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).


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