Thursday, July 26, 2012

Banana S'more

I can't believe I forgot to share this recipe with you in my last post!  I made this genius dessert on our camping trip last weekend and have been dreaming about it ever since.  The best part?  It only requires three ingredients!

What you will need:

1 banana
1/4 cup of marshmallows
2 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (cut into small pieces)
aluminum foil

1)  Peel a single side of banana down, but do not detach.  Use a knife to carve out the exposed portion of the banana (kind of like a boat).  Fill the notch with peanut butter cups and marshmallows.

2)  Fold peel over the loose ingredients

3)  Wrap entire banana in aluminum foil and heat for 5-8 minutes, or until chocolate becomes melty.  Don't over-heat though, or else the banana becomes mush.  You can make this same recipe in the oven, of course--just set to 350 degrees!

4)  The end result.  We couldn't get enough! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Take a Long Drive with Me on California One

This past weekend, some of my girlfriends and I escaped to the wilderness of Big Sur for a mini getaway.  Robert Louise Stevenson once described the Big Sur coastline as being "the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world."  As far as I'm concerned, the man was spot on; breathtaking beauty lies around every bend of the very bendy Highway One.  Most of the car ride was spent in silence as we stared, mouths agape in awe, at nature's sublime handiwork.

We departed at 3am, knowing that because reservations had not been made for a campsite, our best bet was arriving early and snagging one just as the previous inhabitants began to bust a move.  We got very lucky, scoring a prime spot at the Limekiln Campground, about two miles south of Lucia.  Upon unpacking, we stared at the heap of canvas, tarps, and metal poles lying in front of us like a group of confused puppies.  Using both the rapidly increasing hoards of flies and promised sangria as incentive, we quickly defied any "how many girls does it take" jokes by setting up camp (tent included) in about half an hour.  Our campground offered access to both the mountains and the beach, so we promptly explored our liminal space, drinks in hand.

Our own personal babbling brook!

If you're in the area and feel like stretching your legs, please, please do yourself a favor and hike the Ridge Trail.  It's an 8 mile loop trail that leads you through redwood forests, oceanside bluffs, and beaches.  The trail-head begins and ends in the Andrew Molera State Park. Trail maps are sold for a dollar in the main entrance kiosk and are definitely worth the investment. 

This arch was tricky to find because the turn off from Highway 1 isn't marked.  If you want to check it out yourself, you will need to turn onto the only unmarked, paved road between Pfeiffer State Park and the Big Sur Post Office.  Worth the extra mile or two, especially if you arrive in time for the sunset.

If you have the urge to see some wildlife in its natural habitat, make a stop to see the elephant seals of Piedras Blancas, located just north of Hearst Castle and San Simeon. They look terrifying, but are actually rather entertaining!

If camping isn't your thing, there are quite a few bed and breakfasts and resorts along the coast that have your name on them; I've heard really good things about The Post Ranch Inn and Ventana Inn and Spa. Go ahead--you deserve it!

Oh! Just one tip: Don't plan on buying beer or groceries in Big Sur.  This was our first mistake, as 6-packs were selling for $15!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wedding on the Playa!

As promised, here is a little taste of my friend's beautiful summer wedding reception.  Her family recently purchased ranch property overlooking one of California's most renowned surf locations with panoramic views of the ocean.  The reception was set in the family barn, which contributed to the charming marriage of beach and ranch themes underlying the event.  Personal touches displayed throughout the day, the tight-knit relationships between everyone in attendance, and the happiness exuded by the newly married couple created an atmosphere of warmth and love for all to share. Perfection!

Once the music started, the tables stood in a lonely mass for the remainder of the night.  This crowd liked to dance!

Laugh often and love lots--I'm sure!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Vintage-Inspired DIY Candle Holders!

Aren't these cute? They are the product of my efforts to create an easy, affordable way to brighten up my bedroom. I also think they would make great centerpieces, wedding decorations, or gifts. I found my inspiration for this project on Arrow & Apple (, and am so happy I did because I happened to have a box of old books I was trying to give away.

You will need:
-Jars (I like using a variety of sizes)
-Mod Podge
-Paint Brush
-Old text books, magazines, newspapers, or any paper product, really

Start out by washing and drying the jars you have selected for the project.

Select various texts, illustrations, and patterns with which to decorate the jars.  

Use Mod Podge to adhere the paper to the glass.  I used Mod Podge with a glossy finish, but there are also matte and antique finish options available.  After initially fastening the edges of the paper to the jar, I coated the entire jar with the Mod Podge for extra security.  Be sure to make your layers thin so that the candlelight will be visible through both the glass and the paper.  Once the paper is glued to the glass, set the jars aside until they are dry to the touch.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ojai Beverage Company

Summer in California can be a beautiful thing, and I'm typically the first one to suggest an outdoor activity that allows for plenty of sun bathing, but when the thermometer reads 105 degrees...I join the throng of Californians whose only request is to find an air-conditioned establishment with good food and room for friends.
On this particular day, the glimmering oasis for us weary wanderers was the Ojai Beverage Company.  I remember when OBC (as regulars fondly refer to it) used to be an auto repair shop.  My, how it's grown!  They have an expansive collection of beers on tap, as well as what appeared to be every kind of alcohol under the sun for sale in the shop.
The restaurant boasts a menu brimming with tasty eats--mostly bar food prepared with a California cuisine flare.  Indoor seating is available, as well as an outdoor patio with lots of space for large groups.  We ordered a few different things and shared them amongst ourselves.

Marinated artichoke hearts, fontina cheese, and sun-dried tomato wrapped in prosciutto.  Served on basil leaves with balsamic reduction.  
Baja Fish Tacos

Pulled Pork Sliders

A partial listing of OBC's beers on tap--I couldn't fit the whole list into one shot!

All in all, a really fun evening; we exited while rubbing our bellies in satisfaction and with smiles on our faces. I highly recommend Ojai Beverage Company for future blisteringly hot summer nights, or whenever!


Friday, July 13, 2012

Good Reads: Me Talk Pretty One Day

After a long day of job hunting, writing cover letters, and tweaking resumes, all I really wanted to do was curl up on the couch with my good friends David Sedaris and Pinot Noir. I was introduced to the works of David Sedaris through his book, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and have been grateful ever since; it is one of my many guilty pleasures. His dry sense of humor and descriptive writing marry to produce a laugh-out-loud-worthy read that never gets old.  In fact, the book is made up of a collection of essays, not necessarily in chronological order, making it possible for you to flip it open to a random page, read for fifteen minutes, and boost your mood!  Sit back and enjoy your "fly on the wall" stance as you travel with Sedaris through his rough biography from childhood, to career choices, and his journey to France.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas with Mushrooms and Black Beans! Delicious!

Tonight my family held a dinner party to celebrate the birthday of my two younger brothers (they're twins!).  My responsibilities as an older sister (as well as my appetite) quickly kicked in, inducing me to do the right thing and make them some chicken enchiladas for dinner.  This recipe is actually relatively easy, and doesn't take much time at all!  I love making enchiladas because they seem as if they would be hard to prepare, yet even the most inexperienced chefs can whip them up without too much trouble.

What you will need:
2 1/2 cups cooked chicken breast
2 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
2 14.5oz fire-roasted tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. drained black beans
1 onion (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (diced)
1 small carton button mushrooms
5 tbs. olive oil (approx.)
corn tortillas
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. cayenne
salt and pepper to taste

**Note:  If you are running short on time, canned enchilada sauce will work as well.  However, I find I like the taste of home-made sauce much better.

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2)  Chop onion, dice garlic

3) Add both onion and garlic to a sauce pan with about 1 tbs. of olive oil.  Cook until the onion is caramelized.

4) Add 2 cans of fire-roasted tomato to a blender and mix until smooth.  Add tomato to the onion and garlic mixture.  Add chili powder and cayenne in increments, testing level of spiciness after each addition. Add salt and pepper to taste. Heat tomato mixture until boiling.  Lower heat, bringing sauce to a simmer.

5) I baked my boneless, skinless chicken breast in the oven at 375 for about 20-25 minutes after coating them with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  When fully cooked, shred chicken by pulling apart with a fork and knife, as shown above.   Lower heat to 350 for enchiladas.

6) Mushrooms can now be sliced vertically and cooked in a pan with a little olive oil until browned--I like to dice mine once cooked.  I also use the mushroom pan to soften the tortillas, so don't bother washing it just yet, as it will save you some clean up time.

7) Mix shredded chicken, mushrooms, black beans, 1 1/2 cup of red sauce, 1 1/2 cup of cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.   

8) Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan.  Dip corn tortillas into heated oil for about 5 seconds on each side. You should see air bubbles forming before you remove the tortilla.  Place tortillas on a plate with a paper towel, as it will absorb the excess oil.  Repeat this step until you reach desired number of tortillas, adding oil to pan if needed between each tortilla addition.

9)Add about 3 tbs. of chicken mixture to the center of the tortilla, as shown above. Roll tortillas tightly, placing edges on the underside, so to keep ingredients intact.

10) Spoon remaining tomato sauce over the stuffed tortillas and sprinkle remaining cheese evenly over dish.  I added chopped onions and olives to mine, but that is obviously a matter of personal taste.  Place in preheated oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling


The finished product!  Enjoy your enchiladas straight out of the casserole dish, or add goodies like I did.  Either way, this recipe is delicious.  Enjoy!