Friday, December 18, 2009


I accidentally poured eggnog into my coffee the other morning, thinking it was half & half. It was not good.

This cocktail, however, is delicious! I poured the eggnog on purpose this time. No traditional rum. This is lighter.... a "girlie" drink.


3 oz Vanilla Vodka
5 oz Eggnog
Light shake of Cinnamon (optional)
Candy Cane or Chocolate Pretzel garnish

Add ingredients into shaker, add ice. Shake. Pour into martini glass. Drink :)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Memories from the Hotel Bel-Air

There are a few "Old Hollywood" Hotels here in the Los Angeles area that hold a gold mine of history ... and the Hotel Bel-Air is one of them. Famous guests like Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly hung out there and took shelter in the privacy the hotel provided.

That was long time ago though, and let's face it, styles have changed a lot since the 1940's. I guess that is why the Hotel Bel-Air has chosen to close down for two years and do a complete remodel. And when they say complete, they mean complete! Everything down to the doorknobs were removed from the hotel and moved to a location in Santa Monica for a "mega garage sale" of sorts. They sold everything; art, furniture, linens, shower heads, beds ... and all the KITCHEN STUFF! Silverware, napkins, dishes, pans, teapots. EVERYTHING. The professional stuff too! I got to the sale a bit late, but I did manage to score a huge (and very heavy) awesome stainless steel industrial stock pot, a mandoline, and this sterling silver cocktail shaker....

Now, every time I make a martini or chicken broth -- I'll daydream and wonder if the same pot made soup for Jackie Gleason, or if the same shaker made a martini for Cary Grant? You never know...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cook your Turkey BREAST SIDE DOWN

Cooking the bird "upside down" ... it's not as pretty a presentation - but it makes for much tastier white meat!

This is a post I first did last year for chicken. Today it's about turkey! (so pretend that is a picture of a turkey, and not chicken in a dutch oven).

Actually, turkey is where it began. My mom always cooked the turkey upside down. Upside down, and in a brown paper bag. This is the way I always do it too, because I know it always turns out perfect. The only thing I've added to the overall preparation is that now I'll brine the birds as well. Triple threat!

Does the chicken in this pot look odd at all? It's because it's upside down. Breast side down instead of the way we're used to seeing it - breast side up. My mom always did this with the holiday turkeys, so why not do it with chicken.

1 Whole chicken - drop it into an oven safe dish that you have a lid for. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper. You could stop there and add only a bit of olive oil, but I also like to add a good sprinkling of onion powder & garlic powder, a little paprika, and a little dried oregano. Drizzle a good amount of olive oil over it, then rub it all in real good.

I cook it uncovered at 375 for about 30 minutes, then turn it down to 325, cover it and slow cook it for another 2 hours. It really renders the juices, and creates a very rich, dark carmel-like sauce. Add desired vegetables, a little water (1 cup) and white wine (1 cup) in the last 45 min. When done, the liquid will be reduced down to a thick goo and you'll have a yummy sauce for drizzling over the chicken.

OK, so here is what happens. The breast meat is sitting at the bottom of the pot, drenched in all the juices and fat and it just drinks it up. Like I said, not as pretty - but so much tastier.

Taken right out of the pot - juicy and moist. If you cut this piece of breast meat in half, you'll see the gorgeous caramel colored juice in-between each and every fiber. Go ahead, click on the picture to supersize it... you know you want to.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


So, let's take a poll: Is there anyone here who doesn't like fatty, melt in your mouth pork?

I didn't think so.

Pork, when slow cooked and allowed to just get all tender and juicy, is just one of my most favorite things in the whole. wide. world.

Pork belly is now starting to pop up in fancy restaurants as appetizers and sometimes it's good, sometimes it isn't. To be really good, it has to be slow cooked, like ribs, so the fat is still intact, but as soon as you take a bite it just melts like butter. I happen to looooooove Charlie Palmer's version of pork belly.

This is my version.....

Pork belly is basically unsmoked bacon. I got mine at the Asian market. It's not salty, not cured at all. And, it had the rind. You can take the rind off, but why would you want to? It cooks up so crispy it'll rattle your brain when you eat it. "Cracklins" is what they call it in the south. Soooo yummy!

With all this fat, this is best as an appetizer type dish, rather than a main dish, so I cut it in smaller pieces, each serving is about 2 ounces. Salt each side generously and place into a 325 oven. I like to use a grill pan so the fat has somewhere to go, and the pork doesn't confit in it's own fat. You're looking for tender ... not crispy. Well, the rind can be crispy, but that should be the only part.

If your rind is on, you need to score it before cooking because it contracts quite a bit, and it will totally jack-up the look of your piece of pork belly. And do this the way you want to cut it, because after it cooks, you can not cut through it.

I put my pork in the oven, at 325, for about an hour. But ovens vary, so check yours after about 40 minutes. You're looking for tender pork, and the fat all crispy at the edges - yet almost liquid inside. Crispy is OK, but if you cook it too long it will melt too much fat away and then it'll just be tender, lean pork. Sorta missing the point of the whole "equal parts of meat/fat" thing.

Since it is not salty, I like to add some flakey sea salt or even rock salt on the portions, then I drizzle the plate with agave nectar. If you haven't had agave nectar, it's very good - similar to honey and even a little bit like maple syrup. It's a great sweet & salty thing :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Sorbet

Other than my blender and my food processor, I have never used a kitchen gadget as much as I've used this ice cream maker. You can make ice cream out of anything! Sorbet is actually my preference, and it's a great way to use up overripe fruit! The other day I picked up a bag of frozen strawberries, thawed them and then put them in the blender with some simple syrup and a little bit of water. So fresh tasting and such a strong and amazing strawberry flavor! You can take any juice and make a quick sorbet - fresh squeezed orange juice, or lemonade. Toss in some yogurt to make frozen yogurt. It's endless.

So I wondered what a pumpkin sorbet would taste like? I had pumpkin on the brain because of Halloween of course, so I went to pick up a can of pumpkin. But they were out of the plain pumpkin, and just had the pumpkin pie mix. Not a big deal, it's still obviously pumpkin, but it is already sweetened and spiced. Not much left for me to do!

I dumped the can of mix into the ice cream maker and poured in a healthy splash of half & half. Or was it heavy cream? Can't remember... you can use either. Or, none at all.

15 minutes later....

What can I say. If you like pumpkin pie - you will LOVE this. It's best fresh. If you are going to make it ahead, I'd probably add more cream to it so it doesn't freeze too hard.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


When I was a kid, this was one of my most favorite things! We called them potato tacos. It is my Dad's recipe, and I believe the story was that he got the idea from a street vendor in Mexico. No one I have ever talked to has ever heard of tacos with potatoes mixed in - including the many Mexican-Americans I have asked. So, maybe it didn't come from Mexico. Or, maybe it did, but it was just that one street vendor's special recipe? Everyone who has tried them loves them. It's different, but familiar at the same time. You gotta try it!

Mixing potato with meat is certainly a good way to stretch a buck, and in this case, it gives a whole new twist to something we have all had a million times, in a million different ways. The traditional recipe is simply ground beef mixed with equal parts potato (boiled is fine) and then it's put into a flour tortilla and fried.

You can also mix some chopped cilantro and diced onion into the filling.

Fill a large flour tortilla, then fold it in half and fry the tacos in batches in a little bit of oil until golden on both sides.

When done, garnish with all your favorites. I like shredded lettuce, cheese, a little sour cream, fresh diced tomatoes and hot sauce!

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Pizza anyone?

Our new babysitter-slash "private preschool" is just awesome. She has so many activities for the girls and the fun just never ends over there. It's apparently so fun that now, when at home with "Mom," CZ is bored to tears most of the time.

The other day for lunch I decided to make a pizza, then I thought, hmmmm... I might as well let CZ help me make it? It would be a fun activity. Something the "baby-sitter" might let the kids help with. She's only 2 1/2, but it's not dangerous at all (no sharp sharp knives or hot frying pans spitting oil everywhere).

On this day, we chose a classic tomato sauce.

1 can tomato paste. A good splash of olive oil. A little salt & pepper. A pinch of dried oregano -- I don't have fresh oregano. The snails always eat it. The only thing I can grow here is rosemary. Anyway, I also added a clove of chopped garlic.

CZ stirred the sauce. Standing on a chair.

Taste it, make sure it's good before you slather it all over your pizza!

You can make your own crust, if you're into that sort of thing. I am not into making crust by scratch, so don't come to me for a dough recipe. I use store-bought pizza dough.

Add the sauce, the cheese, and if you like, other stuff. Bake it at 450 until golden and bubbly and not too burnt on the bottom because toddlers don't like things too "dark."



Sauteed Clam. Appetizer?

Isn't it cute. The little clam.

Last week we went to the beach. The water is nice and warm this time of year here in southern California, and the tourists are now gone, so we can finally enjoy our beach again!

While out in the surf, I wasn't exactly looking for food, I was just looking for seashells for my daughter to play with. It's funny though, because we were just talking about clamming and wondering if you can just find clams on any beach, or if they were more fond of certain conditions, like say colder water or whatever. We don't know. We just buy them. But this day I found one! Guess that answers the question of whether you can just find them anywhere. I found one in Newport Beach. It looked healthy, definitely looked alive... he was closed tightly. And I'm not sure what type of clam it was - but the shell was quite thick and strong. Not what you typically see in the stores. It was buried in the sand, but the surf uncovered it, and I picked him up!

So, there he is. Cute little clam. I don't even like clams, but hubby does, and he didn't hesitate for one second when I asked him if he wanted to take it home and cook it, "Absolutely!" he said.

But how do we even know if it's an edible variety, I wondered? He wasn't worried. so we brought it home. And I cooked it.

I was sauteing some diced peppers and garlic for our dinner, so I tossed the clam into the pan. And then added some white wine. And then we waited for the clam to open.

....... and we waited.

He wasn't giving up without a fight. That thick shell I guess just takes longer to heat up, because it took a while to open! I thought it was probably dead. But then all of a sudden...

Ahhh! There he is!!!

I don't like clams or mussels myself, but I do cook them for hubby. It's been a while since I cooked any though, and usually I presoak them in water with some flour, and that will make them expel any sand. This was one time we really needed to do this, and I forgot. This little guy was filled with sand! Hubby ate it anyway though. I could have rinsed it off, but he ate it before I had the chance. Said it was gritty, but still delicious! :)

Friday, September 25, 2009


The good tomatoes will be gone before you know it! Enjoy them while you can!

This recipe is a really quick & simple way to enjoy the tomatoes and highlight their natural flavors without overpowering them with dressings or cooking them. It's light and fresh.

Chop fresh heirloom or other summer tomatoes into bite sized cubes.

If you have any leftover baguette bread, cut it into small cubes and put on a cookie sheet - drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and cook on 350 until golden brown. If you don't want to make your own, that's fine... just use croutons!

When ready to serve, toss the tomatoes and the croutons, and that's it! Serve immediately before the bread gets soggy. No dressing needed because the tomatoes are juicy enough. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Fresh grated Parmesan is optional, but adds extra flavor and a bit of richness.