March 26, 2014

Spring Break 2014

First it was French-Canadians that invaded and now the spring breakers are here.  My sister Brianne turned 21 last month and we celebrated during her spring break.

First up, a trip to the Florida Keys.  Room rates are ridiculous right now, so we just did a day trip to Key Largo, which is about 1.5 hours from our apartment.  It was our first time at John Pennekamp  Coral Reef State Park and it's a place I definitely want to visit again.

There are quite a few activities to choose from there, including kayaking and snorkeling / scuba tours.  This time around we opted for the glass-bottom boat ride.  It sounds great in theory but in reality, there were a lot of motion sick people on the boat.

After departing a boat full of pukers, we headed to Knaus Berry Farm since Homestead was on the way home and I had heard rave reviews.  Almost all of South Florida's farming happens in Homestead, which is also where our CSA farm is located.

I knew Knaus was popular but the line still shocked all three of us.  Thankfully it was well organized into three separate lines - bakery, produce and ice cream.  We stood in the bakery line under the blazing hot sun for awhile before deciding the short ice cream line looked much better. 
I was jealous of the people with umbrellas, and plan to bring one next time when we determine if the bakery line is worth the wait.  Here's what cracks me up, despite the hot temps and the need for an umbrella in order to stand in the sun people are still wearing long pants. 

Bri and I both got strawberry shakes, which were so good!  Just based on the ice cream offerings, I would recommend a visit to Knaus Berry Farm, if you're in the area.  By the way, those are capris not long pants that we're wearing the photo below :)

The next day we headed to South Pointe Park which is at the southern tip of South Beach.  Again, it was a place I'd heard great things about but after visiting I'm not quite sure I understand the attraction. 

However, I know a lot of recommendations come from people who are there during sunset, so maybe that's a worthwhile time to visit.  There's an ok view during the day (photo below) and there's a small beach but it's quite a hike from the parking lot.  Oh and parking is $20.  Yeah, we likely won't be back.

Our fun for the day was parasailing with Miami Beach Parasail.  Neither Bri nor I had been parasailing before and we both loved it!!  I think Bri said it best, when she said it felt like sitting in a swing.  It was very stable and surprisingly quiet.  We could easily hear each other as we chatted in the sky.

You have the option to stay completely dry while parasailing, otherwise they will dip your feet in the water as you're coming back onto the boat.  However in our case it was a full splash-down.  The boat driver said it looked like we were having so much fun he thought we'd enjoy getting completely soaked.  I wouldn't use the word "enjoy" but it certainly made it memorable!

Chris' favorite dive bar in Miami is the Sandbar Lounge, so we had to take the recently turned 21 year-old there.  When we explained the occasion the bartender suggested we order sex on the beach, which was perfect for a young kid in a tropical destination who likes fruity drinks. 

I really like the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, so I took Bri there on a vacation day when Chris headed back to work.  I still find it awkward that Hollywood chose the term broadwalk instead of boardwalk, because anyone not from around here assumes you misspoke and that you meant to say boardwalk.

According to the Travel Channel "In Hollywood, a vintage Florida beach town 10 miles south of Fort Lauderdale, they call their 2.5-mile coastal path the Broadwalk to emphasize the wide proportions that allow joggers, strollers, skaters and bikers to share the space with ease."

We tried hard to enjoy our time at the beach, but it was so windy that we were being pelted with sand.  It kind of hurt on our legs but we called it quits when it started hitting our faces. 

From there we headed to The Counter, a new restaurant in Aventura, for lunch.  I was impressed with the number of vegetarian options, especially considering that it's first and foremost a burger place.  It's a unique restaurant with locations mostly in California, Ireland and the Middle East.

On Bri's final night we headed to Fort Lauderdale to check out Las Olas Boulevard, a one-mile stretch of road with restaurants, bars and boutique shops.  On the far end is Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar.

A place that gets great reviews but doesn't take reservations.  We arrived at 8:30 pm on a Tuesday night to a line of people hanging out the door and decided it wasn't worth the 1.5 hour wait time we were told by the hostess.  I'm even more curious about Rocco's now and hope to attempt dining there again soon.

Leaving Rocco's, we started walking back down Las Olas in search of a new place to eat and ended up stopping at the first restaurant we came to.  Tuscan Grill had a great outdoor dining area next to the river and is far enough away from the sidewalk that you don't feel like you're dining along with the people walking by. 

From there we headed to American Social based on Yelp reviews.  I too give it high praise because they remade my watermelon margarita after I burned my throat on the jalapeno pepper garnish that I incorrectly assumed came on the side and not mixed into the drink.

It was so fun spending time with my sister in the Keys, Miami and Fort Lauderdale.  It was also great timing to get out and enjoy some warm weather activities because I'm heading to Wisconsin tomorrow...for a month!  I return April 28th and will be spending time in Milwaukee, Green Bay, Madison and Door County.

March 23, 2014

Wild Blueberry Frozen Yogurt

They say photos are more important than words when it comes to blogs, and my favorite recipe search method proves that.  I often start my search with Google Images and then choose the prettiest looking recipe. 

I loved the look of Table for 2's blueberry ripple yogurt ice cream when I was searching for a frozen yogurt recipe to make with Wyman's frozen wild blueberries.  It's so easy to make, no ice creamer maker required, just a blender.

This was my first time trying wild blueberries, thanks to a coupon I received from Wyman's for a free package.  I love their cute tiny size and found that I prefer the taste of wild blueberries compared to the larger blueberries that are typically in our freezer.
Their size is great for baked goods because they hold less water.  I also made lemon blueberry scones with Wyman's frozen berries, which were delicious but ugly.  It's frustrating when you follow a recipe exactly and the end product looks so different (recipe photo vs my photo).

I've seen a lot of ice cream recipes made in loaf pans but this was my first time trying one out.  I added the blueberries in two separate layers in an attempt to get them evenly dispersed throughout the frozen yogurt.

Notice the plastic wrap overhang?  Yeah, it was way too short to cover the yogurt while it froze, so I had to add more plastic wrap to the top.

Photographing ice cream is a tricky business.  Throw in an 85 degree Miami day and you have to work very quickly when taking photos near a sunny window.  The white serving tray I chose sort of helps hide the melted frozen yogurt :)

Wyman's also produces flash frozen strawberries, red raspberries, mango chunks and berry blends.  I love mango which I plan to buy next in an attempt to make a frozen yogurt terrine with blueberries and mango.

Wild Blueberry Frozen Yogurt

Prep Time: 15 mins + 8 hours freezer time
Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients (serves 8)
Step 1
  • 1 cup frozen wild blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
Step 2
  • 32 oz plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 8 oz whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup frozen wild blueberries
Step 1
  • In a small saucepan over medium low heat, heat 1 cup blueberries, water and 2 tablespoons sugar. Do not stir, just swirl the pan using the handle. Cook for 5 minutes, remove from heat, let cool. Transfer to a small covered container and refrigerate until serving time.
Step 2
  • Line a 9x5 loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a few inches of overhang. In a blender, mix together yogurt, whipping cream and sugar until smooth. Pour half of yogurt mixture into loaf pan. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of blueberries on top and use a knife to gently swirl the berries into the yogurt mixture.
  • Pour remaining yogurt mixture on top and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of blueberries, again mixing them in with a knife. Cover with plastic wrap overhang and freeze for 8 hours.
To Serve
  • When ready to serve, remove loaf pan from freezer and invert onto serving plate. Gently peel away plastic wrap. Drizzle blueberry sauce mixture from step 1 over the frozen yogurt. Cut into 1/2-inch thick slices, rinsing the knife under hot water and drying into between cuts.
Recipe adapted from: Table For 2
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March 12, 2014

Pesto Veggie Pizza

I love pesto pizza but after eating the same pesto vegetable combination for years, I needed to mix it up a bit.  So I googled good pizza vegetables and decided on a combination of broccoli, bell pepper, zucchini, kale and onion...with a pesto base of course.

This pizza starts with my favorite spinach-basil pesto recipe.  A triple batch just barely fits in my food processor and I use One Step Ahead containers for freezing 2 ounce portions.  The containers are intended for baby food, but they're also perfect for pesto. 
Or a tomato-based sauce if you lean that way.  I'm firmly in the pesto camp while Chris strongly prefers a traditional tomato sauce on his pizza. 

Prepping all the veggies for this pizza is a pain but I look at it as future meal prep because you can't put a whole head of broccoli on a pizza.  Although you then have to find a use for 2/3 of a head of broccoli. 

I plan to make curried broccoli couscous with my leftover broccoli, sweet potato colcannon with the leftover kale and I'm still brainstorming what to do with the zucchini because I have two more from my CSA box.

Once the veggies are prepped, they just need a quick sauté (everything except the shredded zucchini) and they're ready for the pizza.

Chris makes fun of my unevenly cut pizzas, but I don't care because I have no desire to roll the dough into a perfect circle which would result in more evenly cut slices.  I secretly think he likes my wonky-sized slices because he always grabs the largest slice first :)

Pesto Veggie Pizza

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients (makes one 12" pizza)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped broccoli
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped lacinato kale
  • 2 oz pesto (I use spinach-basil pesto)
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed dry
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • Heat oven to 450 degrees with pizza stone in it for 30 minutes.
  • Roll out dough into a 12" circle, then dock the dough (prick all over with a fork) and bake on pizza stone for 5-7 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • Meanwhile, in a 10" skillet heat oil over medium heat. Sauté broccoli, green pepper and onion for 5 minutes. Add kale and sauté for another 2 minutes.
  • After removing the par-baked crust from the oven, spread pesto over the crust leaving a 1/2-inch border. Then top with sautéed vegetables, zucchini and cheese. Finally, sprinkle Italian seasoning evenly over the pizza.
  • Bake for another 10 minutes or so, until the cheese has melted and is starting to brown. Depending how salty your pesto is, you may want to add a sprinkle of salt just before serving the pizza.
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March 10, 2014

Blood Orange Bourbon Cocktail

I had no idea how popular bourbon was in the south until I attended Food Blog South a couple months ago.  That was my first time trying bourbon, which had I previously thought of as an old man's drink and was surprised by how much I liked it.

Four Roses Bourbon is what I sampled at the conference and it wasn't until Chris tried it yesterday that I realized it might be the quality of Four Roses that makes me like bourbon.  I laughed when Chris said ʺOh, that's smooth.  I thought I was a scotch guy but I guess I'm a bourbon man now.ʺ

This is a very simple cocktail that starts with large ice cubes (I used a Tovolo silicone tray).  I also added a garnish of orange peel and maraschino cherries.  If you're looking to avoid red dye, I recommend Tillen Farms brand.  This was the first time I tried out my new martini picks and I really like them.

Next add 2 ounces of bourbon and 4 ounces of blood orange Italian soda.  There were 3 Four Roses Bourbon options at the liquor store and I had to consult my Twitter photos to remind me which one I had liked best.  I bought the soda at Whole Foods, but I've also purchased it from Trader Joe's and both are equally good in my opinion.

That's it, an easy two-ingredient cocktail that lets the bourbon flavor shine through without getting you too tipsy.  Oh, and I can't forget to the mention that the idea for this delicious combination came from Shawanda of Eat.Drink.Frolic who I met at Food Blog South. 

I'll be drinking one of these tonight while watching The Voice, which is my newest addiction.  I watched it for the first time last week with my friend who was visiting and now I'm hooked.

March 09, 2014

Creamy Pasta with Spinach and Zucchini

I love the challenge of finding recipes for items in my CSA box.  This week I decided I needed to try arugula again.  Previously, I had tried it only once about five years from one of my very first CSA boxes.

While looking for an arugula recipe, I noticed that Lauren had posted a photo on Instagram of delicious looking creamy pasta with arugula.  Yeah, despite my initial hesitation, I'm a bit more into Instagram now.

From there, I found a simple cream sauce recipe, bought some pasta and decided to add CSA summer squash and a CSA onion.  So as it turns out, I really dislike arugula and am feeling better about ignoring it in my box every week but I'm glad I gave it another try.  If you feel the same way about arugula, I recommend using spinach or chard in this recipe instead as written below.

Creamy Pasta with Spinach and Zucchini

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves 3-4)
  • 1/2 lb small-shaped pasta such as fusilli, farfalle or penne
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 pound zucchini (2 medium summer squash), chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 oz chopped spinach
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and zucchini, sauté for 5 minutes.
  • Add wine and lower heat to medium-low. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cream, salt and pepper, simmer for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • At the end of the cook time, add peas and spinach.  Stir until spinach is wilted a little.  Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese
  • Drain pasta, then return to saucepan and add sauce. Stir until pasta is well coated. Add additional salt and pepper, as desired.
Sauce recipe adapted from: This Week For Dinner
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March 05, 2014

Out & About in Miami

My best friend headed back to Wisconsin yesterday after we spent five fun days seeing the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area.  I'm so thankful that South Florida's warm weather is luring friends and family for visits!
Having visitors gives us an excuse to take vacation days and soak up the sun, or in the case of my friend and I who have ghost-like complexions, enjoy the beach while sitting under an umbrella :)  We're at Haulover Beach in the photo below.

We attended a laid-back food and wine festival in Fort Lauderdale which was so different than the South Beach spectacle we attended the previous weekend.  All three of us had a great time with my only complaint being the lack of non-meat and seafood options (Chris loved the food!).

The festival was sponsored by Ikea which resulted in cool furniture available for relaxing with a glass of wine.  This sign cracked me up, as did the woman who asked "are you taking a photo because you're from Sweden?"  Um no, but I do have crazy pale skin thanks to my Norwegian ancestors :)

My favorite sightseeing visit was Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Miami.  It reminded me a lot of our visit to Versailles but also reminded me of Downton Abbey, especially the room notification system in the kitchen for staff.
Vizcaya was the winter home for James Deering.  Built between 1914 and 1916, it was designed in the style of Italian villas that Deering had visited and adapted to the subtropical climate of South Florida.

The gardens were filled with quinceañera girls getting their photos taken, one of which you can see below.  I love getting exposed to cultural traditions that I never experienced in Wisconsin.  At the dentist recently, I overheard a woman saying she had invited a thousand people to her son's bar mitzvah.  Both seem to be huge elaborate coming of age celebrations in this area.

I was surprised by how much time we spent at Vizcaya.  You can easily spend a half-day exploring the house and grounds, both of which I found very interesting.
According to the Vizcaya website "The museum features the main house with 34 decorated rooms showcasing over 2,500 art objects and furnishings; ten acres of European-inspired formal gardens; a significant orchid collection totaling 2,000 specimens; and 25 acres of endangered primary growth forests."

The east side of the house has a gorgeous view of Biscayne Bay.  A channel was created to allow boats carrying passengers and cargo to reach Vizcaya.  Looking out toward the bay, there's a stone boat which was intended as a breakwater for small boats.  

Miami can be a tough place to dine out if you don't like meat and seafood.  During my friend's visit, we dined at two of my favorite quick dining spots - Salsa Fiesta and Burger Fi, both of which have great vegetarian options.

Salsa Fiesta is a Venezuelan company which opened it's first U.S. location in 2009.  There are now three U.S. locations (all in Miami), including one very close to my apartment which is quite convenient.

Burger Fi is a chain that started in Florida and now has 62 locations across the U.S.  Their vegetarian burger is fantastic.  Chris tried it during our most recent visit and he agreed, which says a lot coming from a meat eater.

We also dined at Le Tub near Fort Lauderdale for the first (and last) time.  It's one of those hyped-up places with claims like "Voted Best Hamburger by GQ" and "As Seen on The Oprah Winfrey Show."  I read Yelp reviews before we dined there and found that people either love it or hate it. 

I have a feeling we may have liked it a little more if our table was on the water and we had dined at sunset, but still, there are better places to enjoy the sunset with a cocktail here.  My sister arrives next week and we're looking forward to more sightseeing and new restaurants!