Monday, September 24, 2012

Weekend in Big Sur

Big Sur, you are beautiful.

I spent this past weekend in Big Sur and I must say, it's officially one of my favorite places. In planning this trip, I knew where I wanted to stay: Treebones. Ever since my dear friend Maura stayed in Treebones years ago and raved about it, I knew I had to experience it myself.

So I packed up my clothes, hiking shoes, swim suit, bottles of wine, granola, and tons of food. And we were on our merry way!

We drove on the 1 Highway. And by drove, I mean, I backseat drove. The 1 is curvy and when you grew up with a Mom who is a pretty bad driver (love you Mom!), you become a grandma-backseat driver. It's not my fault! However, this drive is beyond worth it, as the 1 gives you views, like this, for miles and miles.

And because I am me, of course we had to stop at the Big Sur Bakery for afternoon cookies. We chose the PB & J cookie and Mocha Chocolate cookie (so rich!).

And hours later, we arrived at Treebones. Yurt. Yurt. Yurt. Yurt!

Dropped our stuff off, and went on a Sunset walk.

The next morning, we fueled for our hike at the breakfast bar. Breakfast is complimentary at Treebones. I sipped on coffee outside on this deck, which overlooks the California Coast.

The beginning of our Vincente hike, which ended up being fairly challenging, uphill, and around 8 miles round trip.

Some of my favorite views from the hike:

After the hike, we continued North and stopped by this famous waterfall, recommended by my friend Lauren. Stunning.

Then, back to Treebones for some pool time in the sun.

We also ventured on a walk through Treebone's organic garden. It was full of many different types of kale, lettuce, apple trees, strawberries, squash blossoms, and so much more! The staff uses the produce in the restaurant.

Then, we sipped some wine on our Yurt porch.

For dinner, we decided to go sit at the Sushi Bar at Treebones.f The Sushi Bar is tiny and has 8 seats along a bar; you can watch Carlos, the Sushi Chef, make your rolls fresh, while overlooking the amazing Big Sur view. As you can imagine, at Sunset, it was stunning and the light pierced through the Sushi Bar. Truly unforgettable. Not to mention, the sushi was darn good.

The next morning, we hopped back on the road and stopped at Deetjen's, which my Mom had recommended for brunch. Deetjen's is a charming little ole place, serving a very delicious and traditional brunch. Dining at Deetjen's is truly like eating in a log cabin.

What can I say? I love me a good brunch and can never ever resist chicken apple sausage.

It was a really lovely weekend. One of those trips that kind of forces you to re-examine things in life, breathe it all in, and acknowledge that life is pretty good. So much and so many people to be grateful for.

As for our experience at Treebones, I cannot recommend it enough. The yurts were spacious and clean, the staff was down to earth and knowledgeable about Big Sur adventures, and the location was ideal.

I'm really missing that Big Sur sunset.

PS, I'm not really that short. Am I?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Maple Granola (Gluten-Free)

Mistakes are funny in that they can be really bad or...really kind of awesome.

Bad: When you think you're on mute on a client call. Oh wait, you're not.

Good: When you attempt to make gluten-free granola bars but ended up with gluten-free granola.

Oops. My bad. Not.

I'm heading to Big Sur this weekend and couldn't be more excited. As a California native, I am ashamed to admit I've never been. Don't judge me!

We're glamping. Otherwise known as, glamorous camping; staying in a yurt! I'm not worried about bugs or getting dirty or being cold. I'm much more concerned with what I will be eating. I don't want to get hangry after all.

Upon first preparing for this trip, my immediate thought was "What camp-appropriate food am I going to make and bring?" Well, I decided granola bars are "camping-ish/hiking food." So this was my attempt to make granola bars...but upon removing them from the oven, looking all golden and delicious, I quickly realized that I had not used enough sticky ingredients to hold it all together. I let it cool and then took a knife and broke all the granola up.

So, now I've got some gluten-free granola for easy breakfasts and snacking.

I've also got Manchego cheese, quinoa and black bean chips, mint-chocolate creme brownies, 3 bottles of wine, mango-nectarines from the Farmers Market, and almond butter/raspberry jelly sandwiches.

Because that's how this girl camps.

If you need me, I'll be in my yurt.

Gluten-free Maple Granola

2 1/2 cups oats (gluten-free or regular depending on your preference)
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons flaxseed, optional
1/2 cup dried, unsweetened coconut flakes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or Earth Balance
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons agave nectar syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Maple Syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, optional but highly recommended

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, mix the oats, almonds, dried cranberries, flaxseed, and coconut flakes.

2. In a saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter. Then, remove from heat and add the agave, vanilla, maple syrup, and salt. Pour this mixture over the oat mixture and stir gently until mixed.

3. Place the oat mixture in an 8 by 12-inch pan or a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Every oven is different, so remove the granola just as it starts to turn golden brown. Let the granola cool and then add in the chocolate chips.

Eat plain, as cereal, throw it in some greek yogurt...the options are endless.

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Favorite Smoothie

Let's play favorites. Ok? Just this one time.

Favorite Musician: James Taylor (Bon Iver is a close second though)

Favorite City: San Francisco ... I mean, I'm really freaking lucky.

Favorite Candy: Hershey's Chocolate Bar - lets keep it classic.

Favorite Movie: Good Will Hunting (I swoon for Matt Damon). The Cutting Edge is my guilty-pleasure famous movie, though. "Toepick."

Favorite Flower: Sweet Peas

Favorite Dessert: My Mom's yellow butter cake with 3-inches of chocolate frosting.

Favorite Ballerina: Maria Kochetkova. Five feet of perfection.

Favorite smoothie: This one.

Are you surprised it involves chocolate? Those are dark chocolate chips. It's totally still healthy. Dark chocolate is good for you, remember?

I know that Summer is ending (or just beginning, if you live in San Francisco). And Fall, my favorite season, is fast approaching, but I'm trying to enjoy the Summer fruit while it lasts; blackberries, white nectarines, raspberries...did I mention I love berries?

I love making smoothies for breakfast or for a post-run snack. I've experimented with many combinations, but this one is my favorite. The banana provides a great, mild base, while the berries provide a bit of sweetness. Berries also help stabilize your blood sugar! And of course, almond butter is necessary, simply because I am obsessed, but also, because it adds some healthy fat and staying power to this smoothie.

Here are my smoothie tips:
  • Use frozen fruit, no ice! I'll buy bananas, then slice them, put them in a bag, and freeze them. Buy fresh berries and freeze them, or buy frozen ones. I like the Trader Joes mixed frozen berries.
  • Make sure to add a healthy fat to the smoothie. I love adding almond butter or peanut butter. It helps to fill you up!
  • Sneak in greens, don't be scared. You can totally put spinach in this smoothie; the cocoa helps mask the spinach flavor. (I much recommend spinach over kale in my smoothies)
Bottoms up!

Laura's Favorite Smoothie

1/2 banana, frozen and sliced into 1-inch thick pieces
1 heaping cup of frozen mixed berries
1 1/4 cup almond milk (can use your 'milk' of preference)
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 to 2 tablespoons almond butter
1 tablespoon flax seeds, optional
handful of raw spinach, optional
chocolate chips for garnish, optional
Stevia or sweetener of choice, to taste (optional)

1. Put banana, berries, and almond milk into the blender. Blend, occasionally stopping to help mix everything together.

2. Once the fruit is semi-blended, add in the rest of the ingredients. Blend until desired consistency. If you want your smoothie thinner, add more milk. Add sweetener, if using, to taste. I'll often use 1-2 drops of Stevia max, as I'm quite sensitive to it.