Monthly Archives: October 2012

Sun Dried Tomato Basil Pesto

A sun dried tomato basil pesto is a great way to spice up your meals.  It can be used in a variety of dishes like pasta, on toast, in soups or on french bread, oven toasted with olive oil to make a delicious crostinis, sandwiches, pizza, etc….

Sun Dried Tomato Basil Pesto

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

Recipe: Approx. 3 Cups

  • 1 1/4 Cups Sun Dried Tomatoes, (Oven Dried Tomatoes or Jarred, drain the oil)
  • 1 Cups Fresh Basil (I used Purple Basil, but you can use any type)
  • 1/2 Cup Raw Walnuts
  • 1/4 Cup Raw Almonds
  • 1/2 Aged Asiago Cheese
  • 1 1/4 Cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 3/4 Teaspoons Sea Salt or to Taste


Finely shred the cheese and measure along with all the other ingredients and blend everything in food processor while slowly adding olive oil

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Oven Dried Tomatoes

An easy way to make dried tomatoes is to slow cook them in your oven.  They are so delicious and very versatile.  If you grow your own tomatoes it is a great way to store them after the season is over.

 I use them in pasta dishes, Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, in salads, puree with olive oil to make a tomato sauce or spread, add them to a savory pie, mix with chèvre or cream cheese and spread on a crostini.  The possibilities are endless!


When it is tomato season I love to take advantage of making my own oven dried tomatoes.  They are less intense than the sun-dried tomato.  It takes some time but I make them when I’m at home doing other chores, so I don’t really notice the time it takes to dry them.



  • I used 24 Italian plum tomatoes


Preheat oven to 250 degrees

Cut tomatoes in quarters, scoop out the seeds (if you want to leave the seeds just know it will take twice as long)  and arrange on cooling rack so the heat will evenly dry the tomatoes

If you use large tomatoes make sure to cut into about 8 slices

Place cooling rack on a cookie sheet and set on the middle racks in the oven

Cook anywhere from 2-6 hours depending on the size of the tomatoes used

If you use large tomatoes make sure to cut into about 8 slices, you can scoop out the seeds to speed up the process

Bake until the edges have shriveled and either leave the insides of the tomatoes ever slightly moist or continue cooking until all the way dry

Remove and let cool (you might need to take some out before others)

* Another option is to put dried tomatoes in a jar, add a few sprigs of fresh herbs and a clove of garlic then cover tomatoes in olive oil

Get creative and enjoy!!!

Health benefits:

Dried Tomatoes are very high in anti-oxidants; just one cup has 23 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C and 16 percent of vitamin A.  The Vitamin C in dried tomatoes helps your body absorb the high iron content as well. They are high in potassium which helps prevent and lower high blood pressure. These tomatoes are very high in dietary fiber compared to raw tomatoes.

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Mediterranean Tacos

It’s Tuesday, how about tacos?  My boys can’t get enough of these!  This is a great party dish as well, people love the spread and can design their own!





  • 2-3 Cups of Black Beans Homemade Black Bean Recipe
  • 1 Package Frozen Corn
  • 2 Cups Coconut Jasmine Rice
  • 1 Head Fresh Cabbage
  • 1 Bunch Fresh Cilantro 
  • 1 Fresh Lime
  • 8oz. package of Feta Cheese (solid or crumbled)
  • 10-12 Pear Tomatoes 
  • Organic Corn Tortillas (1-2 packages depending on how many guests)


For the Mediterranean tacos First I made the Homemade Black Bean recipe and Pico de Gallo earlier in the day. You can also make the day before.

Cook the roasted corn, Coconut Jasmine Rice (for this dish I didn’t add the rose water but added a little garlic instead)

Prepare all your toppings and put in individual bowls; crumbled feta cheese, shred fresh head of cabbage, chop tomatoes, fresh cilantro and chives. Serve with diced tomatoes, Pico de Gallo and lime wedges

Saving this for last; add vegetable oil to a frying pan and place your tortillas in the pan fry for about 30 seconds to a min on each side or until golden brown slightly crispy.

 Remove the tortilla, place on a paper towel to blot out the excess oil, leave flat or fold in half, and reserve aside on a plate.

 I like to turn my oven to warm and keep the tortillas there until we are ready to serve.

Now you are ready for your spread!

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Pico De Gallo

Pico De Gallo is a delicious fresh chopped salsa.  It is so flavorful and a wonderful addition to any Mexican dish.


 I can not begin to tell you how much I love this salsa, it’s one of Robby’s favorites too! I make batch after batch with regular tomatoes or heirloom!  We use it on top of black beans, inside of burritos and quesadillas, in soups and sometimes with chips.



  • 4 – 5 Large Heirloom Tomatoes (you can use any Tomato but the Heirloom are the best)
  • 1/2 White Onion
  • 1 -2 Jalapeno
  • 1 Cup Cilantro
  • 1 Large Clove Garlic
  • 1/2 Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt (or to taste)

* Try this recipe on our Mediterranean Tacos or as a garnish on our Homemade Black Beans! 


Chop tomatoes and onions into small cubes

Mince the jalapeño, cilantro and garlic as small as you can

Add the lime and salt

So simple yet so delicious!!!

Health Benefits:

Tomatoes are great for the heart due to the extreme antioxidant support, niacin, folate and vitamin B6 that help the reduction of heart disease.  They are also high in vitamins A, C, K and potassium.  The choline in tomatoes helps assist the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.  It also helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory.  Tomatoes are high in Lycopene the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color.  Cooking tomatoes breaks down the cell walls, which helps to release the lycopene and is better absorbed by the body with a little bit of fat like olive oil.  The Zea-xanthin in them helps filtering harmful ultra-violet rays, which protect eyes from “age-related macular disease.”  They are also a powerful blood purifier and great for skin and bone health.

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San Simeon

In San Simeon, right across the main entrance of the Hearst Castle is a California hidden gem, the Sebastian’s Store!!!  They serve Hearst free-range, grass-fed beef hamburgers that come from cow’s raised on the Hearst Cattle Ranch and they have tons of other great sandwiches.



 In the same building as the Sebastian’s Store you can also find the Hearst Ranch Wine tasting room.


A Spanish building across from the Sebastian’s Store.


Just up the coast is a beach full of Elephant seals, a must see!!!




Coconut Rose Jasmine Rice

Jasmine rice is one of the more aromatic rices, I like the floral essence it gives with the coconut and rose water.  



Recipe: 2 – 4 Servings

  • 1 Cup Jasmine Rice   (For this recipe you can use any rice)
  • 2 Cups Filtered Water (for a creamy rice use 1/2 water 1/2 coconut milk)
  • 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil ( Sesame, or Olive Oil for a different flavor)
  • 1 Teaspoon Rose Water
  • Pinch Sea Salt  

Approximate cooking times:

  • White Rice: 18 to 25 minutes
  • Brown Rice: 30 to 40 minutes
  • Wild Rice: 45 to 60 minutes



Using a rice cooker is the easiest and the most consistent way to cook rice but don’t feel like you have to go out and buy one.

If you don’t have a rice cooker cooking rice on the stovetop is not that difficult as long as you remember that the rough rule is a ratio of 1 part dry to 2 parts wet.

Trying to figure out how much to make is pretty easy if you go by basically 1/2 cup uncooked rice per person so you can scale this particular recipe up or down.  For each additional cup of rice you cook use 1¾ cups of water.  You will need to rinse the rice to remove the extra starch also any leftover chaff or stray particles.

Basically rinse the rice with water, swirl around and dump the water.  Repeat this a couple times, you will notice the water getting clearer.

The extra starch removed from the rice makes it much fluffier and not as sticky

Add water, coconut oil, rose water and salt to the rice and stir.  Pat rice flat in a pan and make a hole in the center of the rice and bring to a boil on high heat, once it is boiling turn down to low heat and simmer for 20 minutes

Do not peek!

After 20 minutes take off the burner and let sit for 5 minutes then fluff the rice rice with a spatula and serve hot

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Hearst Castle “An American Palace”

My dad and step mom came to visit Robby and me.  We spent the weekend in San Simeon and took a trip to the Hearst Castle.  This place was spectacular, with all its exquisite detail and amazing sculptures everywhere!


In 1919 William Randolph Hearst hired Julia Morgan to design a main building and 3 guesthouses for his ranch.  Hearst had been staying on the ranch in platform tents and wanted her to build “something that would be more comfortable”


Julia Morgan was an architect from San Francisco, and throughout her career she designed nearly 800 projects in California and Hawaii.


The Castle took over 28 years to build; Morgan oversaw almost every aspect of the construction at Hearst Castle.  She also purchased everything from Spanish antiquities to Icelandic Moss to reindeer for the Castle’s zoo.  She personally designed in detail most of the structures, grounds, pools, animal shelters.


Hearst had created the largest private zoo in the world.  There were several species of African and Asian antelope, zebras, camels, sambar deer from India, red deer from Europe, axis deer from Asia, llamas, kangaroos, ostriches, emus, Barbary sheep, Alaskan big horned sheep, musk oxen, yaks and giraffes.


Hearst named the land “La Cuesta Encantada” – The Enchanted Hill.  In 1947, the estate was created, and this consisted of 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways.  The main house, named “Casa Grande,” and the three guesthouses are of Mediterranean Revival style, and a Spanish cathedral inspired the towers.


Marble Relief at entrance

All the details are amazing


Hearst loved to host parties, he had guests like the Mayor of New York City, Hollywood movie stars from Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, and the Marx Brothers, not to mention politicians like President Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.  They would fill the castles 56 bedrooms.  After dinner the guest’s would dress up in colorful costumes and danced, as a band would play under the stars.  At midnight there would be a fireworks show.

In the morning the guest’s would enjoy the gardens, play tennis, swim in the Neptune pool, go horseback riding and feed the animals.


Hearst called this room the Refectory, the term for a monastery-dining hall.  This is where all the meals were served.  This was his favorite place in the castle.

The huge table sat 80 people.  Mr. Hearst sat in the middle, his newest guest sat near Hearst so he could talk to them.  Every night the guest would move down a seat and when a guest would reach the end they new it was time to go.


The Castle was decorated with actual ceilings, doors and walls from European churches, monasteries and castles.


One of the guest houses, amazing!


Guest houses


Robby and I




Sculptures all around

The Neptune pool is the largest heated pool in the world and took 12 years to build.

It is 104 feet long, 58 feet wide and 95 feet wide at alcove. It holds 345,000 gallons of water and it has oil burning heating system.

Decorating the pools and colonnades is light-veined Vermont marble , and four 17-century Italian bas-reliefs on the sides of the colonnades.


The David Fountain


Marble relief to the entrance of the Neptune Pool


The Roman Pool is a tiled indoor pool decorated with eight statues of Roman gods, goddesses and heroes.

Designed after an ancient Roman bath.  The pool and surrounding room were built from 1927-1934.  The statues are rough copies of ancient Greek and Roman statues.

The roofs and dome are covered with mosaics of night blue, powdered with stars.

The pool is decorated from ceiling to floor with 1″ square mosaic tiles.  These glass tiles, called smalti, are either colored (mainly blue or orange) or are clear with fused gold inside.