Best of 2012

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This has been an incredible year for my little blog. This time last year, I had my first day with over 100 visitors, and I was thrilled! Since then, I’ve gotten a little better with the camera and in the kitchen, and I have put out a lost of posts and recipes that I am really proud of. I love seeing what posts you guys love most. So here are your favorite recipes of 2012!

10. Gluten-Free Cannoli Bars

9. Spinach Artichoke Mac & Cheese

8. Salted Chocolate Cookie Butter Cups (vegan)

7. Cookie Butter Brownie Bars

6. Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

5. Skinnified Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

4. Skinnified “Fettuccine” Alfredo (gluten-free)

3. Vanilla Bean Cookie Butter Cup Cupcakes

2. Cake Batter Dip

annnndddd dun duh duh dunnnnnn

1. Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad

I have to say, I was pretty surprised by #1! I mean, I LOVE that recipe, and I literally make it all the time, but for some reason, I didn’t think you guys would love it as much as I do. However, it was the clear winner, and it has inspired an other awesome dish that is sitting in my fridge, and will be coming your way very soon. ;)

I also wanted to share my  favorites from the year. Ummm, that’s hard. I truly do love every recipe I share. If I don’t love it, I’m not going to tell you to make it. That’s silly. But there are definitely some that stand out to me, so in no particular order, here are my 10 favorites. Some of them are repeats because you guys have great taste! ;)

Okay, I fibbed. That was 11, but I just really loved them!

YOUR TURN!! Tell me your favorite recipes of the year–from my blog, your blog, anyone’s blog, ANYWHERE! :) Feel free to leave links to some of yours and hopefully get some love on your favorites!

The Grind

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Early last week, I started asked my facebook friends where I should go to dinner after my 20 miler. I mean, clearly food is the most important thing after you run! I wanted to be prepared. ;) I got a lot of great suggestions, but ultimately my friend Nicole won with her suggestion of The Grind. The menu looked awesome and all of the food is coal fired. Not to mention the drink list looked amazing.

Nicole’s drink: The Moscow Mule

My Blackberry Sidecar. Probably my favorite thing I tasted all night. After one, they ran out of blackberry and I was sooooo sad!

For dinner all of us except for Lance ordered the turkey burger. Nicole and I added goat cheese to ours which was an excellent choice. I would add goat cheese to pretty much anything though.

The burger was seasoned well, but it was a fattier turkey than I would have preferred. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I like my turkey burgers to be practically white, and at least 90% lean. A lot of restaurants in Phoenix offer some really lean turkey burgers, but this one was definitely a little greasy for my taste. It still tasted good, but not sure it’s something I would order again. Nicole and I also split an order of the half and half fries which were half herb fries and half sweet potato fries.

Honestly, they were pretty disappointing. The herb fries just tasted like regular old french fries, and the sweet potato fries were fine, but not exciting. Not like the sweet potato fries at Fez! They didn’t taste bad, just kinda boring. However, you know what was NOT boring? Umm this AMAZING dessert.

Hot, fresh donuts with a salted butterscotch dipping sauce. I diiiiieeee.

LOOK AT THEM!!! SO MUCH DELICIOUS!!!

Seriously, the drinks and dessert alone were worth the entire experience. Steve’s veggies that we didn’t photograph were also perfectly seasoned and delicious, so maybe I just need to try and order something else for my main course? Either that, or just go for cocktails and dessert, because those are the most important things anyway. ;) Nicole posed with me to remind the world that I ran 20 miles. Good friends take silly pictures with you in public for you to post on your blog.

20 (.5)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That face is so cute, right? Maybe the next cycle of ANTM will be for old people, and I can pursue my amazing modeling skills.

What are your favorite restaurants and your favorite things about them??

 

 

The Grind on Urbanspoon

Nourish

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Sunday evening I went out with some of my awesome teammates to celebrate all of our training, and making it all the way to peak week! Well, we didn’t say exactly what it was that we were celebrating other than actually getting to hang out with each other, but those sound like awesome reasons to celebrate to me ;)

Jason, Wanda, Jaime, Tara, Lisa, Stacey, Moi. And after this lovely evening, I will be throwing out that shirt and NEVER wearing it again.

When we were trying to decide what to do/where to go, we all agreed that some awesome healthy food…and of course some wine. ;) Jaime and Tara eat gluten free, so I suggested Nourish. I first tried Nourish a couple of months ago with Nicole and Emily, and LOVED it! They have a menu filled with healthy options to fit every diet–gluten free, vegan, raw, paleo, you name it!

As soon as I mentioned their air fried sweet potatoes, my friends were all on board!

Heaven.

They have a special air frier that bakes the sweet potatoes at a very high temperature without the potatoes ever touching oil or butter! They do place some oil in the oven, and have a fan that they say infuses the “fries” with the flavor of the oil. They are perfectly crisp on the outside, while soft on the inside–so much better than the kind I make at home! It is kind of magical. The table split a bottle of pinot grigio and an order of the sweet potato fries to start.

I ordered the southwestern rice bowl which was ridiculously good! I don’t know how they get their brown rice to be so soft!!

We ended up spending over 2 hours chatting and talking about, well, running! :)

Jaime & Tara

Stacey & Jason

Lisa & my shiny red face

“Ari take a cute picture of me for my blog! And then out me for asking on the internet!” I believe I was successful on both accounts.

Training buddddddies!

What a fantastic night!! I’m so glad we all had the chance to hang out and do something fun with real clothes on, and eat food that isn’t gu!! Also, I haven’t stopped craving the delicious food from Nourish since we left, so I think an other trip very soon is in order!

 

Gingery Beef & Broccoli

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I know I’ve already said it, but my best friend Bethany got a new job, and at the company she’s been wanting to work with for a very long time. I’m so happy for her! She works her butt off, and she deserves every bit of it! Of course I show my love by shoving food down people’s throats cooking for people, so along with some super delicious non dairy ice cream, I also made her this delicious dinner.

 

Sometimes cooking for other people, especially for a special occasion, makes me so nervous! You never know if people will like it, and even if you love it, that doesn’t mean they will, and if you’re trying a new recipe, what if it just turns out horrible??? Sometimes, it’s hard to be inside my brain. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re not used to crazy ;)

 

Do you ever wonder what it’s like to be inside someone else’s brain?? I would LOVE it, just for a day. I always try to understand the thought processes that make other people act/say/feel certain ways. Sometimes, I do not understand people at all.

For instance, the people who feel like their facebook wall is the place for them to post all the rude things they think about other people’s political parties. What exactly are they hoping to accomplish? Even if I agree with them, I still find it SO annoying. I’d like to get inside their head and understand what they believe they’re gaining by this. Also, people who don’t like chocolate. I’d like to understand that too.

Anyway, back to being inside my head which probably looks like an episode of horders. Cooking for people is one of my favorite things, and all of my favorite things make me nervous–acting, singing, dancing, teaching (first days–eeeeek!), races, interacting with other people and trying to resemble some form of social grace…

 

Luckily, this dinner was a huge hit! I doubled the recipe, and still had not a single bite of left overs. That’s how you know. People can say they like things, but unless they go back for seconds and lick their plate, sometimes it’s hard to be certain. It’s just a little spicy, and totally packed with flavor with the ginger, coconut, and flavorful meat and veggies. I hardly ever cook beef, but this cut was pretty lean, and I trimmed the excess fat. I was surprised with how much I liked it because I almost always prefer chicken. I also loved how all of the veggies bulked it up to be super filling without being heavy.

I used this recipe from Paleo Plan that I found via Carrots ‘n’ Cake almost exactly. I added a bit more veggies, halved the oil, then added a little sriracha for some spice. It was one of my favorite things I’ve made in a long time, and I would highly recommend it! Click over to Paleo Plan for the full recipe!

Cheuvront

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Friday night I went out with some of my favorite AZ Blogger ladies to Cheuvront for restaurant week.

Arizona restaurant week is one of my very favorite things! When I was growing up, we didn’t have a huge restaurant scene, but ever since I moved back after college, it seems like new, indie restaurants are popping up like crazy! Or maybe I’m just finally starting to get into the scene? Either way, there are lots of amazing options for people who love food in this city, and I (obviously) really, really love food. Each restaurant has a special restaurant week menu with a set price and a few options for each course–you can choose to order off this menu, or stick to the regular menu.

This was my first time at Cheuvront, but I was super excited as soon as I looked at the menu. I had a really tough time making up my mind because everything looked amazing, but the one thing that was easy to decide was the first course. Goat cheese is one of those items I always immediately scan a menu for, and then I usually choose what I order by which options come with it. Obviously, I started with the goat cheese salad.

It was delicious! Fresh greens, the perfect amount of slightly sweet champagne vinaigrette, and of course the star of the plate–the fried goat cheese! For the second course, everything looked good and I had a hard time deciding, but ultimately went with the half roasted chicken because it came with cranberry apple stuffing.

That stuffing!!! I just kept digging underneath the chicken to try to get more of it out. It was probably my favorite thing I ate all night. The chicken was great too–perfectly cooked and tender. I asked the waiter what his favorite dessert option was and he pointed me towards the chocolate bouchon which is a small, lava-like chocolate cake that was served with dulce de leche ice cream.

Okay, maybe this was my favorite thing I ate all night. The chocolate bouchon had a slightly crisp outside, but the entire inside was gooey, like a half baked brownie, and it paired perfectly with the ice cream which was aaaaaamazing.

I absolutely loved Cheuvront, and will definitely be returning! It was also so great to spend time with some of my favorite ladies, and meet a couple of new ones!

Remy, Emily, me, Megan, Robin, Nicole & Jenn

Thanks for an awesome evening ladies!! Can’t wait to do it again soon!

Skull Valley Challenge

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Last weekend was a super special weekend! It was the first time Steve and I got to switch places, as I went to cheer him on for his first “race”. I call it a race, but it was untimed and they called it a “ride”. Well, he goes for a “ride” like, umm, every day so that doesn’t sound quite fancy enough for me. There was a starting line, and a finish line, so in my mind it was a race. Steve left for Prescott to get acclimated with the elevation on Wednesday. Remember how us Phoenix folk do with mile high elevation? I had to work, so I left with Jason on Saturday afternoon. On the way up, we decided to get married.

Sorry Steve. I know I’m supposed to be coming to see you, but Jason and I are in ring pop love.

We arrived just in time to head over to the bib pick up with the boys.

HE HAS A BIB!!!

Cycling besties. They’re in like, straight man friend love.

After bib pick up, we headed to The Raven Cafe for dinner.

Raven Cafe  is a super cute restaurant in downtown Prescott with a unique menu, coffee bar, and big beer and wine selection. Jason and I ordered a couple of beers to start.

Mine: Nut brown mmmmmm

Jason got this super intense Black Butte with a bunch of roman numerals after. It was DARK, and definitely a sipping beer, but we were both fans.

Look! It also comes in a fancy glass. Sorry bar tender lady, you’re on the blog, but it’s just your hand. Apparently I couldn’t wait until we sat down to start photographing. I’m a little impatient ;)

They have a really cool outdoor upstairs patio, and the weather was perfect, so we enjoyed dinner up there.

I’m a proud wife. And that lady in the background is apparently REAL freaked out by us taking a picture. CALM DOWN WOMAN!!!

I ordered a turkey sandwich that came with cranberry sauce, cream cheese, avocado and tomato–ohhhhh my gosh, it was so delicious! I got tortilla soup for my side which was also good, but the sandwich was definitely my favorite part!

After dinner, we went back to Dan’s and turned in early so the boys could get some sleep before the race ride. The next morning, Steve and Dan rode their bikes down to the start while Jason and I ran down to meet them.

Before we knew it, they were off, and I was pretty much the only person yelling and cheering like a crazy fool. Once they were out of site, Jason and I finished our run and ended out 3.5 miles at breakfast at The Sweet Potato Cafe. After breakfast we walked around, got coffee, and went back to work on a big obnoxious sign to hold at the finish.

Unfortunately, Steve didn’t end up having the best ride. The course was ridiculously tough and had about 4,000 ft of elevation gain over 54 miles. Around mile 37, the constant uphill just got to be too much, and he had to drop out. Bike races are serious business, man. If I get tired during a race, I just walk, but what do you do on your bike? You can’t walk it up the hill. I mean, I guess you can, but if you don’t do it all on the bike, does it really count? Anyway, he did the best he could at this point in his training, and I was still a proud lady! It just means next year he’s going to kill it!

Steve actually had a really great attitude about the whole thing. Of course he was disappointed, but he truly knew that he had done the best he could on that day. I really admire that about him. I spend a lot of time beating myself up and crying in the car after not performing the way I had hoped, and he just understood where he was that day, made some goals moving forward, and moved on. I absolutely feel like he still succeeded, and I feel beyond proud that he set out for such a challenging course on his first race ride!

How do you handle not living up to your expectations on race day? Ever done a bike race? What do you do if you can’t pedal up the stupid hill anymore?!?!?!

AFC Weekend in San Diego

Me, Coach Susan & Stacey.

Last weekend, I set out for San Diego with Steve and Stacey for the AFC half marathon. It was a super short trip. We left Friday afternoon after work and were there for a total of maybe 40 hours. We still managed to have a pretty awesome and relaxing Saturday, though. We had a delicious breakfast in Hillcrest at Snooze.

We were able to sit outside and enjoy a little bit of nice weather (the rest of the trip was hot–lame), and pet some super cute puppies. San Diego is super dog friendly. I wish Phoenix was more like that. Anyway, the food at Snooze was amaaaaaazing. I pretty much wanted to order the entire menu, but I settled on an egg white omelete with tons of veggies and goat cheese.

It’s funny because I really tried to be healthy, but then I dug into that omelete and it was pretty much exploding with goat cheese. I tried to pretend for a little while that I was going to scrape most of the cheese to the side, but who am I kidding??? Goat cheese is pretty much my favorite food on earth and this omelete was ridiculously good. I also snagged a bite of Stacey’s oatmeal which was also delicious.

And Steve ended up with this monster

Because clearly food is best when it’s the size of your head.

After breakfast, we walked around Hillcrest for a bit before heading to the race expo.

LOOK!!! WE’RE RUNNING!!!

The expo looked huge on first glance, but ended up being not super exciting. I did buy a new bic band, and for the first time I found one that stays on my head! It’s a thicker one, so I think having more felt is good for my awkward shaped head ;) We ended up browsing the expo for about an hour, then heading out to Coronado Beach.

Check out my awesome tan line. Super cute. It’s in the shape of sports bras/running tanks. Shocking, right?

After the beach, we went back to the hotel for a bit before meeting Coach Susan and some of our teammates for dinner. You know what I don’t understand? The whole pre-race pasta party concept. You go to an Italian restaurant where you are served lame white carbs that do you no good by race time the next day. I’d rather do a pre-race loaf of seedy multi grain bread party. Everyone gets their own loaf, and you don’t have to slice it. You just get a huge side of fancy vinegars and herbs to dip it into. That is something I can get on board with. Anyway, apparently the rest of the world doesn’t share my sentiment, so we ate Italian food. It was alright. I don’t love Italian food these days.

The company was great though! I got to know a few of my teammates a little better (there were a few of us that went), and it was cool to be part of a group. I’ve never done a race while having a coach before. Susan gave us all presents that totally made me all emotional!

Best.Coach.Ever. It’s the small things :)

Me, Coach Susan & Stacey.

The rest of the weekend was spent running, and driving and eating cupcakes. That was my favorite part, obviously. The cupcakes, not the running or driving. Those things were not super fun. Back with more details on the running part soon.

The Casserole Queens

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Oh friends, I am more than a little behind, but this is too good not to discuss! Two weeks ago, Nicole invited me to attend the Hungry Cocktail Event. If you’re like me and watch the Food Network nonstop enjoy watching food/cooking shows, you will love Hungry! It’s a new youtube launch of food and cooking shows that you can watch on your own time with new and interesting content.

As soon as Nicole and I arrived, I food geeked out a little.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The event was held at Elements, a swanky Phoenix restaurant that overlooks Camelback mountain. The party was smaller than I expected, and we quickly made our way to a private room near the back. I felt fancy ;) We grabbed some delicious hors d’oeuvres. I might have just had to google how to spell hors d’oeurves. That’s how unfancy I am.

   

Before we knew it, we were chatting it up with The Casserole Queens!

These ladies are a couple of the stars from the Hungry network. I couldn’t get over how nice they were! They were funny, inviting, and just so friendly! I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t dreamed of having my own cooking show (I mean I’m a theatre kid who loves food–it’s like the ultimate!), and these ladies have actually done it. They seemed so appreciative of their support and recognition. It just made me love them more!

Soon we headed into a separate dining hall where we watched a preview of the Hungry channel and learned about the process of bringing food programming to the internet. We also had an opportunity to speak with chef Beau McMillan (Iron Chef, and Elements exec. chef).

After the demonstration, it was time for dinner. Beau cooked us the most incredible meal! Full of so many things I would hardly ever eat under “normal” circumstances, and loved every bit of!

Yup. That’s a pig. And Beau in all his pig cooking glory. I would have thought seeing all the skin on it would freak me out, but I actually thought it was COOL! Maybe I’m weird?

The Casserole Queens also thought it was cool. Obviously.

Shrimp + grits

Okay, so I thought I hated grits, but these were AMAZING. Seriously. Probably my favorite thing I ate all night. They were southwest flavored with a slight kick. I must find a way to recreate these for myself! I also really loved the Casserole Queens’ recipe for Spice Mac & Cheese.

I got a little of everything.

Nicole and I were lucky enough to sit with Crystal at dinner, and hear a little bit about the journey her and Sandy took to developing their own cooking show. After we ate, we got to speak to Sandy more as well. These ladies were just so down to earth, and it was so great to hear about their experiences, and meet some other people who love food as much as I do!

Big thanks to Nicole for taking me with her! Check out her recap as well!

 

Refocusing

I have a confession. Normally, when I have a confession, I would then say something funny like “This summer I had a contest with my 2 awesome co-workers to see who could poop the most every day.” That’s true. Did happen. Was announced to all staff and students. We’re awesome like that. However, this may be slightly less gross for those of you who hate to talk about poop.

By the time I arrived back in Phoenix on Monday morning, I was feeling less than great about how my body looked, and physically I just felt off from not eating well. You see, I started the summer with the best of intentions. I was as careful as possible about what went into my body, tried to choose foods to fuel my training, as well as sustain me dancing for 6-7 hours a day. It was tough. The food was less than stellar, with choices for dinner sometimes being pizza, fried chicken, or the salad bar for the 6th night in a row. I bought lots of snacks to try to tide me over, which quickly transitioned into too much food too often, and way too many times thinking “Well, I ran this morning, and then danced ALL DAY. I can eat 2 desserts.” Also, there was a lot of justifying the mass quantity of vegan desserts I consumed as “healthy”. Two of my friends I spent the most time with are vegan, and we were so close to all sorts of vegan bakeries. The problem is, substituting earth balance or vegetable oil for butter and using refined carbs does not equal healthy. I know that. I get it. Mostly, I just wanted dessert.

All this being said, I was not shocked to get home, step on the scale (yeah….no scale = “I probably weigh the same. I’m dancing ALL THE TIME”), and discover that I had definitely gained weight. Not an obscene amount. Nothing any of you would probably notice. Roughly 5-6 lbs from where I generally maintain. So, no, 5-6 lbs is not a huge deal, but 2 more months of those habits, and an other 5-6 would be more lik 11-12, and you see where that leads. In no time at all, I could easily be right back where I started in 2008.

No.Thank.You.

Again, it’s not the end of the world, but I definitely feel motivated to make a change, and refocus. The truth is, if weight were merely determined by exercise, I would have a SMOKIN’ body by now. I love working out, and being active. I do it to be healthy, yes, but also because I genuinely enjoy all those cool endorphins. It’s like our bodies own cooler version of mood altering drugs. Thanks for that body! Food, on the other hand; food is tricky. I do genuinely enjoy eating good, healthy, nutritious meals that fuel my body. I really like healthy foods, and I don’t often crave things like cheeseburgers and french fries. However, part of the problem is that I do REALLY like food. I have a tough time with portion control (always have), and I also REALLY love dessert. Those of you that want to snack on potato chips: I don’t understand you. I want to snack on fro yo. Always and forever.

I’m trying to break the mentality of “I worked out this much, so I can eat this much”. It doesn’t really work like that. In fact, I feel like the more active I am, the MORE careful I need to be about my food choices. That may seem like an oxymoron, but the truth is when I significantly increase my activity, I am hungrier, and I do need to eat more, but that means more opportunities to choose less than awesome types of food, and overeat.

I’ve read a lot of blogs that said they gained weight training for their first marathon. I assured myself that wouldn’t be me, but when I started focusing more on my training, I made the decision to stop focusing on weight loss, even though the truth is, that is still the eventual goal for me. I let myself gradually slide back into eating habits that I haven’t seen in quite a while. Don’t get me wrong, I still ate moderately healthy, but not to the best I am capable of, and it shows. On the scale. In the way my body feels. It’s not “water weight”.

So, I’m refocusing. I went to TJ’s excited (although when am I not excited about grocery shopping?), and stocked up on tons of produce, and spent entirely too much time stalking ingredient lists. Steve was thrilled to sit there watching me label read for hours after our red eye, let me tell you. He’s a lucky man. It was nice for me though. I used to only look at calories, and I am actually trying to do just the opposite now. Sure, that cookie may have the same amount (or even less) of calories as a banana with almond butter, but it has no nutritional value, and an ingredient list a mile long. I promised myself I would give up the calorie counting, and other than checking it out just to be aware, I have. I check in to see if one thing may have significantly less than the alternative, but that’s it. This time, I looked at the ingredients, and the protein, fiber, and added sugars. I have a whole fridge full of awesomeness, and just yesterday I noticed a big change in the way my body felt, and my energy level.

It’s easy to forget how great healthy eating feels. Does that sound cliche enough? But, seriously, it does. It feels awesome, and I feel better about myself already, and that’s the part of this that really counts. And I have no doubt that I will fairly quickly get back to my normal weight, but until then, here are some pictures of me looking cute this summer to remind myself that I don’t look like I gained 50 lbs, even if, at moments, I kina feel that way.

Oh, nope. That’s definitely a demonstrative Poop Contest picture. Not a cute picture at all, actually. You’re so welcome friends. Now we’re out there for THE WORLD to see. Or my 6 readers. Either way.

Okay, there we are actually looking cute. This is Tali and Camille. They ran with me all summer, and then we did this pose. I love them, and this picture is my fav.

Okay, I feel better now. Something about those two (and the Poop Contest) never fails to lift my spirits. Onward.

Nicole’s Birthday @ Pizzeria Bianco

I want one of these in my house. I'm counting on Lance to make that happen.

If you live in Arizona, and maybe even if you don’t, you’ve probably heard of Pizzeria Bianco. Several reviews call it the best pizza in the United States. It is a tiny little restaurant in downtown Phoenix, and they are known for their delicious, wood oven baked pizzas, and their outrageous wait times. I’ve heard up to 4-5 hours!! And people wait. There’s a bar next door that I’m sure gets a ton of business as people go through multiple bottles of wine waiting for their chance at some pizza.

I had tried to get a reservation there for my birthday, but was told you need to make them about 1-2 months out (YIKES!!). Also, they only make them for parties of 6 or more. For Nicole’s birthday, we made a plan pretty far out in advance, that we would brave the wait times and finally get to try this place.

I want one of these in my house. I'm counting on Lance to make that happen. Nicole's husband has magical powers. Like building ovens, fixing electricity, and changing light bulbs. Yes, I do find changing a light bulb magical. I would be too lazy to even consider it until I had to get out the flashlight app on my phone.

Oh look, my favorite food! Maybe they should create a race special to end right out front and at the end, instead of a medal, they just give you a loaf of bread. A girl can dream...

To our surprise, we were seated immediately! Apparently 6pm on a Tuesday night is the time to get your pizza fix, friends! I was pretty impressed with their fancy glass coke bottles.

It was really nice to get to know some of Nicole’s friends! They were super awesome and fun (obviously, because awesome people keep awesome company ;) )

The Birthday Girl aka my BBFF. Nicole, that means Blog BFF. I created that title just for you. I hope you like it and don't think I'm a freak. ;)

Sheena...I hope I spelled that right!

Kevin

Camille

I have no idea who that crazy is with the cute husband.

We all ended up ordering a different pizza, and I have to say, none of them disappointed!

Steve and I shared this one. It's called the Rosa and has rosemary, pistaccios, and red onions. It was soooo flavorful!! It was like my tastebuds were having a party like that little rat in Rattatouie!

Nicole's pizza. I know it had ricotta cheese and arugala. It was also super delicious, but I liked mine better :)

Lance's pizza....it had....meat. So descriptive, I know. I didn't taste it, but he liked it!

I don't remember who ordered this or what it was, but it looks good!

And the winner issss....! Oh yes, that is my pizza again.

Everything was delicious. I seriously could not get over how bold the flavors were. I don’t think I would wait 4 hours, but I would absolutely go back again!

After dinner we took some pictures. I know, you’re shocked.

BBFFs. This could get awkward real quick if Nicole tells me this term is totally unacceptable and ridiculous.

Then we went back to Nicole’s house for dessert, which of course means I have an other recipe to share with you soon.

This birthday girl knows how to cut some brownies!

I had so much fun celebrating with Nicole and her friends! I feel so honored to be a part of her real life friends group, and to have such an amazing friend in my life!! Happy birthday Niole!!!

 
Pizzeria Bianco on Urbanspoon

Steve’s Birthday Dinner @ Switch

Look! It even comes with a blackberry inside! It was super cute, and even more delicious!

After returning from an awesome weekend up north, I tried to pretend I had nothing else up my sleeve and all birthday surprises were finished. Well I don’t think Steve was super surprised when we arrived to dinner and our friends and family were there waiting. He knows me too well. We arrived at Switch

and met up with Steve’s mom & sister, my mom, Hank, Charlie, my dad, Hermano, Jason & Nacho, Nicole & Lance. Switch is a restaurant and wine bar, and Jason and Nacho had already polished off a bottle of wine before we got there, so I went ahead and ordered myself a delicious glass of pinot grigio.

Then I had total drink envy when Nicole ordered this delicious blackberry cocktail, so i ordered one too. Then I spilled it before I even got to take a sip. I’m awesomely coordinated. But the nice server brought me another one!

Look! It even comes with a blackberry inside! It was super cute, and even more delicious! Also, that photo is of Nicole's drink. I did not drink my wine and that drink at the same time. Not that I wouldn't do that, but I didn't on this particular occasion ;)

We all had an amazing time chatting and hanging out while we waited for our food.

I hate this picture, but there were not a lot of people pictures from the evening, so I'm posting it. My chin looks the size of Texas, and my face looks oddly misshapen. Weird. Hermano looks great though! He finally got a hair cut and so now he can see. It's awesome. Also, slightly less Beiber-like, yes? Which could be a good or a bad thing depending how you look at it...

Nacho is so classy. You should take him to all your fine dining events.

Lance and Nicole

Then the food came, and oh my goodness, it was sooooo yummmmmy!

Yes, those are sweet potato fries. My favorite thing in life. And somehow I'm surprised that I weighed like 10 pounds more after this weekend. I have no idea how that happened.

Steve's birthday burger. I tasted this one too. And still I don't like ground beef, but you know what I do like? Blue cheese. I could eat it plain. In fact, when I was a kid, I used to eat it plain all the time and then my hands would smell really gross like moldy cheese. It was so cute. You're welcome, mom!

This was Nicole's dinner. I forget what it was called, but I can tell you that the flaky bread part was a little like heaven on earth.

Then they brought out dessert with a candle! In fact, they brought out two because we told them Nicole’s birthday was coming up too.

Like pizookie. Yummmmm.

This was super good, but it did not compare to the cupcakes they wouldn’t let me bring in. What’s up with that trendy Phoenix restaurants? I do not prefer this rule.

Hank got this blueberry vanilla bean bread putting thing which put anything I’ve ever created to shame. Maybe that’s bad plugging for my blog to say their food was better? But seriously, this bread pudding was probably made up of sticks of butter and heavy cream and it was incredible. In fact, every single thing I tasted, I absolutely loved. I would most definitely return to Switch again, and again, and again!

We all had a great time and it was the perfect end to a pretty perfect weekend.
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Steve’s 31st Birthday Getaway

"SURPRISE!!!!! It's your birthday!!!!"

In case you didn’t notice by the return of actually good photography, Steve is finally back from LA!! Hooray!!! Just one week after he got back, it was already time to celebrate his birthday! He was awesome and decided to be born on Easter weekend which meant I actually had the whole weekend off to spend with him! That never happens, so I decided to take advantage of it, and I got in touch with my friend/best realtor ever, Kathy, and asked about renting the weekend at her cabin in Heber/Overgaard.

Friday afternoon, I sneakily packed our bags, got the puppies and asked Steve if we could go take pictures on a mountain. It was the best cover up ever. I should be in the CIA or something because I am the best at being sneaky and keeping secrets. He didn’t figure out where we were going until we were almost to Fountain Hills, so I couldn’t have done that bad! We decided to stop in Payson for dinner. I looked on yelp, and found the Buffalo Bar and Grill.

"SURPRISE!!!!! It's your birthday!!!!"

I absolutely loved this little place. They didn’t typically allow dogs, but they let us sit outside with Winston and Clementine, and then even brought them water! The food was delicious too. Steve got a green chile burger.

That potato salad was super delish. I always try his burgers and never really like the taste of ground beef, yet I keep tasting it...? I'm weird.

I got a grilled chicken sandwich with buffalo sauce…my faaaavorite. YUM. And my fav guilty pleasure–SWEET POTATO FRIES!!!

Running is worth it when sweet potato fries come at the end of the day.

"OMG, I find this food more almost as exciting as your birth!!!!"

As you can see from this picture, I am super classy and attractive. It’s obvious why Steve married me.

By the time we got to the cabin, it was pretty late (for us old people) so we hung out for a bit, then went to bed pretty early. The next morning we woke up at the ridiculous hour of 6am because we are incapable of sleeping in. We hung around for a bit with the puppies.

"Mom, it's 6am. This is ridiculous."

"Boy, that walk from the bedroom to the couch really wore me out! I think now is a great time for a nap."

I discovered the waffle maker and it was love at first waffle!

Why have I NEVER made waffles before?!?!?! And why do I not own one of this incredible contraptions that creates the waffles?! This is a serious problem.

Ummm, as soon as we got back on Sunday, I bought a waffle maker. Stay tuned for a whole slew of waffle recipes.

While I was discovering waffle amazingness, Clementine was discovering stairs.

"Okay, I made it up here, but how the heck do I get back down?!?!"

Have you ever watched a mini dachshund climb up and down stairs?? It’s pretty funny. Her legs are so short, and her body is so long! She definitely took a spill or two.

"Stairs aint got nothin' on me!"

"Yes mom, I'm long and cute and you get no credit for that. Even though we have the same body type (long body, short legs, big butt), you do not receive credit for my super cuteness."

Clementine has so much attitude. I am totally responsible for her cuteness. I mean, where else would she learn this?

I roll around on the carpet daily. Clementine tries to copy. Whatever. I started it.

After hanging out for a bit, we decided to go down to Payson. There’s pretty much nothing to do in Overgaard, so we went in search of something fun, and of course, coffee. Yelp took us to a place called Scoops which had coffee and ice cream. My two favorite things!

I asked the barista what he suggested for something fun to do in the area and he suggested a hike along Tonto Creek. Neither of us were really dressed for hiking, but we decided to head over and at least check out a little bit of it, and I was really glad we did! It was really easy and mostly flat. More like a nice walk along the creek than a hike. Winston and Clementine got to experience nature beyond the dog park!

On the way back to Overgaard, we stopped at a lookout on the 270.

Oh my gosh...TREES! We don't have those in Phoenix. Only the prickly kind.

They are so foreign, we must take pictures in case we can't remember what they look like when we get back to Phoenix!

The birthday boy. I like him ;)

We picked up some things for dinner, a couple movies from the red box, and stayed in for the night. I made a super impressive dinner that included hot dogs and a can of baked beans. I hate the name of this dish, so I refuse to use it, but Steve loves it and is always going on about it, so I made it for him. Plus some asparagus to pretend like I actually do eat healthy.

Totally does not look cute, but I have to admit, it was pretty yummy. I'll have to try it again, and make the beans myself and use turkey dogs instead of beef. Slim pickins up at the Overgaard market.

We tried a new beer I picked up from Whole Foods.

Yummmm. I would definitely buy this again!

Then we watched Like Crazy (I don’t really have an opinion–didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. It happened, I guess.) and Carnage which I LOVED. I know friends of mine who have seen/read the play, didn’t love the movie, but I still haven’t seen it, and I thought it was hilarious. Jodie Foster was a total nut and I loved every second of it. I can’t wait until I have the opportunity to see a professional theatre production!

And that was pretty much it. We’re kind of boring people, but we loved it and had a great time, and headed back pretty early Sunday morning for some more festivities that night.

Special thanks to Kathy for renting our her amazing cabin!! If you live in Arizona or you want to come out this way and are interested in getting away from the city for a bit, I highly recommend it! The cabin has 3 bedrooms, a full kitchen with cooking equipment (like WAFFLE MAKERS!), a gorgeous rustic feel, and lots more! I can’t wait until we are able to return!