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On Wedding Planning in the Year of Love

22 Aug

I’ve learned a few things over the past 6 months. And not about outdoor gear or survival techniques or even healthy cooking and baking. About weddings.

Here’s what happens. You get engaged. You VERY briefly enjoy that amazing phase. The planning somehow sneakily begins…and does not end until (I am guessing) the moment you leave for the honeymoon.

Here we are, waist deep in wedding planning with a date just under 2 months out. And all we can think is, where has our hiking time gone? When will we fish? Where do we fit in a bike ride? It’s not that we don’t fit it in…on occasion. We DO want to look good for this wedding, after all.

We’re sane people. We have taken wedding planning as calmly and in as laid back a manner as possible. But, that said, I laughed when my friends who were married earlier this year said, “I don’t care how laid back you are, you WILL cry during this process” – and then they showed me. Cried twice, yelled once, was yelled at once and overall have felt so much more stress than I ever thought possible!

I know it’s all because I have high expectations of myself, of  creating an event that is true to our values, our style and our overall vibe – and I’m lucky in that very little of that expectation comes from sources outside of me and HT. Our parents are nothing but supportive (though they questioned our guest list at times) and have basically stated their hands-off support of our plans – offering hands when we decide to delegate. It’s generally worked out well…but it’s meant a lot of work.

We’ve deemed 2014 the “Year of Love”. We attended 4 weddings rapid-fire at the beginning of the summer, had to decline invites to two, and will attend at least one more before ours in October.

 

 

Let’s just say we’ve been taking notes…and the weddings that impressed us the most had a few things in common. We’ve decided to prioritize a few key areas in planning our own wedding, and people love lists  so let’s call it…

 

Our Top 5 Priorities in Planning Our Wedding:

 

1. Authenticity.

A ceremony that screams “I was selected from a list of 3 options presented by the officiant” tends to feel like an exercise in going through the motions. The weddings that struck us the most had music that felt personal, traditions that felt grounded in something real for that couple, and religious elements that truly seemed to resonate with the bride and groom. One thing we were reminded of over and over was the impact of writing your own vows. Rest assured, ours will be original. My mom’s wedding featured an interpretive dance and let me tell you, no one questioned the authenticity of that performance!

 

2. Feed the People. 

I swear I am going to start packing Bobo’s Oat Bars in my wedding clutch. Why is it that on more than one occasion, we ended up eating three slices of wedding cake out of pure hunger? Our takeaway…food need not be fancy if it A) tastes good and B) there’s plenty of it. Now don’t get me wrong – there are exceptions to my observations. One amazing Summer of Love wedding in BK featured spectacular farm-to-table, extremely intentional and gorgeous food. There, we did not leave hungry or less than impressed by any course, “fancy funfetti” cake included. A friend’s wedding in Canandaigua featured fried, salted spaghetti at the bar. Yum. There are a million ways to go with food, but HT and I agree, feed the people, and let them eat cake.

 

3. Speaking of Cake.

Wedding cakes can be gorgeous, but they’re not for us. Never a couple to skip a good treat (when it’s been earned with a hike, of course), we put flavor over fancy when it comes to desserts, so the traditional, hulking, towering cake, precariously transported and occasionally dry and tasteless, though impeccable, is not our pick for the special day. We’re working on desserts that taste great and make you drool to look at them… and there may be ginger snaps.

 

4. Forget Tradition for Tradition’s Sake. Not one of the weddings we attended this summer featured a bouquet toss, or a garter toss, or tossing of rice or birdseed or lavender or anything else Pinterest suggests. And guess what, everyone survived! We say, toss traditions and expectations that mean nothing to you, keep the ones that do.  Thus, we’ll have a father-daughter dance but we’ll skip the receiving line. We’ll cut the cake, but only so we can eat it! Every element that makes it to our wedding will be the product of thoughtful intention to include it by choice. Nothing is assumed, and we love that when our upstate NY, Carharrt wearing “wedding planner” says “now where would you like us to place the arbor” we can say, “what arbor, we don’t want an arbor, we have these gorgeous pine trees, and each other. That’s all the backdrop we need.” We’re doin’ it our way and it seems to be working.

 

5. Take Care of Your Guests, but Remember They Are (mostly) Grown Adults

HT and I keep falling into a trap where we realize that one  or the other of the two of us is getting stressed out and wrapped up in where our guests will be staying, who is staying with whom, how they ‘ll get there or when they’ll arrive. Then we take turns reminding each other that we can only give the people the info they need; we cannot force them to follow through, show up or confirm their reservations. At the end of the day, with the exception of the kids we’ve invited ( and we’re psyched there will be kids!) – these people are trusted adults who can manage themselves, and we have to trust them to do so – we have enough going on!

 

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve enjoyed much of the planning process and we’ve slashed and vetted so many elements of the “modern wedding” that didn’t feel right or necessary for us. But an intentional, authentic, personal wedding takes time and effort to create. We’ve said to each other many times, we love and anticipate our wedding, as it’s shaping up, but it’s a good thing we love each other even more. It will be a refreshing, welcome change to just be two married people, enjoying each other again when this is said and done.

 

Stay tuned and I just might share some photos…wedding porn, as my dear Colombian Cuz knows I like to call it.

 

XO

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Chocolate Un-Peanut Butter Treats

8 Aug

 

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So I’ve missed a few holidays in the recent hype of our busy, bustling lives.

Way back – Easter brought with it Bells, a visiting sis who then lived in Brooklyn, and some natural treats worth noting. And making year round. Super yum. Good enough for me to post about them now, months later.

If you’re like me, the thought of chocolate and peanut butter together elicits drooling and high-powered cravings. Imagine the horror of realizing, like me, that peanuts (and most nuts) are no longer something my body likes to digest. In the past couple years I’ve developed some kind of nut sensitivity….and have thus transitioned entirely over to a nut-free diet…but thank GOD—there’s a loophole in the peanut-butter-chocolate universe.

In some recipes, many actually, it’s possible to substitute sunflower seed butter for peanut butter with pleasing results. Of course, the flavor is slightly different, and in my opinion, that has much to do with the brand of sunflower seed butter itself. My top three brands, in order?

1. A mystery brand that eludes me. It had a white label. Had it once on vacation and it was THE BEST ever.

2. Sunbutter brand

3. Trader Joe’s Sunflower Seed Butter

4. All others stink.

I’m just being honest! Challenge me if you may, or enlighten me if your favorite brand did not make my list.

 

Either way, make these Chocolate Un-Peanut Butter Eggs (or any non-denominational ballish shape you please) soon, even though in the summer they are not exactly seasonally appropriate. But frozen – ohhhh la la good luck keeping them around for long.

PS- the challenge with Bells around is all must be gluten free. Imagine two sisters, craving a treat from childhood, one no longer able to eat graham crackers (the darn gluten!) and one no longer eating nuts. The two MAIN ingredients. Luckily, we’re resourceful when the motivation is treats.

 

Un-Peanutbutter Balls (GF) 

Ingredients

2 c. crushed gluten-free cereal of your choosing (usually, graham crackers) 
1 c. powdered sugar
2 c. sunflower seed butter
1 bag dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions
  1. Mix the cereal crumbs, powdered sugar and sunflower seed butter together with a wooden spoon.
  2. Roll into balls.
  3. Melt chocolate in microwave, stirring every 15-30 seconds, taking care not to burn.
  4. Dip balls in chocolate and lay on waxed paper covered cookie sheets.
  5. In the summertime or warmer months, place in freezer to harden.
  6. DEVOUR. Try to eat just one.

We decorated with Easter-colored sprinkles and the like. Make sure to do that when the chocolate is still soft and a bit sticky.

Too bad these don’t pass as a durable trail treat. I’d eat them on a mountaintop ANY day.

 

From the Mountaintop to Marriage

18 Jan

I’ve been away too long, again. This time there’s a very, very good reason. I’ve been celebrating all day, every day (and working just enough hours not to starve) for the past two weeks, exactly. On January 4th, 2014, HT and I got engaged!!

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It was just the most love-filled and joyous night of my entire life, so I thought I’d document a bit of it here. Then back on the blogging horse we go!

To start at the beginning, we were supposed to spend New Year’s Eve in Great Barrington, MA. We loved it up there on a previous trip, we wanted a low key but special locale for a fun night together, it seemed appropriate. Then I got sick as a dog for a few days and we had to cancel the whole thing. BUT—luckily the gods were smiling and we were able to reschedule all of our plans for the following Saturday, thus planning a Faux New Year’s Eve. I was instructed by HT to still pack my NYE dress and still get excited, so I did.

We journeyed up to the Berkshires (beautiful in the snow) and after grabbing a coffee in Stockbridge, decided to wander through the Norman Rockwell Museum. It’s so cute and well done, so New Englandy and so Americana…we enjoyed it. I had quite a few favorite Saturday Evening Post covers.

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Later in the day, befitting the day’s events, one in particular became my absolute favorite. Can you guess which?

Plus, despite 6 degree temps, the sun was shining all day.

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We ate pizza (divine) at Baba Louie’s in GB and made our way to the motel/hotel/inn to hang before dinner.

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Then I opened some wine, we enjoyed the sweet, sweet vibe at The Briarcliff Motel.

The second we arrived at the Briarcliff, I was convinced we’d be back. It has such a laid back vibe as a completely renovated, vintage-obsessed hipster-meets-IKEA 60’s motel, owned and operated by the coolest English couple in Great Barrington (Lee, actually). It was super clean, thoughtful, and the continental breakfast was completely homemade, delicious, AND they had beagle pillows in the lobby lounge. Cute. Shot_10AA-560x373

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I left there thinking I want to do the same thing and overhaul an old dusty motel in the Adirondacks, actually.

So we drank wine, we lounged, HT asked the innkeepers to light the beautiful fire bowl outside for us and we layered up (6 degrees, mind you, and the sun is setting) to go enjoy the fire at the foot of Monument Mountain. They brought blankets and hot chocolate. Life was good.

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Then, a magical thing happened. On top of being in a beautiful, charming place, cozy by the fire and happy to be celebrating faux New Year’s Eve, HT got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife!

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Long story short, I have been floating ever since. I didn’t know how this would feel until it happened, and now that it has, it’s truly better than I could have ever imagined—just to know that the person I love most, wants to sign up for a whole, long, lively life with me. It’s the best feeling in the world. The night was a blast, with dinner at Allium and drinks and a funny country band at this awesome hippie bar, the Gypsy Joynt. What a night.

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So now, if you’re like everyone else, you ask when’s the wedding? To which I say, we’re not sure, but start training, ’cause you may have to climb to get there. Will Hike For Fiancee, that’s what I say.

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A Lotta Ricotta: Cheese for Breakfast & Dessert

11 Nov

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I rejoined Costco lately, once I discovered they actually have quite a few organic and healthful offerings nowadays. Now, I need to get used to shopping there again, ’cause the last time I was associated with a membership was when I lived in a sorority house with 18 other girls and we went through a case of Light ‘n Fit yogurt in 3 days.

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Times have changed…and HT is a hungry man, but he is not 18 hungry (possibly hungover) sorority girls. So I may have overbought ricotta cheese. Now, my mission is to use it up mindfully before the clock strikes expiration (I hate wasting food). Here’s the plan, ricotta cheese 3 ways:

1) Ricotta Blueberry Muffins (For breakfast and to freeze, and I just bought a huge ‘ol bag of whole wheat pastry flour at Mrs. Greens.)

2) To-Die-For Cannoli Ice Cream (Only two servings, we can’t be trusted with this stuff.) SORRY, no pictures!

PS- The Duchess of Ridgefield is supervising. Apparently I can’t be trusted in the kitchen.

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“Ricottaberry” Muffins

Adapted from The Muffin Myth WW Ricotta Muffins with Cinnamon Roasted Apples

I love muffins, but they’re fattening and carby. So, I look for ways to lighten them up ’cause they really are a great breakfast on the way out the door when you don’t have time to get fancy. Thanks Muffin Myth for the idea, I love that these are whole wheat without being dense, and naturally sweetened with maple syrup. Huge success.

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Prep Time: 10 min

Inactive Prep Time: 25 min

Serves: 12 (10 for me, see below)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (I had only salted butter, so note I omitted salt below)

1 cup ricotta cheese

2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (I omitted, as I was using salted butter)
1 cup cinnamon roasted apples, or other seasonal fruit (I used frozen organic blueberries)

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line muffin tin with liners. My trick here is to use two muffin tins and fill only every other well with muffin batter. I like to over fill the wells and make slightly fewer muffins than an original recipe calls for because I like a muffin with a large top and a slightly bigger size (if it alone, will be called “breakfast”).

In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, ricotta, eggs, vanilla, and maple syrup. In a separate bowl, combine the flour with baking power, baking soda, and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the wet mix until just barely combined, then carefully fold in the roasted apples (or blueberries or other seasonal fruit). The muffin mix will be quite thick. (It really is!) Don’t worry, it should be.

Spoon equal amounts of the muffin mix into 12 (or 9-10) muffin cups. Slide into the oven, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, rotating the pan once part way through. Muffins are done when they are puffed and golden, and a toothpick or small knife comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack.

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“Hardtack’s Cannoli Ice Cream”

Adapted from Giada Ricotta and Chocolate Chip Ice Cream 

Hardtack LOVES cannolis, but as he’s become quite the health-conscious guy, he’s not interested in the full-sugar, full fat version anymore. I am hoping this ice cream satisfies the craving without the calorie commitment of the “real thing”.

Prep Time: 10 min

Inactive Prep Time: 30 min

Serves:
12 (or 6 like Hardtack)

Ingredients:
1 (15-ounce) container (organic) whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup whole milk (I used 1% and a splash of organic half and half)
1 cup simple syrup, recipe follows
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta cheese and milk until smooth. Add the simple syrup and vanilla extract. Stir to combine. Pour the ricotta mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.

As I don’t have an ice cream freezer (boo), here’s where I improvised. I froze the liquid ice cream mixture right in two Magic Bullet blending containers. Then, once fully frozen, I microwaved the containers for about 20 seconds and began to test out blending the mostly-frozen ice cream with a repeated pulsing action on the Magic Bullet. The result was an icy but creamy soft ice cream (eat immediately!) with amazing flavor. Depending how solid your frozen cream has become, you can experiment with adding a tiny bit of skim milk to the frozen mixture instead of microwaving. Also, a regular blender should work too, and a VitaMix, even better. 

Note: this refroze pretty well but microwaving for 15 seconds was required again as it refreezes quite solidly. It’s probably best eaten after the first “blending”. Honestly, the flavor is so good I’m not sure how ours lasted past then, anyway.

Simple syrup:
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar (I subbed 1/2 cup agave here and had total success)
In a saucepan, combine water and sugar (agave) over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar (agave) has dissolved. Take the pan off the heat and allow the syrup to cool.

Try these. Enjoy them!

 

Aches, Pains & Gluten Free Grains (plus new gear!)

3 Jun

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We are falling apart.

Well, I am. And HT isn’t doing so well himself. After a flirtation with true exhaustion and a test of mental toughness over the weekend on the Devil’s Path in the Catskills, he doesn’t seem so eager to get back on the trails.

Me, on the other hand, I’m dying to hike but my body is not cooperating. I’m still recovering from my 15K-induced foot injury and persistent shoulder pain (I popped it out of joint a couple weeks ago, ouch). These combined leave me only able to bike on the recumbent bike and walk with an ankle brace on…no running, no yoga, no swimming, I’m dyin’ here!

All that aside, I am determined to get some hiking in this weekend, come hell or high water…I am going to be positive about it too!

And I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of some new gear!

New gear renews my motivation to hit the trail and put it to the test. Here’s what I have coming my way:

The Osprey Aura 50

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I gotta tell ya, I tried on a lot of packs. I really thought I was going to love the Gregory Sage 55 (HT has the men’s equivalent, the Savant 58), but when I tried it on, the fit was just wrong for me. I tried on the REI Flash 52, but the lightweight-ness meant sacrifices in comfort, for me. I also had high hopes for the Deuter Act Lite SL 45+10, and although it was alright in the comfort department, I decided I ultimately wanted a few more features, which led me to the Osprey Aura 50. I put this baby on and like magic, it made the same amount of weight I’d packed into the other packs feel suddenly lighter!

Hardtack will tell you, I’m a little picky about this kind of thing. I’d like to think of myself as “discerning”. I am the girl that orders “the salad special, without olives, without cheese, add avocado, if it’s not too much trouble?” The result is always delicious, trust me. With packs, I need to be a bit picky. I have shoulder and neck issues that have plagued me for years now and a lower back that acts up with very little provoking, so when choosing a pack, fit will always come before features. I think I may have gotten lucky with this one…maybe the best of both worlds? It does have some great features…but I’ll do a full review once I’ve used it. Can’t wait!

Thule System for my 2012 Mazda 3 Hatchback

Thule ARB47 AeroBlade Bars

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I figured if I’m going for it, I might as well get the nicer, quieter bars and hopefully cut down the tiniest bit on gas mileage over the next few years.

Thule 598 Criterium (x2)

Bikes on the go!

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Thule 835PRO Hull-a-Port Pro

Take a boat from port to port!

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I’m pretty psyched for this system. It’s a big investment, but hopefully one that is easy to use and allows me to take advantage of even more adventure opportunities. I’ll be sure to report back.

Merrell Proterra Vim Sport

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I’ve been told I need to try trail shoes or trail runners, entertaining an option other than my go-to Merrell Siren Sports or more traditional (and heavy) hikers. I got a great deal on these, so I have a pair on the way and I’ll let you know how they work out. I’m optimistic, though I’ll probably wear an ankle brace with them for a while.

Now, on to recent edible adventures.

The Recipes for Repair diet that HT was diligently following has now morphed into a bit of an overall lifestyle change, adopting a diet much lower in sugar (almost zero refined) generally gluten free and heavy in fresh foods and those made from scratch. In adapting to this new diet, we’ve found some real product gems that I think are worth sharing. Here we go!

Bonk Breaker Bars 

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I don’t eat nuts anymore, so these are my go-to flavors (Apple Pie and Blueberry Oat).  They taste like actual fruit. People have told me the PB&J varieties and other nutty delights are also really great. I love that in a world of added chemical stabilizers and manufactured proteins, these have very few ingredients, are gluten free and taste legit! The only drawback is price, but when I consider the quality of the ingredients, I think you get what you pay for and we are going to start buying by the case for less. Headstart in Portland swears by them too! She’s also GF.

Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Artisan Flour Blend

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I’m also big into baking as a stress reliever, but I don’t want to eat all the goods myself, so I’ve begun my explorations in the world of gluten free flours, so HT can also reap the benefits of my kitchen therapy. So far Pamela’s Products Artisan Flour Blend is the only one I’ve used and really liked, both in taste and behavior. I’ve successfully made muffins AND popovers with this blend…so I consider it a new staple.

That’s all for now, but the list will surely keep growing…

Other delicious GF suggestions? Thoughts on gear? I’d love to hear from you!

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A Celebration in Asheville, NC: The Ithaca of the South

22 Apr

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Oh what a treat. I recently returned from a great trip to Asheville, NC with my (big) little broski. He even earned a trail name on the trip. I’ll reveal that in a minute. The trip feels like a blessing now, considering the past year’s events…

Why Asheville, you ask?

We’ve both been told for years, “Ya know what town you’d really like? Asheville. It’s like the Ithaca of the South.” So about a year ago, we planned a trip, just for fun. Our sis had a companion flight she donated to the cause and we booked an airbnb. Then the unthinkable happened and one year ago today, little bro got in a really, really brutal car accident. He teetered on the edge of survival and was in the hospital and rehab for months. He underwent surgery after surgery and my family took turns manning his bedside. On top of repairing damage to internal organs, he had extensive, complicated orthopedic reconstruction in his hip and ankle (which he’d previously had reconstructed after jumping off the 2nd story porch onto a trampoline. lovable idiot.).

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Eat: Award-Winning Coconut Mango “Nice” Cream

25 Mar

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OK, it hasn’t won any awards yet, but it could.

Yesterday as Hardtack devoured this homemade treat, HE was the one to say this recipe deserved a blog post.  Sometimes, my concoctions turn out average, or “edible”. On rare occasions, I really hit a home run. I think this is one of them, especially if you are in search of a treat that is:

dairy free & vegan • low glycemic index • fresh & unprocessed • seriously delish

Before I jump into the recipe…I have been experimenting a lot lately with a very particular list of ingredients that are part of the Recipes for Repair anti-inflammatory diet. A big part of the diet is keeping your food intake gluten free and low, low sugar (low glycemic if at all), unprocessed and fresh. So needless to say, we have been lacking good treats. This recipe was a Race Day experiment (HT watches NASCAR—I cook) that ultimately earned a culinary victory lap.

Coconut Mango “Nice” Cream

Makes 2 generous servings (3-4 smaller portions)

Ingredients

1 1/2 small cans light organic coconut milk, separated
1 Tbsp. organic vanilla extract
1 Tbsp organic agave nectar
1 Tbsp organic maple syrup
8 oz. frozen organic mango
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus a pinch (trust me.)
 
 
I’m a big fan of the VitaMix so I use it for just about everything…if you have an ice cream maker this whole thing could become EVEN easier.

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