Sunday, December 4, 2011

31 flavors

I recently celebrated my 31st birthday with a weekend getaway in Murphys. It’s a charming little town in Calaveras County, CA packed with great wineries.

Chris and I hit the road after work Friday night and friends Lucy, Brett, Kimmy and Ramsey met up with us Saturday morning. Our celebratory crew of six (seven if you count Brett and Lucy’s loveable English bulldog GOB) took over the main drag, visiting quite a few tasting rooms in the span of a beautiful fall Saturday— Milliaire Winery, Twisted Oak and Newsome-Harlow were some of the favorites.

We worked up quite an appetite during our wine-tasting adventure and therefore gorged on a fantastic dinner at Grounds. I thoroughly enjoyed the filet mignon with shrimp, potatoes, baby carrots and bordelaise sauce.

I kicked off my actual birthday Sunday with a delicious breakfast casserole before we packed up and headed home. Once back in Sacramento, Chris and I enjoyed a mellow feast at Lucca, starting with this wonderful spicy shrimp bruschetta

before moving on to a heavenly main course of ricotta gnocchi with Aleppo chili tomato sauce and spicy sausage.

Thirty was a great year for me – running two marathons and starting a new job were some of the highlights. I can’t wait to make the most out of 31, and am grateful I got to kick it off by sharing a delicious weekend of laughter with some of my favorite people.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Satisfying food doesn’t take much effort

Sometimes I want to cook but I REALLY don’t have the patience to do so.
I absolutely love cooking, but I have to be in the right mood to do so. I wanted enchiladas for dinner, but I did some major grocery shopping after work and by the time I got home my motivation to preheat the oven was pretty lukewarm. But, in the spirit of putting to use some of the goodies I purchased, I tossed this rough-around-the-edges concoction into the oven and it ended up tasting great.

Lo’s Lazy ‘Ladas
3-4 cups shredded chicken
2 cups frozen corn
28 oz. can green chile enchilada sauce
6 oz. can large black olives, rough chop
4 oz. can diced green chiles
1 ½ cups grated cheddar
8 medium-sized tortillas, torn into strips

Here’s my layering system: Tortilla strips dipped in sauce. Goodies (chicken, corn, olives, chiles, cheese). Repeat. If baking with a 9-by-13-by-2-inch dish, you’ll end up with, going from bottom to top: tortillas, goodies, tortillas, goodies, tortillas, extra cheese, extra sauce.

A couple notes to consider…

First, I bought a rotisserie chicken at the store and removed all the meat when I got home. I ended up using about ¾ of the chicken meat in this dish.

Second, I used a packet of Mission Artisan Style Tortillas (flaxseed and blue corn blend) for this recipe. Straight-up corn tortillas would have given the dish a little more texture, but this is what I had in the fridge, so that’s what went into the dish. If you’re interested in trying these tortillas, print out this coupon first.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Summer of Smoothies: The Classic

Strawberries and bananas go together like peanut butter and jelly. These classic flavors taste great together when mixed up with some yogurt and milk.

The Classic
1 ripe banana
2 cups strawberries
¾ cup plain lowfat yogurt
½ cup nonfat milk

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dinner snapshots: Akebono

Chris and I grabbed a little sushi snack for dinner at Akebono Japanese Cuisine & Sushi Bar in Granite Bay the other night. A coworker of Chris’ gives this place a double thumbs up, and it didn’t hurt that we had a LivingSocial coupon too.

Their menu is packed with rolls. Here’s Nancy’s Roll — shrimp tempura, spicy tuna roll, unagi, green onion, masago and two sauces on top ($11.95).

We also had Hamachi Kama ($7.95), a broiled yellow tail collar that was super delicious but didn’t necessarily photograph well — sorry.

We told our server we wanted to spend $30 on Omakase Sashimi (chef’s choice) and this is what she brought to our table a few minutes later. Wow!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chowing down in Chi-town

We kicked off August with a much-anticipated trip to Chicago. It’s such a great place to visit during summer months, and we got to see a lot of friends and cram plenty of adventures into our six days in the Windy City.

We spent three of our days rocking out at Lollapalooza, the super-fun musical festival held each August in Grant Park. We worked up quite an appetite listening to great sets by Muse, Friendly Fires, Ellie Goulding, Foster the People, Eminem and more. Good thing for Chow Town, which featured more than 30 food vendors offering everything from pizza to lobster corn dogs.

My favorite deal came by way of Salud Tequila Lounge. I scored two chicken tamales and plenty of spice for $5.

We had plenty of good eats throughout the trip. Here are a few highlights.

No trip to Chicago is complete without a trip to Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co., a Lincoln Park favorite that serves up to-die-for pizza pot pies. We basically dropped our luggage off after arriving Thursday and headed straight to dinner. You order your pie by the half- or full pound and they come packed with plenty of cheese, marinara sauce, mushrooms and everything you’d want to find in a gut-busting pizza. These pies are baked in a bowl topped with white or wheat crust, and the server flips the bowl upside down onto a plate before handing it over.

The gyros special at Windy City Gyros hit the spot before we headed down to the show Friday.

Our lovely hosts Doug and Shannan took us to Sunday brunch at Hearty, which is a little bit of heaven offering “comfort revisited.”

Every single item on the Hearty menu tugged at my heart a little. I had the andouille biscuits and gravy served with a fried egg and smoky breakfast potatoes.

Chris had spicy grilled shrimp served with bacon-studded grits. Both dishes were breakfasts of champions.

We also passed around a Red Velvet Breakfast Dog, featuring a chicken apple sausage dipped in red velvet cake batter and fried. So good.

Friend Dan took us to lunch Monday at Kuma’s Corner, a badass burger joint which names quite a few of its menu items after metal bands (Slayer, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden). We were pretty wiped out after three days at Lollapalooza and weren’t thinking straight when we ordered a plate of custom macaroni and cheese (added chicken and andouille sausage) in addition to our burgers.

Behold the Brujeria, featuring a 10 ounce beef patty, cheddar, charred tomato salsa and house-made chorizo and cream cheese stuffed jalapeno, all snuggled into a pretzel bun. I didn’t stand a chance finishing it, but definitely worth the effort.

Any time we take a trip I do my homework and try to find interesting restaurants to try out, which is how we ended up at Sable Kitchen & Bar for dinner Monday night.

Seven of us ordered almost everything on the menu at this “new American gastro-lounge” and passed around our plates. Not a bad dish on the table. Some of my favorites included the fried green tomatoes with whipped basil goat cheese,

Thanks to Amelia for being my lovely hand model!
veal meatballs in a gorgonzola cream sauce

and the crispy red lentil cake with coconut curry broth, peanuts and zucchini salad.

Grahamwich was another restaurant I found during my research. Graham Elliot is culinary director for Lollapalooza, but he also owns the Michelin-starred restaurant Graham Elliot and the aforementioned sandwich shop Grahamwich, where we had a fun lunch with friends Ryan and Amanda Tuesday.

I enjoyed every bite of my Waldorf chicken sandwich with flame grapes, candied walnuts, crumbled gorgonzola and shaved celery on multi-grain bread. Chris was equally impressed with his choice — waygu beef with grainy mustard, baby arugula and onion rings on a pretzel roll. We sipped on root beer and ginger orange sodas, and instead of chips we opted for the G’wich Popcorn, pimped out with tons of grated parmesan, sea salt, cracked pepper, truffle oil and chives.

I was sad to head back home after our trip, because we had such a blast but also because I knew I’d be eating iceberg lettuce for a week to counter some of the ridiculously good meals we had.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Summer of Smoothies: Peachy Keen

We’ve been hard at work this weekend cleaning up the house, cars and yards. This smoothie totally hits the spot, providing the perfect cool-down for when you work up a sweat.

Peachy Keen
1 cup frozen sliced peaches
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 ripe banana
½ cup plain yogurt
½ cup orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Summer of Smoothies: Chocolate Cherry Bomb

This smoothie is a chocolate-covered cherry in a glass. Any time you feel like having dessert for breakfast, give this one a whirl.

Two notes on the ingredients. First, I enjoy fresh cherries as much as the next person. However, frozen cherries are quite convenient (no pits!) when using the blender. If you have some fresh, pitted cherries at your disposal, you might want to toss a couple ice cubes into the mix if trying out this recipe. Second, I used chocolate soy milk because it's one of my favorite treats these days, but I'm sure regular chocolate milk wouid taste just as delicious. 

Chocolate Cherry Bomb
2 cups pitted cherries
½ cup plain yogurt
1 ½ cups chocolate soy milk

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer of Smoothies: Blueberry Banana Bonanza

I love fresh blueberries, but would rather snack on them whole than throw them in a blender. Frozen blueberries whirl up nicely in this smoothie.

Blueberry Banana Bonanza
2 cups frozen blueberries
2 bananas
½ cup apple juice
½ plain low-fat yogurt

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer of Smoothies: Watermelon Wowza!

I’ve got an enormous, delicious watermelon taking up prime real estate in the fridge. This newest Summer of Smoothies creation is a great way to enjoy this juicy summer treat without making too much of a mess. This drink is so refreshing and tasty that you’ll just have to exclaim “Wowza!”

A couple notes before firing up the blender:
• I didn’t need any ice for this one because all the ingredients were either in the fridge (the watermelon and juice) or the freezer (strawberries). If you’re using fresh fruit try adding some ice to make it nice and chilly.
• The next time I make this I might omit the apple juice to thicken it a bit — the watermelon was nice and juicy.

Watermelon Wowza!
4 cups diced watermelon
2 cups frozen strawberries
½ cup apple juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day weekend full of delicious fun

Wanted to share some snapshots from my holiday weekend here in sizzling Sacramento.

We kicked off the three-day weekend Friday evening by checking out Concert in the Park at Cesar Chavez Plaza. I like to make it to Concert in the Park at least one time each summer because the beer garden always makes for great people watching. We sipped on some frosty IPAs, caught up with friends and hit up the Autentico Taco Azteca truck for some tasty pollo and carne asada tacos (four for $10).

Chris and I headed up the hill Saturday in an attempt to escape the heat. We spent the afternoon hiking the south fork of Silver Creek, which presents some pretty cool waterfalls as it makes its way down into the Ice House Reservoir. Deli sandwiches taste even better when you’re enjoying them on a huge granite slab overlooking a rushing waterfall.

I struggled through a scorcher of a run Sunday morning and rewarded myself with a chilly treat.

We bumped our Independence Day celebration up a day and had quite the Sunday Funday. A few friends came over for a good old-fashioned weenie roast featuring grilled hot dogs and all kinds of toppings. We had all the classics but also pimped out a couple condiments to create this hot little ’dog:

The relish (made by the special man friend) is a combo of diced sweet midget pickles (half of a 12-ounce jar) and 1.5 teaspoons sambal chili sauce. The ketchup gets a little kick thanks to curry powder (half a teaspoon per half-cup of ketchup).

Once full of Ball Parks, everyone headed down to Raley Field for a patriotic evening of River Cats baseball, some ice-cold brews and a dazzling fireworks display.

Strawberries sing in this refreshing smoothie

The strawberry is one of my favorite fruits. So much flavor in such a small package! This second Summer of Smoothies concoction is quite refreshing and not overly sweet. It made for a great cool down after a sweltering run the other morning. This recipe made enough to fill two pint classes plus a little extra.

Strawberry Mango Tango
1 pound strawberries, washed and hulled
1 mango, diced
½ cup plain yogurt
½ orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
16 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer of Smoothies

Summer’s finally here in all its sticky, steamy glory. Pretty soon it’s going to be too hot to eat anything other than ice, but after a too-long, too-gray spring I’m applying plenty of sunscreen and telling Mother Nature to bring it on. 

A piping hot coffee just isn’t how I want to start my morning when it’s necessary to fire up the AC as before I’ve even put in my contact lenses. I’m thinking about the next couple months, in all their sweltering glory, and think it’s time to give the Vitamix blender some love. This is the first installment of a weekly feature I’ll call the Summer of Smoothies. Not quite as ambitious as May’s 31 Days of Salad, but a delicious challenge all the same.

A quick note on portions — when I make a smoothie, it’s gotta be something to last through the morning. What I throw into the blender typically fills a pint glass with a little refresher left over.

First up is a little wonder I’ll call the Banana Blast. My first thought was to call it a Chunky Monkey, but this smoothie is quite smooth and therefore the opposite of chunky. I could have called it the Funky Monkey, but “funky” is near the top of the Words Loryll Absolutely Detests list (other words on the list include “diva” and “tennies” when used to describe footwear). Enough about that though. On to the good stuff!

Banana Blast
2 fresh bananas (it’s OK if they’re a little brown)
8 ice cubes
½ cup honey-flavored Greek yogurt
½ cup chocolate soy milk

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A delicious time in Palm Springs

I just spent a too-short weekend in Palm Springs celebrating my good friend Katie’s upcoming nuptials. The dozen of us had an absolute blast in this desert oasis eating, drinking and being merry due to the fact that our girl’s getting hitched.

She's the cheese and I'm the macaroni
We stayed at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, a hip little joint that feels a bit like the Urban Outfitters of lodging. They’ve got a great pool (open until 2 a.m., brilliant!) where we sipped on all sorts of frosty beverages while working on our tans. A group favorite was the Desert Facial, featuring muddled cucumber and mint, vodka and pineapple juice. The tall boys of Pabst Blue Ribbon ($6) weren’t too shabby, either.

We had a taco party Friday night on Ace’s star-gazing deck. The meal featured all kinds of delicious meats, veggies and other goodies, as well as one of the best ceviches I’ve had.

Prepping the taco table
 I also enjoyed brunch poolside Saturday morning. The Ace Hotel’s restaurant, called the King’s Highway, has a menu packed with tempting dishes. The big ol’ plate of chilaquiles (scrambled eggs, chiles, ranchero sauce, corn tortilla chips and house-made chorizo) I ordered after much deliberation had just the right amount of heat and was just what the doctor ordered after a late night out.

We were in town during Palm Springs Restaurant Week, when top restaurants across the Coachella Valley offer three-course meals for $24 or $36. The menu at Matchbox 369 featured three choices each for starters, main dishes and desserts. My picks were the spicy ahi tempura roll

the “adult” macaroni and cheese (grilled shrimp and andouille sausage, sharp white cheddar and smoky gouda)

and for dessert, chocolate chip bread pudding with caramelized rum bananas.

The collective food coma threatened to slow our group down, but we snapped out of it and ended up dancing the night (and dinner) away.

We could have spent the whole weekend eating nothing more than cheese balls and bean dip and it would have still been the same shenanigans-packed, laugh-until-you-hurt bachelorette party, but the dining experiences were the cherry on top of the sundae of this wonderful whirlwind weekend.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

May 31 Salad: Aaaaaaaand done!

Eating salad for a whole month is delicious yet challenging. There have been some days where the last thing I want to do after work is come up with something fresh and blog-friendly for dinner. I went through a lot of lettuce, tomatoes and English cucumber this month! I ended up making more of my own salad dressings than anticipated (woo!) but also dined out a little more than I could have, given the self-imposed challenge. But still, I ended up with 31 entries and 31 salads, which makes me happy.

With that said, here’s the final dish of One More Taste’s Salad Month. It’s my take on Salade Ni├žoise. I omitted a couple items (didn’t feel like eating potatoes, and didn’t see any eye-catching tomatoes at the supermarket) but did toss something on the plate that’s a little foreign to me — anchovies. Not sure they’re my favorite fish, but I can appreciate why they end up on this salad, as they’re oily and salty and add a good little oomph to the plate.

That delicious carnage in the center of the plate is some grilled tuna, brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Just put that hunka fish on the grill and give it a couple minutes, over high heat, on each side.

The non-fishy components of this salad include romaine lettuce (making use of what’s in the fridge), hard-boiled egg, blanched green (and yellow) beans and a quick dressing made up of (roughly) a tablespoon lemon juice(what I could squeeze out of half a lemon), little less than ¼ cup olive oil (bottom of the bottle) and a couple dashes of salt.

Challenge completed. Great success. Time to go eat a Porterhouse...

May 30 Salad: Throw some lettuce on the barbie?

We celebrated Memorial Day with some grilling, and I’m just talking about burgers. I also grilled some romaine hearts, something I read about in a couple of the cookbooks on loan from the library. I cut a romaine heart down the middle lengthwise, brushed it with a little bit of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. You put the romaine on the grill and cook for just a minute or two, turning once, until grill marks appear and lettuce begins to wilt. After removing the romaine from the grill I gave it a course chop and dressed with shaved parmesan and some of the aforementioned orange vinaigrette. The lettuce took on a little bit of smoky flavor with a touch of sweetness, too.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 29 Salad

The delicious champagne vinegar I mentioned the other day tastes great on its own but even better with a little bit of olive oil, Dijon and lemon juice. This sweet vinaigrette popped atop a heap of spinach, goat cheese crumbles, shaved almonds and dried cranberries.

Orange vinaigrette
¼ cup orange muscat champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon
¼ cup olive oil
Whisk first three ingredients in a bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in oil.

May 28 Salad

Rubicon Brewing Company is the spot for tasty food and even tastier beers. Chris and I rode our cruisers into midtown and treated ourselves to a late lunch on the patio. I had the tostada salad featuring mixed greens, diced tomatoes, black beans, corn, chicken breast and shredded cheddar, nestled in a flour-tortilla shell and served with salsa and ranch.

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 27 Salad

I do a little bit of edible gardening, and one item that always makes the cut each spring is tomatoes. Nothing compares to home-grown, sun-ripened tomatoes. Mother Nature’s taking her sweet time heating things up around here, and it’ll be a while before my plants start yielding anything. So for now I’ll have to stick with store-bought tomatoes. They still taste good in one of my favorite summery snacks, this quick salad of tomatoes, blue cheese and balsamic vinegar.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

May 26 Salad

This is the Ahi Salad at 3 Fires Lounge. You’ve got sliced ahi, shredded red and green cabbage, grated carrots and cilantro vinaigrette. Not too shabby!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 25 Salad: Bell pepper bowl?

Who needs lettuce? Not me, not today anyhoo.
I got my green on in the form of a raw, crunchy bell pepper (stem and seeds removed) stuffed with shrimp meat (squirted with lime juice), fresh corn, cherry tomatoes and diced avocado, with some of the red pepper vinaigrette I made the other night for kicks.
The bell pepper might look a little small for a salad bowl, but once you start cutting into this delicious cornucopia you realize it's going to be a while before you're a member of the clean-plate club. Believe me, this is a good thing. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 24 Salad: Muscat love

I picked up some orange muscat champagne vinegar at Trader Joe’s the other day and put it to good use with this salad of mixed lettuces, sliced Asian pear and goat cheese crumbles.

May 23 Salad

We stopped in Santa Rosa for lunch on our way home from a wine weekend in Healdsburg. This is a salad of mixed lettuces, shaved carrots, cucumber, roasted shrimp and herb vinaigrette from Jackson’s Bar and Oven.

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 22 Salad

I worked up a serious appetite tasting some of Sonoma County’s finest on Sunday. Good thing we stopped at the Dry Creek General Store in Healdsburg to pick up lunch provisions, including a delicious organic quinoa salad with snap peas, edamame and Asian dressing.

May 21 Salad

We headed to Healdsburg for the weekend with Chris’ parents — they’re out visiting from Wisconsin. Monti’s Rotisserie & Bar in Santa Rosa was a good pre-wineries lunch spot. I enjoyed a French Cobb with Romaine, roast chicken, tomatoes, feta, hard-boiled egg and a mustard-herb vinaigrette.

Friday, May 20, 2011

May 20 Salad: An Omnivore's Delight

 Chris made his world-famous tri tip tonight and I went all omnivore on him, making a salad with the tri tip, mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, fresh white corn (raw, cut right off of the cob) and a roasted red pepper vinaigrette.

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette
Two roasted red bell peppers
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 clove garlic

To roast bell peppers, either toss ‘em on the grill or throw them in the broiler, turning occasionally, until skin is charred and blistered. Remove from heat and place them in a paper bag for a couple minutes (wait until they’re cool enough to handle) before removing skin, stems and seeds.
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

May 19 Salad: Oh wow

Second course from our start-to-finish divine feast at The Kitchen was a Dungeness crab “cheesecake” and salad of lettuces, pickled shallots, cured lemons, walnuts and Castelvetrano olives, with some deep-fried soft-shell crab for good measure. My photo doesn’t do it justice.