Happy 2018 to you all! I truly hope you had a great holiday season filled with family and friends. We sure did! Apparently, I failed to take a closer look at our family calendar because we ended up hosting 5 different holiday gatherings in less than 10 days- lots of work but completely worth it for the laughs and memories made. My hubby is a gracious co-host and an expert dishwasher and I very much enjoy the menu planning and the cooking- we make a great team.
Over the break we visited family in the Santa Barbara area and had a blast. The gratitude toward the firefighters is clear all over town and while several establishments were still doing fire/smoke restoration, the town seems resilient and grateful. We were happy to see our family safely back in their home and very happy to help support the local economy get back on their feet. A few of the tasty meals we had were from: Cava- a Spanish, Mexican restaurant on Coast Village in Montecito with dessert across the street at Here’s the Scoop- gelato with homemade waffle cones; Lama Dog in the Funk Zone- seafood burgers, fish tacos, german pretzels with cheesy beer sauce; and a great breakfast at the Montecito Cafe. Another great place we had a picnic from while wine tasting was Industrial Eats in the town of Buellton. A few of the sandwiches blew our minds.
My favorite- by far- was the hole in the wall taco stand East Beach Tacos. This place is insane! I haven’t stopped thinking of my ahi poke taco in a wonton skin and bahn mi taco. In fact, I could have eaten one of everything on the menu. They even have this super fun item on the kid’s menu called the Beachball- a favorite of my nephew’s and now my daughter’s. It’s a ball of sushi rice about the size of your fist and it’s stuffed with ahi tuna- poke style. Delicious. The super fun part about this taco stand is that it shares the same property with an old school (20 pitches for a token- score!) outdoor batting cage and serves local beers. I cannot even imagine the danger this place would be to our family if we lived nearby. With all the amazing eateries Santa Barbara has to offer- this is the first stop we will make on our next trip. To hold us over in the meantime, I asked (begged) Eric to go in front of the long line of people to take a close picture of the creative and inventive taco menu and will be recreating these in the very near future. My brain is going crazy about this place– after culinary school I might have to open this in the Bay Area! After my coffee/breakfast/lunch cafe, that is. Dreams…
It’s back to reality as we approach kids going back to school this week. I think we are all ready for routine, but I’m going to miss my sleepy kiddos stumbling downstairs with their blankets and settling in on the couch each morning. Back to rushed mornings, making lunches, and busy afternoons. Thankfully, after the first few days it gets easier and we have a few Monday holidays coming up for those sleepy mornings. Since we’ve been home the past few days we’ve been enjoying super simple meals such as: baked sweet potatoes, white beans with pancetta and rosemary; smashed avocado with aleppo pepper, sea salt, lemon and olive oil; shrimp tacos; kale salad; and carrot soup with lemon and ginger.
For the week ahead: I’ve got a few easy weeknight dishes planned. One exception, I’ve got a special dinner planned for Monday night as we will be celebrating Eric’s first day at his new job. I’ll take some time on Monday to make sure we’ve got a good bottle of celebratory wine, and everything for a yummy Italian feast of Eggplant Parmesan and Chicken Saltimbocca. And his favorite dessert, chocolate mousse for dessert. **Lest you get the wrong idea here- a celebratory Monday night dinner at home is no intimate candlelit soiree- it’s just extra special food that are favorites of the one being celebrated and are eaten in stages due to 2 out of 3 kids needing to be driven to and from sports and religion classes. We are just super proud of him and are excited to celebrate his new gig!(Will post recipes for these later this week as none of them are easily available online.)
This soup makes you feel like you’ve been to one of those high-end wellness retreats where they pamper you with delicious healthy meals and take you out on nature walks around their property and serve you spa water with lots of magical ingredients to make you feel like a million bucks. For those of us in real life: make this soup (it literally takes 20 minutes after chopping a few ingredients), take a walk around your neighborhood while listening to your favorite inspirational podcast (my current fav is For the Love of Food series, Jen Hatmaker), and upon your return squeeze some lemon into your glass of water. Done. DIY Wellness retreat in between carpool duties. You’re welcome.
We made this recipe last night exactly as written, in fact, I chopped the ingredients for efficiency and my 8 year old made the rest. Don’t forget the squeeze of lemon at the very end and we skipped the optional sour cream dollop on the top- this soup just doesn’t need it. I only wished I had doubled the recipe- it made exactly enough for our family of 5 to have a bowl with a side of kale salad and garlic toasts. This was a huge hit with my whole family!
This is such a great recipe that can be easily adapted to what you have in the refrigerator. It’s comforting, quick, and can be healthier if you increase the veggies (I add zucchini and more bell pepper) swap brown rice for the white rice, and use coconut oil for the canola oil. Obviously, you can add chicken, pork, shrimp or tofu for protein. We like ours with a generous amount of Sriracha sauce.
Note: I use my dutch oven pot because it contains all the extra veggies I add but if I had a wok, that would be ideal. Also, do not begin this without having everything prepped and ready to go. We are talking about a super quick dish over high heat that can be ruined with sad overcooked veggies or egg stuck to the bottom of your pan never to be scrubbed off entirely.
Beef Chili with Kidney Beans
This is another one of our go-to chili recipes. It is heavier on the quantity of ground beef (2 lbs) but makes a lot and I take care to use good organic, grass-fed beef. We rarely eat red meat, so when we do, it’s the best quality we can find and afford. This recipe has a good kick and requires my kids to dollop sour cream or Greek yogurt on top, but it’s full of flavor. I add two red bell peppers instead of one, coconut oil instead of the vegetable oil, and add an extra can of beans- white or black. The recipe brilliantly calls for cooking for 1 hr with the lid on and then for 1 hr with the lid off. Do this. The people at America’s Test Kitchen are no joke and they know these things after much trial and error. It makes for a deeply flavored, thick chili and the leftovers are awesome.
Refrigerator Bran Muffins
Growing up, these were a staple in our house. I remember running out the house to school with two hot muffins on a napkin. The recipe was included in our family recipe collection that my mom made for my siblings and me and I’ve enjoyed sharing them with my own kids. The batter couldn’t be more simple to make, can be left in the refrigerator for several weeks (don’t be alarmed by the strange tint of green the top layer takes on- it’s fine), and are best scooped and put in the oven the day of- I do mine while packing lunches. My kids enjoy them as a snack and are a respectable stand in for a sandwich when packed with a to-go packet of peanut or almond butter. I swap out the Crisco sticks for butter and add chopped walnuts but skip the raisins- they get a little too mushy for my liking. Alternatively, you can add the raisins when you are scooping so they are more fresh. Enjoy!
Quick blog note: I hope the tag/category feature helps you find recipes more easily. I sure know it helps me! Also, I’m working hard on figuring out a better way to post recipes (an easy recipe card) when it’s not a linked recipe so you can view and print recipes easily. Stay tuned… I have a day job so it is taking me awhile to integrate all of it. 🙂
I hope you have a great week, avoid all those nasty germs out there, and enjoy all that a fresh year has to offer! Thanks for reading ~Christina