Friday, June 10, 2016

Lettuce Wraps

Let me tell you something, Lovelies... NOTHING will get your butt moving like finding a real live scorpion INSIDE of your home... just INCHES away from the area rug where the kids and I finished our family work out. NOTHING. We have had our fair share of them on the outside but when you find one on the inside, it TOTALLY changes things. When Jack discovered it, he started screaming "SCORPION!!! SCORPION!!". I ran out only to find one of the biggest, creepiest, evil bastards I have ever seen. The thing was GINORMOUS. After screaming at the top of our lungs for 25 minutes, I came to my senses and made some calls. Thank goodness for neighbors on speed dial that always come to my rescue. It was Clari this time... our next door neighbor, dear friend AND realtor. She strutted right over and and squashed the ever-living CRAP out of that sucker. Note to self: pick up a bottle of wine for her next time I'm at HEB.

So what does this frightening little tale have to do with this yummy recipe...? Well nothing. I just wanted to share with you, how I started my day. Are you cringing with jealousy!?! Or just cringing?! I'm pretty sure I know the answer to that.

Photo Credit: Buzzfeed

If you're like me, you want to have a quick, easy something in the fridge that you can heat up for lunch... that isn't loaded with carbs and fat. Well let me introduce you to this yummy lettuce wrap recipe. Adapted from one of my favorite Pinterest Foodie Bloggers, Damn Delicious, this one TAKES THE CAKE. I put my own little spin on it/ swapped some things in and some things out... and can honestly say I make a batch, and have it for lunch for the next three days. It's one of those I never get sick of! Try it out and let me know what you think! It tastes even better when you haven't worked up an appetite from screaming and running around like a 6 year old girl, looking for a damn blow torch, to kill your newest, little friend. ;)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2-3 cups chopped baby Bella mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce (omit if worried about carbs.... it still tastes good, trust me!)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha, or more, to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 head butter lettuce

  • Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add ground chicken and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the chicken as it cooks; drain excess fat.
  • Stir in garlic, onion, carrots, mushrooms, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger and Sriracha until onions have become translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • To serve, spoon several tablespoons of the chicken mixture into the center of a lettuce leaf, taco-style. I sometimes eat it straight from the bowl with my trusty fork.  :o)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

No mo Chip-po-po

If you know me, you know that I LOVE Mexican food. You would also know that I am completely and utterly OBSESSED with Chipotle. Until recently, Chipotle would make up for 75% of my weekly meals. Not. Even. Joking.
Me... at the "ChipotME" counter
So you can imagine my disappointment to learn that the nearest Chipotle is about 15 miles away (Why oh WHY didn't I research this before we moved to Austin?!). Add to that, the recent E. Coli outbreaks and other problems, it's safe to say that I haven't had "Chi-po-po" in MONTHS. I am amazed my body hasn't gone into shock and that I'm even able to sit here and type this post.

I decided to put an end to this madness and went on a search to find "copycat recipes" that I could make myself, in an effort to recreate my beloved "burrito bowl", may she rest in peace.

Well guess what folks...? I did it. And you know what else...? I can almost guarantee it has a fraction of the calories than what "Chipoodle" is dishing out.

So come along... I'll show you where to find the recipes and how to whip up this yummy lunch that is sure to satisfy that craving. (Disclaimer: I'm not a photographer, so don't be disappointed if the pics appear as though they were taken by my 4 year old) ;)

Let's start with the base layer.... QUINOA. I tried this instead of their cilantro lime rice because they load it up with tons of oil. Quinoa is a better, healthier (loaded with fiber and iron) alternative... and it's easy as pie to make. Plus, let's face it, cilantro tastes like dish soap.

Never made Quinoa? Don't fret, my dear. Here's everything you need to know, as thoroughly explained by our friends over at Cooking Chew: How to cook Quinoa

Next up: Black Beans. Literally dump a can into a small sauce pan and heat them up. Told ya, this was easy. And we're not throwing in any mystery additives that Chipotle does. WIN WIN!

Time to add some protein! I have used this recipe for YEARS. It's a crock pot recipe that uses 4 simple ingredients and is a versatile dish that can be used for so many things: Quesadillas, Tacos, Burritos... and Burrito Bowls!

Shredded Chicken
3-4 chicken breasts
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet ranch dressing seasoning
1-2 cups chicken stock

Throw everything in the crockpot and cook on high for 3 hours (or low for 6 hours). Remove chicken, shred and throw back into the juices. Make it the day before and eat it for DAYS! It has more flavor than the mystery (and chewy) chicken at "Chipotes"

Fajita Veggies
1 bell pepper
1/2 red onion

Slice and add to a skillet with non-stick spray, cook on medium and be sure to add a pinch of salt. Remove once they've softened a bit. VOILA.

KEY INGREDIENT!!!!! This is a copycat recipe for Chip-poo-poo's Mild Salsa. IT'S AWESOME... It seriously "makes" the dish. I even get a little crazy and pour some of the juice into the bowl... the quinoa soaks it up like a sponge! I highly recommend making it a day or so in advance so the flavors can "marry".

Salsa copycat recipe

Don't forget to throw on a pile of cheese! Oh, and some sour cream. Hell, why you're at it, throw on a massive scoop of Guac (recipe for the BEST GUAC EVER is here)!

All mixed up! Isn't she pretty?!
There you have it. I literally just ate two bowls. I feel satisfied and I don't feel like I wasted my morning workout by indulging in a yummy lunch. Now if I only had a margarita, life would be just about perfect. Enjoy! - Kristi   

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tortill-YEAH soup!

Photo credit: Emeril Lagasse
Living in Austin, there is no shortage of delicious Mexican food! In fact, for the last 6 months, I’ve made it my personal mission to seek out the best places for all things Mexican: Margaritas, Queso, Tacos, etc; I love experiencing new restaurants and then trying to mimic those recipes at home. My husband prefers the margarita sampling. ;)

Recently, we ate at a local restaurant called Verde’s and their chicken tortilla soup was among the best I’ve EVER had. This is a bold statement, if you know about my love for tortilla soup!

So naturally, I went back on my mission to make the perfect soup at home; after years, (YES YEARS!) and many failed attempts to get it “just right”, today I succeeded! I mean, I NAILED it. I can’t take all the credit, though-- good ole’ Emeril Lagasse got me started with his recipe... and then I tweaked his recipe to make it “my own”.

Let me tell you folks, I’ll never make another kind for as long as I live! Another great benefit to this soup (besides how yummy it is), it’s a “clean” recipe and is extremely low carb (especially if you omit the tortilla strips). All of the ingredients required to make it can be organic… you might even have most of these things in your pantry, already! Enjoy!

  • Olive Oil - 2 Tablespoons
  • Yellow Onion, Finely Chopped-1
  • Garlic, Finely Chopped - 1 1/2 Tablespoons
  • Poblano Pepper, Seeded and Chopped - 1
  • Salt - 3 Teaspoons
  • Ground Cumin - 3 Teaspoons
  • Ground Coriander - 1 1/2 Teaspoons 
  • 1 can Tomato Paste
  • Chicken Stock - 8 Cups
  • Rotisserie Chicken from Grocery, remove skin and pull or dice meat- 1
  • Fresh Lime Juices - 1 Tablespoon
  • Stale Corn Tortillas, Sliced Into 1/4 Inch-Thick Strips - 12
  • Avocado, Sliced - 2
  • Jack Cheese, Shredded - 2 Cups
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large, heavy bottomed Dutch oven, cook the onion, garlic and peppers over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, or just until they begin to soften. Add the salt, cumin and coriander and continue to cook for 5 minutes longer so spices become nicely fragrant. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  3. Add chicken broth to Dutch oven and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Add chicken to Dutch oven and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. Add cilantro and lime juice and stir.
  4. Meanwhile, spread tortilla strips out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet (you'll probably need 2 baking sheets.) Spray tortillas evenly with nonstick cooking spray. Bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until they are just starting to slightly brown and are crispy. Sprinkle hot strips with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve soup and garnish each bowl with avocado, cheese and tortilla strips as desired.


Friday, October 23, 2015

"Let's go to the Movies" Party

Last month, we celebrated Ava's 6th birthday with a fun, "Let's Go to the Movies" party! We invited her ENTIRE class, most of which showed up... which made it wild, crazy and FUN! Last minute, I decided to hire a magician, which helped to corral the kids for an hour or so, before we released them to watch the movie... the parents stayed, huddled around the kitchen island, full of appetizers... and of course, the bar. A great time was had by all! Here are some pics of the party:

Each child had their own star (with their name), on the walk of fame

My kids ALWAYS get their own cakes, while I serve the party attendees cupcakes. This year's cake was super cute!

Dollar Store tablecloths as red curtains... money saver! ;)


Mini Photo Booth

Mini Photo Booth

6 never looked so sweet!

My first party thrown in Austin was a HIT! Looking forward to many more!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Gone to Texas

Well look who's come back to her favorite form of therapy...ME! Calm down, calm down. I know you're excited but you really should sit down before you get yourself in a tizzy. 

Before I begin, I should also add that I recently replaced my ancient-ass Macbook with a fancy new one and it's simply BEGGING for me to type away with my un-manicured man hands. Hence, my re-entry to the blog universe. Seriously. Calm down!

You see, I stopped writing awhile ago, simply because I lost the time; everyday tasks, meetings, dates, outings with friends, work, charity work, etc. Amongst it all, I lost the time to sit down in front of "old faithful" and share some of life's everyday moments. This is code for: I HAD a life. Notice what I did there? I made an emphasis on HAD. Here's why...

Just last week we relocated our little family of four, cross country from Chicago to Austin, TX.

What prompted the move? Well basically, "the hubs" kicks ass at his job; he was asked to improve the sales of a new territory... which just happens to be TX, OK and MO. Technically, we didn't have to move, but the idea of "single-momming" it from M-F, while he traveled made me want to claw my eyeballs out. And quite frankly, he didn't like the idea of going all week without seeing us either, so it just made sense; I had to endure the constant traveling for a few months while we were in the moving process and it was BRUTAL.

But that's behind us. Today marks Day #8 that we've been in our new (rental) home... and day by day, little by little, boxes are getting unpacked and their contents are being assigned to their new places, nooks and crannies. We decided to rent while we get our feet wet; we need to take the time to find the perfect neighborhood, house, etc.

Ya know... It's a grueling process, to move. It's especially difficult moving halfway across the country. Add to that two young, hyper kids (a 3 and 5 year old) and you have yourself a recipe for an anxiety-ridden mother who wakes in the mornings, already looking forward to bedtime and a hefty glass (or bottle) of wine.

I'm not sure why this move is hitting me harder than ones in the past...? Maybe it's because I'm unloading the necessary items (CRAP) for not just one, but 4 humans.... and all of the other stuff (CRAP) that goes along with said humans. You wouldn't believe the amount of boxes I've blazed through, only to make a small, miniature dent in a mountain of cardboard . Or maybe it could be the fact that I've got two little rascals destroying everything I put away, as soon as I Put. It. Away.

Unpacking aside... moving is lonely. I have a few friends here but I don't feel like Austin is "home" just yet. I miss our friends. I miss our family. I miss our house. I miss it all. I know we will get settled and "fall in love with Texas" just like so many have said. I just need to be patient and let it happen.

The good news is we are just five minutes from the Galleria, three minutes from the Mothership (Target) and two minutes from Specs (the liquor store). Everything I need is under 5 minutes away. This didn't happen by accident people! We have priorities and I knew where the house needed to be.

I'm hopeful that I'll meet more people once the kids start their activities. The activities will be good for the kids too; their current daily schedule consists of destroying things and making forts with empty boxes, while driving me batshit crazy with their non-stop screaming. Job well done, kids. Mission accomplished. Mommy's toast.

I know... Wah Wah. To my defense, I haven't had an ounce of freedom in over 2 weeks. No preschool. No activities. All I hear all day is "Mom! Mommy! Maw-ma!". So many times that I often want to change my damn name. It reminds me of Stewy from Family Guy.

Gosh! Am I Debby Downer or what?!

Before I go any further, I should tell you: things aren't all bad! We've accomplished a lot in these eight days:
  • I registered Ava for Kindergarten. She is STOKED! And did I mention it's ALL DAY KINDERGARTEN?! Sweet lord... is it August yet?
  • We've toured 3 preschools and I've enrolled "Frick" and "Frack" in summer camps. READ: FREEDOM for Moi! Time to get back to Pilates, manis, pedis... and Pinterest-- the mother of all time-wasters. 
  • We are enrolling Jack at a darling preschool in the fall. This place is beyond precious. And even better, it's from 8:30-2:30... a far cry from the 2 1/2 hour break I got back home. 
  • Swim lessons are set up!
  • We found a high-schooler down the street that babysits! AND... she teaches horseback riding at a local barn/ horseback riding facility... Ava can't wait to start lessons!
See..?! You thought I was just laid up on the couch, crying in my giant chalice of vino, didn't you?! I'm doing alright actually.

Am I lonely? Yes. Missing home? Yes. Excited to see how our new life unfolds? Without a doubt!

I'm going to make it my mission to get acclimated to the area and get involved-- besides, I'm always better when I have a project! I've already signed up to join the Junior League of Austin, which I hear is HUGE-- boasting over 2500 members. I'm bound to meet some people as maniacal as me in that amount of women, right?! A girl can dream!

Once we get on a schedule I'm certain things will start to fall together... and we'll be feeling right at home. I'm looking forward to filling in that social calendar!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Our Disney Dream Cruise: November 2014

We just returned from our trip! What an adventure!

Like many other parents, I scoured the Internet to find tips and advice to best prepare for our cruise on the Disney Dream. I wanted to make the most of our adventure and found some helpful tips on both Pinterest and from friends that I thought I'd share. I'm also going to share my own positive/ negatives we experienced while cruising through the Bahamas.

Do it the first day you're allowed to! Book your activities. Register your kids. It makes getting on board that much easier and far more streamlined. I think we were able to "check in" 2 months prior to the beginning of our trip. Highly recommend! Plus you can always go in and add/ remove activities.

The ship departs around 4:30, however you can be at the port, ready to check in as early as 10:30, which is what we did-- and we were able to gain 3-4 more hours of fun. We flew in the night before and stayed at a local hotel and then drove over that morning. After checking in and going through security I think we were on by 1:15. Not bad and the Disney folks actually make the boarding process VERY easy. They're all adorable, in fact... older, but young at heart! Even though we were on board by 1:15, our stateroom wasn't available until 3:30 or so... so be sure to pack swimsuits/ sunscreen in your carry on so you have it with you until your room is ready. They have up until 5:30 to deliver your remaining luggage to your stateroom; my suitcase arrived at 5:20 so making our 5:45 dinner reservation was a challenge but we made it! :)

If I had a dollar for the amount of people that would get on the elevator at Floor 8-- only to get off at Floor 9, I would be a millionaire. The stairs are RIGHT NEXT TO THE ELEVATOR... call me crazy, but a little exercise could do us all a little good. Besides, everyone is constantly saying how they gained 5 lbs while cruising because of the unlimited food/ sweets. This is a good way to avoid that pitfall! We got our cardio in, everyday by avoiding the elevator at all times, unless necessary.

The food was average. I wasn't bad necessarily-- but not INCREDIBLE, either. Although, I am spoiled by all of the amazing restaurants in and around Chicago, so I may be a little biased. The kids, however, were happy to fill their bellies with hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and chicken fingers-- for every meal! Our assigned meal rotation was great and allowed us to eat at the three main restaurants (Animators Palate, Enchanted Garden and Royal Palace) on each evening of the cruise. We purchased the "premium wine package" on the first night.... which got us 4 bottles of wine for around $180 (one bottle per dinner, which for us was perfect). To give you an idea of their "premium wine list", we had Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio each night (retails for about $20 at your local grocer). So we basically got dinged $100 for them to chill and cork each bottle. On the flip side, our servers were sweet and attentive, especially with the kids. 5 stars for those folks! We didn't take advantage of Remy or Palo so I can't comment on those two restaurants, unfortunately.

Bring some fun stuff for the kids and adults to wear! We brought bandanas, eye patches and obnoxious teeth! People go ALL OUT for this night! It's fun for the kiddos, as well as adults. And don't worry if you forget to pack some pirate gear-- they bring mickey pirate bandanas to your stateroom prior to the party. It was fun-- but a long night for the little ones! The deck party (with Pirate Mickey & Captain Jack Sparrow) was around 7:30 and the fireworks weren't until 10:45... My little guy slept on my shoulder through the entire show-- and Ken and I were spent after a VERY long day.

  • There are height restrictions for the Aquaduck/ water slides on the boat as well as at Atlantis and Castaway Cay. I talked relentlessly about how cool these  slides were going to be, to both of my kids-- especially to my boy who turned 3 the day before boarding the ship. He wasn't able to ride any of the slides except one. I asked if I could go with him and was told no. MAJOR BUMMER for the birthday boy. Instead of sliding, he had to sit and watch his Dad and Sis repeatedly go. She however was denied at Atlantis for a few as well, so I guess that tipped the scales a little. 
  • If your child isn't 100% potty trained, expect some trouble! As I mentioned, we boarded the ship the day after our son's third birthday-- and he is nowhere near being potty trained; he wants nothing to do with a toilet, unfortunately. I should also add that we purposely waited to take this trip until he was 3, so he wouldn't be separated from his sister at the kids clubs (Oceanneer Lab and Oceanneer Club), that is for kids 3-10 years old. While checking him in, they spotted his diaper and said he would need to go to the nursery; no diapers are allowed in their kids club for children 3-10. If you ask me, that is ridiculous. My 5 year old has accidents sometimes when she is too busy playing/ having fun. How do they expect a 3 year old to be an expert at potty training. I fibbed and told them he was potty trained... was only wearing it as a precautionary effort. No go. They made me take it off. Same goes for ALL of the pools, except Nemo's Reef (the splash pad). So we left. We went straight to the bathroom where I "rolled" the diaper down and went back to tell them I removed it. I mean, do they REALLY want poop on the floor of Pixie Hollow...? I'm doing them a service by having that extra layer of protection! The following days, I rolled down his swim diaper and hiked up his swim trunks to conceal the diaper. I rolled it down for kids club as well. They must have made a note on Day #1 because each and every time I checked him in, they looked at their computer and asked me if he was potty trained... and I lied through my teeth. It did get annoying after awhile, I have to admit.

While the decor and staff were great, and the kids had fun-- I have to say I was a little disappointed. When we were planning our trip I envisioned spending a few hours on and a few hours off with the kids-- as if the kids clubs were open from 7AM-midnight! This was NOT the case.

We utilized the kids clubs for maybe a total of 8 hours... in 5 days, and sadly it wasn't by choice! On the first day, they had "open house" all afternoon-- which translates to: Come in and check it out, but don't even think we're babysitting your kids-- you're on your own today!

It's not a "drop-off" like one would think. They have schedules of times they are open and times they're closed. And their times of being open usually conflicted with our schedules.

They didn't open any of the kids clubs on day 1 until 5:30, and our dinner was at 5:45. On day two, we spent the day at Atlantis. The third day (at Castaway Cay) there is no kids club on the boat while the boat is docked... they have the kids club on the island instead. Which reminds me-- they saw his swim diaper upon check-in and said he wasn't allowed to wear it. So I tore it off, patted him on the back and said, "Well, good luck with that!". Thirty minutes or so later, we went back for the kids, for fear that if he DID have an accident they would quarantine him.

Kids club finally came in handy on the very last day when we were at sea, where we checked them in for 1 1/2 hours in the morning. Which reminds me, on the "Day at Sea", get to the deck early and grab your chairs! I couldn't find even ONE open seat when I went up at 11-- everyone is on board the boat that day.... and trying to enjoy the pool. Get there early and claim your spots! I would also like to add, when you're done with your seat, remove your towels so others can grab a spot to sit. I'm fairly certain that half of the chairs that were covered with a towel didn't even belong to someone.

The characters are making appearances at all times... In fact, we were able to get nearly every autograph except for a few. They make different appearances throughout each day so don't stress if you miss them on the first day; every evening you will receive an itinerary for what takes place the following day-- including what times and locations you can meet the characters. Also-- be sure to check in at the Port Adventures desk on the 5th floor to redeem your FREE ticket to "Meet the Princesses". I believe they do it on Tues and Thurs mornings. We signed up for a 10 AM slot on our "Day at Sea" and were able to get signatures and pics with all of the princesses in about 15 minutes.

Highly recommend The Golden Mickey's (on the first evening of the trip). The other shows were "so-so".

  • Bring something for the characters to sign! They allow two items per stateroom. We brought a plain white pillowcase and an 11x14 white photo matting, along with a ten pack of colorful sharpies. We dropped them off at Guest Services on the first day and on the last night, they were both delivered with all of the characters signatures. VERY COOL souvenirs for the little ones. The only prob we have now is who gets to sleep with the pillow each night-- they're already battling!  
  • Get some custom magnet decorations from Etsy to dress up your stateroom door! The kids loved it!
  • Bring a power strip! It makes charging phones, iPads, and other electronics way more convenient than having one item in the bathroom, one on the desk and one on the nightstand.
  • BOOZE. We brought a bottle of vodka as well as our own thermos cups. On deck 11, they have a complimentary drink station (lemonade, soda, etc) where we concocted our own drinks, using their ice, their mixer and our liquor. They have a VERY attentive wait staff that pushes their alcoholic beverages but I can't drink more than one of the fruity cocktails so making my own saved me a few calories as well as a few coins. No drinks are allowed within 4 ft of the pool... so there is no such thing as lounging with your legs in the pool with a drink in hand.
  • You need to use your "Key to the World Card" for just about everything on the ship-- it makes it VERY easy to rack up your balance, trust me! If you lose one (we lost 3!) they replace them for free. WHEW! You even need this card to turn the lights on in your room/ bathroom... no joke. For the first 30 minutes of unpacking we were mystified with how to turn on the bathroom light so the little one could go potty. We had to call someone to come and show us how to do it. Very strange that you need a key to turn on the lights...
  • Pictures- There will be tons of photo opps... and most will be captured by a Disney photographer who will ask for your "Key to the World Card", which matches all of the photos they take of you, to your card. When you visit "Shutters", the photo lab, you simply swipe your card by a kiosk and all of your pics show up. It's crazy, really! Like many people (suckers) we purchased the CD of all pics for the bargain price of $230... which came with a whopping 52 photos. 
  • Swim with the dolphins at Atlantis (or some other time in your life)! This was the coolest thing!!! We chose a package that allowed us to do a shallow swim with a dolphin (kiss and hug the dolphin, he does tricks and other fun stuff) and spend the rest of the day at the Atlantis resort. I was afraid of the dolphin at first, but left the experience regretting not becoming a marine biologist! They are the sweetest animals! Note: They don't allow you to take any of your own photos with the dolphins... but have a professional photographer on site, and you can purchase your pics afterward (surprise!!). They had individual shots as well as family shots doing kisses and hugs, which made it impossible to choose. Naturally, we bought the flash drive of all the pics for $180. Not cheap, but looking back, I really am happy to have them all. It was the best moment of our trip!
  • We took the opportunity to watch a few movies while on board, too! We LOVED Maleficent! We saw "Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good very bad day" (or however the heck it goes!), too. Kids had fun!
There you have it! Would we go again?! In a heartbeat! It wasn't what a pictured, due to the potty training issue/ kids club schedules, but we had the trip of a lifetime! I hope you can find some tips/ info from yours truly!