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NOLA – Aug 19-22

So, Eric and I spent about 4 days in New Orleans and just got back Sunday night.  I really really enjoyed it.  We stayed in the quarter at this older, historic inn.  We had a huge room with a king size bed that opened onto a courtyard.  It was pretty cool.  The only drawback for someone who travels with food is that there was no fridge or microwave in our room and there was NOTHING I could eat at the continental breakfast.  I had packed packets of gluten free oatmeal but getting hot water and a bowl was such an ordeal that we ended up eating out the other two mornings…finding a breakfast/brunch place with stuff I could eat was difficult and expensive.  Overall we spent a bit more money than we anticipated (mostly on food) but oh well.  Finding healthy options in the quarter was tough but we did…it just ended up that the places with the healthier options were the most expensive places too. But we discovered some cool new restaurants that I didn’t know about.  I do have to admit that I cheated and consumed a FEW BITES of things that I shouldn’t have.  My stomach wasn’t too happy with me the next morning but it was worth it…I never cheat so why not cheat in one of the food capitals of the US!  I had planned to cheat with yogurt mountain on my birthday and never did… famous Brennan’s New Orleans Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce was MUCH more worth the tummy pains 😉 And yes I capitalized AND underlined that dessert…it was that good!  I only had a couple of bites though.  Pre digestive problems, Bread Pudding was my favorite dessert.  I usually tried to eat low fat and calories but if we were ever out at a restaurant and Bread Pudding was on the menu I HAD to have it.  It had been so long and man it was GOOD!!!!

As for pictures… we had so much to do that I didn’t get the time for pics that I wanted.  I’ll get to that later.

As for NOLA…it’s still not the pre-Katrina New Orleans that I loved but it’s made great strides.  The “tent city” that was under I-10 last time I was there is gone and things are overall are cleaned up a bit more.  Furthermore, one of my favorite bars that shut down after the storm has reopened.  Finally!!!  I wish Eric coulda seen it before…but it’s definitely coming back.  Also, I had been hearing about Frenchman St. in the Marigny for a while and we decided to check it out and we weren’t disappointed.  For those of you that don’t know…“the Marigny” is the next neighborhood over to the east from the quarter.  Once you cross Esplanade you are technically in the Marigny.  The quarter is bordered on the west by Canal and on the east by Esplanade.  So Frenchmen St. is sorta like the Bourbon of the Marigny but it’s mostly all locals and local bands…not the cheesy cover bands you hear on Bourbon.  And definitely not the same drunk, redneck 21 year olds draped with beads (despite it NOT being Mardi Gras season) and begging for girls to “show them titties” . 🙂  The Marigny seemed to be full of an interesting mix of cultures and people with an amazing appreciation for music…we heard jazz, swing, and reggae.  The bars were packed.  It was super cool.

The great thing about this trip is that Eric and I can have fun and enjoy being together no matter what the circumstances are…no matter where we are or what the weather’s like!  Sure New Orleans is fun with a group of people, but we also had fun just the two of us.  🙂

So back to my blog challenge:

Day 20 – A Hobby I Have

Hmmmm….I’d hafta say photography is my biggest hobby but there are a few other things I really enjoy that I’d consider hobbies…

Cooking

Blogging

Twittering – can that be a hobby?  Cause I sure do LOVE it!

Day 21 – A Recipe:

While on our trip we ended up not eating alot of traditional Cajun… surprisingly.  Eric had gumbo and red beans and rice at Acme but theirs isn’t very good…they are known for their oysters more than anything.  He had a pretty good po-boy in the Marigny on friday, but he was so hungover that I don’t think he could enjoy it.  I didn’t get to take him to Mother’s 😦 so that’s on our agenda for next trip.  I had really good gumbo at Brennan’s but he didn’t have any.  So last night, as an ode to NOLA and our trip, I made my healthier version of Red Beans and Rice.  It’s a spin off of Emeril’s recipe so you know it’s good!!!  And it’s Vegan too!

Healthy Red Beans and Rice:

1 lb dry red beans – soaked over night (for those that don’t know…make sure you are getting the pkg that says “small red beans” and not kidney beans)

1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice

1 cup chopped bell pepper

1 1/2 cups chopped vidalia onion

1 cup chopped celery

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 can diced tomatoes

3 bay leaves

Chopped fresh parsley

Ground sage

Garlic powder

Ground thyme

Tony’s or other cajun seasoning

Chopped green onion – for topping when serving

Okay here’s what I do…

  1. Put the beans in a pot and cover with water the night before (you can do a “quick soak” per the package but if you have time to do an overnight soak do it).  Just leave the pot sitting on the stove and let the beans soak.
  2. The next morning drain off the soak water, rinse the beans, refill the pot with fresh water and stick in the fridge as you head out to work.
  3. When you get ready to start the dish rinse and drain the beans one more time and cover with fresh water or 1/2 water and 1/2 veggie broth for more flavor.  Turn the temp on high and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and cock the lid but let them simmer pretty hard.
  4. When you put the beans on to cook go ahead and start your rice.  I do my rice in a rice cooker but you can do yours in a pot.  For every cup of rice I use about 2-2 1/2 cups of broth or water.  When making this I use 1/2 water and 1/2 broth.  It gives the rice a great flavor.
  5. Meanwhile, heat a large dutch oven on med heat.
  6. Add EVOO or other oil, garlic and onion and saute a few minutes
  7. Add the celery and bell pepper and saute until the celery is tender – celery takes a bit longer than the other stuff but be patient…you don’t want crunchy celery 🙂
  8. Once the veggies are tender, add the can of tomatoes, bay leaves, parsley, seasonings and a little veggie broth (about 1/2-1 cup).  If you don’t have fresh parsley use dried.  I apologize but I don’t measure ANYTHING usually unless I know I’m going to share the recipe at that time and I try to measure.  Butknow this…I usually lean on the generous side of seasonings so don’t go sparingly with it!  I shake the bottle over the pot a few times then as the dish cooks I taste and add more as needed.  I will tell you that I’m much more generous with the garlic powder, Tony’s and the sage…if you add too much Thyme you can ruin a dish so add and taste carefully with that one.
  9. Check the beans, once they are starting to get tender, add them to the veggies.  I usually keep about 2/3 of the water they have been cooking in and drain the rest off.
  10. Stir all this together, put on the lid, turn up the heat and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce the heat to med or med-low and keep it at a good roaring simmer.  Stir and taste occasionally and add more Tony’s, garlic or sage as needed…I usually add alot more 🙂
  11. Once the broth starts to thicken and it all cooks down a bit, take a potato masher and mash some of the beans then stir well with a big spoon.  I usually try to mash about 1/3 to 1/2 the beans.  The mashed beans mix with the juices and creates that thick, creamy texture we love in traditional red beans and rice 🙂
  12. Keep simmering, stirring, tasting and seasoning until it reaches the flavor and thickness you like!
  13. Serve over rice and top with chopped scallions – this adds great flavor and a freshness to the dish – make sure you don’t skip this part!

**note – soaking over night or for 24 hours helps make beans easier to digest… so for those of you that have digestive issues or usually can’t tolerate beans very well, try doing it this way.  Also, this dish usually only takes about 45 min to an hour – if you have not soaked the beans as long, it will take longer to get them tender.  Make sure they are tender (will smush to the roof of your mouth pretty easily) before you mash them 😉

So that’s it.  Last night I marinated some shrimp in olive oil and Tony’s and put them on skewers and broiled them under the broiler for about 5 minutes – they were awesome but if you’re not eating meat this is a great, hearty dish on it’s own.  Enjoy!!!

Day 22 – A Website

I love all things Wiki!!!  I use Wikipedia so much.  I love google but when I really want lots of info on something I use Wikipedia.  For example…on the way back from NOLA, Eric and I were listening to Damien Marley.  This prompted me to ask about Ziggy Marley and how many kids Bob had. So I looked it up on my Wikipedia app and found out that Bob had 3 biological children but ELEVEN total…8 with women who weren’t his wife.  That prompted us to explore his page further and then we became inquisitive about theRastafari movement so we went and took a gander at their page and found out ALL sorts of interesting things there.  This led to a discussion about different religions in general, differences, similarities, etc.  It was fun.  Wikipedia is awesome!  And for those Debbie Downers out there that say all the info on Wikipedia isn’t necessarily true, I’ll have you know that sometimes I click on the references or also look it up in other places.  :p

I also LOVE www.wikitravel.org

..AND… www.harrypotter.wiki.com and www.harrypotterwiki.org!

If anyone knows of any other awesome wiki-like pages let me know 🙂

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