Thursday, January 31, 2008

Superbowl Snackers

Let me start by apologizing for the lack of posts recently. There's been a lot going on recently, I'll update you as soon as I can, but I hate speaking too soon. Cooking has consisted of leftovers, and copies from other people's blogs. Nothing terribly original. Okay, back on track.

I'm going to a superbowl party this year. I haven't been to one in ages! This one is especially special because its the tail end of a birthday party. Our hosts have graciously invited us to spend basically the whole weekend with them. That's a lot of time to play host. I thought I'd
help the hostess a bit by bringing some things to nibble on. A great nibbler is spiced nuts. You can make them sweet, you can make them spicy. Since the superbowl is a sterotypically "male" event, I decided to make these manly and spicy.

Hot and Spicy Pecans
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 cups pecan halves
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1) Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Combine the Worcestershire sauce, butter, and liquid smoke in a medium bowl. Add the pecans and stir to coat.
2) In a small bowl, combine the onion powder, garlic powder, seasoning salt, sugar, and cayenne. Sprinkle half the spice mixture over the nuts and stir well. Add the remaining spice mixture and stir again.
3) Spread the nuts in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the nuts are dry and toasted, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sunday Funday

My favorite week of the year isn't Christmas, or Easter, or my birthday week. I live for San Diego Restaurant Week. Part of the attraction is that it started four years ago, the same time I started law school. It was a break from studying where my broke friends and I could indulge in a three course gourmet meal and not break the bank.

Jon and I have made it a point to go every year - even after I moved out of San Diego. I plot my selection well in advance and call for reservations the moment the week is announced. We love to use it as an opportunity to try restaurants that ordinarily might be out of our price range, or, more frequently, an opportunity to enjoy more food than we would normally order for less than we would normally pay.

This year we headed down to San Diego early and decided to catch a movie. We went to see National Treasure 2. I love artifact-adventure movies, so I can hardly blame Nicholas Cage for creating a series that places him in an Indiana Jones type role. The movie is great for what it is, but I personally found the pacing of the film to be a little backwards. There was not enough exposition in the beginning and I found myself feeling unconvinced as to motive since no one explained "what's in it for them." Then, at the end, as you're getting ready for a fast paced, adventure packed resolution, it drags on and on. I would have preferred it the other way around. The "bad guy" is an undeveloped character that needed a little more time on paper before being fleshed out.

After the movie, we stopped into Steve and Barrys, which I'd read about, but never seen. It was so much fun! Everything in the store was $8.98! Jon got a couple shirts and I got a new pair of jeans and pants. Following the trend of designers in retail stores, Steve and Barrys features lines by Venus Williams, Amanda Bynes, and Sarah Jessica Parker. My jeans were from SJP's Bitten line and I really loved the way they fit. For less than $9, it wasn't hard to justify the purchase.

Finally, it was dinner time. Our reservations were at The Prado at Balboa Park. I'd been wanting to try this restaurant for years for several reasons. Firstly, it's located in Balboa Park, which is my favorite place in all of San Diego. The museums, the gardens, the fountains, the architecture. I love it. Secondly, The Prado is part of the Cohn restaurant group. The Cohn family is responsible for some of the most delicious, most innovative restaurants in all of San Diego. The food is always excellent, and the ambiance is usually better! The third reason I've been anxious to try this restaurant is that I've only heard rave reviews about it. In addition to great meals, my friends have raved about the incredible happy hour where drinks are $2.50 and appetizers only a bit more than that. I had actually made reservations here last year during restaurant week for a friend and I, but something came up and we were unable to make it.

Appetizers
As soon as I saw the menu online, I knew what Jon would want to order for appetizers. I was right.
Jon ordered seared kobe beef sushi roll, with charred asparagus, wasabi cream, braised hijiki & a roasted garlic ponzu dipping sauce. See that pink thing on the top? That's not fish - it's kobe beef! It was ridiculously tender. Jon says it was his favorite part of the whole meal.

On the other hand, I ordered the organic baby spoon leaf spinach salad with, candied walnuts, Nueskes apple wood smoked bacon, crumbled maytag blue cheese & a, Dijon-champagne vinaigrette. Jon isn't a fan of smokey bacon, but I love it. This was some of the best I'd had - so smokey it brought back memories of the fresh bacon Haley and I had in Tennessee.

Main Course

I was going back and forth between two entrees. That's why I love going to dinner with Jon. Usually he loves the same kind of food I do, so we're torn between the same entrees. We each get one and we split it. That was the original plan here......

Until I got my meal. As soon as I saw the slow roasted pork prime rib with aged white cheddar potato croquette, I knew I wouldn't be sharing. The sauce was a roasted apple demi, which perfectly complemented the pork, though Jon noted the pork had enough flavor on its own. The potato corquette was a little piece of fried heaven. I seriously was hoping Jon wouldn't notice it so I could have the whole thing to myself. The cheese, the potato, the golden goodness.

Jon didn't do too badly with his choice either, braised boneless beef short rib, charred asparagus, roasted garlic crushed potatoes. His sauce? A chocolate espresso demi. At first Jon was concerned that he wasn't given a knife, but as his fork sliced through the tender meat, he understood why. The meat was so flavorful I knew I would have been happy with that choice too. But those crushed potatoes just couldn't compare with my croquette.

Dessert

As I've pointed out before, I'm not a giant dessert fan. It's usually too sweet for me. When we go out, and especially during restaurant week, this works out very well for Jon. We don't usually order dessert, but if we do, we order 1 dish, I take a bite, and Jon eats the rest. During restaurant week, Jon gets 2 desserts! We packed up half our dinner in anticipation of these desserts.

I had the mango bombe, which was glazed mango mousse & vanilla crème with a raspberry coulis center. That blue thing on the top? Hand drawn sugar. This was soooooo good. Light, fresh, and as Jon pointed out, left a very pleasing mango aftertaste in your mouth that tasted like you'd just eaten a piece of mango - not artificial at all. I did give Jon a taste...before I ate the whole thing. The whole dessert. Neither of us could remember the last time I'd done that. I later felt very guilty when Jon confided that I had ordered the better dessert - I should have split it with him. I'm a terrible person.

Jon ordered the warm Belgian chocolate soufflé cake served with a frozen triple espresso cappuccino. I knew he would. That boy rarely turns down chocolate. This, I only needed a small bite to determine it was too rich for me. Not for Jon though. Although, I must say, Jon showed amazing restraint by not finishing that triple espresso cappuccino since he thought it would keep him up all night.

The restaurant itself was absolutely gorgeous with wrought iron amber lighting, decor made from antlers and blown glass, photography on every space. It was a warm atmosphere that was equally as suited for a girls night out as a romantic evening for two. We enjoyed the food and I decided if I lived in San Diego, this would be the place I'd take all my out of town visitors. Capping off the evening, our server presented us with three $10 gift certificates to use over the next three months. Oh don't worry. We'll be back.......




Saturday, January 26, 2008

I love when its easy

There are people you meet who you instantly feel comfortable with. Its great when those people are a couple. It's even better when Jon likes them.

Most of Jon's current friends are the husbands of my friends. Before you go feeling bad for him, I should let you know, Jon is very lucky because my friends' husbands are fantastic.

After we meet a new couple, I inevitably grill Jon on what he thought of the husband. "Did you like him? Is he nice? Should we hang out with them more?" Matt passed this exam with flying colors.

Matt is the husband of my friend Aline. The two of them have been together forever, and you can tell because they're so comfortable with each other. Which makes them very easy to hang out with. Which makes having them over for dinner very easy.

Tonight we did a movie night with Matt and Aline. It doesn't get any easier than that. I threw together some veggies, Trader Joe's cornbread, and Cooking Light's 20 minute chili and dinner was served.



Matt and Aline brought dessert - fabulous Marie Callendar's chocolate silk pie and cheesecake, and movies. We tried to watch The Assassination of Jesse James.



It wasn't long before Jon was asking us "So what do you guys think of this movie" and "I won't be upset if we switch movies" and "No really, what do you guys think of this movie?" We switched movies to "I am Legend."

I am Legend was a much better movie, but I was disappointed in the ending.

It's been a long time since I've gotten to just sit, relax, and hang out with people I enjoy. It was such a nice change of pace, and it was so easy just sitting, talking and laughing. I hope there are a lot more of these kind of nights to come.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Product Review: Paula Dorf 2+1 For Brows

This weekend Jon, Ringo and I took a roadtrip up to Santa Barbara. It was a glorious day - the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and we got to do some great shopping! Santa Barbara is a great place for shopping because State Street just goes on and on forever, crammed with well known stores and cutie little boutiques. Ringo's favorite was "Unleashed" where he got to play with a couple of Whippets while we perused their natural dog treat selection and Ringo ended up with a doggie cannoli.

I found a cute little store called Crush Cosmetics and had to stop in, the nice thing about boutiquey little stores is, unlike Sephora or a department store, I was the only one there which meant I got some personal one on one attention. Having finally gotten my brows done (yay new years resolutions!) I confided in the saleswoman my likes and dislikes of Mac brow set (ie -good staying power/shiny brows) and she recommended this product. The price tag is above and beyond what I would normally pay, but I decided I deserved a special treat that day (I had done a really good thing earlier) and so it was packed up for me.
What: Paula Dorf 2+1 For Brows (I got brunette)
How Much: $24.00
Where to buy: Crush Cosmetics
Review: This is exactly opposite from the MAC brow set. First, it's not quite as easy to use. Instead of swiping it on like mascara, you dip the brush in the powder, and then the wax, and then your eye. I wasn't sure I was doing it right and kept putting more and more on. Which leads me to Number two - unlike MAC this thing isn't glossy at all! I only knew it was actually on because after about 100 applications I touched my eyebrow and found it to feel waxy. Oops. The only similarity is this thing has the same stay all day kind of power that MAC does. But so much more natural looking! Once I master the powder/wax/brow application I can see this becoming a very useful weapon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Product Review: Matrix Amplify Full Body Texturizer

I am finally coming to terms with my hair. After years of fighting, we have signed a peace treaty and vowed to do no harm. I readily admit that I am the one who started the feud. Growing up, I had stick straight hair. No flip, no curl, no anything. Of course, this was the 80s and early 90s and curly hair was "in". I begged and pleaded for years to get a perm and was finally rewarded. My hair viewed this like the annexation of Czechoslovakia and launched a defensive attack. The front right section of my hair refused to "take" - even after several attempts. This meant that while most of my hair was curly, the front section hung like a wet towel - not the best look. Round 1: Kate 0, Hair 1.

When I was 15, my hair underwent a transformation and became a hot wavy mess. Flips, curls, uncontrollable. Of course, by this time everyone wanted straight and shiny hair. Desparate to tame it, I began blowing it dry and straightening it every day. Sure it took time, but at least it was straight! Until of course there was a drop of humidity in the air, or lunchtime - whichever came first.

Now I am embracing the wavyness of my hair and have learned both to control it so that I can have sleek straight hair, and bouncy curls. However, I rarely wear it wavy because I'm still lacking in the volume department. And for those of you having trouble picturing what flat wavy hair looks like:

Anybody else develop a sudden craving for spaghetti? Which brings us full circle back to my quest for the perfect volume producing product. We now know that Aveda is not my friend. But now I may have actually found something that is! So now my waves can look more like this:

Yay for truces! Me and my hair can finally be besties again!

What: Matrix Amplify Full Body Texturizer
How Much: $16.00
Where to buy: Any "beauty supply" store
Review: I seriously love this! It gives you "beach hair" which we all know is the best kind of hair to have. I spray it on after a shower and if I let it air dry I get full wavy hair. If I blow it dry I have thick straight hair - and I really mean thick - I can feel the difference when I run my fingers through my hair - there's actual texture there! And it lasts not just all day, but into the next day and through multiple trips to the gym! (well...2 trips...and 2 is more than 1). It gives me the hair I always wanted.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wishing for Spring

You could say I'm never happy with the current season. It's just that my favorites pass too quickly. I love fall - it has all the benefits of winter without the rain. Second up comes spring when I love to cook with fresh herbs. Winter and summer are at the bottom of my list, so come winter I start wishing for spring. I try to coax spring along by using fresh herbs for a dish that just wills warmer weather and budding flowers.


Spring Chicken
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 Tbsp minced fresh parsley, rosemary, thyme
2 chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2/3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2/3 Tbsp sake
1/3 Tbsp brown sugar
2/3 Tbsp peanut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 baby bok choy, halved
1/2 pkg enoki mushrooms, trimmed
1/2 tbsp cornstarch

1) Heat oven to 400. In small bowl, combine butter and herbs.
2) Spread butter over chicken and season with salt and pepper.
3) In small bowl combine vegetable broth, vinegar, sake, and brown sugar.
4) Place chicken on foil lined baking sheet and roast 11 minutes or until cooked through.
5) While chicken is cooking, heat peanut oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds, add bok choy and mushrooms and cook until bok choy is heated through 1-2 minutes.
6) Combine cornstarch with 1/2 Tbsp water and stir well.
7) Add vegetable broth mixture to skillet and heat until boiling. Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook until slightly thickened. Serve vegetable mixture with chicken.

Serves 2.
Each serving has:
Calories 416.1
Total Fat 13.2 g
Cholesterol 152.4 mg
Sodium 365.1 mg
Potassium 665.4 mg
Total Carbohydrate 11.9 g
Protein 55.2 g

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My first time!

What's worse than a huge group of women in a restaurant? A huge group of women bloggers in a restaurant! Imagine if you would the smartest, sassiest, snarkiest women you know - all with a gift for the written word, all who delight in whipping out their camera to capture the moment. We are every waiter's nightmare.

Yesterday morning I attended a "blog party" hosted by the one and only WeezerMonkey (often imitated, never duplicated). The party was attended by many of her faithful readers, most of whom had blogs of their own.

(Back row, from R-L) trish, r, lan, ricci, winnie, ME!, SandSsquared, claire, leslie, ballinaxehammer,
(Middle row) monkey, alyssa, ashley.
(front row) aline, wan, nanette, lilcee


Having missed WeeMo's first 2 blog parties I felt it was imperative that I make the trek up to LA for this one. As luck would have it, we were in West LA, which is the only LA I really know. I showed up at John O'Groats and there was already a gaggle of women there - so many in fact that we required 2 seatings (which turned into one long L shaped table). The consumate hostess, the Monkey made sure to spend a little time with every side of the table.

I was lucky enough to snag a seat next to the elusive and infamous "Wan" (not her real name - just so there's no confusion.......). Having met Wan for the first time under less than ideal circumstance (read - after multiple glasses of wine) I was anxious to make a better second impression. I was definitely on the right side of the table though, because there was lots of laughing and talking, and surprisinly enough, it wasn't at anyone's expense.

On the advice of Amber (who had to leave early to oogle men in tight pants on tv), I had the pumpkin pancakes which were fantastic. (as promised). I also got to sample some of Aline's tasty Huevos O'Groats. Yum!

Alyssa brought her polaroid which led to many many good times captured on film, and Nannette brought these yummy little goody bags filled with cookie burgers and mexican wedding cookies. I literally had to fight Jon for the wedding cookies when he stumbled into the kitchen and discovered where I'd hidden them under a napkin (note to self - must find better hiding places.)

And of course, because I can't ever come unattended, I made cupcakes. Actually, after I stumbled across some adorable mini cupcake liners in Sur La Table I decided to miniaturize them!

Mini Mocha cupcakes with buttercream frosting
2 cups AP flour
3/4 cup dutch cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1/3 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup cold espresso
3 1/2 tsp vanilla
36 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 box confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream

1) Heat oven to 350. Line mini muffin pans with mini cupcake liners. In medium bowl mix flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
2) In small bowl, combine milk, espresso and 2 tsp vanilla.
3) In bowl with electric mixer, beat 20 Tbsp butter and white and brown sugars together until light and fluffy.
4) Alternating, add the dry ingredients, then the wet ingredients, ending with the dry.
5) Evenly divide batter among cups. Bake 15 minutes or until baked through. Let cool completely in pans on wire rack.
6) In bowl with electric mixer beat together remaining butter, confectioners' sugar, heavy cream and remaining 1 1/2 tsp vanilla until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes.
Serves 60.
Each serving has:
Calories 115.1
Total Fat 7.6 g
Cholesterol 20.1 mg
Sodium 106.4 mg
Potassium 34.7 mg
Total Carbohydrate 11.7 g
Protein 0.9 g

Swirly Steak

Jon doesn't like tomatoes. At least that's what he says. However, it doesn't stop me from serving them, as we all know. Instead of pureeing them into the food (hah!) I just wrap the food around it. And he eats them up. Every tomatoey bite.

Swirly Steak
2 sirloin filets
salt and pepper
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
pesto

1) Heat oven to 400. Season beef with salt and pepper.
2) Place on broiling pan and roast 20-25 miunutes.
3) Let filets sit 10 minutes before slicing, slice into thin strips.
4) Wrap tomato halves with beef strips and secure on skewer. Top with dollop of pesto.
This recipe serves 2.
Each serving has:
Calories 405.0
Total Fat 18.4 g
Cholesterol 152.5 mg
Sodium 208.9 mg
Potassium 850.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 3.9 g
Protein 52.3 g