recipe: gazpacho & cheese toast.

Its been quite hot here in LA. While most people think that LA temps hover around 72 degrees year round.. that’s not the case in the summer months! We have been hitting some pretty high temperatures which makes for a warm home (we do not have air conditioning or proper insulation). This poses a bit of an issue with cooking or baking because turning the oven on is the last thing you want to do when your house is already blazing hot. This time of year is when I start relying on crock pot recipes and recipes for foods with minimal cooking.

Yesterday was warm (although not nearly as hot at the weekend and days prior) and I wasnt really in the mood to do much cooking that involved being over the hot stove or turning on the oven for too long.

For some reason I started craving gazpacho. That cold, tomato goodness sounded perfect for a hot evening.
Aaron isnt big on cold meals… so I wanted to make sure there was at least one element to dinner that was warm and “cooked” for him.

The end result was fantastic (and easy!) gazpacho with cheese & herbed toast:

IMG_3316

Not only did the gazpacho turn out delicious, but it was SO easy to make and ended up making enough for either 2 dinners or a dinner and 2 lunches. I love that!

Gazpacho
(recipe slightly adapted from MattBites.com)

3 large heirloom tomatoes
1 large cucumber
1 large green bell pepper
2 tbls red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup olive oil
salt to taste

1. chop up the tomatoes, cucumber and bell pepper into small pieces (it doesnt have to be perfect!) and throw them into your Vitamix blender (this is the model we have, and love). Add the peeled garlic cloves (they can be whole) and red wine vinegar to the blender and blend until the mixture becomes a smooth liquid.

2. once blended, taste the mixture. Add more red wine vinegar if needed.

3. add the olive oil and salt (depending on how much it needs) and blend again until smooth.

4. taste one final time, and add salt/vinegar if needed.

5. pour mixture into bowl, pitcher, individual Weck jars (as I did), or even Mason Jars. Put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

6. remove from refrigerator and serve. optional: top with diced avocado, sliced heirloom cherry tomatoes, pinch of flaky sea salt, etc. Enjoy!

IMG_3314just look at all of those beautiful summer colors!

For the cheese toast– smear a slice of ciabatta or sourdough with a butter-olive oil-herbs of choice mixture (we used cumin, oregano, pepper) and top with muenster cheese. bake until warm/melted and then broil until the cheese bubbles.

labor day weekend.

we had a great Labor Day weekend! I’m sure this comes as no surprise: it was filled with food, fun, family, and beer.

Since it was a holiday weekend I had off of teacher training so there wasnt really anything we “had” to do….. its a rare event when Aaron and I dont have a tight schedule on the weekends; so we tried to really enjoy the freedom of being able to do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.

Friday night Aaron worked late so Estela came over and we had a girls night of snacks (pita, hummus, grapes), beer, and a Sex and the City marathon.

Saturday morning Aaron and I got up and ran a few errands and stopped by Whole Foods for some yummy food supplies for the weekend.

 
we used some of those yummy ingredients to make a delicious dinner of:
Maryland Blue crab cakes with a sriracha sauce
sauteed kale
broiled cheesy tomatoes

for dessert we popped open one of my dad’s Java Stout home-brews which was AMAZING.
We sipped on that as we played some gin rummy and enjoyed a nice, relaxing evening. 

Sunday morning we got up early and went on a 5 mile walk with Ziggy. 
The first stop was the 3rd & Fairfax Farmers Market for some much-needed chilaquiles.

After breakfast we walked down 3rd street to the Beverly Center, then on to Robertson, then back to the Beverly Connection, then to The Grove, and then on home.
Ziggy was pretty tired after our long walk and being out in the heat; but he was a trooper and got some great exercise.

That night we made some delicious risotto and kale….. but… I apparently forgot to take any photos of that meal. Trust me when I say it was fantastic.

Monday my parents came into town!!
We got our hands on a special mini keg of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale and sipped on that while playing gin rummy all afternoon.

That evening we made homemade pizzas and then devoured some Crumbs mini cupcakes as dessert.

[normally I’m not one to purchase desserts; I’d much rather bake them myself….
but my dad had yet to try a Crumbs cupcake and these mini ones were just too cute to pass up]

It was a great labor day weekend. Unfortunately, Tuesday rolled around and we all had to get back to the real world. Dad had a 5am flight to Atlanta from LAX, Aaron had a 6am call at Universal, and I had to be at school by 7:30am to find parking for Chemistry class. At least we were able to relax while we could. 

snacks.

I LOVE snacks… and I rely on them quite frequently to get me through my hectic schedule.
But, snacking is dangerous territory when it comes to pre-packaged foods; between the potential trans-fat, high sodium and high-fructose corn syrup content…. snacking can lead to an incredibly unhealthy part of your day. So, since I’m such a big snacker, I have come up with some of these easy, and healthy snack ideas:

My go-to snacks (for school, teacher training, and just around the house) are:

– cherry heirloom tomatoes, a wedge of laughing cow cheese, and some Raincoast Crips crackers

– an apple and a packet of Justin’s nut butter

– Plain Fage or Voskos greek yogurt with walnuts and/or blueberries

zucchini muffins (but use whole wheat flour, not all purpose!) or banana-flax muffins (the recipe is towards the end of the post) or fruit muffins. all of these are great to make ahead of time and freeze, you can take one out of the freezer and put it in your lunch/snack bag and by the time you want to eat it it has defrosted

– homemade hummus and pita chips.

– a kale, spinach, mango, banana and coconut water smoothie

homemade trail mix

– a Think Thin bar and a GT’s Kombucha drink

– a banana and a 365 Cereal Bar (from Whole Foods)

between a few Mason Jars, a few Weck Jars, and insulated lunch bag or one of these (which I have and love) and a few reusable ice packs– you can take any of the above snacks with you to work, school, road trips, etc.
AND, especially if you use reusable silverware and a reusable napkin; there is no waste and its much cheaper and healthier than pre-packaged foods.

the end of Summer.

It’s hard to believe that Summer is over.   

This Summer was not without drama, or stress, or chaos… but it was productive. and it was fun.

My Summer began by completing the 200hr YogaWorks Teacher Training program.
Then, I went straight into my 6 week intensive Physiology Summer school course.
During that 6 week time-frame, I was a study-a-holic, we took a long weekend trip to Chicago for 4th of July and Ashley & Drew’s wedding, when we returned Aaron had a surprise appendectomy and then Aaron’s parents came to visit.
Once Summer school was over, my parents came to visit for a little over a week, and then Aaron and I went to Fresno to spend some much-needed time away from Los Angeles.
In the past few weeks Aaron started working on a new television show, I started my 300hr Professional Program, and my dad came into town on a whirlwind trip to help my brother move.

Next week my Fall semester starts at Santa Monica College and I will be embarking on the second full week of my 300hr Professional Program through YogaWorks.

I will be one busy student in the coming months trying to manage my time wisely between being on campus, at a yoga studio, and studying.

Its also crazy to think that with this transition from Summer to Fall (this is according to my school semester calendar; certainly not according to the weather we have been having that says its still very much Summertime) will come holidays, travel, and a New Year.

[while my parents were in town we walked over to LACMA to see the new “Levitated Mass” installation. Yes, its art… but its also just a great, big rock.]

 [my parents got to partake in “ciabatta baking day”! AND they got to take a loaf home to Alabama with them]

[the beer fairy came to Los Angeles! between my Dad’s home-brew and some mid-west/east coast beers (that we cant get here in CA) our house is stocked with lots and lots of yummy beer!]

[speaking of beer, one of our current favorites is the Tart of Darkness from The Bruery; 
its a dark, fruity sour that even my mom likes!]

[I whipped up my favorite banana+spinach+mango+wheat germ+cinnamon+coconut water 
smoothie on my parents’ last day in LA]

[my dad was able to get ahold of one of these bad-boys while in town!]
I was sad that my parents had to head back home; but happy that they were able to spend a great week and a half with us in Southern California! I really wish they lived closer.

[Ziggy and I went down to Orange County a few times in the past couple of weeks to spend time with my brother]

[and, of course, we ended up at The Bruery Provisions for a tasting flight… or two]
[Aaron and I spent a (much needed) long weekend in Fresno… Ziggy had a nice, relaxing trip up]

[we went out to eat at Pismo’s in Fresno and I had some amazingly delicious garlic linguini with clams]

 [and, of course, Ziggy made himself right at home]

[we enjoyed Champagne with breakfast… because its the perfect addition to a long weekend]

 [and so is cheese with an assortment of fantastic olives]

[there is never a shortage of wine while in Fresno, and Justin Wine is simply the best]

[we had a great long weekend away from LA,
even though the temperatures were a little warm]

[back home, Aaron and I enjoyed happy hour at one of the most dog-friendly patios in LA, 
AND discovered that they offer a free cheese pizza during happy hour!]

[Summer is the perfect time of year to be craving lots and lots of kale and heirloom tomatoes… which I did…. so Ive been making this meal a lot]

[I spent one afternoon organizing our pantry with my newest collection of Weck Jars]

 [while my dad was in town helping my brother move, we were able to make it to The Bruery’s sour tasting one night. It was incredible]

[we also made it to their new tasting room!]
[Aaron, my dad, and my brother went to Stone’s 16th Anniversary party; I wasnt able to go, so I had to check out their anniversary IPA in the bottle……..]

[………..and it was delicious, so I made a trip to our local Whole Foods to chat with our beer buyer friend; and I stocked up on some Summer beers to enjoy this weekend]

[I spent my last week of Summer driving all over Los Angeles trying to get ahold of this currently highly sought after beer…. Stone Enjoy By IPA
Aaron, my dad, and brother were all able to try it at the Stone Anniversary party; so I had to seek out the bottles so that I could try it! I was lucky enough to end up with FIVE bottles! It took me all week to accumulate them, and was quite a tedious task hunting them down; but my brother promises me that this beer is worth it.
Ill finally be able to try it out tomorrow after teacher training.]

[Ziggy says hes ready for Fall because this Summer has been exhausting]
Here’s to Fall, the new school semester, my 300hr teacher training… and everything else in store for us in the coming months!

my new favorite summertime breakfast.

I love Mason Jars.
I love oatmeal.
I love breakfast.
I love having a yummy, filling breakfast that I can eat at home OR take with me to school or on a roadtrip.
So, when I found out I could combine all of those great things into a refreshing and filling summertime breakfast, I was thrilled! 

I heard about “refrigerator oats” thanks to Pinterest… so I took the general idea and created my own little recipe:

Chilled Chia-Oatmeal

1/2 cup Rolled Oats (not instant, not steel cut)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon brown sugar (can also substitute honey or agave nectar)
walnuts (or any other nut you may prefer) to taste
1 cup milk (I use Almond, but you can use Soy, Hemp, or cow’s milk)

Add all ingredients into a pint-sized Mason Jar, put the lid on, give it a little shake, and chill in the fridge overnight.

The next morning you will have a yummy, filling, healthy, and easy to take with you breakfast (that’s also environmentally friendly!)

pair it with a banana and you will be good-to-go until lunchtime!

a taste of Summer.

This Summer has been a bit of a whirlwind. Between a 6 week summer school course, Aaron having to have a [very unexpected] appendectomy, and just some general craziness…. it seems to have gone by too quickly. How is it already August?

Luckily, I have captured some of what we have been up too during our limited “free time” thanks to Instagram:

 [the occasional relaxing morning with coffee and a good read]

 [my newest obsession: Jer’s Peanut Butter Bars and Talenti Gelato!]

 [sushi on a dog friendly patio]

 [hidden beneath a beer cap]

 [Omusubi lunch in Santa Monica]

 [my new favorite summertime breakfast: oats, chia seeds, 
walnuts, and almond mik; chilled over night in a Mason Jar]

 [we were missing Chicago, so we ordered some local deep-dish from Hollywood Pies.
Its not as good as Chicago, but it works in a pinch]

 [road trip snacks: ThinkThin bars and GT’s Kombucha]

 [Aaron ran some errands one day and returned with some of my favorite things!]

[Whole Foods was having a beer sale, so……]

 [written at the bottom of Melgard Public House’s menu]

[homemade pizza night with friends]

 [crockpot cheesecake made in individual ramekins; topped with strawberries]

Chicago: a wedding & time with our godson.

Wednesday, July 4th, our alarm blared at 5:30am. Aaron and I got up, got ready and made our way to LAX.
I was so excited because we were headed to CHICAGO!
and we all know how much I adore that city…. but this time was even more special because we were going to see one of my best friends get married AND to see our awesome godson!

Aaron was able to upgrade our tickets and soon after we arrived at the gate they began boarding priority passengers.

Coffee in hand we boarded the plane and got settled in. yay for more legroom!

We landed in Chicago around 3pm local time. Grabbed our luggage and took the blue line downtown. It was 104 degrees when we landed…  so we had a sweaty train ride and then an even sweatier walk from the blue line stop to our hotel.

We checked into our hotel, changed to some cooler clothes, and then walked the 30ish minute walk to Giordano’s for some much needed deep-dish pizza (and Giordano’s is my favorite place!)
Deep-dish pizza is not necessarily the best food choice when its over a 100 degrees outside, but it was delicious… and well worth wait.

After dinner we walked around my old neighborhood a bit and I was able to snap a photo of my old building. I really love my old neighborhood…

Then we walked to Fox & Obel (my favorite market) and then along the lakefront, through Millenium Park and Grant Park and then back to our hotel. It was HOT but as the sun began to set a slight breeze rolled in and it started feeling quite pleasant.

[Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park]

People were everywhere waiting for the fireworks to start; we made our way to the Irish Pub at the bottom level of our hotel and found a table outside to enjoy some water, beer, and listen to the fireworks (we couldn’t see them due to trees; which was fine be me). It was a lovely evening and I was just glad to be back in Chicago.

 [our hotel, the Hilton Chicago]

We made our way up to our room, showered, and then climbed into bed. We could see suburb fireworks going off in various directions in the distance right from our hotel bed; which was a nice surprise! We watched them as we fell asleep.

Thursday we woke up, got ready, and headed to Yolk (one of my favorite breakfast places in Chicago!) to meet up with Casey, Melissa, and our adorable godson Dexter (who has gotten so big!)

 [Eggs Florentine at Yolk]

After breakfast we wandered around Michigan Ave going in-and-out of stores to take advantage of their air conditioning. We stopped at Vosges and grabbed some of their delicious chocolate covered toffee and went to the Lego Store for Dexter 🙂

Then we made our way to Wicker Park for some delicious beer and pizza (yes, pizza again, but a different style!) at this fantastic place we try to visit each trip, Piece Brewery & Pizzeria.

Rain came out of nowhere and it poured while we were eating, luckily the rain stopped just as we were leaving so we were able to walk around a bit in some cooler temperatures before the humidity took over.

We took the train back to our hotel so that we could shower and change, and then we headed back out on the [very steamy at this point!] blue line towards Casey and Melissa’s house.
Our friends Peter and Diana came over and we enjoyed some dinner and beer. Peter never disappoints in the beer department (being a beer distributor and all) and, per usual, we enjoyed a tasting flight of various fantastic (and rare!) beers:

 [Apocalypse Cow by Three Floyds Brewing Co.]
 [Zombie Dust by Three Floyds Brewing Co.]

 [Rabbid Rabbit by Three Floyds Brewing Co.]

[Frangelic Mountain Brown by Founders Brewing Co.]
[Dexter was sleepy from watching us taste so many beers]
We stayed at Casey & Melissa’s until it was way too late (and we were a little too buzzed) so we headed to the train and went back to our hotel to crash.

Friday we got up, and went to breakfast at Yolk, again.
Then we checked out of the hotel and went to pick up our rental car. I have never used a car in Chicago (it seems so weird to me since the CTA and Metra can get you where ever you need to go!) but we were heading out to the suburbs and actually needed one. We picked up a fellow bridesmaid, Marissa, on our way, and then embarked on our more than an hour commute to the suburb of West Chicago & St Charles.

We arrived at the venue RIGHT as rehearsal was starting (thank goodness for good timing) and we quickly did a practice run of the [outdoor!] wedding in 100+ degree heat and relentless sunshine.

Afterwards we headed to our hotel to check in, and shower. We went down to the brides room and helped as everyone did some last minute wedding things…..as well as steam my dress and Aaron’s suit. I’m so glad the bride’s sister brought her steamer with her!

Everyone headed to a nearby Irish Pub for the very low key and very lovely rehearsal dinner. The majority of us came back to the hotel and enjoyed a beer in the lobby before all heading to bed before the big day.

Saturday we got up and found some much needed coffee. I met the bride and fellow bridesmaids in the hotel board room to get our hair and make up done. Time flew by quickly and before we knew it, it was time to head to the venue.

Once at the venue (a very pretty golf club) we were able to get the bride in her dress and the last minute, tiny details taken care of.
The coordinator came in and let us know it was time to begin and we got outside to our “holding area” to discover that the temperature had dropped to a pleasant 80 something degrees with a cool wind! It was perfect!

The ceremony went on without any problems, the couple exchanged their vows and we took our pictures in the best weather we had experienced in days. The reception was lovely and we danced (and drank!) the night away until it was time to go back to the hotel.

Sunday we got up (later than we would have liked) and slowly got ready, packed up our things, checked out of the hotel and headed to another suburb to the bride’s parents home.

We enjoyed a “Chicago-style” cook out for lunch, said our goodbyes and congratulations’ to the bride and groom and then headed back to the city to drop off our rent car. The rental car location was [thankfully] right by the blue line, so we hopped on that and made one last stop at Casey and Melissa’s to give our godson one more hug before leaving….. and enjoyed a beer on the patio with Casey 🙂

We hopped back on the blue line, got to O’Hare, made our way through security and onto the plane.
6 hours later we were home. And exhausted.

We made it back to LA with some great mid-west beer and a bottle of wine thanks to the bride & groom 🙂 they know us too well!

[a great selection of Chicago area beers]

 [a bottle of wine with the Chemistry of fermentation on it;
The bride is contributing to my Chemistry nerd-ness!)
We are already trying to plan our next trip to Chicago. Its such a great city filled with some wonderful people…. and we cant wait to spend more time with them.

recent food stuff….

 [feta, avocado, and tomato salad]
 [rehydrated sundried tomato and anchovy pizza on homemade crust]
 [veggie & bean “chalupa”]
 [shrimp risottio and spinach salad]
 [sundried tomato, garlic and olive oil pasta with roasted broccoli]
 [halibut with homemade mango salsa with roasted potatoes and roasted asparagus]
 [broiled cheesy tomatoes and roasted asparagus over brown rice]
 [shrimp tacos]
 [cheesy veggie & bean quinoa stuffed bell pepper]

 [yummy olives from Whole Foods olive bar]
 [lemony kale, radish and quinoa salad]
 [lemony quinoa with heirloom cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls, topped with avocado]
 [anchovy pasta, salad, and garlic bread on homemade ciabatta]
 [move over Cambazola, I have a new favorite cheese]
 [roasted veggies tossed in a “bang-bang” sauce over brown rice]
 [avocado and tomato salad with garlic bread and CSA plums]
[jalapeno-cheddar salmon burgers]

some recent food stuffs.

School and Teacher Training have been time consuming of the past few weeks so my blog [unfortunately] took a back-burner to studying.

Here is what we have been up to for the past several weeks in terms of food (yum) and drink (yum):

[this photo is actually kinda of old, its from March when Ashley & Drew came to visit and we went out for a fantastic meal at Delphine. Great food and great drinks!]

 [this photo is also from Ashley & Drew’s visit back in March; we ended a lovely few days with them at Ford’s Filling Station with a great meal and a great bottle of wine]
 [every once in a while I get a huge craving for a baked potato with sour cream and chives; we satisfied this craving along with some yummy broiled tomatoes and roasted asparagus]

 [Aaron made some delicious “baked Ziti” and we paired that up with some garlic bread (on my homemade ciabatta) and roasted asparagus. We are loving that its asparagus season!]

 [one of my favorite meals! lots of roasted veggies! the roasted beets paired nicely with the roasted asparagus and brussel sprouts]

 [Aaron has been on an asian cooking kick, he made this fantastic veggie and shrimp stir-fry with an amazing siracha-mayo sauce. SO GOOD!]

 [one of my new favorite snacks. Not only are they yummy; they are only $.99 per package!]

[we had a few bananas that needed to used; so I baked them up in my favorite banana-walnut bread recipe]

[lentils, heirloom tomatoes, onions, and goat cheese. yuuummm]

 [one Thursday after our produce delivery arrived! we are loving the green onions and strawberries each week!]

 [a simple yet delicious lunch: pita, jalapeno goat cheese, avocado, heirloom tomato, and some specialty olives Aaron found at the Atwater Village Farmers Market]
 [another simple lunch: broiled tomatoes, avocado, and some spicy hummus on a homemade ciabatta crostini]

 [this is probably one of my top 5 FAVORITE things that Aaron makes. This sun-dried tomato, mushroom and feta pizza is beyond amazing. I crave it all the time… in fact… I’m pretty sure I’m going to ask him to make it again this weekend!]
 
 
 [Aaron came and met me on Larchmont after teacher training one Saturday night we had a lovely sushi dinner complete with beer]

[I found Eagle Rock Brewery’s beer in BOTTLE form! hooray! Cant wait to pop these open with Aaron]

[a simple, yet delicious spinach salad with kale, avocado, heirloom tomato, and feta]

[I attempted Lentil “Meat”Loaf one night, and it turned out fantastic!]

[I also attempted Crock Pot Spinach Lasagna — and it turned out great!]

 [we went over to our friend Coby’s house to grill some burgers last weekend; my veggie burger turned out wonderfully]

 [Aaron’s double-decker bison burger also turned out wonderfully… but eating it was a different story]

Ill post some of the aforementioned recipes soon!

some of our recent home-cooked meals:

I love our produce delivery (Farm Fresh To You). Our weekly produce package is dropped off at our front door every Thursday morning and loaded with amazingly fresh [and local!] fruits and veggies. Pretty much the only items we have to purchase in addition to our FFTY drop off are heirloom tomatoes, bananas, and sometimes spinach.

 [our counter top after our delivery two weeks ago]

 [after our delivery last week]

one of my favorite things to do with fruits & veggies- make yummy smoothies!
my favorite recipe can be found: here

 dinner one night:
sauteed chard (with olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper)
roasted veggies (with olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper]
broiled heirloom tomatoes (with lemon juice, cheddar cheese, cracked pepper)

dinner one night:
roasted potatoes (with olive oil, pepper, salt, and rosemary)
roasted brussel sprouts (with olive oil, salt & pepper)
broiled tomatoes (with lemon juice, cheddar cheese, cracked pepper)
 my lunch one day:
toasted [homemade] ciabatta “crostinis” (smeared with hummus and topped with fresh avocado & heirloom tomato)
roasted asparagus (with olive oil, salt & pepper)

dinner one night:
homemade veggie burgers (with onions, fresh tomato, lettuce, jalapenos & avocado instead of mayo, on a whole wheat bun)
homemade “fries” (sliced and roasted fingerling potatoes with salt & pepper and a bit of olive oil)
dinner one night:
cheesy veggie quinoa (with spinach, onions, tomatoes, cheddar cheese & black beans)
recipe can be found here
roasted potatoes (with olive oil, pepper, salt, and rosemary)
grilled garlic bread on homemade ciabatta (with olive oil, salt, pepper)