For the record I am the furthest person from becoming a vegetarian.

I adore crispy, crunchy bacon.

If I’m eating out and there is a steak on the menu, I’ll order it. Medium rare please.

I could eat fried chicken every. single. day. Which is exactly why we don’t own a fryer.

Head cheese, I tried it. Not really my thing, but I did think it was kind of interesting.

Ham and sausage, what would an omelet be without either of these lovely contributions?!

Without question I am a carnivore. But every once in a while I’ll come up with a vegetarian dish that is so good it’ll make me wonder if I could switch over to the dark side. Could I do without the wonderful gravy a cup of wine and the drippings from a perfectly roasted chicken make? Would my afternoon salad be just as good without the addition of a bit of thinly sliced salami? I might be able to trade my hamburgers in for veggie burgers. But most of all I question if I could eat Fakon instead of bacon and think “Ya, this stuff is great”!

Then I come to my senses and wonder if it’s too late to add some sort of meat to this vegetarian dish.

My boys and I are currently heading into our 3rd week of summer vacation and we’ve been loving every minute of it so far! We sleep in, we swim, we eat popsicles, we fight over the computer and the boys are now starting to complain about what I’m serving them for lunch.

Ok, so maybe I haven’t been loving every minute of this vacation, but I don’t blame them for being grumpy about their humdrum home lunches. During the school year I send them off  with simple, healthy things to eat. What they actually eat while they are there is an entirely different story! I’ve been told that sometimes they trade their yogurts for chips and their string cheeses for candy! Their apples slices have been known to become lunch time gernades and their edamame beans become perfect little bullets to throw at opposing lunch tables. Much to their dismay none of these shenanigans happen under the watchful eye of mom and lunch time has now become a quiet time to enjoy a peanut butter sandwich on 100% whole grain bread. Boooooring!

Instead of torturing them (and myself) with the run of the mill chicken nuggets and carrot sticks every other day, I decided to add personal pizzas to their lunch rotation a couple times a week. Sounds messy and time consuming, but this pizza dough only takes a half hour to rise! Also I give them just a few options for topping that include both fresh veggies and fun stuff like pepperoni or sliced olives. These quick little pizzas have helped with the grumbling and lunch time has once again become something they look forward to!

Only 8 weeks and 160 lunches to go.  That reminds me, which one of my girlfriends would like to meet up and enjoy a summer cocktail with me soon?!

Most people I know love Fridays and hate Mondays, but I love them both equally.

Fridays are great because it feels as if the whole world is going on vacation! I love listening to people ask each other about their weekend plans. It doesn’t matter if they are planning on taking a mini vacation up the coast or if the weekend holds nothing but promises of naps and BBQ’s at home. Everyone is equally excited for the next two precious days. Mondays are also wonderful because I adore having a fresh new week before me. Mondays may not be as fun as Fridays, but you gotta love the feeling of a productive Monday and the great start that busy day will give to your week. I’m not the biggest fan of Wednesdays because I usually feel like I am starting to run out of steam and Thursdays just plain bug me. I have a feeling Thursday also has a hard time with itself. I’m sure it knows darn well that everybody wishes it just would hurry up and be Friday!
Here is salad that is perfect for both a Fancy lunch Friday or for a Meatless Monday dinner. Caesar salad and I go way back and a few weeks ago I decided it was high time I learn how to make my own caesar dressing. It turned out great! Garlicky, lemony and with just a hint of anchovy. The baked, smashed potatoes helped to make this salad a little heartier, and of course the dressing tasted even better on Monday than when I had originaly made it on Friday.

A few weeks ago my boys and I had a not so great day that thankfully ended with us enjoying a super great sandwich. While sinking my teeth into that sandwich I reminded myself to breath, to take this sometimes crazy life one day at a time and to take a picture of this meal so I would’t forget what was in it. I thanked God for such a delicious and peaceful moment, washed the last bite down with some strawberry lemon-aid and watched my boys play tag in the late afternoon sun before piling back into the car to head home.

We’re doing alright and everyday my family grows a little stronger. We are slowly discovering what we are really made of and I am learning that sometimes ( and unfortunately) it’s necessary to sacrifice personal comfort in order to get to the place you truly want to be. I am also seeing that out of a series of not so wonderful events really good things can still come from it. Family’s can reconnect, good friends can become great friends and amazing sandwiches filled with cured Italian meats and roasted bell peppers can be stumbled upon.

Every rain cloud has a silver lining and I’m thankful that on that particularly awful day our silver lining was made of salami.

I don’t know about you but I need a nap…

A big glass of water…

And a salad!

Raise your hand if you’ve had an awesome holiday season. We sure did! The Halloween candy, the turkey, the never ending pies and cookies! I might have also had a few holiday cocktails here and there. My parents always serve the best wine and New Year’s just isn’t the same without a champaign toast with friends! Every year around this time after a festive few months full of treats I am always ready to bring my everyday eating back down to reality. I have definitely had my fill of prime rib, fancy party hors d’oeuvres and tiered platters full of my sister-in-law Jacqueline’s amazing homemade sweets. Thank goodness swimsuit season doesn’t directly follow the holiday season!

So goodbye mashed potatoes with loads of gravy on top and see you soon sugar cookies galore. We won’t have to be apart for too long, but for now I’ll be replacing you with things that are healthy and fresh! Like any unhealthy routine that needs to be broken I think I’ll be able to handle this change as long as I ease my way into it. This pretty spinach salad is easy on the dressing but is still heavy on the flavor thanks to some sauteed red onions and crispy fried bacon.

I am always sad to put our Christmas tree on the curb and take down our holiday lights. It’s easy for me to get used to all of the fun family get togethers and my husband’s lighter holiday work schedule. The promise of Spring right around the corner always brightens up my mood, and with that thought I know that next years pumpkin pie will be on my plate faster than I can say “Happy Holidays!”

A few weeks ago I received an email from The Grange restaurant in downtown Sacramento asking me to participate in a soup contest. Of course I was super excited and responded immediately with a “Yes!” The second I sent my email off a mean little voice started talking me out of it. “What if they think your soup is lame?” “What if they think you’re lame?” “What if they think you can’t actually cook and discover that you’re just some silly lady taking pictures of her dinner?” What if….

When I had just about enough of this terrible little voice, I took a breath and turned my thoughts to soup. The contest rules were simple, make an original soup using the fresh abundant local ingredient Sacramento is known for. The prize? The winner’s soup on The Grange’s menu for an entire week! Chef Oliver Ridgeway is a huge advocate for seasonal cooking, meaning if you can’t find it at the farmers market you definitely won’t be seeing it on the menu!  I myself am a big fan of this way of cooking/eating so I began this contest by asking myself which late fall vegetables am I in love with this year?  What would I want to see on a menu? And most importantly what would my family want to eat? I thought about it, prayed about it, asked Ryan about a million times what his thoughts were about it, and then it hit me! A roasted creamy cauliflower soup topped with some crispy kale chips (my new favorite thing) and of course I had to throw some bacon in there. It’s creamy, full of warm flavors, and it has bacon in it! I felt like this soup was the perfect balance between what the chef wanted to see and what I am as a home cook.

So do I think I’m going to win the contest this weekend? I don’t know and honestly that wasn’t the only reason for me to enter it. This contest brought out the best in me and I am crazy proud of this soup! A little healthy competition is good for us every so often and it’s always important to show that mean little voice what you’re truly capable of.

When I found out I was having a boy with my first pregnancy I’ll admit a little disappointment did set in. I thought to myself “Seriously?! What the heck am I going to do with a boy? I am a hairdresser for goodness sakes and I don’t even own a pair of tennis shoes!” The only thing I knew about little boys then is that they were loud, sticky, and their side of the Baby Gap was not nearly as exciting as the little girls side.

Four boys and a closet full of flats later I have found that there is nothing I am more thankful for than being the mother to loud, sticky, endearing, incredible boys. Not that it was my choice to make but if it had been I would choose this all over again. Without them I never would have discovered what I am truly capable of. Apparently I’m really good at decoding what 4th and 5th grade girls really mean when they make fun of 4th and 5th grade boys (it means they like you, duh), and I have mastered the art of the cool but quick little boy’s haircut. When the times comes I feel like I will be a fantastic mother-in-law gracefully stepping aside, giving my daughter-in-law room to be the most important woman in my son’s life as my mother-in-law has done for me.

Sometimes it can feel like a lot of important decisions in life are surprisingly not up to us to decide. But what we are in control of is how we respond to these decisions that at the time would not have been our first choice. I recently read a quote from a man named Stephen Hawking that I have been repeating to myself for the last few weeks, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change,” and I feel like these words hold even more weight if that change was not our choice to begin with. If we only give ourselves credit for what we are at the moment we will never know what we are really made of. As scary as the unknown is, that my friends is when the good stuff happens.

Take for example this black bean salsa. Yes it is a very yummy appetizer and it pairs nicely with some salty tortilla chips, but if that’s the only thing we give this salsa credit for then that is the only thing it will ever be. We would have never known that if you top some grilled chicken with it you now have yourself a dinner worthy to be on the cover of a magazine. You would also never realize that if  you add this salsa to some mixed greens you’ll have created a beautiful, interesting salad.

Just as this black beans salsa has the ability to adapt and change for the better, so do we when life forces us to change into something we never dreamed we could be.

To say that I am serious when it comes to taking care of my skin is a bit of an understatement. Kind of obsessed is a much better way of describing it. I haven’t always been so passionate about skincare and up until a few years ago I didn’t even give it a second thought.

In high school I tanned like there was no tomorrow, never washed my face before bed, and picked at my skin without regard to scaring. When I started beauty school I also started smoking (sorry mom and dad!). I was one of the youngest students there and I wanted to fit in. Who cares about all of the chemicals from the cigarette smoke swirling around my face, I was more concerned with appearing grownup. In my early 20′s I was in crazy mommy mode. For a few years I was either pregnant or nursing a baby, so come bed time taking five minutes to wash my face was the last thing I wanted to do. Trying to get a good nights sleep was much, much higher on my list of priorities back then vs. making sure my pores were clear of that days gunk.

So did I suffer from acne all those years? Holy smokes yes! I remember wanting my dad to pick me up from school when I was in junior high because I was so embarrassed of the horrible state of my face. I always thought it was something I would grow out of, that it was just my hormones and I hoped that when I became an adult I’d have the peaches and cream skin of my dreams. Until then I never went anywhere without my compact and tried to hide behind my hair. On my 28th birthday I realized I wasn’t getting any younger and this acne prone skin of mine was here to stay.

I took matters into my own hands and started out by simply washing my face every night before bed. Of course I instantly saw results, my skin was brighter and my acne was a little less severe. Super encouraged I wanted to do more so I talked to my girlfriend who also happens to be an incredible esthetician. She opened my eyes to facials, serums, and the always important moisturizer!

Since then I can count on one hand the nights I have gone to bed with my makeup on. I have also discovered Retin-A (magical stuff) and I am madly in love with my Clarisonic. I have also just recently discovered that I truly am what I eat. Don’t get me wrong I’m still all about bacon and blue cheese (that combo is an awesome recipe just waiting to happen) but if I want to look and feel good fresh veggies, fruit, and ridiculous amounts of water are the way to go for me. Looking back I think the biggest problem with my skin was me! I am glad to have finally taken control over it instead it controlling me.

When I am eating lunch at home I like to keep things simple and clean, so I whipped up this couscous salad that is chockfull of healthy, yummy ingredients.

Olive oil – There is tons of vitamin E in olive oil which is a powerful antioxidant.

Spinach – It’s full of vitamins A, C, and E and the mineral iron which helps keep your skin bright.

Walnuts – They are high in omega-3 fatty acids that keep your skin heathy.

Tomatoes – There is a antioxidant called lycopene in tomatoes which helps your skin fight off UV radiation. Nobody likes UV radiation!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to turn into some radical ultra healthy, raw diet, vegan, seed eating, food person. Although I do kind of admire people like that. I’m all about balance, a beautiful salad today a burrito supreme tomorrow!

I did two things this holiday weekend.

Ok, I obviously did more than just two things but the two things of any intrest are the orzo pasta salad I made for a family get together and a thought I had.

I’ll share my thought first. So I am a fairly fly by the seat of my pants kinda gal when it comes to cooking. I consider recipes to be templets and I like to taylor meals to our taste. I have come up with some family favorites cooking this way and have learned first hand what works and what doesn’t work food wise. FYI no matter how hard you try olives and chocolate never really work together. As far as the rest of my life goes I consider myself to be a very organized person. I put the laundry away every Monday and Friday and I get my car cleaned out every other week. I never grocery shop without a list (even if I am only shopping for three things) and I am (almost) always on time for appointments, play dates, and sports practices. I joking like to tell people our home and schedules are very organized so if anything spontaneous happens I’ll totally be ready for it. The truth is I’m not the biggest fan of spontaneity. I pretty much try to avoid letting things just happen for fear of wasting time. But you know what? Whenever I have allowed for the cards to fall where they may I have (almost) always been pleasantly surprised when I discover the outcome was exactly what I wanted. Not even I could have planned it better myself. I think I need to follow my own example and try to live a little bit more like I cook. If I ruin a dish because of my experimenting, oh well! At the very least I learned something in that process. If my day doesn’t go as planned and a whole bunch of time and energy is wasted, then thats just the way it goes. Tomorrow is another day right?

Now for the pasta. I found a yummy orzo pasta salad recipe on another blog (http://foodformyfamily.com/) and I thought it would be the perfect thing to bring to a family pool party. It’s light, super tasty, and of course I had to add a few personal touches to it.

So heres to living life by the seat of my pants! Well, maybe not everyday. How about every third day? I know! I should schedule a few days of spontaneity on my calendar, that way I can kind of plan around it.

Jul 1

Steak Kabobs

I am completely in love with summer and you will never catch me complaining about the heat. During the winter, after the excitement from the holidays has died down I patiently wait for the sun to come out and for the temperature to rise.

So no I will never whine about getting into a hot car after it has been parked in a shadeless parking lot and having our legs stick to the seat.

No, I will never gripe about a dishwasher filled with cups because the boys seem to need a brand new one for every glass of juice or water they gulp down when it’s hot outside.

I love lugging bags of grocery’s into the house when the temperature hits triple digets. Yup, I really do.

My favorite thing of all is standing over a hot stove during the hottest part of the day to cook my family dinner. Ok, no I don’t love that. In fact I try to avoid the stove at all cost on the particularly hot days. So when my boys can’t stomach yet another night of salad I take the cooking outside to the BBQ. Nothing says summer time like everyday week night dinners cooked on the grill. One of my favorite things to BBQ is kabobs. You can taylor them specifically to each family members taste, they grill up quick, and they are so fun for the kids to eat. They are also great to serve at a party, like maybe a fourth of July party!

Here is my favorite steak kabob marinade. It only takes about an hour for the meat to marinate and it is the perfect combination of sweet and salty. Any of your summer vegetables will pair nicely with it and if red meat isn’t your thing I’m sure it would work well with chicken.

It’s suppose to hit 104 degrees next week, but I would take that over 50 degrees and raining any day!