Day Trip to Bellingham, WA

If you have 8 hours, a tank of gas, and desperately need a break from the Seattle bustle, hop on I-5 north and chill out with the locals in Bellingham for the day – and by locals I mean the seagulls, the oysters and the vendors at the farmer’s market!

My husband and I took our first trip to Bellingham recently. Reading up on the sights and attractions, we were overwhelmed at the options awaiting us in this big, small town. We weren’t sure how many things we’d be able to do, but ultimately we fell into a lovely groove and ended up having the perfect day trip. We saw a good cross-section of Bellingham while leaving enough activities to warrant a return trip (in the very near future!)

Here’s my planner for a one-day trip from Seattle to Bellingham:

Boundary Bay Brewery

We left Seattle mid-morning and made it to Bellingham around lunch time. Our first stop was at the famous Boundary Bay Brewery for a local craft brew and sandwich (a Cubano for the huz and a Tofu Banh Mi for me.) Their tap room has benches for seating and a cool nautical theme.

Farmer’s Market

If you visit Bellingham on a Saturday be sure to take a stroll through the downtown Farmer’s Market. It’s just across the street from Boundary Bay. We picked up some locally-made cheese, tayberry jam and roasted almonds. There are plenty of street performers to stop and listen to while you take in the array of colorful fruits, vegetables and flowers. It’s also a perfect spot for dog watching. A ton of people had their pups out for a walk around town!

 Boulevard Park & Woods Coffee

Time for a caffeine pick-me-up and a walk along Bellingham Bay. Boulevard Park is a quick 6 minute drive from downtown.

 Woods Coffee  has a location right at the park with a log cabin interior and adorably-named coffee sizes like “spruce,” “cedar,” and “giant redwood” akin to Starbucks’ “tall,” “grande,” and “venti.” Grab a coffee or tea to go and enjoy a walk on the boardwalk across the water and up to  old-town Fairhaven.


Chuckanut Drive & Taylor Shellfish

Time to start the journey home, but I’ve saved the best stop for last. Wind your way back south on scenic Chuckanut Drive. There are spectacular views of the bay, the islands, and gorgeous homes around every bend. Shutterbugs, be sure to take your camera along, you’ll want to stop along the turnouts for photo ops. Near the end of the picturesque road is a must-do for seafood fans: a stop at Taylor Shellfish Farm and Market in Bow, WA. You literally can’t get oysters any fresher unless you physically walk into the water and pluck them out yourself.  A stop at Taylor is a quintessential PNW experience. They give you a bucket, as many oysters as you can eat, and a shucking tool. Take a seat in the picnic area and master the art of shucking an oyster surrounded by water and salty air. They even have lemons and tiny bottles of tobasco if that’s how you like to dress your raw oyster. If you have a sharp eye, and you’re as lucky as we were, you might even spy an eagle flying overhead. With full bellies and a happy heart, you’re ready for the trip home!

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As Seen on Pinterest: Tomato Recipes

I made a decent dent in my Pinterest boards this week. Let the pinning resume! I made a deal with myself a while back: no more browsing/pinning until I dig through through the hundreds of pins I’ve been hoarding and actually try out some of the recipes. Mission: Accomplished. It just so happens that both of the recipes I tested this week feature tomatoes and basil, and both of them turned out really well! Here’s a peek and the pins:

Caprese Bites1. Caprese Bites: I dug into the archives for this one! I think this was one of the first recipes I ever pinned. It’s been collecting dust at the bottom of the pile, so it was high time to make the digital picture come to life. I made these Caprese bites for our Academy Award party at work. They are super simple to put together and an easy, elegant appetizer for any occasion.

Click here to repin

Tomato Tart2. Tomato and Herb Cheese Tart: This is my take on one of my newest pins. What a stunner, right? If I could only eat one meal a day, it would definitely be brunch. I go a little loco for a good quiche or egg tart. This one was a snap to make. To save time and energy, I used a frozen, deep pie crust (instead of making crust from scratch) and artichoke Allouette herb cheese. Yum!

Click here to repin
Tomato Tart 2

As Seen on Pinterest: Taco Pie

Taco Pie

I love tacos and I love pie… put them together and you have a culinary centaur of sorts. I’ve had this recipe tucked away on Pinterest for months in case I ever needed to slam a dinner together. It just so happens, I had the need to pull it off my pin board this week and I gave it a try. So, how did it turn out? Find out in this edition of “As Seen on Pinterest!”

In case you’re new to my series… let me explain what it’s all about. Simple, really: Find recipe on Pinterest, make  said recipe as instructed, award recipe Pinterest Points based on how well the dish turned out and my personal taste. Ok, now that we’re all caught up… lets dig in!

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Potato Pie Shell

The idea behind this recipe is to get the flavor of a taco in the form of a pie. The crust is made out of potato. The recipe called for either leftover mashed potatoes or flake potatoes from a pouch. I went the pouch potato route.

As you can see in the picture on your left, you spread the potato on a pie plate to make a shell, bake for about 15 minutes while you brown your ground beef, onion and taco seasoning.

Then you add the beef to the shell, bake a little longer, then layer the rest of your taco ingredients on top (lettuce, tomato, salsa, sour cream – and in my case – guacamole). It’s pretty much easy as… yes… pie!

Whipping it all together was super simple, so the recipe gets points for being easy to make. For me, the big downfall was the potato “crust.” It turned out to be a little heavy and it just didn’t seem to vibe with the taco flavor. I felt a little overfull after eating one “slice.” A great idea, I have to say… but probably not a dish I’ll put on repeat. I hate giving recipes low scores, but I give this one 2 1/2 out of 5 Pinterest Points.

As Seen on Pinterest: Pumpkin Sage Pasta

Pumpkin Sage Pasta: As Seen on Pinterest

Pasta = a blank slate. That’s what I love about it! You can dress it up, or dress it down with all kinds of seasonal ingredients. This summer, I tried out pasta with a fresh avocado sauce and it was spectacular! It boosted my bravery. Now that we’re heading deeper into fall, I decided to dig out one of the pumpkin pasta recipes I’ve been hoarding on Pinterest. Time to launch, As Seen on Pinterest: version 3.0!

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Original Pin on Pinterest and Link to Recipe

As a huge pumpkin fanatic, I had no doubt this recipe from Bake Your Day would be a winner, but so far I haven’t had a recipe earn the highest notch on my (definitely) non-scientific scale. If this is your first introduction to my fun little culinary game, here’s the low-down: These reviews are based on my first attempt at making the recipe. I award 1-5 Pinterest Points (5 being the best and 1 meaning it was a disaster) based mostly on final taste and how closely it compares to the original. Let’s get boiling, shall we?!

Remember: these are just my opinions and experiences. You should always try the recipes for yourself!

Great with a glass of Chardonnay

My stockpile of pumpkin had dwindled down to one can before I made this dinner tonight. I had been saving it for this very recipe, so I was super excited to have a free evening where I could just enjoy a glass of wine while I chopped away at all the fresh garlic and sage. (By the way, I think I’m falling in love with sage as much as I love pumpkin!)

The beauty of it is, this is one of those recipes you can’t really mess up. Make sure you don’t burn the garlic, and the rest of the sauce just kind of whips together in the time it takes to boil your pasta.

The recipe calls for olive oil, and I used a special garlic and mushroom infused oil I bought in a specialty shop. It works wonders for pasta and pizza. I also love making pasta sauces out of freshly grated parmesan. (Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook has a great Lemon Parmesan Pasta!) The cheese has a bite to it, but it melted into the pumpkin really well. To amp up the savory factor, I might even consider adding some sausage to the dish next time. I’m sure there would be no complaints from my husband!

Verdict time! Overall, I don’t really have anything bad to say about this recipe. Even my husband cleaned his plate, and he’s not the biggest pumpkin fan. If you like the savory side of pumpkin, I would definitely recommend giving it a try. That said, I wish the pumpkin flavor would have come out a teensy bit more. I can’t really blame the recipe though, it could have been the store-brand can of pumpkin I used. So much for trying to save a few cents, I think I’ll splurge on the more expensive stuff next time.

This Pinterest Pumpkin Pasta with Parmesan & Sage gets 4 out of 5 Pinterest Points. Cheers for the amazing combination of flavors. Boos for the bland brand of pumpkin I used!

Cheesy Pumpkin Sauce

As Seen on Pinterest: Healthy-er Chocolate Chunk Muffins

Healthy Chocolate Muffins

As Seen on Pinterest is back for Round 2. In case you missed my first post, I’m digging in to some of my “Can’t Wait To Try” pins to see how they translate from “computer picture” to “kitchen reality.” I’m awarding each recipe Pinterest Points based on my first attempt at making the item and how well it turns out. And if they fail… well, lets just say it’s more than likely I had a hand in it! The White Chocolate Raspberry Tart only got 2.5 out of 5 points – but we can do better than that!

I had a suggestion for my next project: Healthy Chocolate Chunk Muffins. Can this really be a case of having your cake and eating it too? Can you really make a chocolate muffin healthier, and still have it be edible? Really? I wasn’t sold. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard about substituting the fatty butter and oil for yogurt and applesauce before, but I wasn’t convinced that it would taste as sinful, or bake the same way. I’m really glad I got this suggestion so I could test the theory for myself!
Here’s the link to the original Pinterest Pin.

Batter in a Blender

(Disclaimer: these are just my opinions and experiences. You should always try the recipes for yourself!)

Healthy Chocolate Chunk Muffins

So, besides using applesauce in muffins, I never imagined I would be using a blender to make my batter. It’s actually a genius concept. When it’s all mixed up, you can just pour the batter into your muffin tins. So easy. Props for that gem! However, it probably doesn’t work with all batters. This one was pretty thin, so it was easy to mix and didn’t strain the blender blades.

Pouring Batter Made Easy

The batter is made up of oats, unsweetened cocoa, applesauce, greek yogurt, egg whites, semi-sweet chocolate chips and sugar. Now, the recipe called for sugar substitute, and that’s where I strayed. I chose to use real sugar. I’m just not sold on the artificial stuff. As I said, it blended together quite easily and was easy to pour. Then it was off to the oven.

As you can tell, my muffins fell a little flat. For some reason, they didn’t get that nice, round “top of the muffin… to you!!!” dome on them like the original picture. But looks are only half the story. I have to tell you, these were the most moist muffins I have ever made. (Say that 10 times fast!) They still had that chocolate-guilty pleasure-thing going on, but, somehow, with much less guilt. Ok, I’m a believer. Now there’s no excuse to ever use butter and oil again! So… drum roll…

This recipe gets 3.5 out of 5 Pinterest Points.  Near perfect, if only they had turned out prettier!

There just might be something to this whole applesauce/yogurt thing!

Link To Original Pinterest Pin

As Seen on Pinterest: White Chocolate Raspberry Tart

White Chocolate Raspberry Tart

This is my inaugural post in my new “As Seen on Pinterest” category. Before I get down to the meat and potatoes of this pie, let me explain what this series is all about. As you probably know by now, (and if you don’t… this is your official invitation to the party) Pinterest is one of the fastest growing, most addicting social sites on the internet. The recipe ideas are endless, and as a budding cook, it has served as an awesome source of inspiration. It’s also a huge time-waster. Anyone with me on that one?!
In all my pin trolling and testing, I’ve learned some recipes are hot, some are not, and some I mess up no matter how good they are! I’ve built up quite a collection of pins over the last few months. Now it’s time to dive in. So here I am, putting the most pin-teresting recipes to the test and seeing where it takes me. No do-overs. These reviews will be based on my first attempts at making the recipes, and I’ll award each one Pinterest Points. 1-5 points, kind of like stars, but you gotta love alliteration. Here we go!

Link to Original Pin on Pinterest

I’m starting with this mouthwatering White Chocolate Raspberry Tart. 

Thank goodness for the summer raspberry selection. Pints of berries seem to be abundant and fairly inexpensive right now. That’s what drew me to this recipe, and the picture sealed the deal for sure! Total Pinterest eye candy!

Ok, so the picture looks good. The recipe seems easy. But the real test comes in actually making it. Does the real thing look and taste as good as the picture would have us believe? Read on, friends. Read on!

(Disclaimer: these are just my opinions and experiences. You should always try the recipes for yourself!)

Right off the bat, the thing I loved about this recipe was the ingredient list. Short, sweet and to the point. Ready-made crust, raspberries, mascarpone cheese, whipping cream and of course white chocolate. The recipe didn’t specify what kind of chocolate so I used Ghiradelli chips.

This recipe delivered on the ease it promised. It literally took 5 minutes to assemble everything: Melting the chocolate, cream, and cheese then pouring it over the raspberries in the crust and off into the fridge to set. Easy peasy! Off to a good start!

Like a kid begging her mom to lick the bowl, I took a taste of the chocolate mixture and I got very excited about where this was heading. It was so luscious! I could barely wait the 3 hours until the recipe said the tart would be ready.

Ding, ding… 3 hours were up and it was time to dig in. Slight problem, the filling was not firm at all. I racked my brain trying to figure out what went wrong. Is my fridge not cold enough? Did I use the wrong kind of chocolate or cream or cheese? The answer is… I have no answer. I followed the recipe to a “t”. I ate a slice of my soupy tart anyway and I have to say, what it lacked it texture, it made up for in taste!. Amazing flavor and so delicious! I put it back in the fridge to see if it thickens overnight, but I’m not overly confident it  will make a difference.

I wonder if cracking an egg in the filling and baking the pie for 15-20 minutes then refrigerating it would make for a firmer tart. That’s how I made my Rum Key Lime Pie and  it worked fantastically. I may have to revisit this recipe and give it a try that way.

Overall, I’m giving this recipe 2.5 out of 5 Pinterest Points. It was only half way to a winner!

Southwest Black Bean Soup

No time to soak beans? Me either! This recipe is perfect for a mom or a young professional on-the-go. And if you’re looking for an alternative to pizza and wings on Super Sunday, think Southwest Fare! This would be a great addition to traditional chips and salsa. Plus it’s packed with healthy black beans and veggies so you won’t feel so guilty come Monday! If the men at your party give you a hard time – just remind them, there’s BACON in the soup!
Black bean and bacon soup

3 cans Black Beans
5 Strips Bacon
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 Yellow Onion Chopped
2 Large Carrots chopped
1 Celery Rib (I used a pre-chopped container of onion and celery from the store so I wasn’t stuck with leftovers)
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Teaspoon chile powder
2 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Tbsp Molasses
Salt
Sour cream
Avocado, peeled and chopped

Brown bacon and set aside.
Heat olive oil in large pot.
Add onion, celery, garlic and carrot.
Stir 10-minutes until onion is soft.
Add cumin, chili powder. Cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly
Add 2 cans of beans (and juices) reserving 1 can, chicken stock, molasses, and 2 strips of chopped bacon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
Remove pot from heat and use a hand blender to coarsely chop vegetables/beans. Add remaining can of beans and remaining 3 strips of chopped bacon and simmer another 10 minutes.
When you’re ready to serve add chopped avocado to the top of individual bowls and a dollop of sour cream.
Enjoy!

Hungry for a little Southwest fare! Courtesy: Lifes Special Moments Photography