The Best Meal of my Life!

The Best Meal of my Life!

Sukiyabashi Jiro 

On our first trip to Tokyo I was amazed by how good sushi can be.  I was a sushi fan prior to our trip but Chris had never tried it.  We found a restaurant right outside the Tsukiji fish market and had what I believed would be the best sushi of my life.  I savored every bite and worried Chris didn’t realize what an amazing meal this was since it was his first sushi experience.  When we left Tokyo, with no plans to return, I feared I would never have sushi of that quality again.

 

Salmon & Tuna

Salmon & Tuna

 

Fast forward a few months later. Chris was planning our honeymoon and we had decided on Thailand.  We could fly there via Hong Kong or Tokyo.  I would have chosen the shortest route, Hong Kong, but Chris had other plans.  He had read about a small sushi restaurant located in a subway station in Tokyo that had won 3 Michelin stars.  The owner, Jiro Ono, is considered to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. He was even featured in a movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi. His restaurant was also featured on Anthony Bourdains No Reservations.  It didn’t take much convincing to get me to agree to have an extended layover in Tokyo so we could try this amazing restaurant.

Sukiyabashi only has 10 seats with service only twice each day (yes only 20 people a day can eat there!).  Jiro has very strict rules extending from how the food is prepared and served to how you get one of his highly desired seats.  First, we called Yoko, our tour guide we had used on our first trip so she could call the restaurant for us.  We also asked if she would accompany us so we’d have a translator on hand, plus we loved her company and knew she would make this special meal that much better. This was in April (our trip was in December) and we found out the earliest they allow reservations is 1 month in advance and they must be made by your hotel.  Thankfully we were staying at a hotel that was familiar with Jiro’s and a month out they called first thing and we were in!

On the flight to Tokyo we watched the movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi.  It’s a great documentary.  Though you may never have the experience of enjoying Jiro’s sushi you should check this documentary out.  He is such an interesting man and seeing how he runs his restaurant and trains his chefs it’s no wonder he’s won 3 Michelin stars.  It also gives great insight into the Japanese culture and incredible work ethic.

Even after seeing the movie you can’t appreciate the remoteness of this award winning restaurant until you see it with your own eyes. Walking down the subway stairs to this tiny location was unreal.  We were the first of the 10 diners to arrive.

Entrance to Ginza, you walk down to the restaurant

Entrance to Ginza, you walk down to the restaurant

 

Sukiyabashi Jiro

Sukiyabashi Jiro

Each day Jiro selects the best fish at the market to serve and develops a unique menu based on his finds.  Every part of the meal is choreographed and served in a specific order to ensure you get the optimal enjoyment from the meal.  It is expected you will eat at a fairly rapid pace, making this meal last on average around 20-30 minutes (we broke this rule and took a bit more time!).

 

Our menu

Our menu

Served with our meal, they were like a bean/nut... I wish I could remember the name.

Served with our meal, they were like a bean/nut… I wish I could remember the name.

 

The Saki we enjoyed with our meal.

The Saki we enjoyed with our meal.

Sole FishSole Fish

 

Squid

Squid

 

Yellowtail

Yellowtail

 

Tuna

Tuna

 

Semi Fatty Tuna

Semi Fatty Tuna

 

Fatty Tuna.  I expected this to be my favorite and while it was outstanding some of the new things to me were even better.

Fatty Tuna. I expected this to be my favorite and while it was outstanding some of the new things to me were even better.

 

Gizzard Shad.  Not sure what this is, but it was tasty.

Gizzard Shad. Not sure what this is, but it was tasty.

 

Steam Abalone

Steam Abalone

 

Jack Mackerel

Jack Mackerel

 

Boiled Clam Shell, I loved this one.

Boiled Clam Shell, I loved this one.

 

Sardine

Sardine

 

Boiled Prawn.  One of Jiro's specialties and I agree it was amazing!

Boiled Prawn. One of Jiro’s specialties and I agree it was amazing!

 

Ark Shell, surprisingly one of my favorites.

Ark Shell, surprisingly one of my favorites.

 

Bonito.  I have no clue what this is but it tasted smokey.  This is also the point when I started to feel REALLY full!

Bonito. I have no clue what this is but it tasted smokey. This is also the point when I started to feel REALLY full!

 

Squilla.  Kinda of crunchy.

Squilla. Kinda of crunchy.

 

Mackerel

Mackerel

 

Sea Urchin. One of Chris's favorites.  Really smooth and buttery!

Sea Urchin. One of Chris’s favorites. Really smooth and buttery!

 

Baby Scallops

Baby Scallops

 

Salmon Roe

Salmon Roe

 

Sea Eel.

Sea Eel.

 

Egg. They spend years perfecting making this.  It was sweet and one of the best things I've ever tasted.

Egg. They spend years learning to make this perfectly. It was sweet and one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

 

Melon.  Served at the end.  I normally don't care for melon but this was really light and refreshing after such a huge meal.

Melon. Served at the end. I normally don’t care for melon but this was really light and refreshing after such a huge meal.

 

You sit at a bar for the meal but for the melon you are moved to a booth and are served tea.  I could barely move I was so full, but the tea and melon really helped.

You sit at a bar for the meal but for the melon you are moved to a booth and are served tea. I could barely move I was so full, but the tea and melon really helped.

 

This was truly a once in a lifetime experience.  We were the last to leave, soaking in every moment.  Yoko spoke with the elusive Jiro and when he heard we had traveled there on the way to our honeymoon specifically for this meal he graciously agreed to take a photo with us.  I don’t think this meal will ever be topped and likely will be the best meal of our lives (fitting since it was the kickoff to our honeymoon).

Our picture with Jiro, what an honor!

Our picture with Jiro, what an honor!

 

What is the best meal you’ve ever had?  What food if any would you consider traveling half way around the world to try?

 

Blueberry Coconut Pancakes

blueberry panckes

I’ve never been a big breakfast food fan.  In fact when I’m hungry in the morning I’d be happy having dinner leftovers.  Most mornings we hit the gym and have one of my favorite smoothies.  However, occasionally we don’t make it to the gym and Chris’s first question when he wakes up is, “what’s for breakfast?”  I love a good savory egg dish but I indulge Chris’s sweet tooth on occasion and make pancakes, usually my whole grain coconut chocolate chip pancakes.

Last week Whole Foods had an incredible sale on organic blueberries.  I was able to get 12 pints for $21!  I froze the majority of the berries but reserved a few pints to eat and cook with.  It just so happened I was also out of chocolate chips and thought, “why not sub blueberries in my pancakes.”  WOW!  What a great sub these fresh berries turned out to be!  I can’t wait for you to try these pancakes.

blueberry panckes 2

 

Blueberry Coconut Pancakes

Ingredients

¾ cup spelt flour

½ cup whole wheat flour (we like King Arthurs white wheat)

1 TBS baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 ¼ tsp 100% real maple syrup

1 egg

1 cup whole milk

½ TBS melted butter (you could sub coconut spread/oil here)

1 tsp vanilla

¼ cup organic unsweetened shredded coconut

½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen defrost prior to using)

  1.    In a bowl mix together dry ingredients (flours, baking powder & salt).
  2.     Mix in wet ingredients (maple syrup thru vanilla).
  3.     Once well mixed add in shredded coconut and mix together (don’t over stir the mixture) plus the blueberries.
  4.     Heat a lightly buttered griddle or frying pan over medium high heat.  Pour the batter onto the pan using approximately ½ cup for each pancake.
  5.     Brown on both sides and serve hot.

This recipe makes 6 pancakes for me (they may be a bit on the larger side you could easily get 8).  Since there are just two of us I take the extra two pancakes and freeze them in a baggy.  Then on mornings when I’m not in the mood for pancakes but Chris is I can quickly reheat the frozen pancakes for a quick breakfast for him!

Smokn’ Fresh Streetside BBQ

Smokn’ Fresh Streetside BBQ

Definitely didn’t think I’d be doing a restaurant review of a food truck, but I’m excited to tell you about this great find!

street side bbq

Eating “clean” at home is relatively easy once you make the decision to do it, but eating out has a lot of challenges and temptations.  I have definitely become more aware of what I’m eating both at home and out but it can be really hard to find things that fit the way I want to eat when out.  Most of the times I stick to vegetarian options when I’m out since at least I know I’m avoiding “questionable” meat that way.

Last month there was a local event bringing together local farmers so consumers could meet them, buy products and talk with them about their growing practices.  It was a lot of fun and really informative for me.  I noticed a food truck was there and caught that it was organic bbq!  I was excited to see it and took their info down but had lunch plans so I didn’t get anything.  Then I realized I had locked my keys in the car!  Chris came to my rescue and in return I offered to buy his lunch from the food truck.  I got him a chicken sandwich and after stealing a bite of it was really jealous of his lunch!

I started following Smokin’ Fresh on Facebook, hoping I would cross paths with them soon.  This weekend they were at a food truck event in Shawnee that just so happened to be where I was for work.  Being a brisket fan I was very excited to see it on their menu.  The brisket was really tender and moist.  I love that they use farm to market bread (a local KC company), which happens to be my favorite bread.  The sauce was a bit mild for me (I prefer a bit of a kick) but all and all it was a tasty sandwich.  I’m really looking forward to trying their pork next time.

 street side bbq 3street side bbq 4street side bbq 2

It’s really great to see a local business, supporting local farmers & companies while serving high quality ingredients at really affordable prices.  They even have a variety of vegetarian and gluten free options.

The menu when I visted

The menu when I visited

If you’re in KC find these guys and give them a try. You’ll be glad you did!

Update June 2013!!!

Every week I go to a couple farmers markets that Streetside is regularly at (Waldo & Brookside).  Last week I made it to the Wednesday Waldo Farmers’ market that is held in the evenings.  Since I had to work that evening this was a great chance for me to grab a quick dinner for Chris and me.  This time we tried the pulled pork and I’m afraid I may not be able to try anything else again.  It was SO good!  Chris loved it as well.

Tender pulled pork, amazing!

Tender pulled pork, amazing!

Lake Life

Growing up in a land locked state summer means trips to the lake.  Some of my fondest childhood memories are trips to the lake with my parents.  Chris grew up taking the same trips to the same lake and still going several times a summer with his family.  As soon as winter hits I’m longing for spring and a trip down to the lake.

If you’ve ever been to the Lake of the Ozarks you know what the food is like.  Most of the “restaurants” make McDonalds look healthy. They all seem to have their own version of the exact same food; some type of chicken wrap smothered in ranch dressing, BBQ pork sandwich, a burger and of course a side of fries.  The grocery store has very few options all of which are highly processed and far from organic.  I’m sure many people love the lake food, but for Chris and me we’d rather eat less processed foods then available there.

Memorial Day weekend kicks off “lake season.”  Last year we were just getting into eating mostly organic and fewer processed foods.  I planned to cook quite a few meals and packed up all the ingredients but didn’t pre make anything.  I spent a lot of my trip in the kitchen trying to get things cooked and most nights we were busy and I didn’t start cooking dinner until 6 or 7 resulting in some 10pm dinners.

This year I’m even more passionate about eating “real” foods and have gotten better about planning meals.  About a week before the trip I started planning what to bring, turning to recipes I’m very familiar with and knew I could prep ahead and finish at the lake quickly and easily.

 My make list of food w/many recipes:

Breakfast:

Biscuits: pre measured all dry ingredients

Eggs

Bacon

                 Steel cut oatmeal: pre measured all ingredients & packed in baggy (we cook ours in the crockpot overnight)

                 Pancakes: pre measured all dry ingredients

                 Quiche: premeasured all dry ingredients (brought bacon, spinach & cheese for the filling)

                 Lunch:

Ham sandwiches (we had a ham in the freezer I needed to cook, so I made it ahead and sliced it up to bring)

                 Salads

                  Chia fruit salad: premade liquid ingredients

                  Wraps

                 Snacks/Dessert:

                 Larabars: we had some already made

                 Cookies: premade cookie dough to bake there

                 Brownies: pre measured all dry ingredients

                 Nuts

                 No bake chocolate bars: made ahead of time

                Dinner:

                 Beer can chicken, grilled veges & quinoa

                 Steak & potatoes plus grilled veges

                 Brats & veges

                 Chicken burgers (my own recipe, will post soon) & salad

Once I had a game plan I started the prep and shopping.

 Pastimes Farm & Bakery’s farm is on the way to the lake and it was so convenient to stop at the farm to pick up the meat and a few dozen fresh eggs.  We ended up spending about an hour at their farm, chatting with them and seeing all the animals.  They have such wonderful farming practices and their passion for the high quality care they give their animals is amazing.  Diane’s beliefs against GMO’s mirror my own and I love supporting farms that care so deeply about high quality food.  I highly recommend visiting the farm you get your meat from.  It’s not only educational it’s really fun!  For my KC readers Pastimes Farm & Bakery is at the Overland Park Farmers market every Wednesday and Saturday.

Pastime farm

Pastime farm & bakery, so beautiful!

The great chickens supplied us w/ 3 dozen eggs!

The great chickens supplied us w/ 3 dozen eggs!

So you may be wondering about the sugary brownies & cookies.  While I am working hard on finding/creating recipes for desserts that don’t include refined sugars or flours every once and awhile we splurge and indulge in some of our favorites.  Holiday trips are definitely one of those times and I still believe that by making these treats myself we’re better off than buying premade process “junk.”

The night before we left I threw together a quick homemade mac and cheese (I’ll need to post my recipe soon) to bake off when we got to the lake since it would be right at dinner time and I knew I wouldn’t be up for any cooking.  This turned out to be the best idea; we were starving and tired when we got there.  I loved being able to throw it in the oven while I unpacked and relaxed.  It also made a great lunch the next day.

It took a large cooler, a small cooler, plus 5 bags of food to get everything packed.  That along with the dog and all our clothes made for a full car but we managed to get it all in.  (I meant to get a picture but forgot; we were running a bit late leaving and very rushed!).

So how did it all turn out?  Great!  It was so nice having so much prepped and ready to go on the grill or in the oven.  I ended up with a lot of leftovers, but I’d rather have too many options then not enough.  We had an amazing trip and never had to compromise and eat foods we normally wouldn’t eat.

Beer can chicken

Beer can chicken

Beer can chicken

Beer can chicken

Beer can chicken is a recipe I usually reserve for the lake.  It makes a delicious chicken… really moist.  This year I premade some spices to rub on the chicken; paprika, garlic, onion.  The chicken turned out pretty spicy and I couldn’t figure out why.  Until I got home and realize I had rubbed the chicken with chili powder instead of my premade spice… opps!  Oh well, it was still really good!

 

Aspen Ski Trip

Aspen

IMG_0008

Every year we are lucky enough to take a ski trip.  Before meeting Chris I had only skied twice in my life, neither of which amounted to much skiing.  I like to think that each year I’m becoming a better skier.  Good or bad I have fun and really look forward to these trips.  In 2012 our trip was to Aspen & this year (2013) we started off in Aspen before heading to Beaver Creek (I’ll touch on that on another post).

Both trips we stayed in Aspen Highlands.  Our hotel is ski in ski out which I love but Aspen Highlands is pretty much a ghost town.  I think there might be a pizza place there but other than that you have to go into town to see any sign of civilization once the mountain closes.  We get a heck of a deal on the hotel so it’s well worth us staying there but otherwise I would suggest staying elsewhere.

The great thing about going to Aspen is there is a mountain to fit whatever you need.  Got kids or beginner skiers?  Buttermilk is the place for you.  Our first trip we almost missed Buttermilk.  It was the X Games week and I was with much more experienced skiers so they were more interested in skiing the tougher runs then Buttermilk offers.  The last day of the trip it was just Chris and me so we ventured over.  I’m so glad we went.  If you are there during the X Games, ski Buttermilk!  It was the day before events started and we were out skiing with all the competitors.  It was great seeing them all out having fun and warming up.  This was also the perfect easy mountain for me.  I even got up the guts to try out my first black.

My first black!

My first black!

Since we were staying at Highlands we skied there the first day.  This was a mistake.  Three of us were beginner/intermediate skiers and decided to take a lesson.  Highlands is not meant for beginners and the ski school isn’t really set up to cater to them.  Luckily we were the only ones in our lesson so it wasn’t too big a deal but our first run was a rough go since there weren’t any great “warm up” beginner runs.  When we went back in 2013 I was a much improved skier and this mountain wasn’t nearly as hard as I had remembered.  Looking back I would say this is a great place for intermediate or advanced skiers.  Beginners should work on polishing up their skills at Buttermilk first.

Have a mix of different level skiers with your group?  I would head to Snowmass.  Both trips we hit up this mountain and everyone enjoyed it.  There is a variety of each level run at Snowmass.  Plus if you get tired and want to take a break or quit earlier then everyone else there’s great shopping and food to keep you entertained while you wait for the hardcore skiers.  Our first trip I was ready to call it quits a bit earlier than the rest of the group.  I found Snowmass Bakery and loved being able to lounge on a couch with my boots off enjoying a croissant and hot tea.  Our next trip a group of us hung out at Venga Venga Cantina & Tequila Bar while we waited for the hot shots to finish up.  They had a great view and we loved having a beer with chips & salsa while sitting in front of the fire on the patio.

Hanging out at Venga Venga

Hanging out at Venga Venga

Aspen Mountain was another great place for a variety of levels.  We didn’t make it there on our second trip but on our first trip it was one of my favorites.  We did make a stop there for lunch our first day in Aspen on our 2nd trip.  Ajax Tavern is right at the base of the mountain.  When you sit outside like we did you get a great view of all the action.  I had French onion soup & side of brussel sprouts.  Both were incredible!  Chris had the French dip sandwich and he loved it.  Pretty sure that will become a regular stop for us when we head to Aspen.

Enjoying Ajax Tavern

Enjoying Ajax Tavern

So now onto the all important part of our trip… the food!  Like I said before our hotel was located pretty far from any food.  Both trips we went to City Market grocery store.  As far as grocery stores go this one is just ok.  They don’t have a ton of choices but hey its vacation so you make do.  If you need a few beverages for your trip I would head to the liquor store next door since Colorado law requires grocery stores to sell their alcohol with lower alcohol content.  But hey you’re at altitude so who needs extra alcohol?!?

For the most part we ate breakfast in the room with items we purchased at the grocery store.  Lunch was usually on the mountain.  Let me tell you there isn’t much I love more than eating a vege burger up on the mountain after a full morning on skiing!  We did, however, make it out to dinner most nights.

L’Hostaria was a delicious place for fresh Italian.  We also enjoy Campo DeFiori.   Their fresh salads and pasta were exactly what we were looking for. Nothing like carb loading when you have a full day of skiing behind you!

Ice "chair" at L'hostaria

Ice “chair” at L’hostaria

Before dinner drinks at Campo DeFiori

Before dinner drinks at Campo DeFiori

For a more upscale dinner try out BB’s Kitchen.  Chris and I were alone for dinner one night and enjoyed a nice “date night.”  The portions were the perfect size and really delicious.  They make most things in house with local ingredients which is always a huge plus for me.  Plus the restaurant itself has a great atmosphere.

On our first trip to Aspen we had been told to try a Japanese restaurant, Matsuhisa.  Unfortunately, we hadn’t realized how popular it was and never were able to get a reservation.  When we decided to go back to Aspen we were quick to call ahead and get a reservation for our first night there.  Matsuhisa is known for their amazing sushi and it did not disappoint.  Some of the best sushi I’ve had in the US. Not a sushi fan?  Don’t worry; they have a great menu of cooked fish or meat to fit most tastes.  Our entire group left really happy with their meal.

When we couldn’t get into Matsuhisa on our first trip we were told to try Kenichi instead.  Kenichi is very similar to Matsuhisa.  With a great atmosphere and high quality food I would recommend this place.  Again they have a very diverse menu that would please most anyone.  If you are a sashimi fan I would say Matsuhisa has slightly higher quality fish but Kenichi’s rolls were wonderful and still better than anything I get in Kansas City!

Robyn’s tips for Aspen:

1.     Send you beginner skiers to Buttermilk for a day of lessons.

2.     Take your group of different leveled skiers to Snowmass.

3.     Enjoy Apres ski or lunch at Ajax Tavern.

4.     Have a dinner date at BB’s Kitchen.

5.     Don’t miss the great sushi at either Matsuhisa or Kenichi.

Caramelized Onion Hummus

hummus 2

Whenever I’m making something from scratch I’ve found making extra and then portioning it out to keep in the freezer really makes cooking everything from scratch feel just like cooking using pre- packaged ingredients.  I can make a meal 100% from healthy whole ingredients by just assembling things I already have made and have on hand.

One of the things I always keep on hand in the freezer is pre made beans.  I will dive into my bean cooking in another post, along with the recipe you can use for any bean you want.  Having beans frozen and packaged in 1 2/3 cup portions (equivalent of 1 can) makes throwing together something like hummus no big deal.  However, if you don’t have them on hand you can always grab a can of organic garbanzo (chickpeas) beans.  Just make sure the cans are BPA free.  I also touch on homemade tahini here.  This is another one that you make once then portion out, package and freeze so you can easily grab it when you need it.

My chickpeas, made in September & frozen ready to be made into hummus

My chickpeas, made in September & frozen ready to be made into hummus

I love hummus as a quick snack w/veges.  I was very disappointed to learn my favorite brand Sabra, uses GMO’s in their ingredients.  I’ve also been disappointed in many of the ingredients in most store bought hummus I found, so I decided it was time to make my own.  I won’t lie giving up store bought hummus has been a bit of a challenge because I’ve struggled to find a recipe that I like.  This one was finally a hit!  Plus it makes a ton, so if you’re like me and just a 2 person household you can package and freeze ½ of this recipe so you’ll have it on hand for another time.

Caramelized Onion Hummus

 ½ large onion thinly sliced

1 ¼ tsp salt, divided

1 TBS Ghee** or butter

3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped.

2 cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas) drained, or 2 1/3 cups freshly made

1/3 cup tahini*** (homemade is easy and a lot cheaper)

Juice of one small lemon (about 2 TBS)

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

  1. Melt ghee over medium low heat.
  2. Add onion and sprinkle with ¼ tsp salt.
  3. Cook onions until caramelized, adding garlic about ½ way through the cooking process.
  4. Meanwhile, place chickpeas, salt, lemon juice and olive oil in a food processor.  Add cooked onions and garlic.  Pulse until smooth.
  5. Enjoy!

**Ghee is clarified butter.  This is easy & much more affordable to make at home.  I use Deliciously Organics method Ghee Recipe.

***Homemade Tahini: In a food processor pulse 2 cups toasted sesame seeds with 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil until a smooth paste forms (kind of looks like peanut butter).

Its a simple as placing your ingredients in your food processor and blending!

Its a simple as placing your ingredients in your food processor and blending!

Caramelized onions & garlic

Caramelized onions & garlic

Finished & topped with a drizzle of olive oil & an olive

Finished & topped with a drizzle of olive oil & an olive

I packaged 1/2 to freeze for another time

I packaged 1/2 to freeze for another time

West Palm Beach FL

When it’s the middle of January in Kansas and your husband asks if you want to go on a spur of the moment trip to Florida you say yes!  Chris’s parents felt the same way and agreed to join us.

When I started packing I got so excited.  Shorts, t-shirts and of course plenty of swim suits.  I went into this trip pretty blind about what we would be doing but when we got there the theme for me quickly became how much key lime pie I can eat.

We arrived early in the day and had some time to kill before we could check in and meet up with Chris’s parents.  We headed to West Palm to check it out and grab lunch.  We stumbled upon Paris Bakery.  The reviews online were great and it lived up to them.  We both had crepes and they were amazing!  We ate outside and it was very French and fun.  The service was great and the food was fresh and delicious.

http://www.parisbakerycafe.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.main&x=5005214

I had the Brittany (chicken, mushrooms, spinach & béchamel sauce)

I had the Brittany (chicken, mushrooms, spinach & béchamel sauce)

one of the great views we enjoyed while walking around

one of the great views we enjoyed while walking around

Once we were settled and had met up with Chris’s parents it was time to find a fresh seafood place for dinner.  The hotel gave us a list of places and after reading reviews we decided on PB Catch Seafood & Raw Bar.  It was a trendy place in downtown West Palm.  I had the Chilean Seabass (it was promised to be sustainable fished by MSC).  All of our meals were good but nothing over the top and quite pricey (though most places in West Palm are).  Looked like a fun bar and had a great atmosphere so I would recommend coming for drinks and/or apps.

With a full day planned we were up early our first full day there.  Breakfast was Hurricane Café.  Quick & tasty it was the perfect place to start the day.

http://www.hurricanecafe.com/

I had an omelet. The homemade toast was the best

I had an omelet. The homemade toast was the best

Bellies full we headed downtown to check out Palm Beach Segway Tours.  I must admit I was a bit skeptical when Chris said he had scheduled this for us.  For starters I was nervous about driving the Segway and hearing it was two hours, it sounded a bit long to me.  Boy was I wrong!  First you train in the store on the Segway.

Yes the helmet is required!

Yes the helmet is required!

It was surprisingly easy and fun.  We all picked it up quickly and were headed out.

Just getting started

Just getting started

I swear I didn't feel like I had the death grip on the handles but it sure looks like it!

I swear I didn’t feel like I had the death grip on the handles but it sure looks like it!

Our tour guide, Steven, was amazing.  He not only knew everything about Palm Beach, he was entertaining and a neat person to spend the day with.  This tour really shows you everything.  You go from West Palm Beach to Palm Beach where you see the amazing homes and boats along with some sights.

Downtown West Palm Beach

Downtown West Palm Beach

DSC_0680

Flagler Museum

Flagler Museum

Kapok Tree Palm Beach (2)

Kapok Tree

In the Kapuk Tree

In the Kapok Tree

Royal Palm Bridge, this connects West Palm & Palm Beach

Royal Palm Bridge, this connects West Palm & Palm Beach

Lake Trail, there are some beautiful views and homes along this path

Lake Trail, there are some beautiful views and homes along this path

By the end you are feeling pretty comfortable on the Segway and ready to take it full speed on one of the open paths!

Look ma no hands!

Look ma no hands!

DSC_0994

We grabbed some restaurant recommendations from Steven before leaving and decided to try Old Key Lime House for dinner that night.

The real reason we headed to West Palm Beach was to see the Philadelphia Flyers hockey game.  Old Key Lime House was not completely on our way but it sounded good enough to try anyway.  My only regret is we were really rushed so she didn’t get the full experience of this really neat place.  I would recommend making a full night of this place.  The restaurant has great outdoor seating on the water but the bar also has a great atmosphere and would be fun for before or after dinner drinks.   Also, make sure you find the back bar… we ate at the front one and when we realized there was another one in the back were sad we missed it.

http://www.oldkeylimehouse.com/

old key lime house view

There are a few things I love that you just can’t get good quality of in Kansas.  Old Key Lime House had two of these things; lobster roll and Key Lime Pie. I was in heaven and both exceed my expectations.

Lobster Roll

Lobster Roll

Their Key Lime Pie was featured in Bon Appetit Magazine

Their Key Lime Pie was featured in Bon Appetit Magazine

Along with the great food I have to say the service was incredible.  We mentioned we were in a rush and they got us our order and bill quickly so we could enjoy our food and get on our way.

We made it to the BB& T arena to watch the Flyers win against the Panthers 7-1!

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The next day Chris and I were on our own while Chris’s parents played golf. We decided to hit up the Juipter Outdoor Center to try out paddle boarding.  I would recommend checking the tides before trying paddle boarding for the first time!  We were going against the tide making it a bit harder than I had expected.  It was fun though, and the water was beautiful.  Next time I want to try it on the inter-coastal waterway, it looked much smoother.

Jupiter Outdoor Center

Jupiter Outdoor Center

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One of the places Steven had raved about happened to be across the street from where we paddle boarded, Guanabanas.  It sits on the inter-coastal waterway and has a great view.   Yet another fun atmosphere and great food.  The Blackened Shrimp wrap was light and full of flavor.  Of course we had to try the key lime pie too!

http://www.guanabanas.com/

View of the inter-coastal water way

View of the inter-coastal water way

Guanabanas Key Lime Pie

Guanabanas Key Lime Pie

Chris’s parents had a great day on the golf course and we met back up to grab some drinks with Chris’s cousin Dawn who was in town for work.  She recommend Spoto’s Oyster bar.

http://www.spotosoysterbar.com/

drinks with Dawn

It was great to meet Dawn and everyone enjoyed catching up with her.  She also had a great recommendation for dinner, Charley’s Crab.

We met some friends from Kansas who had recently moved to Florida for dinner and enjoyed another amazing fresh seafood dinner.  Finished of course with key lime pie!

http://www.muer.com/

Fun dinner at Charley's Crab

Fun dinner at Charley’s Crab

Charley's Crab's Key Lime Pie

Charley’s Crab’s Key Lime Pie

We were headed home the next day.  Since we were flying home from Fort Lauderdale we stopped for lunch on the way at The Royal Pig.  The sandwiches were huge!  I had the Hoisin Glazed Free Range Turkey Burger with the organic sweet potato fries.  For starters the food was great.  I love a good turkey burger but a lot of times when I eat them out I’m disappointed.  This burger was moist and full of flavor.  The best part for me when not feeling like I had to compromise when ordering.  Free range meat and organic ingredients is definitely a huge plus in my book!

http://www.royalpigpub.com/

All in all it was a great trip and I would love to go back.  What a great place to get away to when it’s cold at home!

Robyn’s summary of musts in West Palm Beach:

  1. If you like Key Lime Pie check out Old Key Lime House.  Of all the key lime pies I ate this was the winner and the atmosphere is amazing too!
  2. Palm Beach Segway tours: I would do this your first day.  You learn the area and see all the great sights.  Plus segways are just plain fun.
  3. For fun in the water check out Jupiter Outdoor Center.  They have great options and the water here is beautiful.
  4. Guanabanas for lunch or dinner.  This place has such a fun atmosphere it would be great for any meal.
  5. For a nicer meal try Charley’s Crab.  We all loved the fresh seafood and it was a nice place to have a long meal with friends.

Whole Grain Pizza Dough

Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza?  While I’ll admit I love a good pizza shop, eating pizza out usually means compromising and eating processed foods.

Cooking pizza at home is not only easy it’s really tasty too!  The trick is a great crust and I finally figured out a recipe that I love.

Before I get to the pizza crust recipe here are my thoughts on those oh-so delicious toppings.

  1. Homemade tomato sauce: this is a must for me.  I make tomato sauce in large batches and freeze it so I always have it on hand.  Homemade tastes better and you can control what is in it avoiding all the sugar and sodium you’ll find in the jarred stuff.  I promise to share my crockpot tomato sauce recipe soon.
  2. Mozzarella cheese: I choose to freshly grate all my cheeses.  The anti-caking agent found in pre-shredded cheeses isn’t for me.  Cellulose (the anti-caking agent) is mostly prepared from wood pulp.  I don’t know about you but I don’t regularly eat wood pulp and I don’t think having it added to my foods is natural.
  3. Veges: I prefer mushrooms (sliced thinly) and chopped fresh spinach.
  4. Meats: I’m ashamed to admit I love pepperoni, but knowing how terrible it is for me I avoid it and have learned to love sliced leftover chicken or turkey meatballs.  When I make meatballs we always have lots of leftovers that go in the freezer and then are easy to defrost for pizza night.  If we don’t have any meatballs or other leftover homemade meat we just go for a vege pizza.

Now onto the crust!  First, if you plan on making pizza at home on a regular basis you should invest in a pizza stone.  They don’t cost much and they really make the difference in taking a homemade pizza from ok to amazing.  I find it easiest to prepare the dough in my bread machine on the dough cycle.  This recipe makes two large pizza doughs.  I wrap and freeze the extra dough for a quick and easy dinner another time.

Honey Whole Grain Pizza Dough (bread machine recipe)

Ingredients:

1 cup warm water

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

1 ½ cups spelt flour

3 TBS organic raw honey

1 tsp salt

2 TBS coconut oil

2 tsp. bread machine yeast

1-2 tsp cornmeal

1. Place all the wet ingredients including the coconut oil as well as the salt in the bread machine.  Top with the flour, make a small well in the top of the flour and place the yeast in the well (the yeast should not touch the water)

2. Follow your bread machines instructions for dough.

3. Once the dough is ready split it into two pieces (if you are freezing ½ now is when you will wrap the dough well and place in the freezer).

4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

5. Roll the dough you are using on a lightly floured surface until the size of your pizza stone.

6. Sprinkle the stone lightly with the cornmeal and place the dough onto of the cornmeal.

7. With a fork lightly pierce the dough several times.

8. Place dough on the stone in the preheated oven and pre bake it for 5-10 minutes or until very lightly browned.

9. Remove from the oven and top with your favorite sauce, cheese and toppings.  Bake until cheese is melted and crust is golden browned.

Your crust will be a beautiful golden brown!

Your crust will be a beautiful golden brown!

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

 

banana bread

Last week we were hit with quite the blizzard.  In a matter of a few short hours we went from no snow to a foot of snow.  The city was pretty much shut down and Chris and I enjoyed a snow day.  While he took care of the nasty task of shoveling us out I was inside cooking up breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  Since we hadn’t had a storm like this in years it was actually fun to be “snowed in.”  Then came the news that another storm was on its way.  Chris was headed to Colorado to ski leaving me home alone and a bit worried about being stuck home alone.

We live in an older neighborhood with beautiful large trees.  We also have above ground power lines… not a good combo when storms strike.  We felt lucky to escape a power outage during the first storm and I had a feeling I wouldn’t be so lucky the second time around considering they were calling for high winds and heavy wet snow.  I knew I needed to prep!

Prepping for me is a bit different then for most.  While everyone was complaining the stores had sold out of bread and milk, I was busy stocking up on lettuce for salads and baking supplies. The day before the storm I decided to try making a whole wheat, refined sugar free banana bread to keep me satisfied during the storm.

I’m happy to say I survived the storm and while 100,000 people in the city lost power I was lucky to escape the storm with my power staying on.  Shoveling the driveway was quite the task but I had three incredibly nice neighbors who came to my rescue and helped me finish it up.  I have to say the banana bread was a great idea!  It kept getting better each day and I practically lived on it.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

Ingredients:

¾ cup Spelt Flour

½ cup whole wheat flour (I prefer King Arthur’s White Wheat)

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

2 large eggs, room temperature

½ tsp vanilla extract

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing pan

¼ cup maple sugar

½ cup maple syrup

1 TBS honey

3 over ripe bananas

½ cup toasted walnuts (optional, dark chocolate chips are a great sub too!)

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Butter a loaf pan and set aside.
  3. Mix flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together eggs and vanilla.
  5. With a mixer cream butter, sugar, maple syrup and honey.  Add egg mixture and combine.  Add bananas and mix until combine.
  6. Hand mix in flour and nuts (or chocolate chips).
  7. Bake for 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 30 minutes before transferring to a wire rack and letting cool completely.

If you don’t have maple sugar you could use all maple syrup.  Both have a lower glycemic index then refined white sugar.  Maple sugar is a great white sugar replacement but quite pricey so I try and limit how much I use.  Maple syrup does darken the batter a lot, so don’t freak when it’s baking and it starts to look really dark I promise it won’t taste burnt.  I don’t know about you but I think banana bread tastes its best a day or two in, but it was still pretty good the first day warm from the oven.

The batter

The batter

The finished product, the maple syrup makes it darker

The finished product, the maple syrup makes it darker

Meet the pups

Being snowed in has definitely had its fun times and helped me get caught back up.  I think I speak for many when I say I’m ready for spring now!  It did finally give me time to post about two of the most important members of our family.

Colby & Zoey

 

Colby "Jack Cheese" Born July 4, 2001

Colby “Jack Cheese” Born July 4, 2001

 

My sophomore year in college I moved off campus into a townhouse with two other girls.  One of the first things my parents made me promise was not to get any pets.  Before classes even started one of my roommates and I were looking for a dog.  It really was supposed to be her dog, but it wasn’t long before he was really mine.

 

Colby was found on the side of the road in the Virginia Mountains with his brother by a local small horse farmer.  She had posted about him at the animal shelter and when we visited her we knew he was “the one.” He is a true mutt and we’ll never know for sure what he is.  I like to guess he has some border collie, lab and chow in him.

 

This 11 year old has no clue he’s an old man.  He still plays like a puppy and is the picture of health.  In his 11 years he has seen many of my boyfriends come and go and moved 5 times.  I think he was happy I finally settled down and got married so he can have a bit more peace in his life!

 

Zoey Born November 24, 2011

Zoey Born November 24, 2011

 

In April of 2011 my believed female dog Mandy passed away.  It left a hole in our hearts and we will always miss her.  That summer I couldn’t think about getting another dog but by fall it was clear Colby was lonely.  I started to pester Chris about getting a puppy but he wasn’t so sure it was the right time.

 

In early December a friend of mine posted pictures of the puppies she was fostering.

 

The picture from Facebook

The picture from Facebook

 

 

Her mom owned a farm and a stray female lab had begun staying at her property.  She had taken her to the vet to make sure she was spayed and told she was but shortly after the neighbors Great Dane was found hanging around a lot.  On Thanksgiving she had 6 black laberdane puppies.

 

I showed Chris the picture of the puppies and for the first time he was pretty excited.  We had 5 of the 6 puppies come to our house one afternoon and spend a few hours with us.  After going back and forth we finally agreed to take the sweet little girl who loved the tennis balls.

 

The day we picked Zoey out, she was only 4 weeks old

The day we picked Zoey out, she was only 4 weeks old

 

Zoey has been such a joy and has brought new life to all of us, Colby included.  She has such a loving personality and would prefer to spend her days cuddling on the couch with us.  She has grown a lot in the last year but still thinks she’s a lap dog.

 

Our "little" dog has grown to 60lbs!

Our “little” dog has grown to 60lbs!