Revel in Summer {sunshine edition}

It’s summer and I like to be outside.  Hey, I spend enough time inside during the year that you are going to have to try very, very hard to get me inside!  The sun is out and so am I!  Well, as lovely as the dear sun is (bring it on Vit D!), our friend high up in the sky might just be a wolf in sheeps clothing.

Most stories have a back-story, and this one certainly does too.  You see, one day, about 10 years ago, I went to the beach with my friend.  She is Egyptian and darker than me.  Silly me thought that I could match her colour if I just stayed in the sun long enough.  And guys… I got burned… really, really bad.  So bad in fact that I still have marks on my chest from the sun damage that day.  Not cool.  Lesson learned – I am now a self-proclaimed sunscreen queen.

Since I am sure many of you will be enjoying the outdoors this summer I want to pass along some of my favourite sun protection tips.

Get out there, enjoy the summer… but be smart about it!  Take good care of yourself.

Your face and chest are the most fragile parts of our skin.  My daily facial moisturizer has SPF 15 and, as the name indicates, I wear this every single day.  Even in the winter.  Even on days that I don’t plan on leaving the house.  When I know I am heading out and will be in the sun, I put on a higher SPF (like 45 or even 60).  At the drugstore the other day the sunscreen was on sale and I picked up an SPF 70.  Not sure if this is any better than 45, but I like to be safe!  And it was on sale.  (SPF 15 blocks 93% of the sun’s incoming UVB rays). I always buy the “Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen” because it is not shiny and greasy like some other kinds tend to be.

  • Remember to put sunscreen on your neck and chest too.  These parts are very sensitive and often exposed.  Since the sun ages you, I want to  take good care of my neck and chest too.
  • Remember to apply the sunscreen on all the way up to your hairline.  I noticed a while back that I would do a very thorough job of covering my face, but neglecting my hairline.  Cover it all :)
  • Not only will your lips get dry or chapped from sun exposure, you can get skin cancer on your lips too. There are many amazing lip balms on the market with SPF protection.  Pick up a couple and have one ready in your car and each of your purses.  Your puckers will thank you!

Another part of your body that often gets forgotten.  Judging from the females in my family, sunspots on my hands await me in the future so I take extra care.  Too bad sunscreen tends to be sticky, especially on the beach when sand sticks to it – yuck!

If you have ever had sunburn on your feet you will never forget to lather them up with sunscreen too. I have a very funny story about sunburned feet.  Let’s just say “someone” got very badly sunburned feet and we were part of a resort’s photo shoot in the Dominican Republic.  The whole crew had to wait because the hot tub was too hot to get into with burned feet.  And then when we finally got in, the wind started blowing the foam everywhere and the shoot had to be moved indoors. Haha!

Since the day I proclaimed myself the sunscreen queen, hats have become the crown on my head.  Baseball caps when I am out running, or big floppy hats when I chill out on the beach.

Cover up!  I am still on the hunt for a light, breezy blouse.  I’m thinking a chic white one or a blouse with a feminine flowery pattern.  I could wear it with my favourite shorts when I walk to get ice cream, or throw it over my bathing suit at the beach. Covering up doesn’t mean you have to be hot – a nice breezy cotton will offer sun protection and keep you cool.

If you are out all day – keep a lookout for shady spots.  Derek and I went to the beach last weekend and I ran to the store to buy a cheap0 $12 beach umbrella before we left.  It was awesome to get a few shady breaks and it made the whole experience more bearable.  As I was laying under the umbrella I was watching a group of young girls in front of us lather themselves up with bottles of baby oil (to help them tan, I suppose).  I was mortified and almost wanted to pull a mom on them and go over there with a wagging finger telling them about the dangers of suntanning.  But I didn’t.  Any chance they will read this and learn?

We all know this one, but it is worth repeating.  Plan your day so that you are not in the sun during the hottest time of day (generally between 10 am and 2 pm).  If you are heading out for a hike, go early in the day when it is still fresh out, and then come back for a nice big breakfast when the sun is fierce.  Or arrange for your volleyball gang to get together at 4 pm instead of noon.

If you are out in the sun, you will get dehydrated very fast (especially if you have a few beers).  Make your water bottle your best buddy and drink water throughout the day. Rehydrate with nutritious smoothies or juices and you will find that the sun and outdoors don’t sap your energy.

Get out there, enjoy the fresh air and a bit of sunshine, but remember to take good care of yourself! What are some of your favourite summer sun survival tips?

Barbecued Bananas with Caramel Sauce

Today’s post starts with a story… so first let me set the scene…

Date: Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Location: Bangkok, Thailand

Characters: Nienke, Derek, one scheming Tuk-Tuk driver, a friendly group of street vendors

Mission: Visiting the temples and eating some real Thai street food

Result:  Two tourists with a map, a scam, a street chase, refuge in a crowd and comfort in  barbecued bananas covered in caramel sauce

It was our last day in Bangkok and at that point we had done our fair share of walking around, visiting markets, buying cheap t-shirts, eating at the night markets, and even ringing in the new year with a bang.  It was time for us to see those stunningly photogenic temples! Armed with water, sunscreen and a map, we hit the streets.

I will spare you the details of how we were scammed into believing that we could have our very own tuk-tuk driver for the whole day for only 20 thai baht (that’s less than a dollar). I think it has something to do with us trying to make sense of a map while standing on the corner… I call that “putting a target on your backs”.  If you’ve made the trip I can practically hear you cringing right now – especially since this is exactly the type of thing you are warned about when travelling in Thailand.  Let’s just call us gullible and get on with the story.

It was really awesome.  Our driver took us to see the big Buddha, waited around for us and took us to a few smaller temples.  So far so good.  We started driving down really quiet streets and the guy stopped to tell us that we had to go into the suit store because they will pay him for bringing us in.  Ok fine, only once.  We went in, told them “No, we do not want a custom tailored suit made, thank you very much” and left.  Now we were on our way to the big temples! Or so we were lead to believe…

A few minutes later, whizzing around in the open tuk-tuk, the guy stopped again and refused to move unless we went into the store.  We said “No, just take us to the temple”. Anyways, he said he would do it for 360 baht (what happened to the 20 that we agreed on initially?).  We would have gotten out and walked, except that we had no idea where we were and it was a quiet industrial area. Just a little bit sketchy.

This is where we were sneaky and told him that we would pay 360 baht if he took us straight to the temple (trust me, he wasn’t going to move, let alone turn the engine back on).  When we finally got dropped off we paid him the original 2o baht and left.  He was not a happy camper. Lucky for him he dropped us off on a traffic circle and there was no way we could escape him.  He followed us in his tuk-tuk and every time we changed direction he would recklessly turn around in traffic and follow us around and around the very busy circle.  He was very angry and yelling – I was SO scared!  It got worse when he got out his cellphone and we were surrounded by people – I have no idea who he was calling… or why.  I was just praying that one of his buddies were not in the crowd.  Miraculously we lost him, but I was physically shaking and couldn’t feel my limbs I was in so much shock.

We walked amidst the throngs of people surrounding the temples and I was still trying to keep a look out for him.  I could just imagine him bursting through the crowds with rage. Guys, after that little adventure my body needed sugar. Fast!

And then suddenly, as though the heavens opened and shone down on us, I saw the friendliest group of food vendors.  They were laughing and smiling and handing little baggies of goodness to people all around them.  And sugar, oh sugar!  The smell of caramel and bananas were in the air and I felt like a little cloud was transporting me in their direction.  It was like I had tunnel vision and I lost my hearing.  It was dead quiet and I was focussed.

It is hard to believe that a little plastic baggie of cut up, barbecued bananas tossed in a caramel sauce could restore my energy and my faith in humanity all at once, but on that day, it certainly did!

There you have it, a very long story to tell you to please make this thai dessert.  I know that on that fateful day it tasted really (really!) good, and I can’t help but wonder if perhaps it tasted just a little bit better after the ordeal that we went through and knowing that we were safe!

I tried to recreate this dessert as closely as possible, so I bought a bunch of cute mini bananas. Just like the ones we had in Bangkok.  Peel your mini bananas and place them on the barbecue until they start to caramelize and you can smell them. Turn over and repeat on the other side.

The vendors in Bangkok chopped the bananas into pieces and threw it into a small plastic bag (the size of a sandwich bag).  They scooped caramel sauce into the bag and shook it al up until the bananas were covered in the sticky sauce.  Since I don’t need this dessert to be portable, I just placed the sliced bananas on a plate and drizzled it with home made caramel sauce.

Break some kebob sticks in half and eat away (this part is true to the real deal).

We did end up seeing the incredible temples of Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha). It was breathtaking. And so ornate! Lots of colour and gold and frills and curls – wow!  Was our little side adventure worth it?  Yes!  I got a good story and a good dessert recipe out of it!

Caramel Sauce Recipe:

  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of table cream
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt

How to:

  1. In a large pot, melt the sugar and salt.
  2. Once it is liquid and golden brown, remove from the heat.
  3. Immediately add the cream, vanilla and butter.  The mixture will foam and expand a lot.  Use a whisk to mix it all together.
  4. Pour into a glass jar or container to cool down.  Reheat before use.

Now, close your eyes and pretend you are on a busy traffic circle in Bangkok, your heart racing in your chest, relieved that you are safe and finally heading to see the pretty temples!

Sweet potato spring rolls

Remember earlier this season when I made those (delicious) mint spring rolls?  And remember how I said it would make the perfect summer appetizer?  Well, today I  beefed (or chickened, haha!) it up a little and now you can enjoy your spring rolls for dinner!  These guys are filled with veggies and protein, which will give you all of the nutrition and staying power you could want in a dinner.  And if I may say so myself… they taste pretty good too (Derek always laughs when I compliment food that I made myself)!

I have a slight obsession with sweet potato.  It is no secret that this root veggie is a nutritional power house. And as much as they have a distinct fall/winter feel about them I have been going nuts and adding sweet potato to everything.  If you’ve ever been over to my house for dinner you most likely had some form of sweet potato.  I may be turning orange soon!

Putting sweet potato into spring rolls is just a logical step in my quest for sweet potato domination! Oh, and the asparagus is the perfect addition, especially now that asparagus is in season.

Except for the seasoning on the chicken and sweet potatoes, there isn’t any added flavour to the spring rolls (other than the naturally good taste of the veggies!).  I am a big time condiment person.  A dipper, if you will.  That’s why these spring rolls are getting a little barbecue sauce buddy on the side… instead of putting it right in the wrap.  If you are serving these to guests you can give each person a little bowl of sauce on the side. Not only is it cute, but people can choose how much sauce they want.

They may look pretty labour intensive, but I promise you it took me no time to make.  The longest part is cooking the chicken and sweet potatoes, but if you are a “mulitasker extraodinaire” you can prep the other veggies and switch over a load of laundry and check your email while the bird and taters cook.

I wasn’t really counting, but I think I ate about 6 of these guys last night – I just couldn’t stop. They are SO fresh!  When Derek got home from volleyball he scarfed down 4 of these.  This just proves that they keep very well, so you can make these spring rolls in advance and enjoy them for dinner or with your guests later.

You will need:

  • Rice paper wraps
  • A large flat bowl (or serving dish) with warm water
  • A clean tea towel
  • Green leaf lettuce, washed
  • 1 Whole red pepper
  • 1 Large sweet potato
  • 15 Stalks of asparagus (no, I didn’t count them!)
  • 2 Chicken breasts
  • Olive oil
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Yellow curry powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Barbecue sauce

How to:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  2. Wash and peel the sweet potato.  Cut into strips, like fries. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato strips in the olive oil, cayenne pepper, curry powder, salt and pepper.  Lay out flat on a baking sheet.
  3. On the same baking sheet, place the two chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper.  Place in the oven.
  4. While the sweet potato and chicken is in the oven, chop the red pepper and asparagus into strips (about 4 -5 inches long)
  5. Lightly steam the asparagus (I prefer to use a steamer in the microwave)
  6. Once the chicken (about 35 minutes) and sweet potato (about 25 minutes) is done, cut the chicken into thin long strips.
  7. Lay a damp tea towel flat on your counter and place a rice paper wrap into a flat bowl of warm water.  Leave it in for about 10 seconds or until pliable.
  8. Carefully place the rice paper wrap onto the damp tea towel and  arrange your toppings in line right in the middle of the wrap.
  9. Fold the left and right sides of the wraps in towards the middle of the wrap.  This will sort of form a vertical rectangle in front of you. Next, fold the bottom half of the rectangle over the vegetables and tuck it in gently underneath your veggies. Gently roll the spring roll upwards until it is closed up at the top.  You will notice that the rice paper sticks nicely to itself and you have a cute little burrito.
  10. Use a sharp knife to cut your rolls in half.
  11. Serve cold with a side of barbecue sauce for dipping.

Happy summer dining guys!

Anniversary Weekend in Montreal

I know, I know. I’ve been a bit quiet the last few days. Sorry. I missed you too! The reason for my absence is that Derek and I snuck away for an extra long weekend to celebrate our second wedding anniversary.  Two years! Yay for us!

I considered taking my beloved laptop with me but decided against it.  I wanted to spend time “off the grid”, unplugged, and with my awesome husband! It was so worth it :)

Our actual anniversary was Friday, the 24th, but we headed out on Thursday morning.  Like I said, we wanted to indulge in an extra long weekend!

So where did our celebratory travels take us?

To the beautiful city of Montreal!

We had both been there before, but not together, so we were super excited about exploring this great Canadian city together.  All of the old buildings, cobblestone streets, and charming ‘Frenchness’ reminded me of our weekend in Quebec City last year.

So pretty, isn’t it?!  My camera was very happy!

As luck would have it, it rained the entire 4 days that we were there.  For reals!  It didn’t stop us though, because we still did and saw everything we wanted to.  And to be honest, the rain made it an extra bit cozy, and definitely romantic!  If anything, it forced us to slow down and hop into a bar or cafe for a beer or coffee every once in a while. Wonderful!

We were saying to each other that we learned the definition of ‘scattered showers’ this weekend, because it would rain off and on all day long.  Umbrella open. Umbrella closed. Umbrella open. Umbrella closed.

Luckily the hotel had a stash of great umbrellas right at the door that we could use.

One of the things I will remember about this trip is the food.  Man, we ate our way through the whole city.  And not just normal or healthy food: very indulgent food.   Mmmmmmm……!

Halibut with veal consomme and fresh potato perogies

The most amazing lemon beignets

Montreal smoked meat sandwiches (and omelettes!)

Poutine (French Fries with cheese curds and gravy)… Twice!

Many cappucinos

Fresh croissants with blueberry jam

Bloody Ceasars with crab legs

Montreal style bagels with cream cheese

Lotsa microbrews

Red wine

Seafood paella (Derek. Definitely not me)

A few pitchers of rum and coke (don’t judge)

OK, and a bunch of other stuff.  Wanna know the kicker??

I did not take a single photo of our food!  I guess I was too busy enjoying the moment (just like it should be)!

Old Montreal has so many cute shops:

And I have a strange obsession with doors.  Any time I travel I end up taking pictures of doors.  Some people just don’t get it.

How is it that every city on earth has a Mexican restaurant?  Well, I guess that’s a good thing, because I love Mexican food! (I’m guessing that’s the back door?).

The Notre-Dame Basilica. Stunning.  I would love to hear the organ in there.

This is where we spent our anniversary dinner.  It’s so fun to celebrate our relationship and think back to the things we have experienced together.  It was just such a love filled weekend.  If you haven’t been reading Revel for very long, you can check out our wedding here.  Awwwww!

We stayed at Hotel Gault in old Montreal and totally loved it.  The room was huge and modern and we had two nice rounded windows with a pretty few. The bed was crazy comfortable and the staff was incredible. A little slice of heaven.

And would you believe it?  The ONLY picture I have of the two of us together all weekend was a self-timer one taken before heading out to dinner.  Oh to be back there right now!

Happy Anniversary, babe! Life with you rocks!

Tzatziki Inspired Cucumber Salad

This is how “meal planning” often goes in our house:

Derek:  “I picked up some chicken souvlaki/thai sausages/pork chops” for us at the market.”

Me: “Oooh awesome! Let’s see what we can have with it” *Opens the fridge* “Well, I can throw a salad together… and we can roast up some sweet potato to have on the side.”

So, yeah, a lot of our meals start with the main component (or the meat!) and then we plan the sides around it, often just using what we have on hand.  Since we always have lots of fruits, nuts, and veggies we end up having a salad with dinner about 80% of the time.  Now, don’t get me wrong, that’s really fantastic… but, I try to prevent salad boredom by changing the ingredients up.  It’s like a challenge I set for myself:  How many salads can I make without repeating the exact same ingredients twice.

When I was taking these pictures, all I could think was: “Chicken souvlaki would go perfectly with this!”  Perhaps it is almost like a tzatziki salad? It takes me back to our Greek honeymoon!

I mentioned that we always have fruit and vegetables on hand. Well,the one vegetable that we always, always have is cucumber. Always. Now, this creamy cucumber salad is little more than just cucumber, but adding a few ingredients turn it into a perfect barbecue side dish.

So in addition to the ever pressent cucumber, what else do you need?  Fresh dill.

Here’s everything you will need to make your own creamy cucumber salad:

  • 1/3 cup of sour cream (I prefer the low fat kind)
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 large cucumber, thinly sliced
  • fresh dill to taste

How to:

  1. Combine the sour cream, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix to create your creamy dressing.
  2. Place the thinly sliced cucumbers in your serving bowls, and use a spoon to scoop a few dollops of the dressing on top of it.
  3. Shred the dill by hand and add on top of the salad. Garnish with fresh black pepper.

Serves 2

This is totally a tzatziki inspired side salad!  Feel free to add crushed garlic or garlic oil to the dressing – I chose to omit it this time, but the garlic lover in me might add it next time.  This cucumber salad will be a fantastic side dish to barbecued souvlaki with roasted potatoes! Yum.

Best served with a glass of ice cold white wine.  Just close your eyes and imagine you are sitting on a patio overlooking the Mediterranean!

Cilantro and Edamame Salad

I had a bag of wonderful, shelled, organic edamame beans sitting in our freezer for a few months.  Sometimes I even forgot that it was there at all!  So a few days ago I was thinking about what on earth to make for dinner.  It was too late to run to the store and there was a small window before I had to run off to yoga and Derek to volleyball.

And you know what, sometimes when I have to make due with what I have on hand, magical things happen.  Strange and unlikely combinations turn into legit recipes!

As I rummaged through our kitchen I came across a can of corn, a bag of cilantro that needed to be used ASAP, and, of course, the forgotten bag of edamame in the freezer.  Alakazam! Boom! Dinner is served!

The cilantro and edamame salad checks a lot of our summer dinner checkboxes:

Quick: check! (seriously, it took me like, 10 minutes to prepare)

Nutritious: check! (LOTS of protein and fibre)

Filling (without the uncomfortably stuffed feeling): check!

Cold: check! (because who wants to be sweating after dinner?)

Delicious: check and check!

Cilantro packs a surprising amount of flavour.  It has taken me a while to come around to cilantro.  I used to ask for my burritos without cilantro for the longest time – it was just not a taste that I was used to.  But now, cilantro tastes like vacation to me!  It tastes like Mexico! And there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that!

Wanna make your own?

You will need:

  • 2 cups of frozen, shelled edamame
  • 1 can of corn kernels
  • 1/2 a medium sized red onion (or to taste), finely chopped
  • 2 handfulls of chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbs EVOO
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp grated, fresh ginger
  • salt and pepper to taste

How to:

  1. Combine 2 cups of water with 2 cups of edamame and a pinch of salt in a pot on the stove and bring to a boil.  Simmer on medium heat for 4 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook.
  2. Combine the EVOO, balsamic vinegar, garlic, lemon juice, ginger, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk together to create your dressing.
  3. Once the edamame are done cooking, drain the water and let it chill in the fridge.
  4. The edamame should be sufficiently chilled after about 5 minutes.  In your serving bowl, combine the edamame, corn, red onion and cilantro.  Add your dressing and mix with a wooden spoon until all of the ingredients are mixed together.

Serve cold on a hot summer’s day!

Yum!  Do you ever just throw ingredients together and are surprised by the delicious results? I love when that happens!

No Mayo Potato Salad

Let’s play a little word association game. Ready?

When I hear the word “summer” I think of barbecues and picnics.  And when I hear the words “barbecues and picnics” my mind goes straight to: potato salad!  So summer clearly means potato salad, right?  I’m pretty sure there’s no argument there…

Between Derek and I we have volleyball and/or yoga 3 nights a week. This means that we need quick and easy dinners that are not too filling.  We still want to be able to dive for the ball, or go extra deep into rabbit pose! Oh, and I should probably clarify that I’m the one doing yoga – no rabbit pose for Derek!

Now that it is getting warmer out (I love it!) we are gravitating towards cold food. Sandwiches, cold salads, that kind of stuff.  I have very quickly fallen into the routine of making a big batch of a cold salad, like a greek pasta salad or potato salad and letting it sit in the fridge overnight so that we can enjoy it for the next couple of days. Prepare once, eat twice: the active summer evening’s dream!   Plus, letting all the flavours settle and mix overnight always tastes better!

No mayo?  Yip, it is all part of my attempt to eat a cleaner diet.  I made this exact potato salad WITH mayonnaise last week, and then this week I experimented with this no mayo potato salad.  I didn’t let Derek in on the switcheroo and  gave a secret little smile when I told me how good it was!  It tasted identical!

I’ve played around with other oil and vinegar, dressing type potato salad dressings, but I always find myself longing after a nice creamy potato salad.  Greek yogurt is so nice and thick and creamy and certainly fulfills creamy potato salad requirement.

Baby dill pickles: 100% essential for adding flavour and crunch to the best summer potato salads.  Trust me.

This recipe is extremely filling because it has a lot of protein in it: lots of protein from the greek yogurt, and lots of protein from the eggs.

To add flavour I add finely chopped green onion, and the juice from half a lemon.  The lemon juice is key when you are not using mayonnaise in your dressing because you want that sublte tangy and zesty flavour.

Speaking of flavour…I mostly stick to basic everyday spices.  Good old salt and pepper.  I love coarsely ground black pepper and sea salt because I find that the flavour is more available than really fine salt and pepper.  Since I absolutely have to add a little kick to all of my meals, a couple pinches of red pepper does the trick!  I actually would have loved to use paprika instead, but since I don’t have any on hand the good old standby red pepper works well too.  Feel free to use paprika in your potato salad – I imagine it would be nice and hot and smokey!

The honey dijon mustard is a very important addition, and I just used a store bought kind.  Dijon mustard is nice and hot (again, me with the spiciness!), and the honey gives the whole potato salad that necessary sweetness to counter all of the other flavours.  If you are using regular dijon mustard I would definitely recommend adding half a teaspoon of sugar to your dressing.

You will need:

  • 3 cups of baby yellow potatoes, washed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • about 6 baby dill pickles, sliced
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 3 stalks of green onion, finely diced

For the dressing:

  • 3/4 cup of plain greek yogurt
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp freshly ground sea salt
  • 1/4  to 1/2 tsp red pepper (or paprika)
  • 3 tbs honey dijon mustard

How to:

  1. Boil the potatoes until they are soft but still firm (you dont want a mushy potato salad)
  2. While the potatoes are boiling, get the dressing ready in a smaller bowl by mixing the greek yogurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper, red pepper and dijon mustard and mix well.
  3. In a large bowl, add the potatoes, pickles, eggs and green onion.  Next, add the dressing and mix well until the potatoes are evenly covered in the dressing.
  4. Store in the fridge overnight (or until it is chilled and ready for dinner).

Serve cold on a hot summers night, take it on a road trip or pack it for your family reunion picnic.  Make enough to enjoy the leftovers the next day!

Ok, now it is your turn for the word association game.  What do YOU think of when you hear the words “summer barbecue”?

Pineapple Mint Shakes

With all that talk of making sure I stay hydrated a few weeks a go you guys didn’t think I meant just water, did you?  Nope, there are way too many fun ways to get your H2O! Turning fruit into drinks is a great way of staying hydrated, getting some extra vitamins, AND pleasing your taste buds all at the same time.

I love a good glass of pinot grigio, and there are many times when only a glass of ice cold beer will do, but since I like to incorporate cocktail hour as often as possible, I like to dream up magical mocktails.

A lot of places serve overly sweet and fake fruity drinks, so when I make mine at home I love knowing that it is filled with REAL  and nutritious ingredients.  On a non-mocktail night I may very well add a shot of rum to this drink!

Mint and pineapple go really well together.  Both of these ingredients lend a freshness to the drink, with the pineapple providing sweetness and the mint adding extra flavour.  It’s like a pina colada and a mojito had a baby!

To balance out the tartness of the pineapple I added a bit of vanilla extract.  The vanilla gives the drink a more well rounded taste, and seriously, what doesn’t go with vanilla?

All I need is sand between my toes and my tropical vision is almost complete! Oh, and maybe one of those fun drink umbrellas!

While we’re talking about cocktail hour, Derek and I try to sneak in a good cocktail hour a few times a week.  For us, cocktail hour means sitting down together at the end of the day with a drink (or mocktail for me!) and a little snack or appetizer plate and just chill.  Come Thursday afternoon you can bet that we are having cocktail hour before having a late dinner. When we are on vacation we love to pick up some refreshments at the local convenience or grocery store and have cocktail hour before heading out for the night.  It just sets the tone for relaxing and connecting, and is a big part of the revel lifestyle for me.

You will need:

  • 1/2 large pineapple, cut in 1 inch pieces (remove the core and skin)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of mint leafs
  • 1/4 tsp of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of apple juice

How to:

  1. Combine the pineapple, mint and vanilla in a food processor, and process until it forms a fine, liquid pulp.
  2. Add the apple juice and process until it is mixed in with the pulp.
  3. Place the mixture in the freezer for a couple of hours.  It will not freeze, but it will become nice and cold.
  4. Serve outside on a hot summers’ afternoon (or inside on a miserably cold day if you want to pretend it is summer!).

Serves 4

Hey, it’s Thursday – I see cocktail hour in my near future!  Do you have any chilling out rituals that you like to incorporate into your week?