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!

Turning 7! Part 1

Between attempting to get the family together mixed with the fourth of July and summer camp turned Averi’s 7th birthday into a two part series.

Part 1-The Lion King.

Averi’s latest obsession is all things Lion King. After hours on Pinterest, I finally had a vision for the cake.

We got all of this from Party city and Amazon. Shawna’s talented fondant work made this cake. I am digging the ombre frosting look, I thought it worked great for the African sunset and the sky. I think It turned out pretty good.

How cute is this dress?

We have a tradition where the girls are NOT allowed into the kitchen and especially the fridge when we are making their birthday cakes. So it’s always a fun surprise.

Once the sugar went down we set up the slip n’ slide for the kids. Then we moved on to footy golf, which Casey dominated and Kaili didn’t do half bad.

A full day of too much sugar and over stimulation. I found Averi hiding out in the pantry.

Kaili ended up with a sour stomach and this is what I walked into when I checked on her that night.

Part II consists of more cake, more presents and the best part…. Great Wolf Lodge!

TO BE CONTINUED

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!

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.

Grand Fiesta, Fiesta Fiesta

Oops, we did it again (insert Britney voice). We went back to Puerto Vallarta and stayed at a different resort this time so that counts as trying something new, right? When striving to pick a warm destination for an affordable getaway we have a couple of things to consider. First, we don’t want to be away from the girls any longer than we have to. So, with that in mind, we don’t want to spend two days of the trip on trains, planes or in automobiles. Second, we want an all inclusive and preferably adults only because duh. Cabo didn’t have what we were looking for exactly so we were hemming and hawing between Cozumel and PV…. again. The travel to get to Cancun along with the travel to get from there to Cozumel sucked so much time that we committed ourselves to a different all-inclusive in Puerto Vallarta.

This was the view from our room at the Grand Fiesta Americana. It’s located south of the Malecón opposed to Secrets, (where we stayed last year). That resort was just near the heart of the town. We decided against any excursions this time, setting aside just one day to head into town to see whatever we missed the last time.

It’s such an easy flight down there and we were on the tarmac by 3:15. However, travel had seemed to return to normal and the line for customs was longer than the most popular ride at Disneyland, probably. Finally we were in a cab with a very watered down margarita by 4:45 and at the hotel just after 5:00. Everything else went smoothly and the weather was incredible so we set everything aside, put on our bathing suits and went straight to the pool.

One of the reasons we picked this place was because every room, restaurant and bar had this view. For dinner we ate at the Mexican restaurant. To start we had the guac and a squash blossom quesadilla, both delish. I also had the pollo en molé, Shawna ordered something that she liked but we don’t remember exactly what…chefs kiss!

The sky bar was a big deck with hot tubs, a dance floor, a bar and restrooms. This is where the nightly entertainment took place and the DJ set up after to close out the night. You guys, this was a people watching haven. Much different than the PV Secrets, also this crowd range was a tad younger. The other thing we realized while driving to our hotel was that it was Pride week in PV, how fun! We people watched, laughed and cringed until the early hours before falling into our bed.

The next morning we went downstairs to have breakfast, it looked like it was originally a buffet but now was an order and wait situation. Different lines for different stations. We had chilaquiles, mimosas and croissants. We weren’t terribly impressed, but it did it’s job of filling our bellies before our day of endless drinks at the pool bar. Then we found a spot at the pool, which we would learn, a task that needs to happen early in the morning if you want a good spot (aka next to the pool bar). I am pretty sure you can pay a staff member to save you a spot, just a tip, a good one in my opinion.

Once settled, we sat, sipped and sunned. Can we just note the water and sunscreen in the picture? Gotta hydrate and protect our skin from ALL the sun-kissing.

The entertainment staff was fantastic and they provided plenty of things to participate in or just watch from a safe distance away. I will divulge more into this in due time.

We spent the entire day in the pool, eventually the DJ packed up, the bar closed and that was our queue to get ready for dinner.

Dinner wasn’t great. We ate at the tapas bar and ordered generically which resulted in tough octopus and stale bread. We heard that some of the options were indeed delicious, but I can’t confirm that. Afterwards we sat in the lobby and listened to a hispanic Jake Gyllenhaal play the saxophone.

Tuesday was our in town day. We woke up, ate room service and then had the concierge call us a cab. It was a whopping seven dollars for our cab driver to take us to Playa de los muertos. Which is also known as gay beach, another fun fact.

Looking south from the pier.
Looking north from the Pier.

We knew if we just walked north along the water that we would eventually hit the Malecón and also where we had lunch on our last trip. (That post is here.)

I wanted to peek at the shops on the River Cuale but when we got there, it was a “Donde esta el baño” situation. So we sat in the closest air conditioned place we could find, ordered drinks and relaxed for a few. I had a Cadillac marg and she had a mango marg and let me tell you, those were the two best drinks we had since we left San Diego, sigh.

We shopped, walked and happened upon a place called the Devil’s bar. I remembered reading about this place in all of my pre trip browsing. So we popped in and order some drinks.

TO BE CONTINUED!

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.