Tomatomania at Roger’s Garden

March 6-8








Pasta Night with Trader Joe’s ingredients



















Usually I go to my Italian market for pasta night, but I decided to try getting all my major ingredients at Trader Joe’s.

TJ Ingredients: Egg Pappardelle Pasta, Arrabiata Sauce, Seafood Blend (shrimp, calamari, bay scallops).

Other ingredients: Red chili pepper flakes, olive oil, garlic, herbs, salt & pepper

Added red chili pepper flakes and garlic to the pasta sauce and let it simmer while my water boiled for the pasta. Boiled the pasta for a few minutes while adding the seafood to a hot pan of olive oil.

When pasta was ready, mixed in pasta sauce. When seafood was thoroughly cooked, added that to the mix. Salt and peppered pasta. Chopped up some herbs and sprinkled on top… voila!










Great with red wine 🙂

Big Shrimps

I scoped out all the happy hours menu in the Downtown Monrovia area. I kept in mind that Big Shrimps had Taco Tuesdays.

99cent Fish Tacos and 2$ Tacos with Shrimp, Mahi, Salmon, Steak, and Chicken

PLUS 1/2 off all beer and glasses of wine!

Just dropped in and had my two fish tacos (1 grilled & 1 battered) and bottle of Corona for under $5


I have to say, I can’t decide of I like the battered or grilled better. Usually I tend to think many battered fish is layered heavy with batter but they have a great thin crisp batter layer that doesn’t sink in your stomach right away, and it’s well seasoned. I have found my seafood taco place as well as a budget friendly meal. They have a lot of other entrees, sandwiches, cocktails, burritos, and chowders for when you want to branch out of tacos. The prices don’t rise up that much either. Everything is under $15 🙂

The establishment is quite new with a modern and casual open dining area with bar tables and booths. There is an outside patio that gives you a relaxing view of the downtown area.

Apples, Berries, and Pumpkins OH MY!

There’s still time!  Get your fresh apples and berries at these fun family orchards.  There’s nothing like having a jug of apple juice that you pressed with apples you picked just minutes before.  Below is a post from the last time I was in Oak Glen, check it out!  I hope you get inspired to get out of your area for a day and walk among the orchards.



Riley’s Farm in Oak Glen, CA is a great place to pick apples, rasberries, and blackberries.  The best thing is pressing your own apples into a fresh jug of cider.













There are many farms and orchards to choose from, since our first visit we have narrowed it down to two places that we decided were the best for us and now just go straight to these favorites.  We love Riley’s because the grounds are so big and open, it never feels crowded.  There is a good variety of apples, blackberries, raspberries, and they have pumpkins as well.  You can also press your apples here and leave with a jug of delicious apple juice.  There are also games like archery and hatchet throwing 🙂





They provide you with your own apple picking tool to reach those apples out of reach (which is almost every apple).


Time to make CIDER

Filling Bucket with Apples for the Cider


Rinsing Apples with Water and a Tad of Bleach


Throwing in Apples to Grind


Grinding and Grinding


Time to Press!


…and Press…


Here comes the juice!


Here comes the goods!


Voila! Apples and Cider


Now for some archery lessons…

Not bad, not bad…at least we got on the paper


And off to one of the biggest pumpking patches on our way out of Oak Glen…

U-Pick Farms are still offering the fun!

Bumbleberry Flats

I was in Laughlin with my family, and I wanted to try a new place to eat. I looked online and found great reviews on Bumbleberry Flats at The Pioneer Casino.

They have a Sunday Brunch Buffett that offers an omelet station, chilled crab legs, and much more. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Sunday when I dropped in. That was okay, it gave me a chance to order of their menu that was filled with unique blends of southern cuisine flavors. The first thing that caught my eye was a sign for their “Wreckless Bloody Mary.” This Bloody Mary was topped with a food sampler! These toppings consisted of a Fried Green Tomato Bacon Slider, Chicken & Waffle, Jumbo Shrimp, Hard Boiled Egg, Pickle Spear, and olives. Oh yes, and a glass of beer 🙂 this seemed like a great food adventure to take up…next time. I had my eye set on their Crab Cake Benedict. I will be back for the Bloody Mary!


This was my Crab Cake Benedict:


I actually enjoyed the biscuit underneath the crab cake more with the egg than the crab cake. My usual concern with crab cakes is more cake than crab 😦

The Country Ham and Eggs was really tasty. The bone-in ham steak was huge and nicely grilled. The eggs were cooked perfectly (whites hard, yolk runny).


Chicken and Waffles:


This is served with a Louisiana Honey Hot Sauce that is spicy and sweet tasting! The skin was really crispy on the chicken which is always a plus.

What added to our dining experience was our view of the river from window side table.


If you feel like pouring your own glass of beer from the tap, you can request a table with a wall that gives you two types of beer on tap for you to handle yourself



Other menu items that caught my eye-

Sweet Tea Pork Chop- 12 oz bone in center cut pork chop marinated in sweet tea, seared and served with two eggs and creamy grits

Cheddar Bacon Waffle- Apple wood smoked bacon and aged cheddar cheese in a light crispy waffle covered in whiskey bacon jam and served with sweet cream butter

Pulled Pork Pancakes- Four apple wood smoked bacon and sweet corn pancakes stuffed with succulent pulled pork shoulder, and drizzled with Jack Daniel’s maple syrup

Check out the rest on these menu pages-







Strawberry French Macarons

I never saw myself as a baker. The most interested I’ve ever been in baking was pouring a pre-made brownie mix or spoonfuls of ready made cookie dough onto a pan.  However, I found myself with free time and trying to come up with special treats for my godson’s baptism.  French macarons came to mind!

This was quite the jump from a box of brownie mix to home made French macarons, but in order for me to want to put the time into making something, I have to be highly interested in it.  French macarons happen to be one of the few sweets that intrigued me.  I have always loved the look of  a French macaron, and the variety of flavors and colors they come in.

What’s great, is that there aren’t a lot of steps and they are all easy.  What’s not so great, is that doing any of theses steps slightly off, will mess up your chances of making the perfect macaron.

I found a great youtube video on making French macarons, and then tweaked a few things to get my successful batches of macarons.

The video is Beth’s Foolproof French Macaron Recipe –

Her ingredients:

3 Egg Whites
¼ cup white sugar (50 g)
2 cups confectioners sugar (200 g)
1 cup almond flour (120 g) (SEE NOTE BELOW)
pinch of salt
¼ tsp cream of tartar (2 ml)  * You can omit if needed, just may take a bit longer to reach stiff peaks but the recipe will still work)

NOTE: If you cannot find almond flour where you live, check out this great video from my new friend Dzung at Honeysuckle Catering and she’ll show you a great easy way to make it yourself!

1/4 cup salted butter (60g)
3/4 cup powdered sugar (75 g)
1 cup (150 g) fresh raspberries, worked through a sieve to extract 3 tbsp of juice


For my fist attempt, I did a light blue coloring on my shells and buttercream since blue was the color theme for the party, with earl grey tea powder as the flavoring in the shells.


1st Batch- I followed the steps to the best of my ability, and the two problems I encountered were very hollow and tall shells, and then the shells stuck to the pan after the suggested time.  I began to look at the comments below the video for people who had complained about similar outcomes and did what  Ms. Beth suggested.

French Macarons Blue
My 1st attempt with the issue of hollow shells and raw bottoms

2nd Batch- Beth said a hollow shell means the temperature is too hot, so I lowered my oven temperature. BETTER SHELLS! STILL STICKY BOTTOMS!

3rd Batch- I then read to place the pan on a lower rack…still sticky.  I had to spray water underneath the parchment paper to get the macarons to peel off the sheet.

4th Batch- I left the macarons in the oven longer so the bottoms can cook more…yellowish burnt tops.

5th Batch-I raised the temperature back up and baked for less time…sticky bottoms.

5th Batch- I heard to prop the oven door open so the tops won’t brown as you extend the baking time for the bottoms to cook more…still sticky and my kitchen was uncomfortably hot.



A few weeks later, the baptism was two days away and it was time to try again.

2nd Attempt

1st Batch- I heard about leaving the macarons out longer before popping them into the oven.  I waited an hour.  Success!!  However, the tops didn’t smooth out, and I realized I under mixed my batter.  If the tops don’t smooth out within 10 seconds of piping, it needs a few more folds.

2nd Batch- I DON’T KNOW WHAT IN GOD’S NAME I DID WRONG.  After piping, they never felt like they were drying, even after an hour!  Usually, the tops start to dry out after 20 minutes.  I popped them in anyway and they just came out like cookies.  No “feet,” no smooth tops, no sense of accomplishment.

3rd Batch- Did everything the same and they came out like the first batch.  There were still a bit of a swirly top on the macarons, but decent.

People were actually really pleased with them and they were gone by the end of the night. My cousin was left wanting more, so I told him I would make more later on in the week. Tired of making blue macarons, I wanted to do a completely different color and flavor.  I had leftover strawberries from the baptism party, and I thought I could replace the raspberry in Beth’s recipe with strawberry juice.  Now, I don’t know if it’s the practice or lack of pressure, but WOW!!

3rd Attempt

This is what I did…

From 3 room temperature eggs, I separated the egg whites, and mixed until they were foamy.

Added my cream of tartar, salt, and sugar

Pouring Egg Whites

































While the my egg whites were mixing, I sifted my almond meal into my powdered sugar.

Sifting Almond Meal/Flour into the Powdered Sugar
Sifting Almond Meal/Flour into the Powdered Sugar



































When my egg whites were starting to thicken, I added my food coloring (4 drops of red for the strawberry theme)

Food Coloring for the French Macarons

































Mixed until the peak of my egg whites stood up



































Poured the Almond/Sugar Mix into the Egg WhitesFlour Pour into Egg Mix







Folded until the “lava flow”

French Macaron Mix


































Placed the mix into a pastry bag…

French Macaron Pastry Bag


































Piped out the desired shape of the French macarons and banged the pan 4 good times to let the air bubbles out.

I left them to dry out for 45 minutes, when the tops felt completely dry.

Macaron Mold


































Popped them into the oven at 285 degrees for 15 minutes on the lower rack

Strawberry Macaron Shells

These shells easily popped off the sheet…

Macaron Shell Bottoms

You could see that the bottoms fully cooked 🙂  However, browning was starting to occur, so I will bake it for 12 minutes next time.

While I let these macarons cool and placed my second pan of macarons in the oven, I began the buttercream.

I mixed up the butter until it was pale and fluffy.  Then came the strawberries!

I took my sieve and pressed out the juice of strawberries with a spoon.  I am guessing I made about 3 tablespoons of juice.  Then I mixed again!

Strawberry Puree


































Started getting that nice pink color from the strawberries
Started getting that nice pink color from the strawberries



































Placed it in a pastry bag and started filling the macaron shells.  To achieve a smoother look, I’m going to mix longer and with fewer juice next time.

However, the strawberry buttercream tastes amazing! Lots of strawberry flavor meshed with the sweetness of the sugar and creaminess of butter.

Strawvberry Buttercream Filling


































Strawberry Macarons Dish




Strawberry French Macarons





































Miso Fascinated!

I’ve often wondered what miso is made of and how it’s made.  I went back to a fun book, The Story of Sushi: An unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice, by Trevor Corson. It covers the history, culture, and other fun nuggets of information regarding sushi.  There are also the experiences of students and chefs attending California Sushi Academy .  One of the chapters is all about miso, and the field trip that a group of students took to a miso factory.  I was able to find a few miso factories in california, including the Japanese giant Marukome, that just opened it’s first American factory in Irvine just a year ago.

Mold is probably the last thing on your mind when you think about what you want in a tasty dish.  However, this is essential for miso.  Mold is considered such an important product, that there are shops in Japan that just manage and sell mold (known in Japanese as koji).  There are caves and vaults that hold back ups of mold filled jars.  In form of a green powder, a small amount is poured into a giant machine of cooked rice.  The mold spores in the jar are dormant until they have something to feed on.  Once they are introduced to the rice, they go to town and are given time to engulf each grain of rice.  The story in the book mentions that in an incubator filled with 6,600 pounds of rice, 500 pounds of rice will simply disappear by the end of the waiting period.

The infected rice is then churned with cooked soybeans, followed by the addition of sea salt, bacteria, and yeast.  After all the ingredients are mixed up, it is poured into huge tubs where they are then sealed up and then stored away for some months.  In these sealed containers, the mold runs out of air and dies.  However, it leaves behind its digestive enzymes, which does not need air to survive.

These enzymes from the mold break down the protein of the rice and soybeans and produce amino acids.  Most of the protein in soybeans is a type called glycinin.  The enzymes tear apart that glycinin and leave behind an amino acid called glutamate.  Glutamate tastes great to humans!  It contains a lot of flavor that is enjoyed by the human taste buds.  In fact, when a Japanese chemist realized that it was glutamate that contributes to a delicious flavor in certain foods, he figured out how to manufacture it.  The product was monosodium glutamate (MSG).  Glutamate is also important for human functioning.  “It’s a fast excitatory neurotransmitter in our brains and spinal cords; it is believed to be important for thought and memory.”

These enzymes also break down the carbohydrates into glucose and other sugars, which also contributes to a pleasing flavor.  The good bacteria that was added has its own enzymes, these ones feed on the sugars.  The result of that sugar feast is lactic acid and acetic acid.  These are the acids that give yogurt its tartness.  It’s also these acids that keep these foods from spoiling.

Last but not least, the yeast helps out by also consuming the sugars and producing alcohol.  Now, the alcohol reacts with the acids made by the bacteria.  From this union, esters are born!  Esters are the compounds that provide those fruity aromas, same ones found in wine.  At this point, the miso has achieved all its attributes for its delicious flavor.

After a few months,  it is ready to be taken out of storage and prepped for packaging.  Along with the miso in the containers, there is also a brown liquid that can be found seeping out of the edges.  This liquid contains all the same attributes of the miso, including the glutamate taste.  Since decades ago, this liquid has been known to be drizzled over food for additional miso tasting goodness.  It is said that soy sauce had to have originated as a by-product of making miso.

Something interesting that the author mentions, are the other foods that are high in glutamate, such as ham, parmesan cheese, and tomatoes.  He writes that a serving of sushi with soy sauce has the same taste elements as a plate of pasta smothered in tomato sauce, anchovies, and Parmesan cheese.  So enjoy your miso and think of the wonderful combination of saltiness, sugary, tart flavor that also has your good bacteria and glutamate that just makes eating it all the more delicious!

Sprinkles has Gluten Free Red Velvet Cupcakes!

I recently went to the doctor, where I’m supposed to pay attention to what I eat when I get my phlegm reaction. Gluten was a possible culprit so I’ve been trying gluten free products when available. I was surprised to find that option at Sprinkles! My favorite flavor, Red Velvet, can now be made with gluten free flour. You can easily tell the cupcake apart in your party’s box of goodies by the “G” they place on top where their signature dot usually is. The cupcake didn’t feel as fluffy as the original but the taste was still there and their cream cheese frosting is still the same recipe.

I’m sure many will be excited for this considerate act as the red velvet cupcake is the most popular flavor. Also, they have one cupcake flavor that is sugar-free! My father usually makes an exception and eats a cupcake whenever we stop at Sprinkles, but now he can make the easy effort to choose the sugar-free cupcake available. I’m all for more people being included in the enjoyment of treats 🙂