Posts tagged ‘beach’
There is nothing better for the body, mind and soul than spending a week relaxing on the beach. I have visited my family, who transplanted an hour south of Tampa about 8 years ago, several times and feel a comforting sense of familiarity when I return. There are always new places to explore and memories to make, but my goal was not sight-seeing this time. Instead, my days were structured around beach reading, studying, and hanging out with my grandparents! The best part about the beaches in the Sarasota area is that they all have their own character. You can pick the feel of your beach depending on your mood that day, all without ever having to go to far!
Lucky for us, the #1 rated beach in the US is located less than a half hour’s drive from where my family lives. Siesta Key is known for its white sand and crystalline blue water. The quartz sand is powder soft and never gets hot, which makes for great beach strolls. The beach front is also huge, so the crowds that the recent publicity has drawn can be handled quite well. The downside of Siesta Key is the parking. The lot fills up before noon, leaving cars circling for emptying spots like hawks. My grandparents have learned, and so now we always head to this beach early. We arrived by 9am, with newspaper and book in hand, and enjoyed the less crowded views of the Gulf, the warm morning sun, and the soft stretches of sand.
While Siesta Key may get the fame, the local beaches are an equally good option. The beach along the Venice fishing pier is the best local beach for swimming. The sand shelf drops off quickly, but the Gulf waters are warm and usually calm, which makes swimming pleasant. The beach grass and fishing pier also add some nice scenery, and there is great bird watching as the pelicans flock to see what share they can catch.
If you like nature and solitude, Caspersen’s is the place to find it. Along the side of the peninsula, the beach is narrow and the water edge is lined with huge rocks. Only one or two rows of chairs and towels can fit, which keeps the private beach feeling. The rocks also make excellent nets for shark tooth hunting, which is this beach’s claim to fame.
After a hot day at the beach, nothing beats a soft serve ice cream cone. My favorite Florida treat is the orange soft serve ice cream at Nokomis Groves. They also have flavors like lime, pineapple, vanilla, and chocolate, but the orange is the biggest draw. While my favorite combination is orange and vanilla, I branched out to try the pineapple swirl. While it was tasty, I didn’t like that the pineapple overpowered the orange. I will stick to my favorite on my next visit! There is always a line, but it moves quickly and is worth the wait. You can also get fresh Florida citrus, citrus-inspired foodie treats, and fresh squeezed juices in the attached market.
The best part of visiting Southwestern Florida is getting to see the sunset over the ocean. As an East Coast girl, this is something that I always love, seeing the flaming sun plunge into the cool ocean. The Venice Beach is an excellent spot to watch the sunset, but the Nokomis Inlet is another great option if you don’t want to sit in the sand.
Writing this post and looking through my vacation pictures makes me long to be at the beach instead of facing a long week of school and studying! Good thing the weather has been unseasonably warm, or I might face true sunshine withdrawal!
Hello from sunny Florida! Even though this winter has been mild, there is still never a need to rationalize a week spent in the Florida sunshine. Add in a visit with your amazing grandparents, uncle, aunt and cousin, and then there is even more reason to escape to the sun! I have spent my mornings squeezing in some studying, afternoons soaking up some sun at the beach, and evenings running as my Grandma makes amazing dinners. I could get used to this! Here are some pictures from my Tuesday, and look forward to a travel post on Southwest Florida when I get home!
Grandma is an oatmeal fan as well, so I have still been able to enjoy my favorite breakfast! It is strawberry season in Plant City, FL, so the berries are abundant and cheap in the grocery store. I love them mixed in with some banana and cinnamon into plain oats!
We headed out early for the number 1 beach in the US: Siesta Key! If you don’t get there early, you are unlikely to get a parking spot, so we spent the morning reading and watching the beach slowly fill up. Nothing like a morning in the sun and a swim in the Gulf to work up an appetite! I enjoyed a great wrap: basil hummus, sunflower seeds, sun dred tomatoes, tomatoes, and baby spinach. We have been adding spinach or field greens to all of our sandwiches or wraps, and always include a toss salad with dinner to make sure we get in our greens! Lunch was rounded out with a handful or two of potato chips (I am on vacation!) an apple, and lots of water, of course!
After we got our fill of sun and sand, we headed to Nokomis Groves for their famous orange soft serve ice cream! This is one of my favorite parts of my visits to Florida. The orange-vanilla swirl cone is like a creamsicle, but better since it is made with fresh, Florida oranges. I was adventurous this time and got pineapple as the other swirled half and loved it! There is nothing better than a cone of soft serve ice cream on a hot afternoon.
My grandparents are well-traveled and love good food, so they like to be adventurous in trying restaurants. One of their favorite finds is the Curry Creek Cafe in Nokomis, FL. It is easy to pass by on the outside, but this place should not be missed. The cuisine is a fusion of classic Indonesian and Florida seafood, and the service is incredible.
We all started with a house salad, bread and olive tapenade. The salad is incredibly fresh and tasty, and the bread comes warmed from the oven.
For dinner, I enjoyed the Spicy Eggplant with Grouper cheeks, covered in an amazing spicy, tomato based sauce. Yes, that is from the fish’s head! My grandparents said that the grouper cheek is incredibly tender and well cooked at this restaurant, and so I had to be somewhat adventurous! This was incredibly spicy, but the rice and cool cucumber salad on the side tempered it. I could hardly put my fork down, this was so good! The chef himself came out to see how we liked our meal, and I tried to get the secret for the recipe I liked it so much!
We enjoyed watching the sunset over the inlet after dinner, a peaceful end to a day of beautiful weather and good eats! Hope that you are enjoying your week, whether it be routine or vacation!
Question: What is the weirdest food you have ever eaten?
Our daily life in Orebic was all about relaxation. We would run along the ocean in the morning, then walk to the market for fresh bread and any odds and ends we needed for the day. After a breakfast of fresh fruit and bread with nutella, we would make sandwiches and pack our picnic lunch for the beach. We would spend hours relaxing in front of the beautiful Adriatic Sea, alternating between swimming, reading and napping. Put best by Melissa, “The extent of my planning right now is to finish this chapter, turn over, and then take a nap.” If that isn’t relaxing, I don’t know what is!
There is pretty much only one type of bread in Croatia, just baked into a bunch of different shapes and sizes! One of my bakery transactions was solo, since Azra was picking up something at the pharmacy next door. I stood in front of the wall of bread trying to figure out what to get, when the woman informed me that they were all basically the same and it was impossible to make a bad choice. How true that is when the bread is freshly baked each day! We got huge round rolls one morning, which were bigger than my face! Another morning, we decided to get the longer sandwich rolls.
The sandwiches were pretty simple – tomatoes and cucumbers, cheese, and ajvar. But they were oh so tasty! Ajvar is an Eastern European spread made of roasted red peppers and tons of spices. I miss it so much! It took what is a pretty plain sandwich to a whole new level! I either need to find somewhere in Boston to purchase this or figure out a way to make it on my own… any recommendations? ;)
We also got to enjoy picnic lunches while on the beach in Italy, and were quite adept at pulling together to-go meals for long travel rides. Simple meals of bread and cheese can be really satisfying when they are good quality, and eaten by starving travelers! Some fresh fruit on the side for balance and you have yourself a simple, portable and satisfying lunch.
Question: What is your idea of the perfect picnic?
Full disclosure: I am still on vacation! I got home from Europe, did a few loads of laundry, and hopped in my dad’s car the next day to meet my mom and sister at our favorite beach. We are camping in Cape May, NJ for the week to celebrate my Mom’s 50th birthday. This again has left me away from the blogging world and the kitchen, but normal posts will return soon enough! Until then, another story from my trip!
Life in a beach town has a much different rhythm. You wake up with no alarm, check the heat and humidity on the front porch before deciding to go running, and lazily stroll to the market to get your food for the day. You stop at the bakery for fresh bread, a street-side stand for produce, a butcher for meat, and another stand for fish. Most places are open all morning, but the fish stand is only open from 7am-10am, which we found out the hard way on our first attempt. They have buckets on ice filled with the catch of the day, and they sell out each morning. I couldn’t tell you what any of the fish at the market were that day because their names were all in Croatian, but you basically could not make a poor choice. All of the fish looked very similar – some just a little longer or shorter, thinner or fatter. We chose 3 medium-sized fish, figuring it would be the perfect ratio for individual portions without the tiny, dangerous bones.
After a day on the beach, we made a pit stop at an Internet cafe to get a little background in fish filleting and cleaning. Seriously, what did one do before Google? I read about how to take off the scales, which fins to remove, and how to gut and wash the fish. With a basic plan of action in mind, we headed home to start on our feast.
I sat out under the outdoor shower, fish and a few
sharp knives in hand. Realizing I didn’t quite have the proper equipment, I began to improvise slightly. I used a dull knife to take off the scales, a slightly sharper knife to get the fins, and a spoon for the insides. I decided against taking the bones out, figuring I would end up with lump fish meat instead of fillets. I was more than a little grossed out and will admit to a few girly freak out moments, especially when I was under attack from a swarm of bees (who knew they liked meat?!) But I got the job done! I finished rinsing them off and carried them inside.
I cut up some lemon wheels and stuffed those with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs inside of the fish. I then created a bit of a steaming device – I put a larger frying pan on the bottom and covered it with a slightly smaller pan on top. I let the fish cook for a few minutes on each side, watching what was left of the skin melt away in my improvisational set up. Once the fish was flaky and white, I took it away from the heat. I cut off the head and tails, and served what looked like beautiful fillets of fresh fish!
Alongside, I mixed some fresh tomatoes and cucumbers together with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper for my take on a traditional Eastern European salad. I also steamed up some cauliflower, and Azra made her version of her mom’s potato salad (some raw white onions, cooked potato slices, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper). The dinner was fantastic! The fish was tender and flaky, and it was easy enough to avoid the bones. The lemon and herbs perfectly enhanced the flavor without overpowering anything. And our volumes of veggies on the side were a nice fresh addition, and were especially appreciated after a severe lack of veg in Bosnian cuisine (more to come on that!) We fully enjoyed our 4th of July fish feast, but it might be a long time before I am running to fillet fresh fish again. I am willing to try almost anything once when on vacation, though!
I love working three days a week because it gives you just enough to do to really appreciate your days off! Today, my sister and I planned to take advantage of the beautiful weather and take a bike ride down at Sandy Hook. We couldn’t have asked for better weather! We loaded our bikes up onto the back of our car…
… and then explored Sandy Hook by bike for an hour and a half! Even though I have been to this state park more times than I can count, there is still always something new to discover.
The tip of the Hook used to be a military base, so there are still old officer’s homes lining the waterfront. Many of them are now used as meeting spots for community groups, like the Audubon Society and the local Historical Society.
There are also some cool memorials spotted randomly throughout the bike path, and every once in a while the foliage breaks for a beautiful view of the bay and the ocean. My sister and I were remarking how much we love where we grew up, even though we didn’t really appreciate it until we left and came back! The beach is seriously one of my favorite places in the world, and I am so glad to be spending the summer so close to it.
With a big bike ride planned for the day, I knew I was in need of a serious stick-with-ya kind of breakfast. As my sister will attest, I turn into a diva if I get hungry, and I tend to get hungry really quickly. I needed some good protein, and remembered a breakfast bowl of quinoa my mom and I tested out a few months ago. I adapted the recipe, from 101 Cookbooks, to suit what I had in my fridge, and it was perfect! The agave is very sweet (my sister is not a fan and prefers the flavor that brown sugar gives), and the berries and cinnamon go really well together. I didn’t even get hungry until my car, with our picnic lunch, was in sight. My stomach (and my sister) were happy to avoid hunger pangs while exploring the beautiful beach!
Question: Where is your favorite place to spend a relaxing afternoon?
Berry Breakfast Quinoa
serves 2 (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of your choice)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp agave nectar (can substitute honey or brown sugar)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup thinly sliced strawberries
1/4 cup chopped almonds
Combine quinoa, milk and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then cook covered over low heat (about 10-15 minutes) until the liquid is absorbed. Remove lid; stir in vanilla and agave nectar and cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in cinnamon and berries. Serve in bowls sprinkled with chopped almonds.