Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza

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One of Michael and my first dates back in was at California Pizza Kitchen. I remember us sitting at the table going through the menu and trying to figure out a pizza we could split. (Splitting is big with 22 year olds…) Anyway, I remember Michael suggesting the Pear and Gorgonzola pizza and I was totally impressed on how refined his palate was. (Again, I was 22…) I guess I was use to guys that just wanted a pizza with a lot of cheese and meat. Anyway, we enjoyed our pizza over great conversation and lots giggling. We were also sitting on the same side of the booth at that time too. Alas, that was a few  years ago now (wink) and while we rarely sit on the same side of the booth we still enjoy this pizza together.

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Ingredients:

Pizza Dough (homemade or Trader’s Joe’s pre made dough)

Pear & Gorgonzola Dressing (Trader Joe’s)

1 pear sliced thin

1/2 cup Gorgonzola

1 onion sliced

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

Mixed Greens Salad tossed in desired dressing

Directions:

Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Reduce what to medium heat and continue to cook stirring often until golden and fully caramelized. Set aside

Over a flour surface roll out pizza dough. Place pizza on a pizza stone and spread pear and gorgonzola dressing on the dough. Sprinkle mozzarella on top and then layer the pears and onions on top. Sprinkle the gorgonzola on top. Bake at 375 degree’s for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and browning on the edges. Remove from oven and top with mixed green salad if desired. Enjoy!

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Root 246 (restaurant review)

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Solvang, CA is a beautiful and quaint Danish Village nestled in the hills above Santa Barbara. Its a spot we have often made a quick detour to when on our way up to the Bay Area. A little pink box filled with pastries, cookies and tasty morsels was never a bad idea for a road trop. Michael and I decided to go to Root 246 in Solvang after a photo shoot we had the same day at the amazing Villa Sunstone. We photographed a beautiful intimate wedding and we thought it would be fun to stay in town for dinner before heading home. As we drove down Alisal Rd in downtown Solvang, the little Danish shop windows were glowing and the picturesque village exuded a cozy warmth. As we entered the restaurant, we were pleasantly surprised to see the interior starkly contrast with the exterior as it was decorated with a clean modern design. Who says a New York vibe can’t exist in a rural Danish like country setting? We ordered Bacon Wrapped Dates to start. They were like little nuggets of suckling bacon, sweet and dripping with a delightful sticky syrup. For our entree’s I ordered a twist on a Fried Chicken dinner and Michael ordered the steak. Both were yummy! For dessert I loved the twist on a hot fudge sundae. Gourmet ice cream with marshmallow cream on top that was brûlée’d. Terrific! We had a lovely time and would definitely come back again. Thank you Root 246! Or should I say “tak?”

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Tuscan Pork with Rosemary, Garlic and Blueberries

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In December of 2010 Michael and I were lucky enough to visit Florence, Italy. We had a recommendation to get The Slow Food Guide for Florence to find those little hidden treasures that a normal tourist might miss. We actually almost did miss finding this restaurant because it was so well hidden that we walked past it three times. The waiter barely spoke English and of course we didn’t speak Italian. (Although I did have some luck speaking Spanish to a taxi driver. I hadn’t thought of it until our way home). Anyway, we ordered pork that had been slow roasted with garlic and rosemary and drenched in white wine. I have been attempting to recreate this dish ever since. This is the closest I’ve come and I added in the blueberries. Michael said this meal could be added to the regular rotation. That means its really good. 😉

 

 

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Recipe:

2-3 lbs pork shoulder

1 cup dried blueberries

10 cloves of garlic cut in half

3 tbs chopped fresh rosemary

salt & pepper

2 cups white wine

Directions:

Pat the pork dry with a paper towel. With a pairing knife, make small deep cuts in the meat to make pockets to insert the garlic, rosemary and blueberries.  Alternate inserting blueberries, rosemary and garlic into the cuts (on item per pocket). Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on both sides

In a large saute pan, heat two tablespoons of canola oil. Sear the meat on all sides until nicely browned. Place pork in the crockpot and pour wine on top. Sprinkle in any remaining garlic, rosemary or blueberries. Set crockpot on low and cook for 5-6 hours until meat is tender and easily flakes when shredded with two forks. Enjoy!

 

Meeting David O. Russell (Director of “American Hustle”) 10 Years ago and then Hearing him Speak again 10 Years Later. My Thoughts.

Sorry for my unintended hiatus since the New Year. I have been thoroughly swamped mentally and physically and I it hasn’t been until now that I’ve had the time or have been inspired to write.

85th Academy Awards Nominations Luncheon - Portraits

Michael and I were able to go see David O. Russell the other night at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara.  We fortunately live downtown so we are only 4 blocks away from the theatre and were able to walk there from our house. There is something super magical about that moment when you are childless for the evening and hand in hand with your love. Of course the moment would have been even better if we didn’t have that lingering guilt about leaving Gigi crying at the door when we left….

I digress. David O. Russel is famous for his most recent (and most amazing) films such as, “The Fighter” Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle.” What I didn’t know until Michael read his bio out loud before the show is that he  also happens to be the director for “I Heart Huckabee’s” which has special significance to me.  The film didn’t do that great in the box office and it was a sort of an off beat film that didn’t quite have the level of quirkiness to make it a “cult classic.” But when I was 22 and working at Cheesecake Factory I waited on two gentlemen who happened to be working on the film and invited me to the set. I was an “aspiring” actress (aka waitress) at the time and the offer to visit a REAL set was of course thrilling.  I do believe that these guys had some kind of romantic interest in me (otherwise why the heck would they have extended this invitation?) but I was with Michael at time which I explained to them and which didn’t seem to phase them. I was extremely naive in my earlier years… So off I went to the set and David O. Russell was the first person I met. His hair was sort of shaggy and I seem to remember it being past his ears. He was holding/eating a sandwich and wearing a seer sucker suit. I was introduced to him and he ran up to me and hugged me say, “Hi, Anna from Cheesecake Factory!” I was very embarrassed to be addressed in this way because in my mind I would have preferred to have been a mysterious girl that was important enough to invite to the set of a major motion picture. NOT some girl from Cheesecake Factory that was picked up by the stunt guy. I also was pretty frozen after the hug and awkwardly shuffled my feet waiting to see what I suppose to do next…After that I was escorted to a trailer in which Jason Swartzman was residing during breaks and watched with him and some other members of the entourage clips from “The Graduate” with Dustin Hoffman. (This is starting to sound like a dream I once had but seriously its true…) I remember asking Jason Swartzman (who I hadn’t hear of at the time and would later become a huge fan of) whether he has seen “The Graduate” before and he said, “No.”  He probably was being feciscious…I then mentioned quite philosophically how the last scene was the best scene in the movie. Another attempt at trying to appear more sophisticated than I was… When the shooting of the movie commenced I was introduced to none other that the great Dustin Hoffman. Actually, he introduced himself to ME by saying., “Hi, I’m Dustin” and shaking my hand.  It was quite enthralling. Mr. Hoffman’s son was in the film and had a bit part as the valet. I remember they were filming his scene at the time and everyone was enamored by the effortlessness of his acting.  In the scene, Jude Law was trying to valet his bike, and the line Dustin Hoffman’s son said was, “Its not a car its a bike.” After the line was delivered everyone laughed uproariously at his understated delivery.

Finally, I was introduced to Jude Law and in my final attempt to seem cool, collected and important I commented to him that he had a beautiful son (who was on set as well). He looked at me for a long pause and then turned away without making a comment. Great. While there were many more moments that could have been told I’ll stop there as this is really about my recent experience in 10 years later hearing David O. Russell speak about his career, films and personal life.

David O. Russell of today is much like the David O. Russell 10 years ago. He was extremely personable, likable and down to earth. One of the first stories he related was on how he started. He use to bartend for fancy parties often at Jackie O’s house when he was first working at being a director. Evidently he served Martin Scorscese one night  after his movie “Good Fellas” had come out and told him that he’d like to be doing what he is doing someday. Marty Scorscece said, “I’ll have a vodka tonic.” Evidently he didn’t begin his career until after he was 30 and had spent his 20’s getting a degree and teaching ESL.  One of his first opportunities in filmmaking was  a grant he received to do a movie about a chinese restaurant owner that planted hidden microphones at his patrons table to listen in on their conversations and give them personal and inappropriate fortune cookies. Evidently that idea never panned into anything but he made a completely different film  had to give the grant money back (since he never completed the original project). Fortunately his film was eventually bought and so he was able to pay the money back. Years later during the filming of “I Heart Huckabee’s” his son began to have serious problems and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The ultimate failure of Huckabee’s along with the divorce from his wife and son’s problems all helped him gain personal experience that lead him to his later films success. “The Fighter” about a failed boxer and his brother trying to make a comeback struck a chord with him because of  his failure in “Huckabee’s.”  He said that if he hadn’t failed to a degree in directing he would never have had the personal connection to “The Fighter.” ” Silverling Playbook” was based off his experience with his sons bipolar disorder and those hard and daunting moments he went through.  I greatly appreciated his being transparent about his successes and failures and all the experiences along the way that have shaped him into the person he is today. I personally feel like my life is mostly a collage of embarrassed failures. I don’t say this to garner any sympathy or fish for complements but to be real about my own humanness. And I felt a connection with the recounts of his life because he’s had very real triumphs and failures just like the rest of us. I loved how when asked by the interviewer if he likes doing one type of film more than another his reply was, “I feel grateful to make a film period. So I love making any film.” Or his response to whether or not he enjoyed film festivals he said, “If you don’t love to award shows and festivals then you’re in the wrong business.” I was a fan of David O. Russell without knowing it purely from loving his recent films. Now I’m a fan him from a personal standpoint. His genuine nature, example of perseverance and  down to earth qualities made the evening not only lovely but also insightful.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Avocado, Cilantro and Grilled Green Onions

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This recipe is California Comfort Food to the “T”. Its succulent, delicious and has that fresh element that makes your body want to do backflips and take a jog on the beach. It also has that Latino flare which is oh so authentico de los Mexicanos esta en California. I love it! The other great thing is that its actually really easy which is always helpful. Since its pretty much an endless summer here grilling on the barbecue isn’t relegated for just June through September. I love grilling so much that I’ll fire up my Charbroil just to cook one turkey patty for myself for lunch in January. But if barbecuing is out of the question for you at the moment feel free to remember (or pinterest!) this for future use. Enjoy!

Marinated Skirt Steak with Grilled Green Onions, Avocado & Cilantro

Ingredients:

1-2 lbs Skirt Steak

6 Green Onions

1 Avocado sliced

Fresh Cilantro to garnish

Marinade (recipe to follow)

Directions:

In a large plastic freezer bag combine skirt steak and marinade. Marinate for at least an hour or overnight.

Heat your outdoor grill to medium high heat and place steak on the grill and cook until medium to medium rare.  Green onions to grill and cook until there are some nice grill marks. Once steak is done set aside and let rest. Slice steak against the grain and put it on a platter. Top with avocado, green onions and cilantro. Serve with grilled corn tortillas and salsa if desired. Enjoy!

Marinade Recipe:

two cloves garlic (large)

½ cup Canola oil

¼ soy sauce

½ tsp garlic salt such as lawrys

juice from one lemon

1/8 tsp cracked pepper

Directions:

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade mince the garlic. Add in the rest of the ingredients and pulse. Set aside.

Happy New Year!

While I am very excited for 2014 and all the fun things that I’m planning and dreaming of but…I still want to give a shout out to 2013 and all the fun things I got to showcase on the blog. Here’s a little 2013 recap!

January 2013 – Our family Christmas Card! Its amazing to me when you look at photos of kids because they grow so fast. Compare this one to the last photo of this post to see how much Georgiana has grown. 😉

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February 2013: Georgiana’s 1st Birthday party! Well actually, her birthday was in November but I didn’t get around to posting the party until February and I was especially proud of the three tiered ruffled fondant cake I made. It actually had a ton of flaws but I seemed to be able to take the exact right shot of it that made it look pretty nice. Oh the magic of photography!

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March 2013: Michael and I visited Nancy Silverton’s restaurant Osteria Mozza which was a fabulous experience. Below is the Orata fish that I ordered and enjoyed immensely. Fab-U-lous!

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April 2013: Michael and I were lucky enough to visit yet ANOTHER awesome restaurant – Plow & Angel at San Ysidro Ranch. The meal was truly “on fire” as you can see. 😉

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May 2013: My recipe for Chamomile Ice Cream. This ice cream deserves another mention because its subtle flavors mixed with the rich creaminess that is ice cream is one of my all time fav’s. If you haven’t already, definitely try it!

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June 2013: A trip to the farmer’s market was a delight to photograph with its vibrant colors and drool worthy produce.

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July 2013:  This year it was all about Ombre. I joined the herd and made this cake!

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August 2013: Sometimes its worth it to look up.  😉

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September 2013:  Fox News Magazine Feature! My ever popular Brussels Sprouts with Garlic Aioli was featured on the Fox News website and I was very honored to be the first recipe shown. I was also excited to shoot a 12 series video on cookie decorating that is on ehow.com. So many fun things things in November!

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October 2013: The weather was cooling down in Santa Barbara and so I thought it was appropriate to share my French Onion Soup recipe. 😉

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November 2013: I was a guest on a radio show! Super fun, exciting, scary, nerve racking and confusing. (Confusing because I kept wondering why they asked me to be on the show….!) I’m very thankful and humbled by the experience….

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December 2013: And the end of the year has arrived. I’m a one year older and hopefully one year better. I learned a lot and I had up’s and down’s. My love has grown for those I care about and especially my darling Georgiana and handsome husband Michael. Happy New Year to everyone and thank you for reading my blog. Every click and comment means so much to me and I only hope that my ideas and recipes have somehow added to your life. Thank you!

georgiana_christmas_2013

Decorating Ideas for Decorating Football Helmet Cookies (Video)

Well, Christmas has passed and New Years is just a few days away…but what is still happening? Football! Lots and lots of football. So I’m posting tips on decorating helmet cut out cookies for those sports fans out there. Its a great time to practice since the Super Bowl isn’t too far away. Enjoy!

Our House. At Sunset.

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We get really beautiful sunsets in Santa Barbara. They are the type that you just can’t be inside while its happening. You have to go outside and stare. This one time I took my camera and here is the result. This is one (of many) great thing about Santa Barbara. There are sunsets year round and just when you think it can’t get any more beautiful it does. Also, we love our house. Its admittedly very small. I like to tell people its a “cottage” because its more flattering way of saying we live in a teeny tiny house. But we also live  downtown which is a bit pricey and we are happy to sacrifice on space to be surrounded by the excitement and wonder that is to behold. I’ve been thinking that I need to be taking more pictures of my neighborhood so I can document all the little fun things I see everyday. (Mostly on our way too and from the park). I’ll work on that and get back to you…

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The Holidays are Here!

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Just wanted to post a little holiday teaser table setting to inspire us for our holiday gatherings and get togethers. Happy Holidays!

table design: kelly oshiro (sbchic.com)

photography: yours truly!

Grocery Shopping Tips

Do you find yourself at the store wandering around aimlessly trying to figure out what to buy and cook? Do you throw away vegetables and meats on a regular basis because you forgot they were in the fridge? Do you often forget something and have to go back to the store later to pick it up? Well, fear not. Below is a foolproof way to save money, time and energy by following a few simple rules before grocery shopping. Try it out once and you’ll never go back. Enjoy!

1. Have a small magnetic white board on your fridge so that you can write down things you need right when you remember them. There’s nothing more annoying then going back to the store to get that bag of sugar that you didn’t remember ran out last month.

white_board_grocery_list

2. Look through your fridge before you go shopping to see what food you still have that you should remember to incorporate in next weeks meals. Also, take a peek in your pantry to see if you are running low on staples (onions, garlic etc) and also what dry good you should try to use up.

2. Write a shopping list. I write on the top of the paper what I’m making for dinner for the week  and then the list of ingredients I need to buy below. If you want to get super organized, make three columns under your dinner ideas. In your mind divide up your grocery store into three parts (left, middle, right) and as you are writing your list write your grocery items in the appropriate column. This will actually save you a good amount of time while shopping so you aren’t running all over the store. Try it once and you’ll see…. After I’m done shopping I tuck that paper under my magnetic white board with the menu peaking out of the top to remind me what meals I planned on for the week.

grocery_list_menu

3. Start on the side of the store that has more bulky/sturdy items like bottled water. End up on the side of the store that has the fruits and vegetables so you don’t end up crushing your produce

4.  Put away items away in their respective categories. When you get home,  take out all the grocery’s out and put them on the counter.  Then put away the frozen goods first, then meats, dairy, vegetables and finally whatever isn’t refrigerated.

5. Write on your white board the expiration date for meat and a list of veggies in the crisper. Its good to section off a little space to write what meats you have in the fridge and their expiration date. That will help avoid having to throw expensive meat away because you forgot its expiration date. Also, write a list of the vegetables in your crisper so you can make sure to use those up before they go bad.

Hope this was helpful and will make grocery shopping a little less hectic and bit more fun. 😉