In the Dinner Rotation

It started with an easy pasta recipe from the local food celeb, Sam The Cooking Guy. We love this guy! He’s hilarious and brilliant in the kitchen, taking easy-to-find ingredients and creating gourmet magic.

After I received a pleasing reaction from the family on the Spicy-ish Sausage Pasta I made for dinner one night months ago, I decided that this recipe was easy enough that it will have to be part of the regular rotation of dinners. Somehow, the recipe evolved. I started to play with other ingredients I happened to have on hand — throw a little of this in, a little of that — and voila! I feel so confident with this newly evolved recipe and have made it SO many times for our family, that I am no longer measuring the ingredients and kind of winging it each time by adding or trying something new. The family seems to enjoy it and every time I’m in the kitchen cooking this, at least one of our kids will say “Ooooh…are you making your special pasta dish? Mmmm.” :) Even Ella will eat numerous plates of this pasta! It’s perfect for large dinner parties and big families, special occasions and potlucks.

Start with the ‘Sam recipe’ and try these ingredients for a different twist:

  • Try adding a can of drained Fire Roasted Tomatoes
  • Try adding some Roasted Bell Peppers or even the fresh kind — red is best
  • Try adding pesto in addition to/or in place of the basil
  • Be generous with your parmesan cheese
  • Skip out on the butter — you really don’t need it and it still tastes delicious without it!
  • Try ziti or penne pasta
  • Top it with crispy bacon bits — mmmm…everything is better with bacon!

The family is trying to come up with a name for this dish. I’ll keep you posted. ;)

The Eggstraordinary Egg Hunt 2011

Thanks to a very disappointing Egg Hunt last year where our little ones were nearly trampled on, we were determined to take matters into our own hands and plan an Eggstraordinary Egg Hunt in which adults and children alike would enjoy a relaxing, fun-filled, stress-free day where everyone comes out a winner.

Every family was asked to bring a dish to share and two dozen eggs for the hunt, which was more than plenty! We asked all the Daddies to hide the eggs, and it looked like they had fun doing that! The older siblings helped the little ones during the egg hunt itself. After the hunt, everyone enjoyed the “pot luck” brunch and relaxed as the children played. It was a wonderful day, and it looks like this will be an annual event for us all! :)

Las Vegas Weekend Getaway

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What an incredible weekend the Hubby and I had. Even though it was only 3 days/3 nights, it was comparable to how much fun and how memorable our honeymoon was. There were so many “meant to be” moments that made our mini-vacation feel so special. From delicious food on and off the strip, to an enjoyable live show, to meeting family for the first time, to the live music , to the simple “do what we want when we want / no agenda” mentality. Every minute of our trip was stress-free and relaxing…even during the times we were in the middle of Las Vegas Blvd. stop and go traffic. It was ALL good. We are still recovering from our trip and going through withdrawals. We are so thankful to everyone who made it possible for us to enjoy a wonderful weekend away from reality.

Some notable moments from our trip:

  • Our awesome patio overlooking the pools. We would sit out there every morning, afternoon and evening between our outings and just chill and enjoy the cool Vegas weather we were blessed with.
  • Food, food, food! Olives at the Bellagio, Aloha Kitchen, Green Valley Buffet, Yard House, Mad Greek…delicious, all of it!
  • Bars & Lounges – we went to the Fontana Bar, Casa Fuente, and Cadillac Ranch during our trip.
  • Family time – we met up with Hubby’s cousin and his family. It was my first time meeting everyone. Always nice to spend time with family. Wonderful people.
  • Human Nature Motown Show – a must-see for anyone who loves Motown music. So entertaining!
  • Bellagio Water Show – we had front row seats to this at the Fontana Bar, drinks and cigars in hand.
  • Shopping – we had our pick from all the outlets and malls surrouding us but we decided to do our shopping at the Fashion Show Mall.

Vegas…we will be back!

Mommy & Me Date #4

Last week, I decided to take my only boy on a one-on-one date. This date was going to be different from the ones I planned for his three sisters. This is my only son and he’s 18 years old now. I had to be ready for topics of conversation that interested an 18 year old and had to plan an outing that he’d be able to enjoy and appreciate more than maybe his sisters would.

I struggled and solicited help from the Hubby – after all, he’s a boy too. :) With his help, I decided to take my boy to Seau’s. The football theme of the restaurant, the extensive menu and the fact that they were playing live island reggae that night sold me. Although he isn’t 21 yet, being able to enjoy live island reggae in a venue might make him feel the privileges of his age. I let him drive us to our destination, he was able to pick out whatever he wanted (I reminded him to take advantage of the fact that he didn’t have to share with his sisters), and there was a whole lot of conversing. We talked about relationships, plans after college, island music…

After dinner, I planned on taking him shopping for anything he might need. He asked for shampoo (did I mention that this kid is easy to please???). So off to Target we went and along with the shampoo, I was able to treat him to a new pair of shoes and some Paul Frank pajama pants which they have in men’s sizes. LOL. When we got home, he showered and changed into his new Paul Frank pajama pants. :) We had a great time together and I look forward to more one-on-one dates with him, as well as with his sisters, in the years to come.

“Bubba, you make me proud to have you as my one and only son. You bring so much joy into my life just by being you. I love you.”

Indie Films

This past weekend, in between the birthday celebrations, I found myself caught up in not one, but TWO indie films – Lovely & Amazing and Mother & Child. Coincidentally, both films had similarities. They followed individual characters who were linked to each other and in both films, the main characters were all women. The movies had the depth you’d find in a good book – you slowly learn about each character with every word read, but in this case, in every word spoken. Although the movies had a kind of darkness to it, I really enjoyed the dialogue driven pace they both had. I love indie films – sometimes Hollywood lacks the level of quality in storytelling that indie films can bring out.  

34 Things To Do Before I Turn 35

  1. Get back in the boxing gym – even if for a couple of hours.
  2. Make something in my crock pot other than chili.
  3. Pay it forward to at least 5 people.
  4. Write a children’s book about a personal experience.
  5. Buy a print, frame it and hang it up.
  6. Start a blurb book for Ella and finish up at least the first year of her life.
  7. Go to a Marauders football game, just to support the alma mater.
  8. Start jogging – and make it a semi-regular thing.
  9. Visit the zoo at least 3 times before our membership expires.
  10. Fly a kite.
  11. Visit at least one museum in Balboa Park.
  12. Have a beach day.
  13. Have a picnic in the park
  14. Watch the sunset with the Hubby.
  15. Go wine-tasting…
  16. Enjoy live jazz.
  17. Volunteer my time.
  18. Go meatless for a whole week!
  19. Plan a surprise date for the Hubby.
  20. Host a co-ed dinner party.
  21. Request a day off of work to do whatever I want.
  22. Learn the ways of the DSLR and take frame-worthy shots of my kids.
  23. Try a cuisine I’ve never had before.
  24. Go to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles.
  25. Pay off all major credit cards.
  26. Makeover my existing patio furniture OR buy a new set.
  27. Learn to play a song on the ukelele.
  28. Go on a trip that requires a plane ticket.
  29. Plan a one-on-one date with each kid.
  30. Take my Mom out and spoil her.
  31. Reach Elite status on Yelp.
  32. Write an article for Mira Mesa Living magazine.
  33. Participate in a charity run/walk.
  34. Send a surprise through the mail to someone you care about.

The Bday Weekend

A lucky girl I am to be surrounded by so many wonderful people in my life. It has been a weekend of celebrations with some of the most infuential and supportive figures in my life. Here are some snapshots from the weekend.

All of my birthday love notes -- what a way to start my day!

Blowing out the candles with Ella & Addy

Birthday lunch with the Hubby at Empirehouse

The famous EH sausage bread - YUM!

At Karl Strauss with my favorite ladies

Girls' Night Out

Some of the best calamari known to man - Karl Strauss

Probably the best brownie sundae I've ever had - Karl Strauss

The folks

My LOVE

I love this because Ella was closing her eyes and making a wish :)

My family

Sibs, goddaughter, neph & my baby girl

The Big Update: 33 Things To Do Before I Turn 34

Check out my latest update to the to-do list I wrote last year. Ambitious, yes. I can say that I achieved a solid 14 out of  the 33 things I set out to do. But as you can see from my comments below, I made progress and attempted many of the to-do’s. I feel pretty proud of myself, no less. As busy as my life can be, I am happy to have made time for the things and people I consider important to me. Look out for my new to-do list which I will post tomorrow.  

  1. Read at least 3 good books – with my limited time and short attention span for reading, this would be a big accomplishment for me! I started a few books but never had the chance to sit down and finish them.
  2. Watch at least 10 movies from our massive DVD collection. Let’s see, we probably watched about 5. But we watched TONS of movies on our movie channels!
  3. Complete my craft / work / office area complete with an inspiration board and pictures of my family. (6/12)
  4. Design a business card and / or stationary for myself. Hopefully, I’ll have more time to sit down and do this.
  5. Go on at least one movie date with my Hubby. Although we didn’t GO OUT to the movies, we did enjoy MANY movie nights at home.
  6. Get a Thai massage. Didn’t get a THAI massage but got a couple of good massages this year.
  7. Spend time with each of my godchildren, and for the ones that live out of state, send them a surprise in the mail. I was able to do something special for some of my godkids and their important milestones, but I plan to put more effort this year.
  8. Get to my goal weight. Not at my goal weight YET but I feel great! I am certainly down a few sizes, lost a few inches and am down 10 lbs since the start of the year.
  9. Plant an herb garden.(4/25)
  10. Plan an exciting surprise date for my Hubby. Although not a surprise, we went on several dates this year!
  11. Reconnect with an old friend.
  12. Plan a cousins’ night out. Sadly, I didn’t get to plan one this year. Better luck this year I hope! We’ve all just been way too busy.
  13. Travel to a new place with my Hubby. We didn’t travel to a new place, but definitely enjoyed new experiences together. :)
  14. Buy a King Size bed. (6/19)
  15. Start putting memory books together for our children – you don’t have to finish but just start!
  16. Buy a third vehicle.(8/6)
  17. Pay off /or pay down our store cards. In progress.
  18. Try escargot or oysters – just once! Failed.
  19. Participate in a charity walk or run (more like jog). Was so close to participating in one – does designing a shirt for one count? :)
  20. Find something super-fly at a garage sale or swap meet that I can use or display proudly. We had a garage sale but I didn’t get to shop at any garage sales or swap meets.
  21. Try at least 10 new recipes from the many magazines and cookbooks I own. So maybe not 10, but I did try several recipes this year!
  22.  Cook a whole turkey or chicken for the first time.
  23. Watch the sunset with my Hubby. I’m sad we didn’t get to do this.
  24. Make sure my closet is filled with clothes and shoes that are my current size and I’d actually wear. (6/12)
  25. Go to a Farmer’s Market and cook a meal with the ingredients I buy. I would like to do this now that we have a Farmer’s Market in our community.
  26. Do a one-on-one with each child – and make it as special as I can. The last one is with our boy and it’s tonight! Consider this mission complete.
  27. Plan a family trip. (8/20-8/22 our family vacation in Disneyland/LA)
  28.  Have a me day.
  29. Find at least 10 of my favorite photos in our digital collection and frame/display them. Unfortunately, didn’t get to do this. We are in the process of it though.
  30. Take a class – cooking, art, sport – anything! Hoping I will get to learn something new this year.
  31. Plan a night out or in with my best girlfriends.
  32. Treat myself to a really cute accessory.
  33. Enjoy a live performance by a well-known or local musician. (4/30, EKOLU, Rebel Souljahz, Katchafire)

The Famous School Cafeteria Peanut Butter Bars

I finally found the recipe to recreate those yummy nostalgic peanut butter bars from back in my elementary school days. I didn’t like most of the things served on those cafeteria trays, but these were my favorite! I’m here to say that this recipe was tried and true by yours truly– a true copycat and I had to share. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Bar Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter and line with parchment a 9X13 baking pan.

Bars

16 TBs unsalted butter

1.5 C peanut butter (I used chunky because that is what we had–use what you prefer)

1.5 C granulated sugar

.5 C golden brown sugar, packed

1.5 tsp kosher salt

1 T vanilla

4 eggs at room tempurature

2 C flour, sifted

Melt together butter and peanut butter.  Set aside to cool to room tempurature.  In large bowl, sift together sugars and salt.  Whisk in one egg at a time until combined.  Add-in vanilla.  Whisk in peanut butter mixture until combined.  Sift in flour and mix until flour just disappears.  Pour into prepared pan and bake until tester comes out with moist crumbs (about 35 minutes).

Icing

1 C confectioner’s sugar

.25 cup peanut butter, melted

Milk (amount depends on desired thickness of icing–start with a couple of tablespoons and go from there).

Once bars have cooled, flip out onto a cooling rack fitted into a cookie sheet (to catch the icing).  Mix icing ingredients togther until of desired consistency.  Drizzle over bars.  Let icing set up and cut.

A Delicious Blast from the Past