Friday, September 28, 2012

Pear & Pumpkin Goodness

This was actually supposed to be muffins, but I didn't have any muffin tin liners and cleaning that thing is a real PITA, so I opted for a big ole loafy loaf instead. I highly doubt Logan will notice the difference- if he does, I'll re-post and let you know. (update: he loved it just how it was, no love lost over not being in muffin form)

The forecast for this weekend is 95 and sweaty as S-- so why not fire up the oven and get my bake on, right?
Sorry, it's OCTOBER in 5 minutes, I couldn't hold out any longer- A/C cranked up, it's time to get my first Pumpkin recipe of the season underway....

I recently discovered Cooking With My Kid a great website you should check out ASAP! I used her "Best Ever Pumpkin Muffins" (which you will find by clicking the link above) as the basic template for this recipe.
This is so moist and yummy, it's insane. However, if you've got a major sweet tooth- step up the sugar, because at less than 2 tsp per serving- this is not super-sweet- used a little less than 1/2 a cup because I knew Logan was gonna have some. I love it this way!

Here is what you will need:

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or oat flour for a gluten free option)
1/2 cup sugar (I used just a little less than that)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1 15oz can pure pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
a handful of rolled oats for the top
1 large pear peeled and chopped into bitsy squares

Preheat the oven to 350.
Lightly grease an 8 x 8 pan or get out those muffin tin liners & do up 2 muffin tins or mini muffin tins.
Mix all the ingredients, except oats, until they are well incorporated.
Pour into prepared pan or muffin liners.
Sprinkle oats over top
Bake 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes clean.
Reduce time to 35 minutes for regular sized muffins, 25-30 minutes for mini muffins.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mah-valous Mac N Chee (and slow cooker black beans!)

This is something I created for my son, and ended up LOVING it myself!! Logan is super into food these days, and I am enjoying it because I know it may not last- kids will be kids and there could be an "I'll eat nothing but PB&J 3x a day" phase right around the corner. His very favorite foods are avocado, hummus, banana, blueberries, black beans and of course #1: CHEESE.

I started making the black beans in our crock pot because they are really way less expensive that way and I have a TON to make freezer meals and usually a whole weeks worth of food with em each time I do a batch! (I just made another batch today and will do a post soon to show you how much you get for very little $$)

For the love of cats, feel free to use a can of black beans for this recipe- pre-child I sure as heck would have, it definitely cuts down on the time/work involved a bit. However, if you wanna give it a whirl, it is pretty easy. One of my all-time FAVORITE sites explains it best: A Year Of Slow Cooking: Dried Beans in the Slow Cooker Tutorial . Also, I had no idea kidney beans had a funky toxin, so the post was helpful and learned somethin' new!

Also- I sometimes use broth instead of water when cooking the beans, I've used the organic chicken and veggie broth from Trader Joe's and love both. Just an option.

Here is what you will need to make the Mac N Cheese:

1 16oz bag of Organic Brown Rice or Whole Wheat pasta
6-8 mushrooms, chopped in to little bits
1/4 of a white or yellow onion, finely chopped
2 BIG handfuls of baby spinach, chopped
1 cup or 1 can cooked black beans
2-3 cups shredded cheese
water to boil noodles
Olive oil

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan, add onions, and mushrooms- keep on med/low heat while you make the pasta.
Bring water in a medium sauce pot to a boil on the stove & add pasta- cook according to package directions for the little ones so it's not to tough to chew or for grown-up pasta, about 1 minute less than max cooking time recommended on the package.
When the pasta is ready, reserve 1/4 cup of the starchy water then drain the pasta.
Add the black beans to the onions- add salt & pepper to taste- stir about 5 minutes, till everything is hot.
Put the  pasta in a large bowl add the 1/4 cup of pasta water.
Add everything from the satuee pan and the spinach and the cheese- stir til melty delicious & enjoy!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Love that crockpot!

Unless you've only just joined us here, you know that no matter what the season I LOVE MY CROCK POT. It was such a lifesaver when I worked all day outside the house, and it's just as awesome, if not more, now that my job is based here at home!

For lots of you school is back in session and time is FLYING- here are a few of my FAVORITE crockpot recipes, tried and true:

Chicken Crockpot Tacos -this is my most visited/ most pinned crock pot recipe......for a reason. It's super easy and DELICIOUS!

Carnitas Cornbread Pie - a crockpot recipe and a freezer meal, perfect post to keep in mind for those busy weeknights!

Machaca Inspired Beef- I haven't made this in a while, but glad I am posting this link collection, this one will be on the menu next week for sure! YUM!

Gyros- this was the first crock pot recipe pin I tried, and it was GREAT, will definitely make this again!

Turkey White Bean Chili (photo above)- always a good one, especially if you are lucky enough to have temps that are not in the mid-90s this week!

I update my "Crock It" slow cooker recipe collection board on Pinterest weekly- loads of ideas and inspiration there, check it out HERE.
I will also comment below recipes as I try them, and of course post them here on the blog with any changes I make to the original post.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Ok- so if you grew up when I grew up it's pretty likely that if someone mentions chia, you automatically add "pet" as the next word in their sentence. Well, on a trip to visit my family in Denver this year I learned otherwise. My Aunt works at an organic food & vitamin shop there and introduced me to Mamma Chia, which I was instantly addicted to. Come to find out, chia is SUPER good for you!!! It's got all kinds of awesome benefits- huzzah and who knew!? I even discovered an organic baby food squeezie (Happy Tot) that has chia in it (they call it "salba" though so they can trademark it or claim they invented it or whatever).

So the minute I got back to LA I went on a chia hunt- I discovered some of my good friends were already in the chia-loop and using it atop yogurt and in smoothies! To my surprise, Wholefoods did not carry Mama Chia- SAY WHAT?!? (YET... That was then, now they sure as heck do) after scouting around I found it but at nearly $4 a bottle, I wasn't going to be getting it often (or ever really).
I read the label on the bottle I had from Denver (below) and it seemed pretty straightforward- hydrated chia seeds, fruit puree/juice- BAM.

I used organic chia seeds my aunt had given me while on our trip- here's what I did:

Take a clean, empty water bottle and fill it about 1/4 full of filtered drinking water.
Add 1 T chia seeds to the bottle (I measure them, put them on a paper plate or paper towel and fold it to use like a funnel to get em in the bottle) 
Put the lid on the bottle and SWIRL the chia seeds in the water for about 2 minutes- this gets em hydrated and keeps them separated so they suspend like you want them to and don't clump up.
Add fruit juice, coconut water, etc. to make the bottle about 2/3 to 3/4 full (total) then top off with more water- this keeps price per bottle, calories & sugar down & still tastes awesome-
Shake well & refrigerate. Enjoy!! 

PS- added this gem from my grandma's house- hope you appreciate it as much as I do. Story of my life.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Logan's 1st Birthday PARTY VENDOR REVIEWS


I had such a blast planning Logan's Bubble Birthday in the park, and it would not have been the perfect day it was with out the following vendors- so I wanted to write up a review post and share the goodness.

Jayme Marie Designs on Etsy
Good lord I LOVE ETSY!!!! From my baby shower invites, to our birth announcements (both by Katie Did Designs) Esty is just a goldmine of brilliant designers who have the skills to make your event invites-printables-thank you notes-etc beyond FABULOUS!! While staying frugal .
I mention the birth announcements and baby shower invites by Katie because I LOVED THEM and only found Jayme when I went searching for a weenie dog invite specifically- since this is my first bigolereviewpost I thought I would mention her because if you are looking for invitations both shops/designers are really awesome!!!


Westside Print Center
I was lucky enough to start working with these guys when I had an office job with the DDG Erica Courtney Inc. and they never dissapoint.
Greg & Co printed EVERYTHING for my wedding, of course our birth announcements, and everything for Logan's 1st birthday!!
They are well priced, efficient and great quality.
They cut out these adorable flags for me that they'd printed (love the little flags- thanks again, Jayme Marie Designs!!)


Woah. Ya, I'll give you another minute to soak up that GORGEOUS website. Tom's work is spectacular. AND a Packer fan? We like. This was an honor and a blessing to have him shoot Logan's party- we can't wait to do a family portrait with him and I wish I could act because if I could look like that in a headshot- I'd have me some mommy business cards made!
I can not recommend having a savy, perfessional, creative, sharp photographer at major family milestone events like this was. It frees you up so much to just enjoy the moment and MAKING the memories that TCKPhoto so perfectly captured for us to charish forever.



Bubble Mania & Co
If I had a nickle for every time I said out loud, "Thank YOU NPH for that fabulous idea or catchphrase from HIMYM" I'd be able to retire! Add to that another $.05 for every time something I saw on The Ellen Show changed my life and I could retire a whole posse to relax on an island with me!!
This was one of those cross-over moments that I simotaneously thank Neil Patric Harris AND Ellen.
NPH mentioned that this is what they did for the twins 1st birthday during a guest spot, and I thought it sounded BRILLIANT!! That's because IT IS!!!!!!
We chose the "outdoor playtime hour" because we didn't have any indoor space for the party- and for a 2 year-old and friends that was perfection.
Our bubbologist was helpful (had a lighter for the cake- which I forgot!), punctual and AMAZING with the kids!! We will hire them again WITH OUT QUESTION- especially when we have a partially indoor space and can get all up in the science (when Logan is a little older!)



Mar Vista Rec Center
This was an easy pick because it's the park Logan and I go to weekly to play. Lesson learned though- make your reservation for a picnic area EARLY. We had wanted to do it the weekend before his Labor Day weekend birthday but when I called in July that was already booked. Also make sure you bring your reservation paperwork when you get there to set up. When I arrived a family with no reservation had an easy up, grills and all kinds of business set up in our area for their kids birthday- the office at the park is staffed 7 days and the woman working there was super sweet and helpful at getting them moved and clearing the area for us to get set up and par-tay. On that note- plan for that in your set-up time, just in case- it did put about at 23/30 minute ding in my getting the area ready, which meant quite a few less balloons than I had hoped for. No major biggie, but something to consider.
The fee is about $120 to reserve, totally worth it for us!


Decor etc.
Party City on Sepulveda
Ok, pretty sure there's got to be a less expensive option if I'd researched a bit more, but I did get EVERYTHING for under $150, with my 11 month in tow, and loved the look we were able to achieve with the exact colors I had in mind.
I'm a believer in "the rule of three" when you're planning ANY event- pick 3 colors and attach them to every detail you possibly can- it gives whatever you are doing a professional, cohesive, more-expensive-looking asthetic.
Logan LOVES yellow- so that was a natch, then I saw (on Pinterest, where else) a beautiful garden party set up with yellow, orange and turquoise. So summery- so boy with out being too boy (what does that mean, I don't even know...) SO I headed to party city and got
Table covers, plates, plastic flatware, cups, napkins, clear serving tongs and spoons, plastic serving bowls and trays, tissue paper, curling ribbon, crepe streamers, and balloons. It's a little too easy to go nut nut overboard in there- so be careful- try to lay out the look and make a detailed list before you walk in there.


Del Rey Party Rentals
Helium tank
Yes, I'm clearly insane. There is a helium shortage. Google it, I'm totally serious! I wanted to get a little mini disposable tank from Target or whatever- but no luck. Shortage. Wanted to just have party city fill em for me- but they couldn't guarantee they'd have it till the day before. Shortage. I HAD to have balloons (again, insane) so after calling every freakin party store on the Westside the only one I could find that had a small tank to rent was this place in Hawthorne (not exactly right next door.)
Pros- I had balloons!
the drive there and then back there to return it
When I got there the told me they had no record of my reservation of the tank (I'd given a credit card number the week before to hold it) and after 15 minutes they found it.
Barley used the helium- not their fault, note that ding in my set up time above under the rec center review.

Still- their showroom is very nice and they are FULL SERVICE. They also seem pretty competitively priced.


Goodie Bags
Oriental Trading Co.
These looked fabulous thanks to Jayme Marie Designs- the little thank you tags were just adorable- and the bags were a snap to make (and UBER CHEAP) using a brown lunch sack, hole punch, ty tag and some curling ribbon!
I ordered bubbles (duh), crayons, little paper pads from OTC- they were super cheap, arrived fast and none of the bubbles spilled/leaked anywhere- SCORE.
I also baked giant home-made M & M cookies and stuck them in white CD/DVD sleeves from staples- super cute and easy (and agian CHEAP).

Other DIY stuffs
I have a friend that has a Cricut- we all need that friend. Or we need the Cricut. She cut out adorable Polariod-look photo frames that I framed a photo of Logan for each month of the year and lined up on the gift table. My initial plan was to hang them like a laundry line (like the flags in the top pic) but there was such wind I thought taping them down was better.

Costco- beef and pork for the sandwhiches (very well priced), individual good fish cracker bags for snack table, Pub Mix (my husbands FAVORITE) for each table in little bowls, tortalini and pesto for skewers, Greek yogurt dip for slaw, juice boxes, water, and cake- their cake is great when you've got a crowd- serves like 40 people for $17 and is very moist & yummy.

Trader Joes-fruit squeezie packets for the kiddos

Sprouts Market- fruit for rainbow kabobs, everything for cous cous salad

Smart n Final- cabbage & carrots for slaw

Target- WINE CUBES which I HIGHLY recommend, they are cheap, the Cab/Shiraz is really good and they are good 4 weeks from when you open them! HOORAY!

What I would do differently:
          Not much- it was really such a perfect day!!
          Music! didn't really think of it :P should've brought our iPod and outdoor speakers

Sunday, September 2, 2012


How did this happen??? My son is ONE! OhEmGee, that can't be so!! It seems like just a few seconds ago we were all like....

and then before I knew it THIS adorable guy is our current roommate:

I just couldn't be happier, or more in love. 

When your little superstar reaches such a milestone as his FIRST birthday, celebration is absolutely in order- and with a one-income-family over here, that meant fabulousness on a frugal budget, which is fast becoming my specialty! 

Thanks to Pinterest (your bff and absolute worst nightmare when planning an event) I did some really simple, inexpensive things that came out really pretty- and thanks to my favorite website EVER- ETSY.COM I  had some stunning invitations, a banner and little thank you tags printed up that really made it extra special!! 

We gathered at the park by our casa to celebrate in the summer sun.

Here's what we served:

The two above couldn't be easier- and fabulous to make-ahead. I put both in disposable containers and bought like a million Kings Hawaiian rolls from Costco so people could make little sammies.
I made the Asian-inspired slaw too- you will find the recipe in the same link as the beef (I mixed it there at the park as suggested) and also made-ahead a greek yogurt slaw for the pork- my husbands creation, but we use this awesome jalapeno greek yogurt dip from Costco- here's what it looks like....

so if you don't know where to find it this recipe is not super helpful
- mix shredded cabbage (purple and green if you can, shredded carrots, then add a few spoonfuls of this amazing dip, squeeze the juice of one to two lemons (just keep mixing and tasting, we usually use one but this was to feed a grip of people so doubled it)- little salt, little fresh cracked pepper, toss, fridge for an hour or more and it's sooooo good!!! 

I also bought cheese tortellini at Costco- boiled it, cooled it- stuck it on pretty bamboo tooth-pick skewer things and served it with pesto in a bowl- awesome, beautiful, EASY vegetarian option!!

For our side dishes I couldn't resist the famous "rainbow of fruit on a stick" from Pinterest:

I used 1 whole pineapple, 1 cantaloupe, 2 containers of strawberries, 1 container of blueberries and a bunch each of purple and green grapes. This made nearly 50 skewers.

Also, for the vegetarian friends that came, I made a cous-cous salad:

Since this was for a large crowd- I made 4 cups of cous-cous- and let it cool. Then added in a handful of chopped Italian parsley, a large jar of kalamata olives (drained, and sliced), 2 containers of feta cheese from Trader Joes, 2 red bell peppers (chopped) and 1 small red onion (chopped)- then, I drizzled in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and squeezed a big fat lemon all over it- tossed it up and fridged it overnight.

We also set up general snacks, like Goldfish crackers and those awesome squeezie packets of fruit for the kiddos....

Is it necessary for me to mention there were cake pops?? DUH.

For the display I wrapped terra cotta pots (super cheap) in tissue paper & tied them with ribbon! EASY!

I also made the "Oreo Pops" which were really easy, AND contrary to what I found on the internet- I did not use double-stuff oreos I had bought a box of the regular ones at Costco and made them work! The trick was to separate the Oreo, getting all the frosting on one side- then dip the stick in candy melt press gently into frosting- glob on a bit MORE candy melt and gently press the other half back on- THEN, let them set up- let the candy melt dry for like 15 minutes before you try to dip them & decorate them. They worked out great!

Over all the party was just how this first year as a mother has been, lots of work, TONS of fun, messy, silly, laughing, dancing and togetherness. 

Happy Birthday my precious blessing, Logan. I love you SO MUCH!!!!!!! Thanks for an amazing first year- can't wait to see what the next one brings.....