Wanderlust Wednesday: Venice Beach

I want to change things up a little bit here at Eat Play Chicago LA. Instead of writing a blog post about the very beautiful Venice Beach, I decided to make a little photo montage. Instead of writing about the uniqueness of Venice Beach , and describing the different kinds of people from different walks of life that visit, I wanted to show in video format instead. I paired my video with a funky background music that I think will set the tone of the whole scene. Please enjoy!

-Jaja (@theforevertourist)

Wanderlust Wednesday: California Missions Series: #7 Mission San Juan Capistrano

Today, we feature the 7th California Mission: Mission San Juan Capistrano

 

Hello everyone! For the second mission in this series, I’m going to share my trip to Mission San Juan Capistrano, about 60 miles south of Los Angeles. Located in 26801 Ortega Hwy., San Juan Capistrano, CA., this mission is the 7th mission built by the Spaniards, and 19th mission geographically from the north.

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The mission was founded in November 01, 1776. It will celebrate its 240th year in Nov 1, 2016. It was named after Italian saint, St. Giovanni da Capistrano. San Juan Capistrano is also home to the oldest building in California still being used today – Father Serra’s Church built in 1782. Serra established 9 missions and The goal of the mission was to be self-sufficient, that is why livelihood was taught. Farming was the main industry, and animals were raised as well.

Mission San Juan Capistrano is known all over the world for the legend of the return of the Cliff Swallows, told by Father O’Sullivan from the 1920s. Every year, the mission celebrates the legend on Swallows Day on March 19th.

Here is an excerpt of the story of the Cliff Swallows from Chapter 10 of Capistrano Nights: Tales of a Mission Town.

“One day several years ago,” He said (Father O’Sullvian), “I was passing the new hotel at the west side of the town plaza, and there was the proprietor out with a long pole smashing the swallows’ nest that were under the eaves. The poor birds were in a terrible panic, darting hither and thither flying and screaming about their demolished homes.

“What in the world are you doing,” I asked.

“Why,” said he, “these dirty birds are a nuisance, and I am getting rid of them.”

“But where can they go?” I continued.

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” He replied slashing away with his pole, “but they’ve no business here, destroying my property.”

“Then come on swallows,” I cried, “I’ll give you shelter. Come to the Mission, there is room enough there for all.”

“Sure enough they all took me at my word, and the very next morning they were busy building under the newly built sacristy of Father Serra’s church.

(Credit: Website)

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Entrance to the Sacred Garden
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The four Mission Bells

 

 

Bells were crucial to everyday life at the mission. They signal meal times, start of work and religious services, births, funerals, etc. Fun fact: These four bells were all named. Biggest to smallest: San Vicente, San Juan, San Antonio, San Rafael. Not everyone can ring the bells at the mission. Only a privileged and chosen few were assigned this task. On this bell wall, the two smaller ones are still the original ones used from the past. The two larger bells are replicas of the original bells. The two bells fell and cracked when it fell from the 1812 earthquake.

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These two large bells hanging low are the original of the large bells. Since its restoration after the earthquake damage, neither gave out clear tones. They currently sit at the footprint of the ruined bell tower.

img_6206Pictured is an area inside Serra’s Chapel, also known as Father Serra’s Church. This chapel is the only existing structure to date where it has been documented that Father Serra celebrated mass.

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The mission desperately needed a bigger church for everyone that lived at the mission. For ten years, they used the adobe chapel and it no longer served the purpose as there was not enough space. It took nine years to complete the Great Stone Church. But sadly, only six short years after its completion, the tragic earthquake on December 08, 1812 fell to shambles, killing 40 people that attended mass that tragic day. The church was never rebuilt, the priests made no attempt at rebuilding and the ruins from then on served as a symbol to remember the loss of their community.

 

Each mission has their own rich history, their own personality, and that makes me certain that as I go through visiting each one of them, I know that it will really be a learning and enjoyable experience. As much as I enjoy capturing the beautiful scenery of the missions, I also enjoy the reading and the research that I do, because I learn more about their rich history and all the fun facts in between. Go visit a California Mission today and tell us about it!

-Jaja (IG: @theforevertourist)

Resources: Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission San Juan Capistrano,

Meal Prep Monday: Grilled Balsamic Skirt Steak & Grilled Marinated Vegetables

“Meal prep can still be done when short on time, just have the marinade do the work for you.”

I’ve been running short on time lately, and sometimes I don’t have all the time to get my meals ready for the week.  When I have days like that, I turn to marinades, because they do the work for me.

I find that either skirt steak or rib eye can work with this recipe.

After gathering all the ingredients, place in the zip-top plastic bag.  Add the steak and turn the steak(s) within the bag to ensure that the marinade completely coats the meat.

Depending on the thickness of the steak, I have left it in the marinade overnight in the refrigerator.  After having it in the refrigerator, be sure to leave it out for at least 20 to 30 minutes before grilling.

Time to grill!  This can be done with your outdoor grill, or indoors using a grill pan. Just 2 to 3 minutes on each side (or until preferred temperature will do!)

When done, tent with foil and let stand for 5 minutes.  Slice steak into strips.

For the vegetables, I turned to Trader Joe’s and got this:

According to the directions, they can be defrosted in either the refrigerator or in the microwave.  When done, pair with steak in container.

My mouth is already watering over this!  I hope you have a chance to make this for yourselves!  Have a great week!

-Maeven

Recipe: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/grilled-balsamic-skirt-steak

Meal Prep Monday: Smoked Salmon Wraps and White Bean Stew with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes

“This week I ended up with a LOT more tomatoes than I usually get. I wanted to find a dish that would allow me to utilize them…”

This week I ended up with a LOT more tomatoes than I usually get.  I wanted to find a dish that would allow me to utilize them and not have them go to waste.  I substituted them for the canned diced tomatoes in the recipe (link below).

First I cleaned and prepped my ingredients.  I am a big fan of “Worst Cooks of America” on Food Network.  Not only does it bring up my self-esteem when compared to the contestants during the first week or so of the show, but the chefs show them some techniques to slicing, dicing and mise en place.

First, I wilted the chard in a saucepan.  Once that was done, I drained the water, squeezing as much of it out of the leaves.

Then, in another saucepan, I heated up the oil.  Once it was warmed, I added the garlic, red pepper, and sautéed them until the garlic was browned.  Next, I added my tomatoes, followed by the beans.  After letting the mixture stew for several minutes, I put in the cooked chard and mixed them together. Season to taste.

Next, I started on the wraps.  Of course, I got my ingredients ready.

I forgot about the cucumbers for the recipe, but I did get my hands on some pea shoots, so I used those instead.  Start with the tortilla and smear it with cream cheese.  Next, add the smoked salmon.  For the herbs, I used sliced shallots and dill.  Lastly, I added the pea shoots.

It reminds me of a pizza!

Roll it up and slice it into fourths.

I packaged them separately as I plan to reheat the stew, and the wrap is intended to stay cold.  

Enjoy!

-Maeven

Smoked Salmon Wraps: http://ohmydish.com/recipe/smoked-salmon-wraps/

White Bean Stew: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/quick-white-bean-stew-swiss-chard-and-tomatoes

Sunday Instagram Round-up (Week 1)

Every Sunday, we want to share with our blog community the photos that made the cut on our Instagram feed. You can also follow us at @eatplaychicagola.

Good morning, everyone! It’s been a week and a half since Eat Play Chicago LA went live, and together with Justine and Maeven, we just want to say thank you thank you THANK YOU to everyone who’s been stopping by our blog, Twitter, and Instagram. We truly whole-heartedly appreciate your support.

Every Sunday, we want to share with our blog community the photos that made the cut on our Instagram feed. You can also follow us @eatplaychicagola.

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Thin crust, brick-oven pizza from Big Chef Burgers
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View of the city from the rooftop of Griffith Observatory
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Black sesame soft serve ice cream from ReLeaf
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Refreshing cold drinks while chilling at Newport Beach
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J. Paul Getty Center is a perfect way to spend your day, from exploring the exhibits to laying on the grass outside.
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Asparagus, portabello eggs benedict w/ breakfast potatoes from Brunch Cafe.
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Something different from Jamba Juice: Strawberry-peanut butter-banana smoothie bowl.

Check out our blog and IG for more of our food and travel adventures! (All places and food information can be found on the Eat and Play categories under the Directory menu)

-Jaja

Wanderlust Wednesday: Newport Beach

Good morning everyone! Welcome to Eat Play Chicago LA’s Wanderlust Wednesday, where we share with you places we’ve been to or places we wish to visit. Today, I want to show you my favorite place to go to when I want to spend some quiet alone time here in California.

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Good morning everyone! Welcome to Eat Play Chicago LA’s Wanderlust Wednesday, where we share with you places we’ve been to or places we wish to visit. Today, I want to show you my favorite place to go to when I want to spend some quiet alone time here in California.

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If you want to catch the sunrise at the beach but would rather avoid the crowd, Newport Beach Pier is the best place to go. To get there, head south of Balboa boulevard and make a left on 21st street. There is plenty of metered parking inside the area and along the boulevard, but I suggest getting there as early as you can to get a good spot. Most of the restaurants and shops are found on the main road, that is why this beach (compared to other tourist-friendly beaches) is not as crowded. Most of the people tend to occupy the shore to the right of the pier early in the morning, since there are gift and rental shops and restaurants on that side. Parking is also located on that side, so it’s more convenient for people to stay in that area.To the left of the pier is where you can find residential and rental properties. It tends to be more quiet here early in the morning. This is where I usually go to lay out my chair and beach blanket.

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My favorite part is the feeling of community in Newport Beach Pier. Almost all the surfers who frequent that place know each other. I see them greeting each other as they put on their wet suits, yelling across parking spaces and talking about their surf boards. Even the owner and employees of Seaside Donut Bakery know their customers.

My little tradition whenever I drive there before the sun is up is to grab coffee and donuts at the bakery and walk halfway up the pier to my favorite bench spot. There, I sit down and listen to the waves and the birds and enjoy the peace, the quiet, and the calm while I wait to see the sun.

If you want to do some fishing, you can do so right here at the pier. Even before the sun is up, you see fishing poles lined up towards the end of the pier, and the people engaging in conversation while they wait for a catch.

Once the sun is fully up, I go back to my car and grab my chair and blanket so I can pick a spot right along the shore to the left of the pier. Once situated, I dig my feet in the sand, and just spend the rest of my time there people-watching, smiling at all the cute dogs passing by, and reading a book.

I want to share something really cool that I saw when I was there. There was a group of people (a family, maybe?) that were doing sand art just right below the pier. I thought it was so cool and interesting that I went ahead and checked them out on Instagram. Low Tide Aliens (IG: @lowtidealiens) have been giving everyone a smile to whoever has come across their beautiful sand art in Newport Beach.

Check out their art of the day!

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The last time I was here this statue was still being erected. I also noticed that the lifeguard station was named after him. Ben Carlson was a 32-year old Newport Beach lifeguard who drowned during a rescue in 2014. Click here for more information about his story.

Personally, I have never invited a lot of people here during my sunrise trips. But overall, I would definitely recommend going to Newport if you want to go to the beach but want to avoid the crowd.

-Jaja (IG: @theforevertourist)

 

 

Meal Prep Monday: Moussaka-Inspired Pasta

Welcome to my inaugural post for Monday’s weekly meal prep!

Welcome to my inaugural post for Monday’s weekly meal prep!  Full disclosure:  I’m not a trained chef or nutritionist.  However, I do like meals that are not only healthy, but aesthetically pleasing (read: pretty) as well.  (I also like meals that are not-so-healthy, but at least I am attempting to eat healthier!)  I do borrow recipes from books, online and word-of-mouth, and I will source my references.

Truthfully, I have not always meal-prepped for the week.  There will be weeks where I pack a lunch for work and other weeks I will just buy from wherever we end up at.  However, eating the same thing can be boring after a while, and eating out can get quite expensive.  Not to mention, different places may season their food differently than how you may like it.  I wanted to find a “happy medium” where I can have the food that I like each week and (1) not get tired of it; (2) it’s fairly affordable; and (3) it doesn’t take a lot of time.

I hope that, in reading/following this, you will also be inspired to come up with creative meals of your own (and there is nothing wrong with copying what I do either!) Do not be discouraged about cooking – it took me a while to get comfortable with it myself.  Luckily, with resources like Food Network, PBS, and You Tube, anyone would be able harness their “culinary skills.”

So thank you for reading this far, and let’s get started with our weekly meal prep!

When I was with Weight Watchers some years ago, there was a recipe that I liked called “Easy Moussaka” that used ground lamb in tomato sauce and paired with linguine.  I remember liking the recipe and I wanted to re-create it.  It may have been a recipe I got off the member portal for Weight Watchers, because I cannot find it anywhere in my recipe files or in my book collection. The recipe was more of a meat sauce on pasta rather than a casserole.  The closest I could find to the recipe that I remember is this: http://www.skinnykitchen.com/recipes/skinnyfabulous-moussaka-casserole/ but I left out the potatoes (because we have pasta), Alfredo sauce and feta cheese (though, I may experiment with that another time!)  Since I’m putting my spin on this recipe, I will go through it step-by-step.

I had rounded up and prepped all the ingredients as listed under “Ingredients under Moussaka,” minus potatoes.

Such a beautiful eggplant.  Too bad I have to slice it up!

It’s all about the mise en place.

I boiled water in a pot for the pasta.  You can use salt or olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking.

My coworker had mentioned that red lentil pasta had a lot of protein and tasted like actual spaghetti.  I’m a person who likes to try everything, at least, once.

Can you believe that this has 18 g of protein per serving?! Sign-me up!

While the water is heating up, I warmed the olive oil in a large, non-stick pan.  I added the onion and the garlic, and stirred them for a few minutes until golden.

Add the ground beef (lamb, or turkey, whichever you choose).  Cook until browned, for about 5 minutes.  Then drain fat, if needed.  Add the eggplant, oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper, then simmer.

Confession: I forgot to get the can of diced tomatoes (*gasp*).  I remember at some point, one of the many cooking shows had given alternatives, such as tomato paste.  So if you were wondering why I had tomato paste included in my mise en place that would be why.
See, I can be flexible!

Add the tomatoes (or tomato paste, in my case) and red wine (or you can use chicken stock, too).  Cook, uncovered, until liquid reduces for about a minute.

Getting back to the pasta…
Once the water comes to a boil, cook according to package directions (about 8 to 10 minutes).  Drain.

Divide pasta between the containers for the week.  Next to the pasta, I placed some steamed greens as my vegetable.  Top the pasta with the eggplant and meat sauce.  Pro tip: garnish with shaved parmesan.

There you have it.  I’m sorry we had to make a lot of substitutions from the original recipe.  Sometimes, with cooking, one has to be flexible and improvise.  I will try to find a recipe that we can stick to next time.  Thanks for reading and see you next week!
-Maeven