Eat Local 

When traveling we always try to make it a priority to shop and indulge in the local produce and cuisine. Fresh local fruit is always a great choice and tastes delicious. Look for local farmers markets while visiting your destination. Farmers markets are very popular and easy to find, plus you get the freshest produce and you’ll support the local economy while doing so. 

One of the worst things to do when traveling, especially overseas or out of the U.S. is to purchase or order items that are not native to the destination you are visiting. Sometimes it might be second nature to order something that you would normally at home but you don’t realize what resources it might actually take to get these items shipped to where you are.   “Fresh” really might not be “fresh” by the time it get’s to you.

One of the wonderful benefits of traveling is having the opportunity to experience different cultures and foods all-while breaking out of your “comfort zone”.

Here are some of our favorites while visiting our favorites:

-Costa Rica: papaya, mango, passion fruit, plantains, pineapple

-Hawaii: lychee, pineapple, coconut, mango, strawberry papaya

-Mexico: prickly pear, guayaba, avocados, dragon fruit, cherimoya

-Northern California: pears, grapes, cherries, apples

-Central California: strawberries, artichokes, figs, grapes, berries

-Southern California: avocado, grapefruit, pomegranate, lemons, kumquat

To find a local farmer’s market while traveling, stop by or call the local visitors center, search online or get friendly and ask the locals!

Vegan Ramen? Yes Please! 

I have been on a ramen kick lately…and I mean big time! I seriously could eat it every week! There is just something so comforting about it and of course…love the noodles. It’s been a challenge for me to find the right place that has a decent tasting vegetarian ramen with lots of veggies and goodies. Although, I am not vegan nor vegetarian, but I am pretty particular with meat. I love chicken, fish, pork and beef but when it comes to ramen…I prefer the veggie or vegan option, I know call me weird 🙂Greg and I discovered Tajima, a local japanese restaurant here in San Diego. They have a few locations, but we prefer to go to the convoy location. The wait is never unbearable and the food is consistent. We always start off with the fresh made gyoza. One of the best I have EVER had and I love gyoza. I’ll get a pic next time we go, you won’t have to wait that long 😉
The vegan ramen is packed full of veggies like asparagus, shitake mushrooms, corn, bean sprouts, green onion, cabbage and mixed green salad. I order it with the spicy broth to kick it up a notch! Greg usually gets the standard pork ramen with lots of extras. I’ll snap a pic of that as well!

The service is great and like I said, the food is consistent. They serve a wide variety of craft brews, sake and wine. The atmosphere is casual and very relaxed, they tend to play the “club hits” now and then and that will get you questioning where you are…”wait yes we are at a ramen house not da club” haha but no worries here, it’s a trendy place and we would recommend it to anyone visiting San Diego looking for some good authentic japanese cuisine and ramen. You won’t be disappointed.

Grab your chopsticks and check it out today! Tajima San Diego Website

Sizzling Chicken Fajitas 

Chicken fajitas has to be one of my favorite dishes to make. It’s simple, healthy and you can whip it up pretty fast on a busy weeknight. I usually make chicken fajitas, but you could also make this with beef, pork or shrimp. If you are looking for a vegetarian option, sliced portobello mushrooms make a nice addition and give the fajitas substance paired with the peppers and onions. 
Not only do these chicken fajitas taste amazing, the aroma of the peppers and onions sauteing makes your mouth water. This meal is great served with your favorite Mexican toppings like cheese, avocado, sour cream, salsa, freshly sliced jalapeno, and cilantro. My husband loves fresh flour tortillas on the side. However, when I am looking to lighten up the dish, I prefer enjoying mine as a “fajita bowl” and omit the extra carbs from the tortillas.

There is one secret to knocking your fajitas out of the park…make your own fajita seasoning. I’m telling you, ditch the packaged stuff and take the extra 5 minutes to mix up the tasty blend of seasonings. The packaged mixes are convenient yes, but did you know they contain unnatural ingredients and preservatives like modified corn starch and corn syrup, all things that don’t make your meal taste any better…they are just there for filler.

So I will share my recipe with you and I promise you’ll want to take the extra time, plus you can make a bulk batch and keep it on hand in your spice drawer.

Homemade Fajita Seasoning:

2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp white sugar
2 tsp chicken bouillon powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you like spicy- I always add more)
1 tsp ground cumin

Fajita Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 orange or yellow bell pepper
1 medium yellow or white onion

Cut bell peppers in 1/2 inch wide strips and slice the onion. Place the peppers and onions to the side. Slice chicken breast into 1 inch wide pieces. In a medium saute pan, heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil. Add chicken and brown over med-high heat or until the chicken is visibly cooked but not complete done. Remove and set aside.

Crank back up the heat to high and add a little oil if needed. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and peppers. Saute for about 5 minutes or so then turn the heat back down to medium. Add the chicken back into the pan and start adding the homemade fajita seasoning. Once the seasoning is well mixed and the chicken is completely cooked through you’re done!

Serve with tortillas and top with your favorite Mexican accouterments like: sour cream, cheddar cheese, avocado, jalapeno, cilantro, salsa etc. Enjoy!

Bee Eggs Just in Time for Easter

So what’s happening in the hive lately?  The queens have been busy and their eggs are prepped and ready to hatch in just three days! Check out these intimate pics within the honey comb…

With spring well on it’s way, the hives are keeping pretty busy. As you can see below the queen has mated and started to lay her eggs. Notice the faint white markings, those are each an individual bee waiting to hatch. The queen will need to lay 1500-2000 eggs a day to increase the population of the hive, crazy fact: that is equal to her body weight!  Talk about a full-time job!
On the first day the queen’s eggs have been laid, they stand vertical. By the second day, they start to lean over and by the third day this is when the egg is completely horizontal and it will hatch to become new larvae.

The bright yellow and glossy/shiny bundles consist of pollen that the bees have collected on their daily foraging to feed the eggs. Each cell is saved for an individual pollen source. For example, on a daily basis bees will collect pollen or “food” from several sources like kale, broccoli, pine trees, and lavender. When they bring the “food” back to the hive, they will deposit the pollen in the respective cells, never cross-depositing. Isn’t that fascinating? What crazy little creatures. #savethebees

Chinese Green Bean Turkey Stir Fry

All I can say is the first time I made this dish I thought to myself….this girl can cook! I had never ventured much into making Asian cuisine, other than a basic stir fry and even then I still relied on my hubby and talented chef, Greg, to assist with the intricate details, not-so-easy-to-find ingredients and prep work. 

I’m always looking for fun ways to spice up the week with a good ground turkey recipe. I have found that substituting ground beef or other meats with ground turkey can be just as delicious and has wonderful health benefits.

Don’t let the label fool you, when purchasing ground turkey look for “ground turkey breast” vs. “ground turkey”. There  is a difference, believe me! The generic ground turkey uses all cuts and types of the turkey including white & dark meat, trimmings and the skin. If you are looking for the healthiest, cleanest version splurge the extra few cents for the ground turkey BREAST.


This dish is great for a weeknight throw-together and tastes just a perfect as the time it takes to make. So as I expanded my culinary horizon and ventured out of my “norm”, it resulted in a keeper of a recipe that will be sure on my dinner calendar throughout the year.

1lb ground turkey breast
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
1 lb green beans – trimmed and cut in halves
1 small bunch of green onions – thinly sliced
2 1/2 tbsp chili garlic sauce
2 1/2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil

Heat the sesame oil in large saute pan. Add the chopped green onion and garlic. Cook until fragrant but keep a close eye so the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the ground turkey breast

Once the turkey is cooked through, add the chili garlic sauce, hoisin sauce and ground ginger. Cook to heat through. Add the green beans, soy sauce and rice vinegar. Cook over medium heat until the green beans are at preferred doneness.

Serve over steamed white rice. Bon Appetite

 

 

Garden Cocktails

With spring well on it’s way and gaining those extra hours of daylight, it’s time to spend more time out in the yard. My husband, Greg, and I love to have a lush garden full of fresh vegetables and herbs.

Having a variety of fresh herbs on hand is wonderful, especially if you like to cook or experiment with different flavors and recipes. An herb garden is something that you can easily plant in any sized yard and can utilize for so many wonderful things like cooking, cleaning, medicinal purposes, the list goes on. Plus, there is definitely a difference using fresh vs. dried that’s for sure.

Did you know that fresh herbs are wonderful enhancements to your favorite cocktail recipes or a great garnish for those non-alcoholic drinks such as lemonade and teas. Pictured here is what we like to call the “Melissa Special”. For all those grapefruit lovers, it’s a skinny version of a greyhound and makes for a perfect garden cocktail.

Recipe:
2 oz vodka
Sparkling water – I prefer lemon, orange or plain flavored
Ruby red grapefruit juice
Snip some fresh herbs from your garden and viola – you have a beautiful garnish and a boost of flavor taken right from your backyard!

We added fresh lemon verbena (on the right) and fresh mint (on the left). It boosted the flavors and added the perfect touch to an already tasty refreshment. The aroma of the lemon verbena quickly brought us back to summer while we enjoyed relaxing in the backyard with the pups.

Looking for other inspirations to add to your adult beverages? You can also add basil, lavender, lemongrass, and cilantro.  Cheers!

Poached Artichokes

Happy National Artichoke day! I absolutely love all things artichoke. I mean come on…what an amazing addition to your favorite pasta dish, on a pizza, in a dip, they make a perfect salad topping or seriously just as good all by its little lonesome. How could you not love this versatile veggie. I could eat a whole artichoke just for din 🙂 As we celebrate this fun holiday – National Artichoke day, I share my favorite way to make this tasty side dish, or full meal…enjoy! When shopping for artichokes, I look for medium to large-sized, tight and bright green colored selections. I also keep an eye out for when they are on sale because they can get a little pricey. The prime artichoke season starts in March and continues through late April.
To prepare your artichokes, cut the stem and remove all the little leaves towards the stalk. Cut the tips of each leaf off with scissors (see above). Once the tips are cut, take a large knife and cut the top of the artichoke off – about 1/4″ to 1/2″. Prepare a large pot of boiling water with the following:

1 onion – thinly sliced
1 lemon – thinly sliced
4-5 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tbsp. ground black pepper
1 1/2 teas. red chili pepper flake
3/4 c. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. whole black peppercorns

Salt the water like you would when preparing pasta. I don’t mean a pinch, salt it up so it tastes like the sea 🙂  Bring the water to a boil, add 1-2 artichokes and boil/simmer covered for 45 min- 1 hour. Cover the artichokes with a plate if needed to keep them under the water. Test the artichokes by pulling the outer leaves and taste for “doneness”. Once done, remove artichokes from water and drain upside down in a bowl. Serve with your favorite dipping accouterments. Bon appetit and happy National Artichoke Day!

 

Spring Queening

With spring quickly approaching, it’s the most busiest time for bees and their beekeepers. The hives activity has been very “buzy” in the last few weeks as they work tirelessly to build their population in order to take advantage of the upcoming abundance of spring blooms.

Below you can see a queen cell that is being reared in a hive that is preparing to swarm. But why are they swarming you ask? Swarming is ultimate success of a hive. The bees have worked hard the past year in order to position themselves to create a new hive. The old queen lays new queen cells as she and the older bees leave to make a new hive, leaving behind a new queen and younger bees to continue operating the existing hive.

Did you know…that when bees are swarming, they are at their most docile stage. Don’t be afraid, they aren’t seeking to hurt or harm you. Should a swarm locate near your home, leave it undisturbed, they will soon leave but if they are a nuisance, pull up Google and search “bee keeping society” in your area. They offer humane, ethical removal services for these protected creatures.

The picture below showcases nectar collection. The nectar will fuel the bees for the spring season as they will need energy to feed on the bountiful spring blooms. The honey that has built up over the season will be collected at the end of the summer season.

Frey’s Famous Rum Cake

Looking for a dessert that will knock their socks off? Look no further than the Frey Family Rum Cake! Seriously, this dessert is so easy and tastes like you spent hours fussing in the kitchen. Shhh don’t tell your guests, it’s our little secret!

I have to give credit to my mother-in-law for this recipe. She is a wonderful cook and I’m always looking for nostalgic recipes that will bring the comforting taste of “home” to our kitchen here in California. I already knew the rum cake would be a winner for my husband, but what I didn’t realize was, that I was soon to win over the hearts and bellies of my own family! Whenever my younger brother comes to visit, I think of making two…he could eat a whole cake just by himself.

The spice of the rum on your tongue with the sponginess of the soft flavorful cake makes this a combined winner. Plus the aroma that fills the house when baking is amazing! Serve with a little ice cream and a powdered sugar dusting.


Ingredients:

For the cake:
4 eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 c. cold water
1/2 c. rum (I use Bacardi Gold)

1 c. (2.25 oz.) chopped pecans

For the glaze:
1 1/4 stick of unsalted butter
1/3 c. water
2/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. rum (I use Bacardi Gold)

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine eggs, vegetable oil, cake mix, and cold water in mixer. Mix until ingredients are well combined and there is a smooth consistency.

Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray or coat it well with vegetable oil. Sprinkle pecan chips on the bottom of the pan. Pour the cake mixture into the bundt pan and place in preheated oven. Bake for 40 minutes, or to when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Towards the last few minutes of the cake baking, you will prepare the glaze. Heat  1 1/4 stick unsalted butter, 1/3 c. water, 2/3 c. sugar in a medium-sized sauce pan. Once the sugar dissolves  and is heated through, add 1/4 c. of rum and heat for another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and immediately pour over cake slowly so it doesn’t overflow.

Let the cake sit for 4-5 minutes. Remove from pan by placing cake plate over the top and flipping the pan upside down to release the cake. Sift powdered sugar over the top and serve with fruit or ice cream. Enjoy!!!