To Give Teachers A Small Chatski or a Small Gift Card is the Question!

At this same time every year, I find myself wondering what would my kids teachers prefer as a Christmas Gift?  Teachers are one of the greatest people that can impact our children’s lives.  They give selflessly and no matter what we do, it just doesn’t seem enough.

This question is not so difficult in the younger years as there are only 2 or 3 teachers.  As the kids get into Middle School and have multiple teachers, it really is hard to decide. Of course, we want to acknowledge each teacher but with 4 children, some of us need a layaway program just for teacher’s gifts!

Somehow, I don’t think I am the only one wondering what Teachers would prefer… a small Chatski or a small Gift Card…

This year, I have decided to bake my Banana Bread with Lindt Hint of Sea Salt Chocolate and White Coconut Chocolate  and attach a small gift card from one of our local shops… It really is a Match Made in Heaven!

Is it about the gift or the message…. Thank you for inspiring my children to be the best they can possibly be!

How do you show your appreciation to your child’s teacher?




Santa Claus is always in Vovô’s Kitchen

My Mom is a true baker.  She is passionate about her desserts.  You will never stop by her house without having some type of homemade delicacy waiting for you.  I literally mean, never! My Dad has such a sweet tooth, it is unbelievable.

My kids will tell you that stopping by Vovô’s and Vô’s house is like visiting Mr. and Mrs. Claus.  They are always jolly, full of love and there are always treats waiting for them.  It is such a pleasure to gather Around the Family Table at their home.

I spent the day yesterday cooking in Vovô’s Cozinha. What a great day we had cooking  traditional Portuguese Christmas Desserts. The kids were all in school so it was just the three of us.  It was so wonderful to hear them talking about their childhood and  the tradition behind each recipe.  Both in their 70’s and coming to the US from Portugal, their life truly has been a journey.  They love to talk about it and I love to listen.

It’s hard to believe that their Mother’s didn’t own electric mixers.  They would mix the batters by hand. Their ovens were brick ovens built into the wall. I can still remember watching my Grandmother bake bread and I couldn’t wait for it to come out of the great big wood burning oven.  It was hard and crusty on the outside and soft and light on the inside.  Add a tad of butter….mmmm… to this day, it is still one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten.

I love traditions and there is nothing more valuable than spending time doing what you love with your Family.

Filhozes are a traditional Christmas Dessert in Portugal.  It wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without having them on your dessert table. They are made with Flour, Eggs, Orange Zest and Pumpkin.  They are just amazing!

This recipe has been in my Mom’s family for generations and will continue to be passed down.


4 Cups of Flour

2 Cups of cooked Pumpkin pureed or 1 16 oz can of Pumpkin

Juice of 2 Oranges and zest of the outside of one

3 Eggs

1 package of Active Dry Yeast 

1/4 Cup of Port Wine or Brandy

1/4 Cup of Reserved Pumpkin water or plain water

Oil for frying

Cinnamon and powdered Sugar 

  • Cook Pumpkin and puree with food processor (if using fresh pumpkin.) Reserve water.
  • Mix Pumpkin, Orange Juice, Orange Zest, Eggs
  • Shift Flour and Yeast and add to the pumpkin mixture, one spoon at a time
  • Mix flour and all ingredients are mixed well
  • Set aside for at least one hour to rise
  • Heat oil in fryer or frying pan
  • Dip mixture into the oil by the tablespoon
  • Fry until golden brown
  • Drain on paper towels 
  • Sprinkle with Cinnamon and Sugar while warm

Aren’t they amazing?  Who would think that the combination of Flour, Pumpkin and Orange could be this delish!

Kids Ratings: Alexandra 10, Ronnie 9, Reis 10, Riley 9.5

Simple Pork Chops and Almond Risotto #SundaySupper

I love this time of year.  The house is decorated. The boys worked hard all day putting up Christmas lights outside the house.  Our home just feels so comfy.  

We were all excited for Sunday Supper this week.  Reis reminded me that it had been a while since we had Risotto, one of his favorites.  The deal was, if Reis stirred, I’d make it! Our menu of simply marinated Pork Chops, Almond Risotto and sauted spinach came together without much effort but boy was it good!





Simply Marinated Pork Chops








6 Medium Cut Pork Chops

4 tablespoons extra virgin Olive Oil

3 tablespoons chopped Garlic

2 springs fresh Rosemary,chopped or 2 tablespoons dried

1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce

Sea Salt to taste

Rub the above ingredients on the Pork and Marinade for approximate 1 hour in the fridge. 

Grill or broil the pork chops for approximately 8 to 10 minutes on each side.

Crunchy Almond Risotto








2 tablespoons extra virgin Olive Oil

2 Green Onions chopped

3 ounces slivered Almonds

8 cups Beef Broth heated

2 cups Arborio Rice

2 cups Milk

1/2 cup 

2 tablespoons Butter

  • Heat oil in large pan and add almonds
  • When almonds turn slightly brown, add green onions
  • Add the rice and stir thoroughly several times to coat the grains well with the contents of the pot
  • Add a ladleful at a time of the warm broth until all the broth is absorbed. Stirring constantly. (this is why I needed Reis)
  • Check the rice to see if done. If still too firm, add warm water.
  • Add milk, cheese and butter at the very end, just before serving
  • Must serve while still hot. You will love the combination of the creamy risotto with the crunch of the almonds
Sauted Spinach
1 large bunch of Spinach well washed
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Garlic
  • Add oil and garlic to pan and saute for a minute
  • Add spinach and saute until soft and wilted. It always amazes me how such a large bunch of spinach cooks down to such a small amount
Kids Ratings: Ronnie 9, Reis 10, Riley 9.5 , Alexandra JEALOUS (we will make it again when she gets home from college)

The Ultimate Dining Experience @Rosenhotels

Every once in a while, we need to take a look at ourselves and our priorities.  I have come to the realization that I have become so consumed with my family and professional life that I left little time for friends.  It is easy to justify, I have four children who are the core of my world.  Between work and Family there is just no extra time.

One thing I have learned is that balance is the key to a life well lived.  I  started making it a priority to take more time for myself and sharing that time with good friends.  My friend Lou Anne and I have been friends since my oldest was in first grade. Like most Moms, finding time to ourselves can be a challenge.   We decided, a much needed girls night away was in order.

I had always wanted to go to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.  Being the Foodie that I am this seemed the perfect destination. Especially when I heard Portugal was taking part in the Festival for the first time. You know you have a good friend, when they are as excited about your passion, as you are.   Truly we were like 2 kids in a Candy Store.  I think Lou Anne took as many foodie pictures as I did.

We had the pleasure of  being invited to dine at  Rosen Shingle Creek in their  AAA Four Diamond A Land Remembered Classic Steakhouse.   This restaurant and it’s staff understands that the Dining Experience is about so much more than just food.

We loved our waiter from the minute he greeted us.  Bob knew everything there was to know about the food, wine and the entire hospitality indsutry.   He was so entertaining and told us  how he had gone to Culinary School but  just couldn’t stay in the kitchen, away from people.  I think he found his calling in life… it is obvious he is a people person and loves what he does!  We asked him to choose our menu and he did not disappoint.


He had me at the first course…  Alligator Stew. I love to try new foods and I had never tried Alligator Meat. It was so tender and juicy. The chowder with white beans was perfect.









Next we were treated to delicious lightly breaded asparagus….delish!










Ohhhh and the flatbreads…. absolutely amazing!








Our Ben Hogan Sliced Marinated Skirt Steak was perfectly marinated and oh so tender…







And then….

The most amazing cake I have ever tasted…. a delicious light and flully Chocolate Mousse Cake… oh my! I love attention to detail and their logo had been stenciled on the plate with chocolate powder. Spectacular!









Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better…

This amazing assorment of desserts appeared in a horse shoe: Creme Brulee,  Key Lime Pie, Banana Cream Pie, Stawberry Cheesecake and Fresh Berries….  All I can say is …… one was better than the next.








Although the Food was out of this world, the highlight of my day was meeting Mr. Rosen. I love meeting people who have made a difference in the world.




I was intrigued when I heard about  Mr. Rosen’s Philanthropic Pizza for Schools.  Mr. Rosen combined two of his longtime passions, healthy living and philantropy.  He wants to be known for healthy pizza within the Orange County Schools.  Profits from sales of the pizzas go toward the Harris Rosen Foundation, which provides educational scholarships for disadvantaged youth.

Mr. Rosen is grounded in his belief,  “The more success you achieve, the more good stuff you can do.”  It takes a special person to do just that!  We chatted about our families and realized we both have large families with 1 girl and 3 boys. We  agreed, it can be challenging at times, but so rewarding.  Time Around the Family Table was as important in his home as it is in mine.

We couldn’t eat another bite!  We were sent home with a Whole Wheat Low-fat Cheese, Turkey Pepperoni Pizza.  My kids were thrilled and absolutely love it!  There is no doubt this healthy pizza will be as successful as A Land Remembered!

Throughout this memorable experience, I thought about my friend, Jim Joseph.  In Jim’s book, The Experience Effect, he details the experiences he had at his favorite restaurant and how it changed over time. Jim is a big believer that restaurants are really another kind of brand and that it’s our experiences with them that make us loyal. Those experiences need to be enjoyable and consistent each time.  No doubt, he would have enjoyed A Land Remembered as much as we did.

Our afternoon at  A Land Remembered will not be forgotten!  I am thankful to have shared such a memorable experience with my good friend Lou Anne.

Kids Ratings on Philanthropic Pizza: Ronnie 10, Reis 9.5, Riley 9 (Alexandra was at College and can’t wait  try iton our next visit to Orlando)

Reinventing Thanksgiving Leftovers into a Casserole #SundaySupper









This was truly a Special Thanksgiving.

I am thankful that Alexandra came home from College, we spent the day with amazing friends, my parents are both still here to share Holidays with us…. and my kids begged me to go shopping with them on Black Friday.

We got up at 3:30 am, hit the first store by 4:00 and were sitting down at our favorite Diner having breakfast by 7:30 am.  We had an absolute blast and I felt so blessed to have such an awesome morning with my kids.

Our Thanksgiving Table was filled with amazing food!  There was no way we could eat it all.  Although we have picked at our leftovers all weekend, we still have a ton.  We have a tradition that we reinvent our Thanksgiving leftovers into a casserole every year.  I don’t know what my kids like more, the Thanksgiving Meal or the Reinvented Leftovers! It is delish, lots of fun, and so easy! You must try it!

Leftovers needed:

  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Turkey, shredded
  • Gravy
  • Corn or Broccoli (I usually make one of each)
  • Stuffing

In a 9 x 11 casserole dish, layer each ingredient.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 mins. or until Stuffing is crispy (the best part.)

It doesn’t get any easier than this!

Kid Ratings: Alexandra 9, Ronnie 9.5, Reis 10, Riley 10 (corn only)


I Am Thankful For My Old Shoes

I have always said, “Old Friends are like Old Shoes.”

We spent Thanksgiving Day with two families that we have been friends with for over 16 years.  Like old shoes, they are so comfortable.  There is no break in period, they fit just right.

As I looked  Around the Family Table of 20, it wasn’t the incredible display of food that stood out, it was the Love that was so apparent between us.  We had gathered many generations around this table, Great-Grandparents, Grandparents, Parents, Children, Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren were together giving Thanks and nurturing our Love and Respect for one another.

I feel blessed to have such long lasting friendships and hope to instill in my children the importance of a true friendships.

So much has changed in the last 16 years, but we know that we are there for each other, because nothing will change our friendship.

This Thanksgiving gave me the opportunity to reflect on how blessed I am to have genuine friends.

I have a tendency to wear my Mom Hat, Wife Hat, Volunteer Hat and Professional Hat on a daily basis.  My Friend Hat needs to be worn more often because there is nothing quite like old friendships…. like old shoes, they fit just right.

“I find friendship to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man’s milk and restorative cordial.”
– Thomas Jefferson

I Am a Terrible Mother But I Did Cook #SundaySupper

I am a terrible Mother. I actually encouraged my daughter, a freshman in College, to cut class.  Yes, you heard it right.

It wasn’t just that I couldn’t wait to see her. Her two little Brothers were heading to the Super Bowl with their Football Teams this weekend.  I couldn’t imagine her missing this Special Day in their lives.  How often will her Brothers make it all the way to Super Bowl. This was truly a Special Occasion in our lives and I just couldn’t imagine that Alexandra wouldn’t be here to enjoy it with us.  So I said, “skip the classes,” this is a lesson that can’t be learned in the classroom.

It was the best decision I could have made.  What a weekend!  Truly a weekend we will remember for the rest of our lives!

It’s hard to believe but both teams Won!  I am so glad that our entire family, including my Mom and Dad, were there for this memorable day.  You just can’t put a price on this type of emotion.

Our Sunday Supper was so special this week.  Not because it was the most amazing meal we have ever had, but because of the memories that were made Around the Family Table.   Both boys played so well in their games.  We talked touchdowns, blocks and extra points to be proud of.

The most memorable moment for me was when one of Reis’s team mates who hadn’t started all season made a huge tackle.  Reis jumped up and down and shouted “I knew you could do it! I’m so proud of you.”  This day was about so much more than a Win!

Sunday Supper Around the Family Table was very simple this week but it was absolutely delicious. I love to shop for whatever is fresh and the Tuna Steaks were on sale and were such a deep red, they almost looked purple.   I know, you are thinking, everyone else is featuring Recipes revolving around Thanksgiving this time of year…why is she grilling Tuna Steaks….Because to me it is about  simple, fresh and delicious Meals made with love.

I had made Homemade Macaroni and Cheese (recipe to follow in next post) to take to the team party the night before and they loved it so much that my kids requested it again the next night.  A simple Green Salad with Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette completed our easy meal.

I realized this weekend that listening to our heart is more important than doing the “norm.”  Whether letting your child skip school for a special occasion or grilling Tuna in November, listen to your Heart.


6 Tuna Steaks (the freshest you can get)

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce

1 small lemon

Sea Salt & Pepper to Taste



Brush the Tuna Steak with Olive Oil, Worcestershire Sauce and Salt and Pepper.  Let marinate for approximately 15 minutes.

Heat grill to high and add Tuna Steak.  Grill for approximately 2 minutes on each side. Middle will remain bright pink. 

Kids Ratings: Alexandra 10, Ronnie 9.5, Reis 10, Riley 10 


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