Ali Rosen’s Bring It Does Just That

Ali Rosen, the founder and host of Potluck with Ali, has a new book out called Bring It. And you guessed it, it’s all about tried and true recipes for potlucks and casual entertaining.

We were lucky enough to be regaled with her wisdom, as well as sample some tasty tidbits from her book. Our favorite piece of advice is, when bringing a dish to someone’s home or event, don’t make it difficult on the party planner. Come with a serving dish, spoon, or whatever else is needed. Don’t challenge your host by requiring a lot of prep at the location either. They may not have extra refrigerator, counter or oven space. In other words be as self contained as possible, for your sake as well as the sanity of everyone involved.

Delicious treasures abound on these pages, including Ali’s Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus, which really pops with its lemon, butter and egg yolk dressing. The recipes found in Bring It are practical, fun and foolproof, which is a style that fits just about everyone.

Ali’s Quickest, Most Flavorful Bolognese tops any pasta that floats your boat. And every dish travels and keeps well. So no matter what the event, picnic, PTA meeting, lunch with the girls or extended family dinner, there’s a recipe ideal for the occasion.

Like Snap Peas with Parmesan and Bacon, which combine the crisp sweetness of the season with the salty and savory, a winning combination every time. Keep an eye out for each recipes side bar which shares exactly how the dish travels, stores or reheats best.

Strawberry Sandwiches bring back childhood memories of Wonder Bread and honey, two essential ingredients. And the kids will love them too, if you share.

While Snowy Chocolate Cookies are the perfect hostess gift for any invitation, even when the host says “Oh don’t bother, I’ve got it covered”. Everyone will love this thoughtful goodie. Because who couldn’t use an extra little sweet, especially after a long day prepping for company. Thank you Ali for Bring It, with your guidance we certainly will now.

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Amanda Cushman Keeps It Real

As food becomes ever more complex, leave it to Amanda Cushman to keep it real. Her new book, Simple Real Food, is filled with insights that facilitate easy, delicious, clean food prepared simply.

Amanda’s thirty plus years of experience and expertise are honed down to their essence. The book captures her love of nourishing meals that embody the fresh, bright flavors we all love. Her White Bean and Vegetable Soup on page 64, gets an incredible kick of basil and pine nut richness from a dollop of Pesto Creme.

Refreshing Thai Summer Rolls with Lime Dipping Sauce, showcase world cuisine in its most delectable and wholesome format.

And Roasted Curried Cauliflower on page 105, transforms the cruciferous head into a serious flavor bomb that we couldn’t stop eating. Plus Amanda gives all manner of alternatives if cauliflower doesn’t float your boat.

There are plenty of vegetarian options, but Ms. Cushman has not forsaken the carnivores. Hoisin Ginger Chicken with Mango Mayonnaise captures a succulent, juicy tenderness as does the Grilled Skirt Steak with shallots, red wine, garlic and rosemary.

And as important as it is to eat clean, it’s just as vital to indulge a bit. So desserts, from Poached Pears to Flourless Chocolate Torte with Raspberry Coulis, pay homage to the sweet finish.

For those looking to fill the table with exceptionally tasty and easy dishes, Amanda Cushman’s Simple Real Food is a stellar addition to any cookbook arsenal.

 

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The Secrets to Dazzling Food Photos Revealed

Are you as obsessed with food photography as we are?  If so, have we got a book for you.

The Food Stylist’s Handbook by Denise Vivaldo with Cindie Flannigan is such a fun read we almost decided to become food stylists on the spot. Their book has all the guidance necessary to begin or advance a food styling career. This how to manual explains exactly what the job entails, equipment needed, the different niches and of course, how to get started. But don’t overlook the fact that it also contains a ton of valuable advice for us regular folk looking to put out stunningly beautiful culinary masterpieces we want to shoot and eat.

We adore the Tricks of the Trade chapter that delves into topics as diverse as getting more height out of pancakes, which brand of egg to use for a flawless presentation and achieving the most gorgeous spiral cut from your ham. Above Cindie assembles the perfect Sundae, but this one’s made of Crisco not ice cream, so admire but don’t eat.

It doesn’t matter whether you want to configure fake or edible food, the tips in The Food Stylist’s Handbook help everyone present a better plate. Need some guidance in making that burger you’re about to consume more instagram friendly?  It’s in the book, showing how one can adorn with condiments found on the table, perfect for a restaurant blog post. Want to impress friends who come over for lunch? The magic to beautiful bacon for your club or BLT is in the cooking method, using skewers or foil to get just the right curl to your strips.

Edible flowers add a charming touch to any plate, especially white china laden with salad and chicken breast in need of a pop of color.

And a dash of just the right herbs and spices brushed around grill marks make shrimp irresistible.

Regardless of why you want a stunning presentation, the answers you are searching for abound in words and pictures throughout this sensational guide book.

And the ladies haven’t forgotten the importance of serving containers and utensil recommendations to insure that delicious courses get the best send off possible.

So take it from the women who have honed and mastered the techniques and get your own copy of The Food Stylist’s Handbook.  Who knows, you may become the next Picasso of the instagram world or at the very least of your own kitchen table.

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Spaghettini Celebrates 30 Years of Success

Laurie Sisneros and Cary Hardwick, the charming owners of Spaghettini, have a lot to celebrate. They’re a few months shy of 30 years in business, have unveiled a lovely alfresco seating area and released a book of Spaghettini’s recipes in collaboration with their accomplished Executive Chef, Victor Avila, called From Our Home to Yours. All in all they have a lot to be proud of.

Their new outdoor space focuses on comfort first and foremost. The surrounding greenery and abundant shade umbrellas enhance the calming experience. So guests can now take full advantage of warm Seal Beach afternoons and evenings.

We sampled Spaghettini’s brunch menu and were duly impressed by the deconstructed Wedge Salad which has a history dating back to 1916. Not only is it beautifully presented, the flavors and textures of crisp cool lettuce and juicy ripe tomato play exceptionally well against the smokey bacon and full bouquet of Blue Cheese Dressing.

For starters, the fresh and healthy ahi tuna tartare is a meaty and supremely satisfying powerhouse that melts in your mouth beside the crunch of oil brushed, toasted baguette slices.

Another winner included in the book, is the Pommery shrimp which is a perennial favorite that has been flying off the menu since the restaurants opening back in 1988. The secret recipes for Pommery Mustard Sauce and Garlic Butter are generously shared, so you can create this crowd pleaser at home for family and friends.

Heirloom tomato bruschetta, on page 18, starts with the highest quality tomatoes elevated by a mix of garlic, shallots, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and fragrant basil.

Spaghetti and Meatballs is of course found here. It’s made from a recipe that accentuates the intensely porky flavor with lots of garlic, parmesan and onions.

For those looking for lighter fare, there is plenty to choose from including the Caramelized Salmon. Ginger and lemongrass incorporate a delicate Asian touch that aligns perfectly with the fatty fish. The crisp topping of  sweet potato strands add not only a burst of color but also a crunch that plays well against the brawny slab of heart-healthy salmon.

A combination of “Peas and Feta Cheese work exceptionally well together, especially if made with French Feta” according to Chef Avila, and we were tickled by this new commingling.

For a serious splurge, the Mac and Cheese is loaded with heavy cream , parmesan and gorgonzola and takes this childhood favorite to a very adult level.

The dessert section is loaded with house specialities and don’t miss the light, airy and supremely satisfying White Chocolate Cheesecake which we absolutely adore and would eat every day if we could.

2018 presents many great opportunities to celebrate life with a visit to Spaghettini for their world class Jazz and delightful California and Italian menu or a whirl around the kitchen under the excellent tutelage of From Our Home to Yours Cookbook. Enjoy the journey.

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It’s Worth Investing Time in Historic Old Sacramento

I was born in California and never made it to the state capital, until now. One crucial part of that oversight is missing out on the Historic Gold Rush Town of Old Sacramento. For those interested in avoiding the same mistake, it’s a good idea to invest some time exploring this spectacularly preserved piece of California History. A good way to start is by moving right in, with a stay aboard the Delta King Riverboat Hotel. This gracefully refurbished paddleboat floats on the Sacramento River adjacent to Old Sacramento State Historic Park and is the ideal home base to immerse oneself in the slower pace of mid 1800’s California.

First and foremost, don’t rush. Give yourself some time to explore because there’s a lot to see and do. Two days would be the minimum and try to include a weekend which preserves the opportunity to experience the underground tour.

Established in 1849, Old Sacramento is alive and well with the spirit and fervor of the gold rush. Handsome turn of the century buildings are well tended and house a variety of businesses you can explore. Traipsing through the streets and shops is a full day excursion in itself.

Rest assured if you need to revive anytime during your wanderings, they offer the illusive pineapple soft serve frozen treat, Dole whip, also available in mango. Unlike Disneyland, it’s self-serve here, so you can crank out as much of the icy concoction as you can handle, baring a serious case of brain freeze.

And of course no self-respecting gold rush town would be complete without an assortment of saloons. The River City Saloon claims to craft the best bloody Mary’s in Sacramento, but you need be the judge of that.

And Fanny Anns has to be one of the most captivating memorabilia stuffed bars in California. Stopping in for lunch, a cold one or just to browse the wild collection should be high on your to do list.

But the absolute highlight of Old Sacramento, is the California State Railroad Museum. This is a must see appropriate for the entire family.

Start you visit  with the informative movie which explains the back breaking labor and dedication that went into building the North American transcontinental railroad system. If you time it right, call first to be sure, the movie will be followed by a free half hour tour of the museum. No matter how you feel about trains, the amazing dioramas, restored trains, exhibits, dining car, heavy china display and simulation of a nighttime traveling sleeping car, are truly momentous experiences.

Recognition is paid to the workers who slaved through bone-chilling winters and blistering summers from 1863 to 1869 in order to make the dream of connecting the east and west coasts a reality.

Guest can pass through glistening trains of the era that look ready to hit the rails, reminding us of the romance and ease the railway system brought to U.S. travel.

Many cars are manned by costumed docents eager to share how their particular train was instrumental in facilitating everything from delivering mail to providing fine dining for guests.

Mannequin run kitchens and period china recreate the rigors and necessitates of a continually operational system of public transportation.

Be sure to search out the night train sleeping car simulation which is rigged to feel precisely like the real thing.

You can also hone your skills driving the same simulator used to train bullet train drivers. See how well you do manning the helm, followed by the challenging maneuvering of a speeding trains glide into the station.

The California State Railroad Museum is at the top of its game, being both technologically advanced, while also preserving their unique vantage point in the history of railroad travel and California’s involvement in its evolution.

We have to say that Old Sacramento offers such an inspiring glimpse into the past that we wouldn’t mind falling back in time over and over again.

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The Quintessential Hostess Gift

While in Sacramento, we were introduced to Nothing Bundt Cake and we have to say it was love at first bite. The great news is that they are a nationwide franchise. That means you are most likely situated near a local shop.  But if not, you can always go online and have one dropped off right at your doorstep.  Or make life easy and have the distinctively shaped cake delivered to a very deserving friend as a house warming gift, Christmas present, birthday surprise, hostess thank you or any other event worth celebrating.  Wednesday sounds like a great reason for bundt cake to us.

The locations are charming and filled will all manner of inspiration. We sincerely hope you visit a bakery near you. Not only to sample the latest flavors (we love free samples), but also to get a gander at the exquisitely gorgeous cakes in a variety of sizes from bite-sized buntinis to personal sized bundtlets to 10″ full bundts serving up to 20 people.

We visited at Halloween when the Sacramento store was decked out with fun bundtinis all costumed and ready for little monsters to devour.

The shop addresses the confusing questions of how to honor someone at a major milestone. The answer is presented within a number of sumptuously designed displays that color coordinate their cakes with accessory options, making the gift even more special.

Of course the main reason to visit is to taste their supremely moist and flavorful bundt.  On our first introduction we were immediately taken with the birthday cake version, which is packed with a spray of multi-colored sprinkles nestled in classic vanilla cake. Another visit had us swooning for the Pumpkin spice with cream cheese frosting. But if those don’t float your boat not to worry, they have red velvet, chocolate chip, lemon, pecan praline, cinnamon swirl and a long list of other delectable flavors to choose from.

We are tickled pink by Nothing Bundt Cake’s aesthetic, simple yet powerful design elements and cake shape which make for an impressive hostess gift sure to wow not only on presentation but throughout the savoring sure to follow. #IFBC17

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‘Tis The Season for Gift Baskets

Yes, the holidays are definitely upon us.  Looking for a thoughtful gift sure to please everyone on you list? What could be easier than a  Melissa’s Produce gift basket?   Melissa’s Produce supplies the freshest seasonal staples and exotics.  Fruit, vegetables and fine wines can all be creatively arranged in any combination, from single stunning gift baskets to impressive monthly subscriptions. You choose whatever best suits your gift giving needs.

Vegans or vegetarians on your list? The baby vegetable medley is perfect for salads, roasting or soups.

And if you happen to find one of these bad boys in your fruit basket don’t be scared, it’s an  Ecuadorian dragon fruit and they are new to the US market. The uber sweet, soft inner flesh and seeds scooped out with a spoon are sure to tickle the palate and leave a lasting impression no matter which way your friends and family lean food-wise.

Melissa’s colorful gift baskets are perfect for everyone from the health conscious to those who have busy entertaining schedules through the New Year. The seasonal assortments are an impressive display that will always be appreciated as a lighter alternative to the holiday excess bound to occur.

Be sure to check out Melissa’s Produce Gift baskets for a carefree alternative to last minute holiday shopping.

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Easy Fresh Bowls of Plenty

Meals in a bowl are all the rage.  It’s the new fast food model dedicated to filling a vessel with guests choice of their favorite ingredients for a personalized, satisfying mix that can be as healthy as one sees fit. Here in LA, it seems there’s a new poke bowl or ethnic bowl establishment on every corner. That makes Carolynn Carreno’s latest book, Bowls of Plenty right on point.  And if you’re a fan of this strongly established eating style, you can cut out the middle man and take charge right in your own kitchen.

Carolynn is a James Beard Award winning food writer and co-author of over a dozen acclaimed cookbooks. And now she has pulled together a collection of grain bowls that are completely customizable to suit ones taste, while being just as delightful straight from the undeviated page.

Chapters start with Equipment, Tools and Gadgets and evolve into an undeniably thorough exploration of grains, giving home cooks the basic information necessary to proceed with complete confidence. Starting with Breakfast Bowls, Carolynn delves into unique offerings such as Japanese breakfast or Pastrami and Rye Berry Hash, always showcasing as much diversity possible. What follows are salad bowls, main bowls and finally, yes, even dessert bowls,

We were treated to a buffet which allowed each diner to carefully choose their ingredients and we have to say we found it such a fun, with lots of suitable options for everyone. For those who don’t feel inclined to clean that many dishes, its absolutely acceptable to serve the bowls already assembled.

The key of course is fresh, quality ingredients prepared with care and love. And Ms. Carreno provides encouraging advice with that as well.

Bowls of Plenty is the book for bowl lovers and anyone who wants to simplify meal preparation.  Click through the red link above to go straight to Amazon. Bowl Appetite.

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Deborah Madison Shares From Her Own Cozy Kitchen


When searching for answers to life’s questions we like to defer to the masters, and Deborah Madison certainly falls into that category. She was cooking from an enlightened perspective long before it was fashionable or even acceptable in many circles. From the San Francisco Zen Center to Chez Panisse, Madison has taken every opportunity to engage in the deepest examination of vegetarian cuisine.  And now a lifetime of expertise has been condensed into her latest book, In My Kitchen, a collection of favorite vegetarian recipes she serves at home.

We must start by highlighting the mouthwatering Romanesco sauce inspired by a trip to Spain. This deep, complex, sunny blend is oh so satisfying. We added a big dollop to soup, but honestly we want to slather this winner on everything in the kitchen including the roasted cauliflower recipe she pairs it with in the book.

A crisp, sweet, spicy citrus and avocado salad with lime-cumin vinaigrette atop shredded greens is the definition of invigoration and the ideal accompaniment to heavier dishes of beans or animal protein. Deborah is not interested in pushing lifestyle choices down anyones throat and is thrilled that in this day and age one can choose to be vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or omnivore on any night of the week it calls to them.

That is not to say that vegetarian and vegan dishes can’t be supremely satisfying.  Their hardiness is clearly demonstrated in her potato and chickpea stew with sautéed spinach. It’s a memorable bowl sure to warm the hearts of all who dive in.

Deborah’s rubarb-rasberry compote couldn’t be easier and the tangy, tart, mildly sweet flavor is a winner served with cookies, over ice cream or as a side dish, transforming any weeknight dinner into a special occasion. It is beyond scrumptious and all we had to do was throw a few easy ingredients together, 3 to be exact. We made a triple batch and enjoyed it for a full week before finally scraping the bowl clean.

Worried Deborah’s healthy style will deny you sweet treats? No need, her walnut nugget cookies pair surprisingly well with the rhubarb and raspberry compote.

While encouraging readers to nourish themselves in the fashion that best suits their mood, Deborah makes the process surprisingly easy and we greatly appreciate that. Those ready to dive into a healthy dose of mother natures best would be wise to pick up Deborah Madison’s, In My Kitchen and transform their cooking with instruction straight from the cozy kitchen of one of the shining stars of the culinary world. Bon Appetit.

 

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The Perfect Blend Is Just That

Tess Masters, also known as The Blender Girl, always delivers an engaging wealth of information on eating healthy.  So it’s no surprise that her new book, The Perfect Blend, keeps up the tradition with one hundred blender recipes designed to energize and revitalize.

One of our favorite dishes from her stunning, image-rich book is, Gentle Lentils. This sensational soup is impossible to put down. The addicting qualities radiating from the bowl are due in part to the incorporation of her Basil-Is-The-Bomb sauce, which helps forward this transcendent pairing. Try this soup!

Tess puts a new spin on everything. The book is broken into chapters titled for what they can do for you instead of a more traditional organization. You can look up instruction that will help promote detox, energy, immunity, weight loss, probiotic formation, and so on. We love knowing how our meals are benefiting us. Bravo Tess.

Raw Broccoli Brilliance, transforms raw broccoli florets into a panoply of textures that complement the bright, tangy, sweet and spicy flavors of her dressing. You’ll find this one in the protein chapter. Be sure to check out the chart on page 2 of the introduction to discover which categories ingredients fall under. Produce, spices, herbs, seeds and nuts all play into a number of benefits and readers are introduced to a basic understanding of how each supports stellar health.

Cauliflower rice is a base which can be doused with a vegetable rich melange, featuring sweet potatoes, Swiss chard and roasted almond butter in Sustenance Stew. Supremely satisfying.

Tess believes that the blender is the greatest tool we have for making delicious, beautiful, healthy, fast food. This book enables home chefs at every level of expertise to easily incorporate plant power and body revitalization into everyday meals. Look for lots of unique produce like Melissa’s fresh coconut water, where the sweet, natural nectar runs circles around bottled alternatives.

There are also treats, from Classic Cheesecake to Chocolate Mint Mania, lest you think eating healthy is out of alignment with a sweet tooth. The two come together beautifully.

The Perfect Blend, dishes out practical step by step guidance and health benefits of blending, combining and cooking hero foods. Be prepared for a focus on eating well and having fun. What’s not to love about that? The Perfect Blend can be purchased on Amazon through the title links in red. It is definitely time to dust off the blender and enjoy mother nature’s delicious bounty.

 

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