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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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We’ve been attending wine tastings at this park for about 8 year summers now.  Before Oliver and before we were married and now we still go because I think everyone in LA takes their child here because it’s acceptable to go wine tasting with your child in tow and no ones judging!!  The cool thing about this park, is it’s an art park, called Barnsdall Art Park . Up on the hill that over looks the city is home to a beautiful museum, that houses art to many up and coming artist, a house that was designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright, and it also offers art classes for the young and old.  It’s one of those hidden gems in the city that a lot of people didn’t know about until they started doing wine tasting up on the hill.  Jonathan and I used to live down the street so we would just walk there.  It used to be $15 when it started, but now eight years later it’s $30.  We don’t mind paying it because most of the money is a donation to the foundation.

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I love picnicking.  Who doesn’t especially when wine is involved.  One thing I really do love to make is fried chicken, you can from my past posts. It’s an easy thing to make and doesn’t seem to get messy, and everyone loves it.  This time I decided to make waffles along with the fried chicken, little bites.  Even less messy.

 

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We were celebrating two birthdays, and the end of summer.  Such a great way to spend a Friday night.  I have a great group of lady friends, and we all had babies around the same time.  So we often spend our birthdays together, or other things we want to celebrate.  It’s great to have the support system we have with each other.  To celebrate the birthdays I made PB&J cupcakes.  I stuffed the cupcakes with a really tasty concord grape jam, used fresh PB for the icing, and topped them with concord grapes.  It was a great evening and an amazing way to kick off the holiday weekend.

 

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Picnic photos courtesy of Nikki Garcia

 

Fried Chicken Ingredients:

6-8  organic chicken thighs skin on and bone in

1 quart buttermilk

3 eggs

6 cups flour

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

 

Directions for fried chicken:

Soak your chicken in buttermilk for at least 12 hours, or over night.  Once your done soaking it pour out the buttermilk and add 3 eggs and whisk.  Next add all your dry ingredients together.  I like to use a cast iron pan to fry my chicken.  Add the oil of your liking, I use canola oil.  Heat it up once it’s hot enough, or 350.  At this point I heat my oven to 375.  Dip your chicken in the buttermilk mixture and then the flour mixture.  Place in hot oil.  It’s important to not over crowd the chicken.  Once they are golden on each side place on lined parchment lined baking sheet.  Once all the chicken is fried, put in the oven an cook for about 25 minutes.   You can check the internal temp of the chicken if you feel should, it should be 165.  Once it’s done let it cool for a bit

For waffles use a Belgium waffle cooker.  I only filled the it up half way, because I wanted small squares.  Once they’re done and cooled pull apart.  Cut up your chicken and place a piece on top to the waffle.  Use a tooth pic to hold them together.  Top with honey or maple syrup.

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One thing I really enjoy making is pizza.  It’s really one of the easiest things to make. You can make your own dough, or buy a pre-made dough, or go to your local pizza place and ask them for dough.  Summer is officially here, and let’s enjoy it by eating homemade pizza, good fresh salads, and a glass of rose wine!!

I love eating out on our patio, even though now it’s covered in chalk, many mobile kid toys, and baby pool.  It looks a lot different from a few years ago, but now it looks used and lived in so to speak.  I wouldn’t change it for anything, well maybe some grass and rain would be nice, but we have beautiful weather day in day out, 75 everyday (okay I’m bragging a little ;)).  Enjoy!!!

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Whole wheat pizza dough:

1 cup water, heated to 110 degrees (very warm, almost too hot for comfort)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons) rapid-rise or instant yeast
2¾ cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon sea salt

 

White Pizza with Leeks and Artichokes:

  • 1 leek
  • 1 jar artichokes hearts
  • 1 small container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • olive oil for brushing and salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbs. butter

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 475 degrees
Whisk water, sugar, oil and yeast in a liquid measuring cup or small bowl. Allow yeast to proof for 5 minutes.
Pulse flour, Parmesan, and salt in food processor until combined. While running the food processor, slowly pour in the water mixture and process until a shaggy ball forms, about 1 minute.
Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and quickly knead dough a few times until it comes together. Halve the dough. Let dough sit in flour for about 20 minutes.  In this time you can prep your veggies or meats, or whatever you’d like to top your pizza with.  If your making this white pizza.  Cook your leeks first, you want them sort of caramelized.  Cook for about 10-15 minutes on low with salt and pepper.  On a floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll dough into two rounds about 11 inches in diameter. I used a large cookie sheet with parchment a baked my this way. When I used a pre-made crust from Whole Foods or wherever I just place this pizza on the oven rack.  Once you’ve rolled out your dough place it on the lined cookie sheet.  Brush the outer edge with olive oil.  Next top with mozzarella, leeks and artichokes.  Then top with ricotta.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 15 minutes.
Chopped Kale Salad:

  • 2 cups tuscan kale (or whatever kale you like)
  • 2 cups hearts of romaine
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or montery jack
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives
  • 1/2 cup chopped salami
  • 1/4 cup salted pistatios
  • 1/2 cup diced English cucumber
  • 1/4-1/2 cup roasted red pepper
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/16-1/8 cup red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

You can buy roasted peppers or make them yourself.  If you want to make them yourself, you can roast them in the oven at 450, for 20-30 minutes.  Or you can just place them right on the open flame on your stove.  Once the pepper has been blackened, let it sit for about 30 minutes.  Once it has cooled, peel off skin, and cut up.  Season with salt, pepper and a dash of olive oil.  For the salad, cut up your kale and romaine, and then pulse in your Cuisinart.  Put salad together. Then shake your vinegar and olive oil, salt and pepper.  Toss enjoy!!

 

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I hope you all had a lovely heart day on Saturday.  We had a fun day out.  We spent the day at Arboretum so Oliver could chase after some Peacocks, and run through their sprinklers.  Pretty heavenly for him.  Then an early dinner at out favorite Mexican place, and some heavenly margaritas for us.  Mellow and nothing really out of the normal, but still nice to have all three of us together for a whole day.

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The day after we spent with our favorite KK sisters.  Karen moved back to Texas and was visiting with her new beau so we were all excited to see her and meet the new boy.  He was awesome.  A true cowboy, even took his hat off when he introduced himself.  Winner!!!  Katherine was here with her baby boy McKinney who we all want to eat up.  He’s such a chill and sweet baby.  And KK was just back from a ton of work traveling.  I love hanging out with these girls….so much!!! We were going to BBQ here, but then decided to go out.  I had everything to make this salad for the BBQ, so decided to still make it and munch on it this week for a snack.  My father in law makes something similar that I really like.  He makes his with zucchini, hazelnuts and Parmesan…… delicious.  So I took his salad and did a different spin on it. The great thing about this salad is you can make it any time of the year, which is why I’m calling it the any season salad.

 

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Ingredients:

2 zucchini

1 medium apple (I prefer pink lady)

1/4 cup feta

1/3 cup pistachios

handful of chopped mint

1 lemon zest, and juiced

dash of olive oil

salt and pepper

 

Directions:

Cut apple and zucchini into thick matchsticks.  Place in bowl.  Chop mint or you can just tear it too.  Top with mint, feta, nuts, lemon juice and olive oil.  Toss.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!!!

 

 

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This past weekend my in-laws came in for a visit. It’s always nice when they come or my parents, because Oliver gets lots of extra loving.  He needed it especially this time because he got his first ear infection, which came from a cold.  Poor guy was not his normal self this visit, but he had many moments of being real happy and putting on a show.  Another great thing about the grandparents visiting is Jonathan and I take advantage and take a date night.  It’s always so strange when you go out after having children because night life still goes on.  I’m always surprised how many people are out.  I always feel like, so this is what people do while I’m at home trying to get my toddler to sleep.

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Even though Oliver wasn’t feeling his best.  We did go out.  Made a trip to the zoo, and two different gardens near our house.  Oliver is such an extrovert.  He may not have been feeling well, but the second he got out and amongst people or other kids he just perked up.  It’s pretty cool to see that in him.

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One thing we did was make this amazing soup that Jonathan’s parents told us about.  My in-laws are best friends with a couple, Jim and Rebecca. Well Jim loves to cook.  So they all get to reap the benefits!!! It’s always good to have someone in the group that likes to cook!!! I really loved this soup.  The great thing about it is you can use really any kind of meat, and use the green purée as your base and build to it.  I promise you it will not disappoint you or any of your guests.  We topped the soup with a squeeze of lime, sliced radishes, queso fresco, avocado, and cilantro.

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Jim’s recipe:

  1. 3 lbs boneless pork sirloin, fat trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes (not tenderloin)
  2. 1/2 cup vegetable oil (not olive oil)
  3. 9 hatch green chilies (medium to mild) – I use 3 poblano’s cut into 2 inch pieces and put into pot with tomatillo’s – I remove all seeds and veins but you can leave some heat in the stew. I have also used anneheim chillies. Any large green chilli will do I think.
  4. 1 1/2 lbs tomatillos, husks removed
  5. garlic cloves
  6. 2 medium onions, chopped
  7. 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed I keep the stems – they taste good and will get chopped up in the blender
  8. 1 quart water
  9. chicken bouillon cube
  10. 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  11. 3 cans white hominy
  12. 1 to 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  13. salt and peppe
  14. Season the pork with salt and pepper.

Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven on high.

Add a thin layer of canola or vegetable oil, but not olive oil, which conflicts with the green chiles.

When oil is hot, on the brink of smoking, add a small batch of pork chunks.

Do not crowd. And if you add the pork too early, it will absorb too much of the oil.

Allow pork to saute for a few minutes before turning with tongs to prevent the meat from sticking to the pan.

Tip from America’s test kitchen. Instead of browning in batches, put all of the pork in the dutch oven with half a cup of water – cover and cook for twenty minutes – remove cover and cook until all the meat is browned from cooking in the rendered fat.

Properly searing the meat seals in the juices and flavors.

Once the first batch is done, remove with a slotted spoon.

Add more oil, if necessary, then put in the remaining pork.

After all the pieces are properly seared, remove from pan, drain excess oil and set aside.

Add small amount of oil to frying pan and saute garlic and onions until tender, about 5 minutes. Add cumin and garlic at the last minute or so – just enough to let them bloom

Fill a large pot with about 1 quart water and add boullion cube.

Bring to a boil.

Add tomatillos and cilantro and poblano’s.

Boil about 5 minutes, or until tomatillos are soft.

Drain off the water (saving 1 cup for stew). I save all of this very flavorful water

Using blender or food processor, puree the vegetables. Aim for a consistency similar to a light gravy.

Add pork and onion mixture to puree, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low, add the roasted chiles (roasting chillies is way too labor intensive for me – I boil them with the tomatilloes  and cilantro)and simmer for 45 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and the pork is tender. Add the saved water as needed.

Do not cook in the oven; which causes the pork to dry out and shred. The chunks of pork should remain intact.

Drain the hominy from the canning liquid and add drained hominy to the saved water – heat and add hominy to the pozole. The water is now really good and you can stretch the dish by adding some or all of this water.

Spoon stew into bowls and top with a light sprinkling of shredded cheese, and serve with lime slices and tortillas.

 

I recently went home to New Jersey to meet my niece Audrey for the first time.  She is more precious and beautiful than she is in pictures.  Leaving was sad to say the least.  I’m in love more then I thought I would be.  The second I got off the plane I wanted to go right there to see my sister, and we did just that.  My niece took to me pretty well but I’m sure a lot of that is that I probably sound similar to her mom and probably have somewhat of the same scent. Of course every little thing she does we ooh and ahh all over her.  When she smiles, sleeps, holds her hands, even when she farts.  She is just amazing.  I can’t wait until she gets a little older and we get see her personality.

 

 


Saturday I spent the day in the city with my brother shopping for the dinner we were making for my parents 60th birthday (they both have birthdays near each other).  We went to a place in Philadelphia called Reading Terminal.  You can find just about anything you want to make or eat there, it’s a gourmands dream come true. Later that afternoon I surprised my parents by taking them to a show called “Memories of the 60’s.”  It stars my client, the ever so famous Peter Asher, and my parents are huge fans.  Peter hooked me up with front row seats.  They were great seats and it was a fascinating show.  And my parents didn’t embarrass me too much when they met him, but they were very excited to say the least.  We all had a great time.  After the show I went to my best friend Jayme’s house, and met Leslie, the other bestie, there.  We played with the kids for a while and then hit the town.  We had a blast like we always do.  We always seem to pick up where we left off the last time I was in town.

 

Sausage at Reading Terminal

 

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The famous Peter Asher

 

Love my besties Jayme and Leslie

 

Sunday was soooo much fun.  We just hung out at my parents house and baked a cake and cooked dinner.  Jocey and Daryl brought baby Audrey.  She was so chill and so good.  My brother’s friends Brad and Leelee also came by with their boys Elliot and Lucas (who were so well mannered).  Leelee’s from France so she’s automatically great in my book being a Francophile.  For the cake, I made my famous chocolate cake filled with salted caramel and a salted caramel ganache.  And for dinner, we had a mustard glazed standing rib roast, with caramelized Brussels sprouts and buttermilk potatoes.  This roast was easy and I will be making it again.  My mom said it was the best shes ever had, and they make one almost every Christmas.  The only thing missing was my husband.  Jonathan took a boys trip down to Austin.  He was sorely missed.

 

Elliot, Brad and Leelee's son

 

Lucas their other son

 

 

 

 


Most of the trip I spent with the baby and helping my sister.  As much as I could see her, I did!!! I did however sneak in a girls night at my friend Allyson’s.  There were four grown women and four little women.  A girls night indeed.  She made a delicious curry.  How she has time to do that with two girls under the age of two is beyond me.  Needless to say we had a blast especially at bath time.  Their bath is so huge it’s like a pool.  If my parents had a bath like that growing up. I’m sure I would have loved bath time too.

 

My precious Goddaughter Mia

 

The other precious Pizzone...Bella

 

 

baby Audrey

 

All in all, I had a great time.  I’m so glad I got to meet Audrey when she was just three weeks old.  I will be facetiming with my sister as much as possible, so she can at least hear my voice and see my face.

I thought I would share the recipe for the standing rib roast, it was effortless.  Sorry, the cake recipe is top secret;)

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup prepared white horseradish
  • 1 cup plus 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, divided
  • 4 medium onions, cut into 3/4-inch wedges with some core attached
  • 5 very large shallots (about 1 pound), quartered through root end
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt plus additional (for sprinkling)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 9 1/2-pound bone-in standing prime rib roast, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 2 cups low-salt beef broth
  • Chopped fresh italian parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450°f. Toss onions, shallots, vinegar, oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt in large bowl. Sprinkle roast lightly with coarse salt and generously with pepper. Stir 2/3 cup mustard and garlic in small bowl; rub over roast. Place roast, bone side down, in roasting pan. Sprinkle mustard seeds over, pressing to adhere. Roast 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Arrange onion mixture around roast. Return to oven; roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 120°F, stirring onion mixture occasionally, about 2 1/4 hours for medium-rare.

Transfer roast to work surface. Tent with foil; let rest 30 minutes. If necessary, increase oven temperature to 450°F and return onion mixture to roasting pan and roast until deep brown and very tender, about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer onion mixture to medium bowl.

Place roasting pan over 2 burners on medium-high heat. Add brandy; stir 30 seconds. Whisk in broth and remaining 1 teaspoon mustard; boil until reduced to 1 1/4 cups jus, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season jus with salt and pepper.

Slice roast; arrange on platter. Spoon onions around roast. Sprinkle parsley over. Pass dijon crème fraîche and jus alongside.