Tuesday, November 14, 2017

California Taco Salad Bowl

How much do I love Mexican food? A LOT. And there isn't a protein much easier to whip up than this. A friend had me over for lunch last week and threw this salad together in what seemed like no time and without much effort which is a great thing when you have a busy 4 year old. What I like about this protein is that it's really versatile. I'm really into "bowls" these days and putting the turkey mixture atop some greens is a really calorie cutting alternative. But you can just as easily make some tasty tacos as well. I figure with my serious bread habit, I get enough carbs. The entire process takes about 20 minutes of prep time which includes the chopping. And I like to simply use salsa as my dressing. The meat is so flavorful alone that you really don't need any additional oils. And because I am a fan of some serious heat, I like to throw in a bit of cayenne into the mix as well. Additionally, Greek yogurt is a great substitute for sour cream and a much healthier alternative. Adding some avocado for some healthy fat is always a good thing too. Here is the recipe:

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 diced onion
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 bag taco seasoning (TJ's or any grocery store will carry)
  • chopped lettuce
  • salsa for dressing
  • Greek yogurt for topping

Heat the EVOO over medium high heat and add the diced onions and peppers, add a bit of salt and cook for about five minutes. Add the turkey meat and taco seasoning and cook for another 10 minutes. Stir often to ensure the meat gets evenly cooked. Add a dash of cayenne pepper while the meat is cooking if you like some heat. Then the fun starts and you get to create your bowl. Add some cilantro, more onions, avo or anything you like. Or toss the meat into a tortilla. It's super simple and serves about six. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Montecito Wine Bistro -- Santa Barbara

When I go home to Santa Barbara for a visit, Montecito Wine Bistro is always my first stop. The food isn't award winning but it's always consistent and the patio that runs along the little creek is so lovely that it always seems to beckon me. It's relatively reasonable as restaurant prices go in Montecito as well. Often times, it comes down to being comfortable and not having to wait for my favorite table when choosing where to eat out. The Wine Bistro used to be Piatti and it was always my favorite stop when home. The menu has not changed much and so it's a bit nostalgic when I do get to go...

I've had most their dishes at some point and have been loving their shrimp caesar as of late. If I am in the mood for being a bit naughty, their lemon raviolis are divine. They also just recently added healthier "bowls" of which you can pretty much design yourself: choose a grain, a protein, a veg and a sauce. I also really love their broccoli soup which has no cream and you can literally taste how good it is for you. Another hit with my family has always been their Kobe meatloaf although I've never ordered it. It's delicious but a bit heavy for my taste. On the lighter side is their spinach salad with chicken. It's quite big and always hits the spot, the onion rings they put on top makes a little more exciting than most other spinach salads.

The Wine Bistro also has a nice wine list. I always like something white, crisp and local. And better yet, order one from their winery up in Santa Ynez -- Lafond. There is a great chardonnay and pinot noir. I'm not much of a dessert person but they have many and they are on the large side. The coconut cake is my favorite.

So if you're looking for something casual and easy on a Friday night and don't have a reservation, The Wine Bistro is always a good bet. Try to sit on the patio in from of the fire place pictured above. And there are heaters outside for these cooler fall and winter nights.

Montecito Wine Bistro
516 San Isidro Road
Montecito, CA

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Eataly LA

I was finally able to sneak into Eatlay this morning and snap some pics of the new Italian foodie mecca. As you enter in the building on the second floor there is just a gelato and Lavazzo coffee bar. But when you head up to the third floor, that is where all the action is. The difference between my visit at 10:30am and then again at 1pm was night and day. As beautiful the space and as incredible as the food is, I am not sure I can handle crowds like that in the near future again.  There was actually a thirty minute wait to get through the front door.

But it is so incredibly stunning with the open air and white tile. It feels like a massive Dean and Deluca. It's pretty overwhelming how to even begin deciding what and where to eat. And there is yet another line once you get up to the third floor that will lead you to a host stand where they will seat you. So what appears to be this big emporium of individual stands is pretty much controlled by FOH (front of the house) so not an independent eating experience. Even the bar was run by the host stand. There is no signage explaining how to go about navigating Eataly so it really is confusing.

But when we got to our table our experience took a 360. It was a beautiful table with a nice view out onto Santa Monica BLVD. I actually felt like I could even be in Italy! My pasta is pictured below, just a simple linguini with tomato and basil. But it could not have been better - sometimes simple is the hardest thing to execute. And the pizzas and fresh mozzarellas looked other worldly. We had a really nice crisp Italian Verdicchio that was pretty incredible at $10 per glass... My suggestion would be to go for a late breakfast or late lunch/ early dinner. You have to time it right or you might get  bit irritated ala yours truly. But no matter what, you will be impressed.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Tuscan White Bean and Kale Soup

The change in seasons here in LA has gotten me all excited for soup! Not only is this Tuscan staple warm and comforting, but it's also really healthy. With the little time I've had lately, I've been cheating and grabbing the Whole Foods pre-prepared version and eating it on repeat. I've  finally found myself with some time on my hands so thought I'd whip up a batch at home. The only chopping I did was the garlic as Trader Joe's did most of the chopping for me. I love their mirepoix and decided that in lieu of chopping all my veg, that I'd get two containers of mirepoix instead. This recipe makes eight servings so you'll be well fed and nourished for a good while, or serve it for your next gathering. The soup is so hardy and will warm you up with so much goodness. The secret weapon here is the parmesan rind to add some serious depth of flavor, I didn't need to add even a hint of salt. The recipe can also be 100% vegan if you choose to use vegetable stock and forego the parmesan. Here is the recipe:

  • 2 TJ's Mirepoix or one diced white onion, 2 diced carrots and 2 diced celery ribs
  • 5 cloves garlic cloves finely minced
  • 1/2 TSP dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 quart low sodium vegetable or chicken stock 
  • 2 -- 15 ounce cans white cannellini beans or beans from the north (as TJ's calls them) 
  • 1 TSP dried or fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 2-3 inch parmesan rind
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4-5 C chopped kale, stems removed (1 bag TJ's pre-washed and chopped is great)
  • More parmesean for serving
  • Totally optional and perhaps a bit weird, but I added a poached egg and it was insane. 

In a large sauce pan, heat a few TBSP of EVOO on medium high heat. Next add the two containers of mirepoix and cook for three minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Stir often. Add the beans with their juice, stock, rosemary, parm rind and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to a low simmer, add the kale and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and parmesan rind. Serve with some crusty bread and add heaps of parmesan cheese atop each serving... And then press play. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

La Super-Rica, Santa Barbara

This is one of two dishes I actually have dreams about and it could very well kill me one day but because I don't get to go to La Super-Rica as often as I'd like, I think I might live a bit longer... This is a pot of melted cheese, red sauce and chorizo. I like to order a bowl of grilled veggies as well and then make soft tacos with their homemade corn tortillas. You can definitely eat on the "cleaner" side as well. All of their grilled meats are fabulous and be sure to check out their daily specials.

Julia Childs called Superica, as we SB natives call it, her favorite Mexican food spot. And having grown up in Santa Barbara and being exposed to a lot of great Mexican food, it's mine too -- not that I come close to having the palate or cooking skills of JC. It's a funky little shack on Milpas Street with plastic subbing in for windows and patio seating with white plastic chairs. It's minimalistic at best but nothing will stop the hordes of people from popping by no matter what the time of day. And you will wait a while. But you will meet people in line who will tell you exactly what to order. And they will all be right because everything is excellent. It's a family run business with Martin taking orders up at the front most days. If Anthony Bourdain were ever to do a show on SB, I know La Super-Rica would be his first stop and he would love it.

La Super-Rica Taqueria
622 N. Milpas St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Sakura on Centinela

I'd been driving by this always packed sushi joint every night for a year and always wanted to give it a try. It wasn't until last weekend that I finally did and I actually went back again a few nights later. Now it's no Sugarfish or Katsuya in feel, it's more of a casual hole in the wall but the hordes of people alert you to the fact that they serve up some really excellent sushi. It's warm and inviting and the staff are very friendly. We started with the crab gyoza and had to order more. Then the blue fin tuna came out and I couldn't help but moan as I bit into it, it was that good. It absolutely melted in my mouth, so fresh and mild. I always love spicy tuna on crispy rice and theirs was very good albeit not any better than others I have ordered. The albacore and red snapper sashimi were also beyond fresh and excellently seasoned with green onions and roe. They have a nice selection of Japanese beer and hot and cold sakes. Sakura is that diamond in the rough that every neighborhood begs for not to mention their very fair prices.

Sakura Sushi
4545 S. Centinela Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90066

Friday, October 20, 2017

Le Moulin des Pinchinats -- Aix-en-Provence

Several summers ago my family and I took a trip to Aix En Provence. I'd been once before and absolutely fell in love with it: the food, the rose', the art, I could go on and on... When I travel I like to be close enough to town to walk. I also like sitting by the pool in the afternoon after sightseeing and a nice lunch and I often have a hard time finding the perfect spot. But in this case, I could not have dreamt up a more incredible B&B that ticked all the boxes. There were several factors that contributed to an absolute dream holiday. The first was the quintessential old Provencial stone home with lavender shutters that literally felt like something out of a travel magazine. The gardens and the pool were equally magnificent. I whittled the days away on the patio hammock with a book. Second were the hosts, Jean Francois and his lovely wife were so dear, we felt like we were staying at an old  family friend's home. And the breakfasts! I included a photo from one of the four incredible morning spreads we were so lucky to enjoy. The pastries were straight from the patisserie and the yogurt was homemade. Every morning there was a different fresh squeezed juice and homemade granola and a baked tart. 

It's less than a mile walk into Aix where there are countless amazing restaurants and shops. We often got lost winding through the cobblestone streets but getting lost in Europe is one of my favorite parts of the experience, when you are so in awe of your surroundings that you completely lose yourself in the moment. Getting lost and then found keeps me traveling. 

There is a tourism office in the center of town that will take you on excursions in the surrounding areas, to the Luberon Valley or the wine region of Cassis. If you time it right you may be there for the infamous lavender bloom which is an experience in and of itself. A highlight for me was returning to le Moulin and sitting by the pool in the afternoon after a busy day in town. And with all this said, the price of the hotel is another major draw to le Moulin, it is one of the most affordable stays I've had in Europe. This is the first time I have actually posted about a hotel on the blog and it's because le Moulin des Pinchinats truly stands out in my mind.

Le Moulin des Pinchinats
552 route des Pinchinats
13100, Aix-en-Provence, France

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London UK

Meat Fruit: Mandarin, chicken liver parfait and grilled bread. This is their most famous dish and it was incredible! 

Powdered Duck Breast: braised and grilled red cabbage, spiced umbles and pickled cherries

I'd been dying to eat at Heston Blumenthal's restaurant The Fat Duck in London for years, it's been one of those bucket list restaurants for me for as long as I can remember. But because it's now closed and I was visiting London over the summer, I thought I'd try Blumenthal's equally lauded restaurant Dinner in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The menu at Dinner is an homage to historic British gastronomy. Some of the recipes they use date back to 14th century. And it's a very meat centric experience for sure. It's collected all the accolades possible, two Michelin stars and was ranked #7 on the S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants in 2015. I have to mention that the service was exquisite. The ambiance was modern, sleek with lot's of windows and glass and very aesthetically pleasing. There is no tasting menu so one can order a la carte as they choose. I had a starter and a main and paired each course with an incredible glass of wine. I don't often dine like this and Dinner was a total experience. It's definitely a splurge but well worth saving up for. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Jon & Vinny's -- LA

Love caprese like yours truly? Jon and Vinny's happens to have the best I have ever had outside of Italy. They use a creamy burrata rather than the typical mozzarella and it is a plate of fresh, luscious heaven. I happened to be on a glutton, dairy, sugar and alcohol free sabbatical upon my first and only visit so I missed out on a lot of what they are most famous for. But I simply had to try the burrata because as everyone knows about me, cheese is my weakness. And the tomatoes! I know we're moving away from tomato season but because the nice weather hasn't seemed to abandon us quite yet here in Southern California, I'll bet you can still manage to secure some tasty, in season tomatoes at Jon and Vinny's. Like I said, I missed out on their very well reviewed pies and dessert too. I'm planning to update again at some point as soon as I'm able to return. the takeaway here is that if you're planning a dinner in the LA area and want to impress your guests, Jon and Vinny's should top your list.

(323) 334-3369
SUN - SAT | 8:00AM - 10:00PM

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Ca's Patro March -- Mallorca

I spent a week in Mallorca over the summer and it was one of the most incredible trips I've ever taken. I had no idea what to expect and was bombarded by insurmountable beauty every where I turned. What I wanted to share on the blog was my experience at Ca's Patro March on the north side of the island in Deia. My friend and I had heard that this was the restaurant where they shot an unforgettable scene in the Night Manager. It's a cliffside seafood restaurant overlooking a cove with crystal blue water. Yachts, boats and swimmers are all that you will see when you gaze out into the sea. The restaurant is very casual, some patrons were actually scaling the rock wall to join their friends at their table so swimsuits did not seem to be discouraged.

We took a bus from Palma up to Deia which is about an hour ride. What nobody told us was that the bus would drop us off at the top of town where no cabs would service us down to the restaurant which was a steep three miles down a winding road. And what goes down must come up was all that we were thinking! After about an hour down the snaking road we found our way to Ca's. There was an hour wait so we settled in and enjoyed the view. The second photo is of the view from our table and it was glorious -- could hardly believe it was real. The menu was chalk full of fresh seafood options and I don't think you could order anything wrong. I ordered prawns in garlic and olive oil that was actually crackling hot when it arrived at the table. Kiran ordered fried anchovies which she loved. But as good as the food was I don't think that is why you visit Ca's Patro March. It is a total experience. I have never been as awe stricken of a restaurant setting, it literally took my breath away. And I will mention that we found a hiking path on the way back up that was shorter but steeper and it was brutal in the 95 degree weather but it was totally worth it. It's a memory I will have for a lifetime - these are the experiences that I live for and I felt compelled to document it here.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Grilled Flank Steak

This summer has meant having friends over to the pool and grilling it up and this flank steak recipe is the easiest thing I have cooked all summer which makes it a great option when entertaining. And let me start by saying how rarely I eat red meat. Every few months I'll indulge in a great burger or a fillet and because flank steak is so lean, I thought it would be fun protein to try out and I've now prepared it three times. What makes this cut of meat so ideal for grilling is that because it's so thin, it takes only a few minutes to cook. There are numerous different marinades you can use but the one I am including is totally delicious and super easy. I cut 1/4 inch slices about an inch apart across the grain and on both sides to let the marinade permeate the meat. I like to marinade the steak for at least two hours before grilling and if I'm really prepared, overnight. Here's the recipe:
  • 1 lb. flank steak (I get mine at TJ's and it's very affordable)
  • 1/3 C EVOO
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (the healthiest vinegar option)
  • 1/3 C soy sauce
  • 1/4 honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
First mix together all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and pierce the steak. Place the meat in the marinade and make sure the meat is fully coated. Then pour the entire mixture and meat into a ziplock bag and marinate from two hours to overnight. 

To grill: Set the grill to high heat on one side and low on the other - should take about 15-20 minutes to pre-heat. After the grill is heated, remove the meat from the ziplock bag and place on the hot part part of the grill and sear it for about a minute or two on each side. Next move it over to the cooler side of the grill and cook covered for another few minutes to your preferred wellness. Because the meat is so lean, it can get tough if cooked too well so I suggest cooking to a nice medium rare. Let the meat rest for about 10 minutes and then with a good sharp knife, slice the steak thinly across the grain. I like to serve with garlic bread and a nice salad. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Tres Lune, Santa Barbara

Looking for high quality Italian fare in Santa Barbara? Tres Lune is always my families go-to spot. Not only is the food divine but it's distinctively New York or San Francisco in feel, a super cozy neighborhood joint. Every time I dine at Tres Lune I always run into family friends so it's seemingly  a locals spot. It's nestled on quaint Coast Village Road in the heart of Montecito and it feels very laid back in comparison to bustling State Street in downtown Santa Barbara.

My favorite dish is their branzino, which is deboned and beyond fresh and flakey. But over the weekend I tried their linguine in saffron with lobster in a porcini mushroom sauce and oh my God! It was so incredible. I'm not one to typically order pasta and moreover a pasta in a cream sauce but this was so worth the splurge.

They have a huge wine list and really interesting and good Italian wines. Cocktails are on the small side so I usually try a glass of something unique and Italian. Their tiramisu is one of the best in town. I realize that there  are a lot of Italian options in Santa Barbara but this one is worth a visit.

1151 Coast Village Rd.                               
Montecito, CA 93108
(805) 969-2646

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Baked Chicken Breast in Turmeric

I have a tendency to make a dish that I love on repeat for weeks on end and this one is no exception. I never get sick of this chicken because I can use it so many ways and because I know how good for me turmeric is. In fact, I put a teaspoon of turmeric in my green juice every morning -- it's so unbelievably good for fighting inflammation so I try to use it wherever I can... I love to throw the chicken in a pita with some garlic spread from TJ's (obsessed), lettuce, feta and drizzle with my Greek salad dressing: http://pjennieeats.blogspot.com/2016/04/greek-salad.html. Or throw it atop a greek salad. I find that baked chicken can get really dried out but because I coat the chicken in an olive oil mixture, it stays really juicy. Here's the chicken recipe:
  • 2 large chicken breasts halved
  • 1/2 C EVOO
  • 1 TBSP turmeric
  • 1/4 Tsp cayenne or chilli powder
Always remove your protein from the fridge for 30 mins before cooking. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Next salt both sides of the chicken. Mix together the EVOO and spices. Using a brush, coat the oil mixture on both sides of the chicken. Pop the chicken in the oven for 15 minutes and then flip and heat an additional 10 minutes. Let cool and then use as you like. I like to double recipe and have in my fridge when I have little time to cook after work. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Chia Pudding

I've been prepping and eating this chia pudding recipe for months on end now for breakfast. Chia pudding is amazing not only for it's health benefits but also because it never tastes the same with all the topping variations I like to explore. My go-to is simply tossing some fresh fruit on top. I like to double the recipe on a Sunday and bring it to work to have for the week as well as what ever toppings I'm feeling. I also use almond milk and some coconut cream to thicken and sweeten so it's 100% vegan.  It keeps my full for hours!

Here's the recipe:

  • 1 C unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 C coconut cream or coconut milk  
  • 1/3 C chia seeds (again, TJ's has a bagged container that I use)
  • drizzle of maple syrup
  • Dash of vanilla
Whip the pudding up and refrigerate over night. It will thicken by the morning and ready to eat. Shredded coconut, shredded almonds and honey are another favorite way to eat it but add whatever you like and enjoy! 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Turmeric & Coconut Milk Veg Bowl with Poached Eggs

Looking for a quick and healthy recipe? Well, it's been a while and although I haven't posted for ages, I've certainly been cooking and eating a lot! This particular dish has been on repeat for over a month now and for numerous reasons, most of which because it's incredibly savory and delish.  The other being that last year I threw my back out and ended up in the ER only to discover I have something called degenerative disc disease in my lower back. I've experienced chronic pain for almost a year now and have been determined to try every possible method of healing myself from within through food and supplements as well as through physical therapy, acupuncture, etc. One healing method I've read a great deal about is incorporating turmeric into your daily diet as it's an anti-inflammatory healing agent that's been used throughout the ages. I've been tossing 1/2 a tsp. into my daily morning pressed juice as well cooking with it most nights. Thank God I love it! When I found this recipe it was meant to be a vegan dish but my philosophy has always been to throw an egg on it!  And now that I have mastered the art of egg poaching (recipe included), I really love what the runny yolk does to flavor this dish, not to mention the added protein. Here's the recipe:

1 C Brown basmati rice

1 13.5oz. can full fat coconut milk
1/2 C water
1/2 head broccoli chopped
1 C shredded carrots
2 tsp turmeric
3 bay leaves
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 shallot diced
2 cloves garlic diced
1 lime for garnish
chopped cilantro for garnish

To start, boil your rice. You can use white rice or anything you like I just happen to like the health benefits of brown rice and this one from TJ's is great. One cup of rice to two cups water covered and boiled for about 30 minutes should do the trick. While it cooks...

Throw the coco oil into large pot and heat on medium until it's in oil form. Add shallots and garlic and cook 2 mins until translucent. Add the coco milk and water and bring to a boil for about 2 mins. Add the turmeric and the bay leaves. Next, add the veg and bring back to a boil for a few mins then lower heat and let simmer for 15 mins...

Have a taste and perhaps season with some salt and pepper, I like to sprinkle the curry boil with cayenne pepper for some added heat and add'l healing properties as well. Simmer for an add'l 5 minutes. Then throw some rice in a nice big (pretty) bowl and top with the mixture. If you're at all like me and love an egg atop anything! Here is the greatest poached egg recipe:

Boil water. Add 2 Tbsp. white vinegar (so the egg whites don't separate whilst boiling). Add some salt to the water. Crack eggs into small measuring cups so that the egg yolks don't break and you can lower the eggs into the boiling water without the whites separating. Add eggs to water and let boil for 3-4 mins for perfectly runny yolks.

Remove eggs from water with a slotted spoon as to let the water drain out. Throw on top of the rice/ curry bowl and you have literally the most savory, rich and healthy meal EVER. Oh, and if you want to be totally crazy squeeze a little fresh lime juice and chopped cilantro on top as 
well. ENJOY.