Icelantic Winter On the Rocks

Last weekend, I won tickets to Icelantic Ski’s Winter on The Rocks, the single winter show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Each year, the ski company hosts an epic show (snow or shine!) in one of the most epic music venues in the world! (Seriously though, it might be beyond epic!) This year, Damien Marley and Major Lazer performed one hell of a party!

I was lucky enough to win VIP access to the show, complete with a VIP room, open bar, some swag, a photobooth, and assigned seats.

Here’s a peak into some pics from the show!

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It was an AWESOME show with tons of energy and good vibes from the crowd. I’ve been a long time fan of Damien Marley but never thought to go to a show or even thought I would see him live. To watch him perform Could You Be Loved by his father, the great Bob Marley, was truly spectacular and if I hadn’t been so pumped for the show, I might have cried! Major Lazor is an electronic dance group (led by the famous Diplo) who mix heavy dance hall/afro-caribbean beats with electronic dubstep and trap. Basically, it’s my kinda party jams! VERY high energy and upbeat and even if you hate dancing, you’ll find yourself jumping to their beats. I think everyone at Red Rocks had a huge grin on their face. Really, an unforgettable night.

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Thanks to Arta Tequila (whom I won the tickets from!) and Icelantic Skis for an incredible, dancing night!

Icelantic Winter On the Rocks

Colombia Cabalgata 4

The next morning was our last day on the ride. We planned to ride all morning, a short distance to my family’s farm in Suesca where other friends and family would meet us for a big birthday celebration for my grandpa.

But first: Breakfast!

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Many people think of tamales as the “Mexican Christmas” tradition: sweet corn meal and meat wrapped in corn husks and steamed. In Colombia and Venezuela, they’re a bit different: corn meal filled with meat and veggies, wrapped in a banana leaf and boiled. They’re very common in the Capital/Cundinamarca district.

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I ordered one with a mug of hot cocoa (yes, I secretly wished it was almond milk, but I didn’t want to be, you know, annoying). In Colombia, it is very common to get a piece of mild cheese to dip into your cocoa.

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Another perk of breakfast in Colombia is the abundance of healthy, fresh juices from exotic fruits! On this particular morning we woke up to fresh papaya juice. Isn’t the color beautiful? I think I want a room in my next house to be that color.

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After everyone finished and we said gracias to the cooks, my uncle and I walked down the rode to the farm where our horses waited.

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We were surrounded by beautiful rolling green hills, bright blue skies, cows, and children on motorbikes. It kind of reminded me of the Shire (not the kids on bikes part, of course!)

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Making sure 20 horses and riders were properly saddled, prepared, and happy is a lot of work so while the ranchers tended to the horses, we mingled around the property, glasses of wine in hand and some snacks to occupy us.

My grandpa and his horse Principe:

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My cousin Noe is so full of love for everyone he sees!

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Before 11 am, we took off in a line waving goodbye to those driving behind us and embarked on the last beautiful leg of this journey. The ride was calm and sunny. Valleys rolled into small mountains and over the peaks, turned back into rolling, green hills.

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It was quite possibly the most peaceful I have ever felt. Riding alone at times along the empty country or galloping amongst the other horses. I felt like I was in a western… or maybe it was a British period piece taking place in the English countryside. Whatever it was, I liked it. And I could have been there forever. So picturesque.

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When we finally arrived at the farm in Suesca, a band was playing lively music and guests (family members and friends alike) mingled around the grounds. Little cousins took turns riding horses, people danced, drank wine, talked about the ride.

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After a delicious lunch (which I was too hungry to snap photos of) we sang happy birthday and danced a little more before clouds rolled in and we all headed back to the city!

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It was an extraordinary and beautiful time spent with family and loved ones, doing something that brings my grandpa so much happiness! What a way to ring in your 70th birthday!

Colombia Cabalgata 4

Colombia Cabalgata 3

WARNING! This post is long! It was also my favorite day of the whole trip so I recommend continuing to read, especially if you like foodie pics!! 

The next morning I woke up early (Like 4 am early!) and watched the sun rise over the mountain. The quiet, green landscape filled with light and for about 3 minutes, you felt completely alone in the world.

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Slowly we all started to file out of our rooms and into the shower rooms. By the time the sun was high in the sky, I had discovered the posada’s small ceramic shop. This region of Colombia is famous for its traditional pottery and ceramics, and much of it is made at the inn.

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Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThere were little spoons, cream pots, and piggy banks, wind chimes and salt shakers, salsa dishes, shot glasses, and mugs! Everything you could think of for incredibly cheap so I picked up a few trinkets for loved ones and friends.

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After that I sat down for a feast of a breakfast (again): soup, potatoes, hot chocolate, arepa con queso (think of a corn patty filled with cheese), eggs, and fruit. It may have been too much to eat, but it was beautiful! The colors were bright, the food was rich, and there’s something to be said about how simple it was.

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Once again it was time to hit the trail. My grandpa’s friend was quite the cowboy, looking like he was a part of John Wayne’s group.

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Off we road winding up and around the mountain. This was planned to be our longest day of riding (40 kilometers) but the terrain was fairly easy.

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The day was beautiful and sunny, so we pulled over for a drink and to let the horses drink some water.

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After this, I switched horses with my aunt and moved to a gorgeous Andalusian horse named Consentida (an endearing word for Spoiled) who was quite possibly the most comfortable ride in all the land! Her saddle is a special Portuguese saddle and her trot is extremely smooth and easy paced. I loved it after 2 days of bouncing around with Arquetta.

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Shortly after that, we pulled over again for another break. Having ridden all morning long, it was time to break out the wine! Our luggage and food wasn’t too far behind, so we pulled out some Argentine empanadas and crystal glasses for everyone to sip their vino from.

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Talk about style!! My grandpa never fails to make everything an elegant and chic experience!

When we finally moved on, some clouds began to cover over head and my sunburn was relieved once again. We rode for a few more hours until we reached a quiet creek with an open space. Here we parked and began unloading the trucks for lunch.

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Tina prepared the most beautiful and gourmet picnic any of us had every seen! There were baskets of fruit and trays of nuts. Cheeses brought from Spain and France, fresh baked bread (made by my aunt), jamon iberico, pernil (roasted pork), marinated garlic eggplant, sun dried tomatoes, wine and beer, homemade cookies and crackers. The spread was endless and we all feasted until our bellies were full and we were warm from so much wine.

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It was truly beautiful and leave it to Tina to plan the most romantic, well-styled lunch of the entire event!

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The cookies I loved the most because they were made with so much love. My aunt’s farm is as organic-farm to table as possible! The butter used in the shortbread was made from her own cows and the strawberry jam filling was made by her from the berries in her yard. Isn’t my cousin the sweetest thing, helping her fill them?

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As we wrapped up our lunch, we saw the clouds darken and heard thunder roll overhead. We immediately saddled up and headed 2km down the road to our final destination, but not before we were stopped by the most torrential downpour anyone had ever seen.

There was no escaping this rain. It literally filled my boots ankle deep with water and our clothes were entirely soaked through. Somehow, we made it to the last stop, dismounted and piled into a van waiting to take us to the hotel for the last night of our trip.

After showering and warming up, we spent the night drinking wine, chatting, and enjoying a classic Colombian dinner. The town we stayed in was called Lenguazaque, a very small city a few hours from Bogota. The town is rather rural, so dinner consisted of: sobrebarriga (Colombian-style flank steak), gallina (“hen”…not sure what us gringos are eating hear in the states… I always thought “chicken” = “hen” but apparently there is a difference).

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S omething also very common in this region is called “huevera”…  to put it bluntly, it is the uterus of the hen with half produced eggs cooked inside. It sounds horrific, but I like to consider myself a foodie. A culinary adventurer, willing to try anything once. So I that’s what I did.

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I think Tony Bourdain would be proud. It wasn’t that bad. They tasted like hard boiled egg yolks with some weird crispy membrane around them.

I washed it down with a couple more glasses of vino and then hit the sack, exhausted but no longer sore and ready for our final day of the ride.

Stay tuned for the last installment of our cabalgata soon!

Colombia Cabalgata 3

Colombia Cabalgata

A week before Christmas (so about 2 weeks ago now) I ventured to Colombia! It was my Grandpa’s 70th birthday and he planned on celebrating in serious style. As you remember from my last post from Colombia, he and his wife love to horseback ride, and they spend much of their time on the ranch riding and doing other horse things. To celebrate his birthday, they planned for a 3 day cabalgata (horseback ride) through the mountains outside of Bogota, starting in a small town called Sutamarchan. From there, we would ride 80 kilometers, stopping in various small towns along the way and finally ending in Suesca at my aunt’s farm.

I arrived early Wednesday morning and was able to catch a couple Zzz’s before waking the next morning to begin our prep. But before that, we had to eat! Lunch is typically a main event in Colombia. It’s not uncommon that you stop your day, go back home or to a relatives and enjoy a big, leisurely meal. Sometimes a bottle of wine is opened afterwards and that is enjoyed with great conversation. Dinner is almost non-existent, unless there is something to be celebrated, so lunch is where the socializing is at!

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Soups and rice are a very common lunch, often accompanied by cheese or meats. I enjoyed mine with a beautiful sherry.

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Below are sweets brought back from the coast made of panella (raw sugar) and tamarind.

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After lunch I packed and visited with my cutie cousins while we waited for everyone to arrive.

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Uncle Tato pouring some sherry into a canteen.

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Twenty people were scheduled to join us on this adventure, and when they finally arrived, we piled into the shuttle that would take us to our starting point in Sutamarchan, about 3 hours from the city.

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We drove for hours through beautiful green valleys into the Boyacá region, and my grandpa provided delicious hors d’oeuvres of jamon iberico, manchego, and fresh bread.

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We arrived at our destination at night, in time for a fabulous barbecue and a live music. My camera died as soon as we arrived so I have very little evidence that this night even happened 😉

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My great-grandma Blanca joined us on the trip!

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We stayed the night in a local posada (inn) and woke up to a beautiful bright blue day. I wish we could have stayed at the posada a little bit longer. It was so beautiful and peaceful, full of color and light!

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DSCN2106 But breakfast was served at the ranch and we had to begin our day!

Being in rural Colombia, it is very common to have a “peasant breakfast”, which is generally very hearty including soup, potatoes, meat, eggs, arepas, cheese, fruit, coffee, chocolate and fresh juice. Seriously, breakfast includes ALL that! The theory is that the peasants are typically working manual labor all day in the sun and need fuel to get them through the day. I only get through the soup, arepas, and cheese and coffee before I tap out.

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Here is my Aunt Manuela with my Great Grandmother and my Uncle Tato.

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After a seriously filling breakfast (which I really only ate half of) we roamed around the property waiting for the horses to be ready. It was a stunning ranch house that was part traditional Colombian, part southwest inspired. The courtyard in the middle had grassy areas with cactus and fruit trees and dogs resting in the grass.

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An hour later the horses were ready and we mingled around finding our horses and getting ready to set off on the long adventure! Stay tuned tomorrow for more!

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Colombia Cabalgata

Better Than Your Nonna’s Meatballs.

Sometimes, I get into Italian Momma-mode and want to make the biggest, carb-iest, most comforting dish! It’s usually meatballs, which is perfectly fine because meatballs rock and you can never have too many. My mom is Italian and Mexican, and we grew up with a lot of recipes passed down from the Mexican side, and very few from the Italian side so I’ve begun to create my own dishes.

These, I call my “Better Than Your Nonna’s Meatballs”. (And don’t worry, you don’t have to tell Nonna that mine are better. It’ll be our little secret). They’re your traditional meatball recipe crafted to foodie and Dre-Dre perfection! I think you’ll love them.

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When creating a recipe on my own, I usually take a base recipe (one from my favorite cookbook, Pinterest or a family recipe) and then completely deconstruct it and flourish it until it’s my own. For this recipe, I used The Barefoot Contessa’s meatball recipe from her book, “How Easy Is That?”. My recipe is entirely different than hers (mostly just used for measurements) but I think it’s fair to give her credit.

My version is: gluten free, dairy free, and paleo-ish (they have bread crumbs).

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To put Nonna to shame you’ll need:

1/2 lb italian sausage

1/2 lb 80% ground beef

1 shallot sauteed in butter

chopped parsley (about 1/4th cup)

handful chopped basil 

one egg

3/4 cup of wine red wine

1 pinch celery salt

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp red chili flakes

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 c gluten free italian bread crumbs (you can use regular though)

1 pinch of rosemary

1 (BIG) pinch of salt and pepper

3 tbsp grassfed butter

1 zucchini *(if making zoodles or regular pasta/spaghetti if you want that)

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Off camera, I chopped my shallot and sauteed it in some (1 tbsp) butter in a skillet. Next, I placed all my ingredients in a bowl plus a nice splash of my vino (wine) and mixed them all up. You’ll probably need to get a little dirty in order to mix everything up, so don’t be afraid to use your (clean!) hands.

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Once everything is mixed, start forming your mixture into 1 1/2″ balls and set them aside.

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Heat your cast iron skillet on medium with the rest of your butter. Once the pan is hot, place your balls into the skillet. Brown each side for about 4 minutes on each side until lightly brown all around.

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Add the rest of your wine (1/4 cup) to your skillet and place the whole thing in the oven. Cook them for about 15-20 minutes. When they’re done, pop ’em out and put them back on the stove.

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Now, for this part I kind of cheated: I used jarred pasta sauce (“If you can’t make your own homemade sauce, store bought is fine!”lol, points if you get my reference)… but don’t worry Barefoot Contessa! I used GOOD pasta sauce. I put the pan on very low heat and poured my sauce over the meatballs to heat it up.

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This night, I decided to be low-carb/GF so I used a peeler to make shred my zucchini into zoodles. I heated them up in a shallow pan with a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt. Tyty made regular spaghetti which is good too.

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Top your pasta with the meatballs and sauce and enjoy!

Buon Appetito!

Better Than Your Nonna’s Meatballs.

Livin the GF-Lifestyle, Without Giving Up Your (Foodie) Life.

If you live on this planet, you know that there is a lot of hoopla around the whole “gluten free” thing. I don’t have Celiac disease, but I have observed the significant differences in how my body functions on both a gluten and gluten-free diet. With a G diet, I’m sluggish, groggy, bloated, and just generally feel unpleasant. When I’m eating GF diet, I sleep 100x better (and I take less melatonin!), I’m focused and energized, and that bloated, sick feeling is gone. It took me nearly six months of self observation and becoming conscious of what I was putting in my body (4 months observing my diet, 2 months integrating new changes)

In January 2014, I made the switch to a 90-10 diet (because yes, I LOOOOVVVEEE pasta puttanesca, pizza, cookies, fresh scones, tempura-fried things, gravy, Chipotle burritos, craft beer, cheese and crackers, crusty artisan olive breads and MAC AND CHEESE!!!! I had to give my foodie self something to live for.) And while, admittedly, I have a week here and there where all I do is stuff my face with all gluten errythang (nobody’s perfect) I have seen and felt a remarkable difference on how my body works. gluten Free

Thinking of making the switch? Here’s a couple tips on how I did it.

1. Educate Yo Self: Despite what you’ve heard, being gluten-free is not a trend. And it’s not going to make you lose weight. Some people with Celiac suffer severely, and if given the chance might offer their first born just to get down on a big plate of Easy Mac. Do you know what “gluten” even is? It’s two proteins combining to create that elastic doughy texture you love so much. It is found in all wheat, rye, and barley.

I recommend reading a couple articles about exactly what the hard G is, where it’s commonly found, and how it might affect you. This Women’s Health article is a good one to wrapping your head around it.

2. Evaluate, Observe, Learn to be Conscious: When I started my GF journey, I spent months just observing what I ate without changing my diet. I found that I ate some form of gluten with EVERY meal (5-6x a day!!), even when I thought I was eating a “gluten free” meal. It was in my toast at breakfast, veggie patties for lunch, and in my sushi during happy hour. It made me so much more aware of how much gluten is in the average American diet. Taking what I had observed, I was able to create meal plans and shopping list that eventually eliminated GF-products, and thus led me to eat a cleaner (ie: less processed) diet.

3. Start with a Clean Slate: It’s hard to make any change when you’re surrounded by reminders or temptations of the thing you’re trying to change. So, if necessary, for the first few weeks remove all tempting gluten-filled things from your cupboards and fridge: beer, cereal, Oreos, soy sauce, ramen, crackers… well, you get it. If you’re anything like me, gluten-loving you might eat an entire sleeve of Oreos just to spite your gluten-free other half.

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I made this change while I was home in Los Angeles for 3 weeks this winter because I knew Tyty was going to eat gluten-y things in front of me and I didn’t want any temptation. It takes two weeks to get create a habit!

4. Prepare Yourself with Pinterest/Blogs:  Being the foodie that I am, making (or eating) dinner is a big part of my day. And rather than jump into a very bland and boring gluten-free diet of “baked chicken, rice, and steamed veggies” (which for the record, I now eat very often), I created a Pinterest board with lots of tasty looking GF and paleo-inspired dishes to help me.

I spend about 20 minutes each day checking out my favorite foodie blogs for GF recipes and poking around Pinterest to see what you guys have pinned to your healthy boards. When you have tons of delicious looking options or alternatives, you stay inspired to make delicious GF meals! And trust me, just because it’s gluten-free, DOESN’T mean it lacks flavor! One of my favorite recipes is The Londoner’s cauliflower pizza! I made it for my brothers once, and they didn’t suspect a thing. 😉

5. Know Where Gluten Might Hide: If you really wanna be a GF betch, you’re gonna have to start reading labels. Gluten is in almost every processed food product from cereal, to salad dressings, to hot dogs and even some ice cream (aw hell nah!). Here are some products you should keep an eye for:

Gluten Free Diet

 

6. Indulge Yourself: Unless you are truly Celiac, you don’t have to live in a gluten-free world forever! Frankly, you can find a GF substitute or recipe for anything these days; but I also know that no amount of rice pasta or quinoa cookies can offer the same delicious happiness as a plate of homemade pasta. This is the same reason I allow myself to indulge in non-GF foods every once in a while.

I hate making others create a completely separate menu for me just because I’m GF so if Tyty’s grandma invites me over lasagna, I’m not gonna say no. If I go to brunch, I might spring the extra $2 and order gluten-free toast OR I might say fuck it and go with that amazing pain au chocolat. My one rule is: if I make it at home, I’ll make it GF. And thats how I stay happy, healthy, and foodie!

Bon Appetite everyone!

Livin the GF-Lifestyle, Without Giving Up Your (Foodie) Life.