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Japanese seven spice


While Peggy and I were staying in Carlsbad, we spent an afternoon shopping in the Cedros Design District in nearby Solana Beach. It’s one of my “must-do treks” whenever I’m in the San Diego area.


Most often, I go shopping there by myself and don’t stop for lunch, but lunch was a must to keep with our theme of “Shopping, Drinking, and Eating.”

wild note

We actually ended up eating and drinking twice during the long afternoon, both times at the Wild Note Cafe, on Cedros Avenue. During our second stop, we had the best edamame of our young lives.

Of course, upon my return home, I promptly figured out the (very easy) recipe.


Japanese seven spice

First, a word about Japanese seven spice. It can be difficult to find. I looked in the grocery store, no luck. Then I went to Cost Plus World Market, and after much searching and armed with the fact that I knew exactly what I was looking for, I found it. It was not marked “Japanese seven spice” but rather by one of its other names, nanami togarashi. You can, of course, also find it on Amazon.

Japanese seven spice, also known as shichimi togarashi or nana-iro (nanami) togarashi or simply shichimi, is a common Japanese spice mixture containing seven ingredients.

A typical blend contains:

coarsely ground red chili pepper (the main ingredient)
ground sansho
roasted orange peel
black sesame seed
white sesame seed
hemp seed
ground ginger

Trust me, it’s worth taking the extra effort and making a special trip to find it.

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August 20, 2014   1 Comment

rocket & sweet chili chèvre


In yesterday’s comments, Vicki asked for more recipes using the new Sweet Chili Chèvre from Trader Joe’s that I was touting.

Your request is my command.

Zucchini, Fennel, and Marcona Almond Salad1

Rocket, Roasted Zucchini, Fennel, Chèvre and Marcona Almond Salad

Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup olive oil

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August 19, 2014   3 Comments

back – hopefully not forgotten


I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I took a little “blog vacation” and didn’t post for six straight days, my longest stretch of “time off” in 5 years! Coincidentally, my 5-year Blogiversary was on Saturday, August 16th … and I missed it!


Seems like a rather big day to miss, but missed it I did. The bad part about that is  … I was planning on holding a contest on the auspicious occasion, giving you a chance to win something very cool.

What to do?

How about we have the contest later in the week? In the meantime, start thinking about your favorite recipe that I’ve posed in these past five years. That will somehow be worked into the contest. Until then, another recipe for your consideration.

Roasted Fresh Figs Stuffed with Sweet Chili Goat Cheese2

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August 18, 2014   7 Comments


It’s been so long since I put up the Friday Funnies, that I’m thinking this single Monday Funny may be needed to get your (my) week started.


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August 11, 2014   No Comments

my hotel must-haves and a travel tip

Peggy and I are back from California. Summer travel is pretty much finished for me.

peggy on the patio

After living in hotel rooms for three of the last four weeks, I would like to share with you my top three hotel room must-haves:

free wifi

1.  Free WiFi. In the room. Not someplace “in the lobby.”

light mirror       2.  A well-lit bathroom, preferably furnished with a lighted magnifying make-up mirror.


3.  A minimum of two pillows per person, preferably with an extra one or two.

Obviously I’m not counting clean and comfortable rooms and a courteous and helpful staff as must-haves, those are “you better have that or I’m not staying here.”

My three “must-haves” are the things that really make me happy that I picked a particular place to stay. If they are missing, it makes me sorry I didn’t find someplace else to rest my head.


As for my travel tip, it involves your bottles of liquids. I’m sure we all put our liquids in zip-lock bags to prevent them from leaking on our clothes, luggage and other valuables. Mine still often oozed a bit and leaked in the zip-lock bag.

No more!

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August 10, 2014   5 Comments

Carlsbad, CA

We own a week at a timeshare in California. In Carlsbad, which is north of San Diego, to be specific. We haven’t used our week there the last several years, having rented it out instead. The main reason we haven’t used it is because we’ve either been vacationing elsewhere that same week or have just returned home from a big trip, such as Hawaii last year and Alaska the summer before.

carlsbad inn

It was the same situation again this year, having returned from Ireland only a week before our Carlsbad week began.

Well, this time around, I decided to use it anyway. Dave and Connor both had to return to work but since I don’t have classes to teach, I asked Peggy to come with me and we are here and we’re having a ball.

The week is from Saturday to Saturday, but since we both had commitments on Saturday, we drove out early on Sunday morning. Here is my day-by-day account of our trip so far:

Sunday – Friends and Family Day

wind farm

We were on the road a little after 7:00 and it was smooth sailing as we crossed the Arizona/California border. The California desert skies were cloudy, gray, and beautiful!

storms a brewing

Then things got a little more serious as the clouds were so low and so thick that this is what we encountered.

low visibility

A bit of rain and very low visibility! We made it through all that and arrived at “The Inn” just before 2:00.  Marissa was in town, visiting high school and college friends, Kaley and Petra. Elementary school friends, Lindsey and Alyse, also came to town for the girlfriend summer reunion.

beach girls

Add to that, high school friend, Julie, who is pregnant with her second, is staying right here at “The Inn” with her entire family… and you have not only a girlfriend reunion, but a brief mother and child reunion too!

When the girls arrived, they came up to our room for a “welcome” glass of wine before going down to the beach to meet up with Julie.


After beach time we all had dinner at Norte Mexican Food, which is adjacent to the property. Then the girls were off, insert sad face here.

ocean sunset

We’ll end Sunday with a beautiful California ocean sunset, photo courtesy of Peggy.

Monday – Foreign Adventure Day

Peggy’s had an itch to go to Mexico for a while now. She just bought a new house and it has a lot of Mexican/Southwest flair. We decided it made sense to drive from Carlsbad to Tijuana (56 miles, 1 hour drive) instead of from Scottsdale to Nogales (183 miles, nearly 3 hours) so off we went.

good food

We had fun shopping and eating and drinking, especially eating and drinking! I always forget just how great Mexican food is in Mexico. Go Figure! The Mexican flag guacamole was outstanding and pretty darn cute and the shrimp ceviche – delicious!

peggy in tijuana

All was good until we decided it was time to leave Mexico. We sat in the line of cars at the border for FOUR (4) hours, I kid you not. It was horrible!


You move soooo slowly that there are vendors set up between the lanes of cars and they are selling everything you can imagine; ceramics, churros, dulces, tostilocos, burritos, elote, lawn ornaments, purses, toys, everything you can image! There are hundreds of them and even more of you, sitting trapped like prisoners in your own car. Let me say that four hours is a long time to sit after drinking beer all afternoon, if you know what I mean. It was torture!


We were happy when we finally saw the border, but it still took nearly 35 minutes from this spot. My advice? NEVER drive into Tijuana. Park your car and walk across! Live and learn.

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August 7, 2014   10 Comments

Chicken Panzanella Salad

Here, as promised, is the second salad I served on “Dinner and Cards” night this past Friday.

main course salads

Another super quick and easy main course salad that is perfect for summer. It is especially easy and summer-friendly if you start with a purchased rotisserie chicken.

I was too lazy (or maybe it was just too hot to make another stop while shopping) to get a rotisserie chicken – since they don’t sell them at Trader Joe’s, which was the only stop I made.

roasted chicken

So, I started from scratch and roasted a little organic free-range hen instead.

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August 5, 2014   1 Comment

surprise ingredient

Raw Chocamoca Tart with Espresso Syrup

Isn’t this tart beautiful?

You will not believe what this ultra rich and creamy dessert is made with.  And believe it or not, it is all raw. No baking involved, perfect for Arizona summers.

This is the final recipe I will be sharing with you from my full-day cooking class at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland.

Raw Chocamoca Tart with Espresso Syrup3

I have saved the best for last.

When I first heard what the secret ingredient was, I was certain that I would not like this dessert. Oh, how wrong I was! You’ll have to read the recipe and check out the photos to see what I’m talking about. I don’t want to give it away quite yet.

line pan bottom

Instead of a tart pan, the dessert uses a springform. Since it’s not cooked, there is no reason to cut out a perfect circle to line the bottom of the springform. Just place a piece on the bottom part of the pan…

attach ring

Attach the sides, the ring part of the pan, and you’re ready to rock and roll.

remove from base

Removing it is a breeze as well. Run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen, then remove the ring and slide a long thin pallet knife or spatula between the paper and the base…

remove from bottom

…to move the tart, with the paper, to the counter.

tart pan bottom

Then, use the removable bottom of a real tart pan to transfer the tart from the paper to a serving plate.

move to platter

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August 4, 2014   4 Comments

cards and dinner

george and Julie

Last night, we had George and Julie over for cards and dinner. You may remember George and Julie as the “side vs. salad” couple from the 4th of July party. That’s George sitting on the cool deck and Julie in the blue top on the far right.

limoncello lemonade

We’ve always been a big “cards family.” We play either Hearts, Spades, Rummy 500, Pinochle, or Gin Rummy with my dad nearly every Sunday. So “cards and dinner” is nothing new at our house, but having another couple over for that explicit reason is.

jars and crackers

I had family obligations all morning and into the early afternoon, so dinner had to be fast and easy. I made a quick cocktail by whizzing a few frozen mixed berries in the blender with about a cup of purchased lemonade. I strained out the seeds and put the mixture in a pitcher and then added the rest of the bottled lemonade and popped that in the fridge to chill. When it was time to serve, I poured the berry-lemonade and an ounce of vodka over ice and topped it off with a splash of homemade limoncello. Cocktail Done!

When Dave got home from work, I asked him to the scour the refrigerator for olives and the pantry for smoked fish and pâté and arrange it on a platter with some crackers and grissini breadsticks.  Snacks Done!

Below is the recipe for one of the two salads I made, the other will follow in a day or so.

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August 2, 2014   1 Comment

Irish Beauty

the sea

I have one more recipe to share with you from the class I took at Ballymaloe Cookery School, but it will have to wait for the weekend.

sun cross

Today, I’d like to post a few of my favorite miscellaneous photos from Ireland, in no particular order. (With one exception, all photos were taken by me with my iPhone 5s)

rock walls

Ireland is truly a treat for the eyes. Beauty is around every corner.

pretty walls

wool shepards and sheep

witches kitchen

water lily

trinity college

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July 31, 2014   3 Comments