Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Zov's Salmon Burger with Avocado-Lime Guacamole

If you're looking for a lighter and more refreshing version of a burger, or just want to try something different from the standard beef patty, I'd definitely recommend these Salmon Burgers. This post here is courtesy of the Zov: Recipes and Memories from the Heart cookbook by Zov Karamardian. I've had this book for about a year now; Dan slipped it in my suitcase as a surprise read when I went out of town on a business trip last April. He knows I LOVE LOVE our local Zov's Bistro and thought I'd love having the book with some of her recipes. I honestly have to say that this is one of the only cookbooks I own where I truly LOVE every dish I've made from it and this was no exception (by the way, the Lentil Soup recipe alone is to die for - I make it about once a month and it reheats very well for lunch leftovers).

Salmon Burger with Avocado-Lime Guacamole (serves 6)
1 1/2 pound boneless skinless salmon fillet, minced by hand (DO NOT USE A FOOD PROCESSOR OR THE MEAT CAN GET STRINGY AND MUSHY)
1/2 C. mayonnaise (I used a light version, and it turned out just fine)
1/4 C. minced shallots
3 T. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
3 T. finely chopped fresh chives
3 T. finely chopped fresh dill
3 T. minced lemongrass (I omitted this since I didn't have it around my house)
3 T. minced peeled fresh ginger
3 T. thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
2 T. hot chili sauce (such as Sriracha)
1 T. minced garlic
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1 1/2 C. panko
1/2 C. raw sesame seeds
2 T. vegetable oil (or more if needed)
6 hamburger buns, split
Avocado-Lime Guac (I didn't follow her recipe, instead I used my own below).

1) Stir the first 15 ingredients in a large bowl just until blended (do not overwork the fish). Stir in 1 cup of panko. Form the salmon mixture into six 4.5 inch diameter patties that are 1/2 inch thick. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

2) Stir the sesame seeds with the remaining 1/2 cup of panko in a shallow bowl. Generously coat the patties with the sesame mixture. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil on a large nonstick griddle over medium-high heat. Working in batches, grill the patties until golden brown on the outside and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side, adding more oil to the griddle as needed.

3) Generously spread the Avocado-Lime Guacamole over the bun bottoms. Top with the cabbage or lettuce shreddings.

Avocado-Lime Guac
3 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and cubed
3 T. chopped cilantro
3 T. chopped shallots or red onion (or some combination of both)
juice from 1-2 limes (depending on how juicy the limes are, and how lime-y you like your guac)
1-2 cloves of minced garlic
dash of red pepper flakes for kick
healthy dash of black pepper and salt to taste

*mash all ingredients together until you've reached your desired consistency. I like my guac semi-smooth, but still like to have chunks of avocado in it.*



Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lemon & Berry Trifle

As a big citrus lover, I've been itching to make lemon curd since I read about it on Gillian's blog (HERE). I searched around online and decided to try out Ina Garten's Lemon Curd recipe (shown here). I was pretty happy with the outcome until I realized it made 3 cups of lemon curd....what in the world am I going to do with 3 CUPS of lemon curd? I had originally thought I would keep it around in the fridge (lemon curd has a refrigeration life of approximately 3 weeks) to use on toast in lieu of jam, but I knew there was no way I'd use it up before it expired.

So I looked in my fridge, saw some fresh berries (thank you Henry's!) and decided I would make a lemon & berry trifle and it turned out pretty good if I do say so myself. If you are a citrus lover, this is a nice refreshing dessert. Here's what I did:

1 C. Lemon Curd
3/4 C. Heavy Whipping Cream
Shortcakes (the kind you find at the store for strawberry shortcakes)
Berries (I used blackberries & strawberries, because this is what I had at home, but I think blueberries would pair really well with the lemony flavor).

1) Whip the Heavy Cream with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Note: Usually when I make whip cream I like to add in a little sugar. Trust me on this one that no extra sugar is necessary, because the lemon curd itself is super sweet.

2) Fold the prepared whipped cream into the 1 C. Lemon Curd until you have a smooth custard consistency. This proportion of lemon curd mousse was almost the perfect amount for these two large trifles.

3) Chop berries to desired size (I halved the blackberries, and cut the strawberries into 4 to 6 pieces depending on the size of the strawberry).

4) Slice up short bread, so you can easily fit it into the width of the glasses or bowls, you are using for your trifles.

4) Start layering you trifles! First arrange slices of shortbread to make a base layer, then proceed with the curd mousse, and then a layer of berries. Continue in the order until you reach the top (it will look best if you end on a berry layer). Note: It's important to layer the mousse directly on top of the shortcakes, so the cakes can soak up some of that mousse!

And there you have it. Fresh mint on top would also be a nice garnish, although I didn't have any around at home. Now what to do with the other 2 cups of lemon curd? =)



Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Here's some long overdue pictures from our stopover in Honduras last December. We barely took pictures while we were there (mostly just spent time enjoying ourselves on the beach and in the water), but we both were pleasantly surprised with the beauty of those beaches. I think we also decided that this was one of our all-time top snorkel spots.

Someday we will be back! I'm starting to get the itch for another vacation with sand between my toes.



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

DIY hairbows (with instructions)

My sister Tiffany loves the hairbows at Anthropologie. She asked me if I knew how to make some at home (and if I could show her), so I thought I'd give it a try. I was surprised with how easily, and quickly, I was able to turn these out on my first try. For my first DIY hairbows I used a purplish-blue ribbon because purple is Tiffany's favorite color. What was exceptionally great about these was that I didn't have to go buy anything for them. I made these with scrapbooking goodies that I already had on hand at home and since I haven't scrapbooked in ages, I was glad to put them back into use! I'm going to try a few different types of ribbons and hairbows (and I may post more as I go), but here are my steps for the one shown above.

1) Cut four ribbons of equal length. For my bows I cut 1/2 inch thick ribbons into 3 inch strips. I wanted to keep the size small, because I was making a pair of bows and didn't want to have them totally overwhelming once placed in the hair.

2) Criss-cross the ribbons into a star shape as shown below, making sure that the cross right at the center of each strip. Using thread of a matching color, insert threaded needle down through the center of all ribbons. Run the needle back and forth once or twice to hold all ribbons in place.

3) Flip ribbons over and fold the end of one ribbon in toward the center to form a loop; sew it in place. Repeat to form remaining petals.

4) After all of the "petals" have been sewn in place, I added two more stitches through the center just to make sure everything was held in securely.

5) Then I placed a floral petal and jewel on top of the completed "flower" (from steps 1-4) and sewed them in place. Depending on what embellishments you use, it may be easier for you to glue it in place. From the backside, I also sewed the hairbow onto a bobby pin, but again if you prefer to use hot glue or superglue then go for it.

And there you go! It couldn't be easier. If you're a crafty gal and already have these items at home, you can make a pair of hairbows in less than 20 minutes. Tiffany, I'm saving this pair for you! I'll try to make some more sophisticated hairbows next time around (I'm already getting more ideas).



Monday, March 21, 2011

Canning your own marinara

Using pre-made marinara, or meatsauce, has always been a big no-no in my family. Not to say I've NEVER done it, but we grew up eating mom's homemade sauce and nothing else quite measures up. As I grew up and moved out, I started making my own version of mom's sauce. I remember trying to call my mom for the recipe once and she told me she didn't have one. I guess I really knew she didn't, she made it by taste, so I have attempted to do the same thing (trying my best to remember the details from when I was a little girl standing on a chair so I could reach the counter and "help" mom make it).

Making the sauce is time consuming no doubt, but I enjoy every bit of it. As the sauce simmers all day in our small apartment, it reminds me of being a kid and having the aroma fill every nook and cranny of the house. We kids never had the patience to wait for dinner time; so we'd take turns slicing off a chunk of cheese and sneaking a big dip into the sauce. If we got caught, we claimed we were just "taste testing" you know, just trying to help out. Although we knew mom didn't really mind as long as we didn't spoil our dinner.

For the past several years I've been making batches of sauce for my husband and me and portioning off the sauce in meal-sized portions and throwing them in the freezer to use for later dinners. The problem with freezing homemade sauce is that the flavors can diminish over time and I get really disappointed if ice-crystals build up on my sauce. It makes it feel....just not the same. And after hours of simmering on the stove (with me taste testing in between like mom did, fiddling with the herbs and spices along the way) I want it to taste the same as it did the first day I made it. How to solve the problem? Enter in, the pressure canner.

Now I know my family is no exception, many families have their own special variety of marinara, so if you want to can sauce, I recommend you stick with what you love and just slightly over season the recipe, because the flavors will slightly diminish in the canning process. So without forcing you to use any particular recipe, here are my steps to canning your own marinara:

1) Fresh ingredients. For me, making sauce is all about fresh ingredients. I use as many fresh ingredients as possible (as shown above). Now of course, the more fresh ingredients, the more time consuming the process. So if you aren't up to chopping your own tomatoes, herbs, garlic, onions, shallots, etc...then by all means use as many pre-diced methods as you wish.

2) Adjust simmer time. When canning your own marinara, you don't need as much simmer time as normal (the pressure cooker will do the bulk of that work for you). Instead of mixing my sauce and letting it sit all day, I only let it simmer for 30 or 40 minutes (after getting all the ingredients up to a normal simmer temperature).

3) Funnel time. Use clean jars (here I used 12 oz. jars, because they are the perfect size for a meal for two). I use a funnel to help me pour the sauce without making a mess.

4) Under pressure. Follow the directions from your pressure cooker to determine how much boiling water you should use for canning. My pressure cooker calls for approximately 3 quarts of boiling water so that is what I use. The goal is to cook the cans at 15 psi for 30 minutes. I start my 30 minute timer as the pressure is rising around 12 psi and after it reaches 15 psi I turn down the heat on my stove and monitor it every few minutes or so to make sure it is staying within the 13-17 range.

5) Cool and label. Allow plenty of time to cool before you even consider opening your pressure cooker (I let mine sit for an hour or so). Then throw on your labels and voila! You have your own homemade sauce, that will not be subject to freezer burn!



Friday, March 11, 2011

Rustic recipes

*homemade blackberry & strawberry birthday pie*

Last night was my husband's birthday; while, we'll be mostly celebrating this weekend, I still wanted to make him a special dinner at home. He requested a rustic dinner & pie, which happen to be very easy (and I LOVE to make this kind of food). I made a stuffed roasted chicken with potatoes and veggies (so simple, yet so delicious - you can really use whatever veggies and spices your heart desires, and the cast iron skillet makes it that much more amazing). Here's a pic of it before going in the oven. I made a quick stuffing with shallots, onions, celery & mushroom to put inside the bird.

Then I used plenty of garlic cloves, red potatoes, carrots, beets, mushrooms, fresh basil, butter and spices in the pan. There's really no hard recipe for this, just pick the veggies & seasoning of your choice (and of course add some slices of butter and bake in the oven at 350 for 1 hr or more, depending on the size of your bird).

Danny requested a pie, instead of a cake for his bday, so I made him a rustic blackberry & strawberry pie. The crust was pre-made (it's a weekday afterall, didn't really have time to make my own crust) and I bought fresh ripe berries at my local farmers' market grocer. Here's the somewhat recipe we've come up with over the years to make berry pies (you can substitute the blackberries & strawberries for whatever looks nice and ripe at the store, and remember if you use pre-made pie crust to follow the directions if you need to pre-bake the crust):

1 lb. Blackberries, chopped
1/2 lb. Strawberries, chopped
1/3 - 1/2 C. sugar
2-4 T. cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 pinches of cinnamon

Combine all the ingredients shown above. You can add more sugar if you wish, but if you have ripe berries you really don't need much. I only add sugar to help the juices come out of the berries, which helps the pie meld together better. Combine all the ingredients and cook the pie at 340 degrees for 1 hr. I typically cover the edges of the pie with foil for the first 40 minutes, and then remove the foil for the last 20 minutes (this helps prevent the edges from burning).

And of course, I always top the pie with fresh homemade whip.

Sometimes the simple things in life, are simply...the best. =)



Wednesday, March 9, 2011

We Love LA! (we love it!)

Danny and me at a few Kings games over the years

This past weekend Dan and I ran a Kings' sponsored 5K and stayed afterwards for the Kings vs. Canucks game. We didn't take the run very seriously, in fact the extent of our "training" was that each of us went outside and ran 1 mile and decided that if we could run 1 mile then we'd be ok to jog 3.1 miles. Dan hasn't run that distance in 9 or 10 years, and I have never run more than 1 mile in my whole life (side note: I used to "run" 5 or 6 miles on the elliptical as part of my normal workout routine. Now I know I should have never really called that running, because it's WAY different, but you know, live and learn.)

When we got to the event, I was actually surprised at how intensely many of the participants were preparing themselves for the race. I saw several people with games faces on, doing crazy stretches, and running down the street doing high-knees and butt-kicks. I sat there people watching while I ate the rest of Dan's chocolate-filled croissant and sipped on my Starbucks concoction, feeling maybe halfway guilty that I wasn’t stretching (but not guilty enough to put down the croissant).

Since I’d never run 3 miles before, Danny let me set the pace and we jogged the race together. I was actually somewhat surprised that we came in at the finish line around the 26 minute mark, because I felt like we were going slower than that. In my head I thought we were probably jogging a 10 min/mile pace, but it just goes to show that since I'm not a runner I really have no concept of "feeling my pace". All in all, it was pretty fun and I'm glad that we did it. Although I have zero interest in running regularly (I personally feel like that would be too hard on my body) or training for races, at least now I know that I am capable of running that distance if there are any causes that I want to support, or if friends or family ask me to join them.

Ok – signing off with a picture of Bailey (the Kings mascot)!



Tuesday, March 8, 2011

DIY: Bungalow Bag

This adorable weekend tote was on my mom's project to-do list. For whatever reason, and however silly it is, I feel the need to complete some of her crafty projects that she was never able to finish. When I saw her notes for this bag, I immediately knew I wanted this to be the first of her projects. Well last weekend (after being out on loan for over 7 months) I finally got my sewing machine back and went to town. I thought it'd be fitting to use some of the leftover fabrics my momma gave me from the beautiful quilt she made for Dan and me (seen HERE). I love how it turned out, I love the ruching effect, and of course I love that it feels like it partly came from my mom too.

I'm look forward to carrying this around on weekends during Spring & Summer running to-and-fro. Now on to my next sewing project (I have so many it's hard to count, and hard to decide which to do next).



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Desert Scene

*taking a break & admiring the wind tunnels at Split Mountain*

THIS is where I spent my weekend - Enjoying the beautiful desert scenery while camping out with great friends. I just got home and am catching up on life, but more pictures will soon follow.

Hope you enjoyed your holiday weekend also!



Friday, February 18, 2011

From my needles: DIY Knit Bench

This is something that I actually finished quite some time ago. It's no secret I'm obsessed with knit furniture, so I came up with the idea of knitting a tweed-like bench to add to my etsy shop (it's not in my shop yet, still figuring out shipping methods/options). This bench turned out even more beautiful than I had imagined. I'm completely and utterly in love with it (and so is Dan) - so much so that I am making a longer 6 foot version (this bench here is 4 feet long) in different colors for our dining room. I'm a big fan of the rustic family-style dining look, and with the beautiful antiqued (i.e. passed down from generations) table we have from Dan's great-great something-or-other it should be a winning combination. Very excited to start my new project.



Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Valentine

*after our 53 mile Valentine's ride*

When asked what I wanted to do for Valentine's Day, I told my husband that I wanted to ride a 53 mile out-and-back beach ride (and of course have an excellent seafood dinner while sharing a bottle of wine!). Sometimes it amazes me that he goes along with my hair-brained ideas (it's not like we've every ridden anything close to that in one day before, I just figured we could handle it), but he did, and I'm so glad because it was so much fun. We bike 26.5 miles from Yorba Linda park to Huntington Beach and found a nice little spot to grab a beer and have lunch before heading back. Although this might not be the typical Valentine's, it's very us, and I wouldn't have changed a minute of the weekend.

Hope you all enjoyed your Valentine's too!



Thursday, February 3, 2011

Spring N Boots

*BCBG boots & Forever 21 dress*

As mentioned in my post yesterday, I'm just craving for it to be Spring already. Flouncy florals, lighter-than-air blouses & frilly happy dresses - they are all screaming for me to wear them right now. So yesterday I caved in. I wore aflouncy floral dress with some little green suede boots - I figured it was a happy medium between the Winter and Spring. =)



Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My favorite polishes for Spring

When it comes to nail polish, I'm an OPI addict. I love their colors (especially the matte ones) and I think the quality of the polish is excellent. During the past year I've sported insane bright colors during the Summer and dark moody tones for Fall/Winter (still one of my all time favorites is "You Don't Know Jacques" - it's my go-to color when I don't know what else to wear). I have about 12 different OPI bottles right now, but I can tell I'm in the mood for Spring because I'm really into soft, muted, blushes, tans, and creamy colors right now. Out of my little nail polish drawer, here are my top 5 colors I'm loving (in order from left-to-right, as shown above):

You Don't Know Jacques (like I said, I just love this color and I wear it year-round)
Tickle Me Francy
Grand Canyon Sunset (what I'm currently wearing this week)
Dulce de Leche
San Tan-tonio (part of OPI's newest Spring/Summer 2011 line of Texas-inspired polishes)

Got any favorites of your own that you just can't stop wearing?



Monday, January 31, 2011

Fluffy Philly Pretzels

I pulled this recipe out of my binder a couple weeks ago to satisfy a salty/bready craving. I haven’t made these in a couple years, but boy oh boy did they do the trick. Just remember when making these that it is fresh bread without preservatives, meaning they really need to be gobbled up within one-day of making them (at my home, that was not a problem). This recipe yields about 2 dozen medium-sized pretzels, or 18 large pretzels.

1 C. milk (I used 1% organic milk because this is what I keep around at home)
¼ C. brown sugar
¼ C. warm water
1 ½ tsp. yeast
3 C. flour (I used high-gluten flour to help my dough get even fluffier, but they will still turn out yummy with regular all-purpose flour).
3/8 tsp. baking powder
¾ T. salt
1 egg
1 T. water
1 T. coarse salt

In a saucepan, heat milk just until bubbles form around the edge; remove from the heat and stir in brown sugar until dissolved. Meanwhile, combine warm water and yeast. Let stand for 3 minutes then add the cooled milk mixture. Add in ½ of the flour (creating a smooth, wet dough) and cover and set aside for 1 hour to rise.

Stir down the dough then gradually add the remaining flour, baking powder, and salt. Place on a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Roll into a large rectangle (approx. 10” x 16”) and cut into ½” wide strips. Roll each strip into a rope and twist into large pretzels. Let rise another 1 hour.

Bring a large kettle of salted water to a boil. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lower the pretzels gently into the boiling water for about 5 seconds. Then remove and place 2” apart on a greased baking sheet.

Beat egg and water and lightly brush the pretzel tops. Sprinkle with coarse salt (to taste) and bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes, or until golden brown.

Now Enjoy!


Monday, January 24, 2011

black tights

American Apparel top, Lucca Couture skirt, Hue tights, unknown jewelry

In the Fall & Winter black tights are a serious wardrobe staple for me. I wear them to work at least once or twice a week, so needless to say I have several solid & patterned pairs. I love how opaque tights really expand my wardrobe (like this outfit I wore last week, shown above). Bare-legged I wouldn't quite feel comfortable wearing this skirt to work (I might worry that it is a little too short), but with tights it pulls together a more modest ensemble that I feel just fine wearing during 8 to 5. And even more so, the tights give a little extra edge to an otherwise ho-hum outfit.



Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy Friday!

I'm excited for it to be the weekend again. Last weekend was SO gorgeous I spent every minute outside. I spent Saturday at the beach (here), Sunday at a flea market (here), and Monday riding my bike around Newport Back Bay. While at the beach we spent a little time checking out the tide pools, and I managed to capture a funny moment of Mr. Crab coming out of his shell to say hello (see above). I can't wait to see what this weekend has in store - hope you enjoy yourself too!

Happy Friday!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Kitchen Experiments

Having a job where I now only work about 45 hours a week, has given me a new burst of energy to start doing all those things I never felt like I had time to do before. The past month or so I have been cooking and playing in the kitchen much more than my normal tired self (the past 3 years I've alwaysput together weekly dinner lists, but I've been trying new things more often now). I typically do not post food on my blog, because I don't really use recipes (I just cook what I want to cook - semi-mad scientist style), but I thought the colors from our canning project this weekend were so beautiful I wanted to share. So here's a couple snapshots of the peppers, carrots & onion mixture we canned this weekend (which we spiced up with the habaneros that we grew on our back patio).



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Boy Meets Girl

wearing: thrifted sweater, bcbg maxazria skirt, anthropologie belt, nine west heels, vintage lace top & jewelry (the necklace was inherited from my grams).

When I go to flea markets I peruse BOTH the women's and little boys' clothing racks. Maybe I should be semi-ashamed to admit this, but hey, if the clothes fit and I like them then isn't that what vintage shopping/thrifting is all about? I'm just a unique kind of girl :)

This past weekend I found a fun little boys yellow sweater at the Melrose Trading Post and I fell in love with the buttons on it. I swooped it up (for a STEAL) and wore it to work yesterday, giving new life to my old duds. I loved the way the structured cable-knits contrast with this fun girly (and flouncy - something I hardly ever wear) skirt.



Friday, January 14, 2011

A little dark sparkle

I got this beautiful ASOS top as an Xmas gift from one of my sisters-in-law. At first sight I instantly imagined myself wearing it with dark skinny pants (cropped right above the ankle), sky-high platforms, and my regular load of vintage jewelry. Now, I still think this would be a great look (if you see something and put an outfit together in your head in five seconds, you KNOW it’s good) - but I thought that look might be a little too va-va-voom for a regular work day. So as a more work-friendly option, I paired it yesterday with my high-waisted Theory pants and funky Isabella Fiore snakeskin pumps for a more sophisticated vibe.



Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ode to the Chicago Dog...

(pic taken by yours truly during my most recent trip to Chi-town)

Dear Chicago Dog,

You are absolutely UH-mazing! And what is with the way Chicago puts those tasty pickled peppers on everything? We like spicy in LA, why didn’t WE think of this? I think it’s time I come out and say it: I love you more than the LA Ghetto Dog. Now trust me...that means a lot. Yes, you’re both equally wrapped in glorious bacon, but the spicy peppers and mustard win me over everytime. But shhhh, please please, don’t tell LA.



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Camel Love

I have a soft spot for all animals, and a HUGE soft spot for silly ones. This usually translates into me not being able to say no when it comes to picking up crazy little animal curiosities for my home. Case in point - this adorable camel cookie jar. I spotted him at a flea market recently and knew he had to be in our home (Dan always tells me he wants a camel right?). Now he sits on our wine shelves and provides a great holding place for Dan’s collection of corks, until he decides what he actually wants to do with all of them.


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