September 23, 2014

Photo Highlights: French Quarter Tour

Jordan and I followed the Frommer's New Orleans self guided walking tour of the French Quarter this weekend. This tour is the first of three, the second being of the Garden District and the third is Esplanade Ridge & Bayou St. John. 

The walk is supposed to take approximately two hours, without stopping at any of the shops or museums. With that being said, we had three hours (parking cost us $25 for 3 hours!!) and we were running for our car at the end and had to skip a few spots. I would recommend having at least four hours! I would also recommend bringing along your own refreshments (you can walk around with booze in New Orleans!!) or grab some at one of the many establishments you will pass along the way - including the the oldest operating bar in the country (Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop).

Yes, those are beads on the power line. No, it is not Mardi Gras.


Inside Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, enjoying an Abita brew and taking selfies

These guys were really good, listening to talented street performers is a New Orleans perk!

These guys too

Love the architecture 

One of the two haunted houses on our tour: Le Pretre Mansion

More building eye candy

Preservation Hall

Jackson Square!
Our last stop, before jogging to our car because our parking time was almost out

September 21, 2014

Spicy Goat Cheese Poblano Corn Chowder

Mmm, isn't it interesting how you can add goat cheese to about anything to make it delicious? The first time I made this soup I didn't actually add any goat cheese, but had sprinkled some on later and of course loved it. So if you are not a goat cheese fan, make this soup without it, it's still really good!

Also - my sister made the same soup but with Almond milk instead of the regular milk, so skip the goat cheese and sub with almond milk and voila, you have a vegan spicy poblano corn chowder!

Spicy Goat Cheese Pablano Corn Chowder


Ingredients:


4 ears of corn
2 red onions
2 cloves of garlic
5 poblano chili peppers
3-4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup milk
1/2 cup goat cheese (more to sprinkle of top)
chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste



Directions:


Begin by placing your poblano peppers on a baking sheet and putting them in the oven on the top rack. Turn your oven on broil and allow the peppers to broil for about 5 minutes on each side. You want the skin to char, so don't be alarmed when they turn black! (See the picture below)

After these are done toss them in a paper bag ( I throw mine in a regular brown grocery bag) and fold it closed and set aside. The time the peppers spend in the bag will help you remove the skins later.

charred pablano chili peppers


While your peppers are resting, pour your olive oil in the kettle you will be cooking your soup in and turn it on medium - medium high. As this is heating up you will need to chop your onions and garlic up. You can decide how course or fine you want the chunks of onions to be, depending on your preference! Once chopped throw them in your heated olive oil and stir while they saute. Once your onions are reaching the opaque stage (5-7 minutes) go ahead and pour in your vegetable stock. You may want to only start with three cups, and once you add in your corn and poblanos you can see if it seems like you are going to need more liquid, add an additional cup then. (Bear in mind you will also be adding a cup of milk later too!)

Next you will need to cut the corn off of the cobs - I do mine in a shallow, wide bowl so the corn doesn't fly everywhere! After it is all cut off, toss it in the stock/onion mixture and make sure the heat is at medium-high and let sit while you get the pablano peppers prepared.

The peppers will probably still be hot when you open the bag, so be careful! You're going to now remove the charred skins - I start by removing what I can and then once I've gotten all I can off of a dry pepper I run it under cold water, removing the rest of the skin. You are going to need to remove the stem and the seeds on the inside, so I do that at the same time. Once a pepper is done being skinned and seeded, mine tend to look like flat sheets of pepper. I wait until I'm done doing that to all my peppers before I chop them up and toss them in the soup. (There is no right or wrong way to do this, as long as you remember to a) remove the burnt outer layer of skin b) remove the seeds and c) chop it up.)

It the ratio seems heavy veggies and not much liquid go ahead and add your other cup of stock, otherwise proceed to the next step!

If your mixture is boiling, take it off of the heat before adding the cup of milk. You want to make sure to pour the milk in slowly! Also, once the milk is added, it's important to make sure now to not boil the soup to prevent any type of curdling from occurring.

Next add in the goat cheese and stir until melted. Finish by adding salt and pepper to your taste preference.

This isn't going to be a really thick and creamy chowder, so don't be disappointed by its slightly brothy appearance, that is how it is supposed to be!



Serve with some chopped cilantro on top and some more crumbles of goat cheese.

Enjoy!






September 3, 2014

Birthday Boozy Brunch



Jordan's birthday was yesterday! 29! We had a little boozy birthday brunch for him this weekend at our apartment with a few friends. Unfortunately I was a little too busy cooking to get many good pictures, but I thought I would share a few, and also a link to the delicious recipes we cooked up! Some long standing favorites and some new.

Brunch Menu

Bloody Mary Bar & Grapefruit & OJ Mimosas

For my bloody bar I went with Zinger's bloody mix, some Crystal hot sauce, Spicy pickled green beans, garlic stuffed green olives, dill pickle spears, and cheese cubes



I'm a sucker for anything grapefruit, so I made sure to have both Orange and Grapefruit juice available to mix with the champagne.


Asparagus & Goat Cheese Fritata - We have been using this recipe for a couple years now - actually it's become my easter go to! It is seriously delicious and impresses everyone. My only changes to the original recipe is that I add a little bit more goat cheese then the recipe calls for, and also threw in some chopped fresh dill.

Receipe here via Cooke and Kate

Buttermilk Soft & Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls - This was a new one to me! The last time I tried to do cinnamon rolls they failed miserably when it came to the roll-up phase - these on the other hand turned out perfect! Too perfect maybe - as they have all been eaten. I did the overnight version, and used bread flour instead of AP because that is all I had left.



Receipe here via Averie Cooke

Breakfast potatoes - this recipe turned out...okay. I think we may have been a bit heavy handed with the EVOO - and also it might have helped to have the potatoes more spread out on the pan and not on top of each other.

We also had some delicious, thick cut brown sugar bacon!

Yum!!



August 28, 2014

Our Lovely Farm Wedding Reception

It's hard to believe SO much has happened since my last post. In case you were worried we never made it back from Texas, yes, we did. In fact, not only did we make it back from Texas - we've gotten a new puppy, planned and attended our Minnesota wedding reception, and moved to New Orleans! The last two literally happened during the same week, so life was crazy for a bit.

I keep PROCRASTINATING on blogging because I don't update, and it starts a vicious cycle that results in me never posting, so please forgive me for skipping over many details and provide you with some pictures from our reception in June! We had our post-wedding family reception back in Minnesota in Battle Lake! If you remember we got married in Key West last November, but only had our immediate families with us. We wanted to be able to celebrate with all of our family and friends as well!

I haven't put too many Key West pictures up - but we played a video Haylee (SIL) and her BF, Dan Glaser, made for us at our reception, you can check it out here. Love it so much!

Ah - so much I want to share, but I have to limit myself! Ill be back with more I promise!

Reception decor loaded up and ready to head to the party!! (In a rented mini van!)


These were our flower arrangements at our wedding reception! So pretty! So much work though the night before
getting everything together - good thing for friends! Flowers ordered via Fifty Flower, Blue jars from Amazon

I was so sad I had to leave them all behind the next day to fly back to Miami!



One of our favors for guests to use during the reception and to take home! They were filled up w/
rosemary lemonade, sparkling grapefruit mojitos, and strawberry basil margaritas! (and beer!),
Tags designed on Evermine, Mason jars from Ace Hardware


Ladder ball! We had tons of yard games for guests to play - here I am, ready to toss!

Our other guest favor, and my FAV - a half sprinkled, pink frosted, cake donut with little "Donut Mind If I Do" labels
- not TOO cheesy, right?!








February 5, 2014

Flying with Charlie & Lola

My husband and I are in Waco, TX right now for some consulting working he is doing - so its just the cats and I hanging out all day. I chose to take them with so I would have some company for two weeks, even though it would have been MUCH easier to board them at a cat kennel then flying them from Miami to Texas.

I want to share my cat traveling experiences so if any other cat mom's out there need to fly their little fur babies they can try not to lose as much sleep as I did the weeks prior.

Charlie and Lola's new spot on top of the refrigerator at the hotel



























Visit your airline's website

Most importantly, you will need to find out your airline's pet policy (such as price, how many pets, size of carrier and etc). Our airline was Southwest and their policies are lined out very nicely here

Pick out a cat carrier

Eek - a tough choice, for sure! We were flying Southwest so I knew ahead of time the dimensions (and the cost - $95 each way per carrier) - which meant I needed to find a carrier that would fit under a plane seat that would fit both cats so I wouldn't have to fork out $200 each way because that wasn't really going to be an option. 

Southwest says that the carrier should be: 8.5” high x 18.5” long x 13.5” wide - and they actually sell a carrier for $45 that meets these dimensions. I chose to go the risky route and bought a carrier that was larger than the dimensions listed. This choice was based off of reading reviews and experiences of past pet flyers with Southwest. My recommendation to you would be to stay as close to the dimensions the airline recommends, but don't lose sleep over an inch or two as long as your carrier seems somewhat flexible/collapsible.

We found a wheeled carrier at Target that measured 19.5" long x 12" wide and 13" wide. ( I tried to locate it on their website but it isn't shown on it.) It was sturdy, yet soft, so I was pretty sure we would be able to collapse it enough for it to slide under the seat on it's side. (Side note: having wheels and a handle made carting Charlie and Lola through the airport SO much easier then if I would have had to have them over my shoulder.)

As sure as I had been ahead of time that our carrier would fit, the night before I was no longer so sure. I began wondering panicking about if I should have just bought the Southwest carrier so that I would know without a doubt it was going to fit, and not fearing that there wouldn't be enough room.

Lola modeling the carrier post flight in our hotel room (It may have taken a few treats to get her inside)



























Once we got to the ticket counter at the airport the man taking our bags (and that gave us our pet carrier ticket) never said anything about the size so I kept my mouth shut and hoped for the best. And guess what? It ended up fitting under the seat! We were questioned by both flight attendants before boarding if we had flown with this carrier before - they seemed very doubtful it would go under the seat.

Security

Ahh - I am pretty sure I was most worried about this part. We would need to take our cats out of their carrier and carry them through the metal detector while their carrier went through the x-ray machine. I pictured it in my head, Charlie would wiggle out of my arms and race through the airport and I would never see him again. I trusted Lola, but Charlie had too much energy and loved to bite when he wanted loose - so even though my husband promised he could keep control of him I knew I had to go with a second option - request a private screening. I read online this was an option many had done, and I knew this would be the best route. And it turned out I was right.

Truth - it was a little awkward figuring out HOW to request the screening. Whenever I would ask someone who I thought was the person I was supposed to ask they would keep telling me to tell the next person. So basically here I was standing barefoot (my shoes and purse were already going through the x-ray machine) holding onto the cat carrier trying to get attention of the TSA officer on the other side of the metal detector screener that I needed a private screening for my cats. Luckily, he seemed fine with this, but had to step aside while he was able to get someone to come and escort me and my cats into a separate room. They had to apparently find a female officer to do the screening so I did have to wait maybe 5 or 10 minutes. We had plenty of time so I didn't care - it was a much better option then my terrible fear of Charlie darting out of my arms.

My husband was waiting on the other side with my purse and shoes and at first they were not going to let him come back into the room with me - once I explained there were TWO cats inside they were fine with it. We went into the small rooms, both held a cat, they took the carrier, x-rayed it, and it was complete. I would HIGHLY recommend this route to cat mom's who don't trust that their cat will remain calm in their arms. 

UPDATE: I posted this before we flew home from Austin back to Ft. Lauderdale. While security flying to Austin had been smooth, it was unfortunately not the same going home. We were denied a private screening at the Austin airport, regardless how much I explained that there was a chance our cats could always get scared and jump out of our arms. In fact, my husband had already went through security and they expected me to hold BOTH cats at the same time through the medal detectors. Luckily, after much time wasted speaking to supervisors, waiting for my husband to come back through security to meet me, we made it through without losing our cats. They didn't struggle too bad, but I was still very nervous, and quite angry at the Austin security.

Boarding the plane and the flight

As I said previously we were questioned while getting on the plane about the size of the carrier, but my husband managed to shove it (on it's side) under the isle seat on our first flight and middle seat on the way back. I would occasionally, at the airport and on the plane, un-zip the side and stick my hand inside to pet the two and to make sure they were okay. Just remember you are not allowed to take your pet out of the carrier!

In case you are wondering - neither cat made a peep the entire flight. I had numerous people comment they were surprise how well behaved they were. It made me feel like a proud cat mom!

Their second favorite spot in the hotel room - on the chair tucked under the desk



























Bathrooms, food and water 

To help minimize any potty accidents I took away Charlie and Lola's food and water after midnight. I put out some dry food and water in the morning for a few minutes so they could get a little in their stomaches. Honestly, I don't know if it was necessary to restrict this at all, but I felt better knowing that I did something to ease any uncomfortable bladders and such. I did give them a few treats and a little water at the airport during our layover.

To give you an overall idea of our time line - we left our apartment at 6 am Eastern time and arrived in Texas at about 1:30 pm Central time. I had bought one of these disposable liter trays so I could get it out at the hotel as soon as we arrived, which was around 3 pm.

Some might say this all seems like way too much work - and if it were for a week or less I would agree - but at the moment these two are my babies, so I'm glad I have them with me.