Friday, July 29, 2011

Chocolate Nutella Banana Crepes

Leisurely summer mornings with no real schedules and definitely no alarm clocks have not taken us long to get used to.  With our mornings free of demands, Liv and I have taken to enjoying more elaborate breakfasts in place of the school morning quick and easy bowl of cereal.  While oatmeal is a favorite of mine, Liv prefers her morning meal with a little more pizazz (though I personally maintain that my Vanilla Spiced Oatmeal is pretty darn snazzy).  Requests of Buttermilk Pancakes, Vanilla Waffles and Strawberry/Mango Smoothies have met my ears nearly as soon as she wakes, but today's Chocolate Nutella Banana Crepes have become an all time favorite.

As easy as 1, 2, 3, 4!  Clockwise:  1.  Slather with Nutella  2.  Layer with bananas  3.  Fold  4.  Garnish with powdered sugar

Last summer's welcomed discovery that crepes really are not all that difficult to make has opened up a new world for us.  From plain old Strawberry Crepes to Peach Crepes to Orange Crepes, we have been stepping out and experimenting with flavors.  Most of the recipes are oft repeated, however these Chocolate Crepes have become the most frequently visitors to our kitchen.  Liv has her own splattered copy of our recipe tucked away on my cookbook shelf and now pulls it out without even asking.  She gets right to mixing and only seeks me out when it's time to flip the crepes in the pan.

Her first version from last summer had the chocolate crepe layered with a homemade chocolate sauce (I'll admit to adding a splash of Grand Marnier to mine) and Bananas, however our next summer of 2010 discovery, Nutella, has since replaced the sauce and made the concoction even easier to put together.  A simple slather of Nutella down the center of the crepe serves as a base for the sliced bananas.  Rolled and then topped with powdered sugar the crepes are rolled in a flash and ready to start you day.  (note:  prepping the actual crepe takes about 30 min).

It's not often that I gush about a flavor combination, however chocolaty Nutella topped with sweet banana and all wrapped up in that thin pancake-like crepe has me groaning with pleasure at the mere thought of the creamy decadence.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cherry Tomato Salad with Beans, Blue Cheese and Arugula

Our local markets are in full swing with incredibly tasty ripe tomatoes.  Heirlooms in all shapes, colors and sizes, little cherry sized gems, or the giant beefsteak red guys are scattered on tables throughout the market and are quite simply hard to resist.  Last week my favorite organic stand featured packages of Baby Heirlooms and I found myself returning home with not only two of the packages but a bagful of assorted green, red and yellow larger sized heirlooms to boot.  As timing would have it my own backyard cherry tomato plant is prolific with perfectly ripe fruits of its own and I have my hands full of tomatoes.

Looking to use as many of these little guys as possible, Cherry Tomato Salad came to be.  One of those creations where measurements more equal "what we have on hand" rather than precise cups and spoons, the salad is versatile and has worked with so many different veggies, but it always serves to please.

A few handfuls of  cherry tomatoes get you started along with about half a can of beans.  Preferring Garbanzo Beans (chickpeas) or White Beans, we toss them with the tomatoes, add in a little onion (red, white or even scallion) and toss gently with white balsamic and a little oil.  Salt and Pepper bring out a little zing and the oiled arugula serves as a base.  Topped with a sprinkle of crumbled blue cheese, you have a bright salad singing summer's praises!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chunky Peach BBQ Sauce

Early this spring I received reports of Dad's much loved peach tree teeming with blossoms.  Weeks later had little baby fruits growing, and today we have ripe, rosy peaches!!!  Moving into his home a few years ago he was thrilled when the neighbors gushed about the abundance of peaches his tree provided to the neighborhood, and they were so right.  Today, not only does Dad provide peaches to his neighbors, but me and mine as well.

Knowing that the tree was doing its job, I did my own job in preparation of the harvest and gleaned every recipe I could during my blog travels.  While the last few days have had us enjoying the rosy fruits my favorite way, simply sliced and eaten out of hand, today some of the little gems were in danger of becoming overripe and the request from my son for another Pork Tenderloin sent me to one of my favorite recipes - Peach BBQ Sauce.

Sweet yet tart with just a hint of spice (unless you want more) Peach BBQ Sauce works wonderfully with the pork.  Originally from Epicurious, I've adapted the versatile recipe to suit our tastes;  on occasion we have a vegetarian version while others call for the flavors of the full bacon enhanced version.  My personal preference for a chunky sauce has me omitting the straining direction, but I can imagine that the strained sauce would be stunning!  Either way the sauce is a true treat and has summer flying full speed ahead.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Chunky Peach BBQ Sauce

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tapas - Twenty/20 Grill and Wine Bar, Carlsbad, CA

Clockwise from upper left:  My favorite Roasted Chicken Taco with Cuban Spice Black Beans, what is left of our Grilled Japanese Peppers with Avocado, Banana Leaf Carnitas, Roast Salmon with Potato Rosti and Red Pepper Aioli

I proclaim Thursday night "almost weekend" and the perfect night to step out with friends.  Carlsbad's Twenty/20 Grill and Wine Bar serves up the ideal location with its Tapas event held on Thursday evenings and is a favorite in my community.  Patio seating (with heaters for our chilly coastal Carlsbad summers), views of the Pacific through the swaying palms and the outdoor grilling/food prep provide an excellent starting point for the "almost weekend".  Executive Chef Steven Patrick has the event running like a well oiled machine and adds a personal touch as he oversees the food prep and checks in with us throughout the evening.

Shortly after New Years my friends and I begin thinking about when our Tapas on the Patio will begin.  Just knowing that the Thursday events are on their way gets us through those last doldrums of winter as we yearn for my favorite little appetizer sized Roast Chicken Tacos with Cuban Spice Black Beans and an Avocado Picchio (like a guacamole) or Large Ocean Prawns with Marcona Almond Pesto and Feta.

Foccaccia with Cherry Tomatoes
Bringing fresh seasonal ingredients (the Toy Box Cherry Tomatoes simply burst with freshness alongside the fluffy and garlicy Parmesan Foccaccia Bruschetta, pictured at left), Twenty/20's Tapas menu provides offerings between $1 and $6.  Appetizer portions allow one to sample a variety of different items in place of a regular full sized "restaurant meal".  Frankly, I'm thrilled to have a little Salmon, a little Skirt Steak and a little Veggie Stack for my first round, and then move on to the Taco, Foccaccia and Ocean Prawn for round two.

Serving a few selected wines at $5 per glass or $20 per bottle, our party of six last week fully enjoyed the Chilean Carmenere along with our menu choices.  Nick, one of our favorite servers, often points us in the right direction with the tapas offerings as well as wine and drink selections while he makes us feel at home and welcomed to the patio.

Korean Beef BBQ with Watermelon, Cucumber and Mint.  (While I love this dish I'm secretly hoping they will bring back last year's strawberry version!)

Situated in the Carlsbad Sheraton Resort and Spa just "uphill" from Legoland, Twenty/20 does offer a full menu featuring fresh and local ingredients for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.  Tapas however is obviously my favorite, but know that reservations are recommended with the patio filling up nearly a week in advance.

With a seasonally changing menu, our favorites from last week included the above mentioned Roast Chicken Taco, the Korean Beef BBQ with Watermelon, Cucumber and Mint, as well as the Thai Chciken Vegetable Dumpling and the Tequila Lobster Bisque.  Dessert featured Mini Cupcakes of either Red Velvet or Chocolate Truffle, though my favorite sweet comes off the dessert tree, a little stand featuing 8 or so mini desserts  (making it OK to have more than one).  Out server, Nick, always does his best to please my Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee request along with the other cream and cake offerings on the dessert tree.  Usually we all say we are too full for dessert, but the little tempting sweets have a way of enticing you to try just a little.

Good friends, fabulous food and a gorgeous Carlsbad sunset... yes, this is the life.  Looking for me on Thursday night?  Try the Tapas Patio at Twenty/20.  Ask for Nick... he'll show you the way.
Twenty/20 Grill & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon
Red Velvet or Chocolate Truffle Mini Cupcakes

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Watermelon Tomato Salad with Basil

The sound of the watermelon cracking at your first cut is usually a sign that a treat is in store.  Filled to nearly bursting with juices, flavor and a healthy dose of antioxidants, the fresh, crisp melon simply boasts of summer and has everyone in the kitchen hovering for that first taste.

I have a vivid memory from my childhood of my Aunt Vicki proclaiming that she had purchased us a seedless watermelon and I remember thinking that it was the coolest thing, and how the heck did people get all the seeds out?  Fast forward 30 years and I don't think my kids have ever seen watermelon slices sprinkled with the little black seeds.  Occasionally they will see a seed in our melons and proclaim, "Hey... there's a seed in here!"  Yep... they are clueless...

As a kid I never once considered the health benefits of watermelon as I munched on piece after piece, fresh juices dripping down my chin.  Today, however, I'm thrilled to read that not only is watermelon an excellent source of Vitamin C, it also holds its own in the Vitamin A category.  Additionally, Watermelon is rich in the B vitamins necessary for energy production, bringing a well rounded fruit to your table.  Combining the watermelon with tomatoes in this salad also serves up a serious serving of lypocene, known for its cancer preventing properties.  Who knew a simple summer salad could be so good for you?!

Easy to toss together and bursting with summer flavors, Watermelon Tomato Salad worked wonderfully for my son's birthday dinner.  Alongside his favorite grilled pork and Rachel's (A Southern Fairytale) Confetti Corn Salad, we had a meal fit for a 15 year old growing boy's birthday!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Godiva Iced Chocolate Truffle Coffee and Chocolate Espresso Cookies

Chocolate... the food of the gods.  Luscious, decadent, even ambrosial, a girl's got to have her chocolate - at least I do.  Imagine my elation when midday on my birthday I found none other than a box marked "Godiva" on my doorstep.  Tearing open the package I found, thanks to Godiva Coffee and the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, not one, but two 12 oz packages of Godiva Coffee.

Immediately catching my eye, the Godiva Chocolate Truffle Coffee nearly jumped up and down begging to be used.  Not to be outdone, the package of Godiva French Vanilla Coffee made its presence known as well as we held them both up for close examination.

Liv immediately requested a frozen, blended, whipped concoction filled with ice cream and additional chocolate, but not having earned my barista degree yet (stay tuned...), we opted for a simple iced coffee to get started - Godiva Chocolate Truffle style!

I'm must preface my thoughts by stating that I am a coffee purist.  I don't do flavored coffee very often, though on occasion certain flavors really do hit the spot, and I opted in on this offering knowing that my kids would love some of the iced blended coffee drinks we would be able to create with the Godiva Coffees.  However... I must admit I'm no longer sure there will be any Chocolate Truffle Coffee left for us to experiment with if I don't stop my afternoon iced coffee treats.

Godiva describes their coffee as a "pleasant pause in your day" and they hit the nail in the head with their apt summation.  Rich, luscious and creamy, this iced coffee ranks up there as one of the best I've ever had.  Perfectly roasted Arabica coffee beans are blended with Godiva flavors, in this case bringing a touch of chocolate to the cup.  As I many times enjoy a piece of chocolate along with my coffee, the combo is a homerun for me.

Not being able to leave well enough alone, and definitely not helping my pre-Bahama Vacation waistline, I had a nagging memory of a Coffee enhanced cookie that had recently crossed my path.  Further investigation turned up a recipe on Epicurious using ground coffee beans directly in the cookie.  If ground coffee beans were good, I figured ground Godiva Chocolate Truffle coffee beans would be even better.  So... about that  pleasant pause in my day, how about Chocolate Espresso Cookies AND Godiva's Chocolate Truffle Iced Coffee??  Yes, please!!

One would think that I would be smart enough to stop there... however, tomorrow is always another day to start thinking about that swim suit figure.   As I was working on said figure and walking through my local Carlsbad Village I stumbled upon the newly located Carlsbad Chocolate Bar, "Bringing chocolate to Carlsbad one piece at a time".  Low and behold they just happened to have Chocolate Espresso Truffles.  Truffles, Truffle Coffee, AND Chocolate Espresso Cookies??  Once again... Yes, please!

Thankfully, Liv helped me polish off the treats as I sat in the sun taking my pleasant pause to my day.  Thank you Godiva for a wonderful birthday treat!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Confetti Corn Salad - Secret Recipe Club

A month ago I stumbled across numerous bloggers who participated in the Secret Recipe Club.  Set up by Amanda at Amanda's Cookin', registrants sign up to participate and are assigned a blogger who they will secretly write about a month later.  I'm so excited to participate this month, and thrilled to announce my first assignment:  May I present Rachel from A Southern Fairlytale!

Rachel describes herself as a "A 32 year old deep fried southern belle and aspiring domestic darling".  She writes with passion about her two adorable little ones and Native Texan husband.  Living in the South has its differences from my Western San Diego Coast, and I've enjoyed the glimpses Rachel gives us of her Southern Life along with her tempting recipes and gorgeous photography.

As Liv and I perused A Southern Fairytale, recipe after recipe jumped off the screen, but with a backyard cookout on our docket we chose Rachel's simple yet dazzling Confetti Corn Salad.  Packed with veggies and a simple vinaigrette featuring my beloved lime, this salad is as versatile as it is bursting with the fresh flavors of summer.  Finding the salad in June, we had the recipe just in time for Father's Day and have made the salad no less than 4 times since then.  It has truly gained a highly rated spot in our regular rotation.

Our first version followed Rachel's recipe to a "T", however, since then we have experimented and added roasted poblano peppers when we had them on hand, grilled Maui onions in place of the market fresh scallions and yesterday's version included quartered cherry tomatoes fresh from our now fruiting tomato plant.

"Meeting" Rachel and her family (albeit "voyeuristicly"!) has been a true treat.  Her Southern charm has brought me to her kitchen table and I look forward to reading more about her adorable children and family as I glimpse life outside of Southern California.  Thanks, Rachel!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Strawberry Grand Marnier Sauce OR Jamaican Pineapple Rum Sauce

Fifteen years ago I received the best birthday gift of my life... my son.  Arriving nearly two weeks behind schedule, we welcomed our bouncing bundle on my birthday and I have been blessed to share this day with this most special person ever since.

Remembering back to those early days of babyhood I find it hard to believe that my baby is now nearly 8 inches taller than I and I'm struggling with the fact that this new man in my household doesn't need Mommy like he used to.  More often than not I'm the one heading to bed earlier in the evening, I'm asking him for help reaching something up high and now I'm the one begging for a hug.

One thing he still needs me for, though, is food.  While he may think that he is "cooking" as he heats up his Trader Joe's Frozen Burritos or Mini Pizzas, he truly does appreciate a good, home cooked meal which is not made up of any frozen parts.  Not a fan of beef, a Grilled Pork Tenderloin fulfilled his request for the main course of our birthday dinner, with me getting to choose the sides.  Returning to his favorite rub and adding my new favorite Watermelon Salad we had dinner set and ready to go.

Dessert, however, was a compromise.  Not being a fan of cakes with what he calls "icky" frosting, his dessert request was a simple Vanilla Bean Cheesecake.  Easy enough to do, but I struggled with the idea of letting the cheesecake arrive to the table unadorned.  Successfully pleasing both of us, 24 mini cheesecakes were prepared as simple, plain Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with a choice of either Grand Marnier Strawberry Sauce or Jamaican Pineapple Rum Sauce completed the picture making us both happy.

With my love of Grand Marnier, the Strawberry Sauce has been a longtime favorite.  Discovered years and years ago on the Cooking Light Message Board, we have served this sauce over cheesecakes, ice cream and Strawberry Shortcakes.  The thought of finding a better sauce really never entered my mind... until I tried today's Jamaican Pineapple Rum Sauce.  Caramelized pineapple is sweetened with brown sugar and then enhanced with a splash (or two...) of dark rum bringing a taste of the Caribbean to your table.  Reminiscent of the old favorite Pineapple Upside Down Cake, this Pineapple Rum Sauce just may become a staple in my fridge!

Happy Birthday to my boy... you have truly made my life better simply by having you in it.  Sharing a birthday with you warms my heart and is
a gift I will treasure always.  Thanks for still needing me!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Heirloom Tomato Napoleons (Stack) with Parmesan Crisps

Lucky as I am to live in San Diego with my markets brimming with fresh, local veggies and fruits nearly year round, it is the summer months that bring me into produce heaven.  Corn, still warm from the fields, aromatic peaches soft to the touch and a new one for me - heirloom tomatoes lining the tables in an amazing array of colors.

It wasn't until just a few years ago that I had my first taste of heirloom tomato at my local Carlsbad Farmer's Market, but for 40 years prior I had avoided what I thought was the mushy, mealy, tin-like taste of fresh tomatoes.  Since my first taste, I now know what I was missing.

Years ago, while purchasing corn from my favorite local vendor he thrust a plate of juicy green and red tomato slices my direction to try.  Having no way to politely decline without offending him, I searched out the tiniest piece on the plate and prepared myself to smile as I just got it down.  What a surprise I was in for!  The sweet, not mealy or mushy at all, piece of tomato had my eyes shining brightly and my hand reaching for a second, and even larger slice!

Since that first taste I have embraced Heirloom Tomatoes, and even some of the plain old fashioned red, perfectly round kind as well.  I'll admit to still being picky and avoiding what appear to be "winter", or out of season tomatoes, but in summer, I'm getting my fill.

With a basket full of my favorite greenish/reddish variety which is flooding the market these days,  my daily email from Fine Cooking featured these Heirloom Tomato Napoleons (basically a stack) with Parmesan Crisps.  Making the crisps was a piece of cake by simply spreading Parmesan Cheese onto a silicone liner and baking.  13 minutes later the house was smelling divine and I had a beautiful sheet of golden cheese that crisped as it cooled.

Slicing into my gorgeous heirloom globes I nestled them atop a crisp red leaf lettuce which I had also picked up at my last market visit and began layering the slices with broken pieces of the crisped Parmesan.  Topping the plate with a quickly whisked together balsamic vinaigrette and torn basil from the garden I had a treat fit for summer.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vanilla Spiced Oatmeal

Oatmeal may well be boring, but it ranks extraordinarily high on my list of favorite things.  Give me an oatmeal cookie any day and you will find a happy girl.  Oatmeal muffins?  Yep, those do the trick too.  And how about that crumble on top of the Blueberry Macadamia Crumble?  Most definitely my favorite part.  Add in the fact that "studies have shown" that those people who eat more oatmeal are less likely to develop heart disease and you have a true winner!

I've been told that oatmeal for breakfast is good for cold, wintery mornings - the steaming bowl of oatmeal goodness being the perfect solution to chilly bones.  While oatmeal does indeed warm you to the bones, I enjoy the steaming bowl topped with cinnamon and walnuts year round.  However... the same old bowl most every day does tend to get a bit old.

Spicing up my morning dose of oats I turned to a phial of ground vanilla, basically a vanilla powder giving off a most delightful tropical scent.  A present from a foodie friend recently returned from Paris who thought of me as she visited a well stocked spice market, I've been searching for new uses for my new found treasure, and my morning oatmeal definitely benefited.  With comments of "Kim... you really need to go to Paris!" still bouncing around my head, I settled instead for a beautifully spiced oatmeal to start my sunny summer morning.

Basic rolled oats stirred with a touch of brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg received just the flavor boost they needed with a simple sprinkle of the floral vanilla powder.  Regular vanilla extract would indeed work the same magic, bringing a boring bowl of oatmeal up to a new level and bringing just a bit of a tropical feel to your summer morning.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes with Warm Maple Glaze

Sugar... Can't live with it, can't live without it.  We have one of those love/hate relationships, I really love all sorts of sugars, but my waist and hips don't.  Liv, however, has had a love affair with sugar her entire life and so far her hips don't mind.

Born with an inherited sweet tooth, Liv has always been drawn to anything sweet - fruit, gummy worms, marshmallows, and well, plain sugar.  It wasn't until she was about 4 that I actually caught her in the pantry spooning the granulated goodness out of the bin into her mouth, but I think that was only because she couldn't reach it before then.

Years ago as we sat in one of our introductory Girl Scout meetings I had the girls go around the circle saying their favorite foods.  Getting the usual answers of pizza, ice cream and hamburgers I do remember Miley throwing the curve ball of asparagus.  As Liv's turn came around she threw a curve of her own as she smiled, threw open her arms and proclaimed that her favorite food was, you guessed it, "Sugar!!".  Being the leader and her mom I had to smile, realizing we might need to have a talk about what constitutes a "food item"!

Through the years she has learned to control her cravings, but on occasion I still find the empty candy bins shoved under her bed as hidden evidence.  As she trains during her dance season she really tries hard to keep up a good diet filled with proteins, complex carbs and lots of fruits (veggies aren't a favorite) to keep up her energy and health, but summer vacation is a time for treats - or so she has reminded me.

Settling into our routine of leisurely starts to the day I found this recipe placed prominently on top of our electric griddle this morning along with a big smilie face and an "I love you" on a note.  Noting that the recipe has a  decent dose of whole grains in addition to the potassium rich bananas I conceded that these pancakes would be an ideal way to start the day.

While the pancakes cook up nice and fluffy giving off a delectable aroma of bananas combined with the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg, it is the Maple Glaze that takes them over the top.  Pure maple syrup is mixed with a hefty dose of powdered sugar along with a touch of vanilla and butter to create something "other-worldly".  Warmed and poured over a fresh stack of banana pancakes topped with diced bananas and walnuts you have what Liv lovingly calls "Sugary Heaven".

This shot featured on Food Porn Daily

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Coconut-Almond Rice

Finally... it's here!  Summer has arrived in San Diego!  While my mother is sweltering in her upper 90 degree temps, I'm relishing each and every one of those precious degrees.  Admittedly, my coastal temps are a bit lower than her 6 miles inland temps, but I say, "Bring it on!"

Waking to bright sunny skies and temps not requiring a jacket brings me to a wonderful start to my day.  Light until well after 8 PM only continues my love for summer as does my trusty grill.  With our temperate climate, our home has no air conditioning, and while the heat is nothing like my friends and family in the midwest, or even a few miles inland, I still like to keep the oven and stove off and do my cooking outside.

Fish, always a family favorite, has me packing my freezer with packets of Mahi Mahi and salmon ready for a short notice meal.  Liv prefers her fish plain with a squeeze of lemon while my husband and son prefer something a bit more lively.  Thankfully this Grilled Mahi with a side of Coconut-Almond Rice meets all of the above requirements.  

A light sauce of coconut milk and red curry mix together to create a lovely base for the rice and an optional sauce for the fish and veggies.  Prefer your fish plain?  Simply don't top the fish with sauce and give yourself a little squeeze of lemon.  Prefer something more flavorful?  Top with the sauce in addition to a sprinkling of fresh chopped cilantro.  Either way, you can't go wrong.  Happy summer!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Annel and Drew's Kitchen - Leucadia, CA Farmer's Market - Lamb Sliders!

Three hours into my six hour drive across the desert from Las Vegas to my home in coastal Carlsbad, CA it must have been my rumbling stomach that had me daydreaming of Annel and Drew's Lamb Sliders.  Even though I was returning from the restaurant rich Vegas Strip and the mere thought of Mesa Grill's Coffee Rubbed Fillet still brought a reflective smile to my face, those juicy, bursting with flavor, sliders had me eagerly anticipating Sunday.

Sunday for my husband and I begins with a leisurely cup of coffee before we make our way at 10 AM to the Leucadia Farmer's Market.  North of San Diego, CA and along the coast in quaint Leucadia, near Encinitas, the market not only fills our fruit and veggie needs for the week with local and organic offerings, but it starts our day with those coveted Lamb Sliders from Annel and Drew's Kitchen.

Stumbling upon the stand a few months ago, my husband and I have come to crave Annel and Drew's menu items.  Fresh, local, and innovative, the team has put together food that is not only good for you, it's just plain good.  Drew's background not only includes graduation from the Culinary Institute of America but time in restaurants in my recently visited Vegas, including the Bellagio and Red Rock Resort and Spa.  Annel, born into a family of restaurateurs, has worked in the food industry for years and brings a flair for design to the plate (literally!).

From their web siteAnnel & Drew opened the kitchen with the objectives of having fun, making people happy, providing an original dining experience, and most importantly, creating great homemade food prepared with as many local ingredients as possible. They always like to support local businesses and the local economy.

With the lines I see at their kitchen in the Leucadia Market alone, the comments I hear in the community, and my own personal experience, they have most certainly succeeded!

As mentioned more than once already, my favorite mouth-watering menu item is the Lamb Sliders:  Hormone free, vegetarian fed ground Lamb “Mini-Burgers” cooked to sizzling perfection, served with house-made cucumber –dill yogurt sauce on fresh baked rolls with Farm Fresh veggies: arugula, tomato and red onion. Paired with seasonal mixed veggie salad picked straight from Suzies Farm.
Available with one, two or three sliders (we get three... two for me, one for my husband) Annel's salad includes fresh, organic greens and grilled seasonal veggies.  I've not asked what the dressing is, but the light and savory flavors only enhance those fresh, organic greens.

Walking around the market I see numerous plates of Drew's Grilled Balsamic Artichokes (California grown, cooked with lemon, herbs & garlic, then balsamic marinated and grilled over an open flame. Served with lime aioli or chili aioli dipping sauces.) and will concur with the general consensus that they are some of the best around.

Breaking out of our "we must have Lamb Sliders" mantra last weekend my husband ventured into the infamous Spiedie Sandwich arena telling me that he's no longer sure which is his favorite.  From the menu:  Your choice of meat made with our very own famous marinade, then skewered and grilled to achieve perfect tenderness. Served on fresh baked Sicilian style bread with Suzie’s organic baby greens, heirloom tomato, onion and avocado.  Watching Drew put this guy together only heightens the anticipation of the first bite.  I only wish I had had my camera focused as my husband's eyes grew wide with pure pleasure as the first taste hit his tongue.

This little guy enjoys a Chicken Skewer every Sunday!
Wandering over to the tables at the friendly market many of the market customers will peer over their plate to get a look at what you have on your plate.  We've frequently bumped into other Drew and Annel fans of all ages enjoying their own plates of freshly cooked food, some of them for the second day in a row as Saturday finds the team in Encinitas across from Cap'n Keno's.  Can't wait for the weekend?  No fear!  Wednesdays will find Drew and Annel at the Ocean Beach Market and Thursdays they pop up at the Oceanside Sunset Market.  Check their web site for times, and you can also find them of facebook.

Whether in town on holiday or a regular market visitor, Annel and Drew's Kitchen is worth stopping by the market for.  Hmmm...Today is Tuesday, only 5 days to Lamb Sliders!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Blue and Yellow Corn Muffins

Three years ago I introduced myself to Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill in the Bahamas and the experience has stuck with me ever since.  Bobby's love of Southwestern flavors in combination with the grill have left me nearly speechless.  The cooked to perfection New Mexican Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin sitting in a pool of Bourbon-Ancho Chili sauce and accompanied by a melt in your mouth Sweet Potato Tamale topped with a bit of crushed pecan butter pulls at my heart to this day.  Or how about the bursting with flavor Coffee Rubbed Fillet Mingnon, tender as butter and sitting atop a Mushroom Ancho Chili Sauce?  Yep... good to the last drop!

Coffee Rubbed Filled Mingon

Liv has a penchant for a good steak.  Last year at her Vegas Nationals I took her and my son to Mr. Flay's Mesa Grill, located in Caesar's Palace on the Vegas Strip and enjoyed introducing them to the world of finer dining.  Neither had ever been to a restaurant of this caliber nor had they experienced meat of the quality served at the Mesa Grill - cooked to perfection slightly better than I do on my home backyard grill. ;)

As soon as the Dance National Competition location was announced as Las Vegas last August, Liv asked, "Mom... can we go to Mesa Grill again??".  Letting her think that I was only doing it for her, I gave a resounding, "Of course!" and we started counting the days.

Reservations in hand, we continued the Star System Dance National Dance Competition (see here for Liv and Savannah's first few days) with the solo section of the event.  Arriving at the venue with costume and shoes in hand, Liv set to stretching and I was proud at the focus she brought to her warm up.  She had scored fairly well throughout the year, but I think I could see a few butterflies flitting around her mid section as she prepped with her teacher to head on stage.

Heading to the audience I once again became teary watching our girls dance.  These girls truly pour their hearts out into their performances and I find myself bursting with pride at their sheer confidence and stage presence.  Liv took the stage, and through my tears I saw her dance one of her best performances to Sarah Jessica Parker's "Shy" from Once Upon a Mattress.  We settled back and waited for results, fingers crossed for a Top 10 scoring.

Awards began some 2 hours later, and the girls and boys who competed in the solo portion of the event took the stage for results.  Our studio scored well in the Top 10-4 spots with one of our tap solos scoring 8th and another 7th!  Liv's name had not been called as they placed 3 large trophies at the front of the stage, meaning either she did darn well or didn't make Top 10.  As they called 3rd, her name was not called nor was it called for 2nd.  Hearts pounding we knew this was either really good or better luck next year.  Fingers crossed and hearts in our throats we held our breath as they built up the first place position.  Tears began an unending stream from my eyes as the announcer called Liv and "Shy" as the 1st Place Junior Soloist!

Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill on UrbanspoonWith reason to celebrate, Liv and I headed the next evening to Mesa Grill.  In anticipation she had skipped lunch arriving at "Bobby's place" nearly weak with hunger and with high hopes for the meal of her life.  Replicating her meal from last year she enjoyed her medium rare, man-sized Fillet minus the Coffee Rub, with gusto, promptly looking up and asking, "Mom... can I have another??"  I enjoyed my fillet with the coffee rub atop the Ancho Chili Sauce and answered, "No... you can not have another."  Offering her some of the decadent side of Roasted Corn with Chipotle Aoli, Lime and Cotija (seasoned with just the right amount of jalapeños and cilantro to make your mouth water!) and some of Bobby's crumbly and zesty Blue and Yellow Corn Muffins we filled nearly every last spot in our stomachs, but somehow did save a tiny bit of room for dessert.

Liv chose Bobby's Churros, dusted with cinnamon sugar and star anise and served with a side of a Dark Chocolate Dipping Sauce.  I had thoughts of the Mango Buttermilk Upside Down Cake served with a Rum Caramel Sauce and Mango Ice Cream, but the waiter suggested that unless I adored rum, the cake was very "rummy" he explained,  that I might enjoy the Strawberry and Cherry Shortcake with a Crème Fraiche Whipped Cream and Wild Strawberry Ice Cream.  While "enjoy" might not be quite a strong enough word to describe my true feelings about the shortcake, he was right!  Raw sugar topped, tender biscuits sandwiched the flavorful strawberries and cherries with a delightful combination of the Crème Fraiche and Ice Cream eliciting true groans of  pleasure.

Churros with Dark Chocolate Sauce and Strawberry/Cherry Shortcake

Smiles all around, Liv and I sat back and grinned at each other as we gushed about each and every part of the meal.  Truly a treat for the two of us, we are doubly excited that not only did we get this visit, but we already have reservations at his Bahamas, Paradise Island location in about 6 weeks.  Mesa Grill, here we come... again!