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October 17, 2018

Polenta Casserole

We had an informative and in-depth discussion about sponsored blog posts at our most recent meeting of Food Bloggers Los Angeles, with a guest speaker from a corporate position.  The brunch theme for the meeting was broadly chosen as "fall."  The brunches are a highlight of meeting with this group!  I love seeing everyone else's potluck ideas and baking inspirations.  This time we had about ten attendees, and there was plenty of food. 

Having just recently suffered a huge loss, I needed something easy to make and take.  I had a roll of basil polenta in my refrigerator, so I sliced it into a casserole with some roasted bell peppers, mushrooms, and diced tomatoes.  It was filling, and made a great middle ground dish between breakfast and lunch.

I thought I had a jar of prepared pasta sauce in the fridge, but couldn't find it when I went to use it.  My head was too foggy to even make a sauce.  And I do like sweet tomatoes anyway.  So I simply opened a can of diced tomatoes and used it for the top layer of the casserole.  For presentation, I sprinkled Trader Joe's Everything But the Bagel Seasoning liberally on top. 

Polenta Casserole

1 roll slice-and-bake Polenta (I used basil polenta)
1 bag Trader Joe's frozen Mushroom Medley (pre-seasoned with olive oil and parsley)
1 half jar Melissa's Produce Roasted Peppers
1 24 oz can diced tomato, drained

Roast a bag of mushrooms in a separate dish in the oven at 375 for 25 mins.  While the mushrooms are roasting, slice polenta into 1/4 inch rounds and layer in the bottom of an 8x8 or 9x9 pan. Layer one layer of Melissa's bell peppers on top of the polenta.  Add the cooled mushrooms as the third layer.  Drain the can of tomatoes, and add them as the fourth (top) layer.  Sprinkle seasoning on top as desired (I used Everything Bagel seasoning, but basil or Italian seasoning would be great substitutes).  Cook the dish at 350 or 375 for 45 mins to one hour, until heated through.  Enjoy as a vegan dish, or optionally, add shredded cheese on top for the last ten minutes of baking.  Makes great leftovers too!

August 26, 2018

Pageant of the Masters 2018

I gave myself a treat for my birthday this year, and went down to Laguna Beach for the Pageant of the Masters, a yearly community artistic event where actors portray famous art in tableau.  It's fascinating to see one scene deconstructed, as they demonstrate the intricate process of the event. 

This year's theme centered on "Old Laguna" and took a historical trip up through time, showing how the area became one of the foremost art community in Southern California.  Photography is not allowed during the performance, but the venue itself is spectacular, so I thought I'd share a couple of shots.

I'll have to remind myself next year that food and drink is allowed to be brought in, though no glass containers are allowed in the theater.  Parking was quite reasonable if far away, with a free shuttle available from the lots.  There's a few weeks left in the season, so if you haven't yet caught it, go!

August 16, 2018

Melissa's Muscato Grapes and Balsalmic Marscapone

Avocado Toast is so yesterday.  I made a simple spread of one tub Marscapone, one small tub sour cream, and 1/4 cup balsalmic vinegar to use as a dip for fruit on my last Hollywood Bowl picnic.  The figs from my neighbor's tree were divine with the Marscapone spread!  But the best part was I had enough leftover to last me for the week.  Waking up to sourdough bread with balsalmic Marscapone spread, topped with Melissa's Produce Green, Red, and Black Muscato Grapes at the height of season has been the best way to savor the end of summer.  

August 15, 2018

Every Chef Needs an Apron

One of my most cherished possessions is a small collection of aprons that belonged to my Grandma.  I have the blue one in this photo from the late seventies or early eighties, where my mom and grandma are decorating sugar cookies.  The apron has green and red piping on the edges and pockets in the front.  

My mom just made me a new apron, using grandma's as a template.  It's so cute, and so much fun to have one made just for me.  The fabric has playful monkeys, an inside joke with my mom.  My mom lives on the other side of the country, so this was a sweet surprise to receive in the mail.

Today I went to a friend's to make a holiday Scottish whiskey fruitcake, so I broke in my new apron.  I love creating new memories with my mom in the kitchen, even when she can't physically be with me.

I'm sure I posted about this many years ago, when my dad and I first made it, but my mom asked for this photo because of the apron, so I dug all of these up.  My grandma had nine children.  She cooked from scratch and was famous for her noodles.  Her noodle cutter saw use after repeated use throughout decades, the paint nearly worn off the handle.   After she passed, it was given to me, and I asked my dad to help me make a shadowbox with her picture.  I couldn't find a photo of her using the noodle cutter, but the apron was iconic, so this was the photo we printed for the shadowbox.  It's in my kitchen to this day.  Every time I use or see one of grandma's tools I'm reminded of her resourcefulness and fortitude.  And of course, love, just as I wear my mom's love in my new apron.

July 7, 2018

Thanksgiving in a Smoothie

Temps reached 119 degrees in North Hollywood yesterday.  While I have a small window a/c unit in my bedroom, my main coping skill of this heat wave is lots of cold liquids, frozen ice packs for the pups and I to lie on, and in the hottest hours, escaping to public places with better air conditioning, like movie theaters, IKEA, and the mall.  

It was only around a hundred degrees when I woke up this morning, and I felt like a truck had run over me.  So I knew I'd need a smoothie to make it through the day.  I normally keep a good supply of frozen fruit to get me through the summer, but this is the first heat wave of the season.  Surprisingly I found a bag of frozen cranberries in my freezer, intended for winter cranberry sauce that never got made.  I don't usually like the tartness of cranberries, but I decided to make a smoothie that would transport me to winter holidays in the hopes I could imagine the winter temps.  It turned out yummy and sweet!

What's your favorite smoothie recipe?  How do  you cope with a major heat wave?  Please comment below.

Cranberry-Cacao Smoothie
1/2 c frozen cranberries1/3 c canned pumpkin
1 1/2 Tbsp coconut
1 Tbsp cacao nibs
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 cups cold soymilk or other nondairy milk

Blend all in a mason jar using an immersion blender and enjoy. 

July 5, 2018

The Height of 1970s Entertaining - Hidden Valley Ranch Oyster Snack Crackers

My blog was originally meant to be a place to try and store family recipes, that I've remembered eating but hadn't necessarily made myself.  One that I remember my mom making at holidays and whenever they had parties was an oyster cracker snack.  Come to find out, it was such a regular because my dad liked the ranch flavor.  

Last January, with the Superbowl and the Oscars on the calendar, I decided I wanted to make it.  I bought the known ingredients, and asked my mom for her recipe.  We'd discuss it on phone calls, but she never remembered to dig it up for me, and months and events went by.  Finally I decided to do the modern thing, and googled for some recipes.  Various versions came up, but the most common mention was "Hidden Valley Ranch dressing packet."  After printing out a fancy crockpot version finished with Parmesean cheese, I finally went to the store for the golden spice mix.  Lo and behold, the recipe was right there on the box!  So today, in July, I finally got around to trying the recipe I had intended for the Superbowl.  Please tell me your life works like this also.  The timing actually works well as I am starting my season of Hollywood Bowl tickets and have an upcoming trip to Shakespeare in Griffith Park.  All my summer picnics will include this snack, until gone.  Which should take quite a while as I have enough for a party. 

Now that I've mastered the original, I feel confident I can experiment with other snack versions, such as Parmesean Smoked Paprika Oyster Crackers, and Everything Bagel Seasoning Oyster Crackers.  Look for those recipes in upcoming blog posts.  And come on over anytime for Oyster Snack Crackers and White Russians.  

Hidden Valley Oyster Crackers

1 Packet Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix
16 oz Oyster Crackers
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1/2 tsp Dill 
1/4 tsp Lemon Pepper or Garlic Powder

Place crackers and oil in a gallon size Ziploc bag and shake to coat.  Add all spices and again toss till well coated. Spread on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees for 15-20 mins or until golden brown. 

June 28, 2018

Pasadena Chalk Festival 2018

2018 was a banner year for the Pasadena Chalk Festival!  The cool weather made for the perfect atmosphere, and the overcast sky was ideal for photography.  There was as much area covered at the mall and neighboring conference center as last year, and the quality of the artists' work was astoundingly detailed.  

I took my little pup Caitie with me, and enjoyed the live music on the center plaza, watching the crowd from comfortable benches along the sidelines, as I took advantage of the opportunity to desensitize Caitie to loud noises and so many people. 

This is one blog post where the photography really does speak for itself, so I'll just let you take it all in.  But know that I'll be going again next year!  Hopefully with my dad.

It's so hard to choose a favorite, but this is definitely one of them.

I have a soft spot for elephants - one of my personal totem animals - so I couldn't resist getting a shot of Caitie with this chalk painting.


A tribute to physicist Stephen Hawking, who passed away recently.


This one captured me - another of my favorites of the day.

Of course my favorite of all!

Such fun with Ursula from "The Little Mermaid"

A tribute to the Catholic Pope

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