Watermelon Salad With Goat Cheese And Pistachios Inspired By Crate & Barrel Towel

It's Monday! Are you ready for something sweet, savory, spicy and utterly delicious!? Then you must make my Watermelon Salad With Goat Cheese And Pistachios. This salad started with an adorable watermelon towel I bought at Crate & Barrel {no, this is not a sponsored post: I simply love that store and have too many of their items in my condo!}.

Once I purchased the towel yesterday, my typical watermelon craving kicked into a higher gear! So, I went to the store and picked up a wedge of watermelon {a large watermelon is too heavy to carry home} and a few other random items: pistachios and cilantro.

Once home, I was going to eat watermelon as is, but then decided to make a salad. This is similar to the popular watermelon, feta and basil salad, but I used goat cheese and cilantro and added a few other fun ingredients.

Watermelon Salad With Goat Cheese And Pistachios Salad

Ingredients {decide on your own quantities!}
watermelon cubes
crumbled goat cheese
pistachios {I used these and they are incredibly addictive!}
olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients. Eat. {For the sake of photos, I made a composed salad by layering ingredients.}

The sweetness of the watermelon was a great contrast to the creamy slightly salty goat cheese, crunchy pistachios and the lemony notes of sumac. This would be incredible on a hot summer day!

By the way, did you notice my photos becoming blurry? I recently stopped using a tripod and it appears that it was a mistake ;(


What To Do With Extra Matza Crackers: Matza Brei Meets Fried Rice

Passover is over. Did you celebrate? My friend Cindy brought over a box of matza and a container of harosetz for me, so that was basically the extent of my celebration. That, and matzo ball soup.

For days I was thinking about what to make with leftover matza crackers. In the past I've made matza brei, and it was really good, but I did not want to make the same thing again. That's when a crazy idea came to me: what if I make fried rice, but use matza crackers instead of rice?

Crazy or brilliant!?

DISCLAIMER: this recipe is not Kosher

What To Do With Extra Matza Crackers: Matza Brei Meets Fried Rice
Ingredients for 1-2 portions

1 Chinese pork sausage, diced
olive oil as needed
2 matza crackers, broken into pieces
2 eggs, whisked with a bit of salt
1/3 cup defrosted peas
1/3 cup kimchi
soy sauce to taste
sriracha to taste
black sesame seeds to garnish

1. Heat a skillet. Saute Chinese sausage till it is cooked through. Remove from the skillet.
2. If needed, add a drizzle of oil to the skillet.
3. Add matza crackers to whisked eggs and then add to the skillet. Saute, breaking into pieces, until matza pieces are cooked through and crispy.
4. Add back the Chinese sausage, peas and kimchi and heat through.
5. Season with soy sauce and sriracha and serve topped with sesame seeds.

This was pretty awesome! If you have fresh herbs, add them in the end. This is definitely a messy dish, but who cares!? Life is messy.

Eat this dish immediately.


Meatless Monday: Pinch Of Yum's Soba Noodles In Black Pepper Sauce With Tofu & Vegetables

If you are following the Meatless Monday movement, I have your dinner tonight planned out for you. You can get the Soba Noodles in Pepper Sauce With Tofu and Vegetables done in about 30 minutes and have plenty of leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

My friend at work told me about the soba noodles she made from Pinch Of Yum, and I thought the recipe sounded flavorful and easy to make and printed it out a few weeks ago. I finally made the dish yesterday with a few changes. THIS is the original recipe. I'm not going to retype it because I followed it pretty closely. Instead, I'll tell you the changes I made and my thoughts on the final product.

Instead of using spinach, I sautéed sliced red pepper and pencil-thin asparagus to add to the dish once the soba noodles were cooked.

The sauce is made with ginger, garlic, honey, mirin, soy sauce, ground black peppercorns, and cornstarch. If I were to make it again, I'd add less honey and mirin. Also, my friend who made the recipe said she skipped the cornstarch and the result wasn't as sticky and gloopy as mine. This may be a good idea!

You basically sauté cubed firm tofu in a bit of sesame oil and then add a spoon full of the sauce. Then you sauté the barely cooked soba noodles in a bit more oil and add the rest of the sauce to cook the noodles until they are soft.

That's when you add back the tofu and the vegetables and garnish the whole dish with sesame seeds: I used black and white.

My thoughts: this dish definitely gets better after a night in the fridge. I ate the leftovers cold for lunch today and liked them better that way. If you are going to make it, I recommend mincing garlic and ginger and adding them to the sauce that way instead of adding all the sauce ingredients to a food processor.

Also, fresh herbs such as basil or cilantro would brighten up this dish as would fresh lime juice.

Have you cooked with soba noodles? How do you use them?

Also, I mistakenly bought a bottle of mirin because I did not realize I already had a bottle at home: what other dishes can I make that will use mirin?


Too Much Food, Not Enough Time! Best Bites: San Francisco Trip Highlights

Hi, all! It's almost the weekend! Do you have any fun plans? I am planning to maybe finally unpack from my birthday trip to San Francisco. Yes, it's been two weeks already...I'm a slacker. Above is a photo of me (on the left) and Anna.

If you haven't yet, make sure to read my recap of Muir Woods & Wine Country day trip and all the other things we did/saw while in San Francisco.

Today I'd like to mention some of my favorite bites from the trip. Let me just say that there wasn't enough time to eat everywhere we wanted.

Anna and I met at the airport at 1 pm, took BART to our hotel room, checked in, fixed our make up and headed out to the Ferry Building in search of food. Amazingly (for us!) we agreed on a place for our late lunch within a few minutes: Hog Island Oyster Company. It was the perfect start to our birthday getaway: sitting outside, eating fresh oysters, thinly sliced halibut and a big pot of mussels with fries!

We then strolled through the Ferry Building and shared two flavors of Humphrey Slocombe ice cream. Thanks for this recommendation Sangeetha and Naomi!

The next night we took MUNI to the Mission district to meet our friend Laura for dinner at Pizzeria Delfina. The place was packed and we had to wait outside in the cool evening, but it was worth it.

We started our dinner with a bottle of wine, roasted olives and a super creamy burrata with grilled bread. There were hardly any crumbs left on the plate.

Because the pizza we chose was vegetarian, I had a huge craving for meatballs when I saw them listed on the menu. And let me tell you: those were some huge and tasty meatballs ;)

The pizza was plenty big for the three of us and had a great amount of mushrooms and cheese. There was definitely no room for dessert.

Brunch on Saturday was an accident. A happy accident. Anna and I went back to Mission to check out one of the places on my list, but Anna deemed it more of a café and not a brunch place. She was right. Luckily, her friend Laura texted and suggested we go to Foreign Cinema. As luck had it, we were within a 10 minute walk and stood in line for another 10 minutes before the place opened for brunch.

It was GORGEOUS inside. High ceilings, exposed walls, tall flower arrangements. And they had the exact dish that I wanted and described to Anna while standing in line.

First, drinks! This was a spicy Bloody Mary with pickled vegetables. A healthy way to start the day, yes?

This was pretty much the dish I described waiting in line as my dreamy brunch entrée without even seeing the menu: poached eggs, slow-cooked pork, plantain chips and salsa. And watermelon radishes! We devoured this.

For dinner that night we met two friends: one was our classmate from Russia who I haven't seen in 23 (!!!!!) years. Another was my friend Sara with whom I've been friends for 6 years but this was the first time we met in person. We had a fabulous time at Kin Khao. Apologies for no food photos, but please get their beef cheek curry with potatoes and their incredibly spicy squid dish. Again, great recommendation from Sangeetha and Naomi.

with Sara

with Anna and Lena

Sunday was our birthday! We turned 27!!! {well, maybe that's a lie} We met up with our two friends: Laura and Laura for dim sum at Lai Hong Lounge. If you go, be ready for a wait of over an hour!!! Good thing Anna and I had an earlier breakfast or I would have fainted.

Waiting with my friend Laura whom I've known for 14 years!!!

No photos of the actual food because we were too busy eating. Although this place did not have the typical dim sum carts, the food was spot on. We had several orders of shu mai, shrimp and onion dumplings, pork buns, eggplant and broccolini. It was a feast!

After a walk, ice cream, and a boat cruise and before taking a night bus tour of San Francisco, I forced Anna to stop at In-N-Out. I don't think either one of us regretted that decision! Animal style, baby!

For a super late dinner (after drink at The View) we went to Bluestem Brasserie. The highlight was a chocolate dessert with ice cream and cherries. I had to stop myself from licking the bowl!

If you are planning on traveling to San Francisco any time soon, I highly recommend you check out these places!


Things To Do and See: San Francisco Trip Highlights

If you read my post from last week on Muir Woods & Wine Country, you know that I spent my birthday with my twin in San Francisco. No, it was not a press trip (I know some of you have wondered about this). We paid for our airfare, hotel and all the food. Luckily, however, we got a few awesome freebies from San Francisco Travel which enabled us to take Muni, Trolley Car, a night tour of the city and do a few more fun things free of charge!

Whenever I travel, I always gather information of where to go, what to eat, etc on twitter, various blogs and also visit the tourism board for that city. This can be sometimes overwhelming as there's so much information, but that's the only way to make sure you don't miss out on something fun.

Thank you San Francisco Travel for these gifts! I wish we had more time to take full advantage of them.

            San Francisco CityPASS ticket booklets (www.citypass.com)

·         7-Day, unlimited-use Cable Car and Muni transportation passport www.sfmuni.com
·         California Academy of Sciences www.calacademy.org
·         Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure www.blueandgoldfleet.com
·         Aquarium of the Bay www.aquariumofthebay.com OR Monterey Bay Aquarium                 www.montereybayaquarium.org
·         Exploratorium www.exploratorium.edu OR de Young Museum and Legion of Honor                 www.famsf.org/legion/index.asp 
Go San Francisco Cards (valued at $57.99): your admission ticket to more than 30 top Bay Area attractions. This pass is valid for one full day of sightseeing from 9:00 am – 5:30 pm. Visit as many attractions as you like during this time. For more information, check out www.SmartDestinations.com/sanfrancisco
City Sightseeing Press Passes (valued at $49.99), which offers four different open-top routes showcasing the city’s most popular attractions www.city-sightseeing.us
Below are the highlights of what Anna and I did:
Conservatory of Flowers: you know there was no way I was going to miss that! I was in an orchid bliss!

De Young Museum: time for a coffee break before all the art!


These are the views from the top of the museum: we got incredibly lucky with the weather.

On our actual birthday Anna and I took a boat ride on AdventureCat with my friend Laura. We had such a fun time! It's always great to see a city from a new perspective and to be on the water.

One of the highlights for me was taking a night tour of San Francisco. Of course at 6 pm it was still pretty light out, but I loved hearing the stories about San Francisco and seeing the city from the top of the double-decker bus! I also had to buy a sweatshirt because I was freezing!

On our last day, Anna and I took a quick ride on the trolley, just to check it off our list of things to do ;)

Stay tuned for one more post about all the food we ate!

Disclosure: I received free passes as described above but was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.


Day Trip To Muir Woods & Wine Country: San Francisco Trip Highlights

At the beginning of each year, Anna and I start thinking about our birthday vacation. Since we are twins, we always try to spend our birthday together. In the past, we've celebrated in Chicago, Dallas, DC, on a Caribbean cruise and in Puerto Rico, just to name a few places.

Last year we spent our birthday in Minneapolis. Yes, it was quite cold, but we had a great time nonetheless. This year, we opted for something warmer: San Francisco! This was Anna's 3rd time and my 4th time in the lovely city. I was able to find a direct flight and Anna found us a hotel on Priceline. Then it was time to start planning all the meals and outings, not to mention play dates with our friends who live in San Francisco!

Even though I'm quite good at planning, sometimes it's good to give that task to someone else. That's where the lovely people from Viator came in.

"Our team of travel insiders is obsessed with finding the best things to do everywhere we travel. From Paris to Phuket to Perth, from traditional tours to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, we have something for every kind of traveler. And we are proud to say that after 17 experience-packed years, we are the world leader. "
Anna and I were Viator's guests on their Muir Woods and Wine Country Tour operated by Extranomical Tours. If you want to let someone else do all the planning, this is the way to spend a wonderful day!
We got picked up right at our hotel. No need to rent a car. No need to worry about getting lost. No need to worry about driving through San Francisco fog. Plus, we got a funny tour guide who kept the entire bus entertained with stories about San Francisco and its inhabitants. The drive to the Muir Woods was slightly terrifying at times (especially when we could not see the bridge through the fog), but absolutely peaceful and beautiful. The views of the water with the boats and the houses that cost well over 2 million could not be beat...or could it?
You know I'm a city girl, but even this city girl gets mesmerized by nature once in a while.
The photos below are from our 1 hour walk through the Muir Woods. Because we got to the woods relatively early, we weren't surrounded by too many tourists and weren't too hot. It was pretty perfect.

I made a friend and didn't want to let him go!!!

After the Muir Woods, we got back onto the bus and were driven around three wineries in Sonoma and Napa. Of course we stopped at each winery for wine tasting (included in the price of the tour)! Here's where having a designated driver comes in handy!

Our first stop was at the Mayo winery. I want to marry into this family ;) Not only do I love mayo (mayonnaise), but this is a small family business full of passionate people who love wine!

Then it was time for lunch at the center of Sonoma. Alas we did not have enough time for both food and shopping, so food won out.

Then it was back on the tour bus and onto our second winery: Madonna Estate. I should remember the wines, but the scenery was more impressive!

I was surprisingly not really tipsy at that point {if you know me, you know I'm light weight when it comes to alcohol} and looking forward to the third winery: Cline.  After four tastes, I wondered around the estate for a bit snapping photos before it was time to get back on the bus and head back.

On the way back to San Francisco, we stopped for a photo opp with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. It was absolutely perfect!

I would highly recommend Viator for you when you are traveling and want to put a bit of planning into someone else's hands!

Thank you Viotar and Extranomical for such a magical day.

Stay tuned for 2 more posts about our birthday trip to San Francisco and make sure to check out my instagram for more photos using #SFTwinBdayTrip.

Disclosure: I received two free passes for this tour but was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own. All other travel accommodations were paid by Anna and me.