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.

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.


Frozen Popcorn Is An Inspired Idea.


We love California for embracing all cultures, lifestyle choices and new ideas, especially in edible delights.


We heard about California Mad Poppers, also known as California Frozen Poppers and were so intrigued we had to stop by. Inside we found an ice cream case housing bins of frozen popcorn. Yes, frozen, popped and flavored popcorn. The point is to keep the well loved snack as fresh as possible and freezing does just that. Who knew?  We were informed that after snacking we can slide the zip lock bag shut and toss it back in the freezer as many times as we like, keeping the popped corn as fresh as the day we purchased it.


The attributes of this popcorn are impressive. First it’s air popped, then handmade daily, with zero preservatives, it’s gluten free and crafted with a 100 year old secret family caramel recipe.


If all that doesn’t impress, then sampling some of their concoctions should do the trick. Generous in allowing customers to savor the flavors, we tasted the famous family recipe Caramel, rich Peanut Butter, Garlic Breath for serious garlic lovers, a variety of the cheese flavors and the Nutty Midnight Madness.


First thing that hits is how fresh, crispy and delightful frozen popcorn is. Then their dedication to flavor intensity shines through. The best selling spicy popcorn called Aztec Gold, seduces with a quick snap of spice, before revealing its sweet carmel undertones and then sliding down the throat with a slow burn. This heavenly balance of sweet, salty and spicy is a flavor profile we adore and exactly what Aztec Gold delivers.


They have a buy 3 get one bag free deal at the moment and a slew of special flavors for the season. We left with a big bag of Aztec Gold and a promise to ourselves to try more flavors and bring some to our next party so we can turn our friends on to the joys of frozen popcorn.


What we first imagined was a novelty has us now convinced that this is the future of fresh popcorn. We are excited to experienced the next incarnation of one of the worlds favorite snack foods. Thank you Mad California Poppers for the brilliant fresh storage idea, your commitment to healthy, chemical free snacks and tantalizing flavors, you’ve got a winner.


California Frozen Poppers, 7138 Shoup Avenue, Ste 1, Canoga Park, CA 91307
Phone – 818-888-4767           web site – camadpoppers.com


Frozen Yogurt Stands Its Ground For 20 Years


For twenty years we’ve been visiting the little yogurt shop in the mini mall on the south-east corner of Westwood and Olympic Boulevards and we’ve never been disappointed.  The line most nights snakes out the door, but things move fast and a light jovial atmosphere prevails.


Frozen yogurt comes in and out of fashion, but with UCLA just a short distance up the road, The Bigg Chill appears to have a steady clientele in search of a healthier sweet.


The creamy, soft serve, frozen yogurt comes in fat free, dairy free, wow cow and carbolite, to satisfy every dietary and calorie restrictive diet. Flavors change daily with some standards that are always on the menu like Chill Berry (a sweet, tart yogurt), vanilla classic, Ghirardelli chocolate and peanut butter.


They also offer shakes, pies, ice blended mochas and a small selection of low fat, low carb, and low calorie baked goods and snacks.  But everyone is eating the frozen yogurt and that’s what we order also.


Pretty cones dipped in chocolate and sprinkles are displayed, but we’ve never seen anyone eat one.  Most embrace the healthy spirit of the place and order their yogurt in a cup.


Of course there’s no sense going overboard with the health and wellness philosophies and some toppings are on the slightly sinful side.  It’s up to guests to decide how healthy or not they want to take things.


Being purists we like to dive into the unadorned frozen yogurt.  Last nights choice was a mocha fudge custard that didn’t need anything except a spoon to make the smooth, mildly sweet, coffee rich cupful a great end to a long day.  All the custard flavors have an extra creamy texture and intensity that we like.  We also took home a quart of the chill berry (also known as sweet tart) because it goes with absolutely everything and we love knowing we have a stash in our freezer for emergencies when something sweet and satisfying is desperately needed.


Consistency in product quality and service for 20 years explains why the Bigg Chill still pulls long lines of happy students and neighbors in search of a dessert that tastes more decadent than it actually is.  It works for us every time.


Bigg Chill Frozen Yogurt, 10850 West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Phone – 310-475-1070          web site – thebiggchill.com






The Old And New At Grand Central Market


Grand Central Market has been in continuous operation since it opened in 1917. Their current mission is to celebrate the cuisines and cultures of Los Angeles while preserving the legacy of this historic downtown landmark.


A trip to Grand Central market any day of the week drops guests into 30,000 square feet of bustling produce markets, restaurant counters, fish, meat, cheese, spice and specialty item vendors.


We have been visiting the produce markets here for decades and find the prices a  joy.  We haven’t seen organic or super high end greens, but we have enjoyed good quality fruits and vegetables at far below supermarket prices.


A new trend out in the world that has been a part of Grand Central Market’s creative model, is offering lower prices on aging or less than pristine produce for those who would like to save money.  We found brown spotted bananas at $1.00 for 5 pounds alongside bright yellow unblemished beauties for $.59 cents a pound. Sometimes when baking banana bread or just because we like them, sweet mottled bananas are just the ticket and we appreciate the option.


Grand Central Market has long been home to a variety of Latin and Asian dining counters and markets that serve hearty bowls and dishes at great prices. Such as China Cafe, whose counter has been filled with hungry patrons clamoring for steaming bowls of won ton soup, noodles and rice dishes since 1959.


Since 1952, Roast To Go has been selling gorditas, tacos and burritos of carnitas, carne asada, chicken, beef cheek, fish, lengua, chicharron and al pastor. Bringing in new restaurant counters with higher price points is the new strategy and things are changing. The owners of Chiles Secos, a long time tenant, are fighting to stay in business as the gentrification of Grand Central Market threatens the customers and business that created the rich history of this landmark.


One classic touch that the new upscale businesses are keeping is the neon signage, which was and continues to be a touchstone of the space.


We sincerely hope that Grand Central Market can retain its commitment to serving its long time downtown Latin population while also opening doors for the new vitality and clientele that is emerging.  Only time will tell how this marriage works out.  Until then we will continue to explore both the old and new offerings, savoring the diversity and variety that has always been the benchmark of Grand Central Market.


Grand Central Market, 317 South Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Phone – 213-624-2378        web site – grandcentralmarket.com

Classic LA


We believe that anything that has survived in Los Angeles since 1947 must be doing something right and that applies big time to a little establishment called The Apple Pan.  We were fans as children and returned to enjoy the same quaint, old fashioned food and service we remember from back in the day.


A squared horseshoe counter with red barstools surrounds the prep area. There is often a wait with people crowding the walls, jockeying for the next open stool. Yet we had no problem finding a couple of stools at lunch and sat down to enjoy the old standard.


Two burgers, ham, tuna, egg and cheese sandwiches, plus drinks, fries and pies encompass the entire menu.


The back of the menu lists where the family recipes came from.  This is not trendy food, it dates back to 1881.


The sandwiches can be served on bread or on a plate as a salad.  We chose the tuna salad which is a pile of relish and mayo spiked tuna on a bed of iceberg lettuce served with olives and pickle chips.  It has an old fashioned taste that reminds of uncomplicated times.  We don’t expect modern interpretations, that’s not what they’re about.  They keep it real, using the same recipes they’ve used for almost 60 years.


We order our fries well done and crispy, they are served how they’ve always been served, with a cardboard plate they fill with ketchup, and continually refill throughout the meal.


The hickory burger is a childhood favorite that we still love decades later.  It is a meat patty drenched in a hickory smokey, barbecue sauce that sits on a hefty stack of iceberg lettuce, with pickles and a mayonnaise slathered bun. We always spring for the natural Tillamook cheddar that melts nicely onto the hamburger, bringing the diverse flavors into blissful alignment.


Quality forever, is the motto here and it includes the service.  They spilt the burger so we could share it. They refill our drinks and ketchup plate when their eagle eyes determine it’s getting a bit low. They even fixed a shoe that broke a few moments after we sat down. The service here makes us feel very well taken care of.


Our observant and attentive counterman brought our pie already divided on two separate plates after watching us split everything else. Nice touch.


The banana cream pie starts with banana pudding then loads it with slices of fresh banana before sandwiching it all between a flakey crust and a thick layer of whipped cream.  On Fridays they have a killer coconut cream pie that we recommend very highly.


For a classic taste of 1940’s Los Angeles, The Apple Pan is a visual, experiential and edible trip down memory lane. It can’t be compared to anything else and we appreciate them keeping 20th century history alive and well, a gift worth falling back into again and again..

The Apple Pan, 10801 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90064                  Phone – 310-475-3585




Heat Wave Relief


As our heat wave finally seems to be breaking, we couldn’t help but take advantage of the sweltering weather as an excuse to line up with the other cool seeking Angelenos and check out the frozen sweetness at Salt & Straw.


The apothecaryish, old time ice cream shop atmosphere entices and emphasizes Salt & Straw’s commitment to ice cream that is handmade in small batches, with all natural dairy, local, organic and sustainable ingredients from California, as well as imported flavors from farms around the world.


The most popular flavor from the classics menu is the sea salt ice cream with caramel ribbons. Made with Guatemalan fleur de sel and hand burned caramel, it achieves a perfect balance of sweet, salty creaminess. While the Stumptown coffee and Compartes love nuts, combine cold-brewed Guatemala finca el injerto coffee with Compartes chocolate-dipped , caramel coated pecans for a rich, smooth coffee ice cream blended bite.


Ice cream can be purchased by the pint for $10.50, by the flight for $11.50 or by the scoop or double for $4.90 and $6.90 respectively.  Kids scoops, approximately the size of a golf ball, go for $3.90.


Alongside the classics menu are late summer harvest flavors to entice. We went with the classics and chose a double scoop of sea salt and caramel ribbons on top of chocolate gooey brownie and a single scoop of black olive brittle and goat cheese in a cup with a sugar cone hat.  Now we understand that these prices are higher than we have been paying for ice cream, but we have to admit that the goods at Salt & Straw ooze with clean, fresh flavors like sultry goat cheese with hits of candied salty, sweet olive brittle.  In other words, every cent we paid to the cashier came back to us in the indulgent smooth and creamy frozen wonders of well thought out flavor pairings, high quality ingredients and artisan craftsmanship that blew us away.


The same delightful ice creams of your choice are used in sundaes, ice cream floats and whole pint milkshakes if you choose to go that route.


For a taste of some of the most well made ice cream we have ever experienced, an indulgence at Salt & Straw warrants a visit or two no matter what the weather brings.


Salt & Straw, 240 North Larchmont Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90004
Phone number (323) 466-0485     web site – saltandstraw.com

Is Light Barbecue An Oxymoron?


Hidden in a mini mall at the corner of La Brea and San Vicente is a tiny BBQ joint called Hiatus Urban Barbeque.


Just four tables, a smattering of chairs, a banquette and an open kitchen make up the realization of a high school dream of owner Andrew Morrison.


The menu hanging over the kitchen lists options including wraps, plates, salads, sandwiches or craft your own dish, all built around the basic ingredients of brisket, pork, chicken, and lots of fresh vegetables.


A communal station holds napkins, cups and utensils and is housed next to a mini fridge filled with drinks and carafes of water.


We jumped right in and ordered the Bull Hwy, a brisket plate with smokey BBQ sauce, blue cheese slaw, onion marmalade, a sweet Hawaiian roll and a side of sharp horseradish dressing.  Everyone at Hiatus is extremely accommodating and willing to switch out or adapt plates to suit customer needs and preferences.


Drawn in by the tender brisket we couldn’t resist the Blue Moo, a toasted roll topped with thick slices of beef brisket, spicy horseradish sauce, blue cheese, shredded cabbage, carrots and onion marmalade.


Beneath the bread is revealed the reason these sandwiches crunch, the cruciferous red cabbage and bright carrot are the culprits.


For those like us who have trouble choosing just one item for dinner, Hiatus offers a slider sampler which lines up a mini Blue Moo, LA Hog and Cajun Cluck.  The pulled pork with sweet barbecue sauce, kale slaw and onion marmalade make up the LA Hog while we found shredded chicken, smokey sauce, Baja Brussel slaw and Hiatus pickles in the Cajun Cluck.


Eating barbecue usually leaves us felling feel bloated, tired and ready for bed, but this barbecue produced none of those results. We love the fact that we can now enjoy barbecue without feeling like a beached whale afterwards.


Should you feel inclined, Hiatus tempts with a smoked chocolate chip cookie to end on a sweet and salty note.

We appreciate those like Hiatus, who are revamping American standards in new, inventive and healthier forms, creating win win situations all over lunch and dinner.

Hiatus Urban Barbeque, 1292 South La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90019  Phone – 323-879-9700       web site – hiatusbbq.com

Eating Chili History in Burbank


We can’t keep ourselves away from LA classics, they draw us in like moths to the flame.  Burbank is home to one such restaurant called Chili John’s.  Established in Los Angeles in 1946, we love the fact that the menu hasn’t changed much in almost 70 years.


Memorabilia and an original mural on the wall remind us of an uncomplicated California culture.


The horseshoe shaped counter inhibits the entire space offering a respite for customers to pull up a chair and grab a bowl of chili as they’ve been doing for decades.


The current menu is a bit pricer and has the added benefit of chicken, vegetarian and spicy chili.  Share with the staff if its your first time, and they will bring out a small plate of samples to try before you pick your poison.


The history of chili con carne is unclear but it’s an American creation according to experts, discovered as a way to extend meat with the addition of chilies.


At Chili John’s a central island keeps the chili, spaghetti, and chili stuffed tamales warm.  Ordering is an almost instantaneous process where customers request a bowl of either straight chili, chili over spaghetti or over tamales, that is immediately spooned in the proper configuration into a bowl.


It’s been way too long since we’ve had a chili dog, so we decided to indulge.


The charming staff have been entertaining guests for so long that they’ve seen pretty much everything that can be done to chili.  The chili dog came with explicit instructions which we followed to the letter.


Since we love spicy we ordered the chicken chili hot and we were told that the first step is to take a yellow chili pepper, bite off the tip and squeeze the juice onto the chili.  Check.


Step two is the addition of a few drops of the apple cider vinegar. Check.


How guests top their chili is personal preference, we like the whole shebang so we liberally topped our dog with chopped onion. Step three, check.


A small container of cheddar cheese added a bit of zest to the concoction and was the final step 4 in the completion of the signature Chili John’s chili dog, check.  Sour cream, tabasco and oyster crackers are also available to add to any chili dish ordered.


The spicy chicken chili is abundantly spooned over the Hoffy which makes for messy going, so we attacked the beast with a knife and fork. We found the chicken chili to be juicy, flavorful with just a bit of heat that complemented the pork and beef hot dog, and was greasy enough to soak the soft white bun.


As long as we were going whole hog, we figured we’d dive into the deep end and complete the decadence with a slice of their famous lemon pie, consisting of lemon pudding nestled between between a graham cracker crust and fresh whipped cream.


At Chili John’s we feel like we’re eating a piece of LA history, from recipes that have been around since the beginning of the last century and it makes us giddy knowing we are consuming 100 year old recipes, the original Chili John’s opened in Green Bay, WI in 1913.  Cool huh?


Chili John’s, 2018 West Burbank Boulevard, Burbank, CA 91506
Phone – 818-846-3611


Hidden Oasis In Culver City


Down a quite residential street, hidden away in Culver city, sits Jackson Market.  Since 1925 this oasis has been serving the otherwise sleepy neighborhood.


Upon entering, an expanse of goods and a bustling sandwich/salad counter awaits.


The basic menu can be enhanced with options from the overflowing deli case if you choose to self design your sandwich or salad.


The protocol is simple, walk up to the counter, pull the sandwich or salad form, write in your name and specification for lunch or dinner and hand it to the gentleman under the sign that says, “turn in card here”. Voila.


Your meal can be rounded out with sides from the cooler, pickles, juices, chips and dessert which all abound in the market.


The assortment is large and inviting, it would take years of daily visits to run through all the combinations.


Your order arrives at the cash register with the order form attached and your name is called.


Pay for your goods, grab a cool glass of orange infused water and take your picnic to go or chose a shady spot from a variety of enchanting locations in front or behind the market.


Down a vegetation lined stretch out the back door, lies a comfy oasis of lush greenery, tables, chairs,  couches and a zen waterfall churned pond.


It’s quiet, serene and embodies everything we look for in a garden setting.


The sound of running water soothes.


Oh, and the food is delightful.  The atmosphere is so charming and inviting we forgot the entire reason we came was for lunch.  But the food is top notch, fresh and pulled together with high quality ingredients.  We chose the Italian Sub at $8.99, the price point most everything hoovers around.


The fresh french baguette engulfs sliced meat, cheese, lettuce and spicy salad beautifully.  Dessert is also offered in a number of domestic and imported playful ways.


For a hidden gem that feels calming and nurturing in the middle of our bustling city, Jackson Market is the kind of surprise we adore sharing with those we love.

Jackson Market, 4065 Jackson Avenue, Culver City, CA 90232
Phone – 310-425-8426   web site – jacksonmarketanddeli.com