Good morning, coffee lovers! In case you missed it, yesterday was National Coffee Day. This is a serious holiday on my calendar which required careful calculation and strategy for hitting up the main coffee shops without over-caffeinating myself ;)
Dutch Bros. is a main coffee drive-thru in the PNW and as part of their National Coffee Day celebration, profit from every drink went to our local Boys and Girls Club charity. PLUS customers were given a full “punch card’ which can be redeemed for a free drink on your next visit. Another coffee hut was offering 4 drinks for $10, and my office even created their own coffee bar in the break room. There were flavored foam pumps (I did not even know that existed!), whip cream, fancy creamers, sprinkles, and coffee-flavored chocolates. My heart was very very happy yesterday.
The coffee love just KEPT ON COMING this morning because a brand new coffee shop literally right down the street from me had its Grand Opening today. They advertised free coffee all day, so of course I pulled in on my way to work. I expected the free drink to be black coffee. Nope! ANY drink, fancy as you want, all for free. They have Oreo Chillers and Rockstar Freezes and Pumpkin Spice Lattes and something called a “Caramel Blondie.” Creature of habit, I went with an iced nonfat vanilla americano but I just might go back after work for something a little more festive. Depends on if I feel like going for a run first or not ;)
Anyways, what I’m REALLY here for is to share the last bit of fun from my weekend that included a fishing trip and my very first Blue Apron meal. Last summer, my family vacationed in Mammoth Lakes, California and went fishing very early in the morning. I caught nothing. This trip, I caught so many fish that I had to take a break to let my dad fish without having to continually re-set my line! :)
We mostly caught trout, and threw them right back in the river (after snapping a picture first, duh. It’s 2016.) It was so peaceful to stand in the river, look out into the forest and just appreciate the autumn day.
That night, we got home feeling drained and lazy. Then I remembered that my first Blue Apron box had arrived on Friday and I had 3 different meals to choose from! I love that they come in refrigerated boxes with all of the ingredients pre-portioned. The recipe cards are so detailed and I really appreciate the photos of each step. I picked the “Summer Pepper Shakshuka” with eggs and za’atar. This was the first time I’ve ever cooked a Middle Eastern dish myself, and I think it turned out pretty dang close to the picture!
There was something relaxing about dicing up all of the fresh vegetables. I threw them into a large pan and added the seasonings that came with my delivery. The best part? PITA BREAD. You know how much I love my carbs. The actual pita was already cooked, but it came in a circle like pizza crust. I got to slice it into triangles, toast in the oven and add the za’atar seasoning. They came out flavorful and toasty, just like they should!
Fresh pea shoots brought some color into this dish! The protein came from farm-fresh eggs that were added to the pan at the last few minutes. It seemed like a savory breakfast-for-dinner meal, but breakfast is my favorite so I was completely onboard for that!
My favorite part of cooking Blue Apron meals is how aesthetic they are plated! I know I’m not the only one who’s always proud when I serve a dish that looks restaurant-worthy. Especially with the Instagram food porn that makes a bowl of oatmeal look like pure art. Taking an extra minute for the presentation is one of those simple little things that is so satisfying, and I think every Blue Apron meal includes a very beautiful presentation.
A little feta sprinkled on top and voila! I think the whole meal took between 30-40 minutes to create. It was bursting with flavors that were somewhat foreign to me. I’d never cooked with za’atar, shallots, or pea shoots before. Cost-wise, Blue Apron meals are considerably less expensive than eating at a restaurant. The meals are less than $10 each, but seasonal specials and discounts are always popping up in my inbox. Plus everything is delivered to your door and pre-measured. I’m at that weird transitional phase between an on-campus college student with a meal plan and dozens of campus dining options to living completely on my own and “fending for myself.” Since health and nutrition are so important to me, I hardly want to get into that bad habit of resorting to microwave meals for dinner every night.
I learned about Blue Apron through fellow bloggers PBFingers.com and HungryRunnerGirl.com & I think it is the perfect transition for me to start learning to cook whole nutritious meals!
There are two more new-to-me meals from my last delivery to create this weekend and I can’t wait to try the Summer Udon Salad! (I opted for the vegetarian meal plan.) After a whole week of 5:00am workouts, I want nothing more than a lazy Friday night at home with yoga pants, Grey’s Anatomy, decaf coffee, and some time in the kitchen with a new healthy recipe. Plus all those Udon noodles will serve as my carbo-loading for tomorrow’s long run! Shelby, my running teammate, and I are going to try to get in 13 miles before the weather turns dreary tomorrow morning.
I spent last week in a fog.
I don’t mean that metaphorically; I was literally in the dense fog of the northern Idaho forest and it was amazing.
Earlier this summer, I moved to Idaho which seemed like a vacation in itself. Between job hunting and moving, we sort of skipped right over our typical summer trip while we were so caught up in the hectic new schedule.
Last week, we made up for it with a trip up north to the mountains and lakes of Idaho which were covered in a layer of gloom and fog for the weekend.
I didn’t mind one bit. The weather went along nicely with my plans to sit by the fire, read some books, play cards, drink fancy coffee, and celebrate my dad’s birthday.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast right on the water with views of the sail boats, the mountains, and the downtown shops and restaurants. I love the old-fashioned buildings with a pine tree backdrop.
Our suite was huge. Bigger than any apartment I could afford! It had a full kitchen, foyer, dining room, living room with a fire place, and waterfront balcony.
It was the perfect setting for a relaxing getaway. The fall colors were so gorgeous and SO VIBRANT. My camera was around my neck every time we left the hotel and not one tree in the whole town went un-photographed.
Our first night at the bed and breakfast, we were offered complimentary happy hour drinks before we explored the beautifully landscaped courtyard.
White wine is my go-to. The sweeter, the better to me!
Since it was late September, the vacation season had ended and we were surprised how empty the town seemed. It’s a very touristy town, so when school starts up in the fall it quickly quiets down. This also resulted in our restaurants having very little wait time and our drives having very little traffic. Brilliant!
My dad ALWAYS talks or blinks during pictures. My solution? Don’t face the camera ;)
Even though the Pumpkin Spice Latte made it’s 2016 debut weeks ago, I was saving my first cup for this vacation. I knew the wait would be worth it to enjoy sipping the spicy special coffee among the gorgeous mountains.
The barista at Mountain Java Coffee Shop made me a hot Pumpkin Pie Latte and it was the best pumpkin drink I’ve had! Starbuck’s PSL gives me a major stomach ache, and so many others are just tooo sweet. This was a perfect blend of spices and had more of a cloves and all-spice flavor than pure sugar.
Another factor in the timing of this vacation was my dad’s birthday. No crazy-long bike rides this year! We celebrated with “mountain size scoop” ice creams & presents on the balcony before we headed out to a local microbrewery.
A lot of our time outside of the hotel was spent driving through the tiny mountain towns and stopping to take pictures of the beautiful scenery.
We stopped at a ski lodge that was out of service since we are between seasons now, just to take some pictures and see if we could find a hiking trail. Another family was sitting on the front porch while their adorable 2-year old labradoodle ran around the property. We talked to them for a while about their dog since I am very much ready to adopt a doodle puppy of my own! :)
Relocating and starting new jobs and meeting new people has been a whirlwind of a summer – all good things, but exhausting at times. Mentally and physically, we were all ready for a break. The mountains provided the perfect escape from work, chores, errands, and city life. I know that weather has been proven to affect our mood, but I actually think the fog and gloom made it easier to relax. It was so cozy & sleepy that you couldn’t help but pour some coffee, sit next to the fire and read or watch a movie.
Our weekend finished with a fishing trip with friends and my first ever Blue Apron meal but I think I’ve overloaded you with enough pictures for one day :) I’ll pop back in tomorrow with the rest of my recap plus my first time ever cooking a (healthy) Middle Eastern dish “Shashuska”!
Some things are very hard to let go of. It’s not over yet. I’m not ready for it to be done.
I’m talking about summer. I’m just not mentally ready to say goodbye to the best season of the year.
Technically summer still has 5 more days and I would like to hang on to them. Yes, fall is fun and cozy and flavorful and we’ll be welcoming the pumpkin goodness in the next week. Fall also brings cold, dark mornings and other things that I don’t particularly like.
I have a love/hate relationship with pants. Pants are my least favorite article of clothing and I would gladly wear a dress every single day. But it’s not a good look in the winter when the freezing temperature makes my skin look, as my mom describes, “like you just plucked your feathers.” So I wear the pants and I try to get through it with big scarves and cute boots but I’m really just counting down until spring time again. (Unless it’s like May 2015 when it snowed on my graduation day.)
Since I want to send summer off with a proper goodbye, I made an amazing Summer Squash and Fresh Corn (Lightened) Chowder last night for dinner. Granted, it was 58 degrees and cloudy and I was wearing an oversized sweater. So, not the most summery environment I was envisioning. But the fresh corn and the bright colors of the veggies were refreshing and I was really happy to make a healthy version of chowder by removing the butter, reducing the salt, and substituting the cream with 4 cups of water and 1 cup of fat-free half & half, plus loading the pot up with every color of vegetable and throwing in lots of herbs and spices.
First of all the color of the soup was really pretty because the sweet potatoes stain the broth an orange. When you pour in the cream, it turns into a creamsicle color with bright veggies peeking through. It’s also extremely HOT when you first serve it, which gave me plenty of time to find cute serving bowls and photograph the heck out of it.
Lightened Corn Chowder with Summer Squash and Sweet Potatoes:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 3 ears of fresh corn on the cob
- 3 large zucchinis
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 2 chopped bell peppers
- 1 small yellow onion
- 1 large sweet potato, diced
- 1 tbsp thyme
- salt & pepper to taste
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup fat-free half & half
1.) Heat olive oil in a large pot; add in garlic, onion, carrots, and bell peppers. Stir occasionally until softened (5 minutes)
2.) Cut the corn off of the cob; add the corn, sweet potatoes, zucchini, water, thyme, salt and pepper. Add in some garlic salt or sodium-free seasoning if you wish. Bring to a boil, then back down to a simmer for 30 minutes.
3.) Pour half & half into the soup, stir and simmer for 5-10 more minutes.
This weekend I’m heading to the mountains for a little vacation. I’ve packed my favorite new denim dress and wedge booties, big plaid blanket scarves and a couple of new books. (Notice the lack of pants.) Sunday is supposed to be a rainy day and I will fully embrace the gloom by finding a local coffee shop and catching up on some reading, and wrapping up some of the blog posts I’ve been drafting in my head.
See you back here Monday!