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Find the holidays in the golden state

29 Dec

fortybefore40No one thinks of the spending the holiday season in shorts, but when you are visiting a place like Los Angeles, it’s hard to have the Christmas blues when it’s 70 degrees and sunny outside.

Fly: Getting to Southern California via Long Beach Airport is a favorite among those who appreciate art deco architecture and old Hollywood. Three miles northeast of downtown Long Beach, it’s also historic for its convenience. Feel like Grace Kelly as your de-board the plane on the tarmac and enjoy a pre-flight provision on your way out, at the oval shaped bar that overlooks the runways.

Eat: Many residents of Long Beach are transplants from across the country. Those who do not return home often host “orphan” dinners. Friends and co-workers gather for a meal at someone’s home and then head to Pine Avenue in downtown Long Beach or the Broadway Corridor for light barhopping.

A current popular eatery is the Federal Bar. Originally a bank from the early 1900s, patrons enjoy its “swanky” atmosphere, excellent cuisine (try the Fried Chicken & Biscuit) and the handcrafted cocktails created by friendly mixologists. Located on Pine Avenue, lined with palm trees decorated with Christmas lights, it would be hard not to be in a festive mood.

For a more upscale dining experience, climb aboard the legendary Queen Mary, where she is permanently docked in the Port of Long Beach; or brunch at the scenic Schooner or Later for their Crabs Benedicts and a wine-based Bloody Mary that will cure a holiday hangover.

 

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Courtesy of 4thstreetlongbeach.com blog

Shop: For a unique shopping experience, head to retro row where eclectic small business owners will help you navigate their shops for you or anyone on your nice list, while bargain hunters can head to the Fashion District in Downtown Los Angeles. A flea market that stretches several city blocks, discover great bargains on high-end designers like Dior and Gucci, but be prepared to haggle with vendors! While downtown, it’s always great to visit the Standard Hotel’s Rooftop Lounge or Perch. Both venues feature fresh so-cal cuisine and sweeping views of the Los Angeles skyline. Make sure you depart by 9 p.m. if you’re over 30 and want to avoid the millennial crowd.

 

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Courtesy of perch la

Catch a glimpse of the “Real Housewives of Orange County” being filmed in Newport Beach, while perusing retail favorites like Nordstrom, Neiman’s and Bloomingdales. A quick drive down the Pacific Coast Highway is worth the view of surfers catching waves in Huntington and Sunset Beaches.

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Fashion Island, Newport Beach

Explore: A visit to Southern California would not be complete without being at an event at the Staples Center or photographing the Hollywood Sign. The world famous landmark on Mt. Lee may be visible from all over the city, but it is possible to hike to the sign (but illegal to get too close). The best viewpoints are Hollywood and Highland, The Griffith Observatory and Mulholland Drive.

 

Michael Blackley contributed to this post.

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No drink no problem

22 Dec

Pregnancy and health concerns can have a way of taking the festivity out of holiday events, but partygoers do not have to forgo their favorite provisions just because there’s a baby on the way.

img_0182-2Non-alcoholic mocktails let pregnant women and teetotalers enjoy the flavor of the holidays; and the good news is staying sober does not have to be boring.

A simple online search can reveal delicious and some nutritious virgin drink recipes, however, it may take asking a friendly bartender (and unfortunately, sometimes this can be a challenge). Thankfully, Canadians are friendly and a recent trip to Toronto led to discovering a new drink recipe.

 

Blueberry Mule

Courtesy of Café Boulud

 

Best served in a Moscow mule mug

 

Ingredients

8 oz. ginger beer

2-3 cinnamon sticks

1-cup blueberry juice

1-cup grapefruit juice infused with cinnamon*

Crushed ice

Sprig of mint

 

Instructions

Place cinnamon sticks in a carafe of grapefruit juice (1:1 cup works well). Infuse from 4 to 24 hours. Let sit out for 30 minutes before use, otherwise refrigerate when not in use.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add blueberry and grapefruit juices. Shake vigorously until well chilled.

Fill mugs or glasses with ice and pour the mixture over.

Top with ginger beer and stir.

Garnish with mint.

 

*Cinnamon is excellent for regulating blood sugar and improving alertness and concentration.

Get cozy and warm with holiday apple desserts

27 Nov

Winter is creeping in, it’s getting colder, and depending on where you live – – the snow may be starting to fall. Here are a few recipes from a Toronto bakery to stay warm and cozy, by celebrating with friends and enjoying a comforting dessert treat. What could be better?

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Photo credit: Yvonne Duivenvoorden

“Baked apples always signify the beginning of cold-weather cooking to me,” said Linda Haynes, ACE Bakery’s co-founder. “They’re a great fruit to use during the cold months as there are so many ways to use them, and the varieties available are plentiful.”

Apple desserts aren’t just for keeping you cozy, they’re also perfect and easy to make for holiday entertaining.

Baked apples smell divine while they’re being prepared and baked. Stuffed with fragrant and full-flavored ingredients, such as nutmeg, dates, and orange peel, this recipe is tied together beautifully with decadent custard.

For a sweet ending to a wine and cheese party, apple cardamom topped bread is a fun way to use your favorite holiday tastes like cranberry, apple, and vanilla, and a twist of cardamom gives it a floral burst of flavor.

No matter which dessert you choose, it will be the hit of your party.

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Baked Apples Stuffed with Dates, Walnuts, and Ginger with Marsala Custard

Serves 6

Marsala, a fortified wine from Italy, gives the custard a scrumptious lift. Medium-sized apples work best for holding the ingredients in, and if you prefer a dessert with no alcohol, substitute unfiltered apple cider for the Marsala and red wine.

4 to 6 large dates, pitted

16 walnut halves

1 tsp. roughly grated orange peel

1/8 tsp. freshly grated ginger

large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

5 Tbsp. fine fresh breadcrumbs

2 tsp. Marsala

6 Russets, Golden Delicious, Cortland, McIntosh or other medium-sized baking apples

1½ cups red wine

2 Tbsp. liquid wildflower honey

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

unsalted butter to grease baking dish

 

Marsala Custard

2 cups homogenized milk

½ vanilla bean (cut in half lengthwise) or 1 tsp. vanilla extract

5 egg yolks

3 Tbsp. sugar

1½ Tbsp. Marsala

 

For the Apples

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Chop the dates and walnuts into ¼-inch pieces. Place in a medium-sized bowl and add the orange zest, ginger, nutmeg and breadcrumbs. Toss. Sprinkle in the Marsala. Gently mix together.

Cut a small slice off the bottom of each apple so it can stand upright. Using a melon baller or a sharp small spoon and starting at the bottom, core out the middle of the apple almost to the top, making sure to get out all the seeds. Peel the skin off the top third of the apple. Stuff each apple firmly from the bottom with the date and walnut mixture. Put the apples, peeled-side-up, in a buttered baking dish small enough so that they almost touch.

In a small saucepan, warm the red wine, honey, and butter just long enough to melt the honey, then pour the mixture over the apples. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until soft, basting the apples every 10 minutes or so. Let rest 10 to 20 minutes before serving. Serve each apple atop a generous puddle of room-temperature Marsala Custard.

 

For the Marsala Custard

Bring the milk and vanilla bean to a simmer. Remove from stove.

In a bowl large enough to accommodate the milk, gently whisk the egg yolks and sugar for about 1 minute. While continuing to whisk the egg mixture, slowly pour in ¼ cup of the warm milk. Continue until all the milk is used.

Place ice in a large bowl until half full and rest a bowl in it large enough to accommodate all the custard. Set aside. Pour the egg and milk mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon for about 6 to 9 minutes or until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of very loose whipped cream. To tell if the custard is ready, lift the spoon out of the liquid and draw your finger down the back of it. It’s ready when the line doesn’t fill in. Stir in the Marsala.

Pour the custard into the bowl resting in the ice to stop the custard from continuing to cook. Remove the vanilla bean. Scrape out the seeds and whisk them into the custard. For a smoother, velvety texture, pour the custard through a sieve after cooking. Bear in mind you may lose some of the vanilla seeds.

 

Cook’s Tip

Making custard for the first time can be intimidating. There is less chance of the mixture “scrambling” if you use a double boiler. Make sure the water in the lower pot doesn’t come in contact with the top pot of the double boiler. Follow the same procedure as cooking directly on the heat. The custard may take a bit longer to thicken.

©This recipe is from The ACE Bakery Cookbook by Linda Haynes.

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Grilled Cranberry Raisin Focaccia with an Apple Cardamom Topping

Makes 4 servings

This is the perfect sweet ending for a wine and cheese party or a midnight supper, and is a breeze to put together.

 

Topping

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/3 cup light brown sugar

½ tsp. cardamom

4 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 wedges

1 cup ice cream or crème fraiche

 

Bread

4 slices, ¼-inch thick ACE Cranberry Raisin Focaccia

4 tsp. unsalted butter, melted

 

For the Topping

Melt the butter in a hot pan, add brown sugar and cardamom and cook for 1 minute. Add sliced apples and cook for about 5 minutes or until the apples are tender and the liquid has slightly thickened. Remove from the heat.

 

For the Focaccia

Brush both sides of focaccia slices with the butter and grill on both sides until golden.

 

Assembly

Lay warm apple wedges on top of the focaccia and drizzle with sauce from the pan. Serve with ice cream or crème fraiche.

 

Cook’s Tip

Apples can be made up to 1 hour in advance and warmed before assembly.

Recipe developed by the chefs of ACE Bakery.

 

Pie, Tart Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

23 Nov

Due to an incorrect amount of apples, I took a pie recipe for Thanksgiving and turned it into a tart.

Using mostly the same ingredients: Mascarpone cheese, Crème fraîche, sugar and fresh lemon juice, and substituting with a seasonal fruit (apple) and pure vanilla instead of vanilla bean seeds, I was able to change a pie designed for 10 people into a tart for five. The richness was still there and it was even better chilled in the fridge overnight, and topped with whipped cream. The flexibility of the instructions also allowed me to take a “healthy” approach. I used a wheat and soy pie crust, less sugar, pure raw honey and organic apples. Lesson learned, no matter what the recipe, it can be altered to fit the holiday table.

Coyote Oaties – Simple and Savory

17 Nov

Mother and daughter team Annette TerHorst and Rebecca Bartman took a delicious idea, added a dash of love and a sense of eco-responsibility and created Coyote Oaties, a gourmet cookie company based in Glendale, AZ that ships to anywhere in the world, just in time for the holidays.

These home baked oatmeal cookies in rustic packaging are a delight, but what’s inside this cute product is something even more mouthwatering. Every soft and moist bite is thick and flavorful with chunks of chocolate, peanut butter, macadamia nuts, or coconut, with a hint of mint. Each batch is made from the freshest, most natural ingredients available; whole rolled oats, creamery butter, and cage free eggs. You won’t find preservatives or trans fats.

These scrumptious cookies can be shipped daily and make an ideal company gift (with personalized packaging). They could also be a treat for the sweet tooth on everybody’s holiday list. Choose from Oatmeal and Chocolate, Oatmeal and Walnuts or Oatmeal, Raisin and Walnut, and more (even custom made flavors are available). All deliveries will arrive warm – just as if they were fresh out of the oven

Visit www.coyoteoaties.com for more information or to place an order.