January Wrap up

Everyone was saying how long January seemed, but to me, February came out of nowhere. On January 10th, Averi turned 5 and a half. On the girls half birthday they get to choose what/were they want to eat for dinner. Averi chose Chuck E Cheese, last year it was Islands for mac n cheese, so she is par for course of her dining choices. For someone who can go all day with her shoes on the wrong feet she sure is picky about her food intake.

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The girls have also been getting better on skates. We are trying to urge them outside after homework to practice their skating so the next time we go to the rink, they will be more independent.

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I took advantage of San Diego restaurant week (SDRW) and although each year I am less and less impressed with the choices, I was pleasantly surprised this time. Brian and I went to WaterBar in Pacific Beach for lunch and the view wasn’t the only thing that was sumptuous.

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The fish sandwich I had was truly deliciously messy. Our waiter said that the chef put the sandwich solely on the restaurant week menu but I would purposely go back there just for that sandwich.

Shawna and I also took advantage of the SDRW and had another spectacular meal. You guys, these are so far and few between for me that it’s worth writing about. There was crispy pork belly in a brown sugar maple glaze served with a fuji apple salad. We had crispy octopus with salsa verde and the absolute best dish of the night was the pan seared scallops with coconut black rice in a Thai red curry sauce. This dish was so incredible that I went ahead and tried to make it at home a week later.

Please disregard my awful plating and, imagine how good this was. You guys, so good!

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We also made whole roasted fish bathed in garlic, olive oil, jalapeños and lemons.

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I fed us for a week with this crustless mushroom and spinach frittata.

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The Santa Ana winds stopped for a visit and gave us a couple of 80 degree days. We all took advantage of the warm sunshine.

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And last but not least my baby lost her first tooth.

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Now it’s February and we marching towards more birthdays! Can’t wait to share the fun that is in store!

 

 

Cookbook Review

I love flipping through cookbooks and marking all of the recipes that I want to make some day. But what about the recipes that don’t automatically appeal to you, they get left out. You may be missing a really delicious meal.

A few of us started a cookbook club. What better way to hear about recipes you might not have ever made? So much better than reading random reviews, you actually know the people who make it and if they say it’s good, it probably is.

We started with Milk Street by Christopher Kimball. He used to host the cooking shows Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen. A great cooking show that tests a recipe a hundred different ways until they come up with the best possible outcome.

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I started off with the Vietnamese Caramel Fish and Herb and Pistachio couscous. Both definite do-overs.

I have never prepared fish this way, it’s poached in a aromatic caramel sauce and topped with jalapeños and cilantro.  The Couscous was really good. It’s a make ahead dish and gets better the longer it sits, perfect for a party. I would suggest not tossing in the pistachios if it’s made far ahead in advance, reserve for the last minute.

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I went on to make the Spanish Pork Bites (pinches Morunos)

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Crispy, tender and flavorful tidbits of pork, it was good, no leftovers good.

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Along with that I made the Brussels Sprouts with anchovies and garlic. I am convinced you can add those two ingredients to anything and it will be good. The anchovies take on another flavor once cooked. The sprouts were charred and crispy and the honey adds a hint of sweetness. I will make these again but next time try roasting them in the oven opposed to on the stove.

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I was happy with this cookbook and have a couple more recipes saved on my “to-make” list.

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.

 

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.

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.

 

 

 

Cooking Cravings-Sweet Chili and Mustard Glazed Salmon

Sunday I took three recipes out of Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook Cravings to try this week. Usually  during the week I don’t actually “make” dinner. I figure out something easy for me and the picky girls. But this week, with Shane working from home I decided to meal plan. I thought it would be the perfect time to knock out a few of Chrissy’s healthier recipes. She has some really good looking dishes in there but those need to be saved for “special occasions” or otherwise known as Saturday’s.

Monday night I made the sweet chili and mustard glazed salmon. This is a really simple dish and cooks in no time. It was good, good enough to make again but not good enough to “put on rotation”.

Ingredients

4 skin on salmon fillets

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2/3 Thai sweet chili sauce

2 TBS Sambal oelek

2 TBS large grain mustard

Position oven rack 4-6 inches from heating element and preheat the broiler.

Season the salmon all over with s and p. In a small bowl, stir together the sweet chili sauce, sambal and mustard.

Pour the mixture into a large cast iron skillet or oven proof pan. Set the skillet over med-high heat and heat until the mixture begins to simmer. Lay the salmon, skin side up, in that sauce. Cook until the salmon starts to turn pale pink on the outside, about 2 minutes, then move the skillet to the oven and broil until the skin crisps and the salmon is med-rare, about 3-4 minutes.

Remove the salmon from the oven and transfer the salmon to a plate. Return the skillet to the stove, add 1/4 cup water and cook over high heat, stirring and scraping, until the sauce thickens. Pour the sauce over the fish and serve immediately.

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I served the fish with pesto zucchini noodles and tomatoes. I made the pesto and spiralized the zucchini earlier in the day. Then when time came, I blistered some cherry tomatoes over high heat, added the pesto just to heat it through and tossed in the noodles. Very easy and delicious.

 

See Food

Catalina offshore is a local seafood market. We were told about it by a neighbor and watched it make its debut on a travel channel show. I don’t know why it took us so long to make our appearance.

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We strolled in early on a Saturday morning side swiping the local chefs and fishermen. A cook behind an enormous stock pot was  handing out bowls of piping hot bouillabaisse while we waited for our order. We came for mussels but left with a side of snapper. I love a whole roasted fish, if it’s one the specials at a good restaurant, chances are that will be my choice.  But scaling and cleaning a whole fish and then worrying about cooking it has intimated me. But standing in front of this array of fish, I decided this was my time  to tackle the snapper.

First up, mussels. We had an amazing dish at a local seafood restaurant a few weeks back.The Mr and I love our shellfish and after 10 years I think we agreed that those mussels were indeed some of the best. I needed to replicate this dish!  After intense recipe research I chose a favorite blogger of mine and used this recipe. They turned out better than I imagined, the mussels were the plumpest and juiciest I have ever had and the coconut curry broth was drinkable, like pour in a glass and cheers!

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Then there was the Snapper. Since I hooked it on a whim, I really had no idea what I was going to do. I chose to keep it simple and let the fish shine. I grabbed some lemon, herbs and salt. I wrapped it in foil and roasted it,  at the end I let it sunbathe under the broiler for a minute.

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We delightfully dug in.

IMG_8778 Along side we enjoyed caprese and grilled artichokes with an aioli, never forgetting the crusty bread.

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It was some good eating!

Easter

Kaili woke up eager and ready to see if the Easter bunny had left anything for her. Averi decided to sleep in….of course.

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Once Averi woke up and we were able to get some real food into the girls, we let them see what was hiding outside.

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The grass was wet and cold, Averi didn’t want much to do with it. Kaili didn’t care and managed to gather all of the eggs on her own. Averi found a couple on dry land but put them in sissy’s basket.

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We had brunch plans with friends so while the girls ate their weight in candy, I made my way to the kitchen and stayed there the next few hours.

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I made a grapefruit yogurt cake and a tomato tart.

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Luckily we weren’t going far. We walked over the pack n play, the kids toys, our food and we tucked in for a nice day with neighbor friends.

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We had quite the spread, baked donuts, savory scones, tomato tart, eggs Benedict casserole and fresh fruit all washed down with mimosas and good wine.

Averi napped in her pack n play for hours while we played in the backyard.

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We talked and drank the day away, nibbling on cheese as the sun started to set.

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Reminding us that tomorrow was Monday and we should probably bid adieu. The girls knocked out after a long day and we sat down for all the great Sunday night TV.

It was a very nice Easter!

Recipe Ideas

I used to make a few new recipes a week including one elaborate dinner because it was fun for me to lose myself in the kitchen. Then I got pregnant, then I was on bedrest and then I had a newborn. To say I was stuck in a rut when it came to dinner was an understatement. I forced myself to start making the recipes I was pinning on Pinterest (because I have over 1,000) and to start opening the stack of cookbooks I have in the pantry, I wasn’t lacking ideas.

I will admit that sometimes by the end of cooking I am juggling a crying baby, a hungry 3 year old and I am cursing myself for making the stupid dish but after it’s done, I am always happy I did. I rarely remember to take a photo of the final product to share so you will have to check out the original recipe to see what most of them look like. All of these I am sharing turned out great, some the husband didn’t love as much as I did but don’t let that stop you.

Here are some ideas if you are in a dinner rut like I was.

Caramelized Onion Tart with Gorgonzola and Brie– This is not the healthiest so probably better to serve to some friends as an appetizer with wine. The picture is crappy but i promise it is  good.

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 Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Cream Sauce– The only thing I left out of this was the corn. The husband wasn’t convinced of this dish but I thought it was good.

Piadini Caprese– I made the flatbread from scratch, there is a recipe on the original page. The only thing I didn’t use in the sandwich was arugula and I regretted it, everything is always better with arugula.

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I forgot to take a picture before i closed it up so I reopened it, looks a mess.
I forgot to take a picture before i closed it up so I reopened it, looks a mess.

Halibut with Crispy Capers and lemon– We l.o.v.e fish piccata and I thought this would be a fun new twist on the original recipe. I loved this because the crispness of the the capers pared perfectly with the soft fish. Husband thought they lost some of their flavor so you know how that ends. Worth the extra effort in my opinion, at least for a change.

French Onion Soup– This was good and pretty darn easy. The flavor wasn’t as deep as some that I have had but for the first time making it, I was impressed. Even better the next day.

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Pad Thai Salad–  This was really good. Not really at all like Pad Thai, more like a deconstructed Vietnamese spring roll. You’ll need a spirilizer for this and although I have the Vegetti, it didn’t work great with the cucumber. I will make this again and again once I get myself the Paderno.

Bourbon Maple Glazed Chicken Wings– Holy finger licking good, I loved these. The husband thought the bourbon took over the flavor of the wings. I can sort of agree that the bourbon flavor was a tad strong and it might just have been the bourbon I used but I will definitely make these again.

Chili Garlic Chicken with Yogurt sauce– I made this recipe skipping the skewers. It was super easy and really good.

 

Okay, I think that is it. I have another recipe to try on Thursday…Let’s hope it’s as good as these were.

 

New Name

You may or may not have realized that my blog URL and name is now different. I thought since I am no longer trying for a baby it was time I update it. Simply Four, straight forward enough…no?
If you are following me on Feedly, you may have to re-add the blog, not quite sure how that works.

On another note, I made a very delicious soup, right down to the chicken stock. I don’t have an exact recipe for you but I can give you a quick rundown.

Coconut curry thai chicken soup
Coconut curry thai chicken soup

Thai Coconut Curry soup with Chicken

*I made chicken stock from a Rotisserie chicken. I pulled off all the meat and set aside. Cover chicken carcuss with water, throw in some veg, onions/carrots/garlic whatever you have and simmer for an hour. Strain and then set stock aside.

What you will need:

minced garlic 1Tb
grated ginger 1Tb
1 jalapeno minced
juice of 1 lime
1 heaping Tb green curry paste
1 can coconut milk (lite or reg)
1 Tbs. Sugar
1 Tbs. Fish sauce
4 cups chicken broth/stock
cilantro
Cooked rice or rice noodles
cooked chicken, diced or shredded

In large sauce pan heat a little olive oil and saute first 3 ingredients and then add curry paste. Stir in coconut milk, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice, bring to a simmer. Add chicken broth and bring back to simmer for 10-20 minutes. Add chicken, rice, reheat. Serve with lime wedge and cilantro.

*I had about a cup of sticky coconut rice I made a few days earlier, that is what I used and it was delish, added a touch more sweetness.

While the soup was cooking, Kaili was busy working on her Christmas list to Santa. We put it in the mail this morning and now I get to hold this over her head for another month. }Listen up kiddo, Santa is watching you!”
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