July 4, 2011 § 7 Comments


I’m in Seattle and for the past few days it’s been really warm. I think they’re not used to warm sunny weather because the news just aired a segment on now to prevent sunburns as well as how to take care of them.

Here is a picture of Eric in front of the gum wall, one of the highlights of my trip (thanks for showing it to us, Tanantha!)

Now, I will get back to packing and eating chocolate.
Happy birthday, America!

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Wine Tasting Weekend & Oh Chocolatey Brownies

May 9, 2011 § 20 Comments

This past weekend was exactly what I needed. Eric and I went wine tasting – one of our favorite things in the world to do. We went to Paso Robles, which happens to only be a few hours north of Los Angeles but always transports me to another world whenever I visit. The photo above was snapped on one of the small side roads – how beautiful, yes? It’s just acre after acre of beautiful scenery connecting the tasting rooms and I never tire of taking it all in. I have this lofty goal of visiting every single tasting room and with new wineries opening seemingly every day this will probably never happen but it’s still a fun goal to have. This weekend we visited Donaldi, Changala, Kaleidos, Denner, Chateau Margene, and lastly Thacher… I’d say we put a good dent in the list of tasting rooms.



The impetus for this visit was Thacher’s spring pick-up party. Being members of their wine club, we receive regular half-case shipments of their wines. In the spring though, they have a pick-up party for their members. This was our third consecutive year attending and each year it has gotten more fun. The past couple years they’ve scheduled their parties to fall on Kentucky Derby day and thrown a Derby themed party, complete with a hat and costume contest. As always, we had a blast – the food kept coming and the wine never stopped pouring. I think I might have even won the best outfit contest (my dress had graphics of awards, trophies, and horses) but was in the tasting room – natch – when they were collecting the ticket stub votes.

If you’re ever up in the Paso area I would definitely recommend a stop into the Thacher tasting room, especially if you enjoy the smaller mom and pop type places. We actually opened a bottle of one of their Zinfandels last week and noticed that only 72 cases of this blend had been produced. It doesn’t get much more special than that.

I’d also like to share some brownies with you. These were amazingly delicious! I love a good brownie. I’ve made several brownie recipes in the past but this was the first one I’ve made that used actual chocolate rather than cocoa powder. It was SO GOOD. One thing I like about this recipe is that the brownies baked perfectly without the edges over-hardening when cooled. I was able to cut them the next day without a problem.

Recipe after the jump « Read the rest of this entry »

>Vegan Coffee Ice Cream on a Simple Saturday

February 20, 2011 § 35 Comments


On my way to the studio – I look like a bag lady

Simple Saturdays are good for the soul, and yesterday truly was simple. I took my time getting out of bed but when I finally left the bedroom the first thing I did was grind myself some beans for a fresh pot of coffee – I love the smell of fresh ground beans. I had planned on making some chocolate ice cream but I was inspired by my mug of delicious brew that I made coffee ice cream instead. I sipped away as it churned.

Sky above

It’s been raining in LA, and I caught the break as I walked to yoga. Though I was cold and bundled up with a scarf, the sidewalk was dry and the sky above was bright and clear. Practice yesterday, I kept in the the theme of Simple Saturday as I felt my energy level was a bit low – perhaps still recovering from the whirlwind work week. I was glad to get home before the skies opened back up, and to some delicious coffee ice cream. I will cherish every last bite of it!

Vegan Coffee Ice Cream:
1 15-oz can of full fat coconut milk
1 1/4 c almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup sugar
2 heaping tbsp of instant coffee
1 tbsp cornstarch

Combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours, and then freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Inspiration: Lick It!

>Until We Meet Again

January 6, 2011 § 33 Comments


Tonight we leave for another journey. This photo was snapped last year as we lazed on the private island of Matangi in Fiji, and while we’re going to a different corner of the world this time we do plan doing a lot of exploring and basking in the sun on white sandy beaches. Hopefully my phone will work properly there, so if you’d like please follow me on twitter (@monstroxity) to read about our travels. I will also be uploading photos to Facebook as we go. For now, wish us safe travels and see you when we return.

>A Christmas Weekend and Fleur de Sel Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

December 28, 2010 § 51 Comments


I love tastes and textures that oppose one another – salty sweet is one of my favorites. I think that’s why bacon chocolate has become so popular; it takes salty sweet and tops it with the novelty of bacon. Last Wednesday I was making some treats to take home to my in-laws’ with me, including the cranberry chocolate chips above. Right before popping them into the oven, I decided to sprinkle a little fleur de sel on top of each cookie. I was really happy with the results – there was sweet from the cookie, salty from the salt, and also tart from the cranberries. The cookies also baked perfectly, with crispy edges and chewy centers.

Despite the cookies pictured above I did in earnest try to start out my Christmas weekend as healthy as possible. I know, how silly of me. I started out on Christmas Eve morning with a quick breakfast of black coffee and some Puffins (my favorite cereal) before heading out to the yoga studio I practice at when I visit with my in-laws. From there, it quickly went downhill and never recovered. After lunch we wanted some ice cream, but nothing was open so we ended up at Marie Callender’s. Naturally I had to get a slice of pie and a pumpkin spice muffin… and a glass of wine.

The rest of the weekend was filled with food, food, and more food. The picture below is part of our Christmas spread. This is exactly what I love about spending the holidays with my in-laws! There is always tons of food, laughter, and love. We started eating at noon… and it just kept going through dinner. I would be lying if I said I didn’t take a nap in the middle of that.

And since that obviously wasn’t enough food, Eric and I attended another party yesterday that one of our friends was gracious enough to host. However, after the deadly combination of putting gym-rats, yogis, a circus artist (yes really), and a cross-fit owner in one room along with a bit of alcohol we ended up with a handstand contest that went horribly awry (For a bit of entertainment you can watch here, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so… but don’t fret, everyone is ok). Merry times indeed! This party will be a memorable one, complete with a white elephant gift exchange made with leftover gifts, a shake weight, taboo, and reindeer brains.
I have included a few photos below but if you are friends with me on Facebook I invite you to view the rest of my album here.
I think this will be my last cookie post for a while so I’m glad that this is a good one. They went over really well with Eric’s family, and my friends too (I saved half the dough to make at yesterday’s party). I followed the recipe, but left out the nuts, replaced half the chocolate chips with dried cranberries, and sprinkled some fleur de sel on top of each cookie before baking. Also, the recipe states it makes 2 dozen cookies but I found that it made 1 dozen really huge cookies, and 2 dozen regular sized cookies (so you can likely get 4 dozen regular sized cookies out of the batch)

>West Side Story at The Pantages and Peppermint Brownies

December 17, 2010 § 17 Comments


With ever increasing responsibilities and complexities of life, it has become more and more difficult for me and my friends to schedule the simplest events – even a small dinner for three people. Emails are exchanged, calendars are shared, and dates get bounced around… and still, sometimes it gets postponed at the last minute. Sometimes, though, all the stars align and the pieces magically fall into place. Last night was one of those times and we were able to seamlessly get together a group of fourteen friends to watch West Side Story play at the Pantages. *snap*snap*snap* This has never happened before so I brought my camera along to document the night.

Since everyone was coming from work and different corners of LA, we knew we would have to eat somewhere fast. We decided on the reliable Pa Ord Noodles, which is right around the corner from the venue. We knew that it would tasty, filling, hearty, and out in a snap – fried rice, noodles, Thai iced coffee and twenty minutes later, we were good to go and arrived at the theater just as the lights were flashing to let us know the show was about to begin.
Great friends, great show, great seats… If you live in the area I definitely recommend that you go see this show. Plays and musicals aren’t really my thing – when I told my friend I was interested in seeing it, her response was “Shut up, stop bull-sh***ing me!!” – but I was really looking forward to this one. There’s snapping involved, how could I not be? It was a fantastic show and I really enjoyed the dancing – it makes me want to start dancing again… When the show got out we headed over to Blue Palms Brewhouse just down the street. Can you tell from the photo how cold we were?
It’s a brewhouse but per usual, I ordered wine anyways. They had a delicious Cab from Justin Winery, which is an excellent winery up in Paso Robles. If you’re ever up there try stopping by their tasting room – it’s a little out there but worth the drive. Naturally we also ordered some post-show snacks including some sweet potato fries and barbecue chicken nachos. After those were finished I secretly wanted to order some spinach artichoke dip, but held back knowing that we had some delicious treats waiting for us at home (including an amazing Harry and David basket that one of Eric’s friends had sent to us!)
Harry & David, homemade fudge, almond toffee, and peppermint  brownies. Late night heaven! Brownies, the often understated and under-appreciated bar cookie. These brownies are dense and fudgey, just the way I like them, and with a whole tablespoon of peppermint extract to them to make them as Christmas-y as possible. I brought half of them to work and they were gone in a jiffy.
Followed recipe exactly, but substituted peppermint extract for the vanilla. I also topped them with additional chocolate chips and mint M&Ms after taking them out of the oven.

>Yoga Break: Bharadvaja’s Twist, Intention – Peace

December 7, 2010 § 19 Comments


I’d like to take a quick break from food (although there is a photo of a pear below, does that count?) and talk about one of my other loves. Last weekend was definitely Bruin themed but it was also filled to the brim with yoga. I started off on Friday with a home practice. On Saturday, Eric was working so I found myself with an empty day to fill as I pleased. I decided to double up with classes at my om away from omYogis Anonymous. It is challenging to do three full hours of yoga, but it still left me feeling refreshed and invigorated. Sunday found me back at the Promenade again, ready for more. This time I visited my other studio, the beautiful Yogaco, for class with my friend Jennifer.

Yogis Anonymous – Before my second class
At the beginning of class, teachers often give us students a moment to set an intention for class. That could be anything – a word, a thought, an emotion, etc. (I promise it’s not as cheesy as it sounds) In the past I have thought about things I want to nurture or let go, or sent out positive energy to those who are going through hard times. On Saturday, I chose the word peace. Peace – partly for the holiday season, as it is a strong theme that carries us through the holidays, but also because it is something I would personally like to cultivate more of. Throughout the three hours of practice I periodically came back to this thought of peace. Sometimes, I would just internally repeat the word to myself, and other times I thought about how I could encourage more of it within myself.
Asian pear from the Santa Monica Farmers market;
A snack between classes
I decided to keep this same intention of peace in Sunday’s class. And what a good decision that was. Usually when I am in class everything else melts away and I can just focus on the practice. On Sunday though, my neighbor was, albeit unintentionally, encroaching on the peaceful space that I was trying to create. A vigorous practice, I get that – one of the reasons I practice yoga is for the physical benefits; strength, flexibility etc – but this was just frantic and I could feel this frenzy seeping over on to my mat. I began to feel agitated and thought about moving my mat to another side of the room, but I didn’t want to disrupt the class and reminded myself that I was here to practice peace. So I repeated it to myself – peace, peace, peace. Eventually, it melted away (either that or he settled down) and I found that peaceful place. It happened so organically that I didn’t even notice it happening – rather, I noticed it later as I looked back on that class.
Yogaco – snapped after my class on Sunday 
The photos I’ve posted at the beginning and end of this entry are of me in Bharadvaja’s Twist. They should be mirror images so one is of me twisting left and the other is twisting right. It is a bound pose, meaning that I am ‘binding’ myself into a pose by grabbing my hands or feet. They are active and help me pull myself deeper into a pose, but I also find them to be calming and relaxing. I actually just learned this one on Saturday and instantly fell in love with it. There is just so much going on in there, but when I get there, sit in it, and be, I really do find a moment of peace. (PS If you’d like to learn this pose here is a quick video you can take a look at LINK)

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