a lovely family vacation…san miguel de allende

Our family was in need of a vacation, we all have had a lot going on the past few months and it has been hot and muggy in Los Angeles. It’s too hot to be outside and being cooped up in the house with little kids is no fun at all! It was time to escape summer in Los Angeles! Leo had a week off of preschool so we thought it would be the perfect time for a Mexican getaway.

I had read about San Miguel de Allende on travel sites recently and a few friends have been and raved about it, so we figured… why not?  After five nights there, I have to say I am absolutely in love with the town. San Miguel de Allende has a rich history, the Spanish colonial town has retained much of its old world charm with narrow cobble stone streets (don’t bother to bring a stroller if you go) and centuries old buildings in El Centro, or the historic core of the city which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Though it has a small village vibe and everything is essentially walkable, SMA also has big city amenities like fine dining and art galleries.

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Lenny and Lucy walk down a cobble stone street in El Centro

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Leo and Lucy pose in front of an 18th century door

I had read many times that the population of SMA is about twenty percent American and Canadian retirees who flock there because of the low cost of living, excellent medical care and low crime rates. Because of this I expected more of a tourist trap vibe in the town. While we certainly met a few of these retirees on our trip, the town does not have touristy feel of the other Mexican destinations. Unlike Cancun, Los Cabos or Sayulita, American dollars are not accepted and most people do not speak English. Luckily, my wonderful cousin Carla came with us who speaks Spanish and I was able recall a few basic verbs and numbers from high school.

The landmark of the town is the Parroquia, or Parish church, a beautiful tall Spanish Gothic revival church made of pink sandstone with the accompanying Jardin that serves as the main town square. San Miguel is known for its festivals and parades, I would love to experience Independence Day or Dia de Los Muertos there. Even without at major holiday happening, on the weekend we were there there the Jardin was filled with excitement; wedding marches, Mariachi bands, a blues festival and a military band competition. A lot going on and a ton of fun for the kids.

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The Parroquia

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Dancers in front of the Parroquia

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Lucy and her new kitty in the Jardin

We were amazingly fortunate enough to use a friend’s home at the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende. The property is gorgeous with lush gardens, great restaurants, beautiful pools and most importantly, Rosebuds; a drop off kids clubs with activities for potty trained children that Leo LOVED.

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Leo relaxing in the kid’s pool

The hotel is centrally located and right down the block from Parque Juarez, the largest park in the city with an amazing playground and gardens for the kids to explore.  Most mornings we would grab coffees and pastries and head to the park to play for an hour or two.  Our go to spot in the mornings was Cafe Rama. The art gallery and cafe has a wonderful vibe, amazing egg dishes and coffee and pastries to go.

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Breakfast at Cafe Rama

One of our favorite activities was visiting La Esquina, the Mexican folk toy museum in town. They have three floors of the coolest hand crafted toys. There was really so much to take in at the museum which is filled with new and vintage toys, dolls, rocking horses and the coolest moving toys that were so fancy I would probably never let my children play with them.

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Lucy takes in La Lucha Libre at La Esquina

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Leo plays with a very cool dinosaur racing toy I wanted to take home

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Handmade dolls and our little doll

San Miguel is known for it’s food scene. We didn’t get to partake in many of the highly reviewed restaurants because our children are pretty terribly behaved around dinner time. We did have a lovely meal on the terrace at La Posadita, which has a a beautiful view of La Parroquia.  They also had a spinach and cheese burrito appetizer which was the perfect dinner for the kids, likely the only vegetables they ate the entire trip.

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Carla and Lucy at La Posadita

Lenny and I were able to sneak away for a little shopping and lunch one afternoon and we tried Jacinto 1930 which we really enjoyed. The menu is sort of a Mexican fusion concept, or at least I think it was… I thought I knew a lot of food words in Spanish until I looked at their menu. We both ordered yummy spicy tequila cocktails and shared a composed salad and their version of chilaquiles with burrata which was exceptionally tasty.

The design of the space is beautiful,  I love the contrast of the bold ceramic tiles and modern copper fixtures set in a the historic building which was designed to look stripped down to its supporting walls. Jacinto 1930 is part of a larger complex which holds a food hall, pastry shop, clothing store, book shop, art gallery, and wine and cocktail tasting rooms. One of the more upscale complexes in San Miguel.

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Jacinto 1930 Entrance

We took the kids to Hecho in Mexico for dinner the first night. The casual restaurant has an outdoor courtyard and a diner-esque menu, i.e. a little bit of everything from Mexican to burgers and all in HUGE portions.  Leo and Lucy were squirming in their seats so I didn’t have a chance to take any photos but I stayed and got the check while Lenny and Carla took the kids down the street for ice cream and it was 600 pesos! That’s about 33 dollars for for three adults and two kids to have dinner and drinks- and yes, some of the drinks were beers. No wonder expats love this place.

We ate a lot of meals (and by meals I mean chips and guacamole) at the Rosewood where the food was excellent but I really wish that we were able to try more places in SMA.

Other than the occasional (or frequent, depending on how to you look at it…) toddler tantrum, it was a great vacation. There is so much to do (and eat) in SMA that I am sure we missed a ton of things in the five days that we were there. I can’t wait to go back and explore more.

xo, Lisa

 

 

 

weekend dinner inspiration from the web…

A lot of post about food, I know! But we all have to eat, right?

The internet can be a dangerous place when it come to recipe inspiration.  You can start out with the best intentions; looking for healthy family-friendly recipes for meals and snacks and end up on Pinterest looking at something like “five-minute cinnamon roll dippers.”

Is anyone else’s Facebook feed filled with those “easy” recipe videos of food that will probably kill you but look AMAZING? I saw one yesterday for a “healthy and hearty potato soup” that called for butter, heavy cream, sour cream, cheddar cheese and bacon. I swear my skinny jeans actually spoke and said, “please don’t make that.”

My point is, the internet is a scary place… but fear not! I have wasted hours of my life trolling the web so you don’t have to. Here are some recipes from a few of my favorite sites for healthy, veggie-filled, family meal inspiration…

dinner inspiration1. Oh She Glows– check out these crispy quinoa cakes, they are a great alternative to a processed veggie burger and can be made bite size for the little ones. The opportunity to experiment with these is endless. Don’t have kale? Use spinach. Don’t have quinoa? Try millet.

2. Vanilla and Bean – Check out this chickpea salad. I went through about a month where I always had this in the fridge.  It’s so easy to make and tasty! It is good on it’s own straight out of a bowl, in a pita or (my favorite) on some Mary’s Gone crackers as a snack.

3. Minimalist Baker–  Confession, I totally cheated when I made these and used a box of Spanish rice pilaf from Whole Foods. But they were still really good! If you aren’t familiar with this site check it out.  Tons of veggie-loaded healthy recipes.  Leo also really loves her chickpea blondies (you read that right).

4. Nourish Atelier– Why didn’t I think of this as a dinner idea already?!?!  Cut up veggies and fruit in pretty strips and have your kids fill up their own spring rolls!  Full confession, I haven’t made this recipe yet but this week I did this with sushi papers, sticky rice, carrots, cucumbers and avocado and the kids loved it.

Happy cooking everyone and have a lovely weekend!

xo

Our Purple Carrot review is in!

purple carrot

I’ve vented on this blog before that feeding a family is hard. You know, because everyone knows by now, that you are supposed to feed your kids a diverse diet of mostly fruits and vegetables. It’s just so HARD.  All Leo wants to eat is pizza and cookies. It’s not uncommon for him to abstain from dinner all together when he is served something new, unfamiliar or undesired; which is basically everything that not pizza or avocado sushi rolls. I am very fortunate that Lucy and Lenny will happily eat almost anything that I serve them.

Since we have become vegetarian, figuring out what to cook has been a little more difficult.  I don’t want to get stuck in a pizza and pasta rut and I don’t want to end up substituting eggs and dairy for the meat that we are leaving out because then really, what’s the point?

Enter, The Purple Carrot.

The Purple Carrot is entirely plant-based meal-kit service, that’s right… vegan. Mark Bittman, surprised everyone by leaving his job at the New York Times to become involved a while back. You may know him from the NYT, his cookbooks, or his Vegan before Six diet. The bottom line is that this dude knows good food and he knows how to cook. When I heard this, I was really interested.

I have never tried a meal kit delivery service. My view has always been that they were WAY more expensive than just going to the store and buying something to make dinner. When I heard about Purple Carrot, I was interested because I wanted to learn some new recipes that I could work into our weekly menu. After looking over the offerings for a few weeks, I placed our order.

Here’s what I thought…

The PROS

  1. A lot of diversity in the vegetables, recipes, spices and flavors used. It’s not all kale, people! We are half way into week three and we have made Indian, Korean, and Italian food. I learned that I love parsnips, where two weeks ago I would see them in the store and think, “what could I possibly do with these weird overgrown, pale carrots.”
  2. It makes A LOT of food! enoki  We are doing the family plan, which costs $74 a week for two meals. But that is enough food to feed four of us for dinner and at least 2 or three lunches worth of left-overs.
  3. GREAT RECIPES!  So far, out of five there are two that I am going to add into our regular weeknight dinners. These Pa Jun, Korean vegetable pancakes that everybody loved and a Ribollita that was perfect for a cold night.
  4. Pre-measured ingredients. I am sure it’s this way for every meal delivery service but since this is my first I really love it. Not having to go out and buy a big container of mustard seeds or curry powder when you only need a tablespoon is just awesome. And obviously, not having to measure.
  5. You can skip a week. You get to see the meals ahead of time so if you aren’t into what’s happening next week you can skip, no questions asked (as long as you do it by Thursday).
  6. Totally recyclable or reusable packaging.

The CONS

  1. The meals have a lot of prep. I usually spend a least twenty minutes chopping and rising before I even start cooking while my children are whine on the kitchen floor. Next week, I am going to try to do some of the chopping earlier in the day while Lucy naps.
  2. The family meals aren’t totally “family” friendly in the spice department. I’ve had to leave off chili flakes twice and once I had to create a separate side-dish for my kids because the side dish was kim chi. Luckily, I was paying attention and didn’t just dump a bag of chilis into our dinner per the instructions, or I would have been making macaroni and cheese in addition to my beautiful Purple Carrot meal. This only applies if you have really little ones or your family doesn’t like spice.
  3. It’s expensive. It’s definitely cheaper than ordering take-out but not as cheap as going to the store and buying your own ingredients.

The only other thing I could think of as a negative, that isn’t really a negative to our family, is that the meals are a little adventurous. If your kids are picky eaters and haven’t seen Aloo Paratha or Lentils before you may be met with some resistance. But trying never hurt right?

If you are trying to work more veggies into your repertoire, try the Purple Carrot!

xo

 

a lovely “recipe” for portobello french dips

The whole family was stranded at the Dulles Airport over the holiday, waiting for our delayed plane to arrive. Leo was running all over an empty gate area jumping on chairs pretending to be a superhero and Lucy was making the sign for “more” and digging through my giant purse for food so we decided to sit down and have some dinner. The only place to sit down with the kids to eat that was still open was a “French bistro.”

Eating out  can be tricky now that we are vegetarians. Lenny and I looked over the menu and the only things we could eat were a side of fries and a beet salad. Who wants to eat a beet salad in an airport? Right? While munching on french fries, Lenny kept looking at the menu. He said being a vegetarian hasn’t been hard for him so far (only a few months), but right now he really wanted a french dip. Because, what super-authentic french bistro in an airport doesn’t have a french dip, right?

I took this as a personal challenge. The night after we got back I made french dips. They were not only vegetarian… they were vegan.  Not only were they good… they were great.

I posted a photo on Instagram and so many people asked me for the recipe that I actually made them again and wrote down what I put in them.

Here’s the thing about this recipe, it’s kind of an all-afternoon kind of thing. If you want to skip the gruyere spread and use veganaise or some other kind of cheese- go for it!  If you don’t have time for the au jus maybe experiment with mushroom both or vegetarian “beef’ bullion cubes. I even heard that lipton french onion soup mix is vegan… it’s not exactly clean eating but it’s probably better for you than your average airport french dip right?

Anyways, if you are going to do it all, make the au jus and the “gruyere” way ahead of your mushrooms… you’ll thank me later. I made some errors both times I made these, mainly, using pans that were too small for both the stock and the mushrooms. What a mess! But they were so worth it!

FOR THE AU JUS

2-3 types of dried mushrooms (think they were 1 oz boxes) I used porcini and and shiitake

1 bunch of celery

1 bundle of parsley or greens (I used carrot tops)

2 shallots

1/2 a white onion

teaspoon of peppercorns

YOU MAY NEED

vegetarian chicken boullion cubes (I used Edward & Son’s Not-Chick’n)

vegan Worcestershire sauce (Annie’s brand)

liquid aminos (or soy)

salt to taste

2-3 tablespoons earth balance butter

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Place the mushrooms, peppercorns and all of the veggies in a large stockpot and cover with 10 cups of water.  Cook over high heat until the stock begins to boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. Strain the stock and return to the pot and continue to reduce until you only have about 2 1/2 cups of stock left.  Season with salt. Here is were you decide if the stock will be rich enough for a dip. I ended up adding one chicken bouillon cube to my stock at this point. When it was time to serve I added a few drops of liquid aminos, vegan Worcestershire sauce and a dollop of Earth balance butter to each ramekin.

FOR THE GRUYERE SPREAD

3/4 cup of cashews soaked in water for at least two hours, preferably overnight, drained

1 tablespoon of white miso

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

two cloves on garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)

1-3 tablespoons of water

Place all of the ingredients, except for the water in your blender and blend on high.  Add water, one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is smooth and creamy and has a hummus-like thickness.

FOR THE SANDWICH AND FILLING

1/2 of one large white onion thinly sliced

3 springs of thyme- leaves only

5 large portobello mushrooms- thinly sliced

olive oil

salt and pepper

Red wine

One french baguette

Cook onions in large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat, stir regularly. Add thyme and mushrooms once the onions have started to caramelize. Keep and eye on your mushrooms, until they start to release liquid they could burn easily if crowded in the pan (I know you’re not supposed to crowd mushrooms but who has a pan big enough to hold 6 portobellos without crowding them a little!).  Add more oil if this is a problem, I added 2-3 more tablespoons when making mine. Sauté until the mix is dry and add red wine and finish on high heat for 1 minute. Season with salt and generous amounts of salt  and pepper.

NOW ITS TIME TO ASSEMBLE!

If you’ve made your au jus ahead of time put it back on the stove and warm it to almost a boil.  Ready four ramekins for dipping. This is where I placed a little vegan Worcestershire sauce, liquid aminos and earth balance butter in the ramekins.

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Heat your oven to 400. Slice the baguette in to 4 equal pieces, then slice lengthwise to create four buns and place on a large baking sheet. Generously spread the buns with the gruyere spread.  With your oven rack in it’s highest position put your bread in and turn the oven to broil.  The bread should be warm and brown in about 2 minutes- check it constantly so it doesn’t burn… you know your broiler better than I do.

When your bread is done, divide the filling between the the four buns. Put a pretty toothpick in it if you have one.

Eat your sandwich!  Dip it! Are you exhausted? You’ve earned it.

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Sorry for the terrible photos- they were all taken when it was dark in my kitchen! I promise to do better next time!

#Resolutions

BEST OF 2015

Look at my my best of 2015 collage! What great memories. This past year was a whirlwind.  I felt like I kept saying to myself, “How is it already March?” then April, then May… now 2016 is here! Where does the time go! 2015 was a blur, so many good times but also so much stress and change.  I dealt with some major health issues, we went from being a family with a toddler and a baby to a family with two toddlers, I went back to school, Lenny changed jobs… a lot happened. With everything going on, the big picture stuff got a little lost.  This year Lenny and I sat down and went over our resolutions for the new year, here are some of our family and personal goals for 2016.

FOR THE FAMILY

  1. SUNDAY FAMILY DAY- Between errands, birthday parties, haircuts, playdates, visits from family, etc. The weekends end up being like a game of tennis, passing the kids back and forth, and we rarely do something as a family with just the four of us.  We are going to try to make this a weekly thing from now on.  It may be something as easy as a trip to the park or a beach day, but we are going to make it happen.
  2. PLANT A GARDEN- If you know me, you’re probably laughing.  I am a perpetual killer of tomato plants. We can barely keep our small patch of lawn alive in the backyard. But we are going to do it!  I think with a little determination and a drip irrigation system we can pull this off. I am not talking about an acre of land or anything… just utilizing the side of our yard to grown some herbs, zucchini, carrots and (with any luck) a tomato plant or two. My hope is that if Leo is involved in growing his veggies, he may actually eat more of them.  It’s also a great way to bring down our family’s carbon footprint.
  3. DO A REAL SPRING CLEANING- No cabinet or drawer left unturned! I’ve already started on this one and it feels great. Goodwill, our stuff in coming to you… and there is going to be A LOT of it!

FOR THE KIDS

  1. CUT BACK ON TELEVISION- No television Monday-Thursday for the kids! I am totally guilty of using TV as a crutch while I am trying to get dinner on the table and 15 minutes turns into 30 which turns into 45… No more! We still do a family movie Friday and Leo can watch a show or two on the weekend. Tomorrow begins our first week of this. Wish us luck!

FOR MYSELF

  1. MAKE TIME TO WRITE AND READ- Writing this blog, fiction and or even emails to friends hasn’t been enough of a priority over the last year. This year I am going to literally carve out time of every week to do this.
  2. TRY NEW PLANT-BASED RECIPES- Since our family has gone vegetarian, we have been in kind of a pizza rut.  I need to add some new things into the dinner repertoire. I am doing a vegan month in January (the kids and Lenny are not).  I did this on my own fruition but apparently it’s a real thing. I signed up for The Purple Carrot, which is like a the plant-based Blue Apron for some help in this department, and I have been researching in cookbooks and on Pinterest as well and there is a ton of stuff that I am excited to try! I figure if I make 20 new dinners this month a few of them are bound to be hits that can be added to the monthly menu.
  3. GO TO BED EARLIER- I need to face reality and realized that my kids aren’t going to miraculously start sleeping in anytime soon. My little alarm clocks are going to go off between 6 or 6:30 weather I like it or not so I have to be in bed by 10PM, especially on school nights.

Wow, that seems like a lot (and there are some that I am not even sharing here). Maybe putting them all on the internet will help us stick to them. Here’s to an awesome 2016!

a lovely recipe, butternut squash and black bean quesadillas

quesadillas

Happy Meatless Monday! Now that we are eating vegetarian in our home, it’s meatless every day around here so I need to come up with a few new dinners to throw into the rotation.  These black bean and butternut squash quesadillas are a hit!  The first time I made them was kind of an accident.  I was steaming butternut squash (the frozen and cubed variety) for Lucy, and I realized that I made WAY too much. Voila! A new family favorite was born.

Ingredients
olive oil
1/4 white onion finely chopped
1 clove of garlic chopped (I used Dorot)
1 cup of steamed butternut squash
1 15 oz can of black beans
1 cup of shredded Monterey jack
1/4 cup of cilantro finely chopped (I used leaves and stems)
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
10 inch tortillas (whatever kind you like best)
Pico de Gallo (for serving)

Heat oven to 350.

Sautee your onion in just enough olive oil to coat the pan, about 1-2 teaspoons. When the onion is translucent begins to brown, add the garlic. Sauté for one more minute and set aside to cool.

Add the steamed squash to a large mixing bowl and mash lightly with the back of a fork. Drain and rise the black beans and add to the bowl along with cheese, cilantro, cooled onions and garlic and cumin. Stir well.

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Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat and brush with olive oil add a tortilla and top with 1/2 to 3/4 cup of filling. Fold over and cook on both sides until brown and crispy. Place on baking sheet. Repeat until your filling is gone- this will make about five quesadillas.

If your cheese is not totally melted (mine was not) finish you quesadillas for five to ten minutes in the oven. Serve with fresh pico de gallo or your favorite salsa.

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Some notes- You can easily make this vegan by not using the cheese or replacing with vegan cheese. It would also be awesome to add some jalapeno to this (remove seeds and sauté with onion), but as I cook for toddlers that was not an option for me.

Happy cooking!

Leo + Cecil

Leo Cecil

Leo announced over a week ago that he was going to be a vegetarian. The kid has always enjoyed eating meat, so I was sort of surprised.  He has a few friends that are vegetarian so I know he has heard the word a lot, but I wasn’t sure that he really knew what it meant.

I think what really motivated him were the chickens at his preschool.  He was eating chicken for dinner and he said something along the lines of “is this like the chickens from school?” I told him yes, and he went on eating. The announcement came the following week.

I am really proud of Leo for sticking to his guns. He seems to be genuinely confused and interested in what comes from an animal and what does not. Now before we eat, he asks me if each item is vegetarian. Last night we had “breakfast for dinner” and he wanted bacon, I told him that bacon wasn’t vegetarian and he was totally fine to go without it.

Lenny and I decided that we would join Leo in his vegetarianism but for a different reason…Cecil the lion.  You’re probably confused, I’ll explain.

If you live in the world or spend any time on the internet… and you’re reading a blog so you probably do… you have heard about Cecil the lion.  An American dentist paid around 50k to visit Zimbabwe and kill a lion; it was a trophy hunt.  The people of Zimbabwe are much less upset than Westerners on Facebook. The internet is calling for the execution of the dentist, bans on hunting, bans on airlines carrying hunts trophies- i.e. dead animals.  Almost every time I log into Facebook or check my inbox there is some petition or call to action for Cecil.  It is gut-wrenching to think about this beautiful lion being killed for sport. I liked, e-signed and shared these petitions, but then it started feeling hypocritical.

41 million cows are killed each year to make food, I don’t feel the same level of outrage over this, but why? I even eat them. Why was I so sick over the death of Cecil but OK with eating meat? Picking and choosing what animals to feel compassion for based on which ones we do and don’t eat seemed unfair.  So like Leo, we stopped eating meat.

We’ve been totally meatless for over two weeks now and I have to say that we don’t miss it a bit, we didn’t eat a whole of of meat to begin with.  I’m trying really hard not to fall into eating a ton of pasta or fake meat and actually increasing our veggie intake.

Stay tuned for some recipes in the coming weeks.