Monday, December 17, 2012

Please, Be Kind

It's Christmas. I will say it again. It's Christmas.

It seems as if people have forgotten. Someone murdered 20 children and six adults on Friday, December 14. And today, Senator Daniel Inouye passed away. How are the two linked in my world? I don't need to say anything about Newtown. We are all in pain. As far as Senator Inouye goes; well, today, on the day he died, someone had the nerve to say that he did not serve our country because he was a Democrat.

I never knew Senator Inouye as a person. I just remember always being proud of that he represented my home state and I will always remember him in his suit and red carnation lei. I'm sure he has had his not-so-fine moments; I know I do. But this man who was a World War II veteran, a man who lost his arm in war. Let's also not forget that he fought for our country when our country interned people of his own ethnicity.

Again, Senator Inouye fought for our country.

Something that I cannot comprehend choosing to do.

But, I digress. I think people have forgotten that it's Christmas. So I can't help wonder, if not during this season, when will we be kind to one another?

There's a built-in reason to be kind right now, and in all our shock and grief, we have forgotten to be kind to other people. I am guilty of it myself. I assure you, I have been a very angry, hateful person for the past three and a half months, but I don't want to be anymore. I want to find a way to be consciously kind to someone everyday. And I'm not talking about the kindness where I buy someone's coffee or help the disenfranchised by volunteering or giving money.

I am talking about a simpler form of kindness. For example, today, I got in a huff because I was trying to make a left turn into the In-n-Out drive thru, but someone turning right cut in front of me, and a second person was about to do the same. So I cut her off. I was completely aware of my action, and I felt bad as soon as I completed that left turn. What I'm saying is I want to be kind in an everyday sort of way. I also want to be kind to my friends and family. That will most likely manifest in me sending you a text or email saying thank you for the friendship and love you have shared with me. I don't always know what's going on in your life, and maybe my message will make you smile or make your heart lift a little.

This is what I think we all need to do right now. Maya Angelous is right, we do need to say "I'm sorry" to one another about what happened in Connecticut. But, we also need to be more kind.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

My philanthropy of choice is normally not the homeless, but this year I volunteered with St. Monica in Santa Monica for their annual Thanksgiving Dinner and Boutique. The homeless/at-risk/low income people of Santa Monica can come to the boutique and pick out items (for free) to take home. The items include clothing, home goods, backpacks, sleeping bags, and toiletries. This was one of the best volunteer experiences I have ever had; and this is so not my thing. Thank you to my friend who encouraged me to get involved at St. Monica. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fooding it Up at Home

A couple of weekends ago I went home to help out with some family stuff. It wasn't the easiest trip, and I needed to blow-off some steam, so the best outlet was trying a couple of new-to-me restaurants. My sister and her boyfriend took me to Home Bar & Grill one night, and on another night I went with friends to Pint + Jigger. These are two very different places.

Tater Tot Nachos
The food at Home Bar was great, but the atmosphere was pretty lacking (bright and loud). They did local food really well. Between the tater tot nachos, neguri poke, fried rice, smoked pork, and tofu, we were stuffed. My favorites were the smoked pork, poke, and tater tot nachos. The nachos are pretty heavy, but so good going down. The smoked pork is fantastic bar food, and the poke was awesome. They actually have two versions of the poke, but get the neguri if you're there.

Neguri Poke

Then my friends and I went to Pint + Jigger the following night. Cool atmosphere, great beers, and good food. Granted, I only had tastes  because I had just come from family dinner where we had my auntie's  beef stew, garlic chicken, and edamame rice, but I would go back for more than their beer list. My friend ordered the Scotch egg, handcrafted pigs in a blanket, and the Pint + Jigger Oatmeal Stout Burger. I tried the Scotch egg and pigs in a blanket. Both good, but I really enjoyed the cherry tomato relish...I really need to try and make my own ketchup one of these days! My favorite part was ordering off the beer menu which divided the offerings into:
  • LUCKY 21 On Tap
  • Ridiculously Good Beers!!!
  • Brews That Don't Suck...
  • Aluminum Suds!!
  • Beers???
If you are one of my friends at home, or you are visiting Honolulu some time soon, please go to these places! I am so glad to see the level of foodie-ness on the rise in Hawaii, and want to be able to eat my way through my next visit home.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Last Minute Labor Day Road Trip

Flying by the seat of my pants has never really been my thing, but it's something the B does, so I'm getting a little more flexible. Overall, planning my life out a less has been a good thing, but sometimes, it can be a little painful.

Like when it's Saturday of Labor Day weekend and you decide you want to drive up the California coast the next day. That being said, it was only painful because we needed a hotel room for Sunday night, and there wasn't much to be had in Pismo or Shell Beach. We ended up in a two-star motel - yuck. It was not nearly as clean as I would like, and you had to run the hot water only for about five minutes in order to get it hot. Honestly, I would have camped rather than stay at this place (shhh).

Shell Beach

The rest of our California coast adventure was great. On the way to Pismo Beach, we stopped at Firestone Walker Brewing Company and the Fess Parker Winery for tastings. On Monday, we decided to go to Hearst Castle before heading to Paso Robles.

Hearst Castle

This was my first time at Hearst Castle. It is an amazing place, and if you ever find yourself driving along the PCH, make the time to stop there. You do need at least two hours though if you want to actually tour. You park down at the visitor center and board a bus for a five-mile ride up to the main house. The temperatures at the visitor center were pretty cool, but it was hot up at the castle!

The fog hovers over San Simeon

From the castle you over look San Simeon and the Pacific Ocean if it's a clear day. For us, the fog stayed right over the coastline, so you could only see a little bit of ocean. We called ahead and made reservations over the phone, which was probably a good thing considering how crowded it was at Hearst Castle.

The Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle

After the castle, we drove to Paso Robles and did two more wine tastings. One at Rotta Winery and one at Wild Horse Winery. I have not done wine tastings in Paso Robles before, and I enjoyed it. It is much more low key than Napa Valley. Plus, tastings only cost $5 and at Rotta, you get 12 tastings! If you ever end up at Rotta, I hope Gale is working. She is hilarious!

Oops, almost forgot about food. In Pismo we ate at Mo's Smokehouse BBQ for dinner and in Paso Robles we ate at Farmstand 46 for lunch. Both places were good, but I especially enjoyed Farmstand 46. I had the Goat sandwich (actually pork, not goat), and it was quite yummy. Just don't sit outside on a hot day because the yellow jackets will start buzzing around you and your food.

Sunset in the Los Padres National Forest

It was a very nice two-day adventure in California, and thanks to our iPhones, we routed ourselves around traffic on the 101 on the way home. These less-traveled highways took us through the various terrains that make California so unique, as well as through the Los Padres National Forest. It's only been two days, and I feel like hopping in the car again.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Cupcake Project

Last week I had to apologize to a friend for my last minute RSVP change; from +1 to just 1 because the B had to go out of town for work at the last minute. My friend "suggested" I bring red velvet cupcakes in place of the B. I took the "suggestion" as a "request" and since the occasion was an engagement party, I went an extra mile.

 The extra mile involved packaging the cupcakes individually and making little "J2" flags.

I figured out how to individually package the cupcakes thanks to Pinterest and this blog.

And, I turned to a co-worker for help with the flags.  She has graphic design experience and helped me out.

The plastic cups are of the 9-ounce, clear plastic variety, and the bags came from Jo-Ann. Packaging was quite long as you don't overfill your cupcake cups (something I tend to do), and you don't frost your entire cupcake.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Chocolate Haupia Pie Did Not Go Over Well

I am so disappointed.  My first chocolate haupia pie was kind of a fail.  Kind of because it looked right and tasted right, but apparently I should have shared with those who have acquired the taste for such a pie.  Mr. Sweeth Tooth did not like it.  Something about the consistency.  Granted, the chocolate pie was a not as light as I would have liked, but I didn't feel like it was that bad. 

Insert sad face here.

The recipe came from Hawaii's Best Local Desserts.  It was an easy recipe, the hardest part was finding frozen coconut milk.  In fact, I could not find the frozen stuff easily, so I bought the canned version.  To confirm, I sent a text to my friend who I figured would know, and of course she knew (she writes the myfoodaffair blog).  When she make haupia, she uses canned coconut milk, and finds it more flavorful. 

By the way, haupia is a coconut dessert from Hawaii.  It's kind of like jello.

Here's the recipe, hope it goes over better for you than it did for me.  By the way, I added my notes directly in the text below (I'm being lazy), and made the copy bold.

Chocolate Haupia Pie
adapted from Hawaii's Best Local Desserts
  • 1 frozen prepared pie crust (9-inch)
  • 1 can frozen coconut milk, (12-oz), thawed (canned coconut milk is okay)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • semi-sweet chocolate (7-oz)
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Shaved chocolate for garnish
Bake pie crust at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.  Cool.

To make the haupia, whisk coconut milk, milk, and 1 cup sugar in a sauce pan.  In a separate bowl, dissolve cornstarch in water.  Bring the coconut milk mixture to a boil.  Reduce to simmer and whisk in cornstarch mixture until thickened.  I don't think you have to use the entire cornstarch mixture, but I could be wrong (maybe someone can comment on this for me).

Microwave chocolate pieces for 1 minute, or until melted (I go for soft and then stir so it doesn't get too hot).  Pour half the haupia into a bowl.  Mix the remaining haupia with melted choclate and pour on bottom of pie crust.  Spread out evenly.  Layer white haupia on top.  Spread evenly.  Cool the pie in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  Whip heavy whipping cream with 1/4 sugar until stiff peaks form.  Garnish the pie with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.  Chill for 1 hour.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Why I Bought (and Love) a $35 Pepper Grinder

My mom taught me that it is better to spend more money on one thing of high quality than several things of lower quality.  A good lesson in general, but bad because I always seem to like the more expensive item. 

I thought I went the more costly route a few years ago when I bought a pepper grinder from Crate and Barrel.  Apparently $16.95 is affordable for a pepper grinder, even one that is called a "pepper mill."  I learned this yesterday when I went in search of a new pepper grinder because my Crate and Barrel contraption is broken. 

After walking in and out of Crate and Barrel (three employees stood behind the cash register talking, so no greeting for customers), I remembered that my used-to-live-in-Cali-but-now-live-in-Boston-friends gave me a gift card to Sur La Table for my birthday.  So, I ventured in there.  A very nice employee, Chris, immediately greeted me and showed me the pepper grinders.  In fact he was so helpful that he tried to show me how to open one of the grinders, and ended up spilling an entire container full of whole peppercorns when the bottom of the grinders unexpectedly dropped to the floor. 

Sur La Table has a very nice selection of pepper grinders.  Of course the one I wanted, the  Cole and Mason Keswick Wood model cost $35.  Yikes.  That was much more than I planned to spend, and it probably falls into the reasonable-range at Sur La Table (there was a $90 model).  But, I was in there because I had a gift card to spend, and isn't that what gift cards are for - to buy something for yourself that you normally wouldn't?  At least that's what I think.

This is a good investment!  I am only two meals into using this mill, but I love it.  It grinds pepper much better than my old one did, and it has six preset grind levels that you set from the outside (see my picture).  It may not be a Peugeot, but the Cole and Mason also has a lifetime warranty on the grinding mechanism.   

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What are Your Ten Best-Ever Teen Books?

This one's for book lovers, especially those who like to read in the YA genre.  After collecting nominations for a top-100 list of the best young adjust books, NPR has come up with a list of 235 titles, and it's now up to the public to vote.  We can each pick 10 books from the list.

That's right 10 books.  I don't know how it will be/was for you, but it was incredibly difficult for me!

My votes were for:
  1. Anne of Green Gables (series) by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  2. The Dark is Rising (series) by Susan Cooper
  3. Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
  4. His Dark Materials (series) by Philip Pullman
  5. The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins
  6. The Princess Bride by William Golman
  7. The Shiver Trilogy (series by Maggie Stiefvater)
  8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  9. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
  10. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
But, I also wanted to vote for:
  1. Betsy-Tacy Books (series) by Maud Hart-Lovelace
  2. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  3. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
  4. The Mortal Instruments (series) by Cassandra Clare
  5. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  6. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  7. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
And where in world was A Wrinkle in Time?  I don't get why it's not on the list when the Betsy-Tacy books are there; I could have sworn those were little kids.  But then again, NPR does talk about the debates they went through trying to figure out just what fits into YA.  At any rate, I can't wait to see the final list.  I just may have to re-read some of these titles.

What are your best-ever YA books?  If you voted, what were your selections?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Salt's Cure Equals Yum

If you have ever eaten a meal with me, you know that I am pretty much a meatatarian.  Yes, vegetables can be tasty, and I know they're good for you, but they are generally secondary to me when it comes to food choices.  So I took a little bit of offense to one of Adam Richman's search for the "manliest" restaurant in America.  I know I'm a girl and all, but geez, I enjoy a good steak too. 

Miffed feelings aside, goodness did he pick a fantastic place when he went to Salt's Cure in West Hollywood.  All the discussions about meat, the hands-on approach of the two owners made this a must-try for the B and me; which we finally did on Saturday.  We thoroughly enjoyed every moment...well, almost every moment. 

The restaurant is located at North Vista and Santa Monica Boulevard, and it's a pretty small place.  We walked-in around 7:00 p.m., and they had two seats left at the bar.  Actually, we sat at a regular table, right next to the bar, but we faced their open kitchen.  The B likes to situate us like this because he enjoys watching the cooking process.  Which, I must admit, was a fun experience at this place, except for the part when the workers got in a little bit of a tiff.  It was a little disappointing to hear the exchange, but I guess that's what you get when you have an open kitchen.  We said we would pretend it didn't happen because the food was that good.

We shared the pickled vegetables (served with pretzel roll), a creamy goat cheese (with some sort of nutty bread), the mussels (with toasted rustic/country bread), braised Swiss chard, the bacon cheeseburger, and the bread pudding.  Everything was excellent.  They pickle their own vegetables, bake their own breads, cure their own bacon (truly thick strips) get the picture.  We had to roll ourselves out of there, but it was worth every over-stuffed moment I had that night.

Pickle Plate with Pretzel Roll

The atmosphere is quite nice, but I wouldn't call it romantic.  The menu changes everyday, so you have to look-up on a chalkboard that hangs near the ceiling.  Apparently they serve brunch on the weekends, and are open for lunch on the weekdays.  It's not the cheapest place, but it's not that expensive either; especially when you consider the lengths they go to for food preparation.  We plan to go back for brunch...if we can ever get ourselves away from the brunch scene at the beach.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pizza! With Spinach, Caramelized Onion and Bacon

I do heart pizza.  It doesn't even have to be gourmet, and I'll probably love it.  But, I do appreciate the fancy stuff too.  This particular pizza is one I would categorize as fancy.  The toppings include spinach, caramelized onion, and bacon.  I think I made it because I had a ton of spinach to use, and pizza just made sense. 

In this instance, I used a regular pizza sauce, but the recipe actually calls for a garlic cream sauce.  On another occasion I made the white sauce version, and honestly, whatever floats your boat is what you should use. 

Hope you enjoy!

Spinach, Caramelized, and Bacon Pizza
found on


  • Pizza dough
  • 4 bacon slices, chopped
  • 1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach (I used baby spinach)
  • 2 cups (1/4-inch-thick) sliced onion 
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal (did not use cornmeal, used flour instead)
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  1. To prepare topping, cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings. Set bacon aside. Add spinach to drippings in pan; sauté 2 minutes or until wilted. Place spinach in a colander, pressing until barely moist. Add onion and 2 teaspoons sugar to pan; cook 12 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; cool.
  2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 3 tablespoons flour and pepper, stirring with a whisk; cook 30 seconds. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook 5 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly with a whisk.
  3. Preheat oven to 475º.  If you are using store-bought dough, follow the directions on the package.
  4. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface. Place dough on a (12-inch) pizza pan or baking sheet coated with cooking spray and sprinkled with cornmeal. Crimp edges of dough with fingers to form a rim. Spread milk mixture evenly over dough; top with spinach and onion.
  5. Bake at 475° for 20 minutes. Sprinkle evenly with bacon and cheese; bake an additional 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spicy Margarita

 Apparently it's hip to add a little kick to your margarita.  After trying different versions at some local bars, I said I would make one at home.  So, I got out my favorite margarita recipe and added peppers.  The bad thing is that this recipe makes one drink at a time, and squeezing the limes is way more labor intensive than I would like.  That being said, the work is pretty worth it.

Spicy Margarita
adapted from Food Network Kitchens' Margarita recipe

  • Ice cubes
  • 3 oz. tequila 
  • 2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 oz. simple syrup (see below for recipe)
  • 1/2 to 1 t orange liqueur
  • 1/2 Serrano pepper or 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 T kosher salt
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.  Slice pepper (do not de-seed or de-vein if you want it spicy) and muddle.  Add pepper, tequila, lime juice, orange liqueur, and simple syrup to shaker.  Cover and shake until mixed and chilled, about 30 seconds.  Place kosher salt on a plate.  Press the rim of a chilled glass into the salt to rim the edge.  Strain margarita into the glass.

Simple Syrup 
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 C water
Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissovles.  Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one month. Yields about 1 1/2 cups.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

USC Blanket: Stacked and Layered

One of my favorite babies just turned one-year old recently, and so I made him a USC blanket.  The pattern comes from Super Simple Quilts #3 by Alex Anderson and Liz Aneloski.  It is called "Stacked and Layered" (hence the post title). 

Their pattern says to use five different fabrics for the top, but I went with four because I wanted USC to be the primary theme  

Putting together the quilt top was very easy and very quick.  Once everything was basted together, I quilted by hand...geez there are times I wish I would just pay someone to machine quilt for me.  But, that's okay, this time I did not have time to send this out to someone else.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Table Runners Turned Seat Covers

Does this look like a seat cover to you?  It doesn't to me, but that's what my sister uses it for in her car.  The monkey fabric is actually that waterproof stuff that you can find at craft stores.  It's a bit difficult to work with, and I found that I needed to put the regular material on the bottom while stitching with the sewing machine.  I machine quilted this time, instead of hand-quilting.  It's easy-peasy, so why did I take for-ev-er? excuse for the tardiness.  Sorry Min.  Hope your Rav and you like the new "seat covers."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What a Bunch of Kale

My cooking experience with kale is pretty much non-existent.  So what was I to do with a bunch of kale that the B bought at the Farmer's Market but failed to use?  Luckily, the Food Network had a recipe for braised kale with toasted almonds.  It called for one bunch of kale, and the rest of the ingredients, I pretty much had on hand.  Other than stemming the kale, which is kind of slow, this is an easy recipe, and even better, it was yummy!  Plus I felt like I was being pretty healthy cooking up a bunch of kale, even if I used a lot of butter.

Braised Kale with Toasted Almonds
from the Food Network

  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon butter*
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup minced onions
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon*
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
In a large saute pan over low heat, toast almonds for 3 to 4 minutes until lightly browned (the will brown more throughout cooking so don't worry if they aren't all that brown). Add butter and allow to brown. Add garlic and onions. Cook for 3 minutes until slightly caramelized. Add kale and toss lightly. Add broth, bouillon and pepper. Cook kale for 5 to 6 minutes until tender and liquid has evaporated. 

*One tablespoon of butter didn't seem like enough, so I added more; probably about two more tablespoons (yikes, I know).  I used chicken base because I didn't have bouillon, and I cut it down to 1/2 teaspoon of the base.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting (again)

These are some rich cupcakes.  They are a bit much for me, so I don't usually eat them; I just bake them for others.  Although, now that I think about it, I bet they go really well with a strong cup of black coffee. 

The cupcake recipe makes two dozen cupcakes, while the frosting makes about three cups.  I always forget that it's not quite enough frosting to do just one batch!  Or maybe I'm just heavy-handed with the frosting?  I can't help it,  it's good stuff!

Enjoy the recipe, it's an easy one, and I think the frosting is the best part!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes 
from America's Test Kitchen

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
  •  Microwave the butter, chocolate, and cocoa powder together, whisking often, until melted and smooth, about one to three minutes.  Let cool until just warm to the touch.
  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.
  • Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a large bowl.  Slowly whisk the sugar until combined.  Whisk in the chocolate mixture.
  • Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the batter, then whisk.  Whisk in the sour cream.  Sift the remaining flour mixture over the batter and whisk completely.  The batter will be thick!
  • fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.  Bake about 18 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs attached.  Rotate the pans halfway through baking.
  • Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for five minutes.  Remove from the pans and let cool completely before frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting
from America's Test Kitchen

2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned or natural peanut butter)

Stir the cream, vanilla, and salt together until the salt dissolves.  Beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium-high until smooth, about 30 to 60 seconds.  Reduce the speed to medium-low, slowly add the confectioner's sugar and beat until smooth, about two to five minutes.  Beat in the cream mixture.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about four to eight minutes.  Beat one cup creamy peanut butter and sugar mixture.

To Finish Cupcakes
Frost cupcakes.  Cut Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Miniatures in half and top frosted cupcakes.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

In April I finally broiled something correctly, so I took a picture and posted it on Facebook.  The dish happened to be Real Simple's Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells recipe, and I guess it looked good because some of my friend's wanted the recipe.  I add prosciutto to mine because I am such the meatatarian, but this is supposed to be a vegetarian dish.  Of course this means I always have way too much stuffing leftover, but I just make a bigger dish and have more cheesy-prosciutto goodness.

My only caution to anyone making this is to be careful with the broiler.  Usually I am so scared to burn things I don't get the nice browning effect, but this time I just kept watching through the oven door.  Plus, this oven can broil on different temperatures (I don't think all ovens do this, but I'm not sure), so I had it on a lower temperature.

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
adapted from Real Simple 

20 jumbo pasta shells 
1 24-ounce jar marinara sauce
2 15-ounce containers ricotta
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 cup grated mozzarella
4 ounces prosciutto (optional)

  • Set an oven rack to the highest position and heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Cook the pasta according to the package, drain and run under cold water.
  • Spread the marinara sauce in the bottom of a large broilerproof baking dish.
  • In a bowl, combine the ricotta, spinach, Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (and prosciutto if you're going my route).  Spoon the mixture into the shells and place them on top of the sauce.  Sprinkle with the mozzarella and bake until the shells are heated through, 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Increase the heat to broil.  Broil the shells until the cheese begins to brown, 2 to 5 minutes.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Yup, That's Right, Me on a Bike

So, apparently, you can forget how to ride a bike. I'm living proof of it. Until very recently, the last time I rode a bike was 20-plus years ago. It's never really been an issue until about a month ago, which is when I decided to make an effort at re-learning to ride a bike.

What an embarrassing and frustrating experience it has been for me.

I am just plain scared to be on a bike. Especially here in Southern California. There are so many cars and people. I am afraid I will lose control of the dumb thing and crash into some poor, unsuspecting person. I am afraid of getting hit by a car or a bus; drivers are never watching for me as a runner, and I don't place much faith in their awareness of people on bikes. I am afraid of falling.

But, as I have discovered, I am not alone in my fear. I have other friends who are also apprehensive, but they are able to bike around Southern California on their beach cruisers. So, I guess there is hope. I also figured I would share a little bit about these bike riding trials in case there is another adult out there who is in the same boat. It helps to know you're not the only pathetic person who can't ride a bike well.

First of all, I loathe embarrassment, so I have been doing this all on my own, and without the help of B. I started out by riding my cruiser in the town home complex I live in because there's very little traffic, and I can't really tell if anyone can see me try to pedal and balance. Then I got ambitious and thought I could handle being out on the road. Ha ha ha ha ha

It did not go well.

Then I had Easter Break, and it seemed like it would be a good time to bike on the beach path because there would be less people out. The problem would be getting to the path. I would have to bike about a mile on a street with a lot of cars and stop lights. My friend suggested that I walk the bike to the path, and I followed her advice.

Walking my bike on the sidewalk is a bit embarrassing, and sometimes people look at me funny. That being said, the bike is actually teaching me to care less about what people (especially complete strangers) think.

The first time I tried riding on the bike path was a bit of a disaster. I tried pushing my sunglasses up while biking, which meant I needed to steer with one hand. Oops, totally lost control and veered to the left. Then there were all these people out because it was sunny. I turned around, in complete frustration and walked my bike back to a parking lot, and rode around there. It's amazing how heavy my bike felt once I started getting upset, but I didn't want my bike to beat me that day, so I also forced myself to ride around my block, just to push through the frustration and not give up.

Then I tried biking on a weekday, during the day, and it went much better. I still got off and walked my bike on parts of the path that made me uncomfortable (turns, slight inclines, whenever I have to steer through small spaces, but I made it all the way to Playa. I turned around when I steered myself off the path and onto the sand. This almost happened again on that same day!

Thankfully, that's it for now on the bike riding experiences. I'm surprised I have any skin left on the backs of my ankles now that the pedals have hit them so many times. We'll see how this goes.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Artichoke Bites

These yummy things are supposed to be an appetizer I think, but we have been eating them for breakfast. Did I mention they are super easy to make?

I do have some modifications on this one (mainly because I am lazy about fresh herbs). The recipe calls for one slice of whole wheat bread, but since someone is trying to minimize the carbs, I leave them out, and it still tastes good. However, I have made these before with the whole wheat bread, and as a lover of all-things-carbs, I would probably rather include them. I also use dried parsley because I never have the fresh stuff on hand, but I have a Costco-size container of the former. Finally, instead of chopped garlic, I used the pre-minced stuff. Yes, I am lazy!!!

Artichoke Bites
adapted from Food Network Kitchens

1 slice whole wheat bread, crusts removed
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 (6-ounce) jar oil-marinated artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and chopped
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 1/4 ounce)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter or spray a 6-cup nonstick muffin tin.

Toast the bread slice until crisp. Cool and cut the toast into small pieces into a medium-size bowl and add the oregano, artichoke hearts, cheese, and parsley.

Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat, add the onion, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir into the artichoke mixture.

Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl until foamy, stir into the artichoke mixture; spoon a 1/4 cup of the mixture into each of the muffin cups. Cook until lightly puffed, golden, and just set in the center, about 17 to 20 minutes. Let cool on a rack for about 5 minutes, then remove the artichoke bites from the pan and serve warm.

Friday, March 23, 2012

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

A little over two years I blogged about a new book I just finished. That book was of course, the Hunger Games. The movie version was released today, and I am so freaking excited to see it! Actually, I am seeing the movie tonight, and I cannot wait! Yes, I am clock-watching.

I am pretty forgiving with the movie versions of the books I love, so it will have to be pretty horrible for me to dislike it. Here's hoping it's as great as the previews made it look!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Kalua Pig

Sometimes I need a little bit of food from home. It might mean spam musubi, or mochiko chicken, but recently, I decided to make Kalua pig. I found a slow cooker recipe awhile ago, and it turned out pretty well. It is super easy, and I do love my crockpot. Enjoy!

Kalua Pig in a Slow cooker
adapted from

1 6-lb. pork butt*
1 1/2 tablespoons Hawaiian salt
1 tablespoon liquid smoke

Pierce pork all over with a fork. Rub salt, and then liquid smoke all over pork. Place roast in slow cooker*. Cover and cook on low for 16 to 20 hours, turning once during cook time. Remove meat from slow cooker and shred. Add drippings as needed to moisten.

*My minor modifications: I use pork shoulder, and I place the roast in fatty side up, and do not turn during cooking.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes for Valentine's Day

Oh my goodness, it is practically March, and this is my first post for the year! Honestly, I have not been doing a whole lot of baking or crafting lately. Shocking, I know. I won't get into the details, and instead will share the yummy red velvet cupcake recipe I found for Valentine's Day.

This is the second red velvet recipe I have tried. The first came from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book. While it was decent and makes a more rust-colored cupcake, it was not nearly as good at the one I found on the Grin and Bake it Blog...and of course it's an ATK recipe! The frosting came from

I got some very nice reviews after this batch (I got two dozen out of this). Hope you do too!

By the way, the photos are by Ms. P. Thank you, Ms. P. for making my cupcakes look so pretty.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
from the Grin and Bake It Blog

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Pinch salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons natural, unsweetened cocoa powder
2-4 tablespoons liquid red food coloring*
1 1/2 cups sugar

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Whisk the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and eggs together. Mix the cocoa and food coloring to make a paste*.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Scrape down the bowl as necessary. Add 1/2 of the flour mixture and beat on low until combined, about 30 seconds.

Add 1/2 the buttermilk mixture and beat on low until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat, ending with the buttermilk mixture. Add the cocoa powder-food coloring mixture, and mix on medium until completely incorporated, about 30 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, give the batter a final stir.

Divide the batter evenly into cupcake pans. Bake about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove the oven, and cool completely before frosting.

*Instead of regular food coloring, I used Wilton's red food coloring gel. You need only about 1/2 teaspoon to get a dark red color. I also tried to mix it with the cocoa powder, but the gel is quite thick, and you can just add it in when you are using the hand-mixer.

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.