After we left the Healthy Living Summit (if you want to read about that, here are the re-caps: One, Two, Three, Four), Katie and I had a thoroughly UN-healthy destination in mind (okay, I know any destination can be healthy in moderation): Hershey, Pennsylvania. After sitting in traffic for an hour leaving Philly , we arrived, and had a lot of trouble finding parking. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones with the idea: the picture to the left doesn’t do justice to the insanity. There were people EVERYWHERE! I thought maybe it was extra busy because Selena Gomez was doing a concert that day, and it started to rain heavily so people came in from the amusement park, but when I asked a cashier, she said that August is their busy month, and it was maybe a little busier, but it’s pretty much like that every day!
Since it was SO busy, it took me nearly half an hour to get my surprisingly delicious and healthy salad – grilled chicken, tomatoes, corn, black beans, salsa, mixed greens from the food court. It took Katie even longer than that to get her veggie wrap (we needed some veggies before the chocolate indulgence that was to come).
Then, we boarded the “Great American Chocolate Tour” ride, where the singing cows you see to your left extolled the versions of the milk used to make Hershey’s milk chocolate, and we saw simulations of the chocolate factory, and, most importantly, got free chocolate samples at the end.
Then, it was upstairs to the “Dessert Creation Studio,” a do-it-yourself dessert experience. You pick from the menu, choose whatever toppings/add-ons you want, then have it brought out to you unassembled, and you put it together. My choice: sundae: chocolate ice cream, hot fudge, peanut butter cups, brownies. Katie went for her own lactose-free spin on the ice cream cookie sandwich: chocolate chip cookies, chocolate ganache and Reese’s Pieces. You’ll have to excuse the slightly deranged looks on our faces: it had been a long day of traffic delays, rain, crazy screaming children, and parking lot quests, and we just needed our chocolate. I’m sure you understand. After dessert, it was back downstairs for a frenzied shopping trip to by myself (and some friends/family) a few treats, and we hit the road, to arrive home after 1:30!
Monday night was my long-anticipated family birthday dinner. I chose the menu in advance from Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes and my family collaborated to make it happen. On the menu: turkey cobb salad burgers, oven-roasted fries and toasted marshmallow milkshakes. All.so. good. That burger was so big and juicy and full of flavour – a total mess in the most delicious of ways. The fries were roasted with oil and sea salt to a perfect golden brown – crispy to exactly the right amount. And the shake? Toasted marshmallows blended right in with the ice cream and milk gave it the flavour of campfire in a cool, creamy glass. Birthday perfection. But there’s more.
Every birthday needs cake, right? My wonderful, talented and creative sister made a chocolate cherry s’more cake. You heard right. That’s 4 layers of chocolate cake, with alternating layers of homemade cherry filling, marshmallow cream and graham crackers, topped off with more marshmallow cream, graham crackers and chocolate chunks, and stuck under the broiler. In case you’re wondering, it was every bit as delicious as it sounds. That’s the perfect birthday for me. Delicious food, made and enjoyed at home, with the people I love.
Tuesday night, I was dining alone, and after being away all weekend and feasting on such a decadent meal Monday, I was craving some veggies in a serious way. Inspired by my garden goodness (plum tomatoes, fresh basil and parsley, and a poblano pepper) and Dawn Jackson-Blatner’s talk about being a flexitarian and eating more plant-based meals, I created a delicious veggie, bean, edamame and pasta dish.
I sautéed the zucchini, corn, onion, garlic and pepper (chopped first, obviously) in a teaspoon of olive oil, while cooking 2 ounces dry whole wheat macaroni. When the vegetables had started to brown, I added chopped plum tomatoes, 1/2 cup white kidney beans, 1/3 cup frozen edamame, seasoned with salt and pepper, and let it simmer. I also added a bit of the pasta water, then threw in the cooked pasta and herbs at the end and let it all cook together. The result was a HUGE and filling bowl of delicious flavour – a bright hit from the fresh herbs at the end, and lots of flavour from the slightly caramelized veggies.
Dessert was HLS-influenced as well. I made a sundae, of sorts, with some light vanilla ice cream topped with a bit of leftover cherry filling (my sister gave it to me along with the cake) and some warrior crunch granola that I got at the Healthy Living Summit. This flavour was created to support breast cancer research, and all the money from proceeds is going to Susan of the Great Balancing Act, who was supposed to be at HLS, but had to give up her ticket due to a cancer diagnosis. I love granola, but it’s awfully high in calories, so the small sample amount made a perfect dessert topping.
Happy Friday…we’ve made it to the weekend once again! What is your idea of the perfect birthday?