Memorial Day Hike

Since sleeping in is basically unheard of in this household, we were up bright and early on this lovely holiday.

Ryan, my sister and I started our day with an easy and delicious breakfast by Van’s.

Van's French Toast Sticks

The Van’s cinnamon French toast sticks were a hit all around. All three of us enjoyed the crispy sticks topped with syrup.

Memorial Day Breakfast

Since we wanted to take Sadie hiking before the real heat of the day set in, we changed into our hiking clothes and hopped in the car.

While on our way to Weikwa Springs State Park, I drank a strawberry smoothie made with ice cubes, frozen strawberries, strawberry protein powder and ice cold water. I wanted a little protein in my belly to keep me full on our hike.

Strawberry Protein Smoothie

When we arrived, we decided to do a large loop, which we figured would take us around two hours to hike.

Sadie, Leslie & Ryan

Ready for Hiking

The Hiking Gang

Not even a half of a mile into our hike, we came across a deer!

Though he ran before I got a chance to snap his picture, I did manage to capture a little of his hiney!

Find the Deer!

We also stumbled upon a small tortoise, which Sadie wanted to make her new best friend.

Sadie + Torty

Hikers

Hot Dog

I wore my Garmin on our hike to see exactly how many miles we covered.

We ended up hiking just shy of six miles in a little less than two hours.

Hiking Stats

After a morning full of activity, we were ready for a filling lunch.

Lunch

To me, Memorial Day = BBQ time!

Ryan threw some hot dogs on the grill which we enjoyed with cucumber and sliced green and red pepper.

Memorial Day Dog

Peppa

My Plate

After lunch, we headed out back to soak up some sun and read our books. We didn’t last long though because it is H-O-T!

Now it’s time to run some much-needed errands, including a trip to the grocery store.

Question of the Afternoon

What’s your favorite food that’s traditionally served at a BBQ?

I love corn on the cob and watermelon. Yum!

Off to California…

…Pizza Kitchen, that is. ;D 

California Pizza Kitchen

After a good workout yesterday, my sister, Ryan and I had some grumbly tummies. I suggested grabbing dinner at California Pizza Kitchen because I recently received some “pizza dough” from the company to sample their new small cravings menu.  

Apparently they got wind of my intense love for CPK frozen pizzas and figured I might enjoy some of their restaurant fare as well. 😉   

Smilin' Sisters at CPK

We sat down in a comfy booth and immediately ordered two items off the small cravings menu to share: the Mediterranean plate and the crispy artichoke hearts. 

Mediterranean Plate

Mediterranean Plate: Our original recipe of Tuscan white bean hummus, Feta cheese topped with extra virgin olive oil and a Greek salad with cucumbers, red onions, fresh Roma tomatoes and Greek olives in our homemade lemon-herb vinaigrette. Served with our traditional pizza-pita bread. 

Hummus + Feta + Greek Salad + Pitas

 Crispy Artichoke Hearts: Artichoke hearts lightly fried with Japanese panko bread crumbs, then sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Served with our homemade remoulade sauce. 

Crispy Artichoke Hearts

Both small cravings items were light, flavorful and would pair perfectly with a bowl of soup for a light lunch. 

The Greek salad included on the Mediterranean plate was my favorite. The saltiness of the olives and the fresh, crisp flavor of the cucumbers and tomatoes really complimented each other. 

For dinner, the three of us ordered two pizzas to share. 

Margherita Pizza: The classic Italian pizza. Made with imported Italian tomatoes, Mozzarella and fresh Mozzarella cheeses topped with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese. 

Margherita Pizza

Cheesy

Greek Pizza: Mediterranean spiced grilled chicken and Mozzarella cheese topped with a chilled Greek salad of cucumbers, red onions, fresh tomatoes, Greek olives, Feta cheese and a lemon-herb vinaigrette. Served with our homemade Tzatziki sauce and chopped Italian parsley.  

Greek Pizza

Lots o' Veggies

Both pizzas were really tasty. I loved all the veggies on the Greek pizza and CPK’s homemade Tzatziki sauce was fantastic. 

The Margherita pizza was prepared on a thin crust with lots of cheese and fresh tomatoes. It tasted the way a gourmet classic pizza should taste. Very good! 

I had two large slices of the Greek pizza and one slice of the Margherita pizza, but still had room to share a dessert with Ryan and Leslie. 

We opted for the hot fudge brownie sundae, which, according to the menu is an old fashioned chocolate brownie, served warm and topped with Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream, CPK’s triple-thick hot fudge, fresh whipped cream, pecans and a cherry. Are you drooling yet? 😀 

Ryan's "I'm Full but Still Have Room for Dessert" Smile

Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae

I think the sundae lasted about 60 seconds once it was placed in front of us, and that includes the time I took to snap a quick picture. 

The warm, fudgy brownie was moist and perfectly sweet. When paired with the creamy, cool vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream, we were all in dessert heaven. 

We all agreed our meal at CPK was a-okay! 🙂 

After dinner, we walked around the mall where the restaurant was located for about 10 minutes before heading home to relax for the evening. 

Today’s Plans 

Today Ryan, my sister and I are hoping to head out to some nearby trails with Sadie for some Memorial Day hiking. I’m hoping to bust out the grill for a classic Memorial Day BBQ when we return for lunch! 

What are your Memorial Day plans?

Once Again Wowed

For the second time today, I was wowed by a recipe from The Pioneer Woman‘s cookbook.

Since my sister dogsat Sadie while we went camping on Friday night, I wanted to make her a sweet treat as a thank you for being such a good aunt to Sadie!

I had all the ingredients for the angel sugar cookies featured in the book and got to work making the cookie dough while Sadie (and Ryan!) anxiously awaited licking the beaters clean. 🙂

Recipe

Sugar Cookie Dough

The dough had to sit in the fridge for an hour before baking the cookies, so we wasted time by hanging out in the backyard, reading our books and soaking up the sun.

Once the dough was adequately chilled, I placed the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet and flattened out the dough balls with a glass coated in sugar, per the recipe instructions.

Flattened Out Cookies

Within 8 minutes, we had light, buttery cookies.

Ready for Eatin'

I cannot praise these cookies enough!

Not only did they smell like heaven as they were baking, but the crisp sweetness of each sugar cookie made them a nice alternative to the thick sugar cookies I usually make.

Angel Sugar Cookies

Light, Sweet, Buttery

This recipe will definitely be my new go-to sugar cookie recipe.

I hope my sister likes them! She’ll be arriving soon and we’ll be hittin’ up the gym for BodyPump.

Gotta work off those cookies. 😉

Sunday Morning Greek Yogurt Pancakes

A couple of weeks ago I went to a book signing at Barnes and Noble for The Pioneer Woman‘s cookbook.

The signing was to begin at 6 p.m., and I wasn’t able to arrive until 5:45 p.m. By the time I got to the signing, a line of several hundred people had formed.

I stayed to listen to her talk, but I didn’t buy her book or wait in the 4+ hour line to have it signed.

Things have a way of working out though because a couple of days later I won a signed copy of her cookbook through a giveaway on the blog A Recipe for Living.

The book arrived in the mail this weekend and I spent a good hour or so reading the entire thing and paging through the recipes last night.

When I saw a recipe for sour cream pancakes around 11 p.m. last night, I knew what I’d be making for breakfast in the morning.

Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes

Since I didn’t have sour cream on hand this morning, I substituted Greek yogurt for the key ingredient, turning the sour cream pancakes into a slightly healthier version of Greek yogurt pancakes.

Greek Yogurt, Flour, Sugar, Baking Soda, Salt

With Eggs & Vanilla

I cooked the ‘cakes on a hot griddle until they were slightly browned.

Cookin' 'Cakes

Once the pancakes were ready for eatin’, I piled them high and coated them in syrup.

Greek Yogurt Pancakes

The Sweetness of Syrup

Sunday Morning Breakfast

The pancakes were light, slightly eggy and unbelievably delicious.

When I decided to substitute Greek yogurt for the sour cream, I used a combination of plain Greek yogurt and strawberry Greek yogurt. The slightly sweet and fruity flavor from the strawberry Greek yogurt made the pancakes taste different and special. Ryan and I both thought they were the perfect lazy Sunday morning breakfast.

Today’s Plans

Ryan and I are about to leash up the pup for a walk to the farmer’s market. I also hope to get some sun before my sister arrives for the evening.

My sister watched Sadie on Friday night while we were camping and headed off to spend the night with friends and celebrate a friend’s birthday at Universal Studios last night. She’s heading back our way this afternoon and we have plans to workout, go to church, make a yummy dinner and spend some quality time together. I’m excited to see her!

See ya later for lunch!

Greek Yogurt Pancakes

(adapted from The Pioneer Woman’s Cookbook recipe for Edna Mae’s sour cream pancakes)

Makes 12 4-inch pancakes

Indgredients:

  • 8 oz. Greek yogurt (I used 6 oz. plain,  2 oz. strawberry)
  • 7 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Place Greek yogurt in a medium bowl. Add flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir together very gently. Stop short of the mixture being totally combined. You want the pancakes to have some interesting texture.

Whisk eggs in a separate bowl. Add vanilla to eggs and stir to combine. Pour egg mixture into the Greek yogurt-flour mixture. Stir together gently. Don’t worry about the mixture being totally combined; a little white and yellow swirling is fine.

Pour the batter onto a griddle sprayed with cooking spray, ¼ cup at a time. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, then flip the pancakes. Cook for another 45 seconds and remove to plate. Repeat with the remaining batter. Top pancakes with syrup, fruit, or desired toppings.

Natty Light, S’mores, Hot Dogs & Tubing

Ginnie Springs is an extremely popular campground in High Springs, Florida and on Memorial Day weekend, it’s a complete free-for-all. There are no reservations, no set camp sites and the campground becomes one big, crazy party.

Fortunately we had several friends head up to Ginnie Springs early on Friday and reserve a large spot for our group to set up camp.

Ryan and I loaded up his SUV in the pouring rain after work, but were determined not to let the dreary weather cramp our camping style.

Rainy Day Campers

By the time we made the 2+ hour drive to High Springs, the pouring rain settled to a light drizzle.

Upon arriving, we threw some hot dogs on the grill with our friends’ burgers and brats to enjoy for dinner.

Hot Dog Champ

Ryan downed four dogs with buns. I love a man that can eat!

I stuck to a more mild portion of one hot dog, with a side of strawberries, grape tomatoes and Natty Light, because I’m classy like that. 😉

Hot Daaawg

Plump Tomaters

Berry Good

Classy

As I was finishing up my dinner, more of our friends arrived. I got quite a laugh looking at how many people it took to set up one tent.

Pitchin' a Tent

After the tent was erected and a fire was built, it was time to bust out the good stuff to make s’mores.

I think s’mores may be one of my all-time favorite foods.

Since the gooey marshmallow/melted chocolate/graham cracker combo prepared over a blazin’ campfire only surfaces once in a blue moon, I took full advantage and had two. 🙂

S'Mores One

S'Mores Two

It seemed like after dark, the Ginnie Springs campground really came to life.

There were quite a lot of crazy sights to be seen, including a float, complete with Christmas lights and a mechanical bull.

Christmas in May

Fun, huh?

We spent the remainder of the evening drinking and talking around the campfire. I love just sittin’ back, hanging out and talking with my favorite people. It’s so much more my style than the downtown/clubbin’ scene. 

Eventually we got tired and settled down for the night. Ryan and I slept in the back of his SUV which worked surprisingly well!

We woke up a little before 8 a.m. to the sounds of people partying and opening beers around us.

Apparently Ginnie Springs campers don’t mess around!

Good Mornin'

Once everyone from our group was awake, we ate breakfast and rented tubes to use to float down the river during the day.

Ready for Tubin'

Woohoo!

After slipping into our swim suits, we headed out to the river with our massive tubes.

Time to Tube

The river that we floated down has a decent current, and people from all over rent or bring tubes to ride down the river.

The whole river run lasts more than an hour and several springs are located off the river where you can get out or splash around in crystal clear water. The only downside? The water is freezing!

After one run down the river, we broke for a quick lunch before tackling the river again.

Lunch was typical camping food: hot dogs, chips and chocolate chip cookies.

Hot Dog!

Yum

Benny & Merri

Me & Laurel

Cool Ranch Doritos

Chocolate Chip Cookie

Our camping neighbors were really wonderful and shared a turkey they made on the grill with our gang.

Turkey

The turkey was amazingly moist!! I’ve never had a turkey prepared on the grill before and let me just say it was phenomenal! Juicy, tender and very tasty.

Once our bellies were full, we headed to the water for one more run down the river.

It was great floating in the water and hangin’ out with our friends. Being on the water, relaxing in a tube is heaven!

When our last river run was complete, the weather took a turn for the worse. Fortunately we packed up our stuff quickly and were on our way back to Orlando by the time it started to pour.

It feels good to be relaxing on the couch! I think tonight will be an early night for us. I’m sleepy!

Hope you’re enjoying your Memorial Day weekend! 😀

A-Camping We Will Go

The weekend is almost here!

My office is a bit of a ghost town today. It’s hard to concentrate and hunker down when so few people are working, but I’m powering through.

Once I get off work, the weekend officially begins and Ryan and I will head two hours north to join several of our friends for a camping trip, complete with lots of s’mores, hot dogs, beer and all-around unhealthy fare.

Fortunately I did stock up on some healthy nibbles as well. Aside from the camping staples, Ryan and I are keeping our food nutritious and are bringing:

  • Red and green pepper slices
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Raspberries
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Whole wheat hot dog buns
  • Strawberries
  • Cucumber slices
  • Peanut butter
  • Apples
  • Granola

In past camping trips with our friends our meals consisted of Clif bars, peanut butter sandwiches, hot dogs and canned soup. This time, I’m hoping to squeeze some fresh produce in there as well!

I am particularly excited to break into the grape tomatoes we’re packing.

Plump Tomatoes

I added quite a few of the plump red guys in my lunch salad, and they were sweet, slightly crunchy and very flavorful. I think this time of year must be their time to shine or something!

In All Their Glory

My lunchtime salad included:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Goat cheese
  • Balsamic vinegar

Big Salad

On the side I had the ridiculously addicting Rold Gold honey wheat pretzel twists, which I dipped in Greek yogurt that I sweetened with honey.

Come See How Good Looking We Are!

Dip-a-Dip

I feel like I have a food-baby belly right now! That salad is sittin’ like a rock… but it’s keeping me full. 😀

Questions of the Afternoon

Do you like camping? Are you more of a city person or a country person?

Foodie Friday

Today was the inaugural Foodie Friday at my work.

What is Foodie Friday?

Allow me to elaborate for ya! 😉

Last week, a few of the women I work with and I decided to take turns making new homemade treats for the office to enjoy every Friday. The idea for Foodie Friday surfaced when we were talking about how excited we all get for office birthday goodies. We figured why not make office treats a weekly occurrence?

I signed up for the first Foodie Friday and after much debate settled on a recipe I thought would be a crowd pleaser.

Peanut butter pretzel truffles, a la Jessica!

I jotted down the recipe that Jessica followed from EatingWell.com and doubled it to make the truffles.

Follow Me to Deliciousness

In my truffles I used crunchy peanut butter and Rold Gold honey wheat braided pretzel twists because they’re my all-time favorite pretzels. They’re salty, slightly sweet and 100 percent addicting. I definitely ate a couple of servings while making the truffles.

PB & The PB Gremlin (Can You Spot Her?)

Best Pretzels Everrr

I combined the peanut butter with the chopped pretzels and placed them in the freezer to chill for a bit.

PB 'n' Pretz

After dipping the peanut butter/pretzel mixture in melted milk chocolate, I placed the truffles in the freezer overnight (they’re sweating off the cold in the pictures below 😉 ).

Sweatin' Truffles

A Peek Inside

PB & Chocolate: A Match Made in Heaven

These truffles taste so much like Reese’s peanut butter cups to me!

I popped one in my mouth as a breakfast appetizer and will be having one for dessert after lunch today as well.

Recipe success!

A platter of these truffles and Oreo balls would be one heck of a contribution to any party. Something to keep in mind for Memorial Day weekend! 😀