Friday, December 12, 2014

A Trip to Disney

Over Thanksgiving the family took a whirlwind trip to Houston, Disney World, and Cocoa Beach.  With that many stops you know this is going to be a long post.  So grab a cup of coffee and sit back.

First Stop: Houston

We decided to start our trip in Houston and spend Thanksgiving with our Houston family, just as we had for the past several years.  Amy and Lenny were nice enough to host such a large gathering this year and it was all delicious.  Jeremy even made an apple and pumpkin pie and brought it on the plane with us!

Max had fun spending a few days playing with the other kids, and we all throughly enjoyed eating at Torchies, Ninfas, and Rudys.  Ah, texmex and bbq, how I miss thee.  And although I didn't get to do my usual Black Friday shopping trip, I did get up early and do a lot of online shopping and got some great deals on clothes for Max and Jeremy.

A big thanks to the Wellners for letting us stay with them and letting us use their car.

Onto Walt Disney World!

Sunday we caught a morning flight from Houston to Disney.  I was beyond excited.  Like a kid in a candy store.  Or like Max at Disney.  Yea, he loved it.  Anyway...

We decided to take advantage of the Disney Magical Express.  This is AWESOME.  You get off the plane and head right down to the magic express.  No bags, no luggage, no waiting around, just you and your carry on and the kiddo.  Don't forget to bring your magic bands, as you'll need those to board the bus.  You'll also want to take a carry on, as your luggage won't arrive in your hotel room for a few hours.  We made sure to tag all the bags with the yellow stickers they gave us, and bam, they were in the room by the time we got back from dinner later that night.  Sweet!

The Magic Express bus only took about 30 minutes to get to the Port Orleans French Quarter and max loved the TV's and looking out the window.  Our room was nice, a corner room on the second floor.  I also really like the decor of the hotel and how it wasn't too crowded.  When we showed up there was a woman standing out front with our name on an ipad.  Why yes, I am Rea.  I don't know what we did to deserve that privilege, but it was icing on the cake.  Max even got a 1st Visit button which we proudly displayed on our stroller for the remainder of the trip.

The first night we met up with some friends at Downtown Disney.   They were also out for the launch, and it was great to see them after so many months.  We had dinner at an Irish place called Raglan Road.  It was really good and the kids were really into the dancing.

Magic Kingdom

We spent day 1 and 3 at the Magic Kingdom.  Because of some bus issues, we didn't see the opening of the park.  I was pretty bummed out and mad, but as soon as I made my way inside, all that disappeared.  (FYI, the opening show is 10 minutes before the park opens)  First thing we did was wait in line for Pluto and then head down Main Street.  I knew Max wouldn't be able to do most of the rides, and it wasn't too crowded, so we took our time.  (Okay, well I took my time, I'm fairly sure Jeremy felt rushed, but he has no idea).

Let me just take a minute to talk about the characters and the castle.  Max LOVED every minute of it.  Seriously, this kid should be the poster child for this place.  I get the characters, because he sees them on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, but the castle?  Why?  Every time he would see it (and even now when he sees pictures) he points and screams and babbles.  I don't know what he's saying, but I know he's excited.

The first characters were pluto then chip and dale.  Both he was a
little like "hum, what's this guy" but I think he saw mom's excitement and decided to go with it.  After that he would run up to the character, give him/her a hug and kiss, then do a 180 and pose for the camera.  Then he would interact with them and wave 'bye bye.'  It was like a freaken script, only I didn't even prompt it.

To the right is a picture with him and piglet.  The first day after pluto and chip and dale, we went over and did the magic carpets, pirates of the Caribbean, and small world.  (haunted mansion was closed, boo).  We then headed over to the Crystal Palace for breakfast.  We had a 10:30 reservation and I was nervous that breakfast stopped at 10:45, but that's just when the stopped seating and we were able to eat breakfast until 11:30 then even get some of the lunch buffet before we left.  (breakfast is way better, btw).  I wasn't sure how the Winnie the Pooh characters would go, since he didn't know them, but from the picture here you can see that they obviously went very well.  This is by far one of my favorite places in Disney to eat, so you should put it on your list.

Between the two days we hit a lot of rides... several times.  Tea cups (3 times) and the people mover  (4 times) were among the favorites.  We also enjoyed peter pan, monsters inc, tomorrowland speedway, winnie the pooh, dumbo (2 times), and just walking around.  It was hot enough during the day to play in the splash pad and we also got to have lunch at Be Our Guest.  The restaurant is really cool and the food is good and different.  It was a nice change.  We also saw a lot of characters.  The characters were one of his favorites so we saw them multiple multiple times (like more than 4 or 5 for some of them)  Plus we had time.  It was nice to go when the park wasn't crowded.  The second day we did the animated Mickey.  It was really cool.  He sings and talks and dances with you.  The only creepy part is his closed smile, but I guess that's only because I'm used to him with his mouth open.  Once I asked him to take a picture with his mouth open and he just looked at me, looked at the handler, looked at me again and said "i can say cheese."  I think they can't stop the mouth, it can only open and close in succession.  It was pretty funny to watch the reaction to my question.  The best part about Mickey was them doing the hot dog dance together!  So cute.

On the last night, on the way out the park, we spent a few minutes to find my family brick on the walkway into the Magic Kingdom.  My dad bought this brick for my mom 20 years ago for her birthday and it's still there!  (and mostly readable).

Hollywood Stuidos and Epcot

Our 2nd and 4th days we hit Epcot.  Well, the second day we started with breakfast at Cape May's at
the Beach Club.  Because we had an early breakfast time, we took a Mears Taxi over from our hotel.  It was super easy and they had a carseat as I requested.  Though someday I would like to do Chef Mickey's again, you have to book it so far in advance that I haven't been able to get it the last few times.  Cape May is pretty good and puts you in a good position to get to Hollywood Studios and Epcot with the boat or walking.

First we started at Hollywood studios.  We only spent like 2 hours here, and in retrospect it probably wasn't worth the park hopper, but we did get to do muppet vision 3D and walk around.   Jeremy bought Max a Chewbacca stuffed animal and a Star Wars Mickey & Goofy beach towel.

After walking around and playing in some puddles we took the boat back to the Beach Club and walked from there to Epcot.  My parents and I used to stay at the Beach Club all the time, so the walk has a special place in my heart.

Over two days at Epcot we walked the countries, did some rides (Jeremy got to do Mission to Mars), and saw more characters. Though the last day didn't go as well, I'm pretty sure it was just because the kid was so sleep deprived that he was delusional.  (more on that later).

At each country they have a Kid Spot, where you can color a stick puppet thing and then take it around to get stamped at each country.  We didn't do the stamp thing so much, but Max did enjoy coloring the stick puppet with the markers and then got super mesmerized  by the other little girls that came by the table.

At Epcot we ate dinner in Mexico (San Angel Inn & Tequila Bar), and Morocco.  It was our first time eating in Morocco but it was good and I would go back, though I still prefer Mexico.

As for the rides, Max enjoyed them all, but the Norway boat ride was closed to be turned into a Frozen themed ride (go figure, Disney looks like Frozen threw up in that place).  We found Figment and Nemo to be kinda strange.  He loved the dancing waters and the fireworks (which, btw, have an awesome special holiday ending)

Other Disney

Between the rocket launch attempts, we spent some time at the pool, going down the water slide like a champ, and eating and shopping at Downtown Disney and the Marketplace.  We wound up eating at the T-Rex restaurant twice because we liked it so much.  It's owned by the same folks as rainforest cafe, but it's way cooler and the food is much better.  Max was a little scared during the meteor storms, but otherwise found it cool.  And we got to see our friend Brandon before we left, bonus.

All in all, Walt Disney World was super awesome and I was sad to leave.  Truly, I thought about extending our vacation but I knew Jeremy would have never gone for it.   As a last note, we paid for the Magic Maker photo package and found it to be worth while.  We got a LOT of pictures and basically took them whenever we saw someone, as each only took a minute or two.  This proved key with a toddler who didn't want to cooperate half the time, or when people would accidentally walk into your shot.   You can review the pictures on your phone about 30 minutes after they are taken, so I would just recommend making sure they get up there.  We lost some of our Mickey pictures because they were "having trouble with the camera" at that time.  Fortunately we had already seen Mickey a bunch, but I can't imagine the poor people before and after us who were counting on that photographer.

Orion EFT1 

Jeremy will tell you that the real reason we came to Disney was to see the Orion EFT 1 launch.  I suppose in some way that was true, but details.  The Orion capsule was set to launch on a Delta IV Heavy on Thursday December 4th at 7:05 am with a window extending until 9:44am EDT.  We wanted to get to the causeway early to get a good spot, so we left our hotel in Orlando at 2:00am... both mornings.  Notice I said "both", yea, it was rough.

Jeremy's parents came down for the launch so we met them at their hotel in Cocoa Beach then met up with the Lillard's and headed to the Causeway.  Because Jeremy worked on the entry guidance for Orion he was able to get a Causeway pass, and even got a Space Flight Award!

If you caught onto my word "both" up top, you've probably figured out that it didn't launch on the first day.  It started with a tugboat in the debris field, continued with high winds and unnecessary automatic shutdowns, and ended with overheated valves.  So after spending about 6 hours on the causeway we headed back to Orlando to do the whole thing again the next day.

Well, Day 2, and it launched!  Right at 7:05am.  It was awesome to see, I was so proud of Jeremy and I knew he was so excited to be there.  He was also really excited to watch the launch with his parents and a bunch of our Houston friends who had also made the trip.  I'll post a group picture when I get it.

I had my small camera positioned to take a video of the launch.  It's not the best video because I was fairly zoomed out, but my DSLR had quit working on Day 1, so I was glad I even had this.

Congratulations to the entire Orion team for a successful launch and landing.  It was nearly perfect and they were only 1.5 nautical miles off target (that's like still hitting the bullseye).

For those of you that don't know, this was the first time that America has launched a rocket so far into space (3600 miles) since the 1970's!

For some reason the video won't upload into the blog, so make the jump HERE to see it.  And HERE to see the pictures from the launch.

Here's to a great vacation!  For more pictures and videos from the Disney World part of the trip go HERE.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dinner Dinner Chicken Winner

or is it Winner Winner Chicken Dinner?

Does it really matter :)

It's time for the biweekly round up.  (or is it tri-weekly?)

I'm not going to list everything, just the favorites.

First up: Flammkuchen (From: My Kitchen in the Rockies)

For some reason her site is down, so I'll recap the whole thing for you here.

Flammkuchen is this delicious pizza type dish that we first had when we visited Oberammeragu in 2013.  We subsequently had it 3 or 4 more times before we left Germany.

This is a great alternative to the standard pizza and more filling than you'd think.

This recipe claims to make 4 pies, but I would make them a little thicker and do 3 pies or just 4 smaller ones.

The dough:
4 1/4 cups flour
1 pinch salt
1 cup water
4-5 tbsp veg. oil
tbsp+ dried thyme (my modification)

The toppings:
scallions (green parts)
bacon (uncooked, chopped into pieces)
yellow onion (julienned) 
whatever else you want (if you do hamburger, precook that)

The sauce:
8 oz creme fraiche
8 oz sour cream (my modification, says to use 16 oz creme fraiche, but I'm cheap)
1 tsp nutmeg

Combine all dough ingredients until a smooth non-sticky dough forms.  I used a stand mixer with dough hook, but even then I had to work it by hand a little and add a touch more water.

Wrap dough with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for 2 hours

Once ready, preheat the oven to 425 deg with a pizza stone inside.  

Split the dough into 3 or 4 balls.  Roll out the dough on a flat surface.  I used semolina flour to prevent it from sticking.  You want to make a thin crust.  Maybe 1/4" thick.  It does take a lot to work with this dough, but it will get there.  Mine turned out a little thin and crispy but it was still delicious.  It's easy to make it too thick, so just remember it's not American style pizza, it's supposed to be thin and crispy.

Spread the sauce over the dough then top with ingredients (reserving the green scallions)

Bake anywhere from 10 - 20 minutes until the edges are brown.  Mine only took about 10 minutes, but our oven runs very hot.  The bacon was still cooked just fine in this amount of time.

Sprinkle with the green scallions and devour.


You'll need:
12 manicotti shells
1 lb italian sausage
4 c mozzarella shredded cheese
2 c ricotta cheese
6 tbsp fresh basil (chopped)
1 jar spaghetti sauce 
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to the directions.  I felt it could have used +1-2 minutes as it came out VERY al dente.  Also cook the italian sausage until done.

Mix everything together in a big bowl except for the parmesan cheese and the pasta

Stuff the pasta with the mixture using your fingers.  Honestly, you could use a spoon, but it's just easier with the hands.

Spread a thin layer of EVOO and spaghetti sauce into a 13x9 glass pan then lay in the stuffed manicotti.  Cover with remaining sauce.

Bake for 15 minutes at 350.  

Sprinkle with parmesan and bake for 10 more minutes (I needed to go 15 here)


This one is obviously not mine, but I saw it and it looked pretty good.  This is getting made this week, so no comment yet on how it tastes.

Rack of Lamb with Kiwi Mint Sauce

This one comes from one of my convection cooking books.  I love it.

First the kiwi mint sauce:
1/4 c sugar
1/3 c raspberry vinegar
1/3 c lime juice (fresh)
2 c chopped mint leaves
4 kiwi's, diced
1 tbsp grated lime zest (about 1 lime)

In a small pot, combine the sugar, vinegar, and lime juice.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Once cool add the mint, kiwi, and lime zest.  Stick in the fridge until ready to use.

2 racks of ribs with ~7 bones each
3 tbsp dijon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp fresh thyme (or dried if you get lazy like me)
2 c breadcrumbs
1/2 c melted butter

Place the ribs in a roasting pan and convect roast at 400 deg. F for 20 minutes.  (last time I forgot about the convection roast and just did it at a normal 400).

Meanwhile prepare the seasoning.  Melt the butter and combine with breadcrumbs, garlic, pepper, and thyme.

Brush the cooled lamb (did you cool it down a bit?) with the dijon mustard and sprinkle with garlic.  Coat the lamb with the breadcrumb mixture prepared above.

Return lamb to oven and convection roast for about 20 more minutes (for medium rare).  

Remove from oven and loosely cover with foil.  Let rest for 5 minutes.

Serve with Kiwi Salad.


Salmon Cakes

The salmon out here in CA is just awful.  Seriously bad and seriously over priced.  So the only way I can bring myself to eat it is to make these salmon cakes.  

1 1/2 lb salmon
3 c. panko (divided)
6 scallions (green and white parts separately chopped)
2 small ribs celery - finely chopped
2/3 c mayo + 1/2 c mayo
4 large eggs, beaten
6 tbsp EVOO
1 tsp white wine vinegar

First, precook your salmon however you like it.  Last time we poached it and it turned out very well.  Let cool.

Flake the salmon into a large bowl.  Mix in 1/2 cup panko, scallion whites, celery, salt, 2/3 cup mayo, and black pepper.

Refrigerate for 30 mintues

Roll the salmon cakes into little slider sized patties.

In a bowl pour the remaining 2 1/2 c panko and in a separate bowl have the eggs beaten.

Coat the patties on both sides with panko, then egg wash, then panko again.

In a heavy skillet, heat 1/2 the EVOO over medium heat.

Add the patties and cook about 3 mintues on each side until golden.  (it should sizzle.  if it doesn't then your oil isn't hot enough.  But be careful not to burn it!)

Repeat with remaining patties.

For the dipping sauce, combine 1/2 c mayo with vinegar and 1/3 c scallion greens.


Chicken Paprikas 

I love this traditionally Hungarian dish that my mom used to make all the time.  Of course she's German and it's quite different than it's Hungarian roots, but it's homey and I love it.

Start by cooking some chicken breasts (or 1/2 light and 1/2 dark meet).  I usually cut it into small pieces then fry it up in a skillet.

In a large pot fry 1 large onion in 7 tbsp butter and 7 tbsp EVOO.  (yep it's a lot, but what do you expect from a German)

Once translucent add 14 tbsp flour to make a roux.  Mix until bubbly and thickening.  

Add 12 cups of chicken stock (we use the low sodium type), 1 pt of sour cream, 2 tbsp paprikas, a pinch of salt, and pepper.  

Add the chicken once heated and mixed throughly.  

Lastly make the dumplings.  

using a stand mixer with dough hook mix together 3 eggs, 3 cups flour, 1/2 cup water, pinch of salt, and dash of pepper.  

Drop the dough by small portions into a pot of boiling water.  After 1-2 minutes they will float and they are ready to go.

Word of warning, don't store the dumpings in the soup or it will suck up all the broth.

Other random dinner ideas

Those were my big involved ideas for the week, but here are some other quick things to make if you are in a pinch.

1) Omelets or Breakfast Burritos.  We started making breakfast burritos out here when we were just craving tex mex and couldn't find anything decent.    

2) Quesidillas  - veggies, chicken, cheese, whatever!  Jeremy likes his open faced.

3) Spaghetti.  I like to use italian sausage instead of hamburger meat.  Toss in some veggies and serve over rigatoni!

Bon Appetit!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Big News


Make the jump!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Weekly Dinners - a few weeks late

I was really good about posting for the first month, then, well, life happened.  And I haven't posted since.

Instead of going day by day, I'm just going to put up a few of the recipes that we've made over the last few weeks in addition to the ones we are doing this week.

Hopefully it will inspire some of you!

Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna - Cravings of a Lunatic

This was delicious.  I really enjoyed the twist on traditional lasagna.  Mine came out a bit runny, but I think I could have let it reduce more and possibly cut back on the liquid a bit.

My substitutions:
- 1/2 ricotta and 1/2 mozzarella cheese.
- Add 2 zuchini
- When I made this, I split it into two small pans, one traditional, and one with spinach instead of noodles (for Jeremy of course, I'd never touch that)
- Add 1 lb ground beef

Orange Ricotta Pancakes - Breakfast - From my Mom - From some Inn somewhere...

Zest and Juice of 2 oranges
1 3/4 cups Ricotta
2 eggs
1 cup self-rising flour (NOTE: SELF-RISING)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Butter for frying

Mix together orange zest, orange juice, ricotta, and eggs.  Then mix in flour, sugar, and baking powder.

Preheat skillet over medium heat for a few minutes, then add some butter.  Pour pancake mix 1/4 cup at a time into circles.  Cook 3-4 minutes/side.

You can garnish with powdered sugar or orange zest, but I usually just add a touch of butter.  No syrup needed for these babies.

Simple Sausages with Sautéed Spinach and Red Potatoes

Quick and easy, for this dinner I just bought some brats from the store and cooked them up on the stovetop.  I boiled some red potatoes (doused with a lot of butter) and made a side of sautéed spinach seasoned with Anna's Herbs.

Chicken Parm

Another easy one that tends to get forgotten.  Take chicken breasts and slice in half lengthwise to make thin.  Pound with a mallet to make even thinner.

Next, toss them with some bread crumbs and herbs (I used basil and oregano) and lay in a glass dish.

Cover with marinara or your choice of sauce and slices of mozzarella or provolone cheese.

Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes (until chicken reaches 165 and is done)

Pork Carnitas - by Nicolas Mora with Queso Blanco - by Six Sisters Stuff

Carnitas Substitutions:
No Coke
1/4 recipe
No Lard - use butter instead (or bacon grease)

Queso Blanco:
We can't get queso out in CA anywhere, so I've been trying to make my own.  What I really want is to learn how Torchies' makes their queso, but until I figure that out, I've been trying different recipes online.

I'll update once I see how this one goes.

Slow Cooker Pepper Steak - All Recipes

Anything that involves a slow cooker and minimal extra work is right up my alley.

Now you do need to pre-brown the steak and do a little more upfront work, but I'm willing to take on that extra step.

Also, in the comments some folks noted the need to use cornstarch in the last 30 minutes to thicken the sauce and to add the peppers in the last 2 hours to keep them crispy.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce - Food Network

If you goggle Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce you'll find about 100 different recipes.  You'll also find a bunch of different ones on the Food Network site itself.

I'll admit that I had ambitions of making the peanut sauce from scratch, but at the store they only had 16 oz bottles of fish sauce and really, I just don't need that much.  So I opted to buy premade peanut sauce.  It was late, the store was crowded, and I was tired.  Don't judge me. :)

Salmon with Corn and Asparagus

Not much to say about this one.  Salmon gets sprinkled with salt and pepper and goes into the oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

Asparagus gets pan fried with some butter and Herbs from Provence.

Corn gets boiled and then buttered.

Simple yet delicious.

One Pot Pasta - ???

I took a picture of this one on my phone and can't remember exactly where it came from, but it looks easy and good.  I've made a few modifications to the original, detailed below.

You throw EVERYTHING in the pot, including the pasta.

12 oz pasta - we use whole wheat - yep, Jeremy's even getting in on this one
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large onion julienned
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 sliced zucchini
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp oregano
2 large sprigs fresh basil
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup water  (note the original calls for 4 1/2 cups veg. broth, but it comes in 32 oz box, not 36, so I wasn't about to buy another can just to use 1/2 of it)
2 tbsp EVOO

Put the pasta, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, basil in a large pot.  Pour over the liquid and herbs.  Drizzle the top with EVOO.

Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce to low and keep covered, cooking for about 10 more minutes.  Stir every 2 minutes along the way. until almost all the liquid is gone.

Serve in a bowl!

Peanut Butter Fudge

Not sure where I got this one from, or if I ever modified it, but it's so delicious.  In fact, since it only calls for 5 oz of evaporated milk, I'm going to use the rest and make a second batch of fudge... I'm thinking with Andes Mints.

Place the following in a pot and bring to a roiling boil over medium heat.  Stir frequently until reaching 234 deg (softball stage).  If you don't stir toward the end, it will start to burn on the bottom.  Also, be sure to pull it at 234, if you get much over that the texture will be off.  For this batch I went to 238 and I could taste it wasn't as creamy.

1 1/4 sticks butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
5 oz evaporated milk

Remove from the heat and mix in 7oz of Fluff

Now mix in 1 tsp vanilla (ish) and 1 1/4 cups peanut butter (I use Jiff, because it's smooth)

Pour into a square pan that's been lined with aluminum foil (or parchment paper)

Let cool in the fridge.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Week 4 - Simplicity.

The theme for this week is simplicity.  So simple in fact, that I'm writing this blog on a Friday morning and I've already planned out the meals for the week.

These are tried and true, oldies but goodies.

They may be boring, but they are easy, quick, and easy.  (did I mention, easy?)

Sunday: Tacos

Same as every Sunday but last week I stepped it up a notch with some Creamy Yogurt Avocado dip.  It was delicious and I think I'll bring it back this week.  For me I'd like to see a little more flavor, so I'll probably cut back on the yogurt, add an avocado, and 1/2 tbsp more seeded jalapeños.

Monday: Pan Fried Cod with Pasta

A few weeks back I bought some frozen cod from Costco, so it's time to test it out.

I'll be pan frying the cod in a skillet with some butter and salt and pepper.

I'll present the cod on a plate of angel hair spaghetti tossed with olive oil, fresh basil, and cherry tomatoes.

Tuesday:  Pork Tacos with Peperoncini Peppers

A big thank you to my friend Christy for this one.

1 pork butt + 1 jar peperoncini peppers + crockpot on low for 6-8 hours = Ta Da!

I'll probably spice up the pork butt with some Joe's Stuff before cooking, just to take it up a notch.

Use corn tortillas and top with a light white Mexican cheese (cotija), cilantro, red onions, avocado, and some lime.

Wednesday:  Spaghetti

You can never go wrong with spaghetti.

I use ground mild italian sausage, Classico roasted garlic tomato sauce, and vegetable based rotini.

Jeremy likes to take the sauce and put it over some sautéed spinach instead of pasta, cause he's weird like that.

We also toss in some chopped and sautéed zucchini and asparagus too.

Thursday: Trader Joe's Meat & Veggies

Remember, simplicity is the theme this week.  You can't get any simpler than walking into Trader Joe's, looking around for whatever pre-marinated meat tickles your fancy, then throwing it on the grill or skillet to cook.

Make a side of sautéed spinach seasoned with Anna's Herbs (Whole Foods), and ta da, you're done.

Simple. Simple. Simple.

Lunch:  Oven Roasted Turkey Sandwiches

Oven Roasted Turkey, Light Rye, Avocado, Pepper Jack Cheese, Mayo, Tomato, Lettuce.

Side: Small bag of chips or some fruit.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dinner - Week 3

This past weekend we packed up the car and headed down to Pfeiffer Big Sur for some awesome California camping.  We had such a great time.  Unfortunately the weather has been so dry, that a burn ban was in effect.  No worries, we improvised with a Wisperlite camp fire!

Max was such a good little camper.  He "helped" set up the tent and everything!

Needless to say, camping had me all distracted and I didn't get a chance to post about the weeks meals.

But I am now, so fret not!

Sunday: Tacos & Margaritas. (30 minutes)

Do we really need to repeat this one each week?  Well we have it every weekend!  What can I say, we love tacos in this house.

A new addition this week: Creamy Avocado Yogurt Dip from Two Peas and Their Pod.

This stuff is seriously to die for.  I'm surprised I was even able to get a picture before it was devoured.  We loved it and ate it all in one sitting.  

Don't judge me!

Monday: Skillet Shrimp with green beans and water chestnuts

Because we now have a big bag of frozen shrimp from Costco, a dish similar to this is going to be a staple in our house for a while.

I love the Thai basil coconut chicken and shrimp dishes that we've made before, but I knew I had a busy week ahead and wouldn't feel like making the sauce or the rice.  

Yes, I was that lazy that I didn't want to spare 15 minutes to put some rice in a pot and let it cook.


- Begin by cooking fresh green beans in a pot of boiling water until desired consistency.  I started them just before the shrimp and once the shrimp was done cooking, they were ready.  

- Mix together 2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp ground pepper, sprinkle of salt, 1/2 tsp garlic.
- Toss with 1 can of drained water chestnuts and 16 shrimp peeled and deveined.
- In a skillet, bring warm some butter or olive oil over medium-high heat
- Saute shrimp and water chestnuts, cooking about 3-4 minutes per side.  I like to let the shrimp get that nice golden color on each side.
- Toss with cooked green beans and serve.

This dish has a really nice thai flavor that is very forward.  Even Max loved it!

Tuesday: Tortilla Casserole courtesy of Melissa Crain

A few weeks back I asked my friends to list for me their favorite mid week meals.  This one comes from my friend Melissa.  Thanks Mel!


cheese, 1lb ground beef, 1 yello onion, 2 cans cream of chicken soup, 1 can evaporated milk, 1 can rotel, chili powder, salt, pepper, tortillas


- Saute 1 lb ground beef in some butter until cooked, adding salt, pepper, and chili powder to taste.

- In a separate pan, saute 1 small yellow onion.
- To the onions, add 2 cans Cream of Chicken soup, 1 can of evaporated milk (Pet milk?), and 1 can of Rotel.
- In a casserole dish, make layers of tortillas (I'm doing 1 side flour, 1 side corn), soup mix, meat, and cheese.  Repeat layers until done.
- Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.

Wednesday: One Pan Chicken with Creamy Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Sauce

I found this one on Foodie Crush and it looks delicious.  

Plus, 1 pot!  How can you beat that?  

You can't.  

And you shouldn't try.

What you should do, is take yourself over to Foodie Crush and check out this recipe.

(cooks note: I couldn't find her exact sun-dried tomato pesto sauce at my store, but I found something close and I'm sure it will taste just as delicious)

Thursday: Quiche

I don't have an exact recipe for this one yet, but my plan is to combine a few that I find online such as THIS ONE from the food network.

At Berkeley Bowl we found an organic whole wheat pie crust.  What makes a pie crust organic?  Not sure, but it makes me feel better, so I guess that's all that counts.

Our quiche will be comprised of sausage, cheese, mushrooms (on 1/2), spinach, and maybe asparagus.  

Lunch: BBQ Chicken

2.5 lbs of chicken breasts + 1 jar bbq sauce + 1 crockpot for 4 hrs on high = delicious and easy.

Side Caesar salads and some sun chips and you've got yourself a pretty decent lunch.

Bon Appetite!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Weekly Dinner - Week 2

Happy Labor Day weekend everyone!

What makes this super exciting is that I only have to plan 4 meals instead of 5!

Last week we took a trip to Costco and decided to try a new way of shopping.  We bought a bunch of pre-frozen food and meat then individually shrink wrapped it into nightly portions using our food saver.  You will notice a lot of "from Costco" in the next few weeks and after the experiment is over will update you and let you know how it went!

Also, a helpful hint for the week is to prep everything you can on Sunday.  Last week I premade the roasted red pepper soup and chopped all the veggies; organizing them into container by date needed.  The amount of time it saved during the week was invaluable.  

But enough of last week, it's time for this weeks meals!

9/1/14 - 9/4/14

Monday: Tacos & Margaritas. (30 minutes)

Well, it's a holiday weekend, and you know what that means... Taco Monday! 

ground beef (organic & grass fed if possible, sometimes lamb if I'm in the mood), tomatoes, avocado, taco shells, shredded Mexican cheese, salsa (I import mine from Texas, seriously), tortilla chips, greek yogurt (tastes the same as sour cream and healthier for you), taco seasoning (we do this ever week, so we get the big container at Costco), red onion

cooks note: Heat the oven to 400, then heat the taco shells for 2-3 minutes one or two at a time just before making and consuming.  They taste so much better!

Margaritas - 1/2 a lime (squeezed then tossed into the glass), then 2:1 ratio of tequila and orange liquor.  We use Bauchant orange liquor and nice tequila (honestly, we are tequila snobs, and yes, it does matter what tequila you use when you aren't masking the taste with sweet and sour or olive juice)

Tuesday: Korean Style Short Ribs (5 minutes prep, 6 hours slow cooker)

I am very excited about this recipe because I get to use my crockpot and it's super easy.  

Also, because we have baby back ribs (from Costco), we will be substituting those for the beef short ribs.

Check out the recipe HERE.

I will be serving these with a size of sauted zucchini flavored with Anna's Herbs or Herbs from Provence.

Wednesday: Fish Tacos. (20 minutes)

As we were shopping at Costco last week, we came across some fresh salmon topped with herb butter.  At only $10 for over a pound, we couldn't not try it.  So we punted fish taco's to this week.  So, you can always pretend that this meal is actually what we had last Monday which was Salmon from Costco with herbed butter and asparagus.  (At $10 for the salmon + $3 for asparagus, you can't go wrong, and it's actually pretty good salmon.  Word of warning, the directions have the cooking time WAY too long.  Cook until you see white bubbles coming up the side of the fish, then pull it)

If however you are interested in fish tacos, here's the recipe again, with some subtle additions.

White fish (whatever is on sale, I've acutally got a frozen bag of cod and mahi mahi from Costco that I'm trying out), broiled or pan fried until flaky.
corn tortillas, cilantro, tomato, red onion, cojita cheese, avocado
Seasoned Mayo (mix mayo with some lime juice and southwest ancho seasoning)

Tecate or some other Mexican beer.

Thursday: Grilled Shrimp and Saute'd Spinach

Last week we went on a Costco binge in hopes of saving us money during the week on meat.  This Thrusday we are going super easy and doing shrimp from Costco, frozen and pre-peeled.  Marinate in some herb butter, saute in a hot skillet or skewer and grill for 2-3 minutes per side.

For the spinach, toss about half the bag in a frying pan with some coconut oil and Anna's Herbs.  Cook down about 1/2 way then toss in the rest of the bag.  Cook down until wilted but not slimy.  

Lunch: Leftover pasta and salads

Our big Saturday night meal was chicken, herb, and cheese stuffed ravioli with spaghetti sauce and snap peas.  Exciting, I know.  But what is exciting was that the package of pasta (from Costco) was big enough to leave pasta for my weekly lunch -  2 days at least! 

We will also be having salads with olive oil, spinach (or mixed greens, arugula, whatever your desire), macadamia nuts, roasted turkey breast, and a little balsamic vinegar.  

I also always keep nuts at my desk for munching.

Bon Appetite!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Weekly Dinner - Take 1

Grocery shopping is always a struggle in my house.

First, I'm a planner.  I can't come home and go "what should we do for dinner tonight?"  I mean, I used to, but with a kiddo, that is no longer possible.  Also having a 14 month old, I only get limited time at the store before he wants to be out and running around.  So I like to have to have my list ready and meals planned out for the week.

Usually this means we have to cover Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Lunch.

That's a lot.  And it's hard to get creative after a while.

So I've decided that I will start blogging about our weekly meals in hopes that you will find them useful as well (Christy, I'm looking at you!)

If you have suggestions, leave them in the comments below!

8/25/14 - 8/28/14

Sunday: Tacos & Margaritas. (30 minutes)

This one will always stay the same (unless it needs to get bumped to monday because it's a holiday weekend).

ground beef (organic & grass fed if possible, sometimes lamb if I'm in the mood), tomatoes, avocado, taco shells, shredded Mexican cheese, salsa (I import mine from Texas, seriously), tortilla chips, greek yogurt (tastes the same as sour cream and healthier for you), taco seasoning (we do this ever week, so we get the big container at Costco), red onion

cooks note: Heat the oven to 400, then heat the taco shells for 2-3 minutes one or two at a time just before making and consuming.  They taste so much better!

Margaritas - 1/2 a lime (squeezed then tossed into the glass), then 2:1 ratio of tequila and orange liquor.  We use Bauchant orange liquor and nice tequila (honestly, we are tequila snobs, and yes, it does matter what tequila you use when you aren't masking the taste with sweet and sour or olive juice)

Monday: Fish Tacos. (20 minutes)

I know, this week is a double taco night week, but I'm told from my husband that beef hardshell tacos and fish tacos are different enough that it's okay.  Also, because seafood can't sit around for too long, I like to make Monday or Tuesday fish/seafood night.

White fish (whatever is on sale), broiled or pan fried until flaky.
corn tortillas, cilantro, tomato, red onion, cojita cheese

Tecate or some other Mexican beer.

Tuesday: Roasted Red Pepper Soup, Veggie Sandwiches, Roasted Cauliflower (1 hour)

The Soup:

I like this because I can make the soup ahead of time on Sunday and it will be good to go.  Fortunately it's also a very easy recipe.  This one comes courtesy of Lisa Ferrerio.

Watch her video HERE.

Ingredients: Chibatta bread, olive oil, dried herbs, 1/4 onion, shallot, 1 tsp garlic, 2 jars roasted red peppers, 1/3 cup chicken stock, 1/4 cup cream, 1/2 cup cream cheese.

Veggie Sandwiches:

I love making these with some chibatta bread (and how convenient with the soup).  Fry up some zucchini slices, yellow squash slices, red onion, with some olive oil, salt and pepper in a skillet.  Spread hummus on one side of the bread and pesto on the other.  Place the bottom of the sandwich in the skillet on low heat.  Top with veggies and cheese.  Close the sandwich then cover the skillet with a lid for a few minutes to build up heat and get that cheese nice and melted.  Once done, move to a plate to cool and fry up and egg or two if you want a delicious, and very messy, addition!

Roasted Cauliflower:

This recipe came from the Bon Appetit magazine.  Simply delicious.  Cook time is about 50 minutes, so you'll want to time it right.

Ingredients: 1 cauliflower, 4 thyme sprigs, 4 garlic cloves (peeled), 1 onion, olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 deg.  Cut cauliflower into florets (or thaw frozen ones).  Toss in a bowl with 1 chopped medium onion, 4 thyme sprigs, 3 tbsp olive oil, and 4 peeled garlic cloves.  Spread out onto rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle with ground pepper and salt.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, turning every 15 minutes.  After they are soft, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and roast 10-12 minutes more.

Wednesday: Tortilla soup (1 - 1 1/2 hours but less with preplanning)

Thanks to Ami for sharing this one with me.  It comes from Pioneer Woman and you can find the recipe HERE.

I know the time is a lot for a mid week meal, but I'm planning to precook some stuff on Sunday so it should go quicker.

cooks note: use tortilla chips from Sunday's dinner instead of making your own.  Also, since you'll be pre-making the roasted red pepper soup on Sunday, why not go ahead and pre-make this chicken too.

Thursday: Beef and Broccoli. (15 minutes + marinade time)

I looked to Ami for two recipe's this week.  This one comes from Rainy Day Gal and you can find the recipe HERE.

Lunch:  Sandwiches.

Usually my lunch is more interesting, bbq pulled pork, turkey/bacon/avo, salsa chicken, etc.  But this week for some reason I decided I was in the mood for good old fashion sandwiches... basic ham and cheese, and peanut butter & jelly.  I also keep a jar of nuts at my desk for munching.  Jeremy will do salad's this week with turnkey breast and olive oil with ground pepper.

I promise something more exciting for lunch next week.

Bon Appetite!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Bonnie



- Max

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Big Sur & A Trip to Monterey

I was so excited to be able to spend last weekend with my friend Steve and his wife, Amanda.  Steve and I went to undergrad together and though we've kept in touch, it's been about 8 years since we've been able to hang out.

What's awesome is that Steve and Amanda live in Monterey, about 2 hours from Oakland.  So Jeremy, Max, and I packed up on Friday and headed down to visit.

I was excited for a few things this weekend.  1) to see old friends.  2) for max to experience the beach and the ocean.  And 3) for max to play with Ginger dog!  Yep, Steve and Amanda have a little dog and I knew Max would just love him.

Though Friday night was a little touch and go, by Saturday night Max and Ginger dog were best friends.

I'm pretty sure Ginger ate more people food this weekend than she has in her short life so far.  Sorry about that Amanda.

Saturday morning we headed out to the coast and down to Big Sur.   The drive was amazing.  Though it was hard, I controlled myself and didn't ask to stop too many times along the way.  

We drove down to McWay Falls at Pfeiffer Beach and headed back, stopping a few times along the way.

The water looks so inviting.

And the coast so beautiful.

But it's pretty darn cold!

McWay Falls

McWay Falls Coast

Happy Family... well, two of us.

Bixby Bridge

After the drive, we headed to a small beach in Monterey.  I never did find out the name of it, mostly because I was crashed out along the way. 

I was so excited for Max to see the beach and the ocean.  He loves water and he loves the pool, so I was hoping he would like the ocean, even if it was a bit too cold to swim.

So we walked up to the water line.

And watched the ocean waves washing up on the shore.

The sand was chilly, but he cautiously walked toward the waters edge.

Man that water is COLD!  

And he was none too happy.

After we dried off a bit, we went away from the waters edge and spent some time in the sand.  He wasn't too happy at first (clearly), but after a while he seemed to be a little happy.

This kid is such a cutie!

Although the first trip didn't go exactly as I had hoped, I think our next adventures in the sand will be better received.  Though I'm sure swimming in the ocean will have to wait until we visit someplace warm!

Here's to great friends and California living!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

California Dreamin'

We made it!

It's been a hell of a 2 months, but we are finally here and getting situated.  At this point you've probably heard the story, but I'll give you a quick recap.

For the past few months I'd noticed the funding on my current project getting tighter and tighter.  I knew it was just a matter of time, so I started looking at other options.  One day I saw a post from Russ Angold on Linkdin looking for an electrical engineer to head up their Ekso team in the Bay Area.

"Should I apply?" I asked Jeremy.

"Sure, why not." He said. 

Well fast forward a few weeks and I landed the job two days before I was told that my project funding would be out in three weeks.  Perfect timing. 

Though I wasn't (and sometimes still aren't) convinced it was a good idea, we decided that if we didn't move to Cali then we would look back on this opportunity 10 years from now and say "why didn't we go."

So we sold the house, packed our stuff, and headed on out here.

Two weeks after moving and I can say we are getting used to the area.  We live in Oakland, but up in the hills with a great view of San Francisco and the bay.  Our house is about 700 sq ft smaller than our Houston house, but we rented a storage place and we are getting used to the limited space.  Honestly, there were rooms in our old house that we never really used anyway, so it's not so bad.  Plus we've really downsized and purged, which felt great.

As for my job, well, that's going great.  I'm full time now (did a few half days to start) and I'm loving the people and the work.  Our building is open and airy and has windows... a whole wall of them.  We even have TWO, yes 2, women's bathrooms.  Check out the bathroom signs

I've already have lots to do and people are all pretty excited that I've finally arrived.  I hope I can live up to their expectations!

Also today I got to take the Ekso GT for a test ride, okay walk.  It's pretty cool and it was really interesting feeling this exo vs the X1 exoskeleton that I worked on at NASA. 

What's even cooler is that people are coming into the building all the time to work with the exo and work with the PT's in our group.  It's amazing to see people up and walking in such a short amount of time.  I'm really excited to be part of this team and to be part of a project that will have such a lasting impact on mankind.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A special message from Sonoma

Happy 39th Anniversary 
Mom & Dad!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

NASA's Space Exploration Vehicle

Yesterday Jeremy, myself, and our friend, Chris, got to drive the NASA SEV Chariot Rover.  The Rover was designed in in the Dexterous Robotics Lab where I work, however the team that designed it is part of a different group, in a different building, so I don't get to interact with them very often.

It was a great experience to learn more about what they are doing and to drive the rover.  It was so much fun!

Jody was nice enough to take us out to the rock yard and we each got to drive through the craters and up and down the rock hill.

The Chariot Rover has six wheel modules, each with independent suspension, drive, steering and 2 feet of travel.   It also is equip with crab drive.  All this allows the rover to traverse even the most difficult terrains.

Here are some pictures of us driving up and around the rock yard.

Check out my flickr page for more photos and videos!