banish boring summers

It’s no secret that Los Angeles is a highly sought out vacation destination by out-of-state and overseas visitors. Whether you’re looking for staycation ideas (local NPR has a list) or entertaining out-of-town guests, I’ve listed some free or wallet-friendly activities/events.

Hollywood Bowl
This outdoor concert venue is so unique to LA. I love picnicking on the benches and enjoying the music and warm summer nights. Tickets start as low as $12 and there are multiple parking and park+ride shuttle options. I was there last week and we parked at Hollywood and Highland for $13 (versus $20 or $25 for stacked parking at the Bowl). Check out their calendar here for upcoming performances.

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Malibu Wines (website)
Located 25 miles north of Santa Monica, this outdoor space is perfect for celebrating birthdays, showers, or simply enjoying good company. I visited for the first time a few months back and spotted celebrity chef, Susan Feniger (of Border Grill/Top Chef Masters). They have live music during the weekends and you can bring food and non-alcoholic beverages to enjoy with wine available for purchase.

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The Getty Center (located in Westwood)
Boasting an impressive private collection of art, the architecture is what woos me for repeat visits. I recently went on a docent led architecture tour where we learned about renown architect, Richard Meier’s inspiration behind this iconic cultural landmark. I highly recommend their free tours offered daily. Admission is free and parking is $15 which is also good for the Getty Villa in Malibu (same day visit only). The Getty Center also hosts summer evening events; check out their website for details.

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Dance in Downtown
The Music Center in downtown Los Angeles (connected to the Dorothy Chandler pavilion) hosts free outdoor dance lessons and live music/DJ on select Friday nights. This is one of my FAVORITE things to do in the summer (especially the Bollywood and 60’s nights). So what are you waiting for? Grab a friend or 2 and shake a tail feather. All levels and ages are encouraged to participate (comfy shoes recommended). You can view the calendar here.

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For my OC friends (didn’t forget you guys), here are a few cool things to do~

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa has an annual summer movies series where they show classics, musicals, animation films in a family friendly environment for free! Check out their calendar for upcoming dates. Tip: park at South Coast Plaza and walk over to avoid a parking fee.

segerstrom movie

Photo credit: shared from Segerstrom’s facebook page.

Anaheim, home of Disneyland, The Honda Center, Angels stadium and the newly remodeled Anaheim Packing House, is home to 20-plus gourmet eateries. This is still on my list of places to visit. Check out this article for details on this new culinary destination (open daily, free parking). See their website for details.

Hope you enjoy long summer days with these suggestions. Don’t be shy, what are your favorite summer activities/events?

chicken and veggie soup

It’s been a tough few weeks as I’m getting over the stomach flu. I’ve had the stomach flu twice in less than 2 weeks! My doctor recommended that I stick to soups and get lots of rest, which is what I’ve been doing (aside from the ahi tuna watermelon radish salad I had yesterday at work).  The funny thing is I start making a mental list of what I want to eat (a lot of junk food). Once the nurse said to avoid hamburgers, that’s what I started craving. Haha… I guess that’s how it is, I crave what I can’t have. In the meantime, I’m enjoying homemade soups like this one.

This is not an exact recipe but pretty close. I’ve been making chicken soup since college and it’s one of the easiest ones to make, especially if you have a rotisserie chicken. I would recommend using homemade chicken broth (recipe here) but store bought works too. It’s amazing that Costco still sells their rotisserie chicken for 4.99 after all these years.

chicken soup pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

chicken and veggie soup (serves 4 hearty portions)
6 cups of chicken broth
2 small carrots, sliced
1 celery rib, sliced
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 russet potato, diced
handful of mushrooms, sliced
add other veggies (added broccoli)
2 handfuls of dried pasta or rice (used orzo)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp of sea salt (adjust the amount accordingly)
black pepper to taste

1. In a stock pot, pour in the chicken broth, add carrots, potatoes, onions, celery, herbs, and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, bring it down to a simmer for about 20 minutes or until carrots are fork tender.
2. Add your pasta or rice and other softer veggies (don’t need as much cooking time) and let it simmer for another 10 minutes or so or until the pasta/rice is cooked.
3. Taste and season with salt and pepper accordingly.

The amount of salt you want to add is up to you. I opt for the low-sodium chicken broth to control the amount of sodium in my soup. I like adding it at the end for that reason. Hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do. Sure beats a brown bag sandwich any day.

anima pizza & pasta

inside anima

Anima Pizza & Pasta is a new (opened December 2013) authentic Italian restaurant in the heart of Koreatown (Vermont and 7th). My friend, Julie of LA eats introduced me to this gem in early March and went back with a group of friends a few weeks later.

flora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bruschette miste (ham, salami, veggies) 8.00

bruschette miste (ham, salami, veggies) 8.00

insalata nicoise 8.50

insalata nicoise 8.50

lobster ravioli 9.00 (daily special, off menu item)

lobster ravioli 9.00 (daily special, off menu item)

capriccoisa pizza (olives, ham, mushrooms, bell peppers) 14.50

capriccoisa pizza (olives, ham, mushrooms, bell peppers) 14.50

gnocchi with ragu

gnocchi with ragu 8.50

spaghetti e polpettine (meatballs) 8.00

spaghetti e polpettine (meatballs) 8.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The food is as delicious as it looks and wonderfully affordable. Where else can you get homemade pasta in LA for under $10 for dinner? Each time, I think I spent about $15 for dinner. The portions are not ginormous so you can share a couple dishes and leave feeling satisfied. They’ve applied for an beer and wine alcohol license so until then, no BYOB but they offer complimentary cucumber water and have non-alcoholic drink options on the menu.

The only challenge about this location is the parking. It’s in the same plaza as Kobawoo and a handful of other eateries. Valet parking (I think it was $2) is available if there’s space, otherwise, street parking is the other option.

If you’re as crazy about Italian food as I am, check out my reviews for Maccheroni Republic and Eatalian Cafe.

white sangria

Hope you had a lovely weekend spent with your families celebrating Mother’s Day. Like many people (including my parents’ pastor who mentioned it in his sermon) was touched by NBA superstar, Kevin Durant’s MVP acceptance speech. I admit I got choked up hearing him thank his mom. What a great reminder to vocalize our appreciation for our loved ones, moms who are unsung heroes.

I had planned on making lasagna for my mom and pairing it with a nice red wine but because of the warm weather (it’s going to be 100 later this week, here in Los Angeles), white sangria would be the refreshing choice. Scored this $4.99 white wine fruity blend from Trader Joe’s (Pancake Cellars Big Day White 2012) which is a decent wine for this price and great in sangria since it has green apple notes (photo credit). If you’re in the mood for a red sangria, here’s an easy recipe I featured last year. I also recommend this strawberry agua fresca that would go well with a spicy Asian or Mexican dish.

good white ed

 

sangria rr recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


white sangria
(adapted from foodnetwork.com)
serves 6
1 green apple, sliced in wedges
1 lemon, half moon slices
1 lime, half moon slices
1 cup, strawberries, quartered
3 TB sugar
1 bottle (750ml) of dry white wine (chardonnay and riesling are great too)
1 pint of raspberries
2 cups (approx) of soda water

Pour a half bottle of wine in a pitcher and add 3 TB of sugar. Stir and let it sit for 5 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved. Add the fruit except the raspberries and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve with ice cubes, raspberries, and a splash of soda water.

Included in the dinner spread was lasagna and strawberry-basil shortcakes (ready for a magazine photo op) made by my sister (click here for the recipe). Not pictured: galbi and kale, brussel sprout, cranberry salad). I’ll share the bolognese sauce recipe once the weather cools down.

M day collage

 

Dr. O’s Signature Chicken Pasta

My graduate program held an end-of-the-year reception for graduates and family members and it was the job of the 1st and 2nd year grad students that volunteered were suckered into preparing food and decorations for 250. This is dinner mind you. This was my first experience in catering and I LOVED it!

My faculty member, Dr. O, taught us how to make this wonderfully simple and addicting pasta dish that I still make to this day (it’s been 6 years since I first made this). The warm, nutty flavor comes from toasting the pine nuts, which are pricey but a little bit goes a long way.

It’s also great for feeding a crowd and a lunch idea (tastes great at room temperature).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. O’s Chicken Pasta
Serves 6-8
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into strips
1 jar (8.5 oz) of sun-dried tomatoes, julienned (Trader Joe’s)
1 cup of basil
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
¼ cup pine nuts
1/8 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 package of tortellini pasta
Salt and pepper to season

  1. Boil pasta until al dente.
  2. Drain sun-dried tomatoes and set aside the oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes.
  3. Take stems off basil and chop into thin strips.
  4. Toast pine nuts on a baking sheet in the oven at 250F for about 5 minutes or when they brown (keep a close eye as they can easily burn).
  5. Mix pasta, tomatoes, basil, cheese, chicken, and pine nuts into a large mixing bowl.
  6. Pour 1/8 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup oil from sun-dried tomatoes, and minced garlic onto a pan over medium low heat until it boils. Immediately pour over pasta mixture and mix thoroughly.
  7. Season with salt and pepper accordingly.
  8. Serve and enjoy! Dish can be served at room temperature or warm.

I also recommend the sausage and veggie pasta for a meatier dish. For this Mother’s Day, I’ll be making lasagna for the first time (wish me luck!).

It was a big hit at my office potluck this past January. Check out the delectable spread.

work potluck jan 2014

 

 

kimchi quesadilla

I love Korean BBQ places but often the kimchi is disappointing. I dunno why they focus on all the other banchans (side dishes) and meat while neglecting quality kimchi. What ups the flavor quality and experience for me is grilling it to get that nice caramelized taste.

I made some kimchi quesadillas this week as my roommate brought her mom’s homemade kimchi to share. Made with organic, locally grown napa cabbage, it’s really good and even better when grilled and combined w/cheese. Check out my easy recipe for making kimchi quesadillas below. Love me some kimchi and 3-ingredient dishes!

1 collage kimchi quesadilla

kimchi quesadilla (serves 2)
1/2 cup of kimchi (napa cabbage, ripened), chopped
2 tortillas (I used whole wheat tortillas)
1 cup of shredded cheese
pico de gallo to serve (optional)

Place a frying pan on medium heat and add 1 tsp of vegetable oil and kimchi. Pan fry until browned (in my picture, it looks burned but it’s not) and set aside.

Adjust stove heat to medium low and place a tortilla and sprinkle a handful of cheese evenly on half the tortilla. Scatter half the kimchi on top of the cheese. Place another handful of cheese over the kimchi layer and fold over. Brown both sides of the tortilla or until the cheese is all melted. Place quesadilla on a cutting board; should rest for a few minutes. Slice into 4 pieces and repeat the same process for the 2nd quesadilla. Enjoy w/some pico de gallo.

Try this and tell me what you think! Check out my other Asian fusion recipes like the kimchi mac and cheese, korean tacos, or bulgogi pizza. I also love this blog that features more Asian fusion recipes.

cachi coffee in la palma (OC)

The fun thing about following friends on Instagram is discovering cool new places. As a foodie, LA and OC are full of small, independent business owners who bring their unique perspective. One of my childhood friends had on his IG feed,  this cute, mom-and-pop cafe, Cachi Coffee, located in a business park complex in La Palma. I’ve been there about a couple times as my parents’ home is just a few miles away.

They serve Stumptown Coffee! Although I’m not a coffee connoisseur/snob (really, I love McD’s coffee), I love the the toffee undertones and it’s smooth flavor. I recommend their cafe mocha or a latte. As a tip, if you check-in on Yelp, they’ll discount 10% off your bill.

If you go during lunch, their salads and paninis are also popular (but I haven’t tried it yet). Because they mainly serve the corporate offices nearby, they’re only open Monday-Friday and from 6:30am-3:30pm. If you’re in the area, I recommend you stop by for a drink!

cafe mocha

cachi interiors

cachi cafe interiors

iced latte