Category Archives: Food

Brunch in the Garden: El Jardin San Diego

Have you been to El Jardin in Liberty Station? Claudette Zepeda-Wilkin’s new restaurant opened this summer. My mom took the Little Birds and me there for brunch a little while ago. The chef grows much of the produce right on the restaurant’s lot, and the breezy garden patio is comfortable and beautifully decorated.

El Jardin in San Diego is now serving brunch out on their garden patio

Refined Abuela Cooking

Chef Zepeda-Wilkin’s roots are here in San Diego and across the border in Mexico. She brings the comfort and satisfaction of her grandma’s recipes and traditions to current day presentation and surprises.

El Jardin in San Diego is now serving brunch out on their garden patio

The highlight of our brunch was the Chilaquiles Divorciados. Given the choice, I usually pick a green sauce for my chilaquiles or enchiladas. But I was happy to taste both homemade sauces. Divorciados means two different sauces side by side, making me think of a couple that are not quite divorced, but living separately in the same house.

All in the Details

Both the outside patio and the indoor dining room are decorated thoughtfully. I loved the utility of a stand near our table meant to hold bags. As a mom, I totally appreciated that there was a changing table in restroom stocked with Honest diapers and wipes. I mentioned it in my Instagram story, and the chef responded that the men’s room had the same set up!

The best restaurant changing table in San Diego

The Tastes

el jardin restaurant san diego

We started with hot chocolate, which was mixed (batida) table side, and cafe de olla. They mix the coffee with piloncillo sugar. I found it too sweet, especially along side the sweet entrees.

el jardin restaurant san diego

If you have seen my cajeta recipe or caramel torte with cajeta, chocolate and pecans (you have to click through to see the picture!), then you know I am obsessed with CAJETA. The Little Birds liked the pancakes with cajeta. Mom tip: have the kids split the sweet dish and order them each a side of eggs.

Cajeta and strawberry pancakes at El Jardin Restaurant in San Diego

One to Watch

I first met chef Zepeda-Wilkins in 2015. That summer, Specialty Produce held a tasting night a week before Javier Placensio’s Bracero opened. Zepeda-Wilkins, as that restaurant’s chef de cuisine, prepared Yucatan-style cochinita pibil sopes topped with heirloom beans and fermented pineapple. I really enjoyed hearing about the food from her. When her more famous boss came over, I asked to take a picture. She humbly stepped out of frame, and I insisted she get back in the photo. “Me?” she asked. “Yes!” I blurted, “I like you.” Because, sometimes I go with my gut, you know?

Tijuana chef, Javier Plascencia, and Bracero chef de cuisine Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins.

Since then, Zepeda-Wilkins starred in TV projects such as Top Chef in the US and Mexico. And in the time it has taken me to finish this blog post, El Jardin and the chef have been nominated for several restaurant awards. Yet, she still takes the time to bring the food to guests herself!

Chef Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins of El Jardin Restaurant in San Diego

One More Tip

Top the chilaquiles with short rib, please! You’re welcome.

Chilaquiles Divorciados topped with short rib at El Jardin in San Diego

El Jardin

2885 Perry Rd, San Diego, CA 92106
(619) 795-2322
eljardinrestaurantbar.com

Brunch at Herb & Wood

I hope you all enjoyed Mother’s Day! What did you do? Papa Bird makes a great breakfast. But with our new house still filled with boxes, I thought going out would be more relaxing. So we had a delicious brunch at Herb & Wood in Little Italy.

Herb-and-Wood-Brunch San Diego Eggs Benedict

If you follow our family on Instagram, you will know we often eat breakfast at Herb & Eatery, which is the casual market/cafe side of Herb & Wood. Papa Bird and I have had the pleasure of a night out at Herb & Wood, but we’ve never gone to brunch. In fact, they just started serving brunch last month!

The Sweet Verdict

Herb-and-Wood-Brunch - Monkey Bread and Dutch Baby

We love the croissants and pastries at both places. In fact, their pastry chef, Adrian Mendoza, is currently my favorite in town. Stand-outs for us were definitely the sweets.

Herb-and-Wood-Brunch - Dutch Baby Soufflé Pancake

We would 100% order the Dutch Baby Soufflé Pancake again. The table side presentation includes topping it, fresh from the oven, with huckleberries, lemon curd, and chantilly cream.

Herb-and-Wood-Brunch - Monkey Bread - San Diego

I’d say we would order the Monkey Bread with caramel, sesame seeds, cashews and tahini gelato again…. but we already did! It was my choice to start us off and Papa Bird ordered a second round for us to finish our meal. It’s a definite winner — and tip, only limited quantities are made each weekend, so order early. If the place weren’t so fancy, I would’ve definitely licked the plate.

Herb-and-Wood-Brunch - San Diego

Herb & Wood Restaurant

Speaking of fancy, the restaurant is full service, meaning multiple waitstaff attended on us, clearing dishes and silverware between courses. Herb & Wood is probably one of the most beautiful spaces in town. It used to be an art gallery (I remember attending openings in the space’s past life) and is a place “to be seen.”

Herb and Wood Restaurant in San Diego

Brunch options

To be honest, I thought we ordered a lot of food, between the French Onion Omelet, the Jamon Iberico Benedict, an Avocado and Burrata salad, and all the sweets. However, after leaving, I realized we never got to try their breakfast or brunch pizzas. You can see the current brunch menu here.

Herb & Wood Brunch in San Diego

The Extra Touches

In addition to the attentive service, they went above and beyond with extra touches for Mother’s Day. Our friend Nikki, who we know from frequenting the market side, made dozens and dozens of paper tulips to give to all the mamas. Our server delivered the flower at the end of the meal with a pair of perfect macarons packaged to take home.

Herb & Wood Restaurant in San Diego

Tips and Suggestions

  • Since brunch service is still new, reservations are a must. But if you do procrastinate, you’ll have the best luck finding a table when they first open at 10am.
  • Parking is really not that bad on Sundays and the meters are free.
  • Dress to impress. Even brunch is a scene to be seen. I would say rock your own style, whatever you feel that is, but don’t phone it in. You don’t want to get there and feel underdressed.
  • Only limited quantities of the Monkey Bread and Pastry Basket are baked each day, so put those orders in early.
  • The orange juice is freshly squeezed – ambrosia, as my dad used to call it.

Herb & Wood Restaurant in San Diego

Go!

2210 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA
619.955.8495
herbandwood.com
IG

Eggs Benedict with Jamon Iberico at Herb & Wood in San Diego

Loquat Sorbet Recipe with Tequila and Salt

Here’s a fun post: a delicious recipe for loquat sorbet made with a splash of tequila and sprinkled with Hawaiian black lava salt.

Loquat Sorbet Recipe using fresh loquats and a splash of tequila and salt

The loquats came from a tree in our backyard. We started it from the seed of a tree down the street and it’s taken off. According to the Specialty Produce App, loquats grow well in most Southern states, but usually only fruit in California, Florida and Hawaii.

Loquat Tree with fruit ready to make into loquat sorbet

This post is a family collaboration! Papa Bird (our sorbet master) came up with the recipe and shot the “making of” photos. The child labor came from the (not so) Baby Birds.

Fresh loquats from the treekids cooking loquat sorbet

Kids Cooking in the Garden

Kids cutting loquats for sorbet with playful chef safety knives

The girls have been honing their kitchen skills with their new knife set. They love the safety knives from Playful Chef (Amazon link) which are designed to cut through apples and carrots, but safely fit in young hands. They use them almost daily.

The kids also harvested the loquats from the tree, selecting the ripest, softest and sweetest fruit.

My kids enjoy cooking, especially sweet treats. And they LOVE making and eating anything from our garden.

How to Make Loquat Sorbet

Loquat Sorbet Recipe using fresh loquats and a splash of tequila and salt

Loquats are from the same family as apples, pears and roses. The fruit have a mild, sweet, slightly sour and refreshing flavor.

loquats on the tree, ready for this sorbet recipe

They grow rampant in Southern California. So check your neighborhood and forage! If you or a friend have a tree, you likely have more fruit than you can deal with. And sadly, there are not very many loquat recipes out there. Select fruit that are a little soft and pull off easily from the branch.

Loquat sorbet

Next, Papa Bird set up an assembly line for the girls outside. The fruit can be juicy and sticky.

Kids Cooking Recipe: Fresh Fruit (Loquat) Sorbet

The kids cut the fruit in half. Loquats contain 3-7 large, hard, inedible seeds in the middle.

fresh loquats with seeds

Remove the seeds. The fruit are now ready to run through a juicer.

loquat sorbet

Preparing the loquat sorbet

This sorbet came out delicious!

Loquat sorbet with tequila and Hawaiian lava salt

To make 2 cups of juice, Papa Bird used approximately 60 halved, seeded loquats. We have a Breville compact juicer, which quickly separated the juice from the skin and less edible parts.

Read the printable recipe below. Continue reading

Honey Bourbon Pecan Pie [New Recipe]

The fall flew by! Can you believe it is almost Thanksgiving? I am thankful for extra time off with my children. We love to get creative in the kitchen, especially when it comes to sweets. We were talking with our friend from the San Diego Honey Company about how we like to bake with unrefined sugars, such as local honey. We put our brains together and collaborated on this Honey Bourbon Pecan Pie. See if you might like to try it for Thanksgiving dessert!

honey bourbon pecan pie

If you have seen my recipes for Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie or Pumpkin Pie, you will know that I try to steer clear of corn syrup. I also often reduce sugar in my recipes. Honey adds subtle layers of flavor that compliment the other ingredients. Why not add flavor and avoid GMO’s?

honey bourbon pecan pie

To be honest, I bake the Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie every year. It’s just a winner. But this year I wanted to experiment with something new. Since bourbon goes so well with honey and pecan, I figured this one couldn’t go wrong.

baby birds farm eggs

To select which honey to use, I picked the brain of Lisann, who owns the San Diego Honey Company, and makes the infused flavors herself. You can talk to her directly at the Solana Beach Farmers market every Sunday. I also pick up her honey at Specialty Produce or Sprouts. (The super fresh pecans were from Specialty Produce.) I asked her which honey would go best in this recipe. “Vanilla Bean!” she said. The vanilla bean honey has a ton of flecks of real vanilla, which compliments the sweet custard of a pecan pie.

honey bourbon pecan pie

Next, I thought about my mom’s classic pecan pie recipe. It uses half a cup of light corn syrup and half a cup of dark corn syrup, as each have their own flavor notes. To mimic the match, I used half vanilla bean honey, which is in a light honey base, and half avocado blossom honey. If you have never had the pleasure of tasting avocado blossom honey (sounds like a total San Diego thing), it is super dark and tastes like molasses. For reals.

honey bourbon pecan pie

The only difference in baking with honey vs. corn syrup or maple syrup, is that you will want to heat it up slightly. This helps it to mix much easier, especially if other ingredients are cold. I warmed the honeys, brown sugar, and butter until just melted, and then let them cool before mixing with the rest of the ingredients. Do you bake or cook with honey?

honey bourbon pecan pie

Honey Bourbon Pecan Pie [New Recipe]
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Try this twist on a classic American pecan pie this Thanksgiving. Honey replaces corn syrup and adds extra flavor, complimenting the sweet bourbon.
Ingredients
All Butter Pie Crust
  • 8 ounces of unsalted butter
  • 2 cups of flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ice water, about ½ cup
Honey Bourbon Pecan Pie Filling
  • ½ cup dark honey, such as avocado blossom honey
  • ½ cup light honey, such as vanilla bean honey
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3 T butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 T bourbon whiskey
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
  • (optional) dash of cardamon bitters
  • 2 cups of raw pecan halves
Instructions
All Butter Pie Crust
  1. Cut the butter evenly into small pieces, place on a plate in the freezer, and chill for about 30 minutes. Put ice and cold water in a measuring cup and chill.
  2. Place flour and salt in the bowl of a Kitchen-Aid mixer. When butter is frozen, use paddle attachment with mixer on the very lowest setting, and drop butter in a few pieces at a time. Stay close by. When the chunks of butter are slightly larger than pea size, dribble in the ice water until dough does not appear dry and JUST begins to come together.
  3. Move the dough to a dry surface and push together with the heel of your hand. Try not to knead or overwork the dough, you want it to come together so you can roll it out. This dough can be used right away! This amount makes enough for a top and a bottom, or two bottom crusts. You will only need one half for the pecan pie. If you are not going to use it right away, double wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 3-4 days or freeze for up to a month.
  4. After rolling out the crust and gently placing it in your pie dish, place it back in the refrigerator until it is ready to be filled.
Honey Bourbon Pecan Pie Filling
  1. Preheat oven to 375*.
  2. Place the honeys, brown sugar and 3 T of butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Tip: you will want a spatula to scrape all of the sticky honey out of your measuring cups. Heat, stirring occasionally, until butter and sugar and just melted. Take off heat and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Lightly beat eggs by hand. Add bourbon, vanilla and bitters. (Use the larger amount of vanilla extract if your honey doesn't have awesome flecks of vanilla already in it.)
  4. Once the honey mixture has cooled, gently stir it into the eggs and pecans, until just combined. Pour into the prepared, unbaked, half pie shell.
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until just set in the middle (meaning there is no jiggle when you wiggle.)
  6. Let cool completely.
Notes
For more photos of and tips on this crust and baking pies, see this post.

Pin this Honey Bourbon Pecan Pie Recipe

Save this, or other Thanksgiving favorites, to Pinterest!

Honey Bourbon Pecan Pie Vertical

 

Kid-Made Almond Pulp Granola

Any time you cook with kids expect a mess. Multiple your prep time by three. Your results may not be as pretty or as perfect. Then again, kids cooking means kids more likely to try new food, having fun/bonding, and absorbing math and science!

Almond Pulp Granola with Mixed Nuts and Cinnamon

Would you like to see our last project? We made homemade almond milk. And with the unanticipated byproduct of leftover almond pulp, the kids made the most delicious almond granola — too tasty not to share.

Homemade Almond Milk Adventures

When the girls and I decided to try making almond milk at home, we picked up raw almonds at Specialty Produce. After soaking for a day, we ground the almonds in a Vitamix and strained it through cheesecloth leftover from my cheese-making days. If you are serious, you can buy a nut milk bag. If you just want to experiment, you can even use an old pillowcase or dishtowel to strain. It tastes really grainy if you don’t strain. But if you would like to try a nut milk that doesn’t need to be strained, I recommend cashews, like this raw cashew “horchata” recipe.

Vanilla Honey Almond Milk and Dark Chocolate Milk

We made a batch of vanilla bean honey almond milk (sweetened with the vanilla bean honey from San Diego Honey Company) and a dark chocolate almond milk. The basic vanilla recipe I found here and would make again. The chocolate recipe used melted chocolate, and wasn’t as smooth as I would’ve liked. Next time I’ll try raw cacao instead.

Watch this video of me milking nuts, lol…

 

Straining the almond milk through the cheesecloth reminded me so much of making cheese back in the day! It’s been nearly five years since I posted this step-by-step pictures guide to making fresh goat cheese (chèvre) – one of my most comprehensive posts ever. Little Bird used to help add the chèvre culture and roll the logs before she was even two.

Except when you make cheese, the liquid, or whey, is the waste, and the solid is the good stuff you are going for. Making almond milk, the reverse was true. In fact, the leftover almond pulp – which could’ve been just discarded, reminded me in texture of fresh ricotta. Which got me thinking…

Leftover Almond Pulp Makes Great Granola!

We ate a bunch of the almond pulp – which really needs salt – as a snack. I thought it could be interesting as a vegan stuffed pasta filling. Not to mention, it’s a fresher version of the almond meal I buy for baking. However our winning idea was granola!

Almond Pulp Granola with Mixed Nuts and Cinnamon

Drying Out the Almond Meal – Edible Kinetic Sand

Almond pulp leftover from making almond milk makes great granola

The girls had fun spreading out the almond pulp on a baking sheet to dry it out. Use your hands! Such good sensory fun and… it totally feels like kinetic sand! Seriously, you have to try it.

You dry out the pulp in a 200° oven for a few hours, checking it and stirring and breaking it up once an hour. You want the moisture mostly gone. A little browning is fine, but don’t burn any of it.

The result is “healthy looking” aka kind of a bland, crunchy thing. But once you add all the good stuff, it blends right into the granola, giving it extra body.

Making Almond Pulp Granola

Almond pulp granola

Please improvise with your favorite ingredients. We threw in whatever nuts we had in the freezer! Have fun with it.

Kid-Made Almond Pulp Granola
 
Author:
Recipe type: Easy
Cuisine: Vegan, gluten-free
 
Don't throw away the leftover almond pulp when you make homemade almond milk! It gives body to the most delicious granola. Not to mention, the granola and homemade almond milk taste amazeballs served together!
Ingredients
  • Approx 1 cup of pulp from making almond milk from raw almonds
  • 1 cup of rolled oats or old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup to 2 cups of raw nuts and seeds (we used a mix of walnuts, pistachios, pepitas, slivered almonds and chia seeds)
  • ¼ cup of unsweetened, shredded coconut (optional)
  • ¼ cup of melted coconut oil
  • 3 Tablespoons of maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
Instructions
  1. First, if using leftover almond pulp from making almond milk, spread out the pulp in a thin, even layer on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Bake in a 200* oven. Check it after two hours, breaking up, stirring and flipping the pulp. Bake for another 1 to 2 hours, checking and stirring periodically, until mostly dried.
  2. Next, allow the almond meal to cool, then add it and all of the rest of the ingredients to a medium-sized mixing bowl and stir.
  3. Finally, spread the mixture in an even layer on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. This time bake at 275* for 15-25 minutes, or until lightly brown and toasted. Let cool.
  4. IMPORTANT: Don't mess with it or break apart the giant granola bar until it has cooled for one hour. Then break it up into big chunks and store in an air-tight container.

Have you ever made homemade almond milk or granola?