Weekend trip to Michigan

After we got vaccinated earlier in the year, we were itching to go somewhere so we decided to plan a little weekend getaway with some friends. We had rented a cute house in Coloma, MI of Airbnb. The pictures were nice, but to our surprise once we got there, it was MUCH different then what we had seen. It was evident that the pictures were edited and were were essentially catfished by our rental. This is where we stayed incase you wanted to avoid the house! We got into Michigan in the evening, and our first stop was Silver Harbor Brewing Company. Unfortunately there were no open tables, so we decided to take some beer to-go before checking into our AirBnb. Our initial reaction was “wth” when we walked into the house, it was dark and dungy and dirty. The first thing we noticed was the bathroom, the door was in the kitchen and it was a GLASS DOOR! We took a minute to settle In before picking a place to eat dinner. Unfortunately, things in the city closed early so we had to make moves. We decided to go to The Blackbird Waterhouse. It was a cute little restaurant close to our rental, it was snowing pretty bad and we didn’t want to go too far. The food was good and so was the beer!

When we got home, we wanted to call it an early night because we had an early morning snowmobiling. We got up early and made egg bagel sandwiches before heading out. We had to drive about an hour north to rent our snowmobiles at Powersport Rentals in Cedar Springs, Michigan– it looks like they have permanently. The White Pine Trail was a beautiful 100 mile trail that we were able to ride! We passed through so many small towns along the way. We stopped at Sawmill Saloon to grab a beer and a giant pretzel while the boys rode further north. We went about 42 miles up the trial before turning around. I am kind of bummed that this rental spot is closed, I was looking forward to going back and renting again.

After the 4+ hours of riding we were hungry to say the least. We decided to go to Perrin Brewing Co. in Comstock Park, MI. There was a long wait, but we decided to wait it out! In the mean time, we decided to call AirBnb and see if we could move to another house since the house we were staying at was a disaster, the beds were uncomfortable, there was a stink bug in one of the beds and there was broken glass in one of the bedrooms. They were SUPER NICE and moved us to this amazing house in South Haven, MI. We really enjoyed the brewery, amazing food and beer!

After we ate, we headed back to our house, packed up, jumped into the hot tub and chilled before heading back up to South Haven! The house we checked into was SUPER CUTE and he host was so nice! This is a perfect house to rent in the summer time with a few families!

The next morning we went on a hike and saw the most amazing views on the beach, where the water had froze in place. It was super cold that morning but it was worth it for the view!

After walking around we obviously built up an apatite, so we did what we do best– we found another brewery! We went to Three Mittens Brewery in Grand Rapids. MI. Again, it was great food and amazing beer! Highly recommend visiting if you are in the area.

After lunch, we headed back to the house and just relaxed! Later in the evening, we headed to another brewery– Three Blonds Brewing in South Haven, MI. The beer was actually very good but the food wasn’t the greatest- this was probably because we showed up right before the place closed. We found a fan favorite beer- Just took a DNA test and it’s 100% beer!

That night we went home and hung out, it was our last night in Michigan before heading home. The next morning we woke up and went to a local coffee shop called The Living Room, in downtown South Haven. It was super cute, then we went to the Olive Cart and got some oils and balsamic to go! After coffee, we decided to slide across ice to go up to the lighthouse! Again, we saw some beautiful views but it was SUPER slippery!

After our morning in South Haven, we went back to the house, passed up got ready and headed back to Chicago. On the way out of Michigan, about an hour into our drive- we stopped and got some lunch at The Stray Dog in Buffalo, MI. Great spot with amazing food! I can’t wait to visit this place in the summer, they have really nice outside space.

We had an amazing weekend with good friends in Michigan! The greatest part about this area in Michigan is that it is only about 2 hours way from Chicago, and there are so many things to do in all seasons!

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Pacific Coast Trip

As the pandemic seemed like it was coming to an end, and more people stated getting vaccinated, we decided to plan a vacation. Our front runners were Hawaii and driving the Pacific Coast! The winner was the coast trip, so we decided to fly into Seattle and drive all the way down to San Diego over a 2 week period.

Day 1: Seattle Washington 

We flew into Seattle on Saturday night, got our rental car and headed to the Hotel W in downtown. We had a pretty long flight and the rental car pick up took longer than expected and we were STARVING by the time we got to the hotel. We decided to check out a local spot in the downtown area called FogĂłn Cocina Mexicana. It was very good Mexican food, and it was reasonable priced. By the time we got back to the hotel room it was midnight, and we were ready to call it a night considering it was 2am in Chicago! 

Day 2: Seattle Washington –> Astoria Oregon 

We woke up in the morning and decided to go explore the city by foot. Fortunately, our hotel was located close enough to the area of the city we wanted to explore.  We walked to Public Market Center and Pikes Place Market. On the way to the market, we passed the famous Gum Wall in the Post Alley. We grabbed breakfast at Honest Biscuits and coffee at Indi Chocolate. The coffee was AMAZING, so fresh and delicious. After walking around the downtown area and the pier we headed back to the hotel and checked out. We then dove to the space needle just to check it out, we did not take the tour. Since we had a long trip ahead of us, we decided to stop at Costco in Seattle and stock up on water and snacks! On the way out of Seattle we stopped at Legendary Donuts before heading to the small town of Astoria on the coast of Oregon, just west of Portland. Our original plan was to stay in Portland, but we decided to cancel the reservation a week before the trip due to the violence and protests in the area in the preceding weeks.  

We got into Astoria around 4pm an checked into our hotel, before heading out to explore the city. We stayed at the Astoria Riverwalk Inn–literally the cutest little inn. Our first stop was Buoy Beer Co. This was a beautiful waterfront brewery in the heart of Astoria. If you go make sure you go inside and check out the glass floors, you can see the sea lions swimming under the building– this was something we missed and found out about after we left! Our next stop was Rogue Pier 39 Public House for a beautiful sunset. We were able to sit outside while the sun hit our face and the sun set. We were starving after this and some locals told us to check out Voodoo Martini for an espresso martini and some pizza. We called it a night after this, and headed back to our hotel.

Day 3: Astoria Oregon –> Redwoods National/ State Park California 

This was out longest drive of the entire trip, a total of 8 hours and 45 mins but we stopped along the way and it ended up being over 10 hours. We stopped in the city of Seaside to walk along the beach and take some pictures. After about a few hours we were hungry and decided to stop at Tillamook Cheese Factory for a self-guided tour and lunch. We got a grilled cheese and cheese curds, both of which were made with fresh cheder cheese. 

We got right back on the road for a few more hours until er stopped at a roadside coffee shop, The Village Bean, for an afternoon pick me up. 

After a few more hours we had to stop for food and to use the bathroom. We stopped in a small fishing town called Northbend and grabbed a beer (only to use the bathroom) at a local Irish Pub. After that we went Tony’s Crab Shack to grab a bite to lunch- PROBABLY THE FRESHEST SEA             FOOD I HAVE EVER HAD! We got a crab sandwich on sourdough bread and clam chowder. 

There were two MUST SEE viewpoints in Oregon on the California boarder. The first one was called Secret Beach; it was about a 10-minute hike down to a secret beach and it was absolutely amazing. The hike back up was a bit hard, and elevated but it was well worth it. The next stop, about a mile up the road was the Natural Bridges. We finally made it to our hotel at about 8 pm. We were staying in Klamath, which was located in the Redwoods State Park. We were told at check in that nothing in town was open anymore and if we wanted food, we would have to go back up to Crescent City 20 miles back north—this drive in the dark was probably one of the scariest drives EVER filled with fog, darkness and sharp turns—not to mention the drive took over an hour round trip. 

Day 4: Redwoods State and National Park 

This day was dedicated to exploring the Redwoods. We woke up and started early! We drove down Highway 101 and took Newton B. Drury Scenic Pkwy. This was a beautiful off-road path, absolutely breath taking. We stopped along the way many times to take pictures. Now I am going to highlight the sites we saw all day. 

Big Tree/ Circle Trail: This was a 0.3 mile loop trail which was easily accessible off the road. It was a beautiful trail!

Revelation Trail: Developed specifically for the visually impaired, this trail encourages you to engage all of your senses to more fully experience the redwood forest. You can touch the rough bark of a redwood and then compare it to the soft feel of a moss-covered fir or spruce, while sounds of the creek murmur in the background. The sharp aroma of California bay and tart taste of redwood sorrel allow for a more complete understanding of the ecosystem.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove: This is a scenic 1.4-mi. trail in an upland redwood grove, honoring environmentally-minded former First Lady. 

 Tall Tree Grove: Unfortunately, we did not get to do this hike, because we didn’t know we had to apply for a permit ahead time. By the time we realized it, it was too late.

Dolason’s Prairie: We took Bald Hill Road about 16 miles up into the mountain where we saw the most beautiful thing ever! Fields of purple Lupine’s in full bloom. It was truly breathtaking. Honestly when we were driving, we didn’t think it was going to be anything amazing, until we saw it. We were so grateful that we made it all the way up, we were told by the ranger that this only blooms for about 2 weeks every other year and we happened to be around for the bloom.

Fern Canyon: Some of the exquisite ferns now clinging to Fern Canyon’s shadowy 30-foot cliffs are ancient species whose ancestry can be traced back 325 million years. Look for velvety five-fingered ferns, dark green sword ferns, and delicate lady ferns. Scouring winter floods periodically rush through the canyon

Elk Meadow: Great spot off Highway 101 to possibly see some elk, have a picnic lunch, enjoy the meadow and also embark from several trails that originate here. The ranger’s at the Thomas H Kutchel Visitor Center circled this area when I mentioned I wanted to hike Trillium Falls. You can easily access this trail from the Meadow and the area is well signed. Of course the main attraction are the elk. There happened to be dozens of elk the day we went.

Sunset at Patrick’s Point: One of the rangers are the Visitor’s Center recommended we see the sunset here and we are SO GLAD we went. This was our favorite sunset of the entire trip! It was a clear day and we were able to see the sun disappear into the ocean.

Somewhere in the middle of the day we went all the way down to Trinidad, a small town south of Kalmath, right outside of The Redwoods National Park. We had lunch at a place called The Lighthouse Grill. We definitely earned our meal and beer that afternoon. We had the tofu burger and the Nut Burger (a homemade veggie burger with cashews and pecans topped with sautéed onions, goat cheese and chipotle aioli).

After the sunset, we ended up going back to Trinidad to grab beers and pizza at this local spot, Headies Pizza and Pour. Unfortunately our drive back to the hotel was over an hour due to unknown roads and terrain and we waited to eat the pizza until we got back to the hotel.

Day 5: Redwoods State and National Park –>  Fort Bragg 

We were exhausted after all the walking and driving the day before, so we decided to sleep in and relax a bit in the morning before we headed out. We only had a 4 hour drive so we weren’t in a rush. 

An hour and a half into our drive we stopped at Eel River Brewing Company for some lunch and local beer. 

I highly recomend pulling off 101 at Humboldt Redwoods State Park and driving the Avenue of the Giants for 32 miles. It was a breathtaking drive, and it ran along 101 South, so we didn’t go out of our way. 

We then drove into fort Bragg where we checked into our little hotel, the Beach House Inn. One of the most highly recommended restaurants in town was Silver’s at the Wharf but they did not take reservations ahead of time, however someone had just canceled and we were able to reserve a table for later that evening. While we waited for our table we drove further south into Mendocino where we grabbed local beers from Patterson’s.

Once we got back to the Fort Bragg area, we grabbed dinner at Silver’s. We had a table that overlooked the Fort Bragg harbor. Overall, the food and ambiance were great at this restaurant, would highly recommend checking them out if you are in the area. After dinner we stopped at a local ice cream shop, Cowlick’s Ice Cream. We tried MUSHROOM ICE CREAM- oddly yummy actually. We called it an early night that day since we wanted to wake up early the next morning. 

Day 6: Fort Bragg –> San Francisco 

We woke up fairly early and headed out, the first thing we checked out was The Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. It was kind of a disappointment; we didn’t really see any glass and we didn’t even get all the way to the shoreline because it was a terranes hike.

We say some of the most gorgeous views on the drive to San Francisco. We stopped in Point Arena and saw the lighthouse. We stopped for coffee at the Timber Cove Resort on the Sonoma Coast. It was the cutest resort ever, private cliff waterfront views—highly recommend staying here if you are thinking of something romantic and remote.  The staff here was also very warm and welcoming, they let us walk around the property and check it out.

Before getting to San Francisco we stopped just north of the city in Sausalito where we had lunch at Poggio Trattoria. Great Italian restaurant—highly recommend this spot for a meal or a quick bite and wine. The service and ambiance was really nice, and there was a lot of street parking in the area with parking meters.

After lunch we took the Golden Gate Bridge into the city and checked out the Full House house. Before checking into the hotel we stopped at a famous donut shop called Bob’s Donuts and Pastry Shop.  We got there around late afternoon, and there was still a line on the outside of the building – which was worth it!

We stayed at the Hotel Adagio in the Tenderlion area. The hotel showcased its beautiful Spanish colonial revival architecture on the outside mixed with and upscale contemporary design on the inside. We were upgraded to the rooftop suite with a private balcony. That afternoon we walked to the Fisherman’s Wharf to check out the area. We stopped at Boudin and ate some fresh Sourdough bread and butter—it was absolutely amazing! 

We had reservations at the Waterbar that evening, located right under the Bay Bridge. We had some great cocktails with a great view. We had a little snafu with the restaurant when we got there, we made reservations in hopes to have a drink and some appetizers, but they wouldn’t allow us to eat there without ordering dinner. After taking to the manager, we were able to move inside to the bar to have some cocktails. It actually ended up being a great night after all.

Day 7: San Francisco –>Santa Cruz 

We woke up early in the morning to walk over to Lombard Street to pick up our bikes, we were biking the Golden Gate Bridge that morning. It was about a 45-minute walk to grab the bikes. It was about a 3.5-mile bike ride to the bridge. This was actually the hardest part, all uphill. After we got to the bridge it was a straight shot ride. When we got back down,, we grabbed shakes at Project Juice and a bagel at Noah’s NY Bagels. We did a total of 10 miles on the bike that day. We got back to the hotel, got ready and left for Santa Cruz. 

We checked into the Chaminade Resort & Spa; it was the most beautiful resort ever. The evening was even more AMAZING- my boyfriend proposed to me (I will write all about the proposal in a separate blog post). Dinner at The View, a Treeside Restaurant was fantastic. It was truly the best night of my life! 

Day 8: Santa Cruz–> Carmel by the Sea/ Big Sur Area 

We woke up in the morning and enjoyed a beautiful breakfast at The View, a Treeside Restaurant. After breakfast we had private access to the hot tub because of COVID. They only allowed 1 party to rent it out at a time. After the hot tub we walked around the property; they have beautiful hikes on the property which we didn’t do, but we definitely plan on doing the next time we come to the resort. 

Our next stop was Carmel by the Sea. On the way into Carmel, we did the 17 mile drive around the Pebble Beach area. It was absolutely beautiful. After driving around we stopped at Sea Harvest and had a yummy crab salad sandwich and garlic bread. 

We were staying at the Carmel Mission Inn. We were actually highly disappointed, the hotel looks gorgeous online and when we got there we found that the entire hotel was under construction, and it looked like an actual dump, not to mention we were woken up by the construction. Our room it self was okay, but we weren’t able to utilize any of the hotel while we were there, and the hotel forced us to pay our “pre reserved rate” through Expedia rather then let us pay the LOW going rare that night, they were trying to tell us even though it was $95 on google we had agreed to pay $275 online.


We spend the evening in the city of Carmel by the Sea and it was THE CUTEST TOWN IN THE WORLD I KID YOU NOT. We started the evening at Galante Vineyards and had a wine tasting. It was a cute tasting room in the alley, had a very European vibe. After the tasting we went to Yafa for dinner. The owner Dia was absolutely hospitable, he truly helped us celebrate our engagement and created an unforgettable night. We tried some of the best wines of our life this night. Yara was an AMAZING Mediterranean Fusion restaurant- we literally can’t wait to come back to Carmel by the Sea in the near future!

Day 9: Big Sur 

Today was our full day to explore, as you can imagine we slept in that morning. We finally woke up and made it across the street to Allegro Pizzeria in Carmel, it was a really cute pizza place with fresh brick oven pizza, definitely hit the spot. After lunch we went south into Big Sur. The ocean was beautiful and blue along this part of the coastline. We noticed the more south we got, the bluer the water got. Now I am going to highlight the sites we saw all day. 

McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: The overlook trail for McWay Falls is a must-stop for anyone taking the scenic drive up Highway One along the Big Sur Coast. The waterfall is stunning, dropping some 80 feet onto a pristine beach in an enchanting cove. It is a short 0.6-mile round trip hike to a viewpoint for McWay Falls, which can be reached directly from Highway One or from parking areas withing Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park.

Pfeiffer Beach: There is a $12 entry fee to get into the beach. Pfeiffer Beach is one of the top attractions in Big Sur. Getting to Pfeiffer Beach takes a bit of effort, it was definitely an off road adventurous long drive to the beach. The beautiful scenery and serene ambience are well worth the short detour from California Highway 1. You will fall in love with this beautiful spot, guaranteed! I also realized, while writing this post, that you can walk to McWay Falls from this beach.

Bixby Bridge: Bixby Creek Bridge, also known as Bixby Canyon Bridge, on the Big Sur coast of California, is one of the most photographed bridges in California due to its aesthetic design, “graceful architecture and magnificent setting”. It is a reinforced concrete open-spandrel arch bridge.

We also stopped along the coast numerous times to take pictures! Honestly, travel times are always along the coast due to all the stops we make to suck in the views. 

We ended the night back in Carmel by the Sea for dinner, we were on an Italian kick that day and we ended up having dinner at Carmel’s Bistro Giovanni. The city was packed since it was Mother’s Day but it was well worth the dinner. 

Day 10: Carmel–> Las Angeles 

We left moderately early to head to Las Angeles in the morning, our original plan was to head to Ventura–>LA–>San Diego but we made a last-minute switch to move it to LA–> Newport Beach–> San Diego. Our first stop after heading out of Carmel was Hearst Castle in San Luis but unfortunately when we got to the gate, we found out they closed at the start of the pandemic and now they need major road renovations before a bus can get back up there. 

A few miles up the road we stopped at Ragged Point to see the Sea Elephants. I have never seen such sight, there were literally hundreds of sea elephants on shore basking in the sun. It also smelled a little weird there. It was definitely a sight to see. After our little pitstop, we were back on the road until we stopped at In-N-Out burger for some lunch. It was a bit messy to eat in the car but worth it!

We finally made it to LA, and we spend the evening with my fiancés friend and his family. We went to Zuma Beach in Malibu California to hike and watch the beautiful sunset. We went up to Point Dume. After the hike we ended up in Santa Monica along the pier for dinner.

After dinner, we headed back to our hotel, we were staying at the W Hollywood and we were upgraded to The Marvelous Suite. I would say in general the city of LA was dirty and I didn’t love the Hollywood area. I definitely think that LA was a one time city, I would love to go back for the food scene but I don’t think I will be back in LA any time soon.

Day 11: Las Angeles –>Newport Beach 

We woke up in Hollywood in the morning, till I had enough of the smell (TMI but smelled like pee), For lunch we ended up going to a VEGAN PLACE called Sugar Taco. It was honestly the best, you couldn’t even tell that there wasn’t any meat or cheese on the food.

After lunch we went back to the hotel, checked out and went up to the Hollywood sign before we headed down to Newport Beach. We didn’t even end up parking by the sign, it was extremely hot and crowded up there. We got to Newport Beach late afternoon and checked into the Newport Beach Marriott Bayview. After checking in, we wanted to see the area so we went and checked out Balboa Pier and Newport Beach before we headed to Huntington Beach for dinner. We went to Sushi on Fire with one of my fiancĂ©s friends. The sushi was AMAZING! My favorite was the lobster roll!

Day 12: Newport Beach –>San Diego 

The next morning we were headed to our FINAL STOP- SAN DIEGO! We were originally going to stay 3 nights in San Diego, but due to an unforeseen situation we had to cut our trip short and fly home a few days early. On the way to San Diego we stopped in Laguna Beach for some Lunch. We ended up eating at Carmelita’s Kitchen de Mexico and it was hands down the best meal we had on the entire trip. We ordered–guacamole, Mexican city corn, queso fundido, and shrimp taquitos– all of which were absolutely amazing!

After lunch we went straight to San Diego. We checked into our airbnb, The Rose Bungalow, a small property walking distance from the beach and the famous Ocean Beach Pier. After checking in we went and grabbed some Kombucha at Tapshack before heading to Torrey Pines to hike a bit. Before this trip the only city in California I had ever gone to was San Diego and the Torrey Pines was my favorite hike. Unfortunately it was a very cold and gloomy day and we didn’t do the whole loop that day. On the way back to our airbnb we stopped at the La Jolla Cove. We ended the day at a dinner walking distance from our place. Of course we ate some more Mexican food. We ended up at La Doña in Ocean’s Beach. We actually ended up trying some of their vegan tacos.

Day 13: Sand Diego –>HOME as an Engaged Couple 

The next morning our flight home was at 1:30 PM local time so we had a relaxing morning, and we stopped at Tapshack to grab some refills of the coffee they had on tap before heading to the airport.

If you want to see our whole trip in 18 minutes click on the link–>

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The Perfect Pan Pizza Crust

Getting the perfect pizza crust is probably the hardest part of making a pizza. Lucky my sister Neha is always the first to come up with the best pizza crusts!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup bread flour/ all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dry yeast
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)
  • 1/2 cup milk

You want to combine all the ingredients and cover it up with cling wrap and let it rise for 2 hours- you can also put it in the fridge and let it ferment slowly over a few days.

Put a little olive oil in a cast-iron pan OR a non stick pan with an oven safe handle. Also add any seasonings and a tiny pinch of salt to the mixture and completely coat the pan with your hands. Now you want to put the dough I the pan (while your hands are oil) and stretch it to fit the pan. Leave it in the pan for 20-30 mins for a second rise (I skip this step if I don’t have time).

Put the stove on at medium heat and turn the oven on broiler. You want to cook the pizza dough on the pan for about 4 mins, until the bottom of the pizza starts to brown.

Add sauce edge to edge as well as the the tipping and mozzarella cheese. You want to broil for 2 minutes- or until it is brown to liking.

Now you want it to cool on a cooling rack before cutting and serving!

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Rustic Apple Tart

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening (4 tbs)
  • 4 tbs sugar
  • 1/4 tbs salt
  • 3-6 tbs ice water
  • 4 large apples
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tbs cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 table spoon confectioners sugar (powdered)

This is the BEST fall apple pie substitute I have ever made. Originally I wanted to try a peach tart but the peaches had gone bad so I had to find an alternative.

Tart crust: In a food processor combine: 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, 4 tbs unsalted butter, 1/4 cup shortening (4 tbs), 4 tbs sugar, 1/4 tbs salt and add 3-6 tbs of iced water as needed. Put the dough in cling wrap and chill for an hour.

The filling: peel and thinly slice apples and add: 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 tbs cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Assembly: Roll the dough out on parchment paper and start adding the apples in a ring working your way towards the center. Then carefully roll the edges over the sides. Lastly you are going to brush the outside with egg white and sprinkle powdered sugar on the edges. You are also going to sprinkle granulated sugar on the apple portion. Preheat the oven to 350° and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown.

I pre made this earlier in the day to serve, but I would let the tart chill for an hour before cutting into it.

This is a great FALL dessert, you can also pair it with vanilla ice cream or a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

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Mongolian Tofu Noodles

Ingredients:

  • 1 slab EXTRA FIRM TOFU: dry with a paper towel and cut into cubes
  • 1 tbs flour
  • 1-2  green bell pepper sliced into thin strips
  • 3 packets of ramen noodles (uncooked)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce low sodium
  • 1 1/4 cup chicken broth low sodium, or no sodium added
  • 4 cloves garlic minced cloves garlic minced
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar packed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbs minced ginger
  • 3 green onions chopped (optional garnish)
  • black sesame seeds (optional garnish)
  1. Take the diced tofu and toss it in flour: bake it at 350° on a greased pan until it gets crispy. I just kept an eye on it and baked it for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Make the sauce: cook the minced garlic and ginger in sesame oil and add soy sauce+ chicken broth+ chili flakes (you can add more if you want) + brown sugar. Reduce heat and let it cook for 20-30 minutes until it thickens. I didn’t use all the sauce only about half for this dish- I stored the rest to use later.
  3. Sauté the green pepper in oil and put aside
  4. Cook the ramen. I just add the uncooked ramen to a mixing bowl and add boiling water over it and mix around for about 1 minute and strain- this prevents the noodles from getting overcooked.
  5. Mix the crispy tofu + sautéed green pepper + noodles together top with green onions and black sesame seeds (or regular sesame seeds) and enjoy

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Homemade Cinnamon Buns

I made my cinnamon buns in a cast-iron pan but you can make it in any pan you would like.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active quick rise yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tbs softened butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbs cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Icing: 5 tbs powdered sugar+ 1 tbs milk (whole or 2%) you can add more less milk depending on how thick you want the glaze, you can also make a cream cheese icing if you want.

In a sauce pan over low heat bring together: milk + butter, remove from heat once the butter is melted. In a mixing bowl combine 2 1/4 cups flour + sugar + salt + yeast mixture ( packet of yeast + 4 tbs warm water + 1 tsp sugar) + milk mixture (milk + butter from the last step) + egg. Kneed the mixture while slowly adding in the remaining 1 cup of flour (I used my hand but you can also use a mixer). Let the dough rest for 10 minutes and preheat the oven to 350° and turn off once preheated and wait 10 minutes. Put the dough in the warm oven for 20-30 minutes for the dough to rise. On a floured surface, roll out dough into a rectangle. Spread softened butter on top and add the cinnamon + brown sugar mixture. Cut into strips and roll them. Place them in a buttered cast-iron pan and drizzle heavy cream over them before baking them (this keeps them super moist). Turn the oven back onto 350° and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Drizzle icing over the baked cinnamon rolls and serve!

This recipe made 2 cast-iron pans worth of cinnamon rolls- so you can most definitely half the recipe if you want!

Storage: up to 2 days at room temperature OR 5 days in the refrigerator, you can also freeze them ( I suggest freezing them without glaze and adding the glaze when serving)


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Marinated & Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burger

Described on the menu as: Marinated and Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Roasted Tomato Jam, Lemon Aioli, Arugula, Crispy Onion Strings I decided to make the knock off version.

Ingredients:

  • portobello mushrooms
  • tomatoes
  • fresh basil
  • honey
  • salt/ pepper
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • lemon/ lemon zest
  • mayonnaise
  • red wine vinegar
  • chili flakes
  • minced garlic
  • dill (fresh or dry)
  • arugula
  • fried onions
  • burger buns of choice

Portobello mushroom marinate: butter+ olive oil (what ever ratio you prefer- I do more olive oil less butter)- total 8 tbs in whatever ratio, 2 cap full of red wine vinegar+ lemon zest + chili flakes

Tomato Jam: Tomatoes + fresh basil + honey to taste+ salt/pepper to taste + minced garlic

Lemon aioli: Mayonnaise + salt + fresh lemon juice + minced garlic + dill + lemon zest (I never really measure the ingredient for my aioli sauce I just add stuff until I get it to taste perfect)

Marinate burgers in the above marinate, generally speaking you want it to marinate for at least 5-6 hours, if you don’t marinate it long enough then you won’t get the right flavors in the burger it self.

You then want to grill the marinated burgers on a low heat about 3-5 minutes on both side without letting the mushroom to burn. The mushrooms will significantly shrink- so you want to use the biggest ones you find when picking a size so they shrink down to the size of a burger bun.

Lastly assemble the burger, grill the bun put down the aioli sauce add the grilled burger top it with the tomato jam, arugula and fried onions and enjoy!

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Denver: A Travel Guide

We took a 10 day trip to Denver last summer and it was AMAZING. Being in the mist of a pandemic, this would truly be a great trip to repeat since 90% of the things we did were outdoors! Colorado definitely became one of my favorite states after this trip. We flew into Denver airport and decided to drive out that same day. Our first stop on the way to hiking around the Pike and San Isabel National Forests was a cute restaurant called Shaggy Sheep to grab some ice cream! After our ice cream break, we decided to take a small hike around the corner from the shop.

Our next stop was Mount Evans, we decided to drive all the way up and enjoy the beautiful views. This is one of the 58 14ers in Colorado, at 14,260 feet above sea level. We were so high up there were still SNOW CAPS in August! The altitude gradient was very large, I felt sick by the time we going down from the mountain that evening. We were super exhausted after a day of traveling so we grabbed dinner at Efrain’s of Boulder Mexican Restaurant and called it a day.

The next morning, we decided to do a LONG hike, we though we were doing a 7 mile hike but ended up walking over 10 miles that day. We hiked the Walker Ranch Trail in  Boulder County, Colorado . The last few miles were a bit rough considering a storm was rolling in, we were tired AND we ran out of water. PRO TIP: Bring plenty of water! At the end of that day were were at 22,500 steps! We ended the night with pool time and much needed hot tub time after all that hiking. For dinner we got Indian food take out from Curry ‘N’ Kebob, and it was just the perfect meal to end the day!

The next morning we were ready for another hike. We decided to go to the Button Rock Preserve and hike the Sleepy Lion Trail. There were beautiful views along most of the trail.

I am a big foodie, so I had to find a great restaurant in the Estes Park area. We decided we wanted to go to Dunraven Inn for dinner. Fun fact: The first thing you’ll notice when you walk through our doors are the dollar bills, floor to ceiling, hanging in the entryway and the bar. The tradition began in the ’70s when a friend wrote good luck to the owner on a dollar bill and hung it on the wall. They estimate that there is approximately $16,000 hanging in the building– they remove torn, faded and worn bills and donate them to local charities throughout the year. If you are looking for some good Italian food, this is the place to go!

The next morning we decided we wanted to grab some donuts before we picked our next adventure for the day, we stopped at Donut Haus in Estes Park. We took a drive out to Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park- we did some small hikes and stoped at view points along the way. The loop around Bear Lake was the perfect walk! We were kind of exhausted after all the hiking so we took it easy. After driving around and doing a little bit of walking, we decided to take the Estes Park Aerial Tramway for some breathtaking views!

The next morning, we were off to Grand Lake Colorado. We wanted to rent a boat, but we actually found a nice hike near by and opted to hike instead. But first– WE HAD ICE CREAM at Miyauchi’s Snack Bar. We also walked along Adams Falls that afternoon. This was our detour while we were headed to Glenwood Springs. After we got into Glenwood Springs, we just hung out and found a local Mexican restaurant for dinner!

The next morning, we decided to enjoy some morning pool time before heading to my FAVORITE HIKE in all of Colorado! We hiked up to Hanging Lake, this was a rather difficult hike, but it was defiantly worth it when we got to the top! You need to get a permit, reservation to hike which should ideally be done a few days before you decide you want to hike. There are limited slots per day.

We decided to continue the hike up to the waterfall above Hanging Lake, and it was defiantly worth the extra mile!

After that hike, we definitely worked up an appetite. We decided it was time for some pizza for Rocky Mountain Pizza Company.

The next morning we were doing another hike, we decided to do the Maroon Bells Hike in Aspen. Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail is a 1.9 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Snowmass Village, Colorado that features a lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, running, and nature trips and is best used from May until October.

The next morning we decided we wanted to go up to Pike’s Peak. Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in North America. The ultra-prominent 14,115-foot fourteener is located in Pike National Forest, 12 miles west of downtown Colorado Springs. The drive up was pretty scary!

After spending the morning on another 14er, we decided to visit the Garden of Gods. The Park is a unique biological melting pot where the grasslands of the Great Plains meet the pinon-juniper woodlands characteristic of the American Southwest and merge with the mountain forest of the 14,115-foot Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain.

The next morning we stopped at Amy’s Donuts and grabbed breakfast before heading to Manitou Springs to do a self guided Mineral Springs Water Tasting in the area. This was on the way back to Denver.

7 MINUTE SPRING

Drilled to enhance the park of the Mansions Hotel in 1909, carbonation caused it to erupt at 7 minute intervals. It was re-drilled in the 1990’s and again in 2014.

SHOSHONE SPRING

A natural spring with the highest levels of many minerals, Shoshone Spring was highly recommended by physicians of the 1800s for its curative uses before modern medicine.

CHEYENNE SPRING

The natural soda water of Cheyenne Spring was originally bottled at the Manitou Bottling Plant. The stone Manitou Spa Building was built around Cheyenne Spring in 1893. Today this spring is piped to the cast bronze font designed and built by sculptor Paul Rogers.

NAVAJO SPRING

Navajo Spring was near the Ute Pass Trail and was a rendezvous for indigenous peoples, explorers and early settlers. The font is located on the back outside wall of current-day Patsy’s Candies Store. The candy store was originally a sampling room for the bottling works.

WHEELER SPRING​

Wheeler Spring was donated to the city by the family of Jerome Wheeler, one time president of Macy’s department store, mining and railroad magnate, banker, and chief promoter. He was also the past president of the Manitou Mineral Bottling Company.

STRATTON SPRING​

Drilled by the Stratton Foundation during the Depression as a service to the town, this popular spring stands at the intersection of indigenous trails, the historic trolley lines, and the modern highway system.

TWIN SPRING​

Twin Spring is the locals’ favorite spring for its sweet taste, calcium and potassium content and for making Manitou Lemonade or Manitou Mojitos. Originally two springs, Twin Spring now has been merged into one font.

IRON SPRING GEYSER

Once the most popular spring in Manitou, thousands of health-seekers would travel to Ruxton Ave. to drink the iron waters. The current spring was drilled by a local entrepreneur in 1910 and made wildly popular by adding orange and lemon flavoring.

Our next stop was the Red Rock Amphitheater. Red Rocks Amphitheater is an open-air amphitheatre built into a rock structure in the western United States, near Morrison, Colorado, ten miles west of Denver. We had lunch at the Ship Rock Grille in the Amphitheater were we had the best mushroom burger- we have recreated this burger a few times are home after this trip: CLICK HERE FOR MY VREY OWN HOMEMADE VERSION OF THE MUSHROOM BURGER!

The next day we were headed home, so we ended up staying in Denver.

<– Here is a 4.5 minute video highlighting some of Colorado we saw! I wish I took more videos!

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Weekend in Northern Wisconsin

Weekend in Northern Wisconsin

Since international travel has been indefinitely put on hold, this is the best time to plan ROAD TRIPS! We recently went on a weekend trip to Northern Wisconsin. It was a 3 day get away Monday thru Friday, so I added stops along the way to make the drive a bit more entertaining.

For starters, we rented a cabin in Ladysmith Wisconsin– AirBNB was pretty booked out and we ended up 6 hours north because we wanted a house with a hot tub. We happened to find exactly what we were looking for through Vrbo, click here for a link to the property we stayed at- I highly recommend it! It was super cute and remote- we didn’t even have cell phone service while we were out there, but the house had internet.

On the way up to Ladysmith we stopped at Devil’s Lake State Park, for a hike. We hiked up to the Devil’s Doorway and it was absolutely stunning. You have to purchase a parking pass before you go to the state park and print it out to leave on your dashboard- click here to get your parking sticker- good news is the sticker is good for 1 year. We did the East Bluff / Ice Age Trail, when you get on the trail head you want to go RIGHT to take a more adventurous path to the doorway, then coming back down we took the regular gravel path all the way. We hiked for a total of about 2.5 hours. The views were absolutely beautiful! There are longer hikes at the park if you have more time.

When we were done with the hike, we did a quick outfit change in the car. We then headed to a local winery in the area. The winery allows outside food, so we packed a lunch before leaving home in the morning and brought it along. We went to Baraboo Bluff Winery. The views were absolutely amazing!

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As you can see, I can’t make it up, the views were breathtaking. We were literally on the top of the hill looking down at the winery. The wine tasing was defiantly COVID safe, they had small group tastings and everything looked very clean!

We spend a good hour or so at the winery before continuing our 3 hour journey up north! We stopped an hour before our Vrbo in Eau Claire to grab pizza to bring to the house. We got the the house around 7pm, started up the hot tub and enjoyed the rest of the evening at home! The next morning was relaxing, the air was nice and cool and it was perfect weather to make some pancakes. After breakfast and some morning hot tub time we decided to explore the area and do other hike! Some of the Blue Hill Trails were within a 30 minute drive from the house, We decided to check our the Ice Age Trail. It was definitely a great hike BUT we only got about 15-20 mins in before we were eaten alive by mosquitoes- pro tip: BRING BUG SPRAY!

We decided to go back to the house after the traumatic mosquito situation! The house does have a beautifulbonfire pit but we didn’t use it- we even brought starters and s’mores stuff! We had a little family photo shoot at the house that evening- we even brought matching outfits!

The next morning was a lazy morning, the check out wasn’t until 11am so we relaxed and took our time getting out of there. We started the drive back to Chicago, but we had to stop and get Culver’s along the way! The last stop about an hour and half away from home was a sunflower maze at Von Bergen’s Country Market. Unfortunately it rained while we were headed there, so they were closing down right as we arrived! It was still the most beautiful thing!

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Mushroom Ramen

Ingredients:

  • 1 container chicken broth/ veggie broth
  • Assorted mushrooms of choice (3/4 lb)
  • Dried shiitake mushrooms (optional- these are very strong
  • 3-4 ramen packets
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tbs fresh ginger/ ginger paste
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • Garlic powder (unsalted)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Miso paste
  • Soy sauce
  • 4 eggs
  • Green onions/ scallion (garnish)
  • Corn (fresh or frozen)
  • Butter
  • Red chili flakes
  • Sesame oil (optional)

1. Prepare the toppings

Soft boiled eggs→ bring water to a boil, put in the eggs, boil for 6 minutes, take out and put in a ice water bath, peel and cut in half

Chili garlic sesame oil → heat sesame oil (or vegetable oil), add chili flakes, sesame seeds and garlic powder stir (don’t bring it to a boil or it will burn)

Butter corn → heat the corn and add butter

Cook ramen →boil water, put boiling water into a large bowl, add ramen and let sit for 2-3 minutes. Rinse with cold water (you don’t want to overcook the ramen noodles)

2. Prepare the broth

Sauté the garlic, ginger and onion in oil until the onion shrinks. Add the broth of choice, chopped mushrooms, soy sauce (to taste) and miso paste (to taste). Bring to a boil, I cook it on low heat for 20-30 minutes.

3. Assemble and serve

Put the broth in a bowl, add the ramen end with toppings of choice and serve. You don’t want to add the noodles until the end or they will get soggy. You can always modify your toppings and get creative by adding: spicy miso paste, fried shrimp or tofu, meat of choice, takana, spinach, kimchee, bamboo, seaweed, bean sprouts ect.

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