Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tourist in My Town: Pipeline

Another summer day bike ride took me and Garrett on a ride up and down Newport Beach. That is my favorite beach cruising spot. It has a nice paved sidewalk with beautiful sand and beach on one side and a variety of beach house on the other. As we drive by I tend to look at the houses just as much as I look at the beach. I like to pick out which ones I like and choose parts of each to build my dream beach house! It's been rather hot here lately, so as Gar and I were cruising around we felt the need for some refreshment.

My favorite beach food shack is Pipeline. It's located at the end of the Newport Pier, across the sidewalk from a nice grassy area. There is a small parking lot near, and quite a few other shops and restaurants around. Pipeline has a large menu with hot food, snacks, and a lot of cold treats. My favorite is the Hawaiian snow cone. It's a nice icey treat with vanilla ice cream at the bottom. As soon as I get it I start digging for the ice cream. I love the way the ice cream gets all mixed in with the cherry juice. Delicious. So if you're down that way and need a nice summer treat, stop on in.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Meals on Wheels: Kogi Truck

Last week was my last full week of freedom before I had to return to the classroom to prepare for my new wave of students. I was trying to fill up everyday with something fun and exciting to do, and I wanted to fit in a few things that are a little harder to do when you work Monday through Friday 8-5. Ok, I only work until 3, but still. Gourmet food trucks seem to be all the rage right now in LA and Orange County, so we've been making a list and last week checked off a few. It's a really fun eating experience, and a cheaper way to try out new gourmet food.

The first truck we hit up was the Kogi Truck. Brittany and Garrett put this one on the list. We found it in a business park on a Saturday afternoon. There was a warehouse sale going on and there were people everywhere. Kogi's tag line is, "Korean BBQ-To-Go," and that might have been the first time I ever had Korean food, BBQ or otherwise. Spicy Pork Tacos, Kimchi Quesadillas and Short Rib Sliders are just a few of the menu items you can get for a very moderate price, ranging from $2-$7.

I tried a short rib taco, a chicken taco, and the short rib sliders. (The portions are smaller, so you can try a lot!) The tacos were a delicious gourmet Korean twist on a traditional Mexican staple. The barbecued meat was amazing,and topped with slaw and veggies that I'm still dreaming about. And nice and sauce and juices were dripping down my hand as I ate. I loved it! You know how I hate dry food! The sliders were equally delicious, but I think I prefer the texture of the corn tortillas over the soft bun. The chicken tacos were my absolute favorite, if I had to pick. But I love, love, love this truck!

You wouldn't have to ask me twice to visit the Kogi truck again. In fact we almost went yesterday. Kogi has four trucks, three in LA areas and on in Orange County. They are in different locations every day for lunch and late night dinners. Check out their website here, or follow them on Twitter for location updates. (I don't do twitter, so you're on your own to find them there.)

Note: Sorry for the blurry pictures, the iPhone was all I had with me. You can check out additional pictures on their website.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


About a week ago our wonderful friends Andy and Jennifer gave us a huge bag of perfectly red and delicious homegrown tomatoes. I can't even remember the last time I saw tomatoes that looked anything close to these in the grocery store. (Note to self: grow your own garden next year.) I intended to create a wonderful dinner using these beauties, but, confession, I haven't been cooking too much dinner these days. My sister invited us over for taco salad last week and I thought, Yes! I can make salsa with my lovely tomatoes. Now, another confession, I've never actually made salsa before, but I had my brother, who spent two years in Mexico, show me the ropes.

The ingredients for the salsa are simple. Garrett said that the food he ate in Mexico wasn't at all glamorous, and keeping it simple is what the people in his areas were all about. So while I diced up about 6-8 tomatoes (I honestly didn't count), Gar was busy dicing an onion, finely chopping up a jalapeno, about a fourth of the pepper. We also minced up one clove of garlic, and a bunch of cilantro. We mixed that all together, and poured out a little bit of the juice, so we could add the juice of a half a lime. (These tomatoes were particularly juicy.) Add a little salt and pepper to taste and we had the most delicious salsa I've ever had. We topped our taco salad and burritos with it and the salsa made all the difference. I didn't even use a salad dressing!

I think this is a fool proof salsa recipe, but I must admit, I think most of the flavor came the homegrown tomatoes. So make sure your tomatoes are red, juicy and full of fresh flavor.

Garrett's Salsa
(All amounts can be adjusted to taste)
6-8 tomatoes, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1/4 jalapeno, small dice
1 clove garlic, small dice
1 bunch cilantro (a little less than one bunch)
juice of 1/2 lime
salt and pepper

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Costa Rica

On the 5th of July me, my sister Brittany and four other girls headed off on a little adventure vacation to Costa Rica. None of us had been there before but we were all super excited. We had the best time. We went to four different cities, and drove our rental Begos from town to town. The roads were not paved for the most part and had tons of pot holes. So needless to say, the ride was not smooth. We saw volcanoes, rain forests and tons of insects in them. We went horse back riding, zip lining, and river rafting. On the last day we made it over the the coast. One of our main goals was to see monkeys and we finally had our chance in Manuel Antonio, where the jungle meets the beach. It was beautiful. We also saw a sloth climbing down a tree. Have you ever seen one of those? They are crazy slow moving. Look like they are battery operated. By far the most interesting animal I've ever seen move.

While I love traveling, I always get a little concerned about the food I'll be eating. I love to seek out good restaurants, but Costa Rica wasn't really a food vacation. Their food is influenced by a lot of other countries, and every restaurant had pizza and hamburgers on the menu, but we thought we'd stick to the traditional dishes. The food wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything I'm dying to have again. I quickly grew tired of the food, as most meals were the same thing.

Each hotel gave us free breakfast, which was nice. It usually consisted of a buffet with fruit, rice, beans, eggs, breakfast meat, and pancakes, juices from interesting fruits, and sometimes tortillas. I wasn't all about the meat in Costa Rica, I had a fear of getting sick, so my daily breakfast was usually rice, beans, and a few fruits. I had pancakes one day, not too bad. But the eggs didn't look right, I avoided them!

The national dish of Costa Rica is called Casado. Casado is a typical Costa Rican meal consisting of rice, black beans, plantains, salad, a tortilla, and an entree of choice that may include chicken, beef, pork, or fish. We ordered this the first few places we went for dinner, and it we liked it. The best dish we had was the lunch we had provided by the river rafting tour. We all had Casado, and I got the fish. That was the first meat I had down there, and it was really good. This was also the first time we had tortillas.

One dinner I didn't really like was when I ordered the tortilla with cheese. When my meal came I was super surprised when my tortillas came out with this weird, unmelted cheese on them. I figured tortillas and cheese meant quesadilla, not the case. This was a low point in the food for me. I asked the server to melt my cheese for me, which he did. But super dry tortilla and cheese, not my favorite.

I ordered a taquito for a snack once and it came with lettuce, mayonaise and a weird katchup sauce on top. No like.

Another thing I didn't love about their food was that they didn't seem to be into sweets.By about the fourth day I couldn't take it any more. I needed a treat! We managed to find an ice cream place in the third city we were in. They had every flavor imaginable. They were all written in Spanish, so after asking what about five flavors were the lady just read them all off. I got a basic chocolate cone, and it was delicious. It was a little more icey than creamy, but it was still a treat.

The second time we found treats was on day six, we found this cute little bakery. I was so excited! We go in, and obviously it's a bakery in Costa Rica, but they had cookies, brownies, croissants, etc. I got a brownie and the other girls got cookies. All were good, but not nearly as sweet as the treats I'm use to. Still wanting more snacks and treats, we stop at the cheese factory later that day and get an ice cream cone. The ice cream was made there and much better than the first cone we had. Those cheese factories make some good ice cream. (Brittany and I were reminded of the ice cream we had at the Tillamook Cheese factory in Oregon. So good.)

By the last stop on our trip we were ready for our American food and we found pizza and pasta restaurant owned by an American. We thought that was a pretty good choice. The pizza was thin crust and they had a lot of really good combination of toppings.
In a nutshell, the trip to Costa Rica was definitely better than the food in Costa Rica. No one got sick, there were plenty of rice and beans to go around, and if you're craving food from home, you should be able to find it.

Tourist in my Town: Balboa Bakery

I live in a major tourist destination city. And sometimes, mostly in the summer, I want to do all those touristy things people come from far away to do. One our favorites is riding our bikes to the beach. My parents spent a majority of the summer here with us and we tried to go on bike rides whenever we could. The other day we took a morning ride down PCH to Balboa Island, took the ferry across the bay to the Balboa Peninsula. My Dad and I had been dying to get back to the Balboa Bakery for their amazing breakfast croissants and tasty doughnuts. We first had them while we were waiting to board the Catalina Express, to head to Catalina Island for the day. The Balboa Bakery is just south of the ferry drop at 301 Main Street.

We met some friends there, who also rode their bikes over, and we ordered our breakfast goodies. I usually like breakfast sandwiches, with ham and cheese and egg, but at a lot of places the egg seems fake. Like at most bagel places, they throw this little plastic thing in the microwave and in 30 seconds you have a rubbery, yellow substance that might resemble eggs. But at the Balboa Bakery their eggs are real, and cooked to perfection. The croissants and warm, soft and buttery, and the swiss cheese is melted over the ham (or whatever meat you choose). These breakfast croissants are big, you could easily be full with just a half, but you could will probably want to eat the whole thing, they are so delicious. You can eat inside, but the view and scenery is so nice outside. There are a few tables and benches so you can take it all in.

So if you live in the neighborhood, or happen to be here on vacation, check this place out. So fun and charming, and good food. I love being a tourist in my own town!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vintage Baseball Party: Favors

All summer long I have been trying to perfect my sugar cookie and decorating skills. So for Brian's party I decided to make baseball and bat cookies as party favors. I put them in the cellophane bags, but since he's not really a ribbon kind of guy, I made a thank you tag out of paper and stapled it to the top. I loved them. Plus they tasted and looked great too.

Before I started this cookie project I searched the internet for ideas and tips on how to make this a little easier. Best tip I found, hands down, was to roll out your dough, while still soft, between two pieces of parchment paper. It makes no sense to refrigerate your dough until hard, and then try to roll out this huge lump of dough. Which actually won't roll out until it softens up again, but by then it's too soft to to actually cut out the cookies. (Which is exactly what happened when I tried to make the wedding cake cookies.) I also bought some Evendough bands to put on the end of my rolling pin so that my dough would roll out evenly. Using these was so much easier than just eyeballing it myself. And since the dough was soft, I just applied a lot of pressure and the dough rolled out evenly. And without having to cover my counter with countless cups of flour, this system made it so much cleaner too!

I would roll out multiple sheets of dough and put them in the freezer. Within 20-30 minutes they were hard enough to cut out. Peal back the top sheet of parchment paper, dip your cookie cutter in flour and cut away. The colder the dough, the crisper the edges of your cookies will come out. Any left over scraps easily mix into each other because they don't have the excess flour on them. This was, seriously, the best system. Easier, faster, cleaner! I could make cookies all day at this rate.

My Dad happened to be in town again and was more than happy to help me with the cookies. He took the bats, while I had to pipe perfect circles around the baseballs. Not an easy task. I found that if you hold the piping bag a few inches above the cookies you actually have a better chance of getting the frosting where you want it to go. If you look closely, my circles are far from perfect. But once we put on the baseball stitching you could hardly tell.

For great video how tos on making royal icing, outlining and flooding sugar cookies visit I found them super helpful, and it's nice to watch someone on video!

Vintage Baseball Party: Food

I wanted to post a few more pictures of the fun party we had for Brian and tell a little about the food I served. This is, after all, a food blog! Because I was so busy doing all the decorations, and I had to haul everything up to his parents house 30 minutes away, I decided that I would not do the food myself. I also knew, that despite the fact that I was doing a baseball theme, I would not be serving hot dogs. When I first thought of doing this party months ago I thought it would be fun to get Mil Jugos, the Venezuelan restaurant Brian loves, to cater. Brian loves the food and the country and I knew he would love sharing that with all his friends. I thought for a second that people might not like it, but the food is pretty mild. I ordered chicken and beef arepas, a variety of empanadas, and rice and beans. Everyone loved it. You top it off with their special sauces and it is a sure treat!

For dessert I thought simple cupcakes and homemade chocolate ice cream would do the trick. I wanted to decorate the cupcakes somehow to incorporate them into our theme. We did these the morning of the party, so didn't have time to do anything too elaborate. My mom was helping me with the cupcake project and she said that when we were little and she would make cupcakes for our birthdays, long before they were popular, and she would put stickers on toothpicks and stick them in the top of the cupcake. We always had the best birthday parties! We ran with that idea and I cut out little pennate flags and mom hot glued them to toothpicks. I think they turned out darling!

I tried out two new recipes for the cupcake frosting. The vanilla buttercream frosting recipe came from the book More From Magnolia. It is recipes from Magnolia Bakery in New York. I was there on one of my trips and the line for their treats was out the door and around the corner. (Pictured below) Definitely worth the wait! I found the recipe online here . It tasted great, I didn't adjust the recipe at all. However, it says for two dozen cupcakes, and I only used about half for my two dozen. I used a generous amount too! I kept the frosting in the fridge for a week and used the rest of the frosting to frost birthday cupcakes for a friend. Worked perfect!

Besides cupcake toppers, mom's other job was finding a chocolate frosting recipe. She finally decided to just use the one of the back of the Hershey's cocoa box. We did, and it was delicious. We used quite a bit more powdered sugar than it calls for so the frosting would be thicker. We kept adding the sifted powdered sugar until the frosting was a lighter color of brown. (Sifting will help with the lumps.) But if you add to much the frosting loses it shine. We found that the perfect consistency will ribbon off the back of a spoon, in nice, thick strands. I'm posting the recipe as is on the box, add at least a cup or two more of sugar to thicken. Delicious.
Hershey's Chocolate Chocolate Frosting:
1/2 Cup butter
2/3 Cup Hershey's cocoa
1/3 Cup milk
1 Tsp vanilla
3 Cups powdered sugar
Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency. Add more milk if needed, stir in vanilla. (Makes about 2 Cups)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Vintage Baseball Graduation Party

I haven't blogged for a week because I've been so busy planning and executing a graduation party for Brian. It was this past Saturday and it turned out every bit as fabulous as I had imagined. I picked the vintage baseball theme because Brian graduated with his masters in Sport Management and baseball is his favorite! Me and my party planning sisters can take all the credit for the original decorations because when we Google searched vintage baseball parties for ideas and all we came up with were parties for five year olds. We made invitations, signs, and center pieces. It was a backyard afternoon party, so it was a bit warm. But that's ok, it felt just like a day baseball game.

For the center pieces Brittany had the idea to decoupage pots with vintage baseball pictures. We picked up the pots at our local Goodwill. We didn't have any vintage baseball pictures, so I found some on Google images, printed them out in black ink on cream paper. The same prints were used to make the signs. We made pennant flags with a variety of paper, sticking to our color scheme of navy blue, deep red, and cream. Navy blue table cloths, red Gerber Daises, and mason jars filled with peanuts in their shells and red vines finished the center pieces.

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