Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I LOVE GUACAMOLE!

As a California girl, avocados have always been one of my favorite foods!
Whether it's sliced and eaten by itself, or placed on top of a burger or taco, avocados can take food to another dimension!

Because of their delicate flavor, I think it's important to use spices and seasonings sparingly. This recipe has a good balance of flavor, spice, and salt, while allowing the avocado to be the star of the show. Enjoy!

Simply Perfect Guacamole

2 ripe avocados
1/4 onion, red or white, finely minced. (about 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, finely chopped
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt, or to taste
A dash of freshly grated black pepper
a small squeeze of fresh lime or lemon juice


Cut avocados in half. Remove seed. Scoop out avacado from the peel, put in a mixing bowl.

Using a fork, mash the avocado to desired texture. Add minced onion, cilantro, crushed red pepper flakes, lime or lemon, salt and pepper and mash until combined.

Best when served within a couple hours of making. Cover plastic wrap until ready to serve.

Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Visiting Washington D.C.

This year, we chose to visit Washington D.C. for our family vacation. We had been looking forward to this visit for several years, and when it was time to plan, we had so much to learn. I've compiled some information here that I thought might be helpful to others.

Metro Rail

The Metro Rail is the easiest way to get around D.C. . You can choose to ride the Metro Rail, or Metro Bus, or a combination of the two.

Information
Map
Trip Planner
Fares

The Metro offers a variety of fare options, from single fares to daily and weekly passes. Metro Passes and SmarTrip cards are available to purchase at kiosks located within each Metro Station. When choosing your fare option, consider how many days you will need the pass and what times you will be riding, since some of the passes have time restrictions, while others are only good for short distance rides, which would require you to pay an exit fee if your travel distance exceeds the short distance limit.

Since we were there for a week we chose the 7-day Fast Pass for $47 per person, which allowed us unlimited uses with no time or distance restrictions. The cost of a 1-day Pass is $9 per person and provides unlimited usage for one day but restricts usage time to after 9:30 am Monday through Friday, but is good all day on weekends. SmarTrip Farecards are cards that you put money onto and can use with both the Metro Rail and Metro Bus.



Where to Stay

On the recommendation of a friend, we stayed in a hotel in Springfield, VA that was near one of the Metro Rail stations. This allowed us to have a cheaper hotel rate than staying in DC, but also gave us the convenience of taking the hotel shuttle to the Metro station.

Tours and Museums
Tours of the White House and Pentagon, must be arranged through your local congress person. They can also schedule your tours of the Capitol and Bureau of Engraving Printing, which can save you the time of waiting in line.You will need contact your congress person several months in advance of your trip to provide the dates of your visit, and tour times will be chosen for you. White House tours are confirmed approximately 2 weeks before your trip while other tours are usually confirmed sooner. Once these tours are scheduled, you can plan the rest of your free time for museums, etc. Some museums and monuments, such as the U.S. Holocaust Museum and Washington Monument, although free, require tickets. Some tickets may be reserved online, sometimes for a small fee. If you are not able to secure tickets online, you can wait in line the day of your visit (usually around beginning around 7-8am) and remaining timed tickets will be handed out for that day.

Dining
We chose to eat as affordably as possible for most of our stay. We ate at our hotel each morning because they offered a free hot breakfast. We also had a refrigerator in our room so we could have some food and drinks on hand for our time at the hotel.

While most museums offer dining, prices can be quite high.

One option is to take the Metro to the Pentagon City Mall, where they have a great food court with very reasonable prices, as well as several sit-down restaurants. Another place with a great food court and restaurants is Union Station.

There are several refreshment stands located along the National Mall, which extends from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, and is also where the Smithsonian museums are situated. These refreshment stands offer hot dogs, pizza slices, snack items, and beverages. As an example, the price for a slice of pizza was $2.99.

You can also choose to pack a lunch to picnic at the National Mall, but be aware that some museums and government buildings do not allow any kind of food, beverage, and sometimes even gum, to be brought in. We saw many people that had to throw away water bottles, (even empty refillable ones) and food, because it was not allowed to come into the building they were waiting to tour. So be sure to plan your meals and what you will carry according to your itinerary.

Lockers
Several Smithsonian Museums offer lockers. While these lockers are for the use of museum patrons only while they visit the Smithsonian, I think it is allowable to keep your items stored at one museum, such as the American History, while you visit another, such as the Air and Space, which does not have lockers. Bag lunches, properly closed and secured, can be stored at these facilities.

· African Art Museum - lockers with keys

· American History Museum - lockers with keys
(various sizes) on 1st floor (Constitution Ave)

· Freer Gallery and Sackler - lockers with code lock

· Natural History Museum - lockers with keys (Const. Ave. & Mall)

· Reynolds Center for Art & Portraiture - lockers with digital locks (F & G Streets)

· Udvar-Hazy Center - lockers

Union Station has a baggage check service, called Tiburon Lockers, located near Gate A. Hours are 6am to 10pm daily. We used this service on the day of our White House tour to store our bags and cameras, which were not allowed on our tour.

The hourly rates are $2 for a small bag, $4 for a medium bag, $6 for a large bag, and $8 for multiple bags (up to 3)

Final Thoughts
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes with some cushion and arch support. Even if your plan is to only go to one museum or one tour each day, you will do a lot of walking and standing.

Remember to take the time to soak in as much as you can from each exhibit, monument, and tour. There is so much to see and learn, and for many this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Oh, and don't forget to take lots of pictures where you are able to. Enjoy!


Monument & Museum Links

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Ford’s Theatre

Guided and self guided tours available.

The Pentagon

Smithsonian Museums

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Tickets are required for the Permanent exhibit, “The Holocaust” March-August. During September-February, tickets are not required. No photography or video recording is allowed in exhibits.

US Capitol
Our tour guide was a representative from our local congressman’s office. He was very knowledgeable and we enjoyed our tour. Be advised that no food, drinks, or empty water containers are allowed to be brought into this building. There is a restaurant located inside. Photography is allowed, except for in te gallery areas

Washington Monument
Line for tickets can form as early as 7am during the busy summer months.

The White House
Be advised that no cameras, bags or purses of any kind were allowed on this tour. See link for complete list of prohibited items.


Helpful Links:

Pentagon City Mall

Union Station
Offers Baggage check, shopping mall, food court, and restaurants.

Top Ten Things to do in DC

100 Free (And Almost Free) Things to do in DC

Trip Advisor: Things to Do in Washington DC

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ebates: Earn Cash Back While You Shop!

I wanted to tell you about Ebates, a shopping site that gives you up to 26% Cash Back every time you shop online. You can shop at over 1000 stores including eBay, JCPenney, Macy's, Nordstrom, Overstock.com, Walmart, Kohl's and Home Depot. Plus you get additional savings with exclusive coupons, free shipping offers, and limited-time sales! Sign up with Ebates today and we'll each get a $5 bonus when you make your first purchase! Simply use this referral link to get started: http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=YZGzt3vqyVEi3tYp%2BJhiiQ%3D%3D
Happy shopping!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Create Memorable Holiday Cards with Shutterfly

It's that time of year again! Time to start thinking about what holiday cards you will be sending out to family and friends.

Instead of purchasing boxes of cards this year, I've decided to create personalized holiday photo cards with the help of Shutterfly .

In browsing their website, I am amazed by all the styles offered.
An added feature of many of these cards is the ability to add several photos to your card, and cards are available in flat and folded styles.

Here are a few of my favorites:


Many Memories Tree Christmas 5x7 folded card

Features 6 spaces to add photos, with a Christmas tree and “Merry Christmas” written in the center. I like the idea of this foldable photo greeting card, because I’ll have plenty of room to write personal messages to my family and friends.

Count Your Blessings Christmas 5x7 folded card

Features 3 spaces to add photos, and is also a foldable card. There is also a wonderful greeting on the front of this card which reads “We are counting our blessings and wish you a miraculous holiday season”. What a great reminder that the holidays are a time to be thankful and reflect on all that we’re blessed with!


Seasonal Chic 2010 Christmas 5x7 folded Card

Another great folded card which can hold 3 photos. The front of this card incorporates the year “2010”, the message “Warm Holiday Wishes” and a snowflake.


Whether you’re looking for personal holiday, business holiday, or thank you cards, check out all the great options that Shutterfly offers. Oh, and I almost forgot! They also offer the service of stamping and mailing your cards for you, how cool is that!?





Friday, May 14, 2010

Leslie Loves Veggies Keurig Giveaway!

Checkout this blog called "Leslie Loves Veggies". There are always great giveaways being offered!

The current giveaway is for a Keurig Special Edition Coffee Maker for one lucky winner!

Check it out HERE

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Baklava

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. I must admit, although I've never had a problem sharing recipes, I've thought about keeping this one all to myself!

The main reason I struggled with sharing this is because I've never tasted baklava as good as this! Not that I've been all over the world or anything, but in my own little corner, this is the best!

I had to concede, however, because:

1. I didn't create this recipe, someone was nice enough to share it with me!

2. Although I love keeping this as a "special" treat I make for my family and friends at Christmas time, I realize I don't have the funds or the time to make it for everyone every year!

3. Greed is bad! :o\


I've read quite a few baklava recipes, and had lots of conversations with friends about it. Most people assume that I use honey in my baklava, but I don't. Not that there's anything wrong with using honey. Honey is a what is traditionally used in Greece and many areas of the Middle East.

This particular recipe came from a Lebanese cookbook and was given to me by a friend who married into a Lebanese family. It calls for a sugar syrup and what I've dubbed the "secret" ingredient: Rose Water. The rose water adds a subtle, yet delightful flavor to the baklava. This baklava comes out moist and sticky, which I prefer over a dry, crisp, baklava.

With all that said, here's the recipe. Enjoy!

Baklava

Basic Sugar Syrup:
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
couple drops fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon rose water

Combine sugar, water, and lemon juice in saucepan. Boil over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until slightly sticky (225 degrees). Before removing from heat add rosewater and let come to a boil. remove from heat and cool. (I prefer this to be chilled several hours or overnight.)

Preparing the Baklava:
2 cups walnuts or pistachios, medium chopped
1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon rose water
1 lb. filo dough
1 lb. melted butter (I never use quite this much, just melt a couple sticks to start with)
Prepared sugar syrup

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Combine nuts, sugar, and rose water.

Take 2 or 3 filo dough and brush lightly with butter. Place 3 to 5 tablespoons of nut mixture along wide edge of dough.

Roll, like a jelly roll, brushing filo with butter as you roll. Cut roll in half, and place halves in a 10 x 13 inch baking pan. Continue with rolls until pan is full. Brush rolls with butter.

With a serrated knife, cut rolls diagonally, starting at one corner of pan, and working your way to the opposite corner, creating diamond-shaped pieces.

Bake until golden brown. Remove from oven; spoon sugar syrup over baklava until saturated.
(You may have syrup leftover)

Store baklava in an airtight container; eat within a few days.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Pioneer Woman

Ree Drummond, a self-proclaimed former "food snob" left her Southern California lifestyle behind when she was swept off her feet by a cattle rancher whom she lovingly refers to as the "Marlboro Man".

In 2006 she started a blog and covered topics such as ranch life and homeschooling. She then began adding recipes with full color, step-by-step photographs. Her sense of humor and deliciously easy recipes using simple ingredients caught on and her blog has won many awards over the past 3 years.


In addition to recipes,the site includes personal stories, amazing photography, including a "how-to" section for budding photographers, and prize giveaways. This is my type of blog!

So, take a few minutes and check out her site at www.thepioneerwoman.com/cooking
You're sure to find a recipe (or ten) that you and your family will love, as well as have a few laughs along the way.

This site offers a ton of great recipes, so far I've loved every one I've tried.

Here are a few to look for...

- The Best Lasagna. Ever.
- Spicy Roasted Chicken Legs
- Pioneer Woman’s Favorite Sandwich
- My Most Favorite Salad Ever. Ever, Ever, Ever!
- My Most Favorite Burger Ever. (For Now.)
- Creamed Spinach to Die For
- The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever.


Our 2010 Christmas Card!

Many Memories Tree Christmas 5x7 folded card
Create unique Christmas cards with Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.