Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review: Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in present day, this narrative work takes a page from the much read "Gone Girl" in the flip-flopping of narratives from the book's three main characters. You are first introduced to Rachel, a divorced alcoholic living each day trying to forget her past. Anna, the new wife trying to make due stepping into the house and life of her husband's first wife. And Megan, the picture perfect wife with her picture perfect husband who goes missing. Slow to start and hard to identify with the main charecters for the first half of the book. (I almost gave up and googled the ending, but I stuck with it.) Once you pass the halfway point in the book it starts to pick up speed and you eventually find redeeming qualities in each of the main characters.

Twists and turns abound and you cannot help but to think everyone guilty at some point in the novel. This would be a great book to read while traveling, on vacation, or just when you need a distraction.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Review: Hidden Girl by Shyima Hall

Hidden Girl: The True Story of a Modern-Day Child SlaveHidden Girl: The True Story of a Modern-Day Child Slave by Shyima Hall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shyima Hall represents a pillar of bravery and the power to overcome. I read this book because the fight against human trafficking is near to my heart and I wanted to support her efforts to get the word out to the public that this could be happening in your back yard and signs to look for.

Sold into slavery as a child in Egypt, Shyima was then illegally moved to the US and lived with her captors in Orange County, California until an anonymous tip was called in and authorities removed her from her "home". Fearing for her true families safety, battling the obstacle of believing she was not allowed to talk to any male outside of her family, as well as a language and cultural barrier, Shyima struggled to come out of her shell and realize that she was a person that mattered and deserved respect.

The book is written as a type of journal/cathartic way to catalog the events in her life that lead her to be a national speaker about human trafficking. It is amazing to see that a girl who had never been educated nor spoke more than three words of English until high school age could come so far as to write her own novel.

I applaud her bravery and feel that this is a great book to read when just learning of the consequences, both mentally a physically, a person has to overcome once they have escaped their captors.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Laguna Beach Artwalk

"The City We Love" by Joelle Blouin
For the artwork above, see artist details HERE.

I finally made it!  The city of Laguna Beach has an artwork the first Thursday of every month.  I have wanted to go for the las couple years but was never able to.  Whether it be because I had class at night of because of my late hours of work, this event has eluded me for far too long.

The frist Thursday in March was my first time attending this artwork.  To sum up, various art houses in the city of Laguna Beach open their doors to the public for a free viewing of their art and often times there are free snacks and cups of wine.  Unfortunately I had just had a fabulous dinner (one of my salmon nights) and was not the least bit hungry to eat or drink.

My oldest sister was able to join me straight from work and after the nightmare of finding parking in Laguna on a first Thursday, we headed off.  In all we went in about 10 or so galleries, some of which were a lot cooler then their websites lead me to believe.  Most of the galleries asked that no pictures be taken, so I only took a few pictures of the names of the galleries we attended.

Anyway, I am so glad I was able to go and finally see these amazing places. I did not find a piece that spoke to me personally, but I am forever on the hunt to own my own piece of original art.  I think when I see it I will just know.

Check out their website and if you have not already, I highly suggest you try it out.

Laguna Beach First Thursday Artwalk

Friday, March 13, 2015

More Salmon From Sprouted Kitchen

Wild Salmon with Caper Relish

As you probably remember, I bought a large bag of wild salmon from Costco and am trying to eat (and enjoy) more fish in my diet.  This is now going to be my third salmon recipe from "The Sprouted Kitchen" cookbook but hey, I am at least trying the recipes.

This week I made the Roasted Wild Cod with Meyer Lemon and Caper Relish with a few minor variations.  I used wild salmon as opposed to wild cod so I also adjusted the cooking time as cod tends to be a bigger and slightly denser fish.  Also, I substituted the parsley for basil, champagne vinegar for distilled white vinegar, and lastly the agave nectar for honey.  So yeah, a few substitutions, but I feel like in all the favor was on par with the recipes original intention.

This recipe takes some forethought and planning as the caper relish needs to be prepped 4-24 hours before using.  You finely dice the lemon and soak it with the vinegar and honey/agave nectar first.

I have to say, this was very refreshing on a warm afternoon.  The recipe makes 4 but I halved the recipe for only two. I am going to make this again for sure and I really liked how it tasted with my modifications/substitutes.

So far the salmon recipes from "The Sprouted Kitchen" is 2 out of 3 in my book.  See my other reviews HERE.
Wild Salmon with Caper Relish

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Plain Jane - Cookbook of the Month Sprouted Kitchen

Walnut-Crusted Wild Salmon with Edamame Mash

Well I did it again.  I made another salmon dish from "The Sprouted Kitchen" cookbook.  See the first one HERE.

In the quest to eat more fish (and like it) I decided to try the next salmon recipe in Sara Forte's book since I liked the first one so much.

The next one I tried was the Walnut-Crusted Wild Salmon with Edamame Mash. I usually don't have edamame or salmon in the house, but the rest of the ingredients in the recipe were part of my kitchen staples which is really what I look for in a recipe.  Cooking with staples means you are more likely to make the dish again.  I may have just come up with that but the logic is sound.

Now for the results.  I really enjoyed the edamame mash, more so than I thought I would.  The ginger and seasame oil are a must.  I had a pepper sesame oil so that made the flavor even better in my book.  The texture was great and the herbs rounded out the presentation.

The salmon.  Hmm, I may have spent a pretty penny on the wild caught salmon.  (I can taste the difference from wild to farm raised and I distinctly hate the farm-rasied taste.)  While the preparation of the salmon was similar to that of breading chicken with the substitution of chopped walnuts for breadcrumbs, I felt the salmon was a little bland and cooked more than I usually like.  Was I too stingy on the salt?  Should I have added more dried basil?  I am not sure.  For one thing, I like my salmon to be almost raw in the center.  With the amount of time the recipe calls for the salmon is cooked through, not too dry, but drier than my taste preference.  I made a note of this in my cookbook for next time.

Next time? Yes, I would make this again.  A little tweaking here and there, less edamame beans, less cooking time, more flavors to the "breading" process.

Give the recipe a try and let me know what you think.

recipe from The Sprouted Kitchen

Atlantic Salmon is far more likely to be farmed than Pacific salmon. You want to choose a wild variety, more often found at a fish market or Whole Foods than your local grocery store. There are a number of varieties, all quite rich, so you only need a small portion. If Salmon isn't your thing, you actually could crust any fish, but vary the cooking time for thinner or less fatty varieties. Also, I suggest reading through the entire recipe before you start. It's pretty easy if you get the jist of the entire process first.

3 1/2 Cups Edamame Beans (organic very important with soy. I used frozen, shelled beans)
2 Tbsp. Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp. Toasted Sesame Oil (I used pepper Sesame Oil)
3 Tbsp. Fresh Chives, Chopped (or more)
3 Tbsp. Fresh Mint, Chopped (or more)
1 Tbsp. Fresh Ginger

Four 4 oz. Wild Pacific Salmon Filets
1 Cup Walnuts, Very Finely Chopped
1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour (or any gluten free option will work too)
1 Egg White
1 Tbsp. Water
1 Tsp. Dried Basil
1 Tbsp. Oil (anything neutral tasting)

Preheat oven to 400'

1. Steam or boil edamame beans for about 8 minutes (longer if you're using fresh). Transfer drained beans to a blender or food processor. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, rice vinegar, lemon juice and sesame oil. Pulse to puree the beans.Pulse until chunky, you want a smooth but slightly chunky consistency, add broth or water if you need to loosen it. Tranfer to a mixing bowl, add the fresh mint and chives and stir. Salt and pepper to taste, add ground ginger or red pepper if you want a kick.

2. Put the egg white and water in a bowl and give it a whisk. Use three seperate shallow plates, put the flour on one, the egg whites mixture in the second, and the crushed walnuts, pinch of salt and herbs in the last bowl.

3. Heat pan over medium heat with 1 Tbsp. of a neutral oil. With one salmon filet at a time and working with ONE side, dip on the flour, then the egg, then the walnuts (which should be pulverized enough to adhere). Add nut side down gently into the pan and sear for about 3 minutes, flip and sear the other side. Tranfer fish onto a baking dish large enough to hold all four filets, walnut side up. Repeat the searing with all four filets, then pop them in the oven to cook through to desired doneness, about 5-8 minutes depending on thickness. I like to keep it just barely rare on the inside.

4. Warm the edamame mash. On each place, put a generous dollop of mash and the warm salmon on top. Garnish with some fresh basil.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Newport Beach Library: Famous Trials in Pictures

I was recently studying and working on a paper at the Newport Beach Public Library when as I was leaving I noticed an exhibit they had on display. I ended up walking around and studying and reading about each picture.  The exhibit was works of art by three different individuals of famous trials over the last 50 years.  Each imagine brought back the memory of each trial from the O.J. Simpson trial to the Menendez brothers.  I could remember almost all of the trials depicted and thought the exhibit was fascinating.

I am counting this visit towards my Year of the Ram goals (blog post HERE).  Anyway, if you are in the area I highly suggest checking it out.  If you are not in the area, then I suggest checking out your local library.  You never know what gems you will find once you visit.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Orange-Chocolate Madelines

Sometimes you wake up on a Saturday morning and it is overcast outside.  Sitting up, you think to yourself, "Self, this quiet morning calls for a nice cup of dark coffee and some orange-chocolate madeleines."

I know you know what I mean.  I had recently been to the local spice shop (Savory Spice Shop in Costa Mesa) and while there I picked up some Orange Water.  Not quite orange extract and not quiet orange essence, but something even more magical in my opinion.  It is the intensity of the orange you smell in the orange-chocolate you can get around Christmas time.  I just had to get the bottle and wanted to add it to spaces and the like.

You can find madeleine recipes all over the internet but I thought why not use the one found in "The Bonne Femme Cookbook" as it is part of my Plain Jane COTM series.  The author, Wini Moranville, has the basic madeleine recipe as well as a few variations.  I followed her Orange-Chocolate Madeleine recipe but just added the orange water as well.

Here is the slightly modified recipe

Orange-Chocolate Madeleines
adapted from "The Bonne Femme Cookbook" by Wini Moranville

Nonstick baking spray with flour, such as Pam Baking
1/4 cup plus all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sifted Dutch-processed cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure orange extract
1/4 teaspoon pure orange water (optional)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Confectioners’ sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat two (12-cavity) madeleine molds (each cavity should be about 3 inches long, with a 2-tablespoon capacity) with baking spray. If using silicone molds, place them on baking sheets to make it easier to put them into and remove them from the oven (metal molds do not need to be placed on baking sheets).

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, Dutch-processed cocoa powder, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs and vanilla on high speed until thick and lemon-colored, about 5 minutes. (Electric mixer requires less time.) Gradually beat in the sugar until thick and shiny, about 5 minutes more. Sift the flour and salt, one third at a time, over the egg mixture, folding in after each addition just until blended. Gently stir in the cooled melted butter.

3. Spoon the batter into the madeleine molds, filling each three-quarters full. (Seriously, be stingy here.) Note that you may have a tablespoon or two of extra batter left over; discard this rather than overfilling the molds.

4. Bake until the edges are golden and the tops spring back when lightly touched, 8 to 10 minutes. Let the cakes stand for 2 minute in their molds, then loosen with the tip of a knife and invert onto a wire rack to cool.

Optional: Before serving, sift confectioners’ sugar over the madeleines.

Friday, March 6, 2015

OC Restaurant Week: Fig + Olive

Dessert Crostini at Fig+Olive
After years and years of not being able to go to Orange County's Restaurant Week because of my work schedule, I was finally able to attend this year.  I met a friend for lunch and in the spur of the moment we headed over to Fig + Olive at Fashion Island in Newport Beach for lunch.

We decided to order off of the Restaurant Week menu which entailed:

Lunch Menu $20
~ Appetizer ~

Provencal Carrot andThyme Soup Carrot, celery, onion, garlic, thyme, crushed tomato and heirloom baby carrot, olive oil crouton

Maine Lobster Bisque Pimenton chive mascarpone, olive oil crackers with lobster meat Add 6

Truffle Mushroom Croquette Cremini mushroom, parmesan, b├ęchamel Truffle Olive Oil aioli

Zucchini Carpaccio Lemon, Pine nut, Parmesan Picholine Olive Oil

~ Entree ~

Truffle Risotto Arborio rice, cremini and black trumpet mushroom parmesan, scallion, parsley – White Truffle Olive Oil With grilled chicken Add 6

Grilled Thyme Chicken Paillard Grilled marinated chicken breast with lemon and thyme arugula, spinach, Brussels sprout, pickled red onion, tomato haricot vert, almond, bell pepper, caper, lemon
Picholine Olive Oil

Salmon Tartar Marinated hand cut organic salmon, kumato tomato dill, avocado, chive served with toasted crostone bread and a side of arugula salad – Arbosana Olive Oil

Paella Del Mar Black tiger shrimp, calamari, mussels, saffron, arborio rice with chicken, green pea, red bell pepper, artichoke, saffron aioli, pimenton and oregano – Hojiblanca Olive Oil with sea scallops Add 6

Rosemary Lamb (add 6) Grilled lamb on rosemary skewers, bell pepper, Greek yogurt honey, couscous, with fig, red onion, scallion, tomato Koroneiki Olive Oil

~ Dessert ~

Dessert "Crostini" Amarena cherry, mascarpone, pistachio shortbread with micro-basil

Chocolate Pot De Creme Crunchy praline financiers and vanilla cream

Here is what I had.
Zucchini Carpaccio
Rosemary Lamb

Dessert "Crostini"

The flavors were amazing and refreshing. I cannot get over how good the dessert was and then the zucchini.  I am so glad I finally went and tried a restaurant that has been on my go-to list for some time now.  I am definitely going to go back again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Plain Jane - Cookbook of the Month March 2015

Soba Bowls with Tea-Poached Salmon
I have been bored with chicken and eggs for my protein and was really looking to venture out when I decided to be inspired by one of the cookbooks I chose to cook from for my COTM.

I didn't get far in my search as I came across "The Sprouted Kitchen" and knew exactly what I was going to make.

This book was never supposed to be in my collection.  After work one day I met a friend for drinks and while we were waiting for the rest of our party to arrive we headed into the nearest bookstore or what I like to call the Danger Zone.  She, like me, had an affinity for cookbooks and next thing I knew we had lost track of time.

I have this rule that I am not allowed to buy another cookbook unless I give one up, kind of like me clothing rule.  Truth is, I had cookbooks on my shelves that needed to be utilized or donated.  As I was trying my hardest not to get sucked into a new cookbook I stumbled across "The Sprouted Kitchen" and was hooked from the first recipe.  The menus were healthy, clean, and actually sounded like they would taste good.  I still remember the very first recipe I saw was for the Soba Bowls with Tea-Poached Salmon.  Needless to say I ended up buying to book and every recipe I have made so far  has turned out pretty well.

So in my hunt for protein meals that did not include chicken and/or eggs, this was the meal I resolved upon making.

For the most part I had all of the ingredients except for miring which I substituted for Chardonnay and the green tea I substituted for jasmine tea.  I just say, the salmon was the best part of the meal.
Soba Bowls with Tea-Poached Salmon

Honestly, the noodles were good, but I prefer udon noodles and less sauce on them.  Perhaps less tahini next time and more poached salmon!  I made extra and plan on having it for a fun lunch.  I hope you are inspired to try some of your cookbooks at home or to out "The Sprouted Kitchen" cookbook yourself.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Things that start with B

Bikes.  Books.  Booze.

I went for a bike ride recently, something that was long overdue, and started thinking about my day.  I was trying to read through a bookclub book as well as needed to go buy some wine for a present.  I was mentally making a checkoff list in my head that went something like "bike, books, and booze".  I couldn't help but to laugh out loud.

Has my life resorted to just words that start with the letter B?  If so, hooray!  These are a few of my favorite things.

A bike ride in which you are whizzing past the scenery.  The beat of the music in your ears is echoing than the drumming of your heart.  Speaking of your heart, you are pushing your max and revving up your speed.  Maneuvering, sprinting, pacing, all things that I love and all on the comfort of my trusty bike. I never feel as free as I do than when I am on my bicycle.

"I thought of that while riding my bike." - Albert Einstein on his theory of relativity.

Escaping reality and being present somewhere else.  Books can take you places you could never afford, offer you ideas you never have thought, challenge your worldview, or take you on a fun ride.  I love reading and challenging my mind.  I also like taking a break from reality.  I haven't been reading enough, but I am doing so now.

When you have a whole subfolder on your phone devoted to wine apps it is time to fess up that you enjoy the booze.  Finding those bottles that bring forward flavors that your palate adores.  Pairing a great bottle with a good meal.  Knowing that this bottle of Pinot Noir tastes better after it has been chilled for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.  Never drinking to excess, but instead saving each sip as it is taken.

Bikes, books, and booze.  Can that be my theme for 2015?

Currently enjoying...

Gary Fisher Neko Hybrid Bike in blue

Hidden Girl by Shyima Hall

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Wild Ride by Tait

Sunday, March 1, 2015

February Goals Follow Up

Just wanted to stay accountable and let you know how I did with my February goals.  I was quite shocked at what I was able to accomplish, but I am glad I was able to push myself and get things done.  Here is the checkoff list.

1. Log 60+ miles for the Nike+ challenge - ACCOMPLISHED.  I had to really make myself go out there and do it, but by the end of the month I found that it was easier to get the miles done.  Just a few more miles and the challenge will be completed.

One thing I added to my walk jogs was a HIIT timer app.  HIIT, in case you are one of the 5 people in the world who does not know what it stands for, is High Intensity Interval Training.  The App I installed is called "Seconds" and you can find it HERE in the iTunes store. What I would do is set intervals for walking and jogging that helped me to routinize my jogging and improve my stamina.  I know I might regret putting this in writing, but I found that the "jogs" I did in which I had the intervals and really challenged myself, at the end of the "run" I felt a lot better than if I had mainly walked or barely jogged.  I am definitely going to keep using this app to help push me further physically.

2. Jillian Michael's Shred 3x a week - ACCOMPLISHED.  In truth I was hoping for 3-4 times a week but with doing the miles I found that I did one day of miles and one day of the Shred.  I definitely feel my muscles getting stronger and have seen a bit of an improvement in my jogging.  Thank you all for those of you who supported me in this challenge.  You guys are the best and I am so thankful for you.

3. Jewelry organization - ACCOMPLISHED. I had a hard time with this as I tried a few things out and resolved to the fact that I had to invest in some nice acrylic drawers from the Container Store in order to accomplish this goal.  It really was an investment but I have already noticed a difference and in fact, I gave away a lot of jewelry I never wore and honed down the pieces I have that fit with my style and personality.

The downside is that I found I need a bit more jewelry than I have, but the next pieces I get will be investment pieces so I am not in a hurry.  When I see them I will know it is right and make the investment at that time.

4. Finish "How To Be A Parisian Wherever You Are" - ACCOMPLISHED. See my review HERE.

5. Start and finish "Mennonite In A Little Black Dress" - ACCOMPLISHED.  See my review HERE.

6. Personal Day Spa - ACCOMPLISHED.  I have to laugh about this one.  Sure I had coconut oil in my hair and cucumbers over my eyes, but the avocado and honey mask was a complete failure. Hey, at least I gave it a try. I did however, enjoy my 2 1/2 hour bubble bath with reading my book from goal #5.  To take the event up a notch I ended up purchasing a spa album on iTunes and am definitely going to be using that in the future.  Perhaps next time I will try the kitty litter mask or the egg white facial mask. Laugh, but yes, I have a book that recommends both!

7. Cook a Donna Hay or French meal - ACCOMPLISHED.  See pictures from the event HERE.  This event was twofold as I also got to cook from my cookbooks of the month, or COTM.  See the list HERE.