>Sarah! Send me an email, and I’ll ship your prize! Thanks everyone who participated! 🙂

Posted in giveaway, restaurant.com, winner | Leave a comment

>Homemade Vitatop Chocolate Muffin Tops!


After hearing about them for over a year, I finally decided to purchase a small box of Vitalicious Muffin Tops. In the mood for a treat, of course I chose chocolate! The other flavors sound yummy, but the selection in the store was pretty limited. I was pleasantly surprised by the softness and flavor, surely food worthy of a low-calorie, healthy dessert. However, the price tag was not so impressive. $4 on sale for 4 muffins? I knew that if I wanted to continue to enjoy these treats, I would have to figure out a way to make them, and so I set to work. I managed to get this low-calorie, similar recipe. It’s lower in fiber than the Vitatops, but very good and so much cheaper! The cost of making this recipe, which yields about 8 muffin tops, was $1. Nice!


1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup sucanat
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1 egg
1/4 cup natural applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa, sucanat, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients except the chocolate chips.

Once the wet ingredients are mixed smooth, add to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined, taking care not to overmix. Mix in 1/4 cup of the chips.

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper or a silicone baking mat (I love, love these!) and using a large spoon, ladle the mix onto the sheet into larg-ish circles. Sprinkle a few chips on the top of each muffin top, then bake for 10 minutes.

Place aluminum foil on top of the cooling muffin tops for ten minutes, then enjoy, or place into small freezer bags and freeze until ready to enjoy.

Posted in chocolate, dessert, homemade store-bought, low calorie, low fat, snack, vitatop | 1 Comment

>Win a $25 gift card to Restaurant.com!

>Details at San Diego Dining Dish!


Posted in contest, giveaway | Leave a comment

>Restaurant.com Giveaway!


Have you ever heard of Restaurant.com? If you haven’t, considered yourself informed. 🙂 Restaurant.com is a discount gift card site that works in conjunction with local and national restaurants (varies from city to city). Their gift cards range in value from $10-$100 (again, amounts are different for each establishment), and are sold to consumers at a discount rate. I’ve actually used their gift cards many times to have a very enjoyable meal at several San Diego restaurants!

But it gets better! The folks there were kind enough to send me some of their awesome $25 gift cards, which I’ll be giving away for the next few weeks to a few lucky readers! 

To enter: Simply go to Restaurant.com, scan through the available restaurants in your area, and comment back here with the restaurant that you would like to visit with your free card. On Friday, February 11, I will select the winner by random number generator. Contest closes at midnight PST Thursday, February 10. 

Good luck!!!
Posted in giveaway | 2 Comments

>Jeremy’s on the Hill

>Sometimes, you just need to get out of town, even when you live somewhere as nice as San Diego (sunshine in December!). And admittedly, I sometimes get a yearning for a cooler climate and a little color to the leaves. Enter Julian, a quaint mining town about 90 minutes east of San Diego. Julian is an easy weekend of day trip for San Diegans, and since most residents find themselves in Julian from time to time, and the tourists should (!), I thought that I would write up a review of a restaurant near Julian.

Jeremy’s on the Hill is located at a cross roads just before entering Julian, in a locale that would seem not to boast the most gourmet of offerings. However, being hungry and ready to stop for everything, seeing the sign for Jeremy’s and the boast that the chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu (where Julia Child trained!), we were more than willing to give it a shot.

The staff was very friendly, and the dining area warmed by a fireplace, creating a cozy, leisurely setting. We ordered the special turkey wrap with marinara and the Monte Cristo (“you want to have a Monte Cristo prepared by Cordon Bleu graduate”).

Our meals arrived in good time, and strange as it seemed to pair turkey breast with marinara, it worked. Fresh, homemade sauce bursting with tomato flavor, a bit sweet with a nice texture. The sauce was the perfect foil for the slightly salty turkey breast. Pear slices were also a nice alternative to fries, making this a ‘healthy’ meal (probably not, but that’s what I told myself!).

The Monte Cristo did not disappoint. Rather than deep frying the sandwich as is the usual method, which creates something of a ‘donut’ sandwich, this Monte Cristo was made using French toast as the wrapper, with lean turkey and ham, and a melty layer of Swiss cheese to finish. The perfect combination of sweet and salty.

Amidst the touristy burger and pizza joints in Julian, it is a definite nice change of pace to take a break at a gourmet spot. Just make sure to save room for dessert at the Julian Pie Company!

Posted in bistro, julian, special occasion | Leave a comment

>Homemade Cacao Bliss


I’ve lately found a new obsession: Artisana Cacao Bliss. If you’ve never had it, let me explain. It is a delicious, rich, chocolate butter that has the texture of frosting. Quite a decadent dessert topping…it’s in the running for one of my favorite spreads, even nudging Nutella for the top spot. This spread is great on bread, or eaten my favorite way — scooped with a spoon and eaten straight up! A homemade jar of this stuff would be an awesome gift for a choco-holic! Best of all, it’s actually not too shabby in the health department — coconut oil is one of the most healthy oils, so relax! Have your chocolate and do some good for your body. It is also far less expensive to make this than buy ($9 a jar? Really?). The recipe is extremely simple as well.

Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

4 tbsp melted coconut oil (I bought mine at Whole Foods)
1/3-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp agave syrup

In a bowl, mix everything together, then store at room temp in a jar. I keep my leftover jam jars around for this reason. 🙂 Enjoy!

Posted in chocolate, easy, spreads | Leave a comment

>Redheads (Pumpkin Blondies)


If you keep up with my posts, you know that I recently made blondies. Until now, I was resigned to the fact that blondies are indeed one of the most unhealthy baked goods around, with a stick of butter and cup of brown sugar! However, in my quest to make them a little healthier, I discovered a third realm of the baked bar sweet — redheads (thanks to April for helping me think of the name!).

Redheads are as simple to make as blondies — mainly, the butter in the blondies is replaced by pumpkin and coconut oil. I know that pumpkin is usually something people eat in autumn, but come on! It’s so delicious, and available year-round courtesy of Libby’s. 
Yes, I used chocolate chips again, but I am very curious to try butterscotch chips, as I think that they would make a nice foil to the pumpkin.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sucanat or brown sugar (I used sucanat)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
3 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
1 tsp pumpkin spice
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate or butterscotch chips
Yield is 9 large squares or 18 small.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except for the chips, stirring until well combined.
Add the chips, and spread the mixture into a greased 8 x 8 pan. 
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is firm. Cool completely and enjoy! 

Posted in blondie, pumpkin, redhead, snack, sweet | Leave a comment

>La vielle dame et les pigeons

>Since I was talking about Sylvain Chomet the other day, I thought of this piece. It’s not my favorite, and sometimes very slow (at a mere 22 minutes), but very French, and worth watching for the awful Americans if nothing else. 🙂


Posted in ah-may-zing, animation, france | Leave a comment



Animation, when done well, is my favorite form of film entertainment. I love that there are no real limits — a castles can fly, a candlestick can talk, and pandas can cook noodles! A few years ago, I saw the Triplets of Belleville trailer in a movie theater and was intrigued — I wound up loving it. Completely original storyline and great music, as well as ingenious animation. When I heard that Sylvain Chomet had made another animated film, I was eager to see the new work, l’Illusioniste.
I admit, my expectations were enormous. I so enjoyed Triplets and Chomet’s short film in Paris, Je t’aime, that I just knew that The Illusionist would be great.
And it was. Thoroughly detailed, thoughtful story, wonderful animation. The story was quite simple, of a traveling magician who develops a relationship with a young girl. The nature of the relationship remains fairly ambivalent, teetering between that of love interest and father/daughter, but I’ll let you decide for yourself. True to his signature, there is almost no dialog in the film, and it instead asks its viewers to pay attention to context and emotions to determine the plot. A film that uses a mix of French and English when there are spoken words remains very easy to decipher.
My one complaint with the film was its pacing — the plot was a little too focused on the passage of the days, and therefore, it seemed to drag, even at a sparse 84 minutes. The nature of the tale is to be quiet and splendid, but the pacing would bore even the most patient of cinephiles.
All in all, I’d like to see it again (not in the theater) to digest further. And a film like this certainly merits a second viewing.
Posted in animation, french stuff, movies are the best, reviews | Leave a comment

>Quiche…the answer to leftovers


I know that we all have leftovers that go over, or vegetables that have had a few too many days of hanging out in the fridge and are now less than stellar. Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t keep stuff past its safe to eat date, but sometimes that’s tough. That’s where the quiche comes in. A quiche is simply put, the best way to use a bit of this and a bit of that.

A quiche is sometimes best comprised of the most random items – for the quiche that I made for this post, I used about three mushrooms, a handful of spinach, half of a green pepper, a half cup of shredded cheddar, and salt and pepper. Some other interesting things would have been cooked bacon, a different cheese (gouda sounds good), turkey sausage, kale, red peppers, tomatoes, you get the idea.

So let’s make some quiche!

First, preheat that oven! 375 degree. You will need a pie crust – it can be store bought or homemade. Next, roll out the pie crust, poking holes with a fork to release the air as it bakes (believe me, you want to do this!). After the crust is all ready, crack 6-7 eggs into a large bowl with half a cup of milk, and beat together.

Mix in any ingredients that you would like (cook any meats prior to mixing into the eggs). Pour the mixture into the pie crust.

Bake for 45 minutes, until eggs are nice and fluffy. Serve warm or room temp. This quiche will serve about 6 people. Leftover quiche is great for work lunches and quick breakfasts throughout the week! Enjoy!

Posted in breakfast, brunch, eggs, lunch, pie, quiche | Leave a comment