Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vodka Raspberry Lemonade

It's officially Fall, but it's not yet feeling like it in Southern California. We're anxiously awaiting the cool weather and the time when we can make soup, pasta and hearty comfort food.

In the meantime, I do have to share my favorite summer cocktail. We served it quite a bit this past season -- it's refeshing, looks cool and tastes great!

At one time, I had an official recipe from some magazine, but after a few servings, like other things, the recipe becomes your own.

Ingredients include:

Raspberry Lemonade
Absolut Vodka (or the vodka of your choice)
Juice from 1/4 lemon or lime
Splash of Chambord

Shake in a martini shaker with ice. Pour into a glass of ice. Garnish with a wedge or lemon (or lime) and a couple of fresh raspberries.

Cheers to a fun Summer and a cool Fall 2009!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sushi Wasabi -- Tustin

I finally found nirvana in Tustin! Sushi Wasabi is undoubtedly the best sushi I have found in Orange County.

Based on a recommendation from a coworker, I tried Sushi Wasabi tonight. When I pulled up into this mini-mall in Tustin (Newport & Walnut), I wasn't sure I was going to go in. The restaurant is located next to an autoparts store and a donut shop and it doesn't have an attractive entrance. I ventured in and was sorry I had to leave.

Signs posted on the entrance door tell you that the restaurant only serves sushi. I asked to sit at the sushi bar and was immediately told that the service is "okamase" style, meaning that the Chef will prepare whatever is fresh that day; "trust him" the sign commands. This is the way I like to enjoy my sushi anyway as you get to try new things and experience new preparations. If you are into those funky cut and and hand-rolls, go to Wasa or somewhere else.

Tonight, I had oysters from Seattle, albacore from New Zealand, and other fish from around the world. The blue crab hand roll is a house favorite. Everything was extremely fresh and simply prepared. I had 12 courses and enjoyed every last bite. I wish I could have stayed there for the rest of the night.
Reservations are recommended, especially if you are a larger group. I dined early on a Friday evening, but as I was leaving at 7:30PM, the 40-seat restaurant was filling up fast. Prices are very reasonable considering the presentation, portions and quality.

Treat yourself to Sushi Wasabi the next time you're in the mood for sushi. You'll be happy you did and you won't go anywhere else!

Sushi Wasabi
14460 Newport Boulevard (at Walnut)
Tel: 714/505-3496

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ultimate Twice Baked Potatoes

Well, if you're going to go off your diet, you might as well make it count! Is there a more caloric way to do it than with Twice Baked Potatoes.

We had a large patio BBQ party the other night. I always struggle with making things that keep me out of the kitchen so that I can socialize with the guests. This is one of those perfect recipes. You can make it earlier in the day, then just pop them in the oven 15 minutes prior to serving.

This was a great accompaniment to our feast of: Filet Mignon with Parsley-Garlic Butter, Grilled Asparagus and Sauteed Mushrooms (and, of course, Raspberry Cheesecake).

Ultimate Twice Baked Potatoes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Serves 12

6 large baking potatoes
12 slices thick bacon
1-1/2c. sour cream
3/4c. milk
1/4c. and 2T butter
3/4t. salt
3/4t. pepper
1-1/2c. shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
12 green onions, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Bake potatoes in preheated oven for 1 hour.

3. Meanwhile, place bacon in large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.

4. When potatoes are done, allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Slice potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh into a large bowl, save skins. To the potatoes, add sour cream, milk, butter, salt, pepper, 1/2 c. cheese and 1/2 green onions. Mix with hand mixer until well-blended and creamy. Spoon the mixture into the potato skins. Top each with remaining cheese, green ions, and bacon.

5. Bake for another 15 minutes.

Adapted from

Monday, September 21, 2009

Raspberry Cheesecake

Yes, it's been a long while since my last blog post. We started 2009 with a goal of losing weight, so that meant not doing as much adventuresome cooking as I would otherwise prefer. I am happy to now report that we have lost 50 pounds between us and I am back in the kitchen. My goal is still to lose a bit more weight and to keep it healthy, however, there are still the occasional deviations . . . which leads me to this post.

Of all the genres of cooking, baking is one of my favorite things. I find cheesecakes to be very easy to prepare and decadent to eat. And they are usually my most requested item.

This recipe is adapted from a Bon Appetit 1999 recipe which called for strawberries. I was in a more elegant mood for a recent patio party, so I choose raspberries instead. The glaze on top is a simply melted raspberry jelly, but I took it up a notch and added a splash of Chambord.

We all agreed the results were lovely and scrumptious. I hope you will try and enjoy just the same!

Begin preparing a day before serving
Serves 12

For crust:
20 whole graham crackers (10 oz. total), broken
3/4c. (1-1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, diced
1/2c. packed golden brown sugar

For filling:
4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
1-3/4c. sugar
3T fresh lemon juice
2-1/2t. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
3T all purpose flour
5 large eggs

For topping:
3 cartons of fresh raspberries
1 18oz. raspberry jelly
3T Chambord

1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Wrap foil around outside of 10-inch diameter springform pan with 3-inch high sides. Combine graham crackers, butter and sugar in processor. Using on/off turns, blend until crumbs begin to stick together. Press crumbs onto bottom and 2-3/4 inches up sides of springform pan. Bake crust 10 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool while preparing filling.

2. Beat cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, salt in large bowl until very smooth. Beat in flour. Add eggs and beat until just blended, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Pour batter into crust.

3. Bake cheesecake until outer 2-inch edge of cake is puffed and slightly cracked, center is just set and top is brown in spots, about 55 minutes. Transfer cake to rack. Cool 10 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

4. Make topping: Whisk sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl to blend. Spoon topping over cake, spreading to edge of pan. Bake until topping is just set, about 5 minutes.

5. Cool hot cake in pan on rack. Chill overnight.

6. Release pan sides from cheesecake. Arrange whole raspberries, points facing up, atop cheesecke; cover completely. Stir jelly in heavy small saucepan over medium-low heat until melted. Add Chambord. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Brush enough jelly over berries to glaze generously, allowing some to drop between berries. Reserve remaining glaze in saucepan. (Cake and glaze can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover cake and refrigerate.)

7. Rewarm remaining glaze until pourable. Cut cake into wedges. Pass remaining glaze separately or drizzle on plate before serving.