Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Peach and Goat Cheese Salad

We are now in mid July, fully immersed in Summer.  Which in my house means kids, messes, AC, iPads (see kids), lots of margaritas (again, see kids) and fruit, especially peaches.  I freaking love peaches.  I don't even care about the fuzzy skin, I just love the sweetness, the texture and how it feels to eat them.  You really have to consume them when they are super ripe and juicy.  So when I see them for sale, they call to me and next thing I know, I have a pallet of them from Costco.  But this has made me start using them in different ways and right now, my most favorite is this salad.  It could not be easier, more delicious or more summer.  It's always a crowd fave and you can add or remove any ingredient you don't like.  Don't have baby kale?  Use spinach or mixed greens.  Don't like onions?  Forget them!  Not feeling goat cheese?  Use feta!  My point is, use peaches on a salad and you won't regret it.  This salad goes amazingly well with grilled chicken, pork or fish.  Great side dish for a BBQ!

Friday, January 27, 2017

NB & J Smoothie

Does it seem weird to put a "nut butter" in a smoothie?  Because it seemed really bizarre to me until I actually tried it.  And now, I am kind of obsessed.  It adds a hint of flavor, a whole lot of creaminess and makes the smoothie seem more like a meal.  Meaning it keeps me full until my next meal, something a regular fruit/ veggie smoothie absolutely does not do.  I have been playing around with different Nut Butters (cashew, almond and sunflower) and they all work wonderfully.  I have a thing for blackberries after growing up on a ranch that was covered in wild blackberry bushes, but any berry would work here!
Here's the thing, I am currently doing The 30 Clean, which is clean eating challenge for 30 days. I have sworn off processed foods, dairy, grains, legumes and sugar (just to name a few off limit foods) for the time being.  So I came up with this recipe based on their guidelines.  But if you are not "eating clean" at the moment, feel free to change it up and use Greek yogurt, milk or peanut butter.  Try it out and let me know if you made it from breakfast to lunch without any hunger pains! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why I Marched...

I love to read.  It is probably my greatest joy second to my family.  I will happily read anything, books, articles, lists, blogs, recipes and product reviews (all about the reviews!).  So, in the couple of days that have passed since the Women's March, I have read quite a few articles and "think pieces" on the event.  Some for it and some against, some that made me well up in pride for taking part and some that made me question myself and my own intentions.  Now that I have had a few days to digest, reflect and ask myself some serious questions, I wanted to share why I, personally marched alongside my family, my friends and a sea of perfect strangers. 

In the days leading up to the March, I was torn.  I supported the causes (it wasn't just for WOMEN), and I wanted to stand up for what I believe in and to show my three daughters that even if we feel beat down, to keep fighting and doing what we feel is right.  Sure they might not remember it, but I would never let them forget we were there.  But I also have a very fearful side of me, one riddled with anxiety over WHAT IF'S???  What if there was a stampede?  What if there was, God forbid, a terrorist attack or a mass shooting?  What if one of my kids got sick or hurt?  The reasons not to go were stacking up, but two of my best friends in the world who inspire me to no end were going and bringing their kids, and my amazing husband was all for it.  If they could be brave, so could I.
As soon as we got there, the energy was palpable.  I felt so exhilarated, emotional, inspired, hopeful, proud and AMERICAN.  There were women and men from all ethnicity's, all ages and all walks of life.  There were people advocating for a huge array of causes, such as Climate Change, Planned Parenthood, Women's Workplace Rights, Ending Sexual Assault, Protecting Immigrants, LGBT Rights, Black Lives Matter, Domestic Abuse and Women's Rights.  The vibe was inclusive to all and the basic message was that we are all humans who deserve to be treated equally and have the same rights as the next person.

This is where I needed to question myself and think about why I was there.  Do I feel like a second class citizen?  Do I feel like my voice isn't heard?  Do I feel powerless or scared for my personal future?  Not necessarily.  But guess what?  I am a 36 year old, white, stay at home mom in a happy marriage, living a comfortable middle class life in suburbia.  So, no I wasn't really marching for MYSELF. I was marching for the women whose skin is a different color, whose name doesn't sound like mine, who has been getting paid less than their male counterpart while doing the exact same job.  For the women whose husband wouldn't let her attend, for the women who wanted to be there but had no car or money for bus fare to make it.  For the men and women who feel marginalized and worry for their own basic, human rights and just want to be themselves and live their own lives without fear.  Do I realize that just the mere fact we all live in America makes us so much more fortunate than a good percentage of the world?  Absolutely, and my heart bleeds for the suffering of men, women and children in oppressed and war torn countries, which is why I donate to the American Red Cross and Save the Children when I can and try to stay as informed as possible.  But those terrible atrocities do not negate the struggles of the people right here in our own country.  Do I fully understand all of these trials, tribulations and hardships other people go through on a daily basis?  Of course not, but I am trying to be more aware and look outside my personal bubble and realize that maybe even though I am OK, my neighbor may not be.  To me, the greatest gift we can give each other is empathy.  Maybe we don't understand or agree with each other, hell, maybe we don't even sympathize with each other, but if we can empathize and try to put ourselves into each others shoes for just a minute, there could be a whole lot more acceptance, peace and unity.

So the million dollar question now is what next??  For me, it means practicing what I preach and continuing to learn and grow from others.  Teaching my daughters to always stand up for what they believe in and to be a voice for someone or something who may not have one.  To take pride in yourself and believe that even a small act of kindness can go a long way and most importantly, no matter what, we are all human and deserve respect. 

Check out the Womens March website for the 10 Actions for the First 100 Days if you are so inclined.

OK, back to cooking!!  Furiously working on next recipe blog post!!!  Thanks for reading! xoxo

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Lessons in Listening to my Gut

Remember when I said things were calming down a bit and I was settling into some sort of a routine?  Well, fate had another plan.  My 6 year old, Scarlett ended up in having to be admitted to the children's hospital for an overnight stay.  To say this was terrifying would be an understatement.  But we were lucky and blessed to be out after just one night with a child who WILL get better, unlike so many of the children we saw there. 

Here is just little background on how this may have happened.  Scarlett has had three pretty intense colds in the past month and half.  One when we had our family vacation to Disneyland, one two weeks after that which resulted in her missing four days of school and one the week before Christmas.  While it seemed she was recovered, looking back it is more than likely she never really was 100% better. 

So when my 4 year old caught a bad cold last week, I was not happy.  I know its the season, but it still has been rough for our family with all the colds flying around. After a few days, I was pleasantly surprised when it seemed Scarlett wasn't going to get it.  She went to school on Monday and seemed fine, even when she came home.  As the evening wore on, she started feeling worse and worse.  If I am honest, I was kind of annoyed.  I just wanted to her to be healthy and not have to miss anymore school.  She went to bed and we just assumed she was getting whatever her sister had. 

This is where it starts to get dicey and I keep kicking myself for not listening to my gut.  She woke up around midnight crying and saying her chest hurt and she didn't feel good.  So we gave her some Motrin, rubbed some essential oils on her and busted out the humidifier.  The thing that made me pause was when she said her "chest felt weird."  I looked at my husband and said she would take her in?  We both decided that since we had a virus going around the house, that is just what it was.  A few hours later she threw up her entire dinner.  The next morning she was in pretty bad shape and threw up again.  At this point, we figured she had caught a terrible bug.  We made her a comfy spot on the couch and kept an eye on her.  By early afternoon, she had a taken a turn for the worse.  She was crying and having a hard time catching her breath.  I called the doctor's office and told the operator her symptoms.  I knew it was serious when she told me to hold on and got the nurse right away instead of leaving a message and waiting for the nurse to call me back.  I told the nurse everything and the last two things she asked me were,  "are her lips blue?" and "are her nostrils flaring when she takes a breath?" My answers were NO and YES, respectively.  The nurse said to bring her to Urgent Care right away.  This marks my second "mom fail" of not listening to my gut, because a little voice in my head was saying just take her to the ER.  But, Urgent Care is closer, and again, my husband and I truly didn't know how serious this was and could get.

Since we have a seven month old baby that I am still nursing, Justin took Scarlett to Urgent Care.  When he got there, the admitting person told him it would be a 3-4 hour wait.  At this point, we were getting very concerned.  Scarlett was having a hard time talking and walking and generally seemed very ill.  He expressed all of this to the lady and she took them right into the triage unit and said depending on the nurse evaluation, she could be seen right away.  The nurse came in, immediately checked her oxygen levels and they were dangerously low.  The doctor came in right away and started her on breathing treatments.  The doctor said she needs to go to the ER, but depending on how she responds to the treatments, she may have to take an ambulance.  Well, she wasn't responding to the breathing treatments, and since it was the middle of rush hour traffic and we still didnt know what was happening, ambulance ride it was. 

My heart immediately sank to my stomach, my mouth went dry and the tears started to flow.  Obviously Justin was going to ride with her, and I had to figure out how I was going to get there.  Thank God for my amazing neighbor, who was there in a heartbeat to take my other two kids and my wonderful stepmom and sister who immediately left their jobs in LA to drive down to San Diego (2 hour minimum drive without traffic) to help us with whatever we needed.  I was able to arrive at the hospital a few minutes after the ambulance got there.  There was already a team of nurses and doctors in there.  No one could figure out what was wrong with her.  They assumed an asthma attack brought on by an allergy even though she has never had an asthma attack.  I just had the mom intuition going on and really wanted them to take a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia.  They didn't think that was necessary and gave her two more hour long breathing treatments.  These were doing nothing!  I was getting so pissed because they weren't doing anything and she wasn't feeling better.  In most asthma attacks, after a breathing treatment or two, the person is doing much better.  So after we were in the ER for several hours, they finally hooked her up to an IV to give her fluids and took her blood and did a chest x-ray.  What they found was she was SEVERELY dehydrated and had pneumonia so severe it brought on asthma like symptoms.  They started her on a heavy dose of antibiotics and constant oxygen along with breathing treatments every two hours.  Although, I was relieved to know what was going on, I was extremely frustrated it took so long to get there.  And again, kicking myself for not demanding a chest x-ray instead of just asking for one. 

One might think, this would be the end of our time in ER, but nope!!  Now, the doctors were very concerned she wasn't showing signs of any improvement and in fact seemed to be getting worse.  They informed us that the PICU (pediatric ICU) would need to evaluate her to determine if she will go to that floor or the Respiratory unit.  Needless to say, we were terrified.  I've never seen my child so sick and after losing my dad two years ago to cancer, I know what the ICU can mean.  Not everyone who gets admitted to the ICU leaves it.  My mind was going to some dark and scary places and I just wanted answers. 

Thank God, they determined she wasn't to that level and we would be admitted to the Respiratory floor.  The ER doctors weren't sure for how long we would need to be there but said it could be a couple of days, at least.  So after SEVEN hours in the ER, we finally got our bed, at 2 AM.  It was a shared room with one pull out cot for a parent to stay overnight.  Luckily, I was able to curl up next to my sweet girl and sleep on the bed with her while Justin took the cot.  I didn't really sleep, of course and I'll never forget the sounds of the machines and the countless doctors and nurses coming in through out the night to check on her.  Around 8 AM, several doctors came in to evaluate her and talk to us.  I sat up and looked at Scarlett and immediately felt a huge sense relief.  She was talking and very confused as to why I was hogging her bed. 

The doctors and nurses were all in face masks and protective gowns to not spread any germs to their young patients.  I was both scared and oddly comforted by this.  They said she had improved and her airways were opening up.  They were going to see how she was after more more antibiotics and wean her off the breathing treatments and constant oxygen and see how she responds.  And thank God, she did well.  She was starving and her amazing personality was coming back.  We were discharged around 5:30 PM with two inhalers, an antibiotic and a steroid.  With that came an action plan of what to do and when to do it if things like wheezing and shortness of breath came back.  I was nervous, but knew we could handle it. 

It has been four full days since we have been home and it has been pretty smooth.  We have been home bound, so there has been quite a bit of iPads and TV and I think it is safe to say we are all going a bit stir crazy.  Scarlett is feeling much better but not even close to 100% yet.  I can tell just by looking at her, no matter what she says.  This time, I am listening to my gut. There is just something to be said for a mothers intuition and I wish I would have listened to it more.  Maybe had we taken her to the ER when I first thought we should, she would not have been admitted.  If we had taken her to the ER instead of Urgent Care first we could have saved the trauma and cost of the ambulance ride.  And maybe had I been more forceful with my x-ray request, Scarlett could have been made more comfortable earlier than she was.  Many lessons were learned over the past week and I promise to myself and my family to follow my gut, even when it is hard or scary.

Our time in the hospital was short and I am so thankful for that.  I feel an immense amount of love, respect and empathy for the parents out there who have chronically ill children.  There are things I saw and heard in that hospital that I will never forget and not just about my own child.  I cannot stop thinking about the toddler we shared a room with.  He has Leukemia and this is the worst bout of pneumonia he has ever had.  I'll never forgot the positive way his mom spoke about it and the image of seeing his dad sleeping on the bed with his diapered baby boy.  They were there before us and we were able to leave before them with our daughter, who will get better.  I will never, ever take that granted.   

 Feeling better and completed our Lego set which was given to her while we were in the ER by a nurse.  This made Scarlett so happy and I will be donating to the Rady's Childrens Hospital Toy Fund myself.  Here is link, if you are interested!   
 Always the foodie, layering her grilled cheese with the potato chips.  Pretty genius if you ask me.

 And of course, a fruit loop donut makes everything just a bit better. 


Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Year and a Kinda New Me!

Hi Guys!

Happy New Year!!!!!!
It has been awhile, no??  So, 2016 was an intense year for me and my family, which might explain my severe lack of blogging.  Now that things have NOT settled down (ha-ha) but instead, I am becoming more settled and have somewhat of a routine established, I am ready to get back!

First, let me paint a picture...Exactly one year ago, my husband had just started working his own business full time.  Why?  Wellllll, he was laid off from his job of 13 years at the very end of 2015, right before Christmas.  This SUCKED.  We had never been so scared for our future.  It truly felt like our world was turned upside down and all I could think about was our kids futures.  I was 5 months pregnant with our third baby and a stay at home mom with a few passion projects, like this blog and my freelance blogging for other websites.  What I did have was my side business with the skincare giant, Rodan + Fields.  You may have heard of them, we are the second largest premium skincare brand in the country and are just owning the anti-aging landscape.  I joined this company mid 2015 to make extra money for my family while still being able to work from home and be with my kids.  My husband and I had pretty much lived paycheck to paycheck since I quit my job to be a stay at home mom and I was hoping to make some wiggle room for us. What I didn't know when I joined the company was that this little "side-gig" was going to take on a lot bigger role just a few months later.  When my husband was laid off, I threw myself into working my business to do everything I could to ensure my kids had food on their plate and protect them from knowing exactly what my husband and I were dealing with.

By the grace of God, pure luck or however you want to look at it, my husband had also started a side business a few months prior to being laid off.  It was doing well but as with any new business it takes time to build.  We had to make some tough and scary decisions.  Was he going to look for a similar job or risk it all and put everything we had into his new business?  We decided that with my Rodan + Fields income and some financial help of from wonderful family members, we were going to use our savings and his entire severance package and do the damn thing, ie. throw himself into his new business and make it happen.

And now, a year later we could not be more grateful and thankful that we listened to our gut, took a GIANT leap of faith and just went for it.  Not just once with my husbands business, but twice with my skincare business.  It was not and is not easy.  There is always something to do and something to be stressed about it.  But it is SO worth it.  He is happier and more confident than he ever has been and we have been able to spend so much time as a family together.  I am able to bring additional income in for us and have something that I can call my own and build a legit business.  We welcomed our third baby girl in May of 2016 and we feel so blessed to have another healthy child.  We are all so busy but life is good and we are eternally thankful for all of our trials, lessons and blessings 2016 gave us.

OK, so why am I telling you guys the worlds longest story??  My whole point of this very long-winded post is to explain where I have been the past year.  Sh*t got real over here and I had to take a step back from food and recipe blogging to focus on stuff that was paying the bills.  Like helping my husband with his business and building my Rodan + Fields biz.  But, the baby is 7 months now (how??) and I'm seeing some extra time here and there for some more recipes.  And maybe some other posts too.

Anyways, hope you guys still want to see my life in food with some baby/ kid/ husband/ family/ business stuff thrown in.  Oh and not to mention we just got a new puppy.  Because why not add to the crazy??  I'll be starting a clean eating challenge on January 16th because this 15 pounds of left over baby weight has got to go and I seriously need to get back to cutting down on carbs and sugar.  So, I will be posting pics and quick recipes throughout that too.  Be sure to follow along at Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat (username is cooklikeitseasy).  And if you have any questions for me about Rodan + Fields, drop me an email here, absolutely no pressure just the details and info.

If you're still reading this, THANK YOU!  And I can't wait to get back into the swing of things and always feel free to reach out to me with any comments, questions or recipe requests.  I love it all!  Wishing you all a happy and healthy year!  xoxo

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Dress Up Your Favorite Hummus with This Easy Trick

Oh man, do I love hummus.  It is one of my favorite foods and I truly eat it 4-5 times a week.  A big bowl of hummus and fresh veggies is my go-to lunch and I have both of my daughters hooked on it too.  In fact, my oldest daughter will eat basically anything if it's dipped in hummus, so that has come in really handy with getting her to try new foods.  So it's kind of funny that it is one of the things I haven't had much success with making my own, at least one that is any better than some of my favorite store bought brands.  And with my life philosophy of keeping things easy, I figure why reinvent the wheel when we can just dress up a store bought hummus to make it look homemade and taste like it is from a delicious restaurant?  My little trick is so simple yet I am always asked by my guests if I made the hummus myself or where I got it from.  Basically all I do I is buy my favorite hummus (check out my favorite from Trader Joes here), mix it up really well and scoop it into a bowl.  Then I drizzle a good quality extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle some kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper and smoked paprika all over the top.  Serve alongside fresh veggies (cucumber slices are my favorite veggie to pair with hummus) fresh pita chips (get my recipe here) or whatever your heart desires and you are good to go.  This is something I do when I am entertaining a crowd or just feeding myself.  SO easy and so worth it.

What you need:
Your favorite store bought hummus
Good quality EVOO
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper

Finished Product.  Looks beautiful and tastes even better.  Another quick tip I have for you is always sprinkle just a bit of salt on your fresh veggies before serving.  It really brings out the wonderful flavor of each variety. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Burrata and Balsamic Caprese Salad

First things first, we need to talk about Burrata.  If you haven't had the pleasure of this fresh Italian cheese, we need to remedy that immediately.  The best way to describe this fresh and decadent cheese is it is basically a shell of mozzarella with a cream center.  This creates a delicious taste and a most wonderfully creamy texture.  It works beautifully in place of standard mozzarella in the Caprese salad.  I love to make a Caprese salad for guests or to bring to a potluck because it is a delicious and an easy low-carb salad.  With just three main ingredients of tomatoes, basil and cheese, you can't go wrong.  Using the Burrata takes it up a notch and in my opinion, is easier to prepare because you don't have to pre-slice the cheese.  Because the center is filled with cream, you want to slice into it as you eat.  Just throw it all together in a bowl, season with salt, pepper, EVOO and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar served with some toasted bread for those not eating low-carb and you are good to go.  This is sure to be a crowd pleaser with ANY crowd!

This is what you need:

1 lb of Tomatoes ( if you can get Heirlooms, do so!  If not, Roma would be perfect)
1-1 1/2 cup of Basil Leaves - torn
1 Baguette of Sourdough or French bread - sliced
1 12-16 oz Container of Burrata Cheese - 2 balls (if you can't find Burrata, fresh mozzarella will be fine)
2 tbsp EVOO
1-2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper

This is what you do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, slice the bread and drizzle with EVOO.  Place on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes.  Slice the tomatoes in about 2 inch by 1 inch pieces and tear or cut the basil to roughly the same size.  Grab a medium size bowl and layer the tomato on the bottom, add the two balls of burrata and then layer the remaining tomato and basil all around.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper around each layer.  When finished, add the EVOO and balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.  Remove toasted bread from the oven and serve!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 6-10