Thursday, February 21, 2013

Our Visit to Big Bend

I had an amazing weekend! My husband and I stayed at an adorable hotel, visited Big Bend National Park, did some hiking, saw some incredible views, and saw Mexico from across the Rio Grande. Best of all, I didn't see any snakes!! Our weekend started on Friday night at the Holland Hotel in Alpine, TX. I absolutely loved this hotel. The hotel was built in 1928 and has a cozy, fancy old-west feeling to it. We found a Groupon deal online and purchased the 2 night deluxe room option for only $159. When I called to make a reservation, the hotel said they did not have any deluxe rooms available for our dates. They immediately offered to upgrade us to a jacuzzi suite at no extra charge! We also received a $20 dining credit for their delicious restaurant, and to our surprise, our first round of drinks were free! I would go back to this hotel in a heartbeat. I loved everything about it.

This is the cute outside courtyard. I could have spend all night out there looking at the stars...if it wasn't freezing out.

Not the best picture, but this is the sitting area next to the lobby. So much history here. 

Our cute room! I loved the wrought-iron headboard and the little afghan on the bed.

I was not prepared for the incredible sights Big Bend had to offer. I had a pretty good idea that I would like it there, but did not really know what to expect. The park is about an hour and 20 minutes away from Apline, and we drove there on Saturday and again on Sunday. On our first day we wanted to hike the Lost Mine trail in the Chisos Mountains, but the parking lot was full. From there we went to the Santa Elena Canyon, which was about 30 miles away. I couldn't get over how beautiful the canyon is. I also loved that you were literally about 10 feet away from Mexico (it was across the river).
 View of Mexico.
 The beautiful Santa Elena Canyon.
On Sunday we were able to get a parking spot, and hiked the Lost Mine trail. The views up there were beyond amazing. We had the peak pretty much all to ourselves, which was surprising because the trail was quite busy. I loved just sitting up there taking it all in. After we left the Chisos area, we drove another 30 or so miles to go to the hot spring. The hot spring is natural pool that is about 105 degrees all the time. I wasn't a fan of the little dirt road that goes to the spring. There was no guard rail to prevent you from going off the edge, and the road was so narrow! Good thing the husband is a good driver. I would have parked and walked! Once we got to the spring's parking lot we had to walk a quarter of a mile or so. The path ran along the base of a rocky ledge and the Rio Grande. Before getting to the hot spring we had heard that Mexican vendors are sometimes there, and it is illegal to purchase their goods. On the trail we saw where they had set up scorpions made out of beads and wires. They had a "donation" jar next to them with a suggested donation of $6. My theory was that if we were to simply take an item, we were not purchasing it, so therefore it would not be illegal. But no, I did not steal any Mexican handicrafts. I was a little disappointed when we got to the spring. It was a cool sight to see, but it was full of old men! I chose not to sit in the crammed little pool with them.

Next time we go to Big Bend we want to camp out and climb Emory Peak, the park's tallest mountain.

Saw this sign on the way to the Chisos Mountain area
 Sitting at the top of the Lost Mine trail
 The road to the hot spring. What a view!
 Me standing in front of the Rio Grande and Mexico.
 Mexican crafts
 One of the historic buildings on the trail to the spring
 Panoramic view from the top of the Lost Mine trail

Monday, February 11, 2013

Spinach Pancakes

I love that these pancakes are GREEN! It makes eating them more fun. I love food and I love colorful things so this is a great combination. Another great thing about these pancakes is that they contain a whole serving of spinach. You can't taste the spinach AT ALL! I eat a decent amount of vegetables, but I never feel like I am getting enough. These pancakes are a great way to get a little extra veggies in. They are also a great way to sneak veggies in for picky eaters. I found this recipe a little bit ago on one of my favorite blogs,
The author, Courtney, is a fellow military wife. She posts some great recipes and food ideas. She is also extremely inspirational in the fitness department. If you don't go to her blog to check out her recipes, you should at least go on to look at her muscles! Seriously.

I tweaked the recipe a tiny bit (recipe below), but here is her original one.

Spinach Pancakes
serves one (makes 3 small pancakes)

1/2 cup pancake mix (preferably a healthy one)
1/3 cup almond coconut milk (regular milk would do)
1 cup fresh spinach
1/4 of a ripe banana

First I sprayed cooking spray on a frying pan and put it over low-medium heat. I blended all of the ingredients in a food processor until the batter looked well-mixed. I was surprised at how well the spinach blended. I poured about 1/3 of the batter on the frying pan. I flipped it after I saw bubbles starting to form on the surface (this took a few minutes, they didn't seem to cook as fast as regular pancakes). I cooked the pancakes one at a time, only because I used a small pan.

Courtney has 1 tbsp egg whites in her recipe, and a dash of cinnamon and vanilla. I cut out the egg and vanilla. I meant to use cinnamon, but I forgot! She also used regular almond milk, but I happened to have an almond/coconut blend.

I put PB2 in between the pancakes and topped the stack off with chopped walnuts and Maine maple syrup (I insisted on bringing my Maine maple syrup with us to Texas). I highly recommend that you try these pancakes. Maybe for St. Patrick's Day!?! Today was my trial run with them. I wanted to make sure they tasted good before making them for the husband, even though he is a more then willing guinea pig for my food adventures. Needless to say, they passed my test.

Aren't they lovely?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Blogging from Texas!

It has been far too long since my last blog post! My husband and I got caught up with packing for our big move to Texas. We finally made it and are all settled in to our new home. So far I am loving it here! The 70 degree weather is a little change from the Maine winters I am used to.

Aside from the clear blue skies and high temperatures, I am also loving the food here! There is such a huge Mexican influence. I cannot get enough Tex-Mex food (I think I prefer the Mex over the Tex). I even love going to the grocery store here just to look around. Back in Maine I made my own corn tortillas, and not many places carried the flour you need, masa harina. The grocery store here has almost a half an isle full of different masa harina flour!

Now that we are all settled in, I can't wait to start cooking regularly again! I missed having a stove while we were road-tripping down here. I have found a bunch of new recipes to try, so there will be plenty new blog posts to come. For the mean time, I will share my go-to corn tortilla recipe:

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Makes 16-18 tortillas (I usually cut the recipe in half)

2 cups masa harina
1 1/2 -2 cups warm water
wax paper

*You can use a tortilla press to shape the tortillas, but if you don't have one a counter top and a rolling pin or an object that has a large, flat surface will do (I use the bottom of my pyrex storage bowl).

1. Combine masa harina and water together in a large bowl. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Then work the dough with your hands to make sure it is mixed well. If it is too dry or to wet add extra water or flour accordingly.

2. Form balls out of the dough, about the size of golf balls.

3. Heat a griddle or cast iron pan on medium-high heat (I use a cast iron pan). If you using a griddle you can cook multiple tortillas at once. I usually cook one at a time with my cast iron pan.

4. Flatten each ball into a tortilla right before you are ready to cook it. Place a piece of wax paper on the counter top or in the tortilla press, place the dough ball in the center, place another piece of wax paper on the dough, and flatten. If you are not using a tortilla press, make sure the tortilla has a uniform thickness. I try to get my tortillas to be around 6 inches.

5. After the tortillas are formed carefully remove the wax paper and place tortillas on the griddle or pan. Cook for 30 seconds to one minute on each side, until slightly browned.

6. Serve immediately or keep warm in a tortilla warmer or warm over. You can also refrigerate them and reheat.

My favorite foods to make with corn tortillas are fish tacos and huevos rancheros.