Image via an article from ELLE magazine...
A good friend is in town, and has offered to take me out to dinner, and stay at her hotel for the evening.  WaitShouldn't it be the other way around?  Shouldn't I be hosting her?  Either way, I am thrilled (on a weeknight!!) to pack my bag and head to Newport Beach for a little shoppin', lots of much-needed-catching-up, and a ritzy meal.

Along with cooking, friendship sadly fell by the wayside for a brief (or maybe not-so-brief) period of my life.  My plate may not have been filled with homemade food (made by me anyway), but it was FULL.  Right after/during college, my life pretty much consisted of... Work. Marriage. Work. Kids. Work.  I had plenty of "friends" - at the 'office', my Mom, the grocery store clerk, my best friend of all, my husband.  What more could I ask find time for?

Slowing down a bit has taught me otherwise.  Simply put and sappy as can be...

Friends make my world bigger, brighter, bolder, and better.

Recipes: tried & true.

Ever since reading this post, I've had tomato sauce simmering in my mind.  A while back, we took advantage of a killer sale on San Marzano canned tomatoes and stocked up... whole, diced, crushed, and paste.  This weekend - the first weekend of Autumn - was the perfect time to prepare a good ol' spaghetti dinner ~ homemade salad dressing, croutons, ice cream and all.  Thanks to these guidelines, with a little pancetta and Cabernet, the sauce was the true highlight of the meal.
As corporate & coffee savvy as I once was, the opposite was true in my own kitchen.  CLUELESS, would be an apt word to describe my former culinary abilities.  God bless Ryan [and Top Ramen] during those years.  When leaving Starbucks behind, my first goal was to learn to cook (and entertain), really well. I spent the first three years purchasing cookbooks and really studying food- through these books, magazines, food shows, websites, etc... and of course, experimenting with lots of recipes. Last year, my focus was learning to cook smarter- more economical, planned, creative use of leftovers, freezing/storing/labeling/prepping.
This year, my goal is to take all of what I have learned and develop the confidence to adapt recipes, to create new ones, and to manage my timing, so that cooking remains a passion, and not a chore... and not something that will take so much time that all else is sacrificed. Needless to say, the Three Many Cooks blog is 'coming to me' at the PERFECT time in my life.   When sharing my kitchen woes and aims with my sister-in-law, she recommended Pam Anderson (no, not that "Pam Anderson"), and lent me this cookbook.  Coincidentally, others pointed me in her direction as well- crediting her for truly teaching them to cook.  A couple of recipes later, and I was hooked.    The first cookbook that empowered me to be the chef of my own kitchen.
After reluctantly returning the cookbook, I came across food52's post, a perfect description of her {new-to-me} blog that she shares with her two amazing daughters.  Their unique styles, their dialogue with and support of one another, their detailed- yet simple and 'loose' recipes, and each accompanying story, makes me feel like I've either attended a cooking class or spent an evening in the kitchen with my friends and family.  I cannot wait to cook and entertain my way through their fabulous new cookbook, Perfect One-Dish Dinners
This time, along with the links to some favorite posts, I thought I'd share a few of comments I wrote, which truly reflect my appreciation for the three many cooks - Maggy, Sharon, and Pam.
A One-Dish Dinner Celebration...I cannot fully express just how much your style of cooking and writing (as well as your – and your daughter’s – stories on this blog) resonate with me, in general, but at this particular time in my life.  I just want to say, thank you…

For teaching me to be a better cook, to rely on the knowledge that I have built since ’staying at home’ over the past few years – instead of following every recipe to a “T”- and most importantly, for eliminating feelings of frustration- that I was 'spending my life' in the kitchen! I honestly stopped entertaining and have cooked much less, because although I LOVE doing both, I just wasn’t up for giving up everything else! And thanks to you, I know now that I don’t have to.

Confessions of a New York Cook...I love reading your ‘comments’ and discussion with one another. You each have such an amazing talent in writing, you offer a support that is inspiring and uplifting, and you share great points and unique aspects to the topic at hand!
Freezer Peaches...This is why I love this site. Simple recipes that you just don’t see in fancy cookbooks or food blogs, but that I love and need of equal (if not, greater) importance!

Mac & cheese.

My cousin, Heather, is one of my primary sources of inspiration in the kitchen.  Quite simply - she is a domestic goddess.  You know the type that can throw a dinner party without having even a tiny panic attack?  The gal who can 'shake up' some cocktails, top some homemade pizzas and toss 'em on the grill (oh, yes- she grills too), chat it up with her guests, toast the croutons, toss the salad, frost the cake... and remain cute, calm, and collective??  No Sandra Lee shortcuts for this gal.  She's stylish, confident, creative, and smart ... in the kitchen and out.

As of late, she has began perfecting a few of her dishes, Mac & Cheese being one of them.  She has tried several (and I mean, several) recipes, and variations of recipes and has truly reached perfection.  And this just so happens to be one of my favorite meals of all time, so I couldn't wait to test it out for myself, and pass it along to you.  It is deliciously rich, creamy, savory- with just the right amount of crunch and spice.  The essence of fall.

There are notes on the recipe below (click to enlarge and print), but I have one additional 'note.'  It may appear, at first that there is not enough pasta for the sauce.  The first time I made it, I thought she had made a mistake and added the whole pound.  It is definitely better with less pasta.  It will thicken as it cooks and come out of the oven perfectly creamy.   

...Heather is a 'math whiz' (and teacher) as well, so I thought graph paper would be fitting:).
Have a delectable weekend!

Wants & needs.

You know when you try - and tryyyyy - to explain a concept to someone and you finally come to the conclusion that they Just. Don't. Get it?  And then some other person meanders their way into the picture and says the same freakin' thing that you've been trying to say- and all of a sudden, that person has a "light bulb moment"!
Well, this was the case with Hailey yesterday when she arrived home from school, sharing her "new" learning of 'wants' vs. 'needs.'  She was quick to inform me that she is totally okay with having water for her snack, because she needs it.  Oh, and by the way- she no longer needs a DSi.  And she was so on point as she diligently informed Jacob- "You don't really need a cell phone."
My personal "hats off" to all of the dedicated teachers of the world...
...but especially to Mrs. Welte.
Now I'm off to watch some much needed wanted {premier} television, thanks to the absolutely vital nice-to-have DVR.
*And in case you're interested, here are my top picks for guiltless pleasure television...
~~Biggest Loser (while eating our dessert) , Running Wilde (thanks to Beth), Nate Berkus (It was time to jump on the bandwagon.), Rachael Ray- daytime (please don't judge), Oprah (last season!)~~
What will you be watching this season?? 

Recipes: tried & true.

Another weekend of clearing out the pantry, which is why these Cherry Shortbread Cake Squares were the perfect treat to a.) use one of the two cans of cherry pie filling in my pantry and b.) satisfy a Saturday morning urge to bake.

Piece of Cake is such a treat to read not only because of the simple, nostalgic, scrumptious desserts, but because of Shauna's witty, personal, detailed writing style.  She is self-taught, precise, and determined... to perfect and develop her own take on both classic and new recipes.  She is just as quick to write about her baking mishaps and lessons learned, as she is to flaunt (in a most humble way) her MacGyver-esque  moments - and both are equally informative, entertaining, and relatable.  A serious case of I-totally-wish-she-was-my-next-door-neighbor.
* Cook's Note:  
  •  These store and transport very well.  We took them on a hike today and set them in separate containers on a square of wax paper.   Since the cherries sink in when they bake, they are easily stackable (lined with wax paper) as well.
  • I am not going to even try to re-explain Shauna's message to those who turn their noses up to canned cherry pie filling (I urge you to read it for yourself!), but as she states- the cherries can be substituted. 
Have a wonderful week and stay tuned for another "tried & true recipe" ... Mac & Cheese!  We made it this weekend, but this dish deserves a post of its very own.                                                                            

Hello, Friday.

This week has been a busy one.  Every spare moment was spent reading a book, called The 19th Wife, which was supposed to be read over the course of two months, but I chose to read it over the course of one week.  A little lengthy, but completely worth it and a book I'd highly recommend.  Very well written, unique format, fast read, equally fascinating and disturbing book about the mysterious world of polygamy. 
Most definitely made for a "spirited" discussion at last night's book club dinner.  Mix a group of sassy, sophisticated, savvy women with a book concerning religion, marriage (plural marriage, none-the-less), sex, tyranny, MEN, murder - and a little (or a lot) of wine... and let's just say that the topic of conversation is limitless.  All 'lets-not-get-too-deep filters' turned off -- just the way I like it. 
But thank God for the wine. 
And for monogamy.
. . . 
On a completely unrelated note, I will be printing and framing some pictures (a start in my DIY journey) this weekend, and would love your opinion. 
Which image do you like better?

Thank you for reading my blog and offering such funny, witty, thoughtful, and inspiring comments.  I can't tell you just how much it means to me.  Have a lovely weekend, and I'll 'see ya' on Monday :).

Recipes: tried & true.


It was a gourmet weekend, of food & wine tasting with new friends, a delightful {"So Long Summer...Hello Autumn"} cooking class with my Grandma, and a continued 2-week-and-counting attempt to 'clear out the pantry' (aka:  use what we have - eat in - be creative - set the recipes-to-try aside for another day, or weekend).  

So ... it would only make sense to "top" the weekend off with a Gourmet Hot Fudge Sauce - and because this is a place to share...

* Cook's Notes:  
  • This delicious recipe was referred to me by my dad's wife- an author, an entertaining expert, a food writer, an original foodie, and a woman who cooks with ease, with skill, with passion (a trustworthy source, for sure).
  • For recipes that recommend Dutch-process cocoa powder (vs. unsweetened cocoa powder), I'd suggest the investment, as Dutch-process powder yields a deeper, richer flavor. 
{Striped tape graphic, courtesy of Ana}


Autumn has sure made her presence known here in southern California this past week, with cool, cloudy weather, crisp, clean air, even a little rain...pure bliss.  This, in combination with a 3 day weekend to refresh, reorganize, and fully reorient ourselves to back-to-school-mode, has pulled me back into the kitchen, into the realm of menu planning, after-school-snacks, and routine.
The last couple of weeks, we were still in limbo between Unstructured Summer, and Orderly Fall.  Scrounging for snacks, homework started too late, paperwork madness (Isn't it insane how much paperwork they send home???), lax bedtimes - and in result of all of this - moody kids.

Not this week.  Routine is our new best friend, or BFF, as Hailey would say.

Yesterday, I made one of my favorite childhood snacks- fideo.  My grandma is the best {home}chef in the whole wide world, and her cooking, her dishes, her love, is for me, true bliss.  

Have you heard of fideo?  It's essentially a pasta risotto, long before I (or my grandma) knew of risotto.  It is so simple and FUN, and can be served as a snack, a side dish, or even made into a meal.  Once you get the basic concept down, you can literally use whatever you have on hand.

A while back, I tried this fideo dish, which was a new and excellent combination.  The one I made yesterday is the one that my grandmother makes, similar to a simple Spanish rice.  I've included several ideas below, and remember- this is a very loose recipe... just like ALL of my grandma's are.  Add more, add less, switch up the ingredients, have fun (and let me know if you make it!).  

   (Click to enlarge and print.)

Baby steps.

Image via 
After coming to the conclusion that I've lost my mojo  (as Stephanie referred to it) in the department of chicness (yes that is a word- an antonym of frumpiness), I jotted down a few 'things-to-change/do-a.s.a.p' that would in no way get me to the place that I want to be... but onto a good start.  And hey, if it worked for Bob, then it will surely work for me. 
Since I received such thoughtful, honest comments (thank you), I thought it would only be appropriate to share these steps with you.
Before I share, I just want to point out that when it comes to the topic of "feeling frumpy" - age or size is not entirely relevant.  Even being a mom, or a grandma, for that matter!  Yes, these are all factors, and can be a major cause to feeling this way, but a young person who puts her appearance on the back-burner can look just as frumpy as an older person who does the same.  And it's just as much an internal issue, as an external one.  I've gone through this before in my life, and I'm sure I'll go through it again.  None-the-less, it's time to take the necessary steps to get back on track- on the inside and out.
  1. Acknowledge the problem (As Dr. Phil would say, "You can't change what you don't acknowledge!"... yes I admit, I like Dr. Phil.).
  2. Major closet overhaul.
    • Discard faded (even the black-turned-gray "workout" pants) clothes.
    • Toss clothes that I will never wear again.
    • Take inventory of what I need and what I do have ('shop' my closet).
  3. Stop sharing socks with my husband.
  4. New unmentionables, all around.
  5. Get back to watching Giada on a regular basis.

The "F" word.

I can feel it happening.  Creeping it's ugly way into my body... my closet... my soul.

This isn't supposed to happen to me!  I'm a "young" mom!  I've watched my fair share of What Not to Wear, and Ambush Makeover.  I only own one pair of sweats and I haven't even made the switch to a one-piece suit.  I take pride in my collection of push-up bras and low-rise jeans.

Still.  It's happening to me.
I could blame it on the kids, for zapping every morsel of energy that I have [or had].  But I don't think they're the entire reason.  I could blame it on Ryan, for "loving me just the way I am."  I could blame it on my mom, for... I don't know- just because she's my mom.  But really, there's a lot of reasons that my appearance has taken a seat on the back-burner.  And thanks to style blogs- and "that mom" who looks perfect- always- I'm reminded of it every single day.

In all seriousness, I'm glad to be reminded of it.  It motivates be to get out of my "workout" pants, take the pony-tail down, and HIDE the flip-flops.

As of late, I've been quick to look past posts that have the title "Fall Trends" or "Fall Fashion Guide."  Unfortunately, I just can't afford to spend $700.00 on a pair of boots (or a belt).  And I really don't mean to be cynical or negative, but the prices on some of these "trendy" and "must-have-for-fall" items can really demotivate a gal!  And when I do look further at a trend or a guide, my immediate response is - "That's HOW much??  Oh, never-mind..."  And, not to mention - if I did have an excessive amount of 'loose change,' I'd be headed to Italy... in my frumpy clothes.

But when I came across the Brochu Walker and Jigsaw London line, both seen here, I was captivated by the amazingly simple, versatile, classic- and classy looks.  Similar to what I wore in my working days, yet not entirely out of scope of what I can wear 'staying at home.'  Yet - one minor glitch.  The price tags.  Though, in my attempt to Fight the Frump, I am not going to discard them completely.  Instead, I'll use them as a much-needed-shopping-guide.  Thinking about which styles I like, what pieces I need, how I can use certain items to layer and dress up (or down) and outfit.  Planning.  Effort.  Intention.  Pleasure.

Do you approach shopping in this way?  Doesn't it feel SO good to find that amazing top at a looooooow price- or one that you've seen another version of elsewhere for quadruple the amount?   As fun as 'shopping around' can be at times, doesn't it feel good to know what you want- or like?

As I head out to hit the clearance racks and discount stores, to stock up for fall, to find that hot mom hiding inside of me, here are a few sources of inspiration.

 Images via

 Images via

Staying on top of the trends.

Why it's cool to have a little sister that has her own blog...

When both your 12 year old son and 7 year old daughter come home from school and tell you that they need these:
You can [for once in your life] be in the know, although apparently we're all behind on this "interesting" little phenomenon.  Looks like that saying, "The apples don't fall far from the tree" may be true in our household - when it comes to staying on top of the trends.

Short & sweet.

Lots to do on the home-front today, so I thought I'd share a little garden update.  We've always wanted to plant fruit trees in our backyard, but first needed to get other priorities in place.  We've had a potted dwarf orange tree for a while, but hadn't yet planted this, or any others.  A couple of weekends ago, the timing was finally right, and we were very excited to add three new fruit trees (+ the orange tree) to our yard.

Blood Orange, Meyer Lemon (both dwarf trees), and Santa Barbara Peach...

...Short & Sweet - just like this post :).  

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...