Chamomile Ice Cream

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!

Ingredients:

  • 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

Preparation:

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.

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My Baby Girl. My Heart.

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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.

Grilled Sausage, Corn and Arugula Salad

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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!

Recipe:

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

Directions:

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.

Mint Milano Log

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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!

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Whipping cream in a mixer is soooo easy… 😉

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My beloved Andes mints 😉

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Layers of whipped cream in between the cookies

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Making the “log”

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Sprinkle the top with crushed Andes Mints.

Recipe:

2 packages mint milano cookies

16 oz whipping cream

1 teaspoon mint flavoring

1 package andes mints

Directions:

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!

Wedding Drool-Fest

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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…

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The view from on high

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Fancy shmancy silver wedding shoes 😉

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To die for champagne wedding dress!

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The wedding ceremony took place in the gorgeous Hacienda Courtyard at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. I love the oak tree!

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Wedding ceremony aisle flowers. I love how romantic and drapey they are….

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Congrats to the Bride & Groom!

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Purple wisteria in full bloom over the reception

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Crystal chandelier hanging over the wedding tables

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The Bride & Groom’s special chair covers. Love!

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I’m obsessed with this birdcage centerpiece.

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This cake was not only beautiful but delicious! It had this super interesting tangelo filling and was oh so scrumptious…

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Gotta love the menu of course….

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Old books tied with twine were used to create levels on the tables and add a nostalgic element.

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Hanging wisteria. Ah…so romantic…sigh

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Wild arugula salad with beets and shaved parmesan

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Cast iron chicken with citrus sauce

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Market vegetables

Cheers to the happy couple and thanks for having me be apart of your spectacular day. 😉

My childhood was full of toast

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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.

Steak, Grilled Vegetable and Gorgonzola Salad

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I’m obsessed with grilling. Its the quickest way to develop some amazing flavor and its fun to be outside! For this salad I love the peppery arugula combined with succulent steak and that bite of gorgonzola. Yum. You can make this salad outright (as it is delicious) or make it after a night of grilling when you have some delicious steak and veggies leftover in the fridge. Two for the price of one always works for me!

Ingredients:

1 lbs sirloin steak

2 zucchini cut in thick strips

2 yellow squash cut in thick strips

1 bag arugula

8 oz crumbled gorgonzola

1 tomato diced

balsamic vinegar

olive oil

salt & pepper

Directions:

Heat grill to medium high heat. Salt and pepper steak on both sides. Grill steak for 4-5 minutes on each side or until it reaches desired doneness. Set aside and rest. Meanwhile, brush each side of the zucchini and squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill vegetables until tender with nice grill marks. Set aside and turn off grill.

Once the veggies and steak have cooled down enough to handle, cut into large bite size pieces. In a large mixing bowl combine arugula, steak, veggies and tomato. Top with gorgonzola. Serve with olive and balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

Working out. 50’s Style. (and I don’t mean the time period…)

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So I take this dance fitness class Monday-Wednesday. Its a class that incorporates dance moves that gets your heart rate up and burns calories. I use to dance a lot when I was younger (jazz, ballet, tap and ballroom etc) and have been looking for an adult class where I not only get a work out but have some fun while I’m at it. The only problem is that dance studios really cater to the little ones ages 2-18. Many offer the odd adult class which is usually poorly attended and not that serious and usually doesn’t get up a sweat. Gym’s offer classes but they aren’t serious or technical enough for me. I get bored easily. Finally after searching high and low I found this dance class that is at 9 am which is just when Gigi goes down for her nap and Michael is home to watch her. The class is great. The teacher has taken a lot of interest in me and I felt like I am getting some nice attention. The only problem is that I’m the youngest one in the class. By a lot. The average age is probably 50-60. There’s lots of talk of, “growing old isn’t for sissy’s” and all the ladies wear makeup while working out….On the flip side they are all so nice! They are always coming up to me and exclaiming on how quickly I’m picking up the moves and are super friendly. I’m happy with the class but in a way its like seeing into my future. And that sort of depresses me. Will this be me in 20 years still doing the Cha Cha with these ladies who will be 70 by then? I feel like I’m in the wrong place and intruding on my future. Its like my soul is saying, “Wait! Don’t jump the gun. Your not ready for this yet!”  And just for the record I don’t think that 50 is particularly old – its just that its like working out with my Mom’s friends. Definitely a generation gap (or two).  I love dancing so much and hope that one day I’ll find the exact right fit for me. Until then, I guess I’ll be sweatin’ to the oldies… 😉

How to Chop or Dice an Onion (Video)

I can’t even tell you how long I chopped onions incorrectly. Over the years I figured out a few things little by little but it wasn’t until I saw Gail Simmons live at the USC bookfaire last year that I realized I STILL wasn’t doing it exactly right. Here is a video tutorial on how to correctly chop an onion.

Sorry the video is from so far away. I’m just getting use to this whole thing. I’ll be more close up in my next attempt….

Old Fashioned Peach Pie

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(Sorry, didn’t mean to be giving the finger in this shot. You get the idea…)

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Recipe:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Pie Filling

12 peaches

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons butter cut into small cubes

Pie Dough: 

2 3/4 Cups Flour

½ Tbs Salt

4 Tbs cold unsalted butter cut into pieces

1 Cup Shortening

½ Cup Ice Water

Directions: 

Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and using your fingers cut in into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Break up the shortening an add it in little bits and cut it into mixture with your hands. Continue working the mixture until it has small clumps and curds. Switch to a wooden spoon and add the ice water, stirring to incorporate it. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and fold it over on its self a few times. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for as long as 5 days.

In the meantime, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add peaches and allow to boil for several minutes until peel come off easily.  The peaches will be VERY hot so use tongs as you put them into an ice bath. Remove peel and pits.  Take all peaches and put onto a large cutting board and cut into slices. Put peaches into a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a separate bowl. Mix together thoroughly. Pour mixture onto peaches and stir enough to combine but don’t over do it. Set aside

Take chilled pie dough out of refrigerator and lay out on floured work surface. Separate into two equal amounts. Roll out the first portion of dough and transfer to a glass pie plate. If the pie crust isn’t even on all sides then use excess dough to fill in open spots. Beat an egg and brush onto the bottom of the pie to make sure  the filling doesn’t stick. Pour pie filling into crust. Dot with butter. Roll out second portion of dough and transfer to the top of the pie. Cut sides of the pie so their is ½ inch around and with your fingers crimp the edges. Brush the top with more egg wash for browning.

Bake for 45-60 minutes until golden brown and bubbling around edges. If the edges of the pie start over browning and the top still has a ways to go then cover with a piece of aluminum foil with a hole cut out of the center. This way  the middle of the pie continues to brown while the edge stay the same. HERE is a little explanation if my directions aren’t clear… Take out of oven and let cool. Enjoy!