Pan Seared Salmon with Arugula and Avocado

Simple ingredients come together super quick in this recipe. The flavors of the peppery arugula, the buttery salmon and the acidic dressing, play very well together. Definitely a weeknight dinner to put on repeat.

I used Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar in lieu of Parmesan, just because I wanted to. The addition of mustard to a vinaigrette acts as an emulsifier, and keeps the oil and vinegar together with a creamy consistency. Don’t forget to season your vinaigrette before dressing your greens.

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 Salmon filets, preferably wild

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 cups baby arugula

1 tablespoons fresh juice from 1 lemon, plus wedges for serving

1 tsp Dijon mustard

crumbled parmesan cheese (or any sharp cheese that you prefer)

1/2 ripe Hass avocado, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 tomato, chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

 Pat the salmon filets dry with a paper towel. Season on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add salmon filets skin side-down. Immediately reduce heat to medium, medium low depending on your stove. Cook, pressing gently on back of filets to ensure good contact with skin, until skin is rendered and crisp, about 6 minutes. If skin shows resistance when attempting to lift with a spatula, allow it to continue to cook until it lifts easily.

While the first side of the salmon cooks, whisk lemon juice, remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and the mustard in small bowl until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Flip salmon and cook on second side for another minute or two, or to your desired doneness. I like my salmon close to medium rare/medium at 125 to 130 degrees.

Plate the arugula and top with avocado and tomatoes, dress with the vinaigrette. Crumble on your chosen cheese, place salmon on bed of salad and serve with lemon wedge.

Enjoy!

*Double recipe for 4 servings

Food

We have a trip coming up and we are counting down the days. We spent a morning running errands and then had a really good lunch at Puesto, although their prices have skyrocketed and I am not really eager to go back.

However, their mango, passionfruit and shrimp ceviche was phenom. It also had avocado, tamarind and chili crunch. So good.

We picked up some reading material for our travel time, I am so eager to start Book Lovers, so I hid the books in my suitcase. Maybe I will forget about it until I board the plane.

We didn’t even know that FoodieLand was a thing until it came across our Instagram feed. Obviously we had to check it out. It was held at the Del Mar fairgrounds on a beautiful weekend. We got there when it opened, thankfully, because people poured in and in and in. There were over 150 vendors of food and drink, there were sporadicly placed underwhelming bars and two live stages. The entrance dropped us off in the paddock where benches were set up on the grass facing a stage. However, since it was quite warm, everyone had already grabbed the very few surrounding tables in the shade, smart.

We stopped and ordered a beverage and took a lap around scouring our options. I am going to come right out and say it, totally underwhelming. I mean, they had everything you could think of, well except a lobster roll. Wings, noodles, musubi, grilled lobster, dim sum, Ube desserts, oysters, cotton candy, grilled cheese, Indonesian satay, which I really wanted, but not bad enough to wait in a 30 minute line. Anyhow, you catch my drift. Even with all of these options, nothing really jumped out at us. We ended up getting the fried potato twister and some dumplings. They were both good but the potatoes were heavily salted.

Between the terrible band on stage and the beating down sun, we decided to walk back to the paddock. We sat in the 17 hands bar for another drink, and listened to a less awful, Michael Bublé.

Then we headed back out for another lap around the place.

And we landed here.

We chose the Chocolate Chip Martini, the Lemon Drop Martini and the Southern Gentlemen, which was my favorite. But they were all good. Smart little business idea.

As time went on, the crowd grew excessively so we swung by the churro stand and also stopped for some pollo chicharrones, then we headed home.

We had just enough time to recover from our food coma before we headed back out to watch the Galaxy match.

We met my brother and a few of his friends at a brewery to watch the game. The beer was good, the game, not so much.

Mother’s Day

We spent Mother’s day on Saturday to avoid the chaos that Sunday would have brought. Brunch was in Old Town and in typical fashion, everyone ate too many chips, but the margaritas were delish.

After brunch we took the girls swimming, you know, to tire them out. We finished the night watching A Christmas Story with pizza.

I was spoilt.

This egg cooker is AMAZING. Hard boiled eggs in less than 10 minutes, soft boiled in even less. AND no “watched pot never boils” situation.

It came with a mini griddle. I used it Sunday morning to make pancakes. I was blown away. Easy, perfect little pancakes, no mess and the kids ate them up.

But then, while getting sugar out of the pantry we realized that ants had invaded THE ENTIRE PANTRY. There was no solution aside from taking everything out and spraying, so happy Mother’s day to me, I now had some real fun ahead of me.


Half a day later, I ordered groceries via InstaCart, because taking the kids to the store was just too much.

So much work….. but it looks so much better.

Once I was done I took the girls to the pool. They were begging to go all day and guess what, they lasted less than an hour. I mean… of course they did.

Brown Buttered Scampi with Parmesan Cauliflower Puree

Does the original scampi recipe call for wine? I want to say no, and that we (cooks) added that later on in life, but I have no idea. I didn’t use wine in this recipe, just butter, garlic and some lemon. This dish comes together quickly and with only a handful of ingredients, most of it being fat, dairy and garlic, you’re welcome.

While I steamed my chopped cauliflower, I let the shrimp hang out in a bowl with olive oil, minced garlic, crushed red paper flakes, a teaspoon of lemon zest, salt and a tad of honey. I also started my browned butter. All I did for that was place the butter and garlic in a small fry pan over medium heat. After a few minutes, the butter starts to foam. Then it will begin to turn brown and begin to smell nutty, just keep an eye on it to not burn the garlic, take it off of the heat when you like what you see.

Once the cauliflower is fork tender, drain and toss into your food processor. Add some salt, to taste, about 1/4 cup of cream or half n half, two tablespoons of melted butter and about 1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese and puree. Taste and taste and taste again, I find that cauliflower, like potatoes always need more salt than we think. You can let that hang out in the processor until you are ready to serve, so it stays warm.

Meanwhile, heat a large-ish skillet over medium high heat and add a little olive oil. Toss in your shrimp and let cook for about 1 minute and when they start to get a little brown, flip and cook the other side for another 20-30 seconds or until cooked through.

Spread your cauliflower puree on a plate, top with shrimp and drizzle with that heavenly browned garlic butter. I garnished with micro parsley.

Dinner is served in under 30 minutes but now you have to find someone else to do the dishes because quick doesn’t always mean easy.

Lemon Talk

Our lemon tree is in full produce mode. I’ve always wanted a lemon tree for those moments when you randomly need a lemon but don’t have one. You know, maybe you decided to make a piccata dish or you wanted to make pesto. All you need is one lemon and clearly you don’t want to go to the store for one damn lemon, right? I used to visualize the neighborhood and picture which homes had lemon trees and then I may have helped myself to a lemon or two in a time of need (the tree would be in the front yard, I wasn’t hopping any fences you guys). Now that I have said lemon tree, I never have to buy lemons, but I’ve realized that I don’t use them very often.

The lemon tree was staring back at me probably wondering why I was neglecting it, I felt bad.

There is only so much you can do with an abundance of lemons. Lemonade, lemon bars, lemon cakes, lemon meringue pie, the list goes on. We still had cream cheese frosting in the fridge from Kaili’s birthday cake and I had puff pastry in the freezer, I didn’t see the harm in making lemon curd and then turn those three things into a lemon cream cheese danish.

This is the recipe I used to make the lemon curd.

INGREDIENTS

4 large egg yolks 

2/3 cup  granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon zest (about 1 lemon)

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2–3 lemons)

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 Tablespoons  butter, softened

 If you have a double boiler then pull that out. If not, like me, simply place a small heatproof glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water you will cook the curd in the top pot/bowl. Place on high heat. Once the water begins to boil, reduce to low heat to keep the water at a simmer.

Place egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt into the top pot of your double boiler. Using a whisk, whisk until completely blended, then continue to whisk as the curd cooks. Constant whisking prevents the egg yolks from curdling. Whisk and cook until the mixture becomes thick, resembling the texture of hollandaise sauce, about 10 minutes. If curd isn’t thickening, turn up the heat and constantly whisk.

Remove pan from heat. Cut the butter into 6 separate pieces, then whisk into the curd. The butter will melt from the heat of the curd. Pour curd into a jar or bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top so it is touching the top of the curd. The curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Once cool, the plastic wrap can be removed.

This can stay in the fridge for about 10 days.

Desert Hot Springs

About four months into the midst of Covid we were itching to isolate somewhere warm and with a pool. Obviously hotels weren’t allowing guests and even AirBnB’s were scarce. I found a place in Desert Hot Springs called The Getaway, it was a seven unit apartment complex turned vacation rental. The owner was kind enough to let us stay for a few nights so we could have a change of scenery. Luckily, out of all the units, only a few were occupied because uh, isolation right?

The place was mid-century, had everything we needed, a pool and a hot tub, and it was just what the doctor ordered. However, driving into the town of Desert Hot Springs was not what we imagined.

This is the property.

Nice and quaint with lots of available sun.

This you guys, is what it looks like on the outside of that building.

Desert Hot Springs is like Palm Springs’ seedy cousin. Neglected, poor and you probably shouldn’t leave your cash lying around. But, we had a great time and became fast friends with a lady that was also staying long term there while her man, an essential worker, was working in Santa Monica.

Fast forward two years, we wanted another sun soaked few days but Coachella and Stagecoach had all of the desert hotels bumped up to ridiculous prices. So we decided to try another place in Desert Hot Springs but this time chose an actual hotel that had some security and indoor room entrances. Miracle Springs Resort and Spa’s website said they had the above, but also had seven natural hot mineral pools, an outdoor pool and a restaurant. That checked all of our boxes so off we went.

We drove through a sand storm on the way in. Not smog or haze just sand.

When the map told us we had “arrived at our destination” this is what we pulled up to.

Uh nope, nope, not staying here.

We knew or I should say we really really hoped that this wasn’t the place, so we drove around the lot and into another parking lot and then things looked a bit better. Not great but better.

We checked in around seven in the evening as their restaurant Capri was closing. We asked the receptionist if there was a place to eat nearby that she would recommend. On her advice we drove a few blocks to a Mexican place called Casa Blanca. What do you know, the parking lot was packed, phew! We had a margarita and some really, really good food. Surprised and satisfied, we headed back to the hotel stopping off at a 7/11 for some pool snacks and a Snickers to stick in the freezer (for late night snacking).

We woke up and headed to Capri for breakfast.

We both ordered the eggs Benedict, and it was exactly as you’d expect from this place. Basic, no frills, egg bennies but totally satisfying. Let’s be honest, this place was not Italian, something tells me that their sauces come from jars.

The waiter/bartender Adam, was super attentive (maybe with the help of a substance or two) and very nice. He was our server both days.

This place claims that their hot pools are mineral hot springs, I mean, maybe they are, however….

They looked like condo hot tubs.

The grounds were nice, loads of greenery, beautiful flowers, and palm trees that were play houses for all types of birds. The pool water was perfect for the 90 degree weather. Enjoying some adult beverages in the sun was all we needed.

We spent the day reading in and out of the sun. With snow capped mountains in the distance.

The deco is straight out of the 90’s and it could use a facelift or two. But if you want a no frills place to lay in the sun with really no rules to abide by, then Miracle Springs resort is just fine.

Hanging with my Peeps

I wanted to write something funny about Easter but I really couldn’t find anything humorous about the holiday. Unless Jesus was actually just passed out for three days, that would be funny and totally believable, because if you could turn water into wine, wouldn’t every Friday be good?

We did egg and bunny paintings to hang in our front window.

We had a delicious dinner of grilled rib eyes, arugula, burrata with pears and walnuts with an Orin Swift red blend, not too terrible.

Fun fact; I birthed an expert potato peeler, it’s amazing because she is so anal about it, it had to be perfect which is great because I am the exact opposite, and I hate peeling shit, I will avoid recipes for that reason. So, I will deduct her one month of pregnancy bed rest for her knew found skill.

However, you can’t be good at everything, know what I’m saying?

I mean……

Chicken Tortilla Soup

When it comes to Tortilla soup, there isn’t a right way or a wrong way to make it. You like what you like and as the master of your own kitchen, you get to decide how you want it. Tomatoeyy, creamyy, brothyy, chunkyy. I personally like a silky broth with bits of chicken and then topped with avocado, tortilla strips and cilantro. So that is what is what we have here.

I took a can of diced tomatoes, 3 garlic cloves diced, one small onion diced, and a diced serrano chili, and heated them in a pan with some olive oil. Once they were glistening like you are bathing in the Mexican sun, I tossed them into a blender, added 2 corn tortillas and 2 cups of chicken broth and pureed until smooth. I poured the blender mixture into my dutch oven over medium high heat. Next, I added 2 tablespoon of taco seasoning, and one more cup of chicken broth. I let that hang out for a few minutes and then threw in about 1 1/2 cup of shredded rotisserie chicken and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. The key is to keep tasting the soup as it cooks. Does it need salt, spice, acid? You are the only one who can answer that.

I added a tablespoon of sour cream and a 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro. Then I tasted it again for seasoning.

If you like what you have, ladle into bowls and garnish with avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, cilantro, a squeeze of lime and jalapeños if you like it spicy!

It’s good, multiple meals worthy of good. For someone who doesn’t love leftovers (raises hand), this one is solid.

Plunge into Eleven

We went through a handful of party themes for Kaili’s 11th party. First it was this, then it was that, and finally we landed on a Cheetah theme. Which was exciting for me because for some sick reason I like to attempt new things in the kitchen when the audience is bigger than the our household. I wanted to see if I could make a cake with the cheetah print inside, reach for the stars you guys. So that put me in crunch time to order a cake topper because even though I like to bite off more than I can chew, I don’t want like to choke; so creating cheetah prints on the frosting was out of my comfort zone. I ordered an edible topper and had it rushed delivery so I wouldn’t be panicking the day before the party. I got the UPS updates all day Wednesday telling me that it was out for delivery and would be here by 5:00, sweet. Well, 5:00 came and went and then I got a message saying that it was delivered to our front door, but it wasn’t, so then panicking ensued. I went to the neighbors like a crazy person and with no avail, decided to wait until morning. Maybe the good samaritan that had my kids birthday cake topper would drop it off. Meanwhile I racked my brain of a back up plan and the thought of having to roll out fondant to decorate the cake was too much for my mind to take. So after the kids were at school, I set out on foot to check everyones front porches for the white envelope I know so well from past birthdays. You guys, I found it, it was on our neighbors porch, hidden behind plants. But….I had already rung their doorbell and no one answered. On top of everything it was a camera doorbell and apparently I am a chicken shit, I went home empty handed. Shawna told me to man up, take the envelope and stop stressing. So I went back, grabbed the envelope and cowardly mouthed to the camera that it was mine and waved like an idiot and went home with my heart pounding like I just went through TSA with cocaine in my panties. I mean, I hadn’t even baked anything yet, sigh.

Kaili wanted her party at the Plunge in Mission Beach. The Plunge is a huge indoor pool with an inflatable obstacle course. We had never been before so it was a blind mission. I was able to order all of the food before hand, they were super easy to work with and would definitely do it again. We had a nice area by the pool that had a table, a couple of benches and loungers.

The girls went straight into the water and didn’t want to come out.

I took you through a vital piece of birthday cake background and you’re probably wondering what the hell? Let’s talk cake.

Super underwhelmed about said cake. I’m not sure I even like cake anymore.

The cake was crumbly and I don’t know why because I didn’t over-bake it.

The design sort of turned out, I was not thrilled with the outcome but my cream cheese frosting is always good period.

Three hours went by in a snap, and our time slot was up. We had to drag the kids out of the pool, they were having so much fun. Next time we will reserve for a longer period of time and maybe just Uber to and fro to avoid the parking fiasco. But, it was a good time and I’m sure we will be back, however Averi has already decided on Great Wolf Lodge for her birthday.

Triple Lemon Cake

Lucious lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting and candied lemons, you’re welcome.

This cake is so good, I am actually contemplating making it again, right now. That will be dinner for the week, just this cake and two forks. It might happen.

*NOTE This recipe makes three 8 inch round cake pans worth of cake. I used two 8 inch and one 6 inch cake pan, I had batter leftover.

I used this recipe for the candied lemons.

Once they air dried, I started the cake.

INGREDIENTS

3 cups AP flour

1 Tablespoon baking power

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup softened butter

1 and 3/4 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup whole milk, at room temperature

1 heaping Tablespoon lemon zest (about 2 lemons)

1/3 cup  fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

LEMON CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

1 pound cream cheese, room temperature

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 pound confectioners’ sugar (about 4 cups), sifted

2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon), plus 4 teaspoons juice

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F Grease or spray three 8 inch cake pans and line with parchment paper, then spray the parchment paper. Can never be too sure.

 Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

Using a mixer of your choice, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients just until combined. With the mixer still running on low, add the milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix just until combined. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be a little thick.

Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 19-25 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. 

Let the cakes cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting and try not to eat it all .

Using the same mixer, beat cream cheese, butter and sugar until smooth, about 5 minutes. Beat in lemon zest and juice.

*Can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days. Stir until smooth before using.

ASSEMBLE

Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Feed scraps to children who wont stop asking for cake. Evenly cover the top with about 1 cup of frosting. Top with 2nd cake layer and evenly cover the top with about 1 cup of frosting. Top with the third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Decorate with candied lemons and refrigerate for a good 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

80’s in the House

Our USA mens national team qualified for the world cup. This is exciting, I mean, the fact that it was up in the air is depressing, but they did it. Now it’s only forward to Qatar.

We managed to watch a game at our local soccer bar which is always fun!

I also had a nice lunch with Uncle BK at the Michelin recognized Tuetano Taqueira in Old Town. The counter service restaurant has a large patio and the focus is on Birria. If you’re not familiar, Birria is stewed beef shoulder seasoned with cinnamon, cloves and chili’s, aka adobo, and it usually the plays a main role in a taco, or quesadilla. The restaurant is still trying to get it’s footing, but the food was delicious. A local magazine had an article praising the taqueira and highlighted their bone marrow birria taco, and yes, I ordered it.

The taco was full of deep flavor, rich and very messy. The liquid gold that is bone marrow added a layer of decadence to the taco. The tortillas, freshly made rounded the taco out, and were so good. But the scene stealer is their salsa matcha. More of a chili oil than a salsa, but you guys, it’s everything. I would have taken loads home, but the place is a work in progress, and something as simple as getting more napkins, which is very necessary when eating here, was a challenge. So I left the salsa slash chili oil behind, but I will be back.

We had an impromptu turnaround trip to Vegas. 80’s station, a favorite cover band of ours was finally playing after a long two years. So we made our towards Fremont Street for a Friday night of music.

We had the most delicious monkey bread at a restaurant in the container park. I tried to make it at home and it was a huge fail. This wasn’t a Pillsbury recipe you guys, and I don’t know what their secret is, but I will figure it out, probably going to have to go back a few more times to gather notes.

We ended the night listening to the 80’s station. We don’t need much to have the best time.

Vegas always delivers.

Twisty Pig

I don’t know why twisting bacon before cooking it changes the flavor and the texture, but it does and it’s delicious.

If you sprinkle some brown sugar on the bacon before cooking, you’ll never want bacon any other way again.

I actually made a little mixture of brown sugar, nutmeg, garlic powder and cayenne pepper then slightly dredged each piece of bacon in that seasoning before twisting. We may or may not have had this two nights in a row, paired with burrata and arugula.

We had a family day at the Galaxy game. We’ve been spoiled with amazing seats the last few times we’ve gone. I don’t know how we are going to adjust to going back to regular old seating.

Are anyone else’s children hooked on Turning Red? Ours are obsessed with one of the songs, they get home from school and go up to their rooms and belt it out. It’s also shower material. One minute it was all about Bruno and now it’s 4 town and birthday party decor.

I can appreciate a movie about PMS and a girls first period. Especially with a house full of females. Sigh, good times ahead.

The older two girls had a school field trip to the Opera. The school busses took them downtown to the Civic Center to see Romeo and Juliet in Italian. There were english subtitles so the kids could follow along. They were dropped off at school around 4:30 and didn’t get home until 10:00. It was a new experience for them and they had a great time. I can’t believe how old they are getting.

We wrapped up the week with an amazing USMNT game, a 5-1 win! The girls broke in the S’mores maker a couple of times, and we watched parts of the Academy Awards.

Did it win? We didn’t get that far.

Birthday Banana Cream Pie Semi-Fail

The birthday was a success. The pie, not so much.

The girls helped me fill 48 balloons for the birthday girl.

Possibly inhaling helium here and there.

I went back and forth on a banana cream pie recipe. I love watching Bon Appetit’s From the Test Kitchen Series. One of the chefs Chris does a segment called Reverse Engineering. The premise is… a fellow chef picks a recipe, I’ll use Gordon Ramsey’s Beef Wellington for an example. Chris gets to taste and touch the original dish but he’s blindfolded. Once he has an idea of what it is, he sets off to the store to grab the ingredients to make it. Back at the kitchen he attempts the first run, then he grades himself. He gets another stab at it, tasting the original, goes back to the store, yada yada yada. His third attempt is his final result. The chef that challenged him comes and compares the two dishes. Overall he does very well and it’s fun and I enjoy watching this experiment. Why did I explain all of this to you, well I chose his banana cream pie recipe. I figured his magnificent palate wouldn’t steer me wrong. His recipe had a twist on the original graham cracker crust recipe, he threw some salted peanuts to the mix. I decided to go for it, why not, peanut butter and banana goooooood. That was my first mistake. The peanuts completely over powered any graham cracker flavor. Good, yes, what I wanted, no. My second mistake was that the bananas weren’t ripe enough. I knew this while I was making it, the bananas weren’t banana-ee enough. I stood in the kitchen contemplating adding a little banana pudding mix to the vanilla pudding I had just made from scratch, then decided against it, that was my final mistake. Anyway, the end result was fine, did it taste like banana cream pie, no, did I love it? Also no. So, now we have a pie in the fridge that will most likely meet its demise in the trash later.

What lesson did I learn? Always trust your instincts!

Goes to show, just because I like a cooking show, doesn’t mean I will like the shows results.

I leave you with this absolutely amazing video. I die laughing every time I see it.

I wanted to take a minute to try and blog. I am sitting here trying to write and the only thing going through my mind is “we don’t talk about Bruno”. The girls are watching videos of…. I don’t know what, but that song hasn’t stopped. Today is an important day, it’s Shawna’s birthday. We are waiting to celebrate her, I made her a banana cream pie and she gets to eat it before dinner, as she wishes.

We wet out to dinner the other night to celebrate her and her mom’s March birthdays, the girls love going out and I love taking picture of them.

This video is titled “how to embarrass your 7 year old”.

If you are a fan of Top Chef, or Chef Brooke Williamson or just cupcakes….Brooke partnered with Sprinkles cupcakes and put out a dark chocolate cupcake with passionfruit filling. I was on top of that and brought us home a couple. Delicious!

Things have been busy, Averi started Karate. She seems to really enjoy it.

The girls made fluffy slime using this recipe.

And our feral cat. She is 3 now and I really thought she would grow out of her assholeness. Outlook not so good.

I can’t wait to let you know how the banana cream pie turned out. Fingers crossed. I’m off for birthday celebrating.

Summer Shrimp Spring Rolls

Each time I make these, whether I use avocado or switch it up and add fresh mango instead, I can’t believe how good they are. So deliciously fresh with the bright flavors of the herbs. I tell myself that I am going to put it on menu rotation. Then I don’t, because life… But that really isn’t a reason, so I will do better.

I found that prepping all the ingredients and assembling the rolls earlier in the day is the way to go. Cover with a damp towel, put them in the fridge and then dinner is literally waiting for you.

Chrissy suggests serving these with a Thai sweet chili sauce and a hoisin sauce. BUT, the key to these rolls is Mrs. Teigen’s peanut sauce. You see, this peanut sauce is one of the best I have ever had, and it’s super easy to make. You shouldn’t have these rolls without the peanut sauce, but you can have the peanut sauce without the rolls, you can have the sauce with anything. I find fingers pair well, cold noodles pair well and spoons definitely pair well.

Ingredients for Summer Rolls
4 to 6 red leaf lettuce leaves
8 medium shrimp, peeled (fresh or frozen (thawed))
salt
1 ounce Asian vermicelli or rice noodles
8 large or 16 small basil leaves
8 large or 16 small mint leaves
1 medium carrot, cut into 3-inch long julienne strips
1 avocado thinly sliced
8 (8-inch) round rice paper wrappers (you can find in most supermarkets with the Asian food)

Ingredients for Peanut Sauce

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 packed light brown sugar

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 1/2 tablespoon of Sriracha

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

If you are going to have the peanut sauce with the summer rolls, then start there. Add all of the sauce ingredients into your handy dandy blender or I like to use the magic bullet blender. After blending and tasting for seasoning, put it in the fridge until serving time. When that time comes, use warm water to thin the sauce to your liking.

For the Rolls:

Rinse the lettuce leaves and pat dry. Remove and discard the center ribs then slice in half so you end up with 16, about 3 inch long pieces. 

Fill a saucepan halfway with water and salt the water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat to low, take the shrimp out of the pot with tongs or a slotted spoon and rinse with cold water, pat dry. Cut off the tails and slice lengthwise.

Place the rice noodles in the pot of still hot water to soften. Cook until soft. Remove and rinse in a colander under cold water. 

Create a workspace lined up with lettuce, herbs, carrots, avocado, shrimp and rice noodles. Fill a clean skillet or shallow bowl with warm water to soak the rice papers. Arrange a damp towel on your workspace. One at a time, dunk the rice papers into the warm water to soften. Remove from the water and run under cool water. They easily stick together, so the cool water is a good time to unstick them from themselves. Lay flat on the damp towel.

To assemble: place 2-3 shrimp halves pink side down about 1/3 from the bottom, layer over mint and basil, then avocado, then carrots, rice noodles, then lettuce leaves. Roll up like a burrito by pulling up the bottom, tucking in the sides, then rolling till the end. The rice paper will stick together sealing it shut. Repeat with remaining rice papers. 

If you aren’t serving these immediately, place them on a damp towel, and cover with a damp towel. They are fine hanging out in the fridge until you are ready. Serve with peanut sauce and Thai chili sauce.

Food and Music

I made a Thai Branzino recipe the other night and the results were so worth dicing 15 cloves of garlic.

The girls and I ran into our 99 Ranch Market for the fish, shrimp chips, pocky and green tea cookies… oh and a papaya that no one will touch but me. They don’t know what they’re missing.

I also found these rice crackers. I don’t know what they are called but from the picture we can guess.

I bought a variety pack for the girls, Shayne was the only taker and she loved them so we bought more.
This flavor (let’s call it chili) is really good. Not too spicy, sort of sweet….like a sweet and soy flavor with a tad of spice. Long story short, I need to buy more, I may have eaten them while the girls slept.

I also jumped on Dave Matthews Band tickets that went on sale Sunday, no hesitation. That is exciting, so very exciting. Kaili said that she wanted to go with us. I told her, the day she actually wants to listen to DMB, I’ll gladly take her to a concert. Then she followed up by asking me to take her to see BTS. The time is coming that we will be taking our tweens to a concert, what happened to these babies?

Speaking of music, I heard this song for the first time since, well before I had those babies, I am sure. I love Jason Mraz, I used to listen to this album every day.

Gouda and I watched the USWNT team win the She Believes Cup, and then the Galaxy won their season home opener.

Exciting soccer season ahead of us, I can’t believe it’s World Cup year. We are definitely wanting to watch a match in Vegas from the new downtown sports casino, who’s in?

Turning 45

Welp it happened, I woke up a year older. That night I had a dream, we had a new dryer delivered and I wasn’t sure if it was working because it was so quiet. That’s how you know you are middle aged, sigh.

The Friday before my birthday we had a fun night out with my brother and soon to be sister-in-law. We had dinner at Tahona Bar in Old Town. A Mexican place that I had been wanting to try. A Mezcal bar with a Oaxacan inspired menu.

I don’t much like Mezcal but I do like mole, so that is where we ended up.

If I remember correctly, I think the drink was called the Mexican Firing Squad, and that just spoke to me. Anyhow, it was smoky. Smoke on top of smoke and then some more smoke. So, if you like smoke, you will love this cocktail.

The food wasn’t bad, it wasn’t amazing either.

Coming from STAKE the night before, our expectations were high.

We started with some delicious guac.

Next, some grilled octopus over lentils and pipian mole, aka pepita mole. I don’t think we liked it much.

I ordered the mole trio.

Three potato rolled tacos in a trio of mole’s. Pipian, Negro and Coloradito. It was good, the reason I wanted to try the place. The sopes were good and everyone else ordered tacos.

The biggest problem was the service. Anyhow, been there and we don’t need to go back.

After dinner we walked across the street to the Saloon. We hustled for a pool table and then the nice girl just said we could have it next.

We played pool for the duration of the night. Met interesting people as always. The juke box was playing all the 90’s hip hop, surely a doing of the halftime show because these kids, barley 20 years old, had nothing but dope things to say about the music (side eye).

My girls spoiled me on my actual birthday.

We spent my twos-day and national margarita day at our local Mexican place. Good thing I am getting old because getting there at the early bird time saved us a looong wait.

We have never seen this restaurant as crowded as it was that night.

After dinner we went home, put on comfies and had cake and pressies.

Lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting for my cake.

And everything else I could want from, for those that I love the most.

Birthdays Part One {Good Food}

We celebrated both mine and my brothers birthday with the family adults last week. STAKE on Coronado is a chophouse that features aged American and Japanese Wagyu along with other prime cuts. That is kind of redundant because I think wagyu means simply, Japanese cow. But don’t hold me to that.

If I am being transparent, the price range is up there. I was worried that it would be hard to enjoy knowing how much everything cost. That was until I had my first bite of Japanese Wagyu, and then it all made sense.

We managed to get to the restaurant early and have a drink at the bar. I was getting cabin fever so It felt so good to get out.

The family trickled in and we were seated. Ordering a bunch of stuff to share, ahi poke, crab cakes, wedge salad, potatoes, duck and the Wagyu.

We each chose our preferred knife. I went with one made in Japan.

We chowed down while sipping local Syrah.

And then, we were introduced to the best bite of steak in the world.

That piece on the right my friends, was the most incredible bite of steak I have ever had. It was like butter. Rich, umami and intense steak flavor, with melt in your mouth marbling. I am now forever ruined because I know that the rib eye in the fridge will never compare to that bite of meat.

With barely any room for dessert, we persevered with some carrot cake and a lemon tort.

Then we toasted to another year around the sun.

Definitely a dinner to remember.

Speaking of things to remember. This book was so good.

I am not a huge Stephen King fan. I think I’ve liked one or two of his books, same with his movies.

This one however, is so good. We started by listening to the audiobook, but I couldn’t wait for the next road trip to finish it. So I picked it up at the library and finished reading it. I fell in love. I hope that they do it justice if they turn it into a series or a movie. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a new book.

Sleepy Head Photo Dump

A while back, Averi was wanting me to take a picture of her asleep each night. Why? The brain of a then 6 year old is a puzzle. So, of course I did, when I remembered that is, and now I am ready to get the pics off of my phone.

Alas, we have a photo dump of Averi sleeping. Not exciting, but she will get a kick out of seeing this.

When I was looking for these, I found this one. Not asleep but newly awake. Gawsh look at that amazing hair and blue eyes.

Galentine’s Day

We don’t talk about Bruno, no, no no!

I don’t even have the girls today and that song has been stuck on repeat in my head all.damn.day. Have you seen Encanto yet? It’s cute, I enjoyed it and I enjoy it when it’s on. The girls like to watch all the You Tube families recreate that song, which I have to admit, always grabs my attention.

This one is my favorite.

But seriously, where do these people get the time to create these elaborate videos? I was asking Kaili, what do you think all of their neighbors think when they see them all singing and dancing in the middle of the street? Lol.

Sorry if you’re singing it all night.

How was everyone’s Valentines day?

We had a nice day. The girls made their class small valentine bags. Kaili gave them each a mini Kawaii Mochi squishy and candy. Averi gave them each a zipper fidget bracelet and candy.

I forced them to take kissy pictures.

I can NOT believe how big they are getting.

I will forever recreate these pictures, even if I have to fly across the world to surprise them in college just for a kissy face picture.

Babe got me some Adidas soccer slip on sandals, and lava filled dark chocolate Hershey Kisses that are so good.
For dinner, we got fancy and ate King crab legs and mushroom risotto on a towel in front of the television while watching Big Brother and Love is Blind 2.

Guilty pleasures all around.

Let me know if you want this mushroom risotto recipe, I took the easy way out and baked it.

Happy belated Lovers Days!

February

It’s a big month you guys, BIG, HUGE! I have a birthday coming up and it happens to fall on an epic day this year. February 22, 2022 is on a Tuesday. A 2’s days. This will be known as Kim’s Two’s day.

I am not a huge birthday girl, I mean, it’s a fun excuse to go out and celebrate and we all love gifts, but it also comes along with getting older, sigh. This year though, I’m a little excited. My Two’s day is also national margarita day AND taco Tuesday. I mean, that’s fun right?

So, I made myself an early birthday treat.

Kaili and I polished them off in no time. Somedays it was dinner because that is allowed when it’s your birthday month.

Originally, these were called Creme de Menthe brownies, maybe they still are. The first time I remember falling in love with them was at a restaurant in the Stoneridge mall back in the 1980’s. I wish I could remember the name of the place. Anyhow, it was a restaurant that had the dessert options on a cart, and the waiter would wheel it up to your table so you could visualize what to drool over. Didn’t Bobbie McGee’s do that too? Someone from high school/Bay area, let me know please! Anyways, that was such a smart way to make sure the kids got dessert, parent’s had no chance.

Well, these were what I always ordered at whatever restaurant that was and they are delicious. I don’t know where we can buy Creme de Menthe or if it even exists anymore, but peppermint extract is a fine substitute.

I used this recipe and this recipe as a baseline for measurements. But I only use Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate chips, for this and anything that calls for chocolate chips.

To make up for all the chocolate that I shoveled into my mouth…

I completed my 200th ride!! Fittingly with a 90’s pop playlist and my favorite instructor!

AND can we talk about the weather? I mean, it’s been fantastic. Nothing better than a winter tan.

We even broke out the slip n’ slide.

I think that wraps it up, I am off to make my babe a delicious dinner.

Can’t wait to share all of the fun Valentine/birthdays/margarita/ taco Tuesday fun that’s coming our way!

 Burrata Di Stagione

Burrata Di Stagione, is a fancy or Italian (if we are being exact) way to say “what’s in season”. In my last post I mentioned the amazing starter that we had in Santa Monica, but I think I forgot to mention that it centered around burrata. Burrata with arugula, fuji apple, roasted butternut squash, and toasted hazelnut all drizzled with an agrodolce sauce. Another fancy or Italian way to say “sweet and sour”.

I have made this multiple times, it’s ridiculous how good it is. I wish I was having it for dinner tonight, it’s a thing.

Thanks to the convenience of laziness these days, we can buy already cubed butternut squash. That shaves a good half hour off of the prep and I most likely wouldn’t have made this if I had to do it myself. It’s the little things.

I roasted some butternut squash and fuji apple in the oven until caramelized, meanwhile toasted the hazelnuts in a pan.

Then we tossed some arugula with olive oil and S&P. Tore the burrata and placed it on the bed of arugula. Scattered the roasted squash, apple and toasted hazelnuts on top.

Close to serving time, we made the agrodolce, which is so simple. Simmer some vinegar (sour) with some honey (sweet) and some red pepper flakes for heat and let it reduce until syrupy. I would have added raisins but I didn’t have any. Next time, I will.

Drizzle the agrodolce and your best olive oil on top of the entire plate and serve with bread. Or your fingers, or both.

The final dish is….

Spectacular!

Horse Therapy

Our fun weekend away sans kids was spent with some horses. We took advantage of the Farriers package at the Santa Anita racetrack.

The package included parking, admission, box seats, a drink, an entree and a pint glass. There is something about Santa Anita that we prefer above Del Mar, aside from the fact that it’s not as pretentious and always less crowded. Only problem is that it’s also much farther. We left home early enough to get there before the first post at 12: 30, and we stayed through the last race.

The downside to a track being empty is that a win doesn’t pay much. But we don’t go for the payout, that’s a plus, we go for the experience. It’s always such a fun day.

We booked a nights stay in Santa Monica.

We had a nice view.

Cute boutique hotel across from the pier and around the corner from our dinner reservations. An Italian place where we had an incredible, and I don’t say that lightly, appetizer. Arugula dressed with olive oil, scattered with roasted butternut squash, fuji apple, toasted hazelnuts, herbed breadcrumbs and Calabrian agrodolce. The combination of these ingredients was absolutely incredible.

After dinner we hit a dive bar to watch karaoke. It was such a fun time.

The next morning we headed to the pier for some rides.

View from the top of the ferris wheel.

After a bite to eat in Redondo beach, we were back on the road and headed home.

Horse therapy, it was just what we needed.

I’ve since made that burrata dish three times.. Yes, three times….. in two weeks.

Recipe coming.

Rolling with a side of Pasta

This week started off with the most Monday-ist Monday I’ve had in awhile. Is that because of the Mercury in Retrograde shit people make up believe affect their personal lives?

I decided to task switch and take a break from writing my course paper. My professor chewed up my rough draft, spit it out then told me that, and I quote, “You have two bad habits as a research writer, you use questions in areas where you should be focusing on articulating discussion and you speak about yourself in the first person.” Do I sir? Do I ask too many questions in the first person, sir? I mean, the nerve of this guy.

So I decided a work out would be a good way to reset the day, and the instructor, said “today you are not going to fall apart on the bike.” Maybe he was referencing Mr. Big, but I felt that in my soul.

I have some good recipes to share with you, but I don’t have the time to write them both, so one will have to do for now.

Oh, we also took the girls roller skating, which the adults had more fun doing. But Aves wowed us all by joining in on the game Limbo, and won the damn thing. I mean it’s because she is small, but still, a win is a win.

PASTINA RISOTTO

This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Water’s Fine Foods. The author and chef, Mary Kay Waters is owner of our local Waters catering. I have talked about how good their food is, mac and cheese, roasted veg, her chocolate mousse and lemon bars are close to perfection as you can get. This time I made something different.

It’s not a traditional risotto, the pasta is cooked first and then combined with the other ingredients. Let’s talk about the combination of flavors, though, exceptional! We paired this with steak one night and then had it on it’s own another night. This is sure to be a hit and I will be serving this at the next family dinner.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 pound acini de pepe pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 pound mushrooms, chopped

1/4 head cabbage, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

1/3 cup white wine

2/3 chicken stock

1 cup fresh white corn kernels

3/4 cup cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs ( I used sage and parsley) reserve some for garnish

3/4 cup grated parmesan, reserve some for garnish

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the package aka al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion and garlic, stirring occasionally until soft. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cabbage and cook for 3 to 5 minutes longer, until soft.

Add the wine and let it simmer for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil and continue to cook for 2 to 3 more minutes.

Add the cream and corn, bring to a boil, cook for 2 more minutes, remove from heat.

Stir in cooked pasta, herbs, parmesan and salt and pepper.

Serve with reserved herbs and parm on top.

It’s Still January

I would say happy new year, but I don’t think that is allowed after the 7th.

To say time is flying is an understatement, don’t ya think? I mean, it’s still January so I am feeling good that I am getting something written here. I am not quite sure where the first part of the month went. We went out to dinner one night for my father’s birthday, besides that, it’s been very uneventful. Work, school, laundry and repeat.

New Years eve was low key. We made cupcakes, a charcuterie board and chips and dip taken to another level. I took Ruffle potato chips and drizzled them with honey and sprinkled on a Japanese seasoning made with nori and sesame seeds and served them with onion dip. It’s ridiculously good.

The girls celebrated the New Year with New York, and then went up to bed. They didn’t realize it until the next morning, ha, suckers.

The kitchen has been put to use, I have been trying out new things and old favorites.

I was really excited to roll out fresh pasta. I felt all sophisticated and proud of myself. Buuuuut, they tasted like flour and nobody liked them, so fail. Now I need a fool proof fresh pasta dough recipe.

I redeemed myself by making fresh pizza dough. I made two different recipes, one with cold water and one with warm water, and ended up with enough dough for a neighborhood potluck. We made two pizzas for the kids, and one for the moms, everyone was happy.

This pizza recipe, is foolproof. It’s SO GOOD. This time, instead of using marinara sauce, I just crushed some canned San Marzano toms with my hands, Kaili added in some garlic salt, oregano and olive oil and that was the sauce for all three pizzas. The girls approved.

Goat Cheese and Hot Honey Pepperoni Pizza with Arugula

We had a big HALF to celebrate on the 10th. Averi turned 7 1/2. In our house, we celebrate half birthdays. It’s nothing extravagant, but we think it deserves recognition. Turning a half year older is a big deal to kids and we think it calls for a little something special. On their day, they each get to choose whatever they want for dinner, and we’ll usually have a treat.

McDonald’s and chocolate cake for this 7 1/2 year old.

When I was younger, my parents would make Dutch Babies every so often for breakfast. Or they would order it out and share it. I have my moms recipe and have for decades. Finally, I made it, and you guys, I have been wasting time on pancakes because this was so good, and easy.

I made this in a cast iron which I heated in the oven until it was hot. Then I added the butter and then the batter. My oven cooks hot and fast, I took it out after 15 minutes and I think it could have even been done closer to 12 minutes. So bake accordingly.

I sprinkled a little powdered sugar on top, and then we drizzled it with syrup and dove in.

We are going to take advantage of a day off and do something fun this weekend. It’s supposed to be sunny and warm and I have the best idea. Tell you later.

Chrissy’s Newest

In another life we are best friends with Chrissy Teigen (and fam) and Stu Holden (and fam) and it’s amazing. Days full of laughter, kids, cooking and soccer, that is, as the kids say “my jam”.

But since this isn’t another life, I settle with making Chrissy’s recipes and live vicariously through their IG stories, sigh.

I recently tried two recipes from her newest cookbook and per usual, they are delicious.

Thai Beef Jerky and Pink Pasta. The Unicorn milkshakes in her book were requested so that might have to happen soon.

However, the Thai beef jerky was finger lickin. Sticky, sweet and a tad spicy, we ate it with a salad and called it dinner.

*note that her recipe calls for MSG and you can get that at any Asian market or even Vons probably, but I didn’t have any, so I didn’t use it. Still good.

INGREDIENTS

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more)

3/4 teaspoon MSG

2 lbs. boneless skirt steak

vegetable oil for frying

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes and MSG.

Cut the skirt steak, against the grain into 1-inch wide strips.

Toss the steak and marinade and let sit at room temp for 30 minutes. * I marinated the meat for a few hours in the fridge and then pulled it out and left at room temp for 30 minutes before cooking.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Arrange a rack on a rimmed baking sheet and spray with nonstick spray. Lay the beef in a single layer. Discard any leftover marinade.

Bake until the meat has shrunk some, about 1-1/2 hours.

Line a large cutting board with paper towels. Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large 4 quart pot. Heat the oil until it reached 350 degrees. Working in batches, fry the meat, stirring it as it cooks, until it darkens and crisps, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Drain on the paper towel lined cutting board, and let cook at least 10 minutes before eating.

The Abyss

This week, the week between Christmas and New Years has been like a dead zone. Schools are closed, it’s wet and cold outside, the kids are bored, even with all of their new shit. It’s hard to get motivated to do all the stuff that needs to be done, aka put all their new shit away. It’s just an awkward week, on top of that Kaili caught a cold, so we are limited on things to do, and for some reason they want three meals a day. I’m to the point that I actually don’t care what they eat anymore, as long I don’t have to stand in the kitchen all day. Chocolate? Sure. Chips? I don’t care, Ramen? Go right ahead. Seriously, no nutrition has happened this week. The closest we will get to healthy is the fruit on tonights charcuterie board and strawberries with whip for dessert. The house is a disaster zone and we have so much crap that doesn’t have a home, Baby Yoda lives on the kitchen table, the new electric bike is kicking it in the dining room, the top of the fridge has collected an absurd amount of candy and there are mini brands scattered throughout the house. I am sure we will be finding tiny soy sauce bottles and heath bars for years to come.

But it’s the last day of the year, so I am trying not to stress about it. We are going to bake cupcakes, try learning a BTS dance and then see how long the kids can last. My bet is no later than 9:30, what do you think?

Peace out 2021!

Get into the Spirit

The week before Christmas break the girls had school spirit week.

They had pajama day.

And holiday fashion day.

And dress to impress, which Averi was all about.

One afternoon we decorated gingerbread men.

We had an early Christmas with the family and then spent an afternoon in Coronado.

We ran off for a few days over Christmas and celebrated with the girls a couple of days later. They were tortured by having to wait.

And wait.

Finally, they were able to open the ridiculous amount of presents that they had.

I need to have a talk with Santa about the Mini Brand Mart he brought all three girls. I think he needs to come back and put these together himself.

Save yourselves. Do not purchase unless you want to spend hours of your life putting together a million little pieces, that are flimsy… AND then watch the kids pull their hair out trying to the items to stay on the shelves.

Anxiety in a box. These should come with wine and a Xanax.

Elevated Wine, Really?

Last year my brother gifted us a night’s stay at Ponte’s Inn and Vineyard in Temecula for our birthday’s.

We finally had a free weekend to enjoy it. Once we checked in and dropped our stuff, we headed out for wine, starting at Altisima. They are a newer winery, making old world and new world wines with Spanish roots. The grounds are beautiful as is the tasting room. Luckily we had a knowledgable pourer who had a fun personality, that can make all the difference (well that can make a difference in the experience, not in the wine). Luckily the wine was superb, everything we tasted we enjoyed, and that rarely happens.

We moved on to a couple more wineries that we haven’t been to, and honestly, didn’t really like. We ended at Bottaia. Bottaia is Ponte’s sister winery, the same winemaker but elevated, I guess. I was eager to try it because I do like Ponte’s wines. When you walk in you are greeted and then asked to pay depending on what type of “experience” you want. Uh, ya, we want the one where we try your wine please. Their description reads “chic”, I say boujie… They say “elegant”, I say expensive. The experiences that they were offering were….we could either sit out on the deck and choose from a flight of wines or we could sit in the cold barrel room, and choose from a flight of more expensive wines. We chose the deck, ordered some hummus and wine.

Nope, not for us. It felt as if the focus of the winery was on the atmosphere, opposed to the wine. We didn’t like any of them and you guys, it’s not cheap. I wouldn’t go back on purpose.

However, the view of the vineyard when the sun started to set, was gorgeous.

We had dinner at Bouquet, the restaurant at Ponte. It was good, very intimate. Mushroom soup and scallops, not bad at all.

The next morning we were looking for egg bennies before we drove home. We stopped at a winery whose website said that they had it on their menu. Lies, all lies. Once we were seated we were handed a menu for lunch, which as you know, isn’t breakfast, it was very sad way to say, the end.

The next day the girls and I went to a Christmas party at the clubhouse.

They ran in and headed straight for the soda and donuts, and then waited for Santa.

Giving Santa the lowdown. Unicorns, horses and toys..oh my!

The girls met up with some friends and ran around outside for a good hour. Finally, when I was so bored I couldn’t take it anymore, we headed home.

The next morning we woke up to Cupcake confused on where he was at.

Definitely not summer weather here anymore.

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

This is a festive and easy activity to do for the holidays. Two ingredients, that’s it. These will make the house smell amazing and they make a great homemade gift.

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup applesauce

4 oz. cinnamon

rolling pin

cookie cutters

glue

glitter various colors

straw

string

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 200°. Mix applesauce and cinnamon in small bowl until a smooth ball of dough is formed, your hands are the best tool for this.

I divided the dough amongst the three girls.

Roll dough to 1/4-inch to 1/3-inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap.

Peel off top sheet of plastic wrap. Cut dough into desired shapes

Make a hole at the top of ornament with a straw.

Place ornaments on baking sheet.

Bake for about 2 1/2 hours. Cool ornaments on a wire rack.

Once completely cool. brush with glue and decorate with glitter.

Wrap them up as a gift or hang on the tree.

Throwback but Better

This recipe for an updated tuna noodle cazuela {casserole} is ridiculously good. While I was at Trader Joe’s trying to not buy all of the new products, and just focus on my list, ha ha, I realized that I wasn’t sure what the original recipe for tuna noodle casserole consisted of. Obviously canned tuna and a condensed soup of some sort. A no skill required, long shelf life ingredients and comfort food all rolled into one dish. Probably originated in the what, the 1940’s? By someone who thought fish and cheese should go together, because, that is not a popular culinary pairing. I don’t remember my mom making this really… ever. She isn’t a big casserole person, aside from her amazing tamale pie. Anyhow, long story short, this version of tuna noodle casserole is just as easy and doesn’t require canned cream soup, you’ll thank me.

Since I have made this a handful of times, I decided to try a different shape of pasta. Let me tell you, this lily shaped pasta was a perfect fit for this creamy baked dish.

TJ didn’t have Piquillo peppers so I grabbed jarred roasted red peppers, they will do in a pinch. Other than that, instead of canned soup, we make our own roux, I added a little garlic and crushed red pepper because you know me. This is a simple and straight forward recipe for any night of the week.

Creamy Tuna Noodle Cazuela

*recipe adapted from Food and Wine

Ingredients

12 ounces farfalle (bow tie) pasta

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 

3 cups whole milk or half-and-half

1 1/2 cups frozen baby peas

3/4 cup piquillo peppers, sliced (6 ounces) *substitute jarred roasted red peppers

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

One 6-ounce can or jar solid white tuna in oil, drained and flaked

Salt and Pepper

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion (garlic and red pepper if you want) and cook over high heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the milk and bring to a boil. Cook the sauce over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Add the pasta, frozen baby peas, sliced piquillo peppers, Parmesan cheese and tuna and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish, a cazuela (casserole dish).

In a small skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the panko breadcrumbs and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the casserole and bake for 10 minutes or until bubbling.

Serve right away. Pairs well with an Albariño or a good Chardonnay.

Cupcake Dustybum

Did you remember…. the 1st night of December (insert Earth Wind and Fire tune) lucky for us, our elf did remember to pay us a visit. Santa sent his elf Cupcake Dustybum to ours on the first night of December. He left a wrapped present for the girls.

But first, they had to read the official North Pole letter that our elf brought.

In the letter, Cupcake pretty much threatened them to be good, or ELSE!

The present was the Elf on the Shelf book that Santa sends them each year. They each took a turn reading it.

Along with the book, Santa sent them each an animal ornament, so nice, that guy!

Then the girls ran all over the house looking for Cupcake, every noise, anything out of the ordinary, it HAD to be him. But alas, he didn’t show his face until the next morning.

He got himself all tangled up trying to write a joke.

What kind of pictures do elves take?

Give up?

Elf-ies. Haha ha ha ha

Speaking of pictures, I took one of him and this is what I got.

Spooky eh? I didn’t even show the girls, they would have been in distress.

Apparently there was a cold going around Averi’s classroom and I guess Cupcake must of caught it. We woke up the next morning to this….

I think we should take Cupcake to get his Covid vaccine, just to be safe. If this is who he is kicking it with at night, we can’t be too careful.

We went and picked up a tree while the girls were at school that day.

They were so excited to decorate.

They asked Alexa to play the Justin Bieber Christmas song, repeatedly.

Later that afternoon, we had a belated traditional Thanksgiving with Shawna’s mom. I had a game plan, the potatoes were prepped and ready to cook, stuffing was a no brainer, rolls just needed to be heated, but, there’s always a but, the turkey was still partially frozen, or so I thought. I over compensated for the cooking time and I’m pretty sure the (13 lb. ) turkey was done in an hour and a half. I had the oven safe digital thermometer inside of the bird while it cooked, and it read done hours before I was expecting, wtf? Anyhow, I second guessed myself and cooked it a tad longer, and we ended with dry turkey meat. The SOLE reason I’m not a fan on the traditional Thanksgiving menu is becuase there is nothing worse than, dry meat. (Get your head out of the gutter) Boring, not enough dark TURKEY meat, too much white meat AND it was over cooked. Ugh, it still makes me frustrated. Anyhow, I am going to try and make a cranberry pecan turkey salad with the leftovers, wish me luck.

The next morning we woke to this.

Where are his manners?

This morning he was hiding pretty well.

I needed a hint to find him.

So, that is how the first few days of December has gone over here. I can’t wait to see what else Cupcake has up his elf sleeve.

I leave you with this.

Goat Cheese Stuffed, Bacon Wrapped Dates

This idea as I mentioned, came from a restaurant in Santa Monica, where everything we ate was delicious. I took this recipe and this recipe and combined them, so to say, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Ingredients

6 oz. of your favorite goat cheese

24 plump Medjool dates, plus one more so you can taste it first

13 slices thinly sliced bacon, cut in half

16 roasted almonds

1/4 cup honey

1 tbls chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, add more if you’d like.

Salt and pepper to taste

Arugula for plating, if you’d like

Balsamic vinegar or glaze, for drizzle

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°. Prepare a baking sheet lines with a baking rack.

Split the dates in half lengthwise, but don’t cut the date all the way through. Remove the pit and discard. Stuff each date with one almond and some goat cheese, probably around 1/2 teaspoon. Pinch to seal the date shut.

Next, wrap each date with bacon and place seam side down on the prepared baking rack. (This can be done ahead of time, and I suggest if you have other things to cook, go ahead and do these the night before and keep them in the fridge. It takes a bit of time to wrap the dates.)

(I put the dates on parchment paper to start, and then moved them to the baking rack)

In a small bowl whisk, honey, rosemary, cayenne pepper, a pinch of salt and pepper. Drizzle over the dates and then bake for 20 ish minutes. Until the bacon is crisp. These can be served warm or at room temperature, they are good either way.

To serve, plate with arugula and a drizzle of balsamic.

Overambitious

Thanksgiving is so much more enjoyable when I am not spending the entire day in the kitchen. I always fall into my overambitious entertainer phase that has me chaotic in the kitchen. Multiple foods overlapping with each other, I slowly lose my mind, usually break something and then complain about how much my back hurts as I nurse wine. So this year, we took a different approach, I ordered tamales, way too many tamales, of course, but that sure was the easier route. I did make an hors d’oeuvre, which was divine!

Bacon wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese and an almond, served with arugula and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. We had this in a restaurant in Santa Monica so I tried to relive that experience, it worked.

SO good, I will post the recipe soon.

Along with those, my mom brought a salad, we had chips and guac, crackers with cream cheese and pineapple habanero jelly, the ham of all hams, tamales AND dessert. Just stupid, but so good.

Once again I failed with the pictures, I need to figure out how to force myself to take more pictures, suggestions welcome.

My brother brought a delicious dessert and an ugly dog (hopefully the owners don’t read this blog). He was dog sitting, sweet thing, the girls had a blast chasing the poor thing around the house.

She found solace on my dad.

We did manage to take a bad selfie of our chaotic family to send to our newest (cruise) friends. We are currently trying to schedule another one with them, so that’s exciting.

That about wraps up our holiday. We sent everyone home with food, Shawna did all the cleaning (thanks babe) and when the kids went to bed we finished binging season 3 of Hanna, so good.

Spicy Beef with Peanuts and Cilantro

Our weekday dinners are planned ahead, some of the days the menu reads kid friendly and the other days have more inspiration behind it. Nights where I want to create something more complicated or technically challenging with bolder flavors and spice. Meaning the kids won’t eat it. So, half of the time we sit down at the table all together. Asking the girls about what they learned, and who got in trouble, kids always like to tattle, so that will get them talking. The other nights Shawna and I eat in the living room watching Jeopardy, where the girls are hanging out.

This recipe doesn’t fall under complicated, actually it’s quite easy to throw together, but it’s a tad spicy. So if you have children with more refined palates than ours, they might eat it for you.

*recipe adapted from https://www.nutmegnanny.com/spicy-beef-with-peanuts/

Spicy Beef with Peanuts

2 cups basmati rice

4 cups water

1 pound beef sirloin tips, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons fish sauce

2 teaspoons grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, diced or grated

1 small white or yellow onion, diced

3-4 teaspoons chile garlic paste

1/2 diced jalapeño (this can be omitted if you don’t want it spicy spicy)

1 lime, juiced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts-a little extra if you want to garnish

1/4 cup minced cilantro-a little extra if you want to garnish

Salt to taste

Sriracha for garnish

Directions

In a sauce pan cook the rice according to package directions. Or, the way I do it. Heat a drizzle of oil in the sauce pan and stir in rice, let it get a little toasty and then add the water. Season with a little salt and a dash of sugar and the cook as the package suggests.

While the rice cooks, combine the sliced beef, soy sauce, brown sugar, fish sauce, diced onion, garlic, ginger, chile paste, diced jalapeño’s and lime juice. Stir and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the meat and the sauce (everything in the bowl) to the skillet and cook, stir until meat is browned and the sauce thickens a bit. You can always add a little cornstarch slurry if you want the sauce thicker.

Remove from heat and stir in the chopped peanuts and cilantro, taste for seasoning.

Serve over your desired amount of rice, garnish with the extra cilantro and peanuts and drizzle with some sriracha.

Let’s Talk Food

Yes, I know we all just ate an excessive amount of food.

Whether you devoured the traditional Thanksgiving classics, decided to go global with your menu, or maybe you just said f*ck it, and ran off to Vegas for drinks and chips, the other kind ch$ps.

It takes awhile to get back in the mindset to meal plan again, I know because I’m struggling.

But, I do have a couple of recipes for you to jot down, you know, for when you’re ready to eat again.

Starting with….

Whipped Feta Dip with Olive Oil, Thyme and Roasted Toms

*recipe adapted from https://www.spendwithpennies.com/whipped-feta-dip-with-roasted-tomatoes/

INGREDIENTS

TOMS

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 cloves garlic crushed

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (save some for garnish)

Salt and Pepper to Taste

CHEESE DIP

1 cup feta cheese, crumbled or cubed (room temperature)

4 tablespoons cream cheese ( room temperature)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium lemon zested & juiced

1 clove garlic minced

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven 400 degrees Place the tomatoes (toms) on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Add crushed garlic cloves and Thyme. Toss to combine, then roast for 20 minutes OR until tomatoes soft and begin to burst. Allow to cool as is, then remove the thyme and garlic.

While the tomatoes roast, prepare the cheese. In a small bowl, combine the minced garlic with the lemon juice, only if you want.

Combine the feta and cream cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the cheeses are mixed and smooth. Drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing, followed by the honey. Then add the lemon juice and garlic mix, salt and pepper.

Process until smooth and airy.

Transfer to a serving dish. Refrigerate until the tomatoes have fully cooled. 

Top the Whipped Feta Dip with cooled, roasted tomatoes.

Serve with anything, pita, crackers, toast, or even just your fingers.

Raise that Money

You guys, we have fifth graders…. 5th graders, that is absolute bullshit. I had lunch today with my uncle and he brought up a memory that I had completely forgotten about. In 2011 San Diego had an unprecedented and unplanned power outage. I vaguely remember trying to put a five month old

baby to bed, in the dark with no power. We live on sound machines, so I am not sure how I survived that, probably with wine.

Anyhow, now she is finishing her last year of elementary school and that makes me feel all sorts of ways.

To raise money for their fifth grade promotion, the girls volunteered at their school craft fair selling food. They loved it, they would have worked until sun down. Even Averi got in on the action, amazing, ask them to help around the house, and I am a mean mom, but at school, it’s a holiday.

They were able to raise over $1,000, so the hard work paid off. They were rewarded with free room and board.

That was the tail end of the busy week I was talking about. It was nice to see other parents that we’ve missed, we talked to the girls old, that doesn’t sound right….the teacher they had for Kindergarten? You know what I mean right? Well we chatted with her for probably an hour, and I was lucky enough to meet Averi’s teacher, in person, and see her classroom. Funny how we aren’t allowed on campus during the week but on Saturday…. Speaking of that, all the girls have gotten their first dose of the vaccine, they should be fully vaccinated by Christmas. Jesus is clapping, be like Jesus.

I celebrated getting through the week with this.

A Thai Tornado with Tiramisu foam from Ding Tea. I can’t begin to try and explain to you how GOOOOOOD this is, it’s just, so good! And rich, I put half of it in the fridge for the next morning and then when I was prepping dinner, it fell to the ground and SPLAT, I cried. So, we now have a date with Ding Tea on Friday.

Actual People?

You guys soccer fans? No? Cool, cool, well anyways, here is a little update anyhow, our U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) beat Mexico, Dos a Cero (that means 2-0) in the World Cup Qualifiers. If you aren’t sure about the history of the U.S. and Mexico rivalry referred to as Dos a Cero, then I won’t bore you with the details.

Anyways, it was fun night, good food, good people, great game.

Then it was straight into a busy week.

I was in the middle of a Peloton ride when the instructor said, “I am going to stop talking so you can be present with yourself.” My brain went straight to how much people-ing I did the past week. I don’t really have too much interaction with actual people (family doesn’t count) since Covid. Most of it is via text or email, but last week it seemed that I had somewhere to go or a meeting with someone each day. It’s quite overwhelming and I understand the anxiety some people are probably experiencing. Anyhow, I just wanted to say that if life is sometimes hard, I get it.

To help ease the busy constant that is keeping children alive, I put the kids to work.

Averi helped me make chicken piccata, which in the end, she wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. Seriously infuriating.

We also made Polvorones aka Mexican wedding cakes. When I was going through my binder of saved recipes to find the enchilada casserole recipe, I found this recipe.

You guys, this recipe is straight out of a college Mexican cooking course.

All of the girls helped. All of the girls tried the batter except….ya Averi. She was eating the pecans out of the bag but refused the batter.

But, they all thought the cookies were delicious, so that’s a win. Although, it shouldn’t be a win because they’re effin cookies, right?

Remind me Again

I’ve had a week long hiatus from classes, so now I am doing my best to catch up on life’s moments. However, I have been struggling with MO-MEN-TIA {MO’men(t)SH(ē)A}. “A persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by one or more children marked by memory disorders, personality changes and impaired reasoning.” In other words, losing my memory, madness due to said loss of memory and slight insanity. The worst part, I can’t blame it all on the the kids, I am doing it all on my own. Age I suppose? Too many balls in the air, I am not the best at compartmentalizing. I’m not even sure what I was going to write today, I had an idea, sat down at my computer, and then I was asked what 9 x 30 was. So obviously, I had to stop and ask Siri. The next thing I knew, I was up and preparing tomorrow’s lunches, then I put the girls stuff in the wrong backpacks. Luckily they caught me before they were stuck in class with the wrong lunch. I find myself having to go upstairs multiple times because I forgot what I went up there for in the first place. And, last weekend, I even forgot to feed the girls breakfast. I just went ahead with my morning workout and then Kaili comes in and asks me when she could have breakfast, uh crap, breakfast… So just in case I forget, I have ribs in the oven and cookies to bake.

Before our cruise, we all {sans kids}went out to dinner to celebrate my mom and uncle Brian’s birthday.

I’d like to tell you what we had but I’m not sure anymore, I know there was dessert.

I also took two of the girls out for a lunch date in Bay Park. Kaili ordered fish and chips, which were so good, Averi ordered….wait for it….mac and cheese, which she didn’t like because she is an animal and doesn’t like anything. I had poke, always the poke.

I found this picture on my phone later that day.

I think my original plan was to tell you guys about a recipe. This is an old Cooking Light recipe that I couldn’t even find on their site anymore. I have the recipe printed out, old school style.

I’ll tell you what, I had this dish prepped and in the oven in about 20 minutes. The fact that it can feed a handful of people and/or make for leftovers, it’s a perfect weeknight meal.

Obviously over the years my culinary talent has improved and I have become one with the kitchen. Since this is an old recipe, I made changes to suit our palates. Originally the recipe called for reduced fat cheese…um no thanks. Instead I used half shredded pepper jack and half Mexican blend. I changed the type of beans, the cheese, the oil and even the tortillas. You do you! Let this recipe be a starting point and then go for it. It’s a casserole, it will be so good in the end, no matter what cheese or sour cream you prefer.

The chicken is the most time consuming part of this recipe. If you can grab a rotisserie, you’ll save yourself an hour.

Cooking Light’s Chicken Enchilada Casserole

1 tablespoon canola oil (or olive oil)

1 cup chopped fresh onion

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

Pepper to taste

1 (15 ounce) can white Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (black beans are just as good)

2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken

1 cup thinly sliced green onions, divided

1/2 cup sliced ripe olives, divided

18 (6-inch) tortillas, divided (corn or flour)

Cooking spray

2 cups (8 ounces) preshredded reduced-fat 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese, divided

1 cup 1% low-fat milk

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 (16-ounce) jar salsa verde ( I used a medium spice level)

10 tablespoon sour cream, you can use light sour cream.

Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°

Grab your 13 x 9 inch baking dish and spray with cooking spray.

Heat your oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion; cook 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in cumin, chili powder, garlic salt, and pepper; cook a couple more minutes. Stir in the strained beans; cook 2 minutes. Add chicken, green onions and half of the olives, stir well, and then remove from heat.

Layer 6 tortillas on bottom Spread 2 cups chicken mixture over tortillas; sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining 6 tortillas.

*Note, these measurements are completely at your discretion.

Combine the milk, chopped cilantro, and salsa in a blender, and process until smooth. Pour over top of tortillas. Cover and bake at 350° for 35 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with remaining cheese, remaining cup green onions, and the remaining olives.

Bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and you can’t wait any longer.

Serve with sour cream. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and your favorite hot sauce.

Take that Phyllo

I had this great plan of posting a delicious Jamie Oliver recipe for you guys, but as we all know, plans change. The recipe was very good, however my execution of it was not. Another time I suppose.

You know how when you buy the store bought pie dough, puff pastry dough or phyllo dough they always come in packs of two? Every time I end up only using one of them and the other goes in the freezer to die. Months go by, I forget I have it in there and then I buy more, literally life’s rotation. I am proud to say that I put my foot down and I was not going to put the leftover lonely roll of phyllo dough back into the freezer to meet it’s demise. Instead I made super simple apple turnovers. So easy there isn’t even a need for a recipe.

I peeled, cored and chopped two apples {I had Envy apples in the fridge} and sautéed them with a couple tablespoons of butter and a quick zest of lemon. I let those hang out at medium heat while I grabbed sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. I guestimated the measurements but I probably added in 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sugar, the tarter the apples you use the more sugar you will need. I tossed in about a teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of vanilla. {Oh, the Mexican vanilla did make it home, Shawna put it in the pantry, phew!} Once the apples were pretty soft, maybe 10-15 minutes, I whisked in about one tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken it up, added a pinch of salt and then I moved on to the phyllo dough.

I took two sheets of phyllo, brushed with melted butter and then folded it in half lengthwise. Brushed with more melted butter and folded it lengthwise again giving me one long strip. I added a scoop of the apple filling on one end of the pastry dough and folded it in the form of a triangle. Remember the triangle notes we would pass to friends in high school? That’s how you want to fold these. The two apples I used made enough filling for four pastries. Once they were all folded, I popped them onto a cookie sheet, brushed one more time with butter and put them into a 350 degree oven. My oven is on the hotter side, you could probably get away with 375 degrees. I set the time for 10 minutes, but they needed a little more time. I’d say by 15 minutes they were golden brown, the apple filling was bubbling and the house smelled amazing.

Once they were cool, I moved them onto a plate and sprinkled with powder sugar.

Yes, they were good, really good and also really messy, This would be something Averi would have to eat outside.

Averi is on another level when it comes to being a messy eater. If she isn’t complaining about not liking something then she is dropping food. It’s unreal.

We took the girls to Belmont park to celebrate the older ones half birthday’s. They each got a set amount of tickets and they chose what rides they wanted to spend them on. When the tickets were gone, they were gone. That made for some serious planning and contemplating on choosing the rides they were going to go on.

I think they enjoyed themselves, I know we did.

Puerto Vallarta, This is the End

We woke up in Puerto Vallarta, and after some coffee we hit the ground running. Familiar enough with the city, we hopped in a cab and headed to Playa Los Muertos. The plan was to walk along the beach until we found a place to lay out, swim without dying, and have some adult beverages.

We didn’t have a hard time.

It wasn’t the prettiest beach, and to safely swim we had to walk south a bit, otherwise the undertow would’ve taken us to the Bermuda Triangle. Nonetheless, it was exactly what we were looking for.

We had fish taco’s and coconut shrimp, both were delish.

Oh, can we talk about the beach vendors for a second? If you’ve been down to the Mexican Riviera beach towns then you’re familiar that the beaches have vendors that sell everything from sunglasses and jewelry to basically junk. However, this time we were offered cocaine, you guys is this a new thing? It wasn’t just at this beach either, it also happened a couple of times in Cabo. So anyways, if you’re looking, I know a guy.

After a couple of hours of floating in the ocean and soaking up the Mexican sun, we gathered our stuff (no, not cocaine, I bought sunnies) and walked up the beach to the Malecón. I really, really, really wanted to get another passion fruit margarita at the Devil’s Bar. I guess the secret got out because every seat was taken and it was only a Thursday, ugh. Having seen all the shops and bars already, we dragged our feet back to the ship.

Look who greeted us.

For dinner we went to Tamarind, Asian cuisine. The shrimp dumplings were incredible. We also shared a pork belly char siu, along with crispy duck and panang curry. The waitress talked us into a ginger wasabi martini that didn’t taste at all like wasabi but Shawna enjoyed it.

That night we requested a couple of songs from Colin and Clara, the pianists. They were so great, they both sang our requests, songs they have never performed before.

After the piano bar, I’m pretty sure we danced for 2 straight hours. Sweaty and barefoot is how the night ended.

You know it’s a good night when the shoes come off.

Friday and Saturday we were at sea, and it seems like they went by in a flash.

Friday we were still far enough south that the weather was quite warm, meaning a pool day. Hopping from hot tub to pool is how the afternoon went, stopping for pizza and a ping pong break. While sitting in the pool we met this couple from Arizona. Interesting folks, a little TMI but friendly. Sitting on the steps of the pool, we talked to them for a good 45 minutes. As we talked the wife steadily became more and more intoxicated. Gradually getting more inebriated with each minute that passed, but she wasn’t intaking anything. Anyhow, that was a topic of conversation for the rest of the day.

It was our second gala night but before we hit the dining room for dinner, we popped by the pool bar for a martini happy hour.

It wasn’t a ‘choose your own martini’ type of situation, we got a trio of martini’s, that we shared and they tasted like, well, exactly as they look…fruity.

Sure enough, the Arizona couple from the pool was there. He was eager to talk and she was still upright. However, rumor has it, she passed out later at the dinner table.

Our dinner wasn’t terribly exciting, I think this was the one evening that I was actually disappointed in everything that I ordered. Luckily, we had stashed Parisian sandwiches in our fridge for late night dining.

We met two brothers early on the trip who were traveling together, and they were from La Mesa (East San Diego). Turned out that they grew up just a street away from where Shawna did, small world. Nice men, we called them our guard dog pit bulls. However, one of them fell asleep on the job.

This wasn’t like a nod of the head. You guys, he was OUT. Nowhere-ville, it was amazing…and then a little scary, but he was fine, just completely knocked the f*ck out. He slept through the bands set, he slept through cowbell, he slept through more cowbell and he slept through slaps on the cheek.

That’s the doing of tequila shots, or so they said.

SO GOOD!

We dusted off our Macarena dance moves on the dance floor ending another great day.

Is there anything sadder than waking up on the last day of a vacation? No, the answer is no.

We reached Saturday, the last day of our cruise. Somewhere near Baja California, because when we stepped outside, ready to soak up the sun, we were slapped with November San Diego weather. Meaning it was not quite warm enough to get wet.

So we played some ping pong and wandered along the outside of the ship.

I wanted to play the music trivia at the pool later in the afternoon, so we went to the Lido Market for lunch. It was delicious, I piled my plate with poke sushi rolls and crispy pork belly. Oh, so so good. After we ate, we went back to the room to change into warmer clothes and then headed to sit out for a bit at the stern of the ship.

Somehow we ended up scoring poolside lounge chairs right before trivia started. The sun came out, of course, and then it was time for a quick wardrobe change back into swimwear.

I love trivia, and I felt confident with music trivia. But you would think that I have learned my lesson by now. These ships are full of people that have lived decades longer than me. The first five questions were about classical music so there went that win. Then it was songs from the 1950’s, so unfair. I guess I don’t need to tell you that we didn’t win.

Even though it wasn’t hot outside, we knew we had gotten some sun. We took the next hour to pack our luggage, leaving out only what we needed to disembark. Then we made our way to the casino. That was a bust for me, although Shawna won some money on a slot machine. We ran into our besties, Cliff and Gail and we sat at the casino bar for a drink. Why does time fly when you’re having fun? Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for dinner. That was the one thing that I got tired of doing, getting ready. Having to do it every night is just so much to ask of me.

After a dinner of braised lamb, pasta and pavlova, we went straight to the rock room, no time to spare.

Clara was performing in the theater, before she hit the ivory keys.

Once the music was over, we all stayed in the Billboard Onboard lounge and hung out with the crew. Talking and laughing.

Laughing and talking, we stayed up past last call, which means quite late, or quite early.

Since we had packed earlier in the day, once we got to back our room, all we needed to do was set the alarm and hit the sack. Welp, the alarm didn’t go off, so we woke to the sound of the hall intercom calling disembarkation numbers. That put a pep in our step, and in minutes we were dressed and heading down to the gangway. The only good thing about running behind was that our car was already at the port waiting for us, so we were home in no time.

That’s it, that is the end of our fantastic trip. It reminded me of why I have always loved cruising and we are looking forward to another one soon, someplace new and warm.

Cabo no Wabo

We anchored in Cabo San Lucas just before 11:00am on Tuesday.

Desperate for lunch on the beach, we made our way downstairs to get the tender tickets. I’m not going to sugar coat it, this cruise ship had a lot of older folks, so getting into that Tender from the Ship, was bit of a slow process. Luckily, we sat next to the best group of Texans (you won’t hear me say that very often). They told us that a friend of their’s, who is a singer, was singing at Karlito’s Cantina on the marina, and we had to stop by to see her.

We told them that we had a date with Playa El Médano for lunch, but we would absolutely stop by later.

We strolled through the marina, stopping to browse and for photo ops along the way.

Once we hit the beach, we walked in the water until we spotted a spot that we could sit, eat, drink and swim. The weather was perfect and the water was pretty warm, warm enough to swim in.

We stopped at Omega’s where we soaked it all in for a couple of hours. This is also where I had the most delicious shrimp tacos with a fresh habanero salsa. I’ve thought about those tacos every day since.

Fully satisfied, we made our way back to the marina to see what was happening at Karlito’s. Our tender Texan friends, Pattie and her husband John, were already there, “but the fun don’t start til I walk in“. Kesha, get it?

Everybody there was so nice, the lady singing (I am horrible at names, luckily Shawna has an elephant’s memory, is that even a real fact, like how do we know that?)

Anyhow, Leslie Blasing used to be a back up singer for Reba, she lives in South Padre Island but just happened to be in Cabo visiting friends. She was singing on this sunny Tuesday at Karlito’s as a favor, ya, she is that nice of a person.

We decided to eat dinner in the dining room on the ship, so we said our goodbyes, and tootled back to the tender.

I’m guessing you know what we did after dinner, but you are going to have to hear it again.

As our group of friends grew larger with each trip to the bar, we all took turns saving seats in our favorite corner booth. That way we were always together listening to the music.


I can’t forget to mention that the Holland America bartenders make a first-class espresso martini! Pretty sure that’s one of our martini’s being shaken in the background of the video, ha.

When the clock strikes (who knows, I never knew what time it was) I should say, when the pianos stopped, the dancing began.


And when the lights went out, it was time for bed.

Just to wake up and do it all over again.

But this time, we woke up in Mazatlán.

Once we stepped off the ship we hopped in a cab with another couple and headed, well we didn’t know where we were headed. We asked to be taken to where the action was at.

We landed at Joe’s Oyster Bar.

Not bad, not bad at all. After wetting our palate, we strolled along some shops and…shit, I just remembered that I bought vanilla there, I wonder where that is, hm.

It was time for lunch and as we do, we asked a local where we should go. The next thing we knew we were dropped off between two beach restaurants. We rock paper scissored to see which one we would eat at, and it was a good choice.

I mean come on, grilled pulpo on the beach…. with a margarita, can it get any better? (insert Chandler Bings voice)

After lunch we wandered along the streets but nothing was really calling out to us. Mazatlán is pretty in some sorts and not so pretty in others, just like anywhere, but there wasn’t anything that we really had to do there. So we made our way back to the ship and hit the pool, well I’m pretty sure that’s what we did, I mean it’s been a week you guys.

Fun fact, Mazatlán’s malecón is the largest in the world. I don’t remember how long it is, but I am sure Google does, or Alexa, I’ll ask…Nope, she doesn’t know either. Oh well, here is a glimpse of the longest malecón in the world.

Once we were sun soaked, it was that time again.

That’s Johnny Tocco on the guitar, isn’t he good?

You know how the first part of a vacay moves at a perfect pace, and then all of the sudden BAAAAM, it’s over? Ya, well that started in Puerto Vallarta….stay tuned.

Let’s Cruise

If you like to cruise, let me tell you, now is the time to do it. We had the best time EVER. First of all, Costco had a mind blowing deal, not only that but the ship was only at half capacity and vaccinated cruisers only! There was also an incentive drink package that is included with your total price up front, meaning you won’t have that huge bill statement slid under your door on the last night of the trip.

So, obviously we booked through Costco. Holland America had a 7 night Mexican Riviera cruise leaving San Diego. Added bonus, no airports and no wasted travel time. After packing and repacking, making sure we had everything we needed from bathing suits to Gala attire and about 1,450 other things we maybe didn’t need and a few we wished we had, we hit the road. An entire 15 minutes later ,we were dropped off at the cruise ship terminal. Having already downloaded the ships app, we just waited for our time to be called and we were making our way up the gangway. Couldn’t have been easier.

Once we boarded this beauty, we headed to our room to drop off our carry-ons. It was a nice surprise to see our luggage already in our room. So we dropped our carry on crap and went straight to the pool deck. They had music going, small bites were being passed around along with their drink of the day. However we opted for wine instead, hey, what can I say? Before we knew it, we were making our way out of port and heading towards an amazing week.

We wandered around the ship trying to get acclimated but there were just soooo many places to see. So we stopped at the end of the ships lounge, and plopped down on a couch to check out the evenings itinerary.

Where should we eat? What should we do? There were just so many options. We decided to skip the main dining room and eat at the Market Cafe, which used to be called the buffet but now they have separate stations. You can order whatever is displayed on the menu and they make and/or serve it to you. {both ends of the cafe had hand washing stations and hand sanitizer, also masks were required in all public areas}. There were so many options that it was overwhelming. They had an Asian station, sandwich, salad, pasta, carving and dessert station. You guys, the bread, can we talk about how good the bread was? And the sandwiches were like the ones you get in Paris, fresh thin baguette with a protein, maybe some butter or brie…those became a daily or nightly and sometimes an early morning ritual.

We did not want to miss the band playing in the Rolling Stone Rock Room, so we went up for a wardrobe change and then hit the music walk. The music walk was half of one of the ships deck and it had all the different lounge/bar areas just for the entertainment.

We sat down and loved every minute that the band gave us. They alternated with the dueling pianists whom were playing just across the way in the Billboard Onboard room, they were also amazing and we instantly wanted to be best friends with all of them. We went back and forth and back and forth until all of their sets were over. Then we headed to the B.B King’s Blues club just next door, and danced and danced and danced. This in turn, would end up being our routine every night of the week.

Rolling Stone Rock Band Night 1

The next day was our day at sea. We leisurely woke up and had coffee sent up to the room. Our plans included sunning at the main pool, grabbing burgers for lunch, playing trivia and we were signed up for a wine making class in the late afternoon. There just isn’t enough time in the day. Trivia was a sad tale, we met a really nice couple who we teamed up with but we were no help. The wine making course was a good time. We started with five wines all from Washington state, all the same year and there were 3 different varietals of red. Two Cab Sauvignons, two Merlots and a Cab Franc. We went through each one, learning about where and how the vines grew and at the end, we made our own blend. Once we were done and happy with our newly made wine, Ramon, our sommelier bottled it and sent it to our room.

Monday was our Gala dinner night. I’m not sure how we don’t have any food pictures, who are we? I had the absolute best mushroom risotto and the chocolate soufflé, let’s not forget the bread and butter. The service was spectacular and the food was pretty darn good, we also had a really good chardonnay from Napa that accompanied us back to the room. Then we changed into more bar worthy attire.

This was the night we met two other couples who became people we will never forget. Each of them were older than us and they lived on opposite sides of the U.S. but we ended up sitting with them every night, laughing, drinking and sharing stories. We will most definitely see them again.

We ended the night once again on the dance floor, closing the place down.

*Side note about packing. Packing for a cruise is easier said than done. You need a couple of fancy outfits if you plan on eating in the dining room. You need a sweater to go with said fancy outfit because it can get cold inside certain areas. You need semi fancy outfits for other nights in the dining room. You need shorts and bathing suits for the day, or the Market Cafe and swimsuit covers if you plan to swim and wander around. Let’s not mention the shoes, accessories and all the other things we put on our bodies everyday. I think we did a good job packing however, we ended up changing a few nights out of our fancy clothes and into dancing clothes. I wished I had packed more jeans and tanks. I would also suggest packing a water bottle like the Yeti or whatever you use at home. Cold water is hard to come by in your stateroom, we would fill ours up at the cafe before we went out for the evening so when we got back we had water for the night. I also suggest a mini speaker if you like to get ready to music, electrolytes if you like to drink and a nightlight for the bathroom if you get an interior room. That was a lifesaver, I must have saved at least 50 bruises from happening on a middle of the night bathroom walk.

Next up… Cabo.

Back to School

Annnnnnd coming in a few weeks late……..the first day of school pictures.

Ah, the first day of school, actual real, inside a classroom with a teacher, school. No more yelling at Averi to stop drawing on her legs, no more repeating “pay attention to your Zoom” every 10 minutes. No more dueling, screeching recorders on Thursday mornings and no more having to hear about how everyone is starving every.second.of.the.day!

Finally, F*CK! They are back in school for the entire day….now please knock on wood for me and get vaccinated.

They were just as excited as we were. And apparently Averi was all about the pictures that morning.

I hope everyone has a happy and healthy start to the new school year.

Black Rice Risotto with Garlic and Parmesan

I was sitting here, trying to write a lesson plan when my mind kept reliving an incredible dish we had months ago, making it very difficult to focus on learning standards. So, instead I switched gears and decided to try and dissect what we ate from memory and remake it, hoping for the same outcome.

Risotto is not in my wheelhouse. I make it often enough but I use only one recipe, the one that allows me to leave the stove because let’s be real, no one has time to stand, stir and repeat. I took this recipe but used black rice with the addition of some cream, fresh parmesan and garlic at the end.

I’m not going to lie, it was pretty good. Rich and garlicky, probably best alongside a light main dish or a salad.

*recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa Easy Risotto

Ingredients

5 cups simmering chicken stock, divided.

1½ cups black rice

1/4 cup white wine

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cups heavy cream

Minced fresh garlic, as much as you want.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the black rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock in a Dutch oven, or a heavy bottomed stock pan. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente aka still a bit chewy.

Remove from the oven, add the remaining cup of chicken stock, the parm, wine, cream and your garlic and stir vigorously for 3 minutes. Taste for salt, add pepper for kicks.

Top with more parm and garlic (if you want to).

Beach House

Way back when I when I was in high school, my brother was in elementary and we lived in Nor Cal, my family spent a week at a beach house in south OC. We loved it. Then we moved there and we still loved it, but nothing is the same as living on the actual beach. The waves crash and you can feel the spray on your legs while you’re sitting on the porch.

My brother decided to recreate that beach house moment from our childhood and rented a house on the same beach, but this house was much fancier.

We couldn’t stay too long because the kids where in camp and school was starting, but it was a great way to end the summer. We played, bathed, swam, sunned, met a curious sea lion and in the end, no one wanted to leave.

The morning that we left the girls went down to the COLD water in their pjs, same thing I would do if I lived on the beach.

Tempura Green Beans with Pepper Jelly Cream Cheese

It’s been awhile since we have eaten something that induces inappropriate public food moaning. You know the food that you keep thinking about days after the fact? It took approximately three of those days until I decided to make it myself. The genius behind paring tempura green beans with pepper jelly cream cheese has gone and stolen our hearts.

Ingredients for Pepper Jelly Cream Cheese

4-6 oz. cream cheese

2-4 Tbs. your favorite pepper Jelly

Ingredients for Tempura Batter

2 cups rice flour

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups cold Pabst Blue Ribbon beer

2 cups cold soda water

Ingredients for Greans Beans

10 oz cleaned green beans

4 quarts vegetable oil or enough to submerge the beans

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine the cream cheese and the jelly and set aside.

Combine the flours, then the liquids, and whisk until smooth.

Toss the green beans in the tempura batter, then working in batches fry the green beans in a 350-degree large pot of veg oil for approximately three minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the pepper jelly cream cheese on the side.

Prepare to be wowed!

Bad Blogger

I have been a terrible blogger and I can’t even blame it on the kids. I rarely take my phone out to snap pictures of much anymore, not for amazing food (which I have had and will try to recreate) or even, gasp, winery dogs. I do take a lot of pictures of the girls because they are so very photogenic and pretty darn cute.

I picked the girls up early from camp one day and took them to my brothers on Coronado. They have a food truck “experience” I guess we can call it, every month or so. We went swimming for a bit and then we walked a dreadfully long ways, according to the girls, next door past the Marriott, sigh.

We ate delicious pizza, a crazy good poké, enjoyed music and wine then finished it with ice cream.

I made a really good recipe from once again, drumroll please, Bon Appetít. I didn’t follow this recipe exactly but it sure was good.

We have also become quite fond of a little Taiwanese tea spot down the road. They have everything from fruit slushies, to smoothies to different milk teas and on and on. They also have waffles that you can top with all things sugar and we knew the girls would dig it. We made it an after camp stop one day and those waffles were delicious, however my Thai iced tea, is by far the best…according to me.

The highlight of the past few weeks was a belated father’s day gift from my brother. He got a box suite at the LA Galaxy stadium for my dad and we all reaped the benefits, it was so great. Great food, great company and we even brushed by Colby Jones, it was like 1996 all over again.

The Galaxy lost, but that’s besides the point right?

August

Does it seem like time is flying by? Somehow it’s the middle of August and back to school shopping has commenced. I really hope we make it and there isn’t a state wide “oh shit” and we all end up in lockdown again…sigh.

Still plenty of pool days.

A few weeks back we had a blast at Boots in the Park. It was an all day country concert at Waterfront park with five artists/bands. Our seats were amazing, the view was amazing and the reason we went, Old Dominion, were AHmazing! So much fun.

The fountains were on until the sun went down, it provided a cool down when needed.

Ryan Griffin
Dustin Lynch
Scotty McCreery

I made a couple of my favorite recipes to make for guests. One being Chrissy Teigen’s meatloaf from her cookbook Cravings. I am not a meatloaf fan, I mean….meat in a loaf, no thanks. I remember my mom making it when I was young and she put mashed potatoes on top, well I think that’s a memory. Anyhow, I had to douse mine in BBQ sauce to eat it. But this recipe has half ground beef and half spicy Italian sausage along with mushroom and onions. It’s really good, as good as meatloaf can get.

I also made this gazpacho, which is my most favorite of all time recipe for the cold Spanish soup. However, I did tweak a couple of the things from the original recipe to make it my own. It will not disappoint, I promise.

Here is what you need to do.

Grab 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled and wrap them in foil

3 large tomatoes (1 1/2 pounds)

1 medium cucumber ( I use

1 green anaheim pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 medium sweet onion, unpeeled

Throw all of the above ingredients and grill or roast until the skin in charred and they begin to soften. F&W says “about 8 minutes for the tomatoes, cucumber and bell peppers, 10 minutes for the garlic and 15 minutes for the onion.” However I think it takes longer, so allow 30 minutes for this.

Once they are cool enough to handle without you swearing as you burn your fingers, peel and discard any seeds or stems from the veg and then run a knife through them. Then toss them all in your food processor or blender.

Then grab.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1/4 cup chopped Italian Parsley and Basil, plus more for garnish

1 cup cold water

croutons

Salt and freshly ground pepper

While blending add the olive oil, then the vinegar (use sherry vinegar if you can). Taste for salt, i think it always needs more. Add the herbs and taste again. Pour into a big bowl, stir in the cold water and stick it in the fridge until cold and ready to serve.

Serve in individual bowls and drizzle with your best olive oil and garnish with herbs and croutons.

Then watch your guests happily slurp it up. It’s delicious

Please make this and tell me how much you LOVED It!

SummerTime

Are you all enjoying summer as much as me? I mean, all the soccer, warm weather, some fun little trips, dinners with friends and finally once again, the horse races. We have had some good wine, warm pool days, lazy river days, and even dark speakeasy drinks. It feels good to get back out and do things again.

We met my brother in Vegas awhile back for a few days. We found a really good deal at the Mandalay Bay and spent one day downtown and one day at the lazy river. There is a speakeasy in the basement of the Mob Museum. We found the password that we needed when we approached the side door. The little window opened and the bouncer asked “who told you that?” And Shawna replies “We ain’t snitchin’!” He says, “good, we don’t want any snitches in here.”

Once inside the cool air we settled down with a really good adult beverage.

Next up was the The Golden Tiki. We hit our reservation on the spot and luckily got three seats at the bar. Bar = video poker. Which I didn’t do too terrible at. This place is tucked into a strip mall in China Town and it’s SO unassuming. When you enter the small dark bar you leave the heat and cigarette smoke behind and enter into a rated R Disney meets a Margaritaville set in Tahiti. The menu is full of rum drinks, the bathroom wallpaper is naked women and the stall handles are phallic shaped. I mean even the fake parrot has a foul mouth, Jimmy Buffet would be proud.

Mai Tais on fire. If you are looking for something different to do in Vegas, I would swing by for a rum drink.

After a quick bite to eat, we hit Fremont for some music and Roulette. The next day we spent the day floating down the lazy river at Mandalay. It was a fun two-day getaway.

We have had fun and sun pool days.

And all of us girls were able to have playdates with friends that we haven’t seen in ages.

Shawna and I took a drive out to the desert, via the scenic route.

Is this a herd? A gang? I mean, Bison right? They were just following each other…. as a gang would…in Eastern San Diego, picture worthy but not mug shot worthy… luckily.

We hoped to wine taste on our way out there but it was a Wednesday and we weren’t in luck…Until we were.

In the mountains we came across Shadow Mountain Vineyards. Inside the tasting room we were greeted by Pamela, she stood behind an old wooden bar and asked us what we liked. This was the best wine tasting experience I have had in a long time. It turned out that Pamela and her husband were the winemakers and we got to chatting about good wine and pairings. Turns out that they used to own the first wine bar in Dana Point, small world.

Pam let us taste everything and I liked a lot of it, especially the rosé. We did not leave empty handed. The best part, it was still San Diego County. #drinklocal

We also learned that the cactus flower only blooms once a day and then it dies. Well, I think that is what Pam said but we did just finish a few tastings. Ha, you can google it and let me know if I am right.

Anyhow, here is the beautiful, once a day flower that Pam picked early that morning.

And it’s source.

AND FINALLY, where the turf meets the surf. I love the horse races and (knock on wood) I had a pretty good day.

Fun times, with more to come.