Turkey Meatballs

For the longest time I've been trying to find a good turkey meatball recipe. I've tried a few others that just weren't quite what we were looking for. But, last night I think we found a keeper.
Here's what you'll need:

  • 1 lb. ground turkey 
  • 1/2 onion, diced finely
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced finely (I used my garlic press, and I may have used 3 cloves:)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used the Italian flavored bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (to reduce prep time, and a trip to the grocery store I used the kind in the plastic canister, worked just fine)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • olive oil
1) Preheat oven to 400
2) In a large bowl mix together turkey, onion, garlic, egg, milk, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and Italian seasoning; use your hands, it's a bit messy, and kind of cold, but it's the only way!
3) Once well mixed, shape eight large meatballs and place on a baking sheet
4) Drizzle with olive oil, place in oven and bake for 25 minutes
Left: unbaked meatballs
Right: finished product
I cut through a meatball just to make sure they were cooked thoroughly.

These have been, by far, our favorite turkey meatball. They have a ton of flavor, they don't dry out, and one meatball is plenty for a healthy serving of pasta with marinara sauce. What may be even better than the delicious flavor is the fact that these have been the EASIEST and FASTEST turkey meatballs I've prepared!
Dinner is served!

Source: Everyday With Rachel Ray, March 2006



After endless evenings checking out rental websites, and several Saturday and Sunday afternoons looking at different apartments and rental units we finally found one! San Pedro, we're headed that way. And, although Scott's commute is going to be a bit longer in the evenings I think it will all pay off in the end.

We're super excited about the town home we finally found. It's in a fabulous area, NO busy street to deal with, within walking distance from several shops, grocery and restaurants. But, the greatest part (for me) is that it has three bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, washer and dryer hook-ups (no more communal laundry - YAY!!), and is steps from the swimming pool. Oh, and did I mention storage? We're not going to have to PILE all of our worldly goods into three teeny tiny closets. AND, I'll have more than three kitchen cupboards to work with. I can't wait!

We secure the place on September 15, but don't have to be out of our current unit until the 27th. This will give us some time to paint (which is much needed), and get all of our stuff moved in.

Once we get settled I get some pictures posted. But, until then, wish us an easy, stress free move!


Jimmy John's

As stated in my earlier post (Sioux Falls Food) we did do more than just eat. But, I had to mention this, in it's own entire blog...

Ahhhhh, Jimmy John's. How I miss that place. My first introduction to this amazing sub shop was, you guessed it, while attending Iowa State. Their 50 cent bread was a lifesaver around 2:00 a.m. My personal favorites include their Turkey Tom, which includes turkey, lettuce, mayo and tomato (no sprouts) and The Beach Club, which is turkey, lettuce, mayo, tomato, provolone, and avocado spread (no sprouts). All of this gloriousness is piled on to a tasty 8 inch French bread sub. Hellooooo amazing.
When I spotted a Jimmy John's, I knew this would be the place where I'd have my last lunch in Sioux Falls.
YUM - The Beach Club with a side of Sea Salt and Vinegar chips!
If only we could get a Jimmy John's out here... *sigh* 


Falls Park

A quick little history lesson:
Water falls were created in Sioux Falls about 14,000 years ago, by the last ice age. Before Europeans arrived to the area, several different indigenous tribes inhabited the region. The name Sioux Falls comes from the falls themselves, as well as the native people who first inhabited the area.

With that being said, I wanted to see these falls for myself.
The Falls were beautiful.
We went around sunset and it made for an even more picturesque evening.
The Falls were a breath of fresh air. It was great to be surrounded by so much nature.


Beautiful Butterflies

In theme with keeping things totally stress free we made our way to a butterfly garden on Sunday afternoon.

My first butterfly garden experience was while attending Iowa State, and I loved every minute in the garden. This experience was no different.

Every time a butterfly would flutter past it gave a light feeling in my stomach, almost taking my breath away. There is something so magical and special about these creatures that just totally enamors me.
My fascination with butterflies began when I was very young. My grandmother (my mom's mom) loved butterflies, especially Monarchs. She had window hangings of butterflies, and butterflies mounted outside her place. It was then that I discovered my love for butterflies.
Every butterfly in the garden was amazing and beautiful. When one would fly past me I knew Grandma was near. 
At our wedding, Scott and I released 25 Monarch butterflies, a small tribute to my Grandma, who was with us in spirit.
To this day, when a butterfly crosses my path, it's a sign that Grandma is always with me.
Upper left, I'm super excited about the giant blue butterfly chose to briefly land on me (see the blue blur, that's the butterfly just taking off).
The green butterfly (lower left), and the giant blue butterfly (lower right) were two of my favorites. I'd never seen either, and couldn't get enough of them.
Upper right, a butterfly is just taking off from landing on my arm. 
If you've never been to a butterfly garden I encourage you to check one out. They generally aren't too expensive to enter ($12 or less, at most places), and your admission goes toward the upkeep of the gardens, and the well-being of the butterflies. The gardens are such a unique experience, and give plenty of great photo opportunities. 


Water Parks to Concert in the Park

After our morning cup of Snowball coffee we were off to the Sioux Falls water park, Wild Water West.
It's been forever since going to a water park, or any aquatic venue, and not managed it, lifeguarded it, or oversaw most daily activities. The minute we walked through the front gate it was like coming home. The faint smell of chlorine hit my nose and brought a smile to my face. We laid out near the wave pool, and though the clouds were persistent, I managed to soak up a few rays and obtain new tan lines. We took a venture around the lazy river, only to find the water was FREEZING! Cold water aside, it was a great way to relax on a Saturday afternoon.

That evening Better Than Ezera was playing downtown at Falls Park, and Amy managed to score free tickets. Free, yep, we're there!
Haven't heard anything new from the band? Yeah, me either. But, here are two of their hits that probably ring some bells (if the song titles don't look familiar YouTube them and I bet you'll recognize them):
"Desperately Wanting"
Although I didn't know many of their songs they were a great band to listen to. And, what a great way to wrap up a Saturday!


Sioux Falls Food!

Last Friday I jetted off to Sioux Falls, SD to spend one very relaxing weekend with my best friend, Amy. 

Let me just tell you, sometimes I think Amy knows me better than myself. That, or she has known me for so long she knows what I like, and what I'll want, before I do.

For example, while attending Iowa State I found this amazing little coffee shop in Ames that had the BEST coffee around. Not only did they have amazing coffee, they had a flavor I was/am OBSESSED with. Snow Ball, a fabulous combination or carmel and coconut - DELICIOUSNESS in a cup! 
Should you ever stop through Ames and need a good great cup of coffee seek out Burgie's, you will not be disappointed!
Amy contacted Burgie's, the coffee shop, and ordered some Snowball for us to enjoy during my stay. This wasn't any bag of coffee, this was the economy size bag. This is the bag that retailers use. There is enough coffee in that bag to last her at least a year. But, you'll hear no complaints from me. Each morning I settled onto their comfy couch with a piping hot cup of my favorite joe.

I was also treated to some of the yummiest places in town. Most likely I flew back to L.A. with a few extra pounds - and not in my luggage. But, sooooo worth it.
Gourmet grilled cheese - WHAT?! Yes please! Cheese is a serious weakness of mine, an there was an entire restaurant dedicated to making hot, melty, gooey grilled cheeses. My mouth is watering just thinking of my sandwich (turkey, avocado and spinach with an assortment of cheeses on a whole wheat). We also make a couple (yes, couple) of trips to Peachwave, the fro-yo joint. Another weakness, frozen yogurt... I won't say no to a trip to a place like that. And, as if I hadn't consumed enough, a trip to Sinful Things lead us to sharing an AMAZING strawberry cheesecake.

Not only did we eat out, although that's always fun to do in new cities, there was an evening where Amy and her hubby grilled some tasty chicken breast, steamed some asparagus, and treated me to REAL SWEET CORN!! It seems like it's been for ever since I've had the pleasure of sinking my teeth into a steaming cob of wonderful, amazing sweet corn.
That night at dinner I intended on just one ear, but I threw all will power to the wind and downed THREE. :) 

I promise we did more than eat... But, I'll share the rest of my trip for later this week.


Sioux Falls Bound!

Soooo excited! I'm headed to the airport, my trip to Sioux Falls is finally here! I can't wait to see my BFF and spend some time outside this crazy city!!
How I was able to get all of my stuff into carry-on is beyond me. I impressed myself!!
I'm looking forward to a relaxing weekend in the Midwest. Can't wait to post pics when I get back.
Have a great weekend!!


The Guys Boston Trip

The weekend my aunt and cousins were into town Scott traveled to Boston to meet up with his dad, brother-in-law and his dad. They had tickets to see the Red Sox and Yankees play.

I was hoping to get Scott to blog about his trip, but that just hasn't happened. So, I'm going to post some pictures he took, and hopefully narrate the best I can. I'm sure if there are any changes or corrects he'll make them later.
 Walking around Boston, Paul Revere's House,
Scott and Mac, the city sky line, eating at the oldest Italian restaurant in North Boston.
 Mac next to the Ted Williams statue (Ted Williams is his favorite player), Red Sox made out of cups stuck in a fence, the entrance to Fenway Park,
the plaque on Ted Williams statue, the exterior of the ball park, a bar that looks into Fenway from the outfield.
 Perusing the campus of Harvard - the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. 
 The inside of Fenway, the "Green Monster," the oldest major league stadium in America.
Scott and Mac enjoying the game!
Scott and his dad have been talking about, and planning, this trip for years. It was great the guys finally had their weekend, and had so much fun! 


Crab and Cream Cheese Ball

Since I have a little more free time :) I've been clocking more hours in the kitchen, which is a good thing.

In preparation for  a BBQ we attended this weekend I wanted something simple - a finger type food - and delicious at the same time. Thoughts wandered to a crab and cream cheese ball that my mom has made for about as long as I can remember.

I thought it'd be all sorts of difficult to make, but to my surprise it was super easy!

Crab and Cream Cheese Ball
1 package cream cheese *
1 package crab meat **
Chopped green onions, to taste (optional)
Western salad dressing, to taste and color (optional) ***
Crushed nuts ****
What you'll need.
*I used 33% reduced fat cream cheese and it worked well. I was a little worried the ball wouldn't hold up, but it did just fine.
**To save a few dollars I used the imitation stuff. If you have money to spend I'm sure the real stuff is even more amazing.
***Californians apparently don't know about Western salad dressing, or Dorothy Lynch for that matter. I had to use French dressing, and it worked as a good substitute.
****My mom uses walnuts or pecans, but I mixed it up and used crushed almonds and pecans... YUM!

In a small mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, crab meat, onions (optional), and dressing (optional).
After mixing, shape into a ball and roll to cover with nuts.
Note: I tried using a spatula to mix everything together, and it didn't work as well as just getting my hands in there. After mixing everything up I placed the cream cheese mixture in the fridge for about 10 minutes. Then I shaped the ball and rolled it in the nut mixture.
Cutting up the crab and green onions.
On the right: The mixing of the cream cheese, onions, crab, and dressing.
On the left: The formed crab and cream cheese ball.
Tadaaa! The finished crab ball, ready for the BBQ.
It took me all of about 20 minutes to prep and make (including the 10 minute fridge cool down). It's served with your choice of cracker... This was a HUGE hit at the BBQ, and disappeared before my eyes!


Celebrity Spotting... In Church!

Does this guy look a little familiar?
Yeah, I thought so, too. 
We were sitting in church yesterday when this guy walks by for communion. I'd seen him in church a few times before, holidays mostly. And, I knew I had seen him on the big screen. I did a little digging and here's what I found -- and here's where you've probably seen him, also.

Neal McDonough
Some of the movies that stuck out for me included: 
Band of Brothers (he was 1st Lt. Lynn "Buck" Compton) 
Flags of Our Fathers (he played Captain Severance)
The Guardian (he was Jack Skinner)
Captain America (he played Timothy "Dum Dum" Dugan).

I'd expect to find actors near Beverly Hills, or maybe the swanky restaurants, but what a pleasant surprise to spot an actor in church!


Strawberry Cake

Lately I've been flexing my cooking and baking muscles. I mean, I have the free time, why not do a little experimenting in the kitchen?!

Flipping through a family recipe cookbook I came across a strawberry cake my aunt had contributed. Strawberries are in season right now, so I figured no better time than now to try it out! And, the best part, it's EASY!

Strawberry Cake
1 package white cake mix
1 package strawberry jello mix
1/2 cup corn/vegetable oil
1/2 cup frozen strawberries, thawed and drained *
1/2 cup water or juice from strawberries **
4 eggs

*I sliced fresh strawberries and froze them, and then let them thaw.
** I used the juice from the thawed strawberries - I didn't have enough juice to make 1/2 cup, so I filled the rest with water.

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix all ingredients together, except for the eggs, with an electric mixer.
Beat 4 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating one minute for each egg.
Beat an additional minute, after all eggs have been added.
Pour in a greased 9x13 pan.
Bake for 35-45 minutes.
Upper right: Dry ingredients
Lower right: strawberries, juice/water mix, and vegetable oil added to dry ingredients
Left: Al ingredients beaten together
Upper photo: Cake batter, pre-bake time
Lower photo: Cake, post bake time
1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup strawberries *
1 pound powdered sugar

*I used fresh strawberries, but I'm sure frozen strawberries, thawed, would work just as well.
Beat fronting ingredients together. Spread on cake.
Frosting being whipped together
The finished product!

The frosting was a little runnier than I was hoping. I think it's because I used a butter substitute, rather than real butter. Next time I'll use real butter, or maybe cream cheese.  Aside from the runny frosting it turned out quite tasty!!


An Attempt to Make Vanilla

I'm not a baker, by any stretch of the word. But,  I do enjoy baking a good batch of chocolate chip baked goods for Scott. And, when I make a batch, I always use a bit more vanilla than is called for in the recipe. Apparently that's ok, because Scott is always asking me to bake his favorite treat.

With that being said, I go through vanilla extract like it's going out of style. And, I don't like the cheap stuff.  I like the stuff that has a scintillating smell and fabulous taste. For those of you who bake, and use vanilla, it's not cheap, especially if you get the good stuff.

Thank goodness for a friend of mine who is obviously outstanding in the kitchen. I found a home made vanilla extract recipe on her blog, and decided to give it a go. If it turns out well, I'll let you know. But, you'll have to wait about 8-12 weeks as that's how long it takes to gather the goods.
The mason jars, all ready to go.
The ingredients: vanilla beans and vodka.
After snipping the beans in half they're submerged in the vodka.
In about 4 weeks I'll check the jars to see if the vodka smell has been replaced by the sweet aroma of vanilla.
(I'm filling the middle jar this afternoon.)
After just one day a beautiful brown hue begins to emerge.

If you're searching for some AMAZING baking recipes I urge you to check out my friends blog. Her stuff looks so yummy, just reading her blog and seeing her pictures makes my mouth water. Here's the link to her blog http://www.lemon-sugar.com/ , check it out!!


A Meal in the Microwave - in 23 Minutes!

Don't jump the gun too fast, at first I saw this recipe and thought, "Chicken? In the microwave? No thanks." But then I saw the amount of time to make it - 23 minutes - and I couldn't resist.

If you're looking for something with a Mexican flare, and doesn't take all day/evening to prep and cook, try this recipe out. It was simple, and surprised me with it's great taste!

Cheesy Chicken Chilaquiles
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast (I used 4 good size breasts)

1 tbsp Southwestern Seasoning Mix (if you don't have any in your spice rack, and/or can't find it in the grocery market, try using taco seasoning instead)

1 3/4 cups salsa verde

1 cup 33% reduced-sodium chicken broth

3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

12 cups authentic restaurant-style tortilla chips (use the thickest chips you can find - I used Mission brand tortilla strips and was very happy with the result)

2 cups shredded Chihuahua cheese (Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, or a Mexican blend work as great substitutes)

1 cup queso fresco cheese (all my grocery store had was a chipotle blend, and it worked GREAT - check the soft cheeses to find this particular type of cheese, it may be by the ricotta)

Sour cream (optional)

1. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Combine chicken and seasoning mix in a Deep Dish Baker. Spread chicken evenly over bottom of baker. Microwave, covered, on HIGH 4 minutes; stir to separate chicken. Microwave, covered, and additional 4 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink. Drain using a small colander.
I use Pampered Chef's Deep Covered Baker - one of my favorite kitchen pieces. If you don't own one, put it on your Christmas/Birthday list! 
2. Combine salsa and broth. Chop cilantro. Arrange half of the tortilla chips over the bottom of the same baker, breaking chips (if needed); top with half of each chicken, salsa mixture, and cheeses. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of cilantro. Repeat layers one time, ending with cheeses.

3. Microwave, covered, on HIGH for 5-7 minutes, or until cheeses are melted and most of the liquid is absorbed. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cilantro. Serve with sour cream, if desired.

To cut down on prep time in the evening, I pre-cut the chicken the afternoon before I prepared the meal. I also snipped the cilantro before-hand.
Upper Left: The chicken with seasoning before entering the microwave.
Middle: The finished product!
Lower Right: The salsa verde and chicken broth mixture.

Because of it's quick prep time, and great Mexican flavor, it has been added to our "keep" list!


Source: 29 Minutes to Dinner, Volume 2/Pampered Chef


These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things

Having guests is the BEST excuse to hit up some of our favorite restaurants. Last night was no exception. We headed down to Manhattan Beach - our favorite beach community - and stopped in at Mama D's Italian Restaurant.
If you're a first time visitor to the restaurant they treat you to a free appetizer. Most generally it's their homemade raviolis. Sooooo delicious! And, each meal is complimented with their homemade bread with oil and garlic dipping sauce. HEAVEN!
The lasagna, homemade bread, and homemade raviolis.
Our group ordered some of Mama's pink sauce, meat lasagna, vegetarian lasagna, and spicy spaghetti with meat balls. Oh, and did I mention, if you have to wait to be seated the host passes around bread, appetizers, and other yummy goodies to hold you over until your table is ready?!

Post Mama D's we had to treat everyone to a stop a Diddy Reese (pronounced DeeDee). It's a baked good (*cookie) and ice cream shop. And all items are homemade. The line is always out the door, and usually there's a 30 minute wait, but it's worth it. When you walk out with your personalized ice cream sandwich... DEEEE-LISH! 
The line, the menu line up and options, all the baked goods, the final product!

Just a fair word of warning, when you come visit us, we'll take you to all of our favorite food joints... And, we apologize if you board the plane home a with a few extra pounds. :)


Mission: L.A. Experience

With my aunt and cousins in town my goal has been to give them the TOTAL L.A. experience. So far, I think, mission accomplished!

An Angels v. Twins game, a day in Santa Monica, an afternoon of whale watching, The Farmers Market and The Grove, a trip down Beverly Hills Boulevard, Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose, along Hairspray, the Musical, at the Hollywood Bowl!

Who wants to visit next?!


Blue Whales!

Saturday afternoon we ventured down to Long Beach to see if we could spot some Blue Whales.
My cousins, Dana, Allison, and me, on the cruise.
The last time I'd gone on a Blue Whale cruise we didn't see any whales. However, we did spot several dolphins.

This trip was the exact opposite!

We spotted a few different Blue Whales, all of which came up for breaths on several different occasions. Because the animals are so huge - one of the largest to ever live on the planet, ever - they don't breach the water. They just come up for air every 5-10 minutes.
Because they are such huge animals, when they surface for air all you really see is their back, and the tiny dorsal fins (refer to lower left picture). Blue Whales, although the largest whales, have the smallest dorsal fins.

Wouldn't you know it, one of the whales dove down and his/her tail came up out of the water. And I miss it! I was trying to snap a good photo and I missed the tail. Guess Scott and I will just have to go back!


Amtrak and Angels

My Aunt Sandy and cousins, Dana and Allison, are visiting from Minnesota this weekend. On their to-do list while here was see the Minnesota Twins play the Los Angeles Angels (who actually play in Anaheim).

We traveled by Amtrak. The train doesn't seem to move all that fast, but I'm sure during Friday rush hour (which it was), we shaved off tons of time getting to Anaheim.
The train drops passengers off in the outfield, literally. It's so convenient! 

It was hat night, so we scored some "skater" A's hats. They're pretty cool, but my guess is that none of us will be sporting these bad boys anytime soon.
To our surprise our seats were AMAZING. We were four rows from the field, on the first base side.
We were thisclose to the players and field! 

Being so close to the field we should have brought along a few gloves for foul balls!

I'm not a huge baseball fan, but there's just something about being inside the stadium. Perhaps it's the smell of hot dogs, pop corn, and other stadium food. Maybe it's the crunch of peanut shells below my shoes as I walk through the rows. Whatever it is, the buzz inside stadiums is such a fantastic experience.

Though the Twins - whom we were cheering for - lost in stunning style, 1-7, we had a great time!