31-Cent Scoop Night at Baskin Robbins

Tonight, Wednesday April 28th, from 5pm until 10pm you can get $0.31 cent cones from Baskin Robbins! This event has been in my astrononomy calendar for a few weeks now and I'm stoked that it is finally here! 2.5 ounces of yummy ice cream that's been perfected since the 1940s (thank you sophomore year decades project). $100,000 of proceeds will go to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

All you need is a nickel, quarter, and penny! I'll be going there straight after work!

There are two locations within a 10 mile radius of the 93955 zipcode:
1. 1534d Freemont Blvd. Seaside, CA 93955
2. 406 Lighthouse Ave. Monterey, CA 93940

Casa de Fruta, Hollister

The Earth is about 24,867 miles wide. Do you want to know how I can make such a bold, but assured, claim? Well, it's because I drive by a Casa de Fruta (CdF) (10021 Pacheco Pass Highway, Hollister) billboard on my way to/from SJ/Monterey that tells me so. For years I have driven by that sign, many others, and the actual Casa collection along Route 152. Have I ever stopped? Nope. I blame my parents for wanting to get to Grandma & Grandpa's faster. Or maybe they knew what mecca lay within CdF's walls...

A while back I took a half day at work and drove down to Anaheim to visit Kerry, Fran, and Jacquelyn. For my own sanity, I decided to not stress about getting down there as fast as possible. This was my first time driving the back road between Monterey and Los Banos. Usually I have to drive from SJ to Gilroy, and then over Pacheco Pass to get to Highway 5.

Who knows if I was already getting antsy after 40 minutes of driving OR if my excuse that "I've been needing some bananas" OR if I could rationalize "I've never been, after all..." Nevertheless, I decided to pull of the road - boy am I glad I did! Casa de Fruta's namesake building was out of this world! This was, hands down, the best fruit stand I've ever been to!

When I walked in, I gawked at the sheer size of the place. You start in the fruit section. They feature the best apricots, peaches, plums, apples, dates, prunes, cherries, and berries from their own orchards. Lots of their fresh fruit is dried and prepared for either dried fruit snacks, dried fruit/nut gifts, or to be covered in chocolate MMM. Can you say chocolate covered raisins?

CdF also has a HUUUUGE selection of fresh garlic, fudge packs, jams, jellies, honey, and hot sauce. The picture above shows just one of the many shelves that feature these bottled goodies. I really wanted to buy a hot sauce, because that's just how I like things ;) But I didn't because the prices were kind of high. And, well, I am cheap sometimes. Next time I will probably buy one, perhaps Dave's Insanity Sauce? They also sell Mesquite Flour, which is gluten-free and high in fiber. Might grab some of that as well because it's supposed to add "an unbelievable flavor and aroma in all your baked goods."

According to their website, CdF is a "true American success story that blossomed from the roots of an immigrant Italian family. Since 1908 when the original ancestors planted the first orchards in the Pacheco Valley, CdF has grown into a diversified operation encompassing a variety of business ventures. In the 1940's three teenaged brothers... opened a cherry stand on the Pacheco Pass highway. Encouraged by their mother... the young entrepreneurs expanded their operation into what it is today."

My favorite part of this whole endeavor was the candy/chocolate section. They had rows and rows of amazingly delicious looking treats. Cheesecake, apple caramels, butter toffee pecans, pistachio brittle, you name it! Just take a look at those decadent chocolate covered strawberries!

I purchased some trail mix, chocolate covered raisins, mint malt balls (this was 3 days after I died in heaven over Carmel's Cottage of Sweets' peanut butter malt balls OH MYYYY), and a bundle of bananas. My calves were cramping up at night so I desperately needed to stock up on potassium for my Anaheim trip. TMI? Sorry... it was really painful though! (FYI: adding bananas to my diet, along with potassium and magnesium pills, fixed the calf cramps WAHOO)

There are even more buildings in this area. (Read more reviews here on Yelp.) There's a Casa de Coffee, Casa de Diesel, Casa de Choo-Choo, Casa de Sweets, Casa de Wine, and an RV park. The restrooms at the gas station are labeled Casa de Restrooms. They sure know how to roll with a theme!

I got back on the road, snacked on my goodies, pumped potassium into my system, and cranked up the road trip playlist (music courtesy of Nicole's recommendations). I definitely plan on stopping here the next time I roll through. I'll just give myself an extra half hour of drive time.


Holy Toledo! Cupcakes, Hurley, Blogging!

Step 1

Quickly wanted to write about something amazing that just happened. I was on my Google Reader (psst: I highly recommend you set yours up! There is so much internet content out there and if you hone it down to things you are interested in, like cupcakes, NASA, TV, iPhones, people you stalk, etc, you'll always be the first to know about things!) ..anyways... I was on my Google Reader and from my Cupcakes take the Cake feed, I saw their post about a new way to eat a cupcake: 

Step 2 - Rip off bottom
Step 3 - Bottom's up!
Step 4 - Sandwich!

Intrigued as to where Cupcakes take the Cake originally saw this, I followed a link to Dispatches from the Island, a blogspot. And GUESS WHAT... this blog belongs to Jorge Garcia! The actor who plays Hurley/Hugo on LOST!

OMG please keep up with my excitement. HUGO! CUPCAKES! SANDWICHES! reading, reading GOATS! HAWAII! TEAM JACOB! reading laughing WRONG TEAM JACOB!

I literally can't wait until I can read every single one of his posts! He likes to bake and seems so down to earth! I've already got a great tip from my good pal Jorge, use free hotel shower caps to cover your bread while rising. And look, he blogged about making paella. Well, we just have so much in common! Remember when I blogged about eating paella? Obviously we should be BFFs?


Shopping in Marina

Living in the Fort Ord boonies means I need to get creative and plan ahead when I want to buy gas or go grocery, clothes, or crafts shopping. The closest grocery store is the Commissary, which I can't even shop in because I am not in the military!
Only one Hwy 1 stop north of mine, there's this huge development with Best Buy, Kohl's, REI, Target, Michael's, and Bed Bath & Beyond. Michael's Arts & Crafts (121 General Stillwell Dr, Marina) is huge and has a terrific baking section. They sell a lot of Wilton products and have tons of cupcake liners, food coloring gels, fondants, gum pastes, you name it. I joined their online coupon email system, which is both good and bad. I'll save money, but also be tempted to walk in the store more often (and thus, spend more precious dollar$$). It's all for my future cupcake business' R&D though...

In the same complex is this humongous Target (133 General Stillwell Dr, Marina). I bought a new swimsuit the last time I went; clearance, $15 for both pieces... cutest thing ever. Ya'll will see it in Vegas. I also bought some discounted Easter sprinkles, a bright orange top that I can wear out and to work (booya!), some containers, gum, and presents for friends :) I really liked this Target. When I was growing up, my mom and I would always shop at the Target in Milpitas. Then, when I was about 13, we stopped shopping there and devoted ourselves to Macy's/Valley Fair/Safeway/Rite Aid. Target really is the one stop spot. Gotta give it more loving.

When I was making banana peanut butter cupcakes I desperately wanted to decorate them with banana runts. Do you know how hard it is to find a box of runts when you are looking for one? After checking both the Savemart and CVS Pharmacy in Marina, both failures, I decided to just check Walgreens (226 Reservation Rd, Marina) really quickly. This was my second time making a purchase in Walgreens\. The first time I bought cranberry juice, raisins, and pills! (After eating at Tico's with Nat & Sarah!) Welp, this time... LOOK!

They had Runts! Too bad I only needed the banana parts. Anyone want some Runts minus bananas?

Saturdayte DT San Jose

For my Dad's 50th birthday, family and friends got together at Black Angus (1011 Blossom Hill, San Jose). Balloons, streamers, fried appetizers, crab, and... cupcakes! What else do you people expect?

My dad's favorite candy bar is the 100 Grand: chocolate krispies outside with a caramel center. I developed my own take on it, in cupcake form: chocolate cupcake, cored, with a salted caramel filling, topped with a rice krispie treat wafer, adhered with caramel syrup.

My dad's ultimate pastime is billiards. Via one of the many cupcake blogs I follow, I saw a picture of someone's billiard ball cupcakes. I instantly knew I HAD to make these for my dad. Check out the result! So awesome :)

Nicole and Kyle both helped out so much. You've got to be patient with me when I'm in the baking zone. Nicole even said 'what do you want me to do because you know the plan and I don't' ... That was after I yelled just a little bit when the caramel mixture's temp went 5 degrees past 360 F. Glad they let me be slightly scatter-brained!

After dinner, Kyle and I went on a bit of a date. We drove to downtown San Jose and watched an improv comedy show called Comedy Sportz. It was in a tiny theater (35 seats maybe) within Camera 3's movie theater building (288 S. 2nd Street, San Jose). The two battling three-person teams were hilarious! (Read more about their shows on Yelp.)

There were about seven different rounds, each featuring an improv game. The winning team was determined by audience applause and awarded points. By the end of the show, the Blue Team won it all. I recognized a girl from the Red Team, so I had been mostly rooting for them to win. Turns out, she went to Joy of Dancing with me back in the day! Small world!

We paid the student price of $12/ticket ($3 off)

After that we walked over to the Fairmont (170 S. Market St, San Jose). Since December, I've wanted to dress up all snazzy, sit in the lounge, listen to the live music, and dance with my turkey-legged boyfriend. The "Lobby Lounge" redefines opulence (according to their website). Twist the night away with live music six days a week... Friday & Saturday from 9:00 pm until midnight: weekly scheduled bands playing jazz and pop dance hits.

I need to find a fall back drink. This one isn't it.
We ordered two drinks, a Cable Car for me and a Corona for him, and snacked on their Boca bar mix (you know, the kind with peanuts, pepitas, wasabi balls, pretzels). I was shocked at how many martini options they featured on their bar menu. OVER FIVE HUNDRED! Too bad I have that vodka aversion.... sigh.

When the band returned for their final set, Kyle and I took the dance floor and were put to shame by the older other dancing couples. They were so good! By the time I'm 65 I want to be able to dance like they were. Plus, one of the old ladies was channeling Lady GaGa - she wore the craziest multi-tiered bow/headband/top hat type thing.

Location:San Jose, CA

Backseat, let's go Sharks!

Backseat of Jeremy's "sweet ride" - smells like Patxi's pizza.

Going to Darrin's to watch the third Sharks game in their series battling the Avalanche. Let's win it!!

Location:Bayshore Fwy,San Mateo,United States


Red Velvet Pancakes for dinner

It started out with this:

That's all I needed to change my dinner plans from stir-fry to RED VELVET PANCAKES! Over Easter weekend I bought a new bottle of white vinegar and a tin of baking cocoa. I've been anxiously awaiting my next red velvet cupcake adventure. Looks like pancakes take the cupcake tonight!

Are you alone? Baking for one? "Just you, miss?" YES! Well then you are in luck because I translated my recipe to be for one person! These turned out great and have all the makings of a traditional red velvet recipe: cocoa powder, red food coloring, baking soda, and vinegar! Lots of other typical ingredients are involved, but the four I just listed are the primo parts.

{FYI: Little "t" = teaspoon. Big "T" = tablespoon.}

Whipped Dream Cream (for one): 
- 2 1/3 t. Sugar (or 4 Sweet 'N Low packets)
- 1/6 t. Vanilla Extract (measure just short of a 1/4 t.)
- A pinch of salt
- 2 2/3 T. Heavy Whipping Cream
- 1 T Cream Cheese
- 1 T Clotted Cream or Double Devon Cream

Add ingredients to a medium-small bowl. Use a sturdy metal whisk. If you are making this for more people (you probably don't cook for just one like me... sad), use an electric mixer on medium-high or a stand mixer on medium to whip the cream cheese and clotted cream until smooth. Then reduce the mixer's speed and add the sugar, salt, vanilla. Continue beating and, on a low speed, add the heavy whipping cream. You might want to add the cream in 1/4 cup at a time. Increase the speed a bit and whip until soft peaks form. 

IMPORTANT: stick your finger on the side of the bowl for a taste test. I was just messing around with this recipe, and the first words out of mouth were: "holy jesus, oh my god." I'm not kidding.

FULL ORDER of Whipped Dream Cream:
- 1/4 c. Cream Cheese
- 3 T. Clotted Cream or Double Devon Cream
- 1/3 c. Sugar
- 1 t .Vanilla Extract
- 1/8 t. Salt
- 1 c. Heavy Whipping Cream

Everything you'll need!

Red Velvet Pancakes (for one):
- 5 T. Flour
- 3 T. Sugar
- 1/4 t. Salt
- 1/4 t. Baking Powder
- 1/4 Egg (or 1 egg white)
- 1 T. Canola Oil
- 4 T. Buttermilk
- 1/2 ounce Red Food Coloring
- 1/2 t. Baking Cocoa (use Dutch processed unsweetened if you can find some!)
- 1/8 t. Vanilla
- 1/8 t. Baking Soda
- 1/8 t. White Vinegar

I got to bust out my food coloring gels!

FULL ORDER of Red Velvet Pancakes:

- 1 1/4 c. Flour
- 3/4 c. Sugar
- 1 t. Salt
- 1 t. Baking Powder
- 1 Egg (or 1 egg white)
- 4 T. Canola Oil
- 1 c. Buttermilk
- 1 ounce Red Food Coloring
- 1 t. Baking Cocoa (use Dutch processed unsweetened if you can find some!)
- 1/2 t. Vanilla
- 1/2 t. Baking Soda
- 1/2 t. White Vinegar

Here's how to make the pancakes (right ways and wrong turns):

1. Stir flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl.

2. Mix in the egg, oil, and buttermilk. Continue whisking the mix until it gets nice and smooth.

3. Add the red food coloring and cocoa (FUN PART).

4. Add the vanilla, baking soda, and vinegar (in that order). If you don't, your kitchen might turn into a mini science lab. Beat and beat and beat until it is all well incorporated. Shouldn't take you that long.

I'm so happy that I was able to use my Red Velvet Cupcake ingredients!

5. Heat up your pancake griddle (my mom has one - I love it) or large skillet (I have this - not as reliable for pancakes). Use non-stick cooking spray or more canola oil to heat up and grease up your loins pan.

6. When the oil is hot enough, drop a large spoonful of batter into the hot oil (2 T. will give you a nice portion size per pancake - and you'll be able to flip them easily).

7. Once the batter bubbles, take a deep breath, pretend you are Bobby Flay or Paula Deen or Rachael Ray or Alton Brown and flip your pancake like a pro!

7 (b): My first flip revealed a few things to me: my heat was on too high and I left the pancake on the first side for way too long! From then on I started experimenting with size and thickness. The ones that I made wider and thinner were easier to control (instead of burning black!)

8. Serve these red fluffy bumpkins hot with whipped dream cream. I also used a bit of low-sugar syrup.

These turned out delicious! I am definitely a pancake fan. Tico's in Marina makes a great berry pancake. I've been there on two occasions now. (Read about Trip: One, Two). Next time I go out to breakfast in Monterey County I'd like to try one of the restaurants that made Monterey County Weekly's Best Of 2010 list.

They awarded Best Breakfast to First Awakenings (125 Oceanview Blvd, Pacific Grove). According to their website they have NINE gourmet pancakes to choose from "Always made from scratch, never a mix! Singles available." My wandering eyes also spotted Crepeggs "A thin, sweet crepe combined with fluffy whipped egg. Served with homestyle potatoes and an English muffin." (Yelp). Oh my! Can't wait to try that spot out and cross it off the Best Of list!


Happy Thursday & a To Do List

Started my walk to work with a coffee mug in hand. Usually I use my red traveller's cup because it has a lid. Wonder if I can make it without spilling?

I always pass by these beautiful flowers. Thought I'd finally snap a picture of them. I believe this is ice plant? I'm only 8% sure though.

Today is the Green Fair at work. I'm really excited about it! Hopefully I can figure out what to do with my old coffee grinds!

To Do:
- Grocery shopping for supplies for Amish Friendship Bread (someone remind me why I have enough to make 6 loaves??) and Dad's 50th birthday dessert surprise
- Gym/shower (LV countdown EIGHT days!!)
- Blog posts! Casa de Fruta, Anaheim, Manu's birthday dinner/dessert, more SD, turkey spottings.... Sorry I've been slacking!
- Post FB pics, I just loathe tagging
- Finish unpacking just to repack for this weekend (SJ)

ps. I made it all the way to work, up the stairs, into the building and then spilled my coffee right in front of the elevator. I was so close!

Location:Seaside, CA


Earth Day cleanup opportunity

From The Herald of Monterey County:

The Monterey County Illegal Dumping and Litter Abatement Task Force will celebrate Earth Day on April 17 with a countywide cleanup of public lands, parks and property.  Information on cleanup locations and times is available by calling the Monterey County Environmental Health Division, 755-4579. In addition, supplies, brochures, maps of the cleanup events and other items will be available on cleanup day at Whole Foods Market in Monterey, Safeway in Prunedale, Safeway in King City, Mi Pueblo Marketplace in Salinas, and Save Mart Supermarket in Marina, where booths will be located and open from 8 a.m. to noon.

Earth Day is next Thursday, April 22nd. At work, we are hosting a Green Fair this thursday 4/15 that I've been helping out with. Please help do your part! Saturday (the 17th) is when Monterey County's Illegal Dumping and Litter Abatement Task Force is doing cleanups. I need to go up to San Jose later that day, but if anyone wants to join me Saturday morning for cleaning, I'd love to get a group together!

CSUMB also has a few events to celebrate Earth Day. I'll definitely be joining the Bike-to-Breakfast event! From Salinas' The Californian:

CSUMB has a variety of activities planned for the week. Most are geared for students, but the public is invited to attend these events:
- Sixth annual Bike-to-Breakfast, 7 to 10 a.m. April 20. Everyone who bikes to CSUMB's University Center on Sixth Avenue from 7 to 10 a.m. will get a free breakfast at the Otter Bay Restaurant.
- 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Celebrate 40th anniversary of Earth Day at CSUMB's first Farmers Market, in the Main Quad from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 22.
- Films will be shown at 7 p.m., April 23, in the Student Center as part of the Reel Work Labor Film Festival. Time to Tackle Climate Change, showing how workers can play a fundamental role in the route to a sustainable world, and Coal Country, the story of the dramatic struggle around the use of coal, providing more than half the electricity in the U.S., will be shown.

Easter Egg Hunt

There was an Easter Egg Hunt at work on Good Friday. The entire front lawn of our building was covered in hundreds of eggs. On the count of three everybody went running and all the eggs were snatched up in about five minutes. I love my job!