About Me  *    At The Table  *    Cultivation  *    Tradition  *   The Hair and Now  *   Good Business

Watermelon Salad

~Sunday, October 5, 2014

Baked, broiled, burnedno, I don’t mean foodI’m talking about my mental state, due to the relentless triple digit climate in SoCal this fall!  My black suede boots, and cable-knit sweaters patiently await, as scorching temperatures continue to dictate strappy sandals, and breezy blouses. Additionally, as I attempt to withstand wilting in this weather, I find myself in the month of October still tossing together summer salads for dinner. 

To the rescue!this watermelon salad recipe will cool you down, yet perk you up with every bite.  If you’ve never tasted ricotta salata before, you are also in for an additional treat when you taste this delectable Italian cheese I’ve chosen as a personal twist in my version of watermelon salad.  This semi-firm cheese has a perfect texture for grating, or cubing, and with its delicate hint of salt is a pleasing substitute for Feta when you’re in the mood for Italian.

Watermelon Salad

Ingredients (Serves 4 to 6)

½ seedless watermelon, cut into bite-size pieces (save the other half for a Watermelon Smoothie in the morning!  Please refer to the recipe in my August 26, 2012 posting.)
¼ cup fresh lime juice
½ red onion, diced
¼ cup torn fresh mint leaves
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
5 ounces ricotta salata, coarsely chopped

Place all the ingredients in a large salad bowl. Toss together gently and serve. (This salad tastes best at room temperature.)

Freshly grated ricotta salata also pairs perfectly with the delicacy of a light tomato sauce and angel hair pasta dish.

Super Foods

~Sunday, August 31, 2014

Summer is the perfect time to bring fresh salad medleys to the table for weeknight meals.  A quick bowl of soup used to be my go-to grub after a late night at work, but after reading a cookbook on the importance of eating a high nutrient-per-calorie dense diet, I’ve added some choice leafy greens, and other super foods to my weekly grocery list:  Romaine lettuce, fresh spinach, red and green onions, cucumbers, beets, broccoli slaw, green cabbage; and healthy sources of protein and fat, such as, pinto and kidney beans, pecan pieces and toasted sesame seeds, and ripe avocadoes (ready-made guacamole works in a pinch, as well).  Thankfully, I already have an abundant selection of fresh tomatoes from my parents’ garden—as well as my own potted garden this year!—to add to my salads.  (Perhaps you followed last season’s Growing Tomatoes blog, and are also having a successful harvest.)

To further keep my meal on a healthy note, I’ve become creative in blending natural flavors and spices to whisk up my own salad dressings:  A clove of garlic is a must!—and fresh oregano, basil, or mint, also produce great taste and aroma.  Using flavored EVOOs, and balsamic vinegar is another way to add pizzazz to salads.  (The best source for flavored EVOOs and balsamic vinegar is Beyond the Olive specialty store in Pasadena which was featured in my previous EVOO and More blog.)

The Romaine salad recipe to follow is one of my husband’s favorites—easy, filling, and nutritious—it will undoubtedly surpass our summer-salad trend, and become a year round favorite.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

2 tablespoons smoked flavored EVOO (you can substitute with a smoke seasoning blend)
1 tablespoon sweet and hot mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons vanilla soy milk
2 Romaine hearts, washed and chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 cup assortment cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small cucumber, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cooked and seasoned chicken breasts, sliced into ½-inch strips
1 avocado (or 6-ounces ready-made guacamole)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients, mixing in the vanilla soy milk last.  Set dressing aside.

Place the Romaine, onion, tomatoes, and cucumber in a large salad bowl; add the salad dressing and toss gently.  Distribute salad on individual serving plates, dividing an even portion of chicken strips to place atop each salad.  Either slice the avocado onto each salad, or top with two generous tablespoons of guacamole.  Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Sometimes I line the border of the salad with sweet potato tortilla chips for an extra crisp of flavor.

EVOO and More

Sunday, May 25, 2014

EVOO and blackberry balsamic dressing
One cannot fully enjoy the kitchen without engaging in the many wondrous uses of olive oil.  It’s as essential a tool in preparing foods, as a fork and spoon are to eat them with!  EVOO must be within easy reach to pour and drizzle into a pot, pan, or mixing bowl at any given moment.  Growing up in an Italian kitchen groomed my palate with the taste for olive oil; however, my culinary creative juices were further stirred upon recently discovering Beyond the Olive specialty EVOO store in Old Town Pasadenaconsisting of a friendly knowledgeable staff, amazing local products, educational tasting and cooking classes, and live opera music!  (Okay…small clarification…live opera is not the norm.  Teacher, Chef Debbie, is married to an opera singer, and I was lucky enough to attend her cooking class in which her husband made an appearance and sang for us.  A night at the opera is not to be expected on a regular basis!)

Located at 10 N. Raymond, Beyond the Olive was founded in 2009 and specializes in more than 25 extra virgin olive oils, over 25 flavored olive oils, and more than 30 different balsamic vinegars, aged over 18 years.  Owners, Crystal and Chip Reibel, proudly carry olive oils only of the highest quality from homegrown companies in California they have direct relations with; thus, foregoing the unknown quality of mass-packaged and imported products, resulting in being distinguished as the best specialty EVOO boutique in the San Gabriel Valley.  Moreover, Beyond the Olive was nominated “One of the Top 10 Places in the World to buy Olive Oil” by the Olive Oil Times in September 2012.

Personally speaking, the true fun and feasting started when I first attended a Beyond the Olive cooking class.  What’s not to like about being served delicious foods prepared by local chefs’ Cherie Twohey and Chef Debbie?!?!  Both chefs brought their delightful personalities into the experience, which made learning the many uses of the store’s flavored EVOOS, and balsamic vinegars, entertaining, unique, and memorable; furthermore, inspiring me to bring new flavors into my own kitchenbalsamic fig vinegar over green beans and shallots, blackberry vinegar brushed over grilled fruit, smoked olive oil drizzled over black bean salads, quick and zesty romaine salads dressed-up with Meyer lemon olive oilthe tantalizing possibilities are endless!

My original recipe, to follow, is only one of many plates inspired by the medley of specialty EVOOS, and balsamic vinegars, Beyond the Olive has to offer. Once you’ve made your way into the boutique’s convenient tasting bar, the flavors and aromas will have you fancying fun and new dishes of your own, consequently, the only dilemma being pushing aside the ingredients in your pantry to make room for more bottles!  

Zesty Blackberry Spinach Salad (Serves 4)

3 tablespoons EVOO
1½ tablespoons BTO Blackberry balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
3 slices fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon fresh lemon thyme, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 (6 ounce) bag baby spinach, rinsed and dried
1 extra-large cucumber
4 medium-size steamed beets
1 large avocado
¼ cup chopped pecans

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the first eight ingredients, mixing in the orange juice last. Set dressing aside.

Chop the spinach, cucumber, beets, and avocado into bite-size pieces.  Place all the ingredients in a large salad bowl, adding the pecans and blackberry dressing.  Toss together gently and serve.

For extra recipe ideas visit BTO on their website!

Step Into Spring

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Metallic makeup, bold graphics, python print sneakers—fashion this spring is rough, yet refined, and a blooming madness of color from head to toe.

Let’s travel from the bottom up and begin with my favorite subject—shoes! Confidently walk with spring in your step because walking never felt so good.  A trend from the ‘80s, low-heeled pumps are anything but boring.  Find your stride with no fear of blisters as you strut your stuff in pointy-toed stripes, and sunlit orange heels.  Or step into new neutrals of tan and beige found in everything from gladiator sandals to peep-toe mules. Go nude with confidence!  It’s the perfect color to accessorize sophisticated crop tops, and high-waisted skirts in vivid blues, or classic black and whites.    And if that isn’t comfy enough, treat your feet to the sporty, yet elegant, thick-strapped sandals worn with everything this season.  These playful platforms are kicking up tennis-inspired pleated skirts, and silk board shorts—the new pencil skirt!—even on a date night.

Another daring trend is the art-inspired prints that have made their way from museum walls to t-shirts and the easy wear dress. This is the season to make a statement!  Whether you’re into a frenzy of florals, or tribal-touched graphics—express yourself loud and clear this spring.  Jewelry designers also joined in on the fun with bold gold cuffs, rose gold watches, and geometric ensembles in bangles and chokers.  Be assured, subtle is not the intention on the fashion runway.  New nail polish colors: Petal to the Metal, Spin the Bottle, and Conquer the World, command feisty, fierce, and fearless!

Now, let's move up to two more of my favorite subjects: hair and makeup.  The effortless braid is still on the beauty forefront.  Looking towards spring and summer, this undone look pairs perfectly with the blossoms of tropical flowers on mid-length skirts, or floor-length tribal dresses.  This season, hair trends are sleek and straight, or romantic and wavy; however, ombré is pushed aside to make way for blondes with obvious regrowth. Bold two-toned color dominated the catwalks with rooty contrast; and if you’re really daring, sport your red hair with black-tipped ends, or your platinum blonde with a punch of pink or violet.  For those of us still loving our ponies—not to fear!—ponytails are hotter than ever.  Casual looks call for textured ponytails, and evening elegance is flattered with the slick and sleek pony.  (The key factor here is using hair product:  texture spray and mousse, or smoothing lotion and shaper—the right product will make or break the look!)

The final touch is to flatter these styles of the season with a fresh face.  The popular BB and CC creams are the perfect foundation for a season of dewy fresh no-makeup makeup statements.  Natural looking glows are accented with orange and fuchsia pink lips; shimmering limoncello gold eye shadows have you fantasizing about the shorelines of Sicily; vibrant pastels on lids with a hint of pink-plum or antique rose on cheeks embrace budding springtime color; and the iconic cat eye is still as classic as an Audrey Hepburn movie.  Whether you’re sitting by a fountain in Rome, or getting ready for a night at the Oscars, the cat eye is a beauty staple that will never cease to be popular.

Hence, let the winter be gone, and the colorful cheer of springtime put a bounce in your step.  It’s time to get the season started!

Mashed Cauliflower-Potatoes

~Sunday, February 23, 2014

In the days of old, mashed potatoes were only served as a side dish to hearty meat entrées in restaurants.  However, much to my delight these days, lighter dinner selections of fish entrées, such as sea bass, or salmon, also come served alongside creamy mashed potatoes.  With a great desire to bring this new trend home to my own dinner table—without straying from healthy eating habits!—I was enthused to learn, and eager to share this mashed potato recipe my mother conjured up in the attempt to get my dad to eat more vegetables.  Much like my Cauliflower and Potato Soup blog last May, these two ingredients are partnered up—creating a creamy, dreamy dish, and producing a guilt-free “pass of mash” around the table for second helpings.

Ingredients (Serves 6 to 8)

1 large cauliflower head, cut into small florets
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 tablespoons butter (softened)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon salt, plus salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place potatoes and cauliflower in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce flame to medium-low, add ½ teaspoon of salt, and cook until ingredients are soft, about 20 minutes.  Completely drain water (leaving ingredients in the pot), and use a potato masher to break down potatoes and cauliflower to a creamy consistency (without over-mashing) retaining a small portion of chunks.  Place butter in the pot, and allow it to melt before mixing butter with the other ingredients (to avoid over-mashing, as well).  Lightly mix in Parmesan cheese; season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Simple and Sweet

~Sunday, February 9, 2014

Are you planning a romantic dinner at home with your amore on Valentine’s Day?  Look no further for the perfect dessert!—a simple and sweet recipe from my Italian cookbook, You Never Grow Old at the Dinner Table.  The perfect color for the occasion—enticing red strawberries steal the show, yet don’t rob you of prep time for anything else you may have planned for an enchanting evening.  After all, Italian is the language of romance.

Strawberries in Sweet Vermouth

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced lengthwise
1 teaspoon sugar
Juice of 1 orange
¼ cup sweet Vermouth

In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar, and the juice of 1 orange.  Pour the sweet Vermouth over the ingredients and toss to coat.  Let stand for 1 hour before serving.

Spoon fruit into small dessert bowls.  If you are looking for something to add to this dessert, it would pair nicely with sliced pound cake; serve a scoop of strawberries and the juice over the top of individual slices of cake—yum!

You can also make this dish ahead of time, cover and refrigerate.  However, return to room temperature before serving.

A Great Mentor

~Sunday, January 12, 2014

The New Year is upon us!—let’s roll up our sleeves and start accomplishing!!! 

My personal mission for 2014 is to motivate others to not only value education in their lives, but to take it one step further: realize the precious gift of being a mentor, and to pass that knowledge on to someone else.  Successful people surround themselves with a never-ending cycle of knowledge.  They are innovators; they search out others who believe in the same vision; they share their attributes; they move forward together—and voilá—success!  You hear the words, “Live and learn,” constantly; however, it takes a few years of living to learn what those words really mean.  My life has been surrounded by mentors, but I didn’t realize it until I lived long enough to have many ‘hmmm’ and ‘ahh’ moments of enlightenment.  That’s the beauty of mentoring—not only sharing what you know, but then reliving those ‘moments’ with others.

A mentor displays confidence and leadership without uttering a word.  You know one when you see one.  Most importantly, you don’t have to hold a high position to be a mentor.  Simply giving your time, and sharing something you’re good at can have a huge impact in someone’s life.  Mentors are usually great storytellers.  My father’s childhood stories about World War II both haunt me, and nourish me: His strength and endurance instill me with unwavering perseverance to live life without fear, or ‘what-if’ excuses.  (Both my sister and I acquired my father’s relentless determination, which has served us well in our lives to follow through with clear visions of what we stand for, and what we want in this world.) 

My career in the beauty and salon industry had mentorship qualities from day one.  It was a world of innovators, artists, teachers, team members, communicators—each one of us sharing an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.  There was no ego involved, only passion, which naturally led to great chemistry in both staff members, and stylists.  Best of all…did the customers like this atmosphere?—absolutely!—who wouldn’t want to be part of this dynamic high?  Later in my career, when I challenged myself as a business owner, I realized I had grown as a stylist, salon owner, and educator through being mentored.  Then, I found myself with the humble honor of sharing something I was good at with others; I set an example of how hard work, and refinement of your skills, can result in lifting your career to a higher level.  Not only did I provide education, I left a part of who I am with a younger generation of stylists to realize their own potential.  Even though I am no longer a salon owner, the heartfelt letters of gratitude from my mentees at my departure made me feel we were members of a winning team for life.

When your stars are lined up just right, you may be fortunate enough to have a great mentor in your life who is also a great friend.  Someone who shares the excitement of your achievements, yet still motivates you to reach a higher plain; and always asks that difficult question: “What’s next?”—that makes you push yourself and take inventory if there’s still room for improvement.  This friend will take you under their wing; nevertheless, is honest and true in their convictions—even if it stings a little!  The bottom line is a friend cares about you, and wholeheartedly wants you to reap the benefits of their knowledge.  This is the difference between simply teaching lessons out of a book, or lessons learned by living.  (My great friend, and great mentor of many years, knows who she is as she reads these words she inspirited within me today.  Life has taken you, my friend, to a further distance from each other in miles, but your wise teachings, and absolute friendship will be with me in every step, around every corner, and with each new goal I set out to accomplish.  The distance has only served to magnify our closeness.)

Coach, counselor, leader, guide—be that person in someone’s life who goes above and beyond the motions of a job; in return, you will realize your greatness—and more importantly, they will realize theirs.  

The Ease of Quiche

~Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nonna's house
As grandparents anxiously wait to embrace their grandchildren on Christmas morning (and parents frantically fight traffic to safely deliver the kids to their eager destinations) I am leisurely waking up with my cup of joe, and comfortably planning and awaiting my turn to entertain and enjoy gift giving with family.  Why my lax attitude, you ask? :  ‘The ease of quiche!’  I pop a couple different variations in the oven while I prepare my side dishes (our traditional meal also includes grilled chicken sausage and pineapple skewers with fresh fruit and bagels—the kids discovered the delight of mascarpone cheese on their bagels this year, as well!!); and when ready, my quiche is just as delicious out of the oven, as it is a couple hours later at room temperature.  If the kids are running lateno problem!

The jolly man in the red suit parked the sleigh, and kicked off his boots for this year, but come 2014, you’ll thank me when you find this Spinach and Feta Quiche entrée option in your recipe box! 

Spinach and Feta Quiche

Ingredients (Serves 6)

1 frozen pastry shell (thawed and prepared according to directions)
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 (6 ounce) container crumbled feta with Mediterranean herbs
¼ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
4 eggs, beaten
½ cup milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt butter in a medium skillet over a medium-low flame, then sauté garlic and onion until golden brown.  Add the mushrooms, increasing the flame to medium, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.  Stir in spinach, feta, and Cheddar cheese; remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk; season with salt and pepper to taste. Evenly spoon spinach mixture into pastry shell.  Pour egg mixture into pastry shell allowing both mixtures to thoroughly combine.

Bake for 55 minutes, or until set in center.

Relax, and wait for company to arrive!

Holiday Greetings

~Sunday, December 8, 2013

Even though Frosty the Snowman greets you at the entrance, The Bear Essentials Gift Shoppe is anything but frosty!  A warmhearted, “Hello!” meets each customer as they enter this cheerful destination in Arcadia, which reflects the shop’s unique charm and spirit that is almost 19 years in the making.  As owners, Dennis and Susie Pink, graciously welcomed both me and my cookbook You Never Grow Old at the Dinner Table into their pleasing surroundings, I instantly had a, “Gotta blog about this!” moment.

My mom and I had the pleasure of meeting some of Bear Essentials frequent customers as we promoted my cookbook with biscotti tastings this weekend; but we also took advantage of our opportune chance to shop!—the main inspiration for today’s musings.  Basically, my mom and I took turns leaving our post, as we browsed the aisles searching out stocking stuffers (amongst personal items, such as the machine washable Dearfoam slippers, with indoor/outdoor soles, I’m currently sporting–with toasty toes!–lounging around the house).

Sports fans, garden lovers, tea addicts, I Love Lucy enthusiasts, John Wayne junkies, Betty Boop buffs, Baggallini devotees—Bear Essentials has something for everyone.  With grandchildren of their own, the Melissa and Doug nontoxic paint toys have been a trusted favorite for the owners, as well.  It’s also no coincidence this kindly house of gifts carries the largest selection of Willow Tree Angel sculptures west of the Mississippi!  These figurines represent qualities we treasure in friends and family; and artist Susan Lordi captures the elegance and simplicity that brings us closer to others through art, nature, and dance. The angelic display, gracing the shelves, pairs perfectly with the serene ambiance the shop already has to offer.

Therefore, if you’re looking for holiday cheer, an abundance of offerings, and service that satisfies, it’s not too late to treat yourself, and others, to the many delights that await you at The Bear Essentials Gift Shoppe.  Moreover, you can order a personalized gift basket ahead of time—let these long-standing pros of the arts and crafts world make your gift shopping experience a breeze this season.  (Talk about the perfect gift—to yourself!) 

Store Location and Hours:

320 East Huntington Drive
Arcadia, CA 91006
(626) 446-4995

Special holiday hours, beginning Monday, December 9th

 Monday through Sunday:  8:00 AM – 9:00 PM

Also enjoy 20% off select holiday items through December 24, 2013!

Beauty is...

~Sunday, November 17, 2013

Operating in the beauty industry for 28 years, I am no stranger to the fact that beauty is usually perceived as a characteristic of a person’s appearance.  However, with the season of gift giving upon us, I want to share the flipside of my profession: The priceless gift of beauty that lies beneath the surface, in the eyes of a hairstylist.

Beauty is greeting a client with a smile as they walk through the door, both of us mutually happy to see each other.

Beauty is hearing the words, “I am so glad to be here—do your magic!” and, “This is my favorite part!” many times a day.

Beauty is being there to listen when someone needs it the most (thankfully, this works both ways!)—sharing the tragedies, as well as the triumphs that life brings upon us; and exchanging the “great news” about the kids, grandkids, parents, nieces, and nephews, expressing genuine joy for their achievements with each other.

Beauty is updating each other on recent events: learning of ideal vacation destinations to add to our lists; reviewing the new hot spots in town (to shop and eat!) along with which new movies are a must see; sharing the bliss of a new kitchen remodel with—finally!—enough storage space, which always includes exchanging tried and true recipes from our family kitchens.

Beauty is knowing I have a vast clientele where I can find the answer to a question—on every subject known to man—when I need a helping hand.

Beauty is the thrill of reinventing a “new look” for someone, and looking at a satisfied customer’s reflection in the mirror, who then voices, “I love it!!!” completing my day with personal pride in a job well done.

Beauty is the value of making someone feel beautiful before they walk out the door, smiling from the inside-out, beaming with confidence—and ready to “saddle up” with reins in hand!—and bravely charge ahead into the wild wild west!! (Okay… my nephew was recently cast as the lead role in a western melodrama, so I couldn’t resist that last bit.)

Many thanks to my clients for the endless moments of beauty at its finest, as seen from “behind the chair.”