Amazing Banana Cashew Coconut Smoothie

I love smoothies as both delicious + filling snacks as well as convoys for healthy food that you might not want to eat by itself like spirulina, maca powder or flax seeds. This recipe handily combines both those aspects with a thick and creamy banana cashew coconut smoothie that has tons of flax seeds for healthy omega-3 oils and drinks like a milkshake.

Banana Coconut Cashew Smoothie

Banana Coconut Cashew Smoothie

This is a perfect afternoon snack; I am always starving after I get back from work and craving something sweet but at the same time don’t want to overeat and then ruin my appetite for actual dinner. This smoothie has become my go to post-work pre-dinner snack and the best part is that its only 210 calories.

Banana Coconut Cashew Smoothie

This recipe is completely vegan, gluten free, paleo and I imagine if you use raw coconut flakes and raw flax seeds it can easily be made raw too…(almond milk is raw right?)

Banana Coconut Cashew Smoothie

Banana Coconut Cashew Smoothie

Banana Coconut Cashew Smoothie

As always I like to make my smoothies with unsweetened vanilla almond milk because its super creamy, tastes amazing and is only 30 calories per cup.

Almond Milk

Almond Milk

Almond Milk

For the bananas you only need half a banana, you can use more if you want it thicker but I just save the other half for the next day’s smoothie (or to top granola with).

Bananas

Bananas

Bananas

I used raw cashews because that’s what I happened to have on hand but feel free to use toasted ones. Although for snacking I prefer toasted cashews the raw ones have a lighter, creamier taste to them thats perfect in this smoothie.

Raw Cashews

Raw Cashews

Raw Cashews

I used sweetened coconut shreds from Trader Joe’s but you can use coconut flakes as well, doesn’t matter as they are going to be blended.

Shredded Coconut

Shredded Coconut

Shredded Coconut

Lastly the flax seeds were added mostly for their omega-3 content but turns out they actually added a nice nutty, toasted flavor to the smoothie.

Flax Seeds

Flax Seeds

RECIPE:

Makes one smoothie.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of almond milk
1/2 banana, sliced
1 tablespoon shredded coconut
1 tablespoon raw cashews
1 tablespoon flax seeds
Sweetener to taste (I added Splenda but stevia, agave or honey would work as well)

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Add everything to a blender.
2. Blend until smooth.
3. Taste and blend more if the texture of the flax seeds is too gritty.
4. Drink up.

Banana Cashew Coconut Smoothie

Banana Cashew Coconut Smoothie

Banana Cashew Coconut Smoothie

Banana Cashew Coconut Smoothie

Although I found it unnecessary cinnamon could be a yummy addition to this smoothie or some cocoa powder too. One thing to note is that I think the vanilla flavor in the almond milk makes it so much better so if you are using plain almond milk definitely add a dash of vanilla extract in.

Banana Cashew Coconut Smoothie
Banana Cashew Coconut Smoothie

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Healthy & Delicious Chocolate Pudding Multi-Grain Oatmeal

Whenever I think of porridge I think of something bland and beige, the sort of thing that only people in prison and old time-y kids in Charles Dickens novels eat. This all changed after seeing this amazing post “To Talk Porridge” from Megan Gordon at A Sweet Spoonful. This porridge was not bland; it was topped with cranberries, coconut, and almonds; and it was not beige (well not entirely anyways), it was swirled with deep red and tinged with pink. And multi-grain oatmeal guys, is really just code for porridge. It just sounds nicer than the word ‘porridge’.

DSC_0243

Taking inspiration from that post I came up with a yummy and very chocolate-y multi-grain porridge that is essentially like eating chocolate pudding for breakfast…chocolate pudding that is dairy free, refined sugar free, egg free and has 358 calories, 4.5 grams of fiber, 5.7 grams of protein and is full of healthy coconut fats and omega-3. If you switch the grains too you could definitely make this gluten-free.

Chocolate Pudding Oatmeal

Chocolate Pudding Oatmeal

Although I’ve always liked the idea of oatmeal I never really liked hot oatmeal itself. It was sort of gluey and too one note. I think porridge, or maybe this porridge, solves that issue by using more than one grain for texture, so its more “toothsome” (stealing this word from A Sweet Spoonful’s post as I thought it was very evocative of what I was going for…). Naturally I started with rolled oats but for texture variation I added farro and spelt. Using a variety of grains also makes it healthier, adding in different nutrients, fiber and protein (depending on the grains you go for). I also added some chia seeds at the end which not only possess the uncanny power of transforming anything into “pudding” (look it up) but are also rich in omega-3. In order to reduce cooking time I used Trader Joe’s 10-Minute Farro and for the spelt I’m pretty sure I just used regular spelt even though the cooking time for spelt is supposed to be quite long…but it was still fine with 10 minutes.

Chocolate Pudding Oatmeal

For the liquid in the porridge I went with unsweetened vanilla almond milk, which is very low in calories but still adds creaminess. And after ensuring this was healthy to make it delicious I added cocoa powder, dark chocolate, coconut flakes and pistachios. To make it sweet you have a lot of options; brown sugar, honey or agave would be nice but in trying to stay healthy I used coconut sugar sweetened with stevia. My mom gave me this stuff because she abhors my Splenda habit (sorry Mum) and on its own or in a drink I think the Stevia taste is too pronounced but in something like this it blends in very well with no detectable aftertaste….must be all that chocolate 🙂

Chocolate Pudding Oatmeal

Chocolate Pudding Oatmeal

In order to avoid gluey oatmeal I followed the tips that Megan gave out on her post including to toast the oats first, only add the oats when the liquid is boiling and to avoid stirring the mixture while it cooks.

Oatmeal, Farro & Spelt

Oatmeal, Farro & Spelt

BASIC MULTI-GRAIN OATMEAL

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:
– 1/4 cup rolled oats (76 calories, 2 grams fiber, 2.75 grams protein)
– 1/8 cup Trader Joe’s 10-Minute Farro (80 calories, 1.5 grams fiber, 3.5 grams protein)
– 1/8 cup spelt (73.5 calories, 2.4 grams fiber, 3.1 grams protein)
– 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil (58.5 calories)
– 2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (60 calories, 2 grams fiber, 2 grams protein)

1. Heat a pan on medium heat and add the coconut oil when hot. Toss the oatmeal, farro and spelt in and toast in the coconut oil until they start to smell toasty. This also helps reduce cooking time.
2. Meanwhile, heat a pan with 1.5 cups of almond milk and bring that to a boil.
3. Add the toasted grains to the boiling almond milk, lower heat to simmer, cover and cook for 8 minutes.

CHOCOLATE PUDDING MULTI-GRAIN OATMEAL

– 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (36 calories)
– 2 tablespoons coconut sugar with stevia (96 calories)
– 2 squares dark chocolate (100 calories)
– 2 tablespoons chia seeds (136 calories, 1.4 grams protein)
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Once you have your basic multi-grain oatmeal cooked for 8 minutes, uncover the mixture.
4. Add in the the cocoa powder, coconut sugar, dark chocolate, chia seeds and remaining 1/2 cup of almond milk. You can add more or less almond milk depending on how thick you want your porridge. Stir minimally to combine, taste for doneness/add more sweetener if necessary then let cook for another 1-2 minutes.
5. Remove from heat, add in the vanilla extract, stir, add toppings and serve.

Grains

Grains

Coconut Oil and Coconut Sugar with Stevia

Coconut Oil and Coconut Sugar with Stevia

Cocoa and Dark Chocolate

Cocoa and Dark Chocolate

Chocolate Pudding Multi-Grain Oatmeal Pre-Toppings

Chocolate Pudding Multi-Grain Oatmeal Pre-Toppings

Now for the toppings. This is honestly perfectly fine by itself but some toppings really go that extra mile with making it feel like a dessert. I went with coconut flakes and pistachios.

Chocolate Pudding Oatmeal Post-Toppings

Chocolate Pudding Oatmeal Post-Toppings

Toppings

Toppings

But you could also go with fresh berries, dried apricots and almonds, fresh bananas with a peanut butter swirl (or PB2 if you’re conserving calories, see this post.), or anything you think pairs well with chocolate. Perhaps more chocolate.

DSC_0245

Another route you can go if you are not craving a simpler or fresher final product is to omit the chocolate and then add cinnamon and fresh fruit. This option also saves you 58 calories per serving so that your final product will be closer to 300 calories per serving.

Vanilla, Cinnamon & Berry Multi-Grain Oatmeal

Vanilla, Cinnamon & Berry Multi-Grain Oatmeal

VANILLA, CINNAMON & BERRY MULTI-GRAIN OATMEAL

– 2 tablespoons coconut sugar with stevia (96 calories)
– 2 tablespoons chia seeds (136 calories, 1.4 grams protein)
– 1 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– fresh or frozen berries

1. Once you have your basic multi-grain oatmeal cooked for 8 minutes, uncover.
4. Add in the coconut sugar, chia seeds, cinnamon and remaining 1/2 cup of almond milk. You can add more or less almond milk depending on how thick you want your porridge. Stir minimally to combine, taste for doneness/add more sweetener if necessary then let cook for another 1-2 minutes.
5. Remove from heat, add in the vanilla extract, stir, add toppings and serve.
6. If you are using fresh berries, slice over top and if you are using frozen microwave/heat until defrosted and juicy then pour it over the top of your oatmeal. Normally I will always choose fresh berries but in this case the ones that were frozen will be soft and bleeding berry juice that mixes into the oatmeal. “Bleeding” is a poor word choice here but you know what I mean. I’m all for it.

Vanilla Cinnamon Multi-Grain Oatmeal Pre-Topping

Vanilla Cinnamon Multi-Grain Oatmeal Pre-Topping

Post-Topping

Post-Topping

Added almonds and pumpkin seeds too btw.

Added almonds and pumpkin seeds too btw.

This version is also completely vegan. The chocolate pudding version is most likely vegan as well but I think that depends on the veganness of your dark chocolate. Mine was just regular Trader Joe’s dark chocolate so I believe it probably did have milk solids albeit a very small amount of them.

DSC

DSC
DSC

TIPS:
– Substitute other grains, I think wheat berries would be soooo good in this because of their chewy texture.
– Depending on how soft or how textured you want this vary the ratio of grains (more oatmeal will make it softer) or cook it for more or less time.
– You could even use different grains to make this gluten-free; amaranth, quinoa, millet, sorghum, rice and some kinds of oats are gluten-free. Just make sure you adjust the cooking times accordingly for the grains you use.
– So many toppings would be good with these. I really want to make the chocolate one again and add PB2 to it for peanut butter flavor then top with sliced bananas and a little swirl of real peanut butter. For the chocolate-free one I think some cinnamon baked almonds and pears with pecans would make it amazing. Or lots of coconut and a few chocolate chips if you only want a hint of chocolate.
– As I mentioned before the chocolate-free one is vegan and the chocolate pudding version is most likely 99.9% vegan depending on how vegan the dark chocolate you use is.

Little Italy Farmer’s Market – San Diego

If you have never been to some of the great farmer’s markets in San Diego you are missing out on some great produce and tasty food. Two of my favorites are the Little Italy Farmer’s Market on Saturday’s and the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market on Sunday. The Little Italy one is more geared towards produce and buying ingredients whereas the Hillcrest one is better for grabbing a bite, with anything from Russian pierogi to Brazilian empanadas or Jamaican jerk chicken. Hillcrest Farmer’s Market pictures on a next post but here are some pictures from the Little Italy Farmer’s Market.

Little Italy Farmer's Market

Little Italy Farmer’s Market

The main thing you have naturally is a lot of produce for sale. Unless you are super pressed for time I recommend you browsing through the entire market first before buying any produce. Prices vary a lot as well as how nice the produce looks. We bought a bunch of carrots from one vendor and four stalls down they had a prettier bunch for half the price. Also note that although you are at a farmer’s market not everything is necessarily organic and local, many stands have signs saying they are or are not and you can always inquire the vendor if that is what you are after.

Eggplant

Eggplant

Squash

Squash

Carrots

Carrots

Most of the vendors also offer tasters so you can try some of the produce before you buy it, its always nice to try all the different kinds of apples, a new kind of avocado or some fruit you’ve never had before. Farmer’s markets are also pretty much the only place in the universe you can get a perfectly ripe avocado to use the very day you purchased. This is nothing short of magical in my book.

The Cravory

These guys are almost at every farmer’s market in SD, including the Little Italy, Hillcrest and La Jolla ones. They offer a rotating wide variety of cookies. These are a little pricey at $2.00 each but they are soft, plump, chewy mounds of cookie that never disappoint. You can try any/as many of the flavors before buying as well. I personally love the Lemon Bar cookie as well as the Almond Joyous. They always have some nice seasonal flavors too, in this case they had some great holiday flavors like Peppermint Schnapps and Caramel Eggnog.

The Cravory

The Cravory

Bread & Cie

Bread & Cie is also at most of the farmer’s markets and they offer a wide variety of yummy bread. If you are not sure what to buy definitely just ask them for recommendations and based on what you like you can try something new that might appeal to you as well. This time we got some great focaccia and the tasty dark chocolate thing you see in the last picture. It was brioche dough rolled with large chunks of melted dark chocolate and that thing was gone in a day. Rich and chocolate but not overly sweet I cannot wait to buy it again. We also got a brioche like chocolate bread studded with cherries and dark chocolate chunks. Due to the shape we thought it was panettone so we were a little disappointed with the brioche bread which is drier than a panettone but it made the best chocolate bread pudding in the world. Oh and the Fig & Anise bread is lovely too.

Bread & Cie

Bread & Cie


Amazing dark chocolate brioche roll

Amazing dark chocolate brioche roll

Saranya

Saranya sells fantastic Thai food and the stand has done so well that they have even opened a real brick and mortar restaurant! Their curries are really good and they also sell the curry sauces frozen so you can make your own with whatever meat/veggies you want at home. I always, always stop here and get an order of the coconut pancakes. These are small little pancakes made out of coconut milk and rice flour, they are chewy, slightly sweet, very coconut-y and cost I think $1.60 for 4 pancakes. No pictures because we ate them in 2 seconds. Saranya also has the best sticky rice with mango in the world. Or at least that I have tried. Better than anything I’ve had in Thailand even…

Saranya Stick Rice with Mango

Saranya Sticky Rice with Mango

Their rice is perfectly cooked and they drizzle a sweetened coconut milk on it. Every time I’ve gotten it the mangos are also ridiculously and perfectly ripe. Ask for extra coconut milk on top and you are golden. SO SO GOOD.

And to finish I have to post of a picture of this little guy that was hanging out at the Little Italy Farmer’s Market the week before Christmas:

Much Christmas. So Santa.

Much Christmas. So Santa.

Little Italy Farmer’s Market

W. Date & India Streets
Saturday – 8am to 2pm

http://www.littleitalysd.com/mercato/

Bouchon Chocolate Covered Eclairs with Dulce de Leche Coconut Filling

Filled Eclair

Filled Eclair

So the Bouchon cookbook is amazing. The writing is extremely detailed and if you follow it step by step you will most likely obtain perfect results. Minus a little calibrating for finicky ovens.

Eclair

Whereas I stuck to the Bouchon recipe for the eclair dough and ganache topping I wanted to make my own filling. Having some leftover dulce de leche and coconut pudding I thought that would make a great filling. This recipe is based on Manjar de Coco, a Brazilian coconut pudding that is normally topped with prunes and prune syrup. Which sounds quite dismal but is actually pretty tasty. Here’s a traditional recipe for Manjar de Coco from Chronic Cravings.

In the traditional Manjar de Coco recipe you use a can of sweetened condensed milk but I substituted a can of dulce de leche for the condensed milk.

Manjar de Coco with Dulce de Leche

INGREDIENTS:
1 can of dulce de leche
whole milk
3/4 cup of coconut milk
4 tablespoons of corn starch
1/2 cup of coconut flakes

1. Add dulce de leche, coconut milk, coconut flakes, and corn starch into a pan.
2. Take the empty can of dulce de leche and pour two cans worth of whole milk into the pan with all the other ingredients.
3. Turn on stove and cook it on medium heat continuously stirring until its thickened.
4. Chill in fridge.

Remember that the mixture will thicken as it chills so cook until its a little runnier than you want it to be.

Now the Bouchon recipe is quite long and detailed, here is a link to it:

Bouchon Eclairs

Eclairs Cooling

Eclairs Cooling

Obviously did not use a pastry piping bag as was instructed but besides that the only other modification I had to make was that my eclairs were still not airy enough after the baking process was done so I had to leave them in for 8 minutes longer. I blame this on my oven as it tends to undercook things to a certain extent…

Slicing Eclairs

Slicing Eclairs

Filling Eclairs

Filling Eclairs

Ganache

Ganache

Finishing up Eclairs

Finishing up Eclairs

Last step:

Eclair Innards

Eclair Innards

The last step is perhaps quite important because eclairs do not stand the test of time. Every moment they are sitting they are getting soggier so please make sure to assemble them right before you plan to eat them all!

TIPS:
– If you can’t find dulce de leche you can just make it yourself either by cooking it over a saucepan or by boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk, see this link here.

Diner en Blanc SD

Having heard of the Diner en Blanc events a couple years ago I considered going to last years for the first time it was happening in SD but ehh was too lazy and ended up not committing. This year we bought tickets fairly early on and I have to say it surpassed my expectations and I will definitely be back next year!

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc started in Paris 25 years ago and now its hosted in cities around the world, everywhere from Quebec to Cote d’Ivoire to Singapore. Basically the premise is that all these people dressed all in white (nicely I might add) bring their own tables, chairs, table decorations and food to a spot. Although mind you, you can also rent tables/chairs from them and purchase a multi-course meal as well if you are not inclined to make your own. After meeting up everyone gets on buses that will take you to an undisclosed location where the thousands of people that participate in these events will set up their tables, chairs and food and have a giant open-air dinner party. They have taken place in the Place Vendôme at Paris and they shut down Rodeo Drive last year for the one in Los Angeles. In SD last year it was at Harbor Island and this year it was in a lovely courtyard in Point Loma.

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

Diner en Blanc SD 2013

The meet up spot was at Balboa Park and when we arrived I was happy I wore a nice white dress because people go all out for this. Floor length dresses, all white suits, parasols, carnival masks, boas…you name it. Apparently there is an award for best-dressed person as well as best-decorated table. Originally I thought this was a more casual affair and so I was glad that I was informed that yes, you have to dress nicely and no, you can’t just eat on a picnic blanket.

So the only downside is having to carry all your stuff everywhere. Its not too bad but we did have some pot de creme desserts that tipped over and made a bit of a mess. As well as I had trouble carrying our table from the car to the bus but I would blame this more on a personal shortcoming of having the upper body strength of an 8 year old.

The bus took us around a bit, going on the freeway and then back off, around downtown, stopping in a random parking lot (psyche) and then finally to Point Loma. Although initially I was unimpressed by the location once we were in the courtyard and everyone was set up it looked beautiful. The courtyard around us also handily sheltered us from the wind so that both girls in skimpier dressing as well as tall flickering candles were well protected.

Napkin waving

Napkin waving

Once tables are set, dinner starts with a napkin waving thing. It was nice chatting to the tables around us and although we were definitely on the younger side of attendees it was cool to have a good mix of all ages and both couples that came alone and huge groups of people attending together.

Our table!

Our table!

Our table!

Our table!

We went with simple but elegant for our table and a bottle of rosé for libations. Also although organizers say you must purchase alcohol from them and not bring your own, EVERYONE brought their own and lots of it. Next year we will definitely be smuggling some more wine in with our food.

Crostini with Truffled Ricotta and Mushrooms

Crostini with Truffled Ricotta and Mushrooms

For our first course I made crostini with truffled ricottas and mushrooms. When you are cooking you kind of have to keep in mind that all this stuff has to be transported and also that it will most likely be served sort of closer to room temperature, unless you have a nice insulated mode of food transportation like I did not (does a Trader Joe’s bag count? I thought not).

Caeser Salad

Caeser Salad

For the second course I made a caeser salad with caeser-basil dressing. Also known as, I made a caeser dressing and added basil to it because why not.

Roast Chicken with Potatoes

Roast Chicken with Potatoes

The entree was roast chicken with Meyer lemon + roasted potatoes. I followed Kenji’s recipe from Serious Eats for a perfect butterflied roast chicken with quick jus. This was awesome. And I roasted the chicken on top of a wire rack with the potatoes underneath so that the chicken spices/juices/fat/everything dripped on the potatoes and they were sooo flavorful. I used Yukon Gold potatoes, dropped them in a pan with cold water + rosemary, Meyer lemons and salt over medium heat until they boiled and then threw them in with the chicken in the oven. They were the best roast potatoes I have ever made. No lie. Sadly not as good served room temperature but will definitely repeat this recipe.

Dulce de Leche + Coconut Pudding & Strawberries

Dulce de Leche + Coconut Pudding & Strawberries

For dessert we had dulce de leche + coconut pudding with strawberries. This was also great and I want to make it again but with more coconut and a chocolate sauce.

So after dinner there is dancing and we were thinking of just leaving early because we are the lamest 23 and 25 year olds on the planet and have work really early. But the DJ who was playing mostly oldies throughout the dinner sneakily got people on the dance floor with the Cupid Shuffle and from that went to more upbeat music. By the end of the night people were dancing in the fountains, there was a guy running around with a bubble gun and when we snap chatted a picture of the event to a friend she thought we were at Sensation White (the rave).

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Diner en Blanc SD

Being used to going to loud bars/clubs that mostly have just people your age and that play mostly EDM all night it was super fun to dance around to songs with WORDS that everyone knows the lyrics too. It was also great seeing people of all ages dance and even better to see both 20 year olds and 60 year olds dancing inside the fountain!

Fountain Dancing

Fountain Dancing

Bubble Gun

Bubble Gun

We stayed until the very end and of course the very last song they played was Journey. I don’t even have to tell you which one. Great experience and can’t wait to be back next year! Hopefully with leak-proof containers for the dessert and someone else to take up table-carrying duties 🙂

For more info on Diner en Blanc:
http://sandiego.dinerenblanc.info/

Azucar

So I’m pretty when people are thinking desserts in San Diego their first thought is Extraordinary Desserts. Which is completely understandable and pretty fantastic as far as desserts go, however I invite you to consider Azucar in Ocean Beach as well. Although it bills itself as a Cuban style bakery, they go beyond that and have fantastic offerings.

Azucar's Havana Cake

Azucar’s Havana Cake

Azucar

Azucar

Its definitely smaller and more casual than Extraordinary Desserts but I think a perfect afternoon would be perusing the antique stores on Newport Av. and then stopping and getting some coffee and dessert at Azucar. The cakes are mini sized and mini priced (your waistline and wallet will thank you!) but still feel very high-end and complex, with ingredients like passion fruit curd, flambeed pineapple, and champagne infused chocolate.

Azucar's Cake Display

Azucar’s Cake Display

You can also get yummy sandwiches (try the Cuban naturally) as well as amazing coffee. They also do more casual pastries like their flaky pastries with guava or cheese, ham croquettes, cookies, brownies, scones and cupcakes, etc. Personally I prefer their sweet to their savoury. As a disclaimer I will say that in life I also prefer sweet to savoury.

Azucar's Cake Display

Azucar’s Cake Display

As far as their more elaborate little cakes these are an incredibly affordable $6 bucks. One of my favorites is a white cake with passion fruit curd, raspberries, and a marshmallow toasted top. Next on my to try list is one that had rum soaked cake layered with coconut cream and flambeed pineapple. And their birthday cake is also inspired by the Momofuku birthday cake which would please anyone with a super sweet tooth. However, what I actually got this time was a white layer cake with dulce de leche filling and a vanilla frosting with sprinkles. Behold.

Vanilla Cake with Dulce de Leche

Vanilla Cake with Dulce de Leche

Sprinkle Close Up

Sprinkle Close Up

It WAS delicious. A little too sweet with the frosting but I tend to not be a big frosting person anyways. The cake is so moist and flecked with little vanilla beans (play find the specks on the first image of this post!). It pairs incredibly well with dulce de leche because really what doesn’t pair well with dulce de leche.

The other item I tried was their mojito cookie. This was awesome. The cookie is thin but chewy and a light green inside, topped with granulated sugar. It really does taste like a mojito sans the alcohol component. But the fresh mint and lime flavor with the texture from the granulated sugar really makes this cookie. And yes I had a bite on the way home before I was able to take a picture of it. Life happens.

Mojito Cookie

Mojito Cookie

Mojito Cookie

Mojito Cookie

Mojito Cookie - So green!

Mojito Cookie – So green!

I’d like to also point out that the service at Azucar is great. Everyone is really friendly and they don’t mind at all when people like me stand there for 20 minutes and read all the descriptions of every cake 3 times before deciding what I want to take home. Usually when I’m picking desserts there’s 2 that stand out of maybe 10 options but here I think I could’ve been happy with almost any of the cakes. It helps that I like that they use Latin inspired ingredients like tropical fruits and dulce de leche (which I love). Until next time I’m in OB I guess…

Azucar

Azucar

Azucar

4820 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107
(619) 523-2020

http://iloveazucar.com/

Cucina Urbana

Cucina Urbana has been one of my favorite restaurants in SD for a while. Its somewhere I know serves consistently awesome seasonal food and has consistently awesome service. Whenever I have friends or family visiting I love bringing them to Cucina, especially if its Thursday and they have their half off pizzas deal (TRY THE MUSHROOM PIZZA!).

Cucina Urbana Mural

Cucina Urbana Mural

Ok disclaimer. The restaurant is kindof dark inside so I had to use flash to take most of the pictures hence everything is very contrast-y. Let’s pretend this is a review done chiaroscuro style yes?

Cucina is a modern Italian restaurant: their appetizers consist of salads, vasi (spreads that are served with bread), and other small plates like fried ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms. For mains you have many pizza options, pasta and regular meat-centric entrees. We decided to stick with appetizers this time; for some reason lately I’ve been really enjoying ordering two appetizers instead of one entree.

DRINKS: They have a great drink program here, including some non-alcoholic concoctions. They infuse some of their liquors at home and for Christmas they did a panettone-infused vodka, such a neat idea. This time I ordered their White Sangria. Its crisp and refreshing and comes with cubes of green apple and orange.

White Sangria

White Sangria

For the bread basket they usually give you white loaf bread and then a toasted brown bread. Even though I love brown bread this one is not my favorite. It also comes with plain butter. And yes I know that picture is super bright.

Overexposed Bread

Overexposed Bread

APPETIZERS: I love their Lacinato Kale + Hearts of Romaine Caeser here. They mix kale and romaine with a super savoury Caeser dressing. They then add shaved parmesan cheese, English mustard bread crumbs and fried “esca”. Esca is Italian for bait and these are super salty little fried fish. Not to everyones liking I imagine but I thought they were a good addition. The mustard bread crumbs also add a nice sharpness to the salad.

Kale Caeser

Kale Caeser

We also ordered one of the vasi, I hear the chicken liver one is great if you’re into that kind of thing but we decided to try the Burrata and Roasted Garlic Confit vasi. Burrata is like fresh mozzarella but instead of being made with milk its made with cream so its richer and creamier and oozier as opposed to a solid cheese. The burrata comes inside a jar and its perfectly seasoned with herbs. The roasted garlic comes on the side and its meltingly soft and ready to be squeezed out of the clove and smeared onto the bread. Since the burrata was seasoned it alone was delicious on bread but with the garlic this was fantastic. This came with a grilled bread, white loaf bread, and brown bread. My only complaint with this and is that our grilled bread tasted a little too charred but they happily brought us more non-grilled bread so this was not a problem.

Burrata and Roasted Garlic Vasi

Burrata and Roasted Garlic Vasi

Burrata

Burrata

Another great appetizer to share is their meat and cheese board, the Formaggi+Salumi. You can pick 3, 4, or 5 items and then choose how many meats and cheeses you want (if you picked 5 you could do all cheese or 3 cheese and 2 meats, etc.). We decided on 4 and did 3 cheeses and 1 meat. You have quite a few options for meats and cheeses and the servers are more than willing to help you if you are not sure what you would like. For cheeses we did a Parmesan-like cheese, a younger goat cheese and another mild cheese (we don’t like blue cheese!). For meat we ended up deciding on Coppa, a cured pork collar. They also had salami, prosciutto, and another meat I can’t remember.

meat and cheese board

Formaggi + Salumi

The board came with white loaf bread and the brown bread as well as various spreads + olives. In the picture you can see at the top left corner is what is left of our olives, these were a mix of black and green and they were in olive oil with herbs. To the right of that is a red pepper spread, next is grain mustard, regular mustard, strawberry jam and on the far right is honeycomb and fresh sliced apples. Basically this is one of my favorite meat and cheese boards because with all the spreads, olives, breads and fruit you can literally make every bite you take different. You can have a savoury bite with the coppa and cheese and red pepper spread then maybe have just coppa and mustard. Then switch to sweet and have some of the goat cheese with honeycomb and apple. I know the cheese portions look small but we couldn’t even finish this.

Cucina Urbana Pizza Oven

Cucina Urbana Pizza Oven

Lastly I had ordered a grilled octopus appetizer. The server came to check if I still wanted it given the cornucopia of food we had in front of us and I said yes. As soon as she walked into the kitchen I changed my mind. I could barely finish my salad and just could not eat another dish…unless it was dessert. So I called her and apologized and she was so nice about canceling it. This is another thing I love about this restaurant; they always go above and beyond with service. Last time we were here we wanted to order this baked squash goat cheese appetizer we had loved but unfortunately it was seasonal and it was gone, our waiter felt bad and gave us the ricotta-stuffed fried squash blossoms on the house saying maybe we’d like these instead (they were awesome). Another time we sat at the communal table and there was a father and daughter eating across from us. We had ordered at the same time but we got our entrees first and after waiting for theirs for a while the server came with free glasses of wine for them, apologizing profusely for the long wait. Seriously not only is everyone super pleasant here if there ever is a mistake they fix it immediately and make sure your experience is a positive one.

Cucina Urbana Interior

Cucina Urbana Interior

DESSERT: So yes I switched that octopus appetizer for dessert. Naturally. We went with the Pineapple Coconut Panna Cotta. This was a fairly decent sized cup of coconut panna cotta topped with cooked pineapple and crumbled sometypeof cookies. I loved the pineapple in this as it was sweet and tart and a good contrast to the creamy panna cotta. The panna cotta was not as good by itself as I thought it needed a little more sweetness and the texture was a little less creamy than I like my panna cotta. If you don’t like coconut too fear not because it was not overly coconut-y at all.

Pineapple Coconut Panna Cotta

Pineapple Coconut Panna Cotta

Overall it was a great experience and I can’t wait to come back on a Wednesday when they have their burger + beer special.

CHECK:
White Sangria (Happy Hour price) $5
Burrata + Roasted Garlic Confit $8
Lacinato Kale + Hearts of Romaine Caeser $9.50
Formaggi + Salumi (4 items) $15
Pineapple Coconut Panna Cotta $8
TOTAL: $49.14 (w/ tax)

Cucina Urbana
505 Laurel St.
San Diego, CA 92101
www.cucinaurbana.com

PB & BCH Toast

If you are currently at a loss for breakfast we have the simplest recipe for you. It involves no cooking (is toasting cooking?) and it will be ready in about 5 minutes, depending on how fast your slicing skills are.

As much as we would love to have a full breakfast everyday, one rarely finds the time to make rashers of bacon, crispy potatoes and scrambled eggs on weekday mornings. And breakfast is, as most of us are tired of hearing, the most important meal of the day. Although we too are guilty of occasionally skipping breakfast, many studies have shown that people who eat breakfast eat less throughout the whole day. Almost on par with skipping breakfast is having an unsatisfying breakfast. Although many times cereal will do just fine, if you are pressed for time and want something hot you need nothing more than 4 or 5 ingredients.

Peanut Butter Banana Coconut Honey Toast

Peanut Butter Banana Coconut Honey Toast

INGREDIENTS:
Loaf of country whole wheat bread (We like Trader Joe’s Demi Miche bread)
Peanut butter (we are partial to crunchy but we know this is a controversial topic)
1 banana
Honey
Shredded or flaked coconut (or any other topping of your choice!)
Coconut oil

Directions:
1. Slice some of the bread to your desired thickness.
2. Toast. Spread coconut oil on both sides then pan fry until golden on each side.
3. Spread the peanut butter generously on one side.
4. Slice the banana and layer on top of the peanut butter.
5. Drizzle with honey.
6. Top with coconut flakes.

Should you follow these ridiculously simple (almost to the point of being unnecessary) directions: The toast will be hot, crunchy on the outside, and will smell coconut-y and butter-y at the same time. The peanut butter will begin to melt where it touches the bread and ooze over. The bananas and honey will add sweetness and lastly you’ll have some more texture and flavor from the coconut. So good! This would also be a perfect afternoon snack.

TIPS:
– If you are allergic to coconut you can use butter instead of coconut oil and omit the coconut flakes.
– This would be also delicious with just plain white bread or super dark rye bread.
– This is what the Trader Joe’s Demi Miche bread looks like (here).
– Instead of the coconut flakes you could also top this with dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, dates…), chocolate chips, cinnamon, nuts, or berries!