Later this week (on Saturday to be exact) I’ll be competing along with 17 other awesome ladies for the title of Mrs. California United States.

What exactly does this mean? Well, for the past two months I’ve been working on my platform (Real Food for Families) and have been talking to local organizations that encourage families and children to have a diet full of wholesome foods. There has also been a little bit of shopping (shoes!!) and of course I’ve had to invested a bit more time in at the gym. Bathing suit, stage, bright lights, YIKES!!

And on that note I’ve also decided to really button up my diet these past few weeks. I wouldn’t call it a diet, a cleanse, or a fast. I’m not a big fan of any of that and because I’ve been working so hard physically I knew that my body was going to need the proper nutrition in order to keep up. Instead of focusing on what I shouldn’t be eating, I decided to focus on what I should be eating. Lean meats? Yes! Complex carbs and whole grains? Please! Fresh veggies, fruit, nuts, TONS of water, and healthy fats? Keep em’ coming! After filling my fridge and pantry with so much good stuff I didn’t have room (or time) for any refined sugar, processed fast food, soda, or even my beloved red wine. I’m not going to lie, I’ve really missed having a glass of wine with dinner! Luckily the huge reward of knowing that I’ve done everything I could to be able to put my best foot forward this weekend has been worth the small sacrifice. Also whether they like it or not, my family has benefited from all of this healthy eating! This baked sweet potato filled with fajita seasoned chicken breast and seared veggies was one of my more creative, clean and delicious meals. My boys were able to top their potatoes with cheese or sour cream, while I stayed strict with salsa and avocado.

All of this hard work comes to an end this weekend as I place myself in the hands of the judges. Whatever the outcome, the journey in itself has been incredible!

There is nothing like a long conversation with a good friend to help give me a fresh perspetive on things and to also aid in clearing any writers block I sometimes struggle with.

There is nothing like the fast approaching summer/bathing suit weather to help motivate my sometimes sluggish efforts at the gym. Thankfully Christmas and all of it’s comforting dishes (and sweaters!) will also be here before we know it!

There is nothing like a bright Spring season full of fresh new veggies and sunshine to help pull me out of a super frustrating cooking rut. Yes, I also go through times when I feel like I am cooking the same thing for dinner every night. Roasted chicken, pasta, soup, ect. And if I’m sick of cooking the same ol’ things, I know my family is sick of eating them! Thankfully it only took a few bundles of tender early asparagus to save my family from one more night of uninspired cooking! I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it at first, but I knew the end result was going to be awesome.

As promised this asparagus and sausage risotto is just that, deliciously awesome!

My washing machine broke on a Monday night, but of course I didn’t catch that until Tuesday afternoon.

I called the repair man right away and he told me that he could squeeze me into his schedule on Wednesday between 9:00am and 3:00pm.

After arriving promptly at 4:00pm the repair man informed me that he needed to order a part and it wouldn’t be here until Friday morning. “No problem”, I said slightly disappointed, ”See ya Friday.”

Friday afternoon rolled around and my repair man regretfully told me that I would need yet another part for my machine. And of course ordering a part on a Friday means you’ll need to wait until next Wednesday to get it. “Ok”, I said fighting back the tears, “I’ll see you Wednesday”.

Did I mention that my husband was also out of town this week and that my boys were pretty upset with me because they could not have a sleepover with their cousins now that I had to drag a weeks worth of laundry over to the laundry mat to wash, fluff, and fold. After a disappointing day and a not-so-hot evening spent at the laundry mat we  needed something quick and comforting to enjoy for dinner. I could have gone through a drive-thru to pick something up, but I knew a bag of greasy tacos or shriveled hamburgers wouldn’t be enough for this tired mama or her four sour faced boys. Instead I decided to take on the challenge of having a hot, healthy and easy meal on our dinner table in 15 minutes or less!

So what did I come up with? This grilled cheese on sourdough with spinach and tomato sauce! Full of comfort and spinach! It was a total win which my boys and I needed that night. And it almost made me forget about the 27 loads of laundry that now needed to be put away or that it might have been easier to have just replaced my poor, tired washing machine!

Timing is everything, right?

But we don’t just want any ol’ timing; what we’re after is perfect timing. I know that I am personally constantly striving to get things started or finished at just the right time. Sometimes it happens, but more often than not I miss the boat completely, or something that seems incredibly ill timed turns out to beautifully on time. Our third son is my favorite example of just that. My dad, husband, and I had just started a business together (a hair salon) and not even a month after we opened our doors I found out that I was pregnant with our third baby. My reaction? Panic and tears of course, but looking back we couldn’t have timed Ewen any better. With a lot of help and hard work everything worked out just fine. Five years later we decided to close the salon so I could stay home with our brood of boys. Looking back I am so thankful that my plan to become a successful salon owner didn’t trump what was really meant to be for myself and our family. Since then I keep rediscovering that most seemingly ill-timed things somehow turn out to be perfectly timed within the bigger picture of life. Trying to let go of my idea of perfecting timing can be super frustrating and scary. But every time things magically fall into place I am reminded again that the best timing usually requires a little bit of patience and always a ton of faith!

As far as cooking goes I have found that timing can be one of the hardest things to learn. Especially when a dish has several components to it (steamed rice, roasted potatoes, and sautéed veggies), it can be tough to figure out how to get everything out of the oven or off the stove at around the same time. My advice to anyone desiring to master this skill? Just keep cooking! Pretty soon you’ll find the rhythm in your kitchen and you’ll remember that brown rice takes about an hour to cook so it might be a good idea to get that going first or that spinach only takes about a minute to sauté so don’t worry about that until the end! Before you know it you’ll be baking a cake, roasting a chicken and caramelizing onions without breaking a sweat or without postponing your dinner!

If you’re anything like me you probably love to read food blogs.

If you’re not like me and this is the only food blog that you visit (I am so incredibly flattered!) then I would like to apologize for the lack of pink sprinkles and red velvet cupcakes that will traditionally overwhelm food blogs around this time of year. For those of us that do immerse ourselves in all things food, I figured that this farro salad might be a nice change of pace. I’m a big fan of zigging when they zag so instead of cutout heart cookies or chocolate dipped strawberries (both of which I adore) for Valentine’s day, I would like to bring you kale. Not the best intro for such a yummy salad, but it’ll have to do.

While roses and candy conversation hearts are in season, it is also the time of year that kale is in full bloom! It’s hard to miss the huge leafy stacks of red, curly or my personal favorite lacinato kale at the grocery store or farmers market. See, kale and Valentines day really do go hand in hand! And I think this pretty, healthy salad would be a lovely compliment to all of those cupcakes and cookies we’ll be enjoying for the better part of Valentines day!

I’m going to make this soup as simple as I can for you.

Not because I think that you don’t know how to cook, but because I’m guessing that cooking complicated dishes just isn’t on your radar right now.

I have a feeling that getting organized and eating healthy is what you’re into at the moment, because that’s totally what I’m into right now. Oh ya, and naps! I’m always into taking naps.

A holiday season full of cooking, baking, braising, basting and eating waaaay too much pie always leaves me craving simplicity and spinach. This lovely, vegetarian soup provides me with both and it couldn’t be any easier to throw together.

That way we can quickly get back to all of our organizing. And our naps, can’t forget those naps!

Running a household consisting of all boys can sometimes turn this mother into a drill sergeant.

“Attention, soldiers!! The time is now 1400, pick out a snack and eat it, pronto!!”

“Heads up troops! 1500 and you know what that means, homework time! Book, pencils, spelling words, let’s do this”!

“Alright recruits it’s 1700, time to hit the showers! Soap em’ on up and move em on out!”

“1900, chow time! Soldiers that do not eat their veggies do not get a dessert!”

“2100, lights out! Don’t forget to brush your teeth and say your prayers! Good night!”

But sometimes one of our troops needs to veer off schedule. A hug needs to be had, a long story about what happened at school needs to be told and drill sergeant mommy needs to put her itinerary and whistle away. Every now and then running behind turns into being perfectly on schedule and taking a moment to listen, appreciate and enjoy this season with my boys is never time lost. In all of our busyness I am always so thankful for one pot meals like this slow cooked rosemary stroganoff. After a little prep, into the oven it goes and on with homework, projects, conversations and cuddles for us! That always makes this drill sergeant mommy say “Hoorah!”

I have never been a let’s-get-up-super-early-and-go-manic-shopping-on-black-Friday kind of girl.

However, I have been a let’s-sleep-in-stay-in-our-pj’s-and-make-pasta-for-brunch kind of gal.

Both options can sound a bit strange.

Seriously, who wants to walk into a mall at 5 am when they could be enjoying a quiet morning at home snuggled under the covers? Hard core Christmas shoppers do, that’s who! I’ll admit that I do get a bit envious when I hear about all of the awesome deals these brave souls were rewarded with for being such early birds. Still, I don’t think I could ever pull myself out of my deep, day after Thanksgiving slumber when I know that cyber Monday is just around the corner.

Pasta for brunch? I know what you’re thinking, sounds a little off but I promise one bite of this cauliflower, bacon and caramelized onion pasta will make you think otherwise. It’s a little different from the usual breakfast potatoes with eggs and after a day full of super rich food the simplicity of this dish will be a welcomed change.

So go ahead and pick your crazy, shopping at sunrise or pasta before noon!

For the last four years right after Halloween and just before Thanksgiving the team over at ground(ctrl) packs up their anvil cases and heads on over to Austin, Texas to man the box office and merch booth at the Fun Fun Fun Fest. But long before any of us are able to fly over and bite into our first frito pie the GC team has been hard at work making sure every festival goers experience will be nothing but the best. After all of the meetings and late nights back at the office we proudly wear our ticketing staff t-shirt all weekend long and come face to face with the 55 thousand fans that are just as excited to be at the festival as we are.

But it’s not all work and no fun! There are plenty of late nights at the Mohawk and early morning sound checks at the park. We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at Franks hotdogs (thanks again for the voucher!!) and we’ll always find time to sing happy birthday to Eddie who’s birthday lands on the festival weekend.

To me a weekend like this is what ground(ctrl) is all about. Coming together as a team and bringing the fans as close as they can to their beloved bands.

It has recently come to my attention that this food blog of mine has given me a bit of a bad reputation among my healthy friends. I guess all of my talk about heavy cream and fried chicken has people wondering if I’m trying to follow in Paula Dean’s footsteps. While I do appreciate both butter and bacon, it is a treat when our meals include either. But I wouldn’t consider myself an over the top let’s-put-kale-in-everything-I-only-eat-organic type of gal either. I like to think of myself as a in the middle, leaning towards more on the healthy side, if-I want-junk-food-I’ll-make-it-myself kind of cook. My main object here has never been about encouraging you to eat more wheat germ or even to eat more bacon. The only thing I’m interested in is inspiring you to cook for the people you love, and by the looks of things topping food with big handfuls of parmesan cheese must be what I considering to be inspiring!

Now that we’ve cleared that up, can I talk to you about farro? What the heck is it you ask? First of all it’s a grain and second of all it tastes a lot better than it sounds. It’s naturally nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture will totally fill you up at dinner time, but not in a guilty-I-better-not-have-that-brownie-for-dessert kind of full. I threw a cup of it (along with a few others things) into a pot of soup I was making and my family went bonkers for it. No joke, they even went back for seconds!

My final food opinion, know the difference between delicious food that makes you feel great and good tasting food that makes you feel gross.