Las Vegas, 2016, What I Ate

Wow – finally almost a month after I went to Vegas I have my last post recapping our trip. I saved the best for last. THE FOOD!

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Vegas is full of food from fine dining options to $1 shrimp cocktails and everything in between. For real. I think for our group, drinks, fun and gambling were in the forefront and not so much the food. Here is where we ate.

After walking for several hours, we were hungry and you get a bit overwhelmed with food options. We popped into Gilley’s which is a country western bar by Treasure Island. We shared the Texas Nachos Grande (chips with chili, cheese sauce, olive, jalapenos, pico and sour cream) and they were good. Nothing to write home about but hit the spot. I wish restaurants would quit using cheese sauce. Ugh. It looked like everything on the menu was large and in charge, sharing should work just fine. They had beer specials that I took advantage of.

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Yardbird – Southern Table & Bar in The Venetian. This was probably our “nice” meal of the trip. I saw a few odds and ends that looked good and decided to start with the Warm Farmer’s Cheese & Watermelon, $6. The farmers cheese was torched on top and served atop the cold watermelon with a celery leaf and lemon oil. I thought this starter was delicious and could have eaten another one. We were there for brunch and I was craving some healthy food to hopefully set off the nachos and beer. I ordered the House-Made Granola with berries, organic yogurt and mint for $14. It was all delicious, hit the spot. My Mom went with the Egg & Sausage Biscuit for $16 with a fried egg, house-made sausage, cheese and tomato. Unfortunately, the sausage didn’t sit well with her and she thought it tasted funny. The place is known for their fried chicken which is brined for 27 hours. We saw several people order the chicken and waffles ($36) but the portions are just over the top too big. We decided to go for dessert and got the butterscotch cake as neither of us have had it before. It was beautiful and huge but kind of a letdown we didn’t really taste butterscotch. The problem I have with spending money on food in Vegas at supposedly “good” spots is I have been let down. Back when Emeril was super popular, we went to his restaurant and was letdown there also. I have had better luck and middle or lower end places. I’ll probably keep trying though. (It was quite dark in this restaurant.)

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Margaritaville was the only place where all 13 of our group went. We were looking for a fun, relaxed lunch outside and this fit the bill perfectly. Our server was on top of everything and was quick. I think our table had FOUR orders of the Volcano Nachos (pic from their website) – chips with chili, cheese, pico , guacamole, sour cream and jalapenos. Sharing for 2-3 is fine. Huge portions. The outdoor deck was great for people watching. I also had the margarita flight which was an excellent idea. It was about $20. You get the house margarita, blueberry pomegranate margarita, fins to the left (blue curacao) margarita and my favorite was the last mango in Paris margarita with Cointreau and real mango chunks. So refreshing in the warm sun! I guess Jimmy Buffet has a good idea!

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Serendipity 3 – on our last meal of the trip, we were both looking for something on the healthier side. We didn’t know where to go and stumbled onto Serendipity 3 outside of Caesars. I have heard of Serendipity many times for their Frrrozen hot chocolates and over the top ice creams. We were pleasantly surprised with the brunch menu though. Mom went with the Central Park Omelet for $18, egg white omelet with spinach, Swiss cheese and avocado. It was served with fried breakfast potatoes which she left. It was OK though because she couldn’t even finish the huge omelet. (Where are the places that have normal portions?) I went with the Season’s Best Fruit Platter for $17 which was assorted fresh berries and fruit served with a fresh coconut bowl of honey vanilla yogurt and granola trail mix. I don’t know if it was the freshness or what but this was probably my favorite dish of the trip – right up there with the Farmers Cheese. The presentation was beautiful and I couldn’t quite finish it all. The seating was awesome – in the sun, right on the strip. I think we’d go back for some of that ice cream next time.

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I also had pizza for a very reasonable price a few times from The Flamingo food alley. It was $8 for two large slices, was fresh and good.

A few friends went to the Yard House outside of The Flamingo and said it was quite good as well. 

We stopped at several places for some beer flights, a chocolate truffle or a veggie juice. We didn’t want to take too much time away from people watching. Can’t wait to go again!

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Posted in Dessert, Dinner, Dinner idea, Feisty Eats, FeistyLife, Misc | 1 Comment

Venison Sausage, Veggie and Rice Skillet

This is a meal I kind of threw together hoping it would work with what I had on hand in my pantry and freezer. Sometimes I really want to clean out those storage areas so I can fill them up again. Endless cycle. I thought this meal turned out great so I am sharing here today. Everything is made in one pan with the help of some microwaved rice and veggies. You could certainly sub in leftover cooked veggies or rice/potatoes, etc. This is easy, makes a lot and also freezes well for future leftovers.

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It was kind of my own version of Chopped – using ingredients I had on hand and throwing them together hoping it works. And it did! Whew!

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Venison Sausage, Veggie and Rice Skillet

  • 1 package venison sausage (feel free to sub chicken sausage or your other faves – use about 1 pound total)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-14.5 ounce can Italian seasoned petite diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups veggies (I recommend green beans or broccoli for color)
  • 4 cups cooked rice (I used a mix of brown and long grain white)

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Brown and fully cook your sausage in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Alternatively you, you could grill this or use leftover cooked sausage. Remove from heat to cool slightly and slice into bite size pieces. In the same skillet, add olive oil, pepper and onion and cook for 5-7 minutes, until softened. Add in garlic and seasonings. Cook for another minute. Add in your can of tomatoes and stir all together, getting up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let it reduce slightly, about 5 minutes. Add in veggies, rice and sausage and stir to combine and heat through. This makes 6 generous servings.

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Enjoy!

Posted in Dinner, Dinner idea, Main Dish | 1 Comment

Kitchen Tools

THE BEST PROJECT YOU’LL EVER WORK ON IS YOU! This saying is true and sometimes hard to accept. You have to realize you are worth the time and energy to get fit, get healthy and be happy. If you can’t make that choice, none of these tips will work for you. You need to want to improve yourself. Continuing on with some tips that have helped me in my wellness journey – let’s talk kitchen tools!

KitchenTools

All right, first off, you can absolutely cook easily and healthily without any of these tools I am about to mention. However, if you cook a lot or want to switch things up, consider some of these options. I use all of these and would recommend them to anyone. I’ll link to each item on Amazon if you are interested. Most people would call these gadgets and I suppose they are? But, if you use them often enough they really are tools.

  • Silicone Baking Mat – These baking mats come in a variety of sizes and prices so shop around. These are non-stick baking mats that make baking super easy and convenient. You won’t need to use oil, cooking spray or parchment paper with these. Many of them are heat proof enough so you can even roast veggies on them. My favorite thing is they make for a super easy clean up. Simple put them on your baking pan, bake and wash. Any sticky juices come off easily.

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  • Misto – The Misto is a reusable oil spray/mister bottle that give you the convenience of an aerosol sprayer in an economical and environmental way. Simply fill with the oil of your choice, pump air in to make it pressurized and spray as needed. Not only can you use oil in this, but also vinegars, juices or wine. Great for salads and cooking. The Misto creates and even spray so you use less oil when cooking. This is non-aerosol so no chemicals and you can safety use these on your pots and pans.

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  • Spiralizer – Just as the Silpat, there are many makes, models and prices of the spiralizer. I linked to the Inspiralized one because she has her own website with great recipes and ideas. This tool transforms fruits and vegetables into noodle shapes. They are generally compact in size and easy to store. You can replace noodles or other carb sources with healthy vegetables in fun shapes. Spiralizing also creates a larger volume from the vegetable than if you just chopped or cubed it. One potato is suddenly enough for two people. Be creative with different shapes and new ways to make dishes for your family.

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  • Nonstick pots and pans – Nonstick pots and pans are great since you don’t have to use much, if any oil, in your cooking. There are tons of options available but I linked to a relatively inexpensive option above from the Pioneer Woman. I personally have these and they are durable and easy to clean. Purchased from Wal-Mart.

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  • Instant Pot – The Instant Pot is a newer item to me and I am still learning to use it. I have to admit the instruction guide isn’t the most helpful but there are plenty of forums online and within Facebook to help you out. This is a 7-in-1 cooker – pressure cook, slow cook, rice cooker, sauté, yogurt maker and steamer. Save time safely cooking lean meats, steaming veggies, cooking beans, rice or making your own yogurt.

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  • Meat chopper – What a basic tool. This non-stick gadget has a few blades on it making it perfect for when you brown any group meat or tofu. It easily chops and stirs the meat for you. So simple but I won’t go without one again. This helps cooks your meat evenly.

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  • CSA – Community Supported Agriculture – This is new to me this year but we will be receiving a large share of veggies from Forager Farm. We are sharing with our friends/neighbors so this will be nice if one of us can’t use items or don’t like a certain veggie. They deliver to Hazen and are on a mission to provide fresh, local, sustainable produce to their members. This is a great way to try produce you might not have bought at the grocery store while supporting some North Dakota farmers.

Those are just a few of my favorite tools to use in the kitchen lately.

Posted in Feisty Eats, FeistyLife, Healthy Living, Misc | 1 Comment

Las Vegas 2016, Things To Do

You know, the thing about Vegas is around 4 days is enough. If you are like our group of friends we like to hit it hard and party. We go to excess with food, booze, walking, shopping, gambling – and you get tired after around 4-5 days. However, 4 days isn’t nearly enough to even touch what Vegas has to offer. Here are a few highlights that we enjoyed.

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  • The outdoor fire pit at The Flamingo. While Vegas can certainly be expensive, this fire pit outside of the hotel by the pool is an easy way to save money and meet people. We sat here our first night, grabbed some beers from the convenience store inside and met a ton of super nice people from around the U.S.

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  • The GO Pool at The Flamingo is 21+ and has music, cabanas, food, bars and whatever you need. The pool is huge and tropical. The water was a bit cold, but the sun warms up quickly. $45 pitchers of Miami Vice might seem pretty spendy, but they don’t shy away on the Bacardi 151! I wish we had more time to spend at the pool, so fun. It opens at 9 am and you must show ID to get in. It is free and you cannot bring in outside food or drink. They have towels and chaise lounges for your use.

  • Just outside The Flamingo is an alleyway (not sure what it is called) that features a ton of shops, restaurants and O’Sheas Casino. Great for walking up and down and easy access to The Linq, The Cromwell, the monorail and The High Roller.

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  • Strolling and sightseeing on the strip – check out all the big casinos, see the water show at The Bellagio, check out the Paris Eiffel tower, the NYNY roller coaster and the amazing, stunning artwork and displays in the casino. Of course, if high end shopping is your thing, there is no shortage of that. Along the strip you will see plenty of street performers wanting your tips as well.

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  • The shows – pretty much any show you want, Vegas has it. Britney, JLo, Donny & Marie, the Cirque shows and more are all amazing I’m sure. Of course, they will cost and I bet they are worth it. We decided to go with a smaller show at Planet Hollywood called The Mentalist. The Mentalist is Gerry McCambridge and he is the longest running show in Vegas. He also wrote the TV show called The Mentalist which you might have seen on NBC. CBS liked the concept of merging the skills of a mentalist with a detective and made a weekly TV series about that. He is a magician/mind reader and the show was about 75 minutes long. It was great. It’s crazy to see how he can read people’s minds. Tickets were about $35 and we just got them at a ticket kiosk on the strip. As with everywhere in Vegas, there is a bar and drinks available during the show. I’d go again!

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  • Shop – I am not a huge shopper but we had fun trying on a few things. If you love chocolate, you can visit the M&M store, the Hershey’s store, Ghiradelli, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Godiva and all the other big names. You want it? Vegas has it. Some of the girls went to a Ross store which we don’t have that I am aware of and got some cute clothes for very affordable prices.

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  • Fremont – located in downtown Vegas you won’t want to miss the overhead light show, SlotZilla zip lining, free music shows and a few breweries are down there too. Buy a beer at a store and walk around. Can’t beat that. We ended that night at Hogs N Heifers and had a blast with the music and fun bartenders. Drinks weren’t too badly priced and the security guards made sure us ladies were always safe. 

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  • Limo – if you are in a group, it makes sense to grab a limo or limo bus instead of a few taxis. It isn’t every day you can say you rode around in a limo anyway. All drivers we encountered were more than friendly. Open containers are not an issue.

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  • High Roller – my Mom and I went on the 550 foot High Roller Ferris wheel. We went when it first opened at 11:30 during the day. The trip is 30 minutes up and down. The spheres are super safe feeling and have pretty much 360 degree views. I would love to go back at night with the open bar option. The ride is narrated on the TV’s and for the day trip was about $25.

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  • Utilize the Monorail – for $12 you can get a 24-hour pass to ride the strip. This was the first time I went all the way north to the SLS Casino which was nice and modern and a short walk to the Stratosphere. If you want to go all the way south, you will end up at the MGM Grand with easy access to the Luxor, Monte Carlo, Showcase Mall and more.  

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  • And hey, if anything, you can always get married in Vegas!!

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I can’t wait to go back again.

Posted in Entertainment, Feisty Eats, FeistyLife, Misc | 1 Comment

Asian Chopped Salad

This recipe is a winner! It is easy, the dressing and meat mixture can be made in advance. I even assemble the salads in advance a day before and let them sit, covered in the fridge so it gets super cold. Brown your meat and dinner is ready. This is THE perfect meal for a warm spring or summer day. We gobbled this up!

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I browse through quite a few food blogs. Often times, I pass by recipes, but sometimes I see one and I know I have to make it. Or make something like it. Such is the case with this Skinny Taste recipe for Asian Chopped Salad. I knew I didn’t have everything on hand and I kind of detest water chestnuts so I swapped things up a bit to make my own recipe. A few take aways:

  • Making your own dressing is so easy, so much healthier and so super tasty
  • The recipe ingredients look long but some are used twice and most are pantry staples
  • Ground chicken, beef, turkey or tofu would all work in this recipe
  • Make it your own – add in your favorite vegetables
  • Spice is nice, I like it spicy but you can omit or reduce measurements if you don’t care for heat

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Asian Chopped Salad, based on this recipe from Skinny Taste. Don’t be intimidated by the long recipe list, most are pantry staples.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE SALAD DRESSING:

  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ scant teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

FOR THE GROUND BEEF:

  • 1/4 scant cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 12-15 spears asparagus, chopped into ½” to 1” pieces
  • Red pepper flakes, S&P to taste

FOR THE SALAD:

  • 1-2 romaine hearts, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • Green onion and cilantro as garnish

DIRECTIONS:

For the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oils, honey, ginger, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Set the dressing aside. For the ground beef: In a medium bowl, whisk together the hoisin, vinegar, Sriracha, soy sauce, and ginger. Set aside. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. If you don’t have lean beef, drain and rinse your beef. If it is lean, remove from pan and set aside. In the warm pan, add in your green onion and asparagus, season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until done, about 3 minutes. Add back in ground beef and your hoisin mixture. Cook another 3-4 minutes to heat through. Remove from heat and set aside. For the salad, combine lettuce and carrots. Toss with dressing and divide into 4 servings (or 3 if you are us!!). Top each evenly with beef mixture. Garnish with green onion and cilantro. Serve immediately.

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If you have leftover servings, you can dress the salad and place it in the fridge for use the next day or two. I wouldn’t go longer than that. Store the leftover beef in a dish in the fridge that can be reheated.

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I love how this salad looks. So green and spring like. I told my husband I could eat this every day for lunch. I think I could.

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Enjoy!

Posted in Dinner, Dinner idea, Main Dish, Salad, Veggie | 1 Comment

Frozen Foods

THE BEST PROJECT YOU’LL EVER WORK ON IS YOU! This saying is true and sometimes hard to accept. You have to realize you are worth the time and energy to get fit, get healthy and be happy. If you can’t make that choice, none of these tips will work for you. You need to want to improve yourself. Continuing on with some tips that have helped me in my wellness journey – let’s talk frozen foods!

FrozenFoods

I feel like frozen foods can sometimes get a bad wrap and that is not fair. These are generally more economical and very friendly to us in North Dakota during winter months when we can’t get fresh produce. I love the veggies that come in steam bags – you can microwave them for 5 minutes and have a huge bowl of healthy broccoli ready to go. Use frozen fruit for smoothies or in yogurt and oatmeal breakfasts. I like to get bulk packages at Sam’s Club. They are reasonably priced and of course, being frozen, keep well. Some of my favorites are the Daily Chef brand – broccoli, green beans or Normandy blend. Unlike some frozen broccoli that is all stems, this brand is all florets. You can get 4-1 lb. bags of any of these for $6. I myself will eat a bag for two meals. I love veggies! I have seen edamame there before and want to give that a try soon. Krause’s also has some good brands that microwave well. Also, if you don’t use or have a microwave, these packages generally have instructions on how to cook on your stove top. I often use frozen broccoli in casseroles or meals we prepare. Works great! Sam’s has been steadily increasing their organic options if that is something you desire. I have seen a lot of quinoa and brown rice steam mixtures available but have yet to try them. They seem to be continually offering new healthier options, even in the meals to go, like falafel sandwich wraps. Yum!

Veggies

We have an upright freezer and a chest freezer in addition to two fridge freezers. I feel like this is definitely a Midwest thing. We have plenty of house space and since my husband is a big hunter, we need space for pheasant, deer, goose, walleye or whatever else he has his eye on. We also buy a half a cow and butcher our own pig for a half hog. When I saw we, I mean him. I enjoy meat but don’t enjoy the butchering process besides making deer sausage. Not only is the more economical to buy the meat in bulk, we also get the satisfaction of knowing how the cow and pig were raised, what they were fed and know that they are very humanely cared for. In fact, where we get our cow, the rancher can ride his ATV right up to his huge bull and rub him on his ears. His name is Tazzy and he comes to the ATV when our friend drives out there. He really loves his owner! If you don’t have access to a rancher, you can certainly buy bulk at Sam’s or from someone you trust or know.

Meats

Above we have packaged burger, goose jerky (so good!), some more jerky and some bait, some walleye and a Pizza Corner for good measure. Balance!

Besides produce and meat, I like to buy frozen brown rice you can nuke in the microwave. So easy and quick. While the Instant Pot makes dried rice super quick, this is like last minute, I need a meal help saver. If your bananas or other fruit are going bad, simple chop and freeze them. Excellent for smoothies!

Posted in Feisty Eats, FeistyLife, Healthy Living, Misc, Veggie | Leave a comment

Las Vegas, 2016 Hotel, The Flamingo

At the beginning of April, I went on a trip to Vegas with a group of about 12-13 friends. I took a few pictures and wanted to recap the trip here in a few installments. Starting with where we stayed.

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We stayed right in the middle of the strip at The Flamingo which has a crazy 3,626 rooms!  Part of the hotel is remodeled (they are referred to as the GO rooms) and we stayed in one of those. We had a double queen bed overlooking the pool and the High Roller Ferris wheel. The Flamingo is part of Caesar’s, Harrah’s, Bally’s, The Cromwell, The Paris, Planet Hollywood, The Rio, The Linq and others (all under the Caesars Entertainment umbrella). If you stay at any of these properties I highly encourage you to get a Total Rewards card that you can use on all purchases and gambling at all properties to go towards points and discounts. No complaints with the hotel – check-in/out was a breeze, the rooms was always clean, had a little fridge and comfy beds. The location was excellent.

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Besides the hotel and casino, the Flamingo has 2 pools, a spa, salon, shopping, wedding packages, restaurants (Center Cut Steakhouse, Paradise Garden Buffet, Margaritaville, Beach Club Bar & Grill, Carlos ‘n Charlie’s, and a food court with pizza, subs, etc.) and more. There are a few different bars on the property including Bugsy’s Bar. A little bit of trivia we learned is The Flamingo is named for Bugsy Siegel’s girlfriend Virginia Hill. He called her Flamingo for her long, skinny legs. Not sure if that is good or bad? Haha. And of course, you can find actual flamingos on site in the garden courtyard that has a wildlife habitat for the birds, fish and turtles. Shows at The Flamingo were a comedian, Donny and Marie Osmond and Olivia Newton-John.

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The Flamingo is also a stop on the Las Vegas Monorail which was quite handy. We used the monorail a few times going as far north and south as it travels. You can certainly walk the strip but after a few days, your legs and feet will be wanting a ride.

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I would certainly stay here again or recommend this property to anyone.

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