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.