September 30, 2013

Florida Keys

We spent 24 hours in the Florida Keys this past weekend and I'm already looking forward to going back.  The Keys start just 15 miles south of Miami, but it takes about 3 1/2 hours to reach Key West.

It's worth the drive though...says the passenger :)  Key West is beautiful and as long you stay far from the drunk bachelor parties on Duval Street, it's a great place to visit!

The islands divide the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico, and the water is a gorgeous turquoise blue.  The beaches are very rocky, but the water felt great.  We were both surprised to find that the water wasn't nearly as warm as Miami beaches...which was awesome because it actually felt refreshing.

Saturday night we had dinner at Azur, which was recently recommended by Key West Girl.  Stephanie is just one of many bloggers I started following after moving to Miami.  TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc are great, but I trust local bloggers' recommendations even more.

Chris and I both loved Azur.  The food was great, the service was phenomenal and it was located near the one and only parking garage.  We brought our bikes, figuring they would be the best way to get around the small island, but road construction and lack of bike lanes forced us to drive instead :(

On our way home, we stopped at Bahia Honda State Park.  Pictured below is the Bahia Honda bridge that was originally part of the Overseas Highway.  Sections were removed in order to accommodate boat traffic.

After taking bridge photos, we drove through the park checking out the campsites and (air-conditioned!) cabins.  It's so hot and humid down here that I can't fathom trying to sleep in a tent, nor do I want to encounter any Florida wildlife while tent camping.

In Key West, we visited just a few sites during this first trip, including the Ernest Hemingway House (and his 44 polydactyl cats), Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Higgs Beach and a super short stop at the Southernmost Point buoy...just to say we'd been there :)

We already have a list of things we'd like to do on our next visit, including sailing on a schooner, eating homemade pasta at Mangia Mangia, yoga on the beach and maybe a trip out to Dry Tortugas National Park.

September 27, 2013

Pumpkin Pancakes

It recently occurred to me that living in the Eastern time zone, working Central hours, I have the perfect opportunity to cook breakfast each morning.  Others might say, get a workout in, but that's not how I think :)  Still on a pumpkin kick, this morning I tried a pumpkin pancakes recipe from Taste of Home that was delicious!

I'm still detesting my electric stove.  Unfortunately, gas is uncommon down here, so there's not much hope of a gas stove in our next place either.  I found that a fine dusting of powdered sugar did a great job of hiding the uneven browning from the stupid electric coil. 

I also added some toasted walnuts, which I'd like to try incorporating into the batter next time.  I recently had a Belgian waffle at a restaurant, with pecans baked in and it was so good!

Pumpkin Pancakes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients (10 small pancakes)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, then add milk, pumpkin and oil, whisking until smooth. Whisk into dry ingredients, just until moistened.
  • Grease griddle and heat over medium heat. Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto the hot griddle. Turn when bubbles start forming on top of pancakes. Cook until second side is golden brown.
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September 23, 2013

Sailing & Trader Joe's in Naples, Florida

If you google Trader Joe's in Naples, Florida you'll find reviews from people who drive there from the Miami / Fort Lauderdale area, where we live.  So it's not completely crazy that Chris and I drove nearly 2 hours today to stock up on our favorite Trader Joe's staples :)

The photo below is of a sign in their produce area which says the store opened February 10, 2012.  It was the first store ever in Florida and was mobbed on opening day according to Naples News. My favorite part of the sign is TJ's written with a heart around it in the sand.

I loved this particular store and only wish it was closer.  It was significantly bigger than other stores I've been in (formerly a Border's bookstore) and had cute beach decor, such as this manatee wearing a pilgrim hat selling pumpkins. 

Ok, so Trader Joe's is what put Naples on our radar, but in reality we visited today because we had heard great things about the area and we weren't disappointed.  We sailed on a catamaran for 3-hours with Cool Beans Cruises, which was an awesome experience...well, minus the part where I got seasick, but I'd still highly recommend it!

The captain of the boat was so friendly and made sure everyone always had a cold drink in their hand (wine, beer, soda and water were all included).  There were three other guests, two of whom were from Wisconsin (Cedarburg and Grafton), which was fun.

Our swimming skills were tested when we pulled up to Keeywadin Island.  The boat stopped (location pictured below), everyone looked at each and said "we have to swim from here?!"...and then the anchor dropped. 

We swam in the Gulf and then walked the shell-filled beach.  So how do you carry shells with you when you're swimming?  I cracked up as I saw women pulling shells out of their bikini tops after returning to the boat.

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos from the beach because Chris' waterproof iPhone case failed.  We had such good luck taking photos in the ocean around here, that we had no doubt it would be fine in the Gulf too...thankfully the case came with a full warranty.  After returning home I started looking for waterproof cameras on Amazon, anyone have a recommendation? 

September 19, 2013

Lentil Taco Salad

Chris is still a hard-core carnivore, but lentil tacos are one of the meatless meals he really enjoys.  I like the versatility of being able to have tacos or a salad with this lentil mixture.

My latest favorite is to mix in black beans and whole kernel corn, which occurred to me after ordering my favorite naked veggie burrito at Qdoba with black beans and corn salsa.

Today I enjoyed lunch on the balcony while a neighbor had Jamaican music playing on his boat in the background.  Another boater cruised through blasting Garth Brooks which wasn't nearly as pleasant. 

That's raspberry infused water you see in the photo below with my taco.  I can no longer use close proximity to a vending machine as an excuse for drinking Diet Coke all day long now that I work from home.  The only trick is keeping frozen fruit and water in a pitcher in my fridge. 

I was so excited to get back to cooking after after moving this summer, but our new kitchen is tiny and has an electric stove so it's not quite the same as our last place.

It's really small for one person and it becomes comical when both of us are in the kitchen.  It reminds me of a time share condo kitchen, which is perfectly useable but you wouldn't want to use it everyday.  Don't get me wrong though, I still plan to cook as often as possible!

Lentil Taco Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients (5 salads)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed
  • 1.25 oz package taco seasoning (or 2 heaping tablespoons taco seasoning)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15oz can whole kernel corn, drained
  • butter or iceberg lettuce
  • chopped tomatoes
  • shredded cheese
  • salsa or taco sauce
  • guacamole
  • green onions
  • In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook onion and garlic for 3 minutes. Add lentils and taco seasoning. Cook until spices are fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are tender, 30-35 minutes. Uncover lentils and cook until mixture thickens, about 7 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, mix together cooked lentils, black beans and corn. Then spoon lentil mixture over a bed of lettuce and add toppings, as desired.
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September 15, 2013

North Hollywood Beach, Florida

When I told people I was moving to Miami, many said something along the lines of "it will feel like a vacation everyday" and while I think the novelty of beach will wear off, it was fun to check out a new spot this weekend.
Yesterday we headed to Hollywood, just north of us because I had read good things about an oceanfront restaurant named Latitudes.  I had an excellent vegetarian wrap that I want to recreate at home, but the ocean view was blocked by hotel cabanas. 

After lunch we unpacked our chairs and umbrella and headed to the beach.  The water is crazy warm right now.  Walking into the waves felt like sliding into bath water.  We cooled off with Bud Light lime-a-ritas, which is something I never thought I'd like.  A friend turned me onto them when I was boating with her and I have to admit that they taste great.

We got lucky with the weather yesterday.  Bright blue skies and not a drop of rain, which is unusual this time of year from what I've heard.  Did you know that Miami gets more rain than Seattle?  In fact, the top 10 wettest cities in the US are all in the south.  Today it's pouring rain, there's palm tree debris in the road and lightening is cracking across the sky.

September 11, 2013

Pumpkin Scones

After a 1,500 mile move from Milwaukee to Miami, I am back in the kitchen!  Pumpkin recipes are all over Pinterest, Facebook and blogs right now.  One lone can of pumpkin made the move which allowed me to make pumpkin scones today from a Taste of Home recipe.

I love all things pumpkin and these scones are no exception.  They're delicious plain and even better with a little drizzle.  Our new kitchen is tiny and things are still in boxes, but luckily I was able to find everything I needed to make this recipe.
There are currently no Trader Joe's nor Penzeys Spices down here, so I had to rely on my supplies from Wisconsin.  A Trader Joe's is opening soon and you better believe I've got that date marked on my calendar! 

I tried a couple different drizzle techniques, using a fork for half and a Wilton squeeze bottle for the remaining scones.  The bottle method was definitely less messy but I kind of prefer the more rustic looking fork dripped look as seen below.

I can no longer bring treats into the office because I now work from home for the same Wisconsin company, so Chris is taking a plate full of scones into work with him tomorrow :)

Pumpkin Scones
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12-14 minutes

Ingredients (16 scones)
    • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    • 4 teaspoons baking powder
    • 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup cold butter
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 2 tablespoons milk
    • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
    • Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
    • In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender.
    • In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin and milk together. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened (I use my hands toward the end to help the ingredients come together).
    • Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times. Divide dough in half. Pat out each half into an 8-inch circle, brush with milk and cut into 8 wedges. Places wedges 1-inch apart on prepared baking sheets.
    • Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks and cool for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the glaze ingredients and drizzle over scones. Serve warm. 
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