Starting A New

Happy New Year!

The start to the new year has already been a good one. This weekend was filled with food, family, friends and fun!

New Year’s Eve

We sent new Years in Cape Coral. New Year’s Eve day started with The Chef’s homemade pancakes and bacon. I must say now (if I haven’t said it before) that I only eat Jon’s pancakes. I can’t have them out at a restaurant…they make my tummy feel funny. But I can’t get enough of his pancakes. They are always perfectly fluffy and very tasty 🙂

Traces of Christmas at Jon’s sisters 🙂

Kind of sad decorations have to go down soon. We didn’t decorate ourselves this year (too busy!), but I love seeing decorations in other people’s homes. Makes you feel so festive!

Most of the day was spent deciding on what to do. It was a gorgeous day out and a perfect temperature so we wanted to spend it outside. By the time we finally decided to go canoeing we only had an hour left of sunlight. But it was a fun hour! And a great way to get in a semi-workout 😉 We had fun waving at everyone sitting outside on their porches and wishing them a Happy New Year.

Then the night festivities…

Each year Jon’s family does a buffet of hors d’oeuvres in leu of dinner on New Years Eve. We got fancied up and headed to his folk’s house for quite the feast…

 

 

 

On the table: Cheese, Dill Dip in a Pumpernickel Bread Bowl, Kielbasa, Gelottis, Marinated Grilled Shrimp, Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce, Artichoke Dip, Rumaki, Crudite, Spinach Dip and Chili Cheese Dip.

A feast indeed.

After our bellies were full we headed out to a friend’s party. As soon as midnight struck about six houses surrounding us lit off fireworks. Very cool to see! We departed soon after the ball dropped. The next few hours were spent playing a most hilarious game of Pictionary.

New Years Day

This was the laziest day of my life. No joke. We literally woke up. Had a wonderfully filling breakfast of french toast, bacon and fresh fruit.

 

Then laid around all day watching movies and napping. Lazy to the max.

We arose when dinner needed to be made 🙂

Pork roast with homemade gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans and black eyed peas (for luck!).

And a champagne toast to the year ahead.

Pineapple turnovers…

…and some pug shenanigans before we hit the road back to St. Pete.

Today

I had today off from work so I promptly slept in until about 9:30 a.m., which was glorious.

My signature breakfast lately has been a toasted english muffin with Smart butter with egg whites. To my eggs I like to sprinkle low fat cheddar cheese, a sprinkle of salt, pepper, paprika and herbs de provence. Glass of OJ to top it off.

After getting sucked into the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous I finally got ready to head to the mall. The only thing on my agenda was to get new work pants. Temps are going down to the 50s this week and I need more than two pairs of pants!

After the mall I headed to local coffee shop, Kahwa for a meeting.

 

Green tea and vegan banana nut bread. The crust had cinnamon laced in it and it was delicious!

After my meeting I headed to the store to get some things for dinner. Since The Chef had to work today I said I’d handle dinner 🙂

We’ve had a block of tempeh sitting in our fridge and we really wanted a healthy dinner after all the feasting from the weekend. So I turned to Mama Pea and decided to follow her Orange Sesame Tempeh Stir Fry. Instead of broccoli slaw I used actual broccoli. I also added baby portabella mushrooms (they were on sale at Publix). I used maple syrup as our sweetner since we buy the good stuff 🙂 And white rice instead of brown since we have a huge bag in our pantry that needs to get used up. Also added some Five Star spice. I forgot to add salt to the rice (a.k.a. I didn’t know you added salt when cooking rice until Jon told me you do). Hey, I’m still learning here people! The Chef also stepped in at the end to taste test and some more soy sauce since it seemed to need more liquid.

(Sorry for the tilted photo but WordPress wasn’t saving my edit!)

The citrus and ginger flavor came through but I wish it was more pungent. Overall it was a great recipe, but I think I’d add in some things next time for more flavor. After a few bites we ended up going back to the kitchen to add siracha and hoisin sauce. Maybe we’re just used to those add ins since we eat so much Vietnamese 🙂

Hope everyone has had a wonderful start to the New Year!

Have you tried any new recipes lately? 

Are you a meat eater, but like to cook vegetarian dishes every now and then? The Chef and I are love our meat but I pick tempeh and other veg goodies every now and then to change things up.

German Food, Cigars and Boat Rides

Good morning friends! Hope everyone has been having a nice, relaxing weekend.

The Chef and I drove down to Cape Coral on Friday. We met up with some family members to have a belated birthday dinner for myself and The Chef’s brother. We were finally going to get to try this German place that his family has been raving about. It didn’t disappoint!

German-Austrian Pavilion is tucked away in the Broadway Palms shopping center. It’s a bit like BayWalk in St. Pete in that it’s practically a ghost town except for a few store fronts. This is the type of place that you wouldn’t know is here unless someone told you about it.

It is the cutest place. I was expecting hole-in-the-wall, but I wasn’t expecting all of these trinkets and fun kitschy European memorabilia hanging from the ceiling and on the walls.

  

The atmosphere was really homey and the dim lighting set the mood for a nice, intimate dinner with family, friends or a date.

They had an amazing summer special going on…for $29 you could choose a meal for two and get a bottle of wine. Crazy! I couldn’t get over how good of a deal that was.

The Chef and I each tried one of the two soups. The pancake soup, which was beef broth with shredded crepes. Very good.

And the vegetable soup, which I wasn’t expecting much of, but it was the better one! Peas and carrots swimming in a luscious cream based soup…the flavor was wonderful.

For my entree I had the “Coach Man” schnitzal, which was stuffed with prosciutto and gorgonzola. Mmm…this was out-of-this-world good. The best part? Hearing them pounding out the pork in the kitchen as they’re preparing it 🙂

I also got to try a bite of The Chef’s sauerbraten (which by the way was 100x better than Cafe Vienna where he first tried it and got “scolded” and told he just didn’t understand the dish…sorry Cafe Vienna) as well his sister’s goulash, which might have been my overall favorite.

And then of course dessert had to be had 🙂 I was so full by this point, but when apple strudel appeared on the table, looking like this…

I had just had to try a few bites! (Sparklers were courtesy of our birthday celebrations 😉 )

Although I also managed to try a little something out of this box when we got home…

Birthday gift 🙂

They’re going quick…

I haven’t had Godiva in so long…I forgot how much I love their truffles! I must admit I have become a bit of a chocolate snob though.

We pretty much passed out from food coma when we got home.

The next morning The Chef made a scrumptious breakfast…fritatta!

With a side of cinnamon raisin toast from Panera. Pretty good! First time I’ve had actual bread from there that wasn’t on their sandwiches.

We then proceeded to have one of the laziest days ever. We watched the most random assortment of movies too…Matinee, Blue Crush and Frida. We’d never heard of Matinee, but it was really good! We’d seen Blue Crush…definitely not a blockbuster hit or anything, but nothing was on…and then Frida was wonderful. We’d never seen it and while there were many um *spicy* scenes, it was very artistically done and a well done film.

One of our friends came over to join us for dinner.

Meatloaf, green bean salad with homemade balsamic and roasted potatoes.

Then it was out for a night on the town.

We went to Cigar Bar in downtown Ft. Myers, which we forgot was another place that we liked. A bit smokey inside, but if you find the right place to sit, it’s not too bad. Good atmosphere and  good drinks.

We represented all alcohol: wine, beer and liquor 🙂

We did end up going to Bacchus as well. And, much to my constant complaints, ended the night at Indigo Room *shudder*.

Today was quite the leisurely Sunday. Woke up to blueberry pancakes with fried apples and sausage.

  

And some much needed tea.

Then we stopped by The Chef’s brother’s house and got asked to join them on an impromptu boat ride. Don’t mind if we do!

  

We rode over to Tarpon Point, which I’d never been to. We pulled into a cute little shopping plaza and had lunch at Marker 92. The Chef and I were still so full from breakfast, but I knew I needed something before dinner. So I ordered a salad for us to share and a bloody mary. The salad was a bit over dressed with a citrus vinaigrette, but otherwise was very good. If I was hungrier I would have wanted more chicken, which was chargrilled and quite tasty. I also had a bite of The Chef’s brother’s pastrami sandwich, which was delicious. Not only was the meat fantastic, but the pretzel roll was really a nice addition.

Now we’re relaxing back at The Chef’s parents’ house and are waiting on a pork roast to finish cooking 🙂

On a more somber note, it is a sad day of remembrance today. I grew up close to NYC and have family there so I am familiar with the city and the tragedy that happened 10 years ago really “hit close to home”. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. I remember standing in the hallway at school in between classes and them announcing it over the loud speakers. I remember being angry and confused and walking away from my friends to reflect by myself. No matter how close or how far away this tragedy was to you, it is still a big part of our history now. Let’s all take a moment today to remember the lives that were lost and the lives that were changed that day.

Conversation Starter: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing 10 years ago on 9/11?

Tacos and Theme Parties

Every Saturday morning the guy and I go through our list of “go to” places to eat. It usually takes about an hour to finally come to a decision…yesterday morning was no different 🙂 But boy did we decide on a good one…

It took us forever to find an authentic mexican place that can hold a candle to our favorite taqueria in Cape Coral (we live in St. Pete, but the guy’s family lives in the Cape). The Taco Bus’s Tampa location has been a favorite of Tampa Bay locals for awhile now, but we never made it up there to try it. Thank goodness they finally decided to bring a second location to St. Pete’s Grand Central District. The hardest thing to find in an “authentic” mexican place is the authentic taco, and Taco Bus definitely has it down with it’s flour soft tortillas, heaps of meat and crisp vegetables. Our favorites are the barbaoca (stewed beef), cochinita (pork) and lengua (tongue…trust me, don’t knock it ’till you try it!). Of course there are many other things on their menu such as burritos, tostadas and tortas. We ended up with a lengua torta, a cochinita torta and Saturday’s special pork tamale. We’ve seen the tortas bigger and with more meat, but boy they were still delish. We never tried the tamales before, but it’s definitely going into the rotation…I’m not a big tamale person, but this was chock full of slightly spicy pork and the masa was perfectly soft. I’m now a fan 🙂

Half of my cochinita torta…

And the amazingly yummy tamale..

After lunch we headed to the grocery store so I could gather ingrediants for a Date and Blue Cheese Cheese Ball I was making for our friend’s retro themed birthday party that evening.

The recipe is from Epicurious. The first time I made it I had a guest who was allergic to nuts so I rolled it in bacon instead of the called for walnuts. This time I made it with the walnuts, but I have to say both ways are pretty awesome.

And it’s SO simple…you just need a few ingrediants…

The recipe calls for medjool dates, but the first time I used regular dates and I really don’t think you can tell a difference.

Mince the dates (warning, things can get a bit sticky) and shallots, and grate some lemon for zest.

Mix together the cream cheese, blue cheese and buttermilk.

Add the dates, shallots and zest.

Form into a ball…

…wrap in plastic wrap, and voila!

Stick in the fridge for at least two hours. Then toast and chop up the walnuts, and chop up the parsley. Mix them together and roll the cheese ball over the mix until it’s covered. Serve or stick back in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it. Easy as that!

Brought these two crackers to use as vehicles to the mouth. I was excited to see the new pita chips from Kashi…I dug ’em, but the guy prefers Stacy’s whole grain pita chips.

Party itself was fun except for the over abundance of bros and hoes in South Tampa. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that the only place I can stand for over a half hour on a Saturday night in SOHO is The Dubliner. At least you’re able to find a nook for you and your friends to hang out in and actually hear one another talk. And there’s live music! But overall the night was full of fun festivities and we met some new faces, which is always nice 🙂

After a long night and not waking up until almost noon, I walked out of the bedroom to this…

Wheat germ and walnut pancakes with cinnamon apples…umm YUM.

Now it’s a lazy day of watching a Pawn Stars marathon while trying to avoid much needed apartment cleaning…

What’s your favorite “go to” recipe for parties?