Sunbasket Meal Delivery is the GREATEST!


We finally caved and decided to jump on the meal delivery train and we’re so glad we did. This week’s meals have been awesome. I actually noticed that I felt stress-free at the end of the day, knowing that dinner was already decided and in the fridge. I have developed this really bad pattern where I stop at the store almost every day on my way home and wander around the aisles trying to come up with something creative to make. I end up spending 50-100 dollars, buying stuff I don’t need, and then food gets forgotten about and spoils in the fridge. It’s a vicious cycle.

img_6308

We looked into Blue Apron and Home Chef and both companies did not have enough options for our allergy restrictions. Sunbasket was recommended to me because you can choose paleo meals! We aren’t paleo people by any means, but we end up eating paleo on accident because I’m gluten-free and Joe is dairy-free.

This has been so fun! I can’t believe we waited so long to try this. The only thing I don’t like about it is that there are no leftovers!

Amanda Freitag at CIA Copia | Napa Valley

On Tuesday, September 22nd, The Culinary Institute of America at Copia, in Napa, CA, christened their kitchen demo theater with a demo and book signing with Amanda Freitag. I was fortunate to score an invite, meet Amanda and take some behind the scenes photos. It took all my self-control not to completely fan out! I think celebrity chefs are so much cooler than other celebrities and it was a bucket list honor to watch her cook and to eat her food! 

dsc_0666

For those non-foodies, Amanda Freitag is an award-winning New York chef, a celebrity chef on several Food Network shows including my person favorite, Chopped, and now a cookbook author. 

Freitag was introduced at the event by Traci Dutton, the CIA’s Sommelier, who gave us some insight into what’s to come at their new downtown Napa location. The stunning building will host a full restaurant, with head chef Sandy Sauter, a retail shop with cookware and linens, cooking classes, an amphitheater for private events, public concerts, and weddings. The retail shop and restaurant will feature products made, grown, and produced by locals. 

dsc_0608

Chef Freitag is a CIA Hyde Park graduate and was sincerely enthusiastic about being the christening chef in the new kitchen theater. Freitag is hands down, the nicest, most humble food celebrity I have ever met. And her teaching methods are so approachable and she puts beginners like me at ease much like Remy, the rat in Ratatouille who learns from Chef Gusteau that “anyone can cook!” She began her presentation by leveling the field, stating that cooking at home is hard and admitted it can be intimidating: “You have to shop, schlep, prep, cook, clean and serve! It’s a lot of work!” She also encouraged us not to shy away from foods that are ‘scary that you may not bring home from the grocery store. 

dsc_0766

Chef prepared one of her favorite recipes from her book, The Chef Next Door; ‘Duck Breast with Pint Nut Relish’. I consider myself a brave home chef, yet I’ve never cooked with duck before, I was eager to observe and learn a duck recipe to try. I couldn’t believe how easy she made it seem! Needless to say, Amanda’s demonstration inspired me to go to my local fine foods grocer and find some really nice cuts of duck breast for some home experimentation. One of the coolest things I learned from Amanda was her tip on cooking protein. She showed us how to score the fat on the breast, the importance of starting with a hot pan, and the discipline to LEAVE IT ALONE! For some reason, many home cooks have a habit of shaking the pan around, stirring the sauce constantly, and flipping the meat on the grill over and over. According to Chef Freitag, this isn’t benefiting us in any way! Amanda told us to “use your senses for everything.” Your nose will smell when the fat is rendering, your ears will hear the sizzle calm down when it’s about time to flip and your eyes will see the edges begin to lift. 

dsc_0757

I was relieved to discover that Chef Amanda eats throughout her whole cooking process like I do. And not just to taste test, but because we love to eat! Yes, tasting as you go is so important, but so is snacking. In fact, she even mentioned she used to eat straight mirepoix during her CIA classes because she was working so hard and starving! It is these personal human experiences she shares that puts her audience at ease.

After cooking the duck, Freitag invited her guest, Chef Vera Eisenberg to show the audience how to make her famous strudel dough. Eisenberg is the queen of strudel and even joked that on the cover of her first cookbook she wants to be “naked and wrapped in a strudel dough.” Her personality was magnetic and her sense of humor was well-developed. Eisenberg decided to change career paths later in life and went back to school to study Culinary Arts in 1999, where she interned with Freitag and the two became great friends.



dsc_0703

dsc_0763

I was able to sit front row and shoot some footage of Amanda and Vera stretching the dough paper thin “until you can read your recipe through it.” Everyone in the audience got to taste the Roasted Duck and Vera’s Hungarian Cabbage & Apple Strudel. There was a short question and answer portion at the end where audience members asked Amanda about tips on purchasing high-quality kitchenware that won’t leave you broke, and about her favorite moments from being a judge on Chopped. 

Everyone was able to purchase a copy of Amanda’s book and get it signed at the end. As the first event in the new location, it was a huge success. The lighting, acoustics, and seating are ideal for this kind of intimate food demonstration and it allows the audience to connect with the professionals. Personally, I cannot wait to attend another class at the new CIA Copia.

Lemon Ginger Cookies | Gluten & Dairy Free

lemon cookie pinterest

I hate baking. Probably because I’m terrible at it and I fail 9 times out of 10. But, for some reason I am really good at making chocolate chip and sugar cookies.

I didn’t want to make plain old sugar cookies so I added some fresh lemon juice and grated ginger. These cookies turned out SOOOO well. They lasted about an hour in my house. My only regret is not adding enough fresh ginger. The lemon was definitely the more dominant flavor. I added 1 tsp of fresh ginger, but next time I think I will add 2, so I’ve adjusted the recipe below.

Dusting the cookies with powdered sugar at the end was my favorite part because I usually don’t “decorate” my food. Not gonna lie, I got into it. It was cute.

DSC_0029

DSC_0054

DSC_0059

These aren’t overly sweet and go great with fresh lemonade or tea! Enjoy!

Lemon Ginger Cookies | Gluten & Dairy Free

*All ingredients are organic, and purchased at Oliver’s Market in Sonoma County, CA

Ingredients:

1.5 cups of all purpose gluten free flour ( If your blend doesn’t had xanthan gum, add 1.4 tsp )

1/2 cup of dairy free margarin

1 cup of sugar

1 large egg

1/2 tsp gluten free baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp lemon zest

2 tsp of freshly grated ginger

1 TBSP lemon juice

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a Kitchen Aid or hand mixer, cream margarine and sugar together. Add egg, vanilla lemon juice, lemon zest and grated ginger. Combine, but don’t over mix.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Slowly add dry ingredients to the wet, scraping down the sides from time to time to make sure everything is well mixed.
  4. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 min.
  5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Do not skip the parchment paper! I learned this the hard way.
  6. Grab a heaping TBSP of dough and flatten out onto cookie sheet with your hand or a fork. Repeat until sheet is full.
  7. Bake for about 13-15 min, Keep an eye out for browning edges, then take out.
  8. Allow to cook completely before trying to pull off from the parchment paper. Also learned that the hard way.

*Told you I’m a terrible baker. But these cookies rock! Please let me know how they turn out if you give it a try!

 

The Best Quinoa Salad Ever!

The Best Quinoa Salad ever!

My dear friend Monica introduced me to cold quinoa salad recently, and I’ve spent the last four months or so trying to create the ultimate recipe. I’ve come a long way from just tossing a couple veggies and whatever quinoa was on sale with some apple cider vin and olive oil.

My final recipe is a masterpiece. This is by far the best quinoa salad I have ever had, and possibly one of the best salad’s I’ve ever had.

The magic is in the dressing, which I can’t take total credit for. Jennifer Harris, local queen of fermentation and pickling, showed me how to make dressing with sauerkraut. The recipe here is my edited version.

The latest edit to this dish is the roasted brussels sprouts. It’s my go-to veggie that always pleases my household and takes 5 seconds to make. (That’s not true it takes like 20 min, but it can be done while multitasking.)

DSC_0087

DSC_0112

I started with roasting the brussels and letting them cool. Then I made the quinoa, transferred to a large bowl and then stuck in the fridge to chill. This recipe is NOT good if the quinoa hasn’t completely chilled so be patient.

DSC_0117

DSC_0150

While all be chillin’, make your dressing and chop your veggies.

DSC_0102

This recipe makes A LOT of food so use your biggest bowl to mix. Toss all your ingredients and enjoy! This recipe is easily made vegan if you sub vegetable stock for the chicken stock when making the quinoa.

To make a meal out of it, cook up some chicken sausage on the side, and bam, happy and full household!

DSC_0154

DSC_0167

Ingredients:

For The Roasted Brussels Sprouts:

-Approx. 20 Brussels sprouts

-1 TBSP olive oil

-1/2 tsp garlic powder

-1/2 tsp salt

dash of pepper

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Peel and quarter the sprouts, toss sprouts in oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and roast for approx. 12-15 min or until golden brown around the edges. Set aside.

 

For the Quinoa:

-3 cups of quinoa ( I used 1.5 cups of sprouted quinoa because its easier to digest and 1.5 cups of red quinoa, strictly because it looks cool.)

-1.5 cups of chicken stock and 1.5 cups of filtered water. (sub vegetable stock to make this recipe vegan.)

Lightly toast the dry quinoa in a large skillet, stirring frequently so they don’t burn. You will start to smell a toasted, nutty aroma and eventually hear a bit of crackling. That’s when you know its time to add the liquid. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to simmer and cover. Cook for 15 min. Do not over-cook. Al dente quinoa is better than mushy, especially for this dish. Put in fridge to chill.

For the Dressing:

  • 1 cup of Bubbies Sauerkraut ( I only use traditional, fermented sauerkraut.)
  • 2 TBSP Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp mustard (Any kind will work, but I like to use Dijon.)
  • 1 TBSP local honey
  • 2 TBSP olive oil

Blend dressing ingredients in a magic bullet or food processor until most of the kraut chunks are blended thoroughly.

For the Salad:

  • 1 small stalk of broccoli , chopped
  • 1/2 of a small head of purple cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • a handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • avocado, sliced to your preference

Throw it all together and toss well with a little S & P to taste! Test out the recipe and let me know how it turns out!

 

 

A Brunch Fit For A Queen

barcelona

I got inspired yesterday and planned out a Mother’s Day brunch to make for my mom this morning. Being an only child, I usually plan my meals around things that sound good to ME and then adjust them for whomever I am cooking. So this morning’s brunch was designed to be a protein-rich, gluten-free, diabetic-friendly and yet, decadent meal.

IMG_2935

Spinach and Feta Frittata:

8 eggs

2 TBSP Half & Half

1 tsp of Garlic Salt

Pinch of Black Pepper

3/4 Cup of Feta

2 Cups of Fresh Spinach

1 Cup of Paper Thin Sliced Red Onion

Bacon Caprese Bites

6 Slices of Black Peppered Bacon

2 Cups of Cherry Tomatoes

6 Small Fresh Mozzarella Balls

Fresh Basil

1 TBSP of Olive Oil

1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar

Dash of Sea Salt

Dash of Ground Black Pepper

Toothpicks

Triple Berry Mascarpone Salad

1 Small Package of Fresh Blueberries

1 Small Package of Fresh Raspberries

1 Box of Fresh Strawberries

2 Cups of Mascarpone

1 TBSP of Honey

I wanted to create a beautiful plate and table, to make my Mom feel extra special, so I got up at around 8am and starting cooking. I love getting up early when I stay the night at my parents’ house ( Yes, 8am is early for me). They make the best coffee and the hot tub always calls my name, especially when it’s foggy out. I wanted to get some prep done before making the frittata and soaking in the tub.

Here is how it’s done:

IMG_2903

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and lay foil on a baking sheet. Lay your bacon on the sheet and cook for 12-15 min. Do not over-crisp the bacon or it will crumble apart when you toothpick it.

IMG_2901

IMG_2900

Slice cherry tomatoes in half and mozzarella balls into thirds and put in a large bowl. Toss with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and set aside. Tear 1 inch pieces of basil and set aside.

When the bacon is done, remove from baking sheet and set on paper towels to soak up grease. When the bacon has cooled enough to touch, tear into one inch pieces.

Begin to assemble your bites using two halves of a cherry tomato as the “bread” of the caprese bite. Keep three small leaves of basil as a garnish for your berry salad.

IMG_2910

Lay bites on a tray and cover with plastic. Put the bites in the fridge for later.

IMG_2915

Pour blueberries and raspberries in a large mixing bowl. Slice strawberries into small pieces, small enough that they are relatively the same size as other berries. Pour slices berries into the bowl and drizzle half the honey over the fruit. Mix berries, and add the other half of the honey. Mix again. Cover berries and refrigerate for later.

IMG_2907

IMG_2908

Now grab your coffee, robe and towel and have a soak in the hot tub, while your mom sleeps in. Discuss politics and TV shows with your dad and have more coffee.

When mom is about 20 min away from being ready to eat, begin to assemble your frittata. Slice red onions paper thin and set aside. Whisk together eggs, half & half, garlic salt and black pepper. Add spinach and feta and whisk again. Heat a TBSP of olive oil in a large frying pan, making sure the oil covers the whole pan. Pour whisked egg, spinach and feta into pan and heat on medium low.

IMG_2927

When the bottom starts to solidify, lay red onion across the top, preferably in a pretty pattern. Cover and continue to cook on the lowest setting for about 10 minutes. Check on it regularly, using a spatula to lift the bottom. Don’t let it get too brown. Turn off heat.

Leave the cover on to keep the frittata warm and assemble your berry salad.

IMG_2904

Take two cups of mascarpone cheese and heat for 30 seconds in the microwave, just enough to soften it.

Grab three bowls, and scoop a layer of the mascarpone into each bowl. Add two or three spoonfuls of the berry mix. Then add a generous dollop of mascarpone on top. Garnish with a small basil leaf.

Grab yourself a large cutting board and gently slide the frittata out of the pan and onto the board. Slice the frittata like a pie and serve. Arrange however you like. My table ended up looking like this!

IMG_2934

Make sure to do ALL the dishes afterwards, especially if you’re at your parents’ house, and especially if it’s Mother’s Day.

The meal was a hit, even for my picky father who tends to prefer corned beef and hash, smothered in ketchup for breakfast. Today we’re finishing out the day doing small projects around the house and watching movies On Demand. Life is sweet.

Sonoma County Restaurant Week

Sonoma County Restaurant Week (March 7th-March 13th) is a great opportunity for locals and visitors to experience the superior culinary masterpieces that our restaurant chefs create, at an affordable price. Most participating restaurants will offer a prefixed menu for both lunch and dinner, ranging from $19-$39 per person.

k&l chicken sandwich

If you couldn’t already tell, I am obsessed with Sonoma County food and think that our chefs are geniuses. My favorite chefs are the ones who share my passion for fermented and pickled foods. So in celebration of SCRW, I gathered a list of my favorite restaurants where you can find preserved food for Spoiled To Perfection, a local food web series and online resource for all things fermented, pickled and more!

Read the full list here:

Sonoma County Restaurant Week

Thanksgiving In Wine Country

DSC_0085

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I have finally emerged from my food and wine induced coma to share photos of my family and friends gatherings from the last week. My biggest accomplishments this holiday were that I made pies for the first time ever, (gluten-free and dairy-free) and that my cousin and I managed to drink several bottles of wine, including a giant magnum of prosecco. The more wine we drink, the less wine there is out there in the world for the kids to get their hands on. We do it for the kids.

FullSizeRender-2

DSC_0131

I have had 5 Thanksgiving meals this past week thanks to all the “Friendsgiving” gatherings and multi-family meals, including leftovers of course. I got to catch up with old friends over coffee and bloody marys, while laughing at the thought of actually attending our ten year high school reunion this past weekend. That’s a big “NOPE” for me.

On Friday, we had dinner at Press, in Saint Helena with close friends. I went through the wine closet before we left to choose a bottle for dinner and found a ’94 Cab from Freemark Abbey, covered in dust and just begging to be consumed. It turns out that bottle was one of the first wines anyone ever gave my family when we moved to the Wine Country over 20 years ago. It seems like we lay down bottles and save them for special occasions only to be forgotten. What’s more special than dinner with close friends and family?!

FullSizeRender-3

To conclude, I have over eaten, over indulged, and am not looking forward to detoxing and dieting for the next few weeks, but it was totally worth it. I have the most kick-ass friends and family and I am so lucky I got to break bread with all of you.

IMG_0601

Till next time

Spoiled In Sonoma: Vlogs

Photo Courtesy Of Spoiled To Perfection 1

I am learning new things everyday, and I’m pretty excited about the filming and editing that I’ve done so far for Spoiled To Perfection! Here is a collection of videos that I have directed, shot and edited so far this year. They are getting better as I go, and I know I have a long way to go but I’m proud of what I’ve learned in the last 2 months.

No Talkie Before Coffee

small coffee

My Spoiled To Perfection adventures have led me to discover the wonders of coffee. Of course, I was thrilled to find out that coffee beans are fermented. But I also wanted to know why humans are so obsessed with our coffee and why we “LITERALLY” can’t live without it! So I went straight to the source and sat down with the folks in charge of production at my two favorite local coffee roasters, Taylor Maid Organic Coffee and Tea, and Flying Goat Coffee. Darren O’Brien, who happens to be one of my closest friends, my ex-roommate and ex-band mate, is also the head of production at Taylor Maid. Darren walked me through the “cupping” process and we tasted two different styles of coffee that have been processed in both the “washed,” and “natural” methods. Check out the video below and read the article at Spoiled To Perfection.