Thursday, April 26, 2012

Coconut Macadamia Banana Waffles - A taste of Aloha

Dreams of swaying palms, warm ocean waters and light tropical breezes constantly fill my head and become my happy place when I'm in need of a lift.  A tropical girl at heart yet stuck on the mainland, my husband and I have made San Diego our home and every once in a while we can almost feel a Hawaiian influence around town.

That same husband was lucky enough to actually feel my beloved warm, soft and tropical Hawaiian breezes last week as he "worked".  Yes... flying that big huge airplane all the way across the big huge ocean to find that teeny tiny island is actually work.  So much so, he says, that that is why he and his hard working co-pilot received 2 full 20 hour layovers to "rest", one on the Big Island and the other downtown in Waikiki.  I actually think it has something to do with flight scheduling... but we'll let him have his hard work fantasy.

With images such as this one:
King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel
And this one:
View from Chuck's Steakhouse, Waikiki
arriving frequently by text message,  I got the Island Fever... and I got it bad.

Intense and pure jealousy flowed through me as I received 10 minute updates on his meal at my Favorite Kona Brewing Company on the Big Island while he dined on my cherished Strawberry Spinach Salad with Island Macadamia Nuts sprinkled lightly on top (I'll spare you that photo message).  The next day he enjoyed views of Waikiki beach while dining on a fillet at Chucks, just over Dukes, as they watched the sun dip into the calm Pacific.

While he did bring me a new Kona Brewing Company water bottle, I couldn't help but be just a bit envious of his "work" last week.  Heading to the internet, I immediately started researching Bed and Breakfast locations on the Island of Kauai.  Settling on a lovely vacation rental property with panoramic views my next thought was about the breakfast part of the deal.  With no real description on the website I turned to Tripadvisor reviews and found that the breakfast at this bed and breakfast is lacking.  While the property is indeed spectacular, the breakfast included a basket containing instant Quaker Oatmeal and a sleeve of store bought bagels.  So disappointing, and potentially disappointing enough to have me stay elsewhere (in my vacation dream).

Pulling staples out of my Hawaiian stocked pantry, Liv and I set to putting together our own version of what a proper bed and breakfast would serve.  Luckily, our day was sunny with light breezes as we mixed a basic banana waffle batter.  Enhancing with coconut was a no brainier and then topping with additional bananas, toasted coconut and chopped macadamia nuts brought the islands to us.  The Liv Life Bed and Breakfast proudly serves Coco-Mac Banana Waffles with fresh tropical juices and Kona coffee.

Oh... that traveling husband?  I'm not so jealous anymore... this morning he is dining at a cheesy buffet in a hotel in Fresno before heading to Rockford, Illinois.  I think I'll stick with San Diego.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

San Diego Food Blogger Bake Sale

10 AM - 2 PM at Great News on Garnet in San Diego
Doesn't everyone love a bake sale?  And what could be better than a bake sale featuring local food bloggers?  Once again, our San Diego food blogger group is participating in the National Food Blogger Bake Sale in support of Share Our Strength.

In an effort to ease childhood hunger, Gabby Dalkin of What's Gabby Cooking, organized the first National Bake Sale in 2009.  This year the numbers are growing even larger as we team up with Bloggers Without Boarders to raise money to help hungry children.

Indigo of Indigo's Sugar Spectrum
While I'd love to have you all join us in San Diego at our host location, Great News Discount Cookware and Cooking School, I know such a commute just may not be in the cards.  As such, you can find a local sale near you on the Share Our Strength site.

Last year our San Diego sale raised over $1,700 and with this year's goal of $2,500 we'd love to see you at the event or would greatly appreciate any sort of donation through our San Diego Event Web Site.

C&H Sugar has generously offered to match the fund raising of the top 3 events, and as San Diego came in 3rd last year we are hoping to only increase our numbers this year.  You can help!

I can guarantee good food, good fun, and an opportunity to meet some of our fabulous local bloggers including the amazing Marie of Meandering Eats, the sweet Kelsey of Happy Yolks (my husband is still talking about her Pumpkin Granola from last year), and the delightful Kelly of Sass and Veracity.

Liv Life is donating Nutella Biscotti
While Liv and I won't personally be attending this year's event (liv's dance stage beckons), our fabulous Nutella Biscotti will be representing us in style.  The popularity of this recipe has amazed me and not a week goes by that I don't get at least one inquiry as to when I'll be making them again.  The cookie that has people who don't eat carbs returning for 4ths is sure to be a hit for you too, and you can pick up a bag this Saturday while supporting hungry kids.

San Diego Food Blogger Bake Sale

Saturday, April 28, 2012
Great News Discount Cookware and Cooking School
1788 Garnet Avenue, San Diego, CA 92109
10 AM - 2 PM

Hope to see you there!! 

Clockwise from the top left, we have the adorable Rachel, from Bakerita, Mr. and Mrs. Meandering Eats (Marie and Dan), Me and Jenny (Vintage Sugarcube) and Kelly and Stephanie, from Sass and Veracity and Recipe Renovator.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Triple Chocolate Banana Milkshake - Secret Recipe Club

This month I had a little help with my Secret Recipe Club Submission.  Perusing Rachel's, The Avid Appetitie, blog (she reminds me SO much of myself some 20 years ago), I had already picked out a few recipes to be narrowed down when a pre-teen voice from over my shoulder yelled, "That one!!  You have to make that one!!"  While I was actually reading Rachel's book review (she has wonderful reviews on all sort of topics!), Liv's eye had spotted whipped cream, chocolate and banana in the form of a Triple Chocolate Banana Milkshake.

As luck would have it, we were in the midst of spring break with no dance or school activities and within minutes our milkshake was in the works.  Making a few substitutions to avoid a trip to the store (mostly to get the milkshake done sooner), Liv substituted chocolate coconut milk ice cream for the pudding and decided to leave out the cocoa powder while adding additional chocolate syrup.  I've recently been informed that one really can not have too much chocolate syrup (Though Liv and I are aware that some of our friends will disagree on this point...).

Blending the concoction took mere minutes and my Liv-in food stylist went to work while I set up the camera.  Carefully styling the whipped cream and adding a decorative slice of banana, Liv proclaimed the shot ready as she lovingly poured even more chocolate syrup over the top for an action food shot.  Having a stylist with an eye for detail make my job so much easier.

10 minutes into the shoot, the milkshake was somewhat melty and the whipped cream began to droop, but Liv dug in without hesitation and proclaimed Miss Rachel's treat a true winner.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pasta All'Amatriciana - a Food Photography Challenge

The memory is fading slightly, but if I close my eyes and focus intently I can still picture René's smile as he refilled my glass of Italian house wine and made sure my Penne Pasta with Tomatoes and Basil was to my liking.  And indeed it was.  Returning his smile, my husband and I sighed with pleasure while savoring the tastes and aromas of Rome.

Crusty Bruschetta doused in olive oil and balsamic only enhanced the freshness of the diced tomatoes flavored with garlic that were served on the side.  Parmesan, freshly grated from a chunk of cheese over my steaming pasta, served to add depth to the dish.  And lastly, the Tiramisu, tender and mocha flavored with a hint of Amaretto and a delightful dusting of cocoa.  Ahh... but that one is for another post.

Opening my eyes I find myself back in San Diego where everything resembling Italian is served in a big way.  Trying numerous restaurants in desperate attempts to recreate our lunch in the shadow of the Roman Colosseum, we've given up as we can't take any more disappointments.  Meal after advertised traditional Italian meal has not lived up to our memory instead serving giant-sized portions of pasta smothered in some sort of tomato-like sauce.

Perhaps our memories are clouded with a veil of vacation bliss, but I've begun to think that I won't be getting that perfect traditional Italian Pasta without returning to Italy.  My dear husband, however, has said that unfortunately the current budget does not really seem to be expecting two such trips in less than 6 months.  Hence, I'm on my own.

As luck would have it, my Food Photography and Styling group, The Inspired Plate, offered up this month's challenge as:  Pasta.  Could I make a traditional Italian Pasta Sauce myself?  With no current trip to Italy booked, it's worth a try.

A chance sighting at a local market of La Cucina Italiana's Pasta Issue had me paying a rare full price for a magazine, in addition to spending over an hour in a steamy, bubbly bath with a glass of Chianti as I devoured the recipes on the glossy pages.  Pure, simple and classically Italian, recipe after recipe caught my eye.  However, procrastination left me with a mere 48 hours to cook and shoot my pasta challenge.

By 8 AM garlic and prosciutto sauteeing in olive oil had the house smelling reminiscent of the Roman streets, and the addition of thinly sliced onion only served to add more authenticity.  With my freshly brewed espresso in hand, I sighed with slight disappointment as I pulled my can opener from the drawer to open the canned tomatoes which I luckily had stocked in the pantry.  With our tomato season still months off, and myself being a self proclaimed tomato snob, I knew the red globes on the store shelves would surely not meet my standards with their white, pithy insides.

White wine along with the tomatoes finished off the sauce, and as the concoction stewed I worked to set up my photo scene.  Quickly reminding myself I'm no Martha Stewart or Tartlette, I struggled to place props in appealing formations.  Luckily the sauce was meant to simmer for a while, and over half an hour later I had a somewhat agreeable arrangement only missing the food.  Cutting the bread as the pasta boiled, I poured a glass of wine (a prop at only 9 AM!) and set out the cheese and pepper.

Unable to resist, I prepared a bowl to taste before preparing the pretty bowl for my photo.  Sitting at the table with a touch of excitement coursing through my body, I took a bite.  Closing my eyes it all came back... René the waiter, the pasta, the sounds of the cars speeding over the loose cobblestones,  the cocoa on the tiramisu, the motorbikes zipping around corners and the soothing chatter of the Italian language.  Yes, this dish brought it back.  Inhaling deeply, I took in the tastes and aromas of Rome... right here in my San Diego kitchen.

Living Life in Rome - 11/11
For more glorious past photos, take a trip around our Inspired Plate Blog Circle starting with Kat Clark.

Pasta All'Amatriciana
adapted from La Cucina Italiana - The Pasta Issue
Classic and traditional, this flavorful sauce originates from the city of Amatrice.

1 1/2 pounds tomatoes (or two 14 oz. cans)
1/4 cup diced pancetta (we used prosciutto)
3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 to 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes 
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 pound spaghetti or other pasta
freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
freshly ground pepper

If using whole tomatoes, peel tomatoes.  (Plunge whole tomatoes in a boiling pot of water for about 30 seconds.  Drain, then peel).  Dice the tomatoes and set aside.

Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Add diced pancetta or prosciutto, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until slightly crisped, about 5 minutes - stirring frequently.  Remove meat from the pan and set aside.

Add the thinly slice onion, crushed red pepper flakes and sliced garlic to the oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 4 minutes.  Add the white wine increasing the heat to medium and continue cooking until most of the wine has evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Add the canned tomatoes (or freshly diced that you set aside earlier) and meat, reducing heat to low and simmer, covered, until the sauce thickens, about 45 minutes.

Cook pasta according to the package directions.  Drain when done and transfer to a large bowl.  Add the sauce and toss to combine.  Serve with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, fresh pepper and a few sprinkles of parsley for garnish.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Strawberry Corn Cakes with Brown Sugar Whipped Cream - Guest Post featuring Bellabits!

Spring is most definitely spreading her wings and bringing gorgeous, sunny skies to Southern California.  With spring, comes two of my favorite things... strawberries and spring break.

As we eased back into real life today, the kids reflected on our fairly inactive and much needed restful break, wishing themselves back into dreamland with no schedule.  Alas... the break is over and it's back to school and the regularly scheduled schedule.

Not everyone was spending their break kicking back and relaxing though.  I'd like to introduce you to my favorite almost-teen blogger, Bella, of Bellabits, who spent her spring break in the kitchen and at the computer writing a Guest Post for us.  A 2011 Young Writer's Program winner, Bella brings a fresh voice to her blog and shows off her talent in the kitchen.

Who can resist a girl who in 2010 wrote about a Christmas shopping spree proclaiming her favorite stop William's Sonoma?  Coming home with a Vanilla Bean Paste she was eager to get back into the kitchen, just like she did on Spring Break 2012.

I can't thank Bella enough for sharing her sweet Strawberry Corn Cakes with Brown Sugar Whipped Cream with all of us.  You can find her on Bellabits and the Bellabits Facebook page.  She's also on twitter at @IamBellabits.

While I've never actually met Bella in person, I've enjoyed watching her blog grow over the last few years and I'm eager to see where she takes us next.  But for now I give you Bella and her sweet Strawberry Cakes...


Oh my goodneshhh!!  Hello everyone, its Bella!!!

OK so I was doodling what might become Bellabits' new logo, and looking for blogging inspiration, flipping through some of my favorite Food Network Magazines.  These are always packed with SCRUMDIDDLYUMPTIOUS recipes, and I happened to stumble upon a delicious looking one of them: Strawberry Corn Cakes! Yummy right?

I've got to tell you that I have been on a cornbread kick lately.  My Mom never made cornbread much, but this last winter, we started making it instead of rolls with dinner, as breakfast (cornbread pancakes) and dessert (buttered brown sugar cornbread).  So, right then and there, I decided that we absolutely needed to make them.

We followed the oh-so-easy recipe making a few tweaks here and there.  Instead of lemon zest, we added orange zest, instead of vanilla extract, we used (my favorite) vanilla bean paste, and for an extra special topper, we made a fresh brown sugar whipped cream instead of the plain whipped cream in the original recipe. Using a cornbread mix really made this quick and easy too.

Here I am spooning the corn cake mix into the muffin pan after preparing it using the directions.  I pop them into the oven and make my strawberry filling/topping.

With about 5 min left to bake, take out the corn cakes, make an indention in them with the back of a spoon, and put some of the strawberry filling into each one.

 Stick the cakes back into the oven for the remaining time. They will be golden.

Once cool, add the remaining berry mixture and a giant dollop of the brown sugar whipped cream on the side. The end result: A delectable, fruity dessert!!!

When I first bit into one of the cakes, a sensational sweet-tart, warmness put a smile on my face. The cornbread muffin is substantial and quite filling. Make sure to add some of the whipped cream to your spoonful, to make it cool and sweet and moist. My mouth is watering just writing about it!!! This is a recipe that all of you guys NEED to try!!!