Comfort & Guilt

Comfort: I made the family a chicken pot pie casserole for dinner Saturday night. My first time attempting this popular comfort food – I’m not a huge fan of chicken pot pie but thought it would be perfect for this rainy weather. For the most part, I was happy with how it turned out. Instead of pie crust or phyllo, I used canned biscuits and layered them on the bottom and top of the casserole. The filling was chopped chicken breast, carrots, potatoes, peas and corn. I missed what I thought was a key ingredient – celery! Next time, I will try this with celery, red bell pepper and bacon! (Yes, I strayed away from my planned lasagna, but I still cooked! :) )

Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

Guilt: I went grocery shopping early Saturday morning and I’ve been meaning to get over to Trader Joe’s for some snacks. Me and my guilty pleasure of dark chocolate! I found this Dark Chocolate Pretzel Bark at TJs. It’s so good and for a huge size, I thought it was a great deal for being less than three bucks. I seriously could have eaten the whole thing!

Dark Chocolate Pretzel Bark from Trader Joe's

Menu for This Weekend

We have another busy weekend ahead of us – Bub’s SAT prep class, Aly’s first softball game and getting a jump-start on the spring cleaning to name a few. One of the things I want to be better at is meal-planning – I was tremendous at this while I wasn’t working – a hero at coupon clipping! Felt like I saved signigicant amounts of money, simply by meal-planning. I am slowly transitioning back to that, especially since we have more exciting things to save for or spend our money on these days.

When weekends are busy, we turn to the evil convenient fast food drive-thrus. But after one weekend, I calculated how much we spent on food that weekend (whether eating out or going to a drive thru) and I was floored! Remember, there’s 6 of us now. The dollars add up, people! After that I vowed to myself that I will be more cognizant of how much we’re throwing at McD’s, Jack and all their other friends.

So this weekend, I got it all figured out.

Saturday:

Breakfast – Cereal & Fruit
Lunch – Egg Salad Sammies & Chips
(+ I will pack snacks for Aly’s game, because someone will likely be hungry – I know my kids.)
Dinner – Mom’s Lasagna & Hawaiian Garlic Bread*

Sunday:

Breakfast – Pancakes, Bacon & Eggs
Lunch – Hot Dogs & Fries
Dinner – Eat Out or Pick Up :)

Okay, don’t knock the health value – we’re going for fast and easy this weekend! Throughout the week, we eat pretty hearty and healthy. But I believe weekends and comfort foods go hand in hand. And instead of wasting money daily on junk, I’d rather put some L.O.V.E. into the food for most of the weekend, and treat them out for one special meal. Sunday dinner is TBD.

*Hawaiian Garlic Bread – Hubby is genius when it comes to improv in the kitchen. He unknowingly invented a new family fave. I’m sure most of you, at some point in your life, have tried the King’s brand Hawaiian rolls. Hubby cooked spaghetti one night and we didn’t have time to pick up french rolls that we typically use for garlic bread. So he took a 12 pack of the Hawaiian sweet rolls, did not separate each roll, but sliced the whole loaf in half, buttered it and added garlicky magic to it and baked it in the oven until it was crispy on the top. OMG – there’s something heavenly about the garlic and sweet bread combo. We LOVED it!

Pick one up and make some garlic bread!

Hostess With The Mostess

A friend at work introduced me to this cute website called hostesswiththemostess.com. This website is absolutely addicting – it’s full of colorful, creative party ideas. After browsing the site, I immediately felt like throwing a party – for what occasion, who cares! Here are some of my favorites, and for those of your who are new to HWTM, it’s a preview of the millions of ideas posted on their site. Enjoy!

Animal crackers personalized with a sticker!

You can do wonders with a paper lunch bag.

Cute invites!

Hostess got these from Oriental Trading Company

Cupcakes with monkey toppers carry out the theme...

Precious for a baby shower or little girl's birthday

So fun - especially for those obsessed with Twilight!

Giveaways for the Twilight bachelorette party.

SF Part 2: FOOD

We were only in SF for two days, but we managed to venture out to some fabulous restaurants that had a lot of buzz, others were just jewels in the city that J&Y introduced us to.

Anniversary Dinner at Absinthe:
As soon as we walked in, we were seated – Hubby made reservations early on and mentioned it was our anniversary. Before we were even seated, the front of the house wished us a “congrats” at least three different times. Overall, the experience was amazing. We arrived hungry and ready to order everything. 

I ordered one of their popular drinks that I was curious about, since I read about it in Yelp – The Galapagos. There were two “mysterious round objects” on the bottom of my glass which I thought were either olives or blueberries…wrong! They were brandied cherries. :)

Pisco, Kaffir lime leaf muddled in pepper syrup, lemon-lime juice, and a splash of grapefruit juice. Shaken & served up with sunken brandied cherries.

 We started with their pan roasted mussels and clams which were in a chorizo, white bean broth – and we had to order their frites that came with a side of dijon mustard (didn’t care for it), thyme infused malt vinegar (yum) and roasted bell pepper aioli (SO GOOD). We were so hungry that we didn’t take a picture of this one! LOL. 

What to order, what to order. We wanted to try their soups since Chef was a self-proclaimed soup genius,  so we went for it. We ordered the celery root soup and french onion soup. So fantastic! I’m not a big onion lover (or liker), but the french onion soup at Absinthe was delicious. The celery root soup was good as well, very mild but comforting. 

For dinner, I stayed true to my pledge to try grits for the first time so I ordered slow-cooked pork confit over house made bacon, collard greens, and cheese grits. It was very good but sadly our entrees took way too long to come out and after the starters, I was inching towards “full status”. Hubby ordered their braised beef cheeks with smoked yams and sauteed kale. Damn, those yams! I couldn’t stop eating them off his plate! And the beef cheeks were good too! Here’s a shot of the braised beef cheeks:

Beef cheeks, kale and yams from heaven!

As full as I was, I had room in my belly…more like a desire…for dessert. We shared their cookie plate which included blood orange meltaways, double-chocolate-chipmalt cookie, chocolate hazelnut sticky bun, and Oreo cheesecake bites…HEAVEN! The double-chocolate-chipmalt cookie were mini versions of my fave cookie – the chocolate duet from Panera of all places. So I was especially happy. 

Happy 3 Year Anniversary to us!

Sunday Lunch at Papalote:
After hours of shopping and walking around in the rain, you can bet we built up an appetite. Starving, we were. We wanted to venture out to the Mission to inhale the burrito that beat Bobby Flay in the burrito throwdown. So we did. We waited. A while. But mission completed, we satisfied our hunger with the winning Triple Threat Burrito! We were able to meet one of the co-owners, who also moonlight as DJs. Not sure I’d pay $19.95 for a burrito on a regular basis, but it hit the spot. Glad we got to try it. 

Papalote's kicked some burrito lovin' butt!

This bad boy had perfectly marinated beef, chicken and shrimp blanketed in a flour tortilla.

Sunday Dinner at Farmer Brown
Sis picked out this soul-food joint in the Tenderloin neighborhood. Loved the vibe! Some of us were still full from the mexican food we scarfed down for lunch, but we still loved the experience (and especially the company ;) )

We started with sweet potato fries and sis and I ordered a cocktail – though, not the one featured below, we were amused by it.

Classic. Should have been FREE.

The men ordered this manly sweet tea.

Cheers to 3 years!

Hubby and I shared a platter of soul food goodness: fried chicken, collard greens and mac and cheese. Oh, that mac and cheese was probably the best I’ve ever had. And that fried chicken…wish it was a bucket of 8 instead of 2 pieces. So wonderful! Then we shared the meyer lemon cheesecake and banana pudding. Both were very good!

Ate this all up - sis also offered some of her BBQ ribs, but we were stuffed and gave them back to her. LOL.

Of all the cheesecakes I've ever had in my life, this was the FIRST lemon one. It was delish!

Banana pudding - simply good.

Love you J&Y!

We visited some other spots including Just For You Cafe where they had a ton of international favorites including chorizo and eggs (what I ordered), beignets (what sis ordered), jambalaya (what Y ordered) and longonisa (what Hubby ordered). J&Y also took us to this place called Rainbow Grocery – think of Sweet Factory but for spices, teas, coffees, pastas, etc. Heaven for people like Hubby and I. We were in there for awhile!

SF Part 1: ART & MUSIC

Our anniversary weekend in SF was so wonderful. Hubby and I indulged in the passions that brought us together in the first place: music, art & food. My sis-in-law and bro-in-law are the best – they took us everywhere we wanted to go (dinners, art class, shopping) and introduced us to new places. They opened their comfy urban condo to us, which allowed us to catch up on much needed (and wanted) rest and good laughs. With four kids, we aren’t able to wake up when WE want to, so being able to do just that and follow our own agenda was truly a gift to us. Thanks J&Y. (And thanks to my brother and sis-in-law here in SD for watching the baby for us – made our trip worry-free!)

{We did so much in just two days that I’m breaking up these posts in two. Art & Music for Part 1. Food for Part 2.}

We took our fancy camera with us on the trip so we could capture the beauty of the city life. J&Y’s condo is sweetly adorned with photos and finds from their travels, and I loved how perfectly they furnished their place…so needless to say, their condo was  a playground for me to photograph.

Outside the 1:AM SF Gallery, ready to learn about the history of graffiti.

This month's theme at 1:AM SF is "The City", artwork inspired by the city of SF. Such creativity filled this room.

Just one of the pieces of lit telling the history behind graffiti - this one is specifically NY based.

Every "writer" needs their tools.

One of our favorites during the walking tour - all done with spray paint.

Told you I was a "writer". :)

NATE1 putting together a special piece for us.

JS3 for our 3rd Anniversary with our kids' first initials tagged on the top.

Class mural.

Had to pick up one of these little guys.

My B-I-L's finds...we all went a little crazy at Amoeba!

Picked this based on the artwork - had no idea this was 1 in 1,000 that was leaked out to the public until the cashier had to double-check the pricing.

Had to pick this one up.

Photo of the bridge.

J&Y watching the footage Hubby captured from their wedding day.

Anniversary gift from my Hubby / Sis lounging with her latest read

Concentration.

Had fun picking up chocolate for the fam - loved the packaging & design.

My new obsession.

Sis made us the best lattes all weekend long!

Tune in for Part 2…

So Good & Good For You

I mentioned in an earlier post that I have been obsessed with dark chocolate. I was never a huge chocolate lover (although I didn’t mind it), but I am loving these recent indulgences that have either been lying around in our pantry (so dangerous) and that my loving hubby has been giving to me as gifts for Vday and our anniversary. Here’s a tidbit I found on the health benes of chocolate and dark chocolate:

Chocolate is made from plants, which means it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables. These benefits are from flavonoids, which act as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from aging caused by free radicals, which can cause damage that leads to heart disease. Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries). Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide, and balance certain hormones in the body.

I don’t know when my hubby turned into the Willy Wonka of dark chocolatey goodness, but here are a couple of things he gave me that I devoured thanks to him. Thanks, love!

These dark chocolate Fling sticks are beautiful and tasty. They look very similar to a TWIX but shimmery (yes, shimmery) on the outside and only 80 calories a piece. I consider these my new diet chocolate fix.

This big dark velvety chocolate bar has bits of toffee and caramelized almonds in every bite. Good job, Ghirardelli for creating another winner. Love this!

Random Thoughts Thursday

  • So much to do and prep before our trip: Ella’s clothes & food for the weekend, buy a canvas for our graffiti class, laundry, print out addresses for places we’ll be dining at, make changes to Aly’s softball banner, buy a gift for CJ’s bday…and I’m sure there’s more. We need to pack too!
  • So excited for our romantic dinner at our fave Oceanaire – mmmm!
  • Thinking of leaving work early today – see the first bullet point.
  • The character/author in The Happiness Project  totally reminds me of myself! I guess it’s more beneficial reading about a character similar to yourself so you can relate.
  • Forecast says it’s going to rain in SF this weekend – but a little rain never stops us from having a good time. Plus, it’s romantic! :)
  • A piece of advice my sis-in-law told me once keeps ringing in my head – in a good way. She told me that when something is said aloud, whether true or not, there is power in those words. It’s made me more conscious about the words and advice I lend to my children. Or even how I deliver critique or discipline. Ever since she told me this, it’s made me more aware and mindful of how I talk to the kids. The other day, before I layed into Aubreigh about being “last-minute” with several important items, I told her that I was proud of her and listed several reasons why (she’s really turned herself around) and she looked at me with her full attention, as if to capture ever word of praise that she so deserved. Because I praised her first, she accepted my reaction to her being last-minute and even apologized. (Thanks for the advice, sis!)
  • Our kids gave us an anniversary card so sweet with words that made me cry (glad I read it privately). In their (Aub & Bub) note to me, they thanked me for coming into their Dad’s life and thanked their Dad for finding someone who loved them as much as she loved him. Words are powerful.
  • When we get back from our trip, we need to clean…especially our room.
  • I don’t where this recent obsession with dark chocolate “anything” came from! Munching on dark chocolate yogurt covered raisins – yum!

Happy Anniversary

Today marks our 3 year wedding anniversary. This November will be 7 years of being together. I love to think back at how it all began and how different our lives were. Now we are married and raising four kids. We’ve faced so many challenges in the 7 years, but we have always stuck by each other and never gave up hope that things will only get better…and each time, it has.

When I went downstairs this morning, my hubby had Happy Anniversary streamers hanging, a vase of my favorite flowers, a  beautiful card and inside a gift bag was a DVD and book. He also hid little notes in my wallet, my lunch bag and I have to find one more – little reminders of how much he loves me. I’m so lucky.

Thank you hon, for being my number one fan, for always being proud of everything I do, for being positive for me when I feel hopeless and for loving me no matter what. You are a wonderful husband and father, and we are all so lucky to have you. I love you very very much.

A Love Note

This was written in the Valentine’s Day note from our kids:

Dearest Mom & Daddy,

Happy Valentine’s Day! Can you believe this is our sixth Valentine’s together? Well thank you for all the LOVE you have unconditionally showered us with over the years and the endless gifts you give us even when we don’t deserve them. You have been the best parents a child could ask for and we are so thankfulto have a mom and dad to support and guide us as much as you have. You two go to the ends of the earth to make sure we are happy and although it may seem as if we don’t notice the extent  that you go to for us, we acknowledge and appreciate every bit of it. We definitely need to work on displaying our appreciation towards you guys through words, actions, and gifts. We’re sorry we didn’t do as much for you as you did for us today, but we hope you know we love you with all our HEARTS.

Love,

Bub, Aubs, Aly & Ella

…and at the end of the day, reading a note like this makes everything make sense. Had to share…

Valentine’s Day Weekend

I was introduced to a fabulous website – www.perpetualkid.com – and I just HAD to pick up a few things for the hubby for V’day.  This website is so hilarious – I could spend hours looking at the stuff they sell! This is what I got him:

I wanted to make him a CD of songs that remind us of our relationship and where we are now. The last CD I made him was 7 years ago! Then, I saw THIS! Had to get it - mix of old school and new technology. He LOVED it!

 

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION: Back in the day, when you wanted to get your gin and juice frosty you had to reach for some lame ice cubes. If you want to get your party crack-a-lackin' you're going to want to bring the noise with these Hip Hopsicle beverage chillers.

LOVE Nacho Libre - plus Hubby needed something to distinguish his "twin keys".

 

DWELL Magazine: With the zillions of magazine subscriptions I have, I thought he deserved to get something fun in the mail too. He actually asked for this but didn't expect it so soon! (not from PK)

I agree with PK – we should always “entertain our inner child”. We also gave each other sentimental cards with personal notes to each other (which at the end of all the present-opening, means the most anyway). The weekend was so busy with the kids’ games and practices, but it was so nice to be able to spend time with them in this gorgeous weather and just “catch up”! Our kids were so thoughtful and gave us these hand-made “DATE NIGHT” and “KIDS COOK BREAKFAST & DINNER” coupons – so sweet! We even used one last night – Hubby and I snuck away and had a late-night recap over a cup of Starbucks at our “spot”. That had to be the best part of my Valentine’s Day – warm drinks and easy conversation with the love of my life. :)

So excited for this weekend…;)