Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bicycles & Bubbly

Summer is HERE! It's felt (temperature-wise) like summertime since March, but Memorial Day this week marked the unofficial start of all things hot and humid. And believe it or not, it’s my favorite season. We kicked things off right with a little cookout tour with some of our favorite people, and our June and July weekend plans are filling up quick. 

Last weekend, my Dad and I went to a local “ciclovia” called Atlanta Streets Alive. It’s a super cool concept happening internationally where neighborhood streets are closed to cars and opened to biking, skating, walking, or really any form of human-powered movement. Atlanta Streets Alive incorporated a few of my favorite ATL neighborhoods by shutting down a two-mile stretch of Highland Ave. Dad and I rode the whole thing (on our bikes, that is), and there were tons of things to stop and do/see along the way. There were food trucks, impromptu foursquare games, street hockey, belly dancers, live music, etc. It was basically a moving festival…so awesome. It was super hot that day, so we stopped at and had a drink at one of our favorite bars.
My favorite part of the whole thing was the crowd. It was a little tricky maneuvering around the swarms, but it was great to see so many people out and about, being active in a physical way, but also in a supporting the community way. I love Atlanta.

The weekend before that, Chris and I celebrated our Moms on their special day by making and hosting dinner for them, along with our brothers. We made our pretty much famous tacos (added ground beef this time), and our homemade taco shells have never turned out better. We had a great time with our main mamas.

To spice things up a little, we decided to make a little Pinterest-inspired drink. It was cute and girly and just for Moms.

Mother’s Little Helper

2 small containers of Frozen Lemonade (lemon flavored)

1 bottle Pink Moscato champagne
 Place one scoop of frozen lemonade into juice-sized glasses. Next, pour the desired amount of moscato on top, until the glass is about half-full (never half-empty). Enjoy with your favorite lady friends and moms alike.

Spring couldn’t have been better, but we’re so excited for summer, we can hardly stand it. Get ready for greatness such as my gluten-freeniversary, grilling galore, camp time, Braves games, weddings, gel mani/pedis, and who knows what else. It’s gonna be a great one.

Summer will never be summer to me without Ween, so in the wake of their "break-up", I leave you with one of my favorite Ween songs, because we all hoped they'd (Ween and summer) stay forever.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Adventures in Bahamia

Get ready to be jealous.

So I’m finally getting around to sharing about my dear friend Kate and I’s amazing Bahamian adventure. Here it goes:

The weekend we left was a whirlwind for me. I saw my Chris graduate, hosted a Bridal shower for my sweet friend Kathryn, and celebrated graduations and Cinco de Mayo with a party at our house… all of this leading up to a 7AM departure from our house to the airport.

We initially decided on The Bahamas for our little adult spring break because of the amazing airfare! We got direct flights, round trip to Nassau for $290, which was way less than the cost to fly to any of the other destinations we’d looked at (in the US of A). Lucky for us, my dad upgraded both of us to 1st class for the flight to Nassau. We were exhausted, hungover, and looking rough, so sitting in a big comfy seat and enjoying complementary adult beverages was the best thing ev-er. We decided the shampoo effect was our best option, so we continued the celebrations from the night before. We ended up waiting on the runway for over 2 hours because the air conditioner in coach was broken. Like I said, lucky us.

Anyway, we got there finally, and easily found our way to a cab, and before we knew it we were checking in to our hotel. We stayed at the Wyndham Nassau Resort on Cable Beach. We found a great deal online back in February, so with resort fees, taxes, etc, we ended up spending about $150 a night, so for 4 nights, we each paid about $300… Not bad. I will say that our room was AWESOME, resort amenities were not so awesome, BUT we had access to the resort next door, which was much nicer.
Our lovely view from the room
So all week, we enjoyed the ridiculously perfect weather, rum drinks galore, the bluest, clearest water imaginable, and the best part…no cell phone signal for miles.
We spent one day in downtown Nassau, and quickly realized it was the Myrtle Beach of the Caribbean. There were endless amounts of tacky gift shops filled with awesomeness, and I made sure to bring some goodies home for Jfal and Chris. We steered clear of Senor Frogs, per Chris’s request, but we spent a little bit of time by the Port of Nassau. I was super impressed by the size of the cruise ships. I’d never seen one in real life…man they were huge!
Round-a-boots everywhere
Queen's Staircase. Most visited attraction in Nassau.

On the ol'bus.
This was my first big vacation since moving to Atlanta, starting my job, and being gluten-free, so there was a lot to be excited about. Kate and I went in to it with a somewhat plan, but nothing concrete. We pretty much decided to wing it once we got there, which made everything that much more of an adventure.
Our daily daiquiri stop
The most challenging “adventure”, probably for both of us, was the quest to find food that we could a) afford, b) get to easily, and c) at least somewhat attempt to make gluten-free friendly. Our first issue was simply bad timing. On the Monday we were there, our first full day, The Bahamas was holding elections for their next Prime Minister, so that meant that almost every food establishment was closed until 6PM. It was actually pretty fascinating to be there during such a time to see how a different elections were there as opposed to the ones at home. We learned a lot about the Bahamian political past through talking to different people. It was so interesting.

We ended up having to eat lunch at our hotel, which we quickly realized we should avoid at all costs. We paid $18 for a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich and fries, which we split, and I of course did not eat the bread. We both left hungry and disappointed, but nothing else was open in Nassau, so we did what we had to do. That night for dinner, we attempted to go to a restaurant a little further down the beach towards Compass Point, away from Nassau. Well, after a $22 cab ride (because the $1.25 city bus stops running at 6PM), it was closed. Luckily, our cab driver knew of another place a little further down that was definitely open. The setting was absolutely beautiful…we felt like we were on a honeymoon, ha! We looked at the menu and gasped, but at that point, we were ravenous and we’d just paid $22 to get there, so there was no turning back.
I had a delicious pork chop stuffed with sausage, spinach, and goat cheese. It also came with grilled veggies and chunky mashed potatoes. It was so great to have an actual meal! So I cut it in half, and took the rest home for breakfast the next morning. Can’t say that I was in the mood for it the next morning, but it was free, so it was GREAT.
As the week went on, we got much better at finding good food. One day, we took the bus to the Fish Fry, which is basically a shopping center of food shack-type places. We ate at a place that someone recommended called Oh Andros. We got Grilled shrimp with peas n’ rice, fried plantains, and fries. It was more than enough for Kate and I to split, and it was only $14!! I can speak for both of us when I say that was our favorite meal of the trip.
We had another great lunch on our last full day, when we went on a Booze Cruise! If you’re ever in Nassau, I highly recommend going on this little outing. It was $60 a person for a 4 hour cruise, lunch, bottomless rum drinks, snorkeling, a private beach stop, and a ragin’ dance party. It was awesome! We had BBQ ribs and chicken with peas’n rice and corn. YUM. It was a good thing we had such a big lunch, because the drinks were flowing…and yeah…
Hermit crab
 So now that we’re back, fried plantains and peas n’ rice are my new favorite foods. I’m determined to make a Bahamian feast for my roommates, so as soon as I have the time, I’ll make it happen.

I had my doubts as to where a few of my next meals would come from on this trip, but I learned a lot for next time:

  1. Maybe an all-inclusive resort is the way to go. You pay more initially, but I think you’d save time and money in the long run. Our hotel food options were mediocre and insanely over-priced.
  2. Places like these are tourist traps. Be prepared to spend more money on food than you do at home, because options can be few and far between.
  3. Definitely hit up liquor stores. Drinks are expensive, and add up quickly. There was a liquor store in our hotel, so we ended up buying our own rum, a fifth for $8, then a can of pineapple juice for $4. Such a great idea.
  4. Bring your own breakfast! Kate brought us some snack bars and such from home, and they were serious money-savers.
  5. Don’t be scared of the public transportation. Cabs were infinitely more expensive. The only downside is that the city buses stop running around 6PM…another conspiracy to make tourists spend more money and take cabs if you ask me.
  6. No, Bahamians have never heard of “gluten-free”, so don’t bother asking them because you’ll just get a confused face. Stick to what you know.

There you have it! We had an amazing time being grown-up lady travelers and unplugging from real life for a few days. Thanks Kate, adventuring with me and putting up with my gluten-free needs. xo
Back to the A.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lasagna for real.

I’m baaaaaaack!!

Thanks, Chris, for taking care of blog-business for me. xo

But before I share my Bahamian adventures, I figured I better back it up before I forget…

…that I made an ACTUAL lasagna! If you’ll recall, I tend to use the word “lasagna” loosely, and interchangeably with the word “bake”. For example, our Saving Daylight Breakfast Bake, or the Mexican Lasagna. Or I just avoid any sort of defining adjective whatsoever, like Cheesy Corn Quinoa _______. I can’t/won’t, say/eat “casserole”. Ew. We’ve all got those words we hate…that’s mine.

So as we mentioned, Jfal moved in a couple weeks ago! We’re excited to have him, and so far so good! He even likes Grey’s Anatomy now! As far as we can tell, he’s not tired of Chris and I yet. We still don’t think he knows what he’s gotten himself in to. Shhh.

A while back, when we visited Haley in Charleston, we went to Earth Fare, and I stocked up on some gluten-free sales! That place is awesome! Wish we had one in Atlanta. One of the things I got was a box of GF lasagna noodles. My mom and my aunt make amazing lasagna, and I miss it all the time and have been meaning to make some. I’ve never seen gf lasagna noodles at our normal grocery stores here in Atlanta, so I saw the ones at Earth Fare (on sale, no less), and scooped them up.

When I set out to find a recipe, I ruled my aunt’s out because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. She makes her sauces from scratch, and while I wish I had the time and patience to do that…I just don’t. So naturally, I turned to Pinterest. I started with this recipe, hoping to make rolls like this. 
 I liked it because it required just a few ingredients we didn’t already have, included spinach, and seemed pretty simple.

One problem. I realized the noodles I got where the no-boil ones, meaning they soften as they bake. Sooo, no rolling was going to happen. Instead, I decided to make the old-school way. I pretty much stuck to the recipe other than that little adjustment (and a few others).

For real this time Lasagna

  • 9 gluten-free no-boil lasagna noodles. I used these.
  • 1 10oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and completely drained
  • 1 15oz. container Part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasonings
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 1 package of Italian chicken sausage. I used these.
  • ½ jar of your favorite pasta sauce1 ½ cups part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine spinach, ricotta, parmesan cheese, egg, garlic, Italian seasonings, chicken sausage, and salt and pepper in a medium bowl. 
 Pour about 1/2 cup sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 9 baking dish.

Break and piece together the lasagna noodles so that they make 3 rows in the bottom of the baking dish.

Take 1/3 of ricotta mixture and spread evenly over the dry noodles.

Repeat with remaining noodles and mixture until the dish is full. It should make about 3 layers.

Pour sauce over the top layer of noodles in the baking dish and top with mozzarella cheese.

Cover baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes, or until cheese melts.

Bake an additional 5-7 minutes to brown the top. 
 Serve with parmasean cheese, preferably on Wedgewood china.

The good news: the spinach + ricotta + sausage mixture was awesome! It was so good, I could have eaten it by itself.

The bad news: the noodles were kiiinnnnnda hard. I’m stumped. No-boil noodles just don’t seem normal. I’m getting regular boiling ones next time.

All in all, our meal was a success because Jfal got seconds, and we all ate it for leftovers a few days later. I really liked it with spinach in it, because I like spinach in/on/around everything. I’d love to try it with more veggies next time.

Despite a few crunchy bites and puzzled looks, I’d say my first actual lasagna was yummmayyy.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Smile and say Cheesy Corn Quinoa!

 Hello again! 

So the last time I guest blogged, I was cooking up some delicious Preacher’s Wife Pot Roast

So much has changed since then...


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Get busy living.

Thanks Morgan Freeman, for the title inspiration.

The past few weeks have been a little bit (a lotta bit) crazy. We’ve been on the go pretty much non-stop, with little time to stop and cook dinner! Our little lady friend, Chris was up to her tiara in grad school stuff, I had some later nights at the ol’ j-o-b, and we managed to sprinkle in a good bit of fun in between.