September 29, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes (Vegan)


These vegan red velvet cupcakes were my first attempt at vegan cooking, and thanks to a recipe from Sticky Fingers baker Doron Petersan, I am a believer that vegan, gluten and lactose free foods can taste just as delicious.

I don't have any dietary restrictions in my family but I have several friends who do, so I am on a mission to find delicious recipes for every type of tummy. Vegan cooking can be quite expensive but all too often turns out tasting like cardboard, so let GNG be your tastester. I'll never post a recipe just because it fits a dietary constraint... only if it passes the "do I enjoy eating this" test will I pass the golden nugget on to you.

This recipe definitely passed the GNG test so go ahead, preheat your oven, and make a batch of these tasty treats this weekend!


September 26, 2012

Homemade Pita Chips

Pita Chips sprinkled with Parmesan Cheese
I can make a bag of pita chips disappear pretty quickly, how about you? Although Stacy's is my go to brand at the grocery store it turns out that I can make them for 1/3 of the price at home....and in 20 minutes. Paired with this low-fat homemade hummus recipe, you are well on your way to fattening your wallet and slimming your waistline. That's a win win combination!

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September 21, 2012

Homemade Hummus


Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food. Hippocrates (c.460 - 400 BC)

Ever since Morgan was born people have asked how do I have the time... and energy... to cook as much as I do? Well, 1) I love to cook. 2) I started cooking before I entered kindergarden so I'm kinda used to it. 3) Providing my family with home-cooked food (packed with nutrients) rather than processed food (packed with additives) is for me, a top priority, so I find a way to fit it into my day.

For me, it's all about moderation and balance. Do I have days when I just don't feel like cooking? Absolutely! Sometimes even a few days in a row. So we order out or I open a can of ravioli for Morgan. (I like Annie's for prepackaged organic meals and Ella's Kitchen for organic on the go snacks). Do I feel bad? Absolutely not, because I know the majority of the time my family is getting healthy, home cooked meals. AND I know that if I hold myself to unrealtistic standards with no room for rest, I will burn out...and probably not be very fun to be around.

I recently watched a very compelling documentary on Netflix, Forks Over Knives, that argues that eating a plant based and whole foods diet and eliminating all animal products from our diet can reverse several serious health problems such as obsesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Now as a girl who loves her steak well marbled and mediums rare, I'm not ready to hop on the vegetarian bandwagon, but I do believe in the benefits of limiting the amount of meat and processed foods we eat on a daily basis. Let's get started!

Making your own hummus is simple, cheap, and very healthy. Here is a great hummus recipe to get you started and then you can experiment with different seasonings to create a variety of options. Don't forget the homemade pita chips!

September 17, 2012

Carlty Bryer's Wicked Good Coleslaw


This zesty coleslaw is a refreshing side that always accompanies my dad's ribs and potato salad. It is definitely worth taking an extra few minutes to freshly grate the cabbage and carrots, but you can also make it in 5 minutes with a package of coleslaw. For me, the addition of a chopped granny smith apple is a must.

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September 16, 2012

Hawaiian Ahi Poke




Historically Hawaiian fisherman would slice fresh fish into bite sized pieces (poke) and season it with a little sea salt and seaweed. Nowadays in the Hawaiian Islands you can find hundreds of variations of poke everywhere, from the local grocery store to exclusive restaurants like Nick's Fish Market in Maui. (We had an amazing dinner at Nick's on our honeymoon in 2007 and highly recommend putting that on your "to do" list if you go there on vacation. )

This Ahi Poke recipe exemplifies perfection in simplicity. Simple to make and simply melts in your mouth. Once you have made it you can experiment with other seasonings and fish if you like. And, for my fellow foodie adventurers, celebrity chef Sam Choy holds an annual Poke Contest in Keahou, HI. Check out his facebook page for details.

FYI- Here is an interesting article on what is considered sushi grade, you may be surprised. I get my Ahi in the freezer section at our local HMart.

September 4, 2012

The Best Travel Agent

Our Hawaiian Honeymoon - June, 2007
How many times have you clicked on an internet travel deal only to find that the final price is way more than initially advertised or the dates you need aren't available. Maybe you got a great deal, but missed a few fine print details and your trip was ruined, and you had no one to call to help fix the problem. I have a solution... and her name is Lisa Olson from Simmon's Travel, Inc. I was first introduced to Lisa when she booked a Carnival Cruise trip to Nassau, Bahamas for me and three of my girlfriends. It was on the last night of this cruise that I met my husband Scott. I have been relying on Lisa ever since to book all of our travel needs. She is a well-seasoned travel agent that has the knowledge to customize the perfect vacation based on the criteria you give her. Her customer service and attention to detail are impeccable.

Miami Sunrise Carnival Cruise 04
Beantown Bunch Terminal 3 MIA




















She is the person you want on the phone when you find yourself in a jam, and we have tested that out a few times. Like the time we arrived at the airport for our two-week honeymoon in the Hawaiian islands only to find we left our itinerary (with all of our rentals, reservations and inter-island flights) on the plane. One call to Lisa and a new itinerary arrived at our hotel before we did.

Practicing my new signature on the flight to Oahu, HI
Or the time we arrived at the terminal to find that Scott's briefcase full of student final exams (that needed to be graded by midnight) had been left behind in our car and we ended up missing our flight to Miami for an extended Christmas vacation and a family wedding. We were supposed to pick up a rental car and then grab my parents in Fort Lauderdale and then meet up with my mother-in-law. Well everyone was in Miami but us and the car rental agency (who will remain nameless) was lacking any Christmas spirit... even though we were wiling to just pay for the full week and arrive a day late they wanted to charge us over $2,000 for a whole new reservation... bahumbug! Needless to say I was in tears when I called Lisa this time but her voice, level head, and willingness to help were all it took to put me at ease. While Scott and I worked with AirTran (who were awesome) to get on the next flight out, the following day, Lisa called both of our moms to work out logistics so that they could meet up, grab the rental, and pick us up at the Miami airport the following day. To say she goes above and beyond is an understatement, and because of this I recommend her to all of my friends and family and everyone has loved working with her.

New Year's Eve fireworks at The Biltmore Hotel Miami/ Coral Gables, FL
Red Fish Grille Miami/ Coral Gables, FL
You should know that the only thing Lisa charges for is booking airfare, which is $20 per person. Any other trip planning or booking with cruises or hotels is free of charge. Although she gets a commission from those companies, you never have to worry that she is going base her recommendations on those commissions.

FYI - The other thing I would highly recommend is travel insurance. We use Travel Guard, it is relatively cheap and is a lifesaver if you have to use it... which we have. Scott's professional Sony Alpha camera was stolen in Cancun and the insurance company helped cover it. When DC was shut down for a week due to the epic snow storm in 2010 our "babymoon" (a Carnival Cruise to the Bahamas) was cancelled because but we were able to rebook for March because we had bought the insurance.

Babymoon Carnival Cruise to the Bahamas 2010
On stage playing the Newlywed Game

Whether you are booking as an individual, family, or large group give Lisa a call 1-800-762-4116 or e-mail her at simmonstravel.yahoo.com. Let her do all the work so you can simply kick your heels up and enjoy your trip.
On our oceanfront lanai at Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa, Kailua-Kona, HI

September 2, 2012

Carlty Bryer's Wicked Good Potato Salad


Everyone loves my dad's potato salad. All of the fresh vegetables give it a refreshing crunch. I love it with his famous ribs. I love it with Maine red hotdogs. I love it with my mom's baked beans (Aunt Peg's Baked Bean recipe coming soon). Well, I just love it.

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September 1, 2012

The Best Cooking Method for Wings


Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and slathered in a zesty sauce, that's how I like my wings. I used to think that I needed to fry them in hot oil to achieve this perfection, but after I tried Alton Brown's method, I knew there was a healthier way to get the same results... or even better.



When we are in the mood for going out for wings, one of our favorite places to hit is Buffalo Wild Wings because of their delicious selection of sauces. My husband first found BW3's in Ohio when he was attending Denison University. When he came to the University of Maryland for graduate school, he was missing his beloved wings so much that he mail-ordered the Spicy Garlic sauce online and contacted the company trying to persuade them that College Park was the perfect location to open a new restaurant. Although it didn't happen right away, it was something like 7 years later (Scott now being a Director and Faculty member at UMD), that sure enough a BW3's opened up in CP. Needless to say, Scott likes to think he is the reason for this happening. Did I mention that one of his classes is Communication and Persuasion? :)

Spicy garlic and mango habanero are two of our "go to" BW3 sauces. You can buy the sauces and dry rubs at the restaurant, or online, and with Alton's method you can make restaurant quality wings at home.


Sorry pup, I think these may be too spicy for your sensitive tummy.