March 25, 2011

Travel - San Diego

The Gas Lamp District, San Diego, California

In January of this year I was in the wonderful city of San Diego for the first time for 5 glorious days. San Diego is a beautiful and historic city where the weather boast a near perfect climate year round with temperatures ranging from  57 Fahrenheit in January to 72 degrees Fahrenheit  in August and is referred to as semi-arid Mediterranean. 

                                         San Diego as seen from the Island of Coronado

But the best part about San Diego for me were all the fabulous restaurants that were packed into the quaint little Gas Lamp District. You can find the Afghan restaurant two doors down from the Italian eatery, which is next to a little cafe, across the street from an Irish Pub. You can easily taste food from any region in the world just by walking one block down any given street in the 16 blocks of the Gas Lamp. But my favorite dish had to be the anti pasta at this little place on 5th avenue called "The Grape" From the moment you walk into this establishment you know you were in some place pretty special! "The Grape" is a wine bar with all types of scrumptious appetizers to go along with your wine. The staff is delightful and there a small outside seating area where you can enjoy watching all the passers by while sipping wine and nibbling on a warm baked brie with brown sugar and walnuts! Honestly you just don't feel like you want to leave. And I have to say that even their website is pretty cool too. It definitely gives you the exact vibe you feel when you walk into "The Grape." 

For more on this wine bar go to

My new goal for the next time I am in colorful San Diego is to eat my way through the entire town...and I know I will need more than just 5 days!!!

 Our hotel...originally called the St. James Hotel was built in 1913

Interior of the St. James Hotel

March 24, 2011

Grace's Jammin' Cupcakes

This little cupacake is named after my beautiful daughter Grace. They have a dollop of my homemade strawberry jam inside along with a buttery lemon frosting and topped with a fresh strawberry!

Sooo sweet just like my Gracie!


8 T butter, softened
Strawberry jam
1/2 cup of superfine sugar
2 eggs
3/4 c. self-rising flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12 fresh strawberries

For the Frosting
8 T butter, softened
4 c. confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. vanilla exract
3 T lemon juice
a hint of yellow food coloring (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with baking cups. In a large bowl beat together butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg. Then fold in the flour and mix by hand until blended. Place about a 1/2 tsp. of jam in the bottom of each cup and the add the batter. Back in the heated oven for16-18 minutes. 

Note: Another option is to fill the center of the cupcake is to pipe the jam in after baking by using the thin tip of a decorating bag and inserting it into the uniced cupcake.

To Make Frosting
While cupcakes are baking, beat the sofftended butter in a bowl and then add the vanilla and blend.  Add the sugar, mix well and then add a tablespoon of the lemon juice. Alternate the sugar and lemon juice until all ingredients are gone. Add food coloring if desired.

After cupcakes cool, frost them gerously and add the fresh strawberry to the top.

Makes 12 regular size cupcakes.

March 23, 2011

Spices and Herbs - Cinnamon


Cinnamon is the dried inner bark of various evergreen trees belonging to the genus Cinnamomum. It has a warm and aromatic flavor and fragrance is sweet and woody in both ground and stick forms
True Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka
It is the most common baking spice Cinnamon has been popular since ancient times. Egyptians imported it from China in 2000 BC.  In ancient Egypt cinnamon was used medicinally and as a flavoring for beverages. It was also used in embalming, where body cavities were filled with spiced preservatives. In the ancient world cinnamon was more precious than gold. The part of the plant used is the bark

Culinary Uses
It is the most common baking spice.
Cinnamon is used more in dessert dishes. It is commonly used in cakes and other baked goods, milk and rice puddings, chocolate dishes and fruit desserts, particularly apples and pears.
It is common in many Middle Eastern and North African dishes, in flavoring lamb tagines or stuffed aubergines.
In American cooking, Cinnamon is often paired with apples and used in other fruit and cereal dishes.
Stick Cinnamon is used in pickling and for flavoring hot beverages.
It is used in curries and pilaus and in garam masala.
It may be used to spice mulled wines, creams and syrups.
The largest importer of Sri Lankan cinnamon is Mexico, where it is drunk with coffee and chocolate and brewed as a tea.

Medicinal Purposes
Cinnamon is carminative, astringent, stimulant, antiseptic.
It is more powerful as a local than as a general stimulant.
It stops vomiting, relieves flatulence, and given with chalk and astringents is useful for diarrhea and hemorrhage of the womb.
Because of its mild astringency, it is particularly useful in infantile diarrhea.
Recent studies have determined that consuming as little as one-half teaspoon of Cinnamon
each day may reduce blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels by as much as twenty percent in Type II diabetes patients.
It is used to treat nausea and flatulence.
Cinnamon is a great remedy for people with cold feet and hands, especially at night.
The cinnamaldehyde component is hypotensive and spasmolytic, and increases peripheral blood flow.

Glazed Apples made with Lemon Shrub

Glazed apples made with what?? Fruit Shrub or in this recipe lemon shrub. Shrub is an acid fruit drink concentrate made with fruit vinegars, cane sugar and spices. I discovered fruit shrub while vacationing last summer in Cape Cod. We took a day trip over to Plymouth and found our way to the fabulous Plimoth Plantation, a bicultural museum which offers you the chance to interact with the history of early America's Wompanoag tribe along with the settlers of the 1600's. According to The Book of Shrub these fruit shrubs are made using recipes from "18th and 19th century cookbooks, including those by Martha Washington and Mary Randolf." To check out the Plantation and what it has to offer, go to 

I bought my shrub in the gift shop of the Plimoth Plantation. They came in several flavors, apple, cranberry, ginger were some of the choices, but I decided on the lemon because I love anything lemon!
Each bottle comes with its own Book of Shrub which contains some history of shrubs and a few recipes. (This Glazed Apple recipe was on the back cover.)
Shrub can be used to flavor water, wine and champagne. It can also be used to make salsas, entrees, desserts, any place you would add fruit you can use shrubs.


4 apples peeled,cored and sliced
2/3 c. raisins
4 T butter
1/3 c lemon shrub
pinch of cinnamon, allspice and cloves



Melt butter in saucepan and add the apples and raisins. Saute until the apples turn a light golden color about 3-4 minutes.

Add the shrub and spices and stir until the fruit is well coated. Plate apples and top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and enjoy!

For more information or to purchase shrubs go to Tait Farms Foods at

Travel - England

Prince Albert Square, London, England

When we went to England we actually rented a flatt in James Gate, London for three days with our good friends Barb and Tom. It was really pretty cool, very British! We walked all about London, shopping, eating and making sure that we "Mind the Gap" whenever we traveled  the "Underground". And when it came to food, my husband was definitely not shy. The first night in England Chris decided to try a traditional British dish Bangers and Mash, also referred to as "Pub Grub" The Bangers are a sausage made of pork or pork and beef. The seasoning in the bangers gives the sausage a completely different flavor then that of the Italian or breakfast sausage here in the States. And the mash is simply short for mashed potatoes. Sometimes this dish is served with a rich onion gravy and is often serve with fried onions.

As for the rest of us...well we stuck to the traditional British fave of fish 'n chips!!!

Changing of the Guards, Buckingham Palace

Big Ben, London, England

March 21, 2011

Spices and Herbs - Allspice


Christopher Columbus discovered allspice in the Caribbean. Although he was seeking pepper, he had never actually seen real pepper and he thought allspice was it. He brought it back to Spain, where it got the name "pimienta," which is Spanish for pepper. In much of the world, allspice is called pimento because the Spanish mistook the fruit for black pepper, which the Spanish called pimienta
Allspice is the only spice that is grown exclusively in the Western Hemisphere. Allspice is available whole or ground.

Culinary Uses
Allspice can be used as a substitute, measure, for cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg.
Jerked meats like pork, chicken and kid reflect the Spanish/Jamaican background of Allspice.
It is a particularly popular spice in European cooking, an important ingredient in many marinades, pickling and mulling spices.
Many pâtés, terrines, smoked and canned meats include allspice. It is also used in liqueurs.

Medicinal Uses
Allspice provides relief for digestive problems because the volatile oil contains Eugenol, a weak antimicrobial agent.
It is also carminative in nature as it also contains an oil rubefacient, meaning that it irritates the skin and expands the blood vessels, increasing the flow of blood to make the skin feel warmer.
The tannins in allspice provide a mild anesthetic that, with its warming effect, make it a popular home remedy for arthritis and sore muscles, used either as a poultice or in hot baths.

Spices and Herbs - Basil

Basil is also known as Albahaca, St. Joseph's Wort, and Sweet BasilIt is cultivated extensively in France, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Morocco, and the United States (Arizona, California, New Mexico, North Carolina), Greece and Israel The whole herb, both fresh and dried

Culinary Uses
The green aromatic leaves are used fresh and dried as flavorings or spices in sauces, stews, salad dressings, vegetables, poultry, vinegar, confectionery products, and the liqueur chartreuse.
Basil is most commonly associated with Italian and Thai cuisine.
Infusions of the leaves can flavor oil or vinegar, and leaves can be steeped for teas.
The flowers and leaves are best used fresh and added only during the last few minutes of cooking.
Basil works well in combination with tomatoes. Finely chopped basil stirred into mayonnaise makes a good sauce for fish.

Medicinal Purposes
It is used as sedative.
Basil has been used as a medicinal plant in treatment of headaches, coughs, diarrhea, constipation, warts, worms, and kidney malfunctions.
It has the ability to draw out poison from insect bites
It is also thought to be an antispasmodic, stomachache, carminative, stimulant and insect repellent.
The oils of basil, especially the camphor-containing oil, have antibacterial properties.

 Other Uses
Basil in the bath is refreshing.
Leaves and flowers can be dried for potpourri.
Burn sprigs of basil on the barbecue to deter mosquitoes.
A bunch of basil hung over the kitchen window or a pot of basil in the windowsill will deter flies

Hungarian "Stew"

The definition of Goulash according to Wikipedia the on-line dictionary.

"primarily a soup, also existing as stew, usually made of beef, onions, vegetables, spices and ground paprika powder"

But to me it's still stew! I made this stew by following a clip I found on YouTube on how to make a Traditional Hungarian Goulash. I totally put my faith in this little Hungarian woman as she made her goulash in what appeared to be her own kitchen. So I watched it several times to make sure I got everything right. Actually I have made this goulash twice...the first time I made the mistake of putting too much Hot paprika into recipe and it was really spicy! There is a difference so make sure you read the paprika lable before adding it to the stew! Anyhow, I must say I do like the flavor but I did go ahead and add caraway seed to the dish for just a little twist!


1 1/2 lbs of beef cubes
flour for dredging
1/2 c olive oil
2 T. paprika
1 T caraway seeds
2 bay leaves
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 potatoes, cut in cubes
2 cups baby carrots cut in half
1 /12 cups beef broth
1/2 c. red wine
salt and pepper to taste


I basically used the same method to make my goulash as in the YouTube clip. The only variations were that I used olive oil instead of canola oil to saute my meat. This is because I prefer olive oil and that was also all I had in the house at the time. And like I said, I added caraway to the dish and i did use beef broth instead of just water.

So heat your oil and dredge your meat and add to the hot oil. Cook until meat is brown on all sides, add the onion and paprika and continue to saute. I then added beef broth and wine to the mix and let it thicken. I tossed in the potatoes and carrots along with the caraway and bay leaf and let it simmer for 1 hour. Remember to remove the bay leaves before serving.

So  if you want to watch this adorable Hungarian grandmother make her goulash, check it out at:

March 20, 2011

More clips from the Galloping Gourmet...this one is entitled "The Way we Cooked Then"

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