Open Faced Tuna Melt with Bell Peppers, Brie, Mixed Greens and Olive Oil


Monday, September 22, 2014

Happy Monday! I hope you had a great weekend. I wasn't planning on sharing this one, but I made this tuna melt for my Mom for lunch one day while she was here last week, and she said it was too delicious and beautiful not to! And since John Shea took an extra long nap after church, I was able to take a few photos before devouring these with Cam :)

Open Faced Tuna Melt with Bell Peppers, Brie, Mixed Greens and Olive Oil
(serves 2-3)

2 cans albacore tuna fish
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 teas crushed garlic
3-4 TBS real mayonnaise 
fine sea salt
olive oil
focaccia bread
2 C mixed greens
4-6 oz brie or sharp cheddar, sliced
fresh dill for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine the drained tuna, bell pepper, garlic, mayo and a good pinch of salt. (The bell peppers add a really nice sweet crunch.) Set aside. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the slices of focaccia on it. Drizzle olive oil over the bread, divide the slices of cheese between each and top with the tuna. Bake for about 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is melting and the tuna warmed. If you don't like crunchy bread, remove the sandwiches from the oven after only a few minutes.

Top with mixed greens, a pinch of sea salt and a good drizzle of olive oil. (Everyday Balsamic Vinaigrette is yummy on it, too!)

The Best Simple Roast Chicken


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Mom is here this week! I've been showing her our spots, including my favorite antique and stationary shops, farmers markets and beaches. My goodness I am so thankful that we get to live on this beautiful peninsula this year and spend time with our families. We've spent good, quality time with our parents three times since being back in the States over the past few months, as compared to seeing them once during the three years we lived in Okinawa. As the Croatians say, "Vow!" ...What a difference. John Shea has loved having his Nana, Grandma, Uncle Matty and Svea & Mila cousins (they're basically cousins, right Ahn?) here over the past weekends.

My Mom and I have also been making some amazing meals together (my love for cooking is in large part because of her!) while Cam has been pairing each with bottles of reds and whites we brought back from our Napa trip. The first night here I made her my Spicy Chorizo Vegetable Soup, the next was Grilled Shrimp with Smokey Garlic Greenbeans and a Nectarine + Strawberry + Goat Cheese Arugula Salad and a bottle of Chardonnay, last night was this delicious roast chicken and vegetables.

On Monday I took her to my second favorite farmer's market in Monterey, the Pacific Grove Farmer's Market. (This one is my first!) We brought home three baskets of sweet strawberries, two of blackberries, both for our salad, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes and Latvian dessert. Life is good when Grandma visits. And thanks to her, here are her tips for making the very best roast chicken!

The Best Simple Roast Chicken

1 whole chicken for roasting
1 TBS crushed garlic + 6 garlic cloves, peeled
olive oil
fine sea salt
ancho chile pepper
dried oregano
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

If there are giblets inside the chicken, remove them. Rinse the chicken under cold water, both the outside and the cavity. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and set it in a large baking dish. Slice the lemon in half and squeeze the juice all over the chicken. Put the lemon halves inside the cavity along with the fresh rosemary sprigs and garlic cloves. Drizzle enough olive oil over the chicken (roughly 2 tablespoons) that you can rub it in to the entire bird with your fingers. Rub in the crushed garlic and cover the chicken with the sea salt, pepper, oregano and paprika, about 1/2 teaspoon of each up to a teaspoon, depending on your taste.

Roast for about an hour, depending on the size of the chicken, or until clear juices run out. Halfway through baking, spoon the juices on the bottom of the baking dish over the chicken to keep it moist and again once it's done roasting.

Roasted Carrots & Zucchini

3 zucchini, sliced lengthwise
1 bunch of carrots, sliced lengthwise
olive oil
fine sea salt

Place the sliced vegetables in a baking dish and drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the top with about 1/2 teaspoon to a teaspoon of salt. Toss the vegetables with your hands. Once the chicken has baked for about 20 minutes, add the vegetable dish to the oven and bake for the remaining 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees F. Serve the vegetables with the chicken, allowing them to soak up some of the juices.

The Dalmatian Coast of Croatia


Monday, September 15, 2014

Cam and I started our Croatian language classes two weeks ago and can't even begin to tell you how excited and thankful we are about our move there next summer. (I'll do a post soon explaining more and what we're up to until then...) My friend Maddie was in Croatia this summer so I asked her to share some photos with us. It makes me so happy looking at these and so excited for the adventures ahead in such a fascinating and beautiful part of the world... especially since my Mom's family is from there. We're moving to the capitol city of Zagreb, so it'll look and feel much different than these, but Zagreb is only about a two hour drive from the coast and Cam and I are already planning to explore it as much as possible. Thank you Mads for taking the time to share your trip and a taste of where we're (Lord willing!) preparing to call home for a few years!

Hi all!  I'm by no means a travel pro like Manda here, but I did find myself on the adventure of a lifetime with my fiancé's family this past summer! 

David proposed to me on June 21st, and we left for the Croatian coast on June 25th just for a little last minute engagement celebration. HA! Just kidding. The trip had been painstakingly planned for months by David and his father and had nothing to do with the timing of our engagement. My fiancé and almost-father-in-law are true men of the sea, so our vacation was spent predominantly on a 46-foot catamaran. Our days consisted of sailing, eating on the boat, eating off the boat, and sleeping on the boat. It was a rough week, to be sure.

I read this book because I always try to read a book that takes place in the country in which I'm traveling, whether fact or historical fiction. It was a great dip into the deep cultural waves that have crashed through the country of Croatia in the very recent past. 

The Dalmatian Coast is one of four historical regions in Croatia. It's made up of over 1,000 islands, which run along the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. Both Mediterranean and Ottoman aspects of their culture are very evident. I'm from Santa Barbara, California, and noticed so many similarities between Split and my little American Riviera home. Bougainvillea sprayed all over the stucco and terra cotta homes. The air smelled like drying salt. Mountains behind us. 

We'd sail to a new island, anchor or tie up to a buoy, and then take the dinghy to shore for dinner and drinks. Sometimes the bay we stopped in for the night only had one restaurant or bar to offer. Which meant far less tourists. It was glorious. I have never eaten so much charcuterie in my life, and I mean that. Apps were octopus salad and large plates of salamis, fresh olives (an entirely different food than the canned stuff back home!), local cheeses and breads. The wine was almost always local, and we ended up downing more Rosé than I expected — it's done right over there, and the popularity is growing immensely! I'm not much of a shellfish eater, but there were always plates of shrimp, oysters and the like to be had by the rest of the group. Each restaurant would bring our a LARGE platter of uncooked and uncut fish before we ordered dinner to show us the day's catches and let us see their weights, shapes and colors. Then we'd just point and they'd go prepare it! While the sea around them boasted of fresh fish, Croatia has grilled meats that are almost just as popular. David and I shared some of the best filet we've ever had, and his mom had spaghetti bolognese with fresh sweet tomatoes that was just to die for! 

My souvenirs guessed! I made sure to snag a beautiful dark green bottle of local olive oil from the island of Hvar, a small corkwood tub of Adriatic sea salt, and pure Croatian honey. I'm still enjoying these lovely items today. Oh Croatia...come for the sailing and stay for the food!

Stuffed Eggplant for the End of Summer


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What a summer this has been... We left our beautiful Okinawa after three years, moved back to the States (hooray for having a year to be back here!), got to spend quality time with a lot of our family, we're still trying to see and catch up with friends, moved into a house in Monterey, have ridden our bikes, camped, have had many fires going in our fireplace & chiminea (Monterey is chilly in the summer), we lost one of Cam's best friends, and his Aunt Carol, watched one of my best friends get married, celebrated Cam's 31st in Napa, lost our second baby, celebrated John Shea's first birthday and have started learning Croatian.  It's been fun and relaxing at times, sad and hard at others. A whole lotta life has happened this summer! God has been so good, and so gracious to us in all of it.

This summer is almost over, but I'm still soaking up all the delicious produce at our farmer's market: eggplants (in season until October!), peaches, summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, basil...

And this delicious eggplant stuffed with zucchini, garlic, gorgonzola and sausage.

Stuffed Eggplant for the End of Summer
{serves 2-3}

2 large eggplants (not Japanese)
2-3 zucchini, green or yellow, diced
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 egg
3-4 oz gorgonzola
1/2 C breadcrumbs
1/2 lb (about 3 links) spicy Italian sausage (or chorizo or your favorite) 
3 tsp garlic, crushed, about 8 cloves
olive oil
parmesan for topping
fine sea salt & cracked pepper
fresh basil for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice the eggplants in half, lengthwise. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut around the inside of the eggplant so that you can scoop out the meat of it. Leave just a thin layer -- about 1/4 inch thick --enough to hold the stuffing when baked. Set aside the eggplant shells on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Chop the eggplant meat.

Over medium heat, saute the chopped onions and garlic with a good glug of olive oil for 1-2 minutes. Add in the sausage (if not already cooked) and then the zucchini, a pinch of salt, and saute until tender and the sausage cooked through. If you are using unseasoned meat, be sure to season well. Empty the saute pan into a large bowl and return to heat. Saute the chopped eggplant with a pinch of salt and a good glug of olive oil until tender. Add to the bowl. Add in the breadcrumbs, beat egg, a good pinch of salt and pepper and the gorgonzola, which will become creamy from the heat of the vegetables. Gently combine.

Drizzle olive oil and a bit of sea salt over the eggplant shells and fill each with the stuffing. Top with shaved parmesan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven, shave more parmesan on top and fresh basil. Serve immediately. It's wonderful with a chilled glass of Chardonnay!

We Heart Jennifer Ann

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

One of the things that I love most about blogging is the community-- the wonderful people I've met and friends made because of it. My friend Michaela introduced me to Jennifer Ann, who is not only a talented designer but also such a kind and generous person, and the next thing I knew, John Shea had treats in the mail from her amazing shop! I am constantly impressed and inspired by mothers who are running creative businesses and sharing their talents. Thank you so much for sharing yours with us, Jen! John Shea has dragged his personalized blankie everywhere with him since the day it arrived on our doorstep and he gets compliments every time someone sees him in those cutie pants.

Her shop is full of fun patterns for babies and kids, both personalized and not. John Shea and I are big fans of Jennifer Ann! You can see all of her wonderful designs here in her shop  and instagram :)

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