Pineapple Jalapeño Mojito: A Refreshing Twist on a Classic Cocktail

The dog days of summer are just around the corner and I for one, couldn't be more thrilled. Take that back. Summertime in L.A. isn't hot (or sunny) enough for this beach bum. Call me crazy...but I love the heat. Guess I'll always be a Florida girl at heart. With the AC pumping and a pristine pool to wade in, I can handle 90-degree temps better than most. But this Florida girl lives in Southern California now, where it's not exactly warm...even in June.

"June Gloom," they call it. The sunless month bares its ugly fangs every year...and often extends into July. "It's always sunny in SoCal?" That's a lie friends. May Gray, June Gloom, No Sky July...it's like cruel and unusual punishment for the Californians who take the other 9 glorious months of sunshine for granted. But I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you that I still love living here.

I suppose the grass is always greener though, right? Many of you are probably wiping your brow and upper lip every 10 seconds these days...wearing shorts and flip flops...while I'm still donning light jackets and booties. You're also probably praying for an overcast day...just to mask some of that sweltering summer sun.

Well friends, I certainly can't trade my weather for yours but I can definitely bring you a recipe that'll hopefully provide a bit of relief. A spin on a classic cocktail, my Pineapple and Jalapeño Mojito is a little bit sweet...a little bit spicy...and a whole lot of refreshing. Enjoy it by the pool...and once you've had enough...just take it inside and sip on it under that amazing A.C vent. Either way, you're sure to enjoy this summertime cocktail staple.

Pineapple Jalapeño Mojito

Ingredients:

2 ounces silver rum (I use Bacardi)

1/4 cup pineapple, diced

2 wedges lime

6 mint leaves

1 tablespoon simple syrup (recipe here)

3 thinly sliced rounds of jalapeño (with a few seeds if you want it spicy)

Club Soda to top (about 1/2 cup)

Crushed ice

Directions:

To a rocks glass, add pineapple, jalapeño, mint leaves, and one wedge of lime. Lightly muddle. Add crushed ice, rum, and simple syrup and top with club soda. Stir and enjoy!

Lighten Up This Memorial Day With a Shaved Asparagus, Arugula, & Prosciutto Salad With Lemon Pesto Vinaigrette

How in God's name is it already the middle of May? Feels like I got married yesterday and the beginning of 2015 was a week before that. I'm not exactly complaining. While I'd love nothing more than to go back to my wedding day, I'm really looking forward to the dog days of summer. Truth be told though, Los Angeles has been experiencing a lot of "May Gray" lately and I'm just here wishin' and a hopin' that we don't catch another case of "June Gloom" this year. That's right. It's not always sunny in SoCal. Dreams crushed, I know.

But regardless, I'll still enjoy my summer. Even with a new job starting, there's something about summertime that just feels more relaxing and fun. Weekend barbecues, trips to the beach, and picnic dates in the park...it's all pretty appealing if you ask me. Oh, and I must mention this summer also includes a Hawaiian honeymoon, 4th of July "staycation" with my best friend's much anticipated visit, and a long weekend getaway in Chicago. So yeah, I think I'll fare pretty well over the next few months.

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The summer fun begins with next weekend's Memorial Day festivities. I'm looking forward to a long bike ride down to Manhattan Beach, a cool charitable event in Venice, and a pot luck shindig in my 'hood. But what in the world is a girl to make who's determined to keep her wedding day figure? A salad of course. Don't judge. This salad is fit for a crowd of foodies. 

Arugula comes dressed with a lemony pesto vinaigrette and topped with shaved and marinated purple and green asparagus along with quick-fried prosciutto and parmesan shavings. It's pretty to look at and even better to taste. Lots of crunch and tons of diverse flavor, this salad also takes less than 15 minutes to prepare, from start to finish. Big thanks to Frieda's for the beautiful purple asparagus. Super tender and fresh, it also added a nice pop of color to the mixture. 

So there you go. Memorial Day Barbecue contribution solved. It won't sacrifice that beach body and won't take a labor of love to prepare. 

Shaved Asparagus, Arugula, & Prosciutto Salad With Lemon-Pesto Vinaigrette 

Ingredients:

1 pound Asparagus (I used a combo of purple & green)

6-8 ounces baby arugula 

4-6 ounces prosciutto

1/4 cup shaved or grated Parmigiano Reggiano

For the Dressing:

3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, packed

1/2 cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Juice and zest from one lemon

Directions:

1. Prepare the dressing. To a food processor, add all of the dressing ingredients except for the olive oil. Pulse until combined. Then, slowly pour in the olive oil, pulsing until dressing is thin. If you need to add more liquid,  add lemon juice or olive oil until it has reached desired consistency. 

2. Shave the asparagus. Using a vegetable peeler, peel lengthwise into strips (leaving the asparagus tips whole). You can snap off the tips or leave them on. If it becomes difficult to peel the asparagus after the first couple strips, place lengthwise on the handle of a long wooden spoon and begin peeling again. This will allow the peeler enough room from to do its job. Place the shaved asparagus in a bowl, add half of the dressing, and toss. Set aside. 

3. Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a pan on high heat. Tear prosciutto into pieces and add to pan. Cook for about 30 seconds, turning once, until prosciutto has crisped up just a bit. Don't over fry it as it'll reduce down to nothing. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel. 

4. Add arugula to mixing bowl with the other half of the dressing. Toss well. Then, add the arugula to a serving platter. Create a well in the middle and add the shaved asparagus to it. Then, top with prosciutto pieces and shaved or grated Parmigiano Reggiano. I use the vegetable peeler to create large shavings.

5. ENJOY!

***Serves 6-8 people as a small-large side salad. 

L.A. Bites: The Ube & Croissant Donuts From Santa Monica's Famed DK's Donuts

I don't eat donuts very often. Heck, I never, ever eat those glorious fried rings of dough. But when I do, I only want the very best. Forget the donut chains, never mind your local grocery store's lousy attempts, I've gotta have a donut that ohhs and ahhs with every bite. A donut that leaves a lasting impression. A donut that also, has its own unique flair.

And that is why, on the extremely rare occasion when I allow myself to fix that persistent donut craving, I head straight for the infamous D.K.'s Donuts in Santa Monica, where both their Ube purple donut and their take on the croissant donut (the "Double-Decker O'nut") rank supreme. 

Just a little background on D.K.'s Donuts...remember when the "Cronut" craze was at its height back in 2013? You may also remember that the croissant donut creator, a bakery in New York, threatened lawsuits against numerous bakeries around the country using the "Cronut" name. Well, D.K.'s was one of the more agreeable bakeries, quickly changing the name of their flaky and fried masterpiece from "Kronut" to "Double-Decker O'nut." Out of this little debacle came tons of media attention, gaining the drool-worthy donut shop some serious fame around town.

Situated in a modest (and quite honestly, dingy) plaza on Santa Monica Blvd., D.K.'s doesn't look like much. But then again, do donut shops ever aim for the aesthetics? Once you excitedly step foot in the joint, you're immediately amongst a long line of ravenous patrons, waiting to get their fried, sugary fix. Peering over the shoulders of those in front of you, you begin to marvel over all the perfectly iced, filled, and sprinkled treats.

Then, it's your turn. The moment you've been waiting for. While you can't go wrong at D.K.'s Donuts, you're a seasoned pro. You're wise. You're a donut aficionado. So you do what's right. You order (at least) one Ube purple donut and (at least) one Double-Decker O'nut. Then, you hand cash (yes, cash only) to the cashier and take your little bag of goodies (and guilt) home to enjoy.

The Ube donut. It was invented at D.K.'s. Made with purple yams, it's the crowned jewel of cake donuts. Perfectly moist, flawlessly dense, it's the kinda cake donut that you sink your teeth into and rejoice. There most certainly is a God. Topped with a coating of sugar or some crumbles of bacon, it's just about as good as a donut is gonna get. Oh, and it's all the kinda donut that will haunt your every food-loving dream.

The Double-Decker O'Nut. Well friends, there are many varieties to choose from. Again, you can't go wrong. My personal favorite though, is the Pistachio O'nut. Sky-high with twice the amount of layers of croissant donuts that you can find at any other bakery, this beauty is also modestly glazed, topped with pistachios, and one heavenly dollop of vanilla cream. Every bite is more marvelous and record-breaking than the last. It's everything you could ever want or dream for in a donut. 

A mom and pop shop that's just doing everything right in the name of donuts, D.K.'s is pretty much a Santa Monica landmark when it comes to guilty pleasures. I pass by the joint often, my mouth salivating and my mind racing...over all of the downright decadent options...that wait for me...until it's time for my next donut devouring.