Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Red Pepper Marinara Sauce

I have always wanted to make my own marinara sauce.  When I picked up an emulsion blender, it was the first thing I busted out and I was so happy with the results, I thought I'd share them!

This pot o' delicious can be used for a chili base, lasagna roll ups, spaghetti, sausage pepper paninis or anything you use regular marinara sauce for but you'll get an extra kick.  Yeah baby!

Here's what you'll need:

1 28 oz can Dei Fratelli Tomato Puree
1 28 oz can Trader Joe's Plum Tomatoes with Basil
1 jar Frieda's Roasted Red Peppers, drained of liquid
2 heads of roasted garlic (no olive oil use for roasting)
1 tbsp rosemary
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp parsley
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp maple sugar (or regular granulated)

Before you get going, set your oven to 450 and roast yourself some garlic.  Contrary to popular belief, you do not need olive oil to roast garlic.  Put two heads of garlic with the tops cut off in the middle of a piece of foil then pull the foil ends up and close tightly so it looks like a big head of garlic.  Roast the garlic for 40 minutes

Drain the liquid from the roasted red peppers.

In a crock pot, add the plum tomatoes, tomato puree and on top add the roasted red peppers.

Grab the emulsion blender and blend until smooth.  (You could also use a blender or food processor)


Time to jazz it up!  If you have fresh herbs on hand, cut 'em up.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Swiss bliss, grilled cheese and new toys

Howdy do all.

Didn't I say I wanted to relax this weekend?  Apparently I lied to myself.

Friday was a good day when our annual holiday goodness arrived...

Every year when I was a kid, we'd get The Swiss Colony catalog and that was the signal that the holidays were on their way and it would ignite my inner squee.  (Like I need any help in that department)  I always wanted a Chris Mouse chocolate thingy, maybe one year I'll actually get one for myself.  He's just so dang cute!  One year we ordered their butter toffee and fell head over heels in love with it.  I mean I'm not a big toffee person but this stuff is the shiznit.  I also ordered these gingerbread petit fours and then they send you free truffles and mini petit fours.  So the truffles will go to work with the Mr, the gingers are in the freezer along with the other petit fours for any surprise visits by people.  (Though people know by now NOT to swing by unannounced.  I have a reputation for making people wait outside.  It happened once.  But it's not a bad rep to have to deter people!)  We dug into a few pieces of toffee Saturday and it's yummy.  Time to put it in the back of the fridge and forget about it until next high cal day.

I got the itch to go window shopping at this mall that's not too far away.  If you'd told me I would've spent all day there walking until my hips and feet hurt, I wouldn't have believed you.  It was nice, we got an ornament, picked out a down comforter my friend is going to pick up with her discount, walked all over the place and basically determined that it won't be prime shopping season for about 2 weeks when all of the Halloween stuff is purged and it's a full on Christmas explosion.  At that point it'll be hard to keep me from rolling on Christmas things on the floor with a big smile on my face and security escorting me out.  I already grabbed this pillow from Pottery Barn and jingled it until it looked weird to the store associates.

I also MIGHT have bought something for one lucky reader that will win an upcoming giveaway before the 12 Days of Treats!  It was rainy all weekend and Sunday was no exception so of course this was the perfect combo!

That would be Campbell's Healthy Request Tomato Soup with some reduced sodium oyster crappers (as my great grandpa used to call them) and a grilled cheese panini.  (A slice of Light Jarlsburg Swiss and a slice of TJ's Lacey Marbled Colby Jack on TJ's Asiago Peppercorn bread.)  It was heaven with a side of TJ's spiced apple cider.  The perfect Fall meal even if a little heavy on the sodium.  I cut back where I could and enjoyed every bite.

We did a kick ass workout last night consisting of 30 minutes of Turbo Fire's HIIT 25 and 30 minutes on the Total Trainer.  I was pretty bummed out to find after 4 years one of the rails on my trainer is rusting.  :-(  I don't know how or why since it is in a basement but it's not humid or anything.  So we'll have to contact Bayou Fitness and see if anything can be done about it.

I ordered a new point and shoot camera last night.  It was $50 off.  I won't tell you which one just yet in case it sucks.  HA!  But it gets awesome reviews and I'm looking forward to testing it out.  The idea of having the same power as a big ol' DSLR in a P&S with good HD video too is worth the money for this cheapskate if it works out well.

What did you do this weekend?

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Trying to appreciate it - Weigh In

Down 1.

It's very hard for me to not say "but up 3 from my lowest" or "but up 2 from before our vacation" but given I have felt really bloated and just "off" this week, I suppose I'll take it.  I'm blaming some of it on the dinner out Thursday night because I haven't been able to move my rings since and that salty ass fish and asparagus was just not something I'm used to.

Now, let me think back to what I didn't do that I can do this week.

1)  Strength train twice this week.  The Mr was still recovering from his injury last week so strength was really only one day.  We're making up for that this week.  I'm thinking Atletica will be thrown in but since I usually can't walk for 3-4 days after, it'll need to be on Wednesday and not Sunday so I'm not torturing myself all week.

2)  I feel like I did okay on water but I might need to up it a little but since I felt bloated all week.

3)  High cal day was on Sunday last week due to the Mr's party, giving my body one less day to 'detox' from it and it's back to normal this week.

4)  Despite high cal day being Sunday, I did all of my baking, assembling on Saturday.  Any good cook better be tasting before they serve to their guests.  We did.  We didn't go batchit but you know, we did have one of everything and 4-5 "tastes" of each item adds up pretty darn quick!

So having listed all of that stuff I suppose I'm okay with the one pound loss and we'll just go from there and do everything we can to get ourselves down as quick as possible and get some forward progress going.  I think I've watched too much college football this year.

Have a great weekend!

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Ready for the weekend!

It has been a cuh-raaaay-zee week!  I'm relieved to have a weekend where I have nothing planned so I can recharge my batteries.  I've got 2 weeks before Christmas activities/gatherings begin and I'll be knee deep in holiday cheer.  We're supposed to get a wicked cold snap and I'm all for it!  85 degrees at the end of October is unnatural if you don't live in the south or California.

I think I'm going to test a new recipe today.  If it works out, I'll be bringing it to you next week.  If it doesn't, you'll never hear about it.  I keed...you'll hear about it eventually.  Like you'll hear about the big fat fail I had the other day as I begin to prepare for the 12 Days of Treats for this year!  That's right y'all, I'll be whippin' up another batch of goodies to pass along for your cookie swaps/exchanges, holiday gatherings, office parties or for your husband to toss at you in desperation when PMS kicks in.  I'm very excited!  I'm also thinking of jumping into yeasted items which is highly intimidating and I'm skeered.  I've gotta just do it and stop being a wuss.

We went out to a family dinner last night and I ordered cedar plank tilapia and holy moly did they ruin it with a TON of salty seasoning.  It was barely edible.  My rings won't move so today I'll be drowning myself in water praying you won't have to tie me down like a Macy's balloon.  I don't get why restaurants think that to make a dish flavorful it means putting so much salt on it that all moisture is pulled out and it could double as a salt lick.  I could've hung it from a tree and attracted deer.  On the upside, I got to spend more time with family and they all at one point or another told me what a great time they had at the Mr's party or how they liked this or that.  THAT is what makes all of the time and yes, frustration (stupid cake balls) worth the effort because you have a time people remember and appreciate.

I wish I had a snazzy picture for you to draw you in and make my post all interesting but I'm pooped.  Wait, let me make one...

Thanks so much for reading!  You have no idea what your coming here every day (or when you can) means to me!  The fact that people actually give a poo about anything I might have to say still boggles my mind especially with my propensity for run on sentences and overuse of ellipsis marks.  I can't thank you enough for being the awesome people you are because without you there would just be me...sitting here...talking to myself...and that can only last so long.  (Or until I begin to comment on my own posts telling me how witty and fabulous I am.)

Happy Aloha Friday!

What's on tap for this weekend?

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Mr's Birthday Party Tutorials: Part 2

I hope you enjoyed yesterday's post with the tutorials for some of the decorations at the Mr's birthday party.  I've got a few more for ya today.

Let's get started.

Hole Punch
Craft Paint
Card Stock Bunting template
Twine or string of your choice
Sassy solid color scrapbooking paper (12x12 get 2 bunting triangles per sheet)
Large stencils
Foam brush/stamp for applying paint

Trace around the bunting triangle template (homemade- just cut one to the size you want and use it for all of the triangles).  Cut the triangle out.

All ready to be decorated!  Center the stencil on your triangle and tape it down so it doesn't move when you blot on the paint.

Pour your paint out onto something you can throw away or wash and dap your foam brush in it.  Start filling in the stencil with the paint.

You can either blot or drag it.  I think I did a little of both.  Then gently remove the stencil to reveal your finished piece and let it dry.  Repeat until you have your banner spelled out.

You'll notice with stencils that there are gaps in the letter.  If you don't mind it that way, leave it as is.  If you're like me and don't like them, carefully fill them in to create a solid look.

Repeat until they're all done.  Hole punch each letter on both sides so you can string the twine through.

For the numbers, I just found the numbers I needed in an online image search and blew them up to print on a piece of card stock, cut them out and then traced them on the snazzy paper and cut them out.  Since I don't like it when banners say "Happy 40 Birthday", I freestyled a "th" to slap on the 40.  After I cut it out, I put some double stick tape on the back and pressed it on the zero.

Then I gathered all the letters and numbers and strung them together weaving them in and out until all of the bunting was strung.

How's about those truffles everyone was asking about?  Well, here ya go...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Party Decoration Tutorials: Part 1

As promised, here are a few tutorials from the Mr's birthday party.  You could EASILY adapt these to a Halloween party, football gathering or just alter colors to fit in any time of year!  Today's post will cover Apple Cider Mason Jars, DIY Beverage Tubs and "Reserved" Signs for the person of honor.

Let's start with these...

If you've visited any blog or been poking around on Pinterest, I'm sure you've seen those little die cut lids on mason jars for various projects.  I desperately wanted to use these for apple cider glasses but make them myself because I'm crafty cheap like that.  I found some lids on Etsy and just made the rest look sassy on my own.  I went to a discount store and picked up a box of pint canning jars for $8 and then got to it.

You'll need canning jars, the fancy pants die cut lids if you want them, paper straws, 2 kinds of printed scrapbooking paper and one sheet of plain light colored paper (I used a textured paper for interest), 2 paper punches (mine are 1 1/2" and the other is 3"), hole punch and what you want to tie the tag on with.  (Pictured are twines and raffia)

1.  With the large hole punch, punch out the patterned paper.
2.  If you got 12x12 paper, trace a piece of 8x11 on the back and cut it so what you want the tag to say will go through the printer.  Decide what you want your tag to say.  Mine says ______'s Apple Cider so that people could fill in their names and keep track of their cider and refill it if they wanted.
3. Flipping the smaller hole punch over, center the punch over the lettering.
4. Punch it out and repeat.  When you need to move down to the next row, cut off the row of empty holes left over and start all over again until you've got your tags made.

5.  Line up your tag on top of the larger patterned punch.
6.  Grab your glue stick (or double sided tape...I used both) and tape/paste it down.
7.  Punch a hole in the center of the tag making sure you go through both paper punched tags.
8.  Select what you want to tie it to the jar; I used raffia for this one.

Choose which lid you'd like to use.  If you can find the die cuts, go for it but if you have the regular ones they'll look just as good.  Screw 'em on the top of the jar.

You can always use whatever medium you want to create different looks for your cider jars.

When the party is over you can tell everyone that they can keep their mason jars as favors and use them as candles in their home or luminaries.

I used little pebbles on the left and black barley on the right so it can even have a somewhat manly look for the dudes.  You could easily fill these with cranberries or red and green beads or something like that to spruce 'em up for the holidays.  The possibilities are endless!

Next project...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Mr's Birthday Party

Well Sunday was the Mr's birthday party.  We usually do a family dinner at the restaurant of our choosing (and we like to force our very chain oriented family to go outside the box so we look for restaurants all year to drag them to!)  This year the Mr wanted this really good food truck.  Well, that's not really feasible when you have a few elderly grandparents and a mama that's bone on bone in the knees.  So we looked into parks that were close to the food truck, no go.  They either didn't have picnic tables (seriously!?) or had outrageous shelter fees that just weren't in our budget.  I found a reasonable place not too far from our house so we decided we'd just buy the family's dinners then eat it at a reserved shelter.

From there it ballooned.

I wanted to invite a few extra friends.  Then I wanted invitations to make it cute.  Then I had to tell the people it was a surprise party and by invite only so they wouldn't talk amongst the people that weren't invited  because while I'd love to be able to invite the free world, it just wasn't possible.  Just inviting one branch of the family tree would've more than doubled the amount of people that showed up so we had to keep it somewhat intimate and thankfully, kid free.  The Mr saw me working on various projects over the past few weeks but he's not really a big picture guy.  He can see all of the components separately but doesn't know how it comes together until it's together which works in my favor for stuff like this.

While I had all of my projects pretty much done prior to our Traverse City trip, the one thing I left for the day before was dipping cake balls/truffles and let's just say that ended up with a carrot cake ball being murdered on the kitchen counter in complete frustration with the Mr eagerly picking up the pieces from the floor, just thankful it wasn't him.  I learned a few things during this process:
  1. I will never use Wilton Melts again.  They are too thick and I can't thin them no matter what.  It's not worth my sanity given the already very short fuse I have.
  2. One cake ball will always give its life to save the lives of others in a moment of sheer breakdown.
  3. I will always utter "this is the last @&%#ing time I'm making these stupid things!" knowing damn well its likely not.  The Mr knows this and therefore laughs at me every time.
I have some pics I took during the process but as far as a ton of great after pics to show you how it all came together?  Epic fail.  I used every single second of time I had to set up and clean before people started showing up.  I did manage to get some though!

I made the banner.  It was kind of a last minute project but I really like the way it turned out.  It wasn't supposed to be draped like that but the other place I put it was blocked by pillars so this has to do.  The tables were covered in craft paper then draped with 2 glittery mesh tablecloths I bought and sewed together.  The centerpieces were mini hay bales with mini pumpkins and red delicious apples.  The drink table was set up with a picture board in the shape of his age and then the drink tubs and iced tea container.

The price of beverage containers is ridiculous so I went to Home Depot and grabbed a galvanized trash can bottom (I think, I just knew it would hold my cider mason jars and that's all I cared about!) and a big ol' tub. I spray painted them the color I wanted and made a little sign for it and a mason jar for the paper straws.  I'll be going more into some of these projects this week.

If you remember the two tiered sea grass thingy I got from Sur La Table, this is what I used it for...

I made some of the Mr's favorite treats.  On the left are carrot cake pumpkins on a bed of caramel candy corn.  (Sooo dangerous.  An open bag isn't going to last around these parts)  The bottom tier was his favorite cookies- M&M chocolate chips on a bed of regular and pretzel M&M's.  People snarfed these like they were going out of style and what they didn't take, the Mr's co-workers got, of course!

We had a good time visiting with family and friends...

...singing to the Mr and watching him attempt to blow out 6 candles with bruised ribs and when everyone left, we enjoyed the fire and even had a pizza delivered to the park and roasted a s'more or two with big ol' pumpkin marshmallows.  We closed the place out and were there four hours after people left just enjoying our time together, fending off rude people who literally came back and started taking pictures of us, played some games of skill at which we sucked and cleaned up with 5 minutes to spare before the park closed.

We sent people (and the pizza man) home with a favor box.

Each box contained 3 truffles, either two maple pumpkin kiss ones and one chocolate covered nutter butter pretzel stuffed one or vice versa on the variety.  It kind of stunk not being able to see people's faces when they ate them but I saw the Mr's face and that was enough.

It was a special day with special people and he seemed to enjoy himself.  I know I did even if I felt like I barely got a chance to catch my breath until the end.  I love putting all of the details of things like that together and have people appreciate them.  Everyone raved about stuff and even the store bought cake was REALLY good.  I had to sleep sitting up if that's any indicator of how much crap I had...and I thought I was pretty restrained given what I wanted to eat!

I'll do a couple of tutorials this week if you guys want, just let me know in the comments.

What is your favorite party tip/staple?

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Sweet Figgy Potatoes

It's about this time of year I can't wait for traditional Thanksgiving recipes but I don't have it in me to make massive casserole sized dishes of them.  But you don't have to.  Not only that, you can give an old favorite a flavor kick in the pants.

This recipe came out of my need to use a poor lone sweet potato that was going to get left behind if I didn't use it soon.  The idea came to me and I wanted the Mr to guinea pig it for me to see if it would be as delicious as it imagined it.  I wanted basically the taste of a sweet potato casserole in a twice baked potato shell with a twist...a delightful, figgy twist.  When he took the initial bite, he said "Mmm!" then about 3 seconds later when the fig kicked in he reiterated "Mmm!!!" and went in for a 2nd bite.  I dug in too and what awaited was what tasted like that candy sweet, sweet potato casserole taste I remember from childhood but with a delightful fig linger on the palate that takes it to the next level.

Here's what you'll need to make this ultimate Fall comfort food:
(Serves 2)

1 large sweet potato
1 oz Trader Joe's Light Cream Cheese
1/2 tbsp vanilla paste
1/2 tbsp Trader Joe's Fig Butter
10 mini marshmallows
1 packet of Stevia (optional)
Pumpkin Pie Spice

Preheat oven to 400 and grab your sweet potato.

Poke sweet potato with a corn cob holder 4x (or a fork)  Microwave for 4 1/2 minutes.

Cut the sweet potato in half with a sharp knife.

Scoop out the insides...

 and put into a microwave safe bowl.

Add cream cheese, fig butter, vanilla paste and mix until combined well.  (Look at that vanilla studded goodness in that paste...drool!)

Give it a little taste and if you like your sweet potato innards a little sweeter, add the packet of Stevia or your favorite calorie free sweetener and mix.  Microwave the mixture for 30 seconds.  (Note dots of vanilla throughout.  I can barely stand it)

Scoop into the sweet potato shells and dot with 5 mini marshmallows per shell.  (This is where an intelligent person would've remembered to take the shot of piling the mixture into the shells but I know you guys are smart enough to know how to divide the sweet potato mixture in half and spoon it inside and add 5 marshmallows to the top.  So instead, numb skull here is going to insert a pic of the marshmallows because it's apparently more important that the main step.  *rolling eyes*)

Bake in oven until the marshmallows are puffy and slightly brown on top so they melt down and seep into the sweet potato stuffing.  Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice.

Warm fuzzy in the tummy.  I <3 you Fall!

Nutritional Information (serving size half sweet potato):  Calories 194  Total Fat 3g  Sat Fat 2g  Cholesterol 8mg  Sodium 94mg  Potassium 428mg  Total Carbs 35g  Fiber 3g  Sugars 21g  Protein 4g  Vitamin A 110%  Vitamin C 21%  Calcium 7%  Iron 5%

This recipe was linked to Chef in Training and Lil Luna.
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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Unofficial Post Vacation Weigh In

All official Traverse City weight is GONE!  (Plus a couple of extra!)

14 lbs gone in 5 days which means I have 4 to go from my lowest weight!  I might just sneak in a workout today even with all I have to do today if they'll drop me another 3 spot!  So for the record that's 14 of 17 I needed to lose to get back to my pre-vacation weight, gone!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Friday, October 19, 2012

The aftermath and a giveaway

Now that I've updated you on vacation, I'll update you on the aftermath and getting back to it.  The upswing in sugar, sodium coupled with the lack of water "blessed" me with a 12 lb gain upon my return.  I wasn't excited but I've been here before and I knew what to do.  The next day we got right back to it.  We drank a ton of water, went to the grocery store and stocked up on lean meats, fruits and veggies and such and got right back to exercise.  Well I got back to normal exercise and Mr "I'mma hurl my ass down a wet sand dune and pull my pectoral muscle and pop my breastbone" is doing modification exercise which mainly consists of the treadmill.  I can tell he's frustrated but it's working.

The first two workouts I did coming back were hard and seemed to stretch out forever.  Thankfully the rest of the week got easier but there is nothing to slap the sense of a little time off from your regular routine than those first two workouts.  You feel so much heavier and not just the weight you put on but like 50-70 lbs heavier.  Everything flops harder, hangs lower and even the weights feel heavier.  That week was the best my sprained thumb has felt in months and I'll be danged if it isn't all screwed up again after 2 1/2 pretty minimal strength sessions this week.  I've been keeping all of my meals on the low end of my calorie range instead of calorie cycling so I could hopefully get more off quicker.

I've got 11 lbs off so far and hoping to have the rest of that particular gain off soon!  I say that particular gain because like an idiot we went ahead and had our high cal day the day before we left so I had my usual "you're up 5 pounds even though you barely ate enough calories to warrant a one pound gain."  So yeah, I guess you could call it a 17 lb gain from my "lowest weight" of 279 (5 from high cal day then the 12 from the trip) but with the 11 off I've got 6 more to go and given it's coming off 2-3 lbs per day, I'm hoping Sunday morning will show me a little love.  (Since Sunday is the Mr's party, we're flip flopping high cal day to Sunday so we can enjoy without worrying about it)  Man, wouldn't it be nice if it came off 2 lbs per day all the time.  *sinking back in my chair and dreaming of a world where that's possible.*  But still 11 lbs over the course of 4 days is a good start and I usually say if I can come back from a trip like that with about a 4-5 lb gain after a week back on the plan, I'm okay with it.

It amazes me that when we would be in this situation years ago that we'd look at the scale, get depressed about the gain, eat because we were depressed, not exercise because "why bother?" and let it roll out of control.  All it took was to get right back to the routine and things would've gotten back on track.  It just sucks it takes so long to learn an easy lesson.  *Sigh*

For those who don't know, northern Michigan is considered the cherry capital so of course I had to spread the cherry love.

We got hooked on these dried cherries covered in milk chocolate (SO good!) from this great place called Cherry Stop and on the Mr's birthday picked up a jar of sweet cherry jam from The Cherry Hut.  My mother in law likes to do this appetizer when you soften a block of cream cheese then pour the cherry jam over the top and scoop crackers in it.  Might be fun for the upcoming holidays...if it makes it that long.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Traverse City Eats

Just as promised in yesterday's post, today we cover some Traverse City eats!  When I decided to bring the Mr back here, I started doing my restaurant research.  I was looking forward to a week off from cooking and I was looking forward to supporting local restaurants.  One that immediately caught my eye was Patisserie Amie.  We have a great patisserie in our home town so I'm always down with trying new ones.

Patisserie Amie's food was delicious.  Their Belgian hot chocolate was sinful.  Their beignets were pillowy soft inside with a slight crispy shell and a little burst of steam when you cut into them.  The Peasant omelet was my favorite though the Mr's banana nutella waffle was no slouch.

When our pizza craving needed to be appeased, I knew where I wanted to go...Paesano's Pizza.  I read all about their thick crust pizza and given we were about to eat our hands by the time we got there we decided to get some garlic cheese bread (which we hadn't indulged in in quite some time) while we waited for our pizza.   This is also where we discovered Northwoods Soda and I had my first cream soda in probably 10 years.  Yum!

The guy there (owner, I'm assuming) was sooo nice and so passionate in describing the difference in Chicago style and deep dish.  It was great pizza and we took some of both home for later and I can confirm that the pizza tastes just as good cold.  Definitely a must stop for pizza when in town and yes, they have a thinner crust pizza as well.

My favorite place was the Grand Traverse Pie Company.  OH. MY. LORD!  My first introduction was our top left pic which was free on Tuesday because it was in fact, free pie Tuesday which I would like to nominate as a national holiday.  To the right is the pecan pie which was quite yummy as well.

My favorite was the lower left which was the apple crumb.  Oh man, so good.  Then they have these peanut butter cups.  I thought the Mr was going to wreck the car from rolling his eyes back in his head from food bliss on those bad boys.  I'm definitely going to replicate those in smaller sizes.

We hit Slabtown Burgers for lunch one day and satisfied our cravings for some meat...and chili cheese fries.  A rare delicacy in our world.  The Mr got the Pungi Burger (Single stuffed with Jalapeno, Bacon and Cream Cheese inside, topped with Pepper Jack Cheese, Ketchup, Mustard, Pickle, and Onion).  I got the bacon cheeseburger and we split the chili cheese fries.

As the Mr said, these are good, old fashioned burgers.  Nothing fru fru or "gourmet."  Funny thing is when we go back, I'll probably get his and he said he'd probably get mine.  The chili on their cheese fries is perfection.  It's so hard to find good chili for chili cheese fries but they nail it.  A big plus is they are very reasonable so good food that fits into any budget?  I'm there dude!

For the Mr's birthday lunch we were on the road heading toward Point Betsie Lighthouse and we stopped at this cute place called The Cherry Hut.  They had Thanksgiving dinner and I ALWAYS crave it this time of year.  I can't wait until the holiday so this was going to be a nice way to satisfy that itch.

This place could not have been more perfect for the Mr's birthday.  We're high on nostalgia and this place is old fashioned from the food to the plates to the way they serve the butter.  See that bottom left pic?  That's butter done old school in between slips of parchment just like they did back in the day.  We got the dinner version for $16.50 which comes with a ton o' food.  Soup, salad, rolls (both a small dinner and small cinnamon roll), the dinner, your drink and dessert!  For 2 weeks out of the year they have apple pie and we were lucky enough to get some.  Sweet Caroline was that some GOOD pie!  It's nice and spicy just like I like it!  There is a scoop of cinnamon ice cream and a slice of cheddar cheese on the side.  It was a great meal and we're looking forward to going back.

For the Mr's birthday we decided to go to Bourbons 72 for dinner just outside Traverse City in Williamsburg.  It was a good choice!  We got the spinach and artichoke dip with these pita chips.  It was amazing!  I know this is going to sound weird but the pita chips tasted like pizza combos.  (The little cheese stuffed cracker snacky things)  I could've just gnawed on those babies and let the Mr scoop the dip out with his hands.

I got the 6 oz filet mignon with mashed potatoes and green beans.  The Mr loves him some prime rib so he got a small one with a baked tater and green beans.  For dessert (which we weren't going to get but when we mentioned it was his birthday and they said "it's on us" why not?) we split the peanut butter pie with chocolate ice cream.  There was nothing like discovering how awesome it tasted when you'd take a scoop of pie with a bit of the chocolate soft serve.  A really good birthday dinner.  I do wish they had a separate entrance and you didn't have to cut through the chain smoking casino though.

Now to our favorite...Hoxsie's Farm Market in Williamsburg.  Not only does this place have the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, all of their stuff is top notch.  The best honeycrisp apples we had the whole trip, the best sugar cookies I've had in my life, some delicious nutmeggy (yes, that's a word) pumpkin bread which makes for yummy breakfasts and pumpkin donuts that are so soft and fluffy you could swear they were made from clouds baked by fairies riding unicorns.

I might've exaggerated the last part.

Some other honorable mentions are Cousin Jenny's Cornish Pasties (hit 'em up after strolling through Wilson Antiques next door), Dish Cafe (the quesadillas are good but I loved the jalapeno chicken soup!) and Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery (really good ginger cookies).

Fact is, when you're in TC (or anywhere within a 40 mile radius), you're going to eat some taste bud pleasin' eats baby.  Your hips and thighs might be a little more curvy for it but worth every calorie.

Please note:  Some places like The Cherry Hut and Hoxsie's are seasonal so please make sure you check their websites for current hours before going!

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Sights of Traverse City (and surrounding areas)

This is going to sound like I'm writing for the Traverse City, Michigan Visitors Bureau.  Perhaps that's because I was so amazed by this place that I feel like we've stumbled onto a secret that everyone has known but me.  I mean what can you say about landscapes like this?

The Mr went on a business trip with his dad when he was 12 and remembered rolling down Sleeping Bear Dunes.  It's all I've heard about for 20 years and I figured his milestone birthday would be the perfect time to take him back.  As I did more research on Traverse City, I began to get excited.  Pictures of TC in autumn were awe inspiring and the water was so blue you could easily mistake it for Hawaii.  You put Fall and Hawaii together and you've basically got my perfect vacation.  Mother Nature had other plans as it was between 45-50 degrees, rainy and windy about 90% of our time there.  In the past it could've been a trip ruiner for us but there was so much to do and see and I'm not made of sugar, I won't melt.

A scenic lookout by the Chateau Grand Traverse affords you this amazing view of the water, vineyards and blazing autumn colors.  I could not picture a more perfect scene if I'd imagined it myself.

If you're a wine drinker, stop by and pick up some of the spiced cherry wine.  We're not drinkers but this was a definite must have for the holiday season.  We'll save it for the inevitable moment of holiday unmerriment at some point in the season.

We made lots of little road trips from our home base at Long Lake and one of them was up to the town of Leland and more specifically, Fishtown.

Fishtown pays homage to Michigan's maritime legacy and is made of weathered little shanties, shops and boats.  Make sure you stop by the Village Cheese Shanty if you go, they are said to have some great sandwiches but we'd already eaten when we got there.  We'll make up for it next time.

There are wonderful little places you can pull over and take in the beauty that surrounds you like this sunset we snagged on the way down from Suttons Bay.

Sleeping Bear Dunes was named "the most beautiful place in America" in 2011 by Good Morning America and it was easy to see why as we roamed the area.  We had our best weather day the day we went there so of course we had to do the Dune Climb.

After hoofing it up to the top and the Mr hurling himself down the hard, wet sand from the night before we went on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.  It is not to be missed!  From the covered bridges...

 ...to stunning overlooks with water so blue you could get lost in it.

Not too far away is Glen Haven Beach which is possibly the most perfect beach and I've been to many of them.

The water is deep blue, smooth stones perfect for skipping line the beach, to either side sand as far as the eye can see and even the remains of a little tugboat called "the good tug Aloha."  It was even given an honorable mention by "Dr. Beach"  (I'd like that guys job)

See this perfect Fall landscape?  A random scenic overlook.


In Benzie County, north of the town of Frankfort, is the majestic Point Betsie Lighthouse.  Built in the mid 1800's and restored to it's former color scheme not seen since the 1940's, this is one of the most photographed lighthouses and it's easy to see why.

At the roads end through the charming town of Frankfort, you'll come upon the Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse and it is quite possibly one of the loveliest areas we saw.

The Mr is completely smitten with this place and we spent a good amount of time just taking in the view from the swings on the beach and walking out to the lighthouse.

I enjoyed some awesome shopping in downtown TC.  Some of my favorites were Wilson Antiques (both downtown and East Bay locations), The Cherry Stop, Nest of Grand Traverse, Spice Merchants (hi Harley the pup!), Love Traverse City, Great Lakes Bath and Body (the lady there was SUPER nice!) and many more including Country Christmas...

Yeah, you knew the Christmas freak would totally be all over that!  Nice people too!
(Update:  I've been to Bronner's in Frankenmuth.  I'm not partial to the massive crowds there but thanks for the suggestion!)

I would be remiss if I didn't mention a few things.  Traverse City and the surrounding towns must have some of the nicest people we have ever encountered on Earth.  What I wouldn't give to have these people as my neighbors and friends.  It nearly brought me to tears at times to know there are still such wonderful people in this world.  It's the kind of place that if you broke down on the side of the road, five cars would stop, one guy would say he's got the part you need back in his garage while the other people offer you a dry spot to keep warm while they fix the car and you'd never once think you were going to get robbed or killed.  (I watch way too much Criminal Minds...or the news)

I also feel it needs to be mentioned that this is a town that takes immense pride in it's appearance.  They know they rely on tourists to keep their economy going at least parts of the year and we saw hotels and gas stations repainting any parts that needed it.  In the East Bay area which appears to be geared more toward budget friendly family vacations, there was not a "dive" to be found.  Every hotel had a nice tidy, well kept appearance.  Now I can't speak of the insides but we've been to lots of tourist areas and you always have those few hotels you would never even think of staying in.  We didn't see one that fit that description at all.  Just lots of options for varying budgets and activities for families from mini golf to ziplines and of course water activities in the summer.

Tomorrow, we cover TC eats...responsible for a nice chunk o' weight gain I get to work off again.  But I tell you almost every bite was worth the trouble!

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