Friday, April 24, 2009

The Garden: Spring

Apple Blossom

I finally planted the last of my vegetable seedlings, at least for now! I always seem to purchase even more as the seasons go on and fit them in here and there. I was a little lazy in removing all of last years plants and as a result I have tomatoes, lettuce, arugula and chamomile popping up everywhere! I let them go to seed and the seeds were blown in the wind, eventually watered and now are producing wonderful vegetables! I think I had about 30 tomato seedlings growing and I've significantly reduced those but kept quite a few. So I have at least 3 different types from last year (San Marzano, Yellow Pear, Green Zebra) and I added 2 more (Brandywine, Stupice). The seedlings are already producing flowers and that is a good sign!

Tomato (Yellow Pear, I think!)

Tomatoes, Chilies

I wasn't able to use my compost this year, I neglected it a bit and it just wasn't ready. But by the Fall it should be ready to go!

Here is a list of what is in my garden:

In Pots:
Fuji apple
Meyer lemon
Ginko biloba

In beds/ground:
Lemon verbena
Lemon balm
Green beans (2 types)
Japanese cucumber
Serrano chili
Thai chili
Jalapeno chili
Tomatoes (5 types)
Red bell pepper
Yellow bell pepper

Can't wait to plant even more and I look forward to preparing lots of wonderful meals this Summer!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Baby Shower, Good Food, Apron

This past weekend I hosted a baby shower for a good friend. Its her second child, a girl, and we had a casual, relaxing shower to celebrate the new baby. It was a VERY hot day so I made sure to have quite a few cold drinks and delicious, light food.

The menu for the day included: Asian chicken salad sandwich, fruit salad with mint, assorted crudite with hummus, Asian chicken salad, vanilla cupcakes and vanilla sugar cookies. To drink: homemade lemonade with lemon verbena, iced tea with fresh mint, water with lemon and cucumber slices.

The Asian chicken salad is one of my favorite salads and I wanted to share my recipe with you.

Asian Chicken Salad

Assorted mixed greens
Red bell pepper, sliced thinly into 1" strips
Cooked chicken, sliced thin
Mandarin oranges
Green onion, sliced
Sliced almonds
Sesame seeds
Chinese chicken salad dressing (my absolute favorite to use is Cha Cha Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing and Marinade)

Portion sizes are up to you, add a little more of one thing or a little less of another. Mix together and toss with dressing. Delicious!

My friend brought me the best thank you gift, this beautiful apron, wrapped in a glass jar, that her grandmother made years ago. I love it!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Birthday Celebrations and Wonderful Food

I wanted to share the meals that I ate in celebrating my birthday this year! Some were delicious, some not so much. And sorry, no pictures. I normally don't take pictures in restaurants because they don't look good and I would rather just enjoy the food without worrying about getting the perfect picture.

The birthday week started with a pizza party with some of my oldest friends. A casual dinner at my friend's house, ZPizza, Spinach, Cranberry, Walnut Salad and Strawberries with Fresh Whipped Cream and Biscuits with Chocolate. It was perfect, relaxing and delicious!

My friends treated me to a wonderful day at Burke-Williams spa and by the end of the day were were ravenous so we tried a new restaurant in Orange. Citrus City Grille is near the circle in downtown Orange. The olive bread was soft, just a touch of olives and was very good. We had a Cheese Plate with fruit, walnuts and beeswax honey and Crab Cakes. The meal started off great so I was excited for the main course. I ordered the Maine Scallops with Prosciutto, Asparagus Risotto and a Lemon White Wine Sauce. I thought it would be pretty light, not too heavy. When it arrived I could tell it had been sitting for awhile. Everything was lukewarm, risotto was very bland and mushy, asparagus cooked way too long, scallops were chewy and overcooked and the sauce was so rich and flavorless. I was so disappointed with the meal and my stomach was bothering me after the food that I couldn't even get dessert! But the week got better and the rest of the meals were wonderful!

I went to my parents for dinner and had one of the classics that I grew up with, Chicken Enchilada Casserole, Refried Beans, Rice and for dessert my moms famous Double Oreo Cookie Pie. Had a great time with the family and the food was just as good as I remember!

My husband and I tried a new restaurant in Long Beach that many friends have recommended. Fora, in Naples. They offer a 4-course tasting menu with wine flight for $57 (you can also get the tasting menu without the wine flight). One thing that I thought as I looked at the menu is that I would eat everything, there wasn't one item that I wouldn't eat and that says a lot! Fora did not disappoint!

Here is the menu rundown...

Starter of Olives and Marcona Almonds.

First Course: Duck Confit, Avocado wrapped with Smoked Salmon on a bed of French Lentils. Paired with a Pinot Grigio. An unexpected combination but completely delicious. Sweet, salty, creamy. And the Pinot was great as well.

Second Course: Arugula, Mache, Baby Romaine Salad with Pine Nuts, Beets, Cantal Cheese and Balsamic Reduction. Paired with a buttery Chardonnay. I love arugula, my husband loves pine nuts, we loved this salad. I even enjoyed the beets and I'm normally not a fan.

Main Course: Pan-Seared Halibut, Pepperonata, Sauteed Spinach, Polenta. Paired with Pinot Noir. Amazing! Simply Amazing! Halibut was perfectly cooked, and was delicious with the sides. I was getting very full by this time but didn't want to leave any food leftover!

Dessert: Trio of Desserts included Creme Brulee, Chocolate Pot de Creme, Berries. Paired with a bubbly wine. Good combination, good desserts.

I love celebrating with friends and family and sharing in good food!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Egg Cake Pops

I'm a little late with my Easter post but I couldn't wait to share these with you! I was inspired by Bakerella to make these adorable cake pops. She has such wonderful, unique, adorable ideas for little cakes on a stick. I decided to do a more simple decoration and I ended up loving them! The technique is very easy, though I did add a bit too much frosting to the cake so the texture wasn't the best, but I will definitely try these again! And these are simple enough to make with your kids and they would have so much fun!

I took these to family Easter where everyone said they were adorable and it turned out that the aunts thought they were so cute that they hid them from everyone so they could enjoy these themselves! So funny!

The original cake pop technique and recipe can be found here. I used strawberry cake mix and cream cheese frosting for these pops.

For decorating the pops:

White Candy Melts (from Michael's)
Sanding Sugars (assorted colors from Surfas, 1 lb. for $3.96)
Jimmies (assorted colors from Surfas, 12oz. for $3.55)
Paper Lollipop Sticks (from Michael's)
Styrofoam Block (from Michael's)
Fake Grass (from Michael's)
White Square Container

* Shape the cake balls into an egg shape.
* Melt candy, let cool slightly. Dip in candy coating. Tap lightly to let extra drip off.
* Sprinkle entire egg with sugar or jimmies. Use a bowl sprinkle over.
* Let sit in the styrofoam block until dry.
* Repeat with varying designs and colors.
Once dry, cut styrofoam to fit container. Add grass on top of styrofoam. Insert cake pops into styrofoam and cover stick with grass.

You should definitely try these and check out Bakerella to see all the different shapes, animals and decorations she shows you how to create. Wonderful!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cheese-Filled Jalapeno Rolls

My husband is a huge fan of jalapeno-cheese bread and we have been trying to find the perfect recipe and this is it! I found the original recipe on and adapted it to my tastes. This bread is light, moist, with the perfect blend of cheddar, pepper jack cheese and fresh jalapenos. We are now addicted to this bread and I've been making quite a few rolls to share with friends and clients!

Cheese-Jalapeno Bread (Adapted from
Makes approximately 7 large rolls


Night before:
1 ¼ cups bread flour
¾ cup water
¼ teaspoon instant yeast

Day of:
1 ¾ cups lukewarm water
¼ cup cornmeal
2 tbs butter
3-3 ½ cups bread flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup diced, seeded jalapenos
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, combine with pepper jack
2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese, combine with cheddar

Night before:
Combine bread flour, water, 1/4 tsp instant yeast together; mix; add more water if necessary to make a moist dough. Cover with plastic wrap. Sit at room temperature overnight or for 12-18 hours.

Day of:
Combine the lukewarm water and cornmeal in saucepan. Bring to low boil then turn heat down and simmer 5 minutes. Stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and stir in butter until well combined. Pour into mixing bowl and allow to cool to 110 degrees. Add in the “night before” mixture, 1 tsp instant yeast, and 1 cup bread flour. Mix on low until well blended.

Add in the salt, ¾ cup jalapenos, and ½ of the cheese mixture. Mix until blended.

Start to add the flour slowly. The dough needs to be very sticky. While mixing on low speed, the dough should stick to the bottom of the bowl but not the sides. It’s better to be on the wet side than the dry side. Continue to mix on low speed for 8 minutes. Either leave in the mixing bowl or transfer to larger bowl, coated with spray oil. Cover with plastic wrap and rest for 1-2 hours, till double in size.

Punch the dough down and then re-cover with plastic and let rest for another 1-2 hours, till double in size.

Sprinkle flour on flat surface. Pour dough onto flour and sprinkle more flour on top. Lightly press the dough into a 12 x 12 square. Take the cheese mixture and add the additional ¼ cup of jalapenos. Sprinkle cheese on top of the dough (save a little to top the rolls). Roll the dough and pinch the seam and ends to seal. Sprinkle with flour, cover loosely with plastic or towel. Rest for ½ hour.

Preheat oven to 425. Have ready 2 parchment lined cookie sheets. Cut the dough into approx. 7 equal pieces. Place on cookie sheet, cut side up, spread the tops of the dough so the cheese is exposed. Space evenly apart, these will spread and rise quite a bit. Top with extra cheese and jalapeno.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool on wire rack.


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