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Mock Mojito Slushies

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I love Foodgawker. If you’re not familiar with what Foodgawker is, it’s a website filled with photographs of delicious, beautiful food. People submit pictures of food and then the Foodgawker people (who possess titles a lot more professional than that) look through tons and tons of submissions to select photos that appear on the website. Once on the website, people can click on the photos to see the recipe or blog post associated with a recipe.

Now it’s time for me to tell you a story about the little engine that could. Except the little engine is me. And my huge hill that I had to get up was actually just getting a picture accepted onto Foodgawker. I started submitting photos to Foodgawker when I thought that my photography was getting good. My mom gave me a lightbox for Christmas so I figured that since I had a good camera and a lightbox, awesome pictures would come naturally. I’ve definitely learned that photography, like most other things in life, requires practice, patience, and some creativity before a great picture can come to fruition.

I made it my goal to get accepted to Foodgawker. So I submitted. And submitted. And submitted. 25 times. 25 times, all sent back to me with rejection letters and little reasons why my pictures weren’t acceptable for the website (poor composition, harsh lighting, dull image, blah blah blah). At first, I was a little disheartened by all of the rejections. I saw improvement in my pictures so I thought they’d be good enough to be on Foodgawker. These little criticisms though have helped me so, so much with improving on my photography. I’ve learned a little bit from experience and from hearing the feedback from Foodgawker (which I’m so thankful to them for giving – life would be way more challenging if I got rejections without explanations). I am now a proud photographer of 7 pictures on Foodgawker. Even though that’s a small number compared to others, I am so proud that I stuck with my goal and finally got accepted. You can see my gallery of Foodgawker pictures here.

Now, you’re probably wondering what Foodgawker has to do with Mock Mojito Slushies. On one of my Foodgawker browsing sessions the other week, I came across these stunning images and refreshing recipe for virgin mojitos from The Heavenly Hearth. Talk about incredible pictures, people. I gathered some fresh mint from my little herb plant outside, sliced up some lemons and limes, recruited my brother to do some lime smashing (he referred to himself as Thor the Lime Crusher while helping me), and blended up my own mouth-puckering version of these virgin mojitos. I hope you enjoy these refreshing slushies as much as me and my family did. They’re a perfect afternoon pick-me-up and a perfect second recipe for this weeklong cool-drink concoction week on digintobooks! Yesterday Tropical Dreamsicle Smoothies, today Mock Mojito Slushies, tomorrow…? You’ll just have to wait and see! For now, here’s a recipe to keep you refreshed.

Mock Mojito Slushies
Adapted from the recipe found on The Heavenly Hearth
Serves 2-4 people (depending on thirst level)
Ingredients
4 limes
4 lemons
3 cups Sprite (or Sprite Zero)
2 cups ice
20 fresh mint leaves
How To
1. Cut the lemons and limes in half. Squeeze as much liquid as you can out of them and into the blender. If you don’t mind a drink with pulp, cut the insides out of some of the fruit and toss them into the blender.
2. After adding lemons and limes, add Sprite and ice to the blender. Blend well, until the mixture reaches a slushie consistency.
3. Crush up the mint leaves and add some to the bottom of each glass. If interested, slice up an extra lemon and lime and place the slices at the bottom of the glasses. Then, pour the slushies into each glass. Enjoy!!

Mr. Mock Mojito suggests you keep it cool with some shades and a slushie!

Sneak Peek

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I am too excited about what’s happening in my kitchen right now to keep it allllll a secret until tomorrow. I’ve got some itsy bitsy teeny weeny little chocolate chip pies whoopie for the taking and a ton of goodies that I just put in the freezer to be eaten later. Yep, I said freezer. But until I give up that refreshing, light, whipped, delicious, chocolate-filled recipe, here is some eye candy.

Note: these itsy bitsy teeny weeny little chocolate chip pies whoopie will keep you lookin’ great for that itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka-dot bikini, too. Recipe coming tomorrow.

All Shook Up

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I can’t help falling in love with this french toast.

Naturally sweet bananas, creamy swirls of peanut butter, and a drizzle of honey. Sounds like someone has the same taste buds as I do. See, I didn’t come up with this flavor combination – I was inspired by Elvis’s favorite sandwich! He loved all of the ingredients above smashed together between two slices of white bread. That’s a sandwich that no one would return to sender.

Now, maybe you’re wondering why I suddenly seem to love Elvis. I mean, you all know that I’m obsessed with any combination of flavors that relates to peanut butter, but I’ve never professed any obsession with Elvis’s music or anything like that before. So why am I making french toast that seems to have everything to do with Elvis?

I met him. Okay, okay, maybe I only met an Elvis impersonator, but it still felt like a big deal. In the same night I met Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Michael Jackson, and the Blues Brothers (obviously they were all impersonators as well). I went to see a show called Legends in Concert with my mom and it was a really great show! I have some exciting news related to the show, too. The reason I went to see it was because I’m working for the Branson Chamber of Commerce this summer as a guest blogger. They are having a special feature on their social media pages in June called 30 shows in 30 days, so I am reviewing as many as I can for June. This week, I’m going to 5 shows in 5 days, so if I’m posting less on digintobooks it’s just because I’m spending a lot of time at shows and at my job at the bed and breakfast. I’ll post the link to the Branson blog in a few days on here so anyone interested can read my reviews of shows that I’m going to!

Whew, that was a lot of gabbing. Let’s get a little less conversation on this post and get to the real reason we’re all here: to dig into a hunk of burnin’ love some really, really good french toast.

Here’s my recipe for some Elvis-fied french toast. This’ll make enough for two to share or for one hungry, Elvis-lovesick girl who just got back from a tough run. It’s so good you’ll want to make it for lunch and dinner, too!

Heartbreak Hotel French Toast
Ingredients
4 slices whole wheat bread
1 egg white
1/8 cup almond milk
1/2 banana sliced very thin
2 tablespoons peanut butter (divided)
2 teaspoons honey
How To
1. If you want to make your french toast into a broken heart shape like mine, I suggest lightly toasting the bread first and then cutting the bread into your shape of choice. If you just want plain ole’ square toast, don’t worry about toasting it.
2. On a large plate, mix the egg white with the milk.
3. On a separate plate, assemble the stuffed french toast. Grab a piece of bread, smear 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter on it and then set it to the side. Do the same thing to one other piece of bread.
4. Place banana slices on top of the peanut-butter topped bread slices. Then, grab the unused slices of bread and place them on top of the topped slices (as if you’re making a sandwich.

5. After you make the little french toast ‘sandwiches’, go ahead and turn up your favorite Elvis tune and get ready to shake, rattle, and roll the next few minutes. It’s important to work quickly in the next few minutes so your toast turns out perfectly.
6. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and then set it on a burner at medium-high temperature. Then, quickly douse your sandwiches in the egg mixture until they are almost saturated, and are coated with the mixture. Gently place the sandwiches onto the skillet.
7. Let the french toast cook for a few minutes on each side, ensuring that the coating is well cooked. Once you’re happy with the looks of your toast, scoop the sandwiches off the burner and drizzle honey and the remaining peanut butter all over them (heat the peanut butter in the microwave/mix a little almond milk in if you want it to be more liquidy).
8. Sit yourself down and dig into your heartbreak hotel french toast. Make sure Elvis is crooning somewhere nearby.
9. (Optional: I put a few extra banana slices on the skillet when my toast was done and cooked them for about a minute on each side. I put a dollop of vanilla yogurt on my plate to add extra texture and flavor to the dish and then topped it with the bananas. Other fun toppings would be a handful of walnuts, or a little maple syrup. If you really want to be like Elvis, crumble a little bacon on top – it’s said that one of his favorite variations on his honey-pb-banana combo was to add a thick slab of his momma’s home cooked bacon).

Potatoes, alpaca, and corn! Oh my!

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Potatoes? Over 3,000 in variety. Alpaca? The best steak I’ve ever had. Corn? Not just any old corn, but giant, grape-sized kernel corn.

A handful of colorful potatoes at the local supermarket in Lima. Yes, this aisle was my dream come true.

Peruvian cuisine comes straight from the earth to the table, then goes back to the earth. On the coast, fish based dishes such as ceviche populate menus whereas in the mountains, quinoa dots every table, often accompanied by hearty potatoes and meats. No matter the content of the meal, the food is always prepared with a certain amount of reverence to Pacha Mama (Mother Earth) as is shown by the fact that the ingredients are almost always local, and that the food is prepared in ways that showcases the most delicious aspect of each food item. This means that sweet potatoes are sometimes served chilled and plain in order to highlight the natural sweet, nutty flavor, the fish is seasoned solely with lime, and various meats are graced only with a light sauce and sautéed tomatoes and onions.

Most dishes are served with bread, rice, or potatoes. Bring on the carbs! However, the beauty of this exists in the fact that these staples are prepared in several variations. I’ll start with bread. Bread isn’t just plain, white wonderbread in Peru. At any meal there could be rolls, croissants, wheat and white toast, chocolate bread, and even what seemed to be a relative of Italian bread in some places. I had the chance to see a horno (an oven used to bake breads) and this is what it looked like:

Wood piles next to an oven? I’d be happy to eat any bread that came out of that! If making an oven like this didn’t seem like an impossible feat, I’d attempt to build one so I could make bread in it. Since I’ve been back in the U.S., I’ve found myself eating more bread with meals than ever before. Maybe my Peru habits have stuck with me a little bit.

Delicious, fresh trout accompanied by rice and potatoes. Served on Amantani Island at Lake Titicaca.

But if I were really Peruvian in eating habits, I’d have to also incorporate both rice and potatoes into the latter portion of my meal. Often bread is served as an appetizer (or a pre-appetizer), and alongside the first course which is often a soup. Potato dishes such as papa a la huancaina (potatoes smothered in a delicious yellow sauce and topped with an olive and a slice of hardboiled egg) or causa (a sort of potato casserole that incorporates some type of meat, avocado, and a mayonnaise type sauce) are often featured as appetizers. In addition, potatoes are often boiled and served plain next to the main dish’s meat or served as french fries, depending on region. And then of course, sitting right next to the potatoes is a heaping scoop of rice. If you didn’t get enough carbs from that, most of the time there was a rice pudding offered for dessert to top it all off. I get full just thinking about it! I’m typically not a huge fan of rice, so I often stuck to eating my beloved potatoes while in Peru. However, I recognized the importance and cultural significance of introducing this many carbohydrates into a meal and did my best to eat most of what I was served.

 

Papa a la huancaina

Mini causas topped with shrimp, tuna, chicken, and fish.

There are other characteristics besides constant carbo-loading that define Peruvian Cuisine, the most significant being the influences of other cultures throughout history. Looking at some classic dishes featured in Peru helps to understand the impact that other cultures have had on Peruvian Cuisine.

Lomo saltado

Lomo Saltado: this dish was delicious! Although it primarily features beef, many variations are available depending on region including fish and chicken options. The meat is sautéed with a soy-sauce based sauce and is accompanied by tomatoes, onions, rice, and french fries. It’s quite a combination! This dish demonstrates the effects that Chinese immigrants had on Peruvian cuisine, as you can tell by the incorporation of soy-sauce into the dish. This brings me to…
Chifa: oh, Chifa. On the day I first tried Chifa, I think that a Clif bar in the morning was the most filling thing I ate-meaning that I was HUNGRY by the time our 8:30 dinner rolled around. One of the girls on our trip exclaimed “keep calm and Chifa on” as we trudged down the street to find somewhere, anywhere to eat. We all settled on Chifa and after mumbling a few broken Spanish phrases and pointing at the menu, managed to order myself the biggest plate of noodles stir-fried with cabbage and shrimp, and a heaping pile of fried rice. Naturally, I ate the entire serving.As you might be able to tell from my description of the food I ordered, Chifa is Chinese influenced Peruvian food. This means that Chifa as a food ‘genre’ if you will, offers menu items such as fried rice, stir fry dishes, wonton soups, etc.

Pisco

Pisco: Pisco is a brandy that originated in the town of Pisco. How original! The Spanish, looking for an alternative to their brandy of choice, brought grapes to Peru, and there, Pisco was created. It’s a very strong brandy that Peruvians take great pride in making-the authentic Pisco must be made with a certain type of grape and adhere to certain regulations and all that jazz.  At many restaurants, free Pisco Sours are given with meals. Pisco Sours are pretty much the specialty drink of Peru and they are a blend of Pisco, key lime juice, sugar, and whipped egg white. I tried a sip and it was strong! Although the Peruvians take great pride in the beverage now, some of the credit goes to the Spaniards for introducing grapes to Peru.
Anticuchos: take a guess at what this is! Drum roll, please….BEEF HEARTS on a skewer. This dish was influenced by the African slave population that existed in Peru at the time that the Spaniards were colonizing the country. Because the Spanish didn’t want such organs, they were given to the slaves. Resourcefulness led to the creation of a dish that is now extremely popular throughout the country. You can find anticuchos in many restaurants and from street vendors alike. I had the chance to try these and they were actually really good. The meat was chewier than most other types but it was packed with flavor and cooked to perfection.

Ceviche on the left-hand side of the plate.

Ceviche: definitely one of my favorite dishes. Many variations of ceviche exist: some made with fish from the sea, some with seafood such as octopus, squid and shrimp, some with trout, and even some vegetarian versions with mushrooms. My favorite was definitely the ceviche from the coast-a tangy, light, melt-in-your-mouth, flavor-packed dish. Fish is marinated in lime juice and chili peppers and mixed with tons of sliced red onion for a really zesty taste. SO delicious! This dish showcases influences of the Japanese through the cutting techniques used on the fish and the lime-a variation of the fruit brought by Spaniards.
                                                                                                                     
I could go on and on and on about the food (I’m sure you can imagine) but I’ll stop there because I know reading about it isn’t as good as tasting it. Oh, to be back in the land of giant corn kernels, fresh fish, thousands of potatoes, and quinoa soup. QUINOA SOUP? Maybe that’s a hint at what tomorrow’s post will bring…

 

Back from Peru!

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I am so excited to be back from Peru and share some of my experiences. Overall, the trip was absolutely amazing!! We experienced numerous places throughout Peru including Lima, Cuzco, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, the Nazca Lines, the Ballestas islands, and more-all by bus! Yes, that means we were on the bus a lot! Good thing I love long car rides! Plus, we got to see so much beautiful scenery on all of our bus rides. And to top off the bus rides, we had a llama on our bus at one point! How cool is that?

Ronald with his pet llama Misti.

 Seeing a llama on our bus was one of the highlights of the trip for sure. But there were sooo many wonderful memories made that it is hard to pick a favorite. In quick phrases, here are some other memories from the trip that really stand out in my mind: swimming in the most beautiful cove in the ocean, seeing a huge sealion sleeping on the rocks, hiking in the Colca Canyon, our homestay at the highest navigable lake in the world (Lake Titicaca), playing a soccer game against the locals at a soccer field that overlooked the ocean, holding a three day old llama in my arms, rowing a boat made entirely out of reeds, running around a temple on top of a mountain three times in order to make a wish, dressing up in the beautiful bright clothing of the Uros Islands, sledding down giant sand dunes (pretty much amped me up as much as 10 cups of coffee…), and exploring all of the colorful cities that we drove through. The best part about these memories? They were made with a collection of new friends in one of the most breathtaking places that I have ever been to.

Here are some pictures to help you visualize where I was…

I could talk on and on about what a great experience Peru was, but I’ll leave you with that today. I hope some of you noticed that something HUGE is missing from my summary of Peru. I talked about the gorgeous scenery that ranged from snow-capped volcanoes to sandy beaches to barren deserts to lush canyons and about the beauty and warmth of the people with their vibrant clothing and smiles, and about the fun activities that I got to do which included hiking and dune-buggying and playing with animals. So, what’s missing? FOOD! I am so excited to share all about my eating experiences with you because the food in Peru may just rival every other incredible aspect of the country. It’s that good.

Again, I’m so excited to be back blogging and can’t wait to share more with you soon! Trust me, you’ll want to come back to check out the mouthwatering pictures of the dishes I took. I may just sneak a recipe in sometime soon as well…

Hasta Luego!

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Happy new year! I wish you all a happy, healthy year ahead! I am so excited for what 2012 will bring, especially what I’m doing this month-I’m off to Peru for all of January. That being said, I’ll have very, very limited access to internet as I’m not bringing a computer so I am saying hasta luego to digintobooks (just for the month).

I am SO excited to go to Peru and the experiences that it will bring. After going to Peru, I’ll have covered 6 out of the 7 continents (we’ll see if a trip to Antarctica ever makes its way into my life…). I’ll certainly miss blogging and hearing from all of you, but I’ll be back in February with books to read and an appetite to fill so check back then for some new posts!

Hope you have a great month of January and an incredible start to the new year. Dig deep into books, food, and life!

{Link Love}

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{Link Love}

I got invited to participate in a blog hop, which is a compilation of recipes from other great bloggers around the web! If you’d like to check out my coffee infused sweet potato casserole and VOTE FOR MY RECIPE(!), please click on the Fave Diets blog hop logo below and click ‘like’ on #21 (that’s me!!). Thanks for your support and be sure to check out the other great recipes featured on the site. I know everyone who submits puts a lot of work into their recipes!

FD blog hop6 December Blog Hop and Giveaway: Favorite Holiday Recipes

Also, I’d like to share with you a recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie’s blog for a recipe for some amazing frozen hot chocolate! YUM! Here’s a couple pictures from when I made it for myself…

Please vote if you have the chance and enjoy the frozen hot cocoa! :)

P.S. Today is my beautiful friend Andrea’s 20th birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

Happy birthday!!!!!!