Roma

We had the entire previous morning to reschedule our breakfast for later on our last day in Greece. More like move it to the PM (if we were smart), but it didn’t even cross our minds. So after only a few hours of sleep, we were woken by a knock the door along with a chipper “good morrrrning!” Then we stumbled outside to another amazing breakfast on the patio. It’s hard to describe this hotel because it’s unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. But it’s very quiet and you rarely see anyone other than the porters carrying luggage up and down loads of stairs. So when Shawna was all “come here, hiiiiiii” in her cute voice, I was like what is happening? But then, she arrived.

I nicknamed her Evil Eyes only because that is what she had, but she was super sweet, a nursing mama in search for food. She liked, eggs and bacon, disliked, Greek yogurt.

Our transfer to the airport didn’t arrive until 1:15 so we wandered back into the village grabbing souvenirs and a last lunch.

We had no problems getting to the airport, getting on the airplane, getting to Rome and then getting to our hotel. We booked a stay at the Hotel Mozart. It checked the boxes of walking distance to certain landmarks, had a lift, breakfast included and a cafe next door.

We were right around the corner from the Spanish Steps. Once we checked in, that is where we headed.

We ate dinner not far from Piazza de Spagna.

Wine, pizza and pasta.

Cheese pull number one! Dinner was delicious.

We decided to head over to the Trevi fountain because, why not? And it’s more majestic at night, well I think so.

We headed back towards our hotel when we ran into Giolitto. I mean by the amount of people in line, we couldn’t pass it up.

I ordered way more than I could handle. Dark chocolate, coffee and pistachio…in a cone, sigh….

She ordered almost the same but in a cup.

Verdict; the dark chocolate was too much (who am I?) the pistachio was amazing, the coffee was good.

Why the line of people? No idea, but I also don’t understand ordering an Aperol Spritz on purpose, so maybe I am getting old and it’s lost on me.

Full and tired, we headed back to our room.

Oh, I can’t wait to show you the walk to our room!! And pictures of the Colosseum and our spectacular dinner at a multi Michelin star restaurant, swooon!!

Greek Wedding

My coughing has been making my nights really sucky.

So when we woke up to our breakfast being delivered, I made it outside with barely open eyes.

But if there is anywhere to just sit and soak it up, this is the place.

We had no agenda for the day except making our way to my brothers hotel for his wedding. So we ate, napped and read until it was time to get ready. A very nice lazy start to a fantastic day.

All of us that were in Santorini for the wedding arrived on Monday, Casey and Aileen were also supposed to arrive on Monday however their travel plans came to a halt in Munich. Their flight was delayed and then canceled, forcing them to stay the night in Germany. After a lot of shuffling and money, they were able to catch a morning flight on Tuesday getting them into Santorini by the afternoon. They made it, however their luggage did not. Can you imagine? A day before your wedding and you have nothing.There was no ETA on when they would get their luggage either, but luckily they were able to go shopping and expense what they bought. Santorini isn’t a terrible place to shop, they had a lot of options. A day later Casey had new wedding attire and they had bought beachwear, luckily Aileen’s dress was brought there by a friend who’s luggage did make it.

We walked with our wedding shit, in the sun, up hill to their hotel but not after getting lost…of course. We really have become accustomed to getting a ride when we want it, and I will not take it for granted again. Sweaty and sunburned we climbed up and down more stairs until we were in their hotel room and laying on the air conditioner.

Then we popped some Champagne and toasted to the soon to be husband.

When summoned, we made our way to the ceremony.

Have you seen a more dramatic back drop for a wedding? I haven’t.

Casey looked mighty fine for shopping that morning for an outfit, his friends did good. And Aileen was a stunning bride. It was a beautiful wedding.

While the bride and groom went off for photos we made our way down to the bar for some adult bevarages.

Then they did the cake cutting before the sun set.

Followed by the most incredible wedding dinner. I can see how the rich and famous get used to this type of lifestyle, it’s not too bad.

We were served a seven course meal over 3 maybe 3.5 hours. Every bite of food was phenomenal. I terribly regret not taking pictures but I wanted to be in the moment.

Once we finished the dessert course we all got in a transfer back to the Oia village to the Hassapiko bar.

We hung out and danced until the early morning.

It was a night to remember.

Next up, Rome.

Dump to Catch up!

It’s been a hot minute. Busy with school, life and colds going around, it’s been something.

Legit pharmacy.

Finally we are all on the mend, so let’s chat.

The girls had their school’s multicultural fair on campus and it was so nice to be back on site.

Averi and her bestie ran around getting their passports stamped all while chasing the boys.

Kaili and Shayne were doing their own thing, in Shayne’s words, “living her best life”. Which meant hobnobbing with her teacher whom she adores.

It was nice to talk to the teachers we haven’t seen face to face in forever, and get to know the new ones better, even though schools about to end.

I can’t believe the older two are saying farewell to their school. It’s bittersweet.

Here they are in Kindergarten, so cute and innocent.

On another note, one thing that I have been cooking lately is baby bok choy. I have neglected this vegetable. It’s super quick and simple to cook up and is so tasty. I just halve the bok choy, sauté in some sesame oil with garlic. Add soy sauce and chili crisp then cook until tender, around 10-12 minutes.

One night we paired it with a chicken curry and another time with steak. Don’t walk by it the next time you’re at the market.

Now it’s time get back to finalizing a little jaunt that’s in our future. I can’t wait to share all of the sights, food, fun, food, wine and food with y’all.

I leave you with Spring photos.

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.

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.

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.