{ best pumpkin patch : avila valley barn! }

Monday, October 15, 2012

We spent the weekend at Pismo and Avila Beach and the place is crazy bea-yooo-ti-ful.  The ocean is everywhere and totally soothes your soul.  Surrounding communities are quiet, so if you're looking for a place to party, this isn't the place to visit.  It IS, however, a spot to just kick back and relax, or take a hike on oceanic cliffs, golf, atv in sand dunes right off the shore.  Yup.  Never thought I'd be riding over sand dunes, but of course, being with my man after 10 years - not. a. surprise. when I found myself straddling an atv, head stuffed into a smelly helmet.  It was actually really awsome, even when sinking into the quicksand-like dunes every 10 minutes.  We stayed at gorgeous Dolphin Bay and just about died when I found out their swimming pool is saltwater and heated to 80 degrees F.  What i wouldn't give to have that pool in our backyard.

Best place to eat?  Splash's Cafe at Pismo Beach.  There will undoubtly be a 30-minute line out the door when you get there, but well worth the wait for their super creamy, rich and buttery clam chowder.  Oh Mother.  It is like no other.  I get a pint because a cup or bowl is too small.  We always seem to fall prey to the other items on the menu like fried oysters and fish, but honestly that clam chowder is SO rich and so yummy, it's enough, even for my hubs... and we eat every meal like it's our last!  Plus, the other items on the menu are not that great - clam chowder makes them wilt in comparison.  But, do your thing when you're there.  ENJOY!

Okay, on to the best part of the visit:  Avila Valley Barn.  We never miss stopping by on Sunday afternoon prior to heading back home to Los Angeles.  But, only in October, because I am the PUMPKIN QUEEN LOVER and in October they showcase their seasonal pumpkin patch.This pumpkin patch is beyond words and I feel I've been to quite a few patches in Southern California, some of which we've had to pay admission to get into.  Avila Valley Barn Pumpkin Patch is for free :)  They have a huge patch of orange pumpkins where you can pick your own pumpkins, or anywhere on the barn.  Around every corner of the barn is a throw-up of a different assortment of squashes and pumpkins in every shape, size and color - with the occassional farm animal sprinkled in.  They sell fresh apple juice, homemade pies, scones, breads, jams and jellies, perfect to snack on or to take home.  OMG.  To sum it up: it's a pumpkin-lover, carb-lover, barn-lover, autumn-lover's heaven.  You must go if you are in the area in October.  I'll bet a million bucks this place would put a smile on your most gloomiest of days. :)

(aww, swan shaped squashes!)

And... good thing we visited Avila Valley Barn to make us happy, because this was so not 2 hours later on the 101 freeway.


{ juicy, melt-in-your-mouth bbq spareribs... roasted in the oven. }

Thursday, October 4, 2012

{ BBQ Pork Spareribs (Oven Roasted) }


It's time to break out the oven!  No better way to crank it up than roasting juicy, tender BBQ pork spareribs  :: drool::  These ribs are unbelievable, created in the oven from start to finish.  You'll get those awsome, crisp "burnt ends" and an incredibly juicy, fall-off-the-bone rib.  Your man couldn't ask for more.  

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 (4 pounds each) racks pork spareribs, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 bottle (24 ounces or more) of your favorite BBQ sauce  (We love "Sweet Baby Ray's - Hickory & Brown Sugar", sweet and tangy!)
  • dry rub, as needed

Dry Rub 

  • ½ tablespoon paprika
  • ½ tablespoon cumin
  • ½ tablespoon granulated garlic
  • ½ tablespoon granulated onion
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1.  Wash rack of ribs and pat dry with paper towels. 

2.  Rub back and front of ribs with dry rub, as needed.

3.  Preheat oven to 315 degrees F.

4.  Line two half-sheet bun pans (13"x18") with aluminum foil.

5.  Place a rack of spareribs on each pan, bone side up (so the ribs make a "U" shape).  Tightly cover each pan with additional aluminum foil.  You'll need to use two pieces of foil for adequate coverage per half-sheet pan.

6.  Place pans in oven.  Make sure to place pans in the center but far away enough from each other so that there is equal space from the top of the oven, in between each pan, and the bottom of the oven.  That way, it won't get too hot under the bottom pan, too hot over the top pan, and there is enough heat circulating between the pans.  Bake for 1½ hours.  

7.  Remove pans from oven and carefully lift aluminum cover.  There may be excess juice released from ribs.  Be careful: using your oven mitts to hold the hot pan, drain pan of juices by tilting enough juice out over the sink (don't let the rack of ribs slide off!).  When all or most of juices have been drained, wipe the side of the pan down, and using a pastry brush, brush ¼ cup of BBQ sauce on the "U" side of the ribs.  Use 2 tongs to carefully flip ribs with the meat side facing up ("n" shape).  Baste meat side with ½ cup of BBQ sauce.  Repeat with other rack of ribs.  

8.  Tightly refoil pans and bake for another 1 hour.

9.  Remove pans from oven and lift aluminum cover.  Brush each rack of ribs (top part only) with ½ cup of BBQ sauce, or more as desired.

10.  Bake ribs uncovered for 30 minutes until BBQ sauce is bubbly and nicely carmelized around the edges. 

11.  Remove ribs from oven and baste top of ribs with another ¼ cup of BBQ sauce, per rack.  Allow to rest 15 to 20 minutes, lightly tented aluminum foil.

12.  Cut each rib and serve with Bush's BBQ Brown Sugar and Bacon baked beans (best baked beans ever in a can), (Oven) Roasted Corn, and homemade Creamy Coleslaw!


{ heat wave }

September 17, 2012

{ Mediterranean Couscous }

This mid-September heat is almost unbearable!  When it's this hot, I don't feel like cooking or making a fuss over meals.  Enter, Mediterranean Couscous :)  This is THE perfect side dish (or main) for days like this.  The flavors are intensely tasty but best of all, it's bite after bite of Fresh, Cool, Crispness.  It will make your tastebuds yelp.  I'm being cheesy but really can't do justice on explaining the deliciousness.  You have got to try this one for yourself.  It's one of my husband's favorite... and he's a meat lover... and this is vegetarian *wink*  Warning: stuff is totally addicting.

Ingredients (serves 8)


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely minced
  • 1½ teaspoons cumin powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced finely or garlic pressed
  • 2½ cups uncooked couscous
  • 3 cups water

Fresh Vegetables

  • 1 fresh firm cucumber or 2 Persian cucumbers, skin-on, seeds discarded (split in half lengthwise, run a small spoon down the center, scooping up and discarding the seeds), diced ½-inch pieces
  • 3 celery ribs, diced ¼-inch pieces
  • ¼ red onion, finely minced
  • ½ bunch cilantro, leaves and stems, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill fronds
  • 2 whole green onion stalks, finely chopped, discard root ends

Tomato Sauce (combine together in a mixing bowl)

  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste + 1 can of filtered water (use tomato paste can)
  • ¼ cup ketchup 
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced or garlic pressed
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1¼ teaspoons cumin powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder 
  • 3 dashes Tabasco sauce

1.  In a stockpot (fitted with lid) cook onion and cumin in oil until soft.  Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute.

2.  Pour uncooked couscous into onion mixture and stir well.  Turn off heat.

3.  In a separate pot with handle, bring 3 cups of water to boil.

4.  Carefully pour the boiling water into pot of couscous, stirring well with a large spoon to make sure water reaches every kernel of couscous, thereby avoiding any dried clumps on the bottom.

5.  Cover couscous with lid and allow to rest for 6 to 8 minutes.  Immediately fluff with a fork and allow to cool to room temperature with the lid on.

6.  When cooled, stir diced cucumbers, celery, cilantro, dill, green onions and tomato sauce mixture into pot of couscous.  If couscous seems a little dry, add additional ketchup by the tablespoon, as needed.

7.  Chill at least 4 hours or overnight.  This tastes best after resting overnight, allowing all the flavors to set into the couscous!

Serve an amazing Mediterranean meal with a heaping scoop of Mediterranean Couscous, Grilled Skirt SteakHummus and warm pita toasted over a stove top fire.


{ labor day deliciousness }

Monday, September 3, 2012 

Mom's Old-School Potato Salad }


Ah... Labor Day.  A day of splashing in the pool, BBQing lots of meat and most importantly, having fun with friends and family!  That being said, we want to spend more time having fun outdoors than preparing food in the kitchen, so marinate your meat and make your sides ahead of time and have your man do all the grilling.  (I have to admit, I'm actually not allowed to touch his Weber grill!)

To save time, it's best to prepare several hefty salads the night before Labor Day.  Of these, I alwasy make is a potato salad my mom made every summer for us as kids.  I've recently come to realize what an awsomely complex salad it is!  With only a few ingredients, it's a combination of a tasty egg salad and potato salad with the addition of cubed ham and green peas.  Truthfully speaking, green peas are not high on my list... but they are just fabulous in this salad.  The subtle bite of sweetness from the peas offset the salty ham.  Brilliant.


 Ingredients (serves 16)

  • 3 pounds red potato, washed and scrubbed clean
  • 1 pound unsliced good-quality ham, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 9 eggs
  • 8 ounces frozen green peas 
  • 1¼ cups real mayonnaise
  • ¾ cup sour cream or plain, unsweetened yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons spicy brown mustard or Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon course ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or as needed 

1.  Cut red potatoes to 1½-inch pieces, skin-on.  Place in a stockpot and add enough water to cover 2-inches above potatoes.  Cook potatoes for 30 minutes over medium-high heat.  Drain completely in a colander and place in a large bowl.  Cover and place in the refrigerator until at least "room temperature" (or if you have time to kill, set out at room temperature to cool for a couple of hours).

2.  Place eggs into a separate pan and add water until eggs are just covered.  Cook for 12 minutes on medium- high heat.  After 12 minutes, turn off heat and leave eggs in the hot water for an extra 3 or 4 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

3.  Boil peas as directed on package.  Drain, set aside.

4.  Dice potatoes, skin-on, into -inch cubes.  Place cut potatoes in a clean, large stockpot (stockpot because your are going to need to fold all the ingredients together from here and you'll need a large container to hold it in!). 

5.  Peel and dice eggs into -inch pieces and put into stockpot.

6.  Add remaining ingredients to stockpot: cubed ham, cooked peas, mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, black pepper and ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt.  Fold everything together with a baking spatula or giant stainless steel spoon... don't worry if you make a mess, it's part of the potato salad fun!

7.  Taste and add the remaining ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt, if preferred.  I do :) 

8.  Store in an airtight container, fitted with a lid.  Refrigerate until chilled through, about 4 hours, or overnight!


{ hello cowboy }

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

{ Perfect Rib-Eye Steak }


This summer has been wildly hot and fun but it's quickly coming to an end.  Break out the grill if you haven't yet and fire up a couple of thick and juicy, delicious rib-eye steaks.  Let's keep the heat outdoors... and have our men do the cooking tonight.


Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 bone-in rib eye steaks, 14 oz. to 16 oz each, 1¼-inch thick, well-marbled with fat
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced through garlic press

1.  Set steaks on kitchen counter at room temperature (never rest raw meat outdoors or under the sun), let steaks come to near room temperature, about 45 minutes.

2.  On each steak, rub: 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. 

3.  On only one side of each steak, use fingers to evenly smear the "pressed" garlic.

For Medium Rare:

  • Pan:  Preheat pan on highest setting.  Lightly oil pan.  Place steak down to sear, turn heat down to medium-high for 6 minutes, turn and grill another 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Outdoor Grill:  On medium-high heat, grill 6 minutes, turn and grill another 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Indoor Grill Electric Press:  Preheat grill to highest heat setting for 3 minutes.  Place steaks on grill, pull cover down and sear for 4 minutes.  Uncover, turn steaks and sear for another 2 to 3 minutes.

{ love vodka? love pasta? you'll love this. }

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 

 { Creamy Vodka Penne }


No time for grocery shopping? You'll be likely to have these ingredients on hand to whip up an easy pasta "per due" (for two)!  Cook4YourMan's creamy vodka penne is made with bacon - it's so rich and delicious, he'll think you planned this one for days.


Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 12 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon
  •  teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  • 1¼ pound cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • ¼ cup vodka
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped Italian-flat leafed parsley (optional)
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan 
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (less, if tomatoes are sweet)
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper 

1.  Bring a stockpot of water to boil.  Cook penne for 10 minutes.

2.  As soon as the pasta is in the boiling water, start on the sauce.

  • In a large stainless steel pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon until fat is completely rendered and bacon is crisp and golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Turn heat off and transfer bacon to a small bowl to set aside.  Remove all but 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings from pan.

  • Turn heat to medium-high, add dried red chili flakes to bacon drippings in the pan until they begin to "dance".  Stir in tomatoes and garlic.  Saute for a minute until tomatoes are softened and skin has slightly frumpled.  Frumpled?

  • Stir in vodka and cook until reduced, about a few minutes.
  • Add parsley and heavy cream, turn heat down to medium, and stir for 1 minute.
  • Season with sugar, salt and pepper, to taste.

3.  Pasta should be done cooking at this time.  If not, take sauce pan off heat and wait until it is.  30 seconds before the pasta is done cooking, reheat sauce over medium-high heat.  Using a hand-held pasta strainer, drain penne from pot and transfer directly into the sauce pan.

4.  Fold pasta into sauce.  Taste.  Stir in parmasean.  Add more salt or sugar, as needed.  If sauce seems a little too thick, add a couple tablespoons of hot pasta water.  The sauce should have a silky consistency, not dried or clumpy.

5.  Fold the crispy bacon into penne, reserving 6 pieces as garnish.

6.  Divide penne into 2 deep pasta bowls.  Add 3 bacon crisps to the top of each bowl.  Serve immediately with grated parmesan at the table.