Thursday, July 31, 2014

Road Trip: DisneyWorld - Animal Kingdom

Disclosure: Our trip to Orlando was provided by Allegiant Travel and Visit Orlando but all opinions are my own. 

Recently I was invited to go to Orlando, FL with my friend Adventure Mom and her kids. The park I was most excited about was by far - Animal Kingdom. This was a lifelong dream and I was READY!

We had our fast passes ready to go and had them first set up for the Safari - knowing that's one of the most popular attractions at Animal Kingdom. Luckily though - we were there when the park opened! So we took off and were able to push our passes back and just hop right on the Safari!

 The safari was really interesting and fun - it felt like you were in the movie Jurassic Park (sans people-eating dinosaurs). We were in these giant open-air vehicles and were going on a safari! It's sort of a zoo - but with a much more natural setting. The driver is also very knowledgeable and makes it feel like a real safari. I'd love to know behind-the-scenes how much of a zoo it really is.

We did get to see animals with a lot of space and wandering room. On the right is a clay area where the elephants rub their tusks. It was pretty cool.

 The giraffes were the most amazing part - we're driving into a large grassy area - and suddenly we see these guys walking toward us. They were so beautiful and they just kept getting closer! So close - we could get selfies with them!

 Some of these photos were just so beautiful - it was so cool to see them without fences - just open and there they were. You couldn't see any fences - but I'm sure the lions were separated somehow from the other animals - but it's pretty invisible to the visitors.

STUNNING 

We also saw the Finding Nemo show - it's pretty cool show - with real people holding fishy characters. The things they all did were neat and they sang all the fun songs. It was a bit long for me - but the kids all loved it.

 As we were walking through the park - we spotted Mt Everest. I was a bit worried about this coaster - I mean - look at it - it looks hella big! But the kids were excited (and so was Adventure Mom) so we trekked over to scope it out.

Here's a pic of all of us on the ride - much better than the Space Mountain pic from Magic Kingdom. This ride was AWESOME! What I really loved about all the rides at Disney - they were "thrilling" but not "terrifying". They were all perfect for me - I could have ridden every one of them numerous times. Everest and Space Mountain were my favorite from the entire visit.

Lastly - I finally got to see characters!! I really thought they just walked around the park and expected to see them all over the place. That is not the case at all. They have special areas where you get in line to see them and take pics. You may bump into one on their way to their spot - but it's rare. I didn't see ANY at Magic Kingdom but we saw quite a few at Animal.

The characters are pretty amazing - because they are IN CHARACTER every moment! Even walking out of the area - Daisy Duck was bopping and bouncing along. Donald Duck mauled me a little - I think he was looking for a new hussy while Daisy took a break. :-)

I could have spent all day at Animal Kingdom (and actually considered it). There were a lot of other special encounters and experiences to see that we didn't have time for (7 parks in 2.5 days). There were also a bunch of ethnic areas with goods and wares from countries around the world.

So when you go to Disney - enjoy Animal Kingdom and tell Donald hi for me! :-)

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Recipe: BLT Chicken Salad

I'm always wishing I had a salad bar in my house. If I had all the ingredients pre-chopped and staring at me - I'd eat salad a whole lot more. Every now and then I find a salad recipe that I have to make and this was one of those times! 

This BLT Chicken Salad sounded awesome - I mean - what can be bad with a BLT?! And then throw in avocado - I'M IN HEAVEN!!! 

It's a simple salad - I cooked a few slices of bacon in a skillet. Then I removed the bacon and added a couple boneless, skinless chicken thighs and sauteed them (they're small and thin - so they cook quickly). 

While the chicken was cooking - I chopped romaine lettuce, tomatoes and avocado and tossed that all together.

After the chicken cooled a bit - I shredded it with a couple of forks and chopped the bacon into bite site pieces. Then I topped the lettuce/tomato/avocado with feta, chicken and bacon.

Every salad needs a bit of dressing - so I mixed up a quick honey mustard dressing. Let me tell you - this is so simple! I would bet you have everything you need in your pantry. All it takes is olive oil, dijon mustard, honey and apple cider vinegar. Four ingredients for delicious, fresh dressing!! No more bottled dressing for me! 

This salad was extremely tasty and I loved it! I split it in half and took the rest to work the next day - sooooo good! 

BLT Chicken Salad 
Ingredients
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 cup cherry/grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese crumbles
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • Honey Dijon Dressing
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. In a small skillet, cook bacon then remove and drain on paper towels. Using the grease from the bacon, add your chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes each side, until lightly browned. Remove from heat and allow chicken to cool slightly. When cool enough to touch, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  2. In a bowl or mason jar, combine dressing ingredients and combine thoroughly. If being made in a mason jar, you can do this by securing the lid and shaking. Refrigerate until ready to eat. 
  3. In a large bowl, toss together romaine, tomatoes, and avocado. Top with chicken, bacon and feta cheese. Drizzle with dressing and toss. 

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Restaurant Review: 'Wich on Sycamore

Recently I met up with an old boss for lunch and we headed to the Wich on Sycamore. Originally named Wicked Wich - it's right across from P&G so it's a popular lunch spot.

Their menu has pre-made options as well as the ability to make your own sandwich or salad. Their sides are also very interesting - things like celery couscous crunch and edamame wheatberry salad. Honestly - it's a little too natural for me - I don't know - I have weird texture issues - I don't like couscous or wheatberries, etc... They appear to be very popular though - so if you're intrigued by those - check it out. 

Jeff got the Arugula Salad ($8.99) with goat cheese, figs, candied pecans and lemon olive oil. The funny part was - as he was eating it - he realized he didn't like figs. Oops.  He ended up picking out most of the ingredients but said he enjoyed it.

I have tried the make my own there before and was never too excited - so I decided to try one of their pre-made salads and tried the Santa Fe Chicken Salad ($8.99). This salad has greens, chicken, tomatoes, roasted poblano, onions, jicama, pepper jack, bean & corn salsa and yogurt ranch dressing. This was pretty good - a little spicy for my taste - but all in all - pretty good. It's the kind of salad I would make for myself at home as well.

My salad also came with these croutons but they were awful. They weren't crunchy at all - I tried one and pitched the rest.

Why Should You Go? If you're looking for a salad alternative in downtown Cinci - it's definitely a place to try. I do know that they had one of my favorite soups at the Chicken Soup Cook-Off - so if I go back - I'll be checking out their homemade soups as well.

The 'Wich on Sycamore on Urbanspoon


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Monday, July 28, 2014

Product Review + Giveaway!: Luvsome Balanced Nutrition for Dogs & Cats

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Luvsome Pet Food but all opinions are my own. 

I'm pretty much in love with my animals. I have 2 dogs, 5 cats and a couple fish - and I spend a lot of time with them! They're very important to me and so is the food that I give them. I am pretty loyal to my brands - but the other day - this came in the mail: 

A brand new pet food brand called Luvsome sent me this great picture with my animals (they're so pretty) as well as a couple of coupons to try their new brand of food. They buttered me up with that pic so I had to check it out. 

I happened to be out of dog food so it was great timing. Luvsome is a great deal - it was definitely more affordable than my regular brand of dog food - but was it as good?

They have a handy chart on their site to compare ingredients. It's great to see that Luvsome has meat proteins and whole grains.

The other thing I really liked about the product is the resealable spout. With dog food - I have a container to put it into - but with my cat food I don't - so this is great! I can't believe pet food brands haven't figured this out yet. Sometimes these little conveniences help so much!

But really - the convenience, the ingredients, the price - they're all great - but what's the most important thing? Will my dog eat it?



So here's a video of Mysty - her old food on the left - and new Luvsome on the right. It's a hit! She gobbled it up (she always does).

But what about the cats? 

They have a variety of flavors of wet cat food (fyi: they have dry & wet for dogs & cats). I went for a grab bag. Some of mine like the "pate" texture while others like the more flaked/chunk varieties.  I normally feed my cats dry with wet as a special treat once in a while.

Ivy was very curious about this new food and was just staring me down to let her try it out. She might be a fat cat but she can be persnickety!

But - SUCCESS! Everybody dug into the food and went to town with no leftovers in site.

So now it's time for you to get the chance to try Luvsome pet food for yourself. Let me know whether you have a dog or a cat and what food you use and you might win a coupon for free Luvsome as well as a $100 gift card to Kroger (that's where you can find Luvsome). I have TWO prize packs to give away - so make sure you enter as many times as you can - so you have the best chance!

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Guest Post Recipe: My Beet Detox Juice Recipe from HealthSmartLiving.com

Author Bio: Chris Wimmer is from HealthSmartLiving.com where he blogs about cooking and juicing as ways to improve your health.


Making your own home juice let’s you create juices that can boost your energy, cleanse your system, or simply just fortify your diet with all those vitamins and minerals we SHOULD have each day.  Today I’m sharing a personal recipe guide I created that is a great detox drink.  It uses beets and ginger which are great detoxers but is still great tasting as it includes some apple, lemon, and carrot.

Using beets and ginger together are a great detox team.  The beets contain choline which supports improved liver health and reverses the negative effects of excessive alcohol abuse. While the ginger helps encourage better food movement through the GI track due to gingerols and shogaols.

I would love to attribute the original recipe but it would probably be a mash-up of 10+ different recipes.  Besides the great health benefits of juicing, I love the creative part of playing juice mixologist!  This is also how I cook and travel.  The journey is just as important as the destination.

What? How is there a journey in juice making you ask?

For me I find it best to taste as I go.  Blindly juicing X amount of carrots and Y amount of beets is a recipe for disaster or at least disappointment.  Organic produce is always delicious but it can also have a lot of variation.  One time the ginger can be super potent and other times it’s more mellow so it will require a bit more.

Please use this Beet Detox juice recipe as a guide but let your taste buds guide you.  Start with a base of each ingredient but have extra of each to customize to your personal preferences.

The Beet Detox Recipe
1 Large beet
1 Large organic apple
2 Large carrots (~ 7 inches and remove carrot greens)
1 Thumb size piece of ginger
½ Lemon with the peal removed

Serving Size: Approximately 20 oz

Equipment: I highly recommend using a cold press juicer as it results in a higher quality juice with more of it’s natural vitamins.  I personally use an Omega VRT350HD but there are many great cold press juicers available.

Enjoy!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Restaurant Review: Jack Binion's Steak & Summer Concert Series at Horseshoe Casino

We were recently invited to Jack Binion's Steak in the Horseshoe Casino in Downtown Cincinnati to try out their Vintage 51 Special Dinner. I want to say up front - this $51 special is only available through July 31! (Quick Tip: Go tonight!)

Jack Binion's is located inside the Horseshoe Casino and is towards the front of the house. Inside is very elegant and there is a really nice bright glass wall that looks onto the front lawn - which is great for a concert night! 

The Vintage 51 Dining Experience is 3 courses and a glass of their Vintage 51 wine for $51. There are a couple of options for each course - and it's tough to choose! We were also lucky enough to take home some Horseshoe Casino glasses which Larry happily added to his man-cave collection.

We started with an amuse-bouche that was a seared scallop on an aioli sauce as well as their signature puff rolls with gruyere cheese. The scallop was great but the bite was a little big for one bite :-)

While we were dining, the manager came and spoke with us - he's so great! He came from Jimmy G's - so he's got some years under his belt with a delicious dining experience. Larry had chose a craft beer from their selection - they had a few locals while I went for a margarita (yum!). The salads to choose from were a Wedge (left) and the All-In (right.

The wedge wasn't actually a wedge at all - which made it much easier to eat. It had Chopped Baby Iceberg, Heirloom Tomato, Crisp Benton Farm Bacon, Compressed Onion and Tossed in House Bleu Cheese. I actually had them swap ranch for bleu cheese because I'm not much of a fan. This was really good - it was the right amount of bleu. It's such a strong funky cheese that I can only take it in small doses.

Vintage 51 is a Jack Binion's own special 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon that was paired for the evening. It was a very rich red wine - I'm not much of a wine drinker but it definitely paired well with the entree.

Not included with the Vintage 51 dinner were these extra sides but the folks at JB wanted me to try them out. We had shrimp mac & cheese (amazingly delicious), sauteed mushrooms and creamed spinach topped with crispy artichokes. I was a bit surprised at how delicious the spinach was - creamed spinach just isn't something that "sounds" good - but it is!

Larry got the Crispy Skin Salmon which also had a salad with jalapenos and garbanzo beans. It was really nicely prepared. And I have to say - he took one for the team by not getting the steak at the Steak Place!

I chose the 6 oz center cut filet. This was DELICIOUS. I've eaten a lot of steak recently and this was so good. The steak itself was perfectly prepared medium rare and had a buttery flavor. It was still juicy had that perfect bite texture. I don't know if that makes sense - but when a steak is cooked medium rare - it's a little raw and a little chewy but not completely raw - there's just a certain something when it's cooked right. This steak had all of that!

This also came with a hunk of bone and there was marrow inside - so I took the bullet this time and tried it. I've heard it's "like butter" - so I schmeared it on my roll. It's not like butter. I'll leave it at that. Maybe I didn't eat it right?

After the entrees - we moved onto dessert. I was excited for the White Chocolate Wrapped Cheesecake. This had an oreo crust and a whole bunch of delicious. The fresh berries, the white chocolate coat - wow.

Larry went for the the Berries option with brown butter cake, berries, balsamic and a berry sorbet. He actually couldn't try the cake (eggs) but we split the rest. It was delicious as well. I was a bit surprised at how much flavor that cake had. It was really good - then since I had leftovers - I mixed the desserts together. :-)

Then - after the wonderful dinner - we headed outside to the American Idol tour show in the Shoe. They have a Summer Concert Series going on with great shows like Boston, Trace Adkins and The Fray still yet to come. There's a large "standing area" for the shows but if you feel like kicking back - there are large screens so you can sit in the back area and just hang out and enjoy the music.

Why Should You Go? I think the steak was unbelievably good - the service was impeccable. The next time I want a great steak - it's definitely at the top of the list.

Jack Binion's Steak on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: Jack Binion's and Horseshoe Casino provided our meal, swag and concert tickets in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own - cuz that steak was Da Bomb!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Restaurant Review: Family's Main Street Cafe

While I was on the Boone County Farm Tour - seeing all those cows - well - it made me hungry! We were a bit out in the sticks in Walton, KY and came across Brooks Meat & Butcher Shop and Family's Main Street Cafe. 
The left side of the business is a butcher shop - we took a quick peek - and it smelled delicious! The right side is a family style restaurant - and we couldn't have been happier!

Larry went for a hamburger and fries and he was pleased as punch. This was most definitely a homemade burger patty with big steak fries. It also came with coleslaw which he slid over to me. It was delicious - nice and sweet - like the old style KFC coleslaw. I rarely like coleslaw - but this was good!

I absolutely love a patty melt - I tend to order it whenever I see one on the menu. 

It was a good one - I tend to like them a little more melted together - but they added tomato and lettuce - and I was okay with that. This was very large too - I couldn't even finish it. I was a little bummed about that because they also had homemade pies - but I was too full for that. Again this was a handmade patty and really delicious!

Why Should You Go? It's a little off the beaten path - but it's a good stop. If you're looking for a great burger - or other home cooking - this is the spot! We really enjoyed it. Service was a bit slow - but we weren't in a hurry - so we were fine.


Family's Main Street Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Recipe: Delicious Turkey Burgers with Honeysuckle White

This post brought to you by Honeysuckle White® and Shady Brook Farms®
All opinions are 100% mine.




I love having friends over and grilling out by the pool. The kids can be nut jobs while the adults sit back and relax - it's pretty awesome. I also like to try and cook healthy for friends and family - we're in our bathing suits for pete's sake - let's keep it that way!


I couldn't keep this one out of the pool - but eventually we got her to eat.
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Turkey burgers are simple and delicious. (Plus turkey has more protein than beef, fewer calories than chicken and less fat than pork!) I actually made two different kinds: Lime Hawaiian and Ranch. How'd I do that? I just raided my spice cabinet to see what sounded good.

Ranch Turkey Burger

Ranch Turkey Burger

* 1/2 pound Honeysuckle White Ground Turkey
* 1/2 packet dry ranch seasoning
* 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Mix and make two patties. Grill and top with co-jack cheese, tomato and your favorite mustard. Serve on soft pretzel bun!

When cooking, please ensure that the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.


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Honeysuckle White (also known under the name Shady Brook Farms in other parts of the country) has ground turkey, turkey tenderloin, brats and these new frozen burgers! The frozen burgers come in six varieties - I can't wait to try the Swiss, Bacon and Onion! The nice thing is you can keep them for when surprise guests come over - freezer to grill to bun to belly!

Lime Hawaiian Burger

The other burger recipe I created was Lime Hawaiian. I had this seasoning mix - but you could easily recreate it - and then topped with pineapple & baby swiss.

Lime Hawaiian Turkey Burger

* 1/2 pound Honeysuckle White Ground Turkey
* Zest of 2 limes
* Juice of 1 lime
* 1 Tablespoon of salt
* 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
* 2 pineapple slices

Mix and form two patties. Grill burger patties and 2 slices of pineapple. Serve on soft pretzel bun and top with pineapple, tomato, avocado and baby swiss cheese.

When cooking, please ensure that the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grilling With Friends App

And if you're inviting friends - check out the Grilling with Friends app on Facebook. You can create a party, set up a menu, find recipes and invite your friends - in just a few minutes! I set up a party and it was really easy - plus I found a great recipe for pound cake to make.  

I hope you'll enjoy the burgers and some friends! For tips and recipes, visit Turkify.com.

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