Archive for November, 2010

Making cornbread from scratch isn’t that complicated, but when you have Trader Joe’s cornbread mix on hand, why add extra steps.  It’s ridiculously simple – calling for nothing more than eggs, oil, and milk. 

I made it dairy-free by subbing out the milk, but I did use an egg, so it’s not vegan.  Naturally, those weren’t the only changes I made.  One of these days I may follow a recipe exactly as it is intended…until then, here’s my take on TJ’s cornbread.


I subbed out the oil and instead used 3/4 cup corn which I roughly pureed in the food processor, leaving a few chunks of corn kernel portions to give the bread some texture.  Kinda reminded me of baby food.

I also chopped up 1/3 red bell pepper to make the recipe more unique and not seem so bread-from-a-box like (not that there’s anything wrong with that). 


In place of milk, I used water.


And instead of two eggs, I used one.  Once the batter was all mixed up, I spooned it into a PAM sprayed mini-muffin tin.


It baked for 30 minutes on 375, and voila!


How cute are these lil buggers!


I waited for them to cool (which was torture because they smelled even better than they looked) but finally I got to sample the mini-muffins. 


Ooooohhhh baby.  Can you see the kernel in that photo?  I do think adding in corn puree helped create the illusion of a more “home-made” cornbread. 


The inside was SO moist.  My main worry was how omitting the oil would affect the texture, but they weren’t at all dry. 

The size was dangerously perfect, I was having a hard time not popping them into my mouth one after another.  That sounded dirty.  You know what I mean.  Before I had even decided what to make with them for dinner, the tray was missing 1/4 the yield!!


I had some plain, some with hummus, and some more plain before settling on a cornbread and chili themed dinner


Bon Appétit. 


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Sunday’s commute back down the I-5 was, well, whatever.  It’s done, so there’s not much to say about it.  I had packed many food options for the road since I was convinced it was going to take us 8 hours.  In the end, we arrived by 2 pm.


I’m pretty sure I was meant to be a Brit because in my book, 2 pm is – without fail – afternoon tea time (not to be confused with high tea, which in fact is dinner-time tea).  In any event, I had an almond milky Tazo chai tea with a pair of hippie-roons


Prince William clearly has no idea what he’s missing out on 😉


I only have two hippie-roons left.  One for me, one for the future King of England.  [Read: two for me]

I pretty much did nothingness for the rest of the afternoon because my head was still throbbing, but by 4 pm, I managed to get my butt off the couch for a 20 minute jog in the chilly fall air. 

As I prepped dinner I snacked.


Sugary fingers?  Whatever could this mean?  


Yup.  Candied ginger.  Obsessed. 


40 minutes on 375 allowed time for salad making.


Salad: Spinach, carrots, bell peppers

Dressing: Artisana raw organic cashini butter, Bragg’s liquid aminos, agave


This is such a unique and flavorful nut butter blend.  It tastes like it should be sinful, but it’s raw, 100% organic, and full of fantastically nutritious and pure ingredients.  I am savoring each and every lick because it’s that good. 


Finally my sweet potato fries were done.


And dinner was served. 


Dessert almost escaped the camera.  Remember these treats?  I still have a few vegan cranberry coconut fudge cups left.  IMG_4720

My sweet tooth wasn’t satisfied so I had another dessert.  Dried cranberries, almonds, and carob chips.  Salty and sweet – check and check. 

In other words: OMGsoDeliciousThankyouVerymuch.

I tried to stay up a little later on Sunday and sleep in a little extra on Monday because I’m gearing my body up for a night shift on Tuesday.  Synching my schedule is harder than I thought, though. 


It didn’t work very well as I was up and attacking the coffee maker by 8 am.  I fancied my java up with some cocoa-infused froth.  Fabulous.


Apple and oats?  Nope.  Look closer.


Quinoa with peanut butter.  No more.  No less.

Kinda held me over longer than usual.  It was 2 pm before my stomach requested more comida.  At which point I obliged with a twist on breakfast’s meal.


First, I chopped up both a D’ Anjou pear and a Golden Delicious apple.  Next, I heaped on 1 cup of quinoa.  Finally I drizzled peanut butter on top. 


Yeah boi.


Afternoon fizzies were all I needed to get me geared up for a jug on the beach.


30 minutes got me to Ocean Ave with two trips up and down “the stairs” and back home again.  Schweaty.  


After showering, I holed up in the kitchen, prepping food for the next week.  I was baking, roasting, and cooking up a storm.  Only pausing for sips of tea and hand washing. 


Recipes are coming your way…

Given how much time I spent with my head in the oven, you’d think I would’ve at least made something for dinner.  But no.


Amy’s to the rescue.


I chopped up some carrots to add in the organic vegan chili because I don’t really like have such veg-less meals. 




Chili will never be photogenic.  Plain and simple, it’s deliciousness is the reason I crave it, because visually it’s not remotely appetizing. 


Cornbread on the other hand, is both tasty AND purty.

After seeing a few posts featuring cornbread and chili around in the blog-world, I had them both on my mind all day. 


So dinner was a no brainer.


Don’t let this photo deceive you.  I had 12 cornbread muffins in total, plus a second bowl of chili. 

One can has two servings.  So ridiculous.  If I ever have half a can of soup, somebody slap me. 


This dinner produced a mega fiber baby.


I still wanted dessert though.  After just a few hours my metabolism was ready for more…hello sweet and salty…cashews, carob chips, and dried cranberries.

Alrighty.  Time to get some caffeine in my system.  I definitely need it if I’m going to try and synch my sleep schedule for Tuesday’s night shift.  Wish me luck! 

If anyone else has done night shifts before, feel free to chime in with some tips.  I’m starting a 3 day stretch of them…

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10 years already?

Saturday night was my 10 year high school reunion.  Wow.  Way to make a girl feel old!

I was actually really looking forward to going.  I mean, sure we all have facebook now for optimal photo browsing stalking.  But keeping tabs on your classmates’ latest status updates is very different from reminiscing in person about everything from hideous prom dresses (and prom dates) to cramming for AP Bio tests the period before they happened…

My best friends are still very much in my life, but there were others who I am sad to say, I wasn’t as good at keeping in communication with.  Are you still close with friends from grade school/junior high/high school?  I’m still close with several girls I’ve known since I was 4 years old.  Many were at my wedding and a few were my bridesmaids 🙂

Needless to say, I was pretty excited to see some friends that I hadn’t kept up with as well. 


Before I go into all that, I’ll just share a quick build-a-sammie recipe.


Toast bread and mash half with avocado.


Crack two organic free-range eggs into a PAM-ed skillet and cover with a lid to let steam cook the top while the rest fries.


Spread hummus layer on top of the avocado.


Slide eggs from pan to toast, folding them in half to fit on the bread.


Apply top layer of bread and cut in half. 


I think you know what to do from here…


No better sweet ending than a just picked Golden Delicious apple

Now back to my 10 year.


Alene and Lauren met at my house first so we could head into the city for dinner together first.  My house was always the meeting place for me and my friends before events (dances, birthdays, field trips, whatever), and that still hasn’t changed.  

Wanna see some REALLY old school pics of the three of us? 

Elise,Alene,Lauren soccer

Me, Alene, Lauren – yes, I’m aware that I’m swimming in my uniform and yes, I’m aware that even though this is my freshman year of high school I actually look 8 years old.  What can I say, I was what you’d call a late bloomer.

Elise & Lauren

Me and Lauren – band geeks!


And here are the 3 of us senior year.  Ok, so maybe I can believe it’s been 10 years 😉

I’m not sure why I’m posting these, but I found them hilarious, so maybe you’ll get a kick out of them too.

After taking BART into the city, we headed to the Embarcadero for dinner.  Our reunion was in Pier II, so we kept it close by.


Chaya Brasserie has 4 locations throughout California, but I’m pretty sure this is the most scenic. 


I feel like I was just here…oh wait…I was!! 

For those who don’t recognize this view (or don’t know where Pier II is, it’s next to the Ferry Building, which was where the Foodbuzz Gala was held).


The menu was fairly diverse, but we all wanted sushi, so that’s the only menu we bothered with.  


Well, except for the wine menu, that is.  This Pinot Noir was perfect with the sushi. 




We ordered:

Red Dragon Roll – Spicy Tuna/Snow Crab/Cucumber/Avocado

Vegetarian Caterpillar Roll – Asparagus/Avocado/Cucumber/Yamagobo/Kaiware & Spicy Ponzu

California Roll – Crab/Cucumber/Avocado

San Francisco Roll – Crab/Shrimp/Cucumber/Avocado/Tomato/Asparagus/Soy Paper

Hamachi Crunch Roll – Spicy Hamachi/Cucumber/Tempura Flakes


The Vegetable Caterpillar roll was my favorite because anything topped in MORE avocado wins my heart over.  The California roll was also good (yes, a bit boring, I know).  The spicy roll was definitely spicy, and the sauce on the side of the plate was only tolerable in small doses.  I didn’t think it was too spicy but I had to pound ginger in between bites for sure.  The San Francisco roll was unique, but the tomato was kinda off in my opinion.  They get points for originality, though.  In the end it was all quite tasty, and I left full and happy.


I would love to go back and try the other (non-sushi) parts of the menu.  The service was great, and the ambiance was nice.  The price was a bit steep, but given the location, it’s to be expected.  They have a happy hour menu and the rest of the menu looked tasty, so I recommend Chaya Brasserie for sure.


The rest of the night was SO fun (in my opinion).  There were certainly a LOT of drunk people (not that I’m excluding myself from that, because I was rocking a good buzz throughout the night) but I definitely wasn’t in the stumbling-around-the-bar category.  Turns out, switching types of alcohol four times over the course of the evening isn’t so smart.  Sunday morning was rough to say the least.  I may have been able to function without issue back in my college years, but nowadays I’m a wreck after nights of drinking.  Again, signs that 10 years truly have passed.  I’m old.  :( 


One of the things I noticed was how hot the girls looked, but how NOT-hot the guys looked.  Seriously, 10 years seemed to take a toll on the men much more so than the women.  The girls (as a whole) looked pretty smokin’…whereas the men just appeared older and fatter.  I swear I’m not superficial, I’m just stating what the general consensus was.  Naturally Kyle was the exception to this rule ;)  …but his 10 year HS reunion isn’t for another 2 years, so I guess he has some time, haha. 

Sunday morning we woke up way early and hit the road to drive back to Santa Monica.  It was a miserable drive.  I forgot my sunglasses, I had a headache that refused to quit, and the 1-5 was filled with too many angry and unsafe drivers returning home after the holiday weekend. 

No matter, we are now safe and sound in So Cal.  Who’s been to a reunion?  Did you have fun?  Thoughts on how people (including yourself) have changed?

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Bowl meals

Coffee in a bowl. 


That’s how you approach the Friday after Thanksgiving. 

My breakfast bowl was nearly the same size as my coffee mug.  And since I was home, I used my special bowl from my first trip to Paris in 2000.


My name is a bit on the unique side, which I love and appreciate now, but was a bummer for me growing up.  I envied all the Jennifers, Laurens, and Stephanies of my class who got stickers, toothbrushes, and the likes with their (generic) names on them.  Imagine how delighted I was when we went to Paris and my name was on a bowl! 

So yeah, this is one of my special bowls that I use when I come home.  Anyone else have certain dishes you like to use from your childhood?  We also have “the special plate” (for birthdays or noteworthy occasions), which I remember a few others had as well. 

But getting back to brunch…


I’m kinda obsessed with this organic trail mix.  It’s all my faves – salty cashews, almonds, and dried cranz.  


Perfect stove top oats made with water and a touch of vanilla soymilk added at the end.


I attempted to show the layers as I piled things onto the oats, but forgot to take photos at some points.

Layer one: cinnamon, vanilla soymilk

Layer two: trail mix

Layer three: chopped apples


Layer four: more trail mix (see photo at the start of the post)


I polished off the extra mangos, grapes, and melon on the side along with a few extra handfuls of trail mix. 

After lunch Laura and I took the pups for a run/walk around the Res (3ish miles).  Milo was up for the exercise, but Kona is one lazy retriever.  Laura was dragging her for well over half the trail. 


Once we got back to la casa, it was snack time.


Organic Golden Delicious apples courtesy of our neighbors’ tree.



It’s not stealing if they are on your side of the fence (and if the neighbs are away for the holidays)…right?  This year’s apple crop is beyond bountiful, so the birds and squirrels (and dogs) have been going to town on whatever we don’t pick.  And let’s get one thing straight: dogs are not meant to eat apples.  


We picked a big big bowl full.


They were so sweet!  There’s really nothing like fresh produce.  Enjoying fruit picked moments before being eaten is reason enough to have a yard.  I totally stole a bushel to take back to So Cal. 


I took some scenery photos too, but I won’t bore you with all of them.  Just a few 😉

I do feel like I should give Kyle some props for his Jenga church.


That’s where we got married.  Impressive construction, no?

I grazed the rest of the afternoon, sipping tea all the while.  Dinner was (what else?) Thanksgiving leftovers.


The line-up.

There weren’t nearly as many leftovers as there have been in past years because Laura and Kyle had them for breakfast AND lunch as well.  How rude!


At least my mom had an entire second pot of stuffing ready.  Even though she doubled the recipe this year, it was all gone by Saturday morning!  We also had a salad.  Since I nixed the greens on the actual Thanksgiving, I made sure to get a double share this time around.  I decided a two-plate approach to dinner was the best way to accomplish this.


A bit of everything without crowding the plate.  Seconds?  You bet. 

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Mom’s Thanksgiving recipes


Everything you could ever want…






I mentioned the mashed potato recipe in yesterday’s post and the whipped sweet potatoes suffered a similar fate.  It’s not much of a recipe – it’s pretty much just cooking & mashing with vegetable broth until you get the desired consistency.  The roasted veggies also require no recipe, and I don’t feel like posting photos of my dad and the turkey carcass here, so that leaves the green beans


My mom found this recipe in Bon Appetit and it was the perfect side dish because much of the prep work could be done ahead of time. 

The main time saving technique used is blanching.  For those who don’t know, that means boiling something quickly then dumping it in a bowl of ice water.  The payoff?  The rapid boil cooks them just enough, but then the ice bath stops the cooking so they aren’t mushy and maintain their pretty green color. 


Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Dried-Cherry Vinaigrette


  • 1/3 cup EVOO
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots
  • 3 tbsp plus 2 tbsp sherry wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper plus additional (for sprinkling)
  • 1/3 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 1/2 pounds trimmed slender green beans (ie haricot verts)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped


Whisk first 6 ingredients and 1/2 tsp pepper in small bowl.  Mix in dried cherries and set aside.  Vinaigrette can be made a ahead, covered, and chilled – just allow it to get to room temp on the day of serving.

To blanch the green beans, fill a large bowl with ice water and set it aside.  Then cook the green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender (3-5 mins), drain them, and transfer them to the bowl of ice water.  Once they have cooled, drain them and either use them or store them for later use.  The best way to keep veggies fresh is to wrap them in paper towels, enclosed in a plastic bag (don’t seal the bag until they are at room temp).

To assemble salad, toss the green beans, toasted walnuts, and vinaigrette together.  And serve!


My mom’s stuffing is also one of my everyone’s favorite parts of thanksgiving.  She doubled it this year to accommodate the high demand, thus ensuring plenty of leftovers.  Or so she thought…

Mom’s Thanksgiving Stuffing


  • ~6 slices of old bread, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 large bag (14 oz) herbed stuffing mix (she uses Pepperidge Farm)
  • 1 large onion
  • EVOO
  • 1 bag (12 oz) fresh whole cranberries
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 5-6 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 cup walnuts, crushed
  • vegetable broth (to reach desired consistency)

Usually my mom stuffs the turkey with half of the portion of stuffing and then removes it to mix with the other half (cooked separately in the oven).  This is to perfect the consistency of the stuffing since the turkey stuffed half is typically overly saturated, but then gets mixed with the other portion, producing a perfectly semi-juicy, tasty stuffing.  For meat-eaters, this is the way to go.  However, since I don’t do turkey, all of the stuffing is now made separately (thanks mom). 


Sautee onion, and celery with EVOO until tender, then add mushrooms.  Once onions and celery are clear add in cubed bread, stuffing mix, and veggie broth until texture is crumbly but not too dry or too wet.  Fold in cranberries carefully, so as not to burst them.  Finally add in walnuts and cook in oven at 350 for ~30 minutes or until the top starts to brown.  To keep warm or finish off the cooking, cover the top with tin foil so it doesn’t burn.



My salad-less plate.


A little bit of everything.


And then the sweet ending…starting with pumpkin pie.


Spicy Pumpkin Pie


  • 2 c. pumpkin
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 1/2 tsp rum extract (omitted)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 can (13 oz.) evaporated milk

Mix everything together and fill crust to brim.  Bake for 40-45 minutes at 400 degrees. 


There was also chocolate cake for Laura’s birthday.


And finally a cranberry & blueberry pie.


Cranberry/Blueberry Pie


  • 1 bag (12 oz.) fresh whole cranberries
  • equal amount of blueberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon peel


Combine all ingredients in large saucepan and cook on med. heat, stirring while mixture comes to a boil and thickens.  Continue cooking 10-12 minutes more, being careful not to mash blueberries, while still letting cranberries cook and burst.  Then remove cinnamon sticks and transfer berry mix to glass or ceramic bowl while it cools (and thickens).  Once the mix has chilled to room temp, add to pie crust and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour at 400 degrees.  It will be less time if the mixture hasn’t cooled all the way because you are basically just waiting for the crust to cook.

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On Thursday morning Kyle and I woke up at 2:50 am.  The things you do to avoid LA traffic…

We had already loaded the car the night before, so all we needed was coffee, diet soda (yes, desperate times call for desperate measures) and water, and we were off!  The beloved I-5 may have been pitch black, but it was also car free. 

I was behind the wheel until 7 am, at which point my tired eyes and nearly-bursting bladder got their way.  Four straight hours with a gallon of liquids (mostly diuretics)…you do the math…

Kyle took over the driving after our pit stop and we arrived at my parents house safe and sound by 8:30 am.  Then I passed out until 11.


I woke up to this.  Eek!  Time to start helping in the kitchen!

I got to work plating and setting out the appetizers…


Veggies, crackers, hummus, cheese, dried fruit/nut mixes, wasabi peas


As Gouda as it gets


Sabra and the crunch


Peas & cheese


Mood lighting for the brie


Favorite appetizers?  Mine is fairly obvious (hummus).

Other morning prepping included…


Veggie chopping and roasting


Cookie sampling 😉


Table setting.


And more snacking (caughtcha mom).

After snacking through the afternoon, we took a Jenga break


Kyle vs. Laura:  Can you feel the concentration?


Sweet victory dance


We played with the puppers for a bit, then it was back to work in the kitchen.


“My best friends are cream, butter, and gravy.  I dig hot places, family meals, and long walk on the beach.”  How about soy milk, vegetable broth, and Earth Balance?


Still in competitive gaming mode, Laura and I challenged each other to a friendly fierce sister vs. sister mis-en-place contest. 


We each had a sack of potatoes and a knife.  Are the players ready?












Competition breeds excellence.  And the result was definitely excellence.


But I’m getting ahead of myself because first there was football.


We played while the potatoes cooked and my dad carved the turkey.

Throwing around the football is a Thanksgiving tradition and I was finally home to participate this year.  This is one of the main reasons I don’t miss living on the East Coast.  The ability to drive home (even at 2 am!) and spend the holidays with my family is too important to me. 


Whipping taters and taking names. :P 

Once my involvement in the kitchen came to a close, it was time to enjoy the wine.


Part of the “for special occasions” line-up…



Naturally we had some wine with our own grapes too.


‘99 Quivira


2008 Murphy-Goode


We’re a Zin family 🙂

I’ll be back next time with the fooooooooood.


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The last day 😦

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How sad that I’m now reliving the angst that accompanied this island goodbye all over again…

Since our flight’s departure wasn’t until 5 pm, we decided to make the most of our last day on Kauai and drive up and around to the Northern part of the island that we hadn’t yet seen. 

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Along the way we stopped for lunch at a local veg-friendly joint that had been recommended to us for a good meal. 

Mermaids Cafe was a hop, skip, and a jump away from being a ghetto hole-in-the-wall place.  It was cutely quaint…for lack of a better word.

There was a small window where one (of the three) employees took orders, behind which the other two employees were cooking.  In other words, it was a kitchen with a cut-out to serve the food.  

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We sipped on passion fruit iced tea and lemonade while waiting for our orders. 

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It took a while, and there was a small mix up. 

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This was the Tofu Stir Fry Noodle Plate with broccoli, carrots, red bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and greens seasoned with fresh garlic, ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil over noodles

Only problem was, neither of us ordered that dish…

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Once the staff realized they gave us another customer’s order, it was back to the waiting game…eventually Kyle got the chicken version of the dish that he did order. 

Amid the aforementioned confusion, the cooks (?) informed me that they were out of rice.  Uhhh…ok?  So instead of putting my dish over rice, they offered me a side salad instead.

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This was probably the weirdest salad I’ve ever been presented with.  Red onions and walnuts?  Together?  Not so great.  I pushed it around the plate a bit, but mostly I was just waiting for my main order.

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I got the Tofu Coconut Curry Plate with broccoli, carrot, red bell peppers, mushrooms, onion, and greens cooked with a mild yellow curry in coconut milk, served over rice with a side salad.

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It hit the spot.

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The only thing left on the plate was a sea of oily sauce, that I nearly slurped right up, too. 

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After lunch we made our way next door to a cute local coffee shop called Java Kai.

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Any sign that says “vegan” on it will lure me in…

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The Belgian waffles sign doesn’t hurt either…

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It had much more than local coffee.  The cafe offered everything from fresh juices, smoothies, and hearty breakfast fare, to falafel sammies and raw veggie wraps. 

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What a cute little spot.  Mental note: return here next Kauai trip!

In fact, the entire street was packed with cute little eateries.  I almost wish we had ventured away from the hotel a bit more…almost. 

After getting our coffee fixes, we were back on the road to see some waterfalls.

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And more roosters…

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I can’t believe how many different types of landscape and climates there were on Kauai (not sure about the geology terminology there).  On the way to the Canyon it was all desert and dry, and on our way North to Princeville it was lush and green and we felt like we were surrounded by marshlands.

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Garden Isle indeed!

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Our last pic together in Hawaii.

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On our way back from Princeville, we decided to stop off to get airplane eats.

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I had spotted a place called Papaya’s Natural Foods on the way, so I had to check it out. 

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Healthy plane snacks!!

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Vegan donuts?  That’s it, I’m staying in Kauai. 

It was like a smaller scale Whole Foods, complete with a prepared foods hot bar. 

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We got our goodies for the FOUR flights (yes, we had a few layovers getting back to LAX), and bid aloha to our week in paradise. 

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Back to reality…

*If you are going to Kauai and curious about the vegan scene, this site has a very thorough dining guide.  We only spent a few minutes in Princeville, but they have a wide range of veg-friendly places.  Postcards Cafe was recommended to us as was Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza

Hope you enjoyed the honeymoon posts 🙂

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