Monthly Archives: February 2012

Happy Leap Day!

Here are a few more pictures from the trip:

This is the big girl I got to give a scritch to. She loves apples.

The seals were quite the controversy.  Everyone loves them, but some want humans banned from interacting with them.

From what we saw, the seals were fine with the people, the people were respectful. This was a people beach and the seals decided to join the fun.

I suspect if they no longer wanted to interact, they’d go about their way.

Loved watching the moms interact with their very active pups.  Every once in a while, one would speed off to the water and dive in.  Mom was not far behind making sure they didn’t go too far out, then they’d push them back to shore. They’d promptly head back to the water.  A battle of wills any parent recognizes.

The cliffs around the beach were also a hangout for brown pelicans.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many – must have been hundreds.  They make quite a mess as you might imagine.

Okay that’s it for this trip.  Tomorrow were doing fruit desserts for the Thursday recipe exchange, so I’d better get busy finding a recipe.  Until then…


Kite Surfing

Here’s the video of our touch of Beach Magic:

Note: This also marks our W4DSolutions YouTube Channel debut.


Me and My Giraffe

We girls gotta stick together

Ready for her close-up:


I don’t normally worry about disappointing my waiter.  Our final dinner in San Diego, it was clear I might have done just that and my gushing over my dinner was not going to sway him.

Arrivederci Ristorante is a neighborhood restaurant, which is always the best kind.  We stumbled upon it after aborting another dinner plan on the way to the airport.  It was charming and the staff was friendly and very good at their craft.

The wine was excellent and the food was impressive.

It was clearly a local hangout and quite busy on an early Sunday afternoon.  We had two hours before our flight and I was not all that hungry, even though the menu held many temptations.  My original order was for what looked like an excellent soup.  It must have been, because they were sold out.

I then went with my standby.  I’m from a very traditional Italian family.  Good sauce on good pasta with a great bread is really all you need.  Meatballs or sausage are an option, not a necessity. (I look at pizzas much the same way – if your crust and sauce are not excellent it doesn’t matter how much stuff you throw on top, you’ll never overcome that deficit.)

You’d be surprised how badly most restaurants do this simple dish, treating it almost as a throw away.  They put all their effort into fancy pastas, cream sauces and sun-dried tomatoes topped with fancy cheeses and multiple additions.  Often they are good, very good, but I really judge an Italian restaurant on the basics.  A great sauce is a requirement.  I’m quite often disappointed.

Arrivederci looked promising.  The dipping sauce they served with the most excellent bread was fresh, tangy with just the right amount of spice. It was kissed with fresh basil, so it didn’t overpower the delicate tomato flavor. They took it seriously.

So when the soup was unavailable, I knew exactly what I wanted. A simple pasta, sauce and meatballs.  I was not disappointed.  The sauce was fresh, well spiced, light and served on top shelf linguine that was perfectly al dente.  The meatballs, which are quite often done poorly, were perfect.  Moist, filled with flavor, not filler, a good complement to the sauce.

So how did I come to disappoint my waiter? I was only able to eat about a quarter of my plate (as you can see from the picture above, I could have served 4 with it) and since we were about to board a plane I  couldn’t take leftovers with me.  I assumed TSA would frown on a doggy bag.  No matter how he tried to convince me, I could neither clean my plate nor take leftovers with me – though I would have really liked to have them at lunch today at work. No matter how much I raved about my meal, I don’t think I convinced him how wonderful I found it. The face he made when he walked away was priceless. It was sweet.  I’d go there again in a heartbeat.

They also have a pizzeria down the street which I can only assume is some of the best pizza anywhere.

My friend had one of their gnocchi plates, which was equally delicious – and the gnocchi was light as a feather and the sauce was delicate, not overpowering as some cream sauces can be.  We finished the meal with a really good coffee.  Dark, rich with a chocolate finish (we’re coffee fanatics and love a good brew). From staff to atmosphere to food and drinks, there was nothing to disappoint here.

Beach Magic

San Diego Beach - click on any image for full size

I’m sorry my posting has been so light lately.  There is just a lot going on and I’m doing large projects for two of my clients.  Add to that a much needed girls’ weekend and that didn’t leave much time for blogging.

A friend and I try to do a girl’s trip once a year and this year it was San Diego.  It’s a very lovely place and not the first trip for either of us, so we had a really good idea of what we wanted to do.  Wild animal park, good food and plenty of beach time. We’d never traveled to a beach locale together, so I got to teach her about beach magic.  Beach magic is something very special. If you’re on a beach and ask for something…it comes to you.  This started during a difficult time in my life when I really needed reassurance that there was still magic in life and well, beach magic was born.  It’s always simple things – the first one was I wanted a sand dollar.  I was on a black Oregon beach, not a shell to be seen, so a sand dollar seemed pretty impossible.  But by the end of my walk on the beach I had 10 perfect sand dollars.

The next time it was dolphins.  And for days I had dolphins accompanying me on my beach walks, just off shore in Santa Monica.  Another time is was another 10 sand dollars, this time they were in a wonderful assortment of sizes, from very large to very tiny.  I’ve wowed Bad Horse with this trick many times.

So this trip I told my friend about beach magic, told her we’d find her a sand dollar and after we found several, I told her to ask for whatever she wanted. And what she wanted was kites!

And we were treated to human kites as two gentlemen showed up a few minutes later and wowed us with their skills and offered to teach us how to kite surf (yeah, right!) .  I have some video of their tricks, I’ll post later in the week. Everything we named, we eventually got.  Such is the beauty of beach magic.

No party is complete without flamingos

We had some time away from the beaches, too.  We spent an entire day at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, where we went on the caravan safari which took us up close and personal with the critters.  Fed a giraffe and petted a 5000 lb rhino.

How many leaves can a 15-ft giraffe eat?

Also got to watch rhino sex (okay, we had to do this, because we were there and the staff needed to report if it was successful or not, so no turning away!).

Met a medium sized big cat who was so adorable you had to remind yourself that he could do some serious damage in the blink of an eye if he wanted to.

Met some big cats, too. I'm sure he's more dangerous than he looks.

Lots of baby elephants running around and watched one take a fun mud bath and another run full out across the yard to play in the pond.

On a whim, we went to a seal beach rookery and watched mama seals keep a close eye on there young ones as they would try and sneak off for a swim.  I think we have photos of that and I’ll post them when I get them.

Stumbled onto a great little pizza place for lunch one day – great crust, spicy sauce and they did this great thing by spreading the sauce to the edges and then turning the edge over to create the crust.  It was really good and made for a lighter, thinner crust full of flavor.

My friend had never had In and Out burgers before, so we put that on our dinner list one night.  And dinner on our last day was a sweet surprise….

To be continued….

Something to tide you over until breakfast.

Leftover chili?

There’s an app for that!

Beer Chili

I’ve used beer in recipes before but I don’t remember using any in chili before today.  A quick search turned up plenty of evidence of prior art so there won’t be any recipe patents applied for today, alas.  Aside from the bottle of stout in it there isn’t much to say about this recipe:  1 lb of ground beef, 1/2 lb of my homemade chorizo, 1 can of tomato bits with green chilies, 1 can of chili beans, a diced onion, 5 minced cloves of garlic, a fair amount of chili powder, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, and the bottle of beer.Cook the onion in a bit of oil, add the garlic and the meat and brown everything well.  Remove the fat and then add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, then simmer for at least an hour.  Serve with your favorite garnishes.Mrs J and I agree on the cheddar cheese, she takes a pass on the peppers and prefers the nacho chips crumbled and stirred in.  I like to scoop the chili with the chips like it is a big bowl of dip.  This batch of nacho chips are just a bit too thin for that, they break too easily.  Nice flavor, though.  I just wish I hadn’t purchased the jumbo case lot of them.  LOL

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Vegetarian Delights

Cross posted at Balloon-Juice

I’m travelling, en route to San Diego, so you’re on your own – no keggers and try not to riot. Tonight we’re going vegetarian with two recipes. I’m often asked for vegetarian recipes, so I’m always on the lookout for good ones, can’t wait to see what you guys come up with. Next week: Fruit Desserts

I love black bean burgers, but the frozen ones can leave a lot to be desired.  So I’ve been looking around for a good recipe.  I found this one, but cannot tell you where, sorry to say. I’ve changed up few things, made it a bit spicier and a bit moister.  Grill or fry on medium heat to keep the burgers from drying out.  Makes 4 good sized burgers, though you may want to double the recipe to serve 6-8 people.

Black Bean and Cheddar Burgers

  • 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained, or dry equivalent
  • 6 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded (about 1-1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs soaked in 1 to 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or Italian parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped, pickled jalapeno
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsps minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Serve with:

  • 4 hamburger buns
  • Tomato and avocado slices for garnish

In a mixing bowl, with a potato masher, mash half of beans into coarse puree; add remaining ingredients.  Work mixture together by hand until it holds together easily. Shape mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick patties. Oil a large piece of aluminum foil, place on a grill set to medium heat and place burgers on the foil. You can also fry these on medium heat in a covered, well oiled skillet.  Cook for about 8 minutes per side or until browned on outside and heated through to center. Serve on buns, topped with tomato and avocado.

The pasta caprese has appeared here before.  I make it both vegetarian and gluten free, so it’s my go-to recipe for company.  From one of our Thursday Night Menus (link includes my favorite chocolate cake):

Pasta Caprese

  • 9 oz dry pasta
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 4 oz cubed mozzarella
  • salt & pepper to taste

saucepan and large serving dish

Prepare pasta according to package directions. While it’s cooking, mix remaining ingredients together. Drain pasta completely (dab with paper towels, if necessary) then add to tomato mixture. Let sit for 10-15 minutes to let flavors blend. Serve warm or you can refrigerate and serve cold. Add a nice loaf of bread for a complete dinner.

I use a fairly expensive mozzarella for this dish because it’s softer, tastier and absorbs more flavors. Any locally produced mozzarella would work. Also, my local farmers’ market has a pasta vendor, who hand-makes many flavors of pasta. This dish works very well with flavored pastas – fire roasted chili, lemon pepper, tomato basil, red bell pepper – the list goes on. You can also change-up the cheese to a Queso Blanco (again, use a fairly expensive or locally produced one), use cilantro instead of basil and use a chili flavored pasta for a whole new dish. The possibilities are endless.

I’ve been dreaming of a white pizza

Not sure why but I got a notion to build a pizza with a white sauce today.  I surfed around looking at recipes and went with what I would call a Mornay sauce if it was over pasta.  Just a basic white sauce, a roux of flour and butter with milk added and cheese stirred in as it thickened.  I grated some Parmesan and Romano for this one, about 2 cups.  The white sauce was 2T each of butter and flour and a cup and a bit of milk.  I splashed in a wee bit more milk when it looked like the sauce was a bit thick.  I ended up troweling it onto the pizza dough.  I stirred in some dried basil, was really wishing I had some fresh, and five cloves of smashed and minced garlic.I layered in slices of mozzarella, and added blanched broccoli and diced grilled chicken.  Grated some more Parmesan on top but I don’t think it was needed.This went into a 375 oven.  I looked in after 12 minutes and saw that it wasn’t even close yet.  I took the opportunity to brush some olive oil onto the crust.  The sauce and the mozzarella combined into a roiling bubbly sea with islands of green dotted about and I was worried that the pizza would be a bust.  It was smelling great, at any rate.  I lost track of the time but I’d guess it was in there for another 20 minutes.  I pulled it out when the top was showing some nice color.The sauce was still very liquid as it came out but it set up nicely as it cooled a bit and wasn’t runny, relieving me of that particular worry. Makes for a poor picture!  LOLSome salt and fresh ground pepper, a generous sprinkle of red pepper flakes, and it was ready.  I was starved and the pizza did not disappoint me at all.  Great garlic and cheese flavors, and there will be a rematch tomorrow: