Monday, December 29, 2014

Say Cheeeese version

The fabulous Alaina Elliott took our pics again this year. She took last year's pics, which were amazing! I always have the hardest time deciding on what to wear each year because one can never tell what the weather will be like in November in Florida. For the last two years we have taken our photos the first weekend in November. Last year I planned for cold weather and was scrambling the last minute to find warm weather clothes. This year I was trying to plan for something that won't be too hot or too cold and hope pray that the weather isn't leaning towards one extreme or the other. I watched the weather like a hawk that week and would cheer for cold weather because our clothes would look cuter if we could wear everything I had planned. Well I got what I wished for because it was cold...freezing in fact. I knew it would slightly be colder since we would be taking photos at a park off of Tampa Bay. In fact the kids didn't want to cooperate at first because it was too cold and they wanted to stick their hands inside their vests. Listen here kiddos, "Buck up, we are paying a pretty penny for cute pics, get your hands out of your pockets and I'll make you hot cocoa and roast marshmallows by the fire pit when we get home." Ok so I said it a little differently, but there was definitely a lot of bribery involved, pleading, begging, a few little pokes and talking to the kids while I kept my smile pasted on my face.

So without further adieu here are the pics!!!

the first pic we took...see the tucked in hands and cuddling up to us? this was right by the water...FREEZING!

LOVE this pic...Daddy and his sweet little cupcake

she did so great at our photo session this year...a complete change from last year when she just did not want to listen to us and wanted to do what she wanted to do

Miss Sassy and the hand on the hip...

showing her sweet does exist...

Parker looks so much older this picture...I can't believe he is 5 years old!

all ready for his modeling career! lol

Avery's looking so big! 3.5 years old already!

my family

Parker and his head tilt...he copies me...we just can't help

he loves me...most of the time...unless i'm hungry and crabby. lol

LOVE this man!

** smooch **

the kids had fun playing on the steps while we took pics

this was Avery's "I'm going to act shy even though we've been taking pics for 30 minutes" pose...Parker was just hamming it up the whole cocoa, fire pit, and roasted marshmallows were on the line. LOVE that this kid can be bribed to smile and cheese it up!

this was my FAVE pic out of the whole session!!!! just LOVE!!!!

one of the main reason's why i wanted to pics at the park was because of this huge oak tree

who knew that this "forest" had a road about 2 feet away from us. 

my little man and me...LOVE!!!

mini me and me

def a Daddy's girl

another reason why i wanted to take a pic at the park...the overhanging trees...and i like the pose we used...same one as last year's

Thanks again, Alaina!!!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Eggplant Rounds

So we have been without a stove for exactly 1 week. It all started last Sunday...we came home from doing a big grocery shopping day and Kevin was going to make our favorite Filipino dish. We had grand plans to make this yummy eggplant dish and lasagna with needless to say I had a lot of eggplant in my crisper drawer. The stove broke while Kevin was making dinner! We went out  Sunday night and had to buy a new stove, unfortunately it wasn't available to be delivered until yesterday. Our stove and oven are two separate pieces, which means more expensive. We don't use our oven that much so we decided to forego that expense right now until I get my bonus. Kevin was going to install it yesterday (Home Depot doesn't do installation and Kevin knows a little bit about electrical stuff since he works in the field), but the wires are all messed/mixed up and he didn't feel comfortable working on it so now we have someone coming to look at it. Needless to say, it has been an expensive week!

I decided to make this eggplant dish to use up some of the eggplant. I didn't know what I was doing, but decided to just "wing it" bc I was tired of eating quick easy meals. It took much longer to make since I didn't have a stove or oven and had to use a TOASTER OVEN! I had to make it in batches, but it turned out so yummy! I'm definitely going to have to try this in a "real" oven next time!

Gather it:
1 large eggplant, cut into 1.5" rounds
Olive oil, about 7 Tbsp
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried parsley
Mozzarella cheese
Pasta sauce

Make it:
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, mix together olive oil, garlic, and herbs in a small plate. Dip 1 side of eggplant into mixture and place on foil lined baking sheet, oil side down.

2) Spoon small amount of herb mixture on top of eggplant and spread throughout top of eggplant. Place in oven and bake for 5 minutes. Flip to other side and bake another 3 minutes.

3) Top with pasta sauce and mozzarella cheese. I only had a block and didn't feel like shredding it. Def would have been easier with pre-shredded cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and lightly browned (I like slightly burnt cheese).

4) Enjoy with pasta and red sauce...which we did not since we couldn't cook pasta. Next time, next time!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Chicken with Tomato & Mushroom Sauce

I've been craving pasta and this recipe totally hit the spot. I've made fresh tomato sauces before, but this time I decided to add mushrooms since I had some leftover from another dish that I made. This dish was so easy and yummy...fits my requirements when I cook!

Gather it:
3 large tomatoes, diced (about 3 cups)
Mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)
Large handful of fresh basil, sliced into ribbons
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp butter
4 chicken breasts
1 lb of pasta

Make it:
1) In a large pan, heat up about 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Meanwhile season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. If the breasts are thick you can pound them a little bit to thin them out and cook faster.

2) In a large pot, boil water for pasta. Cook pasta according to the directions on the box.

3) Place chicken breasts in hot oil and cook for about 5-6 minutes. Flip to other side and cook for another 4-5 minutes or until cooked through. I had to cook mine in two batches because the breasts were fairly large. Place all 4 breasts on a plate and allow to rest.

4) In the same pan, place mushrooms and allow to soften for about 5 minutes.

5) Add tomatoes, cook 5 minutes. Add garlic, butter, and basil (reserve a small amount for garnish). Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Make sure to scrape up all the yummy goodness on e bottom of the pan from the chicken!

6) In a large bowl, place pasta in bottom of bowl, top with sauce, then chicken. Add more sauce on top of chicken and garnish with basil.

It was delish! The kids loved it...even the whole wheat spaghetti. Kevin's not a fan of whole wheat pasta, but the meal really needed pasta that you have to twirl! He ended up loving it too! Kevin and I added a sprinkle of red pepper flakes to our bowls. Next time I'm going to get a wedge of Parmesan and grate some on top to help finish the dish off.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup)

Kevin and I first had Pho a couple of years ago when my cousin had her rehearsal dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. It wasn't until sometime last year that we Kevin attempted to make it. It was so yummy! We were craving it today and even though it was hot outside we decided to make it and just turn the AC down. This recipe is a little more complex than I normally prefer, but it's worth it!

Gather it:
3-4 cloves of garlic
Small handful of whole black peppercorns
5-6 star anise pods
2-3 bay leaves
2 inches of ginger, cut into thin pieces)
1 jalapeƱo, diced
Small bunch of fresh cilantro, leaves only
2 stalks of scallions, sliced
Bean sprouts
1 lime, cut in wedges
4 soup bones (if it's not in the fresh meat section, look in the frozen section)
2 large boxes of beef broth
1/2 lb roast beef from the deli, shredded into bite sized pieces
Rice noodles, found at Asian store, but my Publix had it too in the International aisle
~ 6 Tbsp of fish sauce (found at local Asian store)

Make it:
1) In a large pot, over medium heat, "toast" first 4 ingredients for 4 minutes.
2) Place soup bones in pot and brown for 4 minutes. Then place about 1/2 cup of beef broth in pot
and simmer for about 5 minutes.
3) Pour remaining boxes of broth in pot and simmer over medium high heat for 20 minutes.
4) Add 5 cups of water, ginger, fish sauce and return to a boil then simmer on low heat for 45 min.
5) Place a fine mesh strainer and pour 2 ladlefuls of the broth in a smaller pot. Fill additionally with water and cook rice noodles according to package directions.
6) Using strainer and ladle, remove the garlic, peppercorns, star anise, bay leaves and ginger from the large pot and throw away.
7) In a bowl, place noodles, jalapeƱos, sprouts, and roast beef. Pour hot broth over it, top with cilantro and scallions and squeeze lime juice.

The garlic, peppercorns, star anise, bay leaves, and soup bones browning together.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Moroccan Spiced Fish

A couple of weeks ago Kevin and I went to BJ's Brewhouse and I ordered a Moroccan Spiced Salmon. It was easily one of the best fish I've ever had! The spice had a rich, earthy taste that reminded me a little bit of curry. Kevin's not a fan of curry, but he also really liked my dish! I finished my meal and wanted to place a to go order! Lol I decided to try and find a copy cat recipe. I couldn't find one, but after searching for Moroccan spices, I found a spice that I thought might have been used on the fish I had. I decided to try William-Sonoma's Ras El Hanout because of the bright red color of the spice, which reminded me of the fish I had at BJ's. McCormick's also makes Ras El Hanout, which I more readily available, but I was already at Williams-Sonoma for something else.

We bought steelhead trout instead of salmon and it was delicious!!! It didn't have as much of the flavor of the spice like at the restaurant so I think next time I will rub the spice on and let it sit and marinate for about 1 hour or longer instead of just of 15 minutes. I may also play with some sort of sauce like the one at BJ's. Here's my version:

Gather it:
2 filets of fish (I would pick sturdier fish like salmon or steelhead instead of something like tilapia)
2 Tbsp of Ras El Hanout
1Tbsp of olive oil

Make it:
1) Put 1 Tbsp of Ras El Hanout and rub into the fish (preferably doing this at least an hour before hand and refrigerating for deeper flavor).

2) Heat 1Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat and swirl to coat bottom of a large frying pan.

3) Depending on the thickness of your fish, fry one side for 5-6 minutes and the second side for another 5 minutes. My filets were thick and it took this long to cook through. 

We had ours with couscous, just my favorite boxed kind in the pasta/rice section at Publix. I mixed  in some sliced green onions and few twists of the pepper grinder. I can't wait to experiment with this new spice!!!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Avery is THREE!!!

Dear Avery,

This past Tuesday you turned 3 years old...I can't believe you are THREE already. I said last year that I couldn't believe you were two...and now you're THREE. Time has flown by way too fast! You have grown so much this year! You are talking...A LOT! I've nicknamed you sweet and sassy since you were a baby and your nickname has held true. You are the sweetest little girl, but you've got your sassy side too. When you've made up your mind about something, there's no changing it! It's pretty rare that bribery works to change your mind..believe me I've tried.

You love going to school and sometimes on the weekends you ask to go to school...usually when you're getting in trouble. Speaking of getting in often get in trouble because you choose to not listen. More often than not you get this stubborn look in your eyes and do or say what I tell you not to do as you stare me if daring me to discipline you. You are going to be such a handful and Daddy always says he can't wait until you are 16 and we are butting heads b/c we are both stubborn. Then there's you're sweet side. You still love to cuddle, especially at night time and ask to "cuddle chest" where you sit on my lap and we are chest to chest.

We started you in gymnastics a couple of months ago and you absolutely LOVE it! You ask to go all the time! Since you were under 3 years old when you first started, I had to take the class with you. Your teacher, Miss Lana, said you are really good for your age! Towards the middle of your session we got moved to a different time (thankfully b/c 9 am start time is just way too early for a Saturday!)and you got a new teacher, Miss Kaylee. She told me last week since you are turning 3 and doing really well that you can get moved up to the next age group, which is Parker's class and you get to go by yourself. I think you will do better in this class and listen more since I won't be in there with you. Since you loved gymnastics so much, we decided to have your birthday party at the gym. I had asked you months ago when kind of party you said you wanted pink and purple. lol You were obsessed quite a bit with Bubble Guppies so I went with that. I didn't anything as far as decorations go, but the cake had Bubble Guppies.

Aaaaaand pics galore:

opening up one of the cards Parker drew for her

opening up her gifts 

 Parker was just as excited about Avery opening presents
opening her gifts on her actual bday after we all got home from work/school. she loves Parker's PBK lunch box and she finally gets her own...she LOVES kitties and this was a big hit!

every time we go to the gym Parker asks to buy Avery a leotard...she actually needed a new one so this was a great gift. he picked this one out all by himself.

we went to Cold Stone to celebrate Avery's bday with family

 they wanted to take a silly picture
5/10/14: Avery's bday party day...this was the best picture I took of her. she just did not want her picture taken. this was a dress Parker picked out for Avery's xmas gift.
waiting for Mommy to finish getting ready is no fun!
the only pic I got of Avery and me...she had the cutest pigtail/French braids that my mom did! I'm so mad that we didn't get one of the 4 of all! not even of just parker & avery together!
finally on our way to the gym...Avery was so excited
yeaaaah....I couldn't get a decent shot of her. lol

 stretching out w/ Miss Lana, Parker's current teacher, was Avery's old teacher until she got moved to a different time. she will be Avery's teacher again in a couple of week when she moves to the older class.
stretching and making a "table"
we went to open gym last night since we had to make up a class and we can't make any of the weekday classes...Parker LOVES these rings!

the rings were a huge hit...made me want to try it out!

 jumping into the foam's been a while since I've done this and I was tempted to, but didn't want to get in trouble. all the kids loved jumping into the pit!
 jumping into the pit...again...
jumping in....#1001
 at open gym last night Avery finally mastered getting her feet up to the bar, tucking her feet under the bar and between her hands and flipping over. She was doing this move last week w/ help getting her legs up to the bar from Miss Kaylee when her teacher told me she needed to move up after seeing her hang on to the bar after flipping over and doing a bunch of forward rolls on her own.
 cousin Audrey who does gymnastics at the same gym was "helping" Avery
Miss Lana saw Avery's new "trick" and again got complimented on how well she's doing

two little monkeys

 3 little monkeys
 playing with the scarves
 she went to the beam on her own...then chickened out and asked for help to go across
after being helped across the lower beam she moved to a higher beam and walked across all by herself!
concentrating very hard

walking across with Audrey & Clover

 and it was a fabulous dismount!
another great dismount!

practicing his sit/stand

 parachute time...always a big hit especially when the parents help out
 time for lunch
 Erica and I tried all day to get the girls to get together and smile for the camera...being stubborn little girls they refused! They got tricked at lunch time!
lunch time
 Avery's bday cake...I bought a chocolate/chocolate mouse sheet cake from Costco, which we bought for Avery's 2nd bday last year and Parker's 4th bday last Sept. It's so yummy and for $18, you can't beat the price. I just asked them to color the top blue for "water" then my fabulous aunt made all of the decorations out of fondant. the decorations were amazing. we got a bunch of compliments and as I was putting the decorations on the cake there random people there waiting for their kids gym class to be over that complimented it and a few kids even came in and asked if they could look. she does an amazing job every year for the kids' bdays!

 Avery was so excited about her cake!!!
everyone singing Happy Birthday, which she absolutely LOVED!!!
 blowing out her candles
 photo bombing...
 yummy cake!
 more play time after eating
 I think Avery's got a little crush on big brother's friend
 trying to take a pic of all the kids...didn't quite all work out
 taking a silly pic
 swinging up high
 Aliza joined in the foam pit jumping
 Owen jumping in...
Savannah: "Come on Avery, hold up 3 fingers!"

We're 3 years old! Savannah and Avery are just 4 days apart!
for favors we handed out cookie pops that my aunt baked and decorated...she's so talented!

 my mom handing out the cookie pops...I had forgotten...good thing Lola was there!
yummy cookie!
she ate almost all the fondant off, but left most of the cookie...silly girl!
 opening her presents
 she got a plethora of Hello Kitty gifts
excited about her Frozen Look & Find book
After opening presents we went swimming...well the water was still cold so it was mostly Daddy going swimming, but the kids got thrown in a couple times went swimming for a bit. 

the water was too cold!
the kids are a bit timid w/ the water since it was freezing and they haven't been in the pool since last summer
Thank you to our family and friends who came out to celebrate our little bunny's special day! We truly appreciate everyone of you!