travel: hawaii via land & cruise

I’m a hawaii regular.
I have been once a year for the last few years and my first visit was technically in utero.

I love and adore hawaii.
but I have never seen it by cruise.
until next week.

I’m so excited to be flying to honolulu and after a night’s stay in waikiki, we’ll be boarding the Norwegian ship; The Pride of America to explore the hawaiian islands for 7 glorious nights.

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after the cruise we’re flying to Maui and spending 5 nights before reluctantly departing. because no matter how long you spend, leaving hawaii is always the worst.

we have a balcony cabin booked on the cruise, frankly because I can’t imagine not having a balcony in hawaii, and I’ll be attending some conference sessions and tourism hosted activities including a trek through a lava tube at the volcano on the big island.

I am very excited to explore new parts of hawaii – this cruise will take me to 2 cities I’ve never visited and 1 new island to cross off my hawaii to-do list.
fun times ahead!

travel – carnival cruise

ah yes… finally… my long long overdue post about my fabulous cruise in the caribbean.

so, back in May, myself and 7 of my coworkers had the pleasure of being hosted on the Carnival Breeze for a 6 night cruise from Miami and visiting Key West, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

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here she was, as viewed from the Miami port before we embarked.  she’s a big girl and beautiful, shiny and new.

this was my view… deck 2 outside cabin.  we had this fabulous little window well that i used many afternoons to sit in and read my book while enjoying the gorgeous caribbean water… there’s nothing like that colour…

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the ports were fantastic… we rode bikes in key west… i did the stingray city excursion in grand cayman (so cool!) and in cozumel we did a catamaran boat cruise with snorkeling and beers & guacamole.

my main challenge on this cruise was to keep active and to try to restrain myself around the food…
there was a Guy Fieri’s burger joint on the ship and I managed to restrict myself to only 1 burger.  which was a miracle, because that was a damn fine burger.  my boss ate 7.  so basically i was the only one showing restraint.

my main temptation was the blue iguana taco bar… they made the tortillas fresh right infront of you and then you got to load up your tacos as you liked and there was even a hot sauce carousel that included my all time favourite hot sauce; a honey habenero.
i could never decide between the pork or chicken taco, so obviously i ordered one of each… there was also a fish option, but it was breaded and deep fried, so i said no to that.

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*drool* makes me hungry just thinking about it…

i also did well in the breakfast department… i’m not a huge breakfast guy, but i did love that i could have my bagel and smoked salmon whenever i saw fit…

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and then one day, i splurged on the huevos rancheros…
oh man, it was good.  three kinds of salsa… and these little hush puppies on the side… yup.  that was a winner.

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and because the best part of cruise ship life is having no limit to what you order, we also got a breakfast mac & cheese for the table… which was garnished with fried chicken and bacon.  hells to the yes.
there was 3 of us digging in to that and it was still too rich to finish.

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so there’s a little snapshot into how damn easy it is to indulge on a ship.
there were a few nights i definitely went overboard… i ate 3 lobster tails one night.  why not?  they’re free and i was still hungry.  there were nights filled with beer until 3am… (couple of those nights infact)…
but i balanced everything out with 4 trips to the gym (which was REALLY nice BTW) and tons of walking.  while you’re onboard a ship, you’re constantly walking from one end of it to another… and in port, with bike rides and swimming excursions, we kept moving.

and at the end of everything, i’m quite pleased that i didn’t gain a single pound.  so that is a total win to me.

carnival really wowed me with their ship, facilities, service and food.  i’d definitely go on the breeze again!

travel: little havana in miami

well, my first real cruise and trip to Miami was a pretty rad success. I’ll talk more about the cruise in another post, but I wanted to give you a couple pictures of my food tour in Little Havana.
we visited a few different places on a walking food tour that lasted a few hours… ate some delicious eats and got to experience a bit of the history of the place. it was very fun.
I’ve never visited Cuba and didn’t have a massive knowledge about Cuban cuisine, so I was looking forward to learning something new. as I expected, the food wasn’t particularly spicy or heavily seasoned, but it was tasty and you definitely could see the difference from other caribbean cuisines.
the area of Little Havana itself was like another world from South Beach and it felt very Caribbean with people just hanging around on the street corners and in public spaces playing dominos and socializing… and pretty much every man was sporting a Cuban shirt. so of course I had to bring one home for my husband.
anyways… enjoy some pictures from my wanders…

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and lastly… the food.
medianoche – the midnight sandwich. it’s a Cuban pressed sandwich but on a sweeter egg bread made for late night eating.
empanadas – these were stuffed with ground beef & green olives. delicious twist on a classic.
tostones – fried plantain cups filled with chicken sofrito.
pastelitos de guayaba – pastries filled with guava. so fucking yum.
abuelita maria ice cream – homemade ice cream with waffle cone & guava in it.

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food: poulet en papillote

well hello there.  i know.  it’s been a while.
so let us catch up, shall we?

i’d love to account for my absence with fabulous holidays and tales of jet-setting, but i have been pretty homebound… so that’s not it.  and i’d love to say that i’ve been doing super secret recipe tasting for something fun and exciting like a cookbook, but thats not it either.

truth be told i have been on a super healthy life mission and its just plain keeping me busy.
i have classes and meal plans and exercise routines and all that fun stuff and so its taking my free time (otherwise known as blogging time) down to about nothing.  for more proof, see my giant stack of “books to read” that hasn’t been touched since xmas.

anyways.  i’m going to share one of my current favourite mega healthy recipes.

poulet en papillote sounds super fancy pants, but really, it’s just chicken steamed in paper.
this recipe took us minutes to put together, only 25 minutes to bake and was pretty cheap on the ingredients.
combine that with the super healthy factor and you have a winning recipe in my house.

so here’s how it looks as a meal for 2 people.

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ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (whole – trim ends)
  • 1 carrot (peeled and thin sliced)
  • 1 small jar of artichokes in oil, drained
  • 10-15 kalamata olives (no pits)
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1/2 cup or so of feta (optional)
  • fresh herbs (we used tarragon & basil)

vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (we used myer)
  • 1 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 & cut 2 pieces of parchment paper to fit chicken & vegetable pack.
  2. in a small bowl whisk lemon juice, mustard & honey.  slowly drizzle in olive oil to form vinaigrette.
  3. divide asparagus over two papers
  4. season chicken breast with salt & pepper and place on top of asparagus.  drizzle with 1 tbsp of dressing each.
  5. add other vegetables and feta and drizzle with another tbsp of dressing.
  6. fold over paper and crimp edges in a half moon shape to seal completely.
  7. bake for 25 – 28 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

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before (above) and after (below)

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this recipe must be tasted to be believed.
the chicken ends up wonderfully moist and tender – no easy feat for a boneless skinless breast, and it creates a natural juice that is to die for.  if you’re enjoying the bead, i certainly suggest that you get a baguette and sop up the deliciousness inside the pouch.

added bonus – the easiest clean up ever.  no pans, no pots, only a cutting board and your dinner plates.  and we ate out of the paper pouch, so even the plate was a breeze to clean up.

food: spiralizer

I have an exiting new toy! my spiralizer.
I’ve been reading about these devices for years… but it always seemed like such an unnecessary novelty that I didn’t have room for in my limited kitchen space.
but, finally the temptation of being able to make a mountain of perfect zucchini noodles in seconds wore me down.
and I have zero regrets.
I bought mine on amazon.ca for about $20 and for that price I figured that even if I use it for a couple months and then ditch it, I still will have my money’s worth. but ya. I’m addicted. everything gets spiralized now!
zucchini is the obvious starter. it’s cheap, good for you and makes delightful noodles.

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I have also recently made friends with orange noodles… butternut squash and sweet potato work wonderfully.

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those ones pictured above I cut a slit into pre-slicing so that the noodles would come out macaroni-like for a mac & cheese dish.
I’ll post that full recipe and pics later, but it was delish. the only warning I’ll give is that it takes a little practice to tweak recipes for veggie noodles to compensate for the water content in the vegetables.
but it’s such an easy and delicious substitute for terrible-for-you processed carbs.
on valentines day we feasted on zucchini pasta with homemade pesto as a base for some seared scallops. I wish I had take a picture, but it was so tasty it was immediately consumed.
more spiralized recipes ahead!
and follow me on instagram at vancityrockgirl for lots of food pics.

travel: cruising the caribbean

all this cold winter air and snow on the ground is putting me into vacation mode… and 2014 is going to be a leaner year for vacation for me, which while a little sad, isn’t the end of the world. I’m sure 2015 will make up for it.
the grand plan for 2014 has two guaranteed trips, and I know this because flights are bought already… I’ll be cruising the eastern caribbean in a few months and heading back to austin in October.

in May I’m off to Miami to board the MSC Divina and spending 7 nights on a work vacation. meaning it’s technically work, with days spent in conference rooms, but still with free time (including in port) and getting to enjoy a balcony cabin with my work roomie.

I’m really excited to see some new places, including Puerto Rico!

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I’ve been to the Bahamas before, but to Nassau, so these are all new stops for me… including the port of Miami.
I watched a doc called Cocaine Cowboys the other day and it was centered in Miami and showed some crazy stuff… but I’ve heard Miami is a pretty rad city, so I’m excited to spend a night there before my cruise.
my flight won’t get me in until late so most of my Miami time will be in the morning, so if anyone’s been and has a breakfast/morning wander suggestion, I’m staying at the Hyatt Regency and would love to hear it.

food: overnight refrigerator oats

good morning! on my seemingly never-ending quest to be better at breakfast, I have discovered that in addition to the overnight slow cooker oats, there is a magical refrigerator version…
many people on the intrawebs refer to this as “summer porridge” and while I agree that the cool light texture makes it perfect for hot weather, I’m gonna go ahead and say that on a beautiful clear sunny day like today, it’s just fine for winter too. (as long as you’re inside, obvs)

my inspiration was twofold. first off, I have a ridiculous amount of chia seeds thanks to homesense… and I was in the f&v (that would be fruit & veg) market and found fresh passion fruit. aaaaaaand then some blackberries.

so, behold; blackberry & passion fruit overnight refrigerator oats.

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the recipe is simple and definitely flexible. all you really need is 250ml mason jars or containers (I like mason jars because I have reusable plastic lids for things like this. plus; pretty)
and here’s the recipe.

1/4 cup old fashioned oats (raw)
1 1/2 tsp chia seeds
1/4 cup Greek yogurt (I used plain, but use anything you have/like)
1/3 cup milk

put those in your container and shake/mix well. if you don’t have greek yogurt, use regular yogurt and a little less milk to keep the texture right.
then add your fruit.
I used 1/2 a fresh passion fruit and 5 blackberries cut in half.
you can really use anything…. lots of people use fruit jam/preserves.
add sweetener if you like; honey ect…
put the lid on, give it another shake and let it hang out in the fridge for the night.

in the morning, it’s an easy grab & go breakfast to eat at your desk, or lovely on a sunny morning patio.
it’s a nice texture with the yogurt,
enjoy!

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