Homemade Antipasto Salad

Ever since I had that fantastic antipasto salad at Trattoria Grappolo, I’ve been dying to recreate it at home.  Finally the stars aligned and I was able to make a homemade antipasto salad that was almost as good as Grappolo’s version.

Homemade Antipasto Salad SpreadIn my opinion homemade antipasto salad needs to have three key ingredients: good selection of meats, quality cheese, and a wide array of vegetables.  Thankfully Orange County has a wide variety of cheese shops so the Englishman and I were able to procure some creamy goat cheese, a delightful camembert, some English cheddar and provolone.  For this homemade antipasto we decided to skip the traditional mozzarella, but next time I think I may add it in.

homemade antipasto salad cheeseOn the meat front we gathered salami, ham, prosciutto and turkey.  I have yet to find a deli I love in OC so we got our meat from Sprouts, but if any locals have suggestions please share in the comments!

Homemade Antipasto Salad VegetablesLast but not least was the veggies.  I roasted some eggplant, broccoli, red peppers and zucchini and then had some olives, cucumbers, and tomatoes on the side.

Homemade Antipasto Salad SpreadAdd some rose, some homemade bread and olive oil and you have yourself a nice homemade antipasto salad!  I loved how easy it was to throw this together – this is definitely a great meal when you are short on time and want a way to sneak some extra vegetables in.

What’s your favorite antipasto salad ingredient?

Tommy Bahama Fish Fridays

The last time I dined at Tommy Bahama’s Island Grille was for a work Christmas party and I spent most of the meal waxing poetic about their freshly baked bread and honey butter.  I felt it had been far too long since I had eaten at Tommy Bahama’s, so when I was invited to come in and try the Tommy Bahama Fish Fridays menu, I jumped at the chance.

tommy bahama fish fridays menu The idea behind Tommy Bahama Fish Fridays was to create a more extensive seafood menu for patrons during the Lenten season.  This special Fish Friday menu includes an updated version of Fish N’ Chips (battered in Stone IPA no less), Blackened Fish Tacos, Teriyaki Grilled Salmon and New Zealand Mussels.

For our meal, the Englishman and I decided to order a couple of dishes off the Fish Fridays menu as well as some seafood dishes from their regular menu since Tommy Bahama prides itself on offering sustainable dishes from local resources.

We started the evening with some drinks, including the Spring Fling Cocktail, which was one of the specials on the Tommy Bahama Fish Fridays menu.

tommy bahama fish fridays menuThe spring fling is made with gin, aperol, grapefruit, simple syrup, lime and rosemary and is a delight.  I don’t normally gravitate towards gin-based cocktails but this was light and refreshing.  The rosemary sprig was an excellent touch.

While we waited for our starters to arrive we were presented with the famous bread and honey butter.

tommy bahama fish friday menu breadAnd yes, it was just as delicious as I remembered and I had to restrain myself from eating the entire loaf once again.  Seriously best bread and butter in town.

Our first appetizer was the Seared Ahi and Kale Salad.  I had notified Tommy Bahama of my allergies beforehand, so this was prepared without the corn and the dressing on the side which I appreciated.

tommy bahama fish fridays ahi saladThe tuna was seared to perfection and paired nicely with the kale.  I don’t normally order seared ahi at restaurants because it is generally overcooked, but this was done perfectly.  If you are looking for a lighter dish, definitely go for this one.

Next was the Kobe Beef and Scallop Sliders with crispy fried onions.

tommy bahama scallop slidersYou can’t really go wrong with Kobe beef so this was of course delicious.  I also liked that the scallop slider contained two fresh scallops so the Englishman and I could share.

For entrees, we had to order the Stone IPA Battered Fish N’ Chips.

tommy bahama fish n chipsThis dish was probably my least favorite of the evening only because I felt that the fish was almost dredged in too much batter.  The batter was incredibly flavorful, but it seemed to overpower the fish too much, and I found myself eating mouthfuls of batter and not much fish.

Next up was the Blackened Fish Tacos with crispy plantains.

tommy bahama fish fridays fish tacosI loved this dish – the fish was nice and crispy and the chipotle aioli had just the right amount of spice.  I didn’t eat the tortillas due to my allergies but I enjoyed the fish and slaw instead.  If you are looking for delicious fish tacos, Tommy Bahama’s version definitely hits the spot.  Plus you can’t go wrong with the crispy (cinnamon!) plantains served on the side.

Last but not least was the Peri Peri Dusted Halibut with fingerling potatoes and brown sugar glazed carrots which was my favorite dish of the night.

tommy bahama halibutThe halibut was light and flaky and paired nicely with the carrots and potatoes.  This dish is served with a hearty piece of fish but not too big so you feel overstuffed after.  The good news is that this dish part of Tommy Bahama’s regular menu so you can enjoy it all year round!

We somehow managed to find room for dessert so we ordered the Pineapple Creme Brulee and the Malted Chocolate Pie.

tommy bahama creme bruleeThe creme brulee was to die for.  It was served inside a fresh pineapple and the vanilla bean brulee had chunks of pineapple inside of it.  I will definitely order this dessert again when I return to Tommy Bahama’s.

tommy bahama malted pieI didn’t get a chance to tasted the Malted Chocolate Pie but the Englishman had nothing but wonderful things to say about the dessert.  And since we both licked our dessert plates clean, I think it’s safe to say it was a resounding success.

Thank you Tommy Bahama for hosting us and letting us try your Fish Fridays menu!  Everything was delicious and just reinforced the fact that I need to go to Tommy Bahama’s more often.  I also have to give a shout out to our waiter Emerlito – he went above and beyond to make sure everything was perfect and steered us in the right direction when we were deciding what to order.  If you have dinner at Tommy Bahama’s, be sure to ask for him.

The Tommy Bahama Fish Fridays menu is available now through Easter.

Loaded Oatmeal Cookies

Once upon a time a group of food bloggers got to talking and thought it would be fun to do a cookie swap (because who doesn’t love cookies?).  And so, the Coast to Coast Cookie Swap was born.  After much deliberation, I decided to make loaded oatmeal cookies.

Loaded Oatmeal Cookies Close UpThe idea for the loaded oatmeal cookies came from the Starbucks Outrageous Oatmeal Cookie.  Every time I go to Starbucks I eye that cookie, but after finding out it had soybean oil in the ingredients, I realized I would have to make my own “outrageous” oatmeal cookie if you will.

For Christmas I made Chocolate Oatmeal Pecan Cookies for my swap with Natalie, so this time I thought I’d take it a step further and make a loaded oatmeal cookie with all sorts of fun things like raisins and nuts. As you can tell from my chicken scratch, I was a bit undecided on what exactly I wanted in the cookies.

Loaded Oatmeal Cookies RecipeThis recipe yields about 40 cookies, so if you don’t want to make as many then I recommend cutting the recipe in half.  These cookies also taste great frozen or with a glass of almond milk!

Loaded Oatmeal Cookies MilkI’m so glad that we did the Coast to Coast Cookie Swap!  It was the perfect opportunity for me to make some delicious loaded oatmeal cookies as well as try other treats from my wonderful food blogger friends!

Here’s the rundown of what all the bloggers made:

Foodologie – Molasses Ginger Apricot Cookies

In Natalie’s Shoes – Glorified Chocolate Chip Cookies

Urban Chick’s Foodie Ventures – Peach Cobbler Cookies

Jazzy Jonez – Lemon Blueberry Cookies

And below you can find the recipe for my loaded oatmeal cookies!

Loaded Oatmeal Cookies (makes roughly 35-40 cookies)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup coconut oil, softened
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 eggs
2 tbsp almond milk
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut


Preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly grease two baking sheets with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl blend your flour, ground flaxseed baking powder, baking soda and oats and set aside.

Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer (or you can whisk by hand) beat your coconut oil until creamy and begin to fold in your maple syrup.  Add your eggs one at a time and continue to mix until well blended. Add your milk, vanilla and salt to your wet mixture and then slowly fold in your dry ingredients.

Lastly add the chopped pecans, raisins, coconut and chocolate chips and continue to mix until everything is nicely combined.

Scoop spoonfuls of dough onto the baking sheet and flatten.  Place cookies in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned. Remove cookies from oven and let cool, then enjoy!

Loaded Oatmeal Cookies PlateWhat’s your favorite cookie recipe?  Share in the comments!

Trattoria Grappolo

When I first started planning our wedding I knew I wanted really, really good food that would leave people with a smile on their face and full bellies.  Santa Ynez has many wonderful restaurants and caterers to choose from, but as soon as I tasted the food from Trattoria Grappolo last fall I knew I wanted them to cater our wedding.

Trattoria Grappolo is an Italian restaurant that uses fresh, local ingredients from farmers in the area and also offers a wine list that includes many wines from wineries in the Santa Ynez area.  One of my favorite wines that they offer is the Grenache Rose from Foley Wines.

Trattoria Grappolo Grenache RoseWhen we were in Santa Ynez a couple of weeks ago finalizing wedding details, we knew we had to pop into Trattoria Grappolo for dinner.  The Englishman and my dad had yet to try the food, and I felt the need to taste it again for “quality control purposes.”

After a day filled with wine and cake tasting, we made our way over to Trattoria Grappolo and immediately dug into their delicious bread and olive oil while we eagerly looked over the menu.

Trattoria Grappolo Bread and OilFor our appetizer courses, we decided to split the Caprese Salad and the Antipasti Salad.

Trattoria Grappolo CapreseMy mom and I had the caprese the last time we were at Trattoria Grappolo and it was just as good as we remembered.  Slices of mozzarella nestled between tomatoes with a light olive oil drizzle and fresh basil.  Simple, yet perfect.

Trattoria Grappolo Antipasto SaladThe Antipasti Salad was out of this world.  I’ve had a lot of antipasti salad in my time, but this one exceeded all expectations.  We were presented with a beautiful dish consisting of fresh grilled calamari, shrimp, roasted vegetables, prosciutto and mozzarella.  Next time I dine at Trattoria Grappolo I just might order this as an entrée.

For our mains, the Englishman and I decided to split the Pollo al Forno, which is chicken roasted with shiitake mushrooms and truffle oil.

Trattoria Grappolo Roast ChickenAnytime there’s truffle oil on the menu I’m bound to order that dish and this one did not disappoint.  The truffle flavor was nicely balanced without being too overpowering and the root vegetables on the side were a perfect complement.

My dad decided to order the Fagioli con Salsicce, which was Italian sausage over a bed of white cannelinni beans.

Trattoria Grappolo SausageThe sausage had a nice little spicy kick to it and paired perfectly with the cannelinni beans.  If pasta isn’t your thing, I definitely recommend ordering a dish like this.

My mom kept it simple with Pizza Carciofi which was a thin crust pizza topped with cheese, artichokes and capers.

Trattoria Grappolo PizzaI’m a firm believer that sometimes simple is better when it comes to pizza, and this one was a perfect example.  The crust was nice and crispy, the artichokes perfectly roasted and the capers added a nice touch of salt.

Of course, no meal is complete without dessert, so we ordered Tiramisu and Spumoni.

Trattoria Grappolo SpumoniFor those of you not familiar, spumoni is an Italian ice cream made with three different flavors – cherry, pistachio and chocolate and is delicious.  I’ve mentioned my feelings on tiramisu before, and while it’s not my favorite dessert, this version was very good.

Having dinner at Trattoria Grappolo just reinforced my excitement for having them cater our wedding in May.  And I will say, some of the dishes in this post will be featured on our wedding menu, but we also have a lot of other delicious items coming from Trattoria Grappolo that I can’t wait to share with you after our big day!

But now I leave you with this important question – what is your favorite Italian dessert?