Haute n the Kitchen

Entertaining Inspired by my Travels & Traditions

Angkor Wat (the largest religious monument in the World and an UNESCO World Heritage Site (in case you are not the know) has been on my bucket list WAY longer than Laura Kroft (aka Angelina Jolie) filmed Tomb Raider there. ;)

While booking a work trip to Saigon, I decided it was high time to scratch through that number on the list. I booked a flight from Saigon to Siem Reap for a 1.5 day layover en route to Burma, a hotel from a recommendation of fellow travel junkie, Amy Kerner, and sat back quite pleased with myself.

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It then dawned on me I had no idea anything about Angkor Wat actually. My first google search left me feeling as if I had taken the first bite of an elephant on a full stomach. Further research confirmed it was going to be impossible to see it all.

So I did what any good traveler does. Buy the best guide books with the top things to see?

No. I bought a historical fiction book called, Temple of a Thousand Faces. I have a longstanding habit/tradition of reading historical fiction while I am actually visiting a place. Its kinda history for romantic dummies I guess. But it works for me! 100 pages in and I was already in love with the history of this magical place called Angkor Wat.

Originally Hindu and later Buddhist the temples go back to the 12th Century. What I, and many others, learned quickly was that Angkor Wat Temple, itself, is just one of thousands in this area of Cambodia and around Siem Reap. So, while I could do Angkor itself in a day, that was only sticking my big toe in.

Hire a guide to get me around to the most important tourist things to see? Hell no. I was going to do it Tomb Raider style and blaze my own trail.

I was going to make this an adventure from sunrise to sunset and do it my way…by the seat of my pants and with a good map.

I arrived to Siem Reap at 10am to a welcome heat wave of humidity and a sign for Mr. Heather Antonelli. Happy that my online Visa actually got me into the country, I didn’t care what the driver wanted to call me. It was go time. He was noticeably shaken by the fact I was I woman however. That error did score me a free cocktail later that night courtesy of the hotel.

Not Exactly

Not Exactly

I could bore you with a long list of every temple, shrine, pagoda, building and bump I covered in the next 1.5 days but you can read a guide or history book for that. Here is my photographic story of the visit, covering only architecture in this post. I am going to post a few more covering Banyan Trees (obsessed) and life around Angkor later. I give you Angkor Wat and a few grumpy pics of me. (It was HOT and SWAMPY!)

All Smiles - Pre Hot, Sticky and Sweaty

All Smiles – Pre Hot, Sticky and Sweaty

An Auspicious Buddha

An Auspicious Buddha

 

So it goes....

So it goes….

 

A Penny for His Thoughts

A Penny for His Thoughts

Stairway/Doorway to Heaven?

Stairway/Doorway to Heaven?

Watched Entrances

Watched Entrances

A Sky and a Smirk

A Sky and a Smirk

I Spy a Buddha

I Spy a Buddha

 

 

I feel eyes in the back of my  head? #hotandtired

I feel eyes in the back of my head? #hotandtired

Sunrise over Angkor Wat

Sunrise over Angkor Wat

Inle "Lakehouse"

Inle “Lakehouse”

While visiting and exploring Inle Lake in Myanmar (Burma) in May, I had the rare opportunity to join a local family for lunch and actually assist in the preparation of the shared meal. How did I land in such a “locals only” lunch you may be asking?

No, I didn’t just crash the kitchen. Although you shouldn’t put it past me ;)

View from Kitchen Window

View from Kitchen Window

I had hired a guide for one day to see some of the local handicraft production “factories”. (Factory = thatch room on stilts, in the lake, accessed only by boat like everything else in Inle). My guide and I were chatting about food and my passion for trying local flavors and incorporating new things into my own cooking. He said his great Auntie used to be a professional chef for the royal family back in the day. I was impressed. He said she lived just a few miles away and would be happy to show me some of the local flavors if I was interested. IF! Of Course I was! So we turned our big dug out boat around and rowed off to Aunties house for a lunch lesson!

Aunties Kitchen

Aunties Kitchen

Everyone on the lake lives in thatch houses on stilts and Auntie is no exception. We pulled up alongside her dock, tied off the boat and entered her quaint and impressively organized little kitchen at the back of the 4 room house.

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One room for cooking; one for communal time, one for sleeping and a bathroom/storage room. Auntie had a unique living situation. She and her brother lost their parents as teens and they stayed on living in the family home. Both later married and decided to share the house as a family. So they raised their children, all under one roof, and now both are widowers and still live together. Very sweet.

Making Salad

Making Salad

Auntie is getting on in age and she has severe arthritis as well as a hunched back so her sweet niece was my cooking companion. Although neither of us shared a verbal language we had no problem communicating with the language of the kitchen cook.

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Our Menu -

Fried Local White Fish with Red Chile Paste/Chutney

Minced Pork & Spices Steamed in Banana Leaf

Potatoe & Chicken Curry

Lotus, Cucumber, Chile, Peanut Salad

Lunch is Served

Lunch is Served

The home was so humble with only a few pieces of furniture, mats on the floor for sleeping, a small table for food preparation and a small table to sit around for meals on cushions. However don’t think for a moment they are not a PROUD people.

Auntie dressed out the table as if it were a very special holiday. I was touched and made sure to clean my plate in appreciation.

She smiled alot after that ;)

Sweet Auntie

Sweet Auntie

They wouldn’t let me pay for the food so I made her accept a lotus/silk wrap I had purchased earlier that day at a weavers. I wrapped it around her frail shoulders and had my guide tell her how pretty the pink color (of course it was pink;) looked on her.

One more almost toothless smile made my day.

 

 

Then stay tuned because I am going to feed that hunger with full accounts of my recents travels through Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma)!

Here is a little appetizer to hold you over.

The entrees will start being served this evening and through the week. Its explore SE Asia Week!

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I was pleased to receive an invitation to an Easter Beach Brunch. Still the new girl in town, I am slowly making friends and acquaintances and invitations out are warmly welcomed! I was even more delighted to hear that the festivities would be kicked off by a few hours of paddle boarding to warm up the appetite! An Easter spent on the water and in the sand is exactly why I moved to Cali!

I was asked to bring an appetizer and I decided to make something Southern as most of the attendees would be from the area. My mind went straight to classic Southern style Deviled Eggs. However, I also felt it reeked of tacky 80’s party appetizer. How could I put a classy California spin on Deviled Eggs?

I spared no time and opened up my newest favorite cookbook. “Summerland”, by Anne Quatrano, is freshly published and is filled with Anne’s famously delicious recipes. She didn’t let me down and there was a chic modern recipe for Deviled Eggs! Yes.

I gave it a bit of my own individuality in the preparation, of course, as you can do too! Deviled Eggs aren’t just for Easter and are a regular guest at every Spring picnic and party in the South. With this recipe, I think it will now be a regular guest at the parties in Southern Cali too!

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Eggshell Preparation:

Open a dozen egg crate.  Using a small paring knife (the hard way) or a simple egg top cutter tool (Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table carry it), remove the top 1/4 of each egg. You can separate the eggs or empty them in one bowl and use for a great frittata, omelette or in baking.

Boiling Eggs:

Place 10 eggs in a pot and cover with water. Place over high heat until water boils. Once it boils, cook for 6 minutes, remove from heat and let cool. Peal the eggs and separate the yolks from whites in two bowls.

Yolks

For the Yolks:

3 Tbsp. Mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. Water

1/2 Tsp. Dijon Mustard

1/2 Tsp. Cayenne Pepper

1/2 Tsp. Paprika

1/2 Tsp. fresh Chevril

1/2 Tsp. fresh Chives

1/2 Tsp. fresh ground Pepper

Juice of 1 lemon

8 oz. fresh Salmon Roe or Caviar

Blend all ingredients in with the yolks, except the Roe. It should be creamy and smooth. If its not, add a bit more water. Set aside for egg assembly.

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For the Whites:

Push the whites through a sieve. Add a teaspoon of mayonnaise and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Add 1 tsp each fresh chopped basil, chevril and/or chives.

Assembly:

Put 1 Tbsp of egg white mixture in bottom of each eggshell. Top that with 1 Tbsp. of yolk mixture. Sprinkle all eggs with fresh chives. Top with 1/4 Tsp of the Roe or Caviar. Voila.

FANCY EGGS!

I am pretty sure it made the Easter Bunny proud ;)

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Corned Beef & Cabbage

Corned Beef & Cabbage

Not to be a buzz kill on this joyous St. Patrick’s Day, but I am going to be anyway.

Hopefully you are well into your third or fourth pint, or better yet 1/2 way down the bottle of Whiskey. If so this post won’t really make you want to put down your fork from eating those green mashed potatoes.

As a good Irish lass myself,  I have always joined in the revelry of this holiday and often have thrown my own parties where I  served up lots of green inspired dishes. The article below popped up on my radar today and enlightened me to a few facts I really did not know. It’s always good to know both sides of the story right? So order a shot of Jameson, put those shamrock glasses back on and take two minutes to read the article below. Your thoughts?

From Maria Godoy.

“Green food may mean party time in America, where St. Patrick’s Day has long been an excuse to break out the food dye. But in Ireland, where the Irish celebrate their patron saint on March 17, green food has bitter connotations that recall the nation’s darkest chapter, says historian Christine Kinealy.

The reason, Kinealy explains, is the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, which forced so many Irish to flee mass starvation in their homeland in search of better times in America and elsewhere. Those who stayed behind turned to desperate measures.

“People were so deprived of food that they resorted to eating grass,” Kinealy tells The Salt. “In Irish folk memory, they talk about people’s mouths being green as they died.”

At least 1 million Irish died in the span of six years, says Kinealy, the founding director ofIreland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Which is why, for an Irishwoman like Kinealy, who hails from Dublin and County Mayo, the sight of green-tinged edibles intended as a joyous nod to Irish history can be jolting, she says.

“Before I came to America, I’d never seen a green bagel,” she says. “For Irish-Americans, they think of dyeing food green, they think everything is happy. But really, in terms of the famine, this is very sad imagery.”

Of course, Americans have long embraced St. Patrick’s Day traditions that might bemuse the folks back in Ireland, where festivities are a lot more subdued, Kinealy notes.

For instance, St. Paddy’s Day Parades? Those originated here in the late 1700s. (George Washington was known to give his Irish soldiers the day off so they could join the celebrations, she says.)

And that quintessential dish of the holiday, corned beef — it may be delicious, but it’s most definitely not Irish.

As Smithsonian.com noted last year, in Gaelic Ireland, cows were a symbol of wealth and a sacred animal, kept more for their milk than their meat — which was only consumed once an animal’s milking days were over. In the Irish diet, meat meant pork. It wasn’t until Britain conquered most of Ireland that Irish “corned beef” came into existence — to satisfy the beef-loving English.

“Ironically, the ones producing the corned beef, the Irish people, could not afford beef or corned beef for themselves,” Smithsonian notes.

Funny enough, the Irish didn’t learn to love corned beef until coming to America, where they picked up the taste from their Jewish neighbors in the urban melting pot of New York City.

But these days, even the Irish back in the homeland have come to accept this Irish-American dietary quirk, Kinealy says. As tourist season revs up and Americans head to the Emerald Isle to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day, “a lot of pubs in Ireland will offer corned beef because they know the tourists like it. It’s come full circle.”

Chapter 11 of my book is a Supper called “An Irish Seaside Supper”. It has absolutely nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day ;) However, during the photography session for this chapter, I  did learn to pour the perfect pint. From what I remember it took quite a few takes, mostly because we were drinking the bad pours. We shot Guinness for the book but, in truth, I am a Murphy’s girl. What’s your fav Irish beer?

Guinness is good for you

Guinness is good for you

Share your St. Pattys day traditions, best recipes and stories! The Irish love to hear and tell a good story.

Erin Go Bragh!

China_Cartoonfood_edited-1

You all know that I am sucker for markets. Flea markets, farmers markets, night markets, supermarkets, black markets…no wait scratch that last one.

I can spend hours browsing a grocery store in a foreign country or my own city. I prefer to check out the food shops before seeing museums and monuments.

At the heart of it, I think you can really tell alot about a culture based on what is on the market shelves. I love seeing how a foreign place uses the same ingredients as we might but in a wholly new way or application.

At the base of it, maybe I am just easily entertained by bright and shiny wrapped food products, waxy produce, a butchers handicraft and the aroma of a fresh flower stall.

I remember on my first visit to Carrefour (a mega grocery store chain), in Ningbo China, the seafood section had a huge glass aquarium standing 4 ft tall x 6 ft wide. It was filled with water, rocks and thousands of turtles. The one thing to love and hate about Chinese cooks is that EVERYTHING is expected to be fresh when purchased. Well, except thousand year old eggs, but that is another story. There was a huge stack of turtles laying all over each other that reached the top of the aquarium. Sure enough, one enterprising turtle, had made his (probably a her actually) way to the very top and was teetering on the edge. I secretly started to cheer for this turtle. Do it! Throw yourself over the edge.

Bam! That turtle took the plunge, shook it off and then looked for the nearest exit. Don’t be fooled by the slow turtle myth. That little turtle was hauling turtle tail. The fishmonger had yet to see the escapee. I was enthralled (told you I am easily entertained)! Well, turtle made it out of the seafood section, through the bakery and was headed for the check out line before it got swooped up by a store employee.

Where was I? Oh yes, MARKETS. I haven’t really taken the time yet to explore markets here in the Newport Beach area.

Yesterday I decided to change that and headed out to a few markets that popped up on a google search. I only made it to one; because I spent over 2.5 hrs in the first market!

Mitsuwa Market is the largest Asian market in the area. Its huge. Think Target size. It has it all. Fresh produce, Tofu in every possible shape and form, a butchers, a bakers, a tea shop, snacks, enough rice and noodle choices to make a trail back to China. There is a food court with restaurants and stalls exactly as you would see in China. There is a stationery shop, a cookery shop, a junk shop (cheap chinese import plastics), a travel agency for China Air! It’s all things Chinese under one big roof. I walked every aisle.

Here a few of my favorite things.

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Loving these giant daikon. An easy wonderful side dish is to peel the daikon with a vegetable peeler, toss with fresh mint or basil and either a ponzu or mirin vinegar, fresh salt and pepper. So delish. I got a laugh at the “Sumo” tangerines. That conjured up a few images and looking at these wrinkly things is not too far off ;)

One of my favorite treats is 1/2 of a papaya squeezed with fresh lime juice. Divine! I bought one and that was breakfast today.

The little leaf is Shiso. I have never found this in any market in US. It has a peppery but minty bite and is excellent served as the bed of a fried oyster. One of my favorite herbs. So excited to find it I might have bought 10 packages. I am just saying I might have.

Here is my suggestion for a great dish… Warm Udon noodles tossed in chili oil and topped with grilled octopus. Wash it down with a cold Sapporo or a nice Sake.

China_Menu_edited-1The personal care aisles are always my favorite, especially in a foreign country. In China I am always giggling at the whitening creams, freckle removers, lotions and potions made with strange parts of insects like scorpions and beetles and well then there is this ;)

IMG_1476I am thinking I just found my new hair salon ;)

PS. I have a secret addition to Pocky and am now obsessed with the night lights like chinese lanterns! Must have.

Mitsuwa Market at 665 Paularion Avenue in Costa Mesa is a MUST do if you are in the area. Call me, I’ll go with you. Any excuse! Happy Friday Everybody.

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There is nothing romantic about rocking up to the trendiest restaurant on Valentines Day only to have to wait in a crowded bar (for an hour) while yelling back and forth to your date; because the restaurant is blaring Barry Manilow. Once you do sit down the cranky waiter, whose wife or GF is texting him obscenities for picking up the VDay shift, tosses the pre-fixe LOVE menu at you and over pours your water splashing it onto your lap. Add dry cleaning now to the cost of the evening. The pre-fixe menu cost could buy a small country and the most exciting menu option is a seafood risotto. Even Italian rice shouldn’t cost that much. It is just rice after all. It’s an dressed up 3rd world staple, you are thinking, rather than listening to your date. Oh what’s that? Why yes, of course, we want a bottle of Dom P to get things rolling. Another small country just got purchased. So the night goes with lackluster service, mediocre food, overpriced champagne and day old strawberries dipped in waxy second-rate chocolate.

If you aren’t footing the bill then most likely you are looking down at your dozen red roses and feeling so in trend as every other woman in the restaurant has the same bouquet. You are holding your breath because you HAD to wear the red dress that you really don’t fit in anymore. You are thinking how the bubbly champagne & starchy risotto are going to make your stomach bloat and you might pop the zipper at any moment. Forget sex later, you just want two waters pills and your flannels.

Do I sound like the most super jaded anti-Valentines Day woman alive?

Good! I have your attention now.

I am here to tell you, there is a choice. How about a nice romantic Valentines Day with no crowds, no waiting, no huge expense, no cliché red roses?

How about a mouth-watering menu that is super easy to prepare, a light Prosecco toast, the music you want (at an appropriate volume) and your date for dessert ;)

Now that’s what Valentines Day is about!

So here it is. Two delicious recipes that will have your date drooling (in a sexy way).

Guys, I am talking to you too! If you can make scrambled eggs, you can make these two dishes.

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First Course – Whole Wheat Penne; Roasted Eggplant; Roasted Habanero; Salty Capers

Boil water. (See you can do this)

Cook the pasta to al dente (that means it’s still held its form and isn’t mushy)

Set aside. Now chop the eggplant into 1 inch cubes. Slice the Habanero to make rings. In a skillet add 1 tbsp olive oil, some fresh chopped garlic and the Habanero. Saute a few minutes and add the eggplant. Add 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, cover the pan. Cook until the eggplant is tender (about 20 mins). Stir it every 5 mins and make sure there is still liquid in the pan. Add either red wine or more balsamic to keep some liquid in pan. When its ready, toss in the pasta, a handful of salted dry capers and stir to mix it up.

Scoop however much you want onto two plates or just one if you are channeling Lady & The Tramp.

A salty spicy first course…just like you!

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Main Course – Filet Mignon; Creamed Spinach, Portobello Mushroom Gratin; Blistered Tomatoes; Baby Potatoes

Open the butcher paper that your 1 lb filet mignon is wrapped in. In a small bowl mix fresh chopped rosemary with fresh ground black pepper and salt. Rub the mixture all over the filet and place in a dry skillet. Set the skillet over a medium flame and sear all sides and ends in the hot pan. Turn off flame and put filet in a 300 degree oven until it reads 130 on a meat thermometer. Remove from oven and let rest, covered with foil for at least 10 minutes.

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In a skillet add a glug of olive oil, fresh thyme, chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Rough chop a head of fresh spinach. Slice mushrooms. Heat the olive oil and saute the garlic and herbs for a few minutes. Toss in the spinach and mushrooms until spinach wilts. Add 1/2 cup heavy creme. Cook down until creme is almost absorbed. In small ramekins (baby bowls) place a few spoonfuls of the mixture. In a bowl mix 2 cups panko crumbs and 1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese. Cover the bowls with the dry crumb mixture. Bake alongside the filet.

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In a pan toss olive oil with baby grape tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Saute over high heat until the tomato skins crack. Set aside.

In a roasting pan toss baby tricolor potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 450 degrees for 25 mins. Take out and with a fork, lightly smash each potatoe. Coat with some more olive oil and cook another 10 mins.

Voila! Now just slice the filet and plate alongside the tomatoes and potatoes. Serve the gratin on the side.

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Open a fine red wine. Toast your date to whatever suits the mood; which is probably something like “Isn’t this so nice to be here together without the distraction of waiters, women selling roses tableside, wandering mariachis and that drunk lady at the next table exposing her husband’s affair?” Well, something to that effect.

Now DESSERT. I’ll leave that to your imagination.

PS. Guys – Do not buy your lovely date red roses. Its lame. Period. Be a little creative. Show some individuality. Red tulips are super sexy. Trust me on this. That last course will be a lot better if you show some initiative. Everywhere ;)

You have been worried about me haven’t you?

Not a single post or peep out of me since moving to So Cal, 3 months ago, with regards to what & where I have been eating and exploring!

Three long months of silence has left you thirsty and hungry hasn’t it? Listen, I had to do my homework before breaking out my So Cal travel guide. I have alot more to explore, taste, sip, sample and slurp but I am ready to start sharing some of my new favorite foodie finds.

Since its Wine Down Wednesday, let me introduce you to The Wine Gallery in Corona Del Mar.

msIs one reason I love this quaint wine bar because it’s within walking distance of my house? Absolutely! I told you I wanted my Brooklyn neighborhood but at the beach. I have my new local wine bar!

The second thing I love about this wine bar is that it doubles as a wine shoppe as well. So I literally can take home what I enjoyed a glass of at Happy Hour.

Stepping inside the thick wooden door I was immediately impressed with the decor. A chic tufted bar takes center stage. Overhead repurposed wine bottles create a dramatic chandelier and intimate bar tables provide a cool “date night” spot. A private farm table tucked to the side has me thinking of a good reason to throw a private wine tasting with new friends. Now the real surprise of this lovely setting is that it is owned by three local “guys guys”. You know, tshirt and jeans wearing, just off surf or skate boards looking, super down to earth; and NOT the guys I would have thought owned a place called The Wine Gallery. Truly a pleasant surprise.

Don’t be fooled, these guys know their wine. So much so that they have a self designed wine flight EVERY night. Tuesdays are my personal favorite as not only the guys (Jeff, Chris & Jim) are often there but there is a good chance the winemaker will be too! Tuesdays only are a 5 wine flight and the themes vary every single week from going all around the world to tasting a single varietal  to last nights Tour de France.

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The vibe is chill, the crowd gathers early and the wine is always flowing.

The tasting bar offers a really diverse and delicious tapas style menu. The flatbreads are a personal favorite. The shiitake mushroom, goat cheese, arugula flatbread drizzled with truffle oil is to kill for. You can get it sans bread in a salad as well. It went so well last night with the French wines. The meatballs come within striking distance to my Italian grandmothers recipe and the fish tacos are street style and super fresh. But of course there is cheese and charcuterie plates!

Insider tip: Be sure to ask for a glass of water. Its better than any I have ever been served at a SPA.

lGuess you know where to find me on Tuesdays now.

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It’s no secret that when it comes to landscaping and indoor container gardens, Succulents have my heart. While they don’t tout many bragging rights on their heady aromas and perfumes; they do WIN when it comes to texture and the ever coveted “cool” points. I have to think Dr. Seuss had something to do with their discovery and ever-growing popularity.

For me, there is another reason succulents have such appeal. I wasn’t even born with a hint, an essence of a green thumb. I can, and have, killed pretty much any kind of house plant. All of my attempts at outdoor landscaping just resulted in a lot of sweat and cash spent! There was the one infamous garden planting session in TX when I planted wild deers’ favorite foods. Gone in less than 60 seconds.

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My move back West has rekindled my love fair with succulents. They just don’t fair as well in the NE ;)

California however, has taken it to a new level that TX cannot even compete with. Stick with your tumbleweeds and tarantulas for WOW factory. Cali takes it in succulents.

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Every day I stumble off a sidewalk while eyeing some new succulent sensation! Today, I got to thinking about whether they are edible. Why? Ms. Sula decided to take a little nosh on a few leaves of a just sprinkler showered succulent. Mild panic set in. Would Sula be poisoned by the one thing on earth I haven’t killed in the plant world? Plant Karma had come for me.

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I took a snap of the “death by succulent” and rushed home to Google. To my surprise succulents are largely EDIBLE! That’s right. The ole cactus isn’t just good enough for tequila. You can eat it!

So, my mind got to thinking about how beautiful a Succulent Salad would be. Lightly drizzled in a zesty lemon viniagrette. A pinch of salt & pepper. Really doesn’t need much dressing up as beautiful as they are alone.

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Please note that I have not researched every one of these plants, so don’t go making a salad without doing your homework too! (There is my disclaimer.)

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If you are way more educated on this subject, leave comments and let us know which of the desert beauties taste the best!

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