Creamy Eggplant Dip

Sometimes I just need some Middle Eastern slash Mediterranean food. Whether it’s a Gyro, hummus, Tzatziki, falafel or shawarma, or even fruit with cheese and olive oil, the need just hits hard sometimes. My mind went to making Baba ghanoush but I thought if I made it creamy, I could talk the girls into eating it. After a lot of recipe hunting I decided on a creamy eggplant dip using the essential Mediterranean ingredients. Roasted eggplant and garlic blended with Greek yogurt, Feta and some other goodies.

*Recipe adapted from here

INGREDIENTS

3 medium sized eggplants

olive oil

5 cloves of garlic

2 lemons juiced

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

2 Tbs tahini

1/3 cup feta cheese (I used sheep’s milk feta)

1/3 cup  milk

1 tsp paprika 

1/2 tsp cayenne (use 1/4 tsp if you don’t like spicy)

1/4 tsp red chili flakes 

2 tsp Kosher salt or more to taste

1 tsp Black pepper 

Sumac for garnish

Fresh parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut eggplant long ways down the middle. Brush with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. I stuck the garlic cloves into the eggplant to roast. You can add the garlic raw, totally up to you.

Bake for 30 minutes and leave out to cool for another 30 min.

Once cool enough to handle, scoop out the roasted eggplant into a strainer to drain the excess liquid.

Add the eggplant into a blender with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, yogurt, tahini, feta, milk and spices. Blend on high until smooth. Add more of whatever seasonings to taste.

Drizzle with your best olive oil, sprinkle some sumac and fresh Italian parsley to garnish. Service with fresh pita, roasted chicken and veggies.

You don’t even have to tell the kids that this is an eggplant dip, they will be none the wiser!

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!

A Way of Life-Chaat

You guys, our libraries are OPEN. I must say the book pick-up process has been pretty user friendly for the past year but I was so excited when I pulled up and saw the “we are open!” sign.

There was quite the wait list for Maneet Chauhan’s lastest cookbook Chaat, so when I finally got it, I couldn’t wait to dig in. After choosing a few recipes to try, then came the hunt for the ingredients. Not wanting to go to all of the stores looking for a few key ingredients, I improvised.

But first. Gouda turned 3 years old on July 4th. Part sweetheart part asshole, she didn’t even say thank meow.

Back to Chaat. I didn’t even know what chaat was, I just knew that there were different varieties out there, such as Paneer chaat and Aloo chaat. I found that the word describes a way of Indian life, more than just street food snacks. After more reading I learned that there are many regional variations of chaat but all of them have one thing in common. Each recipe of chaat has a combo of five essential components; the base, the sauce, the crunch, the vegetables and the umami. After that, the creative mashup is up to you.

We chose to make the Tabakh Maaz (twice-cooked caramelized ribs) and the Gajar ka Halwa (carrot pudding with pistachios and saffron). And obviously I would also make the cilantro-mint chutney because that is always a must at every Indian meal.

Back to the ingredient hunting. You guys, we have international markets on every corner but I could not find Paneer and I could not find lamb ribs. Turns out that paneer is easy enough to make and pork ribs would be a quick pinch substitute that would end in an abundance of food moaning.

I took an entire afternoon to make this meal, dipping into the sun every so often.

First up, make the cheese. Paneer, a farmer’s cheese made with milk, lemon and salt. That’s it, that’s the recipe.

Next was the carrot pudding, although the final product tasted amazing, the end result did not turn out how the cookbook promised. And no, it was not user error. Somehow grated carrot boiled in saffron, cardamom and milk was supposed to turn into a velvety pudding consistency. This did not happen and I even let it simmer for a lot longer than suggested. This picture is what I had after the recommended 30 minutes.

Nothing like pudding. I even used the emersion blender at the end but still no avail. This recipe just didn’t work, although it sure did taste good.

The cilantro-mint chutney came together in under five minutes, however I didn’t seed all five of the serrano’s because I like to live on the edge of pain.

Then we have the ribs. You guys, these are ridiculous. Once I got over the fact that I wasn’t making lamb, sigh, I went in open minded. These ribs are simmered in water with the addition of milk with a handful of spices; cardamom’s, cinnamon, tumeric, fennel seeds and of course garlic. Once they were “fall off the bone” tender. I let them rest until I admitted to myself that the carrot pudding was not going to in fact be “pudding”.

I heated a cast iron pan, added some ghee, and lightly sprinkled some cane sugar over the ribs (not in the recipe) and fried them until perfectly caramelized.

And then……

So now I have a new way of cooking ribs. I can’t wait to make this for friends and family, it’s that good. Next time I would like to make pork and lamb side by side. And the chutney, just smother it on the ribs or eat it by the spoonful.

This is a cookbook that I could definitely cook my way through, so many good looking recipes, even if the carrot pudding recipe was a lie. Ha!

Plenty of Fun

The hours seem to go by slow but the years, they fly by.

Now we found ourselves at the end of the school year.

So long first and fourth grade.

We jumped right into summer break by visiting the trampoline park.

And then….no and then.

We went to the beach.

Which, let me tell you is so disappointing after Mexico, sigh. The water here is cold, I couldn’t find one person offering adult beverages, you guys, we are doing it wrong!

At least the pool water temp was better.

My baby K bear.

She may catch up to my tan soon.

We also went to the movie theaters for the first time in ages. We saw Spirit Untamed. It was good, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Popcorn, candy and some tears!

Last but not least, we put out a slippin’ slide.

Jess and I used to spend the majority of our summers making up dance routines on these things. However we never took it to the next level and used soap. (why Jess, why?)

Probably because we were too busy using tanning oil and Sun-In and working on our dance moves, ha ha.

If someone can provide video of us, I dare you!

It’s nice to gather with friends and family that we have missed so much. Almost as good as getting my hands on some great local wine. If you haven’t been to Edwards Vineyards in Ramona, you need to make it a priority.

It’s officially summer.

The mornings are overcast but the days are warm and sunny. Plenty of fun to come!

The Devil made me do it.

Isn’t it great when you stumble upon a great place by accident?

I knew nothing of this bar aside from some good reviews that I saw on Trip Advisor. I had some notes saved for days like these when we were going to be wandering around. It was an open air bar on the Malecón with around 12 bar stools, we soon found out that this was in fact a Sun Devil’s bar, yeah that college football team from Arizona. That took the illusiveness out of it but we stayed and we were happy with that choice. The owner of the bar graduated from ASU back in the day and then moved to PV and opened this place. It’s prime real estate so I imagine he is riding high on the hog. The bar menu was written on the walls in chalk, I ordered a passion fruit margarita, Shawna ordered a mango colada and we also threw in two flaming Dr. Peppers because somehow, she has managed to go through life without ever having one, truthfully she still hasn’t. Her amaretto never left the shot glass and she just chugged Modelo, ha!

Once we finished our drinks we decided that it was time to get some food. I don’t know why we chose the place we did but it was a good decision.

We sat to this view while chatting with an American man who just recently moved from Washington state to Puerto Vallarta with his wife. He went on about how good the food was and how great it was to live there. Then my molé enchiladas arrived and it went silent.

Happy and full we hopped back into a cab to our hotel and I bet you can guess what we did next.

That’s right, back to pool and this view.

Teleport me back!

Before dinner we popped into the Mojito bar where the service was slow, the drinks were worse but the spectacular view helped us swallow the poorly made drinks.

One drink at the Mojito bar and then we made our way to Gulietta, the Italian restaurant. The porcini risotto was the highlight, so good in fact, we would go back for more.

The next morning (day 3) we had coffee and breakfast delivered to the room and then….headed down to the pool. The fun pool, not the boring pool. The fun entertainment took place in the pool with the booze, the pool without the bar was for the boring people and the boring fun, well that’s what Emilio (see below) said daily .

We played Bingo and water volleyball and then we met new friends. Toby and Lord were from our neck of the woods aka California. We became fast friends and after dinner, which I am sure we had, we met them at their hotel room for some tequila. Sounds shady right? It wasn’t, they are really great people and they even convinced us to try this tequila that was….sippable. gasp! Still seems shady huh? Ha, we sipped and talked and talked and sipped and then went up to the sky bar. The people watching was on point, I am sure drinks were spilled but the laughing and dancing never stopped. I am sorry to say that we didn’t take a picture with them, but we will someday.

Wash, rinse and repeat. Same routine, different day. Day 4 and we had found our groove, we knew what activities we wanted to participate in and which ones we did not. For instance, I played Texas Hold Em’ and Lord was part of the Juego Loco.

I mean, what even was that? Ha, ha. After that brilliant and brave performance by Lord, we took a moment to salute the Mexican Air Force.

Mexican Air Force

We met another couple in the pool that day and they were self appointed avid Karaoke singers. They told us about a bar called Kooky’s in town that had Karaoke on Thursday’s and it just so happened to be….Thursday. We tossed the idea of leaving the resort around and decided to make a decision after dinner.

Dinner.

We ate well at the Japanese restaurant and committed to a night out, we called an Uber into town for some Karaoke.

We ordered some drinks, said hello to the ladies that invited us and took this all in.

AMAZING!

Fun times. It was a fun time to sit back and watch magic happen…. from a safe distance away.

Sadly, it happened. We woke up to our last full day of our trip. The people we had met and spent our days with were starting to disperse and new guests were arriving. We took advantage of one more day. We floated in the warm ocean water, enjoyed the slight chill of the pool and watched a pretty remarkable belly flop contest.

We had a really good lunch at the Cevicheria and an even better dessert.

The coconut ice cream was incredible.

We decided we needed to have the mushroom risotto one more time before we left, so off we went to the the Italian restaurant again. Finally, I ordered a really good drink.

The one and only, espresso martini.

We went up to the Sky bar thinking that since it was a Friday night and new people had rolled in that it would be a busy, great music situation. That was not the case. Turns out that most everyone went into town for their Friday night and we watched some musicians play instrumentals that lullabied us down to our room.

That’s it, that’s how it ends. We slept in, packed, ate one last meal, said our goodbyes and hit the road to the airport.

We had a great time. Cheers Puerto Vallarta, thanks for the fun!

Now…. Since we have been to both Secrets and Grand Fiesta, which resort would we revisit?

T.B.C.

Just Like That

The moment the children went back to school it seems that time sped up and now the last day of school is in two weeks. If you ask me what we did this past month I would have to really think about it, did we do anything (insert thinking emoji)? Realistically we did a lot, not even including our adult vacation.

We took Shayne to Mission Beach for a bit of rides and a sushi dinner. I was able to get a few pictures before the descent, the coaster is old and so am I. I hobbled getting off and had a headache….sigh.

However, give me a ride that spins and flips me around and upside down, I will take it, no complaints!

On Mother’s day, Shawna made us Chrissy Teigen’s sausage gravy over hash brown’s and runny eggs. Artery clogging deliciousness.

Brian and I FINALLY went to Brazil by the Bay. It was all so good and the pao de queijo was the best I have ever had.

For the first time in my life I made elote, so good, SO messy.

Trader Joes has a few new products that deserve praise. The crispy jalapenos are ridiculous. Every time I buy them the checker likes to tell me how they use them…”I put them on Mac n Cheese!” “They are so good on burgers!” Well, in my opinion, they are perfect just shoved straight into your mouth. Legit! Also, the new Chakri Indian snack mix is probably one of the best things I have gotten from them. It’s just different from anything on the shelves. It’s crunchy, a tad spicy and it has all these different spices that linger…just try it.

Before our trip we had family time. Good food and even better dessert.

I mean, really….this should be dinner!

Nerve Endings

It’s been over a year of not going to a park, playground or anywhere inside for that matter. Spending most warm weekends at the beach, the girls have finally realized that when we tell them that the ocean water is cold, they tend to believe us. Our pool finally opened and although we warned them that the water is going to be ice, they wanted to go with the boogie boards instead of the beach. Fast forward an hour, both Kaili and Averi were shivering while Shayne was still swimming and at that moment we wished for a playmate that also didn’t have nerve endings.

April 12th will go down in the books as the best day of 2021 as all of the girls finally went back on to campus for school. Almost 400 days you guys, sigh!

We celebrated back to school night with a mushroom galette and sticky rice with mango.

If you are one of those “I don’t like mushrooms” then I am sorry because this recipe was so DELICIOUS.

For dessert, I made sticky rice with mango. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like this dish, do you?

If you can, I suggest trying New York Times recipe but they are picky with what content they give out without an account…sigh. Otherwise, just grab a recipe and make sure you have ripe mango’s, coconut milk and the right glutinous rice. Then you are set!

I am currently simmering a Tikka Masala, stay tuned!

Who Does the Shopping for that Bunny?

For Peeps sake, the bunny that walks on two legs and lays Easter eggs overdid it on the girls baskets this year.


But it didn’t did leave any actual Peeps, or Reeses eggs, what gives? Who does the shopping for that bunny?

The girls had an abundance of sugar, new masks plus water balloons which made for a fun evening on a warm day.

I was in a bakey mood so I attempted a shot at a butterfly cake. It wont win any awards but the girls said it was “the best cake EVER” so I won no matter what.

The water balloons were put to good use, there may have been some tears, not mine but they did manage to get me soaked.

An anonymous neighbor leave three wooden bunnies for the girls to paint for Easter.

So we most definitely had our Easter art displayed.

Some Bunny Loves You!

Last but definitely not least, we made another 5 star Bon Appétit recipe.

Ramen Noodle with Spring Onions and Garlic Crisp

There is a bit of prep but it comes together quickly. I found the fresh noodles at the Ranch 99 market. In addition to the ingredients listed, I also added some toasted sesame oil (about 1 tsp.) and a dash of Shaoxing (Chinese cooking wine) to give it a little more Asian flare. We mayyybe went overboard on the serrano, it was spiiicy, but so good!

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.

Jerk Shrimp with Coconut Rice and Mango Salsa

We had a few days of nice weather where we took advantage of the beach with and without the girls.

The warm weather brought on thoughts of traveling and eating seafood by the water. Instead I made this this delicious dinner and we ate it watching our guilty pleasure reality show.

INGREDIENTS FOR SHRIMP

  • 1 Pound raw shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil

INGREDIENTS FOR MARINADE

1 Tbsp lime juice

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp ketchup

1 tsp each paprika, chili powder

1/2 tsp each garlic powder, onion powder, all spice, cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp each ground ginger, dried thyme, salt

Pinch cinnamon and nutmeg

DIRECTIONS

Add marinade ingredients to a freezer bag or medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add shrimp and marinate at room temperature for 15-30 minutes or in the refrigerator for up to 60 minutes.

Heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add shrimp and marinade and cook approximately 3 minutes per side, or just until opaque and cooked through.

INGREDIENTS FOR COCONUT RICE

2 cups Jasmine Rice

1 can coconut milk

1 + 1/2 cups water

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

In a medium sized pot, rinse the jasmine rice several times until the water runs clear. Drain any excess water and add the coconut milk, water, salt and sugar.

On high heat, allow the mixture to boil. Once it starts to boil, turn the heat down to low and cook covered for 20 minutes.

Uncover and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Fluff and serve.

INGREDIENTS FOR MANGO SALSA

1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and finely chopped

2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion

1/2 jalapeño chile, minced  (or more depending on how hot the chile is)

 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

3 Tbsp fresh lime juice

Garlic salt to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and season with garlic salt to taste. The longer it hangs out the better it gets.