Altadena Golf Course | huevos rancheros

I’ve had many takes on this Mexican breakfast staple: runny eggs with fiery salsa and crispy fried tortillas with a bit of frijoles and melted cheese. I flew home for a surprise visit—well it was a surprise to my youngest sister who starred in St. Francis High School’s production of A Few Good Men.

After church Sunday morning, we went out for breakfast. My parents told us we were going to the golf course for breakfast—whatever that means, I thought. My dad compared it to how we used to go to the airport for breakfast when I was a wee one and we lived in Agua Dulce. I’m sure this makes sense to all of you reading, right? :)
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I loved the hustle and bustle of this little diner. Make no mistake—we were not eating at the country club (which is what I initially thought we were going to do). In fact, this couldn’t have been more of a contrast to a ritzy country club Sunday brunch. It was down home comfort food. And the huevos rancheros I ordered tasted like someone’s mama made them.

These were pretty darn simple huevos rancheros—nothing too exciting or fancy about them. But I can’t quite find the words to describe the comfort that washed over me as I took a bit of the refried beans covered in cheese and that spicy enchilada-style sauce and I gleefully watched the yolk pour out of my egg whites with just a quick prick of my fork. I stacked bite after bite with crispy hash browns and sipped a cold Stella (it was after 12).
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There are so many versions of Mexican food to people. It’s fun to experiment with different flavors and takes on a classic. But this is what my heart needed: simple and spicy.

what we ordered: Little Donkey

We FINALLY went to Little Donkey a couple of weeks ago with my sister Brynn and her husband. I had been dying to try this Mexican-barbecue fusion spot in Homewood for oh so long.
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There has been plenty of buzz about this restaurant, as it is founded by Birmingham restauranteurs Nick Pihakis and Joshua Gentry of our beloved local chain, Jim ‘N Nick’s. Pihakis and Gentry took their homegrown, slow-cooked barbecue expertise and used that to season their take on Mexican fare. What I appreciate very much about this place is that this is apparent throughout the experience.

We started off with horchata! What else? This is a nostalgic drink for me. It takes me back to family trips to La Fogata in the San Fernando Valley. Little Donkey’s version of this sweet beverage is rice water flavored with almond, cinnamon and vanilla.
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We also snacked on their chips and salsa, which had a deep, savory roasted flavor. Of course, my only issue here was that just one basket was complimentary.
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For lunch, I enjoyed the Torta de Cerdo, or the Drunken Hog, which a cross between a Southern pulled pork sandwich and a Mexican torta. Tender, Jim ‘N Nick’s-reminiscent pork was topped with pinto beans, pickled red onions, cheese and guacamole with their homemade bread. It also came with tomato broth on the side for dunking. Biting into this tasted as a torta should, with a bit of Southern comfort.
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As my side, I chose the elote—street vendor-style corn on the cob topped with crema, cotija cheese and cayenne.

And truly, one of the best tamales I have ever tasted lives at this restaurant (Arguijos, don’t be mad! Notice I said ONE of the best). My sister ordered a taco alongside a pork tamal.
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I reached over and grabbed a bite of it with my fork, and the tamal sang. The maza was so well flavored and moist, and the meat was as tender as could be. Both components married each other in flavor—you could taste it.

And finally – one of my favorite things – was La Concoccion: Mexican rice topped with black beans, cotija, a poached egg (omg!) and green onions. Decadent, comforting, perfect. I’m so making this at home.
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We didn’t stay for dessert … we ran over to Steel City Pops next door! Tales of that adventure are coming soon. Have you visited Little Donkey? What do you like to order?
Little Donkey on Urbanspoon

last christmas …

As Christmas approaches, I’m missing California more and more. I love my home here, though … but it’s ok to be a little homesick.

One thing I am quite homesick for are my momma’s tacos.
She always makes them when we’re at home. And of course, we pull out our little collection of La Victorias from the fridge. My personal favorite is Salsa Brava, which I’ve found is much spicier when purchased in California.


Last Christmas was no different from any other time periods spent at home, and we set the table with boxwood and red-ribbon accents. Brikki had a friend over, and it was wonderful.


I will miss those tacos this year. I will miss my mom, dad, and sisters this Christmas. But I am grateful for what I do have: my husband! My husband’s family! My pup! And, of course, I’m grateful for having two of my sisters so close by. Though they will spend Christmas in California, knowing I get to see them year round makes the distance not sting so badly. I am truly blessed.

PS: I miss these little guys, too! Here’s a memory of snuggling last Christmas.

virtual potluck with belle chevre: chicken & goat cheese enchiladas

If any of you know me, you know I love cheese—and if you were to guess my favorite, you might guess goat. And you’d be right. I’ve long been in love with the tangy, creamy cheese by Belle Chevre, so imagine my excitement when I was invited to participate in a virtual potluck to celebrate the release of Tasia’s Table, the new cookbook by Belle Chevre’s passionate cheesemaker Tasia Malakasis.

I loved perusing this cookbook. Tasia has combined her two loves on every page: her Greek heritage and her Alabama home. While there were so many recipes to volunteer for in this potluck, I noticed she deviated into my territory with these beautiful enchiladas. I’m so glad she did! They immediately became my number one choice.

I’ve never made enchiladas with goat cheese, but the cool tang perfectly mellows the red sauce that packs a real punch (really, beware of the heat!). It’s a lovely marriage of flavors. 

Here’s my little tip with the sauce—if you’re a little skittish around spicy foods, you might want to decrease the serrano peppers called for from 10 to about 4. I actually chickened out and just did 6, and believe me, it was plenty spicy. (Seriously! Believe me! I love spicy foods!)

When rolling these up, don’t worry too much about exact measurements. Just know that the more goat cheese is involved, the more you’ll love it. I actually would not be opposed to trying these veggie style next time and skipping the chicken altogether. Oh, and here’s a tip: Instead of cooking and shredding a chicken (especially if you’re lazy like I am), pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. You’ll have lots of leftovers to play with.

Here’s another tip: The sauce might scare you with its heat! But trust Tasia. Go ahead and pour all of it over the enchiladas. Some of the heat mellows when it cooks leaving just the right amount of spice remaining.

These were amazing. I loved having the fresh peppers in there, and the goat cheese addition was just incredible. I’m so honored to be included with such amazing bloggers! Thanks, Belle Chevre! Oh, and order a copy of Tasia’s book!

Here’s the full recipe:
Chicken and Goat Cheese Enchiladas with Red Sauce
Serves 4

1/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 green serrano peppers
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup of water
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
12 6-inch corn tortillas
3 poblano peppers, seeded and cut into strips
3 cups (about) chicken, cooked and shredded
1 1/4 pounds goat cheese
Sour cream (optional)

Heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat, and add the serrano peppers, turning occasionally for about 4 minutes. Add half of the onions and the chopped garlic and stir occasionally for 2-3 minutes. Blend hot ingredients as well as water, canned tomatoes, cilantro, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor.

Heat 1/3 cup vegetable oil in a heavy small skillet over medium-high heat. Using tongs, add 1 tortilla and cook until softened, turning once, about 15 seconds for each side. Transfer tortilla to paper towels and drain well. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in heavy large skillet. Add remaining half of onions and poblano pepper and cok until tender, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Lightly oil 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon 1/2 cup sauce into dish. Place scant 1/4 cup chicken in center of 1 tortilla. sprinkle with 1 generous tablespoon onion mixture. Set aside 1/2 cup cheese for topping. Sprinkle 2 generous tablespoons cheese atop chicken. Roll up tortilla and place seam-side down in prepared dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas, chicken, onion mixture and cheese. Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover with foil. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.)

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake enchiladas, covered, until sauce bubbles and cheese melts, about 35 minutes. Serve with sour cream.

PS: Take a look at the rest of the amazing bloggers who participated below. A lot of them are giving away a copy of the Tasia’s cookbook. My giveaway will start tomorrow, so stay tuned!
Cooking with Books
Cheese and Champagne
Blank Palate
Deep South Mag
Sale e Pepe
La Buena Vida
Susan Greeley
Story of a Kitchen
Sugar & Spice by Celeste
Once Upon A Cutting Board
Miss in the Kitchen
The Picky Eater

cheddar-avocado burger with hot sauce

Our Labor Day weekend was a lazy one, which was just what we needed.

We organized our guest room which has been occupied by piles of unfiled important papers, unpacked boxes, and wedding presents without a home in the house yet. Now we are one step closer to a finished home office & guest room for any prospective visitors!

We hung art in our living room, and I ordered shams that I am way too excited about for our bedroom. James thinks they’re awesome, too, so that’s fab!

Postcards from our wedding “guest book” plus a neat card we found in a little shop in Monterey on our honeymoon.

We kicked off football weekend with friends in our living room and game day attire for Leroy.

We ran to Moe’s on Labor Day for a drink. On our way in we found $30 on the ground, and we patted ourselves on the back for resisting the temptress that is the sweet smell of barbecue and reminding ourselves of our fabulous grill-out to come.

Just in time for dinner, it started to pour rain. I imagine any vacationers were bummed out by this, but it was a peaceful and rather romantic way to spend a Labor Day afternoon with my fam.

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for. We didn’t do anything earth shattering with the meat (in fact we used Omaha Steak burger patties that came as part of a wonderful wedding present package from a dear friend) besides season it with some Montreal Steak Seasoning and putting on the grill. But the accoutrements were the highlights of this recipe.

Cheddar-Avocado Burger with Hot Sauce
Makes 2 burgers

2 ground sirloin patties
Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sliced onion
Kosher coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 avocado, seeded
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
2 slices Cheddar cheese
2 bakery-fresh hamburger buns
2 teaspoons mayonnaise
Hot sauce (I used Tapatio)

Preheat grill to about 300°. Season patties on both sides with Montreal steak seasoning. Place on grill, and cook for about 6 minutes on each side, or until desired degree of doneness.

While patties are cooking, bring a skillet to medium-high heat with oil. Add onions, salt, and pepper, and stir occasionally until onions are soft and charred, about 15 minutes.

While onions are cooking, remove skin from avocado and mash. Add lime, lime zest, and stir to combine.

About 1 minute before patties have finished cooking, top with cheese slices, and add buns to grill to toast. Cover grill and let sit for 1 minute.

To make one burger, spread 1 teaspoon mayonnaise and desired amount of avocado mixture on bun. Add patty and top with desired amount of grilled onions. Dash desired amount of hot sauce (I really loved going overboard on this), and serve.

Seriously — the lime in the avocado amazingly complemented the hot sauce. Such a simple but flavorful combination. Try it next time you feel like grilling.

what I ordered: mariscos puerto nuevo

To start off the documentation of food consumed on our honeymoon, we’ll go to one of favorite meals in Monterey.

Kudos to my husband for locating a great hole-in-the-wall, a true “where the locals go” kind of place. This Mexican seafood joint is off the beaten path of regular Monterey tourist-frequented areas. And when I say off the beaten path, I mean it’s down the freeway inland a bit until you reach a slightly rougher part of town (technically you are in Seaside at that point). But nonetheless, we were delighted to discover this little spot.

When you order a Modelo Especial  (or any beer), you’re given an ice-cold bottle with a lime wedge and a shrimp dipped in their flaming cocktail sauce sticking out of the bottle’s opening. We were so excited about this novel idea that we immediately exclaimed, “Ah! Shrimp!” And we popped our shrimps in our mouths and gushed over that perfect heat of the sauce before I even thought to take a picture. I think that little treat alone is worth a trip to this restaurante.

I ordered a ceviche tostada. It was fabulous and fabulously affordable (we’re talking $4 here!). The fish was delightfully flavorful and fresh. The shell was crisp and cooked well. It was topped with another fresh little shrimp.

I do have one thing to say: I also ordered the crab quesadilla. I did not like that. The crab was disappointingly fishy.

But I am so willing to overlook it when I contemplate my tostada, and the shrimp cocktail (which, by the way, you can order a large serving of. We wish we had done that.).

So, if you are ever in Monterey, and you feel like venturing out of the tourist spots to a little hidden gem, we definitely recommend Mariscos Puerto Nuevo.
Mariscos Puerto Nuevo on Urbanspoon

Related posts:
olvera street taquitos
ceviche (I’m so brave!)

a peek at our honeymoon through Instagram

Lunch at In-N-Out in Santa Barbara

A beach of elephant seals lounging in the sand just north of Cambria

Road trip tunnel!

First evening in Monterey

Breakfast at the Portola…

…with bottomless mimosas, of course.

a ceviche tostada at Mariscos Puerto Nuevo

a nightcap: Old Fashioned at the hotel bar