{Travel} San Clemente, California (through the lens of the iPhone)

We recently got home from an epic beach vacation with some of our great friends, the Black family and also our friend Grace.  Zane and Rachel have a ten month old baby girl, Elle Jay (LJ), and so when we first started planning a trip together, we knew we wanted something close and easy. Also, Zane really wanted to be somewhere he could surf….which led us to look in the Orange Country area of California. After spending weeks pouring over housing options on vrbo.com, we settled on the San Clemente area, and found our house! We knew we wanted to rent a house together because 1) cheaper than getting separate hotel rooms, 2) wanted the full kitchen so that we could cook most of our meals 3) plenty of room for the kids to play and move around.

We found the perfect house:

I was so in LOVE with the kitchen. Huge gas range with cast iron griddle (which we used a ton). Stocked with cast iron and Le Creuset pans. Who puts Le Creuset in a vacation rental house?!? So amazing. The apron sink was huge and beautiful.
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I also was in love with the butcher block island, and the Sub Zero fridge and freezer (that is the freezer on the left – complete with two freezer drawers below the large door).
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Awesome modern/California cool furnishings throughout the house
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Art nook (which we used as surfboard storage), and epic nap spot in the master bedroom
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The backyard was lovely and perfect for soaking up some sun during the few but precious moments where all the kids were napping.
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We got there a day before the Blacks, and after stocking up at Costco and unloading at the house, we headed straight for the beach.
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The San Clemente Pier was about four blocks from our house, which was pretty amazing to just walk down the hill to all this:                             photo IMG_6535_zps067cf9c1.jpg  photo IMG_6536_zpsef1613f9.jpg We were starving and decided that the restaurant on the Pier was as good a place as any for dinner! It was great (fresh halibut!), but even better was the view, and sitting on the patio while the sun beat down on us. Ahhhhh sunshine….        photo IMG_6077_zps6fa29ce0.jpg  photo 6812eace-3fd0-44c2-a4ec-97f071ad0bb7_zpsc4f4eccd.jpg photo IMG_6538_zpsbe402f37.jpg  photo IMG_6078_zpsd177dc0e.jpg

Sunday morning we walked two blocks to the main street (Avenida Del Mar) to grab some breakfast at Cafe Mimosa, before heading to the airport to pick up the Blacks. A traditional French Bistro, this restaurant is what breakfast dreams are made of. Here’s a shot of the (gourmet) steel cut oats I ordered for the kids:
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Fun times with the Black family!
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We also got to spend some time with my dear friend Lisa, who LIVES in San Clemente. I made sure to let her know over and over how lucky she is to live there🙂. We met at Baby Beach one afternoon, which was, of course, a great little beach for kids. No waves because it’s within the Dana Point Harbor.
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Grace arrived Thursday night, to join us for our last three nights of the trip. We love having Auntie Gracie with us! (Hollis considers Grace one of her BFFs).
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My little boy…too precious
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Love these girls
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Friday morning we got to meet up with Lisa one last time, and she shared a gem of a place with us for brunch. The Ramos House – my standard for breakfast out has forever been raised. Everything about the place was enchanting – herbs growing out front for use in the kitchen. Every table was unique and charming. Mason jars for glasses.  And the food, the food.
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Our last night on the beach. The perfect end to a fun, relaxing, and simple vacation with great people. When can I go back?
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Up next: the rest of the trip in (real) pictures (non-iPhone).

{Recipe} Veggie Sausage Skillet

I discovered this “recipe” (method, really) last summer when I was trying to come up with creative ways to use up all the veggies in my weekly CSA box, before the next box arrived. Since then, I have consistently made it at least twice a month. In the last ten days I’ve made it three times🙂. It’s my go-to “what do I make for dinner???” meal, because it is quick, full of veggies and protein, and very flexible with the ingredients. Not to mention my husband and kids eat it up and ask for more.

The main idea = brown some pork sausage in a skillet, then remove it and saute the veggies. Add the sausage back on top when the veggies are cooked through. Done. But there are also ways to mix it up or fancy it up a bit. I think the reason it’s so tasty is because pork sausage has so much flavor, and pairs so well with a variety of veggies. Love the combo!

Veggie Sausage Skillet

1.5 pounds of organic, pasture raised, pork sausage (I’ve also used sliced chicken sausage links)
2-3 potatoes (I’ve done white potatoes, sweet potatoes, or a combo of both. Obviously using only sweet potatoes will make it Whole30 compliant!)
1/2 an onion (I’ve done yellow, red….whatever you have on hand will work)

Any combo of the following veggies:
(Seriously, you can’t mess this up! Just pick what you like or have)

green beans
peas (fresh or frozen)
chard or kale

heavy cream
raw cheddar cheese

If you will be including the cheese and cream, go ahead and preheat your oven to 400.

Brown your sausage in a skillet. I prefer to use a cast iron skillet – 1) because they’re awesome. 2) because if you follow the *fancy* option at the end, your cast iron skillet can go straight into the oven. (Of course, this particular time, as you can see in the photo, I didn’t use my cast iron. It was in our trailer and I hadn’t unloaded it yet from camping).

Remove the sausage from the skillet, and begin sautéing up your veggies in the wonderful grease that was left behind. Add more ghee or butter or fat of choice if needed. I start with the hardier veggies first: potatoes and onions and carrots. I like to give them a head start since they take a bit longer to cook. I keep the burner on medium+ heat, and just give them a stir every few minutes. I don’t stir constantly for two reasons: 1) I like them to get a bit brown and crispy, 2) Don’t have time! This way you can wash dishes and clean up in between stirs.

After about 10 minutes I add in the next most hardy veggies: broccoli, peppers, cauliflower, etc. I save the greens and other delicate veggies for last. The point is that you’re trying to add veggies in order of which ones need the most/least cook time, so that hopefully at the end they are all equally done! No soggy ones.

Dairy Free Option:
If you are skipping the dairy, then simply add the sausage back to the skillet, give everything a stir, and you’re done! Spoon onto your plates and enjoy. The kiddos like to have a little ketchup for dipping.

Delicious Dairy option:
This is my preferred way to make the dish, but now that my husband has discovered he is lactose-intolerant, we don’t make it this way any more. *tear*. BUT, it like I said before, it’s still great without the cheese! (just a little richer with it🙂

Once your sausage and veggies are cooked through, you are going to simply drizzle some heavy cream over the skillet, maybe a few tablespoons, or up to 1/4 cup. And then top it with some shredded cheese. Stick the skillet in your 400 degree oven for 10-15 min. You are just giving it time for the cheese to melt and the juices to bubble. I don’t know what it is, something about the starches from the potatoes, and the other juices within the skillet….but they combine with that little bit of cream and it all turns into a thicker “sauce” that bubbles up and creates some major deliciousness.

*Also to note: if you are doing the dairy option, you will want to leave your veggies slightly under cooked during the sauté stage…since they will be going into a 400 degree oven for 10+ min, they will continue to cook and soften there.

In this (terrible) iPhone photo, I just piled the sausage on one side so that you could see all the veggies underneath. Quick, cheap, easy, delicious, and in this case, Whole 30 approved!
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{Love It} Lately

This week I am loving…

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My sweet pea soaking up the sun. I’ve taught her well!

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Slowly reintroducing dairy, but mostly continuing to eat clean. (Full Whole30 wrap up post coming soon!)

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Brother and sister having fun together….

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….which gave me some time to sit in the sun and read this book. Challenging, inspiring, takes my breath away.

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Sweet sleeping boy.

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New necklace, from here. The shop owner told me the dots mean “I Love You” in braille. Hope it’s true?!

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Precious new niece, Hadley Lynne, born today! Cannot wait to meet and hold this little sweetie.

Have a great weekend!

{Whole30} Day 29

{Recipe} Baked Chicken Thighs in Marinara with Cabbage Noodles
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I’m just going to talk about my dinner today, because I am pretty darn excited about it. It was one of those, “crap! what do i make for dinner?!” meals, and I threw it all together without much thought. And it actually turned out! It was so simple and tasty, that I thought it was worth sharing. I even took a few (iPhone) pics along the way; I guess I just had a *feeling* that it might turn out!

I threw some boneless skinless chicken thighs in an 8×8 dish (use whatever size dish you need to have it be “full” of chicken. Or use as much chicken as you need to fill your dish?!?)

Moving on!

I had a few fresh herbs, and decided to go with thyme….so I threw a few sprigs of thyme on top, and then some crushed garlic cloves. (I prefer to keep the sprigs whole, rather than taking the “thyme” (!) to pull of each little leaf and chop it up. This way, you still get the flavor imparted into the dish, and just pull the sprigs out when it’s done cooking!)
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Next, I very carefully opened a jar of organic, (no sugar) marinara sauce. And poured it on top. It was hard work, but someone had to do it.
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Then I covered the dish with foil, and baked at 375 while I took a walk with the kids to get eggs from the neighbor’s house….in other words, 30 minutes or so. When I got home I checked it and decided it could go a bit longer. Plus, I wanted to roast some green beans at a high temp in the over (425), so I just went ahead and cranked it up so that I could cook the green beans in there at the same time. I also noticed that it was way more liquid-y than I was expecting, so at this point I removed the foil covering from the dish.

I only had frozen green beans to use as my veggie side, which I think worked well for the way I prepared them. I opened the plastic bag, and filled it with warm water to defrost the green beans. Drain, and repeat once. Now they’re defrosted! I patted away the moisture with some paper towels, since things tend to roast best when they aren’t sopping wet.

Next, throw your green beans on a pan, drizzle with olive oil, nutritional yeast, and salt. Then place in the oven so they can roast at 425 for around 20 minutes. (Meanwhile, your chicken is still baking away). If you have the chance, pull them out once to flip them around with a spatula.

I also had some cabbage wedges roasting away in my toaster over. Drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper, cooked at 425 for 20 min. Hey, I never said this was a one pot meal!

The chicken turned out nice and saucy and tender.
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And the green beans were roasted just the way I like em.
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To plate it up, I had my wedge of cabbage, with chicken on top, and sauce over it all. And then the green beans on the side.
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After I took this photo and started eating, I did end up adding much more sauce to my plate.

This is what I love about Whole30! I never would have came up with this meal without it. I maybe would have thought of the chicken idea. But I would have served it with rice or potatoes or something. Instead, after I thought of the chicken idea, I was thinking to myself…what would be good underneath saucy chicken to soak it up? Noodles? Then I remembered seeing something weird on instagram under the #whole30 hashtag. Someone was talking about boiling a whole cabbage, and as it cooks, the leaves come off. You pull the leaves out as they start floating to the top, and then shred up all the cooked cabbage leaves. She was saying she then just keeps it in the fridge and uses them as “noodles”, and that they’re really versatile. So, that’s kind of what I was trying to replicate with the roasted wedges of cabbage (I didn’t want to take the time or mess with boiling a whole cabbage). And it worked! The outer edges were crispy, but the inner parts were soft and the perfect texture to eat with saucy chicken.

Enjoy! And let me know what you think!

My Boy

This little guy
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is so amazing. Oh boy, he makes me laugh. And smile. Many times throughout the day I am overcome with feeling so thankful to have him.
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He is my happy little boy. Easy going. Content. Plays independently….
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…and then on the flip side he looooves to snuggle. Loves to be interacted with. Loves to communicate.
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He is so silly. He keeps me laughing all day long! He has THE BEST facial expressions. This “cheesy smile” is a favorite right now:
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He is 15.5 months right now. Finally started walking, yesterday! He is sooo excited and proud of it, too! It is so fun to watch. Nothing cuter than watching a baby learn take their first steps. He’s already cruising and excited about his new mode of transportation.
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He has an infinite amount of nicknames. Some favorites right now: bubs, bubbers, boo boo, brudder bear, bubbies, bubbles….the list grows each day.
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I love you, my sweet boy!

{Whole30} Day 28

Day 28! So close and yet at this very minute, 48 hours feels sooo long away🙂. And really, it will be more like 60 hours by the time I wake up on the morning of the 31st day and eat breakfast. I’m not gonna lie, these last few days have felt….long. I’m kind of tired of it. I think part of the trouble is that I was already fairly happy with how I was eating, pre-Whole30 (whole-foods, real-food, traditional-food diet). And since I wasn’t going from a SAD (Standard American Diet) diet full of processed foods, chemicals, and “food” from a box, this whole program hasn’t felt like that extreme of a lifestyle change. But maybe the lack of extreme change is what makes it a little harder? As in, I am feeling great and eating great, and it’s not too far off from how I usually eat, so then I start to have thoughts of “oh, what’s the problem with adding a little coconut sugar to my coffee?” Or, “a bowl of yogurt with nut granola is a healthy snack!” And I start to rationalize why I should be eating these things. I think it’s also worth pointing out that while I definitely DO feel better and notice some improvements in my overall well being, I’m not one of those CRAZY awesome over the top testimonials who’s whole life has changed. I was fairly healthy before, and am feeling good now. So I guess maybe I haven’t felt some of the extreme results I’ve read about, and therefore feel like I can start slacking off? However, I have stayed strong! I haven’t cheated! And I am pretty darn proud of myself to have made it all the way🙂.

As you might have noticed, I’ve kind of gotten tired of blogging about what I’m eating every day. Most of my breakfasts are similar, and I do a lot of leftovers and repeat meals, so I figure it would be a little repetitive to keep it up every day. Here’s a round  up of some of the things I’ve eaten in the last few days:

I finally got some “clean” (sugar/junk free) meats from US Wellness Meats, and it’s been nice to have some different things to add to my breakfast routine! This breakfast sausage (made into patties) is delicious.
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Made another pot of clean out the fridge/veggie/sausage soup
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I’ve been having that along with lots of salads for lunches and dinner.
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Also, I have to pass this recipe along. I came across this Date Coffee Creamer and knew I had to give it a try. OMG. It’s what I’ve been missing and hoping for. I might even go as far as to say that I like it better than regular cream and sweetener! Why couldn’t I have found this on Day 1?! Give it a try, you’ll be sorry if you don’t! (*recipe note: I added a few extra dates and water, figuring that I might want it a bit sweeter. Also, I did strain my date puree, I would definitely recommend doing this).

Two days to go! Wish me luck!🙂


Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Not posting for a few days because I am too busy enjoying this view! And celebrating a 60th birthday. And enjoying family. And staying in a cozy “cabin” on the river. And eating yummy food (Whole30 style, of course). More to come….