Mango Black Bean Salad

mango and black bean salad

This mango black bean salad is a delicious and refreshing side to add to any Southwest or Mexican themed meal. The sweet and juicy mangoes paired with the lime and cilantro add a burst of flavor to the black beans and corn. I also add peppers, red onions, and tomatoes to complete the dish and this is quite filling. Top it off with tortilla strips and enjoy with your favorite fish or chicken, or serve it up along with tacos or fajitas!

salad ingredients

Add all the ingredients over a bed of greens. I like to use the spring greens mix. Use whatever you prefer. For the corn, the absolutel BEST way to do it, is to roast the corn on the grill or over a flame. Then slice the kernels off the cob. YUM! I can devour a whole bowl of this salad in one sitting. It is very filling!

mango black bean salad ingredients

The easy dressing of lime, cumin, cayenne pepper and avocado oil couldn’t get any easier. I love eating this salad along side my mahi mahi. 

mango black bean salad

Mango Black Bean Salad
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  1. 1 mango, peeled and chopped into cubes
  2. 1-2 tomatoes diced
  3. 1/2 c diced poblano pepper
  4. 1/2 c sliced red bell pepper
  5. 1 c cooked and drained black beans
  6. 1/2 c diced red onion
  7. 1 c sweet corn
  8. 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped finely
  9. 1/2 c lime juice
  10. 2 tbsp avocado oil or olive oil
  11. 1 tsp salt
  12. 1/4 tsp pepper
  13. 1/4 tsp cumin
  14. 1/4 tsp hot chili pepper or cayenne pepper
  15. 8 oz of lettuce, field greens, or spinach
  1. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients together.
  2. For extra flavor, roast corn on the cob on the barbecue or over a flame. Slice the corn kernels off the cob and add to the salad. This is my preferred method of preparing corn, which I do in the summer over a grill.
  3. Enjoy as a main dish, with burgers, chicken, fish, tacos, fajitas, or anything else!
  1. For variation try adding avocado, or tortilla strips on top.
Sugar & Garlic

Brussels Sprout and Farro Salad

If you have been following along, I have been preparing, eating, and posting a lot of salads lately. I am loving our shift to a more plant based diet, but I just cannot do leafy salads everyday! I need salads with texture, crunch, flavors, protein, color, and variety. I think I have been doing fairly well creating and compiling a good collection of resources. Here is one of my absolutely best and favorite salads! Who has been OBSESSED with yummy, caramelized, roasted brussels sprouts?! Me! Me! Me! I die for it. If its on a menu, I order it. Always. 

roasted brussels sprouts

This hearty salad incorporates roasted brussels sprouts, crunchy and chewy farro, sweet apples and raisins, toasted pepitas, and zesty lemon juice with shallots. What a flavor bomb! 

brussels sprouts and farro salad

This salad is so easy to prepare, with the most tedious step being washing and preparing the brussels sprouts. Sometimes you can find them already trimmed and washed, which is convenient. I always prefer to trim and carefully wash brussels sprouts myself. Once they’re all prepared, lay them flat on a large, flat pan, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees (F) and voila! Be sure to save these to roast and then add onto the salad right before serving, because they are so delicious crunchy. If you toss them in the salad and let it sit, they will get soft. 

cut the brussels sprouts

After trimming and cleaning the brussels sprouts, cut in half.

roast the brussels sprouts

Lay the prepared brussels sprouts in a large pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

For the farro, I have started cooking it the way renown chefs do at SoHo’s Charlie Bird Restaurant. Cooking the farro with 1 cup of apple cider and bay leaves, makes it perfectly scented and flavored to toss with the rest of my aromatic autumnal ingredients: apples, pepitas, and raisins. 

Brussels Sprouts and Farro Salad
This hearty salad incorporates roasted brussels sprouts, crunchy and chewy farro, sweet apples and raisins, toasted pepitas, and zesty lemon juice with shallots.
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  1. 1 cup farro
  2. 1 cup cider
  3. 2-3 bay leaves
  4. 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  5. 1 medium apple, diced
  6. 1/2 c red onion, diced
  7. 1/2 c golden raisins
  8. 1 lb brussels sprouts (about 2 cups)
  9. 2 tbsp minced garlic
  10. 1 large lemon
  11. 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  12. 1-2 tsp salt (to taste)
  13. 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  14. 2 tbsp minced shallot
  15. 1/4 c pepitas
  16. chopped parsley for garnish, optional
  1. Cook the farro in the cider, with 1.5 cups of water, the bay leaves and cinnamon. Once it boils, turn the heat to low, and cover. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Allow farro to cool before adding to the salad. Refrigeration for at least 1 hour is recommended.
  2. Prepare the brussels sprouts by washing, peeling the outer leaves, trimming the stem on the bottom, and cutting in half. Lay the brussels in a large flat pan, and drizzle with 1-2 tbsp of the olive oil, some salt and pepper, and the minced garlic. Set aside to roast right before serving the salad.
  3. Toss the farro with the apples, raisins, and red onions.
  4. Zest the lemon peel with a zester, and then juice the lemon. Stir the lemon juice with the shallots, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss with the farro salad mixture.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roast the brussels sprouts for about 25 minutes, until golden and crispy. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes and add to the salad immediately before serving.
  6. Toast the pepitas in a pan over medium heat, until aromatic. Toss the pepitas on top of the salad.
  7. Enjoy!
Sugar & Garlic

“Little Monkey” Baby Shower

What a beautiful occasion to celebrate! My sweet sister in law and long time BFF is having a baby boy, and we were so excited to finally prepare for a boy-themed shower (the last 4 babies have all been little princesses!). To go along with the jungle themed nursery, we incorporated the monkeys and the color scheme was blue and green. With a gorgeously delicious candy buffet, we set the scene with pops of vibrant blue and green and accents of brown. All this beautiful candy was from a fresh and Kosher candy distributor, 

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Since we spent a lot on the candy, we saved on the cake pops. We were smart and got the delicious cake pops from Starbucks and spray painted the white ones with food grade spray paint from Wilton’s to match our color scheme. Everyone just loved the cake pops, and at a fraction of the cost of custom bakeries, we loved them too!

cake pops

We used the seasonal peppermint chocolate cake pops from Starbucks’ La Boulange bakery and painted them blue with food paint. These tasted AWESOME.


I got my hands on some of the best macarons you will taste from Pierrot Gourmet at the The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago and had them make some custom colors for me (just give them a week’s notice) in their signature flavors of chocolate coconut (the blue ones),  mint chocolate (the green), and salted caramel (the gold). They did mess up my order unfortunately, and it was too bad because I was so excited to bring what I consider to be the best macarons I have ever tasted to my Michigan friends and family. They didn’t make them in mint chocolate (it was only peppermint with a plain buttercream filling), nor did they do chocolate coconut (it was also a plain buttercream filling). Additionally, the coconut shells were all hollow! So I am not sure I would go with Pierrot Gourmet again for a large party event. But they were beautiful, and these do taste amazing when you buy them fresh at the shop. Just look at these beauties.

blue macarons blue and green macarons

To go along with our candy buffet, we requested the bakery to assemble half of our macarons on lollipop sticks. How cute do these look presented in a tray of green jelly beans!? Note that the macarons with a buttercream filling did not hold up well, and slid right through the stick. If the macarons have a thicker filling like ganache or caramel, it will hold perfectly. The gold macarons have a thick caramel filling and help up nicely the entire time.

macaron pops green macaron pops


One of the most stunning displays at this amazing shower was this fruit display made from tropical fruits. The mother-to-be’s BFF is a talented culinary artist and mastered this feat when I (jokingly) suggested we include this glorious fruit display! They needed to use a metal rod to slide through the pineapples, and a heavily weighted container as the base to keep this from toppling over. The monkeys were made with a papaya as the body, oranges for the head, lemons and slices for the mouth and ears, and black grapes for the eyes. You will need several metal or bamboo skewers for this design; as you can imagine, the fruit is heavy. 

tropical fruit display

Papayas, oranges, kiwis, pineapples, and bananas assembled into this adorable display!

jungle fruit display


Oh yes, this is the infamous banana pudding from Magnolia’s bakery. Perfect for our monkeys who love bananas, and a HUGE hit with everyone! Have you tried this stuff yet?

Magnolias banana pudding banana pudding

Our centerpieces were a simple edible pineapple, surrounded by bananas, and some topped with plush monkeys. My adorable mother-in law set these up! The water bottles were personalized with a monkey-themed label from Etsy!

pineapple centerpiece

The room was filled with vines and hanging plush and paper monkeys, both purchased from Amazon.

jungle baby shower jungle baby shower monkey baby shower

Dessert was decadent, with an adorable and delicious chocolate and banana-cream tiered cake topped with a baby monkey. I described the design and the baker and cake designers at Paradise Cakes of West Bloomfield, MI executed beautifully! That’s a rice krispie treat monkey covered with fondant!

monkey cake baby monkey cake

And how about these adorable and easy DIY cupcakes made by my other sister in law. She baked cupcakes, frosted on green leaves and used these perfect little monkey toppers, also from Amazon! 

monkey cupcakes monkey cupcake


































The shower event and baby arrival are both in the winter, so we thought a moisturizing coconut or mango lip balm from Burt’s Bees wrapped in a beautiful gold box and blue ribbon would make for the perfect and functional party favor!

lip balm favors


I made a diaper cake and wrapped the tiers in my favorite soft blue receiving blankets by SwaddleDesigns (these are a generous size and there is a step-by-step drawing of how to swaddle attached right on the tag) and wrapped the “cake” with blue ribbon. A dainty pair of wing-tipped infant shoes and a cuddly monkey hugging the side tied the diaper cake into our theme nicely. We also gave baby’s nursery library a head start with a collection of some classic favorite monkey themed books such as Caps for Sale,  Five Little MonkeysIf I were a Monkey, an adorable Little Monkey finger puppet book, and Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb. Children’s books always make for nice functional decor and double as a gift for baby!

monkey diaper cake monkey diaper cake diaper cake


Last but not least, we had an impressive and delicious spread of food catered from La Saj, located in Sterling Heights, Mi. This food was DELICIOUS. The stuffed grape leaves, the lentils, the chicken, and the tabbouli were all to die for. I am drooling as I think about it!

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Whining and Dining in San Francisco (where to eat with kids, and where not to!)

“Whining” and Dining in the Bay

The scale:

  • 1) Food: (5 points) Clearly this is the most important! The taste, presentation, quantity, and  quality. When I say quality I am looking at whether it is locally sourced, organic, and fresh. I am not interested in canned foods, foods imported from China, and skipping over the hard working local farmers and producers just to get a slightly cheaper and less fresh product. So I try to learn about the quality and source of the food as much as possible and comment about this whenever possible.
  • 2) Service: (5 points) Parents do not have time to wait around and watch their kids’ good behavior and patience expire. Parents have nap times and bedtimes to meet. Even if you are not a parent, nobody likes to wait around just to ask for a glass of water. 
  • 3) Child friendly: (5 points) These are like bonus points; having adequate child friendly seating such as spacious tables and seats, booster and high chairs, having children’s activities and menu items, and just being friendly to kids are all welcome and important gestures to parents and families!
  • 4) Ambiance: (5 points) We critique the ambiance in general in terms of being clean, nice, fun, friendly, appropriate for children, the decor and being overall impressive. 
  • 5) Value: (5 points) The price of the food for the quantity and quality received. For us we use a median of $10-$15 for starters (including salads), and $15-$25 for an entree. This is neither on the low end of the scale or on the high end. For that price we would also expect a generous amount of food, not a tiny slither of meat garnished with parsley and hollandaise sauce. We think this is a fair and average expectation for dining in Chicago and other big cities. 

Annotates a family favorite that we visit frequently, and I highly suggest you do as well!

I didn’t even get to the skim the surface of all the awesome culinary experiences here during my last visit, as it was very short. But here are some favorites that we hit up!

The Embarcadero Farmer’s Market 21/25 points Walk around, touch, try, feel, and see where local foods and produce come from! A great learning experience for kids and adults! Amazing foods to enjoy as well!

The farmer’s market at Embarcadero was a full day adventure. We strolled the tents appreciating all the variety and colors of the fresh produce, tasted some food, then heading into the ferry building for more food once the rain started pouring too hard on my stroller and toddler.2014-02-08sugarandgarlic2014-28 2014-02-08sugarandgarlic2014-29 2014-02-08sugarandgarlic2014-15

You can hop onto a cable car or the “f line” (fun antique busses) to get here from most downtown locations. Inside the ferry plaza there are many shops and markets, while outside is a Farmer’s market Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays it is a smaller market in the front of the Ferry building, and on Saturdays is a much larger market in front and in the back, alongside the bay. It really is lovely scenery. Unfortunately for us it rained our entire weekend, but we still ventured out. I bought fresh tulips for my sister who lives there and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for us to chow on throughout our stay. The mandarins were so sweet and juicy! We sat on a damp bench by the bay and ate about 10 mandarins before continuing the day 😀 I highly recommend making this stop so that you can  stock up on some fresh healthy snacks and produce to eat even while on vacation.

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Baby girl and I enjoyed picking and then eating some juicy sweet mandarins while sitting by the bay!

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Crunchy carrots make for an excellent and healthy snack on the go!


Check out these gorgeous colors! Those artichokes look amazing! Wishing I had a kitchen to go cook up something fresh and tasty!

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Broccoli stems also made a perfect to go snack to have on hand. I also did not mind buying some fresh produce for my sister who lives in the Bay; who can pass up on these lovely fresh veggies grown and sold the way they should be!?


My little cupcake picking out the tulips for her aunty.

Inside the ferry building:

*most of the vendors cannot really claim points for service due to the fact that these are vendors where you stand in line and grab your food to go*. Often, you will stand in a long line and have to search for a corner to squat in to enjoy your culinary finds! For complete ambiance, plan ahead and take everything to go and enjoy a picnic at nearby Golden Gate Park!

Cow Girl Creamery: 20/25 points (Perfectly creamy and delicious cheeses and dairy! Don’t expect much service though at the long lines at these grab and go vendors. (fresh made organic cheeses, sandwiches, fresh organic milk, and hot sizzling cheese on crackers!)


This place has flavorful organic cheeses, many from their local creamery and many others from distinguished European sources. I’ve been to France and Italy and our most memorable culinary experiences there had to do with cheese! You get that experience here. The shop oozes such  wonderfully flavorful cheeses.We grabbed a couple of different grilled cheese sandwiches as well as the awesome snack cheese off the wheel! They display a huge wheel of cheese sizzling under a hot lamp, which they scrape off onto your bread and hand off hot and fresh. This shop is a must try! I am drooling reminiscing about it right now…

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BeeKind: 20/25 points A variety of pure and raw honeys. This shop sources their honey from their own hives as well as other local hives. They do not treat their hives with pesticides or antibiotics. You can sample the many flavors that actually smell and taste differently depending on the type of flower the pollen was collected from! We loved the raspberry flower honey and the buckwheat was perfect for the incessant cough we all seem to have this winter (thanks Chicago!) They also have perfectly delicious flavor infused honey made with natural ingredients and spices such as the chai honey ( I can’t recall the exact name but it was delicious!) I love honey with my tea, in smoothies, and as a daily remedy for good health so this place really got our attention. Check it out! They also sell beeswax candles, honeycombs, and honey jars. I would love one of their cute honey jars to serve honey in!



La Boulange: 17/25 points. Excellent variety of pastries, hot drinks, and hot sandwiches and soups. (various locations, we stopped at Market St & 3rd) A bakery and cafe carrying pastries, sandwiches, and hot soups. Perfect for the cold rainy weather we were in!



  • 1) Food: 3.5/5 We had tea, chocolate croissant, a lot of macarons, mushroom soup, open face chicken and mushroom panini, fresh fruit, and potatoes. My rating is between a 3 and a 4 because I love how hot and fresh everything was. The meat is ethically raised and without antibiotics, fruit and grains are organic. The flavors were exquisite, but they just were not what I was expecting. I have heard a lot about La Boulange, and tried their treats served in Starbucks so was excited to come to the source in the bay. The macarons were not as decadent as I was expecting. They were still incredibly delicious, and maybe I am becoming a macaron snob but I definitely have had better. They were a little too soggy in the center than I expected. The sandwich however tasted perfect. I loved the flavor of the mushrooms, the sauce, and chives all smothering the chicken. I did not care for the potatoes at all- which probably brought down my rating the most. They were boiled and then partially warmed/toasted. Seemed like a recipe mess I would make in my kitchen. The croissant was also okay- I was expecting it to be flakier and more chocolate to ooze out.
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  • 2) Service: 4/5 Service is fast, and they give what you want. I was being very particular about how I wanted my sandwich and my order and they had no issues with it. I love when that happens and you get the good service you expect and pay for. You order at a cashier and wait for your food or drink then sit or carry away.
  • 3) Child friendly: 4/5 They only had outdoor seating and it was raining, but after being cooped up in the midwest negative temperatures, I did not care. I sat outside under the awning and was able to seat my toddler beside me and my baby stayed in the stroller. It would be tight I would imagine if it were a sunny day and there were  more people out, but we were the only ones other than two people sitting out. My three year old was a bit scared of all the wandering pigeons hawking at the crumbs of food she kept dropping, which made it difficult to keep her seated, but encouraged her to eat a little neater, haha! They did not have a kids menu when I asked, so I had to buy my toddler an overpriced jumbo fruit bowl for $6, but online I see a kids menu with fruit and granola for $3…hmmm
  • 4) Ambiance: 3/5 Again, we sat outside, which I love to do. The seating area is small and nothing spectacular, but the location is nice and clean and has a great city view of the business district. The outdoor area had a generous large awning and umbrellas to shelter us from the rain so we could enjoy people watching and cable car viewing. 

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  • 5) Value: 3/5 Prices are slightly higher than average. You pay a bit more for a sandwich or salad ($9-$10) but soups are about $3 and bakery items $2-$3. Macarons are $1.50 each.

♥Super Duper: 22/25 points. Come here for fast and DELICIOUS burgers, chicken, or egg sandwiches with a side of the best milkshakes ever! Organic and local produce, grassed beef, free range chicken, delicious burgers and super duper milkshakes!


  • 1) Food: 5/5 Seriously good food. The burgers are so juicy and flavorful. The buns are hot and toasty. They also have a vegetarian burger served with hummus and cucumbers. The fries are delicious, they make their own pickles, and I think I was getting their milkshakes everyday like water. The milk they use is from Straus, a local and organic dairy source. I loved everything I got. We even went in for breakfast and had the egg sandwiches which were so delicious as well! Did I mention we loved the milkshakes! Drool. They also have pies and cookies and sundaes, all made in house. 

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  • 2) Service: 5/5 You get the food fast enough to know they are on top of it, but not too fast that you think you are at McDonald’s eating a frozen patty. The wait was short and it was easy to order food in the morning (10 am) and not so bad in the evening (7pm weekday), but when I walked by later at lunch (contemplating a second shake!) the line was out the door on the street. Too much effort with a stroller and kids…and I did not really need to have another double chocolate shake.
  • 3) Child friendly: 4/5 There is plenty of seating to fit our entourage, and they have kid’s sized shakes and meals as well as highchairs. My daughter loved this place. Maybe because I let her have a milkshake each time. A cup of organic milk for the kids, with a dash of your shake does the trick 😉 Soon she will be older and realize what I am doing…They have a nice large single stall restroom in the back making it easy to fit my large double stroller easily.
  • 4) Ambiance: 4/5 Clean and spacious, loud music, and metal furnishings set the scene here.
  • 5) Value: 4/5 Excellent value for excellent food. You can get an entire combo meal for $9, or just the sandwich ranging from $5-$7, most toppings are free. Shakes are $5-$6, and $3 for kids. 

Boudin: (Fisherman’s Wharf) 21/25 points.  Amazing restaurant experience and menu complete with an onsite bakery and historical museum full of activities for the kids!  Serves seafood, pasta, and delicious soups in bread bowls! A

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  • 1) Food: 4/5 Food was well prepared, and great in presentation and flavor. Food is fresh, and they boast a “farm-to-table” philosophy sourcing local produce as well as meats and fish from local and small farms and fisheries. We sampled a large array from the menu: shrimp ceviche, the clam chowder, the bread bowl with crab bisque, fries, angel hair pasta with shrimp, the roasted brick chicken, and the Alaskan halibut. Everything tasted excellent, and the clam chowder was a favorite! The chowder is made without pork which is an excellent opportunity for those on a halal or Kosher diet to finally enjoy some clam chowder as it otherwise usually has bacon in it. 

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  • 2) Service: 4/5 We were seated right away even on a busy Saturday afternoon, and were accommodated easily with our stroller with infant and toddler in tow. We had quite a large table as well with 2 high chairs. The waiter was friendly and came often and quickly. 
  • 3) Child friendly: 5/5 This is an excellent place to bring your kids! Not only do they have a kids menu, coloring activity, walk through museum and tour, but kids can order the signature sourdough in the shape of a turtle, bear, or even an alligator! They also have a baking experience in which children can bake alongside a baker and shape their own bread. My daughter had a great time doing everything but unfortunately we missed the bread making interaction.

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  • 4) Ambiance: 4/5 Clean, spacious, and lots of windows letting in sunlight and open to a great view of the wharf.
  • 5) Value: 4/5 Entrees are a little higher than average. But the quantity and quality of the food served is excellent. Portions are nice and large.

The Grove (301 Hayes St) 12/25 points. Come here for the AWESOME breakfast menu and fresh squeezed juice, but don’t expect to fit your stroller or entourage of kids easily, or get great service. Serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and they specialize in fresh squeezed orange juice and delicious breakfast items. 


  • 1) Food: 5/5 Food was delicious. Not only did everything taste outstanding, the food choices are unique and are not dishes you can find at any breakfast joint. I got the Moroccan baked eggs which really hit the spot and were so tasty. It was a spicy tomato harissa sauce with roasted vegetables, olives, chickpeas, feta cheese and 2 poached eggs. My husband had an omelet and my daughter enjoyed some french toast. It was all very delicious! We finished with afogato which was a scoop of vanilla ice-cream drenched in espresso. My husband who is an avid coffee drinker enjoyed it-I would prefer it to be drenched in fudge but that wouldn’t be an afogato 🙂

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  • 2) Service: 1/5 Very poor service was experienced here, if any at all! I was very disappointed. We were not greeted at the door and instead rushed into a busy line, where you stand to first order your food. You then need to find your own seats and will have your food brought to you. It was a busy morning, but I felt like we were being pushed around with my 2 children which I did not appreciate at all. The restaurant has seating upstairs so before I hauled my 2 kids and stroller to the back of the restaurant to go up I asked if there were any available seats. The waiter seemed annoyed of my inquiry. When he informed there is space he asked another waiter to haul the elevator for me, who was also very rude. She called it down and the elevator closed before I could get in because she did not bother holding it for me, and merely said “oh it closed”. Annoyed, I just walked away and grabbed an open table that by the busy entry way ( I obviously would prefer not to sit there bc I do not want to  block the line or entry with my stroller and kids). A waiter came by at one point and asked me if I could move my stroller to the back of the restaurant by the kitchen, ignoring the fact that there was a sleeping infant inside. I told him I would have been happy to sit elsewhere had someone assisted me showing me where to go and that no I am not moving my sleeping baby to the back of the restaurant. He apologized and walked away. Nobody came to ask us if we needed anything, and when I returned to the cashier to ask for sugar and a spoon to stir my tea she acted annoyed and told me they were available at the back counter (which is located nowhere near the cashier, so how would anybody know?)
  • 3) Child friendly: 1/5 For the reasons mentioned above, I do not recommend coming here with kids, especially if you have a stroller. The place is small and cramped, and seating is difficult. My 3 year old was sitting at a bench with us on a backless stool that spins, so that was difficult to manage! I would not know if they had highchairs but there was no way we would be able to fit one by our table, they are all placed so close to one another and we would have just blocked movement even more. 
  • 4) Ambiance: 1/5 All I can recall was it being dark and cramped. The tables are all very close to one another. 
  • 5) Value: 4/5 Most entrees, omelets, sandwiches, and dishes are $8-$15 so it is very affordable and delicious food. Most items are made in house, and fresh daily.


 Sam’s Chowder House ( Half Moon Bay) Come here for the awesome views of cliffs, mountains (or hills are they?), and the ocean, as well as some great servings of lobster!

asparagus lobster salad

Asparagus lobster salad

Lobster ceviche with pineapple and passionfruit vinaigrette

Lobster ceviche with pineapple and passionfruit vinaigrette

  • 1) Food: 3/5 You can definitely get your fill of lobster here, without breaking the bank, and thats always a good thing. I enjoyed a fantastic grilled asparagus salad topped with lumps of lobster (this is only a special, I hope they add it permanently!), a large lobster roll with plenty of huge lumps of lobster meat, paella, cioppini seafood soup, a crab cake, as well as a lobster ceviche appetizer. Disclaimer:  I didn’t eat all of this alone, but I definitely sampled it all. The lobster salad was my favorite, with excellent flavors and textures. They serve sustainable seafood, and have some fresh selections. The crab was not my favorite at all, which is partly the reason we don’t have a score of 5 here. The crab meat was finely shredded pieces, rather than lump meat, and the crab shells were hairy, which just turned me off. The crab meat wasn’t as succulent and juicy as other places I have had crab. Now lets talk about the lobster roll which is an award winning sandwich (one of the best 5 sandwiches in America according to NBC’s Today show). You get a generous amount, about 3/4 cup, of lump lobster meat from the tail and claws sandwiched in a toasty brioche bun. There were slices of crunchy celery, which was a nice texture and flavor contrast. I do admit I asked for minimal butter due to my low cal diet, and so the sandwich was drier than I hoped, but I still expected some flavoring with it being an award winning sandwich! I thought it would be tossed with some flaring or, I don’t know, garlic 🙂 But overall it was great, for a lobster roll, and the brioche bun was an excellent bun to house the lobster. I also was not impressed with the fish and chips (not much fish inside the fried batter coating), or the kids’ meals. My daughter really wanted crab or a crab cake, so I had to order an adult serving since they do not have any seafood options aside from the fish and chips in the kids meals (which are mostly cliche items I am not fond of such as chicken fingers, hot dogs, spaghetti etc). 
seafood paella

seafood paella

Award winning lobster roll

Lobster Roll

  • 2) Service: 4/5  We had good service. The only irritating thing was that they didn’t bring out the kid’s food right away and instead thought it would be okay to wait until the paella was cooked (which takes quite some time). 
  • 3) Child friendly: (3/5 points) They  have a kids menu, child seats, crayons, and coloring sheets. The kids menu was not great in options or in taste however, and if you want to sit outside with a stroller it is pretty difficult because space is tight. 
crab cake

The crab cake I ordered for my 4 year old

  • 4) Ambiance: 5/5 I would come here for the scenery alone! The views, the outdoor seating with heat lamps, the indoor fireplace, the spectacular views of sunset are all wonderful reasons to come here, even if you’re justing having a bowl of chowder!
  • 5) Value: 4/5 The portions of food are reasonable, and of course price tags are a little higher because you are ordering fresh fish, lobster or crab. However, we felt the lobster roll was a great amount of lobster (more than I ever pick out of an expensive lobster tail) for $23. But the prices, independent of the fact your are buying seafood, are high and  your may spend more than you want when feeding a family of 4. Appetizers and salads average about $15, while entrees range from $20-$40. 


Chicken Salad Pasta Shells


When I saw Giada making these on TV I knew it would be a hit in my family. I never eat regular chicken salad or tuna salad because I strongly dislike mayonnaise and other processed condiments heavy in preservatives. This chicken salad is a genius concoction of fresh and flavorful ingredients such as  sun dried tomato, olives, lemon juice, fennel and parsley. The creaminess is imparted by the use of deliciously healthy avocados, olive oil, and feta cheese. Giada uses arugula in her original recipe but I opted for parsley to stick to the mediterranean flavors I was combining and I really like the earthy bite it adds. I also have made this with chopped baby spinach and fresh tomatoes which also tastes incredible! The lemon juice and spices bring this all together nicely. 

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You need some cooked chicken  breast, so you could use a roasted or rotisserie chicken, pan sear some chicken breast, or poach some breasts in a pot. I think its juicier and more flavorful when roasted. One time I made this with small chopped chicken tenderloins that I cooked in the pressure cooker with tomatoes and onions and that was quite juicy and quick! Your options are many. Just get some cooked chicken breast your favorite method.

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I first made these and served them at an afternoon tea party baby shower I threw for my sister, and these shells went like hot cakes and everyone was asking for more. Fortunately it is easy to make yourself at home and is the perfect thing to put together when you have left over rotisserie chicken that you do not know what to do with! (Am I the only one with that problem?) So here is the recipe, enjoy!

Chicken Salad Pasta Shells
A fresh and delicious chicken salad packed with mediterranean flavors perfect for entertaining!
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Prep Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
  1. 1 lb pasta shells (about 30 shells)
  2. 2 lbs cooked chicken breast, cut into small cubes
  3. 2 avocados, cut into cubes
  4. 1/2 c sliced sun dried tomatoes
  5. 1-2 tsp minced garlic
  6. 2 c chopped parsley
  7. 1/2 c thinly sliced fennel
  8. 1/2 c sliced kalamata olives
  9. 1 c feta cheese
  10. 1/2 fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  11. 1/4 c olive oil
  12. 1/2 tsp salt
  13. 1/4 tsp of black pepper
  14. 1/4 tsp cumin
  15. 1/4 tsp paprika
  16. radicchio leaves
  1. Cook the pasta shells according to directions, drain, and rinse with cold water. Be sure that none of the shells are inside one another as once it dries it will be difficult to separate.
  2. Line each pasta shell with a radicchio leaf.
  3. Combine all other ingredients and toss.
  4. Scoop a spoon of chicken salad into each shell.
  5. Serve on a platter.
  1. You could use arugula or spinach instead of parsley or along with the parsley; it will be a different flavor but it still works well with these ingredients!
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
Sugar & Garlic

Tea bag cookie

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A baby is brewing! These personalized tea bag cookies were the perfect treats and favors for our afternoon tea themed baby shower. These cookies were so delicious and really added to the theme. I set them inside each tea cup or on the saucer, beside the tea cup. The tea bag label said the last name of the parent’s to be and the date, with the expected baby’s initials on the other side. These are so easy and fast to make and perfect to have with tea. The details and personalizing are what take some time and attention. The most time consuming part was cutting out the tea bag labels which I designed on the computer in MS Word, and threading the labels onto string and into the cookie.

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I used this great recipe for shortbread by Ina Garten. The key to getting a perfect dough is to use softened room temperature butter and to beat it until it is fluffy. If you do so and then slowly stir in the flour mixture, you will not have any issues with the mixture being too crumbly or dry. Another problem reviewers may have had is not measuring the flour properly. Flour should not be packed into the measuring cup, but scooped loosely by a spoon and into a cup for accurate measurement. If you have too much flour, the cookie will  be dry. I refrigerated the dough for about 30 minutes so that it is easier to work with and cut into the shape. 

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Be sure to cover with plastic wrap before refrigerating…


You could cut the cookie into the tea bag shape by using a rectangular cookie cutter and cutting off the top 2 corners. 


Sprinkle with some sugar…


I used a large straw to poke out a hole at the top of each cookie, which you need to do BEFORE baking if you plan on getting a tea bag label through your cookie 😉 



The cookies were still fairly soft after baking so I was able to cut the edges smaller and straighter if necessary to achieve the shape I wanted and to poke the straws through the hole again to define the opening (the dough puffs out and expands while baking). But this must be done while the cookie is still hot and malleable. Once the cookie cools, you cannot cut it without cracking the whole cookie. My husband and I had no problems dealing with all those scrap edges! Yum!

Once the cookie cooled, I melted some delicious dark chocolate in a double boiler ( a pyrex bowl sitting over a pot of simmering water does the trick) and dipped each cookie in and laid it on parchment paper to cool and harden overnight. The next day I threaded each cookie with its label.

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Rubber Ducky Cupcake

There are so many reasons to have a rubber ducky at your party. Maybe you’re having a Sesame Street birthday party (Ernie’s favorite toy!), maybe you are having a cute baby shower, or maybe you’re just having a pool party….regardless the reason, rubber ducky cupcakes are so cute, so fun, and easy to make. Oh and they will totally wow all of your guests- children and adults alike! These make such fun take home edible favors too!

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The cupcake design is inspired from the book, What’s New Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. Being on the cover of the book, this really is an impressive cupcake!

To build it you need:


donut holes (for the head)

marshmallows, cut in half diagonally (for the tails)

vanilla frosting (white)

yellow food coloring

mini m&ms ( I could not find mini anywhere! So I have giant dilated duckie eyes)

soft orange candy such as Airheads, Starburst, or Tootsie Rolls (cut or molded to shape the beak)


Having all of your materials ready ahead of time is essential because once you dip your duck into the melted frosting, you have just a few moments before it starts hardening to add the eyes and beak. It is also absolutely necessary to REFRIGERATE the ducks after you attach the head and tail and let it harden. I did not do this step at first so every time I dunked the little ducks into the yellow melted frosting, my duckies became decapitated…no need for those pictures!

You will need a firm frosting to attach all the pieces of the duck’s body and to coat it in yellow. I whipped up this heavenly, fluffy, melt in your mouth vanilla bean frosting I make from scratch. Don’t worry. It’s very easy, and more importantly, so worth it. Seriously, it is amazing. Sure, you could always use store-bought frosting, but check out the ingredient list. It’s scary. Homemade is way better!

First, attach the donut hole as the duck’s head and the half marshmallow as the tail. Use plenty of frosting to get it stuck on well, and coat it up the sides of the pieces to “seal” it in. Set it into the freezer for 15 minutes so that it hardens and does not fall apart when you dunk it into the melted frosting later.


Meanwhile, as the newly assembled ducks are cooling and hardening, stir some yellow food coloring into the remaining frosting and melt in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. Do not overheat!


Once they have hardened and the donut hole-head and marshmallow tail is secure, dip the ducks into the melted frosting. Rotate the cupcake carefully and slowly to fully cover all parts.


Add on a dot of white frosting to stick on some eyes (m&ms) and the beak (the orange taffy candy).

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Best ever Pancakes (with Spinach!)


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Your other baker friends will be green with envy when they see and taste how fluffy and gorgeous these pancakes turn out! Not only because they are delicious, but because they are packed with spinach! The lovely green hue does little to the taste because the spinach is ground so fine in the Vitamix blender. All you are really getting is the healthy benefits, but the spinach itself is tasteless. Spinach is packed with more than the required daily value of vitamin A, vitamin K, manganese, and folate and plenty of iron, anti-oxidants, and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. If you are struggling to get your kids to eat healthy spinach as I have been, then you will just LOVE this recipe. Not only is it full of spinach but it is made with whole wheat flour, less than 2 tbsp of sugar, and healthy vitamin D milk and eggs. I have little to protest in this recipe. You could use only 1 tbsp of sugar in the recipe if you plan to use syrup, but because I only topped it with fresh fruits and pureed raspberries, I added an extra dose of sugar. 

The green color is very vibrant and fun, and there are a TON of excuses to eat a fun green pancake! Use any of these reasons to get your kids excited about breakfast and a spinach packed pancake (tip: you don’t HAVE to tell them there is spinach): St. Patricks day, those MSU game fans (I’ll take BLUE thanks), Halloween, conjuring Incredible Hulk powers, make a “Very Hungry Caterpillar, or just a green monster kind of morning!

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This recipe yields one of the best pancakes I have ever tasted and it is adapted from; find it here. I substituted the white flour for whole wheat flour and pureed the spinach with the milk to make a nice bright green spinach milk. I was thinking about how we add spinach to all of our smoothies because its flavor is so discrete, so I thought it would be a great addition to pancakes as it would not really alter the recipe. For the topping, simply puree fresh or frozen and thawed raspberries and add sliced bananas. It is the perfect balance of sweet and tart! So here it is! Enjoy!

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Best Ever Pancakes (with spinach!)
Serves 2
Healthy, fluffy, and delicious, this is the PERFECT pancake to feed your family!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
  1. 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  2. 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  3. 1 tsp salt
  4. 2 tbsp sugar
  5. 1 1/4 c milk
  6. 2 c fresh baby spinach
  7. 1 egg (at room temperature)
  8. 3 tbsp melted butter
  9. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  10. 1 cup fresh or frozen and thawed raspberries
  1. Puree the baby spinach with milk in a blender until fine and milk is green and smooth.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a larger bowl, whisk the egg with 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Add the milk and melted butter.
  4. Gradually add in the flour mixture and whisk until well incorporated.
  5. Spray a griddle with butter and turn the heat to medium high. Drop a ladle full of batter on the pan to form circles. Allow it to cook until you see small bubbles form (about 1 minute). Flip the pancakes and cook for about another minute on the other side.
  6. Puree the raspberries until liquid.
  7. Serve with the pureed raspberries, your favorite syrup, or other fruit toppings.
  1. Omit the spinach to have regular colored and a classic fantastic tasting pancake!
Adapted from Dakota Kelly (
Sugar & Garlic



This Middle Eastern staple has made its way all around the world and is a huge hit! This perfectly flavored chickpea puree provides fiber, protein, and healthy omega 3 fats that are filling, satisfying, and perfectly low in calories. Chickpeas are quite high in fiber, protein, folic acid, magnesium , and zinc and are great for reducing cholesterol and blood sugar.  Hummus makes an excellent spread in sandwiches or a dip for veggies, which makes it a filling snack but lower in fat than mayo, ranch dressings, and other less healthy options.  No wonder this dip is so popular! I love my hummus extra lemony and garlicky, and that’s the beauty of making this easy dish at home- you can add as much or as little flavor as you want. You can vary the flavor, color, and texture by including preferred vegetables such as parsley, beets, roasted red peppers, carrots, or my favorite:  cilantro with jalapeño! Hummus is traditionally prepared with tahini paste, which is basically sesame seed butter. 

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As with all of my recipes, I do not use any canned products here, and try to keep everything as natural and homemade as possible. Nothing is more satisfying than enjoying something perfectly concocted in your kitchen and knowing exactly everything that is inside.

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I start with 1/2 cup of dried garbanzo beans or chickpeas. These should be sorted for stones or dirt and washed. Many people need to soak the beans overnight before boiling the next day, but if you use a pressure cooker like I do, no need for that hassle! Simple toss the chickpeas into your pressure cooker, cover with water, add a quarter of an onion, and cook on high pressure for 1 hour. Do not add salt in the pressure cooker as it inhibits cooking. Once the peas are cooked, its as simple as pureeing the little gems with tahini paste in your blender with your favorite spices and flavors! The basics that I must include are salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. Its important to reserve some of the water the chickpeas cooked in or have fresh water on hand to thin out the hummus as needed. I forgot about the water at first and had a very THICK dip to start with (it happens!). But no worries,  this is something you can vary depending on how thick or thin your prefer your hummus to be. This dish is really fool proof! When in doubt, start with a little and add more as needed 🙂 I make my hummus in a flash with my trusty Vitamix blender, which does require at least 1/4 cup of water in order to pull all the ingredients downward into its funnel of fury shredding every ingredient into a silky smooth dip!

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Serves 4
A delicious and healthy chickpea puree dip with sesame paste, lemon and garlic
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
  1. 1/2 c dried chickpeas (AKA garbanzo beans)
  2. 3/4 c water
  3. 1 small onion, quartered
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1/4 tsp pepper
  6. 1/4 tsp cumin
  7. 1/4 tsp paprika
  8. Juice of 2 lemons
  9. 4-6 cloves of garlic
  10. 1 tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp for drizzling
  11. 2 tbsp of tahini paste (sesame seed butter)
  12. parsley for garnish
  1. Sort the chick peas for dirt, stones, or old pieces and wash well. Place chickpeas into pressure cooker and cover with water, about 1 inch above the peas. Add 1 quarter of an onion and cook over high pressure for 1 hour. Do not add salt until after the beans cook. Once done cooking, allow the pressure to release naturally.
  2. Strain the chickpeas and reserve some of the liquid for thinning out the puree (or you could use fresh water).
  3. Pour 1/4 c water or cooking liquid from the chickpeas to a Vitamix blender or food processor. Reserve some whole chickpeas for garnish and add the rest into the blender.
  4. Add Tahini paste, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and garlic cloves. Pulse to combine all ingredients, then puree on high until the mixture is smooth. If using a Vitamix, it is helpful to use the patented push stick to move everything downward into the blades. Add more water if needed to thin it out. Add the olive oil at the end and pulse again until well combined. Taste and add more lemon or garlic to your preference. I usually have at least 6 garlic cloves in mine because we love the taste!
  5. Spoon the hummus onto a serving platter, carve lines into the top with a fork or butter knife and drizzle olive oil on top. The oil will settle into the lines. Sprinkle paprika, chopped parsley, and arrange the reserved whole chickpeas in the center to garnish.
  6. Serve with cucumbers, or any favorite veggies, pita bread, crackers, or spread onto sandwiches!
  1. While the chickpeas are cooking, roast a red pepper in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and add to the blender to make roasted red pepper hummus. Or you could add 1/4 cup cilantro leaves and half a jalapeño pepper to make a zesty, spicy green hummus!
Sugar & Garlic

Baba Ghanouj (Eggplant Dip)


This dip is SO flavorful, zesty, and delicious! Roasted eggplant, fresh garlic, lemon juice and a dash of tahini sauce are what make up this delicious spread. Traditionally the eggplant is charred or grilled first to impart a smoky flavor, and some people use some of the roasted and charred skin to infuse more smokiness to this dip. But I do not prefer the smoky flavor so completely omitted the charring step. If this is something you like, you could easily do this step first by charring on a grill or resting over the flame of a gas range. Baba Ghanouj is usually mashed, with some texture to it. I love mine smooth and velvety and how my Vitamix completely incinerates the seeds (which have healthful enzymes!),  but you could reserve some of the eggplant flesh and mash it into the puree at the end to leave some texture, if you prefer. Drizzle with olive oil and paprika powder and serve with pita bread.



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Baba Ghanouj (Eggplant Dip)
A healthy and flavorful combination of roasted eggplant, garlic, lemon, and special spices make this the perfect dip or spread on sandwiches!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
  1. 1 large eggplant
  2. 1 lemon, juiced
  3. 1 1/2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
  4. 1/2 tsp salt
  5. pinch of pepper
  6. 1/4 tsp cumin
  7. 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  8. pinch of cayenne (optional)
  9. 4 large cloves of garlic (or more!)
  1. Wash the eggplant, cut a slit down the side, and place on a pan to roast in the oven. Place in middle rack of the oven at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Eggplant will begin to collapse and shrivel. Remove once a knife easily slides into the flesh and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  2. With a large spoon, scrape out all the flesh and scoop into a blender or processor. Add the garlic, lemon juice, tahini, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and optional cayenne pepper.
  3. Pulse to incorporate all ingredients, then puree for about 45 seconds on high (this way you do not encounter any seeds). If you prefer a chunkier texture, first puree the garlic, seasoning and tahini until smooth then pulse in the eggplant to desired consistency.
  4. Spoon onto a serving platter, smoothing the top. Use a butter knife to draw a line down the center or in a circular swirl, depending on desired pattern and shape of the serving dish. Drizzle olive oil on top and it will settle where you "carved" a line into the dip. Sprinkle some paprika, and garnish with parsley.
  5. Serve with pita bread and enjoy!
Sugar & Garlic
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