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May 31, 2010

Cajun Creole Music Festival & Topanga Days

Wow, are there a ton of festivals and events that take place over Memorial weekend! I just found out about a couple more that I missed out on this weekend, but wanted to write about and bookmark for next year.

The Cajun Creole Music Festival is held in Simi Valley. My friend was looking forward to eating Beignets while jamming to some great music. You can follow this event on Facebook for a reminder as well. Adult tickets in 2010 were eighteen bucks.

Another person posted on Facebook about what a great time they were having at the Annual Topanga Days festival in Topanga Canyon. I love the artsy/hippie vibe of Topanga. There are so many cute giftsy and foodie shops there too. I know this day would be right up my alley. Tickets to this one in 2010 were twenty bucks. I'll have to check the website next year before I go.

I had a lot of fun at the Greek Festival that I already wrote about going to this weekend, and it won out for having free entrance, but I'll look forward to trying something different next year. What did you do with your holiday? Please leave me a comment on the blog.

May 29, 2010

Valley Greek Festival

I spent the afternoon today at the Valley Greek Festival. If you've missed hearing about this, don't despair--you still have Sunday and Monday to get there. Free admission, food & drink vendors, craft vendors, lots of music and dancing all make for great fun. Parking was $5 down the road a bit.

Even the food servers were doing a lot of dancing....

Being vegetarian, I opted for an ala carte order of Spanakopita--spinach, feta eggs, and Romano cheeses baked in a crispy filo dough. It was wonderfully salty from the cheese and much more healthy than the desserts that I couldn't resist. The price of $7.50 seemed a bit high for a church affair, but I think this entree went to benefit the church, rather than an individual vendor.

The desserts were plentiful and much more reasonable, at two dollars each. I sampled the Pistachio Baklava and Chocolate Baklava below. It's a difficult choice, but I think the Pistachio was my favorite.

My third sampling, the Melomacarona, had the texture of a teacake and was flavored with orange and some sort of liquor (though I couldn't taste the alcohol). It was light and tasty, but I'd really come for the honey-soaked baklava.

There were a few arts and crafts booth, which wavered from jewelry of any kind to Greek Orthodox religious artifacts and Matryoshka dolls. But the highlight of the day was the entertainment, from the continuous live Greek music to watching my friend's son perform traditional Greek dances. Here's a few pictures from their performance. I was especially entranced by the kids' ethnic costumes.

What's your favorite ethnic festival in your area? Please leave me a comment on the blog so I can try them out too!

May 25, 2010

Fix Nation Dog/Cat Vaccine Clinics

FixNation has low-cost Dog & Cat vaccine clinics on the first Saturday of every month. Click on the image above to enlarge it to a readable size for their full services & pricing list.

Find FixNation at:
7680 Clybourn Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 91352

Where do you go for your pet's health care? What do you consider necessary treatment? Please leave a comment on the blog.

Old Pasadena Restaurant Week

Old Pasadena Restaurant Week is coming June 1st through 8th. More than 25 restaurants have joined together to offer prix fixe meals for lunch and dinner ranging from $15-35. Check out the website (link above) for participating locations, menus, and price details.

Do you use this type of event to try new places, or are you mostly searching for deals related to places you already frequent? Please leave me a comment on the blog.

May 24, 2010

America's Next Great Restaurant

I had the opportunity today to be an audience member for a taping of a new Food NEework show--America's Next Great Restaurant. It's produced by the company that makes "Top Chef," so I expected a bit of a "challenge" event similar to that show. In format, I was not disappointed.

The taping was held at Universal Citywalk, and as with most reality/audience shows, I was required to show up way early. But after check-in, we were allowed some time to wander, so I got to photograph the awsome Citywalk signage.

All my photos of the event are of pre-taping, as cameras were not allowed once inside the event. The competition involved ten restaurant concepts, from the title and logo, menus, and finally tasting samples. Each had a stall. Audience members were given one chip per person, which they deposited into a box at their favorite vendor's concept booth.

Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone, and several partners were judges. The eventual winner of this competition gets to open a restaurant with the four judges as investors.

Immediately I saw the booth that I knew would win my vote...The grilled cheese restaurant!

The Sports Wrap did flour tortilla sandwich wraps.

There was a taco restaurant, and a sports bar-type restaurant serving wings & waffles.

The end booth had a fun title, Hicks, and served brats and cheesy tater tots.

There were an equal number of booths on the opposite side, including Indian fare, a healthy-living type booth, and the fave "Saucy Balls."

The Citywalk backdrop really made for an impressive scene--bright, colorful, festive. I could see why it was chosen for the event.

For some of you who have no idea what I do on a film set as part of my job, these pictures may show you how many people it takes to make a show work. Before the audience arrives, multiple cameras were shooting the setup and prep of each competitor.

Even in prep each booth was abuzz with activity. My only disappointment with the event was that there were no vegetarian entrees in any of the ten booths. Several had more expansive menus at their stations, and voiced the comment that their restaurants were a "build your own"-type place. But, when forced to pick one entree to sample all chose meat. I voted for the grilled cheese vendor only because the restaurant concept was one I knew I would patronize.

Would you patronize a restaurant titled "Saucy Balls"? Are you a fan of the Food Network in general? Will you watch this reality series? Please leave a comment on the blog to let me know, and next time I go to a taping, I'll have friends to bring along!

May 23, 2010

Potluck Coordination

I was just introduced to the site It's free to use and a great way to coordinate who's-bringing-what if you're having a potluck get-together. I love potluck entertaining because it's budget friendly and spreads the work around.

What's your favorite dish to bring to a potluck? Please leave the recipe in a comment on the blog.

May 22, 2010

Holy Blackberries, Batman!

(today's garden haul)

Besides a few major clean-out days, I've been pretty much ignoring my garden this spring--but it hasn't forgotten me! Today was the first day I was able to harvest a full handful of blackberries. And my artichoke plant seems to have split this year, so technically I have two plants right next to each other. The older plant has eight artichokes on it! I harvested the first one today, and plan to steam it tomorrow to enjoy with lemon butter.

(the artichoke plant, with one baby that can't be seen)

Since I didn't plan to eat the artichoke for a day or two, I went online to find out the best storage methods. Turns out I shouldn't have washed it, but since my garden's pretty much organic, I wanted to make sure I wasn't bringing any bugs into the house.

(a close-up of the beautiful cut artichoke)

I dipped the cut stem into lemon juice to help keep its coloring, and after a few minutes of draining, placed it in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag. It should keep this way for up to five days. This site has a great pictorial of how to prepare and cook an artichoke, including methods for stuffing, etiquette, and nutritional info.

(my hand included for perspective--it's pretty sizeable!)

Leave a comment on the blog if you're available for dinner--I know what I'll be serving!

May 15, 2010

Museums of the Arroyo Day

Here's an event that I let breeze right by me. Once again I'm using the blog to catalog an event I want to attend in the future.

Museums of the Arroyo Day is a once-a-year event where five museums located along the Arroyo Seco in Los Angeles and Pasadena open their doors free of charge from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.--this year on May 16, 2010.

Celebrating a diverse mix of art, architecture and history of the Arroyo Seco area, MOTA Day features six unique history-based museums that preserve and perpetuate early Los Angeles life. The public can visit one or all of the museums during the day at no charge, with free and continuous shuttle service running between museums. Visitors can park their cars once and then shuttle to the museums of their choice.

MOTA museum members include The Gamble House, Heritage Square Museum, the Los Angeles Police Historical Society Museum, the Lummis Home and Garden and the Pasadena Museum of History. In addition to its ongoing regular displays and exhibits, each museum will feature a distinctive slice of Southern California history.

The MOTA museums are conveniently located off the 210 and 110 freeways in Pasadena and Los Angeles. Heritage Square is located just north of downtown off of the Pasadena (110) at the Avenue 43 exit; Gamble House and Pasadena Museum of History are located off of the Ventura (134) freeway on either side of Orange Grove, north of Walnut Avenue. The other museums are located between these two points. Parking is typically available in Pasadena at Avery Dennison on Walnut (near Pasadena Museum of History) and surrounding streets. In Highland Park, parking will be on Carlota Street (near Lummis Home and Garden) and at Heritage Square's parking lots and surrounding streets. Or, you can easily reach MOTA Day by taking the Gold Line and exiting the train at the Heritage Square stop -- you can then catch free shuttles to reach the MOTA Day festivities. Our two southern Highland Park museums -- Heritage Square and Lummis Home -- are within walking distance of each other.

For more information on the twentieth annual MOTA Day, please call the MOTA hotline number at (213) 740-TOUR (8687).

I know I don't take advantage of the rich museum life offered by Los Angeles. What is your favorite one? Will you attend this event next year? Please tell me why in a comment on the blog.

May 13, 2010

Cauliflower Casserole

I've been on a no-groceries kick lately, and this week it forced me to get creative. Last night I made a casserole from cauliflower, onions, garlic, and Morningstar Farms crumbles, topped off with sundried tomato alfredo sauce. I've just had it for dinner and it's really tasty! And the bonus is that because I put it into several pans I have another casserole in the freezer whenever I need it.

I trimmed the cauliflower, and boiled it for about five minutes to cook, then strained. This was the base of the casserole.

The second layer was composed of a half of a purple onion, diced and sauteed till glossy and translucent, a generous handful of roasted garlic, and a full bag of sauteed veggie crumbles.

Lastly, I cheated, by using a prepared pasta sauce, Classico's Sun-dried Tomato Alfredo. With as long as it took to sautee and prepare the vegetables, I would have been cooking all night except for this shortcut! The tart-sweetness of the sauce complimented the seasoning of the veggie crumbles.

Here's the assemblage....

I baked it from frozen at 325 degrees for about an hour. The casserole looked pretty much the same after it had been baked.

But oh was it scrumptious and even had a pretty presentation on the plate thanks to the little florets of cauliflower. It looked like "home cooking" to me.

What's your best kitchen improvisation that became a part of your repertoire? Leave me a comment on the blog with your recipe.

May 12, 2010

Recipe Experiment: Chicken-less Strips

My latest experiment with veggie meats has been TJ's Chicken-less Strips. I thought I'd make a stir fry, casserole, or some other great meal with them sometime when I was entertaining. Then I ate all the rest of the groceries in my house, and was home alone, scrounging for something semi-healthy to eat. I took the easy way out and made what turned out to be a fairly good, terribly simple Asian chicken salad.

According to the directions, these can be heated in the microwave, though I suspected that would make them a bit tough. So I tossed the opened package in some Asian-sesame salad dressing for moisture first. I also added about three "cutie" mandarin oranges, peeled and in segments. I microwaved for one minute as recommended, tossed and ate. Surprisingly yummy! The salad wouldn't have been good without the citrus.

I was a bit turned off by the sodium content of this product--just one serving has 14% of your daily sodium intake! Meat eaters, how does this compare with regular chicken strips? Then again, one serving also has 40% of your daily recommended protein, which is something my diet is normally sorely lacking. So, as an occasional supplement in my diet, I think this product has its place.

Have you tried any veggie meat substitutes? What's your favorite product, and how do you prepare and serve it? Please leave me a comment on the blog.

May 3, 2010

Record Clock

Are you old enough to remember the era of vinyl records? I was going through a box I'd taken home from my parents' attic after a vacation, and I came across my old collection of 45s. The records were from the '70s and '80s--I know the tape deck had come into vogue by the time I was ten years old. So between my sister's collection that she'd turned over to me, and all my childhood records, there were quite a few classics that I can't bear to part with.

But one had an obvious home waiting. I went to Disneyland when I was nine, and my main souvenier was a record of the music from the Main Street Electrical Parade. One of my best friends now works for Disney, and her birthday is today. So this weekend, I made the old record into a clock for the wall of her work cubicle.

Starting with the original record, I bought a clock kit at the craft store, and simply screwed it onto the back of the record through the original hole. It made a great gift for my friend--she was really pleased! She showed it by taking the time to send a picture of the clock in her cubicle. Doesn't it look great with the other memorabilia surrounding it?

I did the same thing for myself some years ago with an old empty film reel from our family's home movie collection. I hang it in my office along with stills from the movies I've worked on.

Are you familiar with clock movements? If you've ever built a custom clock yourself, leave a comment on the blog to tell me what you used, and where you placed it.

May 1, 2010

May Day

Remember making May Baskets as a kid? I do. I'm really not sure if it started at school or at home--I think school, but I know my mom reinforced the celebration of the holiday. It's these simple activities that are my fondest childhood memories.

I recall making baskets from construction paper, either rectangular ones, or cone-shaped, and attaching a paper handle long enough to hang the basket from a doorknob. Decorated with crayons, glue, glitter, and contrasting paper, they were filled meticulously with leftover Easter grass, then stuffed with candies and small flowers. The great fun was doorbell-dodging the recipient: Hanging the basket on the given door, ringing the bell, and running around the corner to hide and watch the recipient discover their surprise.

My mother may have been a fan of the holiday solely because her birthday falls on May 1st, or perhaps because it kept me out of her hair for at least the afternoon. Either way, I remember it fondly. Do you celebrate the beginning of spring in your home? Leave me a note on the blog with your favorite May Day traditions. If you're looking for a pattern, try this one from the blog Flying Time Designs.
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