with some black peppe rand cook over high heat until golden brown and crisp, turning once. Drain on paper towel to remove excess oil
2. Bring a small pot of salted water to boil - add mint leaves then bring back to a boil. Add peas and blanch for 2-3 min until they are just tender and still bright green. Drain (reserving some of the liquid)
3. Tip the peas and mint into a blender. Add just enough reserved liquid to cover and whiz to a smooth puree. (I used an hand blender and did this in the pot I cooked the peas)
4. At this time you can choose to drizzle with oil and add a couple dollops of creme fraiche if you like.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, pulse to combine.
5. Pour soup into warm bowls and dollop some reserved creme fraiche on top. scatter with crisp proscuitto and serve!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Listen: Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks

Here is a fun song for Music Mondays... something about this song just makes me feel happy and smiley.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Must Eat: Grub "the Happiest Place on Earth!"

After hiking Runyon Canyon, we decided to try out a new spot for brunch.  My friend Meg had raved about the brunch she had at Grub the weekend prior, and our foodie friends S & A also gave their approval. The Slogan at Grub is "the happiest place on earth!"

We were not disappointed.  Everything we tried was delicious.  My brother in law Kevin declared it the his favorite meal in LA (and we had taken him to some of our other favorites including the Penthouse, Sugarfish, Gjelina, Casa Sanchez...)

The Blueberry Lemonade was incredibly refreshing, full fresh fruity goodness.  We were pleasantly surprised to learn that they provide free refills!

Do: Hike Runyon Canyon, Hollywood, CA

You can see the Hollywood Sign from this hike!

We've been getting into the healthy habit of hiking on the weekends, usually followed by an unhealthy, but delightful brunch. (stay tuned for a review of grub to be posted tomorrow! :)  Recently, we've done Solstice Canyon and Los Liones Canyon, so we decided to try something different this time and do the more urban Runyon Canyon Hike in the Hollywood Hills.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Must Eat: Huntley Hotel Penthouse "Sunset Hour", Santa Monica, CA

Last weekend, my brother in law was in town visiting from Canada. We wanted to impress him so we took him to the Sunset Happy Hour at the Penthouse restaurant at the Huntley Hotel.  This is a beautifully renovated classic hotel that exudes sexy urban sophistication.  The "Penthouse" is located on the 18th floor, and has a great design.  But what we really go for is the view. Breathtaking sweeping views of the city and the ocean.  

We've never eaten a meal there, but usually go for drinks -which can be quite pricey. Their happy hour (from 4-7pm) is a better deal, and a good way to relax while watching the sunset! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Must Eat: Sweet Rose Creamery, Ice Cream, Santa Monica

In the past week, two of my friends have randomly suggested that I try the ice cream at Sweet Rose Creamery.  They piqued my interest with their description of the unique flavors including salted caramel, banana and blueberry muffin. So tonight, as I was driving home from work with the sun shining through my window (I'm loving the longer days!), I had a sudden craving and took a detour onto 26th street until I arrived at the Brentwood Country Mart.  I was expecting a little market. Boy was I surprised when I found a fancy schmancy collection of cute boutiques and eateries!  As I walked over to get ice cream, I got a little distracted.... I tried on some sunglasses but didn't find anything I loved; tried on a James Perse shirt I loved, but was too expensive (I'll wait until the sample sale this summer).
At last, I arrived at Sweet Rose Creamery! There were so many cool flavors, but I was reasonable (because there was a long line) and only sampled 3 flavors  -  black sesame soy (nondairy), the salted caramel, and the green pea with mint (which tasted as I imagined it would, just like the pea with mint soup that J makes. ...I'll share that recipe sometime soon - it's the perfect spring soup!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cook: Blue Cheese Stuffed Dates with Almonds

Dates are my favorite dried fruit.  A little while ago, I shared my recipe for bacon wrapped dates. The other day, when we were at FIG, we had dates prepared another way - stuffed with blue cheese and garnished with chopped dates. It was so good and simple, I came home and replicated it.

Here is how you can make this delicious appetizer yourself at home. The bacon wrapped dates are pretty easy, but believe it or not - this is even easier! No cooking required! All you need is some good quality dates (trader joe has some fantastic ones), blue cheese and dry roasted almonds.

1. Cut date in half and remove pit
2. Stuff the cavity with good blue cheese (I used a french kind from whole foods -see pic below)
3. Put an almond or two in middle (depends on the size of your dates)
4. Close the two halves of the dates and enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Must Eat: Urth Caffe, Santa Monica

Urth Caffe is one of our favorite neighborhood spots for a good cup of coffee or tea. Sure, there are fancier coffee spots like Intelligentsia, and we usually make our own coffee at home with our Nespresso machine... but Urth Caffe is one of those consistent, dependable, places where we can go and count on getting delicious beverages, fantastic food, and fabulous dessert! Everything I have ever eaten, or drank, at Urth Caffe has been fantastic. The one in Santa Monica has a lovely ambience as well with both indoor and outdoor seating (has a large patio in the back with heaters)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Must Eat: Cleo

After months of trying to coordinate our schedules, we finally met up with our awesome friends Evie and Vince for dinner in Hollywood!  J and I had been to Cleo before for our friend Steph's birthday party back in September. That was when the Redbury / Cleo just opened, and we really enjoyed the food.  We were equally pleased this time around. The ambiance is kind of urban glam and the food (small plates) is fun, and for the most part, very well executed.

The exposed kitchen design.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cook: Grilled Mexican Corn

I remember the first time I was introduced to Grilled Mexican Corn - it was love at first bite at Cafe Habana in Soho, New York. (There is an outpost of Cafe Habana in Malibu, CA - but we have not tried it yet). The corn was sweet, buttery and grilled so that the kernels were almost caramelized. It was seasoned with lime and loaded with cotija cheese. YUM.

J and I grill corn all the time.  It is hands down our favorite way to prepare corn. J has actually mastered a delicious grilled corn that is prepared by basting it with parsley and butter. However, since I love grilled mexican corn so much, I decided to try to make it on my own. To my delight, it actually isn't hard to make at all!!!


  • Corn on the cob
  • melted butter (a couple tablespoons for brushing on corn)
  • Mayonnaise (1/4 cup is plenty, in a small bowl)
  • grated parmesan (if you can find cotija even better, but parmesan will do)
  • fresh limes, sliced into wedges
  • paprika
  1. Warm up grill to med- high heat. You can also do this on a grill pan on the stovetop but it will take a little longer. 
  2. Remove the husks from the corn (if necessary).  Brush melted butter all over the corn.
  3. Place on heated grill. Grill until corn is cooked, with some caramelized spots. 
  4. Remove from heat. Squeeze lime juice liberally over corn.
  5. Brush with mayonnaise 
  6. sprinkle with parmesan
  7. sprinkle with paprika
Serve with lime wedges. Yum!  Below - the corn from Cafe Habana - photo taken the last time we were in NYC!  ok. So the home made version doesn't look quite as glam but it tastes pretty darn good!!! :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Must Eat: Venice Beach Wines - Wine Shop and Artisanal Deli

This is one of the first places that J and I ate at when we first moved to LA in July 2010.  We were impressed with it then, and it remains one of our favorite places to eat. 

I met with my friend Steph last week for happy hour. The best time to go to this tiny wine bar is before 6:30pm. After then, it fills up and you may need to wait up to an hour to get a table/seat.   We started with a glass of sparkling wine each - I picked the rose sparkling - d' orfeuilles from France, she picked the prosecco - drusian, from Italy. They were both absolutely delightful!

We shared the brie and grape panini with basil pesto and truffle oil. OMG it was good.

We also loved the special - speck with burrato crostini

We were still hankering for more cheese, so we tried the p'tit basque, istara (france/sheep) - earthy, nutty, brown butter and caramel notes. 

Our last dish was the salad - I can't remember the name, I think it was the chopped salad. This was actually kind of bleh. Not bad, but nothing special. 

In summary, Venice Beach Wines is a great little intimate spot to meet up with friends for a glass of wine and some fine cheeses and charcuterie.  We have enjoyed almost everything we've eaten there (other great staples include the lambwich and the cheesy melty pots). The salads seem to be a bit hit or miss but that's forgivable in light of how good everything else is.
529 Rose Ave
Venice, CA. 90291
Mon - Thu: 4 p - 11p
Fri: 4p-12a
Sat: 9a -12a
Sun: 9a- 11p

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Must Eat: Blue Plate Oysterette

As a native New Englander (born and raised until 30) I LOVE a good lobster roll. For a while, my friend Monica and I were on a quest to try as many lobster rolls as we could in the New England region to find the best lobster roll. My favorite was the lobster roll at the Bayside Restaurant in Westport, MA. They also knew how to make a killer pie there.  I especially loved that it was only 5 minutes away from my favorite beach, Horseneck Beach.

When I moved to Los Angeles, I worried if I would be able to find a lobster roll that lived up to New England standards. To my fabulous good fortune, there was. And it was in our new hometown of Santa Monica on Ocean Ave with a fabulous view to boot!  Let me introduce Blue Plate "BP" Oysterette.

This is where J and I go when we want good casual seafood. There lobster roll is kickass. In fact, it was recently named by Bon Appetit as one of the six best lobster rolls across the country!!!  We went here yesterday after our 7.5 mile hike in the Pacific Palisades at Los Liones Canyon.

Here is another view of the delicious lobster roll. It is a satisfying portion of fresh lobster nicely seasoned and served on a top- split brioche roll with a side of house-made fries. 

Here is a view of their menu - as you can see, it's full of yumminess.
Mussels in red curry sauce is one of our favorites. It is served with grilled bread to sop up the delicious broth. The mussels are juicy, meaty and delicious.

The linguine with clams is also a satisfying and pleasing dish.

The lobster mac and cheese with truffle oil is also to die for. 

In summary, we've enjoyed almost everything we've ordered here. As one may deduce from their name, they have a pretty good variety of oysters that rotates (we did not order them today but usually do).  Their homemade desserts (ie. vanilla bread pudding or apple crisp) are fantastic as well (if you have room after your meal). :)

Note: They do not take reservations and are extremely popular on weekend evenings. If you try to go on Friday or Saturday, you may need to wait > 1 hour. Leave your phone number and walk around the promenade.

Blue Plate Oysterette
1355 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Do: Hike Los Liones Canyon

Our friend Sheenie invited us on a hike today at the Los Liones Canyon. Hiking is a very popular past time in LA, and we've been getting more into it recently.  A couple of weekends ago,  J and I hiked Solstice Canyon and really enjoyed the views and spring flowers.

We enjoyed this hike as much, or perhaps even more! It was a longer hike (7.5 miles total roundtrip) and took about 4 hours at a leisurely pace. The scenery was incredible (despite the fact it was overcast today and there was a lot of fog/mist) - I can only imagine how amazing it must be on a clear day!   LA has been getting an unusual amount of rain lately, so everything was super green, lush and there were tons of flowers. Here are some photos from our hike....

Friday, April 1, 2011

Cook: Fresh Oranges with Spiced Red Wine Syrup

This is the last recipe of the Spanish themed dinner. For those of you who are new to this blog, this week I posted a recipe each day so that you could make your own Spanish feast by the weekend. Today's recipe is an absolutely lovely dessert.  It is super light and refreshing, and if you want, you can add a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Fresh Oranges with Spiced Red Wine Syrup

  • 1 750 ml bottle dry red wine (I used a bottle of Trader Joe's $2 Shiraz!)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 8 oranges

Bring wine, 1 cup sugar, and cinnamon to a boil in a large heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. 

Boil until reduced to about 1 cup or is a thick syrup (I used medium heat, and this top about 40 minutes, stirring every now and then) When it is done it should form little drops that hold their shape. Remove from heat and cool syrup completely. (can be made 1 day ahead - if you do, cover and chill)

Using sharp night, put off peel and white pith (the stringy part between the slices) from all the oranges. cut into slice.  Layer orange slices in a shallow dish and pour wine syrup over oranges.

Allow to marinate for 30 min or more. Then serve.