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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Friday Favorites

Favorite Adventure Spending the first day of fall at a pumpkin patch. Doesn’t matter if it’s at least 85 degrees, autumn has arrived and I’m excited! Mike, Leilani and I took the girls to a pumpkin patch in Irvine Park. The park is huge – there’s a lake, horses, a train, tons of wide open space – definitely worth more visits year round. Leia had a blast leading our group through the hay bale maze. She spent a few minutes in a bounce house before moving on to saddle on a hay bale horses, assigning a rider to each one, “Daddy’s horse, Leia’s horse!” We walked through a haunted house, which wasn’t terrifying (thank goodness, because I’m a wuss and hate all things scary). Decorating cookies and cherry icees before dinner made it an all around great adventure.


Favorite Recipe Quinoa stuffed bell peppers. I pinned this recipe from Eat Yourself Skinny as inspiration for the one bell pepper in my fridge. I ended up using shredded zucchini (leftover from my semi-failed attempt at zucchini brownies) and baked sweet potato (leftover from dinner the night before) mixed in with a package of garden vegetable quinoa and freshly shaved parmesean. It was delicious! Leia didn’t eat the pepper but she did have some quinoa and sweet potato. Note to self: put stuffed peppers in the dinner rotation more often.

Favorite Drink This tea, mixed with a splash of almond milk and a little stevia, satisfies my cravings for Oregon Chai. Those chai mix packets are full of sugar and therefore calories I don’t need. I know it says peach tea, but I don’t really taste peach, just the cinnamon, cardamom and ginger.

Favorite Fashion I’m not a fashionable person. I hate shopping for clothes and shoes. I can’t coordinate random items into an outfit or know what accessories to add on. I wear the same 8 or 10 outfits all year. Too cold for that sundress? Throw some leggings on! But I loooooove Pinterest (and Polyvore) for making it so easy to create a virtual wardrobe.

Would absolutely wear this as a wedding dress. But that would mean only wearing it once, which is not enough.

I love these colors together.

Favorite Travel Fantasy View the Aurora Borealis in Finland, check out these glass domes! Sometime in my life I’m going to stay there, surrounded by snow, and watch the sky light up.

Breathtaking.

Favorite Dream Home Built in kitchen tables. My dream home definitely has a breakfast nook – in addition to the rustic, farm-style dining table with 10 chairs, but that’s another post.

Favorite Inspiration Love fearlessly. Live intentionally.

Milk and Meat

Last week I watched Forks Over Knives, with a new appreciation for the vegan lifestyle. I completely understand how a whole food, plant based diet would be ideal for our bodies. It’s disturbing to be reminded of the abundance of processed food around us and how it becomes an addition. The negative impact on our bodies and the planet from consuming animal products is legit. Still, I can’t imagine living without dairy or meat. Like the strangers interviewed, I grew up thinking “I need milk for calcium” and “I need meat for protein.” It’s one thing to incorporate healthier alternatives as I educate myself, but removing them completely? Probably not going to happen.

When Leia was a year old I planned to wean her from breast milk to cows milk. I assumed all kids drank milk. The only people who drank “those other milks” were vegan hippies or lactose intolerant. It turned out Leia doesn’t like (non breast) milk. I offered her whole milk, low fat milk, soy/coconut/rice/almond “milks” – technically it’s not milk if it’s not from a mammary gland right? She’ll eat cheese (sometimes), yogurt (every morning), and ice cream (duh) so I just shrugged it off assuming she’d get calcium others ways. Then I got on a smoothie kick and started buying unsweetened almond milk because the calories were lower than my nonfat cow milk. Several months later I haven’t gone back to cow milk. After talking to a few nutrition savvy friends and doing research online I realized milk isn’t quite the “super food” were taught growing up. Cow milk is for baby cows. Even with hormone-free organic milk, you’re doing little more than ingesting a multivitamin. The calcium in milk is not easily absorbed by our bodies. Countries with the lowest consumption of dairy have the least hip fractures and vice versa. Shocking right?

I’m open to trying dairy free alternatives, like those tasty soy ice cream sandwiches from Trader Joes. I sometimes substitute coconut oil for butter, depending on the recipe. I bought soy coffee creamer. That said, I’m hardly running for the non dairy hills. In my heart I know I’ll never give it up completely. I love cheese, and it would ruin my life not to eat it. I also love ice cream. I eat yogurt several days a week.

We eat a lot of chicken. I’d love to say I only buy organic and free range, but I don’t. Maybe by eating less meat I can afford the price difference. Despite all the meals from scratch made in my kitchen, pre-cooked chicken nuggets are a staple in my freezer.

I feel less guilty about the chicken nuggets I usually get because I splurge on the “healthier” options. She loves them, and sometimes it’s just easy to heat something up for lunch. For meatballs, tacos, burgers I use turkey. We don’t eat red meat very often. Occasionally we’ll have beef ribs with my mom and uncle, or every few months I’ll make a roast in the crock pot. But a well prepared steak will always make me salivate.

I’ll never completely give up meat but we’re going to eat less of it. Harm reduction, right? I want to cook more with lentils. I think they’d make a great filler in ground meat recipes. I might even cook with tofu on occasion – if I can get the recipe for the only tofu I’ve enjoyed from the JPeds. I’ve been keeping an eye out for tasty vegetarian ideas when I scan Pinterest. Today was an unofficial Meatless Monday: Breakfast was peanut butter on a whole grain waffle, banana, coffee with soy creamer. Lunch was a sandwich with cheese, veggies and a big scoop of avocado hummus. Dinner was half a bell pepper stuffed with quinoa, zucchini and sweet potato. Snacks were an apple and a pumpkin muffin. I didn’t feel deprived at all.

Friday Favorites

One of my favorite foodie blogs is Iowa Girl Eats. Her recipes are consistently delicious, the photography is stellar, and her bubbly personality shines through in each post. Each week she does a “Friday Favorites” post about random things from the internet. My friend Jamie at Handling with Grace? does “Gripes and Gratitudes” and Jasmine Star (the first blog I followed back in 2008) does “Kisses and Disses.” I love these ideas so much I’m stealing them! Imitation is flattery right?

I don’t really think of this blog as something strangers on the internet read. I’m pretty sure my only regular viewers are my Mom and five or six awesome friends, and I’m cool with that. Maybe every now and then someone does a search for key words that match my tags and find a recipe. I consider this blog a diary, a way to look back years from now and reminisce. Which made me realize I want weekly post where I just write about random things I enjoy (or don’t) that week.

I tried to think of a witty title for these posts, but lack the creativity of my peers. So Friday Favorites it is.

From the Wilson Creek Facebook page.

Favorite discovery Bed Bath and Beyond sells wine! I still think Trader Joe’s has the best selection at dirt cheap prices. But this means I can use those 20% off coupons I’ve been hoarding to get a great deal on my favorite reds and whites.

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Favorite accomplishment It’s been over a month with no nail biting! It’s a disgusting habit. I’m grossed out when I watch other people do it. I think the secret is just to keep them painted – if I don’t see the nails I don’t bite them. For the first time ever, I cut my nails because they were too long. Once they grew past the tips of my finger I felt like a 12 year old with press on nails, it was annoying. So if I just keep them painted and short I think I can kick the habit!

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Favorite books For the past six weeks I’ve been submerged in books by Richelle Mead. Melissa always gives me suggestions on new books to pick up and I’m never disappointed, she rocks. I read the Georgina Kincaid series first, then the Vampire Academy series, and just finished the second book in the Bloodlines series (book 3 is unreleased). That’s 14 books! I’ll probably pick up the Dark Swan series after my current reads. Sometimes the YA books can be a little too targeted for teens and I roll my eyes at the characters or obvious plot directions. But overall I’m a huge fan of the urban fantasy/paranormal romance/young adult fiction genres, in case that wasn’t obvious. This week I’m reading two books, She’s Come Undone (coming of age memoir) and Unraveling (YA urban fantasy, another Melissa recommendation).

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Favorite music The xx (Xx? XX?). The second album was just released, but I slightly prefer songs from the first album. Whats not to love about the British indie pop trio? Not much I say.

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Favorite travel fantasy My “Places to Go” board on Pinterest is filled with amazing destinations. Everyday I dream about what it would be like to see all of them. The source for this photo says it’s West Virginia. I can just imagine sitting on the edge watching that sunset, being humbled by all the natural beauty around me.

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Favorite dream home I don’t think I’d ever leave the kitchen. Look at all those open beams the windows, the stone wall! The stove under the arch is fantastic. Yep, I already see myself with an apron on buzzing away while my friends and family laugh and sip wine around me.

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Favorite recipe It’s probably the Chai Pumpkin Spice cookies. Since it already got it’s own post, I’ll go with the Baked Risotto with Caprese Chicken from Baked Bree. I had no idea you could bake risotto so I was skeptical. But some vigorous stirring right out of the oven and the rice was creamy and delicious! The recipe was so simple and tasty, it’s definitely on my “make again” list.

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Favorite picture Leia showing off her teeth. I have to brag because my kid is a champ with brushing her teeth. She gets them all pretty well on her own, but doesn’t mind me helping. Now if only I could stop procrastinating about scheduling her first dentist appointment.

Chai Pumpkin Spice Cookies

They are so delicious, totally worth the weeks I waited for Target to start selling Pumpkin Spice Kisses.

I contemplated buying the candy on Amazon, but seriously $6.50 for something sold in stores for $2.99 is robbery. Since I knew I’d only find them at Target, I stocked up and bought 4 bags. Each bag has enough kisses for two batches of cookies, plus some sampling along the way because they are delicious!

Here’s the recipe for Chai Pumpkin Spice Thumbprints from Pass the Sushi (adapted from the Curvy Carrot). Her pictures are superior to my iPhone snapshot, so feel free to head over there to drool.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup powdered chai concentrate (I used 1 1/2 packets of the Oregon Chai mix)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tea vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat because that’s what I had)
  • 1/2 tea baking soda
  • 1/8 tea salt
  • 1/2 tea chai spice mix
  • 22-24 Pumpkin spice Hershey’s Kisses

Let me start by saying the chai spice mix involves cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom. I keep all of those, except the cardamom, on hand for regular baking. When I was at the store I nearly fainted at the $13 price tag under the bottle of ground cardamom! They didn’t have a smaller bottle, so I splurged and now have a ridiculous amount of a spice I rarely use. Everyone is getting homemade chai mix for Christmas! The point being, don’t be crazy like me, just use what you have. If you have pumpkin pie spice, use that, the powdered chai concentrate will give you the flavor you need.

The cookies have your standard preparation:

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, mix until combined. In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking soda, salt and chai concentrate and chai spice (original recipe says to sprinkle on top, I mixed it in). Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients until combined. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Heat oven to 325.

The dough was a little crumbly for me, but using your hands softens the butter enough for the balls to held together nicely. Line your baking sheets with silicon mats or parchment. Bake for 12-15 minutes. While cookies are baking unwrap your kisses and throw them in the freezer. Eat a few to make sure they’re not poisoned. Leia ate two, declaring “I taste it mama.” She’s such a rockstar helping me cook, but that’s another post.

When the cookies start to crack a little and look matte, they’re done. Press down a chilled kiss onto each cookie. Now comes the hard part – don’t touch them! They need a while to set so the kiss doesn’t melt everywhere. Although I guess that’s not a bad thing? I put the cookies on cooling racks in the fridge.

Image from Pass the Sushi

They are so darn good I’ve made 3 batches now! These are definitely going on my list of cookies to bake as gifts during the holidays too. If pumpkin kisses aren’t available, the caramel center kisses would probably be amazing as well.

The good life

 

 

Leia stacking blocks with her Dad.

We had a good trip to Orange County this week. Mike and Leilani watched Leia for a few hours. They had fun playing at Gramma’s house and watching cartoons, and I didn’t know what to do with so much free time! I wandered the mall, got coffee, read a book. I felt really inefficient at “relaxing.” Next time, I’m going to schedule a hair cut, or a dental exam, or something else that takes a bunch of time and isn’t toddler friendly. We talked about helping Mike be a more hands on Dad, and Leia spending more time with them alone. Ultimately they would like her to visit every other weekend. We’ll start with me bringing her up twice a month, for two days and one night (vs. my current schedule of once a month for three days and two nights). During those visits I’ll leave Leia with them for longer and longer periods of time. Then in 6 months we’re going to try an overnight alone with Mike and Leilani at our house, so Leia has familiar surroundings. I don’t know if she’ll be totally ready for weekends overnight in the next year, there are a lot of baby steps along the way, but I think Leilani and I have communicated well about what we all want for the future and what is in Leia’s best interest. I know she is going to love growing up with a lot of families, as one big group that loves her. I think about all the great memories I have of spending time with my Dad and his family growing up – camping, parks, bar-b-ques, games, adventures – I know Leia will enjoy the same.

 

 

Go Chargers!

Football season is here and I’m psyched! I’m geeked! Whatever the cool kids are saying these days. Chargers beat the Raiders this week, and I’m looking forward to seeing them beat KC in November. Two of my lovely friends, Pina and Rachel, and joining me. I’ve already been thinking about football themed treats I want to make us for tailgating. Bring on the cold beer and rowdy crowd! Woohoo!

 

Rush hour traffic.

In case you can’t tell, my Mom is riding Leia’s three wheeler bike. We go to Grammy and Uncle Randy’s house and she tells my Mom “Grammy bike, Leia car!” and they drive around and around. She’s a lucky little girl.

 

Topless with bunny ears.

I love this picture. She’s totally consumed with digging through the toys at her Dad’s house. If 20 years from now she decides to pose for Playboy, I’ll kick myself for obviously missing the signals!

 

Chopsticks for kids!

How cool are those little plastic adapters that help kids use chopsticks?! Like I needed another reason to love P.F. Changs. The kid loves lettuce wraps, obviously she has good taste.

 

I’m doing this fun 5k with friends in November. I might sign up for The Electric Run too! Don’t be fooled into thinking this makes me a runner. A 5k is 3.1 miles, easy peasy, and I only want to do runs that have some kind of crazy theme or big reward (hello, Hot Chocolate 5k!). Maybe someday I’ll get brave and try a 10k, who knows.