Giving Thanks for Giving Contest

The holidays are upon us, Folks. Cue the Pinterest DIY decorations, the recipe testing, and gift giving.

I'd like to add one more thing to your list, something that is sure to make you smile.

This holiday season, I am teaming up with Cooking Planit to celebrate the Givers in our lives and communities. We would like to recognize those who give to others without looking for rewards or even recognition.

Here is where YOU come in. Tell us their story. Share their inspiring story to the world. In a place that is full of hurt, we need these stories to inspire others and give hope to those who might need it.

As a bonus, 5 stories will be selected for a $250 reward. And the Grand Prize winner will win $1,000 for the charity of their choice. How amazing is that?

Story Guidelines:

  • In 300 words or less, recognize an individual who is making a difference in the lives of others in your community, whether it be by donating their time, energy or love with a focus on helping others without necessarily thinking of themselves.
  • Provide details on how and what they are doing to imporve or impact the lives of others.
  • Enjoy writing your story.
If your inspiring person is chosen, they will receive a $250 gift card to help them celebrate the holidays and you will receive $100, as our way of saying Thank You.

How to Enter:
As for my unsung hero, I have to recognize my fellow teachers and my nurse friends. Hands down, the hardest jobs out there. Most of the teachers and nurses that I know chose their profession with their hearts. It wasn't about the money, but instead it was about helping others in need. Teachers and nurses are witnesses to some of the world's saddest stories and most beautiful miracles. A mark of a great teacher or nurse is having the ability to care for their student or patient. Yes, their job is to take care of them, but it's their knack to CARE FOR them that makes them great. Unfortunately, these heroes are the ones that hear THANK YOU the least. So, to all of the teachers and nurses out there, Thank you for all that you do.

Now it's your turn. I can't wait to read your stories.

Filipino Picadillo

I finally got a new memory card for my fancy pants camera. I haven't been blogging because, well, you see... I sort of snapped the other one when I impatiently yanked it out of the camera slot.

Whoops. Did I do thaaaat? (Name that show)

So, all is well in the world again and I can take pictures while I cook. That's what normal people do right? Take pictures while they cook? Hmm...didn't think so.

Taking pictures is one thing, but finding time to blog is another. Hey look! I'm blogging right now and I'm feeling semi-coherent enough to tip tap my thoughts. Sure, it's 11:00 pm and I'll regret this the moment my 5:50 am alarm starts to blare, but that's the life of a wannabe food blogger.

Tonight this wannabe food blogger threw together one of the easiest dishes she knows.

Filipino Picadillo.

More specifically, my mother's picadillo...which in turn is THE best on the planet. Today's rainy gloomy weather called for something hot, beefy, and filling. Tis' perfection.

It starts with the onions. Sauteed to poifection.

Add some ground beef and let the aroma take control. Throw in some colorful bell peppers.

I used to add tiny cubes of potatoes but I'd like to try and be as healthy as possible so I threw in some healthy zucchini instead.

Oh, I forgot to tell you I had a Cinnabon this week. It was dreamy.

Add your soy sauce, salt, and pepper to taste and let simmer for about 5 minutes.

Can we just take a moment to appreciate this adorable salt bowl I found at Target? It comes with a widdle spoon! I couldn't resist.

Some recipes call for olives but I hate olives. Instead, I use raisins to add some sweetness. I'm all about the salty and sweet.

Tomato sauce tops it off for an extra hearty feel and taste.
I like to serve this with white rice but since I'm trying to be healthy, I used quinoa instead.
Oh, did I tell you that I had a PB & J filled Glazed Donut this week? How healthy of me, huh?
 This meal is definitely one of my go-to meals. It's quick, simple, and filling. Love it.
Filipino Picadillo
Prep time: 5 minutes 
Cook time: 20 minutes
1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 lbs. of ground beef
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup of raisins ( I put more because I LOVE them!)
3-4 Tbs. of soy sauce
1/2 cup of tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1. Saute onion until soft. Add the beef and let brown.
2. Add the bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes on Medium. Add the zucchini, raisins, and soy sauce.
3. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
4. Add the tomato sauce to finish.
5. Salt and pepper to taste
6. Serve with white or brown rice or quinoa.
p.s Save the leftovers for the next recipe!

Drizzles of Sunshine: Update

1. Time flies when you're having fun. It also flies when you are working full time and have a 10 month old biting at your ankles. (Thought that was just a saying but apparently they do really bite your ankles) Life has been busy but sweet. Maybe I can fit blogging back in? 

2. Baby Joaquin is a moose. He is a big, adorable, squeezable moose. I am having a blast with him and he is just so smart. He is so moible and I swear he will walk any day now. He can point to his nose, teeth, feet, and puppy Sonic. He can dance and kiss on cue and he mocks every fun work you say. (His favorite is still "mama". ) most importantly, he is sleeping 9pm- 6:30am with no more feedings in between!!! Let the fat lady sing! 

3. I started my new school year a month ago and the work load is a bah jillion times heavier than before. I now teach English Language Development for 6th-8th graders. I have 100 kids! That means the grading is tents. (Get it? Intense? Ok. ) although the workload is full and my desk is a paper catcher, I feel at home there. My co-workers are supportive and fabulous, my students are challenging but sweet, and I'm getting into the groove of it all. 

4. One word. Pumpkin. I am ready for fall and everything pumpkin flavored. The weather is slowly cooling down from 100+ degrees to mid 80's and I am already shopping for the perfect boot. I'm ready to stop shaving my legs now. 

5. That's my life in a nutshell. Busy, sweet, and I'm ready for the changes. 

The Last Day of Summer Vacation

Do you hear that? It's the sounds of teachers (and kids) mourning the end of summer vacation. It was fun while it lasted. 

Hawaii was great but watching Joaquin grow was even better. 

Good bye, vacation. I will miss you dearly. Now I am building up my strength to leave my little one at home while I tend to my students. Deep breaths. 

Best Breakfasts on the Big Island of Hawaii

When my parents told me that they reserved a condo for our trip I was happy. When they told me we would be cooking our meals in the kitchen, I threw a foodie fit. "No, no." I said. "We will be eating all of our meals in hole-in-the-wall places."  I told them. Food always prevails. We never used that kitchen.
For Breakfast:
Island Lava Java in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

100% Kona coffee, freshly baked breakfast goodies, and a view of the ocean. What more could you possible want in life? This place is small but not cramped and keeps most of their tables right outside of their storefront which overlooks the ocean. Their menu adds island flair to the breakfast/brunch classics. Their coffee menu puts Starbucks to shame with their 100% Kona coffees alone. Don't forget the coconut syrup on your pancakes. It just screams "I'm in Hawaii!!"
Soy Latte
Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes with Portugese Sausages
Island style waffle with Portuguese sausages

The view from our table
Basik Acai

Tiny Kitchen
Don't blink, you might miss this one. It's stacked on top of a snorkel and boogie board rental store and from the outside, you might not even see it. Inside, it's the tree house you've always dreamed of. Canvas photos decorate the ceilings, bar stool seating overlooks the ocean, and the play list is from the hip young worker's personal iphone. Their small and simple menu offers a few choices of Acai bowls but also offers hundreds of add ons. This is that healthy fix you need after days and days of heavy Hawaiian fare. It's the detox after last night's luau. 

The view

The Islander and The Drifter

 Tex Drive-in
Throughout our trip, my mom wouldn't stop talking about one thing: Malasadas. These Portuguese doughnuts are very popular all over Hawaii. Apparently, my mom tried them in Maui and had sugar coated dreams about them. Around the 15th time she mentioned them, we all decided it was a non-negotiable stop. The most famous Malasada mecca on the island is this little shop that is literally in the middle of nowhere. (Well, to be fair, everything on the Big Island is in the middle of nowhere because it is not very populated.) I'm not quite sure if this is considered a breakfast treat or a dessert, but we live in the country where Nutella is a legitimate breakfast spread so I think I'm good.
The four of us ordered a dozen. Why? Because for some reason that sounded like a good idea. 3 per person was the way to go. Plus, we had to cram as many flavor filled bombs into our to go box. They offer various fruit or creme filled Malasadas and we ordered up a good variety. My personal favorite was the apple, while Hubby enjoyed the strawberry, and my mom and dad liked the chocolate creme. You can't go wrong with sweet fried dough filled with sugar then rolled in sugar. You just can't.  

In Hawaii, the breakfasts are legit. The white sand beaches and the waves aren't the only thing to wake up to here. Lucky for us, most of the breakfast nooks overlook said beaches and sand. Why don't I live here again?

Every Bite Counts

A few weeks ago, I turned 30. Ah, yes, the big 3-0. I am not, nor have I ever been the type to be sad on my birthday because I'm "old". I am actually very excited for my birthdays. I like the feeling that this day is somehow about me and only me (and dammit it should be about me), I like the cake and ice cream with the tiny colorful wax candles, and the hoopla of the chorus of waiters singing to me. I like that. But, most of all I like the feeling of newness. I like the thought that I'm about to embark on a new year, a new adventure, a new season of my life. So, here I am, a wife, a mother, a teacher, a 30 year old, venturing into this season of my life. My heart is full of desires and dreams that I hope to accomplish. I'm hoping I can leave behind the insecurities and regrets that my 20 year old self held on to so tightly.

My new mantra for my 30's is to Savor Each Bite, Make Every Bite Count. I don't know if it's because I'm a planner by nature or because I'm just crazy, but I am always looking for "what's next." Nevermind what I'm eating for breakfast, what's for dinner? Nevermind that I just graduated college, when am I getting married and having babies? I shovel these bites into my mouth without savoring it which leads me to being discontent and disappointed. This snowballs into feeling so disgusted with myself.  I just stuffed my face with all that I could and was still so unhappy with what I had in my tummy all because I want more on my next plate. So, I'm vowing to change that. I want to slow down and relish as many moments as I can. I want to appreciate that bite that is on my fork, now. I want to enjoy the season that I'm in, not anticipate the season that is yet to come.

As for my blog, I want to refocus my attention on food. Cooking, recipe testing, restaurant reviewing, and studying food photography. I love this blogworld and all the friendly people in it. Thank you to all of my loyal readers for sticking with me and reading what I have to say. I appreciate it.

Here's to 30. Here's to making every bite count.

California Eats: Pie Hole

I have found the world's best pie crust. I realize that's a hefty statement to begin a post, but I'm dead serious about that. There are dessert enthusiasts who are self-proclaimed "pie people." You know the type. They forgo the cupcake treat for the slice of apple crumble, insist that you put candles on their birthday pie, and tell you everything that needs to be known about Olallieberry pie. I don't know if I'd call myself a pie person, but I'm definitely a pie crust person. Buttery flaky, graham cracker crunchy, or oreo cookie crumbly, I'm all about it 'bout it. The filling is just the icing on the...pie.
Pie Hole has it all right; the crust and the pie filling. That might not sound like something special, but pie golly it is.
The Place: Downtown Los Angeles has all the good eats and this place is no exception to that rule. Pie Hole is a bit tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Located in the Arts District, this pie joint is surrounded by trendy Lofts and condo developments, a mish mosh of up and coming eateries, and cute boutiques that sell things you want but don't need. (I also saw one of the winners from America's Next Top Model in one of those boutiques. I was star struck but had to play it cool because I was in LA afterall.)
The inside is as simple and rustic as it gets with bare walls and clean uncomplicated furniture that would make any IKEA designer happy. (I'm not sure if my decoration lingo is up to par here, but whatever.) Their storefront is lined with a few tables for you and a friend to enjoy an afternoon snack. I also need to give props to the man at the cashier as well as the young guy who served my pie. They were both super friendly and warm. It's nice to have your pie served with a witty joke or two. I dig it.
The Menu:
Their menu includes Sweet, Savory, Whoppie, and Crostata pies. You can even order a whole pie a day in advanced! Note. To. Self. On the other side, you have iced coffees, teas, and even creative sips like Thin Mint Lattes. Say WHAT?
I love how the menu is written on butcher paper with a sharpie pen. No fancy calligraphy here. This tells me one thing and that's Menu Change ups. I can just tell that this place uses fresh ingredients and fruits and veggies that are in season, hence the change ups. I appreciate that. They are also creative as hell and they are constantly coming up with new and inventive flavors like Thai Iced Tea pie
The Eats:
I ordered the Maple Custard Pie and an Iced Coffee. As I type this, my mouth is watering and my heart is aching for more. This pie was insanely good. Like, eyes roll to the back of your head, good. My slice was almost like a crème brulee with a thin sweet, dark maple layer on top. Every bite was thick and satisfying. And the crust....Oh Lord, the crust... it was flaky, buttery, and laden with the love of a real deal pastry chef. Trust me, any foodie will tell you that the love of the food IS an ingredient and Pie Hole has love written all over it. I have never tasted a crust this buttery before. You can't get this kind of flakiness from a store bought crust. It's perfection.
My husband got the Mexican Chocolate pie and it was definitely mexican chocolatey. It was creamy and rich and had that mmmmm quality that warms your tummy. Maybe it was the cinnamon or that love I was talking about earlier. Who knows. This one had a crumbly type crust that was just as good, but I can't speak much about this since I was having a full blown foodgasm over my Maple Custard Pie.
Maybe I am a pie person now.  My birthday is this month and I'm even having crazy ideas of replacing my Oreo ice cream cake with this beaut. I don't know much about Olallieberry pie but I just spoke it great detail about flaky crusts. Pie Hole has definitely converted me. Pie Hole, if you're reading this, thank you for your simple and delicious pies. My birthday is on the 18th in case you'd like to send me one.

Welcome to Bloglovin'

On July 1st we can all say adios to Goggle Reader. If you are a creature of habit like myself, this is so annoying. This entails that I have to do something to import the ones I read and hope to The blog gods that my followers keep reading my posts. Luckily, Bloglovin' has made this transition easy as apple pie. 

How to make the switch to Bloglovin'

Hope to see you on the other side!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Baby Joaquin: 6 and 7 Month Update

My little Joaquinnie pants is now 7 months old.  These past two months have been so much fun for our little family because Joaquin has developed his little personality and has hit so many milestones. Right now, he is an adventurous baby boy. His favorite thing to do is crawl around the house following Sonic around. As you can imagine, Sonic does not approve of this, but he's a good sport about it and doesn't get mad but instead he rather calmly, yet irritatedly walks away. I'm always in close quarters just in case he decides to get crazy....and when I say he I mean both Joaquin and Sonic.

He also loves to navigate his way under, over, and through different things. Hence, this adorable picture with his playmat on his back. I don't know HOW he did this.

Other milestones include celebrating his first Mother's and Father's day,

riding on his first train,
going to the beach and the pool, lookin' all cool,

and being a big boy and feeding himself.

I'm just so proud of my smart baby boy. I can't get enough of him. I'm sure you can tell from the millions of pictures.

Here's a few other stats.

Size: He weighed in at 17 pounds during his 6 month check up. He has to be 18-19 now. He is wearing 9-12 month clothes now, mainly because he is in the 90th percentile in height.
Tall like Daddy!

Eating: I have been pureeing food like a maniac mom...a momiac. He's been eating sweet potato, zucchini squash, sweet peas, and bananas. We are limiting his fruits to one type a month  so he doesn't develop a sweet tooth and ditch his veggies. He still eats his brown rice cereal and I've put him back on baby oatmeal for breakfast. He is no longer allergic to the wheat. Yay!

Sleeping: UGH! The thorn in my sleepy paw. He is now back to waking up two times a night to eat. I've tried everything from giving him a pacifier to letting him cry (my heart can only take so much crying, you know.) and nothing but a bottle seems to work. I've done a bit of reading and all signs point to nighttime hunger. It stays consistent with his daytime feeding time frames, every  4 hours. He wakes up at midnight, then again at 4 am, then he wakes up for good at 6, but isn't hungry until 7. It's draining but Thank God I'm on summer vaction. Once, I brought him into bed with me at 6 in the morning and magically he fell back asleep. He has yet to do this again.

Next up: Summertime fun with Mommy! This might be the best summer yet.