This is Six

Ok, let me lay it straight….we spend way too much money on kids birthday parties. That. is. all.

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I mean, really? Have you seen such a bounce house? But let me tell you, it got a lot of use from the kids and some of us adults.

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There was a salad, pizza, cupcakes (recipe here) AND cake and plenty of fun to go around.

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We laughed and played for a good four hours.

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I would say Kaili’s sixth birthday was a success. We had a great handful of friends to help us celebrate, some old and some new. Next year, Kaili needs to share the birthday party love with her sister.

Roasted Whole Fish

I have always loved dining on a whole roasted fish, faces don’t scare me. I mean I sucked the brains out of a chicken head in China! But cooking a whole fish was intimidating because one….how do you know it’s really a fresh fish, aside from the eyeball test…and two….. where do I get a whole fish from? Well, luckily we found a local wholesale fish market that serves all the finest local restaurants here. Catalina Offshore is where all the chefs go to get their seafood, so now when I eat at a restaurant and I order an amazing Branzino or Salmon, I know where they got it. Priceless in my opinion. Not only because you know exactly what you are putting into your body and where it came from but NOW, I know that I can also make that same dish, just as good, for a lot less chaaaa-ching!

We all know I have talked Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook to death, but in all seriousness, I think she and I share palates. I could cook through the book and probably not be disappointed in anything. When I decided on cooking a whole fish for the second time in my life, I wanted to do what she did, clearly can’t go wrong!

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Team Players

1 (2 lb.) whole fish, white striped bass or branzino

Kosher salt and pepper

15 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 Tbs olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 lemon, sliced

3-4 springs of herbs, thyme, rosemary, sage

1 lbs heirloom tomatoes, slices or cut into wedges

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup. ( just do this with anything you roast)

Place fish on the foil lined sheet and season like its your job all over with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes and then rub it all over and inside the fish.  Place the lemon rounds inside the cavity along with the herbs.

Arrange the tomatoes underneath and around the fish, then drizzle the whole party with olive oil.

Roast until fish is flaky, 20 minutes should be perfect.

Serve right away.

AND don’t forget the fish cheeks, the best bite of the entire fish!

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Sicilian for a Day

I took my first Sur La Table cooking class last weekend. The theme was exploring Sicily which is one place in Italy I have not been. There were six of us in the kitchen and it started out with our chef walking us through the footprint of the class.

After a brief introduction and a quick knife skill refresh for some (obviously not me because I am amazing) we started on our first course.

Caponata, the Sicilian sweet and salty version of ratatouille. The longer it sits the better it gets. Served on a toasted baguette with a drizzle of olive oil, it makes a wonderful starter.

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Second course was a Fennel and cara cara orange Insalata, now I am pretty sure those oranges are not Italian but…..I kept my mouth shut.  Raw fennel isn’t my favorite, I much prefer fennel seeds, but this salad shined.

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The main course was grilled hanger steak with castelvetrano olive tapenade. The castelvetrano olives are Sicily’s most used bright green snacking olive. It has a meaty, buttery and mild flavor, absolutely delish.

We marinated the steak in olive oil, lemon, garlic, fresh herbs and red pepper. Showered it with flaky sea salt and then grilled to our liking, rare obviously.

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The tapenade started with poaching some garlic in olive oil and then we sat it aside to cool. The olives, capers, anchovies, lemon and red wine vinegar all got to know each other in the food processor. Just enough to marry the flavors but still have some texture. It paired very nicely with the grilled steak.

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Dessert was Cannoli tartlets and we actually started them early in the class. We made a basic pastry crust with the addition of some marsala wine. It hung out in the fridge for a half of an hour before we rolled out the dough and cut into small circles and then pressed them into a muffin tin. They baked for about 20 minutes until golden brown and firm.

The filling for the tartlets was a delicious mixture of mascarpone cheese, ricotta, vanilla bean paste, zest of an orange and powdered sugar all whisked together until combined.

The filling was spooned into the tartlet shells and then we sprinkled chopped dark chocolate pieces and pistachios on top. It was very tasty.

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It was a really fun class and I am looking forward to taking another one soon. At the end of class our chef asked me if I was a spy for the Food Network, I asked her why she thought that and she said it’s because my knife skills were great. Insert told you so.

I have already remade the hanger steak and it might be one of my favorite cuts right now, absolutely buttery and delicious.

 

 

 

Birthday

How am I 40 years old? Not sure I am okay with it, definitely  don’t want to talk about it.

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We were lucky enough to escape for a full 24 hours! We being me and Shane, no kids allowed. All that was set in stone was dinner and brunch reservations, the rest was…whatever the hell we wanted.  We checked into our hotel room downtown about 4:00 and then to Little Italy where Brian Malarkey’s latest restaurant aka our dinner reservation was. We started at a wine bar that was packed, luckily we got ourselves a table and a nice long chat with the owner.

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The weather was crap, not the day to just stroll from place to place so we needed a game plan. We booked it around the corner to Juniper and Ivy. An amazing restaurant by the brilliant Richard Blais. We cozied up with some wine and just perfect bites of food.

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Pork belly at it’s finest!

The worst part or maybe the best part is that I didn’t take more than two pictures. We just enjoyed the night. Looking back I wish I had, and I knew I should but the moment took over that thought, do you feel me?

After a cracking experience at Juniper we headed around the corner to Herb & Wood. The menu is so great that I struggled to choose. I ended up ordering something I would never order, lamb bolognese with fresh pasta. Not going to dive into food reviews, it was good, not great and having been to all of his restaurants I still, hands down think Herringbone is the front runner.

After dinner we Ubured ( is that even a word? ) to a “supposedly” speak easy wine bar with an Alice in Wonderland theme. The idea was fun,  taking the stairs down to a grass wall that was actually a door. We sat at the bar and quickly realized it wasn’t an actual wine bar, more just a bar that had wine. The best part was the TV above us that was recording everyone coming down the outside stairs to the “hidden” doors. People are hilarious.

We moved on, now pretty good and buzzed we wandered into a bar with a live band. It was a good time but we both were ready for bed. I think we were in bed by 11:00 pm. Not bad for 40!

Our Brunch reservations were for 10:30…. I think. Wags picked us up at the hotel and we headed to Old Town to a restaurant we have never been to. The Tequila Factory,  a restaurant in a hotel in the heart of Old Town. We parked underground and it really was a mess trying to find the restaurant.  Once we reached the hostess she said we were 30 minutes late so we had to wait… unless we were okay with a few stairs. Shane looked to Wags’ and then back to the hostess, we told her we would be at the bar.

Finally we were seated out on the patio, the sun decided to show up. We had a good time, the food…eh,  everyone else seemed to be really enjoying it.

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A guitarist that has been working there for years  serenaded us for a few songs, one was Stairway to Heaven because Wags.

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Our bellies full we strolled through town wondering what we should do next when Old Town Saloon came into focus. An actual  21+ bar and I had never been there. We put money into the jukebox, quarters into the pool table and had a BLAST.

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I used to be good at pool, really. But now I am not. Shane won every game. Bullshit! 40 is in the bag!

 

Hawaiian Poke

We took the kids to the beach park in La Jolla last week. It was sunny but cold and the wind had a mind of it’s own, so did the damm seagulls. But it was beautiful out.

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There was a flock of thieves stealing snacks from our hands, so brazen they probably would have landed on our heads for just a nibble of whatever we were eating. They even took sunscreen and wipes out of our bags, but quickly dropped them when they realized it wasn’t the goods they wanted. Kaili wasn’t having any of it, she would run after them, screaming and arms flailing but they were unfazed. Tucking our stuff away and making sure all was zipped up, we headed down to the water.

fullsizerender-1img_1338The younger one decided she was done and wanted to head back up to dry land. Probably one of the hardest parts of parenting multiple children, keeping track of children wanting to go separate ways. We dredged back up to the boardwalk  where we stopped and attempted a few pictures, this was the best.

There is nothing like getting home from the beach, your skin is sun-kissed, your hair has that sea salt texture and your skin has a hint of saltiness. I love the coast and I love seafood and that night I wanted fish, raw fish, good raw fish….like a delicious Poké.

Saturday morning we headed to our local wholesale seafood market. We bought some A. Apples, B. Bananas….just kidding. Does anyone else remember that car game? No, great, moving on.

Tuna, sushi grade tuna, Big Eye tuna to be exact.I haven’t worked with fresh raw tuna before. It’s been only the past few years that I have had some really good Poké, trying it at random but appropriate restaurants if you catch my drift. As time went on I really wanted to try and make it myself but the Mr. isn’t a fan, so I needed the right timing to make it for someone other than myself. After our beach day this was the time.

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I wanted it to sit for at least 3 hours before it was served. I based my recipe off what I love most in a Poké, soy, sesame and onion in the leading cast. After a little recipe hunting I had decided on a final ingredient list.

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Now, if you don’t cook often a lot of these ingredients might seem daunting  or maybe they are items you don’t normally have in your pantry. For me,  they are staples, I just needed to pick up a sweet onion and macadamia nuts, this was an easy shopping list for me. Simple to throw together, no recipe, just my thoughts. The final product made me proud, really proud. This was probably the best I have had and I never say that lightly, especially when I’m the one in the kitchen.

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Ingredients

1 lb. sushi grade tuna

1/4 cups small slices of sweet onion

1 green onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp. black sesame seeds, toasted

1 Tbs. macadamia nuts, roasted and salted, chopped

1 Tbs dark soy sauce

2 Tbs light soy sauce

1/2 Tbs. Mirin

1 tsp. chili garlic sauce

2 Tbs sesame oil

Kosher salt to taste

* I made a Wasabi drizzle with a little mayo, wasabi powder and lemon juice. All to taste. I put the mixture into a sandwich bag, snipped the end off and piped it on top. If you like it spicy and the flavor of wasabi I recommend you give it a go!

Directions

Slice the tuna into 1 inch cubes and place into a non reactive bowl aka glass.

Add all the other ingredients and mix. Cover tightly and let hang out for a couple of hours. Serve over rice, wonton crisps or just dig in with your hands.

 

 

 

A Little This a Little That

It’s been a week and a half since Averi’s transition from the crib and I have to say it’s gone very well. Let me follow that up with why. We made sure to do it when Shane would be home and that played a huge factor. When the girls are upset at night, me entering their room makes it worse, Shane walks in and they shut up. Monday he had to go back up to work. Bedtime wasn’t too bad but Averi did try to pull out all her tricks to avoid sleep and keep me coming in, luckily it was short lived.

She woke up crying at 1:30 in the morning just long enough to wake me. I lied awake and read for about two hours until finally drifting back to sleep only to have her wake up crying again at 4:00. She refused to nap this morning and spent an hour crying in her bedroom. I popped her on our bed with cartoons so I could shower and while I was doing so,  she took a hand full of her poop and painted our bed sheets and comforter with it.  This kid..sigh. I am not holding my breathe for a smooth bedtime tonight, but hopefully she will be too tired to fight me. I can hope.

This past Saturday we took the day to drive up to Julian. A little snow, some wine tasting and lunch. All the while I had Anthony Bourdain’s New Mexican Chili in the slow cooker.

There was snow and rain and ice and it was cold, I was not prepared. Having just been in Washington I thought I would be ok but that was a negative. I didn’t bring gloves or an umbrella and spent most of the time in damp clothes. The little town was busy and the weather was forcing everyone into all the restaurants and cafe’s. We finally found a place without a wait and we tucked into a corner booth for a mediocre lunch, but hey, at least we were dry.

 

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Once we have seen all we wanted we wandered down the way to Wynola and popped into julian Station. It’s a neat building that houses tasting rooms, a taco bar, a few video games, a pool table and entertainment space for live music. Something almost out of the wild West. Definitely worth stopping at if you are in the area. We will be back.

Heading home we drove through Ramona and stopped at one of our favorite wineries, Chuparosa. We caught up with the wine maker who just got back from Walla Walla and then let the kids run free.

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We had just enough time for one last stop. A winery none of us has been terribly fond of but it’s been years since we have tried their wine.  The tasting room was inside  a tin can, okay more like an airport hanger with paintings and statues of naked women dotting the property.

img_1034 The wine wasn’t as bad as we remembered however…we all ordered a wine flight of five wines, all red. They were all the same color, the Pinot was the same deep burgandy as the Zin. None of them had any real personality so we left empty handed. I think we all agreed we don’t need to go back.

The Bourdain chili recipe from his latest cookbook was really good, depths of flavors from roasted chili’s and beef. We enjoyed it with some red wine and a game with friends. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

Wrapping up the Holidays

To say I slacked on Christmas pictures this year is a bit of an understatement. I procrastinated taking our pictures and then slightly panicked when after I purchased them,I was told they may not make in time. On top of that, I somehow didn’t order nearly enough. So if you did not get a card from us this year, I apologize. You will next year.

We took some day time photos at Crystal Pier in Pacific beach. I think they turned out great.

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On Kaili’s last day of school before break, her class had a Christmas performance.

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It was the cutest thing and they sang some great traditional and non-traditional songs.

Once school was out I decided I probably should take them to Santa.

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As you can see, Averi didn’t want to sit with Santa but other than that it was painless.

Our Christmas was nice, despite poor K bear getting sick most of Christmas day. She wanted nothing to do with her presents until later  when she started to feel better.  I hope everyone had a great holiday. Only a few days left on 2016 can you believe it? See you in the new year.

Pumpkin Patching

We managed to visit three different pumpkin patches this year. I don’t think this is something anyone needs to do, but the kids had fun.

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We took a day to check out the Ramona pumpkin patch. We also tried the famous cinnamon roll at the Ramona cafe…way overrated and then on to a few new wineries.

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Averi had her first ever pony ride, you can tell from her face that it was exhilarating.

We painted pumpkins before school and then met Kaili for her Halloween parade.

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After a mediocre dinner and a total meltdown from Averi, the girls were ready for some Trick or Treating.

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Momma lasted about an hour and a half and then I was ready to get the girls to bed.

I think we successfully nailed October this year!

 

 

Home is Where the Kids Are

Kaili was very excited to have mommy and daddy back home. She wouldn’t leave my side for a good two days. We were a bit jet lagged, the time change was only four hours but our  red eye flight, not getting a full nights sleep and bloody Mary’s first thing in the morning didn’t really help our cause.

Back to school sickness hit Kaili right before we got home and then it was passed to Averi who has an ugly cough. It took a few days for all of us to get back into the routine but I think we are all settled in pretty well.

Shane picked up Wags at the airport a few days after we got home. Kaili was eager to see his medals.

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I think they suit her.

We spent the weekend being homebodies, enjoying the weather and each other.

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Dinner and music outside, Kaili loves to dance to her favorite songs.

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She also loves this dress, today is the third straight day she has worn it. I may have let her wear it to school to avoid a fight. I need to wash it and tuck it away somewhere for a week or two.

 

 

 

 

The Best of What’s Around

It’s been years since I have seen Dave Matthews in concert, the young kids really throw a damper on late night concerts. He (Dave) didn’t even come to SD last year, side eye to you DM. So when I heard they were coming back I wanted, no, needed to go. I mentioned it to Shane, and then a few weeks later I  told Shane about it…and then I reminded Shane and so on and so forth. He, of course got us tickets…not without telling me how I ruined his “surprise”  and then I was beside myself with excitement for this day to come. It’s been about 6 or 7 years since we have seen them live and 21 years since I first heard them…woah, that ages me.

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I had more fun than Shane did. He hasn’t loved them like I have but we had a good time. We enjoyed  VIP access and box seats. In reality the VIP area isn’t really necessary for the price. It gives you a place to drink and free food to eat while a DJ plays top 40 music. But the seats, those are great. Nothing better than having waited service so you don’t have miss any songs.

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When I  was 18 years old  I went to Vegas to see the Grateful Dead. I was roaming through a hotel, not yet old enough to gamble or drink  but I tossed some quarters into a pull machine and I won, of course…and then I got the hell out of there. Funny the way it is.

When we arrived at the concert venue I was worried about getting sprayed with LSD water. I know, it sounds crazy but it was hot and I had heard that some concert “goers” would dose spray bottles and squirt random people. I was SO paranoid about that, I couldn’t enjoy myself. In reality nothing happened and I don’t know if that ever happened but I must have heard it somewhere. Then the opening band started, some new band called The Dave Matthews Band. They were so good and I instantly fell in love, bought their music and haven’t stopped to this day.