Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes & Basil

Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes & Basil

Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes & Basil

Last weekend my son came home from school for a quick visit and he brought a friend with him. I had planned on making pizza for our Friday night dinner, because I figured that’s what all kids like to eat.  He did give me a heads-up and told me that his buddy was gluten free, so I pulled out this recipe that I had made several times before.  It’s always been a crowd pleaser. And my crowd’s not easy to please necessarily.

I personally  don’t like tomato sauce on my pizza. I love to brush the crust with a mixture of olive oil, minced fresh garlic and red pepper flakes.  For me, omitting the sauce allows the flavor of the crust and other ingredients to shine through. Since this recipe can make four pizzas, you can make some with sauce and some without. Then the whole gang’s happy.

Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes & Basil

Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes & Basil

Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes, Basil and Garlic

Print Friendly

The yeast mixture getting bubbly

The yeast mixture getting bubbly

Fresh tomatoes and basil give this pizza lots of flavor

Fresh tomatoes and basil give this pizza lots of flavor

Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes & Basil

Gluten Free Pizza with Tomatoes & Basil

Recipe: Intermediate 

 

 
 

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

The craziest thing happened the other day, true story… My son, son #2 that is, who is home from school on spring break, brought packaged blueberry muffins into my house. You know the kind that are filled with all kinds of preservatives, calories, and lord knows what else. I thought my eyes were deceiving me when I spotted them sitting on the kitchen table. I said, dude, your mom writes a blog called Mama’s Gotta Bake! Think man, think!

Naturally I did what any good food blogger and mother would do, and raced to my kitchen and made my son homemade Blueberry Muffins with fresh, yes, fresh blueberries. I felt like I had restored order to the universe…

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

Adapted from Williams – Sonoma

Print Friendly

 
 

Homemade Tomato Sauce and Meatballs

Homemade Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

Homemade Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

When I first migrated to LA back in the late 70′s, I moved into one of those sprawling apartment complexes in the San Fernando Valley. It housed transplants literally from all over the world. Young people who came seeking fame and fortune and hoping to get their big break, and people like me who were just looking to escape the cold, brutal weather of the east coast. I came with nothing but a suitcase and $400, so moving into a furnished apartment meant I could live with some of the comforts of home. It was a lovely place really, gold shag carpeting, plaid sofas and avocado colored formica counter tops. It had all the warmth and coziness of a Motel 6, but it was home.

Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

I remember those first months living in LA all by myself so well. It was lonely and exciting all at the same time. Everyone at this complex was very friendly. We all seemed to be in the same boat; without family, little money, and crappy jobs, but very intoxicated by the perpetually blue skies, balmy weather and swaying palm trees. (You didn’t see many palm trees in Philadelphia.) My neighbors across the hall were a brother and sister team from North Jersey named Theresa and Anthony. He called her “Tree” and she called him “Ant”.  I guess being east coasters we connected. Every night they saw me come home from work with a McDonald’s bag in hand, so they decided to teach me how to make Tomato Sauce and Meatballs. I’m not sure they were necessarily very good cooks, but I’ve been making their sauce (or gravy as they called it) and meatballs ever since.

Homemade Tomato Sauce 

Print Friendly

 
 

Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

Crab Benedict Croquette at Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

Crab Benedict Croquette at Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

Why is it so hard for me to find good Mexican cuisine in Southern California. I mean, that’s crazy, right. It should be so easy to find here, but I can’t say anything’s knocked my socks off lately. Oh, until today. Palmilla Cocina y Tequila is a great little gem of a restaurant right on the pier in Hermosa Beach. I went with a friend today for their Sunday brunch. Executive Chef Christina Cipres is all about the flavor. If I closed my eyes I would have thought I was on the beach in Cabo because the flavors are fresh and authentic, from the cocktails to the house-made desserts.

We sat outside on their patio which is the way to go if the weather is good, because it’s excellent people watching as well as enjoying the cool ocean breezes. They nailed me right off the bat with their Bunuelos, homemade tortilla chips tossed in cinnamon sugar and drizzled with chipotle-mint honey. I think of all the other Mexican restaurants that serve those packaged tortilla chips and run-of-the-mill salsas. All I can say is, shame on you!

Watermelon, Ginger & Hibiscus Aqua Fresca

Watermelon, Ginger & Hibiscus Aqua Fresca

The Traditional Bloody Mary

The Traditional Bloody Mary

Bunuelos at Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

Bunuelos at Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

They have a great bar menu including a vast tequila selection, agua frescas, fresh juices and a build your own mimosa option. We ordered the Watermelon, Ginger & Hibiscus Agua Fresca (with tons of fresh ginger bits) which was light and refreshing as well as the Traditional Bloody Mary ($9) which was anything but traditional. Just check out the array of spices around the rim of that glass. Awesome.

Papas Rajas Hash with Chorizo

Papas Rajas Hash with Chorizo

But I haven’t told you about the food yet, and that was the best part. Chef Cipres takes Mexican cuisine to a whole ‘nuther level.  For me, I would describe the dishes as homey comfort food with a great layering of flavors and textures, that bring out the best in Latin spices. The presentation is creative and the plating nicely finessed. A dish you must order is the Crab Benedict Croquette($16) which is two perfectly poached eggs atop sweet potato croquettes with dungeness crab and a to-die-for adobo hollandaise sauce. I would also recommend the Papas Rajas Hash with Chorizo($12). They serve it in a mini skillet with three sauces and three house made tortillas, it was easily enough for several people.

Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding

Churros with two dipping sauces

Churros with two dipping sauces

But wait, there’s more. The flavor doesn’t stop there, because you’ve gotta have dessert. To accompany our Lavazza Coffee ($4) which was excellent, we had the bread pudding and the deliciously crispy, crunchy churros with two dipping sauces.

Chef Christina Cipres of Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

Chef Christina Cipres of Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

The bar at Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

The bar at Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

Mama loves attention to detail, and the folks at Palmilla Cocina have put as much thought into their decor as they have their food. Once inside the restaurant you feel transported to a far off exotic location.. The room is illuminated in a soft golden glow from the handmade chandeliers on the ceiling. Artistic tiles and chains adorn the walls and give the space a hip, ethnic vibe. I don’t think it’s a place I would bring the kids, but it’s certainly perfect for a fun, girls night out.

You can walk it off at the beach

You can walk it off at the beach

And here’s the best part of all. When all is said and done, and you can’t eat another bite, even though you want to…you can go walk it off on the beach which is 10, okay, 15 steps away from the restaurant. I should add that the service was extremely friendly, attentive and efficient and parking wasn’t a problem since there are public lots in the immediate area.

Palmilla Cocina y Tequila   39 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach CA 90254    (310)374-4440

 
 

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom & Orange Glaze

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom

When I began my first year away at college, I had heard about the dreaded “freshman fifteen”. It’s that bizarre anomaly that occurs the first time students go away to college and experience eating in the campus cafeteria where there’s not much that’s healthy, low calorie or pleasant tasting. Legend has it that most freshman will pack on fifteen pounds their first year. And sure enough, it happened to me. My mother claimed that when I came home for my winter break she hardly recognized me.

So do you know what the culprit was…Sweet Rolls. It was the one thing that the cafeteria at Rider University served that was actually edible. I used to eat them in mass quantities. So much so that the cafeteria ladies used to hide trays of them when they saw me coming so there would something left over for the other students. So that folks was how I began my lifelong obsession with the Sweet Roll.

Today I made these Sweet Rolls with Cardamom and Orange Glaze. This is not an overly sweet treat, they’re definitely more a roll than a pastry. I like to add cardamom which gives the roll a spicy-sweet taste and pairs very well with the orange glaze.

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom rising in the pan

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom rising in the pan

Sweet Rolls with Cardamom 

Adapted from the LA Times

Print Friendly

 
 

Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

apple1

I love”homey” food, but you already knew that, didn’t you. Some people like to curl up with a warm blanket and a book, I myself, like to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a piece of cake. When curling up, it’s always best not to have a piece of cake that’s too sweet and sugary. No, proper curling should be done with a less sweet, almost bread like cake that will perfectly compliment a cup of tea. Ta Da! That’s where this Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts comes in.

This cake is the BFF to a cup of tea. The “not-so-sweet” cake is filled with chunks of juicy apple and topped with earthy, crunchy pine nuts. Really, a perfect combination of flavors. This recipe will make two, 8″ x 4″ loaf cakes, so guess what, keep one for yourself and give the other to your BFF. Wrap it up in parchment paper and tie it with baker’s twine, and I guarantee, they’ll be very impressed.

apple2

Apple Loaf with Pine Nuts

Adapted from Real Food, Winter 2013

Print Friendly

 
 

Golden Beets with Smoked Trout & Dill

beets1

As a kid, I never looked twice at a beet. Back then, they were a vegetable I was usually forced to eat, but never consumed by choice. I think a lot of it had to do with how they were prepared or maybe integrated into a dish. As a youth, no one ever showed me what an absolutely awesome vegetable the beet actually was. When they’re perfectly roasted, the beet’s natural sweetness and earthiness is developed.

I was invited to a birthday brunch last weekend, and was given the task of bringing an appetizer. I thought these Golden Beets with Smoked Trout and Dill was the perfect choice to bring. Growing up in Philadelphia, bagels and lox was a Sunday morning staple, so this was my take on that dish. The combination of the sweet beets, the smokey taste of the fish and the tart cream cheese was loved by all. I like when that happens.

beets2

Roasted Golden Beets with Smoked Trout & Dill

Print Friendly

 
 

Chicken Sliders with Herbed Mayo

slider1
When one is planning a Super Bowl get-together, one must give serious consideration to the refreshments. Because really, what is a Super Bowl party without the proper accouterments. Like the Super Bowl itself, watching the game at home should be an “event”. I would be negligent in my duties if I only served chips and dip, and my husband and sons have come to expect more from me as the years go by. Chips and dip are still on the menu, because every sports-loving guy still loves and expects them, but I needed to serve something more substantial but still in the realm of down home comfort food.

Chicken Sliders seemed like the obvious choice, because you can hold them in one hand while your screaming at the tv and holding a beer in the other. I would call this kind of breaded and fried chicken, Chicken Schnitzel or Chicken Milanese. Basically it’s boneless, skinless chicken breast that’s dredged in flour, eggs and panko bread crumbs and then fried. The end result is chicken that’s crispy and crunchy on the outside, and moist and tender on the inside. And, for a little extra added tastiness, I plopped on a dollop of this homemade Herbed Mayo. Yay, score one for Mama!
slider2
Chicken Slider with Herbed Mayo

Print Friendly

 
 

Manhattan Beach Post

mhb1

So here’s the strategy before you go to MB Post in Manhattan Beach, California, do not eat the day before. It’s comfort food extraordinaire, just liked you mama would have made if she’d been a world-class chef.

My husband and I were invited down to Manhattan Beach for Sunday brunch with our good friends L & L. “L” (the husband from the team of L & L) is quite the culinary explorer. He introduces us to many of the tasty and interesting restaurants the city has to offer that we may not have otherwise found on our own. They had been to MB Post for brunch before, and they thought we would enjoy the experience also.

mhb2

It was tough to get a reservation, but we were able to get a table at 10am when they opened their doors. By 9:45 there was a line half-way around the block so I knew sumthin’ was up. By 10:15 every seat in the joint was filled. Our server, a totally laid back “dude”, told us they served small plates and that each person may want to order 2 dishes each. With all due respect to the dude, no way could anybody eat two dishes a piece. The dishes are saucy, cheesy, sweet and decadent. But man, they taste good. The Pecan & Brown Sugar Sticky Bun ($6) which luxuriates in it’s own sauce, was enough for all of us to split. We followed that up with the house-made Ricotta Stuffed French Toast ($12).

mhb3

The house-made Trout Lox with Dill Cream Cheese, Capers and Cucumbers ($12) was a perfect counterpoint to the previous two dishes. Just the right amount of saltiness to bring me down from the sugar high. Another excellent dish was the Poached Egg with Tomato & White Bean Ragout and Creamy Polenta ($13) but it was large enough to serve a family of four and their pet chihuahua.

mhb4

mhb5

mhb6

The interior of MB Post is warm and welcoming just like its food. A little industrial, rustic and casual with lots of rough hewn wood throughout the restaurant, which is really quite perfect for this mellowed-out little California beach town.

mhb7

And here’s the best part of all, after you’ve consumed enough calories for the next three weeks, you can go walk it off at the Manhattan Beach Pier which is about a half block away.

mhb8

Manhattan Beach Post – 1142 Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 (310) 545-5405

 
 

Grand Central Market & Egg Slut

eggslut1

Having lived in Los Angeles for 33 years, I’m only now beginning to discover the rich history and diverse culture that the city has to offer. Downtown LA’s Grand Central Market puts you on sensory overload. The market, which has been in continuous operation since 1917, is 30,000 square feet of high energy sights, sounds, and smells (and I mean that in a good way) as well as a multi-cultural clientele. It’s got a little something for everybody. The marketplace offers fresh produce booths, gourmet coffee, juices and cheese, bakeries, as well as authentic style Mexican and Chinese restaurants, just to name a few.

eggslut2

eggslut3

The marketplace has a large multi-story parking lot attached to it, so it made accessing the whole downtown experience convenient and enjoyable. The first hour of parking was free with validation, so your afternoon outing doesn’t have to break the bank.

eggslut4

eggslut5

Accompanying me on this adventure was my partner-in-culinary crime, Gail. By 1pm it was time to make the decision where to sit down and eat because that was certainly the focus of this foray. Looking over the list of restaurants in the market, we both looked at each other and simultaneously said “Egg Slut of course”! Why, because I am an egg slut. I love them fried, poached, deviled and scrambled, and I’m a firm believer everything is better with an egg on it. Little did we know how deliciously nasty Egg Slut would be!

eggslut6

I ordered the Avo Burger, a 1/3 pound hamburger patty on a house-made brioche bun that’s toasted to perfection. They add cheddar, fresh avocado, caramelized onions, and, wait for it, yes an organic fried egg. I tried to look lady-like as I ate this, I just hope no one was looking. Gail had the Fairfax, which was soft-scrambled eggs with caramelized onions, cheddar, chives and Sriracha mayo on the homiest of biscuits.

eggslut7

eggslut8

eggslut9

However, after lunch it seemed our downtown Los Angeles history lesson was still not over. Directly across the street from the Grand Central Market is the Angel’s Flight Railway. Built in 1901, it’s called “the world’s shortest railway at only 298 feet. Costing only 50 cents to ride, it connects Hill Street with Grand, and was an iconic ending to the perfect day.

eggslut0

Grand Central Market – 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles CA 90013 (213) 624-2378