Archive for January, 2014

RECAP // January 2014 on Dig This Jive

| January 31, 2014

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January is a month of beginnings and renewals. Whether those ideas are mirrored in the first meal of the day or the celebration of the day you were born, this time of year reminds us to try new things and to meet old traditions with a fresh perspective. Starts can be exciting, yet frustrating. They can even be painful. But as long as we know that we’re bound to fumble as we attempt the unfamiliar, we’ll always find joy in the doing. Besides, as Ron Swanson says, “There has never been a sadness that can’t be cured by breakfast food.”

This month was filled with breakfast and game day recipes, birthday DIYs, suggestions of places to have breakfast in San Diego and abroad, thoughts on what it means to turn another year older, and a way you can welcome your new age with sparkle. I hope you try them all.

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MY 3 GO-TO BREAKFAST SPOTS IN SAN DIEGO | My favorite places to grab a leisurely breakfast in sunny San Diego are in North Park, Hillcrest, and Kearny Mesa.

CHOCOLATE CHIP & CINNAMON FRENCH TOAST | How to make chocolate chip & cinnamon French toast with Chocolate Toast bread from San Diego’s Pangea Bakery.

10 THINGS: AGE | Turning 35 made me think about the last time I was called “Miss,” Contempo Casuals, and the fact that my parents can stay out later than I can.

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FIG TREE CAFE IN LIBERTY STATION | A review of breakfast service at the San Diego chain’s Point Loma location.

3 BREAKFAST SPOTS IN MONTREAL | Three breakfasts I’ve pined for since visiting Downtown Montreal last year.

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FRIED APPLE DUMPLINGS. They’re crunchy. They taste like apple pie. And they’re pick-me-up portable.

ROSEMARY LEMON CHICKEN WINGS | An alternative to the traditionally goopy wing recipes offered up for Super Bowl. And, yes, these wings are finger-licking delicious.

CHICKEN, CHEESE, & APPLE IN A BLANKET | A break from the swaddled-pig version.

PRETZEL BITES | A game day recipe that’s easier to put together than an Ikea end table.

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GIFT BAG MEDALLIONS | Brighten up any gift bag with DIY medallions designed by Kate Lilley of MiniEco.com.

GREEN, CORAL, & GRAY POLKA DOT GIFT WRAP | Free gift wrap you can print from your home computer.

GREEN, CORAL, & GRAY POLKA DOT GIFT BOWS | A darling DIY gift bow you can use on any birthday present.

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BIRTHDAYS & NUMBER SPARKLERS | Never lose your childish enthusiasm with TOPS Malibu cake sparklers.

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GIVE BLOOD, SAVE LIVES | Not all heroes wear capes. Learn how to make an appointment with the Red Cross to donate blood.

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RECIPE // Pretzel Bites

| January 30, 2014

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This Super Bowl snack is easier to put together than an Ikea end table. Stretch, cut, brush, sprinkle, bake, and serve: that’s all there is to it.

Much of its simplicity stems from its short list of ingredients. Premade pizza dough and grated Parmesan cheese are the headliners; an egg and a dish of flour make up the supporting cast.

Why are they called “pretzel bites” instead of “pizza bites” if I’m using pizza dough? Because pizza bites imply some mini version of baked bread either stuffed or topped with marinara and cheese. Since there isn’t marinara here, I didn’t want to steer you wrong.

I get premade pizza dough at Trader Joe’s where I have my choice of regular dough, wheat dough, and garlic-and-herb dough. I like to use the garlic-and-herb version because it adds an extra punch of flavor without any extra work on my end.

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Start by taking the dough out of the bag and setting it on a floured work surface. Let it lay long enough to come to just-about room temperature (it usually takes between 15-20 minutes). Don’t handle it as it rests. In fact, feel free to step away for a bit. Just make sure to loosely tent it with plastic wrap if you leave it alone.

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Once it’s no longer fridge-cold, turn it over on the work surface so that both sides are lightly covered in flour, then shape it into a rectangle that’s about 10 inches wide and 8 inches tall. You can either roll it out using a floured up rolling pin or you can stretch/mold it with your hands.

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Slice horizontal strips in the dough that are ½-inch to 1-inch wide.

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Then cut each strip into 1-inch pieces. As you cut out the little rectangles, lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

If you have a hard time unsticking the uncooked bites from your fingers, dip your fingers into flour before you handle each piece.

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You’ll end up with 70 pieces, give or take.

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Scramble the egg and brush it onto the top of each piece. If you prefer, you can substitute the egg wash by brushing on melted butter or olive oil.

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Then sprinkle each piece with grated Parmesan cheese.

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Bake them at 400 degrees F for five minutes on a rack set in the middle of the oven. Turn the sheet halfway and continue baking for another five minutes.

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Take them out of the oven and let them cool slightly so that they don’t sweat in whatever dish you transfer them to.

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In the end, you’ll have a bunch of chewy nuggets that guests can dip in their choice of sauce, be it some kind of mustard or creamy salad dressing.

Or marinara.

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***
Pretzel Bites
Makes 70-75 bites // 30 minutes to prep, 10 minutes to cook

1 16 oz. bag of premade pizza dough
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
Flour for dusting

  1. Take the dough out of its bag and let it rest on a floured work surface for 15 minutes or until it’s just about at room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Shape the dough into a rectangle that’s about 10 inches wide and 8 inches tall.
  4. Cut ½-inch to 1-inch wide horizontal strips out of the the dough. Cut each strip into small rectangles that are about 1-inch wide. Set the pieces on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Brush the top of each piece with the beaten egg, then sprinkle them with grated Parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake the bites for 5 minutes, turn the sheet halfway, then let them bake for another 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the sheet from the oven. Let the bites cool slightly, then transfer them to a large bowl. Serve them alongside a variety of dipping sauces.
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RECIPE // Chicken, Cheese, & Apple In A Blanket

| January 29, 2014

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For this Super Bowl snack, I benched the pork in favor of other players on the farm. Poultry, dairy, pickings from an orchard: a little bit of each are bundled into these bite-sized bales topped with roasted sesame seeds. I went with chicken sausage in these blankets because they aren’t as salty as cocktail franks (neé wieners). Why the cheese and apple? They sounded good.

To make them, collect the following: a tube of eight crescent rolls, a small block of havarti cheese, a green apple that’s no wider than your palm, a link of chicken sausage from a 12-ounce pack of four (chicken apple if you can find it), an egg, a tablespoon of Dijon or whole grain mustard, and at least a tablespoon of sesame seeds.

If you can’t find havarti cheese, substitute Gouda or Monterey Jack.

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You’re going to make 24 morsels, so prep 24 pieces each of the cheese, apple, and chicken sausage.

For the cheese and apple: Cut out slices, then sticks, then 1-inch pieces from the sticks.

For the chicken-sausage link: Quarter it horizontally, then cut each quarter into six pieces.

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Assembly is easy. First, lay one of the triangular pieces of dough in front of you on a cutting board (A). Cut the dough vertically to make three obtuse triangles (B). Generously spread mustard onto each slice (C). Assemble a piece of chicken sausage, havarti cheese, and green apple on the bottom of each triangle (D). Gently roll up each triangle, from the bottom to the tip (E). Set the stuffed rolls, triangle tip down, on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper (F).

Continue with the remaining seven triangles until you end up with 24 rolls.

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Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F, making sure that a rack is set in the middle of the range.

Beat the egg in a small bowl, brush a bit of the raw scramble on top of each stuffed crescent roll, and then let it rain sesame seeds. Not only does the egg wash help the seeds stick, but it also encourages the tops to turn a lovely golden brown as the rolls bake.

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When the oven is at 375 degrees F, slide the sheet of stuffed rolls onto the middle rack. After they’ve baked for eight minutes, turn the sheet so that the rolls that started in the front of the range are now facing the back. Once another seven minutes have passed, retrieve the plumped treats and turn off the heat.

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Let them cool a bit, at least until the cheese stops bubbling. Then, sample one or two and transfer the rest to a serving plate.

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The first time I made these rolls, I baked them on one of my non-stick cookie sheets sans parchment paper. When they were done, I had to use my spatula like a paint scraper to separate each roll from the pan. Several lost their bottoms as I lost my patience.

I’m so glad I remembered to use parchment paper on my follow-up attempt. The baked rolls came off without a struggle. Plus, there was no gooey mess to clean up (just a few stray sesame seeds), leaving more time for snacking.

Fair warning: these rolls are as easy to eat as popcorn. Make sure you’ve left enough out for your guests.

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***
Chicken, Cheese, and Apple In a Blanket
Makes 24 // 20 minutes to prep, 15 minutes to cook

8 uncooked crescent rolls (i.e. the yield from an 8 oz. tube)
1 3 oz. link of chicken sausage
4 oz. wedge of havarti, Gouda, or Monterey Jack cheese
1 green apple, small
1 tbsp Dijon or whole grain mustard
1 egg, beaten
At least 1 tbsp sesame seeds

  1. Prepare 24 pieces each of the cheese, green apple, and sausage. For the cheese and apple: cut slices about ¼-inch thick, then ¼-inch sticks from the slices, then 1-inch pieces from the sticks. For the sausage: quarter it lengthwise, then cut each quarter into six pieces.
  2. Set a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat at 375 degrees F.
  3. Flatten one of the triangular pieces of dough onto a cutting board. Slice it into thirds vertically. Spread mustard onto each third. Gather a piece of cheese, green apple, and sausage at the bottom of each third, then roll up each slice from the bottom to the tip. Lay each bundle, tip end down, on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  4. Brush the top of each roll with the beaten egg and sprinkle sesame seeds over them.
  5. Bake the rolls for 8 minutes. Then, turn the sheet so that the rolls that faced the front of the range are now facing the back and let the rolls bake for another 7 minutes.
  6. Remove the rolls from the oven. Transfer them to a serving dish once the cheese stops bubbling.
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RECIPE // Rosemary Lemon Chicken Wings

| January 27, 2014

More than 100 million people will tune in to Fox on Sunday, February 2, to watch Super Bowl XLVIII. If a dozen or more of those viewers will be at your place, your food spread will need to go deep to outlast every commercial-break blitz to the dining table. So I’m offering up three Super Bowl dishes this week, starting with these Rosemary Lemon Chicken Wings.

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I like these wings because they’re brighter than, and not as messy as, the traditional game-day versions: barbecue, buffalo, and teriyaki. They’re moist and delicious as a result of dry brining, a process of marinating meat without wet ingredients. And the chicken isn’t simply a platform on which to taste a sauce. It’s at the microphone, sharing the spotlight with rosemary and lemon.

The ingredient list, which is adapted from a Fine Cooking recipe my husband uses to make roast chicken, includes 18 fresh, whole chicken wings, several sprigs of fresh rosemary, a couple of lemons, kosher salt, ground black pepper, and half a stick of unsalted butter.

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First, prepare the dry-brine with the lemon, rosemary, salt, and pepper.

Since this requires finely grating the zest off of a lemon, chopping rosemary, and then combining the rosemary, lemon zest, salt, and pepper, I broke out my coarse grind Microplane (for the zesting) and the chopper attachment of my Cuisinart immersion blender (for the mixing).

If you don’t have a Microplane, have your vegetable peeler ready. If you don’t have a food processor or a mini electric chopper, get out a fork or a whisk.

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Remove the rosemary leaves from their woody stems and give them a fine chop.

A quick way to pull the leaves off of the stem is to hold the tip of the sprig with one hand and then pull the leaves downward against the direction of their growth on the stem with the other hand. Then, simply pluck the leaves from the tip.

Chop enough rosemary leaves to fill two tablespoons.

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Remove and reserve the zest (aka yellow skin) from both lemons. Don’t peel/grate so deep as to include the white, leathery pith.

If you don’t have a Microplane, use your vegetable peeler to skin each lemon and then finely mince the peel as demonstrated in this POPSUGAR post.

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Add the chopped rosemary, grated/minced lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper into a food processor or mini chopper. Pulse the processor/chopper several times until the ingredients are well combined.

If you don’t have a food processor or a mini chopper, combine the chopped rosemary with the grated/minced lemon zest, kosher salt, and pepper in a bowl using a fork. Blend the ingredients well so that the resulting mixture looks like the photos below.

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The dry brine is ready. Now to prep the wings.

Cut each whole chicken wing into the pieces we usually think of when we order wings at a restaurant. Each whole wing will give you two edible pieces–a drummette and a wingette. Throw away the wing tip.

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Keep in mind that there’s no need to cleave! Simply find the soft spot around the bones in the joints and slice through them as demonstrated in this video by Manitoba Chicken.

Cut the wing tip off first. Then, slightly splay the drummette and wingette pieces to find the soft spot in the joint and cut through.

If you started with 18 whole chicken wings, you will end up with 36 pieces all together (drummettes and wingettes combined).

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Once you’ve cut up the chicken, line the wings up on your cutting board, skin side up. Sprinkle and rub half of the rosemary-lemon-salt-pepper mixture onto the skin side of each wing. Then, turn over each piece and rub the rest of the mixture onto the non-skin side of each wing.

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Place all of the seasoned wings into a freezer bag. Press out as much air as possible and zip the bag shut. Lay the bag of wings flat on a cookie sheet in the refrigerator and let the wings marinade, refrigerated, for at least three hours.

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Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and a second rack just below it. After three hours have passed, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper. Retrieve the chicken wings from the refrigerator and line them up on each pan.

Remember that half a stick of butter in the ingredient list? Melt it in the microwave and brush each side of the wings with it. The butter helps the wings brown as they bake. When you’ve finished buttering, make sure each wing is lying on the sheet with skin side up.

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Once the oven is at 425 degrees F, set one sheet of wings on the middle rack and the other on the rack below it. Let the wings bake, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. Enjoy the aroma of rosemary, lemon, and chicken that fills the kitchen.

After 20 minutes, take each sheet of chicken wings out, making sure to note which sheet was on the middle rack and which one wasn’t. Turn each wing over on both sheets so that the non-skin side is facing up. Then, place the sheet of wings that started out on the middle rack onto the rack below the middle, and set the other sheet onto the middle rack.

Let the wings cook for another 10 minutes. Then, take the sheets out and transfer the wings to a serving dish. Tent the dish with aluminum foil until ready to serve.

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***
Lemon Rosemary Chicken Wings (adapted from Fine Cooking’s recipe for Roast Chicken with Rosemary-Lemon Salt)
Makes 36 pieces / 30 minutes to prep, 3 hours to brine, 30 minutes to cook

18 whole chicken wings, about 3.5 lbs, cut into drummettes and wingettes, tips discarded
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
Zest of two medium-sized lemons
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

  1. Add the chopped rosemary, lemon zest, kosher salt, and pepper into a food processor or mini chopper. Pulse the processor/mini chopper as many times as it takes to combine the ingredients well.
  2. Line up the drummettes and wingettes on two cutting boards, skin side up. Sprinkle and rub half of the rosemary-lemon-salt-pepper mixture onto the skin side of each wing. Turn over each piece and sprinkle and rub the rest of the mixture onto the non-skin side of each wing.
  3. Zip the seasoned wings into a clear freezer bag. Lay the bag of wings flat on a cookie sheet or flat platter set in the refrigerator. Let the wings marinade, refrigerated, for at least three hours.
  4. After three hours, position two racks in the oven, one in the middle and one just below the middle. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  5. Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper. Take the wings out of the refrigerator and line them up on the pans. Brush each side of the wings with the melted unsalted butter. Once buttered, make sure each wing is lying skin side up.
  6. Once the oven is at 425 degrees F, set one sheet of wings on the middle rack and the other sheet of wings on the rack below it. Let the wings bake undisturbed for 20 minutes.
  7. After 20 minutes, take the wings out of the oven, noting which sheet was on the middle rack. Turn all of the wings over so that the non-skin side faces up. Set both sheets back into the oven, but this time set the sheet that started on the middle rack onto the rack below it, and set the other sheet on the middle rack. Let the wings bake, undisturbed, for another 10 minutes.
  8. Remove the wings from the oven. Transfer them to a platter and, if not serving immediately, tent with aluminum foil to keep them warm.
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My 3 Go-To Breakfast Spots in San Diego

| January 24, 2014

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There are three San Diego restaurants that jump to mind when I’m asked to suggest a place for breakfast or brunch: R Gang Eatery, Jasmine Seafood Restaurant, and The Mission in North Park. Waiting for a table for two never surpasses 10 minutes; waiting for a table for four or more has seldom taken longer than 20 minutes. The menus at each are vast and, while I have my favorite dishes, I haven’t been disappointed when I order something new. And portions are take-part-of-it-home generous.

So rather than wait until I’m asked for ideas to get breakfast in San Diego, I thought I’d just put this out there. Enjoy!

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This is my breakfast joint of choice when I’m coordinating a last-minute brunch with out-of-town friends and cousins. The wait for a table is tolerable, the seating is roomy, and the food is come-back-over-and-over-again good. Plus, Chef Rich Sweeney knows how to put the “F” in “Fun.” From pacos (bacon-and-egg tacos wrapped in buttermilk pancakes instead of tortillas), to scrambles featuring R Gang’s infamous cheddar-and-chive-stuffed tater tots, to Bloody Marys featuring a totem of meats and cheeses known as the Meal on a Stick, breakfast and brunch at this Hillcrest restaurant is never a downer. 3683 5th Ave. rgangeatery.com

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Since I didn’t grow up eating traditional American breakfast, I don’t hesitate to venture away from it. When my husband and I do, we end up at Jasmine to eat our fill of dim sum. Proteins come in the form of shrimp, pork, chicken, and beef. Carbs are predominantly some form of rice wrapped around the proteins. The best part of it all? Freshly cooked dishes are carted directly to your table and all you have to do is point and nod to get what you want. If you’ve never been before, I recommend going with a dim sum veteran willing to show you the ropes. My must-have items: shrimp har gow, baked pork siopao, pork shumai, congee, barbecue pork rice noodle rolls, and Chinese brocolli for good measure. 4609 Convoy St. jasmineseafood.com

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The Mission is a local restaurant chain touting three locations around San Diego. I frequent the one in North Park since it’s closest to where I live. If I can get out to The Mission for breakfast during the week, I order the 2X2X2 (two-by-two-by-two) because it’s a meal of two eggs (you decide how they’re prepared), two bacon strips, and two fluffy pancakes (you choose between buttermilk or blackberry), and it only costs $6. The fine print: The 2X2X2 isn’t available on weekends and it isn’t listed on the menu; to order it, you have to know about it. When I want to go healthy, I go with the Zen Breakfast, a meal made up of tofu braised in a black bean sauce, brown rice dashed with a tad of soy sauce, scrambled egg whites, and grilled slices of green and yellow zucchini. I salivate just writing about it! 2801 University Ave. themissionsd.com

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