Aug 19

Pizza Bagels

The end of summer vacation has got be my least favorite time of year. Our lazy, sunny days have been taken over by drop off’s, pick up’s, school lunch, and everybody’s favorite, homework. You would think that a mother with four children would be delighted to wave goodbye to her kids as they leave for school each morning, but not me. I kind of hate it. I know what your going to say “Well if you love hanging out with your kids so much why don’t you just homeschool them?” I tried that for a few years when the boys were younger and for whatever reason it just didn’t work out for us. I wasn’t very good at keeping a schedule and when we did hit the books I wasn’t very creative and I had a hard time with making learning fun. That’s ok, because thankfully my boys ended up loving school and I was able to figure out what I was good at.

I’m really good at getting them ready and excited for a new school year. I love helping them pick out new school supplies and talking to them about what Pre K,  2nd, 5th, and 6th grade will mean for them. Speaking of 6th grade, I’m also pretty good at teaching my oldest son how to dance with a girl when the time comes for him to go to his first school dance! No, I can not believe that school dances are about to happen for him. Don’t even get me started, I’ll only end up crying! But what I’m really good at is listening to them talk about their day when I finally get to pick them up from school! It’s one of my favorite things and I just love listening to what happened in their day while they were out of our up nest. Of course they are always starving after school so if I want to hear about what went down on the playground I’d better put a really good snack in front of them! These fun, simple pizza bagels toast quickly under the broiler and always bring everybody to the table. They are also easy to taylor to everyones taste! Not a big fan of tomatoes? No prob, I can leave them off.

While I am looking forward to a few (precious) hours to myself during the week, I never look forward to saying goodbye to another quickly vanishing summer with my boys.

I am very well aware of the fact that I am a 33 year old woman with four children, and that my oldest is almost as tall as me. I’ve also noticed that I no longer get carded when buying a bottle of wine at the grocery store, cannot fit one leg into a pair of pants that have the word “junior” on the tag, or have the slightest idea as to what songs are popular on the radio right now. Despite all of these glaring facts that I am getting older, I still can’t help but feel like a teenager sometimes. Not that I would ever want to relive those awkward, self loathing years! But there are a few qualities that teenagers posses that I never want to grow out of.

I love the resilience teenagers have when they mess up. I’ve noticed that adults can be really hard on themselves when things don’t work out the way there’re suppose to. Instead of learning from that mistake and moving on as an easy going teenager would, an adult might linger in that failure and allow it to become a part of who they are. I never want my past mistakes to impede on my possible future success.

I love that younger people dance when ever their favorite song comes on. Adults dance too, but sometimes it takes a lot of coaxing (and maybe a little liquid courage) to get them out there without any embarrassment or shame. I never want to be too old or too mature to dance until my feet hurt. If an opportunity to jump on stage with the band and dance presents it’s self, I hope to always take it. I also hope my best friend will be there to Instagram it.

I am totally envious of the way teenagers can eat! A double cheese burger and a side of fries for a snack? Sure! A large chocolate milkshake to wash it all down with? Why not? Those were the days and I wish I would have enjoyed it all while I still had that crazy metabolism! What I do not miss is the sluggishness or bad skin that came from eating all of that stuff. As an adult I love knowing how to eat heathy. I also love figuring out how to make junk food slightly less junky for me!  A few nights ago a craving for nachos hit me hard! I didn’t want just regular ol’ cheddar cheese melted on a pile of tortilla chips, I wanted that bright-yellow-is-this-stuff- even-cheese nacho cheese! Did I make Ryan drive to the store and buy us (me) a jar of that tasty stuff? No, I decided to be a grown up about things and make my own! It was amazing and in true teenage form I ate as much as I wanted at 10:00 at night. A decision I payed for with a slightly sour adult stomach ache in the morning.

Don’t get me wrong I  absolutely love getting older, but I’m not quite sure I’ll ever truly grow up.

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.

Well it’s about stinkin’ time!

I don’t know about you but the moment winter begins I patiently wait for summer to return. Don’t I enjoy the holidays you ask? Sure, but wouldn’t they be so much better if it were 80 degrees and sunny outside? I start to get a little antsy for the sun when Spring rolls around, and when it’s still gloomy and pouring rain in April that’s when I start to get down right impatient and mildly annoyed. I get it, I get it, April showers bring May flowers but between you and me I would happily sacrifice those flowers in order for the warmer weather to begin. Thank goodness the flip-flop-tank-top-running-outside-time-to-dust-off-the-BBQ weather is almost here!

Speaking of the BBQ Ryan absolutely loves to grill outside. I think it makes him feel like he’s on vacation or something and that’s totally fine with me! He’s responsible for half of the dinner and there’s less mess in the kitchen for us to clean up. While he’s in charge of the grill that puts me in charge of the sides. I try to keep it simple, roasted veggies and maybe a little bit of garlic bread. If I’m in a creative mood I’ll whip up a salad consisting of the remains in my crisper and possibly whatever pasta or grain I might have floating around in my pantry. Completely inspired by our family’s first BBQ of the season I threw together this roasted cauliflower and orzo salad a few Sundays ago. My carb loving boys gobbled it up and this veggie loving mama smiled as they did.

Just as it’s important to take care of the people you love it’s also important to let those same people take care of you when you need them to.

I’ve discovered that it’s important for me to take time to run, kick-box or Zumba away any unwanted stress and anxiety. I’ve also found it’s really important to blow off the gym every once in a while and instead use that time to take a long, hot quiet bath.

I think it’s important to have plans, goals and dreams. I also think it’s important to sometimes forget all of that for a bit and allow a day to take you where it wants to go. Who knows where you’ll end up and how exciting is that!?

Because I usually hit the ground running in the morning I find it to be very, very important that I try my hardest to get 8 hours of sleep every night. I recently had a night out with a couple of my favorite girlfriends and the three of us talked, ate and completely threw our usual bed times out the window that evening. Staying up that night until 5 am to laugh louder than our neighbors would have liked while enjoying a few Tom Collins, bean dip, Fritos and a handful of Oreo’s proved to be more important than hitting the hay at a more reasonable hour. I woke up exhausted the next day but thanks to my friends I was completely revived mentally and more ready to take on the week ahead than if  I would have had a weekend full of rest.

Thank you to my girlfriends for such a wonderful night out. The only thing that I would change about that evening was the bean dip we ate. I wish I could have made this bean dip instead of us eating the kind that comes out of a can. Not that there is anything wrong with that kind of dip! Along with the rest of the silliness of that night it helped to remind me what it feels like to be a kid again and also how great Fritos with bean dip taste!

What is your take on Valentines day? Do you dress in red and send the person you love the most chocolates and roses? Or do you roll your eyes every time you see a box of conversation hearts and laugh at the busy restaurants filled with couples gazing longingly into each others eyes on Valentines night? I personally fall somewhere in the middle but lean a little more to the side that thinks this day is kinda silly. Of course I love to be surprised with flowers and have my husband treat me to a beautiful night out. I am a huge fan of love and all of the wonderful things that come with being in love. There is nothing wrong with a day devoted to celebrating this beautiful emotion but I’ll only toast to love if it’s the real thing. In my experience true love is not even an emotion, but it is instead a state of being and every decision you make while walking in that state is a testimony to that love. If you look at love like that then everyday becomes Valentines day and every loving action is like surprising your partner with the most beautiful bouquet of flowers every afternoon. February 14th then becomes just a fun festive day and you’ll be so full of real love you won’t even have room to stomach a hastily made heart shaped chocolate dessert at an over crowed restaurant.

Back when I was a new wife and felt like Valentines day was the bee’s knees my friend and I thought it would be super romantic to cook our husband’s a candle lit dinner. She and I put together a simple menu that included a fancy red cocktail, beef roulades, a salad of some sort and one of her husband’s favorite things, garlic bread. Seeing that we were both still novices in the kitchen the beef was under cooked, the salad was overdressed and the garlic bread was completely inedible! Because we didn’t understand the power raw garlic possesses we though it would be a great idea to mince and entire head of garlic and put all of it on the bread. The more the better right? Wrong! While the bread (and the entire neighborhood) did smell amazing, one bite packed quite a punch. It made our eyes water and our tongues burn but did our husbands complain? Not even for a moment! Even though dinner was kind of horrible they cleaned their plates because that’s what love does. It see’s beyond the awful and with a little hard work it can get past the yucky. Our husbands were able to get over the plate of horrors that was put in front of them and instead see what that dinner really was. A beautiful loving meal made especially for them.

In honor of that dinner I’m remaking that terrible garlic bread. This time it’s crispy, melty, and perfectly garlicky. After years of cooking with garlic I have learned what a powerful ingredient it can be. After years of loving and being loved by my husband I am constantly learning what a powerful state that is to be in.

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!”

Dec 28

Irish Nachos

I want you to take the bull by the horns, jump into the deep end and maybe even get in a little over your head!

What in the world am I talking about? I’m talking about that project you’ve been meaning to start, you know that thing you’ve been putting on the back burner. This is totally your year to get it done, to make it happen, to take the first step!

That first step can seem overwhelming at first and I know how easy it is to talk yourself out of a really good idea you’ve had but trust me that idea was given to you for a reason. Take these Irish nachos for example, for starers the term “Irish nachos” dosen’t even make sense! Do they serve nachos in Ireland? What do you wash them down with? A Guinness or a Corona? But come on, who really cares about logistics when it comes to crispy potatoes smothered in melted cheese. Did I mention that there is bacon involved in this one? Regardless of how ridiculous these sound, whoever came up with them deserves a big pat on the back!

So get the ball rolling!

Make that phone call!

Write that email!

I promise things will magically start to come together. Who knows you might even uncover a new ending to your journey. How unexpected, a little scary and super cool would that be?

The best thing about traveling with our boys is that no matter where we go together everywhere feels a little bit like home. Are there inevitable hard parts when traveling in a party of six? Sure, but those parts rarely outweigh the good parts.

As I have mentioned before Ryan and I booked this trip knowing it might not be as easy as past family trips but almost as soon as we hoped off the plane we were incredibly surprised by just how accommodating New York city could be. When we reached our apartment in Harlem I was delighted with it’s spaciousness and the family friendly vibe of the neighborhood. Being walking distance to some of the most incredible soul food restaurants in the United States was pretty awesome too! I was impressed with how comfortable my northern California country boys were on the subway and how they even thought the quiet rumble of it rushing underneath our apartment was a soothing sound at night. Our experience with New Yorkers themselves was also wonderful! Not once were we given frustrated looks as we fumbled our way in and out of the subway or when we accidentally took over a busy sidewalk with a stroller and three other slower moving kids. People were helpful, kind and even complimentary to our sometimes overwhelming family. I also noticed the huge sense of community New Yorkers have with one another. This city has been through a lot in the last ten years and the pride and resilience of it’s residents could be seen/felt everywhere we looked.

We did a lot with our five days in the city! We took the boys to their first Broadway musical (The Adam’s family) and even though the show started later in the evening they were wide awake and on the edge of their seats for the entire show! We were mesmerized by Times Square at night and were respectful of the lives lost on 9/11 as we walked though the memorial. We couldn’t wait to have dessert in Dylans Candy shop and the boys couldn’t believe that there was an entire 3 story store dedicated all to Nintendo!

Ryan and I are always excited to show our boys different parts of the country and expose them to different ways of life. I hope it helps them to understand that their lives can take any shape they want them to take and that the world is a much bigger place than just what they see everyday. At the end of a vacation I am always happy to come home, California is where I belong. However there were a few tears from one of my boys when he realized our last night in the city had come and it made me wonder if on this trip a heart of a New Yorker was born.

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.