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This summer has been endless fun in the sun summer.  As I’m writing this we just got home a few hours ago after a weekend in Palm Desert in 110 weather with roughly 12 families most of whom we already know but some new ones who are awesome!! It was a wonderful time and it came together great!!!

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About four weeks ago Oliver and I left California and headed to good ole’ New Jersey.  We have been doing this trip for the last three years.  We spend a week at the beach in Ocean City, NJ with my family and another week in my hometown.  Jonathan met us a few days after we arrived so he could be with us at the beach and some time after as well.

The beach was great, weather was near perfect.  Water temperature cold but not that cold. Sometimes we would go down to the beach in the morning and other times we would head down later in the day around 3 and stay til dinner.  Other times we would head to the beach after dinner and let the kids run in the water while we watched and enjoyed some wine. We went to the boardwalk a few times, which Oliver could not get enough of, mostly because he was able to ride rides without us and ride with his cousin who is four. Super cute and sweet to watch them!!

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This trip landed around the 4th of July.  Wenonah, my hometown has a small town celebration that consist of a parade, games in the park for kids, fire truck rides for kids, a beer garden for the adults, and so many open house parties in the neighborhood it is hard to keep count on where to go to next.  All in all it is a little slice of Americana.  In fact the 4th of July parade was named one of the top 10 small town parades in America by travel magazines.  One thing I love, every 4th of July in Wenonah before the parade starts the fire hall sets off it’s siren alarm to wake the town for the parade. Although it is 15 minutes before the parade, it is a great tradition to get everyone excited and ready to celebrate.  Kids and adults love it all the same.  The kids love it for the parade (free candy gets thrown all throughout the parade), games in the park such a the peanut scramble which is geared towards toddlers,  picking up peanuts and putting them in their bags, and of course fire truck rides.  This year Oliver was having no part of the firetruck ride as they will not let adults on anymore (not sure why) so needless to say he was basically like no way am I getting on this firetruck with out my mom or dad.  The adults all gather later in the beer garden and catch up with old friends and neighbors.  I saw friends from high school that I have not seen in 20 years.  Pretty remarkable to pick up after 20 years!!

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Lots of wonderful memories and a lot of great dinners shared together.  Our last night in NJ we made so much food.  Two things I made I want to share with you all.  Popsicles are a must in the summer, I made some with blueberries and some with cherries with coconut milk as the base.  And a nice crostini with smashed peas and mint with feta cheese spread below the smashed peas.

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There are so many photos that I want to share from this trip so instead of flooding this post with pictures I made a video montage of our time in NJ.

 

Coconut Popsicle Ingredients:

2 cans whole coconut milk (you can find it in ethnic foods isle)

1/4 cup sugar

1-1 1/2 cup blueberries (or any other kind of fruit that is in season)

 

Directions for pops:

Place your berries in a saucepan and cook on low for about 10 minutes.  Or until kind of mashed, naturally.  At the same time heat your coconut milk in a saucepan with sugar.  Bring it to a boil and then take off of heat.  Fill popsicle holders with with milk and berries.  Freeze until firm.

 

Crostini smashed peas Ingredients:

1 cup shelled peas

10 leaves of mint

3-4 large squares of feta

1 lemon

1 baguette

Olive oil for spreading on bread

 

Directions for Crostini:

Heat oven to 350.  Brush sliced bread with olive oil.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until they become somewhat toasted.  Try not to over toast them as you want to keep the bread inside soft.  While bread is baking steam your peas. and chop your mint.  Once your bread is done, your peas should be done about the same time.  Pore peas in a bowl and smash. Once the peas are smashed add a splash of lemon juice, olive oil, mint, salt and pepper for flavor.  Take your feta and spread it onto the bread and top with smashed peas. Enjoy.

 

 

 

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I hope you all had a great New Year.  We kept it mellow after flying home from our Christmas holiday in Texas.  Like every year since Oliver came along, it went by in a blur.   But a lot of amazing things did happen.  Oliver’s speech has blown up. It’s amazing to have a somewhat of a conversation with him.

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Oliver is fully potty-trained, no diapers at all!!! Not even at night. I should pat myself on the back for this, but really Oliver did this all on his own!!!

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Meme came out to celebrate Easter with us.

 

I took my first girls trip since Oliver was born to celebrate all our 40th birthdays.  We had such a great time that we may make this an annual trip.

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Love all these ladies something special.

Oliver turned two and I can’t believe as I’m writing this he is two and half.  We had a small brunch for him in the park.  The plan for his third birthday is a trip to Hawaii for us three, lets hope this will happen.

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Oliver learning how to echo in the toilet.

 

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Pops and Oliver building.

 

We had many visitors. Always both sets of grandparents come every year, but we also had visits from my brother Justin and his girlfriend Jen.  We went on a few brewery tours here in LA and in Santa Barbara, since Justin is about to open a brewery with this two good buddies in New Jersey.

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Jonathan’s brother David also came for a visit along with his wife Lo, daughters Leá, and Cloé.  We went the beach, Disney and a Halloween party, and my niece Leá looked at a UCLA and Cal Tech.  I met Leá when she was about 6, it’s crazy to think that she will be embarking off to college in a year and half.

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Jonathan’s parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  They threw a huge party.  We all pitched in and made lots of fun and memorable things to surprise them with at the party.

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Then in August we went to New Jersey to spend a week at the beach with my whole family at the beach.  Even though I’m not that big of a beach person we always have a great time because Oliver really loves it.  Oliver went berry and nectarine picking with his cousin Audrey for the first time, and this he loved especially after because he got a pure fruit slushy after picking.

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Oliver and his cousin Audrey running around like monkeys our first night at the beach.

 

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Summertime buddies in NJ, Bella and Alex.

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I started school in September to receive a degree in psychology and if all goes the way we want to eventually get a masters in psychology to be a licensed family therapist.  This will take a lot of time but I’m excited for it all and I’m looking forward to reaching my goals.

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Oliver and his buddy Emerson playing in the water at Grand Park

In October we went to Albuquerque for the balloon fest.  This was like nothing I’ve ever seen before and lucky for Jonathan he was invited for a balloon ride from the french team with his dad. Truly memorable.

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Thanksgiving was spent with one of our favorite families, the Allison/Marrin crew.  We had such a great evening and even spent the night.

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Ho ho ho Santa with Audrey, Ian was there too, but clung to his mama as he knew what was waiting for him around the corner.

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My mom retired in December so Oliver and I went home to New Jersey to celebrate with her. Oliver also experienced his first time ice skating and I have to say I think he did really well for a two year old.

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The ladies at my mom’s retirement party….my sister Jocey, my mom, me, and Jen, my brother’s girlfriend (seester).

 

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We spent Christmas in Houston with my in-laws and siblings and others.  I think this was really the first year that Oliver understood Christmas and Santa.  We had a great time. It was 80 degrees most days. I’m not complaining.  Jonathan’s grandfather aka Pops moved from Katy, Texas to Fredericksburg, Texas, about three and half hours outside of Houston.  We spent a night up there so we could really spend sometime with him and the rest of the family.  Jonathan’s aunt Diane and uncle Paul live there, along with Jonathan’s cousin Monica her husband Jim and two of their three children. They all live on a big piece of property with three separate houses.  It’s great that Pops is surrounded by so much love!!!  Oliver really loved the fact that they had chickens, big dogs, and a golf cart to ride around in.

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radish and ricotta sandwiches on pumpernickel for our holiday party.

 

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Jonathan and I at our holiday party.

 

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Camille hosted a gingerbread house decorating party.

We ended our trip in Austin with our friends Billie and her husband Jonathan.  They have two kids Elliot and Oliver, and our Oliver is in between them both age wise, this was nice and they could play and watch movies together while the parents kicked back talked and enjoyed some wine.

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Enjoying some one on one with my love in Texas.

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Oliver enjoying his first hot chocolate.

And for the New Year we spent it eating pizza and drinking champagne in bed watching Tangled with Oliver.  We were invited to parties but had little to no energy once we got off the plane.

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Once we got home we settled back in to our habits and life continued the way it always did before.  I normally have a Sunday ritually of making pancakes, but since it was new years weekend I decided to make my moms famous french toast.  Actually it was requested.  We started the new year with warm heavenly french toast in our bellies and Oliver went on his first bike ride on his own bike.  I have a good feeling 2016 will filled with wonderful memories and new experiences for us all.

 

Baguette French Toast ingredients:

1 baguette sliced up on an angle

2 cups whole milk ( you can substitute whatever milk replacement you’d like)

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla, or 1 vanilla bean scraped

1/3 cup sugar (this optional, but it helps caramelize the outside of the bread)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Directions for toast:

Slice up the bread on an angle and place in 9×11 baking sheet.  Mix the rest of the ingredients together and pour over the bread.  Make sure the bread is coated on both sides. Cover and place in the frig overnight. In the morning heat up your griddle or pan, place a tab of butter in the pan and fry up your toast.  It is heavenly, crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside.  Enjoy!!!

Wow it’s been a crazy couple of weeks.  Sorry I haven’t posted in a couple, but we been hosting guests, working, wedding tastings, and much more.  Time just got away from me this month.  I wanted to post when we had guests with a flourless chocolate cake but it never got made.  Just a busy bee.

Well it’s a holiday weekend and we have been doing nothing but relaxing, and I’m not complaining.  It’s been great!  I woke up this morning and wanted to make something yummy for breakfast.  I’ve had this recipe for lemon ricotta pancakes, and have been wanting to make it for some time.  This morning was prefect.  The weather was perfect, the sun was shinning, and the only thing I had to do was make pancakes and eat them.  What a hard life.

 

 

 


In my typical Sunday morning I laid in bed and read the paper (this is one of my favorite things in the world to do)  I always have breakfast with the Beatles on in the background.  I know I’ve talked about this in other posts but it always makes me reminisce of home.  My parents always played the Beatles every Sunday and still do to this day.  I love it!!!   Once the paper is read and I’ve had my cup of tea, it’s time for some serious breakfast baking.  My mom always made a big Sunday breakfast, but if she didn’t there was always some sort of pastry or doughnuts.  These lemon pancakes were very easy.  Both me and Jonathan thought they were about the best we’ve ever had.  Trust me they do not disappoint.

 

 

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
adapted from :Gourmet, September 1991

Servings: Makes about twelve 3- to 4-inch pancakes.

For the pancakes
4 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups ricotta
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Melted butter for brushing the griddle

Make the pancakes:
In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, the ricotta, the sugar, and the zest, add the flour, and stir the mixture until it is just combined. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold stiff peaks, whisk about one fourth of them into the ricotta mixture, and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Heat a griddle over medium to low heat until it is hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface and brush it with some of the melted butter. Working in batches, pour the batter onto the griddle by 1/4-cup measures and cook the pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden, brushing the griddle with some of the melted butter as necessary. Transfer the pancakes as they are cooked to a heatproof platter and keep them warm in a preheated 200°F oven.

Serve the pancakes with fresh fruit and maple syrup, or honey

 

Love my ladies and love when we all have time together.  Celebrating birthday’s is normally when we can all see each other.  It was my friend Kyra’s birthday in November and somehow she slipped through the cracks, and my friend Camille’s is in two days, so today we celebrated them both.  We had brunch at a place in Hollywood called the Hungry Cat.  The food and the drinks were oh so delicious.  As you may have guessed Hungry Cat is a seafood place.  They have another one in Santa Monica and another in Santa Barbara.  The birthday girl shared a lobster roll, and the crab cakes benedict. I had a bite of the crab cake and it was pretty delicious.

the ever so fine lobster roll

 

crab cake benedict

 

me fluffy eggs...these were devine!!

 

are you salivating yet?

 

This cocktail was delicious..it had so much stuff I can't even remember...these mixalogists have something here!!!

 

The birthday girl!

 

So I wanted to make something sweet for the birthdays. Not that Hungry Cat doesn’t have great desserts, they certainly do, but I wanted to make something myself.  I ended up making dark chocolate fudgy brownies.  These were five minutes over done, so not as fudgy as normal, but really tasty.  It was perfect with my chamomile tea (the others had french press coffee which smelled amazing).  Four hours later and it was time to leave.   It was a blast catching up with everyone.  I love my girl time, it is ever so necessary.

 

flowers we got the birthday "girls" from Holly Flora

 

Fudgy brownie anyone?

 

 

Jen and Camille

 

Carolina

 

Kyra of course hiding her face

 

Jen

 

UMMM one bloody mary...lets get this girl home!!!!

 

AND..............scene!!!

 

For fudgy brownies

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 8 0unces dark chocolate (at least 60 percent)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

First grease a 9×12 pan, or you could use a 8×8 pan for thicker brownies, both work fine.  Pre-heat oven to 325.  Melt in a saucepan dark chocolate and butter. Pour melted mixture over sugar.  Mix and add vanilla, stirring everything by hand.  Next add one egg at a time, stirring by hand.  Add all of the dry ingredients together, and then add to wet mixing by hand.  Pour into pan and bake for 25 minutes.  Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

spinach and leek quiche

This weekend my in-laws came for a visit.  We had a great time like we always do.  It would have been a better visit had I been feeling better.  I came down with the worst stomach virus, that is still lingering today…ughhhh!!

Thank god they are mellow and go with the flow.  We had some things planned, but not all went according to plan because I was sick.  My husband had to cook on Saturday night (I walked him through it), and he did an amazing job, with some help from his mom and dad.  He made seared Ahi Tuna steaks with arugula and sweet potato anna, with a roasted garlic balsamic dressing.  It was delicious even though I could only handle a couple of bites.

The next morning I was feeling much better, still very achy but able to eat.  I’ve wanted to make a small brunch since M0thers Day was last week, so I made a Spinach quiche with leeks and Gruyere.  It was easy because I had some pastry dough left over from the week before.  An hour and half later we were eating a beautiful quiche along side a fruit salad with melon, berries, and cherries.   I was happy and so was my stomach….YAY!!

We spent the rest of the day outside since it was so gorgeous.  First stop was the Getty Villa in Malibu on the PCH.  Beautiful, yes it was.  It was the perfect day for this type of outing.  Next we went for a drive down the PCH for some seafood.  One of the best places for seafood in Malibu is Neptune’s Net.  It’s pretty much a shack, and has the most eclectic crowd; bikers, surfers, tourist, and many other types of Angelinos.  My father in-law loves to fish as a hobby.  I think he really enjoyed it here. Next a scenic drive through Malibu Canyon.  And then home to relax and watch movies.

No matter how many times our family and friends come to visit there are always a million things to do here in LA that they haven’t seen.  I love LA for that, it never gets old.  It is a city that is constantly surprising.

spinach and leek quiche

Gretchen and Gary at the Getty Villa

 

Me and J at the Getty Villa

 

fish sandwhich from Neptune's Net

 

fish and chips at Neptune's Net

 

Spinach quiche with Leeks and Gruyere cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 leeks, chopped
  • 3 bunches flat-leaf spinach, or 1 12oz. bag of Spinach
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1 recipe Pate Brisee
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks set in upper and lower thirds. In a large skillet, heat butter over medium. Add leeks, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add as much spinach to skillet as will fit; season with salt and pepper, and toss, adding more spinach as room becomes available, until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Transfer spinach mixture to a colander. Press firmly with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Place spinach mixture and cheese in prepared pie crust.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, heavy cream, zest of nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Pour egg mixture into crust.
  4. Arrange baking sheet on rack, and bake until center of each quiche is just set, 55 to 60 minutes.   Let quiche stand 15 minutes before serving.