Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Friday, January 6, 2012

State Parks: Los Encinos SHP

Los Encinos State Historic Park is located in Encino, CA. It really is just right in the middle of the city, taking up a couple of city blocks. On one side, through the orange trees, it runs into a grocery store parking lot. Yet, the park still manages to be a lovely, quiet, refuge from any city noise or bustle. We visited on a weekend day, and there were several families out letting their kids run around, feeding the ducks, and picnicking.

The adobe is open for free guided tours, but I think at this point they are by appointment only. However, the visitor center (in another of the buildings) is unlocked during regular park hours so that visitors can go look around.

There are a lot of orange trees and other plants on the property.

There's also a pond with lots of ducks in it. You can buy little bags of birdseed and feed them. The ducks get really excited about this.

Its just a nice park, a great place to go walk around on the weekend, and an interesting museum/visitor center. Currently its open Wednesday - Sunday from 10-5, but it would probably be best to check the website before you go.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

State Parks: San Pasqual Battlefield SHP

First of all, I am really quite embarrassed by my lack of state park posts. We did visit quite a few parks last summer, but once I started graduate school in the fall we were no longer able to see as many. I neglected to really post any blogs at all, but hopefully I'll get a few done here in the next few weeks.

Most of the 70 state parks scheduled to close will be still be closing by this summer. A handful have been saved, either through private partnerships or being taken over by another park system (national, county, or city). Hopefully more parks will be able to stay open at least on a limited basis in this way. I would highly encourage you to support the California State Parks Foundation, or at least to go to their site if you're interested in finding out more.

Over Memorial Day weekend last year, we went down to Escondido to see San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park. For such a small park, this one is really great. The visitor center has excellent exhibits, beautiful views, and a short yet very informative video about the Mexican-American War. Travis and I felt much better about ourselves as California citizens after watching this; we realized as we went in the visitor center that we really knew nothing about that war. The person staffing the visitor center was incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the area.

The park has a nice quarter mile nature trail as well as a longer (one mile I believe) trail. However, when we visited, the longer trail had not been maintained in a while, and we were advised not to try it. I don't know whether or not this is still true, but I would assume that it is, due to the ongoing budget issues.

The view out to the valley from the visitor center and from the nature trail is really lovely. The valley is where the majority of the battle was fought.

At any rate, I highly recommend this park. It is basically next door to the San Diego Wild Animal Park in Escondido and is currently still open on Saturdays and Sundays.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Dinner

Cooked dinner for the first time in our new house today! I made a pot of collard greens and some cheesy grits, then just included fried chicken from Albertson's (best grocery store fried chicken ever). It was pretty good, although the grits weren't the best I've ever made.

I also tried to think about New Year's resolutions. I made a resolution that I would try to do meatless Mondays. Then (as shown above), I promptly forgot that it was Monday. Next week! My other resolutions are:

1. Take my multivitamin.
2. Don't get so stressed out all the time.

We'll see how it all goes. Happy New Year!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Almond Cheesecake and Brownies

In all fairness, this should be called Almond Cheesecake Filling. It was a bit awkward how it all turned out.

A while back, I saw this recipe called Decadent Chocolate Layer Cake in Cooking with Paula Deen. It's two layers of chocolate cake with a layer of almond cheesecake in between, with chocolate frosting. You'll notice that it looks AMAZING. However I've been trying to eat better, and although I don't deny myself dessert if I want it, I was still fairly sure I should never make that. It sounds like it could kill you after a few bites. So I had another thought. What if I saved the filling recipe and the cake recipe separately and just made them as separate cakes?

As you will undoubtedly have noticed, what happens to the cheesecake part is that it has no crust. It's not a cheesecake, it's a molded cheesecake filling. Tasty, but a bit odd and definitely too rich to eat on its own. So, what's a girl to do in this situation? Why, make a batch of brownies and smear small amounts of the cheesecake on top of them. Voila:

The verdict? They were okay. I think the biggest problem is that I don't like cheesecake, but I do like cheesecake brownies. So, I definitely believe that if you swirled this batter into brownie batter before baking it, fantastic things could happen. Maybe someday I'll try it, because this recipe is actually really easy to make.

Almond Cheesecake Filling


2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons almond- flavored liqueur (or almond extract)


Preheat oven to 300°. Line a 9-inch round baking pan with aluminum foil, letting edges of foil extend over sides of pan. Lightly grease foil.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sugar, beating until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in sour cream and liqueur. Pour batter into prepared pan; bake 45 minutes. Turn oven off; leave cheesecake in oven with door closed for 1 hour.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pork Burgers: A Public Service Announcement

This is just a quick PSA about potentially one of the tastiest things I've ever cooked. Pork burgers. Travis was skeptical at first, but in the end he was a believer. The recipe (Perfect Pork Burgers) came out of Food Network Magazine but can apparently also be found on their website.

It's really easy. Basically you just grind some bacon and garlic in a food processor, mix it with ground pork, season, make into patties, grill (or broil), and serve on some toasted potato buns (brushed with a little butter, of course). Amazing. The key, of course, is the bacon. Just try it. And now, back to my regularly scheduled massive amount of schoolwork that needs to be done.

Perfect Pork Burgers (from Food Network Magazine)


5 slices bacon
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground pork
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
freshly ground pepper
4 potato buns, split
unsalted butter, softened, for spreading


1. Pulse the bacon and garlic in a food processor until coarsely ground.

2. Combine the ground pork, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and the sage in a large bowl. Add the bacon mixture and gently mix with your hands. Gently form the meat into 4 balls, then lightly press into 4-inch-wide 1-inch-thick patties. Make a 2-inch wide indentation in the center of each with your thumb to prevent the burgers from bulging when grilled.

3. Preheat a grill to medium high. Season the patties with pepper. Grill, undisturbed, until marked on the bottom, 5-6 minutes. Turn and grill until the other side is marked and the patties feel firm, 4-6 more minutes. Meanwhile, spread the cut sides of the buns with butter and toast on the grill.

4. Serve the patties on the buns.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Great White Shark

Yeah, I know... I talk about sharks a lot. But this is it for a while, I swear. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the only facilities to have successfully kept a great white shark in captivity. They keep them only for a few months at a time before releasing them back into the wild. I've never actually seen a white shark in person, so when I heard that the aquarium had one on display, Travis and I decided to drive up to Monterey for Labor Day weekend.

The shark was amazing. He's only a few months old, less than 5 feet long and weighing about 43 pounds. But, it was still one of the most remarkable animals I've ever seen. I took this super short video when we first got there after the aquarium opened on Saturday. It was taken on my camera, so the quality isn't amazing. At any rate, I hope you enjoy it.