Saturday Adventure Day

Way back in May, Tiffany and I started looking at calendars to pick a date for our planned “Adventure Day.”  With 2014 being the busiest summer ever, the first weekend where we both had a free day open wasn’t until August 2.  That seemed so incredibly far away, but we wanted to make sure we got it on the calendar.

Within a blink of an eye (because that’s how fast this year has been flying by), August 2nd arrived and we jetted off!

First Stop:  A Quick Brain Damage

You’ve probably seen me post on Instagram about the infamous Brain Damage coffee drink at Dazbog Coffee.  Well, during our Adventure Day, I wanted to make sure I introduced Tiffany to its deliciousness.

Dazbog Brain Damage | No Thanks to Cake

What is this amazing drink??  It is pretty much the best frozen coffee drink on the planet… and you can only find it in Northern Colorado.  They use mocha, shots of espresso, and the BEST part… chocolate-covered espresso beans.  All blended to perfection!  I also love that they make it fresh – no mix! – and you can customize it to make it “your way” – for me, that’s sugar-free, non-fat.  Delish!

The verdict:  My Colorado BFF loved this drink as much as I do!  What a great way to caffeinate for a long car-ride!

Next Stop:  The Shambhala Mountain Center

Our travels took us further north… not to Wyoming, but to Red Feather Lakes, CO to the beautiful Shambhala Mountain Center.  It had been about 10 years since I had travelled to this area, so I was excited to get back.  The Shambhala center hosts spiritual retreats, meditation classes, and getaways.  People travel from all over to see this beautiful place… and soon you’ll know why.

It’s tucked away from the main path, and I always think it’s a sign that I’ve left civilization when the roads are no longer paved.

Shambhala Mountain Center | No Thanks to Cake

About 2 1/2 hours from Denver, we arrived at our destination parked our car and started our trek into the property.  On our way to a very sacred spot in the mountains, the 20 minute walk/hike was totally worth it… even in flip flops!

The Great Stupa | No Thanks to Cake

The main attraction here is The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya Which Liberates Upon Seeing.  And, it is a breathtaking site.  

The Great Stupa | No Thanks to Cake

It’s hard to believe this shrine is tucked away in the middle of the mountains.  What stands out most when you see it in person is the brightly colored features and the gold accents.  So unusual to see in this natural backdrop.

As you approach the stupa, you first see an alter of sorts where many have left items behinds.  Offerings, gifts… and the most random of items.  We got close enough to see the items, but you don’t dare touch any of them… they were all placed there with purpose.  Who am I to alter them?

The Great Stupa | No Thanks to Cake

 

The Great Stupa | No Thanks to Cake

As we approached the stupa, I got really excited.  From my previous trip, I remember the energy inside being amazing and I was excited to get inside – - to spend a little time in silence.  But, a few pics before we walked inside…

The Great Stupa | No Thanks to Cake

From the Shambhala Mountain Center Website:  Stupas are said to promote harmony, prosperity, longevity, good health and peace. They bring blessings to the environment in which they are built, to those who build them, and to those who visit and venerate them. In this way, stupas ensure that the living quality of the Buddhist teachings will always be available.

The Great Stupa | No Thanks to Cake

Taking off our shoes and leaving them outside, we entered the stupa to find two others seated inside and a few others exiting.  It was quiet and perfect inside, and keep in mind… this is the first thing you see when you walk in the door.

The Great Stupa | No Thanks to Cake

So majestic, yet so peaceful.

I found a seat and settled in to meditate for a few minutes.  I’m not a master meditator, by any means; however, my yoga practice has taught me how incredibly powerful breath can be… and I love to practice.

The Great Stupa | No Thanks to Cake

After about 10-15 minutes in silence, my eyes opened up, feeling refreshed and just happy.  There is something about this place, I tell ya… the energy is fantastic.  Before leaving the room, I spent some time looking around… noticing all the ornate details… and just soaking in that beautiful energy.

We left shortly after, stopping to watch a video along the way… and then deciding to simply take a selfie instead of sitting through the video.

The Great Stupa | No Thanks to Cake

The Great Stupa | No Thanks to Cake

The walk back was gorgeous… with lots of wildflowers and beauty along the way.

Colorado Wildflowers | No Thanks to Cake

The Great Stupa| No Thanks to Cake

Third Stop:  Refueling in Fort Collins

When we arrived at the car, we were officially STARVING.  We raced back to Ft. Collins to have lunch at Coopersmiths.  Ready to refuel, we each enjoyed the Coopers Pub burger with a side of cucumbers.  I love that you can get a side of veggies and ranch, instead of fatty fries or onion rings.  Genius!

The Great Stupa | No Thanks to Cake

After lunch, we headed over to O’Dells Brewery.  They have a beautiful tasting room, and this was officially my first experience “beer tasting” in Colorado.  I know… I live in a beer state, but I’d never been!

O'Dells | No Thanks to Cake

And… while the tap room was cute and the beer was cold, I think I’ll stick to wine tasting.  Just not a huge fan of beer, but I was glad to have experienced O’Dells just the same!

O'Dells | No Thanks to Cake

After our stop at O’Dells, we made our way back to Denver convinced that we need to schedule another fun adventure day like this again soon!

 

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Cucumber Avocado Salsa and a {GIVEAWAY}

I got a HUGE shipment of chips last week from one of my favorite healthy chip companies!  And, they’re a Colorado company too!

Avocado Cucumber Salsa | No Thanks to Cake

OMG… don’t they look amazing??  My new friends at Snikiddy sent me their whole line of Eat Your Vegetable Chips.  These tasty chips are not only loaded with vegetables, but they also come in the most amazing flavors!  You can eat them without feeling guilty for having chips!!

My friends at Snikiddy are also giving you a chance to win some of your very own to try!  But before we give them away, let’s talk about how I served them.

With the 4th of July holiday upon us and having just got home from a trip, I was determined to incorporate the chips into my menu for the week.  First, I made my favorite taco salad, subbing the tortilla chips for Jalapeño Ranch flavored Eat Your Vegetables chips – - So good!!

Taco Salad with Eat your Vegetables Chips | No Thanks to Cake

And, on 4th of July, I decided to try a new dip, combining two of my favorites:  Avocado and Cucumber.  This was a HUGE hit with my friends Tiffany and Alex!

Avocado Cucumber Salsa | No Thanks to Cake

We loved this dip!  It was cool, fresh, and just perfect for a hot day.  I’ll definitely be making it again!

Avocado Cucumber Salsa

Adapted from What’s Cooking at Home

INGREDIENTS

Avocado Cucumber Salsa | No Thanks to Cake

2 ripe avocados, cut into small cubes
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into small cubes
5 scallions, finely sliced
1 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. sour cream
¼ cup prepared ranch dressing
1 tsp. chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

1.  Cut the avocado into small cubes and toss with lime juice in a medium size mixing bowl to prevent avocado from turning brown.

Avocado Cucumber Salsa | No Thanks to Cake

Avocado Cucumber Salsa | No Thanks to Cake

2.  Add cucumber and scallions.  Note:  Rather than dice my cucumbers, I just put them in the food processor.  Chopped in seconds!

Avocado Cucumber Salsa | No Thanks to Cake

Avocado Cucumber Salsa | No Thanks to Cake

3.  Mix in sour cream and ranch dressing.  Add chili powder.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Avocado Cucumber Salsa | No Thanks to Cake

Avocado Cucumber Salsa | No Thanks to Cake

4.  Refrigerate before serving.  Note:  Storing the avocado dip with the nut in it also helps to keep the avocado from turning brown!

Avocado Cucumber Salsa | No Thanks to Cake

5.  Serve with Snikiddy’s Eat Your Vegetables – Sea Salt chips and enjoy!!  Let’s get a closer look at it…

Avocado Cucumber Salsa | No Thanks to Cake

Avocado Cucumber Salsa | No Thanks to Cake

Avocado Cucumber Salsa | No Thanks to Cake

Now that you’ve seen how I’ve been pairing my Eat Your Vegetables chips, it’s time for you to win a batch of your own to sample and create with!!

Eat Your Vegetables Chips Giveaway

Enter via the Rafflecopter below, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

It’s officially TOMATO SEASON!

Some would argue it’s been tomato season for a while, but for me… it’s just getting started!  I went to Whole Foods this weekend and they had all their beautiful tomatoes lined up.  The heirlooms, the romas, the ones on the vine.

All so pretty and so many different varieties coming home with me, including their AMAZING heirloom tomato salsa, which you can only find a few months of the year.

If you get a chance, go get some.  It’s life changing.

I picked up a bunch of heirloom grape tomatoes and a variety of colors with intent to re-create that amazing Panzanella salad that I ate in San Francisco at Zero Zero.

Thankfully, I have enough ingredients leftover to make another batch.  The vinaigrette is mustardy and flavorful, complementing the tomatoes and cucumbers so incredibly well.  What makes a Panzanella different than a traditional cucumber-tomato salad?  It’s the bread… the ciabatta croutons in this salad are insanely delish.  As a bread lover, the croutons MAKE the salad.

This salad was my dinner on Saturday night paired with two slices of fresh mozzarella; however, I’ve written the recipe below as a side dish, so you can share with your friends and family.

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Inspired by Zero Zero, San Francisco

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups heirloom grape tomatoes, halved

1 medium cucumber, quartered

1/4 red onion, diced

3 basil leaves, chiffonade

1 ciabatta roll

1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

For the Vinaigrette

salt

pepper

1/2 tsp. dijon mustard

1 1/2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar

1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

INSTRUCTIONS

1.  Combine dijon mustard, garlic, white balsamic vinegar, and olive oil in a small bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Note:  I used an amazing Sun Valley Sweet Garlic Mustard I sampled at Whole Foods on Saturday, but you can really use any kind of mustard that you like.

2.  Separately, heat 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil in a small skillet.  Add your ciabatta cubes, and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss in the olive oil and cook until lightly toasted and the olive oil absorbs.  Remove from heat.

3.  Dice your cucumber, half you tomatoes, and mince your onion.

4.  Chiffonade your basil.  Rolling the leaves and then cutting them into thin slices.

5.  Add all the veggies and basil to a large bowl.

6.  Add croutons.

7.  Toss with the vinaigrette.

8.  Move to a serving dish, and enjoy!

Per 1/4 recipe serving:

CAL 153; CARB 26g; FAT 4g; PROT 5g; FIB 2g; WW Points Plus: 4

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Green Gazpacho

I haven’t done any cooking in weeks.  It’s crazy.  I’ve been so distracted by the competition in San Francisco and the events that took place since that I’ve had very little appetite.

Yeah… you heard me right, no appetite.

I’ve been just swinging by Subway most nights on the way home from the gym, or cooking a quick Jenny Craig meal.  Just to get something in my body, not really interested in eating.

With a new week ahead, I decided to get back in the kitchen and whipped up this amazing soup to take to work as a snack.  If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know I LOVE gazpacho… but this one is quite different, you’ll see…

While I’ve made Firefly’s Tomato Gazpacho and my friend Alecia’s amazing Watermelon Gazpacho, the idea of a GREEN Gazpacho caught my eye!  What makes it even more interesting is that there’s not a single tomato in this batch!  And… it has that secret ingredient that I love so much:  AVOCADO.

The recipe as a whole is incredibly easy to whip up, and the flavor and fragrance  is insane.  You’re going to love it!

Green Gazpacho 

From Budget Bytes

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS

2 medium cucumbers

1 medium white onion

1 medium green bell pepper

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 medium avocado

¼ bunch fresh parsley

¼ bunch fresh cilantro

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 cup water

INSTRUCTIONS

1.  Remove the ends from the cucumber and slice it in half lengthwise. Scrape the seeds out with a spoon and then chop the cucumber into chunks.

2.  Remove the seeds from the bell pepper and also cut it into chunks. Dice the onion.

3.  Add the cucumber, bell pepper, onion, and garlic (peeled) to a food processor. Process until the vegetables are minced.

4.  Slice your avocado.  Note:  Need help picking out a ripe (but not too ripe) avocado?  If you remove the stem, it should be this color.  If it’s brown, it’s over-ripe.

5.  Pull the leaves from about ¼ of the parsley and cilantro bunches. Add the leaves to the food processor along with the olive oil and the flesh from the avocado. Purée until smooth.

6.  Add the water, one tablespoon of lemon juice, and one teaspoon of salt. Puree until smooth again. Taste the soup and adjust the salt or lemon juice if desired.

7.  Serve immediately.  Serve immediately or chill until ready to eat.

Per 1/2 cup serving:

CAL 99; CARB 7g; FAT 8g; PROT 2g; FIB 2g; WW Points Plus: 3

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