Life is Good

Happy Memorial Day!Β Reg and I are having the most fantastic weekend. Saturday, we had a fun party at my parent’s house, then we spent yesterday taking a walk at a the beach, trying out a new food truck, and seeing Shrek.

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Life is good.


So– I really want to share this new food truck with you. This restaurant is not new in general, just new to me. However, this is no ordinary truck. Instead, this is a double decker bus turned meals on wheels. The top portion is lined with tables and features covered umbrellas for the perfect shady spot to enjoy your food.


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The food is not your average fusion taco. Instead, they serve “bunnies” which are essentially little teeny bread bowls filled with either Short Ribs, Pork, Curry Coconut Chicken, or Veggie Chili. They are inspired by traditional South African street food and try to use as much local product and meat as possible. I love that!



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We ordered a Combo that allowed us to select 2 bunnies, fries/salad, and a cookie. Reg wanted the Short Ribs and I ordered the Veggie Chili. I did try a bite of the Short Rib and it was flavorful and moist (side note: I hate the word moist so for me to type it here…twice…I really mean it). The chili was good and filling. I loved the doughy bread part of the bunny the most. πŸ™‚

In addition to the bunnies we ordered a side of the truffled mac and cheese balls.


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Wow! These were amazing. Not too greasy but very creamy and the perfect size!



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The fries were pretty generic and I would probably skip them when I visit this truck next time.



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The spicy dipping sauce that accompanied the fries was tasty though!



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To drink, Reg ordered the Orange Lavender Tea and I sipped on a Strawberry Basil Lemonade. My beverage was probably my favorite thing I tried! Not too sweet with just a hint of fresh basil. The perfect drink for a hot day. Must try to make this at home!


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The chocolate chip cookie that came with our combo was chewy and buttery–my favorite kind of cookie!


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Oh and because I insist on trying everything on the menu, we ordered a Red Velvet Bunny. Think red velvet cake on the outside with vanilla bean cheesecake in the center. Yes, it was devoured so fast, this was the only picture I snapped.

Yes, life is good. Off to another adventure…

xo,


Jenna


Blood Orange Coconut Cupcakes

When I received some blood oranges in this week’s CSA shipment, I did not really know what to do with them. I love the flavor of citrus but I rarely eat oranges plain. I refused to waste them so I came up with what I think is that next best thing-a dessert! Cupcakes, no less!

These were perfectly light and refreshing. I brought them to work and they were gone in 15 minutes! Enjoy. πŸ™‚


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Blood Orange Coconut Cupcakes

12 Servings


1 1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon blood orange zest

1/2 cup 1% milk

1/4 cup coconut milk coffee creamer (or another 1/4 cup milk)

3/4 cup unrefined sugar

2 tablespoons Earth Balance or Butter

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1 egg

Cupcake liners

Orange food coloring (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the zest, milk creamer, Earth Balance/butter, agave, and egg.

3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until combined. Do not overmix. Add the food coloring if you desire a brighter orange cake.

4. Place cupcakes liners into the pan. Pour batter 2/3 way up.

5. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for one minute and then transfer to wire rack for cooling.


Blood Orange Icing

1/4 cup light cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup Earth Balance or Butter, softened

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/4 cup fresh blood orange juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons blood orange zest

Unsweetened coconut flakes for sprinkling


1. Combine the cream cheese and butter. Add the blood orange juice.

2. Add the confectioner’s sugar 1/4 cup at time until well mix. Add the vanilla and zest.

3. Once the cupcakes are cooled, dip the top of the cupcakes into the icing. Sprinkle with coconut.


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xo,


Jenna

For Gingi

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This next recipe is for my sister Gingi (real name: Lindsey). Every year on her birthday she has one request–that I make Arancini di Riso. Making the arancini (also known as rice balls) can be a tedious process because it requires making risotto first, which as we know takes a while to make. Making the final product, though, is always worth the effort because my family really enjoys them and they are gone before I know it. πŸ™‚


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Leftover risotto is mixed with 1 egg, fresh bread crumbs, and parmigiano-reggiano cheese plus a little extra salt and pepper. I use my (very clean) hands to mix.


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Roll a portion of the rice mixture into a ball the size of a clementine.


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Meanwhile, I chopped some fresh mozzarella into small cubes. I highly recommend using fresh mozzarella here. It melts beautifully and tastes even better. So creamy and slightly salty…mmm



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Press a small cube into the center of each rice ball. Then, move some of the rice mixture over the mozzarella and roll the ball in your hands a few more times until it is nice and round.


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Like this. πŸ™‚


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Meanwhile, heat up some oil in a large pan until it is about 1 inch deep.


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Roll the rice balls in some more bread crumbs until coated evenly.


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Place in the oil and cook until browned evenly on all sides.


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Serve with your favorite store bought or homemade marinara sauce.


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And maybe a Strawberry-Avocado Salad.


Arancini di Riso

4 servings


2 cups leftover risotto

1 large egg

1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1 cup freshly grated bread crumbs

4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed

Vegetable Oil (for frying)

Marinara Sauce (for dipping)

Salt & Pepper


1. Combine the risotto, egg, cheese, and 1/2 cup fo the breadcrumbs.

2. Form small balls of the rice mixture (approximately the size of a clementine).

3. Press a cube of mozzarella cheese into the center of each ball. Cover the cheese with a bit more rice mixture and roll into an even, round ball.

4. Place the remaining bread crumbs in a small bowl. Roll each ball in the breadcrumbs to coat each one evenly.

5. Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan–about 1 inch deep.

6. Once the oil has reach 350 degrees, place about 5 arancinis in the oil and cook until browned evenly on all sides, about 5 minutes.

7. Place cooked arancinis on a plate lined with paper towels to drain a bit of the oil. Serve hot with a side of marinara sauce.


More recipes will be coming soon, including some Blood Orange Cupcakes that are incredible!


Now I am off to work on some new jewelry for an exhibition I am participating in on papersnitch. I am thrilled!


xo,


Jenna

Sweet Pea

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During the summer I usually find myself craving light, cool foods. However, the weather in Southern California last week was rather gloomy leading me to crave some warm and cozy. Then, when I saw that there were shelling peas in this week’s CSA, sweet pea risotto just seemed like a necessary meal!


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Reggie and I shelled a big bunch of peas while watching this week’s episode of Modern Family. So funny! My method of shelling is pretty simple and effective. I pinch off a piece of each end and then I slice along the indented ridge on one side of the pod. If you closely examine the pods themselves, there are two ridges. They appear to be identical but one is raised and one is indented. Make sure you slice along the right side otherwise the process will be much more challenging. Once the pod is opened, I slide all of the peas inside into a small bowl.


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Then I prepare my ingredients–mis en place if you will. πŸ™‚ This can be a bit tedious but trust me when you are making the risotto, you will be thankful you spent the extra time!


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After melting 2 tablespoons of the butter, I sautee the garlic for about 30 seconds. Then I add the rice to “toast” it a bit and deepen the flavor.


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Now, let’s talk wine! When it comes to risotto, it is true what people say about just using a wine you love to drink. Besides, you never use the whole bottle for the risotto so the rest can go…


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So weird! How did that get in there? πŸ˜‰

All kidding aside, you will need the wine at this point because for the next 25 minutes, you will keep stirring. RIsotto is not a particularly hard dish to make, just time consuming. Add small amount of stock, stir, and then once the rice absorbs that liquid, repeat! From my understanding, this process is what makes the risotto so creamy with such little butter or cream, because the starches from the rice are being released slowly.


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Sweet Pea Summer Risotto

6 servings


1 1/2 cups arborio rice

1 quart vegetable stock

1/2 cup good white wine (something you would like to drink!)

1 cup shelled peas

1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

2 teaspoons fresh garlic

3 tablespoons butter or Earth Balance

Salt & Pepper


1. Heat a large pan to medium high heat. Once hot, add butter/Earth Balance. Then, add your garlic and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

2. Pour the rice into the pan and stir to coat in butter/garlic mixture. “Toast” for 1 minute.

3. Add white wine into the pot, stir, and allow the rice to absorb the liquid.

4. Once the wine is absorbed, keep adding 1/4-1/2 cup portions of vegetable stock to the rice mixture. Stir frequently to make sure rice does not stick. You will use almost the entire quart of stock but sometimes less. Cook until al dente.

5. Meanwhile, boil 3 cups of water in a separate pan. Blanch the peas for just 1 minute then transfer immediately to an ice bath.

6. Once the rice is finished cooking, add the peas, cheese, the last tablespoon of butter/Earth Balance, and salt and pepper to taste.

7. Serve hot–enjoy!


Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, where I turn the leftover risotto into my favorite arancini di riso.


xo,


Jenna

Pancakes for all Seasons

I know most of the food posts that I have done have been centered around eating out but really, I love to cook at home. Cooking, for me, is one of those rare activities in life where I am truly at peace and feel the most relaxed. I need to start cooking more. Period.

I recently set the goal to cook dinner at home 6 nights a week. Also, Reg and I are trying to eat a completely vegetarian diet! So, to spark up the creativity for some fun meals in our home we decided to join a local CSA, JR Organics. For around $25.00 a week, we will receive a small box of seasonal, organic fruits and vegetables. Every week is different so I can say good-bye to falling into any kind of boring eating pattern. Plus, you are supporting a local business and doing something beautiful for the environment–what is not to love? πŸ™‚

Check out this week’s loot…


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A bag of shelling peas, 2 bags of mixed greens, a pint of strawberries, 5 blood oranges, 3 medium sized summer squash, 3 avocados, and a bunch of broccolini–all organic! Heaven.

I was really excited and immediately tried to devise a meal that would involve every single item in the shipment. Yes, I am a little crazy. What can I say? I was really excited!


So, I finally calmed down and decided on using the squash, strawberries, and the mixed greens. I really wanted to use the avocado too but they were not quite ready! With the squash, I immediately knew what I wanted to make–crispy, salty pancakes. Yes, pancakes. Just trust me. This was a good one.


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I took 2 of the squash and chopped off those ends. Just a little though!



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Then I used my trusty old-fashioned cheese grater to grate both pieces. I got a killer arm workout too. Score!


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Then I took some chopped garlic…


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a large egg…


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FRESHLY grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese. Grating it right before really does make all of the difference in the world…

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And FRESHLY ground whole wheat bread crumbs to make…


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This! Cheesy, veggie filled “pancake” mix!


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After heating up some olive oil, I placed about a tablespoons worth of the squash mixture into the pan. I cooked them for 2-3 minutes on each side until they looked like this:


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Hello, delicious.


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Speaking of delicious, can we take a moment to look at these strawberries? I am so glad it is strawberry season and, boy, were these babies sweet! I chopped 4 large strawberries and tossed them with 2 cups of the mixed greens and 2 tablespoons of Brianna’s Poppyseed Dressing. This is the first time I tried the dressing and I think I overdid it a little bit. A little definitely goes a long way but I would recommend trying it.


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I topped my serving with a bit of crumbled goat cheese.


Bon appΓ©tit!


Summer Squash Pancakes

4 Servings


2 medium-sized summer squash

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

3/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup freshly grated whole wheat breadcrumbs*

4 teaspoons olive oil

4 oz. crumbled goat cheese (optional)

Salt & Pepper to taste


1. Cut off one end of each piece of squash and grate into a medium-sized bowl.

2. Add garlic, cheese, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper to squash mixture.

3. Place 2 teaspoons of olive oil into a frying pan and heat over medium-high heat until smoking.

4. Add rounded tablespoons of squash mixture to pan and flatten with back of the spatula. Lower temperature to medium heat and cook 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

5. Repeat with the rest of the mixture using the rest of the oil as needed.

6. Serve immediately and enjoy!


*I broil 2 pieces of whole wheat bread for 3 minutes per side then pop them in my Vita-Mix until crumbly.


P.S. Have you heard? Use the code SPRING10 (in the Message to Seller area) for 20% off any item in the Hello, I Love You Jewelry etsy store until May 22, 2010!


xo,


Jenna










Last Days of Sonoma

Since Reggie and I have been to this area before, we discussed what we wanted to do and what we wanted to avoid this time around. We had done the all day wine tasting tours and really just wanted to visit one or two wineries this time around. With the rest of our time we really wanted to do a bike tour of Sonoma Valley! We booked an 8 a.m. tour through our hotel so we woke up extra early to eat some breakfast. I heard that the El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma recently hired the former Pastry Chef from French Laundry. Let’s just say I had no problem waking up that morning!


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I grabbed a vanilla yogurt with homemade granola and fresh strawberries…


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And this has to be the BEST chocolate chip muffin I have ever had. So buttery!

Once we got back to our hotel, we met up with our guide, Steve for a 12 mile ride. He was a really nice guy, very friendly and knowledgeable. The ride was mostly flat, with the occasional hill and very scenic.

Throughout Sonoma there are beautiful bike trails that take you around different vineyards and parks. About half way through our ride we took a short break! I was ready for it too because that last hill was killer. I took the time to take some photos of our surroundings. πŸ™‚


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Then we climbed back on our bikes and completed the loop back to the hotel. I am so glad we decided to do the bike tour. We saw a side of Sonoma that we had never seen before and got some great exercise in the process. I would call that a successful morning!

After working at the hotel for a couple hours, we were both ready for lunch and I knew exactly where I wanted to go–Fremont Diner. Now, please pay attention because you could miss this restaurant if you do not actually look for it. And trust me you want to look for it.


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Check out the signage on the top left hand corner of this photo. Totally unassuming sign, right? Well, this place is AH-MAZING! They have one simple mantra–Eat Local. Now that’s a commitment I can stand behind! All of their food is sourced locally and you can even purchase some of it in the small retail space.


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This bar area is built into the kitchen and makes you feel right at home!


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So cozy!


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Hello….I Love You…MMMMmmmmmm


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We grabbed a seat outside with this view. Not too shabby!


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I ordered the Fig Roasted Pulled Pork Sandwich with Homemade Coleslaw and Baked Beans. I am getting hungry just by typing this post and looking at this picture. Let me be clear–this was the best thing I ate the entire trip.


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The pork was so flavorful and juicy while the coleslaw was cool and crisp offering a little heat at the end. The beans were equally flavorful.


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My hubs ordered the Cheeseburger with Caramelized Onions with Homemade Special Sauce. The burger was moist and seasoned perfectly and the sweet onions and flavorful sauce were the perfect complement.


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We ended the meal with a Fried Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie. Yes, I said fried! Crispy on the outside, a bit doughy on the inside and filled with the most flavorful fruit mixture ever. Amazing!

We wanted to get in a wine tasting later and we, again, knew exactly where we wanted to go–Buena Vista, the oldest winery in California.


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We had to take a short walk to get to the tasting room. I love tree lined paths like this.


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This is one of the original barrels used in the winemaking process.


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We loved Buena Vista! The employees were full of personality and we really had an enjoyable time. We even ended up joining Buena Vista’s wine club. I love that the wine is only available at the vineyard. I do not like to join the clubs if I can purchase the same wine at my local Trader Joe’s–especially when it is cheaper! But if I cannot find it anywhere else, then it is worth joining., in my opinion. Most importantly, the wine was just delicious! Please try this charming winery if you are ever in the area.


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We traveled back the the El Dorado Kitchen for an afternoon snack. We just had to try their homemade soft serve. Oh my was this good! So creamy and perfectly sweet. Reg asked me why I ordered such a large size but before I knew it, it was done. Clearly, he was not that concerned. πŸ˜‰


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We took a walk around the town square before heading back to the hotel.

Dinner was at Sante, which was recently given a Michelin Star. This is a huge honor and after our experience, well deserved. However, it was quite fancy and I was a little camera shy. Please forgive me for not taking photos. I will say this, if you have the means and opportunity to eat at this restaurant, do it. The food was exquisite and the service was so comfortable, that in hindsight, I am really upset I did not bring my camera. I am planning on taking my mother for her birthday in a month. I will return with photos next time!

The next morning we woke up early and packed up to head home. We just had one more place to go…


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Fremont Diner: Round 2! We had to go back for what is known as the Almost Famous Biscuits and Gravy! Wow, was this good! Very rich but definitely the best biscuits and gravy I have ever had. Do not miss this place if you are in the Napa and/or Sonoma area.

We are truly in love with Northern California and enjoyed every moment we spent here.

I will be back soon with some of my own recipes! I cannot wait to share some of the food I make at our home.

xo,


Jenna