Monthly Archives: May 2011

I love fried food.

I could eat it everyday. I purposely do not own a fryer because I do not possess the willpower to keep myself from throwing everything into it. Burritos, potatoes, broccoli, Snickers bars…

See what I mean?

When I tell people this little fact about myself I usually get one of two responses:

1. They cannot believe I like fried food as much as I do. Really?? Doesn’t everybody love fried food? Isn’t eating as much deep fried goodness on a stick the only reason to go to the state fair?! Or is that just a me thing?

2. They tell me they don’t eat fried foods. That sir or madam is a bold face lie and you know it. French fries, corn dogs, and chicken strips are all fried. You eat them and you love them. Hey I get it, sometimes you want to believe something that you know just isn’t true but that kind of thinking will only get you into trouble. For example I tried to convince myself that I’d look awesome as a blond. It looked terrible and all I was left with was a head full of frazzled hair and photos that still haunt me to this day. Yes that zucchini you ate is considered a healthy vegetable, but it was fried so now it’s just junk food. Feels good to be honest huh?

Because of my intense love affair with fried foods (and because I am not getting any younger) I’ve had to come up with some alternatives to my favorite dishes. I found this recipe in a Good Housekeeping cook book and the first time I made this baked walnut covered chicken was for my super healthy sister-in-law’s bridal shower. I was pleasantly surprised with it’s nutty, crunchy texture and it’s also great to make for a picnic lunch as it taste yummy hot or cold.

Don’t forget the apricot balsamic dipping sauce! Since this chicken is baked and not fried we can afford to be a little decadent with the accoutrements.

There is a major countdown going on in my house right now.

The countdown to summer vacation.

It feels like yesterday when my sister and I were patiently waiting for the last day of school to arrive and for our long lazy summer to begin. When we were old enough to be left at home alone we would fill our days with watching Nickelodeon, riding our bikes to Whitey’s and prank calling boys we liked. Those two and a half months we had off felt endless and we were always excited to go back to school. That excitement would quickly wear off the moment homework was assigned and my mental countdown to summer would begin again.

As an adult I enjoy my boy’s summer vacation much more than I did my own. I now realize how fast these lazy days go by and understand how special this time together is. We sleep in, watch cartoons, make pancakes, swim and most importantly we don’t speak of homework at all. We do however have summer reading but they are books the boys have picked out and are excited to read. I know soon enough the’ll be saddled with a list of books they’ll need to read before their vacation is up.

Do we have any major family vacation plans for this summer? Not really. A few weekend trips to the coast I’m sure and definitely tons of BBQ/swim parties with friends and family. Memorial day is a few days away and it always feels like the unofficial start to the pool party season. In our household my husband mans the grill and I take care of the side dishes. Buttery corn on the cob is always an easy favorite, garlic bread is great for a crowd and fruit salad is a wonderful way to enjoy all of the beautiful fruit that is in season this time of year. I however am not the biggest fan of most fruit salads. I’m not very fond of mellon so no cantaloupe or honeydew please. To avoid soggy fruit salad it needs to be served right away, and don’t even think about putting a banana in there. Gross.

Because of my pickiness I came up with this crisp, color coordinated  fruit salad. It’s perfect to serve at BBQ’s and I even jazz it up a bit with a white wine simple syrup and lots of fresh mint, because even a simple fruit salad needs to stay jazzy baby.

In the beginning of our marriage I couldn’t cook a thing.

Frozen lasagna confused me. True story, not gunna tell it.

Before I knew it I was surrounded by a dozen new family members that were/are amazing cooks. Now I grew up eating good food, I just wasn’t the one cooking it. I had more important things to do, like write love letters to Jordan Knight from The New Kids on the Block. Which new kid was your favorite?

I didn’t want to be the only one at family gatherings not bringing anything so I just started making stuff. Bad stuff.

I don’t even remember what I was making, but my sister-in-laws caught on quickly that I had no idea what I was doing in the kitchen and instead of squashing my pride they kindly encouraged me to make salads. Who could mess up a salad, right? I did, once. Again I’m keeping that story to myself.

At first my salads started out simple, a bit of romain, some shredded carrots, maybe some cherry tomatoes…

Then I started to get brave. I started adding different kinds of cheeses, how about some grilled chicken, what if I made my own salad dressing? Instead of just a dinner salad I wanted to create edible works of art combining veggies and fruits that not only tasted amazing together but also looked great mixed with each other. I even bought those cute little edible flowers!

I look back fondly on my salad days and have since been graduated to hot foods. That said, I am always happy to bring one of my over-the-top-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-salads to a family gathering.

Here is another throw together in 20 minutes meal my family loves. A taco inspired salad with tons of fresh veggies, back beans, grilled lime chicken and our favorite sour cream and salsa salad dressing. While we are on the subject of salad dressing let’s be perfectly honest with ourselves and admit the best part of any salad is the salad dressing right? Right.

I don’t know how it happened but some how all of our schedules were opened, the stars were aligned perfectly  and our husbands, 12 collective children and 5 dogs were able to let go of my three girlfriends and I for a very rare and wonderful girls only weekend.

Needless to say we had a blast. The four of us have know each other since high school and after this weekend I realized what a privilege it is to know someone that long. We watched each other grow up, fall in love for the first time, move out of our parents homes, and transform into the women we are now.

We have done a good deal since high school, graduated college, getting married, becoming mothers, starting businesses and even beating breast cancer. We still laugh at the kind of teenagers we were and it seemed we all had a special place in our hearts for the silly young ladies we used to be. To forget who we were would be to deny who we’ve become today. Without those crazy moments we might not have figured out so quickly what we wanted out of life and more importantly what we didn’t want.

My girlfriends have blossomed into beautiful, loving, courageous women and I am so proud to call them friends.

One particularly savvy friend knew we would be up late (11:00 pm is very late for a mother with small children) laughing and drinking wine, so she decided it would be best if she put together our breakfast the day before. It was a french toast casserole complete with heavy cream and loads of cinnamon. It was absolutely perfect and we were so thankful for it that morning.

I loved it so much I decided to copy her, but I switched it up to a savory version made with italian sausage, asparagus and two kinds of cheese. It turned out to be a easy yummy dinner that I was able to assemble in the morning and then pop into the oven that night after swim practice. Seems like what we all had in common was the want to feed our families good home cooked meals, but with our crazy schedules it can be hard to find the time.

I hope this easy meal works when you just can’t stomach yet another dinner at the snack shack.

Sometimes you just need to jump right into things head first. Who cares if you have no idea what you’re doing. You’ll figure it out as you go right? Right.

This was my logic when I decided to run my first full marathon. I had absolutely no business running a marathon and was humbled to the ground when it was all over. Did I learn a lot in those 26.2 miles? Yes. Did I almost kill myself in the process? You bet.

Let me give you the back story on how I got myself into that mess. The year prior a few girlfriends asked me to be on a relay team and run a 7 mile leg of the CIM. That was my first experience with marathons (and running outside in general) and I thought it was amazing. I loved the cheers from the crowd, the energy from the other runners, and that wonderful feeling of accomplishment when it was all over. I figured if running 7 miles felt good, running the whole thing must be amazing!

My husband on the other hand knew very well what we were getting into (he’s done a few triathlons) and he kept asking me if I was sure I wanted to do this. “Yes!” I would reply. “We are going to have so much fun out there together, just you wait!”

That morning I woke up excited and chatty, while he was silent and reverent. I was busy snapping pictures of us on the bus, updating my facebook status, and admiring my new running shoes when I should have been praying for my life. The fist part of the race went great. We were running at a strong pace, keeping a good time and I was loving all the music on my playlist. We even high-fived and the 13 mile mark and I felt like we had it in the bag.

At the 15 mile mark I hit a wall. Everything hurt. I found no comfort in walking (or standing) and I just wanted to quit. My sweet husband even told me it was ok if I stopped, but I knew I would never forgive myself if I didn’t finish this. My saving grace was my girlfriend who finished before I did was waiting for us at the 25 mile mark to cheer us on. She saw the look on my face, grabbed my hand and ran the last mile with me. I was in tears when I crossed the finish line and was so thankful it was all over.

How I felt about the marathon before I ran it is exactly how I felt about baking with yeast for the first time. A little intimidated, but how hard could it be right? I’m so glad I jumped right into it by making these yummy, gooey, pecan filled cinnamon rolls! Buttery, sticky, homemade goodness in a pan.

I learned a lot in the process of making these, and much like running another marathon I am excited and will be more prepared for the next time around.

Look out mile 15, I’m coming for you.

There are a few things I absolutely can not live without.

1. Quiet mornings. It is an unspoken rule in our house to not bug mommy until I have had a cup of coffee and at least 15 minutes to wake up. People who pop out of bed in the morning ready for anything kinda creep me out.

2. A perfect pair of flip flops, and I’m pretty sure I found them this year. They are a black pair of Reefs with a thin fabric strap & surprisingly great arch support for a thinner flip flop. Not too sporty, not too girly and they look great with a sundress or pair of shorts.

3. My cast iron skillet. If my house caught on fire I would grab six things, my four boys, my dog and my cast iron skillet. Oops! Make that seven things, I can’t forget my husband! I stir fry, braise, saute, and bake almost every meal in it. It can take the heat in a oven, it doesn’t need to be scoured clean and it helps to perfectly season our omelettes. I plan on cooking with my skillet for the rest of my days, and maybe I’ll leave it to one of my future daughter-in-law’s if she’ll have the dirty ol’ thing.

4. Animal style fries from In-N-Out. If there was ever a perfect meal this is it. I didn’t think anything could beat an animal style burger until I had the fries. Caramelized onions, melted cheddar, thousand island dressing mixed with chopped dill pickles on top of a bed of crispy, salty fries. I could honestly eat them everyday, and I fight a good mental battle to not get them every time I pass an In-N-Out. I recently figured out how to make them so now all bets are off. As long as I have potatoes in the pantry any time is animal style fry time.

Can I just take a minute to brag about my oldest son? I promise it wont take long and there’s a really good smoothie recipe in it for you!

I’m pretty sure every parent thinks their child/children are the most brilliant, wonderful people to have ever graced this planet. Despite my boys inability to pick up their socks and constant bickering with each other, my husband and I think they are pretty amazing kids and last week was an especially awesome week for Gaven.

Now Gaven is not the biggest fan of change. He strikes me as the kind of guy who will have the same best friend for the rest of his life, fall in love and marry his high school sweetheart, and raise his family in a home close to ours so we can always be together. Hey a mom can dream right?!

Last week was the first week of practice for his new swim team and he’s done swim before, but it was nothing like this team. The coaches treat the swimmers like tiny navy seals making them swim laps and do drills for a full hour only stoping for a moment to listen to the coaches talk about technique. Also the kids are super competitive, and the parents are the in-it-to-win-it-my-kid-is-going-to-be-the-next-michael-phelps types.

This kind of pressure would be enough to shake even the most confident adult, but not Gaven. He recognized it all, jumped right in to the pool and showed his team and coaches that he also meant business. He has proven to be one of the stronger swimmers and his love for the sport grows more with each practice. It is an absolute joy to watch him swim his heart out everyday. To watch somebody discover and nurture a talent is a gift within itself.

You can only imagine from all of this hard work his appetite has tripled. He wakes up hungry for breakfast, comes home from school starving, and is famished after practice. His favorite after school snack is a smoothie and my blender has been working overtime lately to keep up with the demand. That’s fine with me because smoothies are one of those magical things that can can be crazy heathy and crazy good all at the same time.

Don’t worry you don’t need a fancy, expensive blender for this yummy smoothie. Your $20.00 Walmart one will work just fine, mine did!

Hey daddies (and daddies to be), did you remember mothers day is this Sunday?

You did?

Good for you!

Have you figured out what you’re going to make for breakfast that morning? That’s right you’re going to spoil that wonderful woman your kiddos call “Mom” with a fabulous breakfast in bed.

Sure you could take her out to some overcrowded, stress the kids out, just wish you stayed home breakfast. Or you could let her enjoy the morning in bed while she compliments you over and over again on the breakfast you made her. I think your choice is obvious & honestly there is nothing more heart warming than enjoying a meal that someone prepared for you out of love and appreciation. Being able to eat that meal while still in your p.j’s is pretty stinkin awesome too.

So are you one of those dads that cooks and is super creative in the kitchen? Great! Let us know what you’re going to make!

For the rest of you don’t worry I totally have you covered. This egg dish is super simple to make, but looks and taste restaurant-fancy. Also there wont be a pile of dishes to wash up afterwards, tons of steps to follow, and you’ll be able to find all of the ingredients at your local supermarket.

If you’re not up to making this, a toasted bagel on a tray with fresh flowers and a cup of coffee the way she likes it will mean just as much to her, I promise!

May 3

Macho Nachos

Cinco de Mayo is coming up this week and you know what that means! Parties, margaritas, dancing…

Who am I fooling? For us it’ll be more like Thursday night T.V, a skinny girl margarita (hopefully), and some p.j’s.

May 5th hasn’t always been a regular ol’ school night for me, there was a point in my life when it was a super fun, gotta buy a new dress night. The summer after high school I was a hostess at a hip restaurant called Centro and at the time it was the place to be! The food was fabulous, the cocktail waitress’s were beautiful, & the hotess’s were bratty.

Centro was always busy, but every Cinco de Mayo it was an absolute mad house and I loved every minute of it. We were not allowed to take any reservations, the bar was slammed from noon to midnight, there was at least a two hour wait for dinner, and the parking lot was taken over by dancing & a Mariachi band. None of the employee’s were allowed to leave early, call in sick, or even sit down that night and the next day we would all swap stories of, “Did you see that lady…?” “No, but I did see this one guy…” I’ll let you fill in the blanks.

So in honor of this day I’m going to show you how to make nachos.

What’s so interesting about melting cheese over tortilla chips you ask? Nothing! But when you involve black beans, chorizo, TWO kinds of cheeses, and a bunch of other fun toppings these nachos can help make even the most normal Thursday night Cinco de Mayo a bit more exciting.