A couple of weeks ago, Brandon and I cooked for his dad’s going away party. He’ll be out of state for work for some time so we decided it would be nice to get his friends together and enjoy company while he was still in town. Being in the military is a difficult profession and I can’t imagine what our country would be without the help of so many men and women all over the world who sacrifice so much for our safety.
So for this event we had two chefs and one kitchen. Brandon and I have worked together in some kitchen during various times for the last 7 years professionally, at home, or at someone else’s home/event. You can currently visit Brandon at Blush Restaurant and/or Blind Tiger in Santa Barbara, where he is the Executive Chef.
Though most of my time is spent cooking for my family and teaching yoga, it’s nice to prepare a large meal for wonderful people. We decided to have a massive taco fiesta. Our first go with the barbeque ended up not too successful because the grill wasn’t in working order, so we went for the simple charcoal grill that I’m used to and I grilled the food while Brandon cooked inside. I think overall it was a great team effort. Safe travels, Andy!
Chopped Seasoned Pork
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms and Zucchini
Spanish Bay Shrimp
Mixed Vegetable Sofritas
Chorizo Bean Dip
Salsa with Green Chiles and Garlic
Tortillas and Toppings
Coconut Cream Pie with Bananas and Fresh Peaches
Grilled Cinnamon Peaches and Pineapple
Rocky Road Pudding Pie
Rocky Road Pudding Pie Recipe
Layered dark chocolate and white chocolate pudding in Oreo crust with marshmallows and chocolate dusted roasted almonds
1 Oreo Crust
½ cup cocoa dusted roasted almonds
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Place cold heavy whipping cream in a small bowl. Whip with a hand mixer till thick whipped cream forms, no powdered sugar necessary. About 3-5 minutes on medium speed.
1 small box Hersheys white chocolate pudding
1 ¾ cup whole milk
Make pudding according to the box directions for pie.
1 small box Hersheys dark chocolate pudding
1 ¾ cup whole milk
Make pudding according to the box directions for pie.
Pour 1/2 of the white chocolate pudding into the bottom of the Oreo crust. Top with ½ cup of marshmallows and pour ½ the dark chocolate pudding on top. Mix the remaining pudding together and fold in the whipped cream till smooth. Top pie with the mixture and smooth into a mound. Top with the remaining marshmallows and cocoa dusted almonds. Refrigerate for one hour or more.
Years ago, I had a conversation with Damiano about his vision of bringing his family to the United States to build an Italian pastry business in California. Even then, as we spoke I knew that I would see his idea come to full fruition. Damiano is one of the hardest working and most driven persons that I’ve ever met. His passion for flair bartending, all things Italian, his family, and his business is exemplary. When I first met him, he was a bartender, but he’s put that passion on hold to build a family Italian pastry business called Carrara Pastries located in Moorpark, CA. With the help of his brother, Massimiliano Carrara, who is the Pastry Chef, the success of their business has lent to the expansion of a second location in Agoura, CA.
On 05.05.13, Carrara Pastries opened its doors to the Agoura community at their location on Roadside, just off the Kanan exit of the 101 freeway. Both new and old customers flocked to the beautiful and elegant modern storefront in Agoura to enjoy friendly company and beautiful Italian pastries and espresso. Large glass cases of freshly-made delicious pastries line the back of the store. Beautiful photographs and mirrored walls offer a modern, but warm atmosphere. Not only do they have mouthwatering desserts, everything is prepared fresh with the finest imported Italian ingredients and to accompany your sweets, you can choose from a variety of Italian refreshments and espresso drinks. As the community welcomed Carrara Pastries with open arms, I’m delighted that such hard work can and has developed into this beautiful reality for the Carrara family. As they cut the ribbon and served the deliciously large and gorgeous white cake with fresh fruit and white chocolate, everyone lined up for a slice.
While Brandon and I were there, we couldn’t help but pick up some delicious profiteroles with light pastry cream, a delicious cheesecake and a beautiful hazelnut chocolate cake. Carrara Pastries has something for everyone: large cakes for special occasions, small bites for an after-dinner sweet tooth and everything in between. Massimiliano and Damiano were born and raised in Lucca, Italy. There, Massimiliano studied with top pastry chefs in Italy and trained in the exquisite art of fine Italian pastries. As you take a look at the various pastries, you’ll see things you’ve never seen before and others that you’re very familiar with; this is all part of the charm of this lovely new bakery. The Carrara family is a model for the American dream and with lots of sacrifice, time and effort, they’ve manifested their dreams into reality. Please visit the Carraras at either of their lovely locations and explore the sweetness they’ve created.
476 West Los Angeles Ave, Unit A-13
Moorpark CA, 93021
28914 Roadside drive, Ste #107
Agoura Hills CA, 91301
I love this time of year! It’s so busy and crazy, but there is just so much love in the air that it makes all the craziness worthwhile. I just got back from an impromptu trip to Las Vegas with Brandon. Brandon’s family lives in the suburbs of Vegas, about 25 minutes outside of the strip. It’s nice to see the local side of Las Vegas instead of the normal craziness that ensues on the strip, although I do have to admit that we took a couple of quick strolls around down there to see what strangeness we could uncover and what restaurants were serving. Ever since our first trip to Vegas, probably about 6 years ago, we’ve always wandered the strip looking for new culinary inspiration. Some of the world’s top chefs have clumped together in that small strip of land, creating a culinary Mecca and once we get a pile of money, I’m sure we’ll try each one. Here are some previous dining experiences I’ve had in Las Vegas.
During this trip we took the locals route of eating and relaxation, which was all thanks to Brandon’s extremely loving and generous grandparents (Jerry and Carol) as well as his aunt and uncle (Daina and Mike) and cousin Noah. Brandon and I also got to put our cooking skills to use making dinner for the family at Daina and Mike’s house. I love family dinners—they are probably one of my favorite meals to cook because making food for people you love is one of the best ways of showing someone that you care about them.
Brandon and I took a trip with Grandpa Jerry to the local Albertsons and we started in the produce section like we normally would. I always like to choose the vegetables I want to make before the protein because I think, seasonally, it’s easier for me to make decisions on flavors from seeing produce. So we picked a couple of things and went on our way. I think initially we had two very different visions for what we were going to make, but we were ultimately able to bring together a delicious meal.
Ciabatta Crostini with Mascarpone, Mashed Cauliflower, Roasted Herbs, Garlic and Crispy Bacon
Ciabatta Crostini with Roasted Japanese Eggplant, Fresh Tomato, Basil and Sausage
Roasted Stuffed Chicken Breast with Button Mushrooms, Leeks, Thyme and Garlic
Panko-Encrusted Chicken Fingers
Whole Roasted Marble Yukon Potatoes with Herbs and Garlic
Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Zest, Chopped Parsley, Garlic and Thyme
Pan-Seared White Zucchini and Japanese Eggplant with Basil and Cracked Pepper
Arugula and Baby Romaine Salad with Fresh Tomatoes and Cucumbers, Sausage, Bacon and Honey Dijon Balsamic Dressing
Brandon bought some beautiful pastries from Jean Philippe Patisserie. He bought a nice variety of chocolate cake, pumpkin cheesecake, flan, and hazelnut chocolate cake. The Pastry shop is located in the Aria Hotel on the Vegas Strip. They have an amazing variety of gorgeous beautifully sugary deliciousness. I suggest you check it out for yourself.
Sin City has its alluring qualities and flashy devilish charms, but hidden amongst the countless yards of alcohol and not so flattering clothing choices, are the sweet and deliciously decadent, which my boyfriend and I found on our trip around the strip. Brandon is the first person I went to Vegas with after I turned 21. We were freshly friends on a mission to seek out some delicious inspiration and new restaurant ideas for growing chefs in a new place. Since then, almost five years ago, one of my favorite pastimes in Vegas is restaurant menu searching and eating.
Our adventure to Vegas was filled with fun trips to different casinos to see menus with seasonal inspiration. On our way around, we decided to stop at a really amazing sweet shop at the Forum Shops in Caesars Palace called Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Every time we go here, there’s always some new and interesting combination of flavors that I need to try and also, some that I always go back to. We looked around for a while, and finally decided on a box of truffles, white chocolate lavender hot coco mix, and chocolate toffee. The truffles were fantastic, the toffee was eaten before I had any and I could pass on the lavender white chocolate because I’m not a fan of lavender, but it was still pretty delicious.
Later on in the evening, we met up with some of my friends (Thomas and Joanna) for a couple of drinks and another walk along the strip. We walked from Excalibur down to the Cosmopolitan, where we had drinks at Bond . The Cosmopolitan is one of my favorite hotels in Vegas. If you’re lucky enough to go there, I’d say it’s something to behold— interesting, chic, modern, and beautiful—and this bar was all those things and more. Bond has an interesting combination of stylish modern cocktails or a standard stiff drink. As we sipped wonderfully well-made drinks with good company, I couldn’t help but think how awesome my friends are. I had a Berry Long Island and Brandon had a Lemongrass Ginger Kamikaze; both drinks were strong, but still light and flavorful, with fresh juices and high quality liquors.
The trip was one of the best I’ve ever had and I’m sure we’ll have more great adventures in Las Vegas to come.
I’d have to say the best day I had in Seattle was the last full day I was there. An honest save the best for last type feeling occurred to me and I was able to get in an amazing amount of fun. My morning started off with breakfast at Toulouse Petit this lovely eatery is located in Queen Anne, its décor is chic and welcoming. The food is fantastic and southern inspired, I love breakfast when I’m in the mood for it and here I was very happy with the outcome of my meal. I ordered Fried Oyster and Bacon Eggs Benedict. The absolute luxury of this dish was something to recoil at because it was such an early hour but seeing this item on the menu was too tempting to pass up the offer. I had chosen correctly and was happily on my way through three quarters of the platter before second guessing its lavish appeal on my taste buds. The influence of the south was present on my plate, thick cut crispy bacon, perfectly fried corn meal battered oysters flowing with runny egg yolk and Creole hollandaise sauce over a lightly toasted muffin take the cup on one of the best breakfast plates I’ve had in a very long time. Breakfast Happy Hour is an affordable and awesome way to start the day.
After breakfast I took the bus down to the city and took a stroll over to the market and looked into some shops. Later on I made my way back to my hotel and decided to stop at the Experience Music Project I absolutely loved this place, it’s a combination of music and science fiction. They have amazing exhibits on Nirvana, so many guitars, Jimi Hendrix, and also they had a really amazing exhibit on Avatar which is one of my favorite movies. I could have spent an eternity in there looking at all the music pieces and reading about guitars as well as playing in the sound labs. It was really one of my favorite museums I’ve been to.
After that I met up with a new friend I made at Ashley and Bryan’s wedding Lia. We had drinks and happy hour at Toulouse Petit because she said it was one of the best happy hours in town which I’d have to say was correct. We had a plethora of different dishes ranging from amazing mouth watering modern southern flavor to the classic down home fried bar grub. We chatted and made it through the menu, I love meeting new people who love food.
Fried Okra with Remoulade
Wild Mushroom and garlic bruschetta with arugula
Ahi Tuna Tartar with Quail egg and horseradish cream
Golden Beet Salad with haricot vert, blue cheese, kalamata olives, citrus vinaigrette and candied walnuts
Katie Mae pearl vodka, st germain, grapefruit juice, prosecco
After some awesome conversation and lots of good eats, Lia offered to take me the other side of Lake Union to Gas Works Park which had an amazing view of Seattle from across the lake. Before getting to the park we stopped at an awesome Pie Shop in Fremont called Pie. They specialize in all things pie, sweet and savory. I ordered a Raspberry Peach Pie and Lia got Banana Cream we sat in the sunshine and ate pie by the lake, which was delicious light flaky and wonderful. It was such a beautiful afternoon. After that Lia let me off at my hotel. I hope one day we’ll see each other again soon.
After I got situated I decided to take a walk on the waterfront and watch the sun set over the sound. I walked by the water front and along Olympic Sculpture Park. I sat alongside the sculptures and watched the sun fade into the distance, taking note of the beautiful Washington sunset. Something I knew I wouldn’t see again for at least a little while.
As we got our stuffed together to exit the Belden Stratford Hotel, I looked out to the beautiful view of Lake Michigan with a happy feeling. This was by far one of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed. I’m very glad that we stayed outside of the city for a portion of our trip because it allowed me to see many things I probably wouldn’t have been able to see or think to go to.
After we checked out of the hotel we had the hotel hold our luggage so that we could do a little last minute site seeing around Lincoln Park. We set down to get a little lunch at the Dog Joint. The place was filled with working class men, locals on their lunch breaks which I always approved of when going out to lunch. This was a local little gem, with many options at a very affordable price for a quick bite. We had our Chicago style Hot Dogs from here. They were very tasty!
After lunch I took a quick stroll through the zoo and the conservatory with Michelle because she hadn’t seen it. After that we walked down to Lake Michigan to see the water and take pictures by the shoreline.
After that we went back to pick up our luggage and got in a cab to go to the last of hotel Swissotel in downtown Chicago.
We settled down and then went off to Navy Pier. The pier has so many wonderful touristy things to do there as well as just a gorgeous view of the whole city from the water. We saw some stained glass, went on the fairs wheel, ate churros smothered in caramel from the Churro factory and had some good local beer Argus Pegasus IPA at Harry Caray Tavern which had the most horrible music ever.
So we made our way back to the hotel and I changed and we headed toward Millennium Park to eat at The Gage.
The Gage was filled to the brim when we got to the restaurant but it was cultural mix of people from Chicago and tourists as well. The affair seemed casual and elegant. Everywhere you looked there were people in large groups sharing food and enjoying themselves with good company.
The dining experience here is rather chic. White linens and an extensive wine list are presented to you upon arrival. Our server was very cordial an extremely busy. We looked over the menu and I let Michelle pick things that seemed to shine out to her seeing as I’d already eaten at many lush places. She has an excellent pallet and likes most of the same things I do so we finally decided on
Hot Poached Shrimp Sambal, Sticky Rice, Herb Broth
these shrimp were perfectly poached the sticky rice was actually black rice that I’m very familiar with it has a floral beautiful scent and a brilliant texture that goes well with the delicate flavors of the shrimp. The sambal had a quiet heat to it with a finishing burn that was pleasant and over the top was poured a small amount of very green cilantro broth. A beautiful simple dish.
Gage N-17 “Fondue” Butter Kaase, Brie, Spinach, Toast
This fondue was very rich. Almost border lining too rich but very delicious. I loved the flavor of the kaase which I would akin to a sweet butter rich and a very pleasant melting cheese along with the brie. Came with these delicious long pieces of toasted baguette
Caramelized Lobster Lemon Quinoa, Basil, Chili
Lobster was caramelized in a very sweet almost orange flavored type of mild candying and the texture of its mild cooking process with the crunch of the quinoa and the cooling of the basil was a really beautiful way to express this dish.
Maple Leaf Farms Duck Roasted Breast Duck Confit Tortellini, Roasted baby beets, purslane, goats cheese
Duck breast was cooked almost medium which for me leads to a bit of a chewy texture. We were told it would be medium rare but I think it was slightly over cooked. The flavor was delicious, the small duck confit ravioli were so perfect and small you could barely spot them on the plate. The braised endive gave bitterness so the sweet cherries and beets while the radishes cleansed the pallet.
We finished our bottle of wine and opted to skip dessert, over all this experience was an interesting expression of a chef’s notion.
After dinner we went to see some blues at Buddie Guys and finished our evening with a stroll back to the hotel.
I hope everyone’s having a marvelous weekend. I’m at my volunteer yoga studio gig trying to speed up time till I get in the car and am headed for Sin City. I haven’t been to Vegas in maybe 9 months or something like that but that city sparks something in me that can only be felt not said. More than anything the amount of culinary genius set in such a small strip of land of course delights my chef mind. I’ll probably sneak away to a fancy dinner on my own. My co partners in crime aren’t the foodie type. But here i’d like to leave you with a sweet treat and the promise of so many culinary adventures upon my return. I have some really amazing content that I’ve just been so busy with visitors and my niece to be able to write about but I will soon. So here it is.
Banana Vanilla Creme Wafer Pie
I don’t like Banana, a taste so inherited from my dad who doesn’t like banana either. So why would I make this pie? Well I make it because my family adores it. My grandmother used to make this banana pudding from which this pie was so imagined. Its part of my family pudding pies such as the pistachio pie it wrote about here. This pie is a couple of simple ingredients and a lot of beautiful wow factor for a quick sweet treat to an elegant dinner party I’m pretty sure you can get away with this pie. I love pudding pies just for that reason. Simple and ready to go. Layers of waffer cookies, fresh slices of bananas, and vanilla pudding as well as whipped cream line a simple graham cracker crust thats sure to please the pallet of any banana lover. I hope you will enjoy this.
1 graham cracker crust either prepared or store bought
1 large box of vanilla pudding either instant or cook and serve (I think instant is much easier then you don’t have to wait for the pudding to cool and you don’t run the risk of getting a lot of lumps)
2 3/4 cups of milk
5-6 ripe bananas
about 1 cup of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of powdered sugar
1 box of vanilla wafers
Prepare pudding by mixing 2 3/4 cups of milk with pudding mix if using cook and serve like pictured here whisk over medium heat continuously till the pudding comes to a boil take off of flame and mix for two minutes then transfer into a bowl whisk to get excess heat out of the pudding then line with plastic and place in the fridge for about 1 or 2 hours till cool
Cook n Serve kind
If using instant pudding just mix the milk in until its completely incorporated and chill
Mean while Add heavy cream and powdered sugar using a hand blender or a mixer till the cream becomes whipped and stiff about 6-7 minutes depending. Make sure your cream has not been sitting out or it will not mix up also that there is no water in the bowl your mixed your creme in as this too will fail your creamy whipped topping
After the pudding has chilled place 1/4 of the pudding in to the whipped cream you just made fold in with a spatula and set in the fridge
with the other 3/4 of the pudding place about 1 1/2 bananas sliced into the pudding and mix in preserving the banana by mashing only gently. There will still be large chunks of banana in the pudding mixture
Line the bottom of the graham cracker curst with sliced bananas all the way around
then line with vanilla wafers up the side along the crust
add 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the top and smooth out
Repeat this process using bananas in a flat layer and then the cookies in a flat layer then cover with the rest of the pudding mixture
Smooth out the pudding over the top of the pie
Finally remove the whipped cream from the fridge place the whipped cream and pudding on the pie to form a mound and smooth over. If your whipped cream looks too runny you will risk a big runny mess of a pie so make sure its whipped enough to stay in place.
Lastly gently press cookies and bananas on final top layer alternating and you’ve got your pie refrigerate for and hour and serve
You can also make little individual pies as well.
I hope you love this pie as much as my family does. This pie is best eaten quickly so the cookies don’t get too soggy.
Easter was really wonderful I hope you all had a beautiful day with loved ones or just a relaxing day of rest. I know not everyone is allotted that time but i hope you were or if not you get a day like that soon.
We had family over for Maleeya’s 1st Easter. It was the cutest little thing ever. Everyone was flashing their cameras and fussing over her. My dad and mom really helped out with the dessert and meat and I made some side dishes for us to enjoy. Here are some photos of our Easter dinner. I love my family so much, my moms Easter bunny rice crispy treat was amazing shes so fun and creative now you see where I get some of my skills from
Roasted Zucchini casserole with crunchy onions
Green bean, mushroom and celery casserole with crunchy onions
Three cheese scalloped potatoes with broccoli
Roasted Corn on the Cob with black pepper compound butter and sea salt
Spinach Prosciutto and salami salad with mixed vegetables and Parmesan balsamic vinaigrette
Lemon and herb poached shrimp with lemon horseradish cocktail sauce
My mom and dad made:
Bunny Rice crispy treat
Easter bundt cake
Chocolate covered strawberries and marshmallows
Bachan and grandma made:
triple layer jello
My sister in law and my sisters mother in law:
chips and Hawaiian sweet bread
and cheese ball and crackers
Have an amazing week!