Wednesday, August 29, 2018

12 years: Watermelon Mai Tai

On August 6, Thatboy and I celebrated 12 years of marriage.

It's crazy.  I barely feel old enough to have a nearly 7 year old, let alone be married for 12 years. 

Before Thatkid was born, we used to go all out with anniversary celebrations.  But that became a lot harder once we had kids. 

This year we had tickets to a show that just happened to be 2 days before our anniversary and we decided to celebrate early.  We called up the babysitter, made reservations at Juniper and Ivy, and made an evening out of it.

Thatboy had been wanting to try Juniper and Ivy for years, but we just don't get downtown by ourselves often, and it's not a kids restaurant. 

We started off with a couple of fancy drinks while we exchanged presents.

Soon after we were greeted with an amuse bouche from the chef - their version of deviled eggs - a meringue base with whipped egg yolk which literally melted in your mouth.

We decided that rather than order entrees (plates) we would order a bunch of the smaller plates and share, tapas style.  That way we could try more things from the menu. 

First up were chicken curry arancini balls, and Thatboy's favorite menu item, Baja Yellowtail tostada.

Then came the lamb with pine nuts.

One of the restaurant specialties is their buttermilk biscuit.  We got our with a fois gras butter.  This was right up our alley - hot and served in its own baking dish, with the butter melting down into it.

Next came the salads.  Thatboy can't turn down anything with heirloom tomatoes, so the tomato salad with jalapeno caught his eye.  And the watermelon salad with granita and avocado seemed like a wonderful fresh summer salad.  Both had just the right amount of kick to make them both refreshing and spicy.

Neither of us can turn down burrata, so obviously the burrata and nectarine salad made its way to our table.

Round 2 of drinks.

Then came the more main-course bites.  This lasagna layered thinly sliced potato with pork belly.  It was so good, I'm thinking of playing around to try and make my own version for Passover this year. 

The Carne Cruda Asada was topped with quail egg and cotija.  I couldn't get over how cute the little quail eggs were on top. 

Our final dish was the Uni Carbonara.  I'm fairly sure that uni is the reason the word umami was invented.  It captures the flavor perfectly.

We ended the evening with the restaurant's signature dessert - the Yodel.  A twist on a swiss roll, chocolate cake filled with white chocolate balls with hot chocolate poured over top.  And to celebrate our anniversary, the kitchen also sent over sparkling rose and a chocolate ice cream bar.

We enjoyed our dinner so much, we ended up being a little late to our show.  But in keeping with the evening, it was a fantastic show and a wonderful addition to the evening.  It was one of the nicest anniversaries we've spent since the boys were born.

In keeping with the celebratory theme of the evening, I thought a drink recipe might be nice.  Thatboy and I really enjoyed the specialty cocktails at Juniper and Ivy and it made me realize that we mostly have been sticking to beer and wine at home.  So I decided to fancy it up a bit.

We had made a recent trip to IKEA while redoing the boys' rooms this summer and picked up some elderflower syrup.  Which is such a great addition to summer drinks - both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.  Which is how it got added to a watermelon mai tai recipe AND a lemonade recipe.  Something for Thatboy and I to enjoy, and something for the boys to enjoy!

Watermelon Mai Tai (Adapted from the Food Network)
1 cup cubed watermelon
6 Tbsp rum
1/4 cup elderflower syrup
juice of 2 limes
2 Tbsp sugar
  1. Puree all ingredients.
  2. Serve over ice.

Elderflower Lemonade
Juice of 5 lemons
1 cup sugar
3 cups water
1/4 cup elderflower syrup
  1. Combine all ingredients.  Stir until sugar dissolves.  
  2. Serve over ice.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Life's a Beach: Rainbow Popsicles

Even when you live in California, with arguable "beach weather" year round (and I'm definitely ready to argue after weeks of rain in the winter, followed by May Grey and June Gloom), it's not summer without a day at the beach.

When Thatkid was little, we lived down the street from the beach and went all the time - for evening walks, or an hour here or there.  Now that we live farther, we don't go nearly as often because it's not as convenient for a pop in and out.

But a couple of weeks ago Thatmom wanted to take Thatkid for an afternoon and we decided to take Thatbaby to the beach - a little special treat for our poor second child who doesn't get to go to the beach or spend time with just mom and dad.

He had such a great time running into the white water.  He's a little more fearful than his older brother and getting ankle deep was adventurous enough for him.  We also collected shells, built sandcastles, played frisbee, and had a water shooter fight.

I suggested we do a little digging and burying and that was very well received.

Of course after he was done being buried, he wanted to do some digging and burying of his own.

I think he really enjoyed the two-on-one attention he got and the fact that we really let him lead the adventure, doing whatever he wanted to do while we were there.  We rarely do what he wants to do.  Poor kid is definitely at the bottom of the family ladder.  But I try.  Like when he wanted to make "rainbow popsicles."  I'm not going to lie, these are a bit labor intensive and kind of a pain to make.  But they make the kids so happy.  I've been known to make rainbow smoothies on occasion - which is the same recipe I use for tie-dye smoothies, which is now the same recipe I use for rainbow popsicles.

Rainbow Popsicles
5 frozen bananas
2 1/2 cups plain yogurt, divided
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup frozen peaches
1 orange
1 cup frozen pineapple
1/2 cup spinach
1 cup chopped kiwi
1 cup frozen blueberries
  1.  For the first layer, place a frozen banana, 1/2 cup yogurt, raspberries and strawberries in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  For each of these layers add water if necessary to thin, but you want it to be relatively thick so the layers sit on top of each other instead of blending.  Divide between popsicle molds.
  2. For the second layer, combine a frozen banana, 1/2 cup yogurt, peaches and orange in a blender and blend until smooth.  Carefully layer over the first layer in the molds.
  3. For the third layer combine a frozen banana, 1/2 cup yogurt (are you getting the picture?) and frozen pineapple in a blender and blend until smooth.  Carefully layer over the the orange layer in molds.
  4. For the fourth layer combine a frozen banana, 1/2 cup yogurt, spinach and kiwi in the blender and blend until smooth. Carefully layer over the yellow layer in the molds.
  5. For the fifth layer combine a frozen banana, 1/2 cup yogurt, and blueberries in the blender and blend until smooth.  Carefully layer over the green layer in the molds.
  6. Place tops/sticks in the mold and freeze until solid.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wonder-ful: Strawberry Lemonade

I'm by no means a social media guru.  I'm more like your grandmother trying to navigate through most forms of social media.  I'm just barely getting the hang of it. 

A couple months ago I saw a pretty picture of kids in lights on instagram.  Because I knew the ....grammer?  poster?  whatever you call the person who took and posted the picture was in San Diego, I clicked through to find out where it was.

It was a pop-up museum called "Wonderspaces."  In general, I find that most of these pop-up museums are just a way to take your money so you can take pictures and post them to social media.  And I'm not willing to fork over money to take pictures.  (See?  Not social media savvy) But these exhibits, while definitely beautiful and instagram-worthy, were also really interesting pieces of art.  And I knew Thatboy would love it.  He loves modern art, and especially shiny things.

There were a couple virtual reality exhibits, which Thatbaby couldn't deal with.  But there were other interactive exhibits like a room with plants that were hooked up to some stereo system so your touch triggered different sounds.  And this one where you could write "To Do" notes.

Thatkid's favorite exhibit was squid soup, which is the same exhibit that caught my eye initially.

Another interactive exhibit was body paint, where movement was captured by color splashing across a screen.

Thatbaby's favorite exhibit was "Into the Breath."  While they loved looking at the giant balloon shaped exhibit, they loved even more going inside.  It was like a bounce house without the bounce.  The idea was a space where you can just enjoy and appreciate the quiet.  And Thatbaby did...for about 2 minutes, which is pretty good for a 3 year old.

"The Border" symbolized the edge of dreams and waking.  Thatbaby loved it.  It was like a kid's fantasy come to life. 

And because all kids love balloons...

The kids loved the space - although Thatbaby had a serious 3 year old meltdown and had to take a break for a while (which you'd never guess from these photos, but I wasn't going to take photos of him screaming and crying.)

When we got home, we got the little guy down for a nap.  He was MUCH happier when he awoke.  And ready to make one of his favorite drinks.  My kids love lemonade, and in the summer I love homemade lemonade.  Thatbaby asked if we could make strawberry lemonade, and so I was happy to comply.  Lemonade is easy enough for even a 3 year old to make - with some supervision. 

Strawberry Lemonade
1 1/2 cups strawberries
5 lemons
1 cup sugar
3 cups water
1. Trim strawberries and cut them in half.

2. Combine strawberries and the juice of 1/2 a lemon in a blender and puree until smooth.
3. Press puree through a sieve into a pitcher to remove strawberry seeds.
4. Juice the remaining lemons.  (If you're working with a small child, keep that sieve handy.  It'll catch those lemon seeds)

5. Combine lemon juice, sugar, and water in the pitcher with the strawberry puree.  Stir until sugar dissolves.  Serve over ice.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Lavender Fields Forever: Lavender Martini

I recently reconnected with one of my old lawyer friends, from back when I used to lawyer.  Once we got in contact, we went back to old habits of sending each other events we thought would be interesting.  Which is how I ended up at a Lavender Farm one Saturday morning.

She had sent me info about a yoga retreat, run by another lawyer friend of hers.  The idea of a yoga retreat sounded nice, and needed, but it was the location that sold me.

Keys Creek Lavender Farm is located in Valley Center.  I came across it several years ago, when I stumbled on their Mother's Day brunch.  Over the years they have restricted public access more and more, and I have never actually gotten around to going.  A yoga retreat, with an old friend, at the very venue I've always wanted to go to, was a definite must.

The retreat was organized by Saerin Ally Cho and she had a space set aside for us all to meet and grab some tea or water as we trickled in. 

One of the farm workers pointed out this interesting looking tree.  He told us that it's a "Century Tree" that rarely blooms, but was in bloom while we were there - as was the one directly across from it.  He couldn't remember the last time they both bloomed at the same time. 

We began the morning with a little meditation in the crystal maze.

And then we headed up to the main event - the yoga!

After yoga, complete with the longest Savasana I have ever encountered (which was soooooooooooooooo nice), we headed back to the meeting tables for lunch.

The spread was incredible.  So much fruit, and a delicious vegetarian curry over steaming basmati rice. Oh!  And salad.  Of course. 

We ate, and talked, and ate some more.  Then we headed over to the farm's salt water pool to cool off a bit - or just enjoy the sights.

While we relaxed poolside, the Farm made us all lavender martinis.  Heavy on the vodka!

And then we got a private tour of the farm and the distillery where they turn the lavender into oils.  We rejoined for a final chance to share our thoughts on the day before parting ways, a little calmer, a little more centered.

I would love to tell you that I came home with the ability to recenter and ground myself at home when faced with the stressors of everyday life.  I didn't.  But I did come home with some lavender jelly, lavender soap, and a great idea for a martini.  Especially since I have my own stock of lavender at home - bushes in the front and back yard!  Mine has less vodka than the ones they made for us, and isn't quite as purple, but it's still a very refreshing drink for these hot summer days.  If you're not a drinker, or have little ones at home, the syrup also works really well with lemonade.

And a quick plug to my new food stylist - Thatkid is the one who arranged the drink and the lavender for the photo.  He's such a helper. 

Lavender Martini
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 Tbsp lavender buds
2 shots vodka
juice of 1 lemon
  1. Make the lavender syrup.  Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and add lavender buds.  Let sit for 20 minutes.  Strain and cool completely.
  2. In a shaker, combine vodka, lemon juice, 1 shot of the lavender syrup, and ice.  Shake and strain into glasses.  Garnish with lavender sprigs.