Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Big Bend Round 2

I've been on a blogging hiatus. Again. Anyway, for my husband's birthday (a few weeks ago) we took a trip back to Big Bend National Park. We stayed in the cute West Texas town of Alpine again. I love that town so much! We wanted to stay at the Holland Hotel again, but it was completely booked for the weekend. We had a back-up hotel in mind, so we decided to stay there instead. BUT, I double checked the Holland's website right before booking the other hotel, and saw that they one ONE room available for Saturday night. So, I snagged the room to surprise the husband for this birthday (we had to stay at the other place Fri night, but it was super nice there too so no complaints). We got into Alpine on a Friday night, and on the way to dinner we came across a little street festival-like event, and stopped to check it out after we ate. It was at a coffee/ice cream shop that had a great outside area. There was even a fire pit on the side walk! The sky was super clear and the stars were out, there was a band playing, beer from Big Bend Brewing Co. in the garage, and a hot dog truck. I loved the chill feeling there. It was a great way to end our night.

Plaine, the coffee/ice cream shop. Below: Cow Dogs hot dog truck.
 We had dinner at a place called the Saddle Club. They had a couple actual "meals" on the menu, but it was mostly tapas-style plates. The husband had the quail and pesto pasta, and I had a "cheat" meal of a pulled pork loaded baked potato. Both were delicious! I think I am going through a pulled pork phase... The drink menu here was very unique, most of the drinks had jalapenos or some other spicy ingredient and herbs in them.

We woke up early on Saturday morning and headed towards Big Bend. On the way we stopped in Terlingua to pick up our JEEP! This was part 2 of the husband's bday gift, but this part was not a surprise. He has wanted a Jeep since forever, so we thought it would be fun to rent one for the day. Needless to say, it was love at first sight for him.

Since we got to the park early, we decided to go to the Hot Springs first, in hopes that it would not be busy. We were in luck. We had the entire "pool" to ourselves! Much better then arriving at the pool to find about 20 middle-aged men in it like last time...
From there we took ourselves on an off-road jeep tour through the desert, and ended the day with a picnic in the Chisos Mountains. We both loved the Jeep, and were sad to part with it! We got back into Alpine Saturday evening, and headed to the hotel.

The Holland Hotel at dusk
 We had dinner at a place called Reata. The food was ok, and the restaurant had a neat interior, but we were not overly impressed. The food was kinda overpriced for what we got. We both wished we had gone back to the Saddle Club! After dinner we headed back to the Holland Hotel to get our free drinks in the lounge. Another reason why I love that hotel! Before leaving on Sunday, we checked out Murphy Street. It is a cute little area, but there is not much there. We would have gone into the Murphy St. Raspa Co., but it was not open yet.
Back entrance to the Raspa Co.
We also came across La Yarda, a little taco place. If we get to go back to Alpine, we will definitely stop here!

Overall, we had another great trip to Alpine/Big Bend. I am so glad we got to go back a second time!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Shopping Trip #1 and Another Pancake Recipe

The husband and I did our grocery shopping at the commissary this past weekend. Most of the foods there seem to be cheaper than they are at regular grocery stores, and they don't add sales tax. Bottled water was our most prized find of the trip. We got 32 bottles of Aquafina for $3.29! Also, meat. Meat is always WAY cheaper there. We ended up spending about $99. It would have been closer to $94, but I went a little overboard on tipping the baggers. I haven't quite figured out that system yet.

Some of my planned meals for the week are protein spinach oatmeal, flourless banana pancakes, breakfast tacos, pretzel crusted cod fish with spinach parmesan, spaghetti squash with turkey meatballs, and something with shrimp. So far this week we have already had bbq pulled pork and huge salads with chicken, cucumber, carrots, apples, and guacamole.

I have posted some pancake recipes on here already, but I am going to give you another. This one is my current favorite, and it's so easy!

1 egg
1 ripe banana
dash of cinnamon and/or vanilla
tsp of Greek yogurt, any flavor (I used plain)

1. Place a frying pan on the stove and turn the heat on low-medium. I use a tiny bit of butter to grease the pan.
2. In a bowl, mash the banana and try to make it as lump-free as possible. Add the egg and mix well. Add in optional ingredients if you choose to use them.
3. Pour about 1/4 of the batter into the pan to form one pancake. This recipe makes about 4 small pancakes. You can cook all 4 at once depending on how big your pan is.
4. Flip them when they start to bubble around the edges. Be careful, they are delicate!

Today I added in the Greek yogurt for the first time. I didn't really notice a difference between using the yogurt or not using it. They taste great either way! The yogurt does add in a little extra protein though. I topped my pancakes with coconut butter, chopped almonds, blueberries, and a tiny bit of maple syrup. The pancakes have quite a bit of natural sweetness from the banana, and they are super soft and moist, so the syrup isn't really necessary. My husband isn't wild about these pancakes, he thinks the banana and egg combo make them soggy/taste undercooked. I love them though! 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

$300 A Month for Food

Is $300 enough for two people to buy food at the grocery store for one month? I say it is, my husband says it isn't. We are going to start our one month on Sunday and put the question to the test. Right now we spend anywhere from $40-$80 a week on groceries. If we are at the higher end of that range for a whole month, $300 definitely won't be enough for us. I am pretty sure we can make it work though.

What started this debate was a discussion we had on the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Aid Program) aka, Food Stamps. One of the key words in the SNAP acronym is supplemental, meaning the aid program is designed to help people with the purchasing of their food, not give them enough money to purchase ALL of their food. I was telling my husband that some people I have talked to in the WIC office receive at least $300 a month in SNAP benefits for a family of 2 (usually a mother and child, in Maine). In my opinion, that is beyond supplemental, especially if the child is over 1 year old and no longer drinks formula. Also, a child does not eat nearly as much as an adult, so $300 a month for a mother and child will go further then $300 a month for two adults. My husband's argument is that we will not be able to buy healthy food for a whole month and keep it at $300 or less. As I mentioned, I think we can do it. We will see who is right!

This week our goal is to not have to go to the grocery store at all. We want to use up the food we already have, just to help clear out our refrigerator and cupboards. I feel like we buy things, store them, and forget about them. So far we are doing ok, even though it is only Tuesday! Usually we do our grocery shopping on Sunday, and end up going back to the store 1-2 times during the week (this past weekend we went on Saturday, bad idea). Sometimes I think we go so much during the week just just for something to do. Most of the time though it is because I forgot to get something on our list (I have a bad tendency to do that). I took an inventory of what we have for food, and came up with a meal plan for the week based on that. In order for us to stick to $300 plan for the next month I will continue to make weekly meal plans. My plan for the next month is to write a weekly blog post talking about how much we spent for the week, foods we bought, and meals that are planned. Stay tuned to see how we do!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Enchilladas

I had a great weekend full of good food and wine! I soaked up as much sun as I could (I mean as much as my husband could handle) and enjoyed every second of it. We got up early on Saturday morning because right before going to bed on Friday the husband found a 5 mile race to run. Nothing like randomly running a 5 mile race! I say this like I ran it with him. I did not. I am doing all I can to build up to 3 miles! Spending two weeks in Maine visiting family pretty much took away every ounce of athleticism I like to think I possessed. Anyway, we got up early and I made a peanut butter and fluff sandwich for him (pre-race fuel) and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for myself (I just like them). Normally I cook a decent breakfast on weekends, since it is one of 2 days when we actually eat breakfast together. Sometimes I am nice during the week and cook the husband breakfast before he heads out. I would eat with him, but do not really feel like doing anything at 5:30 AM, let alone eat a meal. Getting back on track now... The husband came in second in his age group. I think he also came in within the top 10 but I lost count/wasn't fully paying attention to the all of the people who came in before him. There was a 1 mile race that was going on a long with the 5 miler. I should have done that one, but was dumb and assumed it would be all little kids. It wasn't. The winner was 19 and ran it in about 5 minutes. I would have been a close second had I done it. Not. Add about 4 minutes and that's where I would be. I like the road race scene though. I have been around them a bunch in the past, but have never ran one. We are doing the Color Run in May, which I am super excited about. My goal is to do an 8K and a 10K in June. Then I will think about if I want to more then double that and go for a half marathon. I like the idea of that, so I can say I have done one, but 13 miles seems pretty far...

A little while after the race we went to the Christoval Vineyards and Winery. What a beautiful place! I loved walking around the property just taking in the sight of the stone buildings. We talked with the owner for a little bit about growing grapes in Texas. He was super nice and seemed genuinely happy to chat with us. We both sampled 6 wines (of our choice) for $10 each. I chose all 5 of the whites and 1 red. The husband did all 4 of the reds and 2 of the whites. I borderline hate red wine. There are only a few things I can honestly say I hate. Licorice is one of them. Red wine is close. All of the white wines were excellent! My favorites were the Sparkling Almond wine and the Angelo Blush. We ordered a pizza to share for lunch, and split a bottle of the blush. Probably the best wine I have ever had. Don't mind the instagram screen shot, I deleted my pics before putting them on the blog!

After drinking too much wine too early in the day, we decided to lay out by the pool. By saying "we decided" I really I mean I dragged my husband to the pool. I put sunscreen all over his head and face for him (while he wasn't paying attention) so he had to go. I am nice like that. I should have helped him put it everywhere else too, because he did a horrid job. You should see his funny burn/tan "pattern". We lasted a whole 50 minutes outside before he got bored and and we left. He would be content if he never went to the beach or a pool. Maybe because he's really bad a putting sunscreen on and always gets a funny sunburn. We occupied the rest of our Saturday with grocery shopping and eating sushi. Two of my favorite things!

Easter is not a big holiday for us, as we are not really religious, so we did not do the typical Eastery things. We spent last weekend in Dallas, and went to an amazing restaurant, Breadwinners for breakfast. I had breakfast enchilladas for the first time, and decided to try to replicate them today. They were the bombdotcom. I love so many foods and feel like I have a different favorite food every week, but these are now one of my new all-time favorites. I would be content if I could eat these everyday for at least a week. Then I would miss other foods and have to switch it up. I better end this now, or things are going to start getting really random. Time for bed.

Again with the instagram screen shot.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Our Visit to Big Bend

I had an amazing weekend! My husband and I stayed at an adorable hotel, visited Big Bend National Park, did some hiking, saw some incredible views, and saw Mexico from across the Rio Grande. Best of all, I didn't see any snakes!! Our weekend started on Friday night at the Holland Hotel in Alpine, TX. I absolutely loved this hotel. The hotel was built in 1928 and has a cozy, fancy old-west feeling to it. We found a Groupon deal online and purchased the 2 night deluxe room option for only $159. When I called to make a reservation, the hotel said they did not have any deluxe rooms available for our dates. They immediately offered to upgrade us to a jacuzzi suite at no extra charge! We also received a $20 dining credit for their delicious restaurant, and to our surprise, our first round of drinks were free! I would go back to this hotel in a heartbeat. I loved everything about it.

This is the cute outside courtyard. I could have spend all night out there looking at the stars...if it wasn't freezing out.

Not the best picture, but this is the sitting area next to the lobby. So much history here. 

Our cute room! I loved the wrought-iron headboard and the little afghan on the bed.

I was not prepared for the incredible sights Big Bend had to offer. I had a pretty good idea that I would like it there, but did not really know what to expect. The park is about an hour and 20 minutes away from Apline, and we drove there on Saturday and again on Sunday. On our first day we wanted to hike the Lost Mine trail in the Chisos Mountains, but the parking lot was full. From there we went to the Santa Elena Canyon, which was about 30 miles away. I couldn't get over how beautiful the canyon is. I also loved that you were literally about 10 feet away from Mexico (it was across the river).
 View of Mexico.
 The beautiful Santa Elena Canyon.
On Sunday we were able to get a parking spot, and hiked the Lost Mine trail. The views up there were beyond amazing. We had the peak pretty much all to ourselves, which was surprising because the trail was quite busy. I loved just sitting up there taking it all in. After we left the Chisos area, we drove another 30 or so miles to go to the hot spring. The hot spring is natural pool that is about 105 degrees all the time. I wasn't a fan of the little dirt road that goes to the spring. There was no guard rail to prevent you from going off the edge, and the road was so narrow! Good thing the husband is a good driver. I would have parked and walked! Once we got to the spring's parking lot we had to walk a quarter of a mile or so. The path ran along the base of a rocky ledge and the Rio Grande. Before getting to the hot spring we had heard that Mexican vendors are sometimes there, and it is illegal to purchase their goods. On the trail we saw where they had set up scorpions made out of beads and wires. They had a "donation" jar next to them with a suggested donation of $6. My theory was that if we were to simply take an item, we were not purchasing it, so therefore it would not be illegal. But no, I did not steal any Mexican handicrafts. I was a little disappointed when we got to the spring. It was a cool sight to see, but it was full of old men! I chose not to sit in the crammed little pool with them.

Next time we go to Big Bend we want to camp out and climb Emory Peak, the park's tallest mountain.

Saw this sign on the way to the Chisos Mountain area
 Sitting at the top of the Lost Mine trail
 The road to the hot spring. What a view!
 Me standing in front of the Rio Grande and Mexico.
 Mexican crafts
 One of the historic buildings on the trail to the spring
 Panoramic view from the top of the Lost Mine trail

Monday, February 11, 2013

Spinach Pancakes

I love that these pancakes are GREEN! It makes eating them more fun. I love food and I love colorful things so this is a great combination. Another great thing about these pancakes is that they contain a whole serving of spinach. You can't taste the spinach AT ALL! I eat a decent amount of vegetables, but I never feel like I am getting enough. These pancakes are a great way to get a little extra veggies in. They are also a great way to sneak veggies in for picky eaters. I found this recipe a little bit ago on one of my favorite blogs, www.petiteathleat.com.
The author, Courtney, is a fellow military wife. She posts some great recipes and food ideas. She is also extremely inspirational in the fitness department. If you don't go to her blog to check out her recipes, you should at least go on to look at her muscles! Seriously.

I tweaked the recipe a tiny bit (recipe below), but here is her original one.

Spinach Pancakes
serves one (makes 3 small pancakes)

1/2 cup pancake mix (preferably a healthy one)
1/3 cup almond coconut milk (regular milk would do)
1 cup fresh spinach
1/4 of a ripe banana

First I sprayed cooking spray on a frying pan and put it over low-medium heat. I blended all of the ingredients in a food processor until the batter looked well-mixed. I was surprised at how well the spinach blended. I poured about 1/3 of the batter on the frying pan. I flipped it after I saw bubbles starting to form on the surface (this took a few minutes, they didn't seem to cook as fast as regular pancakes). I cooked the pancakes one at a time, only because I used a small pan.

Courtney has 1 tbsp egg whites in her recipe, and a dash of cinnamon and vanilla. I cut out the egg and vanilla. I meant to use cinnamon, but I forgot! She also used regular almond milk, but I happened to have an almond/coconut blend.

I put PB2 in between the pancakes and topped the stack off with chopped walnuts and Maine maple syrup (I insisted on bringing my Maine maple syrup with us to Texas). I highly recommend that you try these pancakes. Maybe for St. Patrick's Day!?! Today was my trial run with them. I wanted to make sure they tasted good before making them for the husband, even though he is a more then willing guinea pig for my food adventures. Needless to say, they passed my test.

Aren't they lovely?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Blogging from Texas!

It has been far too long since my last blog post! My husband and I got caught up with packing for our big move to Texas. We finally made it and are all settled in to our new home. So far I am loving it here! The 70 degree weather is a little change from the Maine winters I am used to.

Aside from the clear blue skies and high temperatures, I am also loving the food here! There is such a huge Mexican influence. I cannot get enough Tex-Mex food (I think I prefer the Mex over the Tex). I even love going to the grocery store here just to look around. Back in Maine I made my own corn tortillas, and not many places carried the flour you need, masa harina. The grocery store here has almost a half an isle full of different masa harina flour!

Now that we are all settled in, I can't wait to start cooking regularly again! I missed having a stove while we were road-tripping down here. I have found a bunch of new recipes to try, so there will be plenty new blog posts to come. For the mean time, I will share my go-to corn tortilla recipe:

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Makes 16-18 tortillas (I usually cut the recipe in half)

2 cups masa harina
1 1/2 -2 cups warm water
wax paper

*You can use a tortilla press to shape the tortillas, but if you don't have one a counter top and a rolling pin or an object that has a large, flat surface will do (I use the bottom of my pyrex storage bowl).

1. Combine masa harina and water together in a large bowl. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Then work the dough with your hands to make sure it is mixed well. If it is too dry or to wet add extra water or flour accordingly.

2. Form balls out of the dough, about the size of golf balls.

3. Heat a griddle or cast iron pan on medium-high heat (I use a cast iron pan). If you using a griddle you can cook multiple tortillas at once. I usually cook one at a time with my cast iron pan.

4. Flatten each ball into a tortilla right before you are ready to cook it. Place a piece of wax paper on the counter top or in the tortilla press, place the dough ball in the center, place another piece of wax paper on the dough, and flatten. If you are not using a tortilla press, make sure the tortilla has a uniform thickness. I try to get my tortillas to be around 6 inches.

5. After the tortillas are formed carefully remove the wax paper and place tortillas on the griddle or pan. Cook for 30 seconds to one minute on each side, until slightly browned.

6. Serve immediately or keep warm in a tortilla warmer or warm over. You can also refrigerate them and reheat.

My favorite foods to make with corn tortillas are fish tacos and huevos rancheros.