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.

Twisty Pig

I don’t know why twisting bacon before cooking it changes the flavor and the texture, but it does and it’s delicious.

If you sprinkle some brown sugar on the bacon before cooking, you’ll never want bacon any other way again.

I actually made a little mixture of brown sugar, nutmeg, garlic powder and cayenne pepper then slightly dredged each piece of bacon in that seasoning before twisting. We may or may not have had this two nights in a row, paired with burrata and arugula.

We had a family day at the Galaxy game. We’ve been spoiled with amazing seats the last few times we’ve gone. I don’t know how we are going to adjust to going back to regular old seating.

Are anyone else’s children hooked on Turning Red? Ours are obsessed with one of the songs, they get home from school and go up to their rooms and belt it out. It’s also shower material. One minute it was all about Bruno and now it’s 4 town and birthday party decor.

I can appreciate a movie about PMS and a girls first period. Especially with a house full of females. Sigh, good times ahead.

The older two girls had a school field trip to the Opera. The school busses took them downtown to the Civic Center to see Romeo and Juliet in Italian. There were english subtitles so the kids could follow along. They were dropped off at school around 4:30 and didn’t get home until 10:00. It was a new experience for them and they had a great time. I can’t believe how old they are getting.

We wrapped up the week with an amazing USMNT game, a 5-1 win! The girls broke in the S’mores maker a couple of times, and we watched parts of the Academy Awards.

Did it win? We didn’t get that far.

Summer Shrimp Spring Rolls

Each time I make these, whether I use avocado or switch it up and add fresh mango instead, I can’t believe how good they are. So deliciously fresh with the bright flavors of the herbs. I tell myself that I am going to put it on menu rotation. Then I don’t, because life… But that really isn’t a reason, so I will do better.

I found that prepping all the ingredients and assembling the rolls earlier in the day is the way to go. Cover with a damp towel, put them in the fridge and then dinner is literally waiting for you.

Chrissy suggests serving these with a Thai sweet chili sauce and a hoisin sauce. BUT, the key to these rolls is Mrs. Teigen’s peanut sauce. You see, this peanut sauce is one of the best I have ever had, and it’s super easy to make. You shouldn’t have these rolls without the peanut sauce, but you can have the peanut sauce without the rolls, you can have the sauce with anything. I find fingers pair well, cold noodles pair well and spoons definitely pair well.

Ingredients for Summer Rolls
4 to 6 red leaf lettuce leaves
8 medium shrimp, peeled (fresh or frozen (thawed))
salt
1 ounce Asian vermicelli or rice noodles
8 large or 16 small basil leaves
8 large or 16 small mint leaves
1 medium carrot, cut into 3-inch long julienne strips
1 avocado thinly sliced
8 (8-inch) round rice paper wrappers (you can find in most supermarkets with the Asian food)

Ingredients for Peanut Sauce

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 packed light brown sugar

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 1/2 tablespoon of Sriracha

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

If you are going to have the peanut sauce with the summer rolls, then start there. Add all of the sauce ingredients into your handy dandy blender or I like to use the magic bullet blender. After blending and tasting for seasoning, put it in the fridge until serving time. When that time comes, use warm water to thin the sauce to your liking.

For the Rolls:

Rinse the lettuce leaves and pat dry. Remove and discard the center ribs then slice in half so you end up with 16, about 3 inch long pieces. 

Fill a saucepan halfway with water and salt the water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat to low, take the shrimp out of the pot with tongs or a slotted spoon and rinse with cold water, pat dry. Cut off the tails and slice lengthwise.

Place the rice noodles in the pot of still hot water to soften. Cook until soft. Remove and rinse in a colander under cold water. 

Create a workspace lined up with lettuce, herbs, carrots, avocado, shrimp and rice noodles. Fill a clean skillet or shallow bowl with warm water to soak the rice papers. Arrange a damp towel on your workspace. One at a time, dunk the rice papers into the warm water to soften. Remove from the water and run under cool water. They easily stick together, so the cool water is a good time to unstick them from themselves. Lay flat on the damp towel.

To assemble: place 2-3 shrimp halves pink side down about 1/3 from the bottom, layer over mint and basil, then avocado, then carrots, rice noodles, then lettuce leaves. Roll up like a burrito by pulling up the bottom, tucking in the sides, then rolling till the end. The rice paper will stick together sealing it shut. Repeat with remaining rice papers. 

If you aren’t serving these immediately, place them on a damp towel, and cover with a damp towel. They are fine hanging out in the fridge until you are ready. Serve with peanut sauce and Thai chili sauce.

Birthdays Part One {Good Food}

We celebrated both mine and my brothers birthday with the family adults last week. STAKE on Coronado is a chophouse that features aged American and Japanese Wagyu along with other prime cuts. That is kind of redundant because I think wagyu means simply, Japanese cow. But don’t hold me to that.

If I am being transparent, the price range is up there. I was worried that it would be hard to enjoy knowing how much everything cost. That was until I had my first bite of Japanese Wagyu, and then it all made sense.

We managed to get to the restaurant early and have a drink at the bar. I was getting cabin fever so It felt so good to get out.

The family trickled in and we were seated. Ordering a bunch of stuff to share, ahi poke, crab cakes, wedge salad, potatoes, duck and the Wagyu.

We each chose our preferred knife. I went with one made in Japan.

We chowed down while sipping local Syrah.

And then, we were introduced to the best bite of steak in the world.

That piece on the right my friends, was the most incredible bite of steak I have ever had. It was like butter. Rich, umami and intense steak flavor, with melt in your mouth marbling. I am now forever ruined because I know that the rib eye in the fridge will never compare to that bite of meat.

With barely any room for dessert, we persevered with some carrot cake and a lemon tort.

Then we toasted to another year around the sun.

Definitely a dinner to remember.

Speaking of things to remember. This book was so good.

I am not a huge Stephen King fan. I think I’ve liked one or two of his books, same with his movies.

This one however, is so good. We started by listening to the audiobook, but I couldn’t wait for the next road trip to finish it. So I picked it up at the library and finished reading it. I fell in love. I hope that they do it justice if they turn it into a series or a movie. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a new book.

Road Trippin {nor cal style}

One Monday morning we packed up the car and headed north. We zoomed through LA aiming for lunch in Pismo Beach but apparently we weren’t the only ones with that idea. Downtown Pismo was insane, especially for a Monday during a pandemic but I guess everyone was ready for a break. Not wanting to wait, we kept driving making our first stop in Morro Bay.

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We checked into a little motel and went looking for a decent meal. I made a deal with myself to get a cup of clam chowder at each coastal town we stopped in so I could be the sole judge of what town gave me the best one. A little known fact about me, chances are if I order clam chowder, there will be a glass of Chardonnay along with it. Like give a Pig a Pancake but with soup and wine. Anyhow, after hemming and hawing over menus we ended up at the Dutchman’s Seafood House. It was fine, the clam chowder was the best thing we ordered.

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After our sole meal of the day we wandered around and weirdly enough stumbled into a tasting room. Chateau Margene is parked on the main strip of Morro Bay, you can’t miss it and they had really delicious wines, pricey but good. The guy pouring was family of the winemaker, knowledgable and made the experience nice. They also had ports which had us swooning after each sip. The sleepy town slowed down with the sun so we padded back to the room to divulge in our dessert wine and chocolate.

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On the drive up we found out the new tasting procedure for wineries, and it really takes the fun spontaneity out the of wine tasting experience but alas, we are all alive to talk about it so….I made reservations for tasting at three different Paso Robles wineries.

We started at Eberle. We had a table on the patio with views of sprawling vineyards, the wine was good but we didn’t leave with anything. The highlight was the standard poodle we met as we were leaving, I may have suggested smuggling it into the car.

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Next stop was Pear Valley Winery.

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This was a nice time and the wine was pretty good. They had some sweet muscats that we just can’t find much of near us.

After a really rushed lunch and a pretty bad sandwich, we barely made our reservation at Brochelle. This was a quaint tasting room with some decent wines and a good Syrah. The girl pouring was very personable and it was fun chatting with her. Satisfied and happy we decided to head back to the coast for another round of clam chowder when we found ourselves at one more winery. Luckily a quick call from the car, Windward winery has a spot to seat us for one last tasting.

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Windward specialized in Pinot Noir’s and I am no fan of Pinot Noir’s, however either my palate is changing or we just had some really good ones. We did a vertical tasting of PN’s and they were all good, surprisingly.

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Finally back on the road, we drove through Cambria and stopped at Moonstone Beach for dinner.IMG_4613

We had a really good meal and their clam chowder was so delicious.

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We decided to end the evening in San Simeon. By the time we checked in it was time to crawl into bed and veg to the murder channel, sweet dreams.

Our next day would be a long car day taking us all the way to Sonoma.

 

 

Puff Pastry Sausage Rolls

Ever since I had my first meat pasty in London, my radar for a British meat pie is always on. This is an easy recipe that sort of has a pasty vibe, perfect for a party or pot luck, when those days are allowed again.

*recipe is from Epicurious

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INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 pounds good pork sausage

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 (17-ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed

2 eggs beaten

DIRECTIONS

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl mix together the sausage, basil, oregano, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste until all the seasonings are well distributed throughout.

Roll out all the puff pastry into one large rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Put the wide side of the rectangle to your left. Form the sausage meat into a log about 1 inch thick and long enough to fit the width of the pastry. Lay this log along the whole edge. Roll the pastry around the sausage, brush with beaten eggs at the join, and cut so that the pastry has just enough room to slightly overlap. Repeat the process with the remaining sausage meat and pastry. Line up all the sausage rolls making sure the seam on each is at the bottom and not showing. Brush the tops with the eggs and cut the sausage rolls into either 1 1/2-or 3-inch logs.

*serve with your favorite mustard or an aioli or nothing, they are good on their own.

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2020

Resolutions, traditions and parties, all of those words are used to describe New Years Eve.  One day you’re staying up late sipping sparkling wine all night and then before you know it, you are waking up every morning with young kids. That’s when you accept the fact that none of the “fun” of NYE events are going to happen again, at least for years. But then something wonderful happens, you realize that nothing else matters aside from waking up every day with the ones you love. Even if that means going to parks every damn day of holiday break. Where the kids would rather fill up their socks with sand than play on the swings.

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After an afternoon at the park we had managed to sneak invitations into the mailbox. Casually asking one of the the girls to check the mail, it only took a half a second of screaming to let the house know all the girls had a letter.

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We thought it would be fun to include the girls in one of the NYE traditions. Get dolled up, sip bubbly (soda sheesh), and dance till midnight. They were so excited. Nothing was off limits, want to wear make-up? That’s fine, one night and one night only. Fancy shoes, perfume, soda and no bedtime. What more could they ask for?

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We dined on charcuterie and puff pastry with cheese and passion fruit. These girls sat down in front of the food like we have starved them all day. Before you knew it, shoes were being kicked off and the whining was starting. You guys it wasn’t even 7:00. And then it happened, they asked if they could put on their pajamas and we said, “only after some pictures, party poopers” the nerve.

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We all sat in pajamas and sang karaoke but the party wound down quick. Before you knew it all the girls ASKED to go to bed. Apparently the moral of the story is this…. if you want to have an adult NYE with the kids in bed, take them to the park that day, stuff them full of meat and cheese and tell them they can stay up all night. Voila!

Cheers to a new year!

 

Cancun {Part Two}

A couples massage was booked for the next morning and it was the best way to start the day. After the massage we had access to the hydro-pool and hot tubs. Since it was still raining on and off we chose the warm option.

 

After drying off in the sauna we made our way to get breakfast before the storm.

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This was the worst day in the way of rain. It would dump bucket loads and then stop and continue throughout the day. We took this opportunity to join in the sushi making class.

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The entertainment staff was in charge of all things fun. Classes, pool games, volleyball…you get the point. They were the best out of all the staff at the resort. This is what happens if you give them your phone.

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Alejandra and Dylan made our stay just that much better.

If you can believe it, this was my first time making sushi. I didn’t do to bad but I think I’ll stick to ordering it.

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Most of our time was spent in the pool, drinking, and playing. Some days we played water volleyball, some days we played music trivia and some days we just floated around. Sometimes there were even boats of fresh skewered fruit floating around as well. We also met a lot of nice people that became instant friends. I wish I had more pictures but our phones were always under a towel somewhere.

Then the weather took a turn, the humidity dropped and the sun came back out. It was just perfect.

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Another afternoon we took a cigar making class. To sum it up, I learned WAY more than I ever needed to know about cigars. After the class a few of us shared a cigar and then decided the pool was more important.

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Each night we went to dinner and the evening show. We ate at the French restaurant and the Italian restaurant twice. We had amazing dishes like duck confit,  rack of lamb and and a garlic cream soup. We also had some very underwhelming dishes like the escargot and basically every dessert item on any menu.
Next door was a sister resort that we had full access to but it wasn’t adults only.  Several people mentioned to us that we should head there for their Brazilian steakhouse, so we took an evening to try it out.  To sum it up, it was a waste of a dinner. Harsh? Maybe. The salad bar was a sad excuse, some of the meats were okay but most weren’t very good. The one thing that stuck out the most were all.the.kids. It’s funny we hadn’t been around any children for a handful of days and it was like a heightened sense of chaos at that restaurant. The next day we were talking to another couple and told them about our dinner and the first thing out of the women’s mouth was “aren’t kids there?” Ha, what were we thinking?

The shows were also not great, probably just local talent that they can find. If you are used to Vegas shows or cruise ship entertainment, you need to take these with a large grain of salt. The guest singing talent show however was the best. One of our friends went up and sang a Bon Jovi song. He started out a show that turned out to be a lot of fun.

We all ended up in the club and danced the night away.

To be continued.

October

Don’t blink, October is almost over. What the hell happened? I actually had to look back at the calendar to see what we did and it turns out, actually a lot. Maybe that’s why it flew by. We had family birthdays, kids half birthdays, pumpkin patches and an AWFUL bout of lice, not in that order.

We met the family in Old Town to celebrate my mom and uncle Brian’s birthday and my parents 49th <—- (rockstars) anniversary.

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We tried out two different pumpkin patches this year. The first one was near Julian. It had hay rides, cider pressing and a petting zoo.

The second one in Ramona was a pumpkin patch AND a winery. Everyone else is doing it wrong, this is definitely the only way to do pumpkin patches, or any kid activity honestly.

As always, October was a warm month so there was plenty of sunshine and pool days. We had fun weekends at the horse races and finding new hole in the wall bars. A lot of good food came out of the kitchen and the girls had school spirit week. October didn’t lack activities.

 

As we turn the corner we are smacked in the face with the Holiday season and I am not sure I am prepared, how is it almost 2020?

I leave you with this….

Tzatziki

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When I was younger, Trader Joe’s Tzatziki was a staple in my refrigerator. As I have gotten older and really learned my way around the kitchen, I found it’s much more delicious homemade. As most things are.

A creamy greek yogurt sauce with garlic and cucumber, its a great partner to a lot of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. Or to just dunk a warm piece of pita bread in.

I used this as a topping to some chicken shawarma pitas. Easy to make there is really no excuse to buy it, sorry Trader Joe’s.

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INGREDIENTS

3/4 English cucumber, peeled and grated

4 to 5 garlic cloves, peeled, finely minced

1 tbs lemon juice

2 tbs chopped fresh dill

1 tbs GOOD Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 cups Greek yogurt

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

After the cucumber is grated allow to sit in a fine mesh strainer, sprinkle with a dusting of kosher salt and let sit, this will bring out the moisture in the cucumber.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt,  garlic, lemon juice and dill. Season with salt and pepper. Chill.

Squeeze as much liquid out of the cucumber as you can using cheese cloth, dish towel or aheavy duty paper towel. Add to the yogurt mixture and combine well. Chill until ready . Drizzle with olive oil before serving.

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