Baker Stone Pizza Oven Box

When we were planning our new backyard living area the Hubs was contemplating building a pizza oven. While I love pizza, I just didn’t feel that we would use it enough to justify the cost. 

After researching alternative options to a built in pizza oven, we decide to purchase the Baker Stone Pizza Oven Box. 

So. Glad. We. Did! For right around $120 we now have an amazing little pizza oven that works right in our existing gas grill.  

This oven cooks a beautiful pizza in about 5 minutes and the crust turns out beautifully baked and toppings are cooked to perfection. 

We have had fun pizza parties with the kids and grandkids and everyone gets to choose their own toppings. There are a ton of great recipes on Pinterest to try and believe me, I have pinned a bunch for future use. This Apple Cheddar Rosemary Bacon from climbinggriermountain.com has become one of our favorites. 

I highly recommend this pizza oven as an addition to your backyard cooking options. You will not be disappointed. 

RV Camping – Zion National Park – Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort


On our recent road trip we spent 5 nights at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort. Wow! This place has it all. In fact it was named one of the top six adventure resorts in America.

Here is what US News and World Report has to say about this resort: “Located just outside of Zion National Park, Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort offers plenty of activities for those who love the great outdoors, including canyoneering, horseback riding, ATV tours, rafting, rock climbing wall, zip lining and other family-friendly adventure activities — and that’s just on its property.”

Glamping site

Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort has every type of accommodation to suit your needs. Tent sites, group sites, cabin suites, Cowboy cabins, glamping tents, and full hookup RV sites.


We had dinner at Ray’s Restaurant on the property one night. This is a nice, reasonably priced restaurant. The fresh homemade bread with honey butter that they bring to your table is out of this world. I must say that we probably most definitely ate way to much of it! Portions were large and very tasty. If you have been in the park all day and just don’t feel like cooking, this is an excellent choice. Breakfast is buffet style and they also serve lunch.


The pool area is super nice. It has two hot tubs and two pools. There are also a couple of water slides for the kids. I am sure that in the summer months this is a happening place.

Laundry facilities, showers, and all public areas are really well kept up and clean. We were there the week before Memorial Day and there were plenty of employees around getting ready for the crowd.

While we were there they were working on road improvements so there was some dust. They were getting ready to pave a lot of the roads so some of them were a bit bumpy. The paving should be done early June and I think it will be a huge improvement.

We stayed in RV site #8 and had a majestic view of a plateau full of pines. The only negative thing I would say about this particular site is that it was difficult to level our 40 ft motorhome due to the incline. The area for the picnic table and to set up your cooking area outside your rig was also on an incline. Otherwise, hookups were easy and we got great satellite reception. They offer free WiFi and it is just what you would expect in an RV park. Ok but not super fast or reliable.

The resort is about a 20 minute drive to the beautiful Zion National Park. Spend the day exploring and then head back to Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort for a relaxing evening. Or spend the day at the resort taking advantage of all the adventure activities they have to offer.

 

Maria’s Four Ingredient Mexican Dip

When we were visiting my sweet cousin Maria in Utah last week she made this super good, super easy Mexican style dip. Maria is an awesome cook and I use many of her recipes. We have so much fun when we are together and I love her so much!

This dip was perfect to make for my book club last night. We had just finished reading “Rain of Gold” by Victor Villaseñor. The book is set in Mexico during the revolution and also in Southern California. So naturally, the theme for the food was Mexican.

This dip fit right in and was so good and got rave reviews. Serve it with veggies or chips. It was even good as a dollop on tacos!

You just need four ingredients. How easy is that?

Maria’s Four Ingredient Mexican Dip

Ingredients:

1 16 oz container of sour cream (I used the light sour cream)

1 can refried beans

1 small can of diced green chilis

1 package of Hidden Valley Fiesta Ranch Dip (make sure you get the “Fiesta” Ranch Dip)

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Refrigerate for a few hours to let flavors blend.

Enjoy!

Fresh Strawberry Pie (Or as We Sometimes Call it “Birthday Cake!”)

In Southern California as spring rolls around we start seeing the strawberry stands popping up. I love it when we are able to stop at a little stand and purchase fresh, fresh strawberries. Not only are they delicious, but it means summer is even closer! (I am a summer girl in case you didn’t know.)

Ever since I can remember my 38 year old son has requested strawberry pie for a birthday “cake”. Even when he was little. So of course, strawberry pie it is!

When I first started making this pie I would use that jar of red red red (not a natural red!) strawberry glaze that you can buy in the grocery store. As my tastes and cooking ability began to improve I began to make my own glaze. It is really easy to make and such a huge difference in flavor. The homemade glaze tastes so much fresher.

I have made this pie using both a store-bought graham cracker crust and a homemade regular crust. I like both, but my son and the Hubs prefer the graham cracker crust. Either way, this pie is delish!

Strawberry Birthday Pie

Yield: 1 pie

4 cup strawberries

1 cup sugar

3 Tbsp corn starch

3/4 cup water

Graham cracker crust

1 egg white

For glaze:

Wash strawberries and mash one cup of them up. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Stir in mashed strawberries and water. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Boil while stirring for three minutes or until thickened. Transfer to a bowl and let cool for 10-15 minutes.

To finish pie:

Brush graham cracker crust with one egg white. Bake at 375º for 7-9 minutes. This step is important as it helps “set” the crust which makes for easier slicing.

Slice the remaining strawberries in half and place in large bowl. Pour glaze over strawberries and gently stir to coat.

Pour strawberry glaze mixture into prepared crust and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Slice (the first slice is not the prettiest one!) and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

You Can Take the Girl Out of LA but ……….

I am a LA girl deep down inside. I love the Dodgers, Dodger Stadium, Tommy’s, Griffith Park, the Hollywood Bowl, Travel Town, Giamella’s, Porto’s, the Smoke House, Damon’s, and so much more.

I grew up in LA. Burbank to be exact. Say what you want about Los Angeles but there is just something about it. It is a pretty exciting place to be. Ed and I headed up there on Saturday to see Billy Joel at Dodger Stadium. Pretty awesome. Billy Joel! Dodger Stadium!

Our first stop was at Philippe the Original for french dip sandwiches. If you have been to LA and have visited them, you need to! There is nothing like a french dip from Philippe’s.

Philippe’s is an LA institution. They have been in business since 1908. The french dip sandwich was invented by Philippe Mathieu. According to Philippe’s website, “One day in 1918, while making a sandwich, Mathieu inadvertently dropped the sliced french roll into the roasting pan filled with juice still hot from the oven. The patron, a policeman, said he would take the sandwich anyway and returned the next day with some friends asking for more dipped sandwiches. And so was born the “French Dipped Sandwich,” so called either because of Mathieu’s French heritage, the French roll the sandwich is made on or because the officer’s name was French. The answer is lost to history.”

Our next stop was in my hometown. Burbank. Yes, Beautiful Downtown Burbank. It has changed so much since I grew up there but one thing that has not changed is the tea cakes from Martino’s Bakery. Yes, they have changed their location but it is still the Martino’s I love.

How do you describe a Martino’s tea cake? Well, if you are from Burbank you know exactly what one tastes like. I can’t describe it any other way than, “tea cake.” It is a honey-y, cake-y, maybe a tinge of citrus flavor that is so so good. Especially with a cup of coffee. When I was a child every Girl Scout meeting, every PTA meeting, every Woman’s Club Tea had them.

Martino’s also has other amazing baked goods but if you go there, you must try a tea cake. (Or a dozen!)

Last stop of the day was Dodger Stadium. Let me tell you. If there is one place that reminds me of my childhood it is Dodger Stadium. I spent many a warm summer night there with my dad and my brothers watching my Dodgers play. Love them!

The reason we were there at Dodger Stadium was to see the Billy Joel concert. He did not disappoint. What a great venue for him to perform at! He sang for over two hours. He also had two surprise guests for us. First Pink came up and sang with him. She has such a great voice. Then a little later Axl Rose came up and he and Billy did a cover of Highway to Hell. The best part of my night was seeing my sweet Bible study friend rocking out to it! Amazing concert. And Dodger Stadium.

All in all, it was a great LA day. A little bit of a trip down memory lane, a little childhood food, and a little rock and roll.

Easy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup to the Rescue!

Well. I guess I really do need bone broth after all!

So glad that I made a big batch of the broth on Monday because yesterday I came down with a nasty sinus infection that has knocked me out for the past few days.

Today I had the energy to make it downstairs and when I opened the refrigerator I saw those lovely jars of bone broth. And the extra chicken meat that I plucked from the bones before making the broth. Win.

Ahh…… chicken soup! Nature’s antibiotic. (Although I got a Z Pack as well!) I have also read that chicken soup is good for sinus infections. I just know that when I am sick, chicken soup sounds so good.

I am not a fan of canned soups. The Hubs loves them but I try to make him homemade soup whenever I can. I always have Kirkland Organic Chicken Stock from Costco on hand but I was super excited to have my own homemade broth to use.

I looked through the pantry and the fridge and threw these ingredients in the Bella Electric Pressure Cooker and voila – an easy, fast, yummy soup was ready for my lunch. Now, back upstairs for a little nappy poo. We have tickets to see Billy Joel on Saturday at Dodger Stadium and I need to get better!

So yummy and comforting!

Here is how I made it:

Easy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Serves about 6

Ingredients:

4 stocks celery – cut into chunks

3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

or

Baby carrots – as much as you want (I usually don’t have baby carrots on hand-these were left over from something and I needed to use them up)

3/4 cup uncooked wild rice

1-2 cups cooked chicken

2 quarts chicken broth

Throw it all in the electric pressure cooker and push the “soup” button. Release pressure after timer beeps.

Garnish with green onions or whatever your little heart desires. Easy!

Enjoy.

Smashed Sweet Potato Goodness!

Do you love sweet potatoes? I do. There is something so comforting about a nice roasted, caramelized, brown around the edges little chunk of orange-y goodness.

I came across a great blog called Cafe Delites when I was searching for a new way to make sweet potatoes. Karina has tons of healthy and delicious recipes posted. Just browsing for a few minutes I have found so many that I can’t wait to try.

This recipe is so many kinds of delicious! The Hubs raved about them and they were so easy to make. They are sweet and savory and buttery and garlicky and so so good. I honestly could make a meal of just these alone.

Please check out the recipe and make these! And while you are there, get lost in all the recipes that Karina has to offer.

Do I Need Bone Broth?

I keep seeing “bone broth” popping up on my instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest feeds. Sounds disgusting, doesn’t it.

But then I started doing some research on it and apparently it is good for numerous bodily things. (Bodily things: a very scientific word for that which ails you.)

Here is a list of some of the things that bone broth is used for: arthritis/joint pain; metabolism, detox and weight loss; skin conditions; autoimmunity; digestion, leaky gut and IBS. Here is a link to an article on the information I found.

Today just happened to be the day that I went to Costco to pick up some groceries. Does anyone go to Costco and NOT pick up one of their rotisserie chickens? They are the best. Right?

Tonight we are having the Sweet Kale Salad with some of the rotisserie chicken on top and calling it a day. Easy peasy and perfect because we are still a little bit tired from the excitement of the wedding this weekend.

As I was picking the chicken off the bone I got to thinking about bone broth. Pretty weird huh? What a thing to be thinking of. Then I thought about how I throw the bones away every week from my rotisserie chicken. Which led me to think about my Bella Electric Pressure Cooker. Which, of course, led me to the internet.

I found this recipe and decided to give it a try. The first bonus I found was that I ended up with almost one cup more chicken than I usually get from a chicken because I really picked the bones clean before putting them in the pressure cooker. That is enough to add to a pasta meal or for chicken salad for the Hubs and I!

Look at all of this chicken I have been wasting!

I had all the ingredients for the broth on hand because they are pretty much staples. My fresh herbs are growing like gangbusters right now so I grabbed some fresh thyme and oregano and threw it in as well.

Here it is all ready to cook. I left the skin on the onion so the broth would have a richer color. Pretty sure it doesn’t add any health benefits but it will look pretty.

As I finish up on this post my bone broth has finished cooking and I have strained it. The recipe made about three and a half quarts. I poured some in a mug and I am sipping on it now. It’s pretty good. It has more taste than I thought it would. I am glad I added the fresh herbs to it because I can really taste them. The oregano and thyme is the perfect combo.

I don’t think that I will be throwing those rotisserie chicken bones away again. I’ll be making bone broth with them!

 

Kickstarter-I Really Am Hip Now!

I try to stay up to date on tech things as much as I can. Not in a nerdy, tech-y, super up to date way. The things that I try to keep up on are the things that I hear my kids and grandkids being interested in.

I love the newest iPhones when they come out but I will never wait in line for one! No, I will wait until I can get one a month or two or six after the release.

We just bought the new Nintendo Switch and I enjoy playing with the grandkids on that. Tetris is a fun game for the Switch. That was a game that we spent a lot of time playing together when my boys were younger. I was glad that it came out on this platform as it is my all time favorite video game.

As I mentioned in this post, we love to play games. So I was intrigued when I came across a new interactive board game by Mighty Boards on my Instagram feed. It is called Petrichor and it looks like something that my older grandkids would like. And what better way to bond with them than spending time playing a game with them.

Now here is the catch – it is a Kickstarter campaign game. Which basically means that they raise money on Kickstarter before they make the game and the people that back them get the game first. Kickstarter is not new. It has been around for awhile but this is the first time I have actually backed something on it. I am kind of excited! I feel like I have helped someone with their dream. And….. I get a new game.

I will get it in December which is so opposite of how I usually purchase things. I am all about Amazon Prime and the two day shipping. Patience is not my strong suit. But it will be fun to get updates on the campaign from the Kickstarter app until December.

This Kickstarter app will be fun to explore and find new products that we all might be interested in. What about you? Have you tried Kickstarter?

Blending and Bonuses

Tuxedos are hanging in my closets upstairs!

This weekend my oldest son is getting married. He has two kids. He is marrying a wonderful, gorgeous, loving, sweet, caring mother of four kids. The Hubs and I are beyond excited for them.

My family is blended. My oldest son is from my first marriage. My middle and youngest son are from my current (and final!) marriage. When my kids were younger it took a bit of doing to work my oldest son’s visitations with his dad into our schedule, but it was manageable.

Can you imagine the scheduling that my son and my new daughter-in-love have to deal with having six kids and four separate sets of parents! Oh my. I have observed them over the past year as they were getting ready to blend their family, and I have to hand it to them……. they do an excellent job!

They have about six hours on Thursday night that they have to themselves as a couple. They always make it a priority to have a date night. Of course, we would watch the kids whenever they wanted us to but with their kids being with them only fifty percent of the time, they just don’t want to be apart from them when they do have them. Not as many sleepovers with gramma and grandpa but totally understandable.

So, on Saturday, we will officially have four new grandchildren. Bringing our total to eight. How will we treat these new grandchildren? The same as we treat our other four.

These four are our bonus grandchildren. No, we weren’t there for their births. We didn’t get to rock them to sleep when they were babies. And we didn’t get to see their first steps or hear their first words. But now we get to welcome them into our family and share ing their milestones and accomplishments. They will now be our grandchildren for reals!

We are a family of 16 now and I can remember when I was a single mom, with just my oldest, and I so longed for a big, intact, loving family. I had some pretty tough days. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine the family that I now have. I am truly blessed.

We are not the traditional two parent, never divorced family that was typical in the past. We sit at kids baseball games with our son’s ex and her spouse. And sometimes my ex and his spouse as well! We are flexible when scheduling events and we don’t expect everyone to be at everything. We try not to put expectations on anyone. Is it hard sometimes? Most definitely. Do we bite our tongues sometimes often. Of course! But we are committed to loving each other and helping each other get through this big, glorious, wonderful thing called life.

Our children have so many people that love them and call them family and our grandchildren have even more! Aren’t we the lucky ones!