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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!

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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.

poulet en papillote

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.

food: all of the sweet potatoes

lately I’ve had a bit of a new food obsession. it’s to stuff everything and anything into a sweet potato.
for one, it’s obvs super healthy. sweet potatoes have less carbs than regular potatoes… blah blah blah… but mostly I just like the taste of them. and they are magical little vehicles for the yums.
it all stems from a paleo trick that I adopted a couple years ago to make a tuna melt using a half of a baked sweet potato instead of bread. to be honest, I was skeptical. but I decided to give it a go and lo and behold, I was addicted.

it’s so delightful and easy, I use it as a lunch for work often. I mix the tuna with fixins (I use chopped pepperoncini peppers, s&p and sometimes a smidge of mayo) and I load up the half sweet potato, pile on the tuna and top with some cheese. at work, I microwave and chow down.

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this is an obvious a solid meal choice, but honestly, I’m not always in the mood for tuna. and sometimes I have leftovers calling my name.
so, a week or two ago, we had leftover rappini from a dinner. it had been sautéed in ghee and had plenty of garlic in it. so, we reheated it in a non-stick frypan and piled it onto the sweet potato. topped with some smoked gouda and browned in the toaster oven. a little siracha on top and voila; quick & easy lunch.

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this maneuver kind of sparked a “what else?” train of thought in our house… and now the half sweet potato has become the go-to vehicle for leftovers.
If we’re baking or cooking something in the oven, I’ll scrub a couple sweet potatoes and toss them in to cook and then throw them in the fridge so they’re ready…
and I think this is my current fave stuffing; it’s kale sautéed in a little ghee with garlic and feta cheese. it’s salty, crunchy, sweet and garlicky. I could eat it every day.

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let me know if you have any sweet potato stuffing secrets! I’d love to get some new ideas.

food: overnight slow cooker oats

rise and shine! it’s way too early in the morning… and while I’ve done my fair share of early rises (competitive swimming as a kid and a husband that wakes at 5am for work will do that) I’ve never really been the type that leaps out of bed.
I find myself terribly inefficient in the morning. I walk in circles forgetting what I’m doing. my multitasking is weak at best. basically what I’m saying is that I’ll take all the help I can get.
I’ve also never been much of a breakfast person. give me that coffee (or 3) and I’ll be good until lunch (or 2pm if I’m working) and while I’m aware it’s not healthy, it’s been a lifelong struggle.
sweet is not for me… it’s rare that I crave a sweet breakie, I usually lean more towards savory. and if I’m really being honest, it’s toast or an english muffin or a bagel that I really want. carbs. all of them.
anyways, these are all bad habits that are ripe for the breaking.
one sweetish thing that I can get into is oatmeal. but because those convenient little pouches are sugar bombs, I figured it was time to make my own. so last night I made some steel cut oats in the slow cooker overnight. let me just tell you how delightful it is to wake up to breakfast done. about as delightful as coming home after work to a slow cooker dinner. (I love that damn slow cooker)
okay. oats; here ya go.

overnight slow cooker apple cinnamon oats
– 1 cup steel cut oats
– 2 cups almond milk
– 2 cups water
– 1 tsp cinnamon (or more to taste)
– 2 apples peeled & chopped
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– pinch of salt
– 2 tbsp sweetener (honey, brown sugar ect. I used vanilla sugar)
– coconut oil to oil slow cooker
– toppings for the morning as desired. (dried fruit, maple syrup, walnuts, chia seed ect)

oil slow cooker well. do NOT skip this step. you will not be happy if you have to chisel out your breakfast.
mix all ingredients well in slow cooker
turn on to low setting and cook 6-7 hours depending on how hot your cooker is. (if possible try this recipe out during the day or when you’re home to check on it)
stir when done, top as desired and chow down! leftovers can be kept in fridge and reheated adding milk if it gets too thick.

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this is a pretty basic recipe with lots of room to play around with flavors and different fruits. I’ve heard banana works well but read to avoid raisins in the slow cooker, apparently it’s better to add them as a topping.

food: kale & chorizo slow cooker soup

hello friends and welcome to slow cooker season. it is cold as, outside. (as my aussie friends would say) and so obviously we’re all about the soup right now.
and why not? soup is super healthy, easy to make and is perfect to make ahead and freeze for busy days.
I tend to fall into a rut with soup… I have a few puréed soups and a few chunky ones I do often, but I want something new and exciting. and in my canadian living magazine that was part of my magazine purge, I unearthed this gem for kale & chorizo slow cooker soup.

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it turned out wonderfully. the chorizo lost a lot of its flavor, but I used a raw chorizo and I think if I used a cured one it would have solved that problem. and really, it lost its flavor into the soup, so it’s not all bad.
because you had to fry the sausage and the onion before slow cooking, the prep time was a bit longer than my usual slow cooker recipes, but it was worth it. the broth was rich and lovely and we added a bunch of extra paprika because I like it and I have a lot that I brought home from Budapest.
we also served it with a dollop of sour cream on top, which I stirred in to make a nice creamy soup, but as leftovers I just had it without dairy. bon apetit!

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