Heat Things Up This Holiday Season

Heat things up this holiday season with these out of this world flavors, made for people who like a little spice in their life. These products are all natural and use only the finest ingredients.

1. All Spice Cafe Chipotle Garlic Sauce
With a nice smoky flavor, the taste of garlic, and the spice of cayenne and chipotle this sauce is great for grilling, dipping, and marinading. Flavorful, with a kick of heat.

2. All Spice Cafe Crushed Ghost Pepper Grinder
The World's Hottest Chile Pepper, the Bhut Jolokia Ghost Pepper, has been dried, crushed, and put in a grinder. Perfect for when you want to add a bit of a kick to your dish, but don't want to use a sauce. Keep this grinder on the table and give it a little twist whenever you want some heat.

3. David's Unforgettables Balsamic BBQ Sauce - Spicy
Unforgettables Balsamic BBQ Sauce has the special quality of marrying the dark, complex taste of finely crafted balsamic vinegar with the fiery, smokey taste of classic barbecue. Great for grilling, dipping, and marinading. A unique taste experience that is truly unforgettable.

4. San Angel Mole Sauce - 3 Pack
Authentic Mexican mole sauces so delicious, they taste like someones grandma spent days making them. San Angel Mole hand crafts their sauces in small batches, using only the finest all-natural ingredients. This special 3-pack gives you one each of Black Mole, Red Mole, and Cascabel Sauce. The Black Mole highlights the rich flavors of nuts, raisins, and deep dark chocolate. The Red Mole has the classic Mexican flavors of dried chilies, herbs, spices, and vegetables. The Cascabel Mole has a medium heat and complex flavor, including hints of wood, smoke, and nuts. Each mole is truly unique, I couldn't choose just one. Try the set and discover which is your favorite.

These hand picked items and other artisan selections are available at EnjoyTheFlavor.com. Enjoy the Flavor searches for great tasting food products, and helps spread the word about them. If you want even more spice check out their totally addicting Spicy Candied Popcorn selection. 

Happy Holidays!

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

Mix, bake, chill and enjoy. It's as easy as that to have decadent Crème Brûlée. As a twist for the holidays, I decided to make a Pumpkin Crème Brûlée. After serious contemplation on the best cream, egg to pumpkin ratio, I made a decision, and it turned out delicious. This creamy custard has the essence of pumpkin pie, but with a lighter, more velvety feel. Since there is no crust, this is a great gluten free dessert option. Wait a minute there is a crust, but it's made from caramelized sugar and it's on top. How can you go wrong with that? This seasonal delight is ultra simple and can be made a day ahead. I highly recommend investing in a small butane kitchen torch if you want to enjoy Crème Brûlée at it's finest. The best part, besides eating it of course, is torching the sugar on top! 

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

2 cups heavy cream
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup organic sugar (plus more to sprinkle on top)
1 tablespoon organic brown sugar
1/2 cup organic pumpkin
1 vanilla pod (I used Madagascar Bourbon)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (I used Vietnamese Cinnamon)
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

Take your eggs and cream out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes ahead of time. The eggs and cream should not be too cold.

Preheat oven to 325.

Whisk together egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a medium mixing bowl until smooth and creamy. Whisk in 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Next stir in pumpkin, spices, fresh vanilla and blend well. Add cream and gently stir to combine, taking care not to mix quickly so as not to introduce extra bubbles. 

Place un-filled ramekins in baking or casserole dish and fill with hot water half-way up the sides of ramekins. Pour mixture into ramekins.

Bake 40-55 minutes, checking every 5 minutes after 30 minutes. Bake until the custards are just set in the center but not stiff.

Remove from baking dish and place ramekins onto clean dish towel to dry, set and cool.  Allow to sit for 15 minutes. Place in refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours to cool completely.

When ready to serve, sprinkle a thin layer of organic sugar over the top. Using a kitchen torch, caramelize the sugar. Even better, invite your guest to torch their own ramekins. 


A Gift to Myself - A Yoga Retreat in Paradise

Give yourself permission to relax, without feeling selfish. A chance to reflect on your dreams and listen to your heart. Life can be stressful and if you don't find time to take a break and breathe, it can affect your health and well being. Slow down, so you can go faster. I wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle, go somewhere to reconnect with nature and focus on my own energy. A place that would recharge my soul and nourish my body. A gift to myself was an inspirational yoga retreat in Montezuma, Costa Rica. Pura Vida!

The most commonly used phrase in Costa Rica, is "Pura Vida", which literally means “Pure life”. The saying goes beyond the simple translation, it's a way of life. An attitude that believes life is wonderful, so enjoy it.

Montezuma is a small bohemian beach town located on the southern tip of the the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. There is a bounty of unspoiled wildlife, jungles, rivers, beaches and within reach is the ever present Pacific Ocean. From Los Angeles, it was a 5 hour flight to the San Jose Airport, then two shuttle rides and a ferry to get to the secluded little town of Montezuma.

I booked my yoga package through Montezuma Yoga. 
The accommodations were simple, rustic, and directly across the street from the ocean. The sound of waves and tropical birds were my constant background music...paradise!

Yoga classes were held every morning in the outdoor pavilion, just steps from my room. It was a spectacular way to start each day. Doing yoga amidst the sweet smelling ylang ylang flowers, with the jungle and the ocean as my backdrop, was a transcendent experience. My classes were lead by the founder of Montezuma Yoga, Dagmar Spremberg. I believe I'm forever spoiled by having Dagmar as my yoga teacher in paradise. Her grace, spirit, love and knowledge are captivating and contagious. She is my yogi role model.

Along with yoga, my package included an outdoor massage, canopy zip line tour and a daily brunch that was filled with fresh juices, a variety of tropical fruits, and my new favorite huevos con gallo pinto. Brunch was also served with an epic view.

The rest of my time was spent relaxing and exploring the many beaches, rivers and waterfalls with a girlfriend, who was my travel companion. The charming small town of Montezuma was a short walk from our hotel and had many restaurants with vegan and vegetarian options. The locals are friendly, colorful and all share the Costa Rican "Pura Vida" outlook. Every day is better than the last! We should all embrace this motto.

Upon reflection, I'm not sure if I found Montezuma or Montezuma found me. Either way, I have been changed by this experience.

Now back home in Los Angeles, I have continued practicing yoga with Dagmar's Yoga DVDs and I try to embrace the Costa Rican attitude of living in the moment. If a trip to Montezuma is out of the question, you can still enjoy the "Pura Vida" philosophy in your daily life. Paradise is a place I've been, but I've also discovered it's a state of mind.

Pura Vida!

Roasted Garlic Crostini with a Wicked Mocktail

Garlic is known to repel Vampires, so fend them off this Halloween with this simple crostini appetizer. Roasted garlic, roasted tomatoes, goat cheese and a baguette create a unique richness that's perfect for fall. To pair with this crostini I made a non-alcoholic blood red, wicked good mocktail. Impress your guests at your next party by adding a fun mocktail to your drink repertoire. Shaken not stirred, of course.

Roasted Garlic, Tomato and Goat Cheese Crostini

1 head garlic
8 ounces goat cheese
1 pound grape tomatoes
Olive oil (approximately 3 ounces)
Sea salt and ground pepper
Balsamic vinegar
French baguette
Fresh thyme sprigs

Slice baguette into 1/4 inch slices. Toast only the tops in the broiler, until lightly golden. Set aside. Once cooled place baguette slices in a gallon size Ziploc, and seal so they don't dry out while you roast the garlic and the tomatoes.

Preheat oven to 375. Slice 1/4 inch off the top of the head of garlic, so that all of the cloves are exposed. Place garlic head in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil, on a rimmed cookie sheet, and drizzle 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over all of the cloves. Season with salt, cracked pepper and add some sprigs of fresh thyme. Wrap aluminum foil up into a sealed packet and roast garlic in a 375 degree oven for about 50 minutes. Open packet and let cool. 

At this point take the goat cheese out of the refrigerator so it can soften and get to room temperature. 

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the grape tomatoes with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and cracked pepper. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes until the tomatoes are very soft and the skins have burst. Let cool.

Once the roasted garlic has cooled, squeeze it out of its skin into a bowl with the goat cheese and blend until smooth. 

Divide roasted garlic goat cheese among the crostini and top with roasted tomatoes. To serve, drizzle with oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and cracked pepper.

Wicked Mocktail

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
2 ounces pomegranate juice
2 ounces cherry juice
2 ounces fresh orange juice
Splash of simple syrup

Muddle the pomegranate seeds in the bottom of a shaker. After muddling, add the pomegranate juice, cherry juice, orange juice, and a splash or two of simple syrup. Add ice and shake. Pour through a strainer into glasses. To complete this wicked mocktail, add a frozen spider ice cube. 

Cheers and happy Halloween! 

Apple and Walnut Breakfast Bread Pudding

Save time this holiday season with this delicious make ahead bread pudding. It's simple to put together, and you just pop it in the oven the next morning. It also makes a wonderful dessert, but in my opinion this bread pudding is best served as an effortless, crowd pleasing brunch.

Apple and Walnut Breakfast Bread Pudding

Serves: 10

2 tablespoons butter for greasing pan
1 loaf french bread
2 apples - peeled, cored and cubed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups organic sugar
6 eggs - lightly beaten
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups milk
1 cup half and half
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Melt butter and brush the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 inch pan. Cover the bottom with cubes of french bread. Sprinkle top with apple cubes and walnuts. In a medium bowl, combine sugar, eggs, cinnamon, milk, half and half and vanilla, whisk to blend. Pour the mixture over the casserole and press down so all of the bread is covered. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, bring bread pudding back to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover pan with foil and bake covered for 45 minutes. Uncover and allow the top to brown for a few minutes. 

Serve with maple syrup and fresh whipped cream. 


Summertime Essential - Colloidal Silver

Summertime brings more cuts, scraps, bites and burns than any other time of the year. My natural remedy for almost everything is colloidal silver. I use it topically, internally and I even use it on my dogs. 

Most people, most doctors for that matter, have never heard of colloidal silver. It seems that only holistic solution seekers know about it, even though it has been used for 2 to 3 thousand years. My mother, an alternative health aficionado, turned me onto this amazing elixir.

The primary use for colloidal silver at my house is as a natural antibiotic. Back in the 20's and 30's, before antibiotics arrived, colloidal silver was the standard treatment for all pathogenic diseases. It was used before the invention of penicillin. With the emergence of the profitable antibiotic industry, this natural remedy fell to the wayside. 

The only brand of colloidal silver we use and recommend is called Sovereign Silver. We have done extensive research and feel that this is the best product on the market because it has the smallest particle size, which means the greatest absorption. 

Here are some of the ways that I have personally used colloidal silver:

  • Immune support - add drops to water or place drops under the tongue to support the immune system and defend against cold and flu viruses
  • Antibiotic + antiseptic - apply topically to cuts and open wounds 
  • Skin healing - apply topically to promote wound & scar healing
  • Kitchen burns - apply topically to reduce pain and help heal burns
  • Sun burn - spray topically to relieve and heal sun-burned skin
  • Insect bites - apply topically to relieve itch
  • Skin rash - spray topically to relieve itch and help skin heal
  • Eyes - use as drops to relieve dry eyes, irritation, and infections
  • Pets - use as a spray in dog ears for ear infections
  • Pets - apply topically for cuts or open wounds
  • Pets - on occasion I give each dog a couple of drops in my hand to lick up, for some reason, they love it!

Proponents of colloidal silver claim an additional list of conditions that this natural remedy is also said to benefit. 

  • Acne
  • Food poisoning
  • Intestinal problems
  • Intestinal worms/Internal parasites
  • Drinking water disinfectant
  • Bladder/Urinary tract infections
  • Athlete's foot
  • Yeast infections
  • Dandruff and itchy scalp
  • Mouthwash for dental infections
  • Skin conditions such as Psoriasis and Eczema
  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Candida
  • Diabetes

I advise each person to do their own research before taking any natural product. My opinions are from personal experience and my research only, I am not a professional. If you are pregnant, take any medications or have any medical conditions, please check that colloidal silver would be an appropriate solution for you.

Here is a link to Sovereign Silver.

There's No Crying in Cooking

These funky glasses are my new favorite kitchen gadget. Nobody likes chopping onions, the vapors make your eyes sting and tear up. Fortunately there's a solution, onion goggles! Put these comfortable fitting glasses on and you'll slice and dice without shedding a tear. Plus they look kind of chic. I purchased mine at Bed, Bath and Beyond

Life is like an onion. You peel it off one layer at a time, 
and sometimes you weep.
-Carl Sandburg 

Not any more! 

Red, White and Blueberry Crostini

Berries and goat cheese come together to make this yummy, ultra simple summertime appetizer. Sweet berries pop against the mild tangy flavor of the goat cheese in the most delightful way. Using strawberries and blueberries makes this a fun hors d’oeuvre option for your 4th of July celebration. 

Red, White & Blueberry Crostini

6 oz soft goat cheese

Cut baguette into 1/4" thick slices and place in broiler for less than a minute or until lightly golden. Let baguette slices cool. Hull strawberries and chop into small pieces. Spread about 1 tablespoon of goat cheese onto each bread slice. Top goat cheese with strawberries pieces and blueberries.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

June 9th is National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day. This unofficial food holiday honors the pie which combines the tart stalks of rhubarb with the sweetness of strawberries. It's a match made in fruit pie heaven.

Rhubarb has the appearance of red celery, and although it's generally eaten as a fruit, it is technically a vegetable. Rhubarb offers many health benefits and is high in Calcium, Lutein (healthy skin & eyes), Vitamin K and Antioxidants. 

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Makes 1 - 9" pie

Pie dough for a double crust 9-inch pie
3 cups chopped rhubarb
3 cups sliced strawberries
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch or two - lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg, beaten for glaze

In a bowl, combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, lemon zest and cinnamon. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the pie crust and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Spoon in filling. 

Roll out second pie crust. Using a pastry wheel, pizza cutter or knife cut into 1/2 inch wide strips. Brush pie rim with beaten egg. Gently weave strips over the pie to form a lattice. Trim and flute the edges. Brush lattice with beaten egg. 

Place on baking sheet and be prepared because it will bubble over. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for 50 to 60 minutes longer or the crust is golden brown.

Top this off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or fresh whip cream.


Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

This tasty recipe is from Giada De Laurentiis and is perfect for summer, all you need is a food processor. We usually cook up some penne pasta and top with this pesto, its delicious served warm or cold.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

Recipe from Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 (8.5 ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil 

1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

In a food processor, blend the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil with the basil and garlic until the tomatoes are finely chopped. Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl, and stir in the cheese and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Season the pesto with more salt, pepper and oil to taste.  This pesto will last for 1 week if stored in an airtight container. 

Bon appetit!

Pizzeria Bianco

One of my happiest pizza memories was at Pizzeria Bianco, in Phoenix Arizona. The crust was thin, crisp, charred and full of flavor. The toppings were fresh, simple, locally grown and delicious. They even make their own mozzarella each morning. Chris Bianco, is the man behind this pizza phenomenon. He has been proclaimed "America's premier pizza maker" by the New York Times, and is a James Beard Award winner.

My boyfriend had an audition in Scottsdale, Arizona for the Golf Channel, so I went along for the ride. Arizona is about a 5 hour drive from where we live in Los Angeles. A friend of mine heard I was going and she told me about a restaurant that was rumored to have "the best pizza in the country". In Arizona?

We went on a Monday for lunch. Fortunately we arrived 20 minutes before they opened, because as we walked up to the restaurant, there was a crowd already forming. The air had a distinct energy of excitement as everyone was quietly awaiting the opening. Apparently Chris Bianco has a cult like following. We were seated in the first rotation. I felt a little bad for the people who arrived after us because there is limited seating.

The inside of Pizzeria Bianco is quite small, but has wonderful rustic charm. Brick walls, high ceilings, warm tones and many windows. The main focus of the room is this incredible wood burning brick oven.

We are vegetarians, so we ordered a margarita pizza and added wood roasted mushrooms. It was amazing. We also ordered local organic greens with a red wine vinaigrette that was fresh and lively. It was the perfect balance to our pizza. Simple, pure and delicious. Even the olive oil for the bread was fantastic.

There are three other Bianco restaurants in the Phoenix area. Trattoria Bianco, Pane Bianco and Bar Bianco. A second Pizzeria Bianco location just opened in Phoenix and another is opening this winter in Tucson. Arizona you are so lucky! Here is the website www.pizzeriabianco.com 

Bianco has also teamed up with Britain's celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to launch Union Jacks in London unionjacksrestaurants.com. Their concept is wood-fired pizzas with British toppings.

For those of you who cannot make it to Arizona to experience my favorite pizza, Chris Bianco is working on a cookbook, Pizzeria Bianco, which is scheduled to release this fall. 

Happy Earth Day

One of my favorite places on Earth is Devil's Postpile, located in Mammoth Lakes, California. Camping at Mammoth Lakes is a family tradition. My Dad came upon this glorious place in his early adventuring/backpacking days. He started bringing my family here camping since I was a child. 

I find peace in nature and this is such a beautiful place with all it's tall pines, flowing rivers, waterfalls and lakes. On Earth Day let's remember how wonderful this planet is and let's do everything in our power to keep it as beautiful and clean as these mountains I love.

Spring Vegetable Udon Noodle Soup

Spring vegetables and vegan noodles make a healthy fresh soup for a light weeknight dinner. I was able to use some beautiful produce for this soup, but you can use whatever you have on hand.

Rainbow Carrots are not only gorgeous, they are packed full of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber.

Brown Beech Mushrooms fall apart into dozens of little individual mushrooms when you cut off the base. Isn't Mother Nature just amazing.

Spring Vegetable Udon Noodle Soup

4 cups organic vegetable broth
1/2 cup sliced carrots, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup brown beech mushrooms, cut from stem
1/2 cup sugar snap or snow peas
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
sea salt + fresh ground pepper
fresh lemon

In a large saucepan, bring vegetable broth, garlic and red pepper to a boil. Lower heat to medium/low and add several twists of fresh ground sea salt and pepper. Add the carrots and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, snap peas and cook for 30 seconds more. Remove from heat, then add the noodles, soy sauce and green onions. 

Spoon into bowls and add a healthy squeeze of fresh lemon. Serve with additional lemon wedges on the side.

Variation: Make a miso udon vegetable soup by replacing the soy sauce with 2 tablespoons white miso. 


Book Club

My new books have arrived! As I mentioned in my Small Changes Required post back in January, one of my goals this year is to read more books. To quote my boyfriend Jake (who makes a killer Veggie Chili), "reading is like jogging for the mind"... and my mind could use a workout.

I saw Michael Moss, author of Salt, Sugar, Fat, a few weeks ago on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. I ordered his book moments after the interview ended. Michael Moss, is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, and through his investigations he was able to get executives of the world's largest food companies to admit that they have only one goal...to maximize sales and profits. He was able to acquire startling confessions and reveal how they deliberately entice consumers by stuffing their products with salt, sugar, and fat. I think this is an important book for everyone to read. Here is a link to Salt, Sugar and Fat on Amazon.

The Beauty Detox Foods, is Kimberly Snyder's latest and greatest book. I am a fan and follow Kimberly Snyder. I purchased her previous book, The Beauty Detox Solution and I subscribe to her email newsletter. Her principles are simple and represent a popular voice for change. Health from the inside out. Her new book is loaded with beautiful 4-color pictures and recipes that look spectacular. Here is a link to The Beauty Detox Foods on Amazon.

Happy reading!

Kumquat-Rosemary Marmalade

My friend recently gave me a bag of kumquats from her yard! The word kumquat comes from Cantonese and it means "golden orange". Their sweetness is concentrated in the peel, which provides a nice contrast to the bold tartness of their pulp.

Kumquats provide potassium, vitamins A and C, anti-oxidants, essential oils, calcium and iron. They're also a good source of fiber.

One way to eat them is to roll them between your fingers to release their juice, bite into one end, suck out the insides and then eat the peel. They are also good cut in half and drizzled with a bit of honey. 
I decided to make a marmalade.

Kumquat-Rosemary Marmalade

Recipe adapted from Robin Bellinger on Serious Eats


1/4 cup water
1/4 cup organic sugar
12 ounces kumquats, rinsed, cut into 1/4-inch rounds, and seeds removed
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely ground
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, add the sugar and water, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the kumquats, ground peppercorns, rosemary and stir to blend. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10-15 until the kumquats are translucent and the marmalade starts to thicken. Remove from heat and cool. Saves well in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Toast some multi-grain bread, spread with soft goat cheese, and top with Kumquat-Rosemary Marmalade for a unique open faced breakfast sandwich. 

Here are some other wonderful ways to use marmalade:

  • As a condiment on a cheese platter
  • Inside a grilled cheese sandwich
  • Swirled into oatmeal or yogurt
  • Mixed into pancake batter
  • Spread onto french toast or crepes
  • As a crostini topper, with soft goat cheese


Colorful Easter Egg Party

Six friends, 10 dozen eggs, too many decorating supplies and food, let the party begin!

It's fun to work on craft projects while snacking and catching up with your friends. Even the men seem to have a good time. Everybody likes a little craft project now and then, it takes us back to simpler times.

Sharpies, crayons, pencils, stickers, eye-balls, rubber stamps, glitter, rhinestones, tie-dye, fabric, the options are endless. Here are some of our creations.

Happy Easter!