My husband LOVES barbecue, but I am the one that loves TO barbecue. I cook it, he eats it. And recently my BBQ died. It just won’t work anymore. This thing has more miles on it than an ox during the pioneer days. Seriously, I ran this thing into the ground. Even when one of the burners collapsed on itself because the metal was so corroded, I STILL turned that baby on a grilled with huge flames licking at my meat. Well, that’s all over now and its time to say goodbye and get a new one. I have been eyeballing the sample grills at Ace Hardware for awhile now. Oh how clean and sleek they looked compared to my old Jalopy! The thought of a brand new grill is making me so excited its like Christmas has come early. What should I get? What is the best? I spend a lot of time with my grill so I need a good companion that will be around for awhile. I haven’t made a final decision yet so any advice is welcome. Tell me your thoughts grill-lovers!
So, as many of you know…I quit diet coke. After an “on again off again” relationship for over a decade I decided to quit. What was the final straw? Well, to be honest it came from a bartender. Go figure. I was photographing a wedding at the Montecito Country Club and asked for a glass of water. My assistant was chewing gum and the bartender noticed it and started on a rant about the aspartame that was in her gum. (To be honest I was relieved I ask for water since I usually ask for diet coke. Phew!) Evidently there is only one brand of gum that uses real sugar nowadays and the rest are sugar free and full of artificial sweeteners. He went on to say that aspartame is a mixture of ecoli and toxic waste that causes diabetes, makes you fat and myriad of other problems. This guy was pretty weird and I found it ironic that he was so passionate about this subject as he freely supplied all the wedding goers with liver killing booze. Anyway, after his long and bizarre rant it got me thinking. Is a 2 liter bottle diet coke a day (yes that’s what I was drinking) really worth it? What if everything he said turned out to be true. One of my friends was recommended by her doctor to drink diet soda during pregnancy because she had gestational diabetes and couldn’t eat real sugar. I didn’t drink diet soda AT ALL during pregnancy because my brother had heard on good authority in one of his UCLA science classes that it could cause birth defects. Yet doctors out there are prescribing it to pregnant women and I would assume they’ve heard the theories. Or have they? Well, let’s just say for arguments case that diet coke is totally fine and therefore my diet coke drinking Grandpa’s lived into their 90′s with no problems. The hard truth is that drinking diet coke did absolutely make me crave sweets and cause me to eat more. It did. And even though I’ve been counting calories for over a year now and have been losing weight slowly but surely, I don’t think drinking diet coke was making the process any faster. Actually, it wasn’t. I’ve been off the stuff for two weeks and am definitely losing weight more quickly than I was. My husband keeps exclaiming, “You look so skinny!” all the time. It feels good. And he deserves some of the credit as he shared the brunt of it by enduring my clawing at the ceiling moments. I’m sure he wanted to hook me up to a diet coke IV there a few times when I was especially “delightful” to deal with. So the end of the story is that diet coke MAY cause health problems but it most certainly DOES make it hard to lose weight. Done.
In conclusion, I still miss the idea of diet coke. I miss a refreshing bubbly drink that is calorie free and “guilt free” too. I miss a little caffeine boost when I need it and just a little reward for any reason I come up with. But my pants feeling loose and my face is emerging from the fat which is nice too. I think of the line, ”There you are Peter!” from the movie “Hook” every time I see myself in the mirror. Like I mentioned in my previous post I’ll still drink soda, just not diet. The other night I really needed to relax and got a mexican coke and a candy bar from the corner store to take the edge off . I said to my husband, “Is it a good thing or a bad thing that this is as wild as I get?” Seriously boring. But sometimes its good to not make life TOO exciting either if you know what I mean.
This salad is a perfect quick side to almost any main course. This is a great salad to bring to a potluck, BBQ or just to eat on its own. This pesto recipe has both basil and cilantro which I think really mellows out the basil and makes its a well rounded option. One of my wedding clients gave me the idea and I wouldn’t make regular pesto again! Enjoy!
4 ears of roasted corn cut off the cob
1 heirloom tomato diced
1 cup packed basil leaves
1 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts (pignoles)
1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese
2/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
salt & pepper to taste
In a food processor pulse garlic cloves until finely minced. Add basil, cilantro, olive oil and pine nuts. Pulse until smooth. Salt & pepper to taste.
In a separate bowl mix together the corn and heirloom tomato. Stir in pesto a tablespoon at a time until you’ve reached your desired consistency. If there is leftover pesto you can freeze it for another use. Enjoy!
Can I just say that I’m completely annoyed with all the things that apparently kill you in the world!? Diet coke is the one that I’m attempting to distance myself from, but seriously, does ANYTHING not kill you eventually? I mean if you’re a vegetarian you’re gonna die from protein deficiency and diabetes from eating too many carbs. If you eat meat your gonna die from a heart attack. If you go in the sun you’ll get skin cancer but if you don’t then you’ll have a vitamin D deficiency. Your body needs sugar! Actually you’ll die from sugar! Are you eating too much salt? Oh no, wait! If you don’t have salt in your diet you’ll DIE. Some doctors recommend drinking diet soda to eliminate all the sugar that is causing obesity. Oh wait, no. Don’t drink diet soda because its made from e-coli mixed with toxic waste that some mustache twisting corporate jerk off decided to market as a joke. You will get diabetes drinking diet coke anyway and will grow a second head. Food combine! No, that doesn’t work just count your calories. Oh no no no, don’t you know you have to find out your blood type in order to lose weight? Don’t watch TV or you’ll get ADD. Wait, TV has so much information that if you’re out of the loop you’ll be like one of those weird home-school kids from the backwoods of Arkansas. Video games will make you a crazy lunatic that will inevitably make you go gun down your coworkers at the local post office. But wait, actually its been proven that video games are much like crossword puzzles and keep your brain sharp.
Okay, end rant. I’m just mad that I’m quitting diet coke (again) because its like my best frenemy. Nothing in the world is free, but I definitely felt like diet coke was my one free thing. The one little indulgence that I wouldn’t have to pay for later at my waistline. But aparently that is incorrect and not only will I die of diabetes, cancer and a myriad of other complications but more importantly it is actually making me fat. Yes fat. I have worked freaking hard to get back within 5 pounds of my pre pregnancy weight and am bound and determined to not stop. AND I want to work off the wedding pounds that I gained over the years and didn’t bother to lose before the baby. So, I won’t be happy until all the fat is shed and if that means no diet coke then so be it.
Now, this might sound really hypocritical but I’m only giving up diet soda NOT regular soda. Whaaaaat? Here’s the thing. If I drink regular soda I drink dramatically less than when I drink diet. Like 5x’s less. So this is my weening period and drinking a little regular coke during the day is taking the edge off. I’m also drinking sparkling water to give myself some kind of substitute. It helps but is so not as good.
Okay, I sound like the whiniest person on the face of the planet and I’m sure I am. But this is just how I feel right now. I thought maybe I would drink diet coke secretly (like those closet smokers) but realized that no one cares that I drink it so big whoop. And I’m the only one I’m hurting. So hopefully I can focus on looking hot and fabulous and making that the priority when I get a mid afternoon headache and a craving for a little caffeine boost. Those commerical with Taylor Swift drinking diet coke are so hard to resist though! I mean she is so cute and I feel like, “Oh, Taylor Swift is drinking diet coke and she hasn’t grown a second head from it, so I should be fine!” Taylor, you are beautiful and I’m not mad at you. You probably got paid an obscene amount of money to endorse diet coke. Beyonce on the other hand did a pepsi/diet pepsi commercial that in no way makes me want to drink it. Sorry Beyonce. Taylor won. (And Coke is waaaay better anyway…)
Alright so my last question: Is there a community support group for diet coke drinkers? It should be called DCA (Diet Coke Anonymous). If there isn’t then I’ll host it at my place. Who wants to come?
On a cool winter’s night there is nothing better than a steamy cup of chamomile tea right before bed. But what about in the summertime when its hot!? Chamomile ice cream is the answer to that questions. Its been so hot around here lately (well, in Santa Barbara hot means anything above 75 degree’s) and a frosty bowl of relaxing ice cream is just the ticket. If you haven’t tried chamomile tea I highly recommend it. Its know for its soothing qualities and is the reason I drink it before bed. It has a sort of flower meets dried field sort of taste. Like if you stood in the middle of a dry grassy field and opened your mouth when its windy… Well maybe not exactly like that but you get the idea. Anyway, this recipe was modified from a Lavender Honey ice cream recipe by Kevin Weeks that I found online. (The lavender version is amazing too!) Enjoy!
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 tbsp. agave syrup (or honey)
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 4 chamomile tea bags
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 lg. egg yolks
1. Heat half and half, agave syrup, chamomile, salt and 1 cup of the heavy cream in a sauce pan over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble and an instant-read thermometer reads 170 – 175 degrees F.
2. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Strain mixture into a medium bowl and discard chamomile.
3. Return cream mixture to sauce pan over medium heat and warm to 170 degrees. Stir in sugar until dissolved.
4. Whip egg yolks in a small bowl then whisk in 1/2 of cream mixture. Whisk egg mixture back into sauce pan and return to medium heat.
5. Cook, stirring steadily until mixture coats the back of a spoon and a finger drawn through the back of the spoon leaves a trail and mixture registers 170 – 175 degrees F. Do not boil.
6. Strain mixture into a medium bowl in large bowl surrounded by ice.
7. Stir in remaining cream, add water to ice, and cool until ice melts then cover bowl and refrigerate for at least three hours until cold.
8. Freeze mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions then scoop into an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.
I love my baby girl. Whenever she does something new or cute Michael and I just look at each other and without saying a word we communicate how crazy special our little girl is. When she wakes up in the morning and I go get her out of her crib she always exclaims, “Bobba! Bobba Yeah Yeah!?” and I go to make her her bottle and we snuggle while she downs it. Then she squirms out of my arms and enthusiastically goes about her day exploring the world. She has a walk of confidence as if her duty to mess up our shoes or play on her cat laptop are of the utmost important. Then she’ll come back to me and say, “Bobba?Bobba?” which this time means food. I’ll make us our morning Kashi waffle and she take a bite and then runs off to tend to her toys. And then before she even gets there she’ll run back for another bite. Back and forth, back and forth. We will hear her in the other room sometimes as she’s flipping through her books and talking to herself in a language only she understands. When she starts talking gibberish I go ahead and have a conversation with her anyway: Gigi: Way-do way-do di di da da di! haha! Me: Oh that sounds interesting Gigi: Yeah. haha! odey odey odey haha! She looks like this little impish fairly flitting about the house. She has the most contagious laugh that makes it impossible to not laugh right along with her. Passerbyers on the street can’t help but return her outgoing smiles. She follows people around at the park and sometimes I have to apologize because she likes to stare. Here favorite game at the sunken gardens of the courthouse are to walk up and down all the stairs with my help. I like it too because it wears her out so much she usually doesn’t squirm in her stroller after that. We like to go on long walks down state street and see what we see. Sometimes its just to the courthouse and Anthropologie and back. Sometimes its all the way to the Paseo Nuevo mall or even to the pier at the beach. It depends on the day and how much time we have. But regardless of the amount of time its always the BEST time. When Georgiana gets tired at night she becomes slap happy. She screams with delight at the smallest of encouragement and will laugh uncontrollably. She has learned (from her silly Mommy) to eat cheerios off the coffee table without using her hands. I was doing it to make her laugh and it stuck. Now at the park she’ll eat cheerios right out of my hand too so I’m not really sure what the other parents make of it. She knows how a lions goes “raaaar” and a sheep “bah’ and a dog “O O!” When she doesn’t want something she goes emphatically, “Na na na na na!” When I ask her if she loves her Mommy she usually goes, “Yeah!” but sometimes she goes, “Na na.” Ha! She has good size crop of blonde hair that looks like the top of a corn husk. So we can her corn husk or just husk sometimes. At my Mom’s house the toilets flush really loud. Anytime Georgiana hears one she goes, “Wow!” Georgiana already loves jewelry. We started small with me putting my hair ties on her wrist like a bracelet but then I got her some plastic jewelry and she puts it on herself all the time. I always exclaim with a greek accent from like the mom from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, “Your so beautiful!” Every night when I say my prayers the first thing I thank God for is her because she is this absolute gift that has flown into my life to stay forever and I couldn’t be more grateful. Its like when you’re a kid and you get a present on Christmas that you’ve been wanting so badly. But this gift never gets old or worn out. It never becomes boring. Its this fresh new gift every day that is fun and exciting and precious. I love my little girl.
I love nothing more than a four ingredient recipe. This salad is hearty, delicious and randomly healthy. Isn’t it awesome when you realize you’re eating healthy accidentally? That’s pretty much how I cook all the time. I think of something that is going to be flavorful, satisfying and make me feel good afterward. Lo and behold its usually healthy! Its because the “feel good afterward” part usually only happens when you’re nice to your body and fill it with good stuff. Well, you might be asking, I see a sausage in the above photo. Its actually a chicken sausage that is around 160 calories. Not to0 bad. And if you don’t go crazy with the dressing it ends up being a 300 – 350 calorie meal. I don’t usually go on and on about calories because it tends to take the fun out of things. But if you are trying to watch your weight just remember that how you feel after you eat is a good indicator of health. Enjoy!
1 package (4 links) of chicken sausage (I get the Chicken Sausage Chardonnay from Trader Joes)
1 bag arugula
4 ears of corn (husk on)
1 bottle greek feta dressing (from Trader Joe’s) or any dressing you like
Heat your gas grill to medium high heat. Place corn (husk on) directly onto grill. After 10 minutes or so flip them over. Add sausages to grill and cook on both sides until they get nice grill marks. Turn off grill and remove corn and sausages.
Remove the husks from the corn and cut it off the cobb. Slice sausages. Take arugula and place it in a salad bowl (or you can make individual plates). Top with corn and sausage. Drizzle your dressing over the top. If you like, crack some black pepper over the salad. Serve and enjoy.
I feel like this dessert needs no explanation. Just read the title. Mint.Milano.Log. Yep, I want that.
Who has seen the Jim Gaffigan comedy sketch where he talks about undressing a mint milano cookie? “Hey there cookie, let me help you with that mint milano pack….let me help you get out of that wrapper and into something a little more comfortable.” He cracks me up….
ANYWAY. This recipe is so easy I almost don’t need to write it out. Just look at the photos! But seriously, this is easy, delicious and just fun. Its a version of a peppermint whipped cream log my Mom often makes at Christmas. Her recipe has chocolate wafers, whipped cream and crushed candy canes. So the difference here is that I substituted mint milano cookies for the chocolate wafers and andes mints for the peppermint. Voila! When I was growing up, mint milano cookies were my parents little treat many nights while they watched Nick at Nite. I remember trying to make sure I could snag a cookie as they went fast due to my Dad’s cookie monster like techniques. And my sister Sarah and I were major Andes mints fans. When we were kids we’d walk to the drug store and buy them all the time. Its not really a kid type of candy but what can I say? We had mature taste. If we were in a mischievous mood we’d fold up an empty Andes Mint wrapper to look like it had something in it and give it to each other as a trick. We had a BFF/Frenemy type relationship as kids…! This nostalgic hodge podge makes for a great dessert though. Enjoy!
Whipping cream in a mixer is soooo easy…
My beloved Andes mints
Layers of whipped cream in between the cookies
Making the “log”
Sprinkle the top with crushed Andes Mints.
2 packages mint milano cookies
16 oz whipping cream
1 teaspoon mint flavoring
1 package andes mints
Whip up the whipping cream using 2 tablespoons of sugar. Add mint flavoring. Taste and add more mint if you like.
To make the log, take four cookies and spread a dollop of whipped cream in between them sandwiching them together. When done with one row, start on the next. You should have four cookies wide and four row long approximately. It also depends on the size of your platter. After your done, spread a thick coating of whipped cream around the entire log. Sprinkle with the crushed Andes Mints. Refrigerate overnight. Serve and enjoy!
So, as most of you know, I am a event & wedding photographer by day and a food blogger by night. Actually, reverse that. I shoot almost all my events in the evening and blog during the day! I’m inclined to feature some of my wedding work since it is chock full of table decoration ideas and FOOD! This weddings was at the unimaginably beautiful Ojai Valley Inn & Spa and my couple was beyond delightful to work with. No bridezilla’s here! The event was designed and planned by Claudia Hoste and can I just say that I’m in LOVE with what she did. With shades of blush, pink and cream, this weddings design was romantic, dreamy and delightful. When I saw the set up I had to literally pick my jaw up from the ground because it was so breathtakinly beautiful. And to top it off, the purple wisteria that only blooms for literally a WEEK a year was in full force. I loved this wedding and hope you do to. Have napkin on hand because you may need to mop up some drool after viewing…
The view from on high
Fancy shmancy silver wedding shoes
To die for champagne wedding dress!
The wedding ceremony took place in the gorgeous Hacienda Courtyard at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. I love the oak tree!
Wedding ceremony aisle flowers. I love how romantic and drapey they are….
Congrats to the Bride & Groom!
Purple wisteria in full bloom over the reception
Crystal chandelier hanging over the wedding tables
The Bride & Groom’s special chair covers. Love!
I’m obsessed with this birdcage centerpiece.
This cake was not only beautiful but delicious! It had this super interesting tangelo filling and was oh so scrumptious…
Gotta love the menu of course….
Old books tied with twine were used to create levels on the tables and add a nostalgic element.
Hanging wisteria. Ah…so romantic…sigh
Wild arugula salad with beets and shaved parmesan
Cast iron chicken with citrus sauce
Cheers to the happy couple and thanks for having me be apart of your spectacular day.
What is your go to snack when you’re hungry but don’t feel like making anything fancy? Mine is toast. Growing up with 4 siblings and two working parents meant that we often had to make sure we could fend for ourselves. When we whined and complained that we were hungry and there was, “nothing to eat” my Mom would always say, “Make some toast!” And boy did we ever. My little sister Leah when she was not quite the height of the counter would go around saying, “Will somebody make me some toast!? Will somebody PLEASE make me some toast!?” It was an emotion filled plea that would make anyone think she hadn’t eaten in days. My brother Daniel at a young age cleverly realized that if he opened a few drawers it would create a mini staircase for him to climb up and he could take care of his own toasting. I find lately that I’ve started eating toast much like my Mom did. She would take a bite and curl back her lips a little to avoid getting whatever butter or jam that was spread on the toast from getting on her face. It use to annoy me to no end but now I find myself doing the same thing. I guess when you graduate to adulthood you’re not okay with wiping your face on your sleeve. Apparently, my Mom grew up with toast as her go to snack as well. My Grandma was a little sickly in my Mom’s high school years and so lots of homemade food wasn’t necessarily on hand. She learned, as we did too, that a warm, crunchy piece of toasted bread slathers in melted butter and perhaps some delicious preserves brings a quick feeling of happiness to the mind and stomach. One hot day in the summer when I was 8 or 9 I was at my friend Kami’s house and we had gotten some bread and were eating it outside. It was so hot that the sun started toasting our bread. Kami keep getting mad that the bread wasn’t as fluffy as it was when we first brought it outside. I realized at this moment that she didn’t like toast. What!? How could she not like toast? Toast was a go to food whenever hunger was rearing its ugly head around the corner and yet here she was shunning this food as if it was now garbage. However, her family ate plenty of tuna fish sandwiches which I thought was utterly disgusting and would never partake in. It went to show that toast was ingrained in me and is as much a part of my makeup as my habit of putting vaseline on my lips every night (which is another story entirely). There are just certain things we grow up with that never leave us. Toast, thank you for always being there for me. I still greet you every morning and many afternoons with a smile and will for years to come. The countless times you’ve staved off hunger means the world to me. Now that I have a child of my own she can carry the metaphorical torch so as to keep the tradition alive. And for those who haven’t fully experienced a good piece of toast, what are you waiting for? Jump in. The water is fine.