Friday, August 7, 2015

Sonora Cafe-Inspired Chopped Salad

Sometimes when I get in a cooking rut I bring back an old favorite - the chopped salad. This dish is inspired by a salad that was served at Sonora Cafe - a restaurant I worked in many moons ago in Los Angeles, California. I have so many wonderful memories from my days as a waitress there. The cusine served was an upscale new Mexican-style and it was truly delicious (grilled jumbo gulf shrimp with mole sauce! lobster bisque! southwest sundae!) and I will never forget my time spent there. Luckily I have been able to maintain many of the friendships that I began while working there as well so it truly feels like a special memory honored every time I make this salad (which was two nights in a row this week! Hey Sonora Cafe peeps!).

Not only is it simple to make but it is an impressive salad to serve guests as well. The original "Sonora Cafe" version was served in a cylindrical form but I serve mine free form, mostly because I don't have a cylinder form but also because it is easier and when these cooking ruts hit, well, I can't be bothered. 


Romaine lettuce, chopped
Diced tomatoes
Dices cucumber
Diced avocado
1 corn on the cobb, corn removed
Sugar snap peas, chopped
Blue cheese, crumbled (add to personal taste)
Balsamic vinaigrette dressing 
Salt & pepper to taste


Layer everything in a bowl, toss with dressing and serve. 

Optional add-ins:

Vegetarian "chicken" nuggets
Chopped grilled chicken breast

You can experiment with your own salad ingredients but the key to this salad is the avocado, blue cheese, and balsamic dressing so be sure to include these. I also added some arugula in the version pictured above since I had some on hand ;-). 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Thirsty Thursday - A Refreshing Summer Cocktail

I love a good, basic gin and tonic (with a heavy squeeze of lime, of course) but sometimes it's good to mix things up a bit. So when I was browsing recently in Paradiset, the new organic grocery store that opened not too long ago around the corner from us, I became inspired to try a twist on this traditional drink when I spotted an elegant bottle of elderflower soda on the shelf in front of me. 

If you are not familiar with elderflower, known as fläderblom in Sweden, it is a lovely, delicate and distinct flavor that comes from the flower of the elderberry plant. They grow wild all over Sweden and if you are really inspired you can pick them and make homemade elderflower saft to enjoy mixed with plain or sparkling water. "Saft" is also Swedish and is a concentrated, flavored syrup made by cooking down elderflower blooms in water with heaping amounts of sugar. But that is a bit ambitious for the task at hand. I merely purchased a bottle of elderflower soda, added ice, gin, and a generous squeeze of lemon. Finished with a twist of lemon and a sprig of mint for color this is the perfect welcome cocktail for a dinner party, or a relaxing evening for two.

The result is a lighter, more friendly version of the traditional gin and tonic that perfectly sums up a beautiful summer celebration on the balcony, patio, or favorite picnic spot. The flavor of elderflower is the essence of summer in Sweden but if elderflower soda is not available in your area, feel free to substitute a complimentary, summery soda.


Glasses of choice
Elderflower soda (or soda of choice)
Lemon wedges
Lemon twists
Mint sprigs


Fill glasses with ice, add a squeeze of lemon, a shot of gin, and then fill with elderflower soda. Finish with lemon twists and mint sprigs.