Feb 092013
 

 

Today I am sharing with you the dates I chose for my “dates for a year” gift. If you missed that post,  you can find it HERE.

  1. Train ride to San Juan Capistrano for Brunch at Ramos House Cafe’.
  2. Tickets to the Kings game.
  3. Walking tour in San Diego’s Little Italy with a gift certificate to Extraordinary desserts.
  4. Lunch at Lucha Libre. It’s this dive Mexican restaurant where you can reserve the “booth”. Funky and fun!
  5. Puzzle night at home. (this is something they like to do together)
  6. Art Splash Carlsbad where locals come together and paint the streets and showcase their art. (sent them to breakfast first)
  7. Cineopolis, the fancy movie theater where you can recline in your comfy chair and have a waitress bring you a martini, while you watch the latest James Bond flick!
  8. Go Cars in San Diego. Basically I sent them to be tourists in their own city. Cafe Chloe’ followed for lunch. (a San Diego must)
  9. Pottery painting at a local shop where they made each other a gift.
  10. Ice skating in La Jolla so they could bring back the teen romance in their life! haha
  11. Their last date was a gift card to Michaels Craft shop so they can assemble their scrapbook together with their “year of dates” photographs and memories…

 

photo 4

 



photo

These were the dates I chose for my sister and brother in-law. My ideas were truly endless, especially the longer I thought about it. Here is a little added bonus for you…

More date night ideas:
  • Picnic with all the trimmings. (candles, blankets, wine and even a laptop to watch a romantic movie)
  • Dinner at a restaurant, but at the “chefs table”. (this is the room or counter you eat at while watching your food being prepared)
  • Spa day for fabulous massages and facials. A mini date at your local pedicure place would be great too!
  • Be a tourist in your own city. I especially like using Groupons/Living Social coupons for this.
  • Whale watching or sunset dinner cruise.
  • Cooking class at a local restaurant or store, such as Sur La Table.
  • Amusement park such as Disneyland. Act like a kid again…even if for one day!
  • An unusual dinner out such as “eating in the dark” or try a new food. (Indian, sushi, vegan, etc…)
  • Museum or local art showing.
  • Music concert for an old favorite band.
  • Your local juice bar, followed by hitting the rock climbing gym. (fun even for beginners)
  • Plant an herb garden together.
  • Create a signature cocktail. Have fun experimenting with ingredients such as lavender, rosemary and mint. (look around on the internet for inspiration)


Date nights that are cheap or free:
  • Embrace the great outdoors by going on a hike or stroll along the beach, river, or local nature spot.
  • Wash each others cars together while blasting your favorite tunes. (if it’s warm enough, add a little water fight too!)
  • There is nothing more romantic than cooking a meal together. Do everything as a team,  from choosing the dinner, grocery shopping, prepping and cooking.
  • Pamper your significant other. Example: Let them watch their favorite t.v. , play video games, eat their favorite bad foods, GUILT FREE, while you make them food, always have a cold drink for them, do a few of their chores, give a little foot rub…you get the idea.
  • Garage sale or flea market date. Designate $10 and have fun searching for a gift for one another.
  • Follow a local food truck to have some gourmet grub on a budget.
  • Pay it forward together. This might be the most bonding date. (tidy your elderly neighbors yard, babysit for a single parent, deliver a surprise dinner to someone sick or depressed, have a fund raiser such as a garage sale for someone in need, volunteer locally such as a beach clean up, help friends have their emergency kits together, I could go on and on…)
  • Attend a free concert in the park or movie in your local community. (usually a summer activity)
  • DIY spa day. Create a spa atmosphere with soothing music, water with cucumbers and lemon, low lighting, favorite candle scent…and give each other scalp, hand, foot or neck massages. If you have a tub, draw a nice bubble bath for the other with a tray of a few of their favorite things. (book, bubbly, soaps) Throw a towel in the drier so it’s nice and warm for them when they get out.
  • Game night,  such as chess or scrabble.
  • Get some household chore done, such working in the yard. It might not be the most romantic date, but you will get something accomplished TOGETHER. Make it enjoyable by taking a break and having some cold beer and chips/salsa together.

 

I think these suggestions should keep you busy for a while. Please feel free to share your ideas in my comment section to share with everyone!! I’d really appreciate your creative input.

Jun 272012
 

I’ve fallen in love with the quirky cooking show, Extra Virgin, starring Debi Mazar and her Italian native husband. I recently tried one of their mouth watering recipes, bolognese lasagne with a besciamella sauce. It is divine! I’m going to be upfront with you, it’s a simple yet time consuming recipe. However, one bite and you’ll know it was worth all the effort.  The main thing you’ll notice that sets this recipe apart from most, is the lack of cheese. Instead you use a besciamella sauce that is made from butter, flour and milk. It turns what would be an ordinary dish into an extraordinary one!

I followed the recipe as directed, except I omitted the nutmeg simply because I don’t like it. If you need a meal to impress, look no further… Serve it with a simple salad and rustic Italian bread. Of course, don’t forget the vino!

Recipe Here

(courtesy of Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar)

Mar 182012
 

 

Looking for something different that you haven’t experienced in your culinary life as of yet?

Outstanding in the Field is a roving adventure – literally a restaurant without walls. They set the long tables at farms or gardens, on mountain tops or in sea caves, on islands or at ranches. Occasionally the table is set indoors: a beautiful refurbished barn, a cool greenhouse or a stately museum. Ingredients for the meal are almost all local and generally prepared by a celebrated chef of the region. This really is a great way to experience the farm to table trend.

I personally have not had the pleasure of sharing a meal at one of their tables. They’re not always in your area and dip deep into your pockets. However, it is on my list of things to do…eventually. I’d also like to mention I have no financial gain by sharing this information with you. It’s just something I found to be interesting that I wanted to share with my readers. MARK YOUR CALENDAR, MARCH 20th TICKETS GO ON SALE! Look at their schedule now and plan ahead. Tickets sell out in minutes.

 

DIYD: (do it yourself dinner)
  • If you know the day you can burn a few hundred bucks is not in your near future, but you’re inspired by the idea, why not try to recreate your own “farm to table” dinner.

 

What to do:
  • Location! Location! Location! Find a special space whether indoors or out that is a little more adventurous then the dining room. Think-the beach, along the river, in a cactus forest, on a ranch, at a local park, in a privately owned library, under a big tree, in the middle of the street at the end of a cul de sac, on a basketball/tennis court. Think outside the box and have fun!
  • After your location is established, decide on how many guests you will be serving. A romantic dinner for 2? A family reunion for 20? You decide! Once the number of people is established be sure you have enough long banquet tables and folding chairs to recreate an outdoor dining room.
  • Customize the dining décor to your own individual liking. For me, I would use as many candles as would fit! Others may use hay stacks for the benches with crisp white linens draping the tables. Have fun and remember there are no rules! (Martha won’t be attending)
  • Next, decide on your menu. Choose seasonal items that you can get at your local farmers markets. If you really prepare in advance, you can even grow some of your own ingredients yourself.  Try to select items that can be prepared fully in your kitchen and brought to the sight in coolers or warming bags.
  • Remember the details such as weather conditions, bugs, restroom availability, parking, dietary restrictions/allergies , wine pairings, music, throw blankets, etc…
  • If you like the idea but don’t want all of the work, cater the event and have it delivered to your site.  Try to find a store or restaurant that makes farm to table meals. The concept and ambiance will still be enjoyed by all.

 

Buon Appetito!

Feb 292012
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, I must thank my dear friend for treating us to such a fabulous dinner! I must admit the thought of prunes and olives was not mouth watering at first. If you can get past the ingredients list and just make it, you’ll be in for a delicious surprise, I promise. For those of you looking for the perfect make-ahead dish, look no further. You marinate this the night before and just pop it in the oven the next evening. It’s so easy but will taste like you spent an entire day slaving in the kitchen. Don’t forget to serve it with some fresh Italian crusty bread for dipping in the juices. (the best part) My friend made a fresh green salad and oven roasted asparagus on the side. It was the perfect combination! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did…

Buon Appetito!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RECIPE HERE
Jan 202012
 

chicken with lemon and olives in a pan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Okay, okay, mine doesn’t look exactly like the magazine’s photo but I bet mine tastes better!)
 

Cooking Light magazine is one of my favorite places to find simple, healthy, but delicious recipes. I especially like this month’s issue because of the 25 chicken dinners that are featured. I’ve been experimenting with the different recipes and so far I love the chicken with lemons and olives dinner.  The aromas are enough to get your entire family to gravitate to the dinner table!

 

 

 

 

 

 

RECIPE HERE

Hope you enjoy…Buon Appetito!

Nov 262011
 

 

 

This Sunday, I’m honoring my favorite contestant on The Next Iron Chef, Michael Chiarello, by making his chicken taco recipe. One taste and you’ll be watching with me as I cheer him on.

Recipe here

I don’t take any Nellene short cuts with this recipe. I make it just like Chef Chiarello does. You can decide on which condiments you’d like to serve on the side. I like to offer sour cream, fresh cilantro, red onions, cheese, avocado and homemade salsa.

Next week I’ll be doing a post on how to throw a Next Iron Chef finale party. Be sure to stay tuned…

Nov 192011
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the meal to make when you’re craving that Sunday supper that tastes like you spent all day slaving over the stove. I found a perfect compromise with Ina Garten’s Bolognese recipe. The good news is that it only takes weekday effort to make. I was pleasantly amazed by it’s rich, robust flavors that came together in such a short time.

Recipe Here

Tips:

  • Double the recipe (I did) and freeze the sauce for a future easy weekday dinner.
  • Be sure to print this one out and add it to your recipe file labeled, “company’s coming over for dinner”.  It’s so easy to make the day ahead. On the day of you can just make a fresh salad and boil the pasta.
  • Put together a gift basket. Most of the ingredients are dry and can be bought and assembled in a basket. Include the recipe and what they need to add. (the beef) Keep it simple or add a little extra with wine glasses, vino to drink, cloth napkins, candles, Italian music cd, etc…


Nov 162011
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sharing one of my secret steak marinades today! That’s right. It’ll be floating in cyber space forever now. I rarely order steak out at a restaurant because I think my version tastes just as good, if not better. My secret ingredient is espresso. It adds a subtle earthy flavor, while tenderizing the steak.

My first choice cut of meat would be a rib eye bone-in. Otherwise, you can choose whatever cut is your favorite, just be sure it is a high quality choice. (no slow cooking beefs)

Marinade: (4 steaks)

  • ½ cup espresso (or really strong coffee)
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • coarse salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • red pepper flakes (optional)

 What to do:

  1. Salt and pepper your steaks generously.
  2. Mix all the other ingredients together in a shallow pan (like a casserole dish). Place your steaks in the marinade. The longer you let them sit, the better. I usually marinade them 2-6 hours depending on how prepared I was that day. At your halfway point, flip the steaks on their other side in the sauce. Note: If you’re letting them marinade for more than 2 hours, be sure to cover your pan and refrigerate.
  3. My preferred method of cooking the steaks is on the bbq. Nothing can replicate that unadulterated smoky flavor. If you do not have access to a barbecue, you can use the oven or stove top grill pan.
  4. It’s very important to let your steaks rest for ten minutes after they’re done cooking. This allows the juices to stay in. I always finish with a little bit of salt right before serving. It melts perfectly into the steaks. (My mouth is watering as I type this!)

How long to cook your steak:

Every barbecue, oven, and stove work differently. These are just general guidelines. Please adjust as necessary. For a 1 inch thick steak, 4 1/2 minutes per side for rare, 6 1/2 minutes per side for medium and 9 minutes per side for well done. The more “give” or “bounce” you feel when pressing into the steak with your finger, the rarer it is. Try not to cut into the steak to check if it’s done. That will provide an escape path for all those wonderful juices.

Buon Appetito!

 

PersonalWine.com

Nov 042011
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you want your senses to do a little dance this weekend? Then get boogying in the kitchen and make this soup originally created by Marcus from the Top Chef. It’s not like a typical extra thick bean soup. I would classify this more as a brothy (is that a word?) bean soup but with bold flavors. This is definitely company worthy!

RECIPE HERE

By the way, I must credit my mother in-law Connie for this new keeper…thanks!

Oct 282011
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry I didn’t make any soup this week, therefore it’s Sunday supper instead of soup. I think you’ll forgive me after you see what I have in store for you…short ribs! I normally use another recipe, but decided to try out this one from my new cookbook, How To Cook Like A Rock Star. Anne’s recipe has more of a tomato flavor base. It’s very satifying and will have even the pickiest of eaters singing praises!

Short Rib Recipe Here

Changes I made to the recipe:
  • I used 1/2 cup tomato paste only.
  • Instead of short ribs on the bone, I used boneless.
  • I made mashed potatoes for my side, which I think is the perfect compliment. My second choice would be pasta, given the tomato flavors of the dish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In case you’re wondering why Sunday supper is posted on Friday night, it’s so you have time to get the groceries and plan for Sunday!
Buon Appetito!