Cinco de…Uh-oh!

My mouth waters as I write this…

Living in Southern California afforded me the chance to not only indulge in your typical homemade Mexican fare on a daily basis, but also to learn how to make it. From salsa to guacamole to refried beans..I learned how to whip up a Mexican Feast in no time flat. Sauces? A cinch. Rolling taquitos or burritos? No problem! Making tortillas from scratch?

Making tortillas from….SCRATCH? HUH?

That WAS my attitude – past tense! Now, I’m proud to say no longer a tortilla-making novice. Not at all! The Kiwi BF and I have been so into making our favorite Mexi-Cali dishes, that we grabbed Tio Pablo’s Instant Corn Masa Mix (ok, not quite from scratch, but close enough!).

We wanted to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, except I wanted to make the tortilla’s from this mix for the authentic vibe we were aiming for with the meal. We rounded out our tortilla making kit with a press and I was good to go.

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This is my new boyfriend…Don’t tell my current one!

This was so easy…as in, ridiculously easy! The mix, which is gluten free, makes life simple: You mix 2 cups of the Corn Masa with one cup of water, mixing the ingredients until they form a firm ball. Separate into 12 smaller balls then …press away!

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So..the beans aren’t quite homemade…This time! They are gluten free, though 🙂

Pressing tip: Use parchment paper on both sides of the dough, and press. This helps keep the tortilas from sticking and makes clean up a lot easier. Lift the press and move the tortilla a quarter turn and press again, repeating these steps a few times to get the tortilla just thin enough, but not too much!

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Seriously, everyone needs a tortilla press!

 

The batch we made gave us 12 tortillas – add some grilled chicken, roasted onions and red peppers, homemade (for real!) guacamole and salsa and you get a perfect Cinco De Mayo – or anytime – meal. The tortillas we made came out soft and pliable, delicious and fresh!

Once you have food this fresh, there is no return 😉

Are you a fan of Mexican food? Share your fave dishes in the comments below..we love hearing what you think 🙂

 

 

FOCUSED, PASSIONATE, INTENSE: MY INTERVIEW WITH TOP CHEF WINNER MICHAEL VOLTAGGIO

In January 2012, I had the honor of sitting down with the owner of ink. Restaurant, ink.sack and Top Chef champ (and fellow Frederick-tonian) Michael Voltaggio. I really wanted to re-post this piece – let’s all get our inner chef’s inspired, shall we? It’s the HOLIDAYS!!!

PS – I have the Voltaggio Brothers (yep, Michael AND Bryan!) homemade applesauce recipe..it’s SO easy to make! I’ll post it in time for Thanksgiving 🙂

 Focused, Passionate, Intense: Meet Top Chef Winner Michael Voltaggio

When entering celebrated Chef Michael Voltaggio’s new restaurant, ink., one cannot help the feeling as if interrupting a conductor who is privately guiding his orchestra through its greatest concerto. With movements that are quick and decisive it’s no wonder three words come to mind to describe Voltaggio: focused, passionate and intense.

It’s this focus, this passion and this intensity that seeps its way out of the kitchen and onto the main floor here in the home of his newest passion project. Tucked away in the corner of a non-descript brick building on famed Melrose Avenue, ink., opened in September in the heart of West Hollywood. LA’s newest eatery boasts an industrial interior with a minimalist vibe and has quickly become a must-stop for foodies and Top Chef enthusiasts alike.

When comparing ink.’s menus from one week to the next, it can be noted that a limited amount of items are part of his regular repertoire. Voltaggio prefers mixing things up weekly. Served on small plates and meant for sharing, his menu is peppered with interesting options that ring of familiar fare, yet with a culinary twist.

A dish such as the jidori chicken and waffles with hot sauce served with whipped maple syrup is his creative spin on the traditional dish of Southern fried chicken and waffles. Voltaggio also expands diner’s minds and palates by offering a kale salad tossed lightly with burrata, Asian pear, pumpkin seeds and a yuzu sauce.

Other menu items that are tempting taste buds to come out of their humdrum shells are the beef tartare that is served with horseradish snow, hearts of palm, and a sea bean chimichurri. There’s also a dish of brussels sprouts, much like a side dish served for a family dinner. Except Votaggio finishes his version with thinly sliced pig ears, house-cured lardo and apple.

As if one restaurant wasn’t enough, Voltaggio also opened a culinary sandwich shop, ink.sack, in August. In his own way, he has made the ordinary sandwich quite the opposite. The menu at ink.sack offers sandwiches such as a beef tongue Reuben and the “CLT”, his take on the traditional BLT. Voltaggio’s version has the lettuce and tomato but the similarity ends there. The “C’ is a chicken liver mousse topped with crispy chicken skin as the bacon substitute.

Voltaggio also makes sure to tip his hat to his Maryland roots, by including Maryland Crab Chips on ink.sack’s daily menu. Homemade deep-fried potato crisps dusted with Old Bay seasoning adds a new spin on the BBQ potato chip for resident Angelinos. This is definitely not your run-of-the mill sandwich shop.

Sitting down with Michael Voltaggio, you begin to understand his rise to stardom amongst other culinary favorites such as Thomas Keller or James Beard. Food enthusiasts think nothing of including his name among lists of the best. The reason?

He’s becoming one of the greats himself.

“I work the line, I cook the food, I order it, I wash the dishes if I have to. I want to be in my restaurant cooking, not be the guy that is never (there),” said Voltaggio.  “I want to focus, right now, my time in LA.”

How does he spend his time when he owns and operates not one, but two restaurants? Well, there’s a consulting gig for a to be announced project in India on the agenda and don’t forget about the cookbook, VOLTink, which he’s been on the road promoting with his brother Brian. One thing is for certain; Voltaggio’s schedule is not for the faint of heart.

In fact balance is something he finds himself struggling with on a daily basis.

“Lately, it’s been all traveling, so I really haven’t had much time to have a lot of  “fun” at all. I used to go hiking a lot. When I had time, I did things like normal people do: I’d exercise and surf, I went outside. I’d like to be able to go outside again,” he said with a grin.

In the midst of his hectic schedule, there is some light though. “I do go out to eat, I ride my Harley and I like to go to shows and concerts when I can.”

Voltaggio’s talent and passion became properly introduced when he was as a teenager, living in Frederick, Maryland, attending Thomas Johnson High School, playing football and working part-time at the Holiday Inn.

“I was in school full time, going to football practice then going to work. I think out of the whole course of my day, the part I looked forward to the most was going to work, and it wasn’t just because I was getting paid. It was fun. I was working on the line cooking food. I couldn’t wait to get there everyday.”

This education helped as he began planning his restaurant after his Top Chef win in 2009.

“I think Los Angeles is a city that has never been taken seriously as a food town. Within the past five years, (we’ve seen) this small food community start to get bigger and bigger, and grow and grow because there is a need for it. People are interested in going out to eat in LA. Food is big, but it hasn’t been as chef-driven or chef-branded.”

When asked what restaurants or nightlife he likes to imbibe in when traveling home to Frederick, Voltaggio’s grin widened as he shared, “Olde Towne Tavern and of course, I’m going to always go check out Volt.”

And where will Chef Voltaggio be in the next few years?

“Hopefully, still in LA, still running ink, maybe with a couple smaller restaurants around,” he said thoughtfully. “I missed my twenties and most likely am going to miss my thirties, so I’d really like to enjoy my forties.”

Photo credit: Alex Horner (for LA Times Magazine)

Photo credit: Alex Horner
(for LA Times Magazine)

 

 

 

Why I Love Skype….

Being a long way from home can be hard – like now. I’m currently in Wellington, New Zealand working and finishing up the next book in the Abby George Series.  It’s so pretty here, and the people are incredible….But it’s WINTER. Yes, if that confuses you, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Several of my friends have been shocked when I shared pics with them or the temperature. While most of my friends and family prep for temp’s in the 90s today, I’m in front of a fire, drinking coffee and dusting off my Uggs.

Life is good 🙂

However, I do miss my home, my family, my pets and my friends. Thank goodness Skype  – makes it so folks like myself can see those we love and get to feel like we’re “a part of” the daily life we may be missing. With that lead in, I want you to say hello to  my nephew, JW. He added a graphic to his Skype when we chatted the other day. Luckily, I grabbed this screenshot 😉

Here’s to a great weekend… and  go Skype someone YOU love today! Right now…Do it!

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The Company We Keep: In search of like minds…

We’re all Late Bloomer’s at heart aren’t we? I needed to make sure I was keeping good company – not just good. AMAZING. Yes, AMAZING company.

Here’s who I found – if you can think of anyone else and want to share, leave a note in the comments! 

 

1. Stan Lee was in his early 40s when he created Spider-Man  – and artist Jack Kirby, Lee’s partner, started drawing The Fantastic Four when he was 44

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2. Rodney Dangerfield didn’t get his first “big” break until he was 42.

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3. Julia Child published “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” when she was 49. She was on TV by her early 50s.

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4. Charles Bukowski was 49 when his first book was published.

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5. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s first book – “Little House in the Big Woods” – came out when she was 65.

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RUM PUNCH REGRETS – REVIEWS!

August has been beyond busy – which is good for me, but bad for my bloggin’!

Just so you can see a bit of what I’ve been up to, I’m going to post some of the reviews here for you to check out. I’m also extending my CHARM GIVEAWAY for another few weeks just because of the response AND because we will be rolling out some new charms in the line – stay tuned and make sure you add a review to AMAZON to enter for the charm of your choice!!

The first review up is from the Jersey Girl Book Review blog. This one gives you a two-for-one! You get a guest post from yours truly AND a FOUR STAR REVIEW!!

I’ll add more  posts for your reading pleasure as the week goes on – plus I’ll have some pics up from the Lupus LA Poker Tournament and Rooftop Party that’s happening this Thursday September 13th here in Los Angeles! I’m playing in the tourney and look forward to attempting to WIN BIG…

Want more info on LUPUS LA? Click on the link and check out a charity I love dearly and fully support.

 

Another Giveaway! Wanna win a charm?

It’s time for my big, fabulous contest announcement – are you guys ready for it?

WHO WANTS TO WIN A CHARM?

Starting tomorrow, August 3rd, I will be running another EASY contest. This time the winner will get the choice of one of my charms…in gold or silver!!

They are so cute and can be added to an existing charm bracelet, or used as a necklace or on a leather wrap bracelet (my FAVORITE way to wear them!!) These are the charms inspired by ABBY GEORGE and RUM PUNCH REGRETS. Don’t you want one of your own?
To enter, you just need to review one of my books – which I’m sure ALL OF YOU have read by now…right? 😉 – on Amazon. Any names popping up for reviews from August 3, 2012  through September 4, 2012 will automatically be entered to win! (I tell ya where to buy my books below!)

And don’t forget, I give a portion of my proceeds from the ABBY GEORGE SERIES to Lupus LA – help me help them, please?

Good luck and happy reading!!

NEED TO BUY A BOOK? You can get them here:

AMAZON – eBook

AMAZON – print version

BARNES AND NOBLE – Nook

iTunes – NOW AVAILABLE!!!!

Have You??

I mean, really. Have you?

Oh, you need to know what! I’m checking in to see if you’ve entered the contest yet!

To celebrate my first full length novel, RUM PUNCH REGRETS, and the launch of my new jewelry line inspired by the series, I’m giving away the most beautiful bracelet ever. It’s a replica of one featured in the book – it retails for $585.

Handcrafted by Sevan Avakian, the amazing talent I collaborated on the Abby George Charm Series with, the ABBY GEORGE CHARM BRACELET is a Sterling Silver , one-of-a-kind, link bracelet with two charms: one is the two-bunch palm attached at the root (cool, right?) set with a Tsavorite and the other is a dainty heart set with a Ruby.

I love this bracelet and I love that I get to give one away!

Best part? This is seriously going to be the easiest contest you’ve ever entered!! Now, how to do it:

1. Buy a copy of  RUM PUNCH REGRETS which is now on sale at Amazon and Barnes and Noble  – it’s available as an eBook or print!

2. Answer the questions below – the answers are found in RUM PUNCH REGRETS

3. Email your answer to contest@annekemp.com to be entered

It’s that easy!

Want a bonus entry? Buy the book AND subscribe to my blog and I’ll enter you again! See how I did that? (Trust me, you will WANT to get my updates for giveaways and fun contests!)

Want a bonus, bonus entry? Then please “LIKE” my page on FACEBOOK!

Want another bonus entry? Follow me on TWITTER!

The more you enter, the better your chances – GOOD LUCK!!

(Multiple entries into contest are only valid barring that contestant answers the question found in the novel, as the initial entry)

HERE ARE THE QUESTIONS:

1. At the beginning of Chapter Nine, what items does Abby pack for her trip to Nevis?

2. What is the “bit of island wisdom”  on Ziggy’s taxi cab that’s mentioned in Chapter One?

3. In Chapter Seven, Abby places a bet at the roulette table on what number?

4. Abby inspects Ben’s fridge in Chapter Four. Name at least three items listed that she sees.

5. At the end of Chapter Five, Ben gives Abby money to help her take a cab home. How much is it and what is the currency he uses?

And there it is! The winner will be announced on July 4th – so make sure to check back.

GOOD LUCK!

Lights, Camera…Action! A tour of LA for Oscar season

I love awards shows! I really do, so when the Frederick News-Post asked me to write a travel article that worked in the theme of Oscar season, I gladly took the challenge!

Please, jump to the story here and have a read. I even took the picture of the Kodak which is featured 😉

I love getting to write love letters (or articles as some say), and this is one that I penned to MY city . . . Los Angeles!