Friday, March 21, 2014

A Dinner Party | with Hummingbird Cake + morning-after French toast
















Recently I threw a dinner party for two of our closest friends and their two children, and I thought it would be nice to make the kids' table as fancy as the adults'.  My own little nine-year-old appreciates grown up drinking glasses (she asked for a "fancy glass goblet" for Christmas this past December). But more importantly, our friends' eldest daughter is a very lady-like and sophisticated twelve-year-old girl, so I knew that she would love it!  


Sadly I have almost no pictures of the food I served because I was both entertaining and drinking copious amounts of cocktails and wine. But I can share that in addition to the easy platter of cheese/baguette/grapes, we had fresh mussels from the Poway Farmer's Market in a white wine sauce for the appetizer, followed by my classic pot roast (which I devoted a prior blog entry to... it's from Ree Drummond, and along with her mashed potatoes, it never disappoints.) Both were perfect for entertaining because in the case of the mussels they are quick and easy, while the pot roast you can make ahead to let roast while you chat.

Since the weather was balmy and my guests are known for loving champagne, I made them Elderflower Fizz cocktails. It's one of my all-time favorite cocktails when it's nice out because it's so refreshing!


Now here's the kids' table ~


We used a bench to accommodate two children on this side instead of one.  It's a pretty small table, but this worked!

For the place settings I borrowed a cute idea I saw on Pinterest ~ a wreath made of extra-long rosemary with the names taped on, and I draped that over our own tangerines from the backyard.


The original Pinterest post suggested one look at your local Farmer's Market for the long rosemary, but ours didn't have any. Luckily I literally ran across some on my morning jog... San Diego loves wild rosemary and the City often plants rosemary bushes and lets them really grow!


After dinner I served this cake, called a Hummingbird Cake, along with vanilla ice cream:


The inside looked like this (from link above ~ I also used the recipe in the link above):


Believe me when I tell you that this cake is TO DIE FOR!  The animals on top are just something fun I do with cakes now - I spray-painted plastic animals shiny metallic colors.  The animals also make the kids go crazy because I let them choose their favorite to keep. ;)

And the next day we still had a good amount of baguette left. What do you do with it? You can make a delicious bruschetta or crostino, but if you're looking to make something sweet and breakfast-y you can make French toast out of it!

Before:

After! Mmm...

xoxo








Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Warner Springs | Ziplines, Pond-fishing + Firearms



Warner Springs is a small inland community out in north-east San Diego County and since it's so far from major town centers there are still amazing swaths of land you can buy fairly affordably.  

Last weekend we went out to the ranch of one of our dear friends out there, and knowing she had a zip line, a fishing pond, and a shooting range we prepared for a day of fun for us and the kids.  The dogs were boxers and super friendly!

video

This little pond is usually leveled up so high that the rock our son is sitting on would be totally covered... but these are times of extreme drought here in Southern California.  Still, there are catfish and bluegill ripe for the catching!  The fish won this day though.


Next up while the kids were exploring the pond and grounds was shotgun clay shooting.  We decided to try my refurbished 20-gauge Charles Daly side-by-side a spin to see if it truly was fixed - since I've owned it the left barrel failed to fire because the firing pin wasn't striking the shell with enough force to ignite the gunpowder. 


I didn't hit the clay in this clip but you can see that she fired well!

video

We had a nice array of guns to try since my friend and her friends had many between them.


This is the cache before other friends (one of whom teaches handgun safety) arrived.  He not only brought handguns but also an AK-47 and others.  


Here I am trying out the AK-47 while my new friend on the left handles a pistol and my friend on the right fires an AR-10 (I believe):

video

My favorite shooting of the day, however, was teaching our little ones gun safety, and having them shoot for the first time.  My eldest completed her Hunter Safety course with me and passed, though she had yet to ever handle a firearm.  This Ruger 10/22 rifle was light enough for them and perfect for learning.


She really enjoyed this!

video

They also found a little walking stick in the grass:

 

As I mentioned, one of our new friends also happens to teach a handgun safety class as a decades-long former police officer here in San Diego, so he taught me how to fire my very first handgun... I was honored and very grateful for the one-on-one lesson.  

This is his gun I was using, apparently the most popular (Smith & Wesson 9mm) for good reason.  I really liked the feel of it.


Here you see me hit two out of two shots (the first shot you hear is my new friend, firing next to me).  I'm aiming at a tiny white square metal target you can see in the shot and you can hear it "ping" when I hit it.

video

If you're lucky enough to be enjoying this glorious Southern California weather I hope you're getting out in it.  Thanks for looking!  




Thursday, February 6, 2014

Searching for sharks in February

January/February are usually kind of throw-away months for snorkeling here to someone spoiled by our summer snorkeling, but I decided to meet up with a couple of new friends on Sunday to investigate rumors of leopard sharks still in the vicinity. 


Outside air temp was about 42 degrees and the water was around 59, so although I don't have a proper 7/8 mm wetsuit I decided to layer my one millimeter skin underneath my 3/2 mm, don a hood, and hope for some good wildlife!

Conditions were murky due to light swells, recent rains, and an influx of seaweed and kelp on the shore and in the shallows.  Observe how we had to struggle through mounds of kelp!


And the only wildlife observed were a random school here and there of grunion or senorita.

See for yourself!  


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Herbicide

Do you ever see those "living herbs" at your farmer's market which are basically herb plants potted in soil so that you can (ideally) enjoy the gift that keeps on giving?  Well I love fresh herbs but am terrible at keeping plants alive, so the old man has banned me from keeping living plants in the house.  Except for my plea for fresh herbs.

Sadly, this winds up being the state of the herbs and then my husband can use their dry, lifeless husks to demonstrate what a terrible gardener I am.

 That is, unless I remove them before he notices...


Poor things!


Then I replace them with new ones and fail to mention my trip to the store:


... and voila... that's better.  Maybe I am a decent gardener after all. 


 xo

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rabbit stew

I've been dying to try my hand at cooking rabbit and ideally, I would be able to cook up one that I've hunted myself as my favorite local hunting forum shows several guys successfully harvesting rabbit all the time. However, as I have no gun right now (it's in the shop having a firing pin repaired) along with other issues re: prepping wild rabbit ... Bisher's meat shop it is! 

They carry everything from frog's legs to venison sausage:


Here's what the rabbit looks like in the package - these all come from a farm in Arkansas:


And here's the rabbit before butchering.  You can see a tutorial on how to butcher a whole rabbit here.


Braising the rabbit pieces in butter and olive oil:


Browning the pieces:


This particular recipe calls for lots of root veggies and herbs cooked in red wine.


Here the chopped veggies cook with wine before adding the rabbit back in:


The perfect plate for serving rabbit stew?  How cute!
 

And finally, the finished product, after adding some prosciutto and mushroom, served over mashed potatoes:


You can see the whole recipe at Saveur.com, here.  I did process the heart, kidneys, and liver into the gravy as directed and I think it added a very rich earthy flavor, though to be honest I probably liked the rabbit itself the least out of anyone in the family!  The kids loved it, I think because it was very chicken-breast like.  But I found it so lean that I need to experiment next time to keep it from tasting as lean as it is.  

Happy cooking!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Elfin Forest

... is an amazing nature preserve here in San Diego and a favorite spot for hikers, families and mountain bikers alike.

There is also a rich interactive center with taxidermy of our local wildlife, books, and videos about the reserve's inhabitants and a docent who explains everything you ever wanted to know about our local flora and fauna.


There are also... owl pellets (puke) to pour over.  Here's Willa finding a mouse skull in a fresh owl pellet.


The instructional manual:


You can then take what you find over to a microscope which projects the image onto this large monitor, like so:


Then you can go enjoy the hills and streams.  How funny is this gif?  


Happy hiking!  xo