Sangria & Spanish Tapas

Spanish omelet

Spanish Omelet made with potato and onion with red pepper aioli.

Another happy hour out with another girlfriend.  I just can’t get enough of those girls’ nights.  We decided to meet up at a Spanish tapas restaurant.  And who doesn’t love happy hour?!  Happy hour equates to “discount” and my eyes invariably light up.

Tapas are basically Spanish appetizers—and since you don’t have a full course meal in front of your face, the focus is meant to be more on the conversation among friends while snacking on these delights.

And happy hour is the best time to go!  Half-price sangrias, half-price tapas—let’s just get one of everything, shall we?

We ordered a Tortilla Espanola which was a Spanish omelet made of potato and onion and had a red pepper aioli on top of it—so good.

We also had Queso de Cabra Al Horno which was goat cheese that was baked in a tomato fresco and served with crunchy crostinis.

Then we tried the Albondigas Caseras which were meatballs in a yummy spicy garlic cream sauce.

And, of course, if Sangrias are half-price—why order a glass when you can order a whole pitcher full at that price?!

So, if you have nothing else to do today, try a Spanish tapas restaurant with friends and family.

Take-Away Life Lesson:  The small portions of tapas allow you to try pretty much one of everything—which is always fun to do.

My Trip To Dubai (Part 1)

This girl woke up early on Wednesday, Nov 12, 2014 doing her usual “getting ready for work” thing like any other normal day—and within an hour of getting dressed for the day decided out of the TOTAL BLUE that she was going to go to the Middle East the very next day all by herself!

With absolutely NO PLAN, NO FORETHOUGHT, and NO IDEA HOW to pull it off she set her mind to it.  My bosses at work looked at me crazy for giving them ONE day’s notice—but even I only had a day’s notice to plan everything since I had just decided that very morning to do something so, obviously, insane.

And with the help of a few awesome friends, I was able to pull off the impossible and figure it all out and left the next day on a 12-hour flight overseas to Dubai, United Arab Emirates for 10 days!  THAT GIRL’S A THUG!!  WHO DOES THAT?!

(I have SO many beautiful pictures and videos that this will be a 6-part series.  I hope you enjoy all the videos and pictures from my time in the UAE.  Wish you could have been there!)

This trip was so last-minute that I still didn’t even have a hotel reservation when my friend arrived at my house to take me to the airport!  I was booking one on my computer as she stood there waiting for me.  Then off I ran out the door!

My family and friends were freaking out and texting me all day when I was overseas checking on me—“where are you, what are you doing, who are you with?”

I don’t travel and have hardly been anywhere in my life that doesn’t involve cars, buses, or trains because I’m terrified of planes.  Hence, my face in the second picture above when it just dawns on me at the airport what is about to happen!  First of all, BY MYSELF; second of all MIDDLE EAST; third of all PLANE!

I don’t know why I snapped when I woke up that morning but I did.  And now my life was about to get even more exciting.  I didn’t have time to research ONE THING about this place I was going to.  So I figured when I landed I was just going to “wing it” each day.  Yes, I clearly lost my mind.

But, ohhhhhh, how I absolutely fell in LOVE with this city—and the entire country.  As soon as I landed and got through the insane customs line, I pulled out of the airport in a cab and within 20 seconds I swore I never wanted to go back to America.

Someone asked me if I felt “safe” in this country.  I felt much MORE safe than I ever feel in America.  I did things in this country by myself that I would never even attempt to do in America.  The emirati have this country on lock.  They don’t play.  Cameras are everywhere, too.

Me

I just loved waking up every morning in my new home away from home.

I loved meeting so many people along the way.  I was wedged between two awesome guys on the plane in a really tight space.  We took selfies together.  One lived in the States but was from Tehran, Iran and was going to visit family; the other guy was from America and told me all about his travels to Afghanistan and such.

Continue reading “My Trip To Dubai (Part 1)”

A Wine Festival

Wine Festival

YES!!  I had the pleasure of attending a wine festival this year with one of my girlfriends and how lovely it was.  I’d never been to a wine festival before and was a little excited as to what was might lie ahead.

Well, I can tell you WINE IS DEFINITELY EVERYWHERE!!  So make sure you eat a double cheeseburger and fries before you attend one of these shindigs, people!

This particular wine festival was being held on the grounds of an estate and tents were set up all around it.  Most of the tents had different vendors from various places selling bottles of their assorted wines and giving away free tastings of them all.  So—WHOA!  That’s at lot of wine going down your insides.  There were also other tents that were selling and giving away free tastings of different snacks of food—and you know I had no problem trying them ALL!

When we first arrived, we had to get wrist-banded so the vendors would know we were at least 21 years of age!  First things first, you know.  Then we were given our very own personal wine glass to enjoy all the tastings.

I’ll tell you—the lines to some of the tents were RIDICULOUSLY LONG!  I couldn’t believe how long we stood in one line just for a tasting!  So needless to say, we opted to go to tents with shorter lines—which were few and far between.  I mean, we stood in one line for 35 minutes at one tent just waiting our turn for a tasting!

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

And OH, I found a coffee cake tent!!  HEAVEN!!  And pumpkin coffee cake at that.  It was so amazingly good I had to buy a whole one just for myself to take home.  I swear I’m going to stalk this company and order more throughout the year.

In the end, all the food and drink tastings were awesome and I came home with one bottle of sweet red wine, one bottle of sweet white wine, pumpkin coffee cake, and a big jar of yummy apple butter.

So, if you have nothing else to do today, attend the next wine festival you can find in your town.

Take-Away Life Lesson:  If you don’t eat a double cheeseburger and fries ahead of time, you won’t be able to make your way around to all your rounds of wine tastings like you want to—if you catch my drift.

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Mexican Food With A DJ

Strawberry Margarita

Frozen Strawberry Margarita

Oh, how I LOVE when I discover a hot spot I am absolutely coconuts about.  This Mexican restaurant was absolutely fun and amazing.

A girlfriend and I were gallivanting in the ritzy part of town and stopped by this joint on a whim Friday night for some girl time and good eating.  We had never tried this place before and, you know, I like trying things I’ve never done and going places I’ve never gone to before—so I’m always game for trying something at least once.  I’m all about livin’ life, baby.

Apparently they have a live DJ on Friday nights—and, boy, was he rockin’ it out!  I couldn’t stop dancing in my chair!  And you’d think, as it was a Mexican restaurant, that there’d be Mexican music playing—but, no, he played a mix of everything BUT Mexican music.  Go figure!

People randomly got up from their tables to dance—even though there was technically no dance floor.  But I love when people just dance wherever they can find some space!  It’s a restaurant, after all—not a club.  But it sort of turns into a restaurant/club on Friday nights.

The DJ was so good at DJ-ing, I couldn’t help but go ask him who he was and how often he played there.  I had to get up another time to go ask him the name of a song he played that I had never heard before but found myself chair-dancing to.  (I’m a good chair-dancer.)

He was kind enough to tell me the song name and that song is now my new favorite song of the moment as I keep playing it on repeat on YouTube while I’m in the house messing about and I find myself house-dancing all day.  Oh, the little joys of my life—I tell you!

Mushroom Quesadilla

Mushroom Quesadilla with crimini & shiitake mushrooms, jack cheese, spinach, and crema; Gaucamole & chips.

Needless to say, the restaurant filled up with more and more people as the night went on.  It’s obviously the “happening” spot.

So, if you have nothing else to do today, take yourself to a restaurant that turns itself into a “club” with a “live” DJ for some good eating and good dancing all wrapped into one.

Take-Away Life Lesson:  For goodness sake, it’s probably not a good idea to try to drink a margarita on a completely empty stomach.  (There was a reason that quesadilla HAD to be purchased as an afterthought—but that’s neither here nor there.)

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Cooking With Wine

If you’re going to cook with wine, I’d suggest you get a cheap brand of wine—because it’ll all just probably go into the pot anyway.  I got mine at a local Walmart browsing the alcohol aisle—and I didn’t have a clue what I was looking for.

I mean great googly moogly—there are so many to choose from!  What’s the big difference between all the different types and brands anyway?  The recipe called for “white wine”, so I grabbed a white wine once my eyes could zero in on any particular one.

I’m not very experienced with wine or wine-cooking, but I remember when I first came across a recipe I wanted to try that called for a white wine.  Though I went to the store to get the necessary ingredients for making the recipe, I couldn’t help but think my food was going to have a strong taste of alcohol and reek of the stuff.

How wrong I was, indeed.  I mean, I even had one recipe that called for a whole bottle of wine and had the fish floating inside an entire pot of it boiling away—but when it was all said and done I couldn’t taste any alcohol in the fish at all.  Go figure.

So, if you have nothing else to do today, give cooking with wine a try and see how you like it—whether you put the wine into a recipe or whether you drink it as you cook along makes no difference—it’s still “cooking with wine.”

Take-Away Life Lesson:  Makes you wonder why a recipe calls for 1/2 cup wine during the cooking process if you can’t really tell a difference from if you hadn’t cooked with it at all.

A Sweet Drink At Brio

Drink - Black Raspberry Cosmo

Blackberry Raspberry Cosmo made with Sobieski citron vodka, black raspberry liqueur, simple syrup, cranberry, and fresh lime juices.

Though I’m not really a “drinker” of sorts, every once in a blue moon on very rare occasions I’ll have a drink with friends while out and about.

Here we had the pleasure of enjoying happy hour at Brio Tuscan Grille.  The only drinks I appear to like have to taste somewhere along the lines of Kool-Aid, fruity, or anything really sweet.  Alcohol taste is just not very pleasing to my particular palate so I prefer if I can’t “taste” that part of it very much.  (Plus the effects of too much alcohol are just not that great on the body and face from my personal observations.  So, no thanks.)

We also took the liberty of enjoying the happy hour menu.  I mean, who doesn’t love good food for cheap?  Of course, happy hour is only during a certain time-frame, but it usually starts late in the afternoon/early evening when most people are getting off work.

But as long as you get your order in before happy hour is over, you can get the appetizers and drinks cheaper than usual.  What’s not to love about that?!  I had the pleasure of enjoying the Tomato Mozzarella Salad and friends enjoyed the Beef Carpaccio and whatnot.

So, if you have nothing else to do today, go out with your friends during happy hour and enjoy food and/or drinks for cheap.

Take-Away Life Lesson:  What’s not to love about life anytime you can save yourself some money and still enjoy good food and drinks?

Blueberry Mango Smoothie

Fruit Smoothie

Made with fresh blueberries, mango, ginger, mint, sugar, and half & half.

This was made special for me and, oh, how I loved it.  Every ingredient that I was told was inside this glass of lovely—I could taste to perfection.  The perfect amount of each ingredient made this an amazing drink.

Chefs are amazing.  To play in the kitchen and come up with a concoction off the top of your head with the right amount of each ingredient is utterly amazing to me.

So, if you have nothing else to do today, concoct yourself a made up smoothie just for yourself to enjoy—unless you’re in a sharing-type mood.

Take-Away Life Lesson:  The freshest ingredients and in the right amounts make all the difference in how your smoothie will taste.

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