Roman Ending

Why do I feel like this title has a sexual undertone?

Two nuns were riding their bicycles through the back streets and alleys of Rome.

One turns to the other and says, “I’ve never come this way before”.

the other nun says, “It’s the cobblestones”.

It’s a Roman ending.

The alarm went off on our last day in Rome. We still had things to see, places to eat at and hands to shake. We strolled to the hotel breakfast which was quite good. Plenty of options and good coffee.

Originally we planned on packing some rapid Covid tests but totally forgot. We had a connecting flight in Canada which is still quite strict on their policies. We thought better safe than sorry, so after breakfast we took an Uber to a testing site. And, it was closed…so we hopped back in the Uber and went ahead with our day, silently hoping we wouldn’t need the tests.

The Vatican.

We arrived at Vatican city pretty early, but there were already loads of people lined up to go inside, hard pass.

We continued our self tour and walked towards the Tiber river, heading towards Piazza Navona.

We took a break at Piazza Navona for an adult beverage and a bathroom break.

This is when we were sure that the only people who order Aperol Spritz’ are Americans, because it’s not a good drink and the Italian’s know this.

I had a place in mind for lunch near the Pantheon but it wasn’t opening for awhile and the crowds were already crazy. So we chose another restaurant and that is the one thing I hate about myself. I need to stick to my instinct, sigh. We weren’t disappointed with where we ended up, but I know the wait would have been worth it.

Can’t stop, won’t stop the pizza!

We wandered the streets heading back to our hotel.

Taking a little siesta before heading back out.

Italy was playing in England and I thought what fun it would to be watch an Italian match in Italy. So we found a pub that was televising all of the matches and hung around that area until kick off. We had a snack and did a little window shopping.

A recommended wine bar wasn’t too far away, so we popped in for a glass. Their wine list was obnoxious, The Cheesecake Factory should be jealous.

Finally we ended up at the pub with some drinks and a very uneventful fútbol match, we finished our drinks and left at half time.

Stopping off for one more sweet before bed. We had a ride scheduled to take us to the airport in the morning. We have a 5th grade promotion to catch, or so we thought….

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!!

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

I wanted to take a minute to try and blog. I am sitting here trying to write and the only thing going through my mind is “we don’t talk about Bruno”. The girls are watching videos of…. I don’t know what, but that song hasn’t stopped. Today is an important day, it’s Shawna’s birthday. We are waiting to celebrate her, I made her a banana cream pie and she gets to eat it before dinner, as she wishes.

We wet out to dinner the other night to celebrate her and her mom’s March birthdays, the girls love going out and I love taking picture of them.

This video is titled “how to embarrass your 7 year old”.

If you are a fan of Top Chef, or Chef Brooke Williamson or just cupcakes….Brooke partnered with Sprinkles cupcakes and put out a dark chocolate cupcake with passionfruit filling. I was on top of that and brought us home a couple. Delicious!

Things have been busy, Averi started Karate. She seems to really enjoy it.

The girls made fluffy slime using this recipe.

And our feral cat. She is 3 now and I really thought she would grow out of her assholeness. Outlook not so good.

I can’t wait to let you know how the banana cream pie turned out. Fingers crossed. I’m off for birthday celebrating.

Overambitious

Thanksgiving is so much more enjoyable when I am not spending the entire day in the kitchen. I always fall into my overambitious entertainer phase that has me chaotic in the kitchen. Multiple foods overlapping with each other, I slowly lose my mind, usually break something and then complain about how much my back hurts as I nurse wine. So this year, we took a different approach, I ordered tamales, way too many tamales, of course, but that sure was the easier route. I did make an hors d’oeuvre, which was divine!

Bacon wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese and an almond, served with arugula and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. We had this in a restaurant in Santa Monica so I tried to relive that experience, it worked.

SO good, I will post the recipe soon.

Along with those, my mom brought a salad, we had chips and guac, crackers with cream cheese and pineapple habanero jelly, the ham of all hams, tamales AND dessert. Just stupid, but so good.

Once again I failed with the pictures, I need to figure out how to force myself to take more pictures, suggestions welcome.

My brother brought a delicious dessert and an ugly dog (hopefully the owners don’t read this blog). He was dog sitting, sweet thing, the girls had a blast chasing the poor thing around the house.

She found solace on my dad.

We did manage to take a bad selfie of our chaotic family to send to our newest (cruise) friends. We are currently trying to schedule another one with them, so that’s exciting.

That about wraps up our holiday. We sent everyone home with food, Shawna did all the cleaning (thanks babe) and when the kids went to bed we finished binging season 3 of Hanna, so good.

Puerto Vallarta, This is the End

We woke up in Puerto Vallarta, and after some coffee we hit the ground running. Familiar enough with the city, we hopped in a cab and headed to Playa Los Muertos. The plan was to walk along the beach until we found a place to lay out, swim without dying, and have some adult beverages.

We didn’t have a hard time.

It wasn’t the prettiest beach, and to safely swim we had to walk south a bit, otherwise the undertow would’ve taken us to the Bermuda Triangle. Nonetheless, it was exactly what we were looking for.

We had fish taco’s and coconut shrimp, both were delish.

Oh, can we talk about the beach vendors for a second? If you’ve been down to the Mexican Riviera beach towns then you’re familiar that the beaches have vendors that sell everything from sunglasses and jewelry to basically junk. However, this time we were offered cocaine, you guys is this a new thing? It wasn’t just at this beach either, it also happened a couple of times in Cabo. So anyways, if you’re looking, I know a guy.

After a couple of hours of floating in the ocean and soaking up the Mexican sun, we gathered our stuff (no, not cocaine, I bought sunnies) and walked up the beach to the Malecón. I really, really, really wanted to get another passion fruit margarita at the Devil’s Bar. I guess the secret got out because every seat was taken and it was only a Thursday, ugh. Having seen all the shops and bars already, we dragged our feet back to the ship.

Look who greeted us.

For dinner we went to Tamarind, Asian cuisine. The shrimp dumplings were incredible. We also shared a pork belly char siu, along with crispy duck and panang curry. The waitress talked us into a ginger wasabi martini that didn’t taste at all like wasabi but Shawna enjoyed it.

That night we requested a couple of songs from Colin and Clara, the pianists. They were so great, they both sang our requests, songs they have never performed before.

After the piano bar, I’m pretty sure we danced for 2 straight hours. Sweaty and barefoot is how the night ended.

You know it’s a good night when the shoes come off.

Friday and Saturday we were at sea, and it seems like they went by in a flash.

Friday we were still far enough south that the weather was quite warm, meaning a pool day. Hopping from hot tub to pool is how the afternoon went, stopping for pizza and a ping pong break. While sitting in the pool we met this couple from Arizona. Interesting folks, a little TMI but friendly. Sitting on the steps of the pool, we talked to them for a good 45 minutes. As we talked the wife steadily became more and more intoxicated. Gradually getting more inebriated with each minute that passed, but she wasn’t intaking anything. Anyhow, that was a topic of conversation for the rest of the day.

It was our second gala night but before we hit the dining room for dinner, we popped by the pool bar for a martini happy hour.

It wasn’t a ‘choose your own martini’ type of situation, we got a trio of martini’s, that we shared and they tasted like, well, exactly as they look…fruity.

Sure enough, the Arizona couple from the pool was there. He was eager to talk and she was still upright. However, rumor has it, she passed out later at the dinner table.

Our dinner wasn’t terribly exciting, I think this was the one evening that I was actually disappointed in everything that I ordered. Luckily, we had stashed Parisian sandwiches in our fridge for late night dining.

We met two brothers early on the trip who were traveling together, and they were from La Mesa (East San Diego). Turned out that they grew up just a street away from where Shawna did, small world. Nice men, we called them our guard dog pit bulls. However, one of them fell asleep on the job.

This wasn’t like a nod of the head. You guys, he was OUT. Nowhere-ville, it was amazing…and then a little scary, but he was fine, just completely knocked the f*ck out. He slept through the bands set, he slept through cowbell, he slept through more cowbell and he slept through slaps on the cheek.

That’s the doing of tequila shots, or so they said.

SO GOOD!

We dusted off our Macarena dance moves on the dance floor ending another great day.

Is there anything sadder than waking up on the last day of a vacation? No, the answer is no.

We reached Saturday, the last day of our cruise. Somewhere near Baja California, because when we stepped outside, ready to soak up the sun, we were slapped with November San Diego weather. Meaning it was not quite warm enough to get wet.

So we played some ping pong and wandered along the outside of the ship.

I wanted to play the music trivia at the pool later in the afternoon, so we went to the Lido Market for lunch. It was delicious, I piled my plate with poke sushi rolls and crispy pork belly. Oh, so so good. After we ate, we went back to the room to change into warmer clothes and then headed to sit out for a bit at the stern of the ship.

Somehow we ended up scoring poolside lounge chairs right before trivia started. The sun came out, of course, and then it was time for a quick wardrobe change back into swimwear.

I love trivia, and I felt confident with music trivia. But you would think that I have learned my lesson by now. These ships are full of people that have lived decades longer than me. The first five questions were about classical music so there went that win. Then it was songs from the 1950’s, so unfair. I guess I don’t need to tell you that we didn’t win.

Even though it wasn’t hot outside, we knew we had gotten some sun. We took the next hour to pack our luggage, leaving out only what we needed to disembark. Then we made our way to the casino. That was a bust for me, although Shawna won some money on a slot machine. We ran into our besties, Cliff and Gail and we sat at the casino bar for a drink. Why does time fly when you’re having fun? Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for dinner. That was the one thing that I got tired of doing, getting ready. Having to do it every night is just so much to ask of me.

After a dinner of braised lamb, pasta and pavlova, we went straight to the rock room, no time to spare.

Clara was performing in the theater, before she hit the ivory keys.

Once the music was over, we all stayed in the Billboard Onboard lounge and hung out with the crew. Talking and laughing.

Laughing and talking, we stayed up past last call, which means quite late, or quite early.

Since we had packed earlier in the day, once we got to back our room, all we needed to do was set the alarm and hit the sack. Welp, the alarm didn’t go off, so we woke to the sound of the hall intercom calling disembarkation numbers. That put a pep in our step, and in minutes we were dressed and heading down to the gangway. The only good thing about running behind was that our car was already at the port waiting for us, so we were home in no time.

That’s it, that is the end of our fantastic trip. It reminded me of why I have always loved cruising and we are looking forward to another one soon, someplace new and warm.

Shrimp Piccata over Mashed Cauliflower

Shrimp Piccata is an easy weeknight meal, the cauliflower takes a bit more time but is still doable under the weekday pressures. Mashed cauliflower will also reheat very well if you are the Sunday prep day type of person.

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MASHED CAULIFLOWER INGREDIENTS

1 small head of cauliflower chopped

1/4 cup or more, whole milk

2 tbsp butter

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp. Kosher salt and more to taste

pepper to taste

Fill a medium pot halfway with water. Add cauliflower and cover pot. Bring to a boil, cook until florets are easily pierced with a knife, about 8 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a food processor.

Add milk, butter, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Purée until smooth, adding more milk if needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

SHRIMP INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp butter, divided

12 oz. uncooked peeled, deveined, large shrimp

1 medium shallot sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup chicken broth

¼ cup dry white wine

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp drained capers

Salt and Pepper to taste

Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)

Heat the oil and one tablespoon of  butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. In the meantime pat the shrimp dry with paper towels.

Add the shrimp to the skillet. Cook the shrimp, flipping after one minute. Once the shrimp turns opaque and is slightly undercooked remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the shallot and garlic the skillet. Cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. If you like a little heat, this is a good time to add some red pepper flakes. Add the chicken broth, wine, lemon juice and capers, stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a simmer and let it cook for 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Add the shrimp back to the skillet with any juice. Cook for 1 minute, or until the shrimp is cooked through. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add butter and serve immediately atop the creamy mashed cauliflower.

 

October Dinner Theme {Halloween} In Pictures

This months dinner theme was to make a dish that has to do with Halloween, I am actually surprised in all these years we haven’t done this yet.  I made Jason Vorhees’ ribs, pumpkin patch hummus and ginger pumpkin cheesecake bars.
Somehow I screwed up the cheesecake bar crust, I must have measured wrong and I over cooked it. The outcome, flavor wise was good but  hard and chewy. The cheesecake part was delish.

MENU

Pumpkin + black bean chili

Shrunken head roast surprise

Mummy bacon

Cheesy fingers

Severed fingers

Jason’s ribs

Creepy egg eyeballs

Guacamole pumpkin surprise

Spider cupcakes

Ginger pumpkin cheesecake bars

Kitty liter cake

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The girls had fun playing together aka destroying the house.

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Kaili wasn’t too fond of Chris’ costume.

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Cutest couple goes to these two.

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Friends don’t let friends give their baby toy guns.

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Another successful dinner party. Culinary wise, this wasn’t our best but we sure had fun.