Pan Seared Salmon with Arugula and Avocado

Simple ingredients come together super quick in this recipe. The flavors of the peppery arugula, the buttery salmon and the acidic dressing, play very well together. Definitely a weeknight dinner to put on repeat.

I used Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar in lieu of Parmesan, just because I wanted to. The addition of mustard to a vinaigrette acts as an emulsifier, and keeps the oil and vinegar together with a creamy consistency. Don’t forget to season your vinaigrette before dressing your greens.

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 Salmon filets, preferably wild

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 cups baby arugula

1 tablespoons fresh juice from 1 lemon, plus wedges for serving

1 tsp Dijon mustard

crumbled parmesan cheese (or any sharp cheese that you prefer)

1/2 ripe Hass avocado, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 tomato, chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

 Pat the salmon filets dry with a paper towel. Season on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add salmon filets skin side-down. Immediately reduce heat to medium, medium low depending on your stove. Cook, pressing gently on back of filets to ensure good contact with skin, until skin is rendered and crisp, about 6 minutes. If skin shows resistance when attempting to lift with a spatula, allow it to continue to cook until it lifts easily.

While the first side of the salmon cooks, whisk lemon juice, remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and the mustard in small bowl until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Flip salmon and cook on second side for another minute or two, or to your desired doneness. I like my salmon close to medium rare/medium at 125 to 130 degrees.

Plate the arugula and top with avocado and tomatoes, dress with the vinaigrette. Crumble on your chosen cheese, place salmon on bed of salad and serve with lemon wedge.

Enjoy!

*Double recipe for 4 servings

Lemon Talk

Our lemon tree is in full produce mode. I’ve always wanted a lemon tree for those moments when you randomly need a lemon but don’t have one. You know, maybe you decided to make a piccata dish or you wanted to make pesto. All you need is one lemon and clearly you don’t want to go to the store for one damn lemon, right? I used to visualize the neighborhood and picture which homes had lemon trees and then I may have helped myself to a lemon or two in a time of need (the tree would be in the front yard, I wasn’t hopping any fences you guys). Now that I have said lemon tree, I never have to buy lemons, but I’ve realized that I don’t use them very often.

The lemon tree was staring back at me probably wondering why I was neglecting it, I felt bad.

There is only so much you can do with an abundance of lemons. Lemonade, lemon bars, lemon cakes, lemon meringue pie, the list goes on. We still had cream cheese frosting in the fridge from Kaili’s birthday cake and I had puff pastry in the freezer, I didn’t see the harm in making lemon curd and then turn those three things into a lemon cream cheese danish.

This is the recipe I used to make the lemon curd.

INGREDIENTS

4 large egg yolks 

2/3 cup  granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon zest (about 1 lemon)

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2–3 lemons)

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 Tablespoons  butter, softened

 If you have a double boiler then pull that out. If not, like me, simply place a small heatproof glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water you will cook the curd in the top pot/bowl. Place on high heat. Once the water begins to boil, reduce to low heat to keep the water at a simmer.

Place egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt into the top pot of your double boiler. Using a whisk, whisk until completely blended, then continue to whisk as the curd cooks. Constant whisking prevents the egg yolks from curdling. Whisk and cook until the mixture becomes thick, resembling the texture of hollandaise sauce, about 10 minutes. If curd isn’t thickening, turn up the heat and constantly whisk.

Remove pan from heat. Cut the butter into 6 separate pieces, then whisk into the curd. The butter will melt from the heat of the curd. Pour curd into a jar or bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top so it is touching the top of the curd. The curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Once cool, the plastic wrap can be removed.

This can stay in the fridge for about 10 days.

80’s in the House

Our USA mens national team qualified for the world cup. This is exciting, I mean, the fact that it was up in the air is depressing, but they did it. Now it’s only forward to Qatar.

We managed to watch a game at our local soccer bar which is always fun!

I also had a nice lunch with Uncle BK at the Michelin recognized Tuetano Taqueira in Old Town. The counter service restaurant has a large patio and the focus is on Birria. If you’re not familiar, Birria is stewed beef shoulder seasoned with cinnamon, cloves and chili’s, aka adobo, and it usually the plays a main role in a taco, or quesadilla. The restaurant is still trying to get it’s footing, but the food was delicious. A local magazine had an article praising the taqueira and highlighted their bone marrow birria taco, and yes, I ordered it.

The taco was full of deep flavor, rich and very messy. The liquid gold that is bone marrow added a layer of decadence to the taco. The tortillas, freshly made rounded the taco out, and were so good. But the scene stealer is their salsa matcha. More of a chili oil than a salsa, but you guys, it’s everything. I would have taken loads home, but the place is a work in progress, and something as simple as getting more napkins, which is very necessary when eating here, was a challenge. So I left the salsa slash chili oil behind, but I will be back.

We had an impromptu turnaround trip to Vegas. 80’s station, a favorite cover band of ours was finally playing after a long two years. So we made our towards Fremont Street for a Friday night of music.

We had the most delicious monkey bread at a restaurant in the container park. I tried to make it at home and it was a huge fail. This wasn’t a Pillsbury recipe you guys, and I don’t know what their secret is, but I will figure it out, probably going to have to go back a few more times to gather notes.

We ended the night listening to the 80’s station. We don’t need much to have the best time.

Vegas always delivers.

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

This is a festive and easy activity to do for the holidays. Two ingredients, that’s it. These will make the house smell amazing and they make a great homemade gift.

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup applesauce

4 oz. cinnamon

rolling pin

cookie cutters

glue

glitter various colors

straw

string

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 200°. Mix applesauce and cinnamon in small bowl until a smooth ball of dough is formed, your hands are the best tool for this.

I divided the dough amongst the three girls.

Roll dough to 1/4-inch to 1/3-inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap.

Peel off top sheet of plastic wrap. Cut dough into desired shapes

Make a hole at the top of ornament with a straw.

Place ornaments on baking sheet.

Bake for about 2 1/2 hours. Cool ornaments on a wire rack.

Once completely cool. brush with glue and decorate with glitter.

Wrap them up as a gift or hang on the tree.

Throwback but Better

This recipe for an updated tuna noodle cazuela {casserole} is ridiculously good. While I was at Trader Joe’s trying to not buy all of the new products, and just focus on my list, ha ha, I realized that I wasn’t sure what the original recipe for tuna noodle casserole consisted of. Obviously canned tuna and a condensed soup of some sort. A no skill required, long shelf life ingredients and comfort food all rolled into one dish. Probably originated in the what, the 1940’s? By someone who thought fish and cheese should go together, because, that is not a popular culinary pairing. I don’t remember my mom making this really… ever. She isn’t a big casserole person, aside from her amazing tamale pie. Anyhow, long story short, this version of tuna noodle casserole is just as easy and doesn’t require canned cream soup, you’ll thank me.

Since I have made this a handful of times, I decided to try a different shape of pasta. Let me tell you, this lily shaped pasta was a perfect fit for this creamy baked dish.

TJ didn’t have Piquillo peppers so I grabbed jarred roasted red peppers, they will do in a pinch. Other than that, instead of canned soup, we make our own roux, I added a little garlic and crushed red pepper because you know me. This is a simple and straight forward recipe for any night of the week.

Creamy Tuna Noodle Cazuela

*recipe adapted from Food and Wine

Ingredients

12 ounces farfalle (bow tie) pasta

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 

3 cups whole milk or half-and-half

1 1/2 cups frozen baby peas

3/4 cup piquillo peppers, sliced (6 ounces) *substitute jarred roasted red peppers

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

One 6-ounce can or jar solid white tuna in oil, drained and flaked

Salt and Pepper

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion (garlic and red pepper if you want) and cook over high heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the milk and bring to a boil. Cook the sauce over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Add the pasta, frozen baby peas, sliced piquillo peppers, Parmesan cheese and tuna and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish, a cazuela (casserole dish).

In a small skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the panko breadcrumbs and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the casserole and bake for 10 minutes or until bubbling.

Serve right away. Pairs well with an Albariño or a good Chardonnay.

Spicy Beef with Peanuts and Cilantro

Our weekday dinners are planned ahead, some of the days the menu reads kid friendly and the other days have more inspiration behind it. Nights where I want to create something more complicated or technically challenging with bolder flavors and spice. Meaning the kids won’t eat it. So, half of the time we sit down at the table all together. Asking the girls about what they learned, and who got in trouble, kids always like to tattle, so that will get them talking. The other nights Shawna and I eat in the living room watching Jeopardy, where the girls are hanging out.

This recipe doesn’t fall under complicated, actually it’s quite easy to throw together, but it’s a tad spicy. So if you have children with more refined palates than ours, they might eat it for you.

*recipe adapted from https://www.nutmegnanny.com/spicy-beef-with-peanuts/

Spicy Beef with Peanuts

2 cups basmati rice

4 cups water

1 pound beef sirloin tips, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons fish sauce

2 teaspoons grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, diced or grated

1 small white or yellow onion, diced

3-4 teaspoons chile garlic paste

1/2 diced jalapeño (this can be omitted if you don’t want it spicy spicy)

1 lime, juiced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts-a little extra if you want to garnish

1/4 cup minced cilantro-a little extra if you want to garnish

Salt to taste

Sriracha for garnish

Directions

In a sauce pan cook the rice according to package directions. Or, the way I do it. Heat a drizzle of oil in the sauce pan and stir in rice, let it get a little toasty and then add the water. Season with a little salt and a dash of sugar and the cook as the package suggests.

While the rice cooks, combine the sliced beef, soy sauce, brown sugar, fish sauce, diced onion, garlic, ginger, chile paste, diced jalapeño’s and lime juice. Stir and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the meat and the sauce (everything in the bowl) to the skillet and cook, stir until meat is browned and the sauce thickens a bit. You can always add a little cornstarch slurry if you want the sauce thicker.

Remove from heat and stir in the chopped peanuts and cilantro, taste for seasoning.

Serve over your desired amount of rice, garnish with the extra cilantro and peanuts and drizzle with some sriracha.

Black Rice Risotto with Garlic and Parmesan

I was sitting here, trying to write a lesson plan when my mind kept reliving an incredible dish we had months ago, making it very difficult to focus on learning standards. So, instead I switched gears and decided to try and dissect what we ate from memory and remake it, hoping for the same outcome.

Risotto is not in my wheelhouse. I make it often enough but I use only one recipe, the one that allows me to leave the stove because let’s be real, no one has time to stand, stir and repeat. I took this recipe but used black rice with the addition of some cream, fresh parmesan and garlic at the end.

I’m not going to lie, it was pretty good. Rich and garlicky, probably best alongside a light main dish or a salad.

*recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa Easy Risotto

Ingredients

5 cups simmering chicken stock, divided.

1½ cups black rice

1/4 cup white wine

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cups heavy cream

Minced fresh garlic, as much as you want.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the black rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock in a Dutch oven, or a heavy bottomed stock pan. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente aka still a bit chewy.

Remove from the oven, add the remaining cup of chicken stock, the parm, wine, cream and your garlic and stir vigorously for 3 minutes. Taste for salt, add pepper for kicks.

Top with more parm and garlic (if you want to).

SummerTime

Are you all enjoying summer as much as me? I mean, all the soccer, warm weather, some fun little trips, dinners with friends and finally once again, the horse races. We have had some good wine, warm pool days, lazy river days, and even dark speakeasy drinks. It feels good to get back out and do things again.

We met my brother in Vegas awhile back for a few days. We found a really good deal at the Mandalay Bay and spent one day downtown and one day at the lazy river. There is a speakeasy in the basement of the Mob Museum. We found the password that we needed when we approached the side door. The little window opened and the bouncer asked “who told you that?” And Shawna replies “We ain’t snitchin’!” He says, “good, we don’t want any snitches in here.”

Once inside the cool air we settled down with a really good adult beverage.

Next up was the The Golden Tiki. We hit our reservation on the spot and luckily got three seats at the bar. Bar = video poker. Which I didn’t do too terrible at. This place is tucked into a strip mall in China Town and it’s SO unassuming. When you enter the small dark bar you leave the heat and cigarette smoke behind and enter into a rated R Disney meets a Margaritaville set in Tahiti. The menu is full of rum drinks, the bathroom wallpaper is naked women and the stall handles are phallic shaped. I mean even the fake parrot has a foul mouth, Jimmy Buffet would be proud.

Mai Tais on fire. If you are looking for something different to do in Vegas, I would swing by for a rum drink.

After a quick bite to eat, we hit Fremont for some music and Roulette. The next day we spent the day floating down the lazy river at Mandalay. It was a fun two-day getaway.

We have had fun and sun pool days.

And all of us girls were able to have playdates with friends that we haven’t seen in ages.

Shawna and I took a drive out to the desert, via the scenic route.

Is this a herd? A gang? I mean, Bison right? They were just following each other…. as a gang would…in Eastern San Diego, picture worthy but not mug shot worthy… luckily.

We hoped to wine taste on our way out there but it was a Wednesday and we weren’t in luck…Until we were.

In the mountains we came across Shadow Mountain Vineyards. Inside the tasting room we were greeted by Pamela, she stood behind an old wooden bar and asked us what we liked. This was the best wine tasting experience I have had in a long time. It turned out that Pamela and her husband were the winemakers and we got to chatting about good wine and pairings. Turns out that they used to own the first wine bar in Dana Point, small world.

Pam let us taste everything and I liked a lot of it, especially the rosé. We did not leave empty handed. The best part, it was still San Diego County. #drinklocal

We also learned that the cactus flower only blooms once a day and then it dies. Well, I think that is what Pam said but we did just finish a few tastings. Ha, you can google it and let me know if I am right.

Anyhow, here is the beautiful, once a day flower that Pam picked early that morning.

And it’s source.

AND FINALLY, where the turf meets the surf. I love the horse races and (knock on wood) I had a pretty good day.

Fun times, with more to come.

Plenty of Fun

The hours seem to go by slow but the years, they fly by.

Now we found ourselves at the end of the school year.

So long first and fourth grade.

We jumped right into summer break by visiting the trampoline park.

And then….no and then.

We went to the beach.

Which, let me tell you is so disappointing after Mexico, sigh. The water here is cold, I couldn’t find one person offering adult beverages, you guys, we are doing it wrong!

At least the pool water temp was better.

My baby K bear.

She may catch up to my tan soon.

We also went to the movie theaters for the first time in ages. We saw Spirit Untamed. It was good, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Popcorn, candy and some tears!

Last but not least, we put out a slippin’ slide.

Jess and I used to spend the majority of our summers making up dance routines on these things. However we never took it to the next level and used soap. (why Jess, why?)

Probably because we were too busy using tanning oil and Sun-In and working on our dance moves, ha ha.

If someone can provide video of us, I dare you!

It’s nice to gather with friends and family that we have missed so much. Almost as good as getting my hands on some great local wine. If you haven’t been to Edwards Vineyards in Ramona, you need to make it a priority.

It’s officially summer.

The mornings are overcast but the days are warm and sunny. Plenty of fun to come!

Chili Peanut Rice

After countless hours of watching the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen I finally decided to make one of the recipes that caught my eye. I ordered Priya’s cookbook Indian(-ish), mostly to just browse through since we can find all of the BA recipes off of their website. She has a lot of recipes worth trying but this one is a crowd pleaser. I struggled to find a couple of the ingredients. I dragged the girls through HMart looking for fresh curry leaves and black mustard seed with no luck but I did grab some fresh lime leaves as a back up. Then I dragged them through an international market which is stocked mostly with Mediterranean items but I did find the mustard seeds there. I used the lime leaves in place of the curry leaves and also added some fresh basil to try and mimic the same flavor. Next time I need to locate all of the ingredients without children.

This is a perfect recipe for leftover rice if that happens at your home. Our rice gets eaten up by children so I don’t normally have leftover rice, but if I did. Next time I make this I will use more spice, my serranos were very mild. This is a really good dish and will go so well with BA’s crispy honey garlic chicken thighs, or tandoori chicken, or palak paneer and naan, actually anything or nothing.

*recipe from Bon Appétit

INGREDIENTS

3cups cooked basmati rice (from about 1 cup dry rice)

2Tbsp. (or more) fresh lime juice (from about 1 lime)

1tsp. (or more) kosher salt

½cup ghee or extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1Tbsp. black mustard seeds

10fresh curry leaves

1cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

1medium onion, sliced into thin strips

2small Indian green chiles or serrano chiles, halved lengthwise (no need to stem them)

2Tbsp. chopped cilantro leaves with tender stems

Combine rice, lime juice, and salt in a large bowl; set aside.

Heat ¼ cup ghee in a shallow medium pan over medium. Once ghee melts (or oil begins to shimmer), add mustard seeds. As soon as they begin to pop and dance around in the ghee, which should be within seconds, remove pan from heat. Add curry leaves, making sure they get fully coated in ghee (there may be more popping and splattering, and that’s okay!). The leaves should immediately crisp up in the residual heat.

Return pan to medium-low heat and add peanuts. Cook, stirring, until peanuts turn a medium shade of brown and become fragrant, 5–8 minutes. Pour peanut mixture over reserved rice mixture and toss gently to

Heat remaining ¼ cup ghee in same pan over medium. Once ghee melts (or oil begins to shimmer), add onion and chiles, spreading in an even layer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is lightly browned and starting to caramelize, 5–7 minutes. Stir onion mixture into rice. Taste and add more salt and lime juice, if needed. Garnish with cilantro before serving.