tropical fruit paradise / mission gorge – san diego, ca

I buy lots of group deals from Groupon, LivingSocial, Amazon Local and places like that. Lately I’ve felt like a lot of the places I’ve been to have been just kind of “meh” and not really impressive with their food or service, so when I finally went in to use one of my coupons to a little place called Tropical Fruit Paradise, I really wasn’t expecting very much. I read a couple of Yelp reviews saying they had good torta sandwiches and that was enough to get me to shell out money to buy two coupons – and as it turns out, this was a really excellent idea.

Let’s say that my first visit was the “scouting trip”. I went here alone for lunch one Saturday afternoon while Jake had to work for a bit. My Amazon Local deal covered $10 – just enough to get me one torta sandwich and one strawberry agua fresca. I had to pay tax and for my bag of chips, all in all a steal.

[steak torta sandwich – includes mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, and sliced avocado with a side of salsa – $6.99]

I ordered just a plain old steak torta, just wanting to try something “basic” and simple here for my scouting mission. I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The steak was well seasoned and marinated – cooked perfectly as well. It was juicy and cooked to medium and stacked high with lots of fresh veggies – red onion, tomatoes, green leaf lettuce and slices of perfectly ripe avocado.

The bread on the torta is also really nice – the bread is fluffy with a nice chew and is grilled on the inside. I could tell it was grilled on a stove to toast since the top of the was still fairly soft but had a really nice crunch from the grilling.

Since it’s a pretty large sandwich, I only ate half and brought the rest home to Jake. He ended up gobbling the sandwich in no time and thought – even cold – that it was one of the best torta sandwiches he’s ever had. I think I might have been onto something here.

[agua frescas – strawberry flavored – $2.49, large]

Ever since I got one of these at Frutilandia oh so many moons ago, I’ve loved them. I order them pretty much wherever we go – but I always get the same flavor! I can’t seem to branch out and try a new flavor, sticking with my standby strawberry favorite. The version here at Tropical Fruit Paradise seems a little creamier than other versions I’ve had a little less sweet – but still quite delicious in my book. I ordered one of these on both of my visits to Tropical Fruit Paradise. I can’t manage to tear myself away from them.

Must… have…strawberry water… arrrrgh!

[tostielote – tostitos, nacho cheese and corn – $3.99]

From here on out we’re using iPhone photos since I actually left my camera at home on our second visit. Lordy. Jake ordered this – it sounded totally weird to me, but since he was paying for it, I wasn’t going to complain.

I ate my words shortly after though since I did actually kind of like it. These are served right inside of a bag of salsa flavored Tostitos chips and topped off with nacho cheese, jalapenos and corn. Nacho cheese and corn?! Was this invented on purpose? I can’t see how that’s possible. I honestly believe someone had an open can of corn that got accidentally dumped in some nacho cheese and no one noticed until they started eating it and then decided it was good. I would never put “nacho cheese” and “corn” together otherwise. But for some reason it’s tasty? Even as I ate it I was in disbelief. Still kinda am.

[cubana torta – milaneza, chicken, ham, chorizo, egg, american egg, jack cheese + veggies – $7.69]

Jake and T shared this Cubana Torta – this thing is packed with goodies! Milaneza (which, in this case, it a thinly sliced breaded steak cutlet), chicken, ham, chorizo and an egg… with two kinds of cheese! This is definitely a rich sandwich with all of those layers packed into one sandwich – but you’re still able to wrap your whole mouth around the sucker since everything is thin enough to still make it a decent side.

I did have one little bit and the chorizo seemed to be the most dominant flavor since it had a little bit of a spicy kick to it. I thought the egg made it “too much” – but Jake totally loved this sandwich. We had this last weekend and just last night he told me he had been thinking about this sandwich for three days! I hope I don’t lose out to a sandwich! Continue reading “tropical fruit paradise / mission gorge – san diego, ca”

salted caramel apple galette with pink pearl and cortland heirloom apples

Fall makes me think of things like falling leaves and pumpkins and warm soups and apples.

Apples! Sure, we can get apples year round but we don’t always get apples like these. I was recently given a few apples to experiment with from Frieda’s – two different varieties that I had never heard of!

The Pink Pearl (left) and the Cortland (right).

Pink Pearls were developed in the 1940’s by a Northern California breeder while the Cortland was developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva in 1898.

As you can see, the Pink Pearl has pink overtones within the flesh of the apple. It’s got a slightly tart taste. It’s not like “Granny Smith OMG tart” either – a bit more mild with a touch of sweetness. The cortland is very white and crisp and much sweeter than it’s counterpart.

These unique heirloom apples will be available at local Sprouts stores starting October 17th, so you can get some of these beautiful apples for yourself!

I decided to take these beautiful apples to produce this: a salted caramel apple galette.

Want to go on a apple galette making journey with me?

Of course you do!

First things first… we need salted caramel sauce.

Oh, I suppose you could just cheat and buy a jar of sauce. They do make a really wonderful one at Trader Joe’s. But I was feeling rather down in the dumps that day due the radiator in my car bursting and causing my car to break down that I wanted to do something therapeutic: like baking and making caramel sauce from scratch.

Caramel sauce it actually quite easy. Sugar and water, into a pan, set it to shimmer. And don’t touch it! No stirring!

Okay, maybe I swirl it around a little… but that’s just to see how amber it’s getting.

All of those crazy bubbles get in the way, I tell you.

Continue reading “salted caramel apple galette with pink pearl and cortland heirloom apples”

banana cream pie with caramelized walnuts and grow bananas

I have a weird aversion to bananas. I think their texture is kind of weird. But I like them when they’re in stuff, so I’m not opposed to things like banana bread, or banana muffins or things like that. When I was contacted recently by a rep who offered me bananas, I thought, “Huh? Really? Bananas?”

I accepted the offer though and was able to learn more about the company behind Organics Unlimited and their program called GROW (Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers). GROW helps fund programs for farm workers and their families in the areas where Organics Unlimited bananas are grown (in Mexico and Ecuador). These programs include scholarships, study groups, dental programs and vision exams. A portion of each purchased GROW box is donated to the GROW fund to help support these programs to bring educational and health care programs to these underdeveloped banana growing regions.

The bananas I received were from this GROW box – you can tell by the sticker placed on the bananas! GROW bananas are available at Jimbo’s Naturally stores and can sometimes be found in Sprouts, Ralphs, and OB People’s Food Store.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the bananas. So many ideas ran through my head; I got suggestions on Twitter and Facebook. Bread? Cookies? Pie? What?

I decided on making a pie. A banana cream pie. With caramelized walnuts.

Want a make a pie, too? Follow my instructions below.

Take photos of bananas in the yard.

Hope no one else is watching you take photos of bananas in the yard.

Proceed to bake a pie shell without properly tucking it into the pan.

Lament about how ugly your pie is going to look.

Sigh dramatically. Notice that no one else is around to hear you sigh dramatically. Repeat.

Make delicious vanilla custard stuff from scratch and feel slightly better about the ugly pie crust.

Slice the bananas. Think to yourself, “Organic bananas look just like regular bananas!” Laugh at self.

Decide to cut the bananas on a bias. Decide you should use the word “bias” more often.

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strawberry delight for a hot summer’s day

The first time I ever had a dessert like this I was in the Midwest and it was made with blueberries instead. It was referred to as “Blueberry Delight” and I remember being a bit blown away by such a simple dessert. This is a layered dessert, something very well known in the South but I had never had it out here in California before… It’s got a cookie-like crust, a sweet cream cheese layer, your fruit, and then whipped cream or whipped topping and nuts to top it all off. It’s simple, easy to make, and deliciously creamy.

I had picked up a fresh basket of locally grown strawberries and I thought, “Well, I bet I can turn Blueberry Delight into Strawberry Delight!”. Any mixture of berries will do for this dessert, really, and I think fresher is better for this one. The dessert starts to look kind of droopy after a day or two, so it’s best to try and gobble this one up quick and all leftovers need to go into the fridge.

[beautiful, ripe strawberries]

I picked up these beautiful strawberries at The Fruit Stand off Morena Blvd. They had some fine looking fruits and I could not resist getting this basket.

To prep, I just washed the strawberries and sliced them. I added about two tablespoons of sugar to macerate the strawberries.

[pecan shortbread-like crust]

After finishing the berries, I prepped the crust. It’s a very simple mixture of flour, sugar, pecans and softened butter. The mixture comes together quickly and spreads out easily in the pan. I pushed it with my fingers to spread the crust out evenly. This is the only thing you’ve got the bake! 15 minutes and you’re done. This is also something you should do ahead since a cooled crust is necessary.

This crust seriously tastes like those pecan sandies cookies they sell in the store.

[trying to quickly defrost my whipped topping]

I forgotten to tell Jake to leave the whipped topping out for me on the counter, so when I realized that my topping was still frozen I grimaced a little and then figured I’d try this.

The crust had just come out of the oven so I put the two tubs on top of the crust.

Hey, it sort of worked! It did at least speed up the process a little bit so I was able to work with it to make my sweet cream cheese layer.

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