San Diego Treats

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Rob and I went to San Diego last weekend for a wedding, so I did a lot of research and made a list of places to visit since we had never been. Of course my top priority was finding the best restaurants. Although we didn’t have time to try them all, we did have several scrumptious meals! San Diego has a fun culinary scene with a variety of fresh seafood and chic gastropubs. Gaslamp Quarter is full of trendy dining destinations and we also liked Little Italy, which has a bustling farmers’ market. We tend to stay within the $ to $$ range on Yelp, so the below restaurants are pretty affordable, but still delicious!

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My favorite restaurants + bars:

  • Prepkitchen. I knew this was going to be a great restaurant when I walked in and saw the rustic chic décor. We went on a Saturday afternoon when they were still serving brunch, so I ordered the chilaquiles made with chipotle braised chicken, avocado, onion, queso fresco and over-medium eggs. It had great flavor! My friend ordered the poppy seed pancakes topped with strawberries, rhubarb whipped cream and almond crumble – it was unreal! With the fluffy pancakes and flavorful toppings, she definitely had the best order. They also offer a self-serve coffee and scone bar (pictured above), which I thought was a cute idea.
  • Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill. Rob and I love watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, so we try to visit at least one of those restaurants when we go to a new city. Since we were in San Diego, we also wanted to take advantage of the fresh, local seafood. Blue Water did not disappoint! I loved the mini Calico Amber Ale beer-battered shrimp tacos. The portions are good-sized, too, so you definitely get your money’s worth.
  • Donut Bar. Before heading home we stopped for some sweet treats. The artisan doughnuts come in a variety of delicious flavors, such as salted caramel (pictured below), Nutella, red velvet and chocolate espresso. These doughnuts are HUGE. I thought they might be a little overpriced when I was looking up the flavors online, but these are at least three times as large as a typical grocery store cake doughnut. We were in a sugar coma on our drive home, but well worth it!
  • El Indio. This popular San Diego establishment catered the wedding, which made for a tasty fiesta! We enjoyed the mini chicken burritos, fish tacos and chips topped with guacamole. Next time we will try out the actual restaurant, too!
  • The Fish Market. After touring the USS Midway, we were starving and looking to grab some grub right on the harbor. We came across this waterfront restaurant and had a savory lunch while sitting in the sun. It was pretty crowded, but we found a table on the deck with an amazing view of the water. We loved the baked crab & artichoke dip and king crab BLT.
  • Werewolf. Before heading to the Padres game on the 4th of July we fueled up at this American pub with seared ahi soba noodles and some drinks. It’s a fun atmosphere with a great menu and within walking distance of the stadium.
  • Frost Me. While looking for some waterfront attractions I came across Seaport Village, which is full of shops, restaurants and entertainment. I saw that there was a gourmet cupcake shop that had been a champion on Cupcake Wars, so I immediately added it to our to-do list. Located in the heart of the bustling village, the bakery has a long list of classic and specialty flavors. I tried mocha (pictured below), which was made with chocolate cake topped with a layer of chocolate ganache, espresso frosting and crushed espresso beans – delicious!
  • Noble Experiment. This chic speakeasy is hidden inside Neighborhood, a gastropub located in Gaslamp. To get in you have to text a number to make reservation. Luckily, they were able to squeeze the eight of us in last-minute. After you walk through the secret entrance, you’ll find an intimate bar where they specialize in craft cocktails. I didn’t know what I wanted, so I told the bartender I liked wine. He made a delicious drink with fortified wine and strawberries. It was exactly what I wanted without even knowing.
  • Taste and Thirst. This restaurant is divided into a bar and an eating area (hence taste AND thirst). When we stopped by, they were offering a 4th of July special, which was half off of all drinks. We are always down for a cheap drink! It’s a casual atmosphere with a tasty menu – hello, truffle fries!
  • Shiku sushi. Located in the heart of La Jolla, this tasty sushi restaurant has fresh seafood and unique rolls – we loved the soft shell crab. It was the perfect post-kayaking lunch.
  • South Beach Bar & Grille. Great food and great deals! We enjoyed the Taco Tuesday specials – all tacos were $2.75 and much larger than I expected for that price. Great surfside dining!

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Do you have any suggestions on where to eat next time? Let me know :)

 

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Easter Coconut Cupcakes

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How is Easter already in three weeks? I feel like it was just yesterday that the grocery store was full of Valentine’s Day treats, but I do love seeing aisles full of jelly beans and chocolate bunnies. The mini Cadbury chocolate eggs are one of my favorite Easter candies, so I decided to make some coconut cupcakes topped with the pretty, pastel sweet.

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup canned light coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2 tsp. coconut extract
  • 18.25 oz. box white cake mix
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut flakes

For the frosting + topping

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. coconut extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 bag Cadbury mini chocolate eggs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line cupcake tins and set aside (makes 24 cupcakes).
  2. For the cupcakes: In a large bowl, combine egg whites, coconut milk, apple sauce and coconut extract. Add cake mix and stir until combined. Pour batter into prepared cupcake tins and bake for 20-22 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool before frosting.
  3. For the frosting: In a medium bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together cream cheese and butter, until smooth and fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar, alternating with heavy cream. Add coconut and vanilla extract. Continue beating until mixture is smooth and spreadable. Add more powdered sugar if it is too thin or heavy cream if it is too thick.
  4. Frost each cooled cupcake and then sprinkle with shredded coconut. Top with three Cadbury eggs.

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Pinterest Picks

When I have blogger’s block, I look to Pinterest for inspiration. Whether it’s a DIY project or a recipe for brownies baked in a mason jar, it never disappoints. The only problem is that I don’t have enough time to try everything! Here are some of my favorite pins, which I hope to try in the future or just get my creative juices flowing.

ed0745184fca51ef0542a8b946975e8dThere are three things I love about this outfit from Happily Grey. First, the studded accessories. The statement necklace is subtle and blends perfectly with the leopard-print shirt, which brings me to the second thing I love – the trendy tee. The pattern looks classy, not cheap or trashy. Finally, I love the pop of color the blue clutch brings to the outfit. I would never think of pairing the royal blue color with this look, but it’s such a fun addition! My new style goal is to add an unexpected pop of color to an otherwise neutral outfit.

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I have an unhealthy obsession with cupcakes. These twinkling treats from Stay At Home Chic make me want to bake up a storm. The polka dot wrappers and ruffled-edge cake stand are adorable!

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Gorgeous nails! I love the nude base with gold tips and one nail with glitter! It’s simple, shimmery and stylish!

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With the holidays coming up, these handmade mugs would make for great gifts! There’s nothing like a cup of peppermint hot chocolate, a cozy blanket and Christmas lights to get you into the holiday spirit! Check out Wit and Whistle for the full tutorial.

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I love dogs, especially labs, so I could scroll through the puppy pages for hours. All of the adorable photos make me miss my two dogs at home in Washington. There’s nothing like a goofy, loving pup to brighten your day!

Happy Pinning!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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I’ll admit it. I cheated. But I couldn’t resist this cupcake mix from Williams-Sonoma! My friends know that I love cupcakes, baking and pumpkin, so this was one of the best birthday presents that I received last year! I finally got around to making them (51 weeks later…), but it was worth the wait! These cupcakes taste homemade, which is the ultimate compliment for a boxed mix. The moist and fluffy cupcakes are so flavorful and pair perfectly with the suggested recipe for cream cheese frosting. The classic fall flavor can’t be beat.

20131014-204315.jpgI also found these adorable cupcake liners at Home Goods, which are cute and functional! What’s really cool about them is that they are sturdy enough to fill with batter and cook on a cookie sheet instead of a muffin pan, which can be messy and overflow making it hard to get the cupcakes out. Plus the pink chevron and scalloped edges are so fun – looks like a sweet treat from a retro bakery!

Below is the recipe for cream cheese frosting from the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the butter and beat for 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth and no lumps of sugar are visible. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Is today my birthday?! No, but it might as well be because its National Cupcake Day! In honor of this glorious day, I want to share this recipe for banana chocolate chip cupcakes with chocolate frosting. Is it a muffin? Is it a cake? It’s a little bit of both.

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Ingredients:

For the cupcake:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup mashed banana (1 large, very ripe banana)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For the frosting: 

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted

For decorative banana chip:

  • 1/2 of a banana, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil

How to:

For the cupcakes: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin pan with baking cups.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium-sized mixing bowl. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat butter at medium-high speed for 3 minutes or until pale and creamy. Gradually add sugar 1/3 cup at a time. Beat for one minute in between each addition. Mix in eggs and mashed banana. Scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure it is all blended.
  4. In a small bowl, stir buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Then, alternating with the flour mixture, add to butter mixture while mixing on low speed. Gently fold chocolate chips into batter.
  5. Fill baking cups 2/3 full. Makes about 16 cupcakes.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until fully cooked and toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool on wire rack until room temperature.

For the frosting: (recipe from KitchenAid instructions and recipe book)

  • Place butter in bowl of mixer. With flat beater attached, turn to speed 4 and beat for 1 1/2 minutes, until creamy. Stop and scrape bowl with spatula.
  • Add corn syrup and mix on speed 2 and mix well. Stop and scrape bowl.
  • Turn to Stir Speed (1 or 2?) and gradually add powdered sugar until blended. Turn to speed 4 and beat for one minute. Stop and scrape bowl. Turn to speed 2 and slowly add melted chocolate. Mix for 1 1/2 minutes. Stop and scrape bowl. Mix on speed 4 for one minute.
  • Since I didn’t have any pastry bags, I made my own using a ZipLock bag. Spoon frosting into bag, then cut small corner. Frost away :)

For the decorative banana chip:

  • Heat oil in pan over medium heat.
  • Create one layer of banana slices.
  • Flip when bottom starts turning golden brown.
  • When done, place on paper towel to soak up extra oil.
  • Place on top of frosted cupcake.
  • Enjoy!

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Happy Watermelon Day!

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In honor of this holiday (and summer in general) I wanted to share some of my favorite watermelon recipes! Sliced or cubed isn’t the only way to eat this classic summer treat. For example, I’ve made watermelon ice cubes to add add a festive twist to lemonade. Here are some other creative ideas from fellow bloggers that use this refreshing fruit.

Margarita Watermelon Cupcakes from Cooking with Curls.

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Watermelon Cheesecake from  Culinary Concoctions by Peabody.

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Watermelon Feta Bites from Yummy Mummy Kitchen.

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Watermelon Margarita Granitas from Brit + Co.

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Sweet Treats in Sin City

I was sad to say goodbye to my favorite bakeries in Seattle. Seeing Facebook posts about new flavors at Trophy makes me miss my hometown. Thankfully, I found a cute and delicious bakery here in Vegas to satisfy my cupcake cravings!

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Below is the “Happy Birthday” flavor. It’s confetti cake with vanilla buttercream. It was very sweet and flavorful! I also love how colorful it is!

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The more chocolate the better, so I had to try the “Chocolate Fountain,” which is chocolate cake topped with a chocolate buttercream ad dipped in chocolate ganache. It definitely satisfied my chocolate craving.

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Click here to check out more of Retro Bakery’s flavors. Next on my list to try is coffee & donuts, red carpet and cherry cheesecake!