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Happy 4th of July

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Just a small, simple, sweet treat — for the 4th of July — with only 3 items from Trader Joes.   Start with the Chantilly Cream Vanilla Bean mini sheet cake … and decorate with your favorite red and white fruit.   Strawberries and blueberries in the picture above.  It’s best to use the same size strawberries so when you slice them, they are uniform for making the stripes.

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Happy 4th of July!

I had a delicious arugula salad last week at Julienne’s.  Julienne’s is one of my favorite restaurants in the Pasadena area.  They have great sandwiches, salads, soups — and they have a darling store where they sell baked goods, take away food, and cute kitchen & gift items.  It’s a great restaurant for breakfast or lunch when you’re visiting the Huntington Library or Norton Simon Museum.

Back to my salad … it had a wonderful light salad dressing they called quince vinaigrette.  I knew quince was a fruit, but didn’t know much more.  Quince ends up being a Spanish fruit that resembles a sour pear.  It’s usually made into a paste which ends up tasting a bit like berry meets apple.  It is often served as a companion to cheese.  You can find Quince Paste in grocery stores that sell artisan cheeses.  Our Whole Foods sells Quince Paste.

So a few days ago, I decided to recreate the salad.  I picked up fresh arugula at our farmer’s market and added shaved Manchego cheese, Marcona Almonds and a homemade quince vinaigrette.  My husband and I LOVED it!

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Quince Paste

2 T. Red Wine Vinegar

2 T. Olive Oil

1 t. Lemon Juice

Salt and Pepper to taste

Fresh bunch of Arugula (or 15 oz. bag of organic arugula)

1/2 cup shaved Manchego Cheese

1/2 to 3/4 cup Marcona Almonds, rough chopped

Directions:

1. Combine the quince paste, vinegar, olive oil, and lemon juice in a small measuring cup.   Use a small whisk to break up the quince paste.  (If you’re using refrigerated paste, you may need to mix in a small blender.)   Add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Toss arugula with salad dressing — go light at first.  Top salad with shaved cheese and almonds.

NOTES:

This salad is great with added protein — grilled chicken, grilled salmon.

I love the Marcona Almonds from Sprouts — they have very little oil, but are nicely seasoned.

As I mentioned above, I found quince paste at Whole Foods.

You can refrigerate any remaining dressing.

 

 

Blue and White

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Welcoming Spring with blue and white … one of my favorite looks.

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To get ready for Easter … add a few white bunnies.

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February Hearts

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Over the years, I’ve collected various heart ornaments and plates.  I use the heart ornaments at Christmas and then save them for Valentine’s Day.

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Christmas Snapshots

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Just a few snapshots of our Christmas decorations this year.  Love the display of mercury glass with fresh greens.

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Shell bottles and fresh greens … along with red velvet ornaments purchased at ABC Home in NYC.

DSC01100Didn’t have much time to decorate this year … so kept the family room simple.

DSC01105Snowmen with red berries and Christmas ornaments on the mantel.

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Just added red frames, striped ornaments and red mercury glass to existing book shelves.  No time this year to do any more!

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DSC01006I’ve been on a roasted broccoli kick lately.  It started this spring when I bought a tray of broccoli rabe from Trader Joe’s.  Then I found a recipe with balsamic vinegar and red pepper flakes … a great combination with broccoli!

I’ve modified the recipe from Country Living, as I like to cook creating the fewest dirty dishes possible.  My husband loves me for it, as he usually has “clean up” duty.

Spicy Balsamic Broccoli Rabe

4 Servings

Ingredients

1  1/2 lbs Broccoli Rabe (2 trays from Trader Joe’s)

3 Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced

2 Tbs Olive Oil

1 tsp Kosher Salt

1/2  tsp ground Pepper

1  tsp Red Pepper Flakes

1  1/2 – 2 Tbs Balsamic Vinegar

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Trim the ends from the broccoli rabe.  Thinly slice the garlic cloves.

2.  Place broccoli on large, rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle broccoli with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Use tongs to toss the broccoli on the baking sheet.  Sprinkle sliced garlic evenly on broccoli.  (You may use a medium bowl and toss all ingredients to evenly coat.)

DSC010033.  Roast the broccoli until crisp-tender and leaves are slightly charred (approximately 8 to 10 minutes).  I’ve used regular broccoli when I can’t find rabe.  Then I roast for 10 to 14 minutes.

4.  Remove baking sheet from oven.  Sprinkle red pepper flakes and drizzle with balsamic vinegar before serving.

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Enjoy!

Naples in a Day

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On a recent trip to the Amalfi Coast, my husband and I decided to spend a day in Naples, Italy.  We had been through Naples several times, usually via the train station or airport, on our way to Pompei, Sorrento, Positano or flying out of Italy.

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Personally, I had never had a good experience going through Naples, as the train station and airport are in bad parts of town.  But, our key motivators for spending time in Naples were to 1) try authentic Napoli pizza and 2) to tour the National Archaelogical Museum (where many of the Pompei relics  are displayed).

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We took a taxi from Positano to the Albergo Palazzo Decumani Hotel in historic downtown Naples.  We could have taken the bus from Positano to Sorrento, then the train to Sorrento to Naples and finally a taxi to our hotel.

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While the hotel was a bit difficult to find, it was a very nice hotel located near all the sites we wanted to visit.  Our room was large,  had a great bathroom/shower and comfortable bed.

The hotel manager provided us with a map and made great suggestions on where and what to eat.  We were able to walk throughout the historic district and visit all of sites on our list.

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First stop was Giovanni Scaturchio for coffee and traditional Neapolitian desserts.  Giovanni Scaturchio, located in the Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, has outdoor seating and serves the traditional desserts:  Sfogliatella and Baba.  Sfogliatella Riccia is a pastry with ricotta cheese and candied fruit.  We loved it!  Baba is a rum sponge cake.  We liked it, but probably would not order it again.

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After an early afternoon snack, we set about to see the key sites of historic Naples.

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The Museo Capella Sansevero was the highlight of our Naples visit.  The chapel houses about 30 pieces of art, mostly sculptures.  The most famous of sculptures is the Veiled Christ which is surrounded by sculptures of the Virtues.  Be sure to visit the Underground Chamber which houses the anatomical models of a male and pregnant female with their skeletons, arteries and veins.  This museum is a “must see.”

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Our next stop was the Capella del Tesoro di San Gennaro (the royal chapel of the treasure dedicated to the patron saint of the city).

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Then we walked on to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale.   This is where a large collection of artifacts from Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae are on display.  If you’ve been to Pompeii, then this museum is a must.   We saw the extensive mosaic collection from the ruins at Pompeii, many sculptures and even the Secret Cabinet (Room) that has an extensive collection of erotic and sexual items.

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For dinner, we wanted to eat authentic Napoli pizza … thin crust, wood-fired ovens, fresh ingredients.  The hotel manager  recommended we eat at one of three restaurants.  His recommendations just so happened to be the same ones my husband had researched.  And, they were all along the same street, so we could walk by each to easily see which one we wanted to try.

  • Di Matteo (Via Trabunal, 94)
  • Decumani
  • Sorbillo (Via Tribunal, 38)

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We ended up eating at Di Matteo.  We had two pizzas, a Diet Coke and a beer for 19 euros.  They were pretty darn good pizzas!  As we were leaving the restaurant, I noticed that they also served ricotta-stuffed fried zucchini blossoms.  I almost convinced my husband to go back and order zucchini blossoms.  Instead, we walked around a bit then ended up at the Piazza San Domenico Maggiore and stopped for gelato.  It was our last evening in Italy, so one last gelato.