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From Executive Chef Chad Minton, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa Resort

Story & Photos by Bonnie Carroll


Welcome to Chad Minton the new executive chef on the block at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa Resort. The innovative new chef brings a love for the flavors of fresh grown produce, and the expert use of unique slow cooking techniques that are creating a buzz with guests at the Inn.


With a solid culinary history in the kitchens of a collection of impressive restaurants and hotels chef Minton explained “I am delighted to be in Ojai, using the outstanding produce available at the farmers market as well as the beautiful heirloom tomatoes and herbs growing right here on our property. I have always enjoyed the best in comfort foods and have included some new recipes in our winter menus that guests are already enjoying.”


One of the outstanding salad recipes on the chef’s Maravilla Restaurant menu is his fresh from the garden heirloom tomatoes and herb salad, which the chef was pleased to create for me in the hotel kitchen.  If you love tomatoes, you will want to recreate this gem. Follow Chef Minton’s recipe below and you will have a salad that will leave your guests begging for more, or at least expecting a copy of this delicious prescription for fresh tomato bliss.




Serves 4


Ingredients for the Tomatoes:

Selection of 3 different Heirloom Tomatoes. 1 Tomato of Each Variety

Corse Sea Salt, to taste

Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Sherry Vinegar, to taste

Burrata Mozzarella Cheese, 2 cups


Ingredients for the Dressing:

 “Green Goddess Dressing”

Prepared All Natural Caesar Salad Dressing

Avocado, 1 Each

Basil, 1 Bunch

Tarragon 1 Bunch

Lemon Juice 2 teaspoons


Ingredients for the Croutons:

“Torn Croutons”

Day Old Focaccia or Olive Bread

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2 Tablespoons

Corse Sea Salt, to taste


Method for Dressing:

At the Inn they make a Caesar Salad Dressing from organic free range eggs and use that as our base for the dressing. Making Caesar dressing for four can be a bit ambitious for home cooks so for this purpose you can substitute your choice of an all natural prepared dressing. Pour dressing into food processor or blender and add peeled and seeded avocado, fresh herbs and blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning with salt and lemon juice and keep cold.


Method for Croutons:

Using your fingers simply pinch and pull small pieces of bread from the loaf and toss them in a mixing bowl with olive oil. Lay them out flat on a sheet pan and bake in 300-degree oven until they are dry and crunchy.


Method for the Tomatoes:

Just prior to serving use a sharp knife to cut each variety of tomato into a different shape, there are no rules here just use your creativity and have fun. In a stainless mixing owl toss the tomatoes with a small splash of Sherry vinegar and season with salt and pepper.


To Plate:

Spread a generous amount of the dressing on the plates. Place the tomatoes as you like on top of that and spoon the buratto alternating between the tomato slices. Place the croutons where you like. Garnish with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and enjoy.


Bon Appétit from the Ojai Valley Inn. This is one of my favorite destinations in California and a divine spot to unwind, especially during the winter months. The menu at Maravilla, Cafe Verde and the Oak Grill provide preparations and presentations to please the palate of every guest, from the very young to the young at heart. Watch for additional recipes from Chef Minton in our February 2012 issue. For details on specific recipes and dining options visit www.ojairesort.com.




Creative Recipes Win “Cupcake Wars” Title for Alison Riede

by Bonnie Carroll


Alison Riede clearly earned the ‘Cupcake Wars” title on her recent episode of Cupcake Wars on the Food Network. Riede, owner of the Santa Barbara-based online cupcake company Sugar Cat Studio and her assistant Erica Lively created a holiday trio of cupcakes that won the top prize. The creative baker received her degree in visual and performing arts from Syracuse University, and moved to California to get her master’s in education at UC Santa Barbara.


Now entering its fourth season, the show pits four bakers from across the country in a competition to create the tastiest and most attractive cupcakes based on a theme the show selects. Riede’s episode was the Hollywood Christmas Parade, and her “White Christmas,” a white chocolate coconut cream dream, “It’s a wonderful life,” a mulled wine cupcake based on Clarence the angel’s favorite drink, and “A Christmas Story” an Ovaltine chocolate chip inspired by the decoder ring scene.


This victory won Alison $10,000 and the opportunity to offer her cupcakes to celebrities at the Hollywood Christmas Parade on November 27. Her three year old company offers custom catering for weddings and special events on California’s Central Coast and has sold its custom-0made cupcake wrappers worldwide. Recently she branched out by offering cake pops and hosting wine-and-cupcake pairings.


Christian Garvin, owner of Oreana Winery in Santa Barbara hosted a party-viewing of Alison’s winning episode (12.11.11) to share her win and celebrate her success with a wine and cupcake sampling. Oreana Winery is located at 204 Anacapa, and has received rave reviews in publications like Wine Spectator for their sparkling wines and award winning Pinot Noir.


Proud winner Allison Riede hopes to use her prize money to continue developing Sugar Cat Studio and continue to provide sweet assistance through donations to organizations like Santa Barbara Soup Kitchen and the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission. Visit: (www.sugarcatstudio.com) for information.




Blend and Cook Soup Maker


Food for Thought:

Cuisinart Unites Blending and Cooking in One Innovative Product

Soup is one of the most diverse and beloved dishes in a home cook’s repertoire, and has been a staple of kitchens around the world for centuries.  Traditionally, soups of all kinds are prepared in stages: chopping vegetables, slicing meats, prepping and measuring herbs and spices, and of course, actually cooking the soup.  Now, consumers can do all of this – even cooking – in the new Cuisinart Blend and Cook Soup Maker (model no. SBC-1000).  This innovative new blender utilizes patented technology that allows for cooking and stirring ingredients, which allows permits fresh homemade soup to be prepared from start to finish: the nonstick heater plate can be used to sauté ingredients, simmer and even boil soups, all of which can then be blended to the perfect consistency with the touch of a button.  In addition, the blender is ideally suited for more traditional tasks like crushing ice and blending smoothies and cocktails.


“Cuisinart is proud to introduce this exciting new blender, and to once again change the way consumers think about preparing meals at home,” says Mary Rodgers, Director of Marketing Communications for Cuisinart.  “The Blend and Cook Soup Maker is ahead of the curve, as it addresses a need for expediency in the kitchen and offers a level of performance and convenience that is unrivaled in the category.”


What to Look for When Purchasing a Blender:


Cuisinart’s Blend and Cook Soup Maker has numerous features that allow home cooks to make any soup, chowder or stew quickly and efficiently.  The blender has 900-watts of cooking power (with the blender alone, without the heater, being able to achieve a maximum of 500-watts) and a thermal, shock-resistant glass blending/cooking jar with a sturdy, wide-mouth design.  This unique blender jar can hold 48 ounces of hot liquids and 56 ounces of cold liquids, with markings for each clearly visible on the jar itself.  The unit’s electronic touchpad controls allow users to choose speeds from one to four (one to three only for blending hot ingredients) and pulse ingredients to the desired consistency.  The blender also has a countdown timer that can be set for up to 30 minutes in one-minute increments.  In addition, a leak-proof rubber gasket holds the blender jar snugly in position for safe operation.


Aside from the ability to cook ingredients, the Blend and Cook Soup Maker has other significant design elements as well.  The unit has high, medium and low temperature settings to ensure that any type of soup is brought to the proper cooking and serving temperature, as well as a stir function that gently agitates ingredients as they cook.  The Blend and Cook Soup Maker is also designed with a nonstick interior and is equipped with high-quality stainless steel blades and slip-proof feet that prevent movement during use.  Additionally, all parts of the blender that come in contact with food are BPA-free.



Cuisinart’s new blender offers a bevy of convenience features, including an easy-to-read LED 30-minute countdown timer to allow for perfect timing, whether preparing a light carrot and ginger soup or a hearty corn and clam chowder.  The blender also has a press-on lid with a tight-fitting seal to prevent leakage, which is equipped with vents to allow steam to escape during the cooking process.  Additionally, the lid includes a removable measuring cup that allows home cooks to measure up to three ounces of ingredients to add through the lid opening created by the removal of the measuring cup.  For added convenience, a heavy-duty cleaning brush is included to aid in cleaning the heater plate and blades.  Lastly, all removable parts of the unit are dishwasher safe. Retail price $199, available at Williams-Sonoma. 3 year warranty.



If you love cheese as much as I do, you’re going to want to put this event on your calendar: the 6th annual Artisan Cheese Festival held March 23-25 in the charming and hip (yes, hip) town of Petaluma. More than 6,000 attendees gather every March to meet more than a dozen international award-winning cheesemakers and learn how to how to taste, buy, serve, and enjoy distinctive artisan cheeses from the experts.

You’ll also get to sample locally made jams, jellies, breads, beer from as many as 65 artisan producers and discover the many charms of this pastoral town that is only 32 miles north of San Francisco. The educational seminars and tastings are led by cheesemakers, chefs, and fromagiers (I didn’t even know that was a word) from across the country, and virtually every session involves tastings and/or pairings of artisan cheeses.

March 08 | April 08 | May 08 | June 08 | July 08 | August 08 | September 08 | October 08 | November 08 | December 08 | January 09 | February 09 | March 09 | April 09 | May 09 | June 09 | July 09 | August 09 | September 09 | October 09 | November 09 | December 09 | February 10 | January 10 | March 10 | March | April 10 | May 10 | June 10 | July 10 | August 10 | August 11 | September 10 | October 10 | November 10 | December 10 | January 11 | February 11 | March 11 | April 11 | May 11 | June 11 | July 11 | September 11 | October 11 | November 11 | December 11 | January 12 | February 12 | March 12 | April 12 | April | May 12 | June 12 | July 12 | August 12 | September 12 | October 12 | November 12 | December 12 | January 13 | February 13 | March 13 | April 13 | May 13 | June 13 | July 13 | August 13 | September 13 | October 13 | November 13 | November | December 13 | January 14 | February 14 | March 14 | April 14 | May 14 | June 14 | July 14 | August 14 | September 14 | October 14 | November 14 | December 14 | January 15 | February 15 | March 15 | April 13 | April 15 | May 15 | June 15 | July 15 | August 15 | September 15 | October 15 | November 15 | December 15 | January 16 | February 16 | March 16 | April 16 | May 16 | June 16 | July 16 | August 16 | September 16 | October 16 | January 17 | February 17 | November 16 | December 16 | March 17 | April 17 | May 17 | June 17 | July 17 | August 17 | September 17 | October 17 | November 17 | December 17 | January 18 | March 18 | February 18 | April 18 | May 18 | June 18 | July 18 | August 18 | September 18 | October 18 | November 18 | December 18 | January 19 | February 19 | March 19 | April 19 | May 19 | June 19 | July 19 | August 19 | October 19 | September 19 | November 19 | December 19 | January 20 | February 20 | March 20 | April 20 | May 20 | June 20 | July 20 | August 20 | September 20 | October 20 | November 20 | November 20 | December 20 | January 21 | February 21 | March 21 | April 21 | May 21 | June 21 | July 21 | August 21 | September 21 | October 21 | November 21 | January 22 | December 21 | February 22 | March 22 | April 22 | May 22 | June 22 | July 22 | August 22 | September 22 | October 22 | November 22 | December 22 | January 23 | February 23 | March 23 | April 23 | May 23 | June 23 | August 23 | September 23 | October 23 | November 23 | December 23 | January 24 | February 24 | March 24 | April 24 | May 24 | February 08 | January 08

December 07
| November 07 | October 07| September 07 | August 07 | July 07 | June 07 | May 07
April 07
| March 07 | February 07 | January 07

December 06
| November 06 | October 06 | September 06 | August 06 | July 06 | June 06 | May 06
April 06
| March 06 | February 06 | July 06

December 05
| November 05 | October 05 | September 05 | August 05 | July 05 | June 05

© 2008 Bonnie Carroll, All Rights Reserved