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Carnitas – Day 1

Oh, boy, is your family in for a treat!  This recipe is simple, simple, simple and yet so good!  Get out your crock pot – your new best friend during your favorite busy sport season.   I guarantee your family will LOVE YOU!

{Please note:  my family involves 2 boys, 1 man-child, 1 man, and 1 female who likes to eat a lot of protein – we’re ALL carnivors, so we hope you enJOY all our meaty recipes!}



  • 3-5 lbs pork – shoulder roast (melts in the crock pot and shreds so nicely!) – enough for a 2nd meal, stay tuned!
  • 1 cup whole milk (this is a creamier version; 2% milk is OK too)
  • 1/2 orange – cut in half
  • 1 tsp sea salt (or whatever you have)
  • 2 tsp pepper (personally, I like cracked pepper)
  • 1/2 onion – chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves – chopped/pressed

Place pork in crock pot, fat-side up (so fat juices are pulled down through the meat while cooking,  mmmmmm!).  Add in milk, squeeze juice from the orange over the meat and throw in the rind, salt, pepper, onions and garlic.   Turn your crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.  Come home from practice and your house will smell like you’ve been cooking all day!

Serve with your favorites:

  • Flour/corn tortillas
  • Tomatoes – finely chopped
  • Onions – finely chopped
  • Cilantro – finely chopped
  • Corn – frozen white corn is our favorite; heat up in a hot water in the microwave
  • Grated Cheddar Cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Guacamoli – home made if possible; check out my Guac recipe!

Let me know what you think… and check out “Carnitas, Day 2” – other meal options for the left overs.


These four paintings were custom designed to match the accessories in a young girl’s room, accenting pinks and black, and providing a relaxing atmosphere.


Sarducci’s Capistrano Depot


Camino Real Playhouse

  {San Juan Capistrano}


First, on a sad note:I have to share some sad news.  On the Thursday in June, when I dropped off a stack of “Coto Voice” review publications to Scott Selman, owner of Milo’s Café in Lake Forest, I never envisioned it would be his last.  That evening, at 42 years young, Scott passed away from a heart attack.  Struck and saddened by this news, I prayed for his wife of four-years, Grace, who’s background is in finance, but who has now found herself running her husband’s dream restaurant, that he fought so hard to create.  Milo and Jake are deeply saddened as well, and want you to come visit them to keep Scott Selman’s dream alive; they believe a good card game, a scratch under their chin, and some good food can turn anyone’s spirits up!  ( – off Lake Forest Parkway, across from the newly renovated Etnie’s Skatepark, in the Home Depot Shopping Center).  (For the Milo’s Café June review, visit




And if that news wasn’t bad enough, as I was strolling around downtown San Juan Capistrano, a flyer blew past me with disturbing news.  Curious, I grabbed it and it read, “Murder by the Mission”.  I had to investigate.  I discovered that Sarducci’s Capistrano Depot (the incredible brick, historic building of the old railroad station), now a wonderful restaurant, partners with the Capistrano Center for the Performing Arts to host “Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre!”  Intrigued, I booked us a reservation.

The Experience 

On a warm and incredible summer Sunday evening, Ken, Andrew, Cindy and I arrived in the beautiful, historic district of San Juan Capistrano around 5:30pm.  We had time before our 6:30 reservation, therefore crossed the tracks and discovered a lovely little cozy area of Los Rios Street — old homes turned into restaurants, shops and gardens (stay tuned for future reviews!).  As we chatted about our top-of-mind stressers of the day, the stroll and surroundings massaged our minds and souls and we became more relaxed.  It was hard to believe that there was a murder taking place.

 The Interrogation

Looking forward to dinner, we checked in at Sarducci’s and were greeted by a rude Detective Victoria Campbell who asked us where we had been in the last hour.  After questioning us, she had us go into a special room, where they happened to be serving champagne.  Having nothing to hide, we obliged.  Curious conversation began brewing about “a murder”.  They had us sit down at our dinner table while finishing up the interrogations of other guests.

 The doors shut, and we were trapped in a wonderful room along the train tracks, surrounded by facinating art and enticing smells.  Then the murder began to unfold with a cast of character actors, playing out a game of “who done it?”  Now, I’m not going to say much more, as I don’t want to give too much away.  But I will say that it was fun, interactive and wildly entertaining.   Oh, and pay attention! 

Dinner Review

I got lost in the story, forgetting that we were there to review the food.  Once our dinner arrived, I woke up to wonderful aromas of Ancho-Chili Salmon (fresh salmon fillet, pan-seared then baked with a glace of ancho chili, honey and dijon mustard; garnished with dollops of jalapeno sour cream and served with herbed mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables), Parmesan Crusted Chicken (a tender chicken breast coated with panko crumbs and parmesan cheese then lightly grilled and served with a lemon cream sauce, mashed potatoes and fresh asparagus), Asparagus & Sundried Tomato Pasta (fresh asparagus, mushrooms and sundried tomatoes with olive oil, basil and garlic on linguine noodles topped with shredded jack cheese) and Mini New York Steak & Shrimp (a tender 5 oz. New York strip loin cooked medium rare with a brandied mushroom demi-glace and grilled shrimp;  served with herbed mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables).  For dessert, we enJOYed two wonderful and heavenly choices:  Mini Molten Lava Cake (warmed and topped with Vanilla Bean ice cream), and Apple Cobbler (a thick layer of fresh apples baked into a sweet Southern biscuit cobbler and topped with Vanilla Bean ice cream, whipped cream and drizzled with caramel sauce).

Throughout the performance, the four of us, exchanged dinner samples.  As the food critique in “Ratatouille” said, in a low, highly judgemental voice, “If I don’t like it, I don’t swallow.”  You could read our faces.  We communicated by swallowing, rolling our eyes in pleasure, smiling, finishing every morsel on our plate and concluding with four thumbs up! 

By the end of the performance, we found ourselves trying to figure out who the murderer was.  Thank you to Tom and Dennis, the managers at Sarducci’s, for their hospitality.  All in all, we agreed that this overall experience rated very high in our books and we give Sarducci’s Capistrano Depot and Camino Real Playhouse a standing ovation! 

Book It @ Sarducci’s!

There are limited “Murder by the Mission” experiences and we highly recommend you book your “Murder Mystery Dinnter Theatre” event today for August 14th, September 11th, or October 9th!  For reservations at Sarducci’s, call 949-493-9593 (26701 Verdugo, SJC, CA  92675)

Camino Real Playhouse

Just up the street from Sarducci’s is the Capistrano Center for the Performing Arts, Camino Real Playhouse & Stage II, Capistrano Shakespeare Festival and Capistrano Acting Academy.  I must say, when I visited the center, it was bustling with summertime students, as well as professional actors.  It felt big time for our Orange County community.  I’d like to extend a special thank you to the writer/directors/producers of this unique experience, Beverly Blake and Tom Scott.  My hats off to you for your vision and creativity!  Visit their web site regularly to discover new events, classes and ticket information for their 2011-2012 season!  (31776  El Camino Real, SJC, CA  92675).                                                           


Christie Lynch – freelance restaurant reviewer

It’s official!  Our first book:  “You Wiped What WHERE?” has launched on — a great gift for any boy, or his mom, for under $10!  Order as a special gift, just because, and send it directly to their house.  The joy of any child (or mom) opening up a package is priceless! 

“Boogers, snot and smeared food everywhere!  Shaking her head in disbelief, Mom asks, “You wiped what WHERE?”  Mom is serious about stopping her boys disgusting wiping habits.  But how can she teach Anderson, Russell and Timmy the importance of good hygiene?  With a little creativity, and lots more boogers, snot and food crumbs, of course!”

Written by:  Amy Von Kaenel

Illustrated by:  Christie Lynch

 Scene:  Coto de Caza Gof Course (or it can be any golf course)

Plaque:  Rustic Wood

Hung by:  Wire or Frame Hanger or Can be propped up

Size:  Approximately 5″x6″  (sizes vary)

Cost:  $ 25

To order:  Contact Christie

I just completed a very enJOYable painting job for someone – upgrading their interior look, turning white railings and cabinets into rich, dark, custom accent focal points (to match their flooring and furniture). 






If you are in the Orange County area, let me know if you’re ready for such upgrades in your home!



Milo’s Cafe


“Welcome to Milo’s Café!  We hope you enjoy both our healthy & wholesome food with our dog-friendly ambiance.”


There is a new restaurant in Lake Forest that is healthy, not only for your mind and body, but your doggie spirit as well!  The owner and creator of this fabulous concept, Scott Sellman, was inspired by his adorable, two-years-young, adopted, American Bulldog Sharpei mix, named Milo, and Milo’s buddy, Jake the Pug.  Along with Chef Michael, they have created, not only a one-of-a-kind experience, but an amazing menu as well!



   The Experience

Milo’s Café is located off Lake Forest Drive, across from Etnie’s Skate Park, in the Home Depot/24-Hour Fitness shopping center.  As you drive through the parking lot, you’ll notice Milo’s – a unique looking café (for people) in the front of the building, and if you follow the arrows and doggie paw prints around the building, you and your dog can sit and dine on their back patio – equipped with dog play pens, toys, water AND a big screen TV, you know, so Fido can watch the Dog Network (and sports, of course)!  What a fun idea!  My dog, Buck, and I were greeted by wiggly canine friends, as well as chatty people friends.  Conversation over our beloved animals brought a strong sense of peace, love, fellowship and lots of smiles.  I’ve discovered at our local dog park, at the vet, on walks, and especially at Milo’s, that people talk about their dogs’ unique characteristics and bad habits, as much as parents talk about their children.  God created us (both dogs and people) to commune together and love on one another unconditionally.  Milo’s is a special place where you feel the love AND can nourish your body with tasty, fresh, all-natural meals.

The Menu

After a half hour of chatting and sniffing, it was time to finally order.  I love Milo’s menu – they combine vegan, vegetarian AND “less than healthy” choices; the “less than healthy” choices are indicated by a photo of Jake the Pug – too funny! I started off with Scott’s secret recipe for Milo’s Rockin Java “Guilt Free” iced coffee – coffee combined with their special protein blend and sweetened with natural stevia (approximately 150 cal and 17 grams protein) – sooo good!  I crave it now!  Breakfast includes:  World Famous Protein Rich Pan Crepes, Huevos Rancheros, Steel Cut Oatmeal, omelets, and breakfast sandwiches.  Appetizers include:  healthy Hummus & Chips (pita chips), Sliced Seared Ahi (yum!), Raw Veggie Plate, amazing Tomato Bruschetta served with low-fat parmesan flatbread, great Baked Chicken Wings, Chips & homemade Salsa (oh, so fresh!!!), among other greats.  Milo’s has a wide variety of Soups & Salads, made fresh daily.  Milo’s tasty Sandwiches and Burgers range from gourmet Roasted Pesto Chicken Sandwich, Jake’s Club Sandwich to Milo’s Signature Turkey Burger, Vegan Burger, and Jake’s Juicy Burger.  I happened to stumble upon Taco Tuesday and enjoyed their Carne Asada taco; next time I’m going to try their Tofu taco!  All their tacos are whole-wheat soft shell, accompanied with black beans & freshly made pico de gallo, AND you can substitute vegan cheese for no extra charge!  The Dinners at Milo’s are beautiful:  They have a nice Roasted Cedar Plank Salmon with mashed sweet potatoes, sautéed spinach & crispy leeks – YUM!  (my mouth is watering just thinking about it all!)  Milo’s has chicken and salmon pasta dishes (both whole wheat pasta as well as regular), Catch of the Day, and of course, a Stir Fry Veggie Plate.  For Dessert, you must try Milo’s Choc-Heaven Pie, “Less Guilty” Carrot Cake, Very Berry Cheesecake, and Jake’s Hot Fudge Sundae!!!!   This place is too much!!!!  I cannot conclude without the special mention of the Dog Menu – of course!  “We are proud to feature TrueFoodForDogs of Newport Beach on our menu.  Made entirely from USDA certified ingredients and formulated specifically for dogs.  Each delicious meal is 7 oz. and served lukewarm.”  Your choices are:  Lamb & Brown Rice, Turkey & Whole Wheat Pasta, and Beef & Russet Potato”. 

Operation Blankets Of Love (

Milo’s has partnered with OBOL, where you can bring cleaned and new blankets, towels, dog clothes, pet beds, pet toys, crates, carriers, collars & leashes, water & food bowls, as well as other dog and cat items to Milo’s to help provide comfort to homeless animals in shelters, rescue groups and fosters.  I met the founders Eileen while I was there the other night.  She definitely is passionate about pet rescue and adoption.  So when you go to Milo’s, don’t forget a little item for the donation bin.  You will be much appreciated!

In all my travels, I’ve never experienced a place like this!  I truly love it at Milo’s.   Tell all your friends! Meet at Milo’s for a doggie play date!  End your long walk at Milo’s!  Check out all the events happening at Milo’s on their web site.  Above all, at Milo’s Café, kick back and enjoy the fruits of health, companionship and be thankful for all your blessings.  And, don’t forget to bring your camera, because it’s quite probable that you can meet Milo and Jake personally, or join them in a card game!  

Milo’s Café

26771 Rancho Parkway

Lake Forest, CA  92630


Follow Milo and Jake on their web site:, Facebook page and Twitter.


Christie Lynch – freelance restaurant reviewer and dog lover




We are truly fortunate to be living in this beautiful community of ours, in a climate that rivals any in the world.  As the summer approaches we can look forward to warm evenings and Southern California sunsets.  When the weather gets warm, my family goes to the beach, and more often than not, we go to Laguna, because Laguna has my favorite beaches.  For this month’s Food Finds, we’re going to venture outside our little sphere, to the incredibly beautiful town of Laguna, to tell you about a new restaurant with a familiar name:  Tommy Bahama.  Some of you may be thinking that you have already been to Tommy Bahama, and that they are all the same, but the one in Laguna is different.  The food can be best described as a lighter healthy fare exclusive to the Laguna location.

We just happened to go to Tommy Bahama on a very hot and balmy Saturday night, the perfect night to go into Laguna Beach.  The ambiance of the Laguna Tommy Bahama gives you the feeling that life’s just one BIG weekend with its laid-back décor and airy atmosphere.  The entry foyer looks and feels as if you are visiting a friend’s beach home with a very inviting and cozy feel.   The walls are all adorned with the most fabulous photos of Laguna’s beaches, the boardwalk, as well as long ago shots of downtown.  No matter where you are seated within the restaurant, there are perpetual views of the ocean from the surrounding sparkling windows.  We truly lucked out the night we went and were able to catch the sunset from our table while entranced in the amazing flavors being served to us.

Tommy Bahama in Laguna Beach has it’s own unique menu, which is on the lighter side and features seasonal changing dishes.  Executive Chef Marcus Lage has come up with many incredible fusions of tastes to tantalize any newcomer to the restaurant.  We started off with the Muscles (which I have never had before…) they are served with an amazing broth that you can soak up with some of the tastiest garlic bread around.  Yup I will definitely be having muscles again.  The Lobster Corn Dogs are perfectly fried (not too heavy), and definitely the bomb at Tommy Bahama, which are served with Sriracha Mustard (Nice N spicy) and Mango Ketchup dipping sauces.  You must try them!  My favorite appetizers of the night were, the Lobster Corn dogs and the Ahi Tuna Tacos.  The Ahi Tacos are served with a lightly fried wonton shell with the most amazing Asian slaw and perfectly topped off with a Wasabi-Lime infused avocado sauce.  Seriously I really could have eaten the whole plate myself. 

Dinner was on its way and we were already in food heaven.  We had the Atlantic Char, which is a cross between Salmon and Trout.  It was extremely delicate and lightly prepared with a Sweet Pea Risotto and Fennel slaw.  Atlantic Char is farmed here in the US and considered very safe to eat, a new favorite of mine.  The Mahi Mahi was served with Grilled asparagus and Meyer Lemon Beurre Blanc Red Quinoa.  The Mahi Mahi was cooked excellently giving it the perfect lightness that you want from Mahi Mahi, and the Quinoa  was very tasty.   All the Seafood and Meat served at Tommy Bahama is locally sourced and humanely raised whenever possible. Next we had the Filet and Shrimp, which was the most  tenderest Tenderloin topped with herbed cheese, served with Chipole-lime shrimp, the fluffiest whipped mashed potatoes and a cracked pepper demi glaze.  If you’re a steak lover, then you have to try the Filet.  The meat was very tender and moist and cooked to perfection.   I know it sounds like we had everything on the menu… but that’s what you MUST do to during a review.  Lucky us, we even got to have the Steak Salad, which was served with their mouth watering tenderloin, watercress, baby greens, cucumbers, roma tomatoes, all drizzled with sweet onion vinaigrette dressing.  The Tenderloin salad is the perfect salad for a light appetite.

Ok, Ok, on to the desserts!  We had the Root Beer Float, which brings back childhood memories, and is served with drizzled caramel on top and definitely a great treat after a long warm afternoon at the beach.  The Banana cream pie is nestled in a graham cracker crust drizzled with caramel sauce.  If you’ve never had Banana Cream pie, then this is the place to indulge.  You will be hooked and begging for more.   The triple chocolate cake has three different kinds of chocolate with four layers of chocolate perfection.  Definitely large enough to share but it might be hard to give up one bite of this delicious cake. 

Tommy Bahama in Laguna Beach is committed to being an Eco-friendly company, and are constantly working on ways to reduce waste by using sustainable systems such as a high tech compost system and donating their compost to the a local elementary School.  Nutra, an environmentally friendly water filtration system, is used to serve the most delicious water in a reusable glass bottle that is placed on your table while you dine. The Natura water filtration system eliminates the impurities and retains the healthy minerals in water.    We ate EVERY last bite of our meal and had no need for To Go containers.  However if you cannot finish your meal, the good news is, their To Go containers are made from biodegradable cardboard.  Tommy Bahama is definitely on the for front of the Green movement with their Eco-Friendly ways and sustainable commitment to our community. 

Tommy Bahama of Laguna Beach, a great place to take the family for an extremely delicious meal and as well as a great place to go after a long and warm day spent on the beautiful beaches in Laguna.  Where you can feel like you’re on vacation without having to go far from home. 

Also don’t forget to check out their retail store, which is just steps up from the dining room on a mini replica of the boardwalk from main beach.   Tommy Bahama has always been known for their fashionable clothing and will not disappoint here in their new Laguna location.

We hope to see you at the new Tommy Bahama next time we’re in Laguna!

                                                        Cindy and Christie

Tommy Bahama

400 South Coast Hwy

Laguna Beach, CA 92651


Open 11:30 AM-11PM Sun-Thurs

Open 11:30AM-Midnight Fri & Sat



“With three boys, a loving husband, a male dog and cat, I AM the queen of the household. 

Along with my crown, I also wear my most prized possession – my tool belt.”

In this suffering economy, we can still find happiness and contentment within our own castle – whether we own it or rent it – and especially if we have little or no budget.  A simple project that can really enhance the look of your back/front yard, patio, or even your street, is to paint a boring looking retaining wall, to make it look rich in stack stone or brick.  Here’s all you need:


v  Take photos or find samples of what you’re trying to emulate (optional).  Otherwise, choose 3-5 paint colors that will compliment your home and it’s surroundings.

v  3-5 exterior/acrylic paint colors (low sheen).  

  • For this project, I happened to use:   an outdoor brown from Lowes (or any home improvement/paint store) as a base color;  acrylic paints including raw umber, burnt umber, raw sienna and a touch here and there of burnt sienna, black and white.

v  A clear glaze, found in the paint section, in Lowes  

v  4 sturdy paper plates

v  A 2” paint brush and 1 smaller paint brush

v  Paper Towels


v  Add some glaze to a paper plate and begin with a base coat on your wall, thinning some “bricks” with glaze added to your wall.  (Note:   If you notice, “bricks,” in general, are not all alike.  There is a variance in the same color.)

v  In another paper plate, mix (1 part) paint color to (3 parts) glaze (you do not need to necessarily mix it together).  Again, painting this wall is all about the variances of paint color.  Add another squirt of another color to your plate and to each “brick”.  Note:  if paint is too thick, wipe it off with a paper towel.  The fun part is that the color will sink into “the valleys” of the brick, therefore giving it depth!  That’s cool!

  • Tip:  If you’re still hating a particular area of color or it’s too dark or light, you can always paint over it–that’s the beauty of paint!

v  Once you get your “bricks” looking like your sample, check out the grout (area in between the bricks) and choose a color that resembles it and paint it.  This is the exciting part!  Your bricks will begin to pop and look more like bricks.

v  Above and beyond:  If you’re not tired yet, and really want your bricks to pop and look more 3-dimentional, in a paper plate, add (1 part) black to (3 parts) glaze and with the small paint brush, paint a line underneath each brick.  This will give it a shadowed effect.

EnJOY and I hope your wall looks FABULOUS!

“Coto Voice – Food Finds” – April Issue 2011

Casa Ranchero – Mexican Cantina ~ Ladera Ranch, CA



Bravo!  Bravo! Lonnie and Claire Shepard have done it again!  Not only do they own the wonderful restaurant, Infusion, but they scored with a property across the parking lot and created a new Mexican cantina called Casa Ranchero (in the Mercantile West shopping center at Crown Valley Parkway and Antonio Parkway, in Ladera Ranch).  Lonnie and Claire, husband and wife, are a great restaurant team. Lonnie has perfected his talents as a chef over the past 25 years.  He has cooked for Chateclair in Irvine, the Pacific Club in Newport Beach and he was the opening executive chef for Dove Canyon Country Club as well as the Dana Point Yacht Club.  Currently, Lonnie is the executive chef of Infusion.  Combining his chef skills with Claire’s business mind, they decided to challenge themselves with their new Mexican cantina venture, Casa Ranchero.


The Look, Tone and Feel

The interior and exterior of Casa Ranchero is really fun.  The creativity of the interior makes you feel like you’re in a Mexican casita.  The patio is great!  There are comfortable couches, a big bon fire, outdoor bar (with a TV), and plenty of heat lamps.  It’s great ambiance to hang out, sipping one of their signature margaritas and munching on homemade chips and salsa.  Once the weather becomes warmer, I can see Casa Ranchero becoming a great hang out this summer! 

Our Experience

At the end of a long day, Ken, Andrew, Cindy and I relaxed outside on the patio.  Casey, our very polite, informative and awesome waiter, took great care of us, offering us first and foremost, Mexican blankets for our laps (with our cold winter, this was a nice touch).


After taking our drink order of Mexican beer and margaritas, we ordered four typical Mexican meals.  Ken had the Casa Ranchero Carnitas – crispy shredded carnitas with cilantro, onions, avocado and fresh lime ($13.95).  Andrew had the Carne Asada – charbroiled marinated skirt steak with green onions, sour cream, and guacamole, choice of fresh flour or corn tortillas ($13.95).  Cindy had the Chimichanga – a crispy burrito filled with chicken or beef, topped with tomatoes, ranchero sauce, melted cheese, sour cream and guacamole ($12.95).  Casey talked me into the Suizas Chicken and Cheese – chicken and manchego cheese enchiladas with tomatillo sauce ($10.95).   Chef’s Note:  Queso Manchego is a cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain from the milk of sheep of the Manchega breed.  Que bueno!   All in all, this was good food with reasonable prices in well-designed setting.

Weekly Events

Happy Hour:  3-6pm, M-F, (bar and patio only).

Taco Tuesdays:  3-closing, (bar and patio only; DJ E&J Ent).

Wednesdays:  Ninos Eat Free!  AND Wacky Wednesdays, 6-11, (cantina & patio only).

Easter Event – April 24th

Try Casa Ranchero’s Easter Brunch this year from 10-2pm.

Contact Information

Book your reservations online at

And friend them on Facebook to find out all their upcoming events.

25606 Crown Valley Parkway, Ladera Ranch, 92694


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