Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Crab Cakes Over Salad Greens

Crab Cakes Over Salad Greens
Serve with Chardonnay

Serves 8-10 small plates or 4 large crab cake sandwiches.

As noted in the serving size above, the original recipe is for crab cake sandwiches. I made the crab cakes as directed and simply formed nine smaller cakes vs. the four instructed. If you want to serve as sandwiches, top with a specialty mayo (such as lemon, Green Goddess, or green aioli), thin tomato slices, and crisp lettuce. Green Goddess would also be great as a dressing for this salad.
Source: Cooking For the Weekend: Food For the Best of Times cookbook

5 T. unsalted butter
1/4 c. finely diced yellow onions
1/4 c. finely diced celery
1 lb. jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over
1/2 c. finely crushed saltine crackers
1 egg
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. fresh lemon juice
freshly ground black better
salad greens

In a small skillet over low heat, melt 2 T. of the butter. Add the onions and celery and cook, covered, stirring once or twice, of 8 minutes. The vegetables should retain some of their crispness. Cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, gently toss the crabmeat, sauteed vegetables, and cracker crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, mustard, and lemon juice. Pour the mixture over the crabmeat, season generously with fresh pepper, and stir until just combined. Form the crab mixture into 8-10 patties, depending on how many small plates you plan to serve. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate the crab cakes for 1 hour.

In a large skillet, melt the remaining 3 T. butter over medium-high heat. When it is foaming, carefully add the crab cakes and cook, turning once, until crisp and brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Place each crab cake over salad greens and serve with your favorite salad dressing.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Marinated & Grilled Skewers: Shrimp & Chicken

Marinated & Grilled Skewers: Shrimp & Chicken
Serve with Sauvignon Blanc

Serves 8-10 small plates; 6 main courses.

Light and flavorful -- perfect for summer! These were a crowd-pleaser. Feel free to add whatever you like to the skewers. I did only onions for simplicity.

1 c. olive oil
1/4 c. fresh chopped parsley
1 lemon, juiced
2 T. hot pepper sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. tomato paste
2 t. dried oregano
1 t. salt
1 t. ground black pepper
1 lb. shrimp
1 lb. chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces

In a mixing bowl, mix together olive oil, parsley, lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, garlic, tomato paste, oregano, salt, and pepper. Reserve a small amount for basting later. Pour remaining marinade evenly into two Ziploc bags (one for shrimp, one for chicken), and marinate in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Preheat grill to medium-low heat. Soak skewers for 30 minutes in water (to prevent burning while cooking). Thread shrimp and chicken onto skewers, adding any extras such as onion, peppers, pineapple, etc.

Lightly oil grill grate. Cook shrimp for 5 minutes per side, until opaque, basting frequently with marinade. Chicken skewers will take longer, about 6-8 minutes per side.

The shrimp:

And the chicken:

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hasbro Game Night

Hasbro Game Night!

Ahh, the perks of the internet. As a member of, I have the opportunity to apply for parties I'd like to host. HouseParty reviews the applications and then offers you a party pack if you agree to host. The party packs usually include various items to help make your party a success. In this party pack -- for a Hasbro Game Night House Party -- I received the three games shown above: Taboo, Catch Phrase, and the highlight of the pack, Trivial Pursuit: Bet You Know It -- the latest version that hadn't even hit stores yet when I received it!

Brainstorming how to make my party extra special, I decided to combine game night with a wine and food pairing, which the guests would enjoy while taking a wine trivia quiz -- the first game of the night.

I picked three white wines: Champange, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay.
No, these are not expensive wines. Yes, you can get them at your grocery store for under $10. No, my guests didn't care. :)

And here are the three reds: Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon

The first course!

Champagne goes well with salty appetizers, such as the nuts and crackers. It also pairs well with parmigiano reggiano cheese and peaches and plums.

The wine quiz!

The 2nd pairing: Marinated Chicken and Shrimp Skewers, served with Sauvignon Blanc

The 3rd pairing: Crab Cakes Over Salad Greens, served with Chardonnay

The 4th pairing: Open-Faced Hamburger Sliders, topped with shredded cheese and french-fried onions, served with Zinfandel

The 5th pairing: Spaghetti with Homemade Marinara Sauce, served with Merlot

The 6th and final pairing: Dark chocolate, served with Cabernet Sauvignon

All guests received coupons from Hasbro!

***All recipes shown in this post will be available over the course of the week -- keep checking back for updates!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Green Beans with Garlic and Basil

Green Beans with Garlic and Basil

Serves 2.

A light, healthy side that pairs with just about any entree chicken, meat, or fish.
Source: Williams-Sonoma Vegetarian cookbook

1/2-3/4 lb. tender green beans, trimmed
1 T. olive oil
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 T. finely chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil. Add the beans and boil until barely tender and still slightly resistant to the bite, 5-7 minutes. Drain, immerse the beans in cold water to stop the cooking, and drain well again.

In a wok or frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil, swirling to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. When the oil is very hot but not quite smoking, add the beans and stir and toss every 15-20 seconds until they just begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and basil and stir and toss for 30 seconds longer.

Remove from the heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Filet Mignon Topped with Blue Cheese

Filet Mignon Topped with Blue Cheese

Serves 2.

A simple classic with added flavor. In my opinion, the most important part of cooking filet is choosing a good piece. I like them short and stocky.
Source: The 3-Hour Diet Cookbook

2 filet mignon steaks, about 3/4-1 lb. total
Salt and pepper, or steak seasoning
1 T. olive oil
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese, about 1/2 c.

Season filets with salt and pepper.
Heat a skillet, with 1 T. olive oil, over medium-high heat. Allow the pan to get very hot.
Sear filets over the heat, cooking until internal thermometer, inserted in the thickness part of the meat, reaches about 140 degrees. Reduce heat and add crumbled blue cheese. Let meat rest for 7-10 minutes, until blue cheese has melted and meat's temperature has risen a few more degrees.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Loving Frank

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Don't you love when you come across a book that you literally can't put down?  That was the exact relationship I formed with this book.  I started it on a Tuesday, and by Saturday morning, I had read all 400 pages.  Typically, I read when I work out at the gym.  It's the routine I've found that works best for me.  I go to gym because I want to read, and I am forced to read because I enjoy working out.  I have a hard time making myself sit down and read at home.  So usually, if I'm enjoying my book, I'm at the gym often.  But if the book's boring?  My workouts typically suffer too.  With this book, not only did I have some fantastic workouts, but I actually found myself reading at home!  Reading before bed, 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there... I couldn't put it down.  I would definitely recommend Loving Frank.


It's a rare treasure to find a historically imagined novel that is at once fully versed in the facts and unafraid of weaving those truths into a story that dares to explore the unanswered questions. Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney's love story is--as many early reviews of Loving Frank have noted--little-known and often dismissed as scandal. In Nancy Horan's skillful hands, however, what you get is two fully realized people, entirely, irrepressibly, in love. Together, Frank and Mamah are a wholly modern portrait, and while you can easily imagine them in the here and now, it's their presence in the world of early 20th century America that shades how authentic and, ultimately, tragic their story is. Mamah's bright, earnest spirit is particularly tender in the context of her time and place, which afforded her little opportunity to realize the intellectual life for which she yearned. Loving Frank is a remarkable literary achievement, tenderly acute and even-handed in even the most heartbreaking moments, and an auspicious debut from a writer to watch. --Anne Bartholomew

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Warm Green Beans, Chicken, and Brown Rice with Sesame Dressing

Warm Green Beans, Chicken, and Brown Rice with Sesame Dressing

Serves 2.

This is what I like to call "healthy Chinese." Still just as much flavor, without the bad stuff.
Source: Williams-Sonoma Vegetarian cookbook

1-1/2 c. brown Minute Rice, prepared to package directions
1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 T. olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 clove garlic, minced
2 t. fresh lemon juice
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. Asian sesame oil
1 T. corn oil
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed
1/4 c. peanuts, toasted
2 t. sesame seeds, optional

Cook rice according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, corn oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook through, about 8-10 minutes per side. Remove from pan and slice into bite-sized pieces.

Meanwhile, bring a saucepan three-fourths full of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook until just tender, 5-7 minutes.

While the green beans are cooking, place the sesame seeds (if using) in a small, dry frying pan over medium heat and toast, stirring constantly, until golden, about 2-3 minutes. Watch carefully so that they do not burn. Transfer to a dish and set aside.

Drain the beans and place in a deep bowl. Immediately add the hot rice, chicken, peanuts, and dressing and toss to mix well. Place on a platter, garnish with the toasted sesame seeds, and serve at once.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chicken Fajitas... on the Grill!

Chicken Fajitas... on the Grill!

Serves 6.

This was a fun, summer twist on fajitas. I have only ever prepared fajitas on the stovetop, but I thought this would be a fun way to switch things up.
Adapted From: Cara's Cravings

Zest from one lime
Juice from three limes
Juice from half of one large orange
Salt, to taste
1/2 c. tequila
Big handful of fresh, chopped cilantro

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 yellow onion, sliced
3 bell peppers, sliced
Southwest seasoning
Olive oil
Desired fixin's: Guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, shredded cheese, etc.

Prepare marinade by mixing together ingredients in a large plastic Ziploc bag. Reserve 1/3 c. marinade. Add chicken to remaining and marinate overnight. Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before you plan to grill.

Heat grill over medium-low heat. Cook chicken breasts for about 20 minutes, or until no longer pink in the middle, turning once.

Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add peppers and onions. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, until softened and onions are slightly caramelized, turning often. Take reserved marinade, add a dash olive oil, some southwest seasoning, and pour over vegetables. Cook for 2 minutes more.

Prepare fajitas as desired. And then, dig in!

Friday, June 18, 2010

CA Coast: Orange County & Los Angeles

CA Coast: Orange County & Los Angeles

All good things must come to an end. We had a wonderful trip traveling the California Coast, and ended our time in the Orange County and Los Angeles areas.

Driving from Santa Barbara, we stopped at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market, Venice Beach, and then down to Huntington Beach.

We stopped at Duke's for a late lunch.

317 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA
ph - 714.374.6446

Because the main dining room was closed for lunch and not yet open for dinner, we grabbed a seat in the Barefoot Bar, and both started out with a caesar salad.

For lunch, the Mr. ordered the Baja Fish Tacos:

And I got the Poke Rolls, raw ahi, sweet onions, sauteed in rice paper.

Yum, yum, yum! We both really enjoyed Duke's. The atmosphere was fun -- a little touristy, but lively -- and the food was fantastic. I would be more than happy ordering exactly as I did this time if I ever return.

On our second day in the Newport Beach area, we visited the Beachcomber Cafe, a quaint little restaurant right on the beach.

No. 15 Crystal Cove
Newport Beach, CA
ph - 949.376.6900

Here's what it looks like when you're walking in:

A big back deck right on the ocean!

The Mr.'s lunch: A tuna melt!

And The Little Lady's lunch: A flatbread pizza with figs, roasted red peppers, and bacon.

Again, we were dealing with cool, cloudy weather, so the vibe at the Beachcomber was definitely different than had it been hot and sunny. I would've loved to have spent the whole afternoon there -- laying out on the beach and sipping island cocktails. But, alas, I suppose we'll have to return another, warmer day.

Our last full day was spent in the city of L.A. We did some sight-seeing and ate lunch in Hollywood, at the Pig & Whistle.

6714 Hollywood Blve.
Hollywood, CA
ph - 323.463.0000

The Pig & Whistle opened in the 1920s and was popular with stars with Shirley Temple. How fun!

I must have been starved this day, because I ordered this burger and cleaned my plate. Not a french fry, burger bite, or crumb remained! It was delicious!

And The Mr. had the Philly cheesesteak. I had a bite and thought it was average, but maybe I was just overly-consumed with my burger. :)

So that was our trip to California! I hope you enjoyed salivating over what we thought was great food in great places on a great trip.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

CA Coast: Santa Barbara

CA Coast: Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara was probably one of my favorite stops during our trip. It's young and vibrant, with UC Santa Barbara nearby, and there is so much going on. There's shopping, surfing, eating, drinking, recreational sports games, and, of course, the beach!

Although it was cool and windy when we were there, I got the feeling that Santa Barbara is the place to be on a warm, sunny day.

To start our evening, we headed to Longboard's Grill for happy hour drinks on the wharf.

210 Stearns Wharf
Santa Barbara, CA
ph - 805.963.3311

We weren't lucky enough to score any happy hour specials, but it was happy hour time and we were on vacation! I tried out the Longboard's Blonde and The Mr. went with a standard Bud Light.

And to tide our tummies over until dinner, some delicious chips and dip. The guacamole was to die for and the fresh salsa was great too.

For dinner, we took a recommendation from TripAdvisor:

8 East Cota Street
Santa Barbara, CA
ph - 805.963.5000

From the outside, The Palace Grill didn't look like anything too impressive, but based on the wait time for two people, it apparently was! While we waiting for our table, we browsed the shops nearby.

And then we were seated! For drinks, we split a bottle of Cakebread, from our time in Napa (I believe the corkage fee was $10):

Instead of bread, each table is served a variety of mini muffins:

Here's what we ordered!
The Palace Sampler Platter (with a few of our own substitutions): Chicken Tchoupitoulas, Cajun Crawfish Popcorn, Blackened Catfish, Blackened New York Steak with Cajun Hollandaise.

And for dessert...
Louisiana Bread Pudding Souffle, unique blend of souffle and bread pudding laced with Grand Marnier and raisins, served piping hot with a delectable whiskey cream sauce.

Can you say FULL? Yipes, we were stuffed! But very happy stuffed. :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

CA Coast: Monterey, Carmel, & Big Sur

CA Coast: Santa Cruz, Carmel, & Big Sur

And then it was on to Santa Cruz! We were sad to leave Napa Valley, but excited to start traveling the coast.

We stopped in Santa Cruz around lunch time. To get the full tourist experience, we picked a place out at the end of Municipal Wharf, Stagnaro Bros., a restaurant that also has a larger location back on the mainland.

Municipal Wharf
Santa Cruz, CA
Ph - 831.423.2180

The Mr. ordered the fish and chips, and I got the chowder. Both great and especially tasty since we were sitting on the pier while eating!

After checking out the amusement park on the Santa Cruz boardwalk, we jumped back in the car and headed toward Carmel.

Carmel is a darling little town on the coast, and although we didn't spend much time there, I would've loved to have had the time to try out a restaurant and do some shopping. For the ladies, stop in Carmel if you have the chance!
For the dog-lovers, I'm pretty sure Carmel is a very dog-friendly town, and many places allow you to bring your furry friends with you.

Our accommodations in Big Sur demand your attention. I know I'm supposed to stick to food and drink, but how can I not cover this???

Where we stayed in the northern Big Sur area: The Rainbow House at Don Loui's via VRBO.

Check out Don Loui's website for more pictures. It was absolutely amazing -- like nothing we had ever seen before!

Before we knew it, our one night in Big Sur was over, so we packed up our hiking shoes and started driving again. Since we wanted to fuel up for our longest drive of the week, we stopped at Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant.

Highway 1
Big Sur, CA
ph - 831.667.0524

How cute is this little picnic area?

Mmmm... pastries...

We are halfway through our trip! Tomorrow we will visit Santa Barbara!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

CA Coast: Napa Valley

CA Coast: Napa Valley

After our quick stay in San Francisco, we were off to Napa Valley, an amazing place.  I already want to go back!  Here's where we dined...

829 Main Street (between 2nd and 3rd Streets)
Napa, CA
ph - 707.224.8555

We loved being able to walk to dinner from our B&B in the town of Napa.  There were so many options, and since Napa is known for its fantastic restaurants, we knew it'd be hard to make a wrong decision.  So, our first night there, we opted to visit Zuzu, a tapas restaurant with comfortable ambiance and great reviews.

Here it is from the street:

When you're in wine country, you find that you eat all. day. long.  Most hotels and B&Bs serve up wonderful breakfasts, you find a charming place for lunch amidst the wineries, and you eat in between to combat against the effects of wine.  :)  And when you get back "home," you'll often find wine tastings and appetizers on the house.

So, by the time dinner rolls around, you're definitely hungry, but you're not starved.  At least that was the case for The Mr. and me.  While the restaurant suggested 4-5 tapas for a party of two, we figured three would be enough.  And it was perfect for our appetites.

Here's what we started with: Bacalao Frito, Crispy salt cod fritters with lemon-truffle aioli
Mmm.  Yum.

And then this!  It just kept getting better!  Is this not the largest couscous you've ever seen??  I questioned whether it was even couscous.  It tasted more like a round orzo.
Toasted Sardinian Couscous, with spring peas, favas, preserved lemon, and goat gouda

And finally, Niman Ranch Grass-Fed Flat-Iron Steak with roasted jalapeno chimichurri

The Final Verdict: Zuzu is a place I would return to again and again.  The food is great, the environment is enjoyable, and there are dozens of menu items that looked delicious.  Now I just have the reason to return!

1040 Clinton Street (at Brown)
Napa, CA
ph - 707.255.6646
email -

Uva is in "downtown" Napa and proudly offers five nights of live jazz each week.  The loud music makes it a little tough to converse with tablemates, so either go with a lively crowd who will enjoy the party, or if you're one-on-one with a spouse or date, you'll be able to hear each other across the table.

One nice option that Uva offers is that many of their menu items can either be ordered in a small or large size.  So both ordered small sizes and tacked on an appetizer that caught our attention almost immediately: Arancini, pesto risotto balls filled with Teleme cheese, breaded and fried, and served with a spicy marinara sauce.  Decadent goodness.

Okay now, before you go judging based on looks alone, let me tell you that this meal was probably my favorite of our entire vacation down the coast.  It was rich, yes, but I had ordered the small size, so it wasn't too much.  And it hit the spot.  I loved it!

Gnocchi al Gorgonzola, Handmade gnocchi with a gorgonzola reduction

And The Mr.'s choice wasn't at all surprising to me.  He loves the traditional pastas.  And he was more than happy with Rigatoni alla Bolognese, Pasta with traditional Italian meat sauce.

The Final Verdict: Whenever we told people we were going (or had gone to) Uva, they had heard about it (or been to it) and confirmed that we were making (had made) the right decision.  I think it's just one of those places that you're guaranteed a good meal.  Just know going into it that you won't be dining in a quiet, romantic venue.  If the live jazz is playing, the place is everything but quiet.  But it has a fun vibe.  And people must like it, because it was packed.

1111 White Lane
St. Helena, CA  94574
ph - 707.963.7774

This was the perfect place for a picnic.  And had we had more time, it would've probably been the perfect place to share a bottle of wine.  V.Sattui was pretty crowded, but because they have acres of picnic grounds, it's easy to find a place to call your own.

Here's the picnic area we choose.  A nice, quiet bench in the shade.

The deli!  Look at all those cheeses!  (And, yes, that's The Mr. in the stripes).

My sandwich: Tri-Tip Beef with cheddar

And The Mr.'s: Prosciutto and mozzarella!

The Final Verdict: If you're in Napa, V. Sattui should be a stop on your list.  If you have the time (and can handle the wine!), pick up a bottle of wine to enjoy with your lunch.  But don't forget, only food and drink purchased at V. Sattui can be consumed in their picnic area.

7856 St. Helena Highway
Oakville, CA  94562
ph - 707.944.8802

This market has been around since 1881 -- it has to be good!  Not only does it serve up picnic supplies for tasters traveling up and down the Napa Valley, but it also offers an adorable selection of gourmet gifts, wine country souvenirs, and a few shelf items.

I had been looking forward to visiting Oakville Grocery since I started planning this trip.  I love exploring local markets, and when they have meats, cheeses, wines, AND a selection of baked goods, I am one happy camper.

The Mr. instantly eyed the sandwich menu immediately, and ended up choosing the Mediterranean Grilled Chicken with red pepper mayo, smoked mozzarella, arugula, and tomato.

I was craving something lighter.  I take that back.  I was craving something sweet.  But I felt like I should add something healthy to that mix, so edamame salad and peanut butter & chocolate chip cookie it was!  Yum.

The Final Verdict: Go to Oakville Grocery!  I just think it's such a cute little place.  And there's so much to choose from.  Although the space inside is cramped, the outside patio gives plenty of space to eat your lunch there.  If you are choosing between V. Sattui and Oakville Grocery as a lunch spot and can only hit ONE, I think I'd recommend V. Sattui -- the food was a little better and the atmosphere was much better too.  But try to stop by both!