Sunday, December 4, 2011

TAKE A BAO Studio City

I know I've mentioned it a number of times over the last few months (sorry to those who are tired of hearing it) BUT today the reality has finally set in. Be it the baby furniture that's arrived and masterfully assembled by my husband, or the fact that my belly has popped enough causing me to waddle a bit. Somehow the fact that we are having a 3rd suddenly seems all to real. We even took a trip to the baby store today and purchased a stroller and an infant car seat. Now that's reality!

So all this "reality and acceptance" that in less then 9 weeks, we'll be starting all over with the sleepless nights, feeding etc. (my kids are 7 and 5 after all so it does feel like starting from scratch) is pushing Doran and I to try and spend as many alone moments as we can. Even if it means shopping for baby strollers and bedding and grabbing a quick lunch. Which is exactly what we did today while my mom hung out with Ben and Lia.

Since we were short on time, we quickly did the baby store run, purchased a few things and decided to try this new local joint for a quick lunch bite. Having opened just about a month ago smack on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, TAKE A BAO makes its presence known with its architecturally sleek exterior. Nestled between local sushi joints and a number of other trendy eateries, it is not to be missed. The comfortably modern interior with attention to every detail, down to the filtered water station courtesy of a hip looking sink complete with plenty of glasses to fill adds to the perfect casual dining experience. Its also a nice touch considering you may need to cool your palate often if you're anything like us and add spicy sauce to everything you order.

TAKE A BAO, calls their food "A modern take on Asian cuisine, drawing on inspiration from dishes all across Asia". I called their food simply yum! The menu has quite a bit to offer, including eight BAO to choose from, a number of small bites, fresh salads, rice bowls and soups. They even have what looked like a full bar, the counter of which was filled with fresh herbs and citrus fruits to compliment what I am sure are drinks as flavourful as their food! I can't wait to try some of those after the baby comes.
Our BAO's
It seemed only right that for our first visit there we try the BAO's. An Asian inspired steamed bun of sorts, thicker then a pita and served warm, folded over and filled with all sorts of goodies. It ended up being a surprisingly tasty little pocket of flavor, which we both loved! We chose the FRIED CHICKEN & SLAW BAO with crispy chicken breast, tamarind bbq sauce and Asian vegetable slaw and the BANH MI with grilled pork loin, paté, house made pickled vegetables, diced chilies, cilantro, garlic aioli.

The chicken was my favorite, and I had to stop myself from ordering another one as we still had the VEGETARIAN TOM YOM SOUP coming. Wow, this was a colorful, aromatic bowl filled with silken tofu, rice cakes, bamboo shoots, shiitakes, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, water chestnuts and toasted garlic. A little sweet, a little tart and just spicy enough to sooth your soul. I am glad I held off on ordering the extra BAO as the soup really hit the spot.

Vegetarian Tom Yom
I am very excited to go back to this restaurant or even order for pick up. There were a number of drule inducing dishes I eyed with envy from fellow lunch goers seated at communal tables near by. I am guessing that the LEMONGRASS CARAMEL CHICKEN WINGS and the SUMAC STEAK FRIES are a hit, as every other person seemed to be eating them. But more then anything I am excited at the prospect of having a new restaurant that offers plenty of healthy, vegetarian options for my post baby journey of getting my body back! I may be back soon for the wings and the fries, but come February I'll need plenty of flavourful options to get back in shape. Nice to know there will be place like TAKE A BAO where I can turn to the Veggie Tom Yom and not feel deprived!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Faves at Joan's On Third

My friends often ask me why in the world I commute 40 minutes in traffic to see my OBGYN and why not just find a doctor near my house? Am I crazy? How do I find the time between work and my kids? What is the deal? Not to mention the visits get more and more frequent the bigger my belly gets, so why in the world all the driving in notorious LA traffic?

Cheese Counter at Joan's On Third
My answer is simple. Although I do like Dr.Morrison very much and am thrilled to have her guide me through this pregnancy, there is something else that propels me to make the drive. Joan's On Third! Knowing that following every appointment there is an opportunity to stop by this bakery/marketplace/cafe, makes the drive worthwhile. As a matter of fact there has yet to have been a day that I did not stop by Joan's after a routine appointment. And I honestly cannot wait for my doctors visits to get more frequent (they're now tri-weekly and will soon move to bi-weekly) so I get to pick up treats even more often then I already do!

I can never leave Joan's in the Morning without grabbing
their Strawberry Buttermilk Muffin. The top is lightly sprinkled with
sugar that bakes in to the crust making the first few bites sweet and crunchy.
Once you've tackled the top you get to the moist middle, that is
not too sweet and packed with what seems like 20 fresh strawberries per muffin.
The options of incredible baked goods, to die-for sandwiches, gourmet cheeses, freshly baked breads, gazillion fresh salads and soups, are endless at Joan's. Besides, I love the weekday morning peace and quiet (that's when I usually go) of perusing the marketplace, as on weekends it can get pretty insane. Good luck finding a seat after you place your order at one of their counters!
Chocolate Flour less Cheesecake
Tried this with my girlfriends Alla and Patricia a few weeks back
after visiting our friend Sabina at the hospital.
Thanks Sabina for delivering your baby girl at Cedar Sinai, the hospital
is just around the corner from Joan's!
The place is a zoo full of hungry people devouring the home made succulent offerings of Joan herself. A very sweet woman who doesn't seem to be phased by her success what's so ever. She happily brought me a to go box as if she were one of the bus boys and called me a sweetheart when I said I just couldn't bare the thought of not taking the left over peace of the apricot bar to go! I've even seen her cleaning tables like its no biggie. Now that's work ethic! No wonder she's so successful.
Apricot Bar is Buttery Crumbly Goodness I can rarely pass up!
You will never run out of options at Joan's but one thing that is a MUST TRY for everyone should you ever make your way there (if you haven't already) is their SHORT RIB sandwich with melted jack cheese, arugula and sweet red onions on grilled country white bread. The sandwich has even graced the cover of Bon Appetit February 2010 issue, and rightfully so!

Short Rib Sandwich

Where does one even begin to describe this sandwich? For starters it is definitely up there with the Godmother from Bay Cities  and not many sandwiches can do that. Only the ones which take your breath away and make you salivate before, during and after every bite. I would like to leave it at that for now. I don't think its fair to give away every detail of what will happen to you as you bite in to the crunchy, buttery bread, the juicy beyond words meat, the sweet caramelized onions, the tangy jack cheese and spicy arugula. Go to Joan's and experience it for yourself. But PLEASE save room for dessert!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween and Baked Ziti!

Trick Or Treat!
Preparing for our Candy Gathering Outing
I never payed much attention to Halloween and didn't care for dressing up and engaging in any Halloween Related activities in the past. But as many of you know, once you have kids it OVER. This is a Holidays they wait for from the second first pumpkins of the season appear at the market. My kids have been crossing off each day in October on the calendars in their rooms, strategically planning their approach to October 31.

Given Ben and Lia's level of excitement, my husband and I can't help but give in a bit. Doran even bought himself a mask this year to wear while we take them Trick or Treating (sadly he forgot to actually wear it!). As for me, no costume this time, although painting something clever like a basketball or the road sign "Bump" on my growing belly has crossed my mind. I'd do it but walking around after sundown with belly exposed, with October's evening breeze in the air is making me chilly just thinking about it. Maybe next year.

So I think I'll leave the dressing up to the kids. This time Lia will be a Penguin and Ben a Ninja. Oh let me clarify, a Stealth Ninja to be exact, and you better say it that way or he will most certainly correct you, as this is no ordinary Ninja. I am not sure what makes this Ninja different from the rest (not sure Ben does either), BUT it is crucial he is called that and not just Ninja. Maybe he plans on acting in a Stealth like manner as in being covert and highly secretive in his Ninja ways.....spooky.

My little Penguin Ready for School Halloween Parade
As for my little penguin, she chose the costume based solely on cuteness. I think it may have had something to do with my husband (wanting her to try something different then a super hero 3rd year in a row) telling her that the cuter the costume the more candy she will get! Well let me tell you, the cuteness factor was in full force and we didn't encounter ANY other penguins along the trick or treating trail.

At sundown we embarked on our door knocking, candy gathering baked zitti eating adventure. How baked zitti got in to the mix you may ask? Well seeing that every year a friend or a neighbor or two may stop by, I like to whip up a simple, quick one pot dish for us to enjoy. After all we need stamina and a carbohydrate load to keep up with the little guys.

Halloween Baked Ziti
This year I made a ricotta and mozzarella loaded ziti a recipe for which I found a while back on Preparing something hearty is my favorite part of Halloween, and seeing the excitement and joy on my kids faces as they dress up and gather mounds of candy is thrilling as well. This is starting to sound an awful lot as though I may like Halloween after all. I guess you have no choice when you're a parent so why not make the best of it!

Happy Halloween Ya'll

Recipe for Baked Ziti (I found this a while back on


•1 (16 ounce) package ziti pasta

•24 ounces ricotta cheese

•1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese

•1 egg, beaten

•1 (32 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce

•1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the ziti and cook for 10-12 min until al dente (I like mine a touch over al dente-13min) drain and rinse.

3. In a large bowl, mix ziti, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, egg and 1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce.

4. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish and spoon in ziti mixture. Top with remaining spaghetti sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes; let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Spooned Mixture

Before it goes off in the oven.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jewish New Year Dinner Recap

A few weeks have passed since the Rosh Hashanah dinner at our house, but the tastes and smells of that evening still linger. This year, I enlisted the help of my brother in law Saar in helping me cook, since the little dude rapidly growing inside me, is slowing me down a bit these days. There aren't many people I like to invite to cook in my kitchen, I am a bit territorial when it comes to this part of the house. But when it comes to Saar, it is a different story.

Over the years he's managed to work his way in to my heart, and I can honestly say he is probably the only person I can tolerate cooking with and near (my husband is always welcome as well of course). Tolerate is actually the wrong word as I do truly enjoy cooking with Saar. He is undeniably one of the favorite and best cooks I know. He's super creative, adventurous with flavors and really knows his stuff. His dishes are always innovative and he manages to put his own twist on even the most basic dishes in a way that blows your mind. And I have now realized that he is somewhat of my muse/cheerleader in the kitchen!
Saar's Chickens Prepped for the Grill
For this particular dinner, Saar was responsible for the chicken dish, mashed potatoes, and a salad. And oh boy did he deliver! These were no ordinary chicken, potato and salad dishes. He made chickens so fine they blew my mind. Watching him prepare these girls for the grill was nothing short of brilliance. He made love to those chickens by rubbing them with a mixture of butter, fresh parsley, fresh thyme, garlic, lemon and a touch of honey, and then grilled them on the BBQ until they were moist perfection.
One of Saar's Succulent Beauties straight off the grill

Mashed Potatoes with Herbs and Olive Oil
The olive oil, herbed mashed potatoes were a flavor explosion all their own. And the salad, which started out as a traditional Israeli tomato, cucumber, onion, dressed in lemon juice and oil, thanks to Saar morphed into something else entirely. This is where his Muse like qualities came in to play. He said "Scratch that, boring, lets make something up"! I hesitated at first, but quickly found myself happily playing along.

Our Special Salad!
He asked for Bulgur (a cracked wheat type grain often used in Middle Eastern Dishes such as tabbouleh), I did not have it, but Red Quinoa was on hand so off we went. Cucumber, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, a little red onion, and dressing of lemon, garlic, olive oil. By this point I was so excited, I suggested we add we add a little anchovy paste, which brought a hint of the perfect salty, sweet impact to the dressing. The end result was tangy, unique and fresh flavors that went very well with the rest of the meal. Even my two year old niece Sophia (granted her palate is somewhat of an anomaly in the family) couldn't get enough!

I was on Brisket Duty this year and it came out incredibly tender and flavourful. Again thanks to Saar who suggested I add a little brown sugar to the brisket sauce when I was reducing it at the end of cooking. This gave it such a luscious punch in flavor and the sweetness came through ever so nicely. The meat was tender and juicy and turns out I was worried about making brisket for no reason.
Brisket with Carrots, Onions, Celery, Herbs, Garlic,
Red wine and Brown Sugar.

 I was a bit afraid to approach brisket after hearing all those scary "be careful to not turn your brisket in to shoe leather" stories. Thankfully mine was not the case. We had an incredible dinner and aside from the traditional apples and honey, enjoyed a rich chocolate fudge cake in honor of my daughter's 5th Birthday which happened to fall on the eve of Rosh Hashanah! I have a feeling this will be a tasty year after such a delicious start.
Lia's Chocolate Fudge Cake

Lia post chocolate cake, being lifted by her Dad on the right
and uncle Tamir and Chef Saar on the left

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

OMG Carrot Soup!

You know the saying that at times dogs resemble their owners? Well I find this old adage to be very true! Just pay attention next time you stroll trough a park or your local farmer's market. Or flip through your cable channels until you stumble upon a random broadcast of a Best in Show competition, you'll see it if you haven't already. Its incredible how often that it happens. Just think of Paris Hilton and her little Chihuahua....OK so here is the reason I am sharing this with you.
The same way that some pets resemble their owners, I believe certain foods resemble, remind and are associated with certain people. In my case this INCREDIBLE carrot soup will forever be associated with my INCREDIBLE sister in law Sherry. No she's not a red head, and does not look like a pretty bowl of soup. I associate this soup with her for several reasons.

1. She is the one from whom I got this recipe and who is notorious for preparing it at our family gatherings whether she likes it or not (I MAKE HER).
2. The soup posseses many of the same characteristics as she does. It is simple yet complex, down to earth, deliciously spicy (Love you Sherry), approachable and everyone is guaranteed to love it as we love her!
3. You can always rely on it to make you feel soothed and loved (as she does)
4. It tastes absolutely AMAZING!

I have always thought of Sherry when I think if this soup, and it is hands down one of my absolute favorite soups. Its beautiful not just in its color but taste. I never get tired of making it or eating it, and now that cooler temperatures have arrived, well sort of (it was in the 60's two days in a row and now back up to high 70's) I cannot wait to start having Sherry's Carrot Soup at least bi weekly! I hope you enjoy the recipe below as much as I have over the years. Love you Sherry, THANK YOU for embodying my favorite soup!

OMG-Carrot soup freak-out! (this is how Sherry Titled the email back when I asked her for the recipe). So here goes.

OMG Carrot Soup!

5 lbs carrots peeled & cut (Make your life easier and get 5lbs of baby carrots that have been clened and washed)
8 cans chicken broth
3 stalks of celery chopped
1 large onion chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
salt to taste
cayenne pepper
black pepper to taste
handful fresh dill chopped
juice of 1/2 a lemon
sour cream
1 large red bell pepper

1.) In a saute pan, cook the onion and garlic in a little olive oil, add juice of half a lemon. Cook until golden.

2.) Transfer the onion and garlic mixture to a large soup pot, add the chopped carrots, celery, dill, salt, pepper , a little cayenne (if you wish-we like ours spicy), and 8 cans of chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Let simmer until all the veggies are soft (about 1-2 hours).

3.) Let soup cool in the pot for about an hour.

4.) Puree the soup in small batches using a blender. Transfer back to the pot, reheat, adjust seasonings as and if needed, to taste.

5.) Garnish with a dab of sour cream and slice of red bell pepper before you serve.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A decadent Anniversary Dinner

Things are mellowing out a bit now that "Celebration Filled September" has passed. Last week was filled with festivities and TONS of delicious food. Rosh Hashanah dinner (Jewish New Year) was mouthwatering beyond words. But I will save the details of that feast for a different post as it deserves to stand on its own. I would however like to share another joyous dinner from last week and that was our 9th wedding anniversary dinner at Bouchon in Beverly Hills.

Thrilled to be leaving to a weeknight dinner!

This French Bistro from Thomas Keller (yes the genius behind French Laundry in Napa did not disappoint. We had a solid, decadent meal the highlight of which was definitely the Plat Principaux (main course) in our case the Steak Frites. This pan seared prime flatiron smothered with caramelized shallots and an herb butter was one of the best steaks I have ever had. And this coming from someone who is generally not a meat eater, unless I am pregnant apparently. Yes the meat aversions have clearly passed and I am fully embracing my new found carnivorous ways.

Steak Frites at BOUCHON
We are so conditioned to think that if its not a tenderloin (especially at up scale restaurants) then don't expect it to melt in your mouth. Little do we know apparently, or maybe it was just I who was clueless BUT this cut did melt. With its gorgeous marbling ever so noticeable throughout and this ridiculous topping of caramelized shallot and Maître d'Hôtel Butter (which I learned is simply compound butter with herbs and or seasonings added to it) this steak was special. I am seriously considering writing Mr.Keller a letter begging he consider bottling and selling the shallot mixture. Because if he did, I would spread it on anything I could be it a warm slice of fresh baked bread or my face!

Terrine de Foie Gras de Canard

As you see, the main course left such an impression I am working my way backwards through the meal. Our starters were quite delicious as well. The Foie Gras Terrine in above pic was served chilled with a side of toasted bread. Scooping it out and watching it melt over in to every crevice of the warm toast was hypnotizing and plain incredible. I can't even speak of the taste as I am so bias when it comes to pate of any kind....there is no doing wrong by me. I will also try not to tell my OBGYN that I have slipped up and had pate as I am not really supposed to. Oh well, I am certain the little boy growing inside me was thrilled to have experienced Foie Gras for the first time.

Beet Salad
Another one of our special appetizers was a gorgeous beet salad. Upon arrival at our table, it was seriously so beautiful it took a moment to register that this was the salad. I can't even fully describe the taste. This was the type of dish which when sharing with someone else, the way in which you will experiance it will completely differ from the person you are sharing it with. We did agree that it was unique and delicious in an understated sort of way. The beets possessed an earthiness unlike any I've ever tasted. They were cooked to perfection and seasoned ever so mildly that their true colors (literally) and simple flavors really shone. 


With hardly any room left for desert, I ordered the special of the night Fuji Apple Tart to go (had it in the morning with a few co-workers and it was buttery, sweet goodness). However my husband couldn't stand the thought of leaving without actually consuming something sweet and wonderful right there at the restaurant. He talked me in to the Profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce and ensured we'd only take a bite. Well that didn't pan out as seeing the warm chocolate sauce poured over the cold wonderful plump ice cream filled pastry, somehow miraculously erased the absurd fullness of our bellies. We ate all three, every single bit and every little drop of sauce. Thanks Bouchon for a wonderful stroll trough Paris and a satisfying, rich and decadent dinner to remember!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cake, Craziness and Looking forward to Calm!

September has been a crazy month. Between several ridiculous heat waves (I swear when you're pregnant the hormones make you experience hot weather on an entirely new burning-from-within level) my kids going back to school and birthday parties galore, my head truly feels like it is about to explode. I've been meaning to sit down and write, but demands of my kids schedules which I've finally seemed to have gotten under control and work, just wouldn't allow me to stand still for 5 minutes let alone sit down at my lap top!

September 7, 2011. First Day Of School! Lia started
Every year as September approaches I get both excited and filled with tremendous fear all at once. Excited to celebrate all the wonderful events and eat cake, fearful I may pass out and sleep all of October once the month is ever. To name a few, four of my amazing girlfriends all have their birthdays this month, two on the same day! My brother in law's birthday, my sweet co-worker Lianna (Happy Birthday! Hope you're enjoying Italy!), and my wedding anniversary are all in September. Oh and of course this year Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) kicks off the Jewish Holiday season on none other then the eve of September 28! My daughter's and mother's birthdays!

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake
There have been quite a few of these this month!
This is my absolute favorite from Sweet Lade Jane Bakery
Wow, I got exhausted just typing all that. Its not that I don't adore these joyous events, the delicious food that goes along with the celebrations, the birthday songs, cakes, etc. Its just that September doesn't leave much "me" time. My "me time" doesn't necessarily involve "being alone". I just want to be able to breathe, sit and write for a bit and prepare a good meal here and there. So after doing some thinking and embracing the fact that September is almost over, I've decided to make do with what I've got. Meaning, I will use its remaining 7 days the best I can and enjoy!

I will cook a great meal for Rosh Hashanah, and celebrate my mother's birthday by taking her to see this super cool acrobatic extravaganza  And on the last day of this eventful month I will finally find out the sex of our baby and wrap it all up with what I hope will be an amazing meal at Bouchoun for our anniversary! I promise after a long nap, October should be a month filled with much more frequent posts and tasty recipes. That's after Lia's 5th birthday party on October 1st! OK so it looks like September will spill a bit in to October after all :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Golden Treasures-Chanterelles

Walking through my neighborhood farmer's market  this past Sunday, I nearly jumped for joy when I spotted this vendor I stood mesmerized, staring, as in front of me was the most amazing selection of mushrooms. And front and center on the middle table was a pile of gorgeous, fresh, stunningly beautiful and perfectly golden Chanterelles! My absolute favorite fungi in the entire universe.

The joy was quickly replaced by shock when I saw the price per pound. Not to say I didn't expect it, after all they not only look like gold but are priced like it as well! Every year however, when the season for these incredibly earthy, buttery and deep flavored mushrooms begins (August through December), I secretly hope that this time it will be different. Maybe the price will drop? Sadly just like real gold these days, chanterelles are holding their value.

After a brief contemplation with myself, I decided to forge ahead, take the plunge and invest in roughly 1 Pound! I justified it simply as a MUST. An investment of sorts. An investment in my appetite. I was going to share with my husband after all so it wasn't a completely selfish decision. I paid $34 for slightly less then half of a paper bag, and skipped home ready to cook and devour. I quickly stopped only to grab a few chippolino onions (they are super duper sweet when sauteed or caramelized) from an organic vendor near by, for I wanted only the best for my golden treasures!

Chanterelles sauteed in a little butter, olive oil, white wine,
onions and a touch of garlic

I swooned over every single bite of this simple and quick saute with flavors so luxurious and decadent they made me moan. Chanterelles are really special and I highly recommend you try them. I know it's the Russian in me that craves them probably more often then I should as growing up in Kiev I had them almost daily in the fall months. Until today I remember going to the Bazzar (a marketplace selling anything and everything under the sun, including fresh food items ) with my grandma who would by pounds of these bright golden orange mushrooms.

My grandma would slow cook them in to a delicious stew with potatoes and onions until they were velvety smooth. Oh gosh how I remember it as if it were yesterday although I was only 7 or 8 at the time! We called chanterelles "lesichki" in Russian which literally translates to "little foxes". A perfect name for these mushrooms. Aside from their orange golden color like that of fox, their surprisingly rich flavor creeps up on you as cunningly and deceptively as a "lesichka".  So get ready to be blown away!

Simple Chanterelle Saute

1 lb Chanterelles
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Large Sliced Onion (Chipollino if possible or other sweet variety)
2 garlic cloves minced
1 Cup Chardonney (one you would want to drink)
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

Step 1
In a large saute pan, over medium heat combine the butter with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Once the butter has melted add the minced garlic and sliced onions, sprinkle with kosher salt and cook until translucent for about 10min.

Step 2
Add the cleaned mushrooms to the pan, stir well and cook for another 5-7 minutes.

Step 3
Add the wine, and drop the heat to low. Continue until the wine cooks down, another 8 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper to taste an serve while warm.

I ate the mushrooms as is for I simply could not focus or take the time to prepare anything else. However, feel free to spoon mixture over mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, home made pasta such as linguine or on top of a nicely charred piece of crunchy baguette.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Goodbye Favorite Foods (For Now)

I believe it's human nature to desire things we cannot have. In relation to this particular post I will be talking about food of course. Things I LOVE to eat but for the past 15 weeks and for about 25 more, will not be able to.
In case you may have guessed (40 weeks total, food restrictions), we will be adding to the Hendelman household around Valentine's 2012. Which explains this post from a few weeks back, who knew?! First official crazy craving.

No, cupid is not coming for a visit (well sort of) but a little baby is! Honestly thought we were done as Ben and Lia are quite and adorable handful as is. BUT, much to my husbands surprise (you see he's been wanting a "basketball team" of kiddos since the day we got married-I was DONE after 2) I suddenly couldn't bare the thought of not having just one more little cuteness to love.

 So here we are, and the list of "foods pregnant women should avoid" is ever present in my mind. I swear it has only grown since I had my kids in 2004 and 2006. Don't get me wrong, avoiding a few things here and there is well worth the sacrifice for a few months. After all the reward is a healthy little bundle. HOWEVER, these days "THE LIST" has gone too far! Top 2 for me are: NO sushi (STAB IN MY HEART), NO Unpasteurized CHEESE (WHAT!).
Soon to be Big Brother and Sister

The cheese and and the sushi I expected and heavily weighed my decision for a third child based on that!  Fine, I am only joking as taking a break from a few fave foods for 9 months, obviously pales in comparison to creating life. However, this last one did me in. This NO NO on the list took it to the next level as I did not expect it nor planned on avoiding it. As I said, "We always want what we cannot have"!

Goodbye Proschuito, Salami and favorite cheese!
Goodbye Pate!!!!!!!!

This surprising NO NO is Deli meats, cured meats, pates, all types, all varieties, UNLESS they are thoroughly heated to 160 degrees. Goodbye Charcuterie, Mortadela and my ULTIMATE PATE! No pate of any kind! Can you hear me weep! Apparently deli meats can be contaminated with Listeria. A harmful bacteria that can sometimes lead to serious illness. SCARY, not worth the risk BUT I have been dying for a nice cold cut filled sandwich ever since. What I wouldn't do for The Godmother

Goodbye Godmother!
I've been weeping far too long, and thus on a recent trip to Bristish Columbia I decided to be proactive instead and seek out a fullfilling replacement for my temporary No No's. I found it in Vancouver at
The Dirty Apron Cooking School and Delicatessen A wonderful place I was fortunate enough to visit a few hours before our return flight to Los Angeles on our last day in this gorgeous city. I won't be flying back to Vancouver anytime soon, but will definitely try to recreate the sandwich at home.

Roasted Chicken Sandwich
Assembled on a fresh baked soft crisp baguette, it was filled with moist chicken pieces, chipotle mayo, roasted tomatoes, nutty tangy Parmesan, watercress and the surprisingly delicious addition of briny, yummy, salty anchovies! I was hooked from the first bite. Such bold flavors yet balanced in a way that made the sandwich so smooth and delicate. The chicken was mild and melted with every bite, the Parmesan and pleasantly salty anchovies took the mildness to WOW, and the slight sweetness and acidity of the roasted tomatoes just rocked my world.

Farewell for now as I am off to eat dinner. Picking up some sushi, cooked and vegie rolls of course! After all I am trying to be a good "vessel" as my husband reffers to me these days. I am feeling better already having shared my big news with my readers. The prospect of scoping out more "No No" replacements is getting me excited, I shall seek and keep you posted as to what I find!

Saturday, August 13, 2011


I hate getting sick in the summer, especially when its hot outside! Your body desperately wants you to curl up in bed and nurse your sickness (in my case a sinus thing all week long, combined with a nose that just wouldn't stop running) but your head says "Are you nuts, you'll sweat to death, go have some iced tea instead"! Hopefully you are not as stubborn as I and will listen to your body vs. your nutty mind and sweat it out in bed with some (ooh I cannot even say it) HOT SOUP.

Avgolemono Soup at Great Greek in Sherman Oaks
HOT SOUP, even for medicinal purpose is just not the most appealing of things in the dead of summer. Desperate times however call for desperate measures, so despite the heat and with a little persuasiveness from my husband, I turned to the next best thing, Avgolemono. A Greek specialty I am convinced has the powers to heal and sooth in ways no other soup can. A creamy, tangy, warm soup with flavor of epic proportions I generally eat all year round at this restaurant, because hands down theirs is just the best!

Having had it for lunch the other day, I was almost happy I got this cold, as I haven't eaten my preciously hearty Avgolemono since March! Well not happy per say but defiantly elated that the summer heat didn't keep me away from this bowl of deliciousness. Made with rich chicken stock, it has layers and layers of flavor. The tiny orzo, daintily cut pieces of carrot, and hand picked almost undetectable chicken meat bursting with lemon flavor (what makes the soup so creamy and tangy is a combination of lemon juice and egg whisked together and added to it at the end of cooking) is just soothing perfection.
On second thought, the lemon makes it almost summery so don't let the heat keep you away from having this soup ASAP. The Great Greek Restaurant has been around since1984, and there is a reason its withstood the test of time in its popular location on Ventura Blvd. where restaurants open and close as as fast as this soup made me kick this summer cold! Oh and please when there do make certain you get the is their house specialty after all.

Tarama AKA Taramosalata
 Should you have room after the soup (I assure you a second bowl is highly plausible) then get the Greek Caviar "Tarama". Made from Cod or Carp Roe and traditionally blended with bread, lemon, onions, vinegar and olive oil, this mezze (a small Mediterranean or Middle Eastern appetizer) ROCKS! Dip their warm house sourdough bread in to it and ENJOY!

Bread Dipped in Tarama at Great Greek

My summer cold is GONE and I am feeling A-OK. Thanks to the Avgolemono and loads of tea with lemon, I was in top top shape for the start of our vacation. We just landed in Vancouver a few hours ago, and will be heading to Whistler, BC on Monday! This is my first time in Canada, and I am so looking forward to exploring its stunning landscape. We arrived a few hours ago and although exploring hasn't happened just yet, the views of the waterfront and mountains from my hotel room are enough of a  preview of the nature and beauty that is to come. Stay tuned for adventures from Canada!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Basmati Rice and Turkey Stuffed Bell Peppers
 We've had quite the heat wave here in LA. I call it a slap-in-the-face kind of heat. Like the moment you leave an air-conditioned space and step outside, it literally feels like a hot slap in your face.

The other night at 6:30pm while driving to this awesome show at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, the heat was still holding strong at 103! Good thing it was an indoor performance and we absolutely loved it. I believe they showcase different dancers until August 14th so go see it if you love dance.

The following day I had some serious grocery shopping to do and made the decision to do it at 7am in order to avoid the heat. I know, its cold at the supermarket but the mere thought of loading and unloading the car with my kids in tow in 100 degree heat was unbearable. Besides, the market is pretty empty at that time of day and I love roaming the isles in peace. Slow, meditative, focused, before-work grocery shopping! I love it as its so rare that it actually happens. But when it does, it leads to great things, in which case this time it lead to beautiful yellow and green bell peppers.

The minute I saw them I knew I had to make stuffed bell peppers, and for some odd reason they were $1 a piece which never happens. I grabbed 10 and practically skipped home to begin cooking. I don't make them often and have been trying to perfect my bell pepper recipe for some time now. And I am happy to say that I think yesterday I finally DID IT!

End result is beautifuly blistered exterior with super
tender filling!
 They were so tender, a little spicy and sweet at the same time, and the basmati rice and ground turkey filling I made was beyond moist and delicious. I ate 2 huge ones for lunch, gave 1 each to the kids, and cannot wait to have leftovers this evening again! They are even better the next day. I think I now know the trick to making a delicious meat stuffed pepper. Here goes: saute all the vegetables you will mix in to the meat first to marry the flavors, and leave the meat uncooked. Once you mix the cooked ingredients in to the raw ground meat, the juices will start to combine and continue to do so as you slowly cook the peppers stove top. The end result is comfort food at its finest!


6 large bell peppers, tops cut off and kept in tact without stem, inside washed and seeded.
1 lb fat free ground turkey
1 large carrot finely grated
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 celery stalks finely chopped
1 large handful of dill chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed or finely minced
½ cup cooked basmati rice
2 cups cups crushed canned tomatoes (preferably San Marzano-available at whole foods and other specialty stores)
4 tablespoons chicken consommé (seasoning mix, can be found in kosher section of most markets “Osem” excellent brand)
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil


1. Prepare your rice and set aside but keep warm. In a large sauté pan, heat 3-4 table spoons of olive oil and sauté the onions, carrots and celery with a touch of salt until soft (about 6-10 minutes) then add the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

2. Put the ground turkey in to a large mixing bowl, and add to it the sauté of veggies, chopped dill, cooked rice, 1 ½ cups crushed tomatoes, 1 ½ tablespoons chicken consommé, 2 teaspoons salt and black pepper. Using your hands mix all the ingredients until thoroughly combined.

3. Fill a pot large enough to fit the 7 peppers standing up (first pic at top of page) with enough water to submerge slightly more then ½ the height of the pepper. Bring the water to a boil and add to it the remaining ½ cup of crushed tomatoes and 2 tablespoons chicken consommé. Once water is boiling, generously stuff each pepper with the meat and rice mixture and lower them gently in to the boiling water.

4. Once all the peppers have been placed, cover them with the little pepper tops and place a lid to cover everything. Cook with lid on for about 10 minutes, then partially uncover the lid, drop heat to low and simmer for additional 2-2 ½ hrs until peppers are very tender.
Serve peppers hot or warm with a dalop of cold sour cream!


Friday, July 29, 2011

Beans Beans they're good for your heart.

Beans are generally not my thing. I don't have an aversion to them or anything dramatic like that but they are definitely not at the top of the list of things I enjoy eating. I mean if creatively prepared and seasoned just right or served along side a great entree in the form of some unique puree then I am game. But overall, I sort of just feel blah about beans. Recently however, things have changed.

White Bean Pure with Roasted Tomatoes on Whole Grain
Toast topped with Eggs and Arugula

A few weeks ago I woke up just dying, absolutely aching for beans. Who knows the reason for this sudden urge. It could be some recent overdoses of meat-filled dinners Osso Bucco from here comes to mind. Took me a few days to recover from that one. Or possibly the after math of numerous summer BBQ's where kebabs and more kebabs have shown up time and time again on my plate. Be what it may, but something in me has changed. I now want and crave all things beans and forgoing meat for a while.

Why just the other day I managed to consume beans in some shape or form during breakfast, lunch and even dinner. I started with Eggs and White Beans during breakfast at Sweet Butter near my house. LOVED IT! The two sunny side-up eggs with their Housemade Rancho Gordo White Bean Spread and oven roasted tomatoes on toasted rustic bread was BEANALICIOUS! The spread was mild yet flavourful, and topped with the runny yummy egg and tangy arugula was so hearty and satisfying. I swear it gave me the energy to take on the world for the remainder of the day. Well, maybe not the world but my kids who were having a particularly crabby day for sure!

For lunch I made myself a sandwich with White Bean and Basil Hummus from Trader Joe's (a twist on traditional hummus, they explode with basil flavor) spread on a crusty baguette topped with some thinly sliced cucumbers and red bell peppers. Boy I wish I had a picture of this colorful sandwich for you, but the speed with which it was consumed left no time for a close up! AGAIN....BEANALICIOUS!
Italian Cabbage And White Bean Soup
I wrapped up my bean filled day with a soup the recipe for which I stumbled upon while reading my daily dose of Jen's List, specifically the July 17th, 2011 post. Aptly titled "Beans, Beans, Beans" she provided this link where the recipe for Italian Cabbage and White Bean Soup immediately caught my eye. I ran to the market gathered the ingredients and voila! BEANALICOUS DINNER! I topped the soup off with some herbed croutons I make from scratch almost weekly. They are amazing as snack, on top of soups, and in a home made Cesar Salad! See the recipe at the end of the post and you shall never get a store-bought crouton again I promise.

I know what one may think, how in the world does her stomach handle it? All those BEANS! I swear its been all good. I feel fabulously healthy, delightfully full and just loving my new obsession. Whether it will last or not I will keep you posted. For now I am enjoying my meatless rampage and discovery of new "proteins". My heart is loving the Bean Thang! Join me won't you? Just for a while :)

Herbed Croutons

1 loaf of day old sourdough or any other favorite baguette, cubed
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
5-6 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat your oven to 350degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Put the cubed baguette in to a large bowl, drizzle generously with olive oil and add the remaining seasonings. Using your hands gently coat all the pieces of bread with the herbs, oil and salt and pepper to ensure even distribution of the seasonings. Spread the bread cubes on to the foil lined sheet in a single layer. Bake on center rack at 350 until golden, about 25minutes. Set the timer to 15 minutes to start and flip each crouton over before continuing to bake to ensure they get golden evenly.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A blast from a cookbook past

The pants she's wearing in this picture used to be to her
ankles less then 6 months ago, I swear!
Recently I've noticed that my 4year old daughters long pants were suddenly hitting her just below the calf. I was certain I did not purchase them that lenght, and sat there bewildered for a few moments as to how the sudden change? It didn't take too long before the light bulb went off and I realized that the lenght change was not just the obvious result of her growing like a weed these days, but also my incredible lagging on spring cleaning this is year!

I am late! We are half way through July and I barely started sorting through closets, drawers, shelves, cupboards and my favorite....bookshelves. Typically the cleaning rampage begins with organizing my kids toys and clothes, as they grow so fast I can hardly keep up. I eventually make it to my favorite area in the kitchen, a shelf filled with cook books. Books don't exactly fall into the official "spring clean" category. I rarely part with my cook books nor can I ever imagine giving any of them away. OK maybe I may allow someone to borrow one from time to time but even then I hesitate. I am very territorial when it comes to my cook books!

Some of my Lovely Books
So the week has passed, clothes have been sorted and Lia's calf length pants removed and ready to be donated. The pantry has been cleaned and expired items tossed, and all spices are now in alphabetical order. OK I'm only kidding as that would be neurotic even for me! The spices are however neatly organized and perfectly lined up. The BEST part of this overhaul had to do with the sorting through my cookbooks however. I came across one I hadn't seen in ages, but that I've loved since 2001. A Williams-Sonoma Chicken book that of all things has my absolute favorite Turkey Meatloaf with Sage Gravy recipe in the back bonus section.

Turkey Meat loaf with Sage Gravy
What a blast from the past. 2001 was the year I got engaged and I will forever associate this meatloaf with that incredible time. This was probably one of the first recipes I ever made from a book, while finishing college and living in a tiny apartment with my Husband (then fiance). I swear when I made it last week, and we sat there eating together, it was as if we had traveled back in time. There at our breakfast table felt like I was 21 again, happy to have successfully prepared a dish from a book and proud of myself for having followed directions correctly. Thrilled to have cooked a delicious meal for the man I was about to marry. You know it helped that the kids were asleep and not around to whine and snap us back into 2011....I love them but they are not allowed to time travel with us :)

The Sage Gravy is Incredible
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we have over the years. The loaf comes out so moist and the flavors so simple and mild yet comforting and and delicious. Eating this dish just makes me so relaxed and soothes my senses. The gravy is the star and the sage really adds that special something. I am so happy to have stumbled upon this recipe after 11 years and glad to share it with you. I hope you enjoy it with those special to you as I have.

Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Chicken Cook Book
Turkey Meat loaf with Sage Gravy

For the Meat Loaf:
1 egg
1 tablespoon tomato paste
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
1/3 cup dried bread crumbs
1 small yellow onion finely chopped
1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

For The Gravy:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all purpose plain flour
2 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil a 9 by 13 inch baking pan, as well as a small loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl whisk together the egg and tomato paste, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until well combined. Add the ground turkey, bread crumbs, onion, celery, parsley, and rosemary to the bowl and mix just until combined.
3. Pack the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Then put the baking tray on top of pan and flip it gently.

4. Bake until the center of the loaf registers 165F on a food thermometer. About 1 1/4 hours, my oven takes about 50minutes so check at that point as all ovens differ. Transfer the meat to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
5. To make the gravy, add butter to the pan and melt over low heat. Then whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Next slowly whisk in the stock and raise the heat to medium, bring to a boil while continuing to stir with the whisk. Make sure to scrape any brown bits from the pan that were left over from the loaf.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until the gravy reduces slightly. Stir in the sage, season with salt and pepper.

Serve the turkey loaf with mashed potatoes and pour the gravy over everything before you eat.
(TIP: I like to use 99% fat free organic turkey. Don't worry it will still be moist, besides the decadent gravy you will pour over it will create even more moisture)