Nashville

Birthday Feasts

Last Friday, I celebrated my 22nd birthday! The week leading up to it, I had four friends stay with me because it was their spring break. It was great because I got to play tourist in my own city and celebrate my birthday with them as well! I took them to the Country Music Hall of Fame, some iconic Nashville spots, and the Jack Daniels Distillery. And of course, we ate some pretty amazing food. We didn’t eat out every meal so stay tuned for some new recipes I tested on my village people.   10422920_10152832039623237_6489192471436421229_n1620788_10152833828918237_554891954402108823_n 11081135_10152832037508237_301153506368428946_n

Wild Cow

This entirely vegan restaurant in East Nashville is easily one of my favorites (shocking!). Their intricate menu items show just how easy and delicious it can be to go dairy-free and meatless! We shared the nacho and spinach and artichoke dip appetizers. The spinach and artichoke dip got it’s creaminess from cashews rather than pounds of parmesan cheese, mayo, and/or cream cheese. It gave it a rich taste without being too heavy. For my entrée, I got my favorite salad of theirs – the Market Veggie – loaded with fresh vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and topped with their grilled tempeh. It blows my mind how they make such a seemingly simple salad so outrageously tasty.

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Blvd

On St. Patrick’s Day we rented out a backroom in Blvd as an early birthday celebration for myself and my KD little who turned 21 two days before my birthday. We started off with the butternut squash salad, and then I got the quinoa falafel wrap with a side of kale. Everything was extremely tasty and well priced and having the room was a great way to be able to mingle with all of our friends.

20150317-IMG_9903 20150317-IMG_9906 The Row

No visit to the south would be complete without biscuits, and I couldn’t let my village leave without trying some from The Row. Their four homemade jams – tomato, peach, strawberry, and blackberry are a perfect condiment for their flaky, warm biscuits.
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Fido

I can’t believe I’ve never blogged about Fido. Easily my favorite and most frequented breakfast/lunch spot. Their coffee is top notch, their banana nut pancakes are arguably better than Pancake Pantry (gasp!), and their hash browns could end wars (or at least massive hangovers). My go-to’s are the simple eggs (nothing wrong with a classic), the village scramble, or the huevos rancheros. But don’t forget about the baked goods! If you’ve never tried their Sweet Potato White Chocolate Chip muffin, you’re missing out.

20150319-IMG_0894 20150319-IMG_8046 20150319-IMG_5146Wild Ginger

I first visited this place back in May when my dad visited for the weekend, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have dinner with my roommate and her mom on my actual birthday here. We tried the edamame hummus (delicious!) a few new rolls (The R2D2 will definitely be a repeat offender next visit!) and of course I had to get the Amazon roll (shown with the huge shrimp on top) and the key lime pie.

20150320-IMG_0009 Mack and Kate’s

My wonderful friends, Alex and Stacey took me out for an amazing brunch out in Franklin. Alex has been multiple times and hasn’t stopped raving about it since, so I was eager to try it out myself. Our waiter gave above and beyond service with complimentary mini muffins and a huge piece of cake once he found out we were celebrating my birthday! The salad I had was so fresh with big chunks of crab meat, juicy mango pieces, and creamy avocado.

20150321-IMG_0013 20150321-IMG_0014 20150321-IMG_0017Merchants

Saturday night, I went out with my KD little’s family to Merchants downtown. The menu upstairs is drastically different than the one downstairs so I was excited to try new things. My favorite appetizer was their tuna tartare because it had olives and capers mixed right in, giving a new twist on the classic. My dinner was the roasted cauliflower salad with pine nuts and golden raisins, which made for a delicious dish with interesting combinations of flavors and textures.

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So unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures, but probably because I was so overwhelmed by the amount of different menu items we all tried as a group. We literally ordered every appetizer and every side dish and each one was better than the next. My favorites were definitely the grilled octopus with avocado and peanuts and the stewed swiss chard. Fun fact – it’s the first time I’ve ever liked octopus!

Marche Brunch

Marche is the sister restaurant of Margot Cafe, my absolute favorite restaurant (which is something I don’t say lightly!). Naturally, I had to check Margot’s relative, and since brunch is my favorite meal of the day, I figured it would be an instant hit. My roommate and I went over the summer, but with my crazy schedule there are a ton of restaurants and cities I’ve been wanting to post about but time got away from me. Now I’m hoping to incorporate some #TBT posts to make up for that!

Back to brunch. Like Margot, Marche utilizes local, seasonal ingredients in its dishes. My roommate and I started off with the Fruit Tartine appetizer, which featured the famous Peach Truck peaches (if you’ve never had them, then I’d argue that you’ve never really eaten a peach!). For our entrées, she got their classic Almond Croissant French Toast and I had a ratatouille dish topped with over easy eggs. Of course we swapped to test taste, and it was the perfect sweet and savory brunch combo! Can’t wait to go back to this quaint french bistro sometime soon!

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Restaurant Week: Yellow Porch

Restaurant Week came at an excellent time this August because it coincided with Vandy’s first week back. The night before classes started, I had my first sorority family dinner of the semester at Yellow Porch. I had heard great things about this place before, and since there were great specials for Restaurant Week, I figured it’d be the perfect chance to try it out.

I opted for the Paella and Bananas Foster White Chocolate Bread Pudding. While the paella, didn’t quite measure up to the one I ate in Barcelona (I mean, really, will anything be able to???), it was still delicious nonetheless and had a great variety of seafood. As for the bread pudding, there are simply no words that would give this dessert the credit it deserves. It combined my favorite flavors into one delectable package. Imagine bananas foster in an ultra moist and gooey cake form smothered in a rich caramel sauce.

*Cue drooling*

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Snack Attack

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend and she wanted to know if I snack/what my favorite ones were. Personally, I survive on snacks. I feel like a majority of the time, I just snack throughout the day instead of having 3 larger meals. Below are a list of some of my staples – some may seem a little out there but give them a chance!

1. Quest bars

I honestly have at least one of these daily, whether it’s a quick breakfast on the go or post-workout snack, these are my lifelines. You can even try heating them up in the microwave for 5-7 seconds for a treat! My personal favorite flavors are Strawberry Cheesecake, Coconut Cashew, Lemon Creme Pie, Banana Nut Muffin, and Cinnamon Bun. For you chocolate lovers, they also have the super popular, Cookies and Cream. With no added sugar, 20g of protein, and less than 200 calories, you can’t go wrong.

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2. Cucumbers and Dijon Mustard

I add cucumbers to EVERYTHING – water, vodka, juices, etc. Cucumbers are just so refreshing, especially in this southern heat. The mustard adds tanginess without very few to no calories per serving. 

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3. Coconut Chia Fresca

As y’all may have read in my chia seed pudding post, chia seeds absorb ten times their weight creating a gel like consistency. Adding just a tablespoon of chia seeds to coconut water, and letting it chill in the fridge for 10-20 minutes, is the perfect mid-afternoon pick me up. Coconut water has a ton of electrolytes and is a great source of potassium, while the chia seeds add omega-3s, fiber, and protein.

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4. Carrots and Salsa

I’m a HUGE salsa fan. I add it to everything from omelets to salads. Of course, it’s most often enjoyed with tortilla chips, but whoever has just one serving of tortilla chips? That’s why I started eating it with carrots instead – bonus points if you get the chip shaped carrots to maximize the salsa to carrot ratio. Also goes great with cucumbers (obviously), bell peppers, and broccoli. 

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5. Almond Butter (with fruit, vegetables, or a spoon…)

So I kind of loveeeee almond butter, incase you didn’t catch that. I used to be an avid peanut butter lover, but now I can’t get enough of this stuff. It’s generally naturally sweeter than it’s peanut counterpart, and it contains more magnesium, vitamin E, calcium, and iron. You can generally substitute almond butter for anything you would ordinarily use peanut butter for. Some of my favorite snack options are apples, strawberries, frozen raspberries (the frozen ones hold up better for dipping), and bell peppers (think asian stir-fry). If you are really feeling adventurous, sunbutter (sunflower seed spread) is also a new favorite of mine.

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6. Lentil Chips and Hummus

No snack list would be complete without hummus. Lentil chips are a great alternative to pita chips because they are lower in calories and fat, and higher in fiber and protein. *bonus* The hummus pictured is the cucumber mint one from Hummus Chick – definitely my new fav! Tastes just like tzatziki sauce but much healthier!

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7. Avocado and Lemon Pepper

Few things beat a ripe avocado. Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper seasoning is the perfect addition to a plain avocado for a quick snack. Slice one in half, sprinkle on some seasoning, grab a fork, and enjoy! Also try adding a squeeze of lemon, sunflower seeds, or goat cheese.

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8. Chia Bars

This was a recent discovery at my new favorite spot, Turnip Truck. They are the perfect, portable, bite-sized treat and come in a wide variety of flavors. My personal favorite? Coconut or Banana Nut for sure. 

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9. Dried Chickpeas

These oven-baked legumes are perfect by the handful or with tomatoes and cucumbers for a light Mediterranean salad. They are great sub for croutons in salads and soups! Similarly, dried edamame are another option for a salty, crunchy, high protein snack. I also love mixing the edamame with some dried cranberries to add a touch of sweetness. 

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10. Coconut Cashews

Trader Joe’s makes coconut crusted cashews and they may or may not be the most addicting things on the planet. Proceed with caution! This is when it’s not smart to bring the whole bag to the couch with you… 

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11. Roasted Seaweed

 

Seaweed snacks are slightly crunchy, slightly chewy, mild tasting seaweed based snacks. They are super low in calories (just 25 calories a serving!) I suggest topping them with hummus, sriracha, or an asian salad dressing.

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12. Kale Chips

Homemade oven-baked kale chips are super quick and easy to make, not to mention have significantly less fat and calories than the store-bought kind. Spread out roughly cut kale pieces on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray (olive oil spray or coconut oil spray is perfect for this!). Season with salt and pepper or get creative with spices like curry! Bake at 375 for 10 minutes or less and voila!

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13. Baked Snap Peas

These snacks are super light and airy and taste great with a quick homemade peanut sauce (powdered PB with your favorite low cal asian dressing) or simply by the handful of course 🙂

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 14. Cold Press Juices

Adios froyo, juice is the new trendy snack in town. Juice bars are popping up everywhere – even Sweet CeCe’s in Hillsboro village added a juice bar (which is delicious by the way). Juice Nashville in the gulch is probably the one I frequent most due to its convenience. Make sure to stop by and try their summer flavors, which are my personal favorite! IMG_5961

 

The Southern: Boozy Brunch Edition

No weekend adventure is complete without a proper boozy brunch to recap the previous nights’ events. Last weekend, I graced The Southern in South Broadway with my presence to see how their bellinis stacked up to the competition. The Park, in the meatpacking district of NYC held the official title for World’s Greatest Bellini. I’m sad to say that The Southern wasn’t able to steal the spotlight on this one. However, their blood orange mimosas definitely gave The Park a run for their money. They also had arguably the greatest biscuits I’ve had since moving to Nashville (sorry Loveless, better luck next time). While admittedly it’s hard to mess up biscuits (if Vanderbilt dining can bake a decent one, how hard could it be?), The Southern took theirs to a whole other level of flaky goodness.

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left: bellini, right: blood orange mimosa, center: drooool

For the actual meal, I went the lunch route and had a great salad with an even better name: “Bless Your Heart.” Since I love to create and cook my own meals, I have become pickier when I go out to eat. My favorite salads are the ones that have ingredients I wouldn’t usually buy for myself. This one certainly measured up as it was chock full of hearts of palm, beets, artichokes, roasted cauliflower, pumpkin seeds, and goat cheese. The combination of flavors and textures made for a picture perfect salad to accompany the quintessential weekend brunch.

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“Bless Your Heart” salad with a Bloody Mary on the side. Pro Tip: Don’t order the Bloody Mary unless drinking straight black pepper is your thing…

 

The Listening Room Cafe

The Nashville live music never ceases to amaze me. Last night was no exception as I ventured over to The Listening Room Cafe for the first time to see a writer’s round with Stephen Salyers, Two Story Road, Johnny Bulford, and last but certainly not least, Megan Conner, the amazing singer/songwriter/producer/personal trainer (seriously what doesn’t she do!?). I had the pleasure of watching these talented songwriters perform their personal songs, many of which have been recorded by the likes of Chris Young, Lee Brice, and Rascal Flatts!

The Listening Room Cafe has live music nightly, bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Marys during their weekend brunch, and although we didn’t order any food last night, every dish that walked by smelled and looked delicious, so I definitely look forward to going back soon!

Below are some clips I shot last night (sorry for the poor iPhone quality), but I bet they will entice you to check out these artists and visit The Listening Room Cafe ASAP!

Not Another Memorial Day Weekend BBQ

This past weekend was the unofficial start to summer, and I was lucky enough to get to spend it with my dad who came down to visit. While in the past Memorial Day Weekend was filled with BBQs, beach time, and pool lounging, I was happy for a change of venue this year. We I made  a very detailed itinerary for the weekend so we could fit in as much as possible in a short few days. Fortunately, the weather cooperated with us and we were able to visit a majority of the places we had planned.

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On Friday, we had a late dinner at Margot Cafe, my absolute favorite restaurant in Nashville. We shared a basil, grapefruit, fennel and anchovy salad appetizer, and I had the soft shell crab special for my entrée. It was the first time I had ever tried soft shell crab, and it was absolutely incredible! It’s meals like these when I get sad that they change their menu daily.

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Saturday morning, my dad and I rented bikes and rode around 12 South, the Gulch, Broadway, and Germantown. In high school, on Sundays when I didn’t have cross country practice, my dad and I would bike along this 10 mile trail near our house, so it was nice to be able to do something similar with him this weekend. We took a lunch break at the Farmer’s Market where he got a BBQ plate and I had crawfish (so southern!) and a cold-pressed juice from Beach Bums. We went back later that day to buy produce that we couldn’t carry while biking, and I bought some of the best peaches and yellow tomatoes I’d ever had! Can’t wait to go there more this summer!

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Later that evening, I took my dad for pre-dinner drinks at Patterson House where I got my favorite drink of all time, the “Juliet and Romeo” which consists of gin, muddled cucumber and mint, and rosewater. My dad got a sweet whiskey drink with a pineapple liquor made in house (I may have had some influence on his drink decision…). Dinner was at Wild Ginger, an Asian fusion restaurant in Franklin. They had the most unique sushi rolls ever – wow! I needed to take 2-3 bites per roll, and they were topped with pesto, various aiolis, balsamic, and other sweet and spicy sauces! My favrite was the Amazon which had asparagus, avocado, ebi, crab, crunch, and was topped with guacamole, dynamite scallop, rice pearl dusted shrimp, alfalfa sprouts. By the end I was a super happy camper in an intense sushi coma.

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Counterclockwise starting from top left: The Amazon (my favorite), Cobra, Water-Lily, October Sky, and lastly, we splurged on key lime pie with a macadamia nut crust

The next morning we got up early to hike at Percy Warner Park. This has been on my personal bucket list for a while, and I can assure y’all I will be back very soon! Despite how confusing it was to find the entrance and our slight “detour” during the hike, I would say it was a success. We brought my friend, Stacey, and my dog, Lilly along for the fun. Little Lilly showed no signs of slowing down, even at the bitter end!

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After the hike, we headed over to 12 South for Burger Up and Jeni’s. To say my dad is a fan of bison burgers would be a huge understatement, and even so, he claimed that Burger Up’s bison burger was by far the best he’d ever had! Success! I opted for their quinoa and black bean veggie burger on top of their beet salad, which included arugula, crushed pistachios, apples, cucumbers, and avocado. Having made veggie burgers myself, I have no idea how they get their veggie burgers so crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, but I would LOVE to know their secret (or at least be able to buy them in bulk and freeze them!)

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On actual Memorial Day, we headed to Broadway for some day drinking. Who knew Rippy’s actually had such amazing drinks?! My dad got the Spiked Sweet Tea Lemonade and I had the Yeehaw which had sweet tea vodka, coconut rum, peach schnapps, lemonade and sprite. It had the perfect amount of sweetness and tanginess.

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Before his trip officially came to an end, per his request we went to Pancake Pantry in Hillsboro. I felt like I was on carb-overload from the weekend, so I decided to be adventurous and try a breakfast wrap. I created my own with egg whites, peppers, mushrooms, and salsa. The wrap itself was also so flavorful with lots of herbs baked right in. My dad got the pecan pancakes which were good, but way too sweet for my taste. I prefer the blueberry or peach ones, but I was also excited to discover that there is more to Pancake Pantry than just pancakes! Perfect way to end a wonderful father-daughter weekend adventure!IMG_4440IMG_4439

Hope y’all get to check out some of these places soon! Happy Friday!

 

 

Ch-ch-ch-chia…

Lately there’s been quite a lot of buzz around chia seeds in the health food community. They are mysterious, nutritious tiny seeds filled with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein that somehow absorb nearly ten times their weight in liquid to form a gel-like consistency. Personally, I love the texture, it’s not quite as solid as Jell-O, but more substantial than pure liquid. It adds thickness to smoothies and juices and can even be placed in water or coconut water for a refreshing post-workout drink. It only takes about 10 minutes for the gel to form in 8 oz of liquid. Some coconut chia water was a great way to end my almost 5 mile walk with Lilly today when we walked around and did shopping in 12th South in Nashville.IMG_3521

Another one of my favorite ways to use chia seeds is to make pudding. It’s a great breakfast, snack, or dessert! I love to make a big batch and store it in a mason jar to eat all week.

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IMG_3518Ingredients
makes 2-3 servings

2 cups almond milk
5-6 tbsp chia seeds (depending on how thick you want it)
Optional: cinnamon, vanilla extract (I bought an amazing one at Savory Spice in Franklin, agave (or your choice sweetener), protein powder (my favorite is Perfect Fit Vanilla)

Directions
1. Put all ingredients except the milk in a mason jar (or air-tight container).
2. Pour in milk and fill to the top.
3. Stir vigorously (you might want to do this in or near the sink because it might get messy).
4. Seal and store in the fridge overnight for the best consistency.
5. Top with fresh fruit, nuts, or extra cinnamon and enjoy!

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Husk: A Twist on Typical Southern Food

A few weeks back my little sister in KD ran the Country Music Half Marathon. Despite battling knee injuries throughout the year, she finished strong and smiling! To celebrate, the family and I went to brunch at Husk, a great Southern restaurant just south of Broadway in Downtown Nashville. But this isn’t your typical grits and fried chicken joint. Husk transforms traditional local southern ingredients into unique dishes. Oh, and did I mention that the menu changes TWICE daily?! This ensures the freshest ingredients are used and keeps things interesting.

 

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In a recent Nashville Scene article, they listed the 12 dishes that define “New Nashville,” which describes the sophisticated shift in the restaurant scene in the last 5-7 years. Their first dish of the magazine piece was the Vegetable Plate at Husk. Of course, being a pescatarian, I was very intrigued, but before you meat-lovers write it off, hear me out. The Vegetable Plate is served on a tree trunk disk, yes you heard me, a big round tree trunk disk. The trunk hosts 4-5 hearty bowls of unique vegetarian-based farm to fork style dishes from local vendors. As I mentioned earlier, this changes twice daily. While, the Vegetable Plate entrée itself is offered daily, the accompanying dishes change. it’s a great way to try to a variety of the chefs’ daily specials at once.

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Before I go into detail about my Vegetable Plate, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing, freshly baked honey sesame rolls served in a mini cast-iron dish – buttery, melt-in-your-mouth kind of good! We also splurged and ordered an appetizer of calas, which are essentially a fusion of rice balls and beignets. The chewy, sticky sweet rice is covered in a light dough and dusted with powdered sugar. Definitely felt like more of a dessert, but hey, sometimes you need dessert first!

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Now onto the main event. My Vegetable Plate consisted of a butter bean and farro succotash, savory tomato basil grits with a perfectly poached egg, sautéed mushroom medley, and pan-fried turnips. My favorite one would have to be the grits. While I’m not usually a grit lover due to the texture, the fresh tomatoes and runny, bright yellow yolk combine to make the ultimate sauce. Next up, the succotash was light yet filling and I absolutely loved the creamy butter beans. Mushrooms are a staple in my diet, so I really enjoyed trying the different varieties, especially the oyster ones! Last, but not least, the turnips were delicious, but nothing special. To borrow the words of a Food Network critic, it did nothing to transform the dish. Nevertheless I left happy and satisfied! Can’t wait to go back again soon.

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Cinco de Mayo Weekend Adventures and Fajita Recipe!

This weekend marked the official start to Summer Break 2014. Since this was the first time my roommate and I were staying in Nashville for the summer, she said that we had to do something big to signify the transition to summer. Well, she will be gallivanting around Europe for the next month, but I think I did a pretty decent job of celebrating right here in Nashville!

After finals ended on Thursday, I went out for drinks with a few friends at the Music City Tippler. Not quite on par with Patterson House but I certainly enjoyed my drinks. I was shocked to see Jell-O shots on the menu at such a classy bar but these definitely were not your run of the mill red, orange, yellow, green ones at college parties. I’d have to say my favorite was their special Jell-O shot of the day, which was Hibiscus Cosmo flavored. We continued the night exploring some fun new bars (even spotted some of the cast of Nashville, including Chris Carmackswoon).

Tippler Jell-O Shot

Sunday, Saint Anejo had a margarita festival, which was such a blast! It was a huge street party on the M Street restaurant block in the gulch. They had a photo area, live music, Mexican street food, and tequila tasting. The food and drink highlights were the crab guacamole and the Milagro Añejo tequila from the tasting. I swear the shot did not burn at all it was incredible. Apparently it’s because it’s been aged in oak barrels for 18 months. I had never heard about aging tequila before so it was a nice lesson for my newly 21 year old self.

Crab Guacamole

Crab Guacamole

Having fun at the photo booth

Having fun at the photo booth

Making new friends

Making new friends

the best souvenir

Posing with the best souvenir

For actual Cinco de Mayo, a friend of mine came over and we made shrimp and veggie fajitas that were out of this world. After having the best veggie fajitas of my life at Rosepepper Cantina last month, I was determined to perfect my own, and the recipe is below. We used shrimp, portobello mushrooms, shallots, peppers, black beans and tomatoes, but you easily substitute your favorite proteins and veggies.

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Shrimp and Veggie Fajitas

Ingredients
TJ
Frozen Wild Argentinean Shrimp (my absolute favorite!)
Assorted sliced veggies: portobello mushrooms, mixed bell peppers, onions/shallots, tomatoes
1 cup black beans
Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice (see recipe below)
Assorted spices: Medium Chili Powder (from Savory Spice in Franklin, but can be substituted for cayenne pepper, paprika, and Mexican oregano), cumin, and cilantro
1-2 tbsp lime juice
TJ Reduced Carb Whole Wheat Tortillas
Optional: guacamole and salsa for topping

Directions
1. Defrost shrimp by soaking in cold water for about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat veggies on a skillet with cooking spray and spices on medium heat until soft and translucent.
3. Combine defrosted shrimp, cilantro, lime juice, and cayenne pepper or chili powder in a small bowl.
4. Transfer to a separate skillet and cook until pink.
5. Add cooked shrimp and black beans to the veggie skillet. Stir and add additional spices and lime juice if necessary.
6. Heat tortillas on a small skillet with cooking spray on each side for about 30 seconds to a minute.
7. Serve with cauliflower rice, guacamole, and salsa.

Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice

Ingredients
2-3 cups of cauliflower florets
2-4 tbsp lime juice
1-2 tbsp fresh cilantro

Directions
1. Pulse the florets 1 cup at a time on a low setting in a food processor (I used Variable 4 on my Vitamix) or alternatively I’ve heard that you grate them with a cheese grater.
2. Add the cauliflower “rice” to a pan with lime juice and cilantro
3. Cook for 5-10 minutes on medium/medium-high heat

**This works as a great substitute for rice anywhere and you can make a ton of variations. So far I’ve substituted olive oil and rosemary for a more traditional, savory rice, and used sesame oil, coconut aminos (or soy sauce), and ginger for the base of an Asian “fried” rice. Please let me know if you use it another fun way!

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Cheers to a great Cinco de Mayo and the start to a fantastic summer!