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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fresh Drinks for Getting Sexy in the City



(photo courtesy of Christine Cotter)

Happy Wednesday everyone! I can't believe it has been over a week since my last post. Bad Spoondles!

Quick Recap of my life: I have a job! Well sort of. I'm helping out at a Special Events Company which I love but also allows me less time to Spoondle. (This is my lame excuse for the lack of posts lately and I'm sorry.) I am loving this spring weather with hot sunny days and long warm evenings. Nice weather makes me more adventurous which has been paying off nicely as just last weekend I discovered the most beautiful park that is a mere 5 min drive away. I can't believe I had no idea it existed and look forward to many more afternoons exploring it. I'm also very excited for tonight because I have a date with my man to meander about the Santa Monica Pier. He's never been and I look forward to showing him around and beating him at a few games of air hockey. SUCKA. I will also be traveling to Napa this weekend and plan on doing some serious damage to my gut, (Napa is one of my fav spots to feast) but will try to squeeze in some hiking and bike riding as well. Can't promise anything though. I will post my gluttonous adventures next week so check back.

OK. Enough about me. Why don't we get to the point of this post. What is Spring without refreshing and tantalizing cocktails? No pool party is complete without a fabulous drink in hand. And no viewing of the newest Sex in the City is possible without a fabulous cocktail party. Obviously I'm not talking about Red Bull vodka crap. During the summer months I expect the best, and you should too. With all the fresh fruit that is in season, this is no time to settle for vodka soda or rum and coke. What would Carrie think? Whether it's a pina colada, cosmo, or guava mimosa, refurbish your afternoon cocktail with amazingness by using fresh fruit. Make the Girls proud by muddling some berries in your vodka soda, or add fresh squeezed lemonade and mint to rum.

Last weekend I had dinner at Katsuya and got to try their Watermelon Cucumber Mojita. What a treat! This drink has it all. It's not too sweet, super refreshing and gives you a nice buzz. It would be great during the day but doesn't have an overpowering flavor so could also work for light dinners such as sushi or seafood. Obviously it's a great pre cocktail to have with your girls before going to see the new Sex and the City. Whatever the occasion, this cocktail is fabulous enough to fit in.

Which means I knew I had to have the recipe. So I called Katsuya to find out the secret behind this tantalizing treat. You can bet your burned buns I'll be mixing up this cocktail the next chance I get and suggest you follow suit. ;)



Note: Adapted from Katsuya. Make a simple syrup by boiling granulated sugar in an equal amount of water until the sugar dissolves; allow to cool. You can adjust the amounts of watermelon and cucumber depending on what you like.

Makes 1 Mojito
  • 4 triangles seedless watermelon, about 3 inches high and 1 inch thick, divided
  • 7 cucumber slices, divided (6 of them seeded, 1 for garnish)
  • 3 large sprigs mint, divided
  • 3 ounces Bacardi Light rum
  • fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup

1. In a shaker, add 3 watermelon triangles, 6 slices of cucumber, 2 sprigs of mint, the lime juice and the syrup. Hand press with a muddler.

2. Add Bacardi and fill the shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 6 seconds.

3. Strain over fresh ice into a tall glass.

4. Place a watermelon triangle and a cucumber slice on a toothpick and place in glass for garnish along with a sprig of mint.



Enjoying Watermelon Cucumber Mojitos and White Grapefruit Cosmopolitans at Katsuya

What's your favorite cocktail?

Monday, May 17, 2010

An Ode to Bacon



I just want to start off by apologizing for my last post. Who was I kidding? Did I make it to the gym this weekend? Yes. For 5 minutes of spin that intensified my hangover to such a point I had to leave the facility. From now on I'll leave the healthy preaching to my sister, and the gluttony to me. To redeem myself I thought an ode to my favorite fat would be in order. I think that you will find this to be a little more "me." Enjoy~

An Ode to Bacon

Oooooh bacon. My only weakness. Why do you have to be so tender? So juicy? So tantalizingly fatty? Why must you come from the gut of a pig?

I spent many years without bacon in my life. Many joyful years of low cholesterol, low trans fatty happiness. A time when Fakin Bacon used to cut it. That was before real bacon entered my life like a whirling tornado of grease and landed me straight into bacon heaven.

I'm not addicted. I don't actually buy the stuff. I sniff it out. I go to restaurants with the thickest maple bacon and suggest someone order it. "Oh look, you get a side breakfast meat. I hear they put horrible things in sausages, you should probably go with the bacon." Usually I can convince them. Poor suckers. They order a whole plate of those crackling tender strips, not too crispy with lots of fat. Just the way I like it. Then when they aren't watching, I sneak a bite. Or a couple bites. Sometime I take the whole piece to the bathroom and devour it. Usually I just pop it in my Gucci bag and eat it hours later in the comfort of my closet. Did I mention I don't eat red meat? That's what bacon does to me.

What's your weakness?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Skip the Donuts


Yay it's Friday! I hope everyone has had a great week and is about to have an even better weekend!

I wanted to end the week off right, with a better-for-your-body recipe from our Health Nut contributer Sita. With the warm weather creeping up on us and longer sunny days ahead you know what that means? Skimpier clothes. No longer can we hide behind those layers of sweaters jackets and Uggs. Cankles will be seen! Now is the time to get your fitness on so that you can look good but more importantly feel awesome.

So in conjunction with this thought, I am making a promise to myself that I will attend 1 spin class over the weekend no matter how tired, hungover or lazy I am. I also encourage you to do something good for your body that you normally wouldn't do. Whether it's going on a hike, taking a spin or yoga class or doing a few sit ups in your living room, now is the time to begin your health regiment. The way I look at it is - you never regret a work out.

And if you find yourself craving something sweet, put down the ice cream, donut, or cookie and try this gluten free and vegan fruit tart. Cheers to a happy, healthy, lifestyle!

Fresh Fruit Tart

Essentially this is a raw vegan dessert but I added a few steps such as toasting the nuts and redusing the coulis to give it a little more umf. This a great refreshing and tasty spring dessert, which is vegan and gluten free.

INGREDIENTS:

Coulis

½ cherries, fresh (pitted) or frozen (thawed)

1/3 fresh orange juice, about 1 medium orange

¼ orange zest

2 Tbs raisins

1 tsp honey or maple, only if needed

1 pinch salt

Crust/Topping

½ oz pitted dates

1/3 cup toasted walnuts

1/3 cup toasted pecans

¼ tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp vanillas extract

1 pinch salt

Filling

1 cup thinly sliced apricots ( or other stone fruit when in season)

1 cup thinly sliced strawberries

1 tsp lemon juice

1tsp honey

¼ tsp grated ginger

¾ tsp vanilla extract

PROCEDURE:

  1. COULIS: Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and let sit until the raisins soften slightly, about 30 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the crust and filling.
  2. Add the mixture to a blender and pure on high until smooth.
  3. CRUST/TOPPING: Add the dates to a food processor and pulse until broken up. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until combined and the nuts are slightly chunky. Set aside.
  4. FILLING: Combine all of the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix well
  5. TO ASSEMBLE: Split the crust/topping mixture into two portions. In a small casserole dish, remekins, or on individual plates (using a few mold rings), sprinkle one portion of the nut mixture on the bottom and lightly compact. Evenly distribute the filling and then top with the other portion of the nut mixture. Use the coulis to decorate the plate.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Breakfast is Best



Happy Winds-day everyone! I don't know where you are, but here in LA we have been experiencing some serious wind. Which turns out to be a good thing as it has been clearing our skies from all that smog. Yuck!

Today I wanted to give a quick shout out to two of my favorite products. Of course they are breakfast items since breakfast is my absolute favorite meal. Without breakfast I am like a monkey without his banana. (Grumpy and liable to throwing feces) These two products are my go-to in the a.m. Without them I don't know how I would ever start my day. Both are healthy and delicious and can only be found at Trader Joe's (as far as I know.)

The Morning Star Veggie Sausage Links are amazing. I've been eating these puppies for over 18 years now and have no plans to stop. Ok I know you meat eaters reading this are skeptical. I can see you rolling your eyes and scrunching your nose in disgust. Do not be fooled. Yes there are a lot of unappetizing soy products out there. I admit it. This is not one of them. I know at least 5 hard core carnivores who I have tricked into enjoying these. They are tasty, period. The big problem with these is that you can NOT cook them according to the package. There is only one proper way to cook these guys and I am going to let you in on the secret now.
  1. In a skillet
  2. Add oil
  3. Cook on low-medium heat until cooked through and browned on the outside
  4. Add a sprinkle of Mrs. Dash 1 minute before you take them off the heat
BAM! Deliciousness in you mouth.

Whatever you do, DO NOT add water to the skillet as the package says. It makes them soggy and gross. I should probably write a letter to Morning Star to let them in on my revolutionary cooking method. Maybe they'll be so happy by the increased sales they'll offer me a lifetime of free links!

The second product I wanted to mention was Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Raisin Cinnamon Rolls. These guys rock! They are super yummy and pretty healthy for you, not to mention they are vegan too. They are sweetened with fruit juice and only have 2g of fat with a good amount of fiber. I love them topped with butter, peanut butter, Earth Balance, or any other nut butter. They're probably awesome with cream cheese too but I haven't ventured that route yet. They are only lightly sweet (which I love) and have a good cinnamon flavor with a fair amount of raisins.


Together, these two products make an awesome and healthy combo that will get your day off to a good start. I promise.


What's your go-to breakfast?
Anyone know what cartoon character greets everyone by saying "Happy Winds-day"?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Humboltd's Finest

A post by my friend Jason Paluska, a cheese addict...

(photo courtesy of a gluten-free guide)

I have developed, a sincere and honest, lifetime addiction to Humboldt County’s finest, most captivating specimen of enchantment and bliss. No not marijuana. I'm talking about Truffle Tremor CHEESE.

Unassuming at first glance, take a closer look. Breathe in its peppery aroma. The snowy white exterior begins to release from its creamy and decadent counterpart. Taste the different layers of textures throughout which makes this cheese, that much more interesting. The earthiness of goats cheese is unprecedented. Pairing with truffles has become classic. But to make these two glide in harmony across your palate in such a perfect wave is genius.

Holy F*** I have to hold back completely right now from picking it up off the counter and eating it whole. One bite, and you can't believe how much you enjoy it. The layers will slowly unveil themselves as you begin to slightly chew, smile, swallow, and go back for much more.

Cypress Grove is the dairy farm where this cheese originates. Mary Keehn is the reason behind one of the most balanced, richest, and divine creation of our modern day. Are you impressed with Iphones and hybrid cars? I believe Truffle Tremor will graciously leave them in the world of outdated technology. You think that’s cocky? Parmesan cheese, a.k.a., Parmigiano- Reggiano goes back to the year 1348. Where will your Iphone be 700 years from now?? Ha! Cheese wins!!!

The Facts

Ingredients
Pasteurized cultured goat milk, salt, truffle (Tuber aestivum Vittadini), enzymes

Size of Wheel
3 lb / 1 per case

Shelf Life
6 weeks uncut

Type
Ripened Goat’s Milk Cheese

Handling Tips
To maintain original condition: keep cheese cold (33F - 35F) and wrapped in waxed paper. Never use plastic wrap!! Cheeses need to breathe.
To speed ripening: place in a warmer part of refrigerator and increase humidity.
To serve: Remove from the refrigerator only the portion you plan to serve, and bring to room temperature. Rewrap in waxed paper.

Award Winning accomplishments :
Gold, Outstanding Cheese or Dairy, NASFT, 2009
Gold, California State Fair Cheese Competition, 2009
First Place, American Cheese Society, 2009


Friday, May 7, 2010

Why, Hello Spring.


Yay! Spring is here! I know this to be true because last night my roomie and I finally got to enjoy our first outdoor meal this year. The best part about the meal, besides the warm air and plethora of sunlight, was that I didn't have to cook ;) I got to sit back, stuff my face with cheese and wine, while my roommate prepared a yummy light meal of gazpacho and salad. In under 30 minutes! He also brought home a loaf of bread from La Brea Bakery which we smothered in Manchego and Brie cheese. Two of my favorites! It all made me feel very European, and I loved it.



I've never made gazpacho before but was surprised by how simple and quick it was. We didn't follow a recipe but I can tell you roughly what he used: An array of 6-7 tomatoes (Heirloom & Campari) 1 cucumber, a green bell pepper, 3 cloves of garlic, (should have used 2) olive oil, half a lemon juiced, a few basil leaves and salt and pepper. He seeded the cucumber and tomatoes, then threw everything into a blender until it was nicely pureed. We checked the seasoning, played with the flavors a bit, then put the blender filled with the gazpacho in the fridge to chill, and voila! We had ourselves a refreshing, extra garlicky soup.




Our fabulous dinner al fresco!



We used the clover sprouts, heirloom tomatoes and lettuce that I picked up at the farmers market earlier this week. To comply with the European feel of the evening, I simply squeezed lemon juice added a drizzle of olive oil and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper to make a light and refreshing dressing. I know. SO European.



We garnished the gazpacho with some high quality extra virgin olive oil and a sprig of basil. I haven't always been a fan of cold soup but a good gazpacho will make you see the light.


I ate more of this than I care to admit :)



I hope this inspires many more outdoor meals to come, for you and for me. Happy Spring everyone!
Ciao

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Inner Battle

This weekend was a battle between my supposedly healthy exterior and the piglet inside waiting to take over.

I started the weekend off right with a delicious homemade meal. Friday evening Pat and I went to WholeFoods to grab an array of fresh produce and chicken as well as an ample amount of wine. We spent the night cooking up a delicious storm of panzanella, chicken cutlets in a white wine, lemon, butter sauce, and... fiddleheads. (Pat's addition, obviously.)

The dinner turned out to be amazing. The panzanella, (recipe here) was a tantalizing delicacy with layers of texture and flavor, even though I wasn't able to grill the bread and left out the fennel bulbs. Unfortunately I couldn't find heirloom tomatoes either so I substituted with Campari tomatoes, which were still delicioso.

The chicken was excellent. It was my first time making chicken cutlets so I was a little nervous. OK, a lot nervous. If you knew me, you would know that chicken is not my strong suit. I once accidentally served raw chicken to a friend during my time at Culinary School and I have been scarred ever since. "But Sir, I thought you ordered the Salmonella?" Talk about mortification.

This time I had much better results thanks to the simple recipe and flavorful lemony sauce. I have decided that cutlets are going to be my go-to cut of chicken. They are super easy and only take 15 minutes or so to cook. More importantly, they are safe. It's easy to check if a cutlet is done, not so much a whole bird.

Together we made a great team. I handled the panzanella and chicken, and Pat kept me happy by feeding me wine and cheese. He also cooked the fiddleheads as I had no idea what to do with them. Apparently these unfurled fronds of a young furn were Pat's favorite vegetable growing up. If you knew him, this would not come as a surprise. They were pretty tasty but I think their firm and crunchy texture is the most interesting part. Here's an inside peak to our fabulous dinner:

Garlic head for roasting

Roasting a bell pepper on the stove

Pat daintily washing fiddleheads

Prepping the panzanella salad

The finished product

Cooking away the cutlets

Concentrating intensely. Chicken makes me do that.

The cutlets simmering in white wine, lemon, butter, and stock. When the cutlets were cooked I took them out and added more wine, stock and lemon juice then reduced it to make a nice creamy sauce.

The finished product garnished with basil

Fiddleheads with olive oil, garlic and lemon. Aren't they strange?


The chicken and panzanella complimented each other nicely. It was a perfectly sized meal and I definitely plan on making it again.



The piglet emerged late Saturday night when after a party in Silver Lake, I stopped at the local 7- Eleven to purchase 6 small boxes of cereal and a bag of Cheetos. I ate the cheetos on my drive home and devoured a box of Coco Krispies and Pops just before bed. Ooops.


The next morning I started the day with my favorite Sunday activity - a trip to the Beverly Hills Farmers Market. I found a lot of great things but some of my favorites were the clover sprouts, heirloom tomatoes and baby artichokes. Being surrounded by such fresh and healthy produce made me feel good and could tell my inner piglet was subsiding. Or so I thought...




Then I saw it. The new panini stand that had recently opened. And oh how I love a good panini. I couldn't help myself and I'm glad that I didn't because it was amazing. We sat outside and listened to the musicians as we ate these delicious sandwiches hot off the grill.

Breakfast Panini filled with eggs, arugula, sun dried tomatoes, cheese, avocado and pesto spread.

Sunday evening ended with a dilemma. I wanted to stay in and cook a healthy meal but Pat wanted to go out. So we struck a deal. In order to meet half way it was decided that I would make a fresh salad, and Pat would pick up a pizza to share. I cut up all the fresh veggies we had bought earlier such as broccoli, tomatoes, sprouts, avocado, bell peppers, and lettuce while Pat went and picked up the pizza. I also cooked up the baby artichokes which were freaken amazing.
Baby artichokes. How cute are these?

I followed this recipe exactly but added lemon juice and Italian seasoning at the end instead of garlic or pepper. Next time I think a lemon and garlic aioli dip would be a wonderful addition.


These taste just like artichokes but you can pop the whole thing in your mouth without worrying about the leaves or the prickly parts.

It would have been a good combination of health and indulgence except we didn't share a pizza. We both ate our own personal pizzas (non personal size.)
Pat's pizza with parma ham, artichokes, sauteed onions and black olives.

Happy piglet #1

My pizza with Burratta cheese, grilled zuchinni, olives and onions.

Happy piglet #2

All in all I'm pretty sure the piglet inside triumphed. Oh well, back to the gym ;)

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