Saturday, January 25, 2014

When Life Gives You Lemons, Catch the Next Plane to Tennessee

Last week, life gave me lemons. I flew to Tennessee and made gumbo.

His flight to San Diego had been booked for a couple of weeks and he was scheduled to arrive Thursday evening. On Tuesday, he went in to see his eye doctor about slight blurred vision in his right eye. I was at work, struggling to concentrate with all of the anticipation we had built during six weeks of non-stop e-mails, texting, and phone calls when I received his text: "Baby is on the radio. I need to talk. Can you take 5 minutes to talk?"  I answered the phone and asked if he was okay. He told me he had to undergo emergency surgery for a detached retina the following morning and would not be able to fly to San Diego, for at least a month.

Thankfully, he went to the doctor before he got on the plane and surgery was scheduled, but now we would have to wait another month to finally meet...

The surgery went well and we talked Wednesday night. Although it would not be the ideal first meeting, we didn't want to wait any longer and decided I would fly to Tennessee to see him. I was able to get a last-minute ticket and was on my way Saturday morning, butterflies fluttering once again in my stomach.

He was feeling a little better by Saturday evening when my plane landed, so he took me over to Beale Street, downtown Memphis. We grabbed a beer, walked around and talked while our first date jitters settled down, and then drove back to his hometown for dinner. He made everything so incredibly special for my first visit. Thank you, Baby. Can't wait until you can use that ticket to San Diego!

Beale Street, Memphis TN

Afternoon walk on a pretty trail

A little sightseeing and history - Woodlawn Plantation

Today, back home in Coronado, I was searching for a lemon dessert recipe to take over to Holli's tomorrow night, and came across these Lemon Ricotta Cookies. Lemon juice and zest join butter, sugar, eggs and ricotta to make the batter, and more lemon juice and zest go into powdered sugar for the glaze. The cookies are light, cakey, and very lemony.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze
Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis
Makes about 40 cookies


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested


1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and beat to combine. Turn the mixer down to low, add the dry ingredients, and mix briefly, just until incorporated.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a small ice cream scoop or spoon, scoop the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by whisking the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl until smooth. Transfer the cookies to a backing rack set on parchment paper. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon of glaze onto each cookie, and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Store the cookies in an airtight container.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Energize Me

These Cranberry-Pistachio-Almond Bars would have been a gorgeous alternative to Christmas cookies, but Jen over at Use Real Butter didn't give me the idea until after Christmas! Actually, she's blogged a few versions of her homemade fruit and nut style-Lärabars, and I've always wanted to try them. I remember Lärabars when they first came out, and I still buy them on occasion, but these are so easy to make at home!

Before I get too ahead of myself, I really need to send a little love Jen's way. She has been one of my main idols in the food blogging arena from Day 1 - going way back to 2007 when I knew absolutely nothing about food blogging or photography. We also share a love of dogs and the mountains. Jen has almost convinced me, on numerous occasions, to pack it all up and move to Colorado. Her food, nature and wildlife photography is beyond stunning. Someday, I hope to meet this awesome and inspirational woman!

I started out following Jen's recipe, but didn't realize I only had a cup of pistachios. Fortunately, I also had a cup of Marcona almonds left over from a recent recipe. I decided to mix the two nuts, and decided to also add a bit of cinnamon and vanilla bean paste.

I've been enjoying one of these bars either in the morning, with my Greek yogurt, or in the afternoon for a snack. Everyone at the office really loved them.

Dried Cranberries, Dates, Pistachios, Almonds, Orange for zest
Not shown: Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean Paste

Left: Cranberries, Dates, Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean Paste
Right: Pistachios and Almonds

Fruit and nut mixtures, and orange zest

Mixed together thoroughly with your hands

Pressed into parchment-lined 8 x 8 baking pan

Transfer to freezer to firm up before cutting

Sliced and ready to eat!

Cranberry-Pistachio-Almond Energy Bars
Adapted from this recipe
Makes 16 bars

1 1/2 cups dried Medjool dates, pitted
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup raw unsalted shelled pistachios
1 cup roasted, salted Marcona almonds
Zest of one Orange
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Place the cranberries, dates, cinnamon and vanilla bean paste in a food processor and process until paste-like. Transfer the dried fruit mixture to a large mixing bowl. Place the pistachios and almonds into the food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Pour the nuts into the mixing bowl with the dried fruit. Add the grated orange zest. Using your hands, mix well so that the nuts are incorporated evenly. Line a 8 × 8-inch baking pan with parchment and transfer the mixture to the baking pan. Press firmly and evenly, making sure to get the mixture into the corners. Put the pan in the freezer for about an hour. When the mixture is frozen, lift the contents from the pan. Carefully slice the frozen square into eight slices (or whatever size you wish) and then slice each one of those in half. Store in an airtight container in the freezer or refrigerator. Makes about 16 1 x 4-inch bars.


Denise & Trapper

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Welcoming the New Year with a Full Embrace

“Change is in the air, as old patterns fall away
and new energies are emerging.
 Consciously release what needs to be released,
and welcome with a full embrace the newness
you've prayed for and so richly deserve.”
                                                                              - Marianne Williamson

I can't say 2013 was an easy year. Trapper and I moved into a small cottage on our own, he was diagnosed with epilepsy, and I was laid off in June from my job after almost 10 years with the firm. My lease is up on my cottage next month and I must move again. Although I'm back working at my old firm on a temporary project, I have not found a new, full-time job. But, even with the uncertainly about my future, I take with me many good memories from the past year and am ready to embrace 2014.

I've reviewed my blog posts from 2013 (blogging does create quite a diary of one's life!), and want to share a few highlights and favorite recipes from the year...

In January, I embarked on my first visit to Yosemite for Chefs' Holidays at the magnificent Ahwahnee Hotel. That was my only travel for the year, but it was an incredible experience. My article about Chefs' Holidays was published in Wine & Dine San Diego, which is now Wine, Dine & Travel magazine. I republished the article on the blog, with the recipe for the Ahwahnee's signature Pale Ale & Cheddar Cheese Soup - one of the best soups I made in 2013.

Sun setting on El Capitan

Pale Ale & Cheddar Cheese Soup

I moved in February, and must have been too busy packing and unpacking to cook or blog. I eased back into the kitchen in March, cooking along with French Fridays with Dorie and taking on Bon Appetit magazine's Cook the Cover challenge. My first Cook the Cover photo for Chicken Khao Soi was featured on Bon Appetit's daily blog, The Feed, and my photo was published again in the magazine's June issue. For the next six months, Bon Appetit featured my Cook the Cover photo on The Feed with a handful of other bloggers' photos. It was quite an honor and fueled my passion for food photography.

Chicken Khao Soi, published in the June issue of Bon Appetit

In March, I made these Blueberry-Pumpkin Seed Energy Bars. I do recommend these if you're looking for some healthy snacks in 2014. You can adapt them to your taste, with different nuts and fruit. In July, which is apparently National Blueberry Month, BRIT + CO. shared them in a roundup of the "20 Best Blueberry Recipes Around."

Blueberry-Pumpkin Seed Energy Bars

Moving into April, two sandwiches, both from Bon Appetit, deserve some love! I made the Panini-style Coppa Sandwich for an Easter picnic. I've made the Smoked Salmon Smørrebrød a few times now, and they were ideal for Jim and Melinda's 4th of July brunch.

Pressed Coppa Sandwiches with Broccoli Rabe Pesto

Smoked Salmon Smørrebrød

In May, for another Bon Appetit Cook the Cover challenge, I tried these Blackberry Farm's Griddle Cakes, which are probably the most amazing pancakes I've ever tasted. Again, if you're thinking about healthier options for the New Year, these gluten-free pancakes corral wonderful taste and texture from buttermilk, egg, and four different flours - oat, buckwheat, corn, and brown rice. You can ditch the warm maple syrup on top (there's a little in the batter for sweetness) and serve them with a pat of butter and fresh berries.

June kicked off our 6th season of gourmet-themed picnics for Coronado Concerts in the Park. We did not go all out with a formal theme every Sunday this year, but we did enjoy nine wonderful spreads: Campania, Italy; How We Roll (cuisine inspired by The Rolling Stones); Cheese, Charcuterie and Accompaniments; Zoo2 (cuisine inspired by U2 tunes); Iliana Rose and Cuban Cuisine; It Never Rains at Hotel California (cuisine inspired by Eagles tunes); Feeling a Little Blue; Take a Rock on the Wild Side (Rockola band); and Out of South Africa. You can find the links to all of these Concerts under Holidays & Theme Parties.

I would have to say, in my humble opinion, my most impressive concert dish was this Marinated Seafood Salad for Challenge Campania, our first concert of the summer season. It was also my first time preparing octopus, which seems to be quite trendy these days. We are blessed living in San Diego, with all the beautiful, fresh seafood available.

Marinated Seafood Salad

Holli blew us all away with several of her concert dishes, but her shining moment, hands down, was when she arrived with an ice chest filed with trays of uni and cartons of quail eggs, for Uni Shooters.

Unfortunately, I didn't cook along with French Fridays too much this year, primarily because I was cooking for myself and the recipes just didn't fit in with my schedule. I absolutely love the cookbook, Around My French Table, and will use it forever. One very simple but elegant recipe the group made in June was Goat Cheese and Strawberry Tartines. These are perfect for a picnic or cocktail party. The star ingredients in my version: La Brea Bakery French Demi Baguette; Cypress Grove Purple Haze Goat Cheese, with its subtle hint of fennel pollen and lavender; organic strawberries; freshly ground pepper; and the most decadent, aged balsamic vinegar.

Goat Cheese and Strawberry Tartines

When it's time to fire up the grill again, I will keep these kebab recipes in mind. I must say, Bon Appetit published some terrific recipes this year and continues to be one of the best cooking magazines out there. The extremely flavorful and spicy Sambal Chicken Skewers graced the July cover. Another cookbook I consult during the summer is Planet Barbecue, for its unique grilling recipes from around the world. I loved the South African Sosaties for our Out of South Africa concert in the park.

Sambal Chicken Skewers

Pork Sosaties with dried apricots, onion and bacon

That takes me to September, when I made some very special Bouchon Bakery Chicken Liver and Bacon Dog Treats for my "Cover Boy."

Chicken Liver and Bacon Dog Treats

I'm excited to have photographed three "covers" this year: Trapper, on the cover of the Coronado Eagle & Journal's Coronado magazine insert, the cover for the 10th Anniversary San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival magazine, Amuse Bouche, and the January/February 2014 cover for Coronado Lifestyle magazine.

Coronado Eagle and Journal Pet Photo Contest Cover Boy

Coronado becomes more relaxed in October. The locals linger a bit longer in the morning at Starbucks, we're able to actually drive down Orange Avenue rather than ride our bikes everywhere, restaurants are less crowded, and the beach peaceful once again...

With cooler weather, also comes comfort food, holidays, and sweets. I did prepare some decadent desserts this year. It's hard to choose just one...LOVED the Butterscotch Budino I made for Hillari's birthday party, inspired by the version I enjoyed at Sip Wine Bar. ENO Wine Bar at the Hotel Del Coronado is currently serving a similar version.

Sip's Butterscotch Budino

It was sad, but comical, when the sprinklers came on at the party and drenched the remaining budinos on the table outside. But the party photo booth set up is always fun!

Chocolate has a way of finding its way into many of my desserts. What can I say? I am a woman who needs a little chocolate in her life. The Rocky Road Cheesecake I made for Take a Rock on the Wild Side concert in the park was pretty awesome. How could it not be, with Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies for the crust, a HUGE bar of Valrhona chocolate melted into the filling, baby marshmallows, roasted salted almonds, and chocolate ganache flavored with coffee?!

Rocky Road Cheesecake

Doughnuts and beignets continue to appear on restaurant dessert menus (Chef Richard Sweeney's Duck Fat-fried Beignets with burnt orange cream, smoked duck "dust" and crispy glazed duck skin won this year's Chef of Fest at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival), and these Ricotta-Orange Doughnuts rolled in cinnamon-sugar I made one Sunday morning were addicting. I forced myself to share with neighbors and friends so I wouldn't eat too many.

The holidays seemed to fly by this year. I took part in the annual Coronado Witches' Tea. What a blast that was, hopping on a double decker party bus with 120 decked-out witches, and going downtown to Bub's at the Ballpark for cocktails, to the University Club Atop Symphony Towers for lunch, and back to the sundeck at the Hotel Del for dancing to Ron's Garage. Other than getting in trouble from the head witch for blogging a little too much information, apparently in violation of the Witches' Code, this is a Halloween party not to be missed.

Witches' Tea

I'm pretty much a red wine drinker, but discovered one cocktail and an incredible liqueur during 2013. Nina, my good friend and upcoming cover girl for Coronado Lifestyle magazine, made a Dark & Stormy cocktail that I had to come home and repeat. During the Margerum Wine Dinner at Wine Vault and Bistro, I was introduced to Amaro. I bought another bottle of that last month for a special occasion coming up...actually, the Dark & Stormy may find its way into that weekend as well...

Dark & Stormy


In November, I photographed events almost daily during the week-long San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival. The highlight was spending the evening in Addison's kitchen with Grand Chef William Bradley, but I was also in the Marriott's kitchen for the Celebrity Chef Wine Spectator Dinner and in the judging tent for the Chef of the Fest competition. We have some amazing chefs in San Diego and I am privileged to work with some of them, photographing the stunning dishes they create.

Haute French Cuisine - Chef William Bradley, Addison, The Grand Del Mar

Celebrity Chef Dinner, Chef Suzette Gresham (Acquerello, San Francisco)
This was the best pasta, and best dish, I ate in 2013

Celebrity Chef Dinner - Chef Bernard Guillas, The Marine Room La Jolla

Romesco Pop Up Dinner - Chef Chad White, Plancha Baja Med

Also in November (what was I thinking!!??), I signed up for National Blog Posting Month and committed to publishing a blog post a day, every day, for the entire month of November. As a result, I needed a break and have hardly blogged since!

In early December, I photographed the chefs' dishes at the annual Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego's Gingerbread City. After Trapper's diagnosis with epilepsy, I'm hoping he may be able to visit the kids at summer camp this year. Trapper's seizures do seem to be under control with his medication and his only side effect is increased hunger and thirst.

Gingerbread City - Chef Daniel Barron, Cafe La Rue, La Valencia Hotel

I continue to photograph for some Coronado restaurants, and have started writing and photographing for Coronado Lifestyle magazine.

Saiko Sushi, Coronado

Leroy's Kitchen, Coronado (Chef JC Colon)

Coronado Brewing Company, Knoxville Brewery & Tasting Room

ENO Pizzeria and Wine Bar, Hotel Del Coronado

I shared a bountiful Thanksgiving with friends and family at Chris and Julie's, a quiet Christmas Eve dinner at home with my mom and brother, and Christmas Day dinner with friends and family at Kai and Hillari's. New Year's Eve was quiet, but very special.


...the man who came out of nowhere and into my life

...just a shot in the dark that he just might be the one I've been waiting for my whole life

...I just haven't met him yet ;-) xxoo

Bon Appetit's Chocolate Pistachio Sablés, for Romeo

Trapper and I wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year, and we are grateful you find time to visit There's a Newf in My Soup! My blogging has been somewhat sporadic the past year and a half, but one of my resolutions is to get back on track and share a little more of our life in and out of the kitchen. I have a feeling 2014 is going to be an amazing year.


Denise & Trapper

Coronado Sunset - November 29, 2013

Lake Cuyamaca - Southern California Photography and Hiking Group

My Brown-Eyed Boy