September 29, 2015

California Donuts

So the hubs and I took a short and sweet vacation to California at the end of August.  My dad's side of the family lives in Southern Cali - about an hour from LA; so we visited with my aunt and two cousins and the entire trip was truly a blast!  Long story short, my husband loves drums and has played them since he was a little tyke.  He has quite a few favorite drummers and one of them was going to be in LA for one night- a one man band. Literally.

Legendary drummer, Terri Bozzio, rarely performs in the US as he lives in Japan and does tours around there.  My husband really wanted to see him so we basically made seeing this guy an excuse to take a trip to Cali and visit my family! We did A LOT in four days!  

A few random photos of what we did:

Breakfast in Hollywood: Mel's Drive In.  Ham, avocado and cheddar omelet topped with sour cream. 

Temecula County :"Wine country" Filet Mignon salad for lunch on our first day there. This was at a quaint restaurant called The Gambling Cowboy.  I can't even with this salad.  DEELICIOUS!  I devoured all of it. Gone.  Bye.

Beautiful vineyards.

Graumann's Chinese Theater, Hollywood Blvd.

Hollywood Walk of Fame

L.A. at night

Tour bus. Beverly Hills sign .Man's head blocking it.

Awesome restaurant!  I'll have to write about this place in a separate post.

Bottemless Mimosas while waiting for the tour bus.  Realistically, we both only had time to down 1 1/2 glasses.  Still refreshing!

OK. So. These donuts.  Yes!

It's not a walk in shop. You order at the window and it seems when you're next in line, you to have to point and show the employees what you'd like to order instead of saying it out loud. It was a little strange, but they got our order correctly the first time. I'm assuming it's just the way they do it there. Hey, whatever works. On our way back to my aunt's house, we decided to try and find this place for an early afternoon snack. It was our only chance. After wasting about 20 minutes driving around the most shady of shade areas in LA, our first destination for California Donuts was not a real one. We honestly felt we were going to be wacked when we walked inside this place.

I remember thinking, "where are the happy cereal donuts?" this place looked sad, sad, sad. We got out of there quicker than you can say the word donut. We were about five minutes from the original shop. The area is still not the best but once I spotted those Panda donuts and saw the retro logo sign, I knew we were golden! The store is located in a very small shopping center with probably only five parking spaces- no joke. So we found a food store parking lot three blocks away and walked over. Thankfully the line wasn't too long, and we were able to order our donuts, pay and leave within ten minutes. I held onto those box of donuts with care on the walk back to the car. We ate all three donuts in the car, taste testing each one and I can't even tell you how incredible they were, but I'll try.

We ordered the m&m donut, lucky charm and fruity pebbles.

-sweet but surprisingly not over kill
-the dough was so fluffy and fresh- I can't even.
-each donut is unique and is completely distinguished in its own flavors. And rightfully so!
-ALL were good.  My favorite?  The fruity Pebbles donut.  The crunchy texture from the pebbles was just awesome next to the icing flavor and warm, fluffy dough.
-my husband's favorite was the m&m! 

I follow a lot of random food instagram accounts, because well, food is awesome and I just adore a good quality food photo.  For a few months, I was seeing these incredible looking donuts all over the place on Insta and couldn't help but become more curious.  These donuts were so vibrant in color and were studded with all of my favorite, and probably America's favorite cereals growing up:

Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Lucky Charms
Fruit Loops
Cap n' crunch
Fruity name a few.

And here is their menu as they have so many other delectable treats as well.  Too many to name! These concoctions looked way too irresistible to not try and find this place and take a bite or ten.
As noted above: There is apparently ONE ORIGINAL California donuts and two other impostors!  

 Here is the original home of California Donuts address:
3540 W 3rd St.
Los Angeles, 90020

We didn't bring Claire along on the trip as right now, I can't imagine traveling that far with an 18 month old. No. Way. I can see if you don't have family nearby to watch the baby, then you have to take them with you.  Thankfully we do and it worked out nicely with both sets of parents watching her. Also, the trip just would not have been what it was if she was with us.  Some days I can't wait until she's 4.  From what I hear, 4 is a great age, albeit, it still comes with its challenges.

The moral of this tasty story?  When in LA, make a plan to stop by California Donuts. The ORIGINAL.  You'll be so glad you did!  I wish I had taken more shots of each donut but I think we devoured all of them within five minutes.  #worthit

In the mean time, have a look at the hubs breakfast at the airport going home.  Cinnamon Bun French Toast.  omggggg.

September 28, 2015

Dinner at Ristorante Fieni's

I'd have to thank my best friend and her boyfriend for mentioning this gem to us in the first place. 

Hi Lauren and Curt!

I believe it's been a year since my husband and I have been going to this lovely Italian restaurant.  I'm honest when I say that the exterior of the restaurant could use a little face lift, but I also think that's what makes this place so special.  It's deceiving from the outside.  It's a smaller setting, but there are quite a few tables and hidden back rooms that I swear I don't even notice until we go again.  It's BYOB here, which, who doesn't love places like that?  The tables are dressed with a distinct look of older Italian; for example, white table cloths and burgundy napkins. 

There's a basked filled with fresh white bread as soon as you sit down, with butter packets and an olive oil and fresh garlic dip.  I'm not the biggest fan of butter packets at nice restaurants, but again, I think this place likes to keep things traditional and unique.  It's charming in a way. The staff is welcoming and you immediately feel like you're part of the family.  My husband is kind of obsessed with this place and whenever we do a date night, Ristorante Fieni's is usually the first place he mentions.  I think we've been there maybe a dozen times at this point.  I typically have gotten something different with each visit and my husband sticks with what he knows; but he's tried at least three different dishes there so far.  Most of their food is so delicious that it can be hard to choose what to eat.

We have tried the following dishes:

-Tortellini Bolognese
-Lobster Ravioli
-Chicken Parm
-Eggplant Parm
-Fettuchini Alfredo
-Seafood Risotto (shrimp, crab, scallops, amazing)
*Each entree comes with their soup of the day or a garden or Caesar salad. The salads are prepared wonderfully.  They'll ask if you'd care for fresh cracked black pepper.  You should always reply with a YES.

-garlic mashed potatoes
-broccoli rabe
-string beans
-potato gnocchi


September 27, 2015

Healthier Dark Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

So the other day during work hours, I had some down time.  Claire was (finally!!) napping and so I decided to look up recipes that included bananas. I had three very ripe-on their last leg- bananas that I didn't want to waste.  I rarely make any kind of breads because from experience, they've turned out not so pretty.  One time, one wasn't even fully cooked through. *See below*

 This was a cranberry, banana and orange zest bread.  It looks good, but it was not.

I googled 'healthy banana bread' and came across a recipe that sounded fairly simple , the ingredients sounded good and basic and I had every single one of them on hand. Well, unfortunately, I can't completely give credit where credit is due because after writing down the ingredients, I eventually had more work to finish up, Claire would wake up and the day got away from me.  I'm glad I jotted the ingredients down. I took a shot and guessed at how I'd prepare this banana bread and it seemed to work!  Because this is probably the best banana bread I've ever made and I think I've made two others before.

It's got a nice crunchy, baked texture on the outside, and moist and fluffy and chocolaty and banana-y on the inside.  The only thing I changed from this recipe was using dark chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet.  I slightly recall the name of the website: something Rasha...I think she was a pretty Indian woman.

Thanks pretty Indian woman! Your recipe for this healthier chocolate chip banana bread is simply wonderful!

Now that it's Fall, I'm all about baking a little more and having a yummy and warm fresh baked item for breakfast with my coffee.  It seems so fitting.

I really think you'll love this banana bread.

Healthier Dark Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

 Makes 1 loaf

What you'll need:

1 cup AP Flour
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 -3 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 2 cups)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk (I use skim)
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup or a little more!  dark chocolate chips or semi-sweet.

What you'll do:

1) pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
2) In a large bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla, milk, olive oil and brown sugar. I like to use a whisk.
3) mash the bananas well with a masher or fork and add them to the egg mixture.
4) combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a smaller bowl. 
5) add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well.
6) Fold in the chocolate chips.
7) grease a loaf pan with cooking spray (8.5inch)
8) pour the batter in the greased pan and bake for 50-60 min until the top is golden and the toothpick/tester comes out clean.  
9) If you like, scatter a few more chocolate chips on top of the batter before placing in oven.

All ovens are different.  I baked mine for an hour, but next time I might try 50-55 minutes. It was still cooked through wonderfully and very moist on the inside.

 Hope you like it!


September 25, 2015

Working in my bed

So, when I work from home, I tend to start my day with a workout/shower/coffee/and go right back into bed.  To do work. Until 5pm.  It sounds appealing but can be monotonous.   When I first began, I would mix up my days with working from my bed or bringing everything down to the kitchen table.  I'm all for a change of scenery but being in the kitchen for more than three hours made me want to A) eat everything in the cupboards and B) make some kind of baked good.  Positive outlook indeed, but not too productive.

I actually do a lot of things around my laptop.  It's weird and kind of convenient I guess.

 Note:  I only eat foods that don't involve crumbs around my  keyboard.  But peanut butter is a close one as it would be hell to clean up between those keys.  I just realllly wanted peanut butter on a spoon this particular day.

This is the only time I actually remember doing work at the kitchen table.  The first year with a baby truly is a blur. 


If you do work from home, where do you typically work and how do you organize/ vary your days?

I'll probably be keeping this bed-desk up for a while unless I come up with a cooler name.

September 24, 2015

A Balancing Act: Food

I think that when it comes to food, the thing we get the most caught up in are calories. Calories are calories, in healthy foods and not-so-healthy foods. At the end of the day, just eat when you feel hungry and don't worry about "what it is."

I'll give you an example.  My relationship with food is healthy and a good one in my opinion.  I'm not a picky eater,  (I am a person who really enjoys food) I just try to balance what I eat day to day and I try to leave my options open.  So today, mine and my husband's work schedule didn't line up for me to fit a workout in.  I slept decent but woke up around 5:30 and just did not want to move.  I just rested there and fell asleep for another half hour.  It felt nice but I was still tired most of the day. I took it easy and ate what I felt like eating.  I didn't go overboard, I just ate when I felt hungry.  

Today's eats:

2 cups of coffee at 7am and 10am. *necessary*
small bowl of life cinnamon cereal with blueberries and skim milk
a dark chocolate chip pumpkin cookie
a HUGE peach
about 12 pretzel sticks with some peanut butter
3 Oreo's
4 bottles of water throughout the day
3 amazingly tasty slices of Sicilian pizza for dinner- OMG so good!
some more water 

I'm all about routine, but not when it comes to food.  When I want to keep it lighter some times or if we just got back from vacation, I might make much healthier choices, but I believe in just going with how your body feels. Today felt tiring and I ate a little bit more than usual throughout my day, but when I re-read the list, it's not so horrible.  

It's healthy.  It's food.

Want my advice?  Get ready because it's groundbreaking:  Eat when you feel hungry, do the day upon how you feel, enjoy food because it's pretty awesome, drink water throughout the day and exercise when you can.


See?   Groundbreaking stuff.


What are your thoughts on food and exercise?  
How do you balance your day when it comes to food?