Hatch Chile Season

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Every August, something magical descends upon many areas in the United States.  Grocery stores start to roll out roasters and the red carpet (okay, probably just the roasters) for tons of hatch chiles coming in from our friends in New Mexico.  In Austin, this means that the grocery store will be selling everything from the peppers themselves to meats to desserts with hatch chiles in them.

In honor of Hatch Chile season, I’m doing a quick roundup of recipes I’ve seen lately where Hatch is the star of the show.

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Hatch Chile Cheddar Egg Bites

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Easy Roasted Hatch Chile Hummus

 

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Hatch chile chicken salad

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Hatch chile spaghetti squash and cheese

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Slow Cooker Hatch Green Chile Verde

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Hatch chile raspberry muffins

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Stuffed Hatch Chiles with Cilantro-Lime Yogurt

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Hatch chile enchilada sauce

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Chocolate chip hatch chile cookies

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Apple Green-Chile Pie With Cheddar Crust

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Climbing Dunn’s River Falls

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I have ALWAYS wanted to go to Jamaica.  It has been on my bucket list since I was a kid (for real).  There is just something I love about the laid back island vibe that is portrayed in media.  As I was planning for the trip, someone told me that they particularly loved climbing Dunn’s River Falls.  Looking at it online it looked pretty but honestly not that exciting but I decided to check in out based on the recommendation.  I was pleasantly surprised that this was such a fun adventure.

20228737_10101268732941635_2264100842706064698_nArriving at Dunn’s River Falls, we were put into groups and assigned a guide.  Our guide explained the rules, which we enthusiastically agreed to with a “Yeah Man!”  We were all going to link arms and walk carefully up the waterfall.  I love meeting strangers but latching onto them doesn’t sound like my cup of tea.  I ended up sandwiched between my daughter and husband.  Our guide explained that they clean the rocks in the mornings and told us how we could safely climb the falls.

 

20106399_10101262852925235_2772280110390964457_nThe beginning of the climb was pretty challenging.  We all attempted to place our feet exactly where our guide stepped.  When it got hard, we helped pull each other up.  Yes, even the strangers I didn’t want to cling on to earlier.  Quickly we all became like family making sure that everyone could do the climb safely.  Our guide was also really attentive and jumped in to help as needed.  There were a few times when I thought we must be at the top but it just kept going.  I did notice an exit midway if you need to bail early but it actually gets easier after this point so if you make it this far, I’d suggested you just keep climbing.

The total climb was 600 feet but you are almost always moving vertically so it was really tiring.  Along the way, we stopped to free fall into especially deep spots and get aqua massages.  By the time we reached the end, we were all exhausted but also excited.  I loved the climb but I was really happy to have reached the top. If you have a chance to do this, I would definitely recommend checking it out.  Just remember to bring some non-slip shoes and wear something you don’t mind getting soaked in.

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Grand Cayman and Snorkeling the Barrier Reef

20245949_10101263037949445_250055454514270279_nIt is no secret that Grand Cayman is stunning.  Tourists have been flocking to the island for many, many years with good reason.  The island is clean, the people are incredibly gracious and it has the obvious benefit of being  surrounded by the infamous turquoise Caribbean sea.

When I initially arrived, I just took off walking to get to know the area.  Luckily it is really safe to just wander off without feeling like you are in a compromising situation.  I loved taking in the sights.

Even just the things you can see on the side of the road are incredible.  I also really enjoyed all of the wild iguanas that are absolutely every where.  Sometimes they startled me a bit (when I startled them).  It turns out that the green iguanas aren’t native to Grand Cayman so are actually a problem to the ecosystem.  I didn’t see any of the native blue iguanas on my trip.

20155632_10101263038458425_2808880770377909646_nOn our self-guided tour of the island, we also came across a little, quiet beach access.  There were no other people on this particular section of beach so it was perfect for cooling off and laying in the water.  If I ever return to Grand Cayman, I think I would avoid the tourist beaches and take advantage of some of the available free access.

As we were planning the trip, I knew immediately that I wanted to snorkel the barrier reef in this area.  Much of the reef is tragically dying (thanks humans) so I really wanted to make sure that I experienced it.

We took a snorkel trip through Don Foster’s Dive Cayman on the Skin Diver.  Our tour 20228912_10101263347119865_5187381257615701471_nguides were awesome.  They were professional, informative and funny.  On the way out to the site, they gave us information about the island, the reef and safety tips.  The equipment appeared to be clean and in good repair.  Once we were all in the water, they were also really attentive.

It was approximately 40 minutes out to the reef.  The Barrier Reef was gorgeous and healthy looking to me.  There were tons of beautiful coral and vibrant fish.  I wish that I would have remembered my GoPro for underwater pictures.  I snapped a few with my phone but missed all the really amazing underwater stuff.  Oh well, it will live on in my head.

 

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Planning an Impulsive Road Trip to Utah

Is it an oxymoron to use impulsive and planning both in a sentence?  Well thats sort of how I live my life.  First I’m impulsive then I plan.

We were camping a few weeks ago and this thought popped into my head: Utah.  Hmmm… Utah.  Yes!  Utah!  I brought it up to my husband and he said “Utah?”.  I mentioned the idea to my daughter and she said “Utah?”.  It was too late though – I was already on the track to planning this and there wasn’t much their skepticism could do to stop the train.

By nature, I’m a very impulsive person.  I try so hard to keep myself organized and focused but sometimes I become so compelled to do something that I can’t stop myself.  This is how I ended up packing my family into a rented (yellow) Hyundai Veloster and driving 2500ish miles over the course of 9 days.

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Part of the reason for the trip is that I am serious about maintaining my bucket list.  I believe deeply that life is meant to be lived and the best way to experience the world is to get out there in it.  One of my key US bucket list items is to visit all 50 states (22 to go!) so I set my sights on Utah.

Utah has five national parks so I knew that there would be a lot of incredible scenery to explore.  Before I started to do any research, I was sure that I wanted to visit Arches National Park and Zion National Park so I built the trip around these destinations.  As I started to map the trip out, I realized that I would be near Antelope Canyon in Arizona so I had to include it.  I’ve been to Arizona before but Antelope Canyon wasn’t yet on my radar.  More recently, I’ve seen a lot of photos of this slot canyon that was absolutely spectacular.  The colors and shapes of the canyon were amazing so I added it to my bucket list.  Then we also added the Grand Canyon for good measure (I mean, its the Grand Canyon).  Once it was mapped, all that was left was to find hotels near the destinations and figure out any delicious food we had to eat.

Then we were off.

It might be time to quit your job

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From the time that other kids were fighting over who got to be the mom while we played house, I knew that having an awesome career would be important to me.  Instead of being “mom” I always wanted to be the older sister who had a cool job and traveled a lot.  True story.  I started working when I was 14 and have been working steadily since then.

I’ve been very fortunate to work my way up in large corporations and have had opportunities to learn many areas of business across multiple industries.  So many times, people have asked me about my career path because I was so young for my role.  I thrived while working for consulting firms (which are notoriously challenging and competitive).  I was honestly making good money, traveling to some really fun places and I was making fantastic connections.

The catch is that I was deeply unhappy.  I was constantly anxious and depressed.  Even when I wasn’t working, I had this awful feeling in my chest.  I couldn’t sleep.  I wasn’t eating healthy.  On the surface, I was happy but it was all fake.

Then one day, I went to the doctor for a routine checkup and we had the talk.  My blood pressure was high and climbed higher every time I came in for an appointment.  My weight was becoming unhealthy.  Bottom line is that I had to make some changes.  Not only was this job hurting me emotionally but I could see the actual effects to my health.  That is what finally pushed me to make changes.

If this story resonates with you, I want to encourage you to join me in making a change.  We have to choose the path that is best for our health, well-being and livelihood.  Some of the signs that it might be time to make a change are:

  1. You’re sick more often.  Maybe you are sleep deprived and stressed.  Or have you found that you are going on doctor’s visits for more conditions?  Harvard and Stanford released a study that indicates workplace tension can cut up to three years from your life.
  2. Toxic work environment.  Are your coworkers hostile?  Maybe your boss is a backstabber.  If you are constantly surrounded by this type of negativity, it can be difficult to want to go to work and do your best every day.
  3. You hate going to work.  Dig deep and figure out what is really bothering you.  Is there a specific task or is it the people you are working with (see #2).
  4. You’re concerned about the financial stability of your company.  Sometimes the writing is on the wall and you need to protect yourself.
  5. You have no time for yourself.  Work-life balance is really important and if you aren’t getting it, it might be time to find a job that will.

Sautéed shishito peppers

img_2166I love to shop farmers markets! They are such a fun source of inspiration and new ingredients. I also really like giving my money directly to hard-working, passionate farmers. Since my daughter was born, I have been bringing her with me. I want to make sure she understands where her food comes from. I also think that when kids have a say in selecting food that they will be open minded so I pretty much give her free reign with purchases.

These little shishito peppers were one of my daughter’s purchases. I had never seen them before so I sure didn’t know what to do with them once I got home. They are mild, thinned walled peppers. I found a couple recipes online that either sautéed or roasted them with salt or soy sauce so I decided to try a really simple recipe. My whole family loved these peppers sautéed like this. We just ate them whole (except the stem, of course). I can’t wait to pick some more up at the farmers market.

 

Ingredients:

1/2 lb shishito peppers, washed and thoroughly dried
1 T olive oil
salt, to taste
Instructions

Toss the peppers in the olive oil and set aside.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.
Once it is warm, add the peppers and cook them. As they cook, turn occasionally so they cook evenly. They are done once they start to char and blister.

James E McNellie’s in Tulsa

I recently drove to Kansas City to spend some time with my family.  I already know that the drive from Austin to Kansas City is just short enough that it seems drivable in one day.  It is actually just long enough to drive me batty being stuck in the car for that long so we always break the drive up into two days when we do it.  This time, we stopped in Tulsa for the night as I like to get most of my driving done the first day.

Although I’m from the midwest, I’ve never been to Tulsa and didn’t really know what to expect.  I imagined a smaller biggish town (yes, that totally made sense).  I knew that I would be ready to sit down for dinner and drinks after driving across Texas and most of Oklahoma (read: I would need a reward).

I picked James E McNellie’s after spying their beer choices and reasonably priced food.  We are totally beer people (maybe even beer snobs) and love checking out new brews when we travel.

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The outside of McNellie’s is a brick building with large windows showing off the eating area and the bar. Inside, the exposed brick walls continue (love!) with dark, hardwood floors and butcher block tables. There’s an area with a pool table and bar shuffleboard games.  I thought this place had an upbeat atmosphere with a British (maybe Irish?) pub feeling.  The decor had quirky trinkets covering the walls.  The vibe was really cool and everyone was having a good time.

Unfortunately, our server wasn’t great.  He was prompt when we needed him but not a big communicator and definitely not very personable.  So he did the job  but wasn’t helpful with questions or suggestions.

They have over 350 beers on the menu so there is something for everyone.  I started out with a Boulevard Tank 7 because I love Boulevard and needed a thinking beer to figure out what to order.  I also ended up doing the Oklahoma flight to get a sampling of beers from the area.  They weren’t all winners for me but I enjoyed trying them.

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For the appetizer, we ordered the spinach artichoke dip.  This was pretty good but I thought that the parmesan really overpowered the other flavors in the dish.  For dinner, I ordered the cottage pie.  It has Guinness marinated beef tips topped with mashed potatoes and cheese, and served with a side of veggies. The cottage pie was delish.  My husband ordered the sausage dish and was happy with it also.

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Overall, we enjoyed our meal and would certainly return if we ever find ourselves in Tulsa again.