Food · Travel

Destination Beverly Hills

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I’ve never been to Southern California, so when selecting a destination for a long weekend, I decided it was time to explore California.  This was going to be a quick trip, leave on Friday morning and return Sunday night but a get away for fall break.  I love iconic hotels so I explored my options on booking.com and through Amex’s travel concierge.  I ended up at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It seemed perfect for my brief trip.  Built in 1912 and famous as a hotel of the stars, it had all the qualities I wanted for this vacation. A great pool, spa, yoga, and options for retail therapy.  What more could a girl want?

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I arrived Friday afternoon and was immediately checked into a gorgeous room.  Since I was starved, I dropped my bags and headed to the iconic Polo Lounge for lunch.  So many delicious options from which to select.  I ended up with a French 75 cocktail and the McCarthy chopped salad.  Thoroughly satiated, and tired from getting up at 4:30 AM, I headed up to my beautiful room and my favorite feature, the lounge chair on the private balcony. I happily curled up on the lounge for a bit of sun and the remainder of the book I’d started.

 

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Yoga was one of the reasons I’d chosen the Beverly Hills Hotel. Amy Rose offers yoga classes in the garden on Saturday mornings.  You need a reservation so I’d called early and reserved my mat and blocks.  It was a wonderful class.  The morning was cool, perfect for a workout.  Amy was excellent.  If I lived close, I’d be there every Saturday morning.  Even better, the hotel supplied everything I needed in the line of equipment so no need to pack and carry anything.  After yoga, I headed to the spa for a massage.  Complete indulgence and a wonderful way to conclude the morning.  I rounded out my Saturday with a bit of retail therapy.  The hotel has courtesy cars that I was happy to use to drop me off on Rodeo Drive.  The weather was beautiful.  I strolled  in and out of boutique after boutique browsing.  I scored a birthday gift for my wonderful cousin and new sunnies for me!

I ended my day with a delicious dinner at the hotel.  This time lobster tagliatelli, a glass of red wine, and chocolate soufflé.  Delicious!

Sunday was another beautiful day but a bit on the cool and foggy side to start.  I opted for a bit of a sleep in, after all it was a mini vacay!  I’d marked Sunday as lounge by the pool day.  I arrived around 10:30AM and opted for the hot tub as it was still on the cool side.  It quickly warmed up and I enjoyed a morning and lunch by the pool before time came to check out and head to LAX.

The hotel was amazing.  Everyone there went out of their way to make my stay wonderful.  My only regret?  I needed another day.  I’d planned a tour of homes but ran out of time!

entertaining · Family · Food

Taco Soup

I’m a soup girl.  There is nothing I enjoy more for dinner after a hard day at work than a bowl of homemade soup.  I enjoy cooking and I find it is better for me generally than fast food. I’ve also received a push in that direction from my doctor who encourages me to avoid the center of the grocery store and opt for fresh foods on the exterior of the market.  Of course if I want homemade soup, this means I have to make the soup to have it for dinner.  I have a number of “go to” recipes for soup and in the fall and winter, I tend to make a large pot of something on Sunday, sometimes Saturday, to have for the week ahead or to stock the freezer.

IMG_8926One of my “go to” soups is taco soup.  It is on the low-calorie side of things, tastes, and so simple to make.  I put it in the dump and run category of recipes.

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Three chicken breasts

Two large cans diced tomatoes

Two small cans of black beans

Package of frozen corn, preferably white or silver queen or two small cans corn drained

Half a cup taco seasoning

Half a cup ranch dressing mix, dry

Two cartons chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste.

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I use a La Creuset stock pot to cook my soup. Poach the chicken breasts in half a carton of chicken stock.  Remove the breasts and let cool.  Shred the chicken and set to the side.  In the stock pot, add the tomatoes and remaining chicken stock, the taco seasoning and dry ranch dressing mix, stir and let simmer for two hours.  Drain one can of black beans and add to the pot.  Add the remaining can of beans with juice and the corn.  If you elected to use canned corn, drain and rinse the corn before adding to the pot.  Add in the chicken and bring to a boil.  After reaching a boil, reduce to low and let cook at least another hour, preferably two.  Then enjoy!  I enjoy it “plain” but you can also top with shredded cheese, sour cream or tortilla strips.

Post Script:  This soup freezes well.  I divide it into small quantities and freeze it for lunch when I want to take something for those busy days at work or for dinner after one of those days.

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entertaining · Food

Spaghetti Squash – a preview of fall

Squash is a favorite of mine, zucchini, yellow, and spaghetti routinely make their way into my kitchen.  Spaghetti squash is a fall favorite.  I usually serve the “noodles” from the squash with marinara or spaghetti sauce and, on occasion, I whip up a cream sauce and make an alfredo type of squash with cream, garlic, and Parmesan cheese.

Recently, I began looking for new recipes.  I wanted something different and new from my standard dinners.  I eat a lot of chicken, so I began to experiment with the concept of chicken and squash.  I ended up with this variation on chicken and spaghetti squash.

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Two chicken breasts diced in bite sized pieces

Half an onion diced

One carrot shredded

One medium tomato diced

One bell pepper diced

Fresh basil chopped

Parmesan cheese to taste

tomato pesto sauce, half a cup

Small spaghetti squash

Olive oil, salt and pepper, and Italian seasoning all to taste.

Cut the spaghetti squash in half, length wise.  Sprinkle olive oil, salt, and pepper over each half.  Place the halves open side down in a baking or oven proof dish and cook at 350 for thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, remove and permit to cool.  Once cool, remove seeds with a grapefruit spoon then, still using the grapefruit spoon, remove the squash in long noodle like strings to a bowl.

Next, in a skillet, add more olive oil, onion, chicken, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and shredded carrot.  Sauté until chicken is almost done.  Toss in the tomato and bell pepper and sauté another three minutes.  Next add in the Parmesan cheese and spaghetti squash.  Remove entire mixture to a baking dish and place in the oven on 350 for thirty minutes.

Enjoy!

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entertaining · Food

Chicken Chorizo Tomato Soup

 

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One of my tips for managing my time is to make a large pot of soup on Saturday or Sunday.  I have several favorites that I tend to make in rotation.  I freeze some of the pot and eat off the remainder during the week.  It makes for an easy home cooked supper during the week when I’m running late or have something after work.

This weekend I opted to make a new favorite – chicken chorizo tomato soup.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 large chicken breasts cut into bite size chunks

3 links chicken chorizo sausage removed from the skin

1 large onion chopped

1 red bell pepper chopped

2 quarts chicken stock

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 large can diced fire-roasted tomatoes

3 cloves minced garlic cloves

cilantro, salt and pepper to taste

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté for five minutes or until the sausage cooked done and the chicken is cooked to a light brown, the olive oil, chicken, chorizo, onion, pepper, and garlic.  Add the salt, pepper, and cilantro and sauté for an additional two minutes.  Add the tomatoes and stir into the pot.  Let cook about two minutes.  Finally, add the chicken stock and cook on low heat for four hours.

Yum!

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Food

My summer Greek salad

Vine ripened tomatoes are the best.  I can eat them morning, noon, and night, and do when they are in season.  There are so many options – tomato sandwiches, tomato pie, baked tomatoes, tomatoes in a green salad – well you get the picture.  Unfortunately, some of my absolute favorite ways to eat tomatoes also rank rather high on the calorie count. My recipe for tomato pie includes a delicious crust in addition to a ton of cheddar cheese and mayo.  I love it but my hips say no!  So what’s a gal to do when there are all those wonderful, ripe, delicious, tomatoes just waiting to be eaten?

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Last summer a good friend who’d spend a week in Santorini shared her answer to this dilemma.  She calls this a Mediterranean salad or a Greek salad.  It is so simple and yet so filling!

One medium cucumber skinned and cut into bite sized pieces

One large, lucious, vine ripened tomato cut into bite sized pieces

Fresh basil chopped and sprinkled over the top

Sprinkle with Italian seasoning – I use Penzey’s

Feta cheese crumbled over the top

Drizzle with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) or oil and vinegar – your preference!

It is light and filling and perfect for those hot summer evenings.

P.S.  A glass of Valpolicella is a perfect companion to this meal.

 

Family · Food

Stuffed Peppers

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I am addicted to the farmer’s market this summer.  I cannot get enough of the fresh produce with an emphasis on peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  At my last visit to the farmer’s market I brought home a lot of peppers.  All day I looked at them attempting to decide what to do with them.  Then I recalled my Mom serving stuffed peppers when I was young.  I couldn’t find her recipe so I reached out to my friend Google.  After reading multiple different recipes, I decided to make up my own.  The result was a winner!

Four large and preferably round bell peppers.

One cup orzo cooked al dente

Two links chorizo sausage removed from skin and cooked

Half a medium onion chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Parmesean cheese

Cut the top off each pepper and scoop out the inside.  Dice the tops of the peppers and place in a bowl.  Add the diced onion, the sausage, orzo, and cheese.  Stir until the ingrediants are mixed.  Add salt and pepper.  Stuff each pepper with the mixture, spray the top with olive oil and place into a baking dish.  Bake for thirty minutes at 350.

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They were not Mom’s peppers but I think I like mine better!

 

 

 

Food

Leftovers and my Black-n-Blue Salad

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I love a good London broil. It is one of my favorite meals to cook because it is simple and something most of my friends and family like. For years I struggled with the question of how to use the leftovers because I always have leftovers. I’ve tried everything from cold cuts to stir fry before stumbling upon my summer favorite. Two summers ago I met a friend for lunch at a local bistro and noticed  the day’s special, a black and blue salad. The black and blue salad was essentially a steak salad with blue cheese. It was fabulous. I got home that night, opened the refrigerator and noticed the leftover London broil.  At that moment my version of the black=n=blue salad was born. This is so simple and so tasty it is perfect for a hot summer night and it solves the leftover quandary.

Black-n-Blue Salad

Leaf lettuce washed and torn into bite sized pieces
Vine ripened summer tomato cut into bite size pieces
Purple onion sliced in thin rings or fried onion from the grocery – the fried onion adds a bit of crunch
Blue cheese or Gorgonzola crumbles
London broil sliced then and then cut into bite sized pieces
Toss together in in a bowl and add garlic salt, pepper, and oregano along with fat free Italian dressing.

Enjoy!