fajitas

Poolside

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That picture above was taken in 2005. It was a few weeks after my 25th birthday and a month before I was going to have surgery to repair the ligament in my ankle. (You can read more about that here: Why Wednesday – Why I Don’t Take Things for Granted.) My cousin Anna and I decided to go to Las Vegas. It was the first time either of us had ever been there and it was the beginning of a love of all things Vegas! As a side note, I’ve been to Vegas I think five times now, once with my friend Robyn and the other times with Michael.

When I got engaged last year my cousin Anna and I talked about going to Vegas for a girl’s trip. After most of the wedding plans were taken care of and I got my tax refund, we revisited the topic. We booked a weekend getaway for the beginning of May. I was craving sunshine, umbrella drinks, and girl time.

Robyn's Birthday

We booked a room in the Bally’s Hotel/Casino. In all the times I’ve been to Vegas I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen the Bally’s. I don’t know why, because it’s right in the middle of The Strip (great location!). This trip wasn’t a bachelorette party or anything. I didn’t want the other bridesmaids to feel obligated to spend a lot of money on something like that. Funny enough, after it was booked I found out my friend/coworker Debby was also going to be in Vegas during the same time! Small world.

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Anna and I got Vegas around 9:30am Friday (ugh that was early). It was too early to get our room so we dumped our suitcases at the hotel and decided to walk around The Strip. I forget just how much walking you do in Vegas! You really don’t need to exercise as long as you walk everywhere. I estimate that we did at least a minimum of 5 miles a day –not including the times we got lost inside casinos. 😉

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The Vegas Strip is deceptive–you think “oh that casino isn’t too far, let’s walk!” And before you know it, it’s been an hour and you’re still not there yet. We left Bally’s and walked over to Caesar’s Palace and the Bellagio and then ended up at The Venetian. I LOVE The Venetian and would love to stay there some day. We talked about doing the gondola ride (which wasn’t that expensive) but we decided not to. Some day I will do this. It looks so fun. It was around 82 degrees on Friday — gorgeous, sunny, with a nice breeze that made the heat tolerable.

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When Anna and I went to Vegas oh so many years ago I wanted a picture of myself with Elvis. I was on a mission–and strangely never fulfilled that wish. This time, I got my picture with TWO!! 😀 I love the street performers. They are so awesome. These two guys were sweethearts.


After walking around, gambling a little at The Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace, it had been about 6 hours and we could finally check in to our hotel room. We walked back to the hotel and got our room–which was super dumpy. We’d requested a non-smoking room and when we entered it was like a wall of cigarette smoke (yuck) and the A/C was pretty weak and I also spotted some holes (cigarette burns?) in the sheet on the bed. I called down and we got a different room and it was MUCH better. Smelled great, no holes in the sheets. 😛 Our new room was really nice; the bed was heavenly, the pillows were perfect, the bathroom was huge, the room was really quiet–never once heard revelers in the hallway. I would definitely stay at Bally’s again.

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Anna and I got in our swim suits, packed a bag for the pool and then stopped at the Tequila Bar in Bally’s for a snack. They have $2 Tacos and $2 Margarita for happy hour. The tacos were REALLY delicious! I was surprised at how great they were considering they were only $2 each. I got 2 tacos and Anna got 3 and then we went down to the pool. If you go and get the tacos, get the shredded beef. It was so flavorful and delicious.


The pool was amazing! It was hot and sunny but there were parts of the pool area that had some shade if you wanted it. There was a big pool and then tucked away in the back was a smaller pool. They had cabanas for rent that were covered and have misters on them. There was a DJ playing fun music and the party atmosphere made us giddy.

Anna got a strawberry and basil mojito. I got the coconut mojito. My drink was HEAVENLY (sadly, it was lacking an umbrella, but it was still great) but it was very expensive and lacking in alcohol. 😛 That’s the one thing that irritates me in Vegas–overpriced drinks that don’t even give you a teeny tiny buzz.

We lounged at the pool for about two hours and then decided to go back to the room, clean up and go out. We both wanted to see Fremont Street. Every time I go to Vegas I vow that I will go and never do. We finally did it! We got the 24 hour bus pass (I think it was like $8 or so) and took the bus to Fremont. It was a very crowded bus, took about 30 minutes to get there, but it was easy enough to figure out.


Fremont Street was really fun! I’m glad I finally checked it out. There were tons of people there, lots of street performers, and so many shiny, blinky lights! There was a huge arched screen over the whole street that showed little videos and stuff and there were ziplines above the crowd. We watched as people did the zipline just above our heads. It looked like fun! It was around 9:30pm at this time and we were both hungry.

We ducked into the Golden Nugget–which was actually really pretty–and got dinner at The Cadillac Cantina. It was a cute place despite being a sports bar. Neither of us are tequila fans so Anna got a sangria and I got a glass of wine. Dinner was enchiladas and the food was better than I expected. It was upscale Mexican food that reminded me of some of the yuppie Mexican restaurants here in Portland. 🙂

The Golden Nugget is a pretty hotel and the pool looked fantastic! There were lounge chairs INSIDE the pool, there was a huge shark tank in the middle of the pool that had a slide/tube that you can go down that went inside the shark tank. There were also lots of cute lounges and fire pits. We walked around Fremont Street for a few hours and then took the bus back to the hotel. It was around 12:30am when we called it a night–a know, party animals, aren’t we?! 🙂

Books, Cheese Tasting and Yoga Weekend

You guys, I think I’m finally enjoying yoga. I really like going on Friday nights after work. It’s a good transition from the stressful work week to the weekend. I went again this past Friday and left the class feeling relaxed, stretched out, mellow and happy. I usually set my mat up next to the window so that I can see the sky and trees while I do yoga.

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After yoga I went home for a comfort food dinner of soup and a sandwich then Michael and I got massages. It had been months since the last one (I think January) and it was time. I think my body needed it. My therapist went pretty deep on my trouble spots. I was very very sore the next day in my shoulders. But for once, it wasn’t my hamstrings that were screaming–guess not biking, running or doing the elliptical for awhile has given them a break.

Saturday morning I worked out–the last day of Week 5 of Suzanne’s plan. Starting the final week now! I felt strong and GOOD. Glad I stuck with it. I’m excited to measure and weigh in this week.

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Saturday afternoon we had our friends Mike and Susanna over for dinner. They are the friends we went to Hawaii with. They brought their 5 year old and the new baby! Well, the baby is about 3 months now. He’s a cutie. He’s starting to make some noises and interacting with people. He has an adorable little baby smile. Don’t you just love the way babies smell and sound? The little squeaks and chirps. Adorable!

Michael made fajitas and used a spectacular recipe (Alton Brown’s). I didn’t take any pictures of the final product because I was too busy putting everything together and it’s surprisingly hard to get much done with a 5 year old in the middle of everything. 😉

Grilled Skirt Steak Fajitas

Category: Dinner, Dinner Party, fajitas, fitness, food, Food update, Free Weights, Friends, Marinade, Mexican food, Michael, recipes, Trader Joe's, Weekend Update, weight training, yoga

From: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2008/05/fajitas-1.html

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 4 scallions, washed and cut in half
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons dark-brown sugar or Mexican brown sugar
  • 2 pounds inside skirt steak, cut into 3 equal pieces
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
  • 2 green bell peppers, cut into strips
  • 1 large white onion, cut into strips
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Sour cream
  • Fajita-size flour tortillas

Instructions

  1. Place all marinade ingredients in a blender and puree. Put pieces of skirt steak in a large ziplock bag and pour marinade all over. Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible and allow the steak to marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
  2. Heat 1 chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and start grilling the steak immediately, while the fire is at its hottest. Grill on each side 3-5 minutes. Remove the steak from the grill and wrap in tin foil and allow to rest 10-15 mins.
  3. While the steak is resting, toss the peppers and onion with some olive oil and a pinch of salt. Place a cast iron skillet directly on the hot coals in the grill, and when heated, add in the peppers and onions. Continue to cook until they are soft and nicely browned.
  4. Heat the tortillas on the grill or in the oven until soft. Assemble fajitas with the vegetables, steak, and a bit of sour cream.
http://www.110pounds.com/?p=38064

This recipe is by far the best we’ve had so far. The marinade was amazing! It was smokey and sweet and there was a hint of coffee. Maybe that was from the gluten free soy sauce we used? No clue! This will definitely be the recipe we use in the future!

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The recipe called for red pepper flakes but Michael left those out (because of the 5 year old–probably a good idea) and I bought flat iron steak. It was a great cut of meat and much more tender than flank steak.

On Sunday I had to take Maya and Fat Kitty to the vet for the day. It was time for their annual check up and they were getting their teeth cleaned. It’s included in the wellness plan I signed them both up for (so glad I did! It saves a lot of money on vet costs.). The cats were NOT HAPPY. Maya, as usual, was terrified but Michael and I managed to wrangle her up pretty easily.

Fat Kitty, on the other hand, was the angriest I’ve ever seen him. He was growling like a jaguar, hissing and spitting and biting. He was MAD. He doesn’t like going to the vet but I’ve never seen him this angry before. I dropped them off before going to the pool for a swim. Michael picked them up later that afternoon. Fat Kitty was like a demon-possessed creature. It was really scary and upsetting. 🙁 My poor babies!!!

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Sunday was also my book club meeting. My friends came over to discuss this month’s books, “American Elsewhere.” I don’t want to give too much away about the book but it was good. Several of us thought of Stephen King as we read it. There was a little Stepford Wives-vibe to it as well. My friend Star brought some fruit and I had a cheese tasting!

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I bought a few different kinds of cheeses from Trader Joe’s. They have an excellent cheese selection and it’s often more affordable than Whole Foods. I served the cheese with some Wasa crackers (light rye crackers) and it went perfectly with the strong flavored cheeses I got.

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The Basque Shepherd’s cheese was different than I expected it to be. It wasn’t creamy like I imagined, it was a harder cheese and very strong in flavor. It’s pure sheep’s milk made in France. It had a nutty flavor to it. The cave-aged blue cheese was just as strong as you’d expect. I didn’t serve a lot of it because blue cheese can be so overpowering.

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Oddly enough, the blue cheese was not the one that was the most powerful cheese. The most powerful was the English Cheddar with caramelized onions. I almost didn’t buy it. It seemed odd and I tend to get more “normal” cheese (i.e. nothing added to them, just pure cheese). I am so glad I bought it because it was AMAZING and a total hit of the party. It was pretty much gone by the end.

The cheddar with caramelized onions had a very strong sweet onion aroma and flavor. It was smokey and sweet at the same time. The cheese wasn’t creamy but you could smash it down on a cracker and make it creamy. The flavors were outstanding. Why haven’t I ever had this cheese before?!?! It might be my new favorite (sorry smoked Gouda). The cheddar was such the favorite that no one touched the chevre (goat cheese) that I thought would be the group favorite. I love goat cheese–the creamy milkiness is so decadent–but it didn’t stand up next to the sweet cheddar. Seriously, try this cheese!

QUESTION: Do you incorporate stretching exercises/yoga/pilates into your weekly routine?