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Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes! My 26th birthday was a low key shindig with people I really like so isn't that all you can really ask for?

26thbirthdayHad my first Irish coffee that night and it was BOMB. Have you ever had one? It's the perfect drink for those nights you need a little pick me up in order to keep bar hopping.

And with one week down since I started the challenge, I successfully cooked 1 dish from my cookbook! The term gourmet is going to be debatable around these parts but for good measure, I'll give you the back story behind why I went with "gourmet".

Before this challenge, I typically cooked dishes that had 3-5 ingredients (and that included spices). I was daunted by any recipe list with extra garnishes or sauces. So I can make a mean chicken breast with rice or even a simple enchilada recipe but anything that had numerous or unusual ingredients were automatically ruled out. As long as I had the meat, I could virtually cook with whatever was already in my kitchen. Which is convenient but ultimately boring.

While I've always loved watching shows with Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain, my new obsessions started with MasterChef Kids. Those kids had so much talent and were half my age. From there, I became a MasterChef fan, watched anything I could get my hands on with Gordon Ramsay, now obsessed with Jacques Pepin and reading Anthony Bourdain's books. I also ordered two America's Test Kitchen cook books and have been studying up on kitchen techniques.

So after the longest intro ever, I wanted to start off my challenge simple and perhaps not even cook something "gourmet". I made pork tacos with mango salsa from ATK's The Complete Cooking for Two cookbook and cilantro lime rice.

PorkTacos1From start to finish, this dinner took less than 1 hour to make and I was unbelievably happy with how it turned out (even if I was too rushed to take real food photos).

PorkTacos2

What I love about this recipe is that America's Test Kitchen modified all their recipes for two people so this created the perfect amount of food for Rob and I without having to eat leftovers for days. This means less food waste, which I'm always in favor of.

Pork Tacos with Mango Salsa
adapted from America's Test Kitchen The Complete Cooking for Two cookbook

2 1/2 cups of mango (cut into 1/4 inch pieces)
1 cup minced cilantro
1 shallot, minced
4 teaspoons lime juice
Salt and Pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
12 ounces ground pork
1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese shredded
6 corn tortillas, warmed
Optional: Sour Cream

Tips:
> The canned chipotle is found in the mexican food aisle of most grocery stores. (Examples).
> I used frozen mangos and this recipe worked just fine.

* FIRST, before you start following the recipe directions, prep all of the ingredient above. Chop, mince, juice everything first. You can leave warming the tortillas until the 3rd step.*

1. Combine mangos, 4 tablespoons cilantro, half of shallot, 2 teaspoons lime juice,1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

2. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add remaining shallot, chipotle, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until shallot is soft (approx 2 min). Add pork and cook until pork is no longer pink.

3. Taking the skillet off the heat, stir in remaining cilantro, 2 teaspoons lime juice and Monterey Jack cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve pork with mango salsa on warmed tortillas.

For the Cilantro Lime Rice, I went with this recipe and followed it exactly.

That's it! Super simple and super tasty. Pork and mango were made to go together friends.

Let me know if you give this recipe a try, I'd love to hear about it! Sorry for the crappy food pictures, I'll try better next time!

Love,

E

 

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Hi everyone!

Well its official, I'm crossed over the midway mark of the 20s and am officially closer to 30 than I am to 21. Haha thank God for that, 21 was a year I couldn't possibly do again. ;)

26 man, it feels good. Also, can I tell you how excited I am to turn 26 on the 26th?! For someone who has a weird thing about even numbers, it makes my OCD heart sing.

What's changed since 25?

  • Rob and I moved in to Midtown together. (We moved in a few days after my 25th birthday)
  • We ended up adopting not 1, but 2 dogs together. Our Shay and Hunter.
  • Had the best bachelorette night ever in Vegas. Epic.
  • I started my first management position at work.
  • I took my first overnight work trip and had a hotel room solo for the first time ever.
  • I met the Backstreet Boys, fulfilling my 12 year old dreams.
  • After 8 years together, Rob and I finally tied the knot.
  • Then we took our first international trip together to Cabo.
  • I feel madly, passionately, deeply in love with Cabo. (ha)
  • Rob started a live-in law enforcement training academy.

It's been a busy year, and a BIG one for major life transitions. For someone who's not keen on change, this year has been ALL about change and 26 isn't looking any different!

So for my 26th birthday, I've decided to give myself a new yearly challenge, largely based on my new obsession with Gordon Ramsay and the desire to be a skilled wife in the kitchen. For the next 365 days, I will challenge myself to cook 1 gourmet meal a week. Gourmet is up to interpretation, since some weeks will be lamb chops with balsamic reduction and others might be a simple go-to mashed potato recipe (that can become a staple on our Thanksgiving table) but I'm looking to improve my skills in the kitchen, learn how to work with more unique ingredients but also find some signature dishes that I'll make forever. I'm also on the hunt for a Le Creuset (thanks to Rima, Melissa and Gordon) to help me achieve my goal so let me know if you spot any for a good price!

I am so lucky to have lived such a blessed life, largely thanks to my wonderful parents. How they raised a child (as crazy as me) at 19 is utterly beyond me and everything good in my life, I owe to them. Thanks for eating oranges for dinner when all you could afford was baby formula, I love you Mommy and Daddy!

My First birthday

 My first birthday party!

Love,

A now aged and old Evani

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It's been about 4 weeks since I last chimed in here on the good ole blog so I figured I'd catch you up to speed on how things are going:

  • So if you read my last entry, you'll know that Rob started a live-in academy to become a law enforcement officer which means I've been living like a single gal Monday-Friday. Which is only partially true because I go home to see my family often (an easy 20 minute drive down the freeway) so I'm usually only alone 1-2 days a week. The upside to living solo? My choice of dinner!
    Dinner as a single LadyAhi poke is so tasty and easy to make and I shucked those oysters all by myself at home! Only have a few battle wounds from the shucking knife but I survived.
  • I have to brag about how proud I am of my husband. Rob is working his butt off in that academy. It was a big adjustment for both of us but we're starting to understand our new normal and we're already 1 month down, so only 5 months to go. And because I can't get over it, let me show you how much weight Rob has lost in 1 month at the academy:
    Rob's weight lossHe's going to be at his high school weight by the end of this, and probably more!
  • I really thought by now, I might've put Hunter in a box with a sign that said "free puppy" outside our local grocery store. Okay... not really but I wasn't sure I could handle a 4 month old puppy by myself on top of working full time but luckily, I've discovered that I can. He's growing so fast and it breaks my heart everyday because I want him to stay miniature. I'm crying just looking at these photos, where has my puppy gone?!?
    Hunter growing
  • So now you might be asking yourself, "What the heck has Evani been up to with all her free time without blogging?" The answer to that question is a general "nothing." Except for the fact I have become recently obsessed with cooking shows and cooking in general. There will be more on this later, in my 26th birthday post on Friday!
  • My free time also goes to co-managing all of mine and Rob's fantasy football teams. And by co-managing, I mean I'm actually managing, because Rob has so little time to be invested in anything beyond his well being at the academy. So I'm currently running 6 fantasy football teams including my AMAZING Girls of the Gridiron league!! Which somehow I'm in last place... hmmmm.
    Girls of the Gridiron League
  • I fell for yet another Apple trap and I have the iPhone 6. The screen size is wonderful. So. In. Love.

So what's new with you?? Share something new or exciting to me in the comments below and I'll make sure to pop over to your blog and read the last few posts! :)

Love,

E

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So I know I've been totally neglecting Simply Evani, which I apologize in advance for! I don't have much time to write eloquently about it right now but since I kept you in suspense for the last few months about it, I thought it would only be fair to spit it out.

For about 2 years, Rob has been actively applying for a job in law enforcement. He knew he wanted 1 specific branch and since I don't want the search results to lead here, I'm not going to outright say which department.

In February of this year, Rob passed the physical test required for him to continue in the application process. With what I would say are very rigorous standards, he made the cut and I'm not ashamed to admit I cried like a baby when he came home to tell me. He worked so hard to pass and it felt like the first of many hurdles he would overcome.

Then after the wedding, we decided to put off our honeymoon because he was still in the background check phase of his application process. I didn't want to take any chances on missing key opportunities.

After months long of background checks, psych tests, piles of paperwork, we found out on August 13th, he was accepted into the next academy of this law enforcement agency. Then too, we cried together, sharing in the first true step towards him achieving his dream of becoming an officer.

The difficult part was that the academy was slated to begin 1.5 weeks from the day he received the offer. Knowing how long it would be until we'd get to take a honeymoon, we booked a last minute trip to Cabo for 5 glorious days. I can say those 5 days were an absolute DREAM, and completely necessary to get us through this next phase of life.

We spent the last week searching for items he'd need, preparing him with knowledge that would help him there, and generally coming to terms with the fact that life as we know it would never be the same.

So what's the big dealio with him getting a new job? Well it's a live-in academy so he no longer lives in our home. For 6 months. And they completely restrict communication (no phone use, with the exception of maybe a 2-5 minute phone call at the end of the night, if that). Granted, it's located relatively close to where we live, which already puts us at a major advantage for seeing each other on those rare weekends compared to the cadets whose homes are much further. But for those of you who know me and are long time readers of this blog, Rob and I are seldom separate. In 9 years, I can count on my fingers the number days we've gone without seeing each other (I know, BLECH). We've always been blessed with schedules that aligned and the inability to become sick of each other.

Plus, picking a career in law enforcement is a big commitment, and one that requires sacrifice from everyone involved. It's been a challenge for me to deal with the idea of Rob putting his life on the line everyday, but it's something he truly wants and I support him wholeheartedly.

Alsoooo as if that's not enough change, at the end of 6 months, we will be relocating to another part of California... I'm sure I'll write more about this to come.

So thus begins the new chapter of us surviving our new "normal". He will hopefully get to come home on some weekends, provided he passes his weekly tests and fails to get in trouble. It's going to be a big adjustment, today being the first of those long days of no contact. Well, that's not true, I got a 51 second phone call that completely made my day. I miss him already and I can even tell Shay misses him, she keeps looking at the door, waiting.

Phew, sorry for the long post. I don't want to go on and on about this too much because I'm actually writing an anonymous blog the on side about our experiences with joining law enforcement and this academy. If you're interested in having the link to that blog to keep up while Rob is in the academy, feel free to e-mail, comment or tweet me so I can give that to you. If you barely get around to reading my blog, that's okay too. :)

Anyhoots, it's going to be a long road but a worthwhile one. Supporting him in what he believes he's meant to do is one of the many reasons I married him and I'm so excited for what is to come. He's going to make a spectacular law enforcement officer and I'm so so proud of him.

Love,

E

P.S. Feel free to send Rob any good vibes, prayers or thoughts. It's a reallllly tough academy and he'll need all the positive mojo he could get.