Wine Country & a California Breakfast

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Last month M<3 and I took a trip to California’s Wine Country.

We both love wine and thought a trip to Sonoma County and Napa Valley would be a great, long weekend getaway where we could relax, enjoy some delicious California reds, and refine our wine pallets.

California

We started our trip off with a tour of Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma. This was, by far, the BEST brewery tour either of us had ever been on. The guide was engaging, the beer (and oh, there was a lot of beer) was delicious, and learning about the history of the brewery was fascinating. I highly suggest a visit to Lagunitas if you make your way to California. It’s quickly become our favorite brewery.

lagunitas

We also visited many wineries, including Buena Vista Winery, the oldest winery in California, Robert Mondavi (home to Mondavi’s high-end wines, not the cheap-mass produced bottles you find at your local wine shop), Failla Wines, which cellars its wines in caves within the mountains of Napa Valley, and a few other select wineries. All were wonderful. We split tasting at most wineries, which kept us even-keeled throughout the whole trip.

Mondavi

Over the weekend we enjoyed ourselves, indulged in some delicious red and white wines, relaxed and bought 5 bottles to ship home to Texas.

What surprised us during our trip though, is that most of the other winery visitors were at least twice our age — making us the youngest patrons at all of the wineries! We always knew we were old souls but we were surprised by this fact.

Evenings during our trip were a bit slow. We found that most of the attractions and shops within Sonoma (where we stayed) closed by 6pm. Restaurants, of course, remained open but after sipping wine all day our appetites were small.

We weren’t sure if shops were closed because most people had gone home after wine tasting all day (and passed out) or if the town just didn’t offer many evening activities.

failla

During our trip, we indulged in some delicious, wine country food. The Girl & the Fig in Sonoma. We split a memorable goat’s milk cheese plate there one night for dinner and came back again the next evening to enjoy a true meal. I even came home with a fig spread to enjoy with our own cheese plates!

cupcake

And of course, I couldn’t go on vacation without trying a local cupcakery. Healdsburg’s Craft Cupcakes was recommended to us but we were sadly disappointed with our choice of cupcake – the Cherry Almond – which tasted like nothing more than a vanilla cupcake.

Although many meals throughout our trip were wonderful, fresh and delicious, my Avocado & Egg Toast I had for breakfast at Sunflower Caffe in Sonoma stood out as a favorite — something I knew upon first bite that I had to make at home.

The breakfast is simple, light and refreshing with an added twist of a lemon-y ricotta smeared beneath a layer of avocado on a crusty multi-grain bread. The lemon added a brightness to the dish while the creamy, cool ricotta gave it a contrasting texture when compared to the chewiness of the bread.

Arriving back home in Austin, I immediately recreated this dish, of course, healthifying it some with a skim-milk ricotta so it could be enjoyed on a daily basis rather than as an indulgent vacation breakfast.

Here’s my version of Sunflower Caffe’s Avocado & Egg Toast – though I call mine, the California Breakfast. It isn’t as grand of a meal as Sunflower Caffe’s but I am definitely willing to bet on the flavor and the ease of which it comes together during a weekday morning rush!

breakfast

California Breakfast

  • 1 slice Oroweat, Health Nut bread, toasted
  • 1/4 cup fat free ricotta cheese
  • 1 hard boiled egg, sliced
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 of an avocado (about 1 ounce)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • White Lemon Balsamic Vinegar, optional

In a small bowl, mash the avocado and set aside.
In a separate bowl, stir together the ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt & pepper to taste.

To assemble, spread your toast with the avocado, layer on the lemon-y ricotta followed by slices of the egg. Sprinkle with more salt & pepper to taste and a drizzle of balsamic.

Serve with a side of fruit for a complete meal.

Nutrition: 260 calories, 26g carbs, 11g fat, 17g protein,

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I bet you didn’t know…

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That I’m a Jamba Juice Ambassador.

JambaAmbassado

Yes, it’s an official title.

Sadly, this Ambassador-ship doesn’t grant me global amnesty but it does grant me the opportunity to live a long and fruitful life (#LiveFruitfully).

Now let me share how my Ambassador title came to be….

My little po-dunk hometown in upstate New York doesn’t have a Jamba Juice within a 1,000 miles of it which means I had never even experienced Jamba Juice until two years ago when I moved to Austin, Texas.  Thankfully, Jamba has a vibrant, fun logo and a brand name I was simply just drawn to and that, paired with my overwhelming love for smoothies, made us instant buddies.

My new Austin gym was conveniently located around the corner to a Jamba Juice which meant that after waking up at the crack of dawn to sweat it out before heading to work, I could reward myself with a protein packed, healthy  treat.  I loved that Jamba listed all its ingredients, provide nutritional facts that were easily accessible in the store and online, and everyone could customize their smoothie with add-ins like Energy Boots, Daily Vitamins, extra Protein, or a Metabolizer.  My love for Jamba was sealed upon the first sip!  I’d even talk <3M into grabbing “Special Drinks” with me on Saturday mornings.  It just became habit!

When we moved from Austin to NYC, I thought I’d have to scrounge around to find a Jamba Juice for breakfast in the morning but to my surprise, Jamba followed me!  On my way to work in the morning while living in NYC I walked by TWO Jamba Juice stores.  Oh, the smoothie possibilities were endless.  I could grab a smoothie for breakfast or make a quick trip there during the work day for an afternoon treat and so, our courtship continued in NYC.

Finally, after bidding a-due to my NYC life and making the move back to Austin, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that my new office was located a mere 3 blocks from a downtown Jamba Juice!  (Can you hear the Smoothie gods singing?)  We were meant to be.  When the call for Jamba Juice Ambassadors arose, I knew I had to apply and proclaim my love for Jamba Juice to the world!

After hearing about my love for smoothies, my new profound love for running, and my overall active, health conscious lifestyle, Jamba chose me!  (I already knew you loved me back Jamba Juice but now it’s official!) So from now on, be prepared for an increased outpour of smoothie pictures & Jamba love as I spread Jamba’s #LiveFruitfully message!

To start you off – here’s two of my favorite nutrient and protein packed smoothie options.

Post-Workout Smoothie
Vibrant Blueberry: It already comes packed with nutrients as a Pro-Biotic smoothie but add in a whey protein boost anyway!
Order a 16oz and you’ll end up with 280 calories, .5g fat, and a whopping 20g of protein!

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Mid-Day Snack
Caribbean Passion: It’s a classic smoothie so order the 16oz and ask them to “Make It Light!” This will cut the calories, carbs and sugars by a third.
Again, throw in some added protein (soy this time) to increase the staying power along with a 3G Charger boost to help push through the afternoon slump.
Order a 16oz and you’ll end up with 195 calories, 0g fat, and 12g of protein!

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If you happen to grab one of my favorite smoothies, Tweet me @LivinLyssa a pic and don’t forget to tag @JambaJuice & #LiveFruitfully

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Fails to Follow Directions

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Confession: I suck at following directions, at least in the kitchen.

It’s not because I don’t read the recipe or  forget a step in the process.  It’s a deliberate, conscious effort to stray. The motivation behind this is mostly due to the fact that I always want to healthify my food. Healthify is probably foreign to most of you so let me explain.

Definition of HEALTHIFY (verb) the act of increasing the nutritional benefits of a specific food or recipe by substituting more nutritious ingredients

Examples of HEALTHIFY
“I just healthified this cake but swapping the oil for non-fat yogurt!”
“These cookies were healthified with flaxseed and whole-wheat flour.”
“We enjoyed healtified egg salad with avocado instead of mayo.”

Merriam-Webster, healthify is officially ready for insertion into the 2014 edition. Please remember to credit me prior to publishing.

Now, the only problem with healthifying a recipe is that you can’t healthify every ingredient. And I admit, at times, I get a bit carried away.
Whole Wheat Flour! Agave! Yogurt! Flaxseed! Almond Milk!

When you find yourself changing more than a third of the ingredients, it’s safe to say that you no longer healthified the recipe. You created an entirely NEW recipe – which is exactly what happened to me this weekend.

I set out to make my Mom’s traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Buttery, chocolatey, chewy goodness. And the kicker here is, that I had absolutely no intention of keeping any of these cookies for myself and began baking knowing I would be giving these away to friends.  But, my inner healthifying baker took over and before I knew it, substitutions were flying high.

  • Half of the butter was replaced with greek yogurt
  • All-purpose flour was mixed with whole wheat
  • 18 ounces of chocolate chips became 4 ounces of semi-sweet mini chips, 1/4 cup of flaxseed, 1/3 cup coconut and a 1/4 cup raisins
  • The sugar was halved and a squirt of agave was added
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The kitchen, mid-healthification while I ran amuck searching for healthy swaps and additions.

Wham-Bam! My Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookies were no more.

These babies had just completed 12 weeks at The Biggest Loser camp and after 11 minutes in the oven, they were ready for their big reveal. So how did these cookies turn out?  Let’s do a little comparison of the original recipe versus the healthified chocolate chip cookies.

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