I realized today that I have been so busy putting together our holiday eBook that I have yet to tell you about our stupendous trip to Santa Monica to attend the International Food Bloggers Conference, and also to take a little break from the kids. Did I mention how stressed out I’ve been lately? Did I mention that my heart beats irregularly and that my hair is falling out or that I can’t eat anything without feeling like crap or that I couldn’t sleep at all for days before the trip? Did I mention I’ve been to a naturopath to figure it all out?
Well, I can happily report that after a quiet, relaxing trip to Santa Monica, alone with my best friend and husband, my hair is growing back, my stomach troubles are gone, my heart beats like a normal person and I don’t scream at the kids every two minutes. Was a little trip all I needed to finally relax? The trip was the kickoff, but I also cut out caffeine and sugar (mostly). All these years caffeine has been turning me into the Hulk every morning. (LIZ SMASH!)
Our trip took us on ferries, planes, buses, trains and taxis. We walked for miles in Santa Monica and Venice beach, searching for all the greatest food. We found many inspiring restaurants, stores, hole in the wall cafes and raw food bars. We even ran into (literally) Tim Robbins, who happens to be one of my favourite actors of all time. I was so stunned I could barely blurt out a “hey!”, pointing at his chest (he’s quite tall) and then saying “bye” before ducking into the raw food bar he had just exited. If you happen to be reading this Mr. Robbins, I apologize. Had you not been carrying a take away container in each hand, I would have mauled you for a lame fan photo and autograph. You got away this time, but next time, look out!
Our first restaurant, was Gjelina in Venice Beach. We ended up waiting over an hour for a table, drinking a beer squished up against a wall with other waiting patrons, but the food at the end of our wait was out of this world good. It could have been the cocktails that were had earlier in the night at Pam of My Man’s Belly’s welcoming party, but I prefer to think that Gjelina knows what they are doing when it comes to late night food. The menu was spectacular, the drinks amazing and the service quick and to the point.
The hosts searching for tables….
A window display on our walk through the marijuana scented streets of Venice…
We spent a lot of time at Santa Monica Beach, only a five minute walk from our hotel. Each morning we made a trip there to walk along the pier. The beach stretches out for miles. I could have stayed there forever. 18°C almost every day, hardly any rain. No wind. In November! What’s to complain about.
The beach was just so gorgeous…
We stayed in the same hotel the conference was located in, The Santa Monica Double Tree. The lobby was filled each morning with food bloggers from near and far. The sessions were eye opening to say the least, though a lot of them were yawn worthy and geared towards a more novice crowd. I clenched my teeth and stayed seated anyway. Adrian took notes, and I tweeted.
Memorial Day tribute to those who have been lost in Afghanistan and Iraq…eerie
The most touristy place in all of Santa Monica. The only restaurant on the Pier? Bubba Gump Shrimp.
Palm trees on the beach.
The minute we got off that plane I relaxed. The minute my head hit the pillow, dizzying amounts of alcohol in my system, I was asleep. My troubles with slumber washed away with the warm breeze of California. I felt like a new person was being formed in this foreign place. The fog over my psyche was finally lifted. I ate with abandon, I stayed up way too late and woke up at the very last minute. I drank too much and didn’t even think twice about it. I lived free. I returned home a new person, ready to embrace my life with children and freelance work. Ideas spun so hard and fast in my mind it was hard to put a finger on them and get them written down before they gone. In a flash.
The best part about being in such a warm and welcoming place, besides the food (did I mention I gained 7 pounds?), was the people. I met the most fantastic people. There are much too many to name, but I did manage to capture one photo with a couple of them. Kim from Rustic Garden Bistro and Lisa from 100 Days of Real Food accompanied us on a fabulous after-conference brunch provided by Zengo in Santa Monica Place. Not many of the other bloggers took advantage of this free brunch, but they were sorely missing out. The kitchen could not resist sending out plate after plate after plate of glorious food and drinks. I left about four pounds heavier. It was heaven.
Santa Monica Place and the Third Street Promenade.
All in all, this trip was exactly what I needed. I made connections with people, I grew as a person, I connected with my husband (so greatly needed), I relaxed, I shopped, i ate my face off and I loved every second of it. I missed my kids like crazy, but I needed this.
When we came home we were inspired. We wrote a book together and we spent every night in the kitchen taking photos, cooking together and eating. It was fantastic. The recipes we came up with are filled with love, inspiration and a new found sense of self. I hope you take the time to check them out. The recipe today is one that we came up with while devising all the food we needed to make for you. This is a fantastic way to get kids and adults alike to eat their veggies. Dips. That’s all it takes. Everyone loves to do it.
One year ago: Caramelized Onion Dip
Two years ago: Better Than Sex Cake
Roasted Cauliflower with Avocado Cream
Yield: 4 side servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
For the Roasted Cauliflower:
1 cauliflower head (about 1.25 lbs)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
For the Dip:
1 large avocado
1/4 cup plain 0% Greek yogurt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
juice of one lime
zest of 1/2 a lime
2 tsp chipotle chilies in adobo
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, toss cauliflower with cumin, oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until a nice golden brown on the edges. Remove from oven and let stand for five minutes.
2. In a food processor or blender, combine the dip ingredients and blitz until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Serve the roasted cauliflower with the avocado dip immediately.
More amazing recipes from other fabulous food blogs:
Creamy Cauliflower and Taleggio Soup from Lucullian Delights
Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Soup from The Novice Chef
Roasted Spicy Cauliflower from The Donkey and the Carrot
Tomatillo Avocado Dip from What Gaby’s Cooking
Creamy Cauliflower, Carrot and Brazil Nut Soup from The Healthy Foodie