Julie Anne: I’m still chasing my shadow trying to get caught up after the month long family visit – working on some exciting new projects for the Personal Chef Approach™, and manning The Roving Stove’s phone which has been ringing off the hook with hungry clients. Aaron, Tatjana’s boyfriend who I finally got to meet, offered to help me out with another great guest blog post about his first visit to LA…

Aaron & Tatjana

Aaron & Tatjana in Newport Beach

Aaron: I’ve visited America a few times over the years, so when Julie Anne invited me over a few months ago I jumped at the chance. At first, the idea of meeting Tatjana’s mother seemed like a brilliant idea, but as the time grew nearer I became more and more nervous. After the grueling ten and a half our flight we finally landed in Los Angeles. Luckily, Julie Anne threw herself at us as soon as she saw us, and into a crushing hug (do not let looks deceive you she is she is surprisingly strong).

So my vacation had begun, and I had no idea what to expect. Before I’d had a chance to explore LA, we were whisked off to Newport Beach so I could meet Julie Anne’s parents. Luckily I got on with them very well and we headed out for dinner, where I learned my most important lesson about America. The portion sizes are insane and never to order an appetizer and expect to be able to finish your main meal. As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of my food, as my waist line does like to boast at times. One of the highlights of the trip proved to be Julie Anne’s cooking – especially her Baked Penne with Hot Italian Turkey Sausage which I’ve been unsuccessfully searching for everywhere since arriving back in the rain drenched UK.

Meeting the mother AND the grandparents

Meeting the mother AND the grandparents

After an amazing week in Newport Beach, watching the sunset and rise over the ocean, it was back too LA. The first thing to really shock me was the sheer size of the city, and how terrible its public transport system is! Getting anywhere proved to be a nightmare. One bus failed to arrive at all on our way to a museum, and another we had to exit prematurely to get away from a man trying to sell us drugs (Julie Anne decided to be our chauffeur after the last incident).

There certainly is plenty to see and do in one of the world’s most famous cities. The Stanley Kubrick exhibition at LACMA was one of the first highlights. Since The Shinning possibly ranks as my favourite film of all time, the exhibition did not disappoint. It was stunning, and I really recommend any film buff in LA to make their way there before it closes.

Sightseeing in LA

Sightseeing in LA – Beverly Hills, Kubrick exhibition, Hollywood, and “Open-says-a-me time at the Magic Castle

One of the next activities that Julie had lined up for us was dinner at the Magic Castle, and I was really looking forward to it.  I’d heard about it years ago, and Tatjana’s father did say it was the one thing I shouldn’t miss. The food was great although I found it was the only place in America where the portions sizes are actually much smaller than you would expect. The 12 oz. prime rib couldn’t have weighed more than 6 oz. once the fat was trimmed. Luckily the rest of the evening did not disappoint, we saw a variety of incredible performers, one of which was rather disturbingly able to read my mind in front of a packed audience, and another got Julie Anne to pull an ice lolly out of thin air.

Next we went to a taping of the Ellen show. This was easily the strangest few hours of my life. Firstly, the traffic was horrific, bumper to bumper gridlock the entire way from Pacific Palisades to Burbank (and Julie Anne does not like driving in traffic to put it mildly). How we made it is beyond me. The oddest thing I found once we got there was the ‘audience motivator’. A job that, in the hands of an Englishman would probably drive most people to drown themselves in the toilet on their lunch break. This poor man had to get the crowd to dance and cheer for no apparent reason, through the entire duration of the shows commercial break. It eventually became rather annoying during the hour long taping.

Movies & TV show tapings

Movies & TV show tapings

Ellen herself was a very funny and sweet. She took time outside of the shows taping too address the audience long after the cameras had stopped rolling. Her guests were American Idol winner, Philip Philips (the audience all got copies of his CD – I’ve yet to open mine), Kyle Chandler, who was great in Zero Dark Thirty, Argo and Super 8, and the headliner was Jennifer Lopez, who was surprisingly entertaining.

USC vs. Oregon State

USC vs. Oregon State

Next up was a basketball game. Now I usually hate most sports in the UK, I find them boring and slow. American sports however are a completely different story. A few months ago Julie Anne got me and Taj tickets to see the women’s basketball finals at the Olympics and I loved it. This trip she got us tickets to see the USC men’s basketball team VS Oregon State. Now I can easily say that this was the best sports game that I have ever seen. Beating the excitement of the Olympic game I saw, and easily beating the countless football (soccer to Americans) games that I have been too.

The teams were neck and neck the entire match, with Oregon State always within ten points of USC for the entire game – which ended on one of those moments you only see in movies, where the team is down by one point thirty seconds from the final whistle and gets an all-important penalty shot, or whatever they call it in basketball. Unfortunately USC did not score and Oregon went to take victory, but it was still one of the most incredible and most enjoyable events that I have ever been too. At no English sport has there ever been such a level of excitement or drama, we just do not do it that way over here, and it is something that I really wish that we did do. Although I found the cheerleaders faintly ridiculous and could never see that taking off here.

Tatjana and Aaron up high over Santa Monica Pier on the ferris wheel

Tatjana and Aaron up high over Santa Monica Pier on the ferris wheel

Unfortunately my time came to an end far too quickly, but I saved plenty for return trips. I had a great time and I really hope to go back soon. Julie Anne is an incredible person and Los Angeles is an amazing city. What’s not too like?

Julie Anne: I’ll let you in on a secret, Aaron – I was nervous before meeting you too. It would’ve been a nightmare for Tatjana if we didn’t get on as well as we did. I got to see what it would be like to have a son, and it was nice to have some male energy in the house again. I hope there will be many more visits, and thanks for letting Tatjana and I have some mother-daughter time alone too. I uploaded the recipe to my website just to thank you!

Baked Penne with Hot Italian Sausage

This is an old client classic that is popular with children and adults alike. It’s also a great way to get your picky eaters to eat their spinach. I recently served it to my daughter’s boyfriend for dinner, and he liked it so much – he’s been in hot pursuit of Italian turkey sausage ever since (it is evidently hard to find in London).

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes


Baked Penne with Hot Italian Turkey Sausage

  • 1 pound Italian sausage pork or turkey, and hot or sweet
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 28 ounce canned crushed tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons dry red wine optional
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano chopped
  • 6 ounces fresh spinach roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 14.5 ounces penne
  • 1 cups mozzarella shredded


Baked Penne with Hot Italian Turkey Sausage

  1. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Remove the sausage from the casings into the pan, and cook until browned and no longer pink, breaking up into little pieces with the back of a wooden spoon. Remove to a foil tented plate to keep warm; set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cook penne according to package instructions, and drain; set aside.
  3. Add the olive oil and onions to the pan, and cook until softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add olive oil, then minced garlic, and cook 30 seconds. Add crushed tomatoes and wine, simmer for 15 minutes and stir in fresh herbs. Stir in the spinach and season to taste.
  4. Stir the penne and cooked turkey into the sauce, then all of the mixture into an 8" baking dish. May be cooled, covered, and refrigerated or frozen at this point. When ready to eat, preheat oven to 350° F. Bake casserole for 25-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly, and cheese begins to brown.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with balsamic marinated vegetables, garlic bread, or any green vegetable of your choice.

Heat To Eat

When ready to eat, preheat oven to 350° F. Bake casserole for 25-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly, and cheese begins to brown; or vent lid of container and heat in microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes.

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  • February 1, 2013
    6:26 pm

    What a great post Aaron! I really enjoyed reading about your trip highlights and am glad you and Tatjana had a great time visiting Julie Anne. What’s not to like about her? LOL! I have never met her but from reading her blog and FB posts she seems like a very genuine and loving person. I LOL at your description of the portion sizes served in the restaurants you visited. I live in North Carolina where you can get some great Southern style cuisine such as barbeque pork, buttermilk fried chicken, peach cobbler and collard greens. If you were to dine out at many restaurants here you would probably think the portion sizes were meant to feed a family of four! You and Tatjana are very fortunate to have each other and I believe you’ve found a gem of a girlfriend!Right Jewels? Her parents have raised her well and it really shows. I wish you all the very best in your relationship and do hope you will come back to America soon.:o)

    • February 2, 2013
      8:44 am

      I’D like some of that southern fried chicken!

      • February 2, 2013
        12:32 pm

        Well there’s plenty to go around! One of the best places I’ve had fried chicken in my neck of the woods is a soul food restaurant named Stephanie’s. It sort of a hole in the wall type of place but it’s very clean and the food is great. Some of my friends swear by places named Pan Pan’s Hardtimes Diner in Durham and Occasions in Burlington for their soul food fix. If you ever get an opportunity to visit the great state of North Carolina I’d be thrilled to take you to any one of these places. Bring your stretchy pants! :o)

  • February 2, 2013
    7:52 am

    This postmademe so happy! Happy to see that your parents are in good health, Jules!

  • February 2, 2013
    8:46 am

    It was such a lovely visit. I spent a month with them on the beach in Newport Beach – loved it there! I wish they would move there permanently.

  • February 2, 2013
    6:33 pm

    Absolutely fantastic! It sounds like the visit was jam packed action and you were all able to enjoy every moment. I am SO HAPPY everyone got along straight away… it makes things SO much easier for everyone. Glad you enjoyed your visit and everyone got along well. Hopefully the next visit isn’t too far away!

  • February 3, 2013
    2:49 pm

    Wonderful post Aaron! So happy you enjoyed your visit! Even better, it sounds like you and Jewels hit it off nicely. Jewels is an amazing lady so you know how and why Tatjana is such a special young lady. With a mum like Jewels, she couldn’t have turned out to be anything but amazing.
    Just a thought for the recipe, you could purchase ground pork or turkey and spice it up to be like the meat in the turkey sausages. That way you could control the sodium content, but have the spiciness to the degree you like. Plus, you save the time getting the sausage meat out of the casings. I bet Jewels could suggest what seasonings to use to get a similar taste.

  • February 7, 2013
    5:08 pm

    Wonderful writing Aaron and funny too!
    I’ve been to the U.S before but never LA, however I know all about the bigger food portions. Can be quite insane! I remember many moons ago when I was 18 on my first trip to the U.S (Chicago), eating one of the biggest pizza slices I have ever seen thinking “no way”…….it was utterly insane but terribly delicious!
    It’s great that everyone got along so well. You may have to plan your next trip with Tatjana very soon.
    Jewels, looks like Tatjana is in good hands……and how good do they look together 🙂