For better or worse, here I am—trapped in paradise. As long as I continue to live in this vital, inimitable spot on the globe,

I will continue to seek out the unique…the delicious…the innovative products, services and traditions of San Luis Obispo County.

Stay posted for a few of my favorite things.

About Me...

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A wanderlust at heart... captivated by the California Central Coast. Join me on my culinary and vino-infused adventures as I explore and discover the regional novelties of San Luis Obispo County that make living here...easy to stay...and hard to leave.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

SLO Madonna

I’m a SLO runner, and SLO is not just an acronym for me.  My legs typically go one speed, straight ahead, and this morning was no exception. Up bright and early on this dazzling, clear sunny day, I threw on my running clothes and drove to one of San Luis Obispo’s  infamous sites—Madonna Inn. Today this iconic resort hotel provided the backdrop for the inaugural SLO Marathon’s 5K and SLO Life Expo; tomorrow the half and full marathon participants will cross through the finish line here. 

Before traversing through the finish this morning, I lined up at the start with hundreds of other runners and walkers.  An excited energy buzzed through the crowd and at 9:00am the horn sounded. We were off! The 5K course led us up and around the base of Cerro San Luis Mountain (also referred to as Madonna Mountain or San Luis Mountain), where breathtaking views of the surrounding SLO hills blanketed in spring green provided a lovely backdrop. The pastures below were equally beautiful, and the horses and cows ran at their own pace as if to cheer us on.

This double loop course allowed participants to glimpse the remarkable view both times around. Unfortunately, a setback ensued and I wasn't able to enjoy this dramatic milieu as much as the first half of the scurry. As I started the second loop, an annoying side ache caused me to scamper through the rest of the race in quite a bit of discomfort. But hey, that’s how runners roll—up and down the hills, one foot in front of the other, until we reach the finish line. 

A sense of relief washed over me as I crossed the final line, as did a mountain of sweat. The warm temperatures and 3.125 miles of partially hilly terrain made for a sweltering combination.  But as always, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and deeper appreciation for my surroundings. What a fantastic and well organized race set over a stunning course. Of all the 5K's I've run, this one takes the cake. Yet another reason to keep running SLO!

The SLO Life Expo was full of SLO runners and walkers.

Participants scrambled to view their final race results. 33:02 for me!
The infamous Madonna Inn.
 A lovely venue and perfect time of year for a SLO race.

 All text and photos copyright @ 2012 by Elizabeth in SLO. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

SLO Fickle

Spring may have sprung (just absorb those gorgeous pops of color around you), but sometimes Mother Nature is whimsical and throws a snowball or two. Although I missed San Luis Obispo County's brilliant storm last week—rain, hail and booming thunderstorms!—my trip to the Sierra Foothills in Madera County brought its own gratifying flurry of remarkable mizzle. 

Friday morning, chill-to-the-bone temperatures brought ideal conditions for a plump deluge of falling snow. These lovely wet, fluffy snowballs fell from the sky, blocking our view and barricading the air. Later in the day, after the flakes halted, the lingering nippy wintry weather left us in need of something warm from the oven. The perfect solution? Broiled veggie quesadillas. Thanks, mom. 

Her idea to broil the hothouse cherry tomatoes and other vegetables on hand was brilliant. Nothing beats a warm oven emanating the blistering aroma of snarling roasting colors on an arctic day. The following recipe is adaptable and satisfying, sure to warm your core on any chilly occasion. Heck, even fine on a warmer day.

SLO Quesadilla
Serves 4 – 8 as a hearty snack

4 large tortillas (we used a thick variety made of half corn, half wheat)
2 cups cherry tomatoes
4 cups chopped/sliced vegetables of your choice
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil + extra for grilling
½ teaspoon paprika (sweet, smoked, or hot)
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon cumin
6 garlic cloves, peeled & left whole
Salt & pepper to taste
1 lime
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1 cup shredded cheese of your choice
1 tablespoon butter

Optional garnishments: salsa, hot sauce, sliced avocado, black olives, sour cream

Preheat oven to broil and place rack in the middle. Wash your veggies then chop and slice. You can get creative with your ingredients—this is a great recipe to use up whatever cruciferous delights you’ve got lurking in your fridge. But the cherry tomatoes are a must. Once they start to pop and melt in the oven, their bright, rich aroma and flavor make your cold day worthwhile.

Toss tomatoes and veggies with oil, paprika, oregano, cumin, garlic, and salt & pepper in an oven-safe dish. Place under broiler and watch carefully. Depending on your oven’s temperament, the whole process may take between 10 – 20 minutes. Stir the jumble every 5 minutes to prevent scorching. You’ll know it’s done when you pierce the vegetables with a fork and they are soft to your liking.

Remove from the oven and squeeze the juice from the lime over your hot muddle. Heat a pan (large enough to accommodate a tortilla) on the stovetop over medium with a touch of oil and butter. Throw a tortilla down, sprinkle with cheese and plop on a fourth of your veggies. Dot the top with some of the cilantro. Grill for a few minutes until cheese is melted and underside of tortilla is light brown and crispy. Fold tortilla over and plate. You can cut in half or serve as-is with the garnishments of your choice.

Eat up paired with a nice crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc, a margarita, or your favorite cerveza to break the heat in your mouth. 

 Warm. Delicious. Satisfying.
 All text and photos copyright @ 2012 by Elizabeth in SLO. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

SLO Boiled

I don't know how this deliciously weird recipe idea drifted into my subconscious, but I'm grateful it did. For those of you who find yourself at the end of Easter with heaps and bounds of leftover hard-boiled eggs, this egg-salad sandwich with a twist smacks a savory treat. Perfect for brunch, breakfast, lunch or dinner, you can really sink your teeth into this sandwich's layers of toasted sourdough, eggs, pancetta, shallots, and roasted bell pepper dressing with fresh tarragon. The following ingredients can be whipped into shape a day in advance; if you're a genius at multi-tasking in the kitchen, then you'll have no problem crafting these tasty culinary elements simultaneously just shortly before serving. But otherwise, if you're like me and enjoy taking your time, go easy on yourself and prepare each key ingredient for the sandwich one-by-one ahead of time. The end result is deliciousa rich, well-dressed egg-salad sandwich like no other. 

Serves 4 - 8 depending on how generous you are with your toppings.

8 - 12 hard-boiled eggs (instructions follow)
1 cup shallots, peeled & sliced
3 oz. pancetta, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil + 2 teaspoons
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
2 roasted red bell peppers (instructions follow)
2 - 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 - 4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste
1 loaf sliced cracked wheat sourdough bread
1 small head red leaf lettuce, washed and leaves torn

Hard-Boiled Eggs
If you don't have any leftover eggs from Easter, here's the skinny on how I make mine. Place eggs in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then turn off heat; cover with a lid and set your timer for 10 minutes. Once time is up remove eggs from water with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl with ice for 20 minutes; or, stick them in a bowl without ice and place in the freezer for 20 minutes. When they're done cooling, place eggs in the fridge and allow to sit for at least 2 hours before peeling.

Roasted Red Bell Peppers
Preheat oven to broil. Place the whole peppers on a baking sheet and place in oven. Keep your tongs handy and allow each side of peppers to char slightly before turning (can take anywhere between 5 - 10 minutes for each side depending on the size of your peppers and the heat of your broiler). Keep an eye on them and turn as needed until the peppers are evenly roasted and wilted. Remove from oven and place in a small brown paper bag. 

Place bag on a plate (as the peppers are juicy and will leak) for about 20 minutes until cooled. Remove peppers from the bag and place on the plate or a cutting board. Peel the charred skin off and pull off the stems and scrape out any seeds. Do not rinse the peppers under water as this will wash away the wonderful flavors that have developed from the roasting process! Place the peppers in an airtight glass container and put in the fridge until you're ready to make your sauce for the sandwiches.

Sautéed Shallots & Pancetta
Heat olive oil over medium heat and add shallots. Use just a tiny pinch of salt (and some pepper) as the pancetta will impart more than enough salt. Sauté the shallots for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until they start to develop some caramel color. Add the pancetta and stir for 2 - 3 more minutes. Finally, add the tarragon leaves and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool. If you're not making your sandwich until the next day, store this rich, fragrant mixture in a covered glass bowl in the fridge. Allow it to come back to room temperature before placing on your sandwich.

Roasted Bell Pepper Dressing
Place roasted peppers in a blender with 2 teaspoons each of olive oil, Dijon mustard, and vinegar. Add salt & pepper and 1 tablespoon tarragon leaves. Blend well, taste, and adjust for seasonings. Add more mustard and vinegar if you think the sauce needs a bit more tanginess. If you'd like a creamier texture, add the mayonnaise and blend. 

When you're ready to assemble your sandwiches, peel the hard-boiled eggs and chop coarsely in a bowl; sprinkle with salt & pepper. Lightly toast the bread, then spread each piece with dressing. Throw on some lettuce, then add layers of eggs and shallot/pancetta mixture. The flavors of this sandwichthe rich eggs and pancetta, the sweet shallots and bell peppers—all meld perfectly, tied nicely together with the fresh, intriguing taste of tarragon

Serve with a glass of your favorite dry sparkling wine. 

 Now that's a good egg!

All Text and Photos Copyright © 2012 by Elizabeth in SLO. All Rights Reserved.
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