Family

One of my best friends moved to Portland last year and I finally made a trip across the country to visit her. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was for this trip and it proved to be everything I imagined and more. I have this really weird attraction to Pacific Northwest, the last 7 books that I read all took place in Pacific Northwest. Recently someone asked me what would be my perfect place to retire, the answer was Pacific Northwest, and I have never even been there. I guess part of me sees it as a perfect “home” because it has it all – mountains, ocean, nature, innovative cuisine and vineyards:) I took the first flight of a day, so I landed in Portland by 10am and we spent the whole day visiting every corner of the city – East and West side, downtown, 23rd Avenue, Portland City Grill, water falls, Washington State Park and by 9pm (of course Portland time) I was done, completely asleep on Shannon’s couch. The next day, we went to Portland Fresh Market – all I can say, why don’t we have something like this in Miami – absolutely amazing. Following the fresh market, we built up a good appetite and went to Saturday Market – if you are looking for unique, this is the place to be. I had an amazing burrito, but unfortunately no picture to capture the beauty of this meal as I was so hungry I was even thinking straight. Saturday afternoon was spent visiting the vineyard and lavender farm and local beach. No matter where you turn, the beauty of the nature takes over and leaves me absolutely speechless. To finish of the busy Saturday, Shannon picked an amazing restaurant – Bellytimber…we probably drove our waitress crazy, but it was only because we enjoyed everything that they served us. The most interesting choice of the night were baked chickpeas. Sunday was probably the most amazing day – wine tasting and nature sightseeing. We started our day by visiting the wine room – Ponzi, where I had my first glass of Pinot Gris before noon (technically it was 3pm EST) and a very heavy lunch, but worth every bite. The food was great, but the service was awful…granted, we were one of the first customers of a day there, but the service should still be exceptional…oh well…From there we went to vinery Erath where we tasted some great wines and I will be placing an order this weekend as I realize that I have never had such good Pinot Gris before. From there we stopped at a local jelly shop where for the first time I tasted marionberries and XXXXXX. I had to buy some and bring home and it was certainly a hit with the chef.After few sweets, we visited XXXXX vinery and the atmosphere was amazing. They had great Jamaican music playing and wine stations all over their property with picnic tables set-up in between, where you can bring your own food and enjoy a gorgeous day in Oregon hills.

 

I was visiting a friend, and quickly found myself falling in love with everything the city had to offer. I enjoy the low-key lifestyle in her neighborhood, proximity to downtown, and to hiking and running trails. And of course I likes the infinite number of restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries at her fingertips

Nestled in the evergreen-laden Willamette Valley, near the Pacific, Portland is surrounded by greenery, mountains and rivers. The sweeping views are enough to make you feel like Julie Andrews, singing on top of a mountain (only in this scenario, that mountain you’re standing on is probably Mt. Hood, or Mt. Saint Helens).

Amid historic state parks, hiking trails and rugged terrain lies a vibrantly eclectic city. Portland definitely has its quirks (the city’s motto is “keep Portland weird”), but there’s so much more than what you see on Portlandia. True, you will find a good number of hippies, hipsters and perfectly coifed lumberjack beards, but you’ll also find a friendly city with strong eco-friendly values, an impressive bicycling culture, and an even more impressive food scene.

Besides its breathtaking views and numerous outdoorsy activities, PDX is also famous for its quirky doughnuts, killer coffee and a vast number of microbreweries and wineries. Portland’s also known for its food carts (there are currently over 600!), and happens to be one of the most vegan and vegetarian friendly restaurants in the country.

Ready to pack your bags yet? Read on to find out exactly where you should sip and sup throughout this wonderfully weird city!

Lovejoy Bakers is a fabulous Pearl District spot for outdoor (as well as indoor) people watching. My usual routine is to order a 12 oz. Americano with room for cream, and a ciabatta roll with scrambled egg and butter, find a chair outside and watch the people go by while I “work.”

Tip: Anything made with their ciabatta roll is worth ordering.

I’ve always been one of those people who likes to have 5 things going on at once: when I’m “watching TV,” you’ll most likely also find me scrolling through Instagram, doing my nightly stretches, flossing, texting, or all of the above. The problem with always multitasking is that it prevents me from ever being fully present in the moment, and sometimes it feels like life is rushing by so fast that I might blink and miss it.

Family

Hot damn, I love cauliflower. It’s a good thing that cauliflower is cheap because I go through it like crazy. If 2015 was the year of kale, 2018 is all about the old time favorite…cauliflower. Once old and forgotten, this giant flower has become cool again. Cauliflower doesn’t need much to be delicious on its own. Cauliflower can get along very well with meat. But it can also put meat straight out of a job. After all, the cauliflower is a magic vegetable.

Szechuan Tofu with Cauliflower

It’s Monday night, school night…I needed a quick, simple and flavorful dish and I turned to my old time favorite, Schezwan Tofu and Cauliflower dish.

Schezwan Tofu and Cauliflower is one quick Chinese vegetarian main dish recipe, which is a combination of sweet, savory and spicy flavors.

A happy and fulfilling meal filled with flavorful bites is what you can expect from this dish. You can serve it with noodles or rice. My choice tonight was Kiki’s favorite, Jasmine rice. The girl can’t get enough of it.

Szechuan Tofu with Cauliflower

Easy to prepare, fast and simple, Schezwan Tofu and Cauliflower packs a punch in terms of flavor and healthy eating. Go ahead, add it to your meal planning rotation. And if you’re not sure if your kid will like tofu, I promise you with this recipe they won’t even know. Make sure you buy the extra firm tofu, it will be much easier to prepare.

Szechuan Tofu with Cauliflower

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 3/4-in. cubes
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup unsalted vegetable stock, divided
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 3 cups cauliflower florets
  • 2 cups thinly diagonally sliced celery
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

 Directions

  1. Pat tofu dry with paper towels. Place 7 teaspoons cornstarch in a large bowl. Add tofu; toss to coat. Remove tofu from bowl. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add tofu; cook 6 minutes or until golden and crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove tofu to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  2. Combine remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 1/4 cup stock in a bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Stir in remaining 3/4 cup stock, soy sauce, vinegar, and hoisin.
  3. Add cauliflower to remaining oil in pan; cook 3 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add celery and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add ketchup and pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring to coat. Add stock mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until liquid is slightly thickened. Add cooked tofu; toss. Top with green onions.

Family

Happy birthday my dearest! I am not able to put into words how much I love you. You’ve had my whole heart from the moment I laid my eyes on you. You are the face that launched a thousand sleepless nights. You are a thinker, posing intricate questions, and remembering small details. I am so grateful and honored to be your mom. I think you are the most incredible seven-year-old I have ever met.

Today You Are Seven

Today You Are Seven

You make me laugh with your wittiness, and you make me feel like I’m talking to a friend whenever we just start talking about random stuff. You’re very independent, and you have a very generous nature.  I live for you kind heart, gentle soul and for you always choosing you even when it’s not easy.

Today You Are 7

I hope that this birthday is seven times more exciting and seven times more unforgettable. Don’t be afraid to dream bigger and to make that dream come true. Take more chances and get ready to be rewarded richly! Your future is bright and beautiful, my sweet doll.

I love you so much! Happy 7th birthday!

Family

Somewhere in the Rules of Motherhood there is a chapter titled Moms Don’t Get Sick. Now, we all know this is far from the truth, even the best of us sometimes can’t fight off all the germs. Being sick is never fun but being sick when you’re a mom is the worst hell imaginable. Not only do [single]moms/dads make the worst patients, [single]moms/dads make the worst sick people in general: We don’t rest, we don’t give our bodies time to heal, and we can’t stop doing all the things a parent has to do.

No matter how much hand sanitizer we use and bone broth we sip, at some point, it happens: we get sick.

Unfortunately, enjoying a quiet, restful day in bed is not an option for most moms. So, what’s a mom to do? Here are some tips to help you survive a [single]mom/dad sick day.

1. Call in the reinforcements. Don’t be too proud to call in reinforcements if necessary!

2. Simplify meals. For a sick mom, feeding her family can be a huge challenge. Keep it simple by ordering take out, raiding the freezer or letting the kids eat cereal for dinner is perfectly OK.

3. Let go of normal. Allowing extra TV or video game time helps to entertain the kids so mom can rest. When you are sick, just focus on making sure they’re fed and changed. Let go of the ‘normal’ parenting rules for a few days.

4. Find more entertainment. When mom is sick, anything goes; the goal is to keep the kids entertained, but as quiet as possible throughout the day.

As moms, we do so much for our families and when we aren’t feeling well, a smoothly run household can spiral out of control fast. It’s okay to let the house go and rely on others for a few days. If mom has time to rest, she should be back to her old self in no time. If you don’t have your health, you have nothing. If you’re running on empty you have nothing left in the tank to give out. As single moms/dads it’s vital that we prioritize our health, because everything is on us. And eventually, if you don’t prioritize it, you will come crashing down.

I don’t usually have a lot of time to just be, and to reflect on life. But basically, what it comes down to is that I’ve just been putting too much pressure on myself. And I’m going to take some time to chill. I think it’s an important lesson, and one which shouldn’t only be realized when we’re sick.

So how do you cope when the lurgy strikes and you are on your own with kids?

I make grill cheese sandwiches and fire roasted pepper and tomato soup…it’s good for the soul! This soup is flavorful, creamy, healthy and what’s a tomato soup without the grilled cheese sandwich made with gouda cheese that gives it a rich, unique flavor and smooth texture.

Family

Happy Thanksgiving week!

As an expat, I have embraced Thanksgiving as one of my favorite American holidays! The focus is on gratitude, great food and wine, not to mention it is socially acceptable to go for seconds, and thirds and leftovers are all the reason for overcooking! To be honest, I still don’t get the marshmallow and sweet potato thing, but… Everyone seems to be in a good mood and it feels like the official kick off to the Holiday season.

My fairy godmother S and I are hosting what started off as a smallish Thanksgiving dinner, has now turned into 15+ of our dearest and closest family and friends and I am loving every bit of it…we’re calling all the shots on the menu and wines…like I said, my idea of heaven! I guess you can say, I am finally an adult. The day you host your first Thanksgiving is the official crossover to adulthood!

We are doing a fairly traditional Thanksgiving dinner of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cauliflower cheese gratin, cranberry sauce, gravy, lima beans, apple pie and never-ending list of appetizers. As you might expect, wine will be flowing, but we asked each guest to bring their favorite bottle of wine. Perhaps I am more excited about the wines than the dessert.

Needless to say, I will not be getting up for any Black Friday shopping but I will indulge in the leftovers, probably my favorite thing about Thanksgiving. Here are a few of the recipes that I would love to try…

Turkey-Bacon-Avocado Grilled Cheese

Thanksgiving Leftovers Breakfast “Burritos”

Next-Day Thanksgiving Pastries [probably my favorite]

Three cheese turkey cranberry and sage quesadilla

Leftover Chicken or Turkey Pasta Skillet

 Leftover Stuffin’ Muffins

 

Family

October is perfect in every way, but I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. I love that it starts to get colder outside and humid mornings become a thing of a past. What I don’t like is the holiday that everyone seems to love so much: Halloween. Go ahead, gasp in disbelief. I’m so used to that reaction.

halloween

From the overwhelming task of picking a clever costume to pumpkin spice flavored everything, Halloween is not all it’s cracked up to be.  There’s so much pressure to have a good time. Picking a costume is stressful. Couples costumes are the worst. Guessing what someone’s costume is can be awkward (yup it happened to me today for the office Halloween dress up). Candy corn starts taking over shelves and somehow I still have the candy from last year sitting around. Previews for pointless horror movies increase tenfold. Pumpkin Spice everything is overwhelming. And pumpkin carving is a lot harder than it looks.

I have softened up a bit and became more accepting of Halloween since Kiki has been around: how can you resist the miniature monsters, ghosts, superheroes, witches and princesses? I’m still not dreaming of a Halloween filled with Reese’s peanut butter cups, mini Snickers and king-size Hershey’s bars, but as a “reward for Halloweening around” I’ve been dreaming of perfect wine pairings with all of my favorite candy!

halloweencandy

I am a firm believer that parents should get “paid” for Haloweening around in candy currency…choose your favorite and enjoy the double treat! Now this is a Halloween I can get behind…  what’s better than my favorite wines paired with my favorite candy… #heaven! Let the party begin!

candyandwinepairing

Family

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!” Dr. Seuss

First Day of School

My dearest Kiki…Today you started the new chapter in your life – you started first grade. Today I hugged you fiercely, and somehow found the strength to let go and send you on your way. Each day you are growing older, kinder and wiser and each day I will step back a little more to allow you to be the girl you are destined to be. But remember, I am always your mama and always ready for a hug, a cuddle or to answer any of the thousands of questions you have at any given time. You are smart.  You are kind.  Generous.  Caring.  Compassionate.  Confident. Funny.  You are a better version of myself and your dad. I wish you could see what I see when I look at you.  I wish you could see how comfortable you are with who you are.

There is a whole world out there and you are just dipping your toes into it and I know that you are going to make it yours. I cannot wait to watch you take 1st grade by storm.

First Day of First Grade

I hope you always have the confidence to be brave, strong and kind.

Love,

Mama

Family

Last three weeks have been pure magic. I am running on adrenaline, sugar highs, copious amounts of coffee and rosé. Both Kiki and I celebrated our birthdays and Mother’s Day over and over, and if it was up to us, we would both continue with celebrations. I guess an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

One of my biggest fears when I became a single mom is how does one celebrate occasions like Mother’s Day without feelings of loss, emptiness, awkwardness, sadness, and anger… I was worried not so much for me, but for Kiki and how she would feel with a surmounting pressure to do something special for her mom without anyone’s help. There is this expectation and facade that somehow every mother should be waited on hand and foot and taken to an amazing brunch, gifted lavish gifts and flower arrangements. Mother’s Day has a way of making single moms feel quite alone, kind of like Valentine’s Day can remind single people how single they are.

Happy Mother's Day

No one teaches you how to be a single mom and how to celebrate these holidays, but somehow I was given a set of fairy godmothers and a thoughtful ex who made sure I felt loved, cherished and celebrated. I am thankful that my daughter is growing up surrounded by positive role models of strong, fearless, kind, thoughtful, loving women and a father, who shows respect and thoughtfulness to her mom despite our divorce.

Single Mom Mother's Day

This Mother’s Day, Kiki and I were in NYC [Kiki’s only birthday wish] with two of my best friends whom I call my fairy godmothers and on Sunday morning I woke up to my favorite Starbucks breakfast in bed with a pink flower and a card.  All the while there was a beautifully decorated Mother’s Day cake waiting for me at home. Kiki’s dad arranged for Kiki to decorate a cake at school along with multitude of cards with  scribbles “I love you mama! You’re the best mama ever!”  The thoughtfulness of these gifts – the planning and the effort and the surprise – moved me to tears and somehow made for a difficult day to be truly a day of love and cherishment. The best part – how excited Kiki was to do all these things for me with a little help of her fairy godmothers! The glimmer of happiness in her eyes was the best gift a mother could receive on Mother’s Day!Mother's Day in Bed

 When they say “it takes a village”…it truly does, because I don’t know how I would navigate this crazy life of single motherhood without my village.

To all the single parents out there, know that you are always loved and cherished by the little people that made us parents and my only hope for each and everyone one of you is to have your village!

Family

“On the day that you were born the angels got together and decided to create a dream come true. So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair of golden starlight in your eyes of blue!” – the carpenters

Today You Are Six

 I can’t believe it has been six years since you came into my life. Another year has come and gone and it’s as though I’ve blinked and you’re officially a little girl.

I had no idea how much my life would change…and how much you would change me.  Your cheery little face brightens every single day and my heart melts every time you tell me, “Mama, you are my bestie!” You have taught me patience in a way no one and nothing else could.  You have also tried my patience and you are doing it tremendously well.

Superstar

These days we live in a world of Disney Princesses and I hope your love of fairytales and daydreams never ends.  You are the sweetest mini adult I know and as much as people always tell me what a great mom I am, it’s you who makes me look good. You are compassionate, caring, kind, thoughtful, independent, sometimes shy, often very brave. Today you are soaking it all in all the time. Words, numbers, facts, figures – your brain wants to know it all and it’s processing it very quickly. You read well beyond your years, math and numbers come easy to you – as you say “It’s so logical!”, and Legos, age number on the box is no obstacle for you. You sound like an adult when you carry a conversation and everything is up for negotiations!

Today you are all about hugs, kisses, I love you’s and a peace sign. Anything that brings a smile to someone else’s heart. You see the happy in the sad, the light in the dark and the sun through the clouds.

Today my favorite time of the day is when we lay down to read before bed and we have our little daily recap conversations, obligatory Snapchat filters, nose kisses and millions of hugs.  For those few minutes you are all mine and I am all yours.  Secretly I hope we never outgrow that moment. You make me want to be the best kind of a woman, mom, friend I can be. You make me better than I am, and for that little one, I am forever grateful.

Birthday Girl

 In your usual happy and excited self, you’ve been telling anyone and everyone that your birthday is coming up and you can’t wait to celebrate because you’re going to NY. You don’t want a party, you don’t want gifts, all you want is an airplane trip with your mama and unlimited time at the American Girl store. And that’s exactly what we will do, because for you, I would take you to the moon if it meant to see your eyes light up of happiness.

Today my darling, you are six. Wishing you a very happy birthday, love you to the moon and back infinite times, xoxo Mama

Family

I’ve discovered a secret to a stress free week…Meatless Mondays and Meal Planning! With that, meatless Mondays are here to stay! Choosing meat-free meals on Monday is a great way to look and feel better, it kind of goes along with that new week, new beginning theory.

Flexitarian Kid

I am definitely not a vegetarian (after all, I haven’t met lamb chops I didn’t devour), but certainly a flexetarian…yup, technically, a faux vegetarian. In the faux foodie home, we eat significantly more whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, chocolate and occasionally meat. Meat is usually our side dish! If it was up to Kiki, chocolate/Nutella would be our main dish, but who can blame her!!

Roasted cauliflower, chickpeas and quinoa with mustard dressing

The main gist of the fauxfoodie flexitarian diet is exactly what it sounds like: It’s flexible. And in keeping with the flexible theme, there are various approaches: beginner, advanced, and expert. We are definitely the beginner flexitarians…about two vegetarian meals (dinners)  a week. Since Kiki is still in development stage, I am very conscious of what I feed her, focusing on eating “calorie-poor but nutrient-rich”, meaning bulking up our meals with fiber-rich veggies and plenty of other protein sources like quinoa, white beans, lentils, and chickpeas. It’s definitely not an all-or-nothing approach.  Instead, like many things in life, moderation is key. A little bit of veggies, a little bit of meat, a little bit of sweets!Kiki and Trader Joe's Pembroke Pines

This week’s dinner plan is here and it’s a good one! It’s filled with hearty, delicious, flavorful, vegetarian dinners, and great for meal prepping on Sunday (and having lunches for the next few days!) And if you decide not to spend meal prepping on Sundays, these recipes are fast enough to get on the table nightly and they are not salads!

weekly menu

Sunday: Stir fried veggie rice

Monday: Gwyneth Paltrow’s Roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, quinoa with mustard dressing

Tuesday: Dinner with Mr. S

Wednesday: Peanut noodles with orange and red peppers

Thursday: Black bean burgers with tomato, corn and avocado salsa

Friday: Mr. S’s bday celebration starts

Saturday: Mr. S’s bday celebration continues…

Here are ten easy and quick ways to go enjoy flexitarian diet without feeling restricted and if you want to learn more about flexing your diet, I would highly recommend reading this book…it was truly an eye opener how easy it is to switch meat to a side dish and veggies to a main course!

  1. Grill a veggie burger and enjoy it with all the classic toppings such as ketchup, mustard and pickles.
  2. Enjoy hummus as a dip for veggies or as a sandwich spread in place of mayonnaise to add flavor with fewer calories and less fat.
  3. Toss canned white beans (rinsed and drained) into your favorite pasta dishes for extra protein and fiber.
  4. Make a fast and flavorful burrito with canned low-fat refried beans, lettuce, tomato and guacamole.
  5. Top a whole grain pizza crust with pine nuts and veggies such as spinach and onions instead of heavy cheese and meat toppings.
  6. Heat canned vegetarian chili and pour on a baked potato for a healthy meal in a hurry.
  7. Make a speedy stir-fry by adding frozen veggies, frozen pre-cooked brown rice, frozen edemame or tofu and teriyaki sauce to a hot wok or pan.
  8. For a quick brown bag lunch, mix Italian salad dressing with canned lentils (rinsed and drained), shredded carrots, chopped cucumber, sliced red bell pepper and stuff into a whole grain pita.
  9. Stash an emergency snack in your purse or desk drawer for times when hunger hits.
  10. Mix together canned black beans with jarred salsa for a satisfying tortilla chip dip.

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 As always, if you have meal plan feedback, please send me an email at fauxfoodiegirl@gmail.com! I’d absolutely love to hear from you! Wishing you a great week!

@lifewithflavors

LET'S BE INSTA-FRIENDS