Cucumber Feta Mint & Avocado Salad

For this labour day weekend I decided to make something with all the lovely mint growing in my garden. After a quick search online I came across this delicious recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen. This salad is a fresh addition of greenery to any lunch/dinner menu. 

Ingredients for 2 -4 servings:
2 cups chopped cucumbers
salt, for drawing water out of cucumber
1-2 ripe avocados, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1-2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup crumbled feta

Dressing Ingredients to mix overtop:
2 Tblspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tblespoon fresh lime juice

 

Voila!!

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Cookie Monster meet Monster Cookie

I havent’t been doing much baking lately so I decided it was about time to try a recipe that I’ve stockpiled. This recipe turned out very well and I would make it again!

Monster Cookie

Recipe from witandwhistle.com

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, plus more for buttering the pan
  • 1 cup  dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces / 225 g bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped into 1/4- and 1/2-inch pieces

Directions:

1. Butter 10 by 11 inch oven proof skillet

2. Mix dry ingredients together in large mixing bowl.

3. In another bowl mix the sugars and the butter. Add the eggs one at a time, until mixed. Then add the vanilla and mix in the flour mixture from the other bowl.

4. Lastly add in chocolate chips and mix well.

5. Pour mixture into skillet and bake for 35 – 45 minutes.

6. Enjoy warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Summer Salads: Black Bean Fiesta and Honey Mustard with Goat Cheese

It’s summer, it’s hot, and you definitely don’t want to be adding any extra heat by turning on your stove. Here are two delicious and refreshing summer salads to enjoy (preferably on a patio outside!). Enjoy!

Black Bean Fiesta Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup corn
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 2 Hass avocados, chopped
Directions:
Mix all ingredients together except avocados. Let sit until ready to serve at which point you should add the avocado and any extra cilantro for garnish.

*Adapted from onceuponachef.com

Honey Mustard Salad with Goat Cheese

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped dill
  • 6 cups Romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 apple, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese

Directions: Combine mustard, honey, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and dill and stir thoroughly. Mix dressing with lettuce. Garnish with goat cheese and apple sticks.

Recipe from: dailyunadventuresincooking.com

Georgia O’Keefe Country and New Mexico National Parks

There are so many picturesque areas of New Mexico and I was fortunate enough to see some of the amazing landscapes. In particular, I saw the area which the famous artist Georgia O’Keefe drew inspiration from. Georgia O’Keefe visited New Mexico on an off for several years before eventually moving permanently to a town outside of Santa Fe called Abiquiu. Take a look at these photos and you will instantly see why Georgia O’Keefe fell in love with the area.

Camel Rock in Pojoque, New Mexico (on the highway halfway between Santa Fe and Espanola)

Landscape beyond Camel Rock

Georgia O’Keefe Country – in between Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu

Georgia O’Keefe Country – in between Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu

Church in Abiquiu – town where Georgia O’Keefe called home

Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest – Georgia O’Keefe

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument is a park which showcases remnant cave dwellings and ruins from pueblo communities long ago. There are nice hiking trails to take and you can purchase a guide map  that indicates the various sights to see along the way. After hiking you can grab a cool drink at the small restaurant or cool down in the gift shop. Note: there is a $10 park entrance fee per vehicle.

Bandelier National Monument

Some of the ruins from pueblo communities long ago

Climbing up to the cave dwellings carved into the soft rock. The climb up was easy but going down was a little scarier!

 Inside one of the caves.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

The Tent Rocks National Monument is another interesting park to check out. This park is known for its rock formations in the shape of tents or cones. There are a few different hiking trails available for beginners and advancers hikers alike. For those who just want to take a scenic (yet bumpy) 5 mile drive up the mountain there are also great views to be seen. Make sure to pack a lunch and bring lots of water as there are no restaurants at this park. Park fee:  $10 per vehicle with in and out privileges.

Rock formations as a result of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago

Hiking on the trail

View from the scenic drive up to the top of the hill

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Farewell New Mexico – What an interesting state to visit!!

Wave hello to Santa Fe

We spent a few days in Santa Fe, the state capital, and the surrounding areas. Santa Fe (population 70, 000) is a beautiful city with a lively town square full of street vendors selling handcrafted turquoise jewellery, art galleries, restaurants, and gift shops. Here are some of the highlights from Santa fe.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Mysterious Staircase from the Loretto Chapel. As the story goes, the nuns of the chapel were in need of  a staircase to the choir and one day a mysterious man came and offered to build it for them. After he completed the staircase he vanished before the nuns could pay him. Since then engineers and architects have marveled at the construction of the spiral staircase (which was built with no nails) and no one has ever been able to determine the type of wood used to make the spiral design.

Shops in the town Square

One of the many art galleries in the area. Although Canyon Road has an even larger selection of galleries.

There were several stalls selling hanging arrangements of chilli peppers. New Mexicans decorate their homes and kitchens with these colourful arrangements.

I had a delicious Taco Salad from the Burrito Co restaurant for lunch. yum!

Get your kicks along Route 66: Albuquerque Edition

I have been to Albuquerque, New Mexico a couple of times now and each time I am overwhelmed by the beautiful landscapes and the amazing food (hello green chile burritos!). This time I was in New Mexico for an exciting reason: my sister’s graduation from the University of New Mexico (UNM). Here are some of the highlights from my trip.

Congratulations University of New Mexico Class of 2012!

The UNM graduation was a wonderful celebration and we were so happy to see my sister graduate. The ceremony was held in the huge basketball arena, affectionately called The Pit. The honorary speaker was Sam Donaldson who gave an engaging and captivating talk.

The Frontier Restaurant 

The Frontier Restaurant, located directly across the street from UNM, is a favourite local restaurant and the unofficial hangout for UNM students. It’s a serve yourself kind of restaurant with lots of seating and there is usually a line-up of locals (although, the staff are quick and helpful to ensure you don’t have to wait too long for your grub). This restaurant serves up the best burritos (my favourite is the breakfast burrito!), sweet rolls (cinnamon buns), freshly squeezed orange juice and lemonade. There are variety of items on the menu and almost everything can be smoothered with the delicious green chile salsa available in large cauldrons for customers’ enjoyment!

Breakfast Burrito: egg, hash browns, cheese, green chile AND smothered in green chile salsa

Sweet Roll

Best Cafes: The Range Cafe, and The Flying Star

If you need a break from burritos and green chile you can venture to the Range Cafe or the Flying Star for a casual cup of coffee or tea, a bite to eat, and/or some dessert.

 The Range Cafe: Death by Lemon Cake

Cervantes 

To celebrate my sister’s graduation we enjoyed a scrumptious New Mexican meal and some margaritas at this gem of a restaurant. After selecting our meals we were confronted with one very important question: do you want red chile sauce or green chile sauce on your order? I wanted to try both, so I replied with a typical New Mexican response ” Christmas” meaning both red and green chile sauce. The food was great, although quite hot with the chile sauce. Overall, Cervantes has the best salsa in New Mexico from my experience!

Chicken Enchiladas

Taco Salad

Chile Rellenos: roasted, stuffed, breaded chile pepper smothered in chile sauce

Sandia Mountains

On mother’s day we took a stroll on a trail in the Sandia Mountains and marvelled at some million dollar adobe style homes.

Million dollar adobe home for sale

Official Cookie of New Mexico: Biscochito

A biscochito is a butter cookie flavoured with cinnamon and anise. One of the best places to find these delightful cookies is at the Golden Crown Panaderia. Upon entering this cute neighbourhood bakery, the friendly staff offers all customers a sample of their famous cookies. It is also worth mentioning that this bakery has the best green chile bread in town (it sells out quickly everyday so call in advance if you want to secure a loaf). The green chile pizza is another fan favourite!

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As you can tell I definitely got my green chile fix along route 66!!

Montreal: Schwartz’s Deli

Schwartz’s Deli in Montreal is renowned for its mile high smoked meat sandwiches and its bare-bones yet bustling ambiance. BOY! did it deliver on both taste and atmosphere. We arrived at 11:30am to find a line already snaking down rue St.Laurent. Since we were only a party of 2 we were quickly seated in the best seats in the deli – at the bar! I ordered the traditional smoked meat sandwich and a side of fries. The service is quick, the portions are huge, and the taste cannot be beat. Schwartz smoked meat tastes so good it made a mostly vegetarian gal (me) reconsider my herbivorous ways. Next time you are in Montreal be sure to stop in!

Schwartz’s Deli is a mean lean smoked meat making machine! See for yourself!

Ottawa: German Town Deli

Looking for a delicious and affordable sandwich for your weekly lunches? Getting hungry while touring around Ottawa? Look no further than The German Town Deli at 212 Slater Street, Ottawa. This small deli is a favourite among those who work/live in the downtown Ottawa area. It isn’t surprising to see a line-up out the door of this popular eatery during lunch hour. They have a variety of freshly made sandwiches including ham, black forest ham, and smoked meat on rye. All sandwiches are served on specialty bread and are quite delicious! My favourite sandwich is the hot genoa salami on a bun (pictured below). They also have a daily soup menu and various desserts (although they stopped carrying my favourite poppy seed cake).  Other German products and gifts can also be purchased from the store such as German magazines, jams, and cookies. The prices are very reasonable (sandwich for under 3 dollars CDN). There is no  place to sit down inside so plan on heading to a bench or park nearby to eat your sandwich. This deli is only open Monday to Friday during the day.

Hot Genoa Salami Sandwich

Add a little dijon mustard for a kick

Add lettuce and enjoy! Guten Appetit!

Wave Hello to Cruise Life


The Celebrity Millennium Ship

As a first time cruiser I was more than impressed with my first cruise experience. The cruise I went on was a 5 day cruise on the Celebrity Millennium ship (see review of ship) and it stopped in Roatan, Honduras and Cozumel, Mexico. It was such a luxurious experience having a room attendant, pool butler, dinner server, and unlimited food and entertainment! It was relaxing when you wanted yet also they had activities pretty much every hour (jewellery showcases, pool activities, karaoke, movie theatres, buffets, mariachi bands). The food was excellent with the highlights being the nightly 3 course dinner, the waffle/pancake bar in the morning, and the ice cream bar in the afternoon. The alcoholic drinks on board were also very good and we took advantage of the 2 for 1 special by the pool. The entertainment staff was so much fun as well. The nightly dance shows in the theatre were very well done and the later evening activities in the disco were great entertainment, especially seeing the captain and senior officers interact with the audience! I loved my experience with Celebrity and I can’t wait to book my next cruise! 

Our veranda room on the 9th floor

 Breakfast on the patio

The Pool Area on the upper deck

Enjoying the balcony

DAY TRIPS

In Cozumel Mexico we mostly did some shopping on the main street. All taxis will take you for free to The Forum which is an expensive jewellery area where I tried on a 50 000 dollar ring (brand: Hearts on Fire) and saw Ivanka Trump’s new jewellery line! We stopped for lunch at a cute Mexican restaurant called Poncho’s Backyard for chips, salsa, and guacamole. There are other less expensive silver jewelry shops along the street as well where I picked up a cute turquoise ring. Senor Frogs is another hot spot in the area for drinks and partying. The Senor Frog located closer to the port was more tame though but still had a lively atmosphere and the signature huge drinks if you want to experience it. Next time I would definitely check out the beach in Cozumel which I’ve heard is beautiful.  

First sight of Cozumel from the Port

Lunch at Pancho’s Backyard in Cozumel

While Docked in Cozumel a mariachi band + dancers came on board to give us some Mexican flavour

In Honduras we went to the Tabyana beach on a day trip organized through Celebrity. Transportation, lunch and a beach chair were provided. The beach was gorgeous with clear blue waters and a nice beach to walk along. This area is known for snorkeling and many people were in the water looking for sea life. There are lots of restaurants and resorts all along the beach which you can go to for lunch or a drink. It was a very relaxing and wonderful day! I would definitely like to spend more time here next time.

I can’t wait to sail the seas again with Celebrity Cruises, especially now that i’m  part of the Captain’s Club!

See you on deck!

Wave Hello to Miami Beach!

Wave Hello to Miami Beach!

Pre-cruise and post-cruise we stayed in South Beach to do a bit of sightseeing. Pre-cruise we stayed at the Greenview Hotel (near Lincoln and Washington) which was a central location to all the action. Post-cruise we stayed at the Indian Creek Hotel which was charming art-deco hotel but a little further from the action.  We enjoyed walking down to Ocean Drive which is lined with hotels, bars, restaurants and directly located across from the beach! The main streets with shops, architecture, and interesting things to see are: Ocean Drive (from 5th to 15th st), Collins Ave and Washington ave from 5th to 17th, and Lincoln Road Mall which is a pedestrian mall with restaurants and shops. The main attraction is definitely the beach! With turquoise waters and white sand the beach is the perfect place to spend the day or afternoon. At night, Ocean Drive is the best place for a drink and people watching. I recommend the Waldorf for drinks and dessert and a great spot to watch all the happenings of lively South Beach. 

Walking along Collins Ave in front of some of the art deco style hotels

Art Deco Hotels on Ocean Drive

Checking out the Kardashian Store – Dash Miami – 815 Washington Ave

Getting around South Beach

Getting around South Beach was easy as key lime pie. From the airport we took the Miami flyer bus (Route 150). This bus runs every half hour and you can catch it just outside Concourse E, near the international arrivals area. It only costs 2.35 (exact change required). It took about 25 minutes to get to South Beach and dropped us off a block away from our hotel. We also took this bus on the way back to the airport and experienced the same ease and convenience.  While in South Beach if you don’t want to walk around all day and night in your Louboutin heels, the S or L bus lines take you anywhere in the main vicinity of South Beach and only costs you $2 each way. However, mostly you can get around South Beach on foot as everything is centrally located.

The funky life guard stands on the beach

All view of the restaurants on Ocean Drive. Cute diner booths on the street!

Drinks on Ocean Drive