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4 quick steps to self-improvement!

My brother once told me that there is always room for self-improvement. I believe that self-improvement is essential in our busy lives! Whether we kick out bad eating habits, take better care of our bodies, work on our friendships or relationships- we can do it in a positive way! If you’re anything like me, you are guilty of desiring these things yet not actually working on them. However, I recently contemplated on what is important to me, and what I need to change, I want to share what I came with to get that improvement going! It’s a simple 4 step process:

  1. Set aside some time where you can sit down and truly relax. Take a few deep breaths and clear your mind.
  2. Think about your daily bad habits.
  • Do drink too much coffee? Perhaps make it a rule to drink one coffee and one hot tea in the afternoon.
  • Are you eating unhealthy? If it’s convenient to grab fast food rather than packing a lunch, set your alarm a few minutes earlier in the morning to give you enough time to pack a nutritious meal.
  • When is the last time you did something for you? Life is short, buy the shoes! Or plan that vacation to the beach!

We are all so guilty of the smallest bad habits that eventually take a negative toll on our day. Think about the things you want to change in your lifestyle. What’s in the way of you reaching your goals?

  1. Make small changes to your daily routine to keep your motivation and goals realistic.
  2. If you want to begin a fit lifestyle, you can do it! Typically gyms have monthly specials but if it doesn’t fit your budget to sign up for a gym membership keep in mind that almost every Camden maintains top of the line fitness equipment and facilities.

We are all so guilty of the smallest bad habits that eventually take a negative toll on our day. Think about the things you want to change in your lifestyle. What’s in the way of you reaching your goals? The answer is simple…nothing, nothing at all, except maybe convenience.

If you want to get educated on gym workouts and healthy eating there are great websites to visit, such a, and be sure to check out this Simply Camden blog post for further reading on meal prepping!

If you recognize bad habits in your lifestyle, it’s time to knock them out of your way because you’re on a path to a better you! Reach out for support because truth is, we all have our bad habits and getting support from your closest family member, friends, or colleagues might just do the trick!


My Official Pumpkin Pie Primer- The 3 Main Components to Consider for Successful Pumpkin Pie Making

When most of us think of Thanksgiving, some of us will automatically picture a turkey and all of the trimmings. For those of us who like our dessert, first, we think of PUMPKIN PIE. And, if you are like my husband, you dream of pie with a pound of whipped cream on top.

For most of the population, it does not matter to you how your pumpkin pie gets to the table. I, personally, agonize over how I am going to make mine each year because I am just that kind of person. I have a goal that each year I will try to do something slightly to my pie different in hopes of topping the year before. I drive my family crazy, but they enjoy the results.

A basic homemade or semi-homemade pumpkin pie has three main components: crust, pumpkin filling, and whipped cream. Each component can be store-bought, semi-homemade, or homemade.

  1. The Crust: The crust is the foundation upon which a pie is created. In the past, I have opted for a premade crust because they are beautiful and all that you have to do is pour your pumpkin filling in. Plus, there are so many types of premade pie crusts available if you like variety. However, for the past few years, I have opted to make my own homemade crust that I would find off of Pinterest or out of my old Betty Crocker The basic ingredients in a homemade crust are eggs, butter or shortening, flour, and a liquid. The ratios of each of these ingredients determine the texture of your pie. This year, I am going to make The Pioneer Woman’s “Sylvia’s Perfect Pie Crust”. What makes it different than other recipes that I’ve tried, before, is the addition of vinegar. We’ll see how it goes…
  2. The Filling: The biggest decision you must make…
    1. Pumpkin: There are three options in choosing what type of pumpkin to use- canned pumpkin pie filling, canned pureed pumpkin, or fresh pumpkin puree. Libby makes a mighty fine pumpkin filling with wonderful self-explanatory instructions printed on the label that is pre-seasoned. No fuss, no muss. I was perfectly fine with using this method and grew-up with our homemade pies being made using this type of filling. Two years ago, I had a lot of time on my hands and decided to buy a pie pumpkin. I then roasted and pureed it. I made my pumpkin pie using this fresh pumpkin and I fell in love! In my opinion, the fresh pumpkin is much lighter tasting. A word of caution, make sure to strain your fresh pumpkin puree. I made that mistake the first time by omitting this step and it made for an almost burnt pie crust and watery filling. Another word of warning, pie pumpkins might be hard to find in your area so you may have to shop around. I purchased my pumpkins at Whole Foods this year.
    2. The other decision to make in regards to the filling is whether to use sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk with sugar. That’s a tough one- I have made my pies with either. I personally feel that sweetened condensed milk makes for a richer tasting filling.
    3. The last major component of the filling is the spices. When you opt to use fresh or canned pumpkin puree, you have the opportunity to adjust your spice ratios to your liking instead of its taste being predetermined. This is a great option for those who are sensitive to over-spiced pies. In my case, I am going to toast my spices- I just saw that on TV and it looks like a good idea.
  3.   Whipped Topping: When you are ready to eat your pumpkin pie, you have to think about what you are going to top it with. The nice thing about the times that we live in is we have so many options for whipped topping: Cool Whip, canned, or homemade whipped cream. My family likes all options, sometimes in massive quantities to the point that I must hide it. I just made a pie a few weeks ago and I used Reddi Whip. This Thanksgiving, since my mom will be there and making it for me, we will use homemade whipped cream. I am such a nice daughter…


Making a pumpkin pie is not a daunting task- anyone can do it. Have fun and get creative. Another option is to switch it up and instead of making one big pie, make mini pies. Or, just skip the pie making altogether and find yourself a great bakery that will pile your pie high with whipped cream. There are also other ways to enjoy pumpkin if you are not a pie person. Either way, have fun and please enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Our Top 10 Drink Picks at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival

I love Epcot’s Wine and Food Festival!! Can you tell from my last post, Our Top 10 Food Picks at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival? The food was delicious, but the drinks were even better!

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

At Epcot, drinking around the world has to be on your to-do list! It is even better during the Food and Wine Festival because there are 38 stands and countries and over 100 drink choices to choose from!

Our Top 10 Drink Picks at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival:

  1. Refreshment Port – Pineapple Dole® Whip Soft-serve Ice Cream with Bacardi Coconut Rum – Hands down my favorite!


  1. Farm Fresh – Hard Cider Flight – Beer, Beer and more Beer!
    1. Woodchuck Raspberry Hard Cider
    2. Wyder’s® Dry Pear Cider
    3. Two Henrys Elderberry Hard Cider
    4. ACE Hard Pumpkin Cider


  1. Ireland – Bunratty Meade Honey Wine – Sweet and delicious!


  1. Mexico – Tequila Flight – Hand me some salt and lime right now!


  1. France – Grand Marnier Orange and Grey Goose Citron Slush – You can get this drink year round in France!


  1. Scotland – Scotch Flight –I can’t handle scotch, but our friend Kenny downed these like a pro!
    1. Glenfiddich® Single Malt 12 year Scotch
    2. Glenfiddich® Single Malt 15 year Scotch
    3. Glenfiddich ®Single Malt 18 year Scotch


  1. Italy – Frozen Margarita with Limoncello and Tequila – I love some tequila!


  1. Belgium – Beer Flight – Beer Me!
    1. Hoegaarden®
    2. Leffe® Blonde
    3. Palm Speciale Belge Amber Ale
    4. Stella Artois® Cidre


  1. France – “Ice Pop Pomme” Apple Juice, Vodka and Saint Germain Liquer – Can you tell my hubby enjoyed it?


  1. Craft Beers – Florida Harvest Beer Flight – Great local Florida brews!
    1. Brew Hub Keybilly Island Ale
    2. Two Henrys Blueberry Vanilla American Wheat Ale
    3. Orlando Brewing Grateful Pumpkin
    4. Swamp Head Wild Night® Honey Cream Ale


Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival runs until November 16th. No matter if you live near or far, it is worth the trip! All of our communities in Orlando are only 20 -30 minute drive away, but it is worth the drive or a flight in from any Camden community! Come enjoy this whole new way of experiencing Epcot!

Our Top 10 Food Picks at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival

Hands down one of my favorite Disney events of the year is Epcot’s Wine and Food Festival!! Food…Wine…How can you go wrong?


My husband and I, along with our best friends Heather and Kenny, went to the Food and Wine Festival at Disney’s Epcot this past weekend. We had an amazing day eating, drinking and enjoying spending time together.  We all want to go back again and again!

There were 38 stands and over 250 food and wine choices at this year’s festival. During our one day adventure we barely scratched the surface, but here are a few of our favorites with pictures (It is okay to drool, everything was delicious!).

Our Top 10 Food Picks at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival:

  1. China – Black Pepper Shrimp with Sichuan Noodles – Yum, Yum and Yum!IMG_1123
  2. Farm Fresh – Loaded Mac n/ Cheese with Nueske’s® Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Pepper and Green Onions – Did I hear bacon? Yes Please!


  1. Brazil – Pao de Queijo: Brazilian Cheese Bread – Oh Cheesy Bread Goodness – It melted in my mouth!


  1. Hawaii – Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise


  1. Cheese Studio – Trio Artisan Cheese – Do we see a pattern with all of this cheese top picks? I love cheese!
    1. Karst Cave-aged Cheese served with Honey
    2. La Bonne Vie Goat Cheese served with Craisin® Bread
    3. Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue Cheese with Berry-Compote


  1. Greece – Chicken Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce – So fresh and who doesn’t love tzatziki?


  1. Belgium – Belgium Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream – I could smell the waffles from a mile away!


  1. France – Crème Brulee Vanille Chocloat: Vanilla and Chocolate Crème Brulee topped with Caramelized Sugar – I love any Crème Brulee, but the chocolate and vanilla custards put this over the top!


  1. Canada – “Le Cellier:” Wild Mushroom Beef Filter Mignon with Truffle Butter – So good that I had it twice!


  1. Italy – Ravioli alla Caprese: Cheese Ravioli, Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella Parmesan and Basil – Oh Ravioli, how I love thee!


Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival runs until November 16th, if you live near or far, it is worth the trip! All of our communities in Orlando are only a 20 -30 minute drive away, but it is worth the drive or a flight in from any Camden community! Come enjoy this whole new way of experiencing Epcot!

Check out our choices for Top Drinks at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival!

September is Hunger Action Month

I recently had the opportunity to do some volunteer work. I have always wanted to help around in the community but always used the excuse that I didn’t have time, didn’t know where to start, and so on. I attend a large church, Church By The Glades, in Coral Springs, FL and they hosted a volunteering event throughout South FL with 1300+ volunteers coming together to make a big difference in one afternoon. This was a great opportunity and I didn’t want to miss out. There were so many options to choose from, and I decided to help at Feeding South Florida. They are the leading domestic hunger relief organization in South Florida, and together they rescue and distribute over 40 million pounds of food throughout the 4 South Florida counties- Miami Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe. It’s very exciting for me to think that we have so many Miami Camden Properties throughout these areas. I actually drove past Camden Plantation and Camden Portofino on my way there!

Can you tell that I was so excited to be a part of this great event?

Can you tell that I was so excited to be a part of this great event?

There were 2 time slots, and having a 2 year old, my husband and I couldn’t volunteer together, so he took the morning shift, and I took the afternoon shift. When I got there, they had us meet up in a conference room where they showed us a video with some helpful facts and chatted about the different roles and split us up into groups -inspectors, sorters, and distribution . I was a part of the inspection team. We would gather foods donated from retail and local growers, and make sure that the food did not over exceed the shelf life, and was safe and healthy enough to eat.


We had over 100 volunteers in this group pic. Photo courtesy of Church By The Glades instagram.

We had over 100 volunteers in this group pic.
Photo courtesy of Church By The Glades instagram.

Being that I work for, Camden, a company that values teamwork and having fun, I am very comfortable with a little friendly competition. They told us at the beginning that the Morning Team sorted through 21,000 pounds of food, at the end of our shift we were told we sorted 23,000 pounds. It’s always fun to brag or “win” but when you are doing a good deed and know how many people you are helping, it makes it all worth it.

My experience with Feeding South Florida was truly a memorable and rewarding one and I am looking forward to working with them again in the near future. I enjoyed this experience so much so, that I’m looking forward to October 7th, as I will be helping out at our Camden Cares volunteer event along with my fellow co-workers. I can’t wait for you to read about our experiences there.

I would suggest everyone volunteer at some point in their lives. Get involved, get out there and do something good for others, I promise it will make you feel good about yourself too!

Where’s the Cake? Fluff Bake Bar!

Birthday Cake - funfetti cake, vanilla buttercream frosting, cake crumble and and sprinkles on top. Photo courtesy of

Birthday Cake – funfetti cake, vanilla buttercream frosting, cake crumble and and sprinkles on top. Photo courtesy of

Recently I went to a birthday party with a friend of mine. The cake came out with the typical candles on it as we sang “Happy Birthday” to the birthday girl, but as I glanced at the cake I noticed this was no ordinary birthday cake. It was a 3 layered vanilla buttercream funfetti cake with sprinkles and crunchy bits on top! It was a cake that just made you smile from ear to ear before even trying it! This was no store bought cake. This had to be an expensive cake from a bakery I had never been to.

So of course I asked, “Where did you get that cake?” The birthday girl said, “Fluff Bake Bar. It has only been open for a few months.” Well no wonder! Here in Houston, when a new restaurant or bakery opens word travels fast…especially if it’s good. Once I got my hands on a slice and took the first bite, I was transported back to my childhood. There was something so familiar about this cake! It was moist but at the same time had a little crispy crunch, and the frosting was creamy sweet buttercream goodness. I couldn’t believe how yummy it actually was!

Rebecca Masson - Fluff Bake Bar owner and chef. Photo courtesy of
Rebecca Masson – Fluff Bake Bar owner and chef. Photo courtesy of

While researching this new local bakery, I found out the owner of Fluff Bake Bar, Rebecca Masson, is an award-winning pastry chef who went to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France for culinary school! She also competed on Top Chef: Just Desserts, didn’t win, but made Houston proud even with a pink cast on her left arm! She has made quite a reputation for herself in the pastry world, and is even “a highly sought consultant creating signature dessert menus for the top tier of Houston restaurants, including, Vic & Anthony’s.” Rebecca also supports the Lucky Dog Rescue with various charity events! She is a pastry angel in my eyes, and I am going to be a long time customer of Fluff Bake Bar…no wonder she is known in Houston as “The Sugar Fairy.”

Veruca Salt
Veruca Salt

Being the foodie I am, I rushed over to Fluff Bake Bar with an excuse to get a cake! While I was in there I noticed all the other goodies they had in the glass display case. I was a kid in a candy store, or in this case, a cake store! In addition to their cakes, Fluff Bake Bar has different kinds of cookies and cakes, but my eyes were draw to something I had never seen before! Cute little 8 oz. clear cups which looked like mini versions of their cakes with a clear lid on top (great way to have a few bites and save the rest for later). It just so happens that’s what they call their “cup|cakes!” How genius!

Chocolate Chip Cookie, SOL - (their version of a moonpie), Cup|Cakes - Birthday Cake (vanilla), Carrot Cake , Black Velvet, and Birthday Cake (chocolate)

Chocolate Chip Cookie, SOL – (their version of a moonpie), Cup|Cakes – Birthday Cake (vanilla), Carrot Cake , Black Velvet, and Birthday Cake (chocolate)

I picked up the Veruca Salt cake along with a few cookies, and some cup|cakes (of course). The Veruca Salt was so yummy with devil’s food cake and a salted caramel buttercream frosting with some chocolate crunch pearls and pretzel toppings! The marriage of sweet, salty, and a little crunch most of us crave, on a plate! My dad had the carrot cup|cake and said it was one of the best carrot cakes he has ever had, and this is one picky man! I took a bite and fell in love with this cake…the moist carrot cake with half-baked cheesecake, candied carrot pieces, hazelnut crunch, and cookie-butter buttercream icing! I have no words for pastry chef Rebecca Masson for creating this amazing carrot cake!

If I lived at Camden Midtown, Travis St., or even City Centre I would be a regular at the Fluff Bake Bar, and by regular I mean daily visitor. However, Midtown isn’t that far from anyone in Houston, right? Run, don’t walk, over to the Fluff Bake Bar for a sweet treat today! I recommend taking home a little of everything! Can’t stroll over to the Fluff Bake Bar? Well why not place an order online or by phone and pick it up later…I’m placing an order right now!

No Label

No Label What?

Once there was this little town in Texas named Katy. Sure, it is a nice place to live and raise a family- just ask some of our friends who live at Camden Downs at Cinco Ranch or Camden Grand Harbor. Katy has award winning schools with great high school sports teams that we watch on Friday nights- “Go Tigers!” (sorry, my hubby played varsity basketball for the Tigers). Aside from all of that, did you know that it is also the home of the craft brewery, No Label Brewing Company?

I discovered No Label beer one Friday night, while out to dinner with my hubby. We decided to be adventuresome and tried “No Label Brewing Company” beer. It was good! When I got home that night, I Googled “No Label Brewing Company” (ok, so that’s just what I do). I didn’t realize that they had brewed the beer literally right down the street from where we were eating dinner. Pretty cool!

No Label Brewing Company’s brewery is located deep in the heart of Katy on First Street. According to their website, the idea for the brewery blossomed out of the Royo family’s love of creating homemade craft beers back in 2009. Luckily for us, No Label supplies us with 5 year-round brews ranging from pale ales, a German Hefeweizen, to my personal favorite, a dark amber ale. In addition to these, they also produce many seasonal ales with local additives ranging from jalapenos to lavender. For those of us who live locally, we can purchase their beer at local grocery chains and Spec’s. I just sampled their “What the Hatch” ale last week at HEB. Guess what that contains…Hatch green chiles. YUM!No Label

In addition to many community events, No Label Brewing Company offers weekly tastings at their brewery just about every Saturday afternoon. As you drive towards downtown Katy, you cannot miss it. All you need is to bring a chair and, for $10, sample up to 4 beers while enjoying live music and local bands or the football game on television. They, also, enlist local food vendors to join in the fun or you can bring your own snacks. Kids and pets are also welcome.

If you are looking for a place to hangout on a Saturday and are in the area, go give No Label Brewing Company a try. It makes for a fun Saturday afternoon!

So You Think You Can’t Cook?

We all have our strengths, weaknesses, talents, hobbies and passions. Cooking and baking are two things I really enjoy, and I consider myself pretty good at it. I could never understand how people say, “I can’t cook”, or “I can’t bake.” Don’t get me wrong — some people are much better at cooking or baking, and it may come easier and more natural to them, but I believe that everyone can cook!

Check out this show on Food Network. If you think you can't cook-wait until you see these people! Photo courtesy of Food Network

Check out this show on Food Network. If you think you can’t cook-wait until you see these people! Photo courtesy of Food Network

My philosophy on cooking is, “If you can read — you can cook.” Reading a recipe and following the directions is the main part of cooking. Finding good and easy-to-follow recipes is the first step. You can’t go wrong with a traditional cookbook, and most large cookbooks have a lot of information in them also. The very first cookbook I ever received was from my Grandma. It was a Better Homes and Gardens cook book. The introduction had different cooking terms, equipment, food storage tips, measuring tips, meal-planning guidelines, table settings, and cooking techniques. The Internet is also an amazing resource for cooking and baking. You can Google or search anything and find a recipe with detailed instructions and pictures. Pinterest has thousands of recipes too, and is also a great website.

Pinterest is a great resource! Follow me @AlissaKarsten Photo courtesy of

Pinterest is a great resource! Follow me @AlissaKarsten. Photo courtesy of

I did my research before writing this blog and asked some of my friends who “hates cooking” exactly why they don’t like it. “What is it about cooking you hate? The prep, the cleanup, the time spent?” Most of the people I spoke to had similar reasons.

Here are a few:

  1. Time spent grocery shopping for ingredients
  2. Time and effort cleaning up after preparation
  3. Wasting ingredients not used (wasting money)
  4. Keeping track of multiple items being cooked at once, making sure they are all hot and ready to eat at the same time
  5. Not able to just throw things together for a quick and good dinner
  6. Take out is much easier and faster
  7. Just don’t have time for it!

Although I understand these “issues” with cooking, I must say I have to disagree, and now it’s my turn to argue this list. Shopping for groceries is not the most exciting part of my day, but I must say it’s necessary. You have to go grocery shopping in order to survive! If you are smart about it (and read my past blog about grocery shopping) it’s not that painful. You need to be organized, and if you shop right, you will be saving a HUGE amount of money instead of ordering take out or going out to eat!

Having a fair and organized clean up schedule is important too. If you live alone, well sorry — you’re stuck cooking and cleaning and may want to stop reading now, but for everyone else out there — switch off! At my house, I cook, my fiancé cleans, and it’s only fair. Cleaning dishes up as you go, while you are cooking, is smart too; it saves time in the end. For those of you with children, time to teach the some responsibilities and help clean up after dinner. There is never an excuse to waste ingredients or left overs. Everything can be stored, refrigerated, or frozen and used at a later time, or even the next day to create a brand new dish.

Clean up Clean up! Photo courtesy of

Clean up Clean up! Photo courtesy of

Really understanding cooking times, and planning different items to be done at the same time is not easy, but with practice (and failure) you will get the hang of it! The ‘tempting take out monster’ as I like to call him is hard to say no to. It is easy — I mean you can order food online and it’s delivered to your door 20-30 minutes later. Companies like Grub Hub make it even easier and convenient to order take out. Before you know it, these companies will be walking inside your door and feeding it to you! Not having time to cook is not a good excuse. There are so many recipes that simply take 20-40 minutes to cook, and pre-making meals and freezing them is also a smart way to have meals to grab and go!

Cooking for me is therapeutic, and I feel so accomplished and proud when I am finished and have this amazing dish in front of me to serve to my family and friends. My favorite memories with family are from my Grandma’s kitchen table — sharing a meal, laughs, and love. Even cooking together are some of the most memorable times of my life. I grew up watching and helping my Grandma in the kitchen, and she has taught me things I cannot wait to pass down to my future children and grandchildren. Her recipes are incredible and mean so much to our family, that we decided to make a family cookbook to pass down.

This is my family cook book. Recipes from my Grandma and Great Grandma. It means the world to me!

This is my family cook book. Recipes from my Grandma and Great Grandma. It means the world to me!

This is page from the cook book with my first pie I made with my Grandma.

This is page from the cook book with my first pie I made with my Grandma.

Cooking is just like any other trade or hobby; if you want to be good at it you have to properly educate yourself and practice. Think of all the benefits of cooking at home with your friends and family, and try it out. Eventually, it will be a piece of cake!!

Photo courtesy of yelp

Top five brunch places in San Diego


One of my favorite things about living in San Diego is the food culture.  Whenever I have company in town or I just want a relaxing way to spend my day off I always look for a great place to brunch. What I look for in a great spot is a cozy ambiance, great food, and friendly service. Here are a few of my favorites.

1. The Cottage

My co worker and friend at Camden Old Creek recommended the Cottage to me when I first moved here.  It is located in the center of La Jolla but is tucked away off the beaten path on a tree line side street away from the hustle bustle. I ordered the Eggs La Jolla which was perfect. After brunch you can walk down to my favorite beach, Windansea or take a scenic stroll to the cove to watch the sea lions and seals.

Photo courtesy of yelp

Photo courtesy of yelp

2. The Patio on Lamont in Pacific Beach

I love the patio because they are pet friendly so you can bring your furry friends with you. They also have happy hour all day on Mondays. You can’t beat that!  I ordered the corn flake french toast which was to die for.

Photo courtesy of yelp

Photo courtesy of yelp

3. Breakfast Republic in North Park

North Park is one of my favorite areas in San Diego and is known for great eateries. They have an amazing Bloody Mary with candied bacon as a garnish. I also loved the lemon coconut french toast.  Get there early especially on Sundays because it can get busy.

Photo courtesy of yelp

Photo courtesy of yelp

4. S & M (Sausage and Meat) in North Park 

If you like meat this is the place for you. They have great homemade sausage, thick bacon, breakfast cal zones and much more! It also has a “swine bar”.

Photo courtesy of yelp

Photo courtesy of yelp

5. Leilani’s in Pacific Beach 

This Hawaiian themed restaurant reminds me of home. I grew up in Hawaii and they have a Hilo Style loco moco that is delicious.  It has fried rice, hamburger, a gooey egg, and gravy.

Photo courtesy of yelp

Photo courtesy of yelp

The next time you are stumped on places to go for brunch check out these great places! For more ideas check out things to do in San Diego.

San Diego Restaurant Week


Photo credit to

I love food, which is why I typically blog about food. You can imagine then why I love San Diego Restaurant Week! To explain, San Diego Restaurant Weeks features 8 days from Sept 20-27 (Yes, I know that’s more than one week) of set menus from 180 different restaurants. These set menus offer a menu that typically includes an appetizer, main, and dessert at different prices ranging from $10-$20 lunches and $20-$50 dinners. It is a perfect opportunity to try a restaurant that may typically be out of your price range.

The best preparation is to visit the San Diego Restaurant Week website and search restaurants by name, neighborhood, price, type of food, or distance. From there you can see their set menu and decide what options to choose and see if it’s something that interests you. Personally I like to find deals on restaurants that I would normally not go to and I have never been disappointed. Not only is this a great tool for finding a new place but also a great way for local restaurants to show off and highlight their talents and tasty foods!

Be sure to set aside a night to check out a new restaurant and make sure to do some homework by first checking out the website to pinpoint the perfect spot!


Don’t Miss Out on the Festival of Flavor

Ok, so I am going to let you in on a little secret….I am not a Texan. Ok, so I said it. As my Texan hubby would say, I am an honorary Texan or a Texan by default. I am a Colorado girl living in a Texan world. We call our kids “Texacos” because they are half Texan, half Coloradoans. I am sure you get my point, now.

Let’s get one thing straight, Texans know their Mexican food. Tex-mex is never better than it is in abundance in Texas. However, I grew up in the green chile belt aka the Southwest aka “not Texas.” Some people refer to the type of Mexican food that I grew-up eating as “mountain-mex.” One of the key components of mountain-mex is green chiles. There are two types of green chiles: Hatch and all others. We use these green chiles in stew, sauce, in cheeseburgers, eggs, and just about anything and everything else. Even McDonalds used to have a green chile cheeseburger.20150815_123028

To give you an abbreviated background on green chiles, there is this magical place in New Mexico, a little village named Hatch. These luscious green chiles grow there and were originally cultivated in the 1800s. According the the Village of Hatch’s website, Hatch is the self-proclaimed “Chile Capital of the World”. They are holding their annual green chile festival on Labor Day weekend. Only green chiles that grow in this region are allowed to be called Hatch green chiles.

During the month of August, in Houston, not only can you experience Houston Restaurant Weeks, but Hatch green chiles make their magical appearance everywhere. Hatch green chiles are harvested and angels deliver these bundles of green goodness to your local grocery store, farmers markets, restaurants, grandma, etc.

  • Stores such as Kroger, Central Market, HEB, Randalls all have Hatch green chiles both roasted or fresh chiles that are ready to roast available for purchase. Some of the stores even have celebrations here in Houston. Makes my heart happy! As a Colorado girl, it makes me teary eyed when I smell the roasters out in front of my local HEB and reminds me of home.
  • Grocery stores stock Hatch green chile items ranging from bacon, sausage, cheeseburgers, soup, and even macaroni and cheese.
  • Even Pappasitos sells a Hatch green chile margarita and has a special Hatch green chile menu . Chuy’s has an entire green chile menu, aside from their two types of green chile sauces on their regular menu.2015-08-17 09.01.27

Hey Camden residents, if you are lucky enough to live in Houston, go find you some Hatch green chiles. I promise that you won’t be disappointed!  Go and get you some!

Now, if I could only find some friends to try the Hatch green chile margarita with…

Easy and Inexpensive Lunch Hack for a Busy Work Week

Are you trying to be health conscious? Spending too much money on lunch? Have you ever thought of meal prepping? If so, I am here to help guide you in the right direction on how to meal prep to make your life easier, save money and overall, be a healthier you!

We all know how the typical lunch time goes. It comes way too soon, you can’t decide what you want or where from and it never lasts long enough. I have always tried to prepare my meals ahead of time by usually making dinner the night before and having leftovers the following day, but what happens if you don’t want to cook ever other night and eat the same thing over and over? Usually you end up spending money out and eating unhealthy because you’re making such a hasty decision on the spot.

Let’s think about it for a minute-

An average lunch costs about $10, right?


Now, let’s say you are eating out 4 times a week.

You end up spending an average of $160 a month!

And most likely not eating the healthiest and/or best thing for you. What if I told you that you could meal prep and be healthy for about $15 per week? Do you think I’m crazy? I’m not, I promise.

Here is how I meal prep for about $15 per week:

  1. Make a list

This is crucial to make sure you get the items you need. I typically shop at a few different places to get these items. I make sure my list is categorized by the way my grocery store is laid out to make my trip more efficient. *Tip: If you want to eat clean, stay on the outside isles of the grocery store. (IE. Produce, Dairy, and Meats)

  1. Don’t get too crazy fancy, Stick with what you know

MealPrepMondayFoodBoneless Skinless Chicken Breasts – I buy mine from Sam’s Club at $1.88 a pound (Yes, I know it’s an amazing price!). I end up purchasing about 6 pounds of chicken for roughly $11.30. Mind you, I am one person and typically 6 pounds of chicken would last me about roughly a week and a half.

Broccoli – I also buy at Sam’s Club, broccoli florets all ready to go in a 2 pound bag for $3.98. I steam the broccoli in my microwavable steamer basket in batches until the entire bag is cooked. If you want to switch up your method of preparation, you can also sauté your broccoli in a pan with garlic and olive oil.

Sweet Potatoes – Luckily, my favorite grocery store carries George Foods-Petite Sweet Potatoes 1.5 pounds in a steam bag for about $4.99. And who said meal prep was hard?

Raspberries and Strawberries – Any type of berry is a great low calorie and low sugar snack. Luckily, my local grocery store had a BOGO sale and I was able to get a container of both for $5!

*To make the above even cheaper, you can always switch sweet potatoes for a bulk of brown rice or Quinoa. Personally, I just love sweet potatoes!*

RubbermaidTakeAlongsTupperware/Plastic Containers – They don’t call me the container queen for nothing! Luckily, I have enough containers to last a lifetime but if you are just getting into prepping and are in need of containers, I recommend Rubbermaid TakeAlongs. They are microwave safe, dishwasher safe and reusable. I was lucky enough to find a value pack of 62 pieces at Sam’s Club for $19.98!






3.  Prepare and shake things up with some spices!

Now that you have what you need, let’s spice things up! Don’t be afraid to try new and different spices from the grocery store. Some of my favorites for chicken are McCormick’s- Grill Mates Marinade packets in Mojito Lime, Baja Citrus, Backyard Brew, Garlic, Herb & Wine and Zesty Herb, just to name a few. I typically will divide my chicken up and marinade each bunch with a different flavor. You can also play around with different vinegar and oils along with salad dressings.

Make sure to cook all your food in one session. Place an equal amount of each item into the containers. I typically cut my chicken up into pieces before marinating. Once cooked, I add the following to each container:

1-cup of cooked chicken

½ cup of sweet potato

1-1 ½ cups of broccoli

You can also even it all out and eyeball it. It is a little time consuming but totally worth it. It usually takes me a total of two hours but in the end, the results are astonishing! *Don’t hesitate to freeze meals for the following week!

As you can see below, I was able to make 10 lunches in two hours!


I can grab my lunch in the morning on my way to work at Camden Westchase Park, save money and eat healthy throughout the week!

For further reading about food prep,check out this Simply Camden blog post!