8.18.2013

Spaghetti Squash Carbonara

The first time I ever had pasta carbonara was when I was living on Bainbridge Island (across from Seattle) in 2000. It was during the winter and I remember my Uncle G (Happy Birthday Uncle G!) making it for dinner. T jokes that I went to "cooking school" when I lived on Bainbridge because I was always cooking with my Aunt and Uncle. We made all kinds of things I had never had before and cooking with them helped me think outside the cooking box I had put myself in. I worked on an oyster farm when I lived there and my first oyster was right out of the water! The cuisine of the pacific northwest was delicious and my Aunt and Uncle made it come alive for me.

With that being said, I don't think Pasta Carbonara was a regional speciality, but it was something my Uncle made that I had never had before. In case you are not familiar with Pasta Carbonara, in it's simplest form it is pasta that has been cooked and as soon as you remove it from the boiling water you dump scrambled raw eggs into the pasta. The heat of the pasta cooks the eggs as they coat the pasta. I have had a lot of versions of pasta carbonara over the years. Most have bacon in them. Some have peas. Some are made with cream as well as eggs but all of them have lots of cracked black pepper! It's pretty good.

Which brings me to Spaghetti Squash Carbonara. This dish wasn't planned. It came about as I was cooking food for the week. I am back to work and trying to plan out my meals. As I am home later most nights I prep a lot of food that I'm able to throw together quickly for a great dinner. I had taken stock of the almost empty refrigerator and decided to try to use everything I had in it. I was steaming bok choy, roasting spaghetti squash, baking bacon, hard boiling some eggs, and creating salad in jars for my lunches. As I was washing dishes around dinner time I started looking for something to eat. The eggs, bacon, and spaghetti squash caught my eye and next thing you know I am chowing down on this great dinner. It was simple and quick but the smokiness of the bacon, the creamy eggs, and the cracked black pepper tossed with the roasted spaghetti squash created a meal worth blogging about! Let me know if you try it and what you think.

Spaghetti Squash Carbonara (1 serving)
  • 2 1/2c Roasted Spaghetti Squash (shredded) (This was 1/4 of a squash for me)
  • 2 pieces bacon, rough chop
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2t red pepper flakes
  • 2TBLSP Parmesan Cheese
  • salt to taste
  • fresh black cracked pepper. A lot.
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Start by cooking bacon in the skillet. When it has turned brown and you have bacon grease in the pan, add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add shredded spaghetti squash and toss with bacon and garlic in the pan. Continue to toss until squash is hot and heated through, about two minutes. Turn off heat and add eggs tossing to coat the spaghetti squash and cook the eggs. Add parmesan cheese, salt, and lots of cracked black pepper. Toss to coat squash and serve.

8.11.2013

our kitchen: Phase One

Tomorrow summer vacation is over for me and I am back to work! T is on a fishing trip in Idaho and Montana and our little kitchen phase one project is coming to a close. Remember when I was talking about it back in April? There are a few details I hope T will finish when he gets back, but it looks like this is the version of the kitchen we will be having for a while.
Just for reference, here is what the kitchen looked like before we started. Not seeing a big difference? No problem. I can point it out to you
See that thing where the original kitchen cabinets are attached. We had that taken out. It was quite the project. And when the wall was open, there were some things we decided we should probably do. Because it seemed smarter than opening up the wall again.

The original cabinets, I was going to repaint them and put them back up. When we got them down and got a good look at them, T convinced me it wasn't a good idea. Complete kitchen cabinets are pretty pricey, but base cabinets without doors are not. So we decided to go with base cabinets, and to buy doors when we have more cash. That is why we currently have the very open-shelves look above. And while I was planning on having that look for one section of shelves, I am now thinking of leaving more of them open.
So what was Kitchen: Phase One? It was removing the top cabinets. Removing the soffit the cabinets were attached too. Installing new, taller cabinets and maybe a few more details. I wanted it to be done by the end of June. It wasn't. But T ended up doing a lot of work on it and I am grateful because it looks AWESOME and I am very happy with it.

A few upgrades include a new Vent-a-hood, range hood. Our last one was awful and T and my sisters used to say I cooked by fire alarm because I set it off all the time.....

In the spot where I had a make-shift shelf and counter where the washer and dryer used to be, T built a permanent extension of the lower cabinets. He wanted to get a new (cheap) counter top to go across all our counter tops, but we didn't like any of the ones we found and decided we can live with it until Phase Two, when we do the lower section of the kitchen.
The new base cabinet needed to be painted, so I painted all the lower cabinets in the kitchen. The hinges had been painted over multiple times but I was able to save them by removing them from the cabinet doors, simmering them with baking soda like this video suggests, cleaning them and removing the paint, and painting them with Rustoleum Satin Nickel spray paint. I was pretty proud of that one.
I also painted the back door Wrought Iron by Benjamin Moore relined all the base cabinets and drawers with cork and re-organized everything. My Use It or Lose It theme really paid off in the kitchen!
The kitchen project took much longer than I thought it would to complete (typical) but I had tried to set up a functional kitchen space in our back patio. It ended up working really well. We BBQed a lot and I got really creative with our little toaster oven. Ironically we ended up having lots of impromptu meals on our back patio with neighbors or my sisters. We basically lived out there for a few weeks. Here is a picture of our patio / kitchen. The dressers are going to Mammoth, but they were very handy for storing all our dishes.
At the end of the day you might ask us if it was worth it. We did all this to gain an extra foot of storage, and I will tell you it was worth it! T and I both hated that soffit and that extra foot is great. In Phase Two we want to raise the counter tops and in Phase One we were able to raise the top cabinets. I am very happy and hope the last few details get finished when T returns so I won't think about the kitchen again until it is time for Phase Two!
Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go cook something fabulous in my newish kitchen!

Homemade beer and pickles

Homemade beer and pickles. Hope they turn out!

8.08.2013

Take Away: CanCun Moon Palace

T and I have been home from our Moon Palace CanCun trip for a few weeks and I think it's time for my Take Away post!

So first things first. Moon Palace in Cancun is a huge resort complex with three hotels, villas, and a spa and golf course. There are shuttles to transport you where ever you are going and if you stay in the villas (like we did) you get your own golf cart. The resort is huge and I would say 90% of the people staying there are Americans. You can eat and drink 24 hours a day. You never need to carry money with you as everything is included. That being said, we did carry some money with us to tip. The resort complex was so big, that you never need to leave.

The resort complex is so big, it's like an isolated bubble in Mexico. The only way you know you are in Mexico sometimes is because Spanish is being spoken. The resort could be scooped up and put anywhere on the same longitude, and you would never know it. To me it didn't feel like Mexico, but after a few weeks of thinking about it, I don't think that was a bad thing.

When I travel internationally I enjoy mixing in with the culture and learning about that place through my experiences. I have found myself in the kitchen with strangers in the Dominican Republic, doing laundry in a bathroom sink with women in Egypt, and hitchhiking in Guatemala for a ride back to town. All of these moments came about through a smile and a bit of luck. Sometimes I spoke enough of the language and sometimes I didn't, but things always worked out and they are some of my favorite memories.

The Moon Palace and this trip was different than previous international trips. I mention above that the complex was like a bubble, and it was. There really wasn't a way to mix in with the culture the way I usually do. I practiced my spanish a bit with some employees, but other that that, I could have been at a hotel here in California. Again, not a bad thing, just different.
So understanding that about the Moon Palace, there is also a lack of stress about being in a foreign country. English is mainly spoken, every employee is there to serve you, and everything is already paid for. All there is to do is relax and enjoy.

And eat.

There were always food and drinks available. Room service, 24/7. Multiple restaurants for dinner. Ice cream, coffee, crepes, etc.etc.etc.. A bar and BBQ at every pool. Sushi bar from 6-11pm. Gelato. People walking around with chocolate. Food, anytime you want it. Anywhere you were. And I had my fair share of it. I would not call most of the food amazing, but it was good. As I have been eating paleo-ish I didn't go too crazy with the dairy or sugar, but I did eat my fair share of croissants. T and I had room service for breakfast most of our days and ordered croissants, coffee and tea. Because of this I never went to many of the main resort spots for breakfast. On our last morning I had breakfast at the Moon Palace and that was fabulous! I guess it is a good thing I found it on our last day, because I would have been there every morning!

So this vacation was a bit of money and we were able to go because my Dad gave T and I some money for a Honeymoon (THANKS DAD!). I am not sure that we would have saved the money to go a trip like this. Like I said, not how I usually travel, but after going, T asked when we could go back :)

The truth is, this in not my go to vacation. This is not something I would save up for year after year. BUT, this is a vacation I would save up for every few years. Why? It was so relaxing. It was the first time I came home from a vacation and didn't need an other vacation. I had a great time with T. We had an amazing vacation together. I didn't have to think about how much money I was spending because I already spent it. The service was incredible and we had a nice time with our friends. All in all, it was a pretty amazing vacation. I don't want to take it for granted, and that is why I would only go back in a few years. When I really need a relaxing vacation.

Personal Take Aways and notes for me:
  • I packed perfectly. Less is more and this Maxi Wrap Cover Up Dress from Victoria Secret was AWESOME and made me look like an old fashioned movie star on pool days.
  • Schedule events and make reservations before arriving if possible.
  • Explore breakfast places! And find really good food spots.
  • Physical books, while a pain to pack, felt safer to have on the beach and at the pool than an iPad.
  • FIND MY PHONE. Set up all electronic devices with recovery services if possible. This is because my phone was missing for most of the trip.
  • Sunblock was a must.
  • Villa 3, room 127 was AMAZING
  • When I packed for this trip my sisters encouraged me to think like a resort-ist. When I asked what that was, they had a lot of helpful tips and one of them was to wear jewlery with everything. I did, and it elevated each outfit. Maybe I should think like a resort-ist more often!
What about you? Where do you go on vacation to really relax? Or have you had a recent vacation that surprised you in a good way?

8.01.2013

Photos from the OC Fair

Maple - Bacon Doughnut! My favorite fair food!
Going back on Sunday for beer making class! I love the fair.

A week in CanCun - day 7, 8, and home

Day 7 was our last full day in Cancun. It started with early morning room service and then T and I had a bit of a pool morning to ourselves as the girls had spa treatments and their parents slept in. We tried the pool at Sunrise and it was much bigger! I had another spa appointment and left T at the pool while I caught a shuttle over.

This spa treatment was a package that included a seaweed wrap, aloe vera massage, and facial. It was FABULOUS, except that the seaweed smelled a bit like sushi. But, what was I expecting.

For dinner that night we ate at the Brazilian BBQ place and this was the first time I had been back to the hotel that had Public Relations in it. I decided to double check on my lost phone.

Now every time I came into contact with any employee at the resort they were always nice, everything was "their pleasure", and they went out of their way to help me. The gentleman working the public relations desk this evening was no different. He asked me to be seated, I told him my story, he checked the Public Relations log, and there was no note of me coming to speak to public relations that first time. He asked me details about my phone and then checked on it for me. While he was on the phone with security he told me that it was unlikely an employee had stolen it as they had to go through metal detectors when they left work. I said, it had to be an employee, as we were the last table at the restaurant and someone had accessed some of my accounts the evening I lost it. He asked me to come back in 30 minutes as security had something that might be my phone. I returned 30 minutes later and there it was! I was so excited! It turned out that someone did eventually return it but because the note had not been put in the Public Relations log, they didn't know it was mine. I am so glad I checked! Here is my first picture when I got my phone back!

After dinner we went to a show kind of like Cirque de Soleil, but smaller, that is through the resort. It was awesome and then we some drinks in honor of our last night in CanCun!
Day 8, the day we eventually headed home, started with room service and then T and I went to watch the sunrise over the ocean. The pools were empty and there were only a few people up with us.
We were sitting on a wall looking at the sunrise. As the sun came up I snapped this photo of the pelican. T said we should tell everyone, this was our room.
T had a hot stone massage that morning and left me as I walked the beach as the day started. I spent a few hours at the pool and eventually we got in the SUVs and said goodbye to CanCun. We had a great time and T is already asking me when we can go back!

 

A week in CanCun - day 5&6

Day 5 was another pool day for me. I got up early and the friend's wife and I went running. Eventually I made it to the pool and relaxed and read my book. I know, tough life. Like the other pool days, I found myself leaving in the mid afternoon to shower and nap. I was the only member of the group who never got sunburned and seemed to be doing okay with the heat and sun and everything else that was Mexico on this trip. I think it was because I was making sure I got enough sleep!

For dinner that night we ate at La Trattoria, the Italian restaurant at the Golf Course. Dinner was at 8pm and was pretty good. Everyone but me, was pretty tired after their day in the sun. It was a mellow dinner and I think it might have been the first night everyone didn't go out. The next morning T and I were joining his friends on the golf course at dawn so that might have been part of it.

I mentioned before that we had gotten in the habit of ordering room service for breakfast. Nothing fancy after the first time, just yogurt, pastries, and coffee / tea. This night was no different. We phoned in our order for 5:30am and went to bed. It felt like I had barely closed my eyes when there was a knock at the door for room service. T and I peeled ourselves out of bed and I kept thinking we must have slept through the alarm. After they left I asked T what time is was. He looked at his phone for awhile and then said "It said 1:30am. The time zone must have switched'. Then he found his watch and it was 1:30am! We laughed about the room service mix up and went back to bed. Then at 5:30am room service came again! I told the guy about the 1:30am delivery and he was very apologetic. I switched out the coffee and tea and he told me to take the pastries as they were hot and fresh. Such a nice guy. T and I were both still tired, but not as bad as the 1:30am wake up.
After a quick breakfast we met up with his friends and I went along for the golfing trip at dawn.
I am not much of a golfer (as in not at all) but is was nice to watch the sunrise and see the golf course. We were out first and they all played fairly quickly, even skipping a few holes, so it was fun to go from place to place. The resort is a nature sanctuary and it was cool to see the different animals out in the morning. At one point we came to the spot in the course where our villa was. We stopped to take a pictures. My golf club is just a prop....
When the morning was over I was still pretty tired and ended up going back to the room and back to bed. That afternoon we were going on a yacht over to Isla de Mujeres and I wanted to make sure I was up for it. I must have needed some sleep, because I slept the morning away. T did too, so I guess I wasn't the only one.

This yacht trip is my second favorite memory of our trip. T's friends had arranged everything and we were picked up at 3pm by the SUVs and taken to the yacht. I wasn't sure what to expect but was very impressed. The water was calm and it was amazing to cruise by the beaches and hotels in another area of CanCun. The crew was amazing, bringing us drinks and appetizers all the way to Isla de Mujeres. The girls hung out on the front of the boat and the guys hung out with the captain.
We anchored off the island and went swimming while the crew made us lobster dinner! T mastered the art of floating on his back while balancing a Mai Tai on his belly. I laughed so hard when he did that.
After dinner we watched the sunset and took some pictures before making our way back. It was an amazing and fabulous evening!

Happy August 1st!

Happy August 1st. As August used to be the month I tried to travel, I had to give it a shout out. I am currently finishing up posts about CanCun (finally got some pictures), dreaming about my Italy trip NEXT summer, and almost ready to tell you about Kitchen Remodel - Phase One. I have put down the paint brush today and am camped out by my beautiful front window, enjoying the ocean breeze and blogging away!

I go back to work in mid August, but that is not going to stop me from enjoying this month. What about you? Any August plans?