RECIPE // Green Beans with Tarragon, Mustard and Sunflower Seeds

| November 11, 2014


Humdrum. That’s usually what I think of when I hear someone mention green beans as a Thanksgiving side dish. If they aren’t in the form of a casserole topped with french fried onions and tasting of cream of mushroom soup, they’re stripped of their natural fresh green color by steaming or boiling and served without much flavor.

Then there’s this dish, which I adapted from one provided by The Associated Press. Oh yes: AP doesn’t just cover world news, politics, the economy, technology, and sports. They cook, too, and they do it well. With its mix of tangy Dijon mustard, fresh lemon zest, black licorice-fragrant tarragon, and the nuttiness of toasted sunflower seeds, this green bean recipe will stand up as a highlight at the Thanksgiving table rather than skulk behind the turkey and stuffing.

To prep, gather up two tablespoons of unsalted butter, a pound of fresh green beans with their ends trimmed, kosher salt, fresh tarragon, Dijon mustard, the zest of a small lemon, and a 1/4 cup of toasted unsalted sunflower seeds.


When it comes to the tarragon, note that you only want the leaves, not the stem. The technique for removing the leaves from the stems is the same technique for removing rosemary leaves: Simply 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. You’re aiming for 1-1/2 tablespoons of chopped tarragon, so stripping the leaves off two to three sprigs should be enough.


In a large deep skillet, melt the unsalted butter over medium heat until most of the foaminess is gone and the melted butter has an amber color when you swirl it around.



Add the trimmed green beans, sprinkle them with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and toss to coat the beans in the browned butter.


Reduce the heat to medium low and cook the beans uncovered, stirring occasionally, until they’ve just begun to blister, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heated burner, then add the chopped tarragon, Dijon mustard, and lemon zest. I prefer to stir in each flavoring separately just to make sure I don’t end up with naked green beans and others burdened with flavor.


Transfer the prepped beans to a serving dish, then sprinkle with half of the toasted sunflower seeds. Serve the rest of the toasted seeds in a small bowl so that guests can add more to their helping if they’d like.

This recipe serves 4 to 6 people, making it great for non-holiday dinners, too. But, if you’re serving it at the big November feast and you’re expecting 8 to dine, multiply everything by two; if you’re serving 10 to 12 people, multiply everything by three.


Green Beans with Tarragon, Mustard and Sunflower Seeds
Recipe adapted from AP News
Serves 4 to 6 people // 15 minutes prep, 10-15 minutes to cook

2 tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1-1/2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Zest of 1 small lemon
1/4 cup toasted unsalted sunflower seeds

  1. In a deep skillet, melt butter over medium heat until it smells toasty and has an amber color when swirled, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add green beans and salt and toss to coat in butter. Reduce heat to medium low and allow the beans to cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until green beens just begin to blister, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat. Stir in tarragon, lemon zest and mustard. Transfer to a serving dish, then sprinkle half of the sunflower seeds over the green beans. Serve the rest of the toasted seeds in a small bowl and encourage guests to sprinkle more over their helping. Best served warm to hot.
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Panama 66 and SDMA’s Exhibit “Gauguin to Warhol”

| November 05, 2014

The purveyors of Blind Lady Ale House and Tiger!Tiger! have come to Balboa Park. They claimed the café located in the San Diego Museum of Art’s May S. Marcy Sculpture Court and have called the outpost Panama 66. I hope they stay a while.



How’d they land on “Panama 66″? By drawing on the history of its location: “Panama” refers to both the Panama-California Exposition held in Balboa Park in 1915 and the fact that the café is located in Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama. The “66″ is an homage to the year–1966–the San Diego Museum of Art opened the sculpture court.

As loyal fans of BLAH and Tiger!Tiger! have come to expect, Panama 66 has taps upon taps of expertly curated beer. It also has a well-stocked food menu, one in which qualifiers like “house wood-fired,” “house-made,” and “house smoked” appear as often as buskers do on Balboa Park’s main promenade. Simply place your order at the register at the entrance, take your number, and grab a seat at the bar or any one of the myriad of shaded tables.



My husband and I finally visited the outdoor eatery for lunch a few weeks ago. I sunk my teeth into a hefty, hot Roast Beef sandwich made up of house wood-fired roast beef, broccoli rabe, and horseradish cream piled into a chewy house-made bun. My baby daddy chose the P66 Club, a cold sandwich consisting of house wood-fired turkey, thick cut bacon, tomato, butter lettuce, avocado, and harissa aioli in-between sliced country French bread.

When we originally placed our order, we wondered if we should have added something to share on the side, like a dish of fries or a Kale Salad. Then, these beasts came out and we were glad we didn’t give in to self doubt.

Sadly, neither of these sandwiches are on Panama 66’s current menu on account of the fact that the menu is subject to change. Often. But, a friend who currently works the grill station for P66 has talked up the new Roasted Butternut Squash sandwich as well as the Turkey & Brie sandwich. So, I’m not too sad about the lack of menu stability.



After lunch, we walked off the calories by exploring the “Gauguin to Warhol” exhibit showing at the San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA).

A collection of iconic 20th century works on loan from Buffalo’s renowned Albright-Knox Art Gallery, “Gauguin to Warhol” traces the path of Modern art from the late 19th century to the present. Pieces are grouped in movements, taking visitors through the School of Paris to Modernisn, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and eventually Pop.


I was surprised at how drawn I was to Fernand Léger’s “Smoke” (below left) and “Village in the Forest” because I’ve never once paid attention to Cubism. The unseeing gaze of Modigliani’s “Servant Girl” (below right) made me feel sad, particularly because the subject’s eyes share the same color as the wall she stands in front of, implying to me that while she is there, her station brands her no more valuable than space in the room. Soutine’s “Carcass of Beef” made me think of the movie “Mona Lisa Smile.” I felt calmed by O’Keeffe’s “Green Patio Door,” which reminded of the desert on hot, quiet day. I laughed out loud at how well Balla captured the walking of a Dachshund in “Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash,” from the swinging chain leash to the dog’s and owner’s scampering gaits.

Then I rounded a corner and was beheld by Pollock’s “Convergence.” There’s a bench set right in front of the wall-sized work to encourage staring. I didn’t sit down immediately, choosing instead to admire it from afar, then inch my way closer and closer. “Boy, you could tell a mile away whose this is,” said one sassy museum visitor as she approached it.

When I eventually turned away from the massive art piece to look for my husband, I realized that there were actually a couple of other pieces on the walls perpendicular to it. How could I have missed them? Go see for yourself and be ready to hear various SDMA patrons wonder aloud where Pollock found the room to create it.

Sure, you eventually come upon a Warhol and a Lichtenstein. But, honestly, I’d prefer to spend a few more days just staring at the Pollock.


If you’d like to savor an evening at SDMA and Panama 66, then check out the upcoming Painting on Tap, a 21+ after museum-hours event set for 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 13. Attendees get an exclusive tour of “Gauguin to Warhol” and get to create their own work of art inspired by Henri Rousseau’s “Flowers in a Vase,” on view in the exhibition. Panama 66 will be open throughout the event for those eager to also nibble and sip the night away, but the catch is that you have to purchase food and drink separately. Tickets to Painting on Tap are $60 for nonmembers.

(Photo of Fernand Léger’s “Smoke” from Photo of Amedeo Modigliani’s “Servant Girl” from

Panama 66 // 4150 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 //

San Diego Museum of Art // 1450 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 // // “Gauguin to Warhol” shows through January 27, 2015

Christine’s picks from “Gauguin to Warhol” // Fernand Léger’s “Smoke” and “Village in the Forest,” Giacomo Balla’s “Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash,” Jackson Pollock’s “Convergence,” John Beech’s “Large Elmer Painting”

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RECAP // October 2014 on Dig This Jive

| October 31, 2014


Trippin’. I was straight trippin’ this month, but in a completely literal sense.

Between South Pasadena, Santa Barbara, and Joshua Tree, my husband, me and my growing bump logged in some awesome miles around the southern half of our beloved Golden State. We brunched in a hidden city in LA County and admired classic cars painted in saturated colors of the spectrum. We took in views of the ocean from a part of the coast I hadn’t visited before and picnicked in a park with a fine view of a historic mission. We relived the quiet and calm of sitting for hours in the shade of towering monzogranite boulders. And we did it all just as thermostats began to fall under the 80-degree mark.

October is a great time to hit the road. Does that mean November is ideal for nesting? I guess we’ll see.


10 THINGS: CRAVINGS | What a preggo wants to eat, a preggo gets, even if she regrets it later.

TEN-MINUTE TRIVIA: HAVE A HORRORIFIC HALLOWEEN | Sharpen your horror film knowledge with this 10-question quiz.


PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP BARS | When pumpkin meets chocolate, it’s a very good thing.


MY GO-TO SPOT FOR PAN DE SAL IN SAN DIEGO | The Ranchos Peñasquitos bakery I hit up for Filipino baked goods.

4 SAN DIEGO SPOTS FOR PUMPKIN TREATS | What Bread & Cie, Big Joy Family, Bake Sale Bakery, and Bear Buns Bakery have in store to satisfy your taste for pumpkin.

SOUTH PASADENA | Taking in coffee, brunch and a classic car show on Mission Street in South Pas.

SANTA BARBARA | Places to eat and relax like a Santa Barbara local.

JOSHUA TREE 2014 | Camping and climbing in Joshua Tree National Park, California.


BIKE MS BAY TO BAY TOUR 2014 | My husband goes the distance–150 miles–to help raise awareness about multiple sclerosis.

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RECIPE // Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

| October 24, 2014


“Are you ready for me to eat four of these in a row?” asked my husband. He was standing at our dining table, holding up the whiteboard backdrop in the above photo since I couldn’t keep it propped up no matter what I’d tried.

I smiled to myself at the thought. I knew he fell for these pumpkin bars, a Martha Stewart recipe, after trying one from my test batch. Both he and I dig the combination of the earthy pumpkin spices with the semisweet chocolate chips and the bars’ dense yet cakey texture.

Still, eating four in a row? At the time, he was training for the 150-mile Bike MS Bay to Bay Tour and eating healthy was his go-to. So, I naturally assumed he was joking. Later, when I checked on the container in which I’d stored the rest of my latest batch, I noticed that four bars were indeed missing.

“I warned you,” he said.

To make these squares, I stocked up on all purpose flour, baking soda, salt, 2 sticks of unsalted butter that I’d left out to come to room temperature (an important detail!), granulated sugar, large eggs, vanilla extract, a 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree, a 12 ounce-package of semisweet chocolate chips, and pumpkin pie spice (a seasonal ingredient I was able to find at Trader Joe’s).

If you aren’t able to find pumpkin pie spice, Martha Stewart says you can make your own by combining 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoons of ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon each of ground allspice and ground cloves.


As for baking tools, the big-ticket items I gathered were a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, a medium mixing bowl, a large mixing bowl, measuring cups for dry ingredients, and my stand-up electric mixer (though a hand-held electric mixer will do).

Want to give it a go?

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and preparing the baking pan. While Martha recommends lining the pan with foil, I prefer greasing it with butter then dusting it with flour. This way, the bottom, edges, and corners of the resulting cake are smooth instead of occasionally indented from hairline creases in the pressed-out foil.


Whisk 2 cups of all purpose flour (each of which has been spooned into a measuring cup and leveled), 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice in a medium mixing bowl until well combined. Set aside.


Next, in a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to combine 1 1/4 cups sugar and both sticks of the room temperature unsalted butter until smooth (if you’re using a stand-up mixer and the paddle attachment, you’ll see it go through stages a-d below). Remember, you won’t get the necessary smooth texture unless the unsalted butter is at room temperature.


Beat 1 large egg and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract into the creamed butter and sugar until well combined.


Then beat 1 cup of pumpkin puree into the wet ingredients, and don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled. It isn’t; it just appears that way.



Now, mix in the dry ingredients from the medium mixing bowl into the wet ingredients until just combined. If you choose to use your electric mixer to bring the ingredients together, dribble the dry ingredients slowly and carefully. As for me, I do this part by hand to reduce the poofing of dry ingredients into the air as I add it to the wet ingredients. Lebron James, I am not.

Just keep in mind: If you also opt to do this part without the use of the electric mixer, drizzle a half cup of the dry mixture onto the wet mixture at a time until it’s all been incorporated. Be careful not to overmix!


Finally, fold in the chocolate chips.


To make sure the batter is spread evenly throughout the prepared pan, I spoon lumps of the thick batter across the pan, then spread it from the center out to the edges and corners.


Then, bake the beautiful beast on a rack set in the center of the preheated oven until the cake’s edges just begin to pull away from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out with few moist crumbs attached, about 35-40 minutes.



Let the cake cool completely in the pan. Once cooled, getting the cake out of the pan depends on how you’d prepared the pan:

  • If you buttered-and-floured the pan like I did, cover the top of the pan with a cutting board that’s wide enough to cover the pan top, carefully turn the pan and cutting board over so that the pan is sitting upside-down on the cutting board, and watch the cake slowly slide itself onto the board.
  • If you lined the pan with foil, carefully lift the cake out of the pan by the foil overhang, set a cutting board on top of the cake, flip both over so that the cake top is resting on the cutting board and the foil side is facing up, and peel the foil off of the cake.

Then, use a serrated knife to cut the cake into 32 squares and prepare to defend the dessert from any pumpkin-pastry lovers in your household until you’re ready to serve them.



Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars
Recipe from Martha Stewart
Makes 32 squares // 30 minutes prep, 35-40 minutes to bake

2 cups all purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (such as found at Trader Joe’s during the fall)
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 12 ounce-package semisweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, either by greasing the bottom, sides, and corners with butter and then dusting it all with flour, or following Martha Stewart’s method of lining the entire baking pan with enough foil to leave an overhang on all sides.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt until you no longer see dark clumps of pie spice. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the room temperature butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat the mixture until just combined (you should no longer see bubbling from the egg or dark streaks of vanilla). Beat in the pumpkin puree until the mixture appears curdled.
  4. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients from the medium bowl into the wet ingredients in the large bowl until just combined, being careful not to overmix (you shouldn’t see any streaks of dry ingredients). Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Bake on a rack set in the middle of the 350-degree oven until the cake’s edges just begin to pull away from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 35-40 minutes. Cool completely in the pan.
  6. If you buttered-and-floured the pan, cover the top of the pan with a wide-enough cutting board and carefully turn the pan over to release the cake onto the cutting board. If you lined the pan with foil, gently lift the cake out of the pan by the overhang, set a cutting board on the cake top, flip the cake and board so that the foil is facing up, and peel off the foil. Use a serrated knife to cut the cake into 32 bars.
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4 San Diego Spots for Pumpkin Treats

| October 23, 2014


Do you have a hankering for something sweet made with October’s quintessential varietal of squash? Then consider making a stop at any one of these four San Diego outposts, each of which are capitalizing on our taste for pumpkin… everything.

And if you know of other local San Diego spots shelling out food and drinks using the seasonal orange fruit (according to the Mayo Clinic), please leave a comment!


This moist slab of sweet-and-savory bread packs a spicy lowlight with every bite thanks to the chipotle baked into it. Each serving is individually wrapped and available to grab-and-go from a basket near the register; just look for it as you turn the corner from the cookie display. This Hillcrest mainstay is also serving pumpkin cheesecakes, pumpkin tartlets the size of a round appetizer plate, and roasted pumpkin bisque. 350 University Avenue,


Despite the intense orange color of the meringues, these delicate french pastries harbor an equally delicate pumpkin flavor. Currently at $2 a pop, they add a little bit of fall and Halloween to an afternoon coffee or evening hot chocolate. Get them at their freshest on Thursdays. 4176 Convoy Street,


Served up at the youngest sibling of the Cafe 222 and Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant family, this dense pumpkin cake gets a tasty boost from the piped-on caramel cream cheese frosting and the sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds and sea salt. The East Village gem is also offering up slices of spongy pumpkin rolled cake with cream cheese filling as well as a made-with-real-pumpkin pumpkin latte which can be served hot or iced, and as caffeinated or non-caffeinated as you like. Should you scrap the caff all together, make sure you also ask to dial back the pumps of simple syrup, too. 815 F Street,


“Pumpkin Palooza is Back” notes the blackboard behind the register of this Serra Mesa coffee and baked goods den. Though the dessert is called a cookie, its consistency tastes more like a cupcake and that’s not a bad thing. To make good on its palooza claim, the punny locale popular for its cinnamon buns is also dishing out pumpkin spice muffins, pumpkin spice cake, and your choice of hot, iced, or frozen pumpkin lattes. 3251 Greyling Drive,

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