Friday, September 30, 2011

Question: What's For Dinner? Answer: Veggie Lasagna!

A friend suggested that I share on this blog my meal ideas. Not wanting to disappoint, and also thinking it might be helpful to parents, I decided to oblige.

The first thing I want to write about is a delectable vegetarian lasagna recipe that I whipped up this evening with rice noodles I found at Whole Foods this afternoon. They were on the shelf, practically jumping up and begging, no, challenging me, to make my veggie lasagna with them. I couldn't resist.

So, here goes. I tend to improvise when I cook, so I don't have exact measurements. Shouldn't be too hard to follow, though, and successfully replicate.

Main ingredients are shown in the photo above. I didn't necessarily use everything but you can see all that goes into producing the final product:

1 tub of ricotta cheese
1 box of no-boil rice lasagna noodles
1 package of small-medium-sized organic zucchini
1 small organic yellow onion
1 package of organic mushrooms
1 package of shredded mozzarella cheese
2.5 jars of organic tomato basil pasta sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit then prep ingredients. First, chop a few cloves of garlic, the small onion, and saute in a frying pan over medium-low heat with some olive oil, Then, slice each zucchini in half, length-wise and chop into half-moon shapes. Add zucchini to garlic-onion mixture once that is translucent. Note: I sauteed the mushrooms separately in a pan with olive oil and salt because I knew someone I was going to feed didn't like mushrooms, so I only put them in half of the lasagna. But they can go right in with the zucchini and garlic-onion mixture.

Once the stove-top ingredients are cooked to perfection (slightly firm, not mushy), start laying the sauce and noodles into a rectangular pan. Sauce goes in first, then a layer of noodles. On top of that, put another layer of sauce, veggies, crumbled ricotta, light layer of salt and pepper, few shavings of mozzarella, and more noodles to top it off. Repeat last step and cover with the rest of the mozzarella. Pop into oven on middle rack for 30 minutes uncovered, then take out, cover with aluminum foil, and put back in for another 30 minutes.

And here you have the end result. Super tasty! Served with a salad, it's the perfect meal for a family. Enjoy!

final product plated with simple salad

perfect accompaniment 

Just-Discovered Event in Agoura Hills

For all you San Fernando Valley dwellers, this sounds pretty cool:
Reyes Adobe Days
Saturday, 10/1 & Sunday, 10/2

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ack, What To Do With The Kids This Weekend?!!!

As usual, Los Angeles is brimming with a bounty of family fun* this weekend, which is the official start of fall festival frenzy. Is it a pumpkin patch you and your young ones seek? This city is bursting at the seams with them! Also on tap in the few days ahead: last weekend of swimming at the Annenberg Beach House; alternative vehicles in Santa Monica; Chinese Acrobats in Northridge; Animal Guys at Eaton Canyon; free drawing classes at a Hollywood gallery and so much more. Read on to find the perfect event for your family in your neck of the woods or just a short drive away.

* While I have tried to find all the wonderful events in LA for this upcoming weekend, my list below is by no means exhaustive, I just became exhausted! In other words, there are likely a gazillion other things going on but I started seeing double and had to call it a night.

Friday, September 30th

Santa Monica: Alt Car Expo (also on 10/1), 10:00 - 5:00 pm

Woodland Hills, Pierce College: Halloween Harvest Festival (thru 10/31), 10:00 am to 12:00 am (Fri-Sat) & 10:00 am to 10:00 pm (Sun-Thu)

Pomona, Fairplex: LA County Fair (thru 10/2)

Northridge, Valley Performing Arts Center: National Acrobats of China, 8:00 pm

Saturday, October 1st

Altadena, Eaton Canyon Natural Area:
Family Nature Walk, 9:00 - 10:00 am
Nature Tails Story Hour (ages 3-5), 10:30 - 11:30 am
Animal Guys (ages 5 & up), 7:00 - 9:00 pm

Santa Monica, Pier: Wake Up With The Waves FREE Children's Concert Series, 9:00 - 11:00 am

Pasadena, Pacific Asia Museum: Silk Road Story Time, 10:30 am

Los Angeles, Petersen Automotive Museum: Discovery Day Halloween Special, 1:00 - 4:00 pm

Manhattan Beach: Manhattan Beach Hometown Fair, (also on 10/2) 10:00 am - 6:00 pm

Arcadia, Los Angeles County Arboretum: Arboretum Adventures, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Moorpark, Underwood Family Farms: Fall Harvest Festival (thru 10/31), 9:00 am - 6:00 pm

Montrose: Montrose Oktoberfest, Noon - 11:00 pm

Santa Monica, Annenberg Community Beach House: Last weekend of swimming for 2011 (also on 10/2), 10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Westwood, Geffen Playhouse: Story Pirates, The Flagship Show (ages 4 & up), 2:00 pm

Sunday, October 2nd

Pacific Palisades, Beeplanet's Toddlerbaloo, 10:00 am - 2:00 pm

West Hollywood, Book Fair: The Kids' Stage, 11:00 am - 5:00 pm

Hollywood, LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions): ASAP's (After School Arts Program) 2011 Re-Visions of LA Drawing Workshop (children of all ages), 1:00 - 4:00 pm

LACE event

Griffith Park, Autry National Center: American Indian Culture Day, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Los Angeles, Skirball Cultural Center: Make a Little Magic Workshop for Families (ages 7 & up), 2:00 - 4:00 pm

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Family-Friendly Activities for This Weekend

LA is going to be a-buzz with many festivals and events this weekend. Here's a sampling of the coolest ones I could find:

Harvest Festival - Long Beach Convention Center, Friday-Sunday, 9/23 & 9/24 (10a-6p), 9/25 (10a-5p)

LAFD Hollywood Museum - free on Saturdays, 10a-4p

LAFD Harbor Museum - free on Saturdays, 10a-3p

Story Theater - Santa Monica, Saturday, 9/24, 10a, 11a, 12p

Celebrity Story Time (Benefit for Milk & Bookies) - Culver City, Saturday & Sunday, 9/24 & 9/25, 1-4

Baja Splash Cultural Festival - Long Beach Aquarium, Saturday & Sunday, 9/23 & 9/24, 9a-5p

Watts Towers Day of the Drum and Jazz Festivals - free on Saturday & Sunday, 9/24 & 9/25, 11a-5p

Abbot KinneyFestival - Sunday, 9/25, 10a-6p. I'm sure the security has improved since the shooting that took place there in 2008, FYI. Not wanting to scare, just inform.

Tarfest Music and Art Festival - free at La Brea Tar Pits, Sunday, 9/25, 12-6

Certified Farmers' Markets

Going Swimmingly

For over 2 years, my son has been learning to swim at Jim Herrick Swim School in Valley Village. Water safety was on my list of things he would achieve at a very young age. The techniques taught at Jim Herrick are highly regarded and time-tested (decades). It's not the high-speed type of swim lessons sought by some parents for instantaneous swimming, but rather a methodical approach to a long-term love of the water and staying safe in it. Kids go into the pool with a teacher (one-on-one) and work on their skills for 20 minutes. I ramped up my son's lessons to 40 minute sessions this summer because he was ready for more in-depth instruction. It's been a thrill to behold his progress and trust in his teacher - all of whom at the school are wonderful and patient yet firm with their students. The school is a real gem.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"I Want My Tempeh Reuben"

So said my 4-year-old son at Flore Vegan in Silver Lake during lunch today when he thought I took his sandwich. The kid is hooked! He craves not only the vegan version of that classic NY deli specialty, but also the tempeh bacon Flore serves up, which is sublime as either a side or part of their BLTA (tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato & avocado). At Flore, even the most devout meat eater can find something to savor, as the menu is choc full of creative and innovative vegan offerings. There is a kids menu but we always just share the BLTA and tempeh reuben and order 2 "Basic Green" fresh-pressed juices (a quick, yummy way to feed a kid his or her leafy greens). For dessert my son usually chooses a lemon poppyseed cupcake. Delish!
close-up of BLTA
kids menu
dessert case - cakes & cupcakes, some wheat-free, all vegan
BLTA & our favorite flore bev: basic green

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Grand Little Playground Downtown

Right in the heart of LA's downtown concrete jungle of high-rise office buildings and apartments, bustling city streets and general city chaos lies a sweet little fenced-in, clean, sand-free playground.

It's within the boundaries of Grand Hope Park, across from FIDM's (Fashion Institute of Design & Management) Los Angeles campus, and located 3 blocks from the 7th and Figueroa Metro stop on the red line.

Here's what mama friend L has to say about the playground, which she and her son have come to know very well:

"This is the most ethnically diverse playground I have been to in LA.  Even better, the parents are really interesting.  Many are expats from all over who moved into downtown for one reason or another. And they are friendly! One tough thing about visiting Grand Hope playground is the parking.  Meters are $3/hour - and that's if you can find one.  However, directly across the street is Ralphs supermarket, which offers a 90-minute validation - no purchase required.  It has a huge deli and prepared food section - helpful for that last-minute snack or lunch. It's not exactly health food but acceptable in a pinch. Grand Hope also has a huge open grassy area plus a fountain/water feature; kids always seem to love those. I am currently investigating kid-friendly restaurants within close proximity - will report back."

nice playground equipment and spongey ground

cute riding toys

Free Kids Concert TODAY at The Americana on Brand in Glendale

Every Tuesday at The Americana on Brand you can catch a free kids concert from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. Today Twinkle Time is performing.

I've never seen them but I just checked out their Web site and they look like a very vibrant group - intense, colorful, music is super poppy. My son might be a little put off by their masks and costumes and high-energy vibe. But kids who are used to that kind of thing will probably get into it. Worth a try - the show's free! So there's nothing to lose.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Eating on the go - Los Feliz TONIGHT

Never been to this before but have been wanting to try it. Apparently, every Monday night in the parking lot of Our Mother of Good Counsel Catholic church (2060 N. Vermont Avenue) in Los Feliz, there is a gourmet food truck event from 5:30 to 9 pm. It's called DinDinAGoGo. Check out their Twitter feed for more info.

Give the Library Some Love

And it will love you back!

Click here to be directed to the Los Angeles Public Library locations and hours. There you will be able to scroll down and find your nearest branch and all sorts of interesting and FREE! activities for children and adults.

We're on Twitter!

I have no idea what I'm doing but I think I just put Play in LA on Twitter.

Find us there: play_in_la.

And if you have any tips on using Twitter, let us know!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Little Birdy Told Me . . .

... that a parent can get bargains on kids' clothes in this town at Blue Bird children's resale on Larchmont. It's a win-win for moms and dads and the environment, since we're recycling fabulous duds. Bring your old stuff in and do a trade.

Yesterday I scored these adorable items for my 4-year-old.

~ C

H&M robot tee back

H&M robot tee: $6.50

crewcuts cashmere infinity scarf: $3

Old Navy zip-up sweater: $5

Like us on Facebook!

Hey Play-in-LA-ers,

Just created a Facebook page. Won't you "like" us, pretty please?!!


~ C

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Kid-Centric Events for Sunday, September 18th

Family Funday at Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga.

Tiny Tot Olympics in Malibu.

3rd Annual KCRW Good Food Pie Contest at LACMA.

Thai Cultural Day at Barnsdall Art Park.

Family Day at The Autry National Center. Activities to celebrate Women's Suffrage Centennial.

Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica. Pool still open!

Good Food Festival and Street Fair in Santa Monica.

List of Farmers' Markets.

I'm sure I've missed a few here and there but that's all I can come up with now. It's late. Gotta hit the hay. Happy Weekend!

~ C

Always Appreciate a Good Playground

Is it just me or is there really a shortage of good playgrounds in this city? This is a constant conundrum for L & me. We have our limited faves but are always on the lookout for more around town that suit our needs. L really prefers a playground sans sand; highly desired are the ones with the spongey surface - and no darn wood chips. Unfortunately, those are few and far between. So, inevitably we have to settle for second best.

Today was one of those instances of finding a playground happy medium: not crowded, shady, clever climbing structures, very little sand, but lots of wood chips. The kids had a blast. They tried every structure: swings, spider web climbing maze with a trampoline center, monkey bars, slides, spinny things (for lack of knowing their proper name), and grass for running and kicking a ball.

And it was all in a quiet neighborhood off of Cordova in Pasadena, at a place called Grant Park. There's even a covered picnic table area with charcoal grills, baseball diamond and tennis courts, and tons of free parking. Hooray for an awesome discovery - thanks to another dear mom friend, Y.

~ C

Gratitude and Daisy

In pursuit of kid-friendly restaurants, L & I are always game to try new places that seem appealing to us in one way or another.

Being that both of us are vegetarian (my son is, hers isn't), our options are a bit limited but that makes for an interesting and fun challenge.

Today happened to be a 2-restaurant day for us. We hit Cafe Gratitude for an early lunch, as L had to grab something at Not Neutral and the two places are right next to each other. 

11:00 am (right when they open) is the perfect time to arrive at Cafe Gratitude if you're dining with children. There's no wait then and you'll be grateful you can slip right into your seat.

The kids menu is nothing to write home about but there are plenty of offerings on the main menu that should suit a youngster with adventurous tastes. Also, the smoothies are perfect for instant fortification.

Later in the day, we were out in Pasadena and L had been to Daisy Mint many times so we set off in search of tasty Thai food.

We were not disappointed. The kids particularly loved the sticky rice with peanut sauce. L & I were gaga over the spicy eggplant (ordered mild so the kids could also try) and pad see ew with tofu and no egg. Their tea selection is just lovely so everything totally hit the spot. Plus, we were in and out within an hour and able to ferry the children off to an early bedtime.

Done and done!

~ C

Veggie pad see ew - peppery and delicious!

Wide Open Space

If your child needs to let loose and run like the wind, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better place than The Meadow in Silver Lake.

Located directly next to the reservoir on Silver Lake Boulevard, it is one of the best locations to run, fly a kite, or just sit and chill with a picnic. Although, our one complaint is that the ground is consistently soggy. Not sure what that's about. But it's nothing a good lawn chair can't cure. Besides, we're usually too busy romping around to sit still anyway.

My little one always enjoys a good bike ride along the path that winds through the grassy expanse.

~ C

Color it Yours

Not exactly the cheapest outing with your kids, but creative and a break from the usual is a trip to Color Me Mine.

We recently whipped up these babies there one Sunday afternoon.

The pair cost us about 50 bones so fair warning before you set off in search of your own pottery-painting artistic exercise. But, if you have a budding Basquiat on your hands, it may well be worth the hit to the wallet.

If nothing else, it's a fun way to kill a couple hours on a hot or rainy weekend afternoon.

~ C

Get your FIX

An easy little lunch spot that we've recently started patronizing is The Fix in Silver Lake, located at 2520 Hyperion Avenue. It's small, simple and super tasty. We're not carnivores but this burger joint serves up huge, flavorful veggie burgers so that suits us just fine.

Great for kids. Can get in and out in a flash. But no "kids" menu, per se. Check out their offerings here.

~ C

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's only FAIR

I guess we would be remiss not to mention the LA County Fair, especially since it is in full swing and is probably one of the most family-friendly events happening now (runs through October 3rd).

Here is a link to the event guide for today, Friday, September 16th. I (C) personally have never visited the Fair but have always been intrigued. If you go, let us know how it is.

~ C

Thursday, September 15, 2011

L & C's Favorite Thursday Afternoon Outing with the Kids

Pretty much every Thursday afternoon/early evening, we take our kids on the gold line (exit at Mission) to the South Pasadena Farmers' Market for play, people-watching, and mouth-watering morsels. Adding the train ride to the market enhances the experience in a few ways. 1): It eliminates the hassle of finding parking in South Pasadena. 2): The kids totally dig it. 3): It's kind of a green thing to do, and that's always positive.

For info on the market, go here: South Pas Farmers' Market.

For LA Metro Gold Line, click here.

And now for some taste-bud-tempting photos of our dinner and dessert . . .

~ C

veggie & cheese pupusa (plus all the
delectable toppings)
caramel corn - INsane!

peanut butter cookie (the best ever!) -
from Homeboy bakery booth
lavender creme brulee - from Nicole's Gourmet,
around the corner from South Pas Farmers' Market

Aw, man, what to do with the kids!!!???

This is the question we found ourselves asking each other over and over again. We could usually scrounge up something from the recesses of our addled mom brains, and sometimes it was even unique and fresh.

But it would take us countless hours searching online - time we really should have spent relaxing after our kids went to bed, or reading a book or newspaper. We were convinced that that there had to be someplace, something different, somewhere we hadn't been to too many times before - and we were determined to find everything.

During our play dates, we would often comment to one another that we couldn't believe there wasn't one central online source that would give us daily tips on extraordinary stuff that would wow us and our children.

So, we are creating one ourselves. Our hope with this blog is to share our knowledge of fantastic restaurants that welcome kids, clean and interesting playgrounds - ones with sand or without, zoos, aquariums, hiking places, planetariums, cool beaches, etc., etc.

Another goal is to give parents daily suggestions of special family-friendly events, preferably free but also ones that might charge nominal fees for barrels of fun.

So, check back with Play in LA regularly to see what this big city has in store for your family!

~ C