Alaska Trip, Day 2

The second day of our cruise was spent at sea.  One of the first things we got to do was a lifeboat drill in our life vest, so attractive.

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Here is a picture of the main dining room and a cooking demonstration they had by the Executive Chef onboard. 

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We went to see the Hubbard Glacier, which was amazing!  I was awestruck as we heard the crackling of the chunks breaking off and falling into the ocean, and getting to actually see some of them was really cool.  If you ever get a chance to see a glacier, do it!  The food was amazing, they even had a vegetarian menu in the main dining room.  K and I took the day to check out the ship, did a little work out in the gym (mainly just ran on the treadmill which looked out over the front of the ship).  Its pretty cool to work out with a view of the ocean.  Here are some of the pictures. 

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A chunk falling off, and the chunk:

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We also passed  a glacier in the distance, really cool!

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Alaska Day 1

Two summers ago, my husbands family decided to get together and have a little family reunion cruise to Alaska.  It was amazing, seven days of water, fun, a great ship, and excursions, not to mention food, food, some exercise, more food, a midnight chocolate buffet, and time spent with family!  We took a lot of pictures, so I will share just a day or two at a time.  Here are some pictures of the first travel day, we took a bus from Anchorage to the ship (about 2 hours away) and we got to stop by an animal conservation and were able to take some pictures of the animals. 

5am, waiting for the bus to the airport in Phoenix, hiya from the plane, and one of the mountains over Seattle:

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Next, the Animal Conservation Center.  We saw deer, reindeer, moose, buffalo, bears, and even a porcupine!

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That last one was a little itchy!  We were there around molting season. 

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And finally, the musk ox (I believe), straight out of Star Wars (?), and then back on the bus.

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More puppy pictures

As hiking time is drawing near, I was looking back at some of our adventures with our dog, Dax.  She loves to play in the water, as long as she doesn’t have to swim, she just loves getting her feet wet, and then splashing us!  Here is one of the hikes we did a couple of years ago. 

We were about 10 minutes into our hike when we came upon this tree with an enourmous growth on the side, not sure what it was, but someone thought it was cool, they put a bench right in front of it, great for picture taking. 

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Next, we came upon the water!  Yeah! 

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and more water play…

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What a fun hike and “swim”, but always glad to be back at home:

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Banana Bread – the good and the ooh, not good!

I had the house to myself on Thursday night, so I decided to make some banana bread.  I have a couple of variations that I like and I couldn’t decide which one to make, so I pulled out my mini loaf pans and decided to make all of them.  Well, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, I came up with a few more variations to try and had enough pans, so I ended up making 7 little banana breads of varying flavors.  Today I will share with you the variations on a chocolate theme. only 3 kinds here.  I started out with my basic chocolate banana bread, which I love, then went on to the chocolate raspberry, but I didn’t have any, so I used frozed mixed berries and ended up with chocolate kumquat.  Well, oranges and chocolate go well, bananas and oranges go pretty good, well chocolate, bananas and kumquats do NOT go well together.  It looked really good, but did not taste good.  Its not gross, I could finish it (I’m really glad that it was a mini loaf!), but I’m not sure that I will.  I will try it one more time just to see if my tastebuds were craving something else, but I’m sure it will just confirm that it didn’t work.  Good thought though.  Here is some pix to walk you through the recipe.  The full recipe is at the end of the post.

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Making the soy buttermilk, mixing together the dry ingredients, cocoa, nuts, chips and spices.

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Final stir of dry ingredients.  Mixing the egg replacer until frothy, adding the prune puree and applesauce.

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add the sweet, measuring the bananas in a zip top bag, mash, incorporate the wet into the dry.

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mix ins, the loaves before baking, and just out of the oven.

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With berries, with carob chips, all three loaves, cooling before packaging and labeling.  Just put in a zip top bag or put a layer of aluminum foil around the plastic wrap and these will keep for about 3 months in the freezer. 

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Chocolate Banana Bread with Kumquats

I don’t recommend this one, but I think that next time I will just replace some of the soy milk with a little orange juice to get that orange flavor I was looking for. 

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Chocolate Banana Bread with Berries

The recipe on this one differed a little from what I actually did.  Next time, I would add the berries to the dry ingredients before adding the wet.  This one tastes great, a nice berry flavor without being totally overpowering.   This one does take longer to bake, which I didn’t realize until I cut it open and saw the nice section of not quite cooked dough towards the top.  It still tastes good though!

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Chocolate Banana Bread with Carob Chips

This one is still my favorite.  You can use dairy free chocolate chips if you like, carob chips are just a little better for you overall (less saturated fat!).  

All of these (except the kumquats) taste great with a little peanut (or almond) butter on it, maybe a little squeeze of agave nectar (or honey), even a little jelly is good.  Here are the two recipes:

Chocolate Banana Bread

Make this bread in a Silicone Loaf or muffin pan, it comes out clean every time!

Prep Time: 25 minutes Cooking Time: 60 minutes Servings: makes 1 loaf or 18 muffins

1 cup soy milk

1 TBSP lemon juice

1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour

¾ cup unbleached spelt flour

¼ cup fat free cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/8 tsp salt

½ cup walnuts, chopped (opt)

¼ cup chocolate chips (opt)

1 ½ TBSP egg replacer

1/3 cup warm water

1/3 cup prune puree*

¼ cup applesauce

¾ cup mashed ripe bananas

1/3 cup sugar

1 TBSP vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Place the soy milk in a cup, add the lemon juice & mix well. Set aside. This will thicken as it sits, making a soy buttermilk.

  3. Mix the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon & salt in a large bowl. Stir in the walnut pieces & chocolate chips & set aside.

  4. Whisk together the egg replacer & water until frothy. Mix in the prune puree, applesauce, bananas & sugar to the egg replacer mixture. Add the vanilla & milk mixture & mix again. Pour into the dry ingredients & stir just until combined. Do not over-beat, it will make the bread tough.

  5. Pour into a non-stick 9X5“ loaf pan. Bake for 60 minutes.

Tip: When made in a silicone pan, just flex the sides & invert onto a wire cooling rack. You can use pecans instead of walnuts. You can also make these into muffins, just cut cooking time to 30 minutes.

* Prune Puree

5 prunes

½ cup water

  1. Puree together. It will be about the consistency of applesauce. If its a little runnier, that’s fine. Use as a fat replacer (instead of oil, half of what a recipe calls for. If a recipe calls for ¼ cup oil, use 2 TBSP prune puree).

Chocolate Mixed Berry Banana Bread

Make this bread in a Silicone Loaf or muffin pan, it comes out clean every time!

Prep Time: 25 minutes Cooking Time: 60 minutes Servings: makes 1 loaf or 18 muffins

1 cup soy milk

1 TBSP lemon juice

1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour

¾ cup spelt flour

¼ cup fat free cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/8 tsp salt

½ cup walnuts (or pecans), chopped, opt.

¼ cup carob chips (or vegan chocolate chips), opt.

1/3 cup prune puree*

¾ cup mashed ripe bananas

1/3 cup sugar

1 ½ TBSP egg replacer

1/3 cup warm water

1 TBSP vanilla

1 cup fresh or frozen mixed berries

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Place the soy milk in a cup, add the lemon juice & mix well. Set aside. This will thicken as it sits, creating a soy buttermilk.

  3. Mix the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon & salt in a large bowl. Stir in the walnut pieces & chocolate chips & set aside.

  4. Whisk together the egg replacer & water until frothy. Mix in the prune puree, bananas & sugar to the egg replacer mixture. Add the vanilla & milk mixture & mix again.

  5. Lightly fold in the berries into the flour mixture, then pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture & stir just until combined, being carefully not to break up the berries. Do not over-beat, it will make the bread tough. Pour into a non-stick 9X5“ loaf pan. Bake for 60-75 minutes.

Tip: When made in a silicone pan, just flex the sides & invert onto a wire cooling rack. Try pecans instead of walnuts. You can also make these into muffins or bake in mini muffin pans, but cut cooking time to 30-40 minutes.

Cucumber Sandwiches

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This has to be one of our favorite sandwiches.  When we were still living in Tuscon, AZ, we had a Safeway down the street (okay, so down the street equals 3 miles away) that had a deli section that made their own sandwiches.  My husband got one after a warm summer day and was hooked.  It is such a refreshing sandwich, crisp and clean tasting.  We take the ingredients with us when we go camping, all you need is a little cooler.  One year, we went camping in Colorado and I can remember pulling off the side of the road where there was a dirt/grassy area and we made this sandwiches and ate them on the side of the road. 

We have been playing with what we put on it, and have finally figured what our favorite things are.  We still substitute what we put on it a little, depending on what we have on hand, but this is the base recipe:

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Cucumber Sandwiches

This sandwich can be a little messy to eat (not everything always wants to stay on the sandwich), but it all makes good finger food! A filling, yet light sandwich, that is chock full of nutrients & vitamins to keep you going strong. 

Preparation Time: 20 minutes Cooking Time: 0 minutes Serves: 2

4 slices whole grain bread (I recommend Ezekiel Bread)

¼ cup soy cream cheese at room temperature

¼ cup avocado

¼ cup yellow mustard

¼ cup cucumber, shaved

¼ cup carrot, shaved

¼ cup pickled onions

¼ cup roasted red bell pepper (or you can use a raw bell pepper, thinly sliced)

¼ cup sprouts

¼ cup spinach leaves or Romaine (optional)

2 pepperoncini’s, sliced (optional), or serve on the side

  1. Toast the bread (optional), then spread 2 TBSP of soy cream cheese, avocado & mustard on each sandwich.

  2. With a vegetable peeler, shave thin sliced of the cucumber & carrot & divide between the sandwiches.

  3. Top with the onions, bell pepper, sprouts & pepperoncinis (if using).

  4. Serve with sweet cherry peppers or peppadews & pretzel or pita chips on the side.

 Tip: You can also make these into wraps, or even a salad, just put everything over a salad. 

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Spotlight on Kumquats

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Kumquats, also called kinkan, are cute little citrus fruits that you can pop in your mouth skin, seeds and all. They grow on trees under water! and produce 20 to 40 fruit a year and the fruit is often found floating near the shore during the growing season.  Kumquats originated in China, then spread to Japan, Europe and finally North America.  Kumquats look like miniature oranges in an oval shape.  They range in color from yellow to red and are in season from late fall to mid-winter.  They are usually sold by the pound ($5.59 a pound here at my health food store), but they don’t weigh much.  The bunch I got from my store (pictured below) cost me $1.76.              

Kumquats are generally eaten raw, the rind is sweet and the center is more sour, so they balance each other (its okay to eat the seeds).  If only one part is eaten, it is usually the rind.  The fruit is ripe when it has turned a yellowish-orange and may have a tint of green.  You can use kumquats in making jelly, marmalade, preserves, alcoholic beverages, sliced and added to salads.  They can also be pickled in salt or sugar (preserved).   You can use a few pickled kumquats that have been salted with some of the brine, mixed with hot water as a remedy for sore throats.  You can keep kumquats pickled in brine for a few years without losing its taste.   Try adding kumquats to your kabobs! 

Kumquats should be firm to the touch with no bruising.  You can store these fruits for up to 2 weeks in a plastic container or bag in your refrigerator.  Kumquats are choleserol free, fat free and sodium free!  They also provide you a good source of fiber, vitamins A and C, and they contain trace amounts of calcium and iron.  About 8 kumquats equal 100 calories.  The kumquat can be grown in warm climates.  It is attractive plant not to mention delicious, all packaged in an evergreen tree!   

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