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Experiencing San Francisco Bay Area

This is part of a series of travel articles composed by myself and travel expert Kendra Thornton, former Orbitz Director, about our favorite things to do in our home towns.

As I just relocated from NYC to the San Francisco Bay Area, I am sharing the top 5 things I am most excited about doing in and around the Bay!

Experiencing city life the San Franciscan way

  • Such an iconic San Fran experience are riding the trolleys (ding, ding)!  Excited to hop on a cable car and ride the 7 hill tops and watch our west coast peeps hike the city’s steep hills (NY may be a city of walkers but the San Franciscans have the calves!).
  • With the yearly moderate temps a bike ride through Golden Gate Park (20% larger than Central Park) is a must.  Can’t wait to bike through the Japanese Tea Garden (where the first fortune cookies were supposedly made) and stop at the coastal end of the park to play in the sand with the kids.
  • After living in a city with some of the greatest restaurants and chef’s in the world, my eager taste buds are ready to dine at the trendy Gary Danko’s in North Beach and RN74 in South Beach.  The food is suppose to be delicious and the atmosphere noteworthy.

Home to the 49ers and Giants!

  • Such iconic California teams in the Bay.  Where else can you catch an out-of-the-park home run ball by boat but at the AT&T Park.  In my opinion, one of the best places to watch a baseball game.  And, the red and gold spirit on the peninsula is contagious.  We may be a true Green Bay Packers family (I’m a drafted fan due to marriage, ha!) but when the Packers are not playing we will definitely be rooting for our new home team at Candlestick Park (soon Levi’s Stadium), go 49ers  –  “Who’s got it better than us? Nobody!”

Biking, Hiking, and Surfing

  • The Bay Area has such a diverse amount of outdoor activities.  A couple things I am most pumped about are hiking along the gorgeous beach lined coastal hills, and then in the winter, watching the world’s bravest surfers at Mavericks Beach shredding waves.  So California.  Then at the nearby Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay grabbing a drink on the beach during sunset.  Can’t wait!

World Class Wineries

  • If there is anything more notable in the North Bay it’s the Napa wineries!  I am eagerly awaiting a day trip of wine tasting, touring the vineyards, having lunch at the Culinary Institute of America and ending the day drinking a local wine watching the sunset at one of the amazing spas in Sonoma County.

America’s Cup

  • A spectacular event on the Bay is watching the America’s Cup!  The catamarans make the show exciting to watch and the 2013 event was voted the most ‘fan-friendly’ AC ever.  Rumor has it that the 2016 AC event could, once again, be held in the San Francisco Bay.  I hope so!

With so much culture, diversity and beauty throughout the bay, there is something for everyone.  I hope some of my favorite things to experience inspire you to take a trip to the San Francisco Bay Area.

What is something you enjoy doing in your home city?  Would love to hear about it.

Oyster Fest

Who’s in for oyster shucking?!  Well you won’t catch me doing that, but last weekend we headed to Oyster Bay, Long Island for the largest waterfront festival on the East Coast.  There was much to see and much to do, especially with oysters, from shucking contests, to oyster eating contests, to a few oyster crafts, and to anyway your palate will take them, raw, fried, sautéed, mixed, over-easy and I’m sure, if you looked hard enough, on the rocks!  There were several large boats in the bay to tour, the USCG Cutter Chinook, the Barquentine Peacemaker, and the 130-foot 1931 John J Harvey fireboat.  And lets not forget the craft tents and artwork.  We came home with a few holiday finds for ourself and the relatives, all while listening to the bands play throughout the day in the background.  There were pirate reenactments, rides for children, and those with stomachs of iron participated in the eating contests, however we chose the leisurely stroll and tasting along the waste widening food court.  Anything unhealthy was at your finger tips!  And we couldn’t pass up a walk along the gorgeous waterfront.  Oyster Bay is not only known for its Oyster Festival, but also for its charm, beauty, stunning bay and harbor, and of course, the summer home of Theodore Roosevelt on Sagamore Hill.  Anytime of year is a great time to visit Oyster Bay.

Here are just a couple photos we took while enjoying our day in, oyster filled, Oyster Bay…

Oysters and crowds galore!  Get there early ;)

Admiring the large boats and fireboat display…

Looking for seafood comfort food?  The food courts had it all!

Couldn’t get enough of the stunning bay and harbor and views of Centre Island…

Maybe next time we won’t be watching our shoe float down the bay and be able to stay a little bit longer.

A fun family day and festival.  We could have spent the whole day there if Maddie hadn’t kicked her shoe off over the railing and into the bay.  When you have a toddler who stroller planks (for those non-parents, when a child refuses to bend and sit) there’s only one thing to do, emergency shoe shop!

Do you have a Fall festival you enjoy going to each year?  I would love to hear about it.

Halloween Treat

This week I was looking for some type of holiday treat to have around the apartment.  I wanted to try something new.  Something that would get us a little more in the Halloween spirit.  I found this recipe on Easy Baked and thought it looked yummy and fun.  And, of course, fairly quick and easy.  If you’re inclined to make this Halloween bundt, it’s very simple.  Make two cake batches -  one chocolate, one vanilla.  Split the vanilla batch in half and color one half orange and the other half purple, then layer the cake dough, bake, decorate, and you’re finished!  I’ll take you through my steps and maybe this cake might be the Halloween treat your family will be spellbound for!

Make 2 cake batters – 1 chocolate and 1 white.  Split the white cake batter in half and color 1 orange and the other purple.  My purple could have been a little darker.  Layer the batters – first chocolate, then purple, then orange and finally top it off with a chocolate layer.

Make sure the chocolate top layer completely covers all the colors so they will be hidden in the baked bundt.  Now bake the cake at 325 degrees for 45-55 mins.  I added a lot of dough and it took mine 65 mins to bake.

Once the cake is done baking it will probably look a little spotted like mine.  Don’t worry.  Once we’re done decorating it, all flaws will be hidden!

Cover the cake in a light layer of chocolate frosting.  I used chocolate fudge frosting.  Oh so yummy!  Plus the color is very dark.  Now all inside colors are hidden, for a little surprise, when cutting into it.  Halloween is all about surprises, right :)

Now the fun part, adding the colors.  I used food coloring, orange and black, in vanilla frosting and pipped on the lines.  I’ve seen this done in purple pipping, as well, and it looks really nice!

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INGREDIENTS:

  • One box of white cake mix
  • One box of chocolate cake mix
  • Orange, Black and/or Purple food coloring (use food coloring in your vanilla frosting and pipe onto cake)
  • One tub of pre-made chocolate frosting
  • One tub of pre-made vanilla frosting (use for colored pipping)

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Make both cake mixes according to packages.
  • Divide the white cake batter into two bowls, equally.
  • Add black coloring to the chocolate cake to darken it.
  • Add purple to 1/2 of the white batter and orange to the other half.
  • Pour about 1/3 of the chocolate batter into the bottom of a well-greased bundt pan.
  • Pour all of the purple batter over the chocolate
  • Pour all of the orange batter over the purple
  • Pour another 1/3 of the chocolate batter over the colors.  You can use more than 1/3, but you want to give the cake room to rise- so leave a bit of room.  You can discard the remaining chocolate batter or make a couple of cupcakes with it.
  • Bake at 325 degrees for about 45-55 minutes (until the center is set and a cake tester inserted comes out clean).
  • Tip over on a cake rack and cool completely
  • To finish, cover cake with chocolate frosting that is room temp or melt the tub of frosting in the microwave (about 15-30 seconds) and stir well.
  • Place colored frosting (food coloring in vanilla frosting) in a zip-top bag, clip a corner and drizzle over entire top of cake.

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We have already dug into ours and we’re enjoying it!  Plus it looks fun and festive on the counter.

What Halloween treats are you making this year or enjoy having around the house?  Please share!  I would love to get some fun and yummy new ideas.

Calling All Bread Lovers

 

I’ve found it!!  The best and most delicious banana bread.  From one banana bread lover to another, don’t get this confused with the market breads or the cafe breads you’ve tried.  This is Magnolia Bakery’s banana nut with coconut found in their cookbook.  Yummy!  If you’re a New Yorker then you already know how delicious Magnolia’s desserts, especially their cupcakes, taste.  My father is coming into town in a couple of weeks and I know he is a banana bread lover too, so I went on the hunt for a great, mouth craving, can’t sleep at night banana bread.  It’s one of my favorite morning foods, snacks, desserts, or any time of the day cravings, so I hunted, searched, and finally found, what I think is one of the best banana breads I have tasted.  If you’re not sold on this recipe yet, my husband, who always turns his nose up at banana bread every time he sees me eating it, cannot get enough of this loaf I just made!

Here’s some pictures I took along the way and the recipe if you so desire to try it…

First I prepared the bananas to mash and chopped the pecans…what really makes this bread taste yummy are the pecans and coconut!

Next I mixed all the dry ingredients.  This recipe is quite easy to follow.  I’m no master chef in the kitchen and this seemed to be somewhat quick and simple.  About 30 min prep time.

Then I mixed together the dry and wet ingredients.  I usually don’t like bread batter, but found myself licking my fingers clean!

Lastly, I baked the bread for about 50 minutes at 350 degrees, then let it sit for an hour or so.  Looking delicious…hope you can hold out an hour before tasting…wasn’t easy for this banana bread lover!!

ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature, well beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas
  • 3/4 sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped toasted pecans
  • 3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut

directions

  • 1  Preheat oven to 350°.
  • 2  Grease and flour a 10 inch tube pan or 2 loaf pans.
  • 3  Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
  • 4  Beat oil and sugar on medium speed until well-mixed. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat well.
  • 5  Add the bananas and sour cream, and mix well.
  • 6  Add the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.
  • 7  Stir in pecans and coconut.
  • 8  Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s).
  • 9  Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the bread comes out with moist crumbs attached.
  • 10  NOTE: If using loaf pans, bake for 45-55 minutes.
  • 11  Let cool for at least one hour before serving.

If you make it, let me know what you think of the recipe!  Do you have a craving that’s not so flattering on the hips, but it’s worth every bite?  Would love to hear about it.

Until next ride,

Amy

Coffee Anyone?

 

Today is gloomy and rainy.  What better day to head out to one of my favorite coffee shops in the city, Amy’s Bread!  No, not because it’s named Amy, but for everything else that makes grabbing a coffee in the city enjoyable.  This West Village coffee and bread hot spot has a European cozy charm with only a few intimate bistro tables, the smell of bread baking as you enter, and corner windows with perfect views for people and cabby watching, while you bite into some delicious fresh bread and sip coffee from grande mugs without handles.  Amy’s is more known for their European style breads rather than coffee, but in my opinion, they are both exceptional!  In November 2010, Dessert Professional Magazine, named Amy one of the Top 10 Best Bread Bakers in America.   Their breads can also be found in many high-end restaurants around the city, that don’t bake their own bread.  Not to mention, this corner bakery is in the heart of one of my favorite neighborhoods, the West Village.  Are you ready for some coffee, yet?  I am!  I’ll meet you there!

Each of their twist breads have unique flavors, and looking at how the breads are displayed, it’s fun just picking one out!  What should we choose today?

I tried to order something different, but couldn’t resist my favorite, Sourdough Twist With Chocolate!  So yummy!!  Always tempted to go back for seconds.  Also, no grande, just a small coffee for me today, still counting baby calories.  Got to cut somewhere, just not from my Twist!

If you’re interested in pasteries and cupcakes, I am!  Above is Amy’s dessert cookbook.  I haven’t tried any recipes yet, but might for the holidays!  Click on the image above to order or find out more from Amazon.

Where do you enjoy having your coffee or tea or whatever you fancy?  I would love to hear about it.  Have a great weekend!

Until next ride,

Amy

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