Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Snow Trip: Penne with Jalapeno Penne

A couple of weeks ago, Thatbaby was telling Thatboy that the only thing missing from his holiday was snowman building.  He really wanted to build a snowman at Christmas, if not this year than next year.  Well, living in San Diego, building a snowman isn't really a possibility.  And Christmas-ing in San Francisco is likewise antithetical to his desires.

But we thought maybe we could sneak some snowman building in anyway.  Especially with reports of a huge winter storm making its way to us.  Here in San Diego that meant a full week of pouring rain in 40 degree weather, which usually means snow in higher altitudes.  So I booked us a cabin in Idyllwild and crossed my fingers for bad weather.

Unfortunately, despite the storm, and cold weather down here, it didn't actually get cold enough to snow in Idyllwild.  Undeterred we spent the first day walking around town a little bit and grabbing wood for our cabin's fireplace.  Y'all - I miss a fireplace!

And then...the next day...we found snow!

Just down the road a bit from where we were staying was a park that had leftover snow!  There wasn't a ton of it, and it was a little hard from melting and refreezing, but it was fine for our purposes!

This was the first year our kids had actual snow pants, and Thatbaby quickly discovered they worked just as good as any old sled.

Even Thatboy got in on the sledding action.

And yes friends, there was enough snow to build  a snowman.

We spent the evenings with hot chocolate, in front of the fire, playing games and putting together puzzles.

And of course, we explored the culinary scene in Idyllwild.  We visited some old favorites, but mostly we'd been gone long enough there was a whole new crop of places to try.  Bakeries with flakey, buttery pastries, breweries with one of the best sauces Thatboy has ever tasted, and an Italian restaurant with live music.  The Italian restaurant, Cafe Aroma, had a very unique dish on the menu I had to try - a jalapeno pesto.  It was rich, it was creamy, but I couldn't even taste the jalapeno.  I loved the idea though, so once we got home, I decided I was going to try and recreate it, but better.  I removed the cream, which makes the jalapeno less potent and we had a winner on our hands.  This could certainly be made in the classic style, with basil, but in keeping with the Southwestern theme of the jalapeno, I subbed in cilantro instead.

Penne with Jalapeno Pesto
1 lb penne, cooked according to the instructions on the box
2 cups cilantro leaves
1 jalapeno (use as many seeds as you wish for heat - the more seeds the spicier the dish will be)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil
  1.  Pulse cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, cheese, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor until well combined.
  2. With food processor running, slowly add the oil, continuing to process until creamy.
  3. Toss with hot pasta and serve.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Myrtle Creek Botanical Garden: Berry Salad

One morning Thatboy woke up and told me he wanted to spend the day in Fallbrook, a town north of San Diego.  It was an odd request.  Not that we had never been to Fallbrook before, but our previous trips have always been with a destination in mind - a brewery, a trail for hiking, or even just fruit picking.  When I asked what he wanted to do in Fallbrook?  He had no idea.  

A couple months ago the San Diego Moms Blog had a meetup at Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens.  I didn't go, but the gardens themselves sounded awesome, and so I floated that idea to Thatboy.  He was all in.

The garden is the perfect place to take two boys - there are so many different areas to explore and lots of room to run around.  

There's a separate area called the "Curious Garden" which was closed the day we were there, but sounds like it would be great for kids, and we're sold on this place enough to warrant a return visit.

Happy Goat Mountain was open - and my children were so excited to watch the goats cross back and forth over their bridge.  They were even more excited to go in and feed the goats.

Of course, after a good goat feed, you need to make sure to wash your hands.  With this fun "sink" it might be the first time I didn't have to ask my kids twice to wash their hands.

There were some fun photo ops on the property too.  My kids never shy away from those "stick your head in a hole" photo ops. 

The people who run the place are also so kind.  They let us in on a little secret - there's a pecan tree on the property, and we could take home any pecans we found on the ground under the tree.  My boys were so excited to go pecan hunting.

One of the things I liked best was the on-site cafe - Cafe Bloom.  They pack up your lunch in a picnic basket and you can eat it anywhere on the property.  We ate our lunches on a deck beside the creek.

The menu itself was small - which I never mind when there's food for everyone.  The boys made short work with their turkey sandwiches, and I opted for the melon salad.  Melon?  In January?  I was dubious, but it sounded so good!  Tuscan melon, watermelon, feta, almonds, Nueske bacon with a honey mint vinaigrette.    It was perfect, and such fantastic picnic fare.  

I decided to recreate a version at home.  Not with melon, because really, I knew I wouldn't be able to get good melon.  Instead I subbed in blackberries and blueberries, which are plentiful and delicious right now.  I know.  Berries?  In January?  But they're crazy cheap and crazy sweet.  In fact, this salad was so much better with the berries!  I now want to put blackberries in everything.

Berry Salad
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup blackberries
1/4 cup blueberries
1/4 cup pecans
2 oz feta, crumbled
2 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  1. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, honey, mint, and Dijon.
  2. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the lettuce, berries, and pecans.
  4. Sprinkle feta and bacon on top.
  5. Drizzle with the dressing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Happy New Year: Tomato, Feta, and Dill Frittata

My absolute favorite way to start of the year is with my annual New Year's Brunch.  I love how laid back and easy it is, both from the standpoint of entertaining, and getting it together the day before.  I love having all my friends come to me, so we don't have to go anywhere but I still get to see my favorite people.  And I love brunch food.

This year I wanted to keep it really bright and cheery, so I fell into the latest trend of balloon garlands.

 It actually took less time than I was anticipating to put this together and I was able to do it a couple days in advance.  Which means, 2019 is officially the year of the balloon garland for decorations in our home.

Everything else I kept simple with arrangements of brightly colored flowers on every surface.  The night before we let the kids have confetti poppers for midnight, and they added a festive touch to tables, chairs, the floor - anything flat.

As for the food - I always try to keep it easy.  And really the hardest part is planning the prep - figuring out which places are closed on what days, and what needs to be made when.  There's never a shortage of food - my table is always overflowing.

While normally I buy muffins and breakfast pastries, this year my go-to bakery was closed for several days leading up to New Years.  So I made my own!

I also threw in some cookies, lemon poppyseed cake, and french toast to fill in that sweet gap left by the bakery.

For more savory fare there were bagels and lox, roasted garlic potatoes, and a golden beet salad.

But the sleeper hit of the brunch was a very random fritatta I came across when surfing the internet.  I love feta with eggs, which is what sold me on it, even though the rest of the ingredients were a little unusual.  Dill?  Capers?  In and egg dish?  But I figured there was plenty of other food and I might as well forge ahead.  And it was amazing.  Everyone who tasted it found me to tell me how delightful it was.   And so I'm sharing it with you.  Not a fan of dill or capers?  That's how most of my guests felt, but for some reason the both just added the right amount of salt and flavor without making the dish taste like either.   So make it and enjoy - the perfect way to start off a new year!

Tomato, Feta, and Dill Frittata (From Real Simple)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
6 scallions, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp capers
1 Tbsp dill, chopped
8 eggs
1 cup crumbled feta
  1.  Preheat oven to 425.  Combine oil, tomatoes, scallions, capers, dill, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in a medium oven proof skillet. Bake for about 14 minutes. Lower the heat to 375.
  2.  Whisk the eggs and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Stir the feta into the eggs.
  4.  Add the eggs to the skillet and bake until the frittata is set in the middle - about 12-15 minutes.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday Runday: 2018 Wrap Up

So the end of the year came and went, and with the sprained ankle, there was a lot less running than there usually is.  I've picked it back up now that I'm all healed and better.  Plus that's always a fun way to start the new year.

I've also been lax, because here we are, 2 weeks into the new year and I haven't really summarized the old one!  But at least it's still January.

Last year was the year of the 10k, and I ran a fair amount of them.  While 5ks and half marathons are plentiful in my area, 10ks aren't as common, and most of them are stuffed into the beginning of the year.  (Probably when all us resolutioners are signing up for every race we can!)  Which is a real shame, because I have such love for the 10ks here in San Diego.

The Cardiff Kook 10k has a beautiful view, which makes the entire course worthwhile.

St. Patrick's Day 10k has a fantastic beer garden, and the course is flat and fast.

My only complaint is that the Strawberry Run changed their course, so it's all pain with no reward.  Thatkid has already expressed interest in doing it this year, but I think I'll drop down to the 5k - no sense in running up that hill for no reason!

As the kids get older, and Thatkid gets more interested in running with me, I tend to do a lot more 5ks than I did before, and they're a lot slower as I run/walk with Thatkid.  And as I was putting this together, I realized I never blogged about the Jingle Bell Run, which we do every year - so let me quickly remind you that it is AMAZING, always one of our favorite races, and maybe even better with the new course this year.

Of course there were the old favorites like the Sharon's Ride, The Grape Day 5k, and the Fit Foodie.  They make the calendar every year, and I don't see that ending any time soon!

Ghouls on the Run was a new 5k this year, that we really liked.  I can't wait to do it again next year without an aircast on!

With my focus on 10ks, I only ran 2 half marathons this year, The San Diego Half Marathon and Revel Mount Charleston.  I don't forsee me repeating either of them, but I do forsee a lot more Half Marathons in my future.  More on that really really soon!

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Christmas 2018: Sugar Plums

Once again, we packed up a few days before Christmas and made the long trip to Thatboy's family for the holiday.   We only were there for a few days, but his family let us know they didn't really have time to spend with us, because they had other things to do.  Which meant we had a lot of time on our own.

Once I found out that we would need to occupy ourselves, I did a quick internet search and found out that a nearby museum was having a very cool sounding exhibit.  

"Explore four floors of dazzling exhibits, play inside a village of laser luminescence and roam through a lustrous forest of touchable, radiant sculptures."

"Dance with circles of spinning light, design fluorescent art in a black light play area, create shadows on phosphorescent surfaces and dial a rainbow of pixelated color."

The rest of the time we were there, we spent exploring various playgrounds.

On Christmas Eve, Thatboy's family was finally ready to see us.  At their church for services.  So we got ourselves all dolled up.

We had dinner with the family, and then headed back to our hotel. 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.  

And while they slumbered, the man in red visited!

They woke up and dove right in!

Because Thatboy's family doesn't serve breakfast until....very late for children who awake before 6am, Santa always leaves a little something to tide them over.

After that we headed over to the inlaws house to wait a couple hours before breakfast and present opening.

Even Thatdog got into the spirit!

As soon as presents were open, TBIL kicked us out of his house so he could get things ready for his own sister in law who was coming over.  Thatbaby took to the street to try out one of his gifts.

And before long, Thatkid joined him.

After nap, TSIL's sister and family showed up and it was good catching up with them. But before too long we all packed up our things to go.  We had to get our things in order for our trip home the next morning.

And the next day, we loaded up the car and headed home.  We did a short detour in Solvang to stretch our legs and grab a bite to eat.

I'm always thankful to be home after these trips.  And although most of us are making New Year resolutions to eat healthier and cut down on sweets, I can't end a Christmas post with something...healthy.   Christmas is about sweets right?  I mean it's right there in "The Night Before Christmas."  Those children aren't dreaming of salads.  They're dreaming of sugar plums.

And since Thatbaby has been really interested in every Christmas treat feature in a song or book, it seems fitting to end the season with those self-same sugar plums.  These are one of those cheater treats.  Sure they're sweet - they're rolled in sugar, but their contents are prunes, almonds and apricots.  They're practically diet food!

Sugar Plums (From Food Network Magazine)
1 1/4 cups toasted almonds
1 1/2 cups prunes
1 1/2 cups dried apricots
3 Tbsp honey
1 tsp orange zest
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg.
Demara sugar
  1. Chop all the ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Roll the mixture into balls.
  3. Roll the balls in the Demara sugar.