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.

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.

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.

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.

Watermelon Feta Salad

Watermelon feta…high, watermelon feta high. Did Harry Styles just get stuck in your head? You’re welcome.

This salad, you guys, is the epitome of a summer dish. Currently it is 79 and sunny in San Diego and this is all you need for lunch and or dinner, well a body of water and a glass of rosé wouldn’t hurt. It’s a perfect combination of flavors and the fact that you don’t have to turn on the oven, even better.

Just make it and then tell me how right I am.

Just look at all that deliciousness. You can assemble this salad however you like. Its good all chopped up in a bowl, but I was going more for presentation this time.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine

INGREDIENTS

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon Tabasco

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

One small seedless watermelon, scooped into balls or cut into 1 inch chunks1 cup Feta, cut into 1 inch chunks or crumbled

1/2 red onion diced

1 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves

salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, tabasco and half of your diced onion, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the watermelon and feta into a bowl or arranged on a plate, sprinkled with more red onion, drizzle in the dressing and sprinkle with chopped mint.

Even the girls jumped on the watermelon + feta bandwagon, it’s just too good.

Mushroom Stroganoff

What do you call a mushroom in a fable?

The morel of the story. Ha ha ha…ha.

I didn’t know mushroom stroganoff was a thing. I thought I invented it in my head one morning but when I started Googling, it saddened me to find that once again, I was not the only one with that idea.

Back when we were store hopping for the Indian Chaat ingredients, we picked up a bag of egg Cavatappi at the International market. It worked perfectly for this dish.

Meanwhile as I was making dinner, one of the girls came in and asked to have a snack.

And then when the youngest beast is fed…..

Apparently she’s been raised in said prison….sigh.

Back to dinner. Creamy mushrooms over pasta, how good does that sound?

INGREDIENTS

*Recipe adapted from https://damndelicious.net/2019/02/06/creamy-mushroom-stroganoff/

8 ounces egg noodles of your choice

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 pounds cremini mushrooms, sliced

2 large shallots, diced

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups beef stock

1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (less is more)

3/4 cup sour cream

2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Crushed red chili flakes, to taste

DIRECTIONS

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; drain well.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and shallots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender and browned, about 5-7 minutes or looks like this.

Season with salt and pepper, you can even add your crushed pepper now, if you like heat.

Stir in garlic and thyme until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute

Gradually whisk in beef stock and Dijon. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced and slightly thickened, about 4-5 minutes.

Stir in pasta and sour cream until heated through, about 1-2 minutes. 

Stir in Parmesan until melted, about 1 minute.

Serve immediately but not to the children who will whine about mushrooms. Leave them with their Nutella while you enjoy this delicious meal with a cold glass of Chardonnay!

Too Much Fun, Too Little Time

In lieu of a party with friends Averi chose to go to Great Wolf Lodge for her birthday. The two older girls have gone before but Averi whom just recently learned to swim was finally brave enough and tall enough to join in on the fun.

But first…more cake and wishes.

The girls were so excited to pack for our getaway! They wanted to bring toys, stuffies, pillows and their own blankets. Basically everything in their room. And then we witnessed pigs flying when Averi asked to go to bed early so departure time would come sooner. Ah, we never grow out of that excitement do we?

Listen, we are not a fan of car rides. Three girls in the backseat for longer than a quick jaunt is torture for most anyone. Until we are ready to hunker down on a long drive or a flight, we will commit to a quick drive up Interstate 5. One hour in the car and we were there by noon. Luckily we were able to get into the water park long before our room was ready. Not being our first rodeo, we took in just what we needed (aka swimsuits, money and whatever the kids must have) and left the rest of our shit in the car.

Equipped with their Paw Passes and wolf ears, we dove in to what would be a great two days of fun!

Once we found a spot to call “home base”, we dropped our towels and shoes and went over the rules. Then the older girls went off and we took Averi on her first real waterslide.

Nope, not fun at all. SO FUN!

Canyon River Run was the one ride ALL five of us could go on together and we did, many times.

This was the first time in my life as a mom that I felt comfortable giving the girls their freedom without worrying every other second. They were so independent and it made it that much more fun.

We did it all and they didn’t complain and they didn’t tire.

The ten year olds even went on Wolf’s Tail, on their own. This ride is where the the bottom drops out from under you sending you straight down the slide.

Of course I had to follow them back up to record the bravery.

We almost closed the park down and by 7:30 pm we had to tell the girls if they wanted to do anything else, we had to move on.

After a quick change up in the room, we went on a hunt for magic and pizza.
While we waited for our food, the girls hopped around the hotel doing whatever magic game is so popular amongst the kids.

The magic quest wand even moved objects in the girl’s kid cabin.

Around 10:30, it was quiet and then I heard a small voice that said “I have a night light for you”. I thought to myself what? Who said that? And then Kaili came out and asked the same thing. F sakes. I climbed up and unplugged whatever I could see in the dark not to wake the others. It turned out that one of the wands must have summoned the critters of the lodge, sigh.

I prefer my rooms not to talk thank you. And I am pretty sure, nope I am positive that I would have NOT liked that as a child.

It was a late night but luckily they let us sleep until 7:00 in the morning (big deal you guys!). Then we were up and ready to go do it again.

{One tip I can give you; if you have a trip to GWL on your radar It’s this, bring food, there is a fridge in the room. And, pre-order on their app or walk out of the hotel and find something to your liking. Because the lines are ridiculous and it’s terribly overpriced.}

The next morning we were at the waterpark as it opened and we knocked out all of the best rides as many times as we could before the crowd grew bigger.

Shawna and I went out into the sun for a bit and then before we knew it, lunch came and went.

The girls Paw Pass came with: a magic quest wand, a glitter tattoo, goggles, candy from the candy shop and a build a bear stuffy. So we had to get them out of the water if they wanted to claim the rest of their goodies. We did, they did.

Two hours later and full of candy, we headed home.

Nothing like the comedown from a high, am I right or am I right?

It affects everyone differently!

Don’t I know you?

A few weeks back we decided to try a new wine bar. When we were checking in Shawna says to me “the man we met in Puerto Vallarta is sitting outside.” We had met him in the pool and spent the day chatting, he works in travel and we still have his card on our calendar. She went outside and asked if he remembered us. After refreshing his memory he said he did, I don’t don’t think he did. He and his friend invited us to sit with them and we had a nice time, the wine was also good. For dinner we went had French.

We took the girls out to lunch in Old town with the promise of churros as a treat.

We also made the mistake of taking them to mini golf. Kaili was complaining before we even got out of the car. ” I don’t want to golf.” Then they saw the go carts and asked to do that. They complained about the weather, about being thirsty and about who went first and so on. Fun suckers, that is what they were that day.

I will say that out of the three of them, Averi showed the most promise for a future in golf.

Every holiday we all paint. We brainstorm what we are going to paint ahead of time and then we put music on and go for it. It’s a family favorite, there isn’t any fighting, little complaining and the girls look forward to it every time.

During dinner time we always ask the girls “what did you learn? And, what is something kind that you did for someone else?”

Here is Averi in pig.