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Oh, Go Ahead... Enjoy Chocolate This Valentine's Day!

February 14, 2011 - Elissa Goodman


Chocolate was once considered a wicked, guilty pleasure - remember "Death by Chocolate"?  But today, chocolate - particularly the darkest types with sky-high cocoa percentages - is beginning to seem more like a health food (high flavanol cocao on aisle 3!).  Eating a little bit of chocolate a few times a week can be not only good for the heart but your soul too. The trick is to make the most of that little bit of chocolate, while dialing down the fatty, sugary ingredients chocolate so often it keeps company with.

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For a Va-Va-Voom Valentine's Day: Oysters on Fennel with Lemon Butter

February 08, 2011 - Linda Grasso

Cooked Oysters on Fennel with Lemon Butter                                                   Cooked Oysters on Fennel with Lemon Butter 

Forget about the Hallmark card and last minute harried gift search this year! Get down and dirty and cook for your lover! And, we've got the perfect recipe courtesy of Christophe Happillion.  He's known around this neck of the woods as the Oyster Gourmet . "The idea beyond cooking or eat oysters for Valentine's Day is that they are sensual and full of mystery. Eating an oyster is a leap of faith into the unknown, like a new relationship." Christophe adds, "They are also widely accepted as an aphrodisiac which can be a good  way to spark a conversation and who knows what else for the evening!"

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In Season: Seedless Kishus....Get 'Em While You Can!

February 04, 2011 - Linda Grasso

Seedless Kishu Tangerines                                              Seedless Kishus from the Churchill Brenneis Orchard 

I bought some amazing tangerines at the Ojai Farmers' Market over the weekend.  I purchased Seedless Kishus from the Churchill Brenneis Orchard in the Ojai Valley.  These small babies, about the size of a Clementine, are tiny flavor bombs.  They're also very easy to peel, completely seedless and as one of the Orchard's owners puts it, "children prefer them to candy."  I put this glass bowl filled with the tangerines out on the kitchen center island Sunday and by Monday evening there were only four left.  My two sons and husband had devoured them. So how can you get your hands on some?

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Super Bowl Caesar Salad Cups

February 02, 2011 - Linda Grasso

IMG_0740 There's nothing like a great caesar salad when you are craving lotsa flavor or serving something spicy like my Tangy Tex Mex Chili. With Super Bowl Sunday coming up, I thought I'd share with you one of my favorite recipes.  This particular one is terrific for a football gathering because the salad is served in small, toasted bread cups.  The cups basically take the place of the croutons and, in doing so, make the salad a finger food hors d'oeuvre.  Who really wants to wash dishes after a football bash?  

In keeping with the spicy dish theme, the dressing I'm sharing has a delicious kick to it. It's a concoction of my friend Kathy Couturie's.  She served it while we were visiting her beautiful historic home in Ojai (the famous Libbey estate) and I ate so much of it, I hardly had room for anything else!  



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How to Make an Oprah-worthy Artisanal Cheese Platter

January 27, 2011 - Linda Grasso

Artisanal Cheese Platter                      Artisanal Cheese Platter with dried & fresh figs and dried hibiscus flowers

Remember a couple of weeks ago I told the Oprah story - about how I was a Top 20 Finalist for Your OWN Show - the search to discover the next Oprah for her new network? You might remember I took a gorgeous cheese platter to the first day of the audition (pictured above) as one of the shows I was pitching was a TV version of SheSez.  Nothin' like struttin' your stuff - right?

The platter is as striking as it is delicious - and best of all super easy to make. That day - the day of the audition - I actually made a "how-to" video tape you can watch below. Can you tell how pumped I was?  Whenever I'm nervous I do something kinda funny on camera - I repeat one word over and over. On that day - it was "gorgeous." Hilarious!

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The Cupcake Craze May Be Over as Pies Make a Comeback

January 21, 2011 - Julie Pryor

Apple pie with basket weave crust topping

Move over Cupcakes, an old-fashioned favorite may soon take your place! The great American Pie is making a big comeback.  Delicious pies combine interesting textures and loads of flavor and let's face it, pie is the ultimate comfort food. Even my most high-end clients love serving individual chicken potpies at their events. Shepherds pie – the British favorite - is also a fun way to switch it up for a Sunday supper.

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Craving Mexican? Mapping Little Mexico in Santa Barbara

January 18, 2011 - Julia Austin

Los Arroyos Burrito If you live in California - anywhere from San Francisco to Long Beach - you're probably something of a Mexican food elitist.  Which particular city has the most authentic fare is a pretty heated debate here - and most locals know it's kind of like religion - you don't bring it up at a dinner party. 
on left: The Los Arroyos Burrito

However, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Santa Barbara is "it" when it comes to the real deal.  About a two-hour drive from LA, the seaside town is a city that embraces the coral-tinted, stucco architecture of actual towns in Mexico. It only makes sense that a lot of the local fare is inspired by the same culture.

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Utterly Guilt-Free Banana Bread

January 10, 2011 - Linda Grasso

  Banana_bread2                                   Catherine Black's sugarless, vegan, gluten-free, Banana Bread
This recipe has been shared by actress Catherine Black. Here's what she has to say about it, followed by her clever and delicious recipe:

I strive to make healthy, gluten-free, sugar free food that is decadent and delicious.  I had no idea what I had stumbled upon when I first made this completely guilt-free and nutritious vegan, sugar free, gluten free, GEM!   I use quinoa flour, coconut oil and coconut sugar.  I originally made this Banana Bread with egg and butter, because I am strong believer that butter is an essential cooking ingredient, and I love eggs, and was quite happy with the results. 

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Baking Whoopie

December 21, 2010 - Julie Pryor


As a professional Event Coordinator, I'm always on the look-out for unique, delicious desserts to serve at the parties I plan.  I thought I'd share with you one of the fabulous things I've discovered. These whoopie pies have been a huge hit with my clients and their guests.  What do they taste like?  Imagine your favorite childhood dessert – but bite-sized, all natural and available in lots of mouth watering flavors.  That's a whoopie pie.

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How to Make a Smashing Holiday Cheese Platter - Plus Wine Accompaniments

December 14, 2010 - Linda Grasso

10-Year Wisconsin Cheddar My friend Barrie Lynn is a cheese whiz…literally.  Known to fans across the country as The Cheese Impresario, she’s our "go-to gal" for any and all things cheese. Below are Barrie’s favorite “cheese experiences” for holiday entertaining.

Wisconsin Cheddar with Pistachios and Dried Hibiscus

Cut some wedges of young cheddar (aged 3 or 6 months) and stand them upright together. Make a "sea" of unsalted, roasted pistachio kernels and dried hibiscus blossoms (available at Trader Joe's) or dried California figs around the base.  "It looks like ice bergs floating on an ocean of pistachios and dried fruit." 

Wine: A mild Chardonnay. 

All Cheddar Plate

Pick 3 cheddars of different ages. Get a young cheddar like a 3 or 6 month old, and a middle-aged 5 or 6 year old. Finally, get a rare, 10 year old, like one made by Hooks’.  “Hook's Ten Year Aged Cheddar is a delightful surprise because it’s not dry or hard. It’s smooth, creamy and nutty.”

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