• Dining at Raya | Ritz Carlton Laguna

    Every once and a while I get a hall pass to go out with the girls. I really try to have something on the calendar at least once a month that does not involve kids or dishes and preferably revolves around copious amounts of food that I get to photograph. My dilemma lately is how do I split up what little time I have between the have to’s and the want to’s. There are some events that I need to go to no matter how much driving or how little food is served, its good to get out and connect with people in real life especially when so much of my presence is online. I try to put myself out there and I also have good friends who refuse to let me sit in my cave for too long (you know who you are). Then there are the want to’s those are the events (CA Oceanfront, Temecula Inn and Tamarind come to mind) when host and chefs really go out of their way to send you home fat and happy. I call them blogging perks. They don’t happen very often which is fine with my waistline but when they do I just want to sing their praises from the rooftop. Its amazing what a little seared scallops and pork belly will do to a girl.  I was invited along our contributors over at the trend tribe to come down to the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel and dine at their restaurant Raya. I decided to go down early so I could just sit in one of their cushy entryway couches and just zen out.

    I took some time to walk around the grounds and down the steps to the overlook of Salt Creek beach. I grew up on that beach. Hard not to feel a little pang when I close my eyes and listen to the gulls as I inhale that dampness. My facebook status after that afternoon was the shot of seagulls gliding over the waves (top left) captioned “I miss this.”

    Almost time for dinner.


    I felt like going tropical with the cocktail, hanging out at an oceanfront property will do that to you. I ordered the Mojito Cuzco (rum, cucumber, lime mint and Midori (melon liqueur). With the promise of not being overly sweet and the addition of fresh mint I almost felt healthier for drinking it. So refreshing and helped cool my palette after I popped a couple crispy spicy swordfish tacos in my mouth.

    Smoked Swordfish Tacos – crispy wonton shell / mango salsa / pickled jalapeno


    The restaurant itself is beautiful. Floor to ceiling glass with views as far as you can see of the deep blue pacific. The decor mirrors the California coastline with its light blues and warm beige. The dining room is the perfect balance of casual elegance partitioned off from the resort by a sculpted line of steel seaweed. I would feel right at home dining here in a sundress with or without my summer blazer, there is that level of ease about this space. The staff is extremely welcoming and knowledgeable about the dishes, new to Pan Latin cuisine no worries here you are in very capable hands. I trust the wait staff implicitly when it comes to these things, I don’t pretend to know what’s best to order. I’m the kind of diner that needs a little hand holding. I want them to tell me their favorite thing on the menu and what not to miss out on for dessert. Not being a huge wine connoisseur I stumbled a bit with the list, eventually they just brought me a taste to back up their suggestion, I love that. That’s what I call taking care of your guest.

    Raya was created by acclaimed Chef Richard Sandoval (Bon Appétit Magazine’s 2006 Restaurateur of the Year.) Chef Sandoval is probably most well known for Maya in New York City. Under the director of Restaurant Chef Marissa Gerlach, RAYA showcases Pan-Latin Coastal Cuisine prepared with sustainable seafood, local produce, natural and organic meats.

    We were treated to an off menu item, eggplant and summer squash gazpacho with micro chives, it was out of this world. I’m hoping to get a hold of this recipe. I really loved the texture and sweetness the squash imparts.

    Come to momma. I had the Pan Seared Sea Scallops served with sushi rice, nopalito, char siu pork belly, snap peas and white soy mojo.

    Chef_ Marissa_Gerlach
    Chef Marissa Gerlach tells us a little background about the foods we are about to try. Emphasis on sustainability and reducing the kitchens carbon footprint. She is amazing what I would give to have that level of culinary talent at that age! Oh the places you will go Marissa. Other dishes passed in front of me including Seafood Risotto and the stacked Chimichurri Jidori Chicken Breast.

    We all agreed that we would have no problem throwing back multiple cups of the dulce de leche, it was so silky smooth. Make sure you at least order the Dessert Sampler - milk chocolate coconut cake / cinnamon spice churro / kahlua pudding / dulce de leche / almond tres leches / praline ice cream and if there are enough people share a Panko Crusted Banana Fritter Split – pina colada & banana ice creams / caramel rum & chocolate sauces / candied peanuts, you will not regret it. See the full menu here.

    A very big thank you to the Ritz Carlton for their incredible hospitality and extending themselves to our group I can’t tell you the last time I enjoyed myself this much at a PR event. I wish all events could be this fun. Seriously you know how to make a group of ladies feel special.

    For more information yopu can visit Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel on facebook.

    The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
    One Ritz-Carlton Drive
    Dana Point, California 92629
    Phone: +1 (949) 240-2000

    Yu can also make reservations online at Open Table or on your smartphone using the Open Table app.

    Disclosure: Dinner hosted by the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel. The review is not a sponsored post.

  • Reverb 11 | Day 27 :: My 2012 Cookbook Want List

    What new foods did you try this year?

    Well nothing extremely interesting I assure you. racking my brain to come up with at least one that was out of my comfort zone. I think the Carrot Halwa dessert at Tamarind of London was the most unique dessert I tried this year, it is a traditional Indian dish very similar to a more textured version of rice pudding.

    In the recipe department there have been a few new additions to the rotation, Honey Mustard Rosemary Pork Roast, I love roasts, this one I have made at least once a month.

    Another new one for me this year was discovering brisket. I can’t say I’ve made a whole lot of brisket’s in my life. With some hesitation I decided to try the Mom’s Brisket Recipe (recipe 9 of 22) by Michelle Bernstein. The recipe is in Macy’s Thanksgiving and Holiday Cookbook, the same book that also has that delicious Chef’s Mix I raved about. The brisket recipe is a no fail solution to the juiciest flavorful crispy crusted brisket you’ll ever drool over. I was so enamored with that brisket I tweeted my love for it and it didn’t go without notice.


    Seriously worth the 5 hours of cooking people.

    Looking at my recipe collection it has become quite clear I am a creature of habit. I’m going to make a point of trying a new recipe at least ONCE A WEEK in 2012. We should have 52 new recipes to share with you by the end of next year. This should actually be very easy with all the new cookbooks coming out in 2012, on my pre-order list…

    Pioneer Woman Foods From My Frontier RECEIVED!!  here’s my sneak peak post

    Smitten Kitchen

    The Picky Palate Cookbook a local food blogger I love whose books happens to be styled by another local favorite Adam Pearson.

    Gluten Free Girl (photographed by Penny De Los Santos)

    Top Chef All Star winner Richard Blais ‘Quirky’ Cookbook

    Joy the Bakeranother local I love to read

    Meat Free Monday Cookbook

    The Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook

    Nobus Vegetarian Cookbook

    I still have a growing wishlist on Amazon, fueled by David Lebovitz’s recent post about his favorite 2011 cookbooks. I definitely want to tackle baking bread after reading the introduction to The Italian Baker by Carol Field, I’m contemplating adding e-books to my cookbook collection, although I better get a splash guard for the iPad I don’t have yet if I do.

    What was your favorite new food or recipe you discovered this year?


  • 12 Days of Giveaway | Temecula Olive Oil Company

    Last summer I visited Temecula for a little food and wine tour, you may have remembered all the yummy things I brought home one of them being Temecula Olive Oil. There is something decadent about hand pressed olive oil. I could actually drink this stuff straight it is THAT good. If you did you would definitely notice what I called the ‘after burners’ that spicy heat caused by the antioxidants that remain intact in fresh pressed olive oil. Its intense. I have a stash in my pantry now and I will never buy store bought dressing again.

    Last night I paired Fresh Basil Olive Oil, Roasted Garlic Olive Oil with Vanilla & Fig Balsamic Vinegar I simply poured them directly into the salad without even emulsifying it. There wasn’t even as much as a bite left.  You can also drizzle the oil (and vinegar as well) on roasted or grilled vegetables.

    So the wonderful people of Temecula Olive Oil company are going to send one lucky reader – 6 bottles of olive oil and vinegar! You will receive a bottle of  Olivum, a rich buttery blend of several varietals is the perfect enhancement to any recipe instead of vegetable oils or butter, Citrus Reserve enhances your salads, poultry, seafood or baking with the essence of Blood oranges and Roasted Garlic Reserve a must-have for that pasta or grilled meat lover. You will also receive the following vinegars: Vanilla & Fig Balsamic, Honey Balsamic and California Balsamic Bianco Pomegranate. Each box includes three (3) 100 ml bottles (one of each flavor.) Shipping included.

    If you are ever in the Temecula area try and make this one of your must places to see, theytemecula olive oil company have an Olive Oil tasting bar and a store filled with gourmet foods, lavender candles and of course all the Olive Oil and Vinegar you could ever want.

    Leave a comment to be entered.

    You may get additional entries by doing any or all of the following:

    Tweet: “Time to enter @modchik ‘s 12 days of #giveaways http://wp.me/pRQUM-37n”  (1 entry)

    Like the modchik or Temecula Olive Oil Company on Facebook ** (1 entry each)

    Follow @modchik or @TOOC on Twitter ** (1 entry each)

    Please leave an additional comment for each additional entry.

    **new subscribers only


    Entries accepted until 12 midnight PST 12/12/11. Winners announced 12/14.

    **CLOSED** and the winner is…. Lala! 

    disclosure: giveaway product provided by Temecula Olive Oil Company, there was no compensation for the post.  Interested in hosting a future giveaway? Just click on the Contact Me form.

  • Latest Crave | Tamarind of London

    Raise your hand if you like Indian food? (raises both hands) I don’t just like Indian food I LOVE Indian food.  I certainly wasn’t exposed to many Indian dishes growing up in Southern California. I think my mom had one dish in her rotation, Hurry Curry. It was a very Americanized version of curry that included more sour cream and condensed soup then curry but I still thought it was the best comfort food aside from mac n’ cheese my mom made. Over the years I have developed a fondness for spices like cardamom, mint, cumin, turmeric, ginger and allspice and in my best attempt have come pretty close to recreating some authentic dishes but let’s face it my range is limited. Instead of immersing myself in learning how to cook traditional Indian food I settled for Chicken Tikka at the neighborhood strip mall.

    Until now. :)

    Last Monday Tamarind of London opened its doors with its first US location in Newport Beach, CA. Their newest Indian restaurant is the second to open after the original Tamarind, a 12 year Michelin Star awarded restaurant located in you guessed it, London. As a food blogger guest I was invited to preview some of their dishes last weekend. We had the opportunity to sample everything from their freshly baked Naan (flat bread) to the tender Tandoori Lamb Chops with red chili. The restaurant is located in Crystal Cove Promenade, conveniently nestled between some of my favorite shopping stops including Williams Sonoma and Banana Republic. Tamarind occupies the space formerly home to Sage across from the local hot spot Javiers. Tamarind of London adopted and then beautifully adapted the existing space adding a touch of Indian shapes and colors to the existing western restaurant design.

    Everything cooked in the exhibition style kitchen lends to the general feeling of openness and communal sense of family, it is a warm and inviting space. There are several private booths that run along the perimeter of the dining room in addition to the family style tables with front row views of the exhibition kitchen. You may choose to dine al fresco in the Garden Room just behind the retractable walls of the restaurant bar. No matter where you settle in for the evening make sure you try one of my two favorites from the cocktail list, the Pimm’s O’Clock (I need that recipe) or the Ginger Sutra Martini for people who love the bite of ginger. For my wine drinking friends (you know who you are) you’ll be happy to know they offer over 50 wines by the glass. The bar also serves a variety of tapas that include chili cheese toasts and taro cakes. If you are a huge bread addict like me you can order it by the basket full with a side of chutney (another recipe I want too). But don’t eat too much bread, you will want to save room for Butter Chicken and over flowing bowls of aromatic Basmati rice.

    Pimms O’Clock,  English inspired Pimm’s No. 1, strawberries, cucumber, oranges and fresh lemonade, the most refreshing sangria-like cocktail you’ll ever have. Ginger Sutra Hangar Kaffir Lime Vodka, Jaggery (whole cane sugar), Fresh Ginger, Fresh Lime, straight up baby. 

    Visiting Executive Chef Alfred Prasad flew in from London for the opening seen here working one of Tamarind’s three ceramic tandoor ovens.


    Fresh baked naan.Curried Lentils, Seared Scallop, Chickpeas with Chutney and Spicy Sesame Shrimp.

    image source: Tarmarind

    Among the main courses are black peppered steak, which we hear a few lucky patrons really went nuts over the night before during a soft opening. The menu also integrates California’s selection of seasonally fresh and sustainable foods from local farmers, ranchers and fisherman with Indian classics including classic chicken tikka masala with a tomato honey sauce and fenugreek and farm vegetable curry with root vegetables, coriander and cumin.  A selection of tandoor grilled kebabs include halibut with a lime leaf marinade; chicken with paprika, yogurt and ginger; and lamb chops flavored with red chile and cardamom. A number of desserts including house-made ice creams and sorbets, tropical cheesecake, carrot halwa and a 7-spiced molten chocolate cake round out the menu.

     Chef Gordon Ramsey often refers to Tamarind as his favorite Indian restaurant

    Indian born Chef Shachi Mehra is in charge of the Newport Beach kitchen working closely with London-based Executive Chef Alfred Prasad. “Our philosophy is to make innovative Indian cuisine accessible to the mainstream U.S. diner,” says Mehra, a veteran of two fine dining Indian icons, NY’s Tabla and Palo Alto’s Junnoon. “Indian cuisine is one of the most culturally diverse food types available.  Serving as the hub of the world spice trade for over two millennia, India has influenced and been influenced by flavors, ingredients and cooking from around the globe.” Chef Mehra combines Western and Indian cultures creating dishes that successfully marry tradition with modernity. She shares her recipe for Carrot Halwa a delicious sweet milk and carrot pudding (pictured above center).



    “We’re delighted to announce the much-anticipated opening of Tamarind of London and

    look forward to introducing a new take on Indian food to the American public,” said Maneesh Rawat, recently appointed general manager, who has opened and managed notable Indian restaurants in Delhi, Washington DC and San Francisco. “We believe that a great meal goes beyond food, wine and service. It is an emotional experience that bonds guest and restaurant forever. At Tamarind of London, our goal is to create that extraordinary experience.”

    Rajesh Suri, CEO, Kathleen, myself and the Executive Chef in London, Alfred Prasad.

    Chief Operator Rajesh Suri explained to our table how Newport Beach beat out the potential other locations including “foodie” capitals New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Let’s just say it had something to do with our adventurous pallet and our love for fine dining experiences. I think we are quite lucky to have scored such a high caliber of Indian cuisine in our own backyard. If you are coming to Orange County soon plan on picking me up first, first round of Pimm’s are on me.

    Dinner items range from $16 to $29.  Hours are Monday – Saturday 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. with Happy Hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Tamarind of London is located at 7862 East Coast Hwy, Newport Beach; 949-415-8865; www.tamarindoflondon.com.

  • The Cellar | Historic Fullerton

    The other week in the middle of our first summer wave of heat I got a hall-pass to meet a few of my favorite local bloggers (Ksugarandspice, WoodbridgeOC, Nicole, Gina, and my pal Priscilla ) at a very cool, <– literally… local restaurant in Fullerton the Cellar. It’s not easy to find which I think adds to the allure or frustration depending on who you ask. I liked walking through what used to be a historic hotel, Villa Del Sol.


    You’ll pass a British Grocery store on the left, that reminds me my grandmother loves tea biscuits, now I know where to pick some up along with some Cadbury chocolate. Ok, sorry follow me you’ll see a large carved pillar that looks like something out of Pirates of the Carribean, well it is kind of, I’ll get back to that.

    110707_020_the_cellar-EditFollow the flight of stairs to your left. You can’t miss the bottles appropriately aging behind the glass. Which by the way I just wanted to drag my finger across that write “w-a-s-h m-e” but it’s for effect I get it.


    The restaurant itself is a cozy space with a dining room and lounge divided by the red lamp lined bar.

    True to form I asked for a glass of something sparkling. Factoid: I consider myself a little snobby when it comes to sparkling wine aka champagne. Translation: I hold out for the good stuff. For good reason. Drinking wine even Silver Oak, make me wish I had a Claritin but champagne does not. In order to avoided the nasty tiny bubble hangover you must drinking something upwards of at least $20 a bottle, just sayin. I sipped my champagne, yum. It was gooood. Fruity and the most delicate bubbles. I found out it was Pol Clement, a french champagne that I found on wineglobe.com for $20 a bottle (currently chilling in my fridge). Wine Spectator gave it 92 pts. this may be my new every day champagne until my ship comes then I’m back to my first and only love Vueve Cliquot.


    We got a little background about The Cellar from owner Ryan Dudley, according to Ryan this place has been around since 1970. So much history in Fullerton I really love that. The inside is something you need to see for yourself. Carved wooden motifs adorn the railing and doors, with quirky facades and coverings that were designed by the same people who crafted Disneyland’s Pirates of the Carribean ride. Pretty cool.


    Since I rarely pass up the opportunity to do courses, I reserved a spot for myself at the table and sat down to enjoy a few beautifully prepared dishes. Here’s what we had:

      • Pan seared sea scallops with saffron risotto, vegetable ratatouille and herb pistu.
      • Lobster bisque topped with crème fraîche and cognac. (licked the bowl clean)
      • Organic mixed field greens with shaved pears, candied walnuts, shallots, Point Reyes blue cheese, and apple vinaigrette.
      • Grilled swordfish in a demiglaze with seasonal vegetables.

    It was delicious beginning to start, we had a waiter that doted on us and made sure we had plenty of fresh crusty bread and was even so kind as to splitting our bill, several ways, something absolutely unheard of.  Thank you Cellar for making me slow down that night and savor each bite on my plate. My stomach thanks you too.

    New here? Welcome! Come take a look to other fine establishments we have been to on a hall pass.

    Blogger Ball
    Stonefire Grill
    The Lazy Dog

  • Stonefire Grill Simply Delicious

    June here you are already. So many things leading up to this month the gateway to summer. If you follow my instagram feed you know we were finally knocked out of our baseball bracket which essentially also derailed the take out train.

    I really REALLY miss cooking, I said cooking not cleaning up after, that is the gigantic perk of take out in my mind. I have every intention of jumping right back into my apron but for now I found a GREAT stand in, Stonefire Grill. Stonefire is located in Irvine and was our featured restaurant during our last BlogCrush meet up.

    girl serving Stonefire Grill pizza

    Stonefire is unique, they keep it simple, tasty and offer healthy alternative dishes that taste GOURMET. Stonefire Grill wants you to come in and ENJOY a home cooked meal with your family but without the time spent in the kitchen. And let’s just put it out there, who really wants KP duty anyway? Not me.

    Our group that evening had the pleasure of trying a variety of dishes that night. We started with Grilled Cheeseless Veggie Pizza with eggplant, zucchini, red onion, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh oregano. One slice has 170 cal/2gm fat/4gm fiber/8gm protein. I’m sold. Its my new favorite splurge without the guilt.

    Justin, our host for the evening walked us through several dishes feautured on their Healthy Alternatives Menu which you can download to get all the nutritional analysis. You might consider printing a copy so you can take advantage of their take out service. My favorites were the garlic mashed potatoes, Mesquite BBQ Tri Tip, Mediterranean Salad and the moist Carrot Cake. Everything fresh and very flavorful just as it should be. I’d also like to thank Mother Nature for the most beautiful lighting conditions.

    Hours of Operation:
    Sunday through Thursday 11am to 9:30pm
    Friday & Saturday 11am to 10pm
    3966 Barranca Parkway
    Irvine, CA 92606

    other locations:

  • BlogCrush on Zovs

    February 26, 2011 5 , Permalink

    Thursday night I met up with some of my favorite OC bloggers at Zovs in Irvine. As a group of bloggers we often get the chance to try out new restaurants, sample menu items and meet head chefs, I always look forward to getting in a little food photo time when I go to these things.

    We’ve been to Haven Gastropub (Orange Circle) where I had my first Beer Float (yep beer and ice cream, soooo GOOD) and a Russian Mule (ginger beer and vodka). Gastropub images: Marcie Taylor

    There was also Blog Up, where we had the chance to get in touch with our inner beetnik and test the open mic with a little reading from our blogs, berets optional.

    It was BYOB … so I LITERALLY brought my own bubbly.

    Next up Lazy Dog Cafe and then Z’Tejas all of these events leading up to the annual  BlogCrush Ball over the summer.

    Priscilla, Terry, Pam Suz, Marcie & Linz at Z'Tejas

    Things have been busy for the OC crushers and after a couple cancellations in the fall we were finally able to get another meet up on the calendar. This time we were in my neighborhood at one of MY favorite restaurants, Zovs. Chef Zov Karamardian, the Zov in Zov’s Bistro and Bakery is the owner of now three successful restaurants here in Orange County. She opened her first restaurant back in 1987 with a $73,000 dollar loan from her mother, with one stipulation from her mother, her mom told her,

    “Cook what you know, then elaborate if you want.”

    Zov stuck with what she does best, Mediterranean and more than 20 years later she’s up to 3 restaurants and a very successful catering business.

    My husband, a long time resident of Tustin first introduced me back in the nineties and we haven’t stopped going for almost twenty years so I have a true crush on Zov and her cooking. When our son was small Zov’s husband Gary would always pass him a sugar cookie behind his back to him, this was the one time it was OK to have a cookie before dinner, why not.

    I was actually kinda shocked that some of the OC Blog Crushers had never been to one of her restaurants! ‘Oh the injustice’ I thought.  If you haven’t gone either, let me tell you, you are missing the best Babaganoush and pastry case this side of Orange County. It does not disappoint. Note the full bakery is only at the 17th Street location.

    my top pic: Toasted Coconut and Zucchini muffin -or- the Bread Pudding

    hubby’s pic: Chocolate flourless cake

    13 yr old: Chocolate dipped krispy treats

    4 yr old: Chocolate bomb (the most popular dessert on the menu)

    I wrote about Zovs search for the BEST Eggplant recipe last May and I have always wanted to feature one of my favorite recipes from her first cookbook, Golden Lentil Soup. Its’ my my comfort food, that and their yeasty rolls with sweet butter… put a fork in me I’m d-o-n-e. She now has a SECOND cookbook Simply Zov- Rustic Classics with a Mediterranean twist and guess what? I got her to sign mine the other night.

    Zov and modchik

    The cookbook is huge and filled with gorgeous photographs of her signature dishes. I’m sitting her thumbing through it tummy rumbling, oh what to make first?

    Had a great time that evening catching up with so many bloggers, I can’t tell how great it felt to be here a year later still blogging! I mean you never know, what your blog will lead you to and for many it become a burden and the inevitable blog abandonment. For me it has brought me in touch with so many talented people who have let me glean knowledge from their experience and expertise. I have watched some local bloggers go on to be syndicated columnists and authors (I’m looking at you Jo) who are have shown that finding your audience coupled with a strong set of writing skills will move you light years ahead of the pack in attaining personal success. I’m always happy just rubbing elbows with everyone hoping to capture a little blogging mojo by osmosis.

    For more information about joining us at future events visit the OC BlogCrush Facebook Page.

    See you at the next Blog Crush!

  • Wordless Wednesday with a Lemon Twist

    I know this blog has been heavily saturated with talk of iPhones and photography, I do apologize for being so redundant but its just my world lately. I know you are asking yourself what happened to the recipes doesn’t she even cook anymore? I do but I could be cooking more and ordering take out less.  But then I wouldn’t be able to share shots like this…

    and this

    I had an idea, I’ll try and combine the best of both worlds, cook and take photos just using my phone. That will save me hours right? As it stands right now I probably have at least 6 months worth of recipes and the photos to go with them all sitting on my hard drive collecting dust. I need to stop taking new ones and use what I already have, that statement works on so many levels for me. Anyhoo…

    The other night I thumbed through a stack of recipes I had printed out and this one caught my eye: Baked Lemon Pasta from the Pioneer Woman. Ohhhh my Lord it did not disappoint, none of her dishes ever do and I’m not just saying that because of this. Its so easy and fast (less than 30 minutes) you must do yourself a favor and try.

    You can print the recipe from Ree’s (yes I’d like to think we are on first name basis) website. Go look for yourself at the way she beautifully photographed the dish.

    The cliff note version: Cook a pound (a bag) of thin spaghetti al dente (do NOT overcook).

    In a pan over medium heat you saute garlic in olive oil and butter, add the sour cream and lemon juice. Chop fresh parsley.

    …um it normally doesn’t look this dark my pan was a little on the hot side, whoops. Could it have been the texting I was doing while cooking? Hmmmmm.

    You pour the entire thing over the cooked pasta and then bake it in (cute retro Pyrex dish optional but I think it adds to the dish personally) the oven at 375 for 10 minutes covered, another 15 uncovered. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and parsley and another squeeze of the lemon …

    and viola!

    Dinner is served.. don’t forget you must instagram, tweet and share on facebook before finally letting your family even touch it! Ha ha.

    Baked Lemon Pasta by the Pioneer Woman prepared and inhaled by me.

  • Tips for shopping Whole Foods Market

    Like I was saying about my new found food awareness and Oprah’s Vegan Challenge the American diet is not working for me at all. Even though I am tall and somewhat lean that doesn’t mean I am healthy, far from I suspect. People assume that because of my height that my weight is easier to maintain, it’s not. Yes I can tip the scale at 150 and still fall within a healthy BMI but that doesn’t mean I am in good shape. Trust me when I say that since I started blogging my ratio of body fat to muscle flipped and my scale (that measures body fat %) reminds me of that every day (not that I weigh myself EVERY day). Surprisingly enough I found sitting in a chair pecking away at keys for hours at a time does absolutely nothing for you midsection, what an epiphany eh?

    So now I am on a mission to regain muscle, lose fat and feel more energized and it starts here and now. So what’s first?

    Let’s go grocery shopping and see if we can’t turn this chore into something FUN!  It helps to have a press pass to take photos (thank you WF for that).

    When you go into a Whole Foods grab a copy of the Whole Deal.

    The latest edition January/February is 20 pages and full of recipes, guidelines, kids food ideas (below) and my favorite… COUPONS! I had no idea until the other day that this even existed! You can sign up at their website to receive newsletters in your inbox, download your own copy or print out the coupons at home.

    I know a lot of people think they can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods but I think that’s because they aren’t taking advantage of some of deals they have. If you live in Orange County you should make it a point to visit the District location in Tustin, its 60,000 sq. ft. store has everything from local produce, freshly made sushi, wine bar, organic raw juice bar to an award wining bakery.

    When I walk in the doors I feel the angel and devil on my shoulders it’s so hard… go right and get my latte and fresh bear claw…

    or go left and stick with some fresh cut fruit.

    or maybe a fresh juice elixir. Try the Dr. Oz!

    Can’t decide then just walk straight and you are going to see the Health Starts Here desk. Gerrie is there to help you with any questions you have whether it be about nutrition, meal planners or how to shop Whole Foods on a budget (yep there is a class for that).

    Gerrie spent the good part of the morning the week me around Whole Foods and teaching me about ANDI.  ANDI stands for “Aggregate Nutrient Density Index.” An ANDI score shows the nutrient density of a food on a scale from 1 to 1000 based on nutrient content. The premise here is that its more important to look at the level of nutrients your food is providing over low caloric or protein value. In line with the findings of The China Study they have found that processed foods and animal protein are necessary in order for cancer cells to thrive and eliminating that from your diet makes it harder for cancer sustain and live within your body. Not to mention the extreme benefits you gain from eating foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Here is a sample list of the ANDI value for fruits. Strawberries being the highest based on nutrients.

    There are foods labeled all throughout the store with the ANDI index.

    The produce section is so beautiful isn’t it? Come early and you’ll see freshly stock shelves that are a work of art!

    Look up and you will see photographs and visuals featuring the actual growers that supply produce to whole foods. I actually had the pleasure of meeting a couple local growers and was surprised to find the strawberries in my cart (which I only paid 3 bucks for by the way!) were picked from a family produce lot just a few miles from my home.

    Don’t miss the bulk section this is the section where you are going to get the most bang for your buck. Don’t look at the price per pound though especially on spices. Weigh your item and then do the math, you are saving a ton by skipping the packaging.

    Look to your right, that is Whole Body section.

    they have shampoo, lotions, candles, handcrafted soaps, balms the list goes on and on. Here are my absolute favs straight from my bathroom:

    1. Collective Wellbeing Charcoal Body Wash – this tar-like body mask makes me feel detoxified!  2 Depth Body Wash in Sea Berry I just love the smell which is unusual for this unscented lover. 3. HUGO Naturals Vanilla and Sweet Orange Shampoo -good for 4 and 40 year olds!  4. Inner Health Sole Pads I swear by them, you wear these sticky pads overnight on the soles of your feet, tourmaline warms up the tissues gently extracting impurities, they go on white and peel off almost black with toxins.

    After you have cruised Whole Body check out the aisle of tea and then turn around and head toward the back of the store.

    You can’t miss Tony and the crew behind the fish counter.

    Don’t be shy around these guys, ask them anything about fish they’ll tell you what’s fresh (all of it) how to pick out your scallops (the darker ones are the females and they are sweeter) and the dark pink in the swordfish steaks are considered the “dark meat” portion and some people look for that when buying their fish. My favorite part about the fish dept. is the grill behind them, they will par-cook your fish so you can take it home and finish it right before serving! I find the oiler fish like Chilean Sea Bass, Salmon and Halibut work very well. Have them add a dash of seasonings and veggies too! Saves you almost an hour at home.

    Next you are going to pass the poultry and meat department. Make sure you say hell to my friends Armando (below) and Andre, they will help you out with your butcher needs including prep work. I think of them as my personal sous chefs, you can’t imagine how much time I save having them prepare my meat, I love it.

    You’ll see they have some meats that have a 5-step Animal Welfare rating system that tells you how that animal was raised.

    Make your way around the smokehouse – I love the marinated chicken skewers (the ginger teriyaki are my kids favorite and the only way they will eat chicken). You’ll pass the wine bar that has champagne tastings on Sunday check the calendar for dates.

    You’ll pass the dairy section on your left as you approach the cheeses…oh the cheeses. I could live on cheese, crusty bread and champagne I know I could.

    I am going to have to do a little follow up to my meeting with one of the local goat farmers and his delicious chevre, I have gone through 3 tubs of it so far.

    Grab one of these, a bag of frozen mixed veggies and some pie dough and you have all the ingredients to make homemade Chicken Pot Pies. I can’t find a better price (at 7.99) for a whole organic chicken, can you?

    Make your way past the antipasto bar. Pesto, peppers and feta oh my.

    Grab a freshly squeezed flavored lemonade, raspberry is my favorite.

    Had a chance to sample a piece of vegan pizza as well as the vegan apple pie (only 6.99 for a made-from-scratch pie!). Soooooo good people!

    The bakery recently won an award within the company for best in the country, have you seen their cases? Last year for Valentine’s day I bought mini cakes, we sampled cheesecake , ganache covered brownies and fruit tarts it was perfect. When strawberries are in season they have chocolate covered strawberries right next to the gelato!

    The chocolate case features a local chocolatier Xan . They were recently on the Food Network show Unwrapped featuring the ancho chili chocolate jewel. My favorite is the Big Mouth – ready for this? Organic crisp brown rice, marshmallow base, a layer of caramel and natural peanut butter covered in dark or milk chocolate and gluten free!

    If you have enough will power to make it out of there without too much damage to your diet look to your right at the cases of prepared food. If you are like me and sometimes (actually most of the time) you are low on energy and burned out on the idea of greasy take out (again) hit this case. There are even special dishes for those following the Health Starts Here program.

    Same goes for the hot and cold self serve bars behind the counters. I always make a huge salad and throw on chopped veggies, sprouts, egg, nuts (all the things I won’t take the time to chop and prepare at home) and I have a really hearty salad for under 5 dollars.

    Well that concludes our little tour today. I haven’t even touched on the center isles, frozen treats, spices, Saki or fresh pastas (I die). You’ll have to go check it out for yourself. When you go make sure to find Gerrie Adams (she’s at the Health Starts Here desk right behind the juice bar), you can email her for an appointment at Gerrie.Adams@wholefoods.com or call (714) 566-7650, Ext. 410 for more information or Whole Foods Market.com.

    disclaimer this was not a paid post nor was I offered an compensation for allowing me to photograph the store, this is my take on one of my favorite shopping stops in Southern Ca.