Life gave me mint so I made mojitos. Robbie got me an AeroGarden for my birthday. We finally set it up in June and in a few weeks I had so much mint growing in my kitchen! I love fancy drinks with muddled fruit in them, particularly strawberries, so I made a strawberry mojito in addition to a standard one.
white rum (I used Bacardi Superior.)
fresh mint leaves
fresh lime juice
simple syrup (Make your own! There’s a recipe below.)
I don’t own a shaker, strainer, or muddling gear. This is how I made a mojito in my kitchen without real barware.
Make the simple syrup by boiling 1 cup of water and 1 cup sugar in a small pot. Stir and cook until the sugar is no longer visible. Set aside to cool. Once it’s cooled down a bit, put it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Wash and chop a handful of strawberries.
Wash mint sprigs. You’ll want some individual mint leaves for muddling and one giant, intact sprig for garnishing.
Muddle the strawberries and the individual mint leaves together. I did this in a rocks glass with a spoon.
Fill a glass about 3/4 with ice cubes. Add a generous shot of rum, a half shot of simple syrup, a half shot of club soda, and the juice of half of a lime. Stir.
Add in the muddled strawberries and mint. Stir to combine.
Garnish with the big mint sprig (and a lime wedge).
For the standard mojito, I did everything the same except for leaving out the strawberries. Pretty straight forward!
I kept the simple syrup in a travel coffee mug with a tight lid for about two weeks in the refrigerator. I was able to make a lot of Old Fashioneds for Robbie and our guests using that. I definitely recommend taking the time to make simple syrup if you’re going to be making several mojitos or other drinks that call for it.
I feel like a fancy chef, y’all! This recipe is easy and so delicious but it looks like something from a cooking show. At least it did in person – I hope the photos do the tacos justice. It’s a flour tortilla topped with a sweetened carrot slaw, pan-fried tofu, toasted cashews, vegan sriracha mayo, and green onions.
Mmm, sriracha mayo.
I was looking through the Cooking Light website for new recipes and found this one for supercrunch tacos. I followed it pretty closely except for cheating a bit with the carrot slaw. I used a bag of pre-cut julienned carrots, broccoli stalks, and cabbage instead. I also used flour tortillas and skipped heating them. I will do the two damp paper towels in the microwave trick the next time I make this because warm tortillas would make everything nicer.
My parents and my niece came over for an early Independence Day hang on Saturday. I made mozzarella, cherry tomato, and balsamic vinegar appetizer and BBQ tofu and vegetables, black beans, and grilled corn on the cob for the main dinner. Dessert was this blueberry cream cheese pie I kinda invented.
9″ prepared graham cracker pie crust
12 oz light soft cream cheese
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 pint fresh blueberries
Sookie has blueberry and cheese interests.
1. Put the cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla in a bowl. Stir it around so that the confectioner’s sugar doesn’t explode on you when you start to use the mixer.
2. Use a mixer to beat the mixture until fully combined and a little fluffy.
3. Spoon the cream cheese mixture into the prepared pie crust. Use a spoon to level off the top.
4. Wash the pint of blueberries and remove any stems.
5. Arrange the blueberries over the cream cheese mixture.
6. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve it.
I finished my seventh quilt for my friend’s adorable, new baby boy. She’s a quilter too!
Robbie held the finished quilt up for this photo. Thanks, Robbie!
I’d been holding on to the charm pack I used for a while. It’s Sphere by Moda. The fabrics are really modern and I thought they would be great for a gender neutral or boy baby quilt. I’ve been following Elizabeth Hartman’s quilting blog, Oh Fransson, since before I started quilting. I used her free charm pack quilt pattern I saw there.
Finished size: Approximately 33″ x 40″
Quilt top fabrics: Moda Sphere charm pack and solid gray fabric (either Kona or Moda – I have tons of both)
Quilt backing: Solid blue fabric from Keep Me in Stitches quilt shop in Tampa
Binding fabric: Solid white fabric leftover from another project
Batting: Warm & White
Quilting: Dense, horizontal straight line quilting with the walking foot
25 whole squares and 13 half squares sewn together to make the charm square strips
Sookie likes to hang out with me in the new sewing room.
The charm strips sewn to the solid gray strips
Completed quilt top after squaring it up
The backing fabric for this one was extra difficult. I finally got it taped down to the tile without wrinkles.
The completed quilt with a look at the back!
I tried a new machine binding method. I sewed the binding to the front first, rolled the binding over to the back, clipped it down so that it extended past the sewing on the front side, then sewed from the front right at the inside edge of the binding. I’m happy with how it turned out and I think it will be sturdier than hand sewing the back, which is a really important consideration for a baby quilt. Next time I think I will cut the binding strips at 2″ instead of 2 1/2″ because the binding is longer than necessary on the back.
The finished quilt next to a crocheted baby beanie I also made.
I was very intrigued by these no-bake peanut butter oat “protein” bites I saw on Buzzfeed. You can watch the video and get their recipe here. I’m allergic to peanut butter so I substituted SunButter, which is sunflower seed butter. You can use it just like peanut butter in recipes.
Caution: somebody in the BuzzFeed comments put the ingredients into MyFitnessPal. These should really be called “fat” bites, hence why they taste so darn good.
These are going fast in our house. Only 8 SunButter bites were remaining at the time of this photograph.
2/3 cup SunButter (I believe any nut butter would work.)
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup flax seeds (The original recipe says the flax seeds are optional. The original recipe is incorrect. To take the no flax seed option is to make a poor life choice.)
1. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl.
2. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.
3. In your hands, roll and press the mixture into balls. You should get about 16 balls. Try to press some extra oats onto them. I didn’t have much luck with this – still delicious, doesn’t matter.
My mother-in-law makes the best eggplant parmesan. The best. I tried to make eggplant parmesan a couple of times using other recipes and I didn’t like what I made. The recipes called for salting then frying the eggplant slices leading directly to disaster. Even Italian restaurants seriously mess up eggplant parmesan so making delicious eggplant parmesan has been a culinary goal of mine for years.
Blanky’s stellar eggplant parmesan
My mother-in-law shared her recipe with me along with some tips and the brand of sauce she uses – Ragu Chunky in a giant plastic container. Can you believe that? That sauce is key!
The recipe is this baked, not fried, version from Martha Stewart. Baking is lower fat, less messy, and a lot easier than frying. I followed the recipe pretty closely because I really wanted it to succeed this time! My small changes included the addition of a quarter teaspoon of garlic powder to the bread crumb and cheese mixture and decreasing the initial baking time as advised by my mother-in-law.
I don’t buy eggs, but I do keep Eggology egg whites in the house. Robbie looked up the conversion for me. Two tablespoons of egg whites are equivalent to one egg without the yolk. He poured four tablespoons of Eggology into a bowl and added 1 tablespoon of Smart Balance oil to try to make up for the fat missing from the two egg yolks he omitted. From there he added the two tablespoons of water and whisked.
I ran out of the bread crumbs and cheese mixture halfway through and had to make another one. I will double it from the start in the future.
I had to bake the casserole longer than the recipe said to achieve the coveted bubbly, golden brown status. I think my oven is wonky so YMMV.
I’m happy to report that my eggplant parmesan was amazing! It was not exactly like my mother-in-law’s but it was really, really delicious. Way better than what I’ve had at many restaurants and I’ve eaten more than my fair share of restaurant eggplant parmesan.
Next time I will do everything the same except I’ll also slice the eggplant more carefully to get consistently thin slices and I’ll be prepared to bake the final casserole longer, maybe even using the broiler for a couple of minutes at the end.
The jar of pesto in my pantry was in danger of expiring, therefore, bruschetta. Eating bruschetta is much more enjoyable than throwing pesto away. I made a good life choice.
loaf of fresh French bread
jar of basil pesto (I would guess I used about 3 tablespoons – the jar is still quite full.)
1 cup of cherry tomatoes
reduced fat feta cheese (I used almost the entire container.)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil.
2. Slice the French bread into small discs. Arrange the bread slices on the cookie sheet and spritz them with olive oil.
3. Bake the bread slices until slightly toasty. You have to keep a close eye on them – they want to burn.
4. Quarter the cherry tomatoes. Combine the tomatoes and feta in a bowl.
5. Spread pesto on the toasted bread slices. Top with the tomato feta mixture. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the bruschetta, if you’re into that. Enjoy!
I wanted to drink sangria so I made some. I perused a lot of recipes first. All of them called for sugar, artificial sweetener, soda with high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweetener, or simple syrup. I think that’s overkill. It’s wine with fruit and fruit juice in it. Isn’t that sweet enough? So here it is: my no sugar added sangria. I didn’t miss the sugar at all.
A glass of cold sangria
750 mL Cabernet Sauvignon
1/2 cup brandy
1/3 cup orange liqueur
1 cup club soda
juice of 1 lime
1 navel orange, halved and sliced
1 green apple, cut into wedges
1 red apple, cut into wedges
1/2 lemon, cut into rounds
Combine the wine, brandy, orange liqueur, and club soda in a large pitcher. Squeeze in the juice of one lime. Squeeze in the juice of half of the orange. Stir well. Add the other half of the orange slices, the green and red apple wedges, and lemon rounds. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Pour over ice and enjoy!
St. Augustine is one of our favorite places to visit. We booked a two night trip for spring break this year. I got the flu. I figured I could have the flu at home and waste our B&B deposit or have the flu in St. Augustine while potentially having more fun, so we went. Spring Break forever, y’all!
Outside our bed and breakfast, the Bayfront Marin House
We like to stay at bed and breakfasts in the historic district. This was our first time staying at the Bayfront Marin House which we chose mostly because they allow Sookie. She loves going on vacation with us. I think she had a great time.
Sookie investigates the giant bathtub
Very tall bed
The Bayfront Marin House is fine – great location, relatively clean, nice enough rooms, free happy hour – but I would not stay there if I wasn’t limited by the 68 pound dog factor. The food wasn’t great and things could have been cleaner. We’ve stayed at nicer B&B’s serving amazing breakfasts in the historic district.
My favorite restaurant in St. Augustine is The Floridian, by a landslide. I think about their tofu all the time. The patio is adorable and dog-friendly.
Robbie enjoying some vegetarian soup
<3Tofu cornbread stack<3
A major reason we love St. Augustine is the walkability. We park the car at the hotel and don’t touch it until it’s time to leave. All the sights, bars, and restaurants are within comfortable walking distance. Here is a photo of Sookie and Robbie enjoying the Plaza de la Constitución.
If you have any appreciation for a fine cocktail, the Ice Plant Bar is not to be missed. We made multiple trips there on a previous visit and thoroughly enjoyed it again this time. It’s a classy cocktail bar inside in a renovated, well…ice plant. They take the ice very seriously. They appear to make the majority of their mixers and things in house.
An Old Fashioned served with a giant ice cube
Ice Plant Bar is in the same building as the St. Augustine Distillery, where they make craft spirits (vodka, gin, rum, and, soon to be ready, bourbon) from local ingredients. Our friends recommended the free distillery tour which is surely worth doing.
Barrels of rum
On the distillery tour
We learned a lot and we got to try the liquors in fancy drinks made by our tour guide. I’m still getting emails with new drink recipes from them.
Pizza Time is on a particularly crowded, touristy street. They were voted best pizza ever in the universe or something. I wouldn’t go that far, but the slices are very good. We ate a couple on a bench outside.
Cool tile wall we saw while walking around
Castillo de San Marcos is a 17th century Spanish fortress/castle. We’ve never been for a tour or any of the presentations offered, but we do enjoy walking around the property. It’s right on the water and made of coquina making it a very rare building.
Looking out at the Matanzas River
Castillo de San Marcos
View of the river from inside the fort property
There are two more places we will never miss when in St. Augustine: Stogies Cigar Bar and Pizzalley’s Chianti Room. Both have dog-friendly patios. Stogies offers a great beer selection and there’s always at least one wine I really enjoy. Once there was a man with a brick oven built into his truck making coal-fired pizzas on the patio. Pizzalley’s Chianti Room has the most insane happy hour I’ve ever heard of. It’s two for one drinks – even expensive liquor drinks – AND a free slice of pizza. There is always a guy singing and playing guitar on the patio. We usually can’t stand that sort of thing but he plays at a reasonable volume and has good taste in the songs he covers.
We had a stellar cheese plate and some drinks at Cellar 6. It was our first time visiting this establishment. It is not dog friendly so Sookie took a nap in her crate. They also offer an impressive happy hour. I had an espresso martini followed by a less dessert-like martini. Robbie liked his Old Fashioneds. There were people on a date sitting next us. The man was clearly a psychopath. I hope this became evident to his date over the course of their time there because it was evident to everyone else.
It was St. Patrick’s Day while we were there. I like St. Patrick’s Day, but we usually don’t celebrate on account of all the drunk people driving around. Because we were on foot (as was everyone else really) we went to Meehan’s Irish Pub. It was packed, of course. We realized we’d been there previously during a ghost hunting pub crawl a few years earlier. It has a nice balcony with a view of the river.
Speaking of the river, Sookie wants to go for a swim! “What’s over there? I know there’s something over this wall.”
Sookie being happy in our room
Sookie cares about a short list of things. Somewhere after popcorn, cheese, and dog park is cuddling. The dog loves to cuddle, but we do all the cuddling on the couch. The only time Sookie gets to lay on the bed is on vacation. Look at how happy she is. She is pure bliss in dog form.
We went to New Orleans for our fifth wedding anniversary. (Five years!!!) It was Robbie’s first time visiting New Orleans and my first time back since spring break 2005, a few months before Hurricane Katrina.
We stayed in the French Quarter at the Saint Hotel. This hotel is in the running for the nicest hotel we’ve ever stayed in. Everything was classy and clean. The elevators weren’t terrifying. The hotel bar is so snazzy. The staff were really nice and even gave us a complimentary bottle of champagne for our anniversary.
Lobby of the Saint Hotel
A very sweet surprise from Robbie: beautiful flowers and delicious champagne!
Angie in a giant chair outside the hotel bar
Our first stop after checking in to the hotel was lunch and happy hour at Juan’s Flying Burrito in the Central Business District. We got margaritas and tofu tacos. Everything was delicious. We almost went a second time because we liked it so much.
Trying out Robbie’s new phone’s camera at happy hour
Handsome Robbie at Juan’s Flying Burrito
We walked – with our to go cups! – to Barcadia. It’s a bar with tons of arcade games. It was pretty quiet while we were there, but otherwise, no complaints. The drinks were good and we had fun playing Mortal Kombat and skeeball.
So many games
After that we walked back into the French Quarter and around Jackson Square. People were out selling their art and palm readings and mime…skills?
Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo
A very New Orleans building featuring wrought iron galleries
Bourbon O Bar
Bourbon O Bar was our next stop. It’s very fancy for Bourbon Street. Robbie liked his Old Fashioned.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar: oldest bar in the U.S. allegedly
Champagne cocktail at Bar Tonique
Bar Tonique is where Robbie had his favorite Old Fashioned of the trip, although others came close. I had the champagne cocktail shown above. I started ordering those anywhere I thought I might get a good one. New Orleans makes a mean champagne cocktail.
That night we went to the Frenchmen Street area. We had dinner at 13 Monaghan. I failed to get any photos. The wait for our food was excruciating, but the food was really good. We ordered the tachos, tator tot nacho things, as an appetizer. They came out at the same time as our entrees – Robbie’s most hated restaurant thing. I had a BBQ tofu sandwich which was worth the wait.
We walked to the late night Frenchmen Art Market. There were a dozen or so booths where local artists were selling cool things in a pleasant atmosphere with lots of string lights. Robbie got a really nice NOLA tee and I got a crystal necklace I love very much.
I love this necklace.
We were told by friends and the Internet to go to the Spotted Cat Music Club. We walked in, saw and heard, and walked out. We aren’t particular jazz fans , so I’m okay with that. d.b.a was across the street. We were interested in someone who was scheduled to play later, but we were so tired. We went back to the hotel and slept hard.
The next morning we had a fantastic breakfast at The Ruby Slipper Cafe. It is located steps from our hotel. Tasty, friendly, and convenient enough that we ate breakfast there twice.
Breakfast at Ruby Slipper Cafe
Their “make your own” egg whites omelettes are worth two visits. The biscuits, cafe lattes, and creamy grits are noteworthy as well.
Mmm, cafe latte.
We tried to get a streetcar outside the Ruby Slipper Cafe to the meeting spot for our walking tour. It started raining big time and the streetcar schedule made no sense to our tourist minds. Shout out to Uber for getting us where we needed to go on time. We did a free walking tour of the Lafayette Cemetery and the Garden District with Free Tours by Foot New Orleans.
The entrance to Lafayette Cemetery
Robbie hanging with some dead folks
The community maintains this tomb for orphan boys.
A bunch of tombs
I’m really glad we took the Garden District tour. We learned a lot from our guide and saw things we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Afterwards we walked to The Bulldog Uptown for drinks. They have an impressive beer selection. Robbie got to try some local beers he really enjoyed.
The sign outside of The Bulldog Uptown
We took the streetcar to the St. Charles Slice Pizzeria location for lunch. They offer slices of their more involved pizzas. True slices – not cheese with stuff haphazardly added before heating it up. The pizza there is top notch. If there’s one thing we know, it’s pizza. Highly recommended. Unfortunately, again no photos due to extreme hunger/hedonism.
We rode the streetcar again back to our hotel. A streetcar is not quite as cool as a subway train. It’s pretty much a wooden bus. A worthy experience nonetheless.
Here comes the streetcar!
Robgeleen on a wooden bus
We walked around in the French Quarter a bit, stopping in at Molly’s at the Market on Decatur Street for frozen Irish coffee. It’s pretty much a fast food milkshake with brandy in it. Boom.
Frozen Irish Coffee from Molly’s at the Market
We walked along the Mississippi River back to our hotel. It was Robbie’s first time seeing the Mighty Mississippi. His reaction: “It’s brown”.
We got cleaned up at our hotel then went out on the town. We headed to French 75 bar inside Arnaud’s where we had a solid cheese plate, a French 75 for me (no brainer), and a (sadly subpar) Old Fashioned for Robbie. I think the cheese plate and ambience are great enough to make this a worthwhile stop.
We had a round at a hotel bar, the Carousel Bar. The main bar is truly a carnival/fair style carousel. The bar and the stools rotate. Pretty cool. Our drinks were very good.
We walked around the French Quarter and particularly Bourbon Street looking for something exciting. We saw online that the Cat’s Meow offers hilarious karaoke. While neither of us would ever sing karaoke, we thoroughly enjoy watching others humiliate themselves.
My biggest blogger failure must be discussed now. We happened upon a one of a kind DJ in a one of kind bar at a one of a kind moment. We had the best time. I have no idea what the bar is called. I have scoured Google street view. I got nothing. Anyway, here’s a photo of Robbie, the most interesting man in the world, drinking a frozen red bull and vodka (!!!).
Oh man, did we dance. For better or worse, I can now say I backed that thang up to Juvenile in the place of my birth. New Orleans, Louisiana is where I got it from my mama, as it were.
Sorry, not sorry.
After that we hit up The Dungeon, The Tequila House, and the Industry Bar & Kitchen in quick succession. The Dungeon is a hilariously goth New Orleans staple which my parents remember from the 70s. As a couple who have enjoyed The Castle in Tampa, I thought Robbie should experience it. The upstairs was closed, the entire staff was helping a guy look for his credit card, and it was lame. Tequila House made me a fine drink to go. We had pizza and Robbie had a local beer at Industry Bar & Kitchen while we chatted with our very kind bartenders.
The next day we got a slow start. We went to Ruby Slipper Cafe again for breakfast and then walked around. We stopped by this park near Cafe du Monde.
A serene park
We bought some souvenirs then stopped in at The Kerry Irish Pub for our first drink of the day.
I really wanted to get beignets at Cafe du Monde but I could feel that I was on the verge of overdoing it with rich food and alcohol so we walked through and bought some packaged stuff to take home.
On the recommendation of the Internet, we had a round at Tujague’s. Our bartender was phenomenal. The champagne cocktail I had there was probably the best drink of the trip for me.
Awesome Tujague’s bartender
Tujague’s: a really old bar
For dinner we went to a vegetarian/vegan restaurant called Seed. Again, hunger/hedonism/germophobia prevented me from taking photos of our food. We got the best nachos I’ve ever had in my life as an appetizer. They had black beans, cashew queso, grilled seitan, guacamole, and other goodies. For the entree, I ordered an eggplant pomodoro that was good but not great and Robbie got a tofu poboy which he devoured and loved. That sandwich was over a foot long and he ate it all.
The sign outside of Seed
We took another Uber ride with the most Lousiana guy ever to Cure. It was happy hour (lucky us). I had yet another fabulous champagne cocktail and Robbie had fantastic Old Fashioneds. This is a serious bar. They don’t mess around with their drinks.
We took our drinks up to our room where I watched the Ted and Heidi Cruz interview on CNN. Ugh.
Shout out to our Rover.com sitter for keeping our dog alive, fed, and happy. She had a vacation too. Sookie played in a yard with several other dogs the entire time we were gone. Most impressively, the other dogs taught her how to use the doggie door.