Friday Inspiration – Love Instructions


Love Instructions:

1. Love yourself.  Fully and completely. Flaws and all.  Just the way you are.

2. Congratulate yourself for achieving step one.

3. Love others.


Dinner at Debbie & Jerry’s

I don’t usually write about private dinners, but Debbie and Jerry are such gracious hosts and we had such a lovely time there this weekend, that I wanted to thank them publicly.  We were joined by another fun couple we both know, and had a lovely meal out on the patio with perfect weather, great food, great wine and great friends.

Debbie had a tomato tart prepared for appetizers and a babaganoush with pita chips, and olives.  Just right.

The first course was a roasted beet and goat cheese salad.  We also had some warm sesame bread with gourmet olive oil for dipping.  The salad was delicious, and I’m not even that huge a beet fan.

We then enjoyed halibut with a tomato caper sauce that was juicy, tender and full of flavor.  This was accompanied by a vermicelli/rice blend and green beans in a savory sauce.

Dessert was mini cheesecake indulgences, a la Season’s 52, but I’d say Debbie’s were better.

Now, we also drank a little.  Some of us drank a lot.  We enjoyed Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc, Rochioli Chardonnay, Cakebread Chardonnay Reserve, and Justin Cabernet Sauvignon.  Followed by Corvoisier, Remy, and Grand Marnier.

An all together wonderful evening, made better by our hosts desire that everyone really have a wonderful time (as always!).  Thanks D&J!

Lucca Cafe Desserts (Brownie Recipe)

Lately we’ve really been enjoying the food at Lucca Café in Irvine.  It is small, intimate, with a lovely patio, and the food is made with love.  Chef Cathy creates wonderful dishes, with specials every week.  Her husband Elliott loves combing the world for great wines, which Lucca sells at reasonable prices, with half-bottles, glasses and even half glasses and flights.  The cheeses change weekly, and many are not available in local stores.  I’ve written in a previous post about Lucca’s small plates, which are wonderful.

The desserts are also fabulous.  I recently had “Warm and Wicked” which is a decadent chocolate bread pudding. The S’mores in a jar shown above (in a martini glass at night) are a comfort food delight.

In this week’s newsletter from Lucca, they reveal that their brownie recipe was in fact published last year in an LA Times article.  I have my own favorite brownie recipe, from Ghirardelli, but this looks really interesting, and I think I will give this one a try next time.


Lucca Cafe’s brownies

Total time: 1½ hours, plus cooling and chilling times

Servings: 18 brownies

Note: Adapted from Lucca Cafe in Irvine. Lucca uses Elite brand instant coffee.


1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 pound salted butter

5 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons almond extract

1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee

3 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups plus 2½ tablespoons (7 ounces) flour

1 cup chopped walnut pieces


1. Line 2 (9-inch) square baking pans with foil (I would use parchment paper), and grease the foil. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, combine the bittersweet chocolate and butter, stirring frequently until melted and combined. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts, coffee and sugar over high speed until combined and the mixture increases in volume (it will look almost like softened ice cream), 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the mixer.

4. Beat in the melted chocolate and butter over low speed just until combined. Add the flour and nuts and stir just until incorporated.


5. Pour the batter into the pans, dividing evenly between the 2 pans. Bake the brownies until barely set: A crust will form on top, and a toothpick inserted will be very gooey (though not wet like the batter), 20 to 25 minutes.

6. Remove the brownies and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate the brownies (still in the pans) for at least 6 hours to chill and fully set.


Ganache and assembly

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons milk

7 1/2 tablespoons salted butter

Prepared brownies

4 ounces white chocolate

1. Place the bittersweet chocolate in a large bowl.

2. In a large saucepan, combine the cream, milk and butter and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat. Pour the mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and combined with the cream mixture, forming a ganache.

3. Remove the chilled brownies from the refrigerator, and invert the pans over a cooling rack set over a large rimmed baking sheet (the sheet will catch the excess ganache when it is poured over the brownies). Peel the foil liner away from the brownies.

4. Pour the ganache over the brownies, making sure it covers the tops of both batches (do not worry about the sides, as these will be trimmed when the brownies are cut).

5. Set the brownies aside to allow the ganache to cool and set.


6. Melt the white chocolate (place it in a glass container and heat it in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until completely melted). Place the white chocolate in a piping bag, coronet or a sealable plastic bag (after the chocolate is added to the bag, trim one of the tips to the desired size to make a makeshift piping bag).

7. Streak the brownies with the white chocolate, then set them aside to give the white chocolate time to harden.

8. Trim the edges from the brownies, then cut the brownies into squares; each pan makes about 9 (3-inch) squares.


Nutrition: each of 18 brownies: 574 calories; 6 grams protein; 66 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 35 grams fat; 18 grams saturated fat; 107 mg cholesterol; 53 grams sugar; 162 mg sodium.


PS: One of these days I really want to get to their Sunday Supper (monthly), served family style, at 3 pm.


Mesquite Grilled Fajita Salad – El Torito Grill

After a workout today, not only was I starving, but also craving BEEF.  So I figured I could get a steak salad at El Torito Grill.  They have a Fajitas Salad that is great!  It starts with a salad mixed table-side that has romaine, sautéed pasilla chiles, bell peppers, onions, cotija cheese, jack cheese, fresh avocado, roasted fresh corn, and raspberry-tamarind vinaigrette.

You can add Mesquite grilled chicken, skirt steak, or shrimp, which comes on a sizzling platter just like when you get fajitas.  The server mixes up the salad, and adds the sizzling meat and veggies on top.

Now for the best part.  If you know El Torito Grill, you know that they have the best salad dressing on earth – the creamy cilantro pepita dressing.  So sub that in for the the vinaigrette, and now you have steak salad perfection.  The meat was tender and flavorful, the veggies seasoned perfectly, and my craving was totally satisfied.

Friday Inspiration – Embrace Gratitude

Embrace Gratitude:   Focus on Gratitude and life will be full of Abundance! Stop complaining. Everyone has problems, and many, many are worse than yours.

The Art: One Heart A Day Series: Day 151, 7/13/12 “Out Of Your Abundance” by Brook Almatas- Available on Etsy from artist

Buzz and Brain Freeze


I’m sure RA Sushi won’t mind if I quote them directly today.

RA Sushi has taken frozen cocktails to the next level by introducing the Fuzzy Momo Bellini and the Red Bull Cherry Bomb, available now for $8 each.

Cool down with the Fuzzy Momo Bellini, our take on a famous Italian cocktail. It’s an icy blend of sparkling and white wines, Cruzan Rum, yuzu, peach and strawberry purée. It’s guaranteed to make you incredibly sophisticated, utterly intriguing and wildly attractive – particularly to those enjoying one with you.

Next up is our Red Bull Cherry Bomb. Warning: this is not your typical Red Bull and Vodka. We mix a generous helping of Three Olives Cherry Vodka, TY KU Soju, Red Bull, orange juice, and a splash of Monin Cherry.

Now, swim on in and try one (or both!) of these delicious icy treats.