Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pizza Feast at Pizza Rock

October is National Pizza Month and I am so behind on writing about this.  (My kids are on a break from school and life is just hectic right now for various reasons.)  After the International Food Blogger's Conference (#IFBC17) on Friday Sept 29, Pizza Rock hosted an event for some of the bloggers and some local food bloggers/Instagrammers.  I'm in both categories so I'm not sure where my invite came from but I'm sure glad it came!  My husband and I agreed that this was the BEST experience of the month!

We were lucky enough to try pizzas from each section of their menu plus an appetizer and a small sample of some cocktails.  Pizza Rock has a huge menu and it's sectioned off into categories like Pizza Romana, Classic American, Classic Italian, Chicago Cracker Thin, and many more.  (They also have non-pizza items if you're into that sort of thing.  I usually am.  But not here.  It's called PIZZA Rock after all.)  It was so interesting to hear Chef Laura Meyer talk about all the different types of pizza and how they vary!

Honestly, it was a long week, a long day, and I didn't get very good pictures of the event.  Also, if I'm honest, I'm having a hard time balancing being social with my friends and new people while taking pictures and doing Instagram stories/other social media.  If you have tips on how you got a rhythm, please leave me a comment with tips!

The appetizer and the cocktails were delicious but the star of the show was the pizza!  All of the pizza was super tasty.  They were all very different which I think it awesome since most places make pizza that all pretty much tastes the same.  Trying different pizzas from areas around the world was an AMAZING experience!

Hubby's favorite was the Detroit Red Top which is baked in a Blue Steel Pan with buttered cheese corners on the outside of the crust.  The lacy crunchy cheese is the texture of parmesan crisps but wrapped around pizza!  It's topped with garlic oil, marinara, pecorino, and oregano.  The crust is really light even though the pizza looks dense.  The toppings are simple which lets the crust really sing.  If you LOVE cheese, this is the pizza for you!

I have two favorites though they were all good.  The New Yorker which is under the Classic Italian section.  It's cooked in an electric brick oven.  I really enjoyed the pepperoni and the house made fennel sausage.  The dollops of pecorino-romano were a yummy addition.  I also loved the Romana #1 which is a such a great concept!  It's an extra long pizza which is  that is split into 3 parts so it's like getting 3 different pizzas in one.  My favorite part of the Romana #1 was the section with the fig preserves, prosciutto, gorgonzola, and balsamic!  The flavor combo of sweet and savory is my jam!

How are you celebrating National Pizza Month?

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Pumpkin Nights in Auburn, California

Tonight, our family got to experience a Media Night preview of Pumpkin Nights in Auburn, CA.  This is the first year that Pumpkin Nights has come to California.  They started in 2016 in Twin Cities, Minnesota.  This year they expanded to Salt Lake City, Utah and Auburn, California.  Pumpkin Nights is an outdoor Halloween festival featuring over 3000 hand carved pumpkins in different displays.  It is spread out over a half mile walk.

We arrived at Pumpkin Nights about 7pm, it was already dark.  Do not go into this event thinking you're gonna get a ton of cute pictures of people unless you're a really skilled low light photographer. (I am not.  I am a bright light photographer.  Low light is not my jam.)  You will however get great pictures of the fun scenery and the kids had a blast.  We brought the kids in costume which was fun but hubby and I opted not to wear costumes.  Other adults wore costumes and they were adorable!  Do you!  I do advise to bring sweatshirts or jackets because it does get chilly at night.

In case you don't know, my kids are 4, 8, and 10.  This is a hard age range to work with since preschool things are "too babyish" for my oldest and my youngest is too little to do most "big kid" things.  Pumpkin Nights worked perfectly for our family.  My youngest loved it!  It was definitely not too scary for her.  My boys loved it too!  There was enough for them to do and the displays were engaging enough for them even though my oldest is "way too cool for everything.  Ugghhhh!"  (You know the age.)

We really enjoyed the intricate cravings of the pumpkins!  There were a few different areas with different themes and I enjoyed how the lighting and the music matched up.  I will say that we are not really Halloween people.  We like it just fine.  We put up a handful of decorations, get the kids costumes, go trick-or-treating, etc... We are not obsessed with Halloween.  If you are OBSESSED with Halloween, you should definitely go to Pumpkin Nights.  It's just an awesome experience.  (I'm not going to post too many pictures because I don't want to spoil it for you.)

Our favorites:
~ Hay Bale Maze!  All my kids loved this and spent at least 20 minutes running through it.  My 4 year old daughter could easily navigate it.  It's definitely not complex and small children/toddlers will do fine in it.  I think there's something about it being nighttime and all the fun lights that made it extra fun.
~ Movie screen with Harry Potter.  They have hay bales out for seating but there's also a couple benches over there to sit on.  It's showing every night at 7pm.  You could plan to watch the whole thing if you wanted to.  We liked taking a little break and watching for a bit.  You could even grab your food and head up to watch as you finish eating.
~ Pumpkin Galaxy which leads into the maze and movie area was our favorite themed area.  The kids loved dancing to the music.  There were fun lights that flashed around.  Don't miss what someone called the "car wash" area to the right of the main Pumpkin Galaxy display.  It was metal spinning thingies (I know, very scientific) covered with pool noodles and the kids had a blast running through it.
~ Pumpkin carver.  He was super cool to watch!  He moved so fast and the music in the area was great too!  We sat down and watched him while enjoying a snack.

Auburn is about an hour drive from our house so it's a bit of a trek.  We ended up spending about an hour and a half at Pumpkin Nights.  We might have been able to stay longer but it is a Thursday and the little one has school tomorrow.  If we were to go again, I would have tried to make a day out of it.  I probably would have tried to meet up with some friends, plan to eat dinner there, and then hang out until we were exhausted.  I would also look for deals on tickets.  On their website, they have a list of discounts.

Our family had a really great time!  The outdoor atmosphere works really well for the kids.  The freedom to be able to run and express their excitement is always a plus for my kids.  It was actually really relaxing for me which I can't say a lot because I'm so high strung.  (TMI?)  We walked, we ohh'd and ahhh'd, we laughed, we danced, we took pictures, and it was a great night of family fun!

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Healthy Snacks for On the Go

School is in full swing and between pick up, drop off, errands, dance classes, and martial arts, I can barely get a break.  Is anyone else feeling like that right now?  Today, I'm sharing what I put in my on the go snack bag because no one likes a hangry mommy.

I try to keep healthier snacks in the car or my purse to keep me.  I also try to have self stable options that I can carry around so that I don't have to worry about bringing an ice pack or finding a fridge.  Also, I am one of the clumsiest people you'll ever meet do I try to find things that are sturdy because having smashed banana all over your phone isn't very fun.  I also try to keep snacks that I can hand to my kids too because no one likes a hangry kid.

1. Beef Jerky.  Jerky is my favorite healthy snack.  Obviously, you can change that out for turkey jerky too if you'd like.  I find that protein keeps me full and satisfied.  My whole family loves it so this is our go-to road trip snack as well.  I've recently really started like "original" flavored jerky which is usually lower in sugar than the other flavors.

2. Arbonne Bars.  I think bars are the easiest, most convenient healthy snack.  I really like these Arbonne Bars because they are lower in sugar than other bars but they have lots of vegan protein and fiber.  I also like that buying these bars supports my local mom friends who sell Arbonne.

3. Eat Right Edibles Veggie Chips.  I love this brand because they are really health conscious and keep up with the current food trends!  They are also a local company.  They never add artificial dyes to their products.  This chip bag contains sweet potato (yellow and purple), squash, taro, carrot, and green beans.  I feel like some times I just need a crunchy snack and these fit the bill for me.

4. Almonds.  I live in what feels like the almond capital of the world which is lucky because they are my favorite nut!  Often times I will pick up almonds at my local farmers market or sometimes I'll pick something up at the store like these Hog Wild cajun almonds.  I LOVE spicy almonds!  I love spicy flavors AND it usually makes me drink more water so it's a win win.  Sometimes I'll have lightly salted almonds and sometimes I treat myself to the chocolate ones too.

What kind of snacks do you like when you're on the go?  Do you also feel like you run a taxi service for small children who never tip you?  Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

1 Dress, 3 Different Ways Collab w/ The Smiling Sweetheart (Plus Sized)

Do you ever meet someone and just know that they are going to be one of your people?  That's how I felt about Mona from The Smiling Sweetheart.  She is an amazing fashion blogger that lives in my town.  I saw her at an event and I thought to myself "I want to meet that girl!"  Sadly, the event passed by and I didn't get a chance to meet her so I did what any normal person would do and stalked her on Instagram.  After liking and commenting on her photos for a little bit, I asked her if we could meet for coffee and talk about a collaboration.  When I met Mona in person, it's like my heart sang!  She just gets me and she's so genuine and lovely!

For our collaboration, I asked if she would help me style a little black dress.  As a mom, I can't always spend a lot of money on different outfits.  I figured if I could take a staple from my wardrobe and make the most of it, that's the way to go.  Of course, as a plus sized lady my forever favorite staple is the little black dress!  If I'm ever feeling insecure and I don't know what to wear, I throw on a black dress.  It's timeless and can be dressed up or down.  I asked Mona to help me work on modernizing my accessories since a lot of the stuff I have is dated (read: very old from when I used to work outside the home.)

The base for ALL my outfits is my Lularoe Carly dress.  It is a t-shirt style dress and made of a cottony material.  It has a high-low hemline and a small pocket on the chest.  It's one of my favorite pieces as it transitions into all seasons for me.  Please head over to Mona's blog learn why she picked the accessories for each outfit!  (Here is the direct link to Mona's Collab Post.)

Let's start with a family day look!  Here is the collage Mona sent me.

Here is the look we put together.  We decided to add a hat for some sun protection.  I'm OBSESSED with this hat from Pomegranate Designs!  I figure being a food blogger makes it totally ok to wear a knife on my hat.  

Dress: Lularoe | Jacket: Old Navy | Shoes: Rocket Dog | Hat: Pomegranate Designs | Tote: Charming Charlie | Necklace: Borrowed from Mona

The next look is for going out to coffee or meeting up with girlfriends.  I think this look works for both day or night.  

Dress: Lularoe | Jacket: Old Navy | Shoes: Payless Shoes | Bag: Madison West | Necklace & Earring Set: Charming Charlie

The last look is for date night!  Normally I wouldn't wear such a casual dress on a date but I think the look really works!

Dress: Lularoe | Shoes: Simply Be | Clutch and Necklace: Charming Charlie

Huge thank you to The Smiling Sweetheart for styling me for this blog post!  She showed me different brands to shop with for plus sized items and wide width shoes.  That was super exciting! She was also so encouraging when we were taking photos and trying things on.  Everyone needs someone like Mona in their corner!  

A big thank you to Photography by Yasmeen for these AMAZING photos!  I love them all!  

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Southwest Bean Salad Featuring Jacob's Cattle Beans

Last month I was contacted by Slow Food Sacramento an organization that promotes "good, clean, and fair food for all."  They asked me to participate in a Mystery Ingredient promotion that would feature local farms.  If you know me, you know I love my local farms and farmer's markets!  I'm so grateful to live in the Sacramento area where I can buy so much food locally!  I accepted the challenge and waited anxiously for my mystery ingredient to come.

I was so excited to receive some Jacob's Cattle Beans from Elegant Beans.  I learned so much when I opened the package.  Did you know that there are beans that are almost extinct?  I only knew about nearly extinct animals.  I didn't realize that this also effected plants!  I also didn't even know that we had a local bean farm.  Elegant Beans and Beyond been farming in our area for 160 years!  

Onto the recipe!  I struggled a bit coming up with a recipe for beans since I really wanted to make a soup but it was 110 degrees outside so no one wanted to EAT said soup.  I decided to do a spin on a side dish I make that my family loves which is a dressed cucumber dish with lime and chili powder.  I used my Instant Pot (affiliate link here) to cook the beans and it was SO quick!  I was sent a cute sample sized bag of beans and I'm guessing it was a cup or so of beans?  I don't know.  I added 3 cups of water and cooked them for 40 mins and they were perfect!  No soaking, no prep work.  It was amazing!  

Here's the recipe:

3 C Jacob's Cattle Beans, cooked
1/2 a Cucumber, diced
1 Jalapeno, finely diced 
2 Ears of Corn, cooked and cut off the cob
1 cup Grape Tomatoes, halved
1/2 a Lemon
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper, Chili Powder to taste
Cilantro for Garnish 

Combine beans and vegetables in a bowl.  Dress with lemon and olive oil.  Season to taste.  Chill for at least 1 hour for the flavors to marry.  Serve with lemon and cilantro.  If you don't want heat, you could substitute the jalapeƱo for a Serrano pepper or even a bell pepper.

This is a great Meatless Monday meal since there is a ton of protein in the beans.  However, you could also serve it as a garnish to a quesadilla or other Mexican food.  This bean salad would also be great for a potluck since there's no dairy or mayo.  If you make this, please tag me in a photo!  I'd love to see what you think of it!  

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