Road Trippin {nor cal style}

One Monday morning we packed up the car and headed north. We zoomed through LA aiming for lunch in Pismo Beach but apparently we weren’t the only ones with that idea. Downtown Pismo was insane, especially for a Monday during a pandemic but I guess everyone was ready for a break. Not wanting to wait, we kept driving making our first stop in Morro Bay.

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We checked into a little motel and went looking for a decent meal. I made a deal with myself to get a cup of clam chowder at each coastal town we stopped in so I could be the sole judge of what town gave me the best one. A little known fact about me, chances are if I order clam chowder, there will be a glass of Chardonnay along with it. Like give a Pig a Pancake but with soup and wine. Anyhow, after hemming and hawing over menus we ended up at the Dutchman’s Seafood House. It was fine, the clam chowder was the best thing we ordered.

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After our sole meal of the day we wandered around and weirdly enough stumbled into a tasting room. Chateau Margene is parked on the main strip of Morro Bay, you can’t miss it and they had really delicious wines, pricey but good. The guy pouring was family of the winemaker, knowledgable and made the experience nice. They also had ports which had us swooning after each sip. The sleepy town slowed down with the sun so we padded back to the room to divulge in our dessert wine and chocolate.

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On the drive up we found out the new tasting procedure for wineries, and it really takes the fun spontaneity out the of wine tasting experience but alas, we are all alive to talk about it so….I made reservations for tasting at three different Paso Robles wineries.

We started at Eberle. We had a table on the patio with views of sprawling vineyards, the wine was good but we didn’t leave with anything. The highlight was the standard poodle we met as we were leaving, I may have suggested smuggling it into the car.

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Next stop was Pear Valley Winery.

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This was a nice time and the wine was pretty good. They had some sweet muscats that we just can’t find much of near us.

After a really rushed lunch and a pretty bad sandwich, we barely made our reservation at Brochelle. This was a quaint tasting room with some decent wines and a good Syrah. The girl pouring was very personable and it was fun chatting with her. Satisfied and happy we decided to head back to the coast for another round of clam chowder when we found ourselves at one more winery. Luckily a quick call from the car, Windward winery has a spot to seat us for one last tasting.

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Windward specialized in Pinot Noir’s and I am no fan of Pinot Noir’s, however either my palate is changing or we just had some really good ones. We did a vertical tasting of PN’s and they were all good, surprisingly.

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Finally back on the road, we drove through Cambria and stopped at Moonstone Beach for dinner.IMG_4613

We had a really good meal and their clam chowder was so delicious.

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We decided to end the evening in San Simeon. By the time we checked in it was time to crawl into bed and veg to the murder channel, sweet dreams.

Our next day would be a long car day taking us all the way to Sonoma.

 

 

Puff Pastry Sausage Rolls

Ever since I had my first meat pasty in London, my radar for a British meat pie is always on. This is an easy recipe that sort of has a pasty vibe, perfect for a party or pot luck, when those days are allowed again.

*recipe is from Epicurious

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INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 pounds good pork sausage

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 (17-ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed

2 eggs beaten

DIRECTIONS

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl mix together the sausage, basil, oregano, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste until all the seasonings are well distributed throughout.

Roll out all the puff pastry into one large rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Put the wide side of the rectangle to your left. Form the sausage meat into a log about 1 inch thick and long enough to fit the width of the pastry. Lay this log along the whole edge. Roll the pastry around the sausage, brush with beaten eggs at the join, and cut so that the pastry has just enough room to slightly overlap. Repeat the process with the remaining sausage meat and pastry. Line up all the sausage rolls making sure the seam on each is at the bottom and not showing. Brush the tops with the eggs and cut the sausage rolls into either 1 1/2-or 3-inch logs.

*serve with your favorite mustard or an aioli or nothing, they are good on their own.

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2020

Resolutions, traditions and parties, all of those words are used to describe New Years Eve.  One day you’re staying up late sipping sparkling wine all night and then before you know it, you are waking up every morning with young kids. That’s when you accept the fact that none of the “fun” of NYE events are going to happen again, at least for years. But then something wonderful happens, you realize that nothing else matters aside from waking up every day with the ones you love. Even if that means going to parks every damn day of holiday break. Where the kids would rather fill up their socks with sand than play on the swings.

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After an afternoon at the park we had managed to sneak invitations into the mailbox. Casually asking one of the the girls to check the mail, it only took a half a second of screaming to let the house know all the girls had a letter.

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We thought it would be fun to include the girls in one of the NYE traditions. Get dolled up, sip bubbly (soda sheesh), and dance till midnight. They were so excited. Nothing was off limits, want to wear make-up? That’s fine, one night and one night only. Fancy shoes, perfume, soda and no bedtime. What more could they ask for?

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We dined on charcuterie and puff pastry with cheese and passion fruit. These girls sat down in front of the food like we have starved them all day. Before you knew it, shoes were being kicked off and the whining was starting. You guys it wasn’t even 7:00. And then it happened, they asked if they could put on their pajamas and we said, “only after some pictures, party poopers” the nerve.

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We all sat in pajamas and sang karaoke but the party wound down quick. Before you knew it all the girls ASKED to go to bed. Apparently the moral of the story is this…. if you want to have an adult NYE with the kids in bed, take them to the park that day, stuff them full of meat and cheese and tell them they can stay up all night. Voila!

Cheers to a new year!

 

Cancun {Part Two}

A couples massage was booked for the next morning and it was the best way to start the day. After the massage we had access to the hydro-pool and hot tubs. Since it was still raining on and off we chose the warm option.

 

After drying off in the sauna we made our way to get breakfast before the storm.

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This was the worst day in the way of rain. It would dump bucket loads and then stop and continue throughout the day. We took this opportunity to join in the sushi making class.

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The entertainment staff was in charge of all things fun. Classes, pool games, volleyball…you get the point. They were the best out of all the staff at the resort. This is what happens if you give them your phone.

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Alejandra and Dylan made our stay just that much better.

If you can believe it, this was my first time making sushi. I didn’t do to bad but I think I’ll stick to ordering it.

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Most of our time was spent in the pool, drinking, and playing. Some days we played water volleyball, some days we played music trivia and some days we just floated around. Sometimes there were even boats of fresh skewered fruit floating around as well. We also met a lot of nice people that became instant friends. I wish I had more pictures but our phones were always under a towel somewhere.

Then the weather took a turn, the humidity dropped and the sun came back out. It was just perfect.

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Another afternoon we took a cigar making class. To sum it up, I learned WAY more than I ever needed to know about cigars. After the class a few of us shared a cigar and then decided the pool was more important.

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Each night we went to dinner and the evening show. We ate at the French restaurant and the Italian restaurant twice. We had amazing dishes like duck confit,  rack of lamb and and a garlic cream soup. We also had some very underwhelming dishes like the escargot and basically every dessert item on any menu.
Next door was a sister resort that we had full access to but it wasn’t adults only.  Several people mentioned to us that we should head there for their Brazilian steakhouse, so we took an evening to try it out.  To sum it up, it was a waste of a dinner. Harsh? Maybe. The salad bar was a sad excuse, some of the meats were okay but most weren’t very good. The one thing that stuck out the most were all.the.kids. It’s funny we hadn’t been around any children for a handful of days and it was like a heightened sense of chaos at that restaurant. The next day we were talking to another couple and told them about our dinner and the first thing out of the women’s mouth was “aren’t kids there?” Ha, what were we thinking?

The shows were also not great, probably just local talent that they can find. If you are used to Vegas shows or cruise ship entertainment, you need to take these with a large grain of salt. The guest singing talent show however was the best. One of our friends went up and sang a Bon Jovi song. He started out a show that turned out to be a lot of fun.

We all ended up in the club and danced the night away.

To be continued.

October

Don’t blink, October is almost over. What the hell happened? I actually had to look back at the calendar to see what we did and it turns out, actually a lot. Maybe that’s why it flew by. We had family birthdays, kids half birthdays, pumpkin patches and an AWFUL bout of lice, not in that order.

We met the family in Old Town to celebrate my mom and uncle Brian’s birthday and my parents 49th <—- (rockstars) anniversary.

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We tried out two different pumpkin patches this year. The first one was near Julian. It had hay rides, cider pressing and a petting zoo.

The second one in Ramona was a pumpkin patch AND a winery. Everyone else is doing it wrong, this is definitely the only way to do pumpkin patches, or any kid activity honestly.

As always, October was a warm month so there was plenty of sunshine and pool days. We had fun weekends at the horse races and finding new hole in the wall bars. A lot of good food came out of the kitchen and the girls had school spirit week. October didn’t lack activities.

 

As we turn the corner we are smacked in the face with the Holiday season and I am not sure I am prepared, how is it almost 2020?

I leave you with this….

Tzatziki

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When I was younger, Trader Joe’s Tzatziki was a staple in my refrigerator. As I have gotten older and really learned my way around the kitchen, I found it’s much more delicious homemade. As most things are.

A creamy greek yogurt sauce with garlic and cucumber, its a great partner to a lot of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. Or to just dunk a warm piece of pita bread in.

I used this as a topping to some chicken shawarma pitas. Easy to make there is really no excuse to buy it, sorry Trader Joe’s.

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INGREDIENTS

3/4 English cucumber, peeled and grated

4 to 5 garlic cloves, peeled, finely minced

1 tbs lemon juice

2 tbs chopped fresh dill

1 tbs GOOD Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 cups Greek yogurt

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

After the cucumber is grated allow to sit in a fine mesh strainer, sprinkle with a dusting of kosher salt and let sit, this will bring out the moisture in the cucumber.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt,  garlic, lemon juice and dill. Season with salt and pepper. Chill.

Squeeze as much liquid out of the cucumber as you can using cheese cloth, dish towel or aheavy duty paper towel. Add to the yogurt mixture and combine well. Chill until ready . Drizzle with olive oil before serving.

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Jamaican Jerk Shrimp with Mango Salsa

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Fun fact, did you know that mango skin is related to poison Ivy? I found out the hard way years ago after I developed a rash on my hands and face from devouring a case of mangoes. Maybe that isn’t such a fun fact.

It’s hard to beat a perfectly ripe and juicy mango. Delicious on their own but they are also perfect partners for seafood. Mango salsa cools the palate from the spice in this recipe. Save a batch of seasoning for a super easy weeknight meal and don’t be afraid to venture into another type of seafood, this would be good on salmon or a meaty white fish.

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*recipe adapted from MyRecipes

INGREDIENTS

1-2 mangos, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/2 red onion, diced

salt to taste (garlic salt is even better)

2 lbs large raw shrimp

2 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoon Jamaican Jerk spice mixture **recipe below**

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Combine the first 5 ingredients together and set aside.

Toss shrimp (tails on or off it’s your meal) with olive oil and spice mixture, mix to coat. Heat large skillet or grill pan over medium high heat. Add coconut oil, when hot add your shrimp. Cook 3 minutes per side or just until shrimp turn pink.

Serve on a bed of mango salsa. Coconut rice would be a wonderful team player.

**JAMAICAN JERK SPICE MIXTURE

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1/3 cup paprika

2 tablespoons ground allspice

4 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well, store in an air tight container.

 

 

 

Summer Moments

Kaili is finally getting comfortable in the pool. Between swimming with her friends and swim lessons, I am hoping she becomes a very strong swimmer.

We had a nice visit with friends and it took the sun going down to finally get everyone out of the pool.

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The weather has been spectacular, making it very difficult to stay inside.

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I made an Indian feast for family using this recipe as my always go to for Chicken Tikka Masala. I made some Dal and Raita and bought Trader Joe’s frozen Naan and Samosa’s. We were all happily stuffed at the end of the night.

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I also made Chrissy Teigen’s Pineapple Grilled Shortribs and you guys, they were Ahhhhmazing. I will describe them as candied meat or a very tender and sweet beef jerky.

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Kaili has her last swim class, it’s bittersweet. She really loves it and asked me if she could have a playdate with her instructor. Every day she gets a little bit braver.

Skinny Peanut Zoodles

I am pretty sure I can eat a spicy peanut sauce on anything, maybe even bathe in it. I used to make peanut noodles once a week for dinner just for myself. Now thanks to the spiralizer I can make them with veg and save myself the carbs.

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Ingredients

3 Zucchini or yellow squash sprialized

1 carrot sprialized

2 Tbsp Coconut oil

1 Onion, chopped

1 chopped Chilli or crushed red pepper

2 heaping Tbsp Peanut butter

1 can Coconut milk

splash of Fish sauce

 

Directions

Heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan. Add your chopped chilli, chopped onion and fry until soft.

Add your peanut butter, followed by coconut milk and fish sauce. Stir until all combined and creamy on a low heat.

Add your zoodles and stir just until they are warmed through. Don’t over cook them, we don’t want them soft.

Serve with a spritz of lime just and cilantro. This would be good with soba or linguine noodles if you don’t want to bother with the veggie noodles.

 

 

Mother’s Day

I hope all you wonderful moms had a great Mother’s day. We earned this holiday! I grew two  human beings inside of me and went through hell to get them to exit my body in a safe and timely manner. Then there is the aftermath of the birth, the NICU, the bleeding, the pain!  Being a mom is hard and it definitely takes a village. But we do it, everyday. We, you and me, we are badass!

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Kaili made me the sweetest Mother’s day gift at school. She knows me pretty well.

Saturday I was taken out to brunch at my favorite of the Brian Malarkey restaurants, Herringbone, where “fish meats field.”

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The atmosphere in the place is just amazing.

We decided to graze through a bunch of dishes that we normally wouldn’t order for brunch. Settling in with the endless Rosé, we started with oysters.

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I am a huge seafood cheerleader. I have had oysters before and eh, they are fine. I don’t get all the hype, especially when someone says they love them. Wait, do you like the taste of a fresh plain oyster or do you like to dump all the fixings on it? Because I feel like you’re not really tasting the oyster when its dripping with horseradish and lemon juice. Anyways….Here is Shane’s first time trying a raw oyster.

Pretty underwhelming reaction huh? Thats pretty much how I feel about them too.

Next we tore into a perfectly piping hot basket of beignets. We kept having to swat the kids hands away. Back up ladies, eat your eggs, these are ours!

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For our third course we decided on the whole fish ceviche. Basically a raw crudo of Branzino. It was amazing. So fresh and clean, like eating the ocean with bits of chili and micro cilantro for a proper punch and crunch.

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The girls were being so very good. I think this is a first time in a long time that they were this good at a restaurant. We decided to go with it and try one more dish while they were on this best behavior kick.

The lobster roll. I have yet to have a really good one in my 40 years so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

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But this, this was delicious. The lobster wasn’t hidden under globs of mayo, it was left to shine. The brioche bun was pillowy soft, buttery and melted in your mouth. I was so surprised with how much I liked it.

There was some live music in the front of the restaurant, we took our wine and went to listen for a bit. The girls played around patiently waiting for us while simultaneously asking for ice cream every two minutes.

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This entire meal from the kids, to the food was perfect. By far the best dining experience I have had in a long time. Since we know I am picky when it comes to dining out, you should all stop by Herringbone if you are in La jolla. I don’t think you will be disappointed.