Kelly the Culinarian: September 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Another Non-Scale Victory

So I'm still trying to reach my goal weight (if I could just stay away from chocolate, it would be a lot easier), but in the meantime, I'm taking the victories where I can.

One of my victories is that running is getting easier. Last night, it was like the skies opened up and the heavens said "Today, Kelly, you shall run, for you are scheduled to run a half marathon in 32 days, so get moving." Or something like that. Even with stopping for traffic, I maintained a pace of 9:03 for five miles, and it even felt good.

Another victory came in the form of a pair of hot little boots last weekend. When the whole boots craze came out, I was pretty much excluded. Everyone gains weight in different places, and apparently, I gain weight in my calves. I couldn't find boots that went over my fat little calves.

Last year, after losing some weight, I finally found a pair of boots that fit, but it was tight and a little uncomfortable. I still bought the boots because I was so excited I could actually zip them up. They were black with high heels and I enjoyed them.

This year, the trend is flat boots. I saw these boots at JCPenney's a couple of weeks ago and made a mental note that I wanted these. When I got a gift card, I decided that if my fat little calves fit into the boots, I was buying them.

I went last Saturday and found out that not only did they fit, but they were big. Big enough to tuck in my jeans or wear leggings. Big enough to make me feel like I'm finally getting small enough.

I will officially be wearing these boots non stop for the next three to six months, just in case you're wondering.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Protein-Packed Pumpkin Snacks

I will leave no pumpkin unturned in my quest to enjoy all things pumpkin. I am on a mission to obliterate all my pumpkin craving pangs, and it's been a tasty adventure. Because there are never enough meals in the day in which to stuff pumpkin, I added pumpkin snacks to my routine. And protein is something I always need more of, so here are some ideas to get the best of both worlds.

Pumpkin Protein Oats
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 Tablespoon Splenda
Dash of pumpkin pie spice
Water, to taste
Combine ingredients and microwave for two minutes. Add water as needed to achieve your preferred consistency.

Pumpkin Yogurt
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons canned pumpkin
1 Tablespoon Splenda
Dash of vanilla extract
Dash of pumpkin pie spice

Combine all ingredients and serve. I like to top my yogurt with oatmeal for testure, but that's optional.

Training Tuesday

After my dismal long run this weekend, I planned to go full force on today's short run so I could feel better mentally about dragging ass through 10 miles and feeling like my joints were going to explode. Alas, the weather had other ideas in mind.

It has now been raining for three days. It hasn't rained constantly, just during every time when I would like to take my regularly scheduled runs. The weather has given me a serious case of the blahs, but I'm trying to take this time to cross train and step back to consider why my run was so crappy.

Monday, I hit the elliptical for an hour and followed up with a brief strength routine. Today, I did Pure Cardio from Insanity. I sweat as much in 40 minutes as I did during my super slow and long run this week, so I consider it a success.

I made it to free yoga last week again, which was killer, again. My shoulder and abs really felt it the next day. I think I'll have to skip out on yoga this weekend in favor of shifting my training schedule to suit some other weekend doings. Oh, how I will miss the burn of yoga!

Up next: hopefully a five miler tomorrow, weather permitting, then a six miler the next day, topped off my an 11 mile long run at some point this week.

Mantra: The faster I run, the faster this will be over with.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Whole Wheat Waffles and a Long Run

After last week's pumpkin pancakes, I figured I should return the favor and make my husband some waffles.

I brought out my trusty Bugs Bunny Waffle Maker and whipped up these beauties.

Whole Wheat Waffles
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 Tablespoons Splenda
1 egg
1 1/2 cups skim milk, room temperature
1/3 cup melted butter

Whisk the wet and dry ingredients together, then combine and mix until incorporated. The batter will remain lumpy. This recipe made five Bugs Bunny waffles, but your mileage will vary based on your cartoon character of choice.

After devouring two of these babies topped with the requisite butter and syrup, I set off on my long run. I was seriously dreading this. We went out last night, so I knew it was going to be a painful, slow process. The sky looked really foreboding as well, and I put off this run for as long as possible.

I decided I'd just get it over with and pretend like I'm enjoying seeing the fall colors and wildlife. I did end up seeing six deer, one which was close enough to touch (but I didn't, of course). It took me a miserable amount of time to finish not quite 10 miles, but at least it's over with.

I finished my long run with stretching, snacking and taking an ice bath, and then spent the balance of today intermittently being lazy and cleaning our office.

Here's hoping the next long run isn't nearly as excruciating.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Pralines

When I was in New Orleans, I left no praline untasted. I loved the sweet flavor of the cooked sugar paired with the crunch and earthy flavor of pecans. While on vacation, I made a mental note to try this one at home.

Today was kind of a slow day after I went to yoga and finished my errands, so I decided to take a whirl at this whole praline business. This would have been much easier if I had a candy thermometer, but instead, I made do with a meat thermometer. Regardless, I went from picking out ingredients to eating in about 20 minutes. But, this recipe requires a specific temperature, so it requires your undivided attention. I'm not sure if this is very authentic, but my husband loved these pralines, so I'm taking that as a ringing endorsement.

Easy Pralines

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup evaporated milk

2 Tablespoons butter

1 cup pecan chips

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Lay out a large piece of parchment paper on your counter. Combine the sugars and evaporate milk in a saucepan, then place over high heat and bring to a boil. Next, add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Cook until the mixture reaches 234 degrees, then stir once and remove from the heat.

Let the combination cool for five minutes. Using a wooden spoon or whisk, beat vigorously for one minute to thicken. I used a small scoop to divide this into equal portions, but it's just as easy to spoon this onto the parchment paper. Let it cool completely, about 10 minutes, if you can wait that long.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Crock Pot White Bean Stew

I love using my crock pot. For our wedding, we got a fancy digital crock pot that automatically goes into the warming phase after the designated time. It's awesome. Throw a bunch of stuff in when I'm getting ready for work, come home to a hot dinner. It's like having an on-staff chef that I don't have to pay. I had a bag of chickpeas to use up, so I whipped up this meal, which fed us for days and days.

Crock Pot White Bean Stew
1 pound chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 onion, diced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 zucchinis, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup turkey stock (use vegetable stock for vegetarian)
1 box of couscous, prepared according to the box
Goat cheese, for topping

Place the drained chickpeas in the crock pot with the onion and half of the oregano. Top with four cups of water and cook on low for five hours.

When I got home, I threw in the zucchini, tomatoes and broth and cooked on high for two hours. I then added the rest of the oregano and some salt and pepper. Serve this over the couscous and top with cheese. This made at least 10 servings and was super cheap.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: PB&B Oats

You know it's fall when it's oatmeal season! But let's be honest, I've been eating oatmeal for months, it's one of my favorite breakfasts. Even more so, I love the peanut butter and bananas combination. As previously stated, I'm a peanut butter monster. So here's the recipe:
1/2 cup instant oats
1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon Splenda
1 Tablespoon peanut butter (preferably organic all-natural .... yum)
1 banana, sliced

Mix the water, oats and Splenda, then microwave for one minute. Stir in the peanut butter, top with bananas and enjoy all the delicious goodness of a morning bowl of oats.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread with Cinnamon Glaze

Pumpkin love continues! I am on a quest to consume all things pumpkin and will not rest until I've devoured it all. Next up on the list is this delicious bread. It ends up looking very fancy and tasting like a bakery treat with very little effort on my part, which makes people think that I'm a real expert. Fools!

I tried something new with the glaze. Instead of powdered sugar and heavy cream, I used Splenda and some cinnamon-flavored coffee creamer I had leftover. It turned out super delicious, so I think I'll try this trick again.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread
Cream cheese filling
1 package light cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Splenda
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Splenda
1 cup Splenda
2 1/2 Tablespoons cinnamon coffee creamer

Mix all the filling items together with a whisk until smooth, then set aside.

Mix the flours, salt and spice together. Then mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs and sugar together until smooth. Add to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Divide half of the batter between two greased loaf pans. Top with half of the cream cheese mixture, then top with the remaining batter. It won't completely cover the cream cheese. Finally use a butter knife to swirl the layers by sticking it down through the layers, then dragging it both left to right and top to bottom.

Bake in a 325-degree oven for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes before removing the loaves from the pan and allow to continue to cool. In the meantime, mix the items for the glaze and top the cooled loaves with it.

Training Tuesday: Big Hit Half Marathon

I'm so psyched for my first half marathon. After my little implosion around mile eight of the Fort2Base Race, I'm being careful with my training plan to adjust according to the challenges I encountered during this 11.5-mile race. Mainly, I was hungry and needed fuel, otherwise, I could have kept going.

I'm not following any predetermined training plan this time because I had about six weeks between Fort2Base and the Big Hit Half. My goal is a sub-two hour half, which is attainable if I can up my speed slightly and maintain my energy level with fuel.

So I started rebuilding my distance with a weekly long run. Sunday, I hit the train for a nine-mile run. It was a long, wet run that I finished with a 9:55 overall pace. I tried fueling with gummy worms this time, which I didn't really enjoy chewing. Next week, I have 10 miles on the agenda, so I'm going to try fig newtons. Yum!

I'm also doing a weekly tempo run, a mid-distance run and elliptical workout, all of increasing distance/time. I hope to keep up one weekly yoga session (for free at lululemon) along with several core and strength-training sessions during the week to make it a little easier on my body to maintain the distance.

Mantra: It doesn't matter how slow I go, I'm still going faster than I was sitting on the couch.

This is Why I Run

Here are my several bags of clothes going to Goodwill. Despite pumpkin love going on full force at my house, I'm still on the weight-loss bandwagon because of running. I'm very close to my goal of losing 20 pounds, which I've been chipping away at since last summer. My weight loss journey is very similar to my running: I'm not very fast, but I am determined.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins

Another perfect day today. I woke up and my husband made my pumpkin spice pancakes. Not only does he understand my obsession, but he encourages it. I've got a keeper.

I pigged out and decided to call this fueling since I had a nine-mile run to knock out this morning. It was a long and wet hour-and-a-half run that I followed up with more pumpkin: Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins. These things rock. A muffin made of pumpkin, stuffed with chopped apple and topped with a sugary, crunchy topping? Yes, please. These are seriously amazing, which is why I froze half so I wouldn't devour a Duggar-sized family serving in a day. I could totally do it, too.
Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins
6 Tablespoons sugar
4 Tablespoons Splenda
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 ounces vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1/8 cup Splenda
2 eggs
2 small gala apples, peeled, cored and chopped

Combine the ingredients for the topping and mix using your hands until all the ingredients are fully incorporated and it resembles wet sand. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix flours, salt and spices, then set aside. Beat together the pumpkin, sugars and eggs until smooth, then add to the dry ingredients along with the apples. Gently fold until just combined.

Spoon the batter into a greased muffin tin and finish off with the prepared topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Don't overcook.

Now, on to find something to eat that isn't pumpkin flavored. This could be difficult.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's Pumpkin Season!

Boy oh boy, it's like foodie blogging Christmas! In case you only check my minuscule corner of the blogging world, the blogosphere is all a tither with the fact that pumpkin season is upon us again.

While I don't much like cold weather, I do love fall. I love pumpkin season, apple season, boot-wearing, sweater-styling weather. In the past 24 hours, I have consumed:

  • A pumpkin spice bagel

  • A pumpkin spice latte (I didn't like it as much as I thought I would)

  • A Shock Top pumpkin wheat beer

  • A decaf coffee with one shot of pumpkin spice (much better)

I have big plans to try the second type of pumpkin beer we bought, O'Fallen pumpkin beer, which is described as a pumpkin pie in a bottle. Yes, please. Today has been the perfect fall day: I started the day with free yoga, then used a groupon at a beauty school for a facial and back treatment. I also met my friend for the aforementioned coffee before taking to my kitchen to get all kinds of pumpkin baking done. I stockpiled pumpkin last year ... and haven't used it all. I have three cans left to consume before I fill the cabinet again with cheap, delicious pumpkin. I relish the challenge. Check back tomorrow to see all the tasty things I made!

I can tell you this, Napoleon is super psyched for pumpkin season.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: Carbalicious Garlic Bread

Before the Fort2Base Race, my lovely friends came over to my house to a pre-race carb fest. The race had a 10 nautical mile portion and a 3 nautical mile portion, and three of my friends from college ran the slightly more than 5K distance. We carbed up with whole-wheat pasta topped with turkey spaghetti sauce. My friend Rachael brought an amazing salad and I served everything alongside this awesome garlic bread, which happened to be really easy.

Whole Wheat Garlic Bread

1 stick of butter, softened

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 Tablespoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning (crush it before adding to release the oils)

1/4 teaspoon paprika

Dash of ground pepper

Roll out the pizza dough into a rectangle, stretching the dough to fit into a baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rest for one hour.

Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients and preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Brush the bread with the butter mixture and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with the butter again, then slice and serve alongside the extra butter and marinara sauce.

Big News: Big Hit Half Marathon a Go!

Now that I've wrapped up the first Fort2Base Race, I'm ready for the next challenge. As they say, every finish line is the beginning of a new start line. I signed up for the Big Hit Half Marathon on Oct. 30 in Louisville, Ky. A few friends and I are road tripping down there and staying at a fancy-pants hotel that I got on priceline. I thought it would be fun to travel to a place we haven't been before. Plus, the weather should be nice there that weekend.

Wish me luck on my first HALF MARATHON!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: I Like My Chicken Fried

But it's a "sometimes" food (PS, do you know the song this title came from?). After the Fort2Base Race, I'm taking a few days off of training, including my training plan eating. It's a good thing, because I received a sample of Kikkoman's Kara-Áge Soy-Ginger Seasoned Coating Mix as part of Foodbuzz's Tastemaker program.

The recipe is pretty simple: take 1 1/4 pounds of chicken and chop it into bite-sized chunks. I dried off the chicken with a paper towel and dumped one of the two seasoning packets into a plastic bag. Just shake to coat, then cook in 1/4 inch of preheated vegetable oil. You know the oil is the right temperature when water bounces around the surface.

This was super quick cooking and I had dinner all together within 10 minutes, which is great since I still have a serious case of runner's hunger. I served this with a side salad, so that cancels out the fried food, right?

It was yummy, but we didn't really taste the soy or ginger. The coating itself is more of a powder than a crumb, so it produces a different type of coating that's not really crunchy, but is a texture I haven't tasted elsewhere. The light-style coating provides a really nice golden color to the end result. We both enjoyed trying this because it's something I wouldn't have purchased myself (mostly because I haven't seen it at ALDI). I'm looking forward to using the second packet of seasoning for shrimp and adding it to a salad.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fort2Base Race Report

After preparing for this race for months, I can't believe it's over with! While Fort2Base paid for my race entry as part of my ambassador relationship, the opinions are 100 percent mine.

The race was Sunday, Sept. 11, starting at Fort Sheridan and ending at Naval Station Great Lakes. The start was at 7 a.m. with packet pick up at the base until 6:30 a.m. The race offered a shuttle from the base with the last one leaving at 6:15 a.m. There was both at 10 nautical mile (11.5 land miles) and a 3 nautical mile (3.45 land miles). My friends ran the 3NM distance and we carb loaded the night before.

I slept really poorly and was up at 4:15 a.m. I had my standard toast with peanut butter, flax and banana, along with water. We rolled out at 5 a.m., which turned out wasn't early enough.

Traffic was really, really bad, backed up leading up to the base for a mile. I actually got out of the car and walked on base, then walked to packet pick up. Well, I didn't walk. I ran to the packet pick up, then ran to the buses. I would have been on the last bus that made it to the start line on time, if the race started on time. Had I known, I would have made the hour drive the day before for packet pick up.

I got to Fort Sheridan around 6:50 a.m. and did gear check, then waited in line for the port-o-potties. There weren't nearly enough. They announced they would start 15 minutes late given the traffic. I was fourth in line for the bathroom when they said they were starting in 1 minute. I debated what I needed more: the port-o-pottie or the pacers. I decided pacers, so lined up next to the 9-minute sign.

The race started off and off we went. I felt awesome the first four miles, then had to concentrate on breathing deep. The course was beautiful, through a nice trail that was shaded. We crossed through the Highland Park train station and back onto the path, then back onto the Navy base. There were tons of volunteers and water stations, along with kids with signs and flags.

For me, everything fell apart somewhere between the eight and 10 mile marks. I was weak, out of breath and in direct sunlight. And I still had to pee. I needed food, and didn't have any. I left the pacers and took a breather until some nice runner told me to buck up and keep going. And I did. Except there was a ridiculous hill at the 10ish that I had to walk up while begging some sailor to carry me to the finish line. Instead, he told me "Ma'am, there are no more hills after this. Keep moving!"

When I finally, finally saw the finish line, I had no idea my time. There weren't any clocks on the course (side note to any family reading this: a Garmin would be nice). I crossed the finish line in 1:45:27, which was just two minutes short of my goal. While the posted time says my pace was 8:57, the math just doesn't work out and I think it was 9:10.

I got a super sweet medal, along with a long-sleeve quarter-zip version of the tech shirt I've been rocking all summer. The only food left when I finished was bananas, which wasn't cutting it. There were sponsors with Cabot Cheese, FRS, Organic Valley Cheese and Kefir. Best Buy was also handing out half bagels. There was one massage/stretch station, but they looked a little feely for my taste.

Alas, after having to pee for two hours, I only saw a single port-o-pottie, so I headed to my mom's house. While she didn't make it to the finish line, my mom was on base for the festivities (how sweet of her!) and made me breakfast after my ice bath soak in my childhood bathroom. Thanks, mom!

Cost: I think $55 for early registration?

Time: 11.5 miles in 1:45:27

Pros: Awesome, mostly shaded course through a place that wouldn't otherwise be accessible (the base), nice post-race party, really impressive finishers medal, nice tech shirt

Cons: Not enough port-o-potties, not enough post-event food, bad traffic flow leading into the base

Would I race it again: Yes

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fort2Base Race is Done!

I didn't make my goal of a 9-minute pace at the first Fort2Base Race, which would have put me at 1:43, but I'm pretty damn happy with my 1:45:27 time, which is a 9:10 pace. I'll have a full race report later, but I finished the race in one piece!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cooking with Kelly: A perfect Asian-inspired dinner

I'm trying to eat lots of protein in the days leading up to the Fort2Base Race (which, BTW, the online registration closes at midnight), along with lots of veggies. Now that we're only three days out, I'm also upping my salt intake so that I can retain a little bit of water. I hope that this will give me a little extra hydration come Sunday.

So tonight, I made one of Tim's favorite meals: The Pampered Chef's turkey wonton purses. Technically speaking, this is an appetizer, but any appetizer can be a meal with a side dish. I added steamed edamame with salt for a protein-packed, slightly salt side dish that doubled as my veggie. Plus, both the wontons and the dipping sauce is made with soy sauce, so more salt. Yum!

I really love this meal, even though it takes a little bit of time to assemble the wontons. The spice is awesome and it manages to be lower calories while super tasty.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Big Weekend

This weekend, I was left to my own devices. So I bought a wash machine.

It really wasn't that simple. When we got back from New Orleans, the machine would agitate, but not spin the clothes dry. So I paid a guy $90 to come over for 20 minutes and tell me it would cost $390 to fix. Instead, I took myself to the store and purchased a machine that was delivered that afternoon for the same price. Winning.

My sister then came over from Purdue and between the two of us, I think we did 10 loads of laundry. The machine might be cheap, but it works.

I made her my whole-wheat pizza and Alton Brown's perfect cookies. We then headed out to see Apollo 18. If you were considering it, let me save you $10: it is a terrible movie that left Katie and I laughing hysterically at completely inappropriate times. The end.

I met a high school friend for brunch Sunday at Walker Brother's Pancake House. The buttermilk pancakes here rock. My mom came over for dinner that day and I made spicy black bean burgers. I'll have to post this recipe sometime soon. They rock.

Finally, on Monday, I had a great 6.5-mile run as I taper for the Fort2Base Race. I picked up Tim from the airport with more freshly-baked Alton Brown Cookies. Alert the committee, my application for Wife of the Year is forthcoming.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

One Week to Fort2Base!

I can't believe the race is almost here! The first Fort2Base Race just a week away from today. I've already been tapering to a certain degree so that I'm fresh and rested on race day. I'm kind of going stir crazy, but I know that nothing I do in these final days will improve my level of fitness or change how I perform on race day in a positive way. Here are my race rules in the week leading up to any race:

  • Get rest. I try to be in bed asleep at 10 p.m.

  • Eat well. I avoid fast, fried and fatty foods along with caffeine, coffee and chocolate. These can give me heartburn and make me sluggish, so I'd like to avoid feeling icky.

  • Nothing new. In the same vein, I eat nothing that's unfamiliar to my system. Now is not the time to try a great new restaurant or fun side dish, because you never know how your body will react.

  • Light exercise. I'll probably run a bit this week but focus more on cross training, including riding my bike, roller blading and using my elliptical.

  • Stretch, stretch, stretch. I stretch before bed every night to stay limber.

  • Water before water and then some more water. My water bottle will be with me permanently for the next week to make sure I'm properly hydrated for the race.

  • Salt. Starting Thursday, pretzels or pickles will be an afternoon snack so that my body holds onto some of the water.

Any pre-race rituals you adhere to?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sweet Saturday: An Ode to Pralines

In New Orleans, pralines are like pizza is in Chicago. I was told that pralines came out of the fact that New Orleans had an abundance of both sugar and pecans and this treat was what came out of the need to use this up. Pralines are like amazing fudge with nuts folded in. In New Orleans, you can get pralines in a variety of flavors: original, creamy, chocolate, dark chocolate rum and more.

I really enjoyed the chocolate pralines at Aunt Sally's Pralines, which I unfortunately didn't get a photo of. I loved, loved the creamy pralines at Southern Candy Makers, which is what is pictured, and yes, I ate it first. It was delicious and creamy and the shop was super cute. They had a million different tasty looking items that I wish I could have tried, but I didn't want to give myself diabetes or some sort of sugar shock.

I can't believe how expensive these things were though. Oh well, it kept me from eating a million pralines, which I totally could have.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What We Ate: New Orleans Edition

The food in the Big Easy was fantastic. I didn't hold back one bit and I'm glad. There was just so much to try! Here are a few of the tasty travels we encountered.

On our first morning, I wanted beignets. Bad. I hear they're what New Orleans is known for and positively heavenly. We went to Cafe Beignet and split an order of beignets and the Creole hash, which was a breakfast platter of scrambled eggs, french bread and fried potato squares with anduille sausage and jalapeno. The beignets were light and pillowy, fried to perfection. I enjoyed them, but essentially, they're just doughnuts without a hole. The hash was tasty and filling.

We also tried Cafe du Monde, which is known for its chicory coffee and beignets. We didn't order beignets there because by the time we got there, it was 900 degrees, plus humidity. The iced coffee was good, but I didn't taste the difference with the chicory.

Next, we had po'boys at Mother's, which is what they're known for. Tim ordered the Famous Ferdi, which is the dish that brought the Travel Channel to this place and is the one I snapped a photo of. I ordered the turkey po'boy, and both were delicious but super filing. That French bread expands in your stomach.

Our favorite place, hands down, was the World Famous N'awlins Cafe. It's an adorable stand in the French Market that serves up authentic cajun food. I ordered the jumbalaya, which contained chicken, shrimp and sausage with a side of French garlic bread. It was heavenly. I didn't even want to share because Tim quickly agreed mine was better. He had the crawfish etouffe, which was tasty, but paled in comparison to my dish. It might not look so hot in that photo, but trust me, it was amazing.

Finally, we ate a sampler platter at the Storyville Restaurant, which is in the French Quarter. This dish let us taste alligator, crawfish pies, meat pies, Creole eggrolls and boudin patties, which are pork, rice and spice patties deep fried. I wasn't a fan. The alligator rocked though.