Two New Vineyards

Last weekend Stacey and I drove from LA to Santa Maria for some wine tasting. We were further out than I'd been before and in my selfish desire to hit up as many new wineries as I can, we stopped into Zaca Mesa and Riverbench. I'd had Zaca wine and heard of Riverbench, so it sounded like a good combination. The folks at Zaca were friendly and the wine was alright. I liked a couple whites more than I thought I would and was glad to get the recommendation to Riverbench. Those whites I liked a lot more, and this is coming from a big bold red girl. Cab please. I digress. The weather was a bit cooler and windier than I had hoped but once at Riverbench we tasted and sat on a picnic table catching up on much needed agenda items for the weekend. Yes, we had an agenda of topics to discuss. All that to say, if you're out by Riverbench and like white wine, stop on in. It's a pretty new building and they're the local type.

Chocolate and Nut Granola

Saturday morning is a good lineup. Jamie and Nigella on tv. I usually watch, am inspired, and erase. Need to remove for more room. Well, one week Nigella went off on breakfast and I watched her make granola I knew I had to try. Cocoa and all the other ingredients that make up granola, count me in. Ginger for some heat and of course, cinnamon. I made, and I loved. A bit more chocolaty at first, but I've now come to justify the little bit of chocolate compared to all those good ingredients and am fine eating it any old time. I love the hint of salt at the end- sweet and salty are more than delicious to me.

Nigella's Chocolate and Nut Granola:
  • 4 1/2 c. oats
  • 1 c. sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 c. sesame seeds
  • 3/4 c. apple sauce
  • 1/4 c. cocoa
  • ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1/3 c. dark or light corn syrup
  • 2 c. nuts
  • 2 T oil
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 t. sea salt
Stir and place on jelly roll pan at 300 for 40 min, stirring half way through if you like. Enjoy!

My Favorite Sous Chef & Sugar Cookies

I had to include Froggy in the title. Of course. I had such a wonderful time last night seein the lil man and his family. Froggy and I spent a lot of time cooking together when I lived in a studio. He was always up for helping me measure and stir, standing up on a chair so he could reach. Sometimes he would try whatever I was making and other times it was just silly- he helped and then was off- or in my pillows throwing them around. :) It had taken awhile to get schedules together and last night we got to decorate cookies. I asked how kingdergarten was going, if he liked his new friends, and if he liked anyone more than friends. Yes to both.
I made the German Sugar Cookies before hand and came over ready to make and decorate with icing. This recipe is a tride and true for my family, although one that usually only comes out at Christmas time. When my mom gave me tulip, butterfly, and egg shaped cutters, I of course needed a reason to BAKE with them. The dough is quick to make and easy to use- don't worry about adding too much flour, they roll out easy and bake up quick. A little brown around the edges and you're golden.

German Sugar Cookies:
  • Sift together 3 c. flour, 1/2 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. baking soda, 1/4 t. salt, set aside
  • Cream 1 c. butter and 1 c. sugar in bowl, add 2 eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition then 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Gradually stir in dry ingredients
  • Divide dough in half and roll out onto floured surface to 1/4" thickness. Cut with floured cutters and place about 2" apart on greased sheet- they'll grow!
  • Bake at 350 for 10-12 min, or until golden.
  • Remove and let cool- they freeze well up to 3 week

Once the cookies had baked it was icing time. Again, easy and I love this frosting because its a bit shiny thanks to the butter so really pretty on the cookies. We weren't going for looks so much, but had fun decorating none the less. Froggy was a bit more into eating the frosting than decorating with it. :)

  • 2 cup confectioner sugar
  • 2 T softened butter
  • 2-3 T milk
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • dash salt
  • mix to desired consistency
The girls got home later and we got this hilarious picture. Although Leilani is extremely girly, she decided to act like a pirate. Such a fun time with them too. I remember holding each in my arms and now they're talking and have such cute words. "oh how pretty, how beautiful" regarding my shoes and or toenail polish. One of the best moments came at the end of the night when Malia stole Leilani's lipstick which she can so carefully and wonderfully apply herself, and put it all over her face. Of course, it was picture time.


Friday night I met Stacey in LA. What a fun reunion that was. I saw her late last year but it was fun to see her in my territory. She introduced me as a local, but I didn't squint, I'll be here for a bit I think though anyone who knows me even a little knows LA isn't anywhere I'd like to claim. That said, it's been about 6 years of wishing and hoping something fun was down there. Sure, I like the Getty and am already getting some friends ready for my "please let's go to a Dodgers's summer" comments, but other than that, it's this big name city which I know to be as the 405, 10, and 101. Traffic, no thanks. I knew we'd be down there for the night and that there had got to be some fun restaurant I'd want to check out. Thanks to Les I heard about AOC. When she told me it had a relation to Hungry Cat through Suzanne Goin, I was in. When I read the menu and saw the first thing listed on the dessert menu was sticky toffee pudding, I was there. Stacey and I got the direction and headed out. I don't know the ins and outs of LA, but when we parked near "audi, audi, jaguar, jaguar, audi" I figured we were safe. In we walk and there we sit at the cheese bar. We looked at the little menus and asked that we get a full menu. Well, thankfully this cued are waitress to tell us a bit about the small plates, the coursing of the meal, and how you get a number of things to share. We started off with bacon wrapped dates and later had a lengthy discussion about re-creating these at home. Next was some cheese- a Spanish with a little olive oil and a blue. Yum. We then shared a market lettuce salad with lentils and lemons sliced so thin, it was delicious and light. I had a scallop dish with fresh peas. Wow- if you haven't had fresh peas, what a difference. That dish was excellent. I tried a bite of Stacey's beef with Stilton butter and it was incredible as well. We had some asparagus and then of course, had to try the sticky toffee pudding. If I'm honest I'll say it wasn't as moist as I would have liked, or maybe as moist as the one I make, if I'm honest, but it was wonderful none the less. It was an excellent meal, one I'm still thinking about in fact. It was wonderful how small the portions were and how they are coursed out so you really get to focus on each dish, and you don't end up eating too quickly. Enjoy your company and the food, done and done.


my friend annemarie is incredible. you can thank her for the fun new header to the good life. :) she took me out for some fun pics at an incredible park in carpinteria last weekend. field, train tracks, cliffs, ocean, mountains, santa barbara. check em out here. thanks annemarie!!

just you wait.

I've got a plot of land and some green adventures ahead of me. I am excited. I've been trying to tap into some farmer friend knowledge and determine what best to plant in June that's going to come up just gloriously in the summer and into the fall, although Aug-Oct here are quite nice still. So far I'm thinking tomatoes, zukes, lettuce, herbs, chilies, etc. I'm excited for the little side area where I can plant some flowers as well. I'll till up their knowledge and most likely get some books from the library as well. I know- what a concept. Get excited, I know you are, to see the results to come in the months ahead...


Who knew walking down State Street we'd run into a 'soft opening' of a rather charming, hip, city-like new restaurant. Booths, high tables, and a bar you say?! Pimms...what's pimms? Roth, Baker and I found this spot when we ran into the original location being full, and were rather pleased. I couldn't find much online, but it's a fun new place in town. It's owned by 2 of my least favorite places in town, but hey, good for them for creating something classy. The waiter was more than attentive to our table and even took a pic, with him in it, for myspace. What?! Who uses myspace?! Jokes on him. We shared some lobster mac and then painted the town red- nope. Overall a fun spot for a drink, and of course, I wouldn't mind trying out their menu sometime soon too. Grand opening is Memorial Day weekend- check.

dot dot dot

I've been slacking in the department of going out and making recipes for sake of saving a dollar or five. In that case, I've had the adventure of taking stock of the fridge and seeing what I can create. The other night I decided to make breakfast for dinner, but spiced it up and was happy with the results. It's comical when you think about what some breakfast joints charge for pretty simple fare, and I'd like to think my creation would have made the menu. Me thinking it wasn't that exciting didn't document my sauteed potato, spinach, egg, parm dish, and now on second thought wish I would have... That said I'll try and keep the posts of interest, and open to a wider audience. Maybe you're over recipes but you want some ideas, maybe I can provide them... Hopefully this won't make the blog look like I'm losing steam, because don't worry, I still know I've got an audience to wow and what a good motivation that is. Well, I'm writing out my thoughts too much and that is exactly the type of blog I'm trying to stay away from. So, stay tuned, and get to a cookin...

last thursday

some people can put things into words, or blogs, better than i can. i've recently been around a lot of people with great eyes- photographers. here's a post on my last thursday happenings...

you would be hopeful.

...spent the morning playing tennis for the assistance league of santa barbara foundation. beautiful morning. friendly tennis. lunch. sunshine. hope ranch. a santa barbara classic.

now that wasn't so bad, was it?

I got to cooking and using my curly kale I was so excited about, mostly due to the abundance of nutrients it packs in, and was not feeling good about what was happening. Olive oil, garlic, chopped curly kale, roasted cauliflower, saute, splash of chardonnay, cover and simmer, salt and pepper, crushed red pepper, cover, simmer, soy sauce, squeeze 1/4 lemon juice on it... = really tasty. If I had tofu I'd put that in there, or I'd add some shrimp to saute first, then let it cook just until done, and I'd have brown rice. Since none of these other steps happened and I needed a quick meal before Bible study, it was some shredded white sharp cheddar, lid back on, melt, and serve. The heat was good, the seasoning just right, and I was stuffed- with veg.


Thanks to Jen's work on the farm, she donated some cauliflower for Easter that didn't get used. It was a little bruised, so not the prettiest to sell and therefore, free. Well, Les ended up not roasting it and with a trip up north, so I got the 'seconds' well more so 'thirds." I decided my lunch break was the perfect time to get to roasting. Come home- preheat oven to 375, take out pan, chop up the beautiful cauliflower; white, cheddar, and romanesco- check it out- then tell me how awesome you think God is...such a genius work of art. Anyways, back to the cooking. I used my walnut oil, again from the market, some salt and pepper, and let those babies cook. So pretty, and so tasty.

Jamie Meet Martha

Saturday was good reason to show the wonders that lie in the Dutch Oven I'd been speaking so much about. I found a recipe in Jamie at Home and was happy to make Crispy and Sticky chicken thighs with squashed new potatoes and tomatoes. I like the budget friendly cost of the thigh, and knew I could pick up tomatoes and potatoes that morning at the market, not to mention a lovely bunch of oregano. Paul's a big eater and I love me a good reason to make more risotto, or try out new recipes that is, so I picked up some asparagus at the farmers market as well for Martha's lemon risotto with asparagus and peas. (couldn't find it online but that recipe is close- minus using 1/2 cup of chardonnay in the beginning then 1 cup peas about a minute before it's done- taking off the heat, putting in butter and parm and I figured right when the chicken was going in the oven, I could focus on the risotto and Paul's such a long time good friend, I wouldn't have to feel all hostess-y when he arrived. And so it was- as shown above though in it's leftover form- and it was good. I must say we ended up watching Jamie cook the chicken recipe and I learned some things I should have adapted when I made it. More counter space and cutting boards would have been nice for the whole mashing affect, and had I not been on the phone during the prep, I may have blanched and peeled the tomato skin. I guess since Jamie usually isn't into such details I should have taken better note of that one. Regardless, it was tasty and the risotto, though not as great as Jamie's, was consumed in large amounts.

Hilary's Granola

There are so many types of granola it's only fitting this one gets named after the one and only.

Hilary's Granola:
Preheat oven to 350.
Step 1: Combine 1 1/2 c. oats, 1 1/2 c. wheat germ, 1/4. c. sunflower seeds, 3 T. sesame seeds, 2/3 c. chopped nuts, 3/4 c. dried unsweetened coconut, 1/2 t. salt, 3/4 c. brown sugar.
Step 2: combine 1/3 c. water or juice and 1/4 c. butter.
Combine in a big ol bowl, spread on a jelly roll pan, and bake, stirring about every 10 min for a total of about 20-30 min. Let cool and store in an air tight container. Add dried fruit if you like...

Easy and Might I Add Delicious Almond Cake

Thanks again Nigella for another great food processor friendly cake. So easy and delicious. I made it yesterday and was thankful for some berries and creme anglaise to go on top.

I'd say this is a tried and true recipe I'd come back to- more like a pound cake and a bit pricey for the marzipan, but lovely nonetheless.


When I came across this recipe in How to Be a Domestic Goddess- of course I had to make them. I was hoping the kids would like them, and when Spencer gave me a thumbs up, I'd say they were a success. So simple and kid friendly, a fun little treat that came out looking nicer than when my hands were covered in chocolate and I was assembling them...

He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed!

I love Easter. Especially this year- it's been a wonderful season leading up to it with bible study talking about why Christ had to die, and letting that all sink in. I've had a lot to be thankful for, and all the little kids wearing bunny ears have warmed my heart extra special this year. No bun in the oven, just precious. Old soul here, no surprises. I think about white patent leather shoes and yes, being able to wear white now. It snowed recently in Ohio- its ok this is a big deal to me. After a wonderful outdoor service this morning with Annemarie and Brett, I made me way to Les and Jer's super hungry- a good way to go to their house. Jeremy smoked a ton of meat, Les made garlic mashed potatoes, and there were roasted beets and a great salad. I provided an almond cake- post to come- and little egg baskets.
The day has been beautiful- just the right temperature and wonderful to sit and be. I wish we celebrated Easter more like Christmas- I'd take a day off tomorrow. Until then, I'll sit here and be thankful, thankful for the cross, of the wonderful cross.

Hello Chef. Thank You Chef. Its an Honour Chef

Friday night I got to help Les and Jer cater a dinner; puff pastry cups with caramelized onion and Gruyere, prosciutto and melon, wedge salad with homemade blue cheese dressing, surf and turf and Montecito Cafe's coconut cake. Plating and getting everything out hot was a bit top chef status and we enjoyed calling one another chef as much as possible. I missed taking a pic of the final result, but it looked excellent and Jeremy's steak per usual tasted like butta. I think the fact that the night flew by and it was so fun going from work to that is a sign...

oh what a night!

Ya know when your heart wells up and you truly believe and feel and understand the whole "my cup overflows?" Well that's me right now after a great night with new friends over dinner, wine (I think I've found my go-to red wine under $10), egg decorating, and yes, an incredible setting. Annemarie is such a dear new friend and extremely talented as well. So much to be thankful for and wonderful to share in celebrating and meditating on Easter with them. Here's to many more nights together. Cheers.
images a la annemarie...

there's a first for everything

I got away from work on Sat. and thanks to Leslie who pressured me into getting to the beach, had a great time at Santa Claus Lane. I looked back to see they had barbecued up some hot dogs and mentioned how that was such a California thing to do, and something I hadn't done before. "What?!?! Laura...." was the overwhelming response and so I 'had' to try out my first sandy-ish hot dog at the beach to kick summer off. Hot dogs to me need to be paired with stadium mustard, Jacob's Field and the tribe, but I think I'm ok with starting new California summer time traditions and see many more of these days to come. Thanks for getting me to the beach Les, and for teaching me about work life boundaries. :)

banana walnut muffins

Visitors always bring with them a good reason to bake and Jonathan's visit was no different. Knowing we'd be out and about for some of it, I stuck with the standard salmon making for a meal, but whipped up these muffins Sunday morning which served as a nice snack over the course of a couple days. We have oatmeal for the days in our house- but steel cut- so I used some granola, cin, butter on top for the make shift topping. I'd make em again I think, but then again, I can always be up for trying something new...

old friends

Simon and Garfunkel sing in my head when i think about time spent with old friends, like bookends. Well not really, but sometimes. my friend Jonathan came up to SB for about 24 hours and it was a great time to show him where I live. Thankfully the weather was the beautiful upper 70's that I've been talking about as he sits in a cornfield in Indiana, and we were able to get in a lot of beach time and enjoy the coast. I didn't get a shot of us, but here's one from back in the day when we traveled to Bolivia with church.

how green is your thumb?

I asked my friend this question and his response was- Lime. Well, no citrus plants apart from the lime and orange trees outside our place, but the planting of herbs was in order last weekend when my mom was in town. I was excited to get them local at the market, but of course in search for pots mom spotted some flowers that have been a great addition to the patio. Herbs include basil, marjoram, chives, cilantro, sage, and thyme. It sure has felt like summer the past few days and I'm looking forward to many a chat on our little patio doing what we do best- small parties.

butterflies flew

I recently was made aware of the ellwood butterfly reserve and thought that would be a great last thing to do before my mom headed east. we went after work and it was a great discovery for me...big open fields then the ocean- this is my kind of place. very quiet out there as people were taking walks and enjoying the last hours of sunlight. no butterflies, but hey, you can't have it all.