Life Needs Frosting

I was walking by the [relatively] new Cinnabon on Emek Refaim last week and took a quick glance at their outdoor seating area…

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Yes, Cinnabon, I agree. Life does need frosting.

Here’s a quick recap of some of my [relatively] recents adventures with frosting dessert happiness sweet things.

YOLO is taking Jerusalem by storm. I bought a couple containers of YOLO at the store a while ago because I thought it was hilariously named. When I bought it, I thought it was just a coincidence that the name of this pudding-like dessert cup was the same as the trendy hashtag acronym ‘you only live once’. #YOLO. Hence, why I found this pudding cup humorous.

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Little did I know it was even more funny than I originally thought…

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Not a coincidence. 

Noah and I weren’t a huge fan of YOLO, but it seems to be on quite the marketing campaign as we saw hundreds of YOLOs being handed out for free last week at the Tahana Rishona.

The more exciting “frostings” in my life, however, have come in the form of waffles! I’ve posted about the dessert waffle situation in Israel previously. For those who missed it, basically warm waffles covered in ice cream, whipped cream, and various candy/chocolate/fruity toppings are a popular decadence around these parts. These sorts of waffles can be found on many dessert menus at various restaurants (such as the waffle we had at Landwer), and there are some big chains that focus on waffles (but still serve other foods). One of such chains is Waffle Bar which I talked about in my last post, and the other major chain is Waffle Factory which Noah and I visited more recently:

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I think I liked the waffle at Waffle Factory a little better than the one at Waffle Bar (and Waffle Factory has a really fun menu where you can custom order your waffle by choosing a certain number of components from the ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ toppings categories).

Any waffle covered in sweet sauce and ice cream will most likely be delicious, so I don’t know that there’s too much sense in ranking them….
That said, people still often talk about Babette near Ben Yehuda as being among the top waffle options. It’s a small, independent, one-location shop, and I think those factors contribute to the favoritism over some of the other waffle restaurants.

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Like Waffle Factory, you could choose exactly what you wanted on your waffle at Babette, although you could also select from a menu of suggested waffle-types. The thing that I really liked at Babette is that you could order your waffle ‘half and half,’ meaning two people could share a waffle and each order exactly what they want on their own half. This was particularly good for Noah and me because Noah is more of a fruit person while I’m partial to [as much] chocolate [as possible]. Somehow we manage to stay together. 😉

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This waffle was good but difficult to eat because it did not come on a plate (only the flimsy cardboard sheets that people eat pizza off of here) and the only utensil was a spoon. A+ for waffle quality, C- for ability to not get waffle all over your face.

Dense and Delicious Brownies

After last week’s cooking experiment with avocado chocolate cake, I was eager to try another dessert recipe using the big green monster.

Cookieavocado-+Sesame+Workshop[source]

When I was asked to bake another dessert to bring to a Shabbat meal this weekend, I decided to make a recipe for brownies using avocado as a dairy replacement again. I found this recipe online and used that as a starting point for the recipe listed below. *full recipe at bottom of page

To begin, I (vigorously) beat together 4 eggs and 2/3 cup white sugar:

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Then, I heated 8 oz. non-dairy semisweet chocolate chips on the stove top until just melted:

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So much love chocolate!!

I quickly re-stirred the egg/sugar mixture and then stirred in the melted chocolate.

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Next, I added 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cocoa powder, and 2 tsp vanilla to the mixture and stirred until it formed a smooth, thick batter:

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Next up…mash the avocado!

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The avocados in Israel are ENORMOUS, so I only used one. If you are using regular size avocados I would use two though. Once the avocado was sufficiently mashed, I added it to the batter and stirred until it was thick, smooth, and had no visible green flecks:

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I poured the batter into a 9 inch round baking pan and baked for 45 minutes at 350º. If I had a better stocked kitchen, I think it would be better to bake in a square baking dish (I would also check to see if the brownies are set starting at 30 minutes).

They came out wonderfully.

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The brownies were extremely dense, moist, delicious…all the good things. Last week’s cake had a little bit of the ‘healthy’ flavor to it, but these could have passed for brownies teeming with butter and heavy cream. Definitely a good contribution to any meal. 🙂

Dense and Delicious Brownies
Ingredients
- 4 eggs
- 2/3 cup white sugar
- 8 oz. chocolate chips (non-dairy if necessary)
- 1/2 cup wheat flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 very large or two small mashed avocados
Method
- Vigorously beat together eggs and sugar in a large bowl
- Melt chocolate chips on stovetop over low heat until
just melted
- Quickly re-stir eggs/sugar and add in melted chocolate 
and stir until well combined
- Add flour, cocoa, and vanilla, stirring to combine
- Mash avocado and then add to the batter
- Stir until a smooth, thick batter forms
- Place in a 9 inch round or square baking dish
and cook for 30-45 minutes at 350º (I would
check the center of the brownie to see if firm
starting at 30 minutes)
- Allow to cool and slice, if desired

 

Avocado Chocolate Cake

Kashrut is a Hebrew word meaning ‘fit’ or ‘proper.’ Although it has several applications in Jewish law, kashrut is most often spoken about in relationship to food and the Jewish dietary laws. To explain the entire system of dietary laws here is a much larger undertaking than I am interested in, so I will VERY briefly sum up the highlights: no pork, no shellfish, no mixing of meat and dairy , and no eating dairy after meat for 1, 3, or 6 hours (depending on who you ask). Due to the prohibition against eating meat and dairy together, traditional Jewish meals are classified as either halavi (dairy) or basari (meat). Restaurants in Israel serve EITHER dairy dishes OR meat dishes, and meals within homes are also given the same classification. Therefore, after being invited to a Shabbat meal and being asked to bring dessert, my first question was, “Is it a meat meal or a dairy meal.” The answer, “Meat.”

No. That does not mean I would be making a dessert with meat in it. It does, however, mean that the dessert cannot contain any dairy products – milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, and other creamy things that often find their way into the end-of-meal deliciousness.

Fear not, dessert lovers, because there is a solution! It’s BIG. It’s green. It’s still creamy:

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Yes. The avocado is the magical replacement ingredient for dairy. While others may be bringing margarine-laden delicacies to Shabbat meals, I am powering my meat-meal dessert with the fatty avocado (a good kind of fat, if you’re interested!).

I decided that I wanted to make a chocolate avocado cake, loosely based on this recipe*see the full recipe for my cake below

First, mix together the dry ingredients of whole wheat flour, white flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda:

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In a separate bowl, mix together melted coconut oil, water, apple cider vinegar, 1 mashed avocado, and white and brown sugar. This will quite possibly look gross. In fact, the one in my kitchen looked quite gross, hence my artistic decision not to include a photograph of this particular step. Don’t worry though, it will still taste great!

After you mix the wet ingredients (as listed above), combine them with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly:

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Pour the batter into a large pan (two small pans would be preferable  – I just didn’t have) and cook for 45 minutes at 350º.

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When the cake comes out of the oven, allow it to cool for about 30 minutes. While you’re waiting…make the frosting!

Combine two cups powdered sugar with cocoa powder and cinnamon:

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Add (another) mashed avocado to the mix and stir until the frosting takes on an even consistency:

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Once the cake sufficiently cools, you can layer and frost it! Since I had only the large pan to cook in, I ended up cutting the cake in half and making layers that way. If you have two pans, I have no doubt that would be much easier!

Full cake (with avocado flecks – don’t be scared of the green!):

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Half cake (otherwise known as the first layer):

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Frosting and layers:

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Yummmmm

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Tell your guests that the green bits are actually delicious. And that it’s healthy. And no one will care. Or, just get a food processor. 😉

Ingredients
For the cake:
- 4 Tbsp. cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups white flour
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1 3/4cups water
- 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 ripe avocado, mashed
- 2/3 cup white sugar
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
For the frosting:
- 1 ripe avocado, mashed
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
 Method
 - for the cake, combine cocoa powder, flours, cinnamon, baking 
powder, and baking soda in a large bowl
- separately, combine coconut oil, water, apple cider vinegar, 
mashed avocado, and sugars
- add the wet ingredients to the dry, transfer to a pan and cook
for 45 minutes at 350º
 - as cake cooks, make frosting by combining all ingredients
and stirring thoroughly until smooth
- allow cake to cool for at least 30 minutes before frosting

Spoon-lickin’ V-Day

This was a delicious Valentine’s Day. Primary gifts – both given and received – focused on food. After much debate on what I could give that would appropriately relay my devoted girlfriend status, I decided to make chocolates with handcrafted wrapping. 

To start, I melted dark chocolate chips and prepared the toppings:

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Chocolate melts fast, so I made sure to have everything prepped and ready to go before I turned on the heat. After the chocolate melted, I quickly poured it into a parchment paper-lined bread pan (I would not recommend a bread pan to use for this, it just seemed like the best option from what was in my kitchen). I wanted to make the chocolate into four bars, each with one of the following toppings: banana chips, almonds, white chocolate chips, and hot and spicy pepitas:

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It’s important to get the toppings on the chocolate fast, otherwise it may start to harden. Once the toppings are firmly on the chocolate, I put the pan in the freezer while I cleaned up licked everything.

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I left the chocolates in the freezer for about 30 minutes (if I did this again, I would probably leave them a bit longer) and then took them out, cut into four pieces, and started on the decorations! My idea was to wrap each chocolate in foil and create a paper wrapping to go around that – similar to a hershey’s.

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I tried to come up with cute sayings to put on the wrapping…some worked a bit better than others. 🙂

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In the evening, Noah and I went to a dinner at Eastwood Nature Center in Osseo, MN. The evening included a meal, swing-dancing lessons, time to look around the nature center, and a visit with the center’s owl (definitely a highlight!). Eastwood decorated beautifully, and the tables for dinner were set with heart candles and flowers.

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The meal itself was fairly basic and served buffet style: turkey, salad, green beans, and potatoes:

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Swing dancing was definitely the highlight of the evening, but I was too busy groovin’ to take any pictures.

The next day, food gifts continued when Noah bought all the supplies for us to make a fruit tart! 

Wow – this was quite an endeavor! The whole process took about 6 hours. The cream had to chill for 3 hours, the dough for 90 minutes, and there was a lot of baking/resting/freezing time. Finally, it was time for us to actually cook the crust. Getting the dough into the tart pan proved a bit of a challenge as we didn’t have a rolling pin, but we managed to do alright! Before and after baking:

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Once the crust was cooked and cooled, it was time to get rolling with the filling. After chilling in the refrigerator for several hours, the cream needed no extra preparation and all we had to do was pour it into the crust:

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Then, we got to work chopping berries and creating a glaze by heating jelly on the stove:

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And finally…

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This thing looked good, if I say so myself. The cream piece of it really does seem to be an art though, and ours didn’t hold together quite so well…

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I’m not complaining though. It was delicious!

Did you eat anything great for Valentine’s Day?

Surdyk’s

Surdyk’s in Northeast Minneapolis is undeniably a specialty-shop gem. The highlights are wine and cheese, but the deli, chocolates, spreads, and other odds & ends are definitely worth nothing.

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Having heard about Surdyk’s in various Twin Cities publications since moving here, when I passed by the shop I couldn’t resist going inside. Although I didn’t purchase anything, the inside view was enough to tell me this place is GREAT. And I wanted to purchase everything. Yes, everything.

First up: chocolate (naturally).

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An entire display was devoted to pretty much every variety, flavor, and cocoa concentration you could imagine. This was all high quality melt-in-your-mouth stuff: the real deal. No Hershey’s to be found. 🙂

After tearing my attention away from the chocolate, I checked out the dessert case:

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Cakes, bars, tortes…enough said.

Moving on to the deli case, there were several types of sandwiches (a turkey panini looked especially delicious!), cold salads, and a selection of soups:

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Last but not least, the cheese. Oh, the cheese.

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More cheeses than I knew existed (there’s cheddar and swiss, right?). Surdyk’s is serious about their cheese. Not only do they have literally hundreds of cheese options, they can ship anywhere in the world and there is always a cheese consultant at the counter to help you. Yes, cheese consultant is a job.

Next time I’m having a picnic, I’m stocking up here. 🙂

Yumyum Yogurt

These are a few of my favorite things:

  • Noah
  • dogs
  • running
  • frozen yogurt
  • frozen yogurt in fun flavors
  • frozen yogurt with fun toppings

The last three items culminate in one mega-favorite thing: SELF SERVE FROZEN YOGURT. I’ve tried several of these self-serve places, and by far one of the best ones I’ve ever been to Yogurt Lab. Lucky for me, there are several locations in the Twin Cities area. Dangerous for me, one will be opening soon barely two blocks from my apartment. Will I go every week?!?! Only time will tell. 🙂

Yogurt Lab has a ‘science’ theme. Here’s their periodic table of flavors:
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Those are all the flavors they rotate through! At any given time, there are about a dozen flavors available:

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Part of why Yogurt Lab is my favorite is their topping selection. There’s the fruit area:
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The cereal, nuts, and small candy dispensers:
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And there’s also a crushed candy section.

Here’s my creation: tiramisu, triple chocolate, and salted caramel froyo topped with crushed heath bar, reeses, and some chocolate powder:
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My dad went with an almond joy themed cup: chocolate and vanilla froyo with coconut, peanuts, and chocolate chips.

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Pure perfection.

Chocolate Granola Bars

I love chocolate. Big time. Why anyone would ever choose a non-chocolate dessert is beyond me. Given my affinity for the stuff, chocolate seems to find its way into my mouth pretty much every. single. day. Luckily, I am able to control my quantities, thereby avoiding any major health issues (so far…). Also luckily, I don’t need thick slabs of cake or ooey gooey brownies. I just need some chocolate in some variety. Plain and simple. Due to my indiscriminate chocolate taste, I like to experiment making chocolate recipes on the healthier side. Or should I say, the ‘healthier’ side?

I came across this recipe for chocolate granola bars by the Marathon Mom. They’ve been on my pinterest wall for quite awhile, so I decided it was finally time to give them a shot. I ended up tweaking the original recipe slightly given that I didn’t have all the called-for ingredients in my kitchen. Bonus: they don’t require any baking! full recipe below

First, melt a half stick of butter in a saucepan over medium heat:

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Add peanut butter and honey, and heat, stirring frequently, until melted:

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Add oats, flax, and shredded coconut:

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And the best part….add the chocolate:

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Stir to combine:

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Scrape into an 8×8 greased pan and let cool in the refrigerator until set. Once cool, divide into 8 bars. Store in the fridge.

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This recipe was incredibly quick, easy, and delicious. The peanut butter and oats make the bars pretty dense, so they are a super satisfying afternoon snack as well as a chocolate fix!

Chocolate Granola Bars
makes 8 bars
Ingredients
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup peanut butter (I used super chunky)
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 cup oats
- 2 tablespoons ground flax
- 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Method
Melt butter, peanut butter, and honey in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently.
Once melted, add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.
Scrape into 8x8 greased dish and set in fridge to cool.
Once set, divide into 8 bars. Keep in the refrigerator.

Smiles in the Mail

Typically, the mail I get consists of the following:

  • credit card advertisements
  • politicians soliciting donations
  • Rainbow Grocery’s latest sales catalog

Yeah, not too exciting. So imagine my delight when I got one two three exciting deliveries in the mail this week! The first, was a beautiful Valentine’s Day card from my family.

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My mom wrote that she thought it would be perfect for me. It was. 🙂 Thanks, family! The second surprise arrival came from Penguin Publishing, which gave me a clue that it was probably from my dear and talented friend who works for them. Little did I know that the package contained pure girl power with a super hero punch.

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Yep, that’s an advance reader copy of The Ultra Violets by Sophie Bell (published by Razorbill, shout out!) With the book came a delightful letter from the Razorbill team, telling me that they knew I would like this book given my affinity for purple guns, glittery girls, smarties – the nerdy kind – and fun. How do they know me so well?! The letter also pinky promised me that it’s a viomazing read. I am holding them to that.

The third and final smile to arrive in the mail this week was the February Bestowed package.

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For anyone who missed by January Bestowed package post, Bestowed is a monthly delivery program created by author and nutritionist Heather Bauer. The monthly packages include food and healthy living products selected for their nutritional strengths and general deliciousness. The February package was full of exciting goodies.

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A look inside…

Nature Made VitaMelts Zinc – Described as a smooth-dissolving option for those who have difficulty swallowing vitamins (ahem, ME!), these tablets provide 100% of your daily value of zinc. I had a few already, and they taste really good!
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22 Days Nutrition Bar – This bar is gluten, dairy, and soy free, packed with protein, and made of organic ingredients. That’s enough to sell me! The flavor I received was pb chocolate chip:
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Simply Snackin Jerky – I will admit, I’m not really a jerky girl. Something about the texture, smell, and general idea of it (meat in a bag that’s not refrigerated?!) doesn’t really appeal to me. Needless to say, the jerky sticks were the item in the package that made me the least excited. Still, this particular jerky is all natural with no MSG, fillers, or trans fats. The flavors – teriyaki chicken with mango and papaya and beef sirloin with apples and cherries – were interesting. I don’t know if I’ll work myself up to actually trying them, but for now I am content to let them sit in my cupboard.
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Nuttzo – Given how I feel about peanut butter, this was definitely the package’s highlight! Nuttzo is made with seven different 100% organic nuts and seeds and has no added sugars or oils. Also, a portion of Nuttzo’s profits go to Project Left Behind, a nonprofit that provides for orphans around the world.
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Green and Black’s Dark Chocolate (70%) – The final item in February’s Bestowed package was another can’t-go-wrong food: chocolate. Green and Black’s is an organic chocolate company that vows to bring consumers environmentally-conscious and responsibly manufactured products. In addition to a small bar of 70% dark chocolate, I also received a coupon for $1.50 off a bar at the store.
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There you have it – February’s Bestowed package!

Make sure to check out previous Bestowed package posts:January 2013

The Love Tour: Valentine’s Day at the Zoo

Sorry for a couple-day hiatus in writing – I was out of town for the weekend, and Thursday night I had no time to blog due to the fact that I was on the greatest Valentine’s Day date ever!

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‘The Love Tour: Mating rituals that might make you blush,’ run through the Minnesota Zoo as a fundraiser for their conservation programs. First of all, this date was a complete and total surprise, planned by the fabulous Noah. I will admit I had pretty high expectations since I had been hearing comments like “I’m so excited for Valentine’s Day” since last March, but this completely exceeded even my highest hopes.

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What made this the greatest Valentine’s Day date ever? See for yourself…

First, we got to the zoo (I was immediately excited since I love the zoo but still didn’t really know what was going on). We went inside, and were greeted by friendly zoo staff and champagne.

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Waiters came by with appetizers – mini polenta cakes and lettuce wraps with strip steak and pico de gallo:

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That was about when I learned that we would be having a Tropics Trail Tour to learn all about the mating rituals and practices of animals. A delicious dinner follows the tour. Sneak peak at the dining room:

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While we’re waiting for the tour to begin, there’s plenty of entertainment (besides the food and champagne) to keep us occupied.

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I think I’m better at boggle, but these games were fun. 🙂 After much anticipation, the tour began, and it was SO interesting/fun/funny/greatest time ever. The zookeepers leading the tours all volunteered their time for the event, and our guide told us that the keepers really enjoy the event since they don’t usually get to talk about mating rituals with their regular tour groups (ie, elementary school groups). Heading into the tropics, our first visit was to the ring-tailed lemurs:

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a little hard to see, but the lemur is sitting on the branch in the top middle area of the picture

Male lemurs rub their mating smelliness all over their tails and then wave their tails around to attract females. This lemur was sweet enough to have decorated his pen for us:

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how thoughtful

Next up was the rhinoceros hornbill:

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For anyone who says that monogamous relationships are unnatural for animals, they should meet a rhinoceros hornbill. These birds mate for life, and they can live for up to 90 years. What’s more, the female completely trusts the male to stay with and provide for her, as the mother stays inside a tree trunk for the entire egg-incubation time period. The male brings her food and all of the supplies for the nest. Even more faithful, though, are African Penguins. What makes African Penguins incredible is that no instance of dual-partnership has ever been recorded in the wild. Not a single one. Wow!

on the trail

on the trail

Next up were tropical fish:

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We learned that zebra sharks are one of the few species that have ever been recorded to reproduce asexually. Female zebra sharks have reproduced alone. A Jesus-shark (as noted by our tour group), if you will.

zebra shark

zebra shark

Although sad for the tour to end, I was excited to get to dinner, especially after seeing there was a live band!

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Our table number was number 38…

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…and there were salads and a bread basket waiting for us when we arrived:

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The salad was delicious with grapefruit, feta, and toasted almonds. For the main course, we were served beef tenderloin, cod, asparagus, and potatoes:

holy yum

holy yum

I took my fish home with me since I still needed room for dessert.

fish to-go

fish to-go

Dessert was honestly one of the best things I have ever had. I don’t think Noah loved it quite as much, but I am way more of a chocolate person (all you ladies out there, say heyyyy). 🙂

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Molten lava caked with chopped pistachios and fresh whipped cream (the whipped cream seemed to have a little espresso flavor). This was so good.

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Obviously. 🙂

We even got treats to go in the form of two truffles from Max’s, the sponsoring organization.

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Overall, this was hands down the best Valentine’s Day I could have imagined. Thank you, Noah – you’re my African Penguin. ❤

Tea Time

Man oh man I love tea. Sometimes my drinking patterns of the stuff seem to borderline on obsessive. I usually have at least a few cups after every meal, plus a few more scattered throughout the day. Oh well – I suppose there’s worse stuff I could be constantly sipping on. As one caveat though, I am a repeat tea bag user. I will often use the same bag of tea over the course of several cups – just refilling with hot water. This probably decreases any crazy levels of caffeine or antioxidants I would be consuming.

Anyway…this afternoon’s lunch was no exception to my pattern of massive tea consumption. In fact, I started early and drank a cup while I was prepping my lunch. I don’t have a photo of my lunch for you since it wasn’t very photogenic, but I had some baked lentils (I’ve decided I’m not a huge fan of red lentils), homemade naan, and steamed broccoli. Here is a new mug I got for the holidays from my fabulous boyfriend:
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In addition to loving tea, I also happen to love all things monogrammed. Maybe it makes me feel special? 🙂 Also, that is the tag of a TAZO Vanilla Apricot White Tea – soooo delicious. I wish they sold that type in Starbucks! After lunch, my chocolate fantasies were running wild, so I had the last third of a dark chocolate and ginger bar – yum!
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I’ve been writing this post as I’m waiting for my food to settle before heading to the gym. I love lazy weekends!
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