Hungry Hungry Hippie

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Getaway

Kyle and I skipped town for the weekend to celebrate my birthday.  It was an epic trip in so many ways.  P and V stayed with my parents and had a ball…I’m not sure who was more delighted, my parents or the kiddos, but that certainly made it easy to leave them.

This was the first time we were away (overnight!) from them and so we took advantage and maximized our vacay…priority one: relaxation.

Sleep, pool, book, massage, sleep.  Heaven.

We got some bomb food too because, duh, that’s what you DO when you travel!

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On Friday night we all had dinner at my parents’ house, including my sisters and their dudes.  P loves his uncles something fierce.

I got the special plate, naturally.  My eyes were bigger than my stomach and I ended up pawning off the beef and some of the salmon to Kyle.  I went back for seconds of the veggies though.  Roasted veggies for-eh-ver.  And my mom made an apple cobbler for dessert which we ate while watching my sister’s wedding video.  Good family times.

The next morning at the airport…

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HAHAHA.  iles + kaylo 4ever.  I’m used to my name being butchered, but wow.

On the positive side, I love that sbux has stevia now.  It makes me want to continue to go there even though I have sworn them off so many times.  Ugh.

Our flight was at 8 something, so I got a chance to nurse V and say goodbye to both babes before we grabbed an uber to OAK.  From there on, it was adult time!

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We tried to be as quick as possible in dropping off our luggage and getting to food because we were both starving…and then we saw the line for eggslut.

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Still, we waited. Because that’s what you do for good food.

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WORTH. IT.

For the rest of the day we drank (mimosas!) and watched football and lounged by the pool until our room was finally ready.

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I’m not entirely sure why, but they upgraded us to the pent house level at Caesar’s.  It had a jacuzzi 🙂

Not too shabby!

I can’t find any photos of dinner (maybe I took them on Kyle’s phone?) but we went to Tao and it was PHENOMENAL.  I have nothing but fantastic things to say about the service, the food, the drinks, the ambiance…all of it.  It’s almost impossible to choose a restaurant in Vegas because every well known chef has representation, which is a blessing and curse for a foodie with only a couple of nights in town.  Anyway, Tao was recommended to us by someone who frequents Vegas and I’m glad we took her advice because she was dead on.  She also told us two must-order items on the menu – the miso glazed chilean sea bass and the lobster wontons – which we got and loved.

We also ordered the special because it sounded way too good to pass up.  It was a short rib dish with sweet potato buns and lettuce cups for serving and. it. was. so. so. good.  So delicious, in fact, that we basically stuffed ourselves to the breaking point and both felt rather uncomfortable after.

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Last night of 33 🙂  I got a fancy drank because I can’t turn down a twist on a moscow mule.  Ginger love.

After dinner we walked 800 miles (down to the opposite end of the strip) to see Michael Jackson’s ONE.  !!!!!!! What a show!  WHAT A SHOW!!  Honestly, make a trip to Vegas just for this show.  It made me miss MJ.  But also, it made me want to d a n c e. Such a great night.

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I slept in like whoa on Sunday morning, so that was great.  When I finally did wake up there was football on to greet me.  And then Kyle went downstairs and grabbed me a coffee so I didn’t even have to leave the room bed.  Sloth birthday underway…

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Eventually we went to brunch.  Across the street (which in Vegas is still a 15 minute walk somehow) at Giada’s in The Cromwell.

It was v difficult to narrow down our choices because the menu was legit droolworthy.  But Vegas is no time for granola and yogurt.

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Kyle got the benedict on salmon cakes and I got the polenta waffles with fried eggs.  Mine came with a ridiculous maple syrup and hollandaise something or other that I went to town on.

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And then I polished off every last bite.  Yes I did.

img_0585Happy birthday to mama!

We lazed the afternoon away at the pool where I started a book I will likely never finish and drank more mimosas.  At some point we got lunch, went to the gym (I know!?), and got massages.  I probably could have stayed in the spa all night, but we had dinner reservations.

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I mean, when you are a Top Chef fan, you have to right?

Kyle still maintains that craft in NYC was one of his fave meals of all time.

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We got a few things to share, including the butternut squash and brussels sprouts side dishes, which were as mouthwatering as they sound.

And then we got the short ribs and scallops.  Talk about a meat-y weekend!

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When in Rome!!

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Seriously, it was an exceptional meal that I could gush on and on and on about, but I won’t.

Monday morning was a shock back in to reality with a 5 am wake up to catch our 7 am flight (ouch).

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I had a GF blueberry muffin from Giada’s and banana to help me out, but saved my venti dose of coffee for the drive back to Davis (after getting the kids).

It was a rather long day, but also flew by somehow.  I was super excited to be back with my little ones, though.

I made my life easy by getting take out earlier in the day so I could spend nap time doing laundry (the smoke in Vegas!!!), cleaning, and getting crap done around the house…and then P had swimming lessons.

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I had planned on going to Veggie Grill before coming home to Davis because I was driving through Walnut Creek already and I had a BOGO free entree thing for my birthday.

I got the grains and greens bowl, which has become my new go to, trumping the all hail kale salad.  Unfortunately, this time it was totally messed up and they left off half the ingredients, including the carrots, almonds, cilantro, and Thai dressing.  Major bummer.

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Kyle got the quinoa bolw with blackened tempeh and it looked legit.

He won in the ordering contest for sure.

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This is how much chocolate I came home from Vegas with (that bag is massive).

I went to town at the bulk bins section with all the peanut stuff because we were away from P, but then I had some left so now I have to eat it in sterile conditions and basically wipe down the area Dexter style afterwards.   Don’t worry, it’ll be gone soon, I’m sure.  😉

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More birthday fun!  Cookbook, chocolate, and cookware…my family gets me.

Yay to 34!

Strawberry chia pudding

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I know strawberry season is coming to a close, but as long as Costco is carrying organic berries for cheap, I’m going to keep on buying them…

This “pudding” tastes a little bit like soy yogurt but not as sweet because I’m strict when it comes to sugary things in our house.  I want the kids’ taste buds to be un-warped as long as possible.  Fruit is as sweet as it gets.  However, in order to make this taste different than pureed soybeans, you need a little maple syrup.  A little is fine.

Strawberry Chia Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tub (8 oz) organic silken tofu (I like Nasoya)
  • 1 cup hulled strawberries (~5-8 depending on size)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Pulse in a blender until no lumps remain.  Let it “set” (so the chia seeds can gel) in the fridge for ~30 minutes.

Enjoy as is, or top with granola/cereal/nuts and seeds.

We also use it to bulk up smoothies.

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I made a cocoa version for myself because I wanted to try out this NuNaturals cocoa.

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Just add 1-2 tbsp cocoa powder and voila!  Dessert with some nutrition.  Kick it up a notch by adding a few drops of NuNaturals’ mint flavored liquid stevia.

And just like that my summery dish turned into a holiday one.

Sharing soup recipes

This is a recipe for…

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Texted to me by a friend, who got it from a friend, who got it from a cookbook, who got it from Rustic Bakery in Larkspur.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large butternut squash, halved and seeded
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic (I omitted)
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 3 tbsp butter (I used olive oil)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 shallots (I used 2 tbsp shallot infused olive oil instead)
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (I used Califia’s better half almond milk creamer)

Direction:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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Rub squash in olive oil and roast at 400 degrees F for ~45-50 minutes with garlic and thyme tucked under the cavity of the squash.

Meanwhile, heat butter (or oil) in a dutch oven or soup pot and sautee with onion and shallot.

Once cooled scoop the squash from the skin and add to the pot.  Add seasonings and let squash caramelize a bit.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Decrease to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes.

Puree the soup with a hand blender (or in a food processor) then add cream.

Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

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Mmmmm…

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A huuuuuuge favorite for adults and kids alike.

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Topped with home-made croutons.

Hosting made easy

I’m not a naturally laid back person (every family member reading right now is laughing at the obviousness of that statement) but I really try to keep my anxiety in check.  When it comes to having people over for meals – something I wish came easily to me – I definitely have to prep like crazy to make it fun for me in the moment.  Otherwise I’m just running all the disaster case scenarios through my mind, rather than enjoying company.  This may seem confusing since I’m very social and love hanging out with friends AND I love cooking…so those should merge to make me the perfect hostess, right?  Meh.  Perfectionism rears it’s head in and mucks that all up.

“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”

So on that note, here are a few ways to impress guests but make life stress free for yourself.  I was pretty proud of myself for how it all tasted and how hands off it was in the moment.

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Bon Appetit’s salmon nicoise on a huge serving platter allows people to pick and choose which ingredients they want…Kyle doesn’t like capers or olives, so he worked around that.  I wanted mostly greens and potatoes and dressing, so that’s how I plated my portion.  And it looks pretty, too!  I figured between the two filets of salmon and four hard boiled eggs there was plenty of protein.

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This dressing was the first time I used anchovies, btw.

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I was intimidated, but I’m not sure why…it was super easy!

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I also made bread, but that was done the weekend before.  You could just as easily buy a baguette that day.

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Another day we had friends over for lunch so I turned to the crock pot for help.  P made the door festive for Fall.

I picked a “menu” that was cohesive enough to work together, but also allowed for anyone to pick and choose which parts he/she wanted.

  • Shredded honey mustard chicken – you can make this as far in advance as you want!  I made it in the crock pot a day before and kept it in the fridge until we were ready to serve.  There was an egg sensitivity in the group, so I thought this would be a nice option instead of chicken salad.  I added enough honey mustard dressing to the slow cooker with the chicken breasts to cook and then once they were done I shredded them and added more dressing. After it chilled in the fridge it was a delicious chicken salad like dish with very little effort (and no eggs).
  • Salad – I went with my personal preference here, which meant kale, spinach, and a shaved broccoli and brussels sprouts combo.  Using more hearty greens means you can dress the salad beforehand and it will stand up over some time.  In keeping with the chicken flavor profile I made a basic honey mustard vinaigrette.  I added pumpkin and sunflower seeds and dried cranberries, too, figuring it would be great with or without the chicken.
  • Walnut bread – Because carbs are yummy and everyone loves home-made bread.  I based my recipe off this one but nixed the cranberries.  It turned out lovely and made the whole meal seem like I’d gone above and beyond when really I made the bread several days before.

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  • Snackables – you can’t go wrong with Sabra hummus and dippables.  Munchies make for the perfect side dish so you can nibble before, during and after the meal.

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On the left is the dough rising on the counter and then on the right is after it’s been baked in the cast iron pot.

It’s hard to tell the size from the photo because the pot looks small but the loaf was pretty large.

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It’s weirdly shaped on top because you just flip it from the wax paper into the pot (which is blazing hot from being in the oven for an hour beforehand) and hope for a decent landing.

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As you can see, it’s not super high.  I’m not an expert when it comes to the chemistry of yeast and gluten and all that (yet?) but this was a no knead recipe, so I will trade the hands off rise for the arm workout any day.

What’s your go-to tip or trick or meal plan when entertaining?

Restaurants and chocolate

For a while this summer Kyle and I were so great about getting babysitter to go out to dinner once a month.  Going out in Sac felt like we were finally getting back in on the food scene.

Back in July we went to Grange.  It’s attached to the Citizen Hotel, which isn’t in the best part of town but seems to be in the process of gentrification Starbucksification.  Anyway, I already blogged about that meal, but we had some leftover money on a gift card so we went a few weeks later for brunch.  With the kids.

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V mulling over her menu while noshing on a crayon.

Even though P has outgrown several allergies, it’s still not safe for him to eat from a restaurant kitchen so we brought food for him.  V, however, can grub with the best of them.  It’s so fun ordering my little sweet pea her own entree because then I can order my second choice (I’m so indecisive!) under the guise of it being for her (when really I am getting two things for myself to “split” with her). 😉

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V got a savory combo platter with scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and fruit.  <– all for $8!!

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I got the French toast.

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And Kyle got the benedict on hash brown waffles!  How awesome does that sound!!

V wasn’t the easiest to manage but she did flirt with every single person at the restaurant thereby getting us in their good graces with our slightly rowdy table.  Grange’s staff was great and we all enjoyed our food, so it was a successful family outing.  Plus we hit up McKinley park which is such a good park.  It sounds ridic to praise a children’s park when we have 100 awesome ones in Davis, but McKinley is pretty dang cool.

In August we went to The Press Bistro for our anniversary.

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Here’s my handsome husband of six years.

I think I deleted the pic he took of me?  The meal was great, as was the dessert we made our way to afterwards…

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Ginger Elizabeth was a few blocks away so obviously we walked over so I could get some truffles.  Most of the sweets never got photographed, but here’s the portion that I saved for the next night.  The bark had pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds but the truffles were definitely the highlight.

As I’m sure you all know by now, I’m a chocolate fiend.

It’s all I can do to keep my habit to a reasonable degree, but if I’m being honest with myself, it’s usually pretty prettyyyyy unreasonable.  

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So Kyle got me this for our anniversary.  Because he is the best.  And it was basically better than Christmas.

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The boxes lasted a week. Each. That’s not too too bad, right?  3-4 a night (with some other stuff too) seems appropriate.  I can’t even tell you which my faves are/were.  I adore all See’s nuts and chews and when you go to the store or order online (done both!) you can get all the rare ones that don’t come in the pre-made box sets.  They make some phenomenal things, I tell you what.

Oh chocolate.

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😀

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I don’t even speak that language.

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Honestly, I like the TJs knockoff better.

And speaking of TJs chocolate.

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I hesitate telling the world about this, but as long as you don’t infringe on my Davis store’s stash we are cool.

OF freakin’ COURSE it is seasonal.  I’ve been getting one a week (because that’s respectable) but on my last trip to the store I found out October was the last month they were carrying them.

So guess what I did?

I bought 6.  And then they asked me if I wanted to reserve a case.  To which I said “how many are in a case?” And they replied “48”.  HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!  I am not that insane…yet?  So I reserved part of the case.  And they are going to call me when it’s in.  I’m considering it my birthday present to myself.  Don’t judge me.

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A bar a day for our trip to Boise.  Only we were there for 4 days so I guess I had a little more than that.

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This heavenly number combines salty roasted macadamias and marshmallows and dark chocolate.  SO THERE’S THAT.

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Ok, I’ll share more chocolate later.  This is getting my sweet tooth in a state.