Trip Report: 48 Hours in New Mexico

With our current Southwest Companion Pass set to expire at the end of this year, we’re all about maximizing the value of our remaining Southwest points while they still essentially count for double. So when we surveyed our points balances at the end of August and noticed we had about ~15k points still remaining in the hubby’s account, it only seemed sensible to book a quick weekend getaway.

Plus, as Southwest recently added a direct flight from Austin to Albuquerque, New Mexico, home of one of my best friend’s from high school, it seemed like a great excuse to go for a visit.

Logistics:

With Southwest flights starting at just 5,300 points each way, we were able to get both of our flights (round trip for two, using the companion pass) for just 10,600 points, for a redemption rate of about 5.2 cents per point, given what flights were going for at that time. Pretty great!

For our hotel, we booked the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, where a one-night stay cost a mere 5,000 points per night. Combined with my Hyatt Diamond status, which gave us free hotel parking, premium internet, and daily breakfast, this was a fantastic deal.  I had earned enough Hyatt points at my recent MGM hotel stays through work to cover it, and was able to snag a free room for 2 nights, saving us $228, for a redemption rate of 2.3 cents per point. (Not to mention, an additional $80 saved through use of my Diamond-status perks.)

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The hotel was fine, though definitely an older property.  If we were planning a longer trip, we’d probably have preferred to be closer to the University district, where most restaurants and nightlife in the city is found, but for a 2-night stay, this Convention Center-adjacent property was perfectly acceptable.

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Our high-floor king room at the Albuquerque Hyatt Regency
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The bathroom at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque…nothing special.

Finally, because we knew that we also wanted to visit nearby Santa Fe on this trip, we decided to rent a car. Booking in cash through one of the deals on Southwest.com, we were able to reserve a Hertz vehicle for just $56 total for the whole trip.  Going through the Southwest special rates also means we’ll receive 600 Southwest bonus points for the booking, in addition to the 3 points per dollar we’ll earn by using our Chase Sapphire Reserve card to pay.

Plus, because I currently have Hertz Gold-Star service (obtained via requesting a status match to my National Car Rental status, after getting premium status with National through a special free promotion last year) we were able to skip the line at the rental desk and were given a Hyundai Sonata that was plenty spacious and comfortable, and even came with a free gps unit.

Total cost of the trip logistics-wise? $22 in airline fees + $56 for the rental car = $78 for an entire weekend getaway. #winning

Itinerary:

We arrived on Friday, just after 2pm, and promptly got our rental car and checked into the hotel. Once settled, we took a stroll down to the Albuquerque old-town plaza, stopping along the way at a craft beer bar called “Draft Station” where we tried our first local beers of the trip.  I ordered a Double White Ale from the Marble Brewery, and Carl had an Amber Ale from the Chama River Brewing Company. Both were surprisingly good.

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The hubby welcomes you to the Old Town Plaza.

Temporarily satiated from our pit stop, we continued to the Old Town area, where art galleries mixed with souvenir shops to form a solid core all the way around the central church. Once we’d seen our fill of native pottery and turquoise jewelry, we headed back to our hotel to freshen up before joining some friends for a dinner at their house. After dinner, we headed to Zacatecas, located along in the Nob Hill neighborhood for a night cap of tequila and mezcal based cocktails.

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New Mexico: more than just deserts, apparently.

The next day, we woke up early and headed out to the Paseo del Bosque trail, where we explored the forests and beaches that break up the otherwise desert and mountain landscapes. The ubiquitous cottonwood trees proudly displayed their yellow and orange fall foliage, giving us quite a show for our hike.

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The hubby admires the forests of Albuquerque.

Having worked up an appetite on the trails, we met some more friends at the hubby’s favorite Albuquerque establishment, El Modelo, which has been serving up Mexican cuisine to locals near the railroad tracks since 1929. Immediately upon arrival, I could tell we were in for a treat. The long line of locals waiting for their orders inside were a good omen, and we decided to split the “tamale plate” for a mere $8.

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The result was an overwhelmingly generous serving of some of the best pork tamales I’ve ever encountered, covered in a traditional New Mexican red chile sauce. The single order (which, like all food here, comes via counter service in a takeaway container, but can be enjoyed in the adjoining outdoor patio space) probably weighed about 3lbs. Still, it was delicious, authentic Mexican food, and we left stuffed but very happy.

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Greasy, messy, delicious Mexican food. 

Next on the agenda was to drive the “Turquoise Trail” up to Santa Fe, stopping at whatever points of interests caught our attention along the way.  This route is a little longer than just taking the highway, but if you have the time it’s definitely the way to go. The drive itself is beautiful with great views and little traffic.

 

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One of the scenic vistas from the Turquoise Trail.

Even better are the small towns you encounter along the way. We decided to stop in Madrid (pronounced Mad-rid, not Muh-drid, as we were quickly corrected) where we explored several local galleries and tasted some local artisan chocolate.

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We ended up purchasing a dark chocolate with red chiles and cashews.

We also stopped in at the Mine Shaft Tavern, a burgers-and-beers type place re-built on the site of the original tavern that served workers in the surrounding coal mines in the early part of the 20th century. The panels above the bar reflected the history of the former company town, making for a nice view as we sipped our local brews.

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He found it! The Mine Shaft.
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Panels atop the wooden bar reflect the town’s history. 

On our way again, we made it into Santa Fe, and headed for the downtown area to explore. We stopped by the Georgia O’Keefe museum, which, despite not having any of her most famous flower paintings on display, we felt was still well worth our $12/person admission fee. (Pro-tip, definitely check out the short film near the entrance on O’Keefe’s life, it sets the stage for the order you encounter the artwork in the rest of the gallery.)

After the O’Keefe museum, we headed to The Wine Spot, where we were planning on doing a tasting of New Mexican wines. Unfortunately, we found it closed, but stumbled instead into nearby “HQ” which was having a grand opening party that weekend. At HQ, they only carried one brand of local wine, Gruet, but we decided to go ahead and construct our own flight with the vineyard’s Brut, Brut Rosé, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir varieties. (Verdict: stick with their sparklings; the chardonnay and pinot were nearly undrinkable, we left both nearly full on the table.)

img_4118Next, we wandered to the Santa Fe Plaza, a slightly larger version of the Albuquerque Old Town area, which is similarly anchored by a large, historical but still functional church, and otherwise surrounded by galleries and trinket shops. The difference here though was that much of the work in Santa Fe was really, really good. Either that, or the hubby and I just have really expensive tastes in art — most of the things we liked had price tags in the 5-figure range. Needless to say, we didn’t come home with any new pieces, but the scenery was still worth the visit.

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The many visitors to the Santa Fe Plaza.
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The blocks surrounding the Plaza are filled with traditional style Southwestern adobe architecture.

As the sun and the temperature began to fall, we headed off to our evening activity, a visit to the “House of Eternal Returns” at Meow Wolf. Meow Wolf is an art collective and complex, partially funded by George R.R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame. And the House of Eternal Returns is their permanent exhibit, which combines elements of a haunted house, escape-the-room puzzle, circus, maze, museum, comedy act, and even an arcade to be something completely one-of-a-kind.

Visitors are encouraged to explore the exhibit in any order they like to help “solve the mystery” and can interact with all sorts of visual, auditory, and tactile artifacts along the way. Going places you “shouldn’t” is heartily encouraged — for example, you just might find the refrigerator is a portal to a whole new world. Actors and performers of all types also add to the fun, helping to create the slightly spooky and very entertaining world they’ve constructed inside. Unfortunately, the few pictures we bothered to take at Meow Wolf don’t even begin to do the exhibit justice, so I’ll leave those off and just give my enthusiastic recommendation instead.

Finally, we headed off for a late dinner at the Second Street Brewery in Santa Fe, for our last dose of true New Mexican cuisine before we left the following day. Here, I encountered the “Alien Burger” which consisted of a beef patty topped with a chile relleno, smoked bacon, green chile queso, guacamole, crispy fried onion strings, and chipotle mayo. It was certainly a mouthful —a fatty, spicy, delicious mouthful.

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After dinner, we drove back to the hotel and called it a night.  The next day, we enjoyed an early breakfast with some friends at a healthy spot called The Grove, which is also apparently a frequent filming location for NM-based movies an tv shows, before heading to the airport.

This trip was a blur, but New Mexico was fantastic.  I look forward to being able to come back when we can take our time and really explore all the excellent stuff our neighboring state has to offer in more detail.

Tricks (But Mainly) Treats for a Great Halloween Party

This past weekend, we hosted our Third-Annual Pumpkin Carving party for our friends and their kiddos, and tried out a bunch of fun new recipes. (If you’d like to see previous years pics, here are the posts from 2015 and 2014!)

Our snacks included (from left to right in the top photo):

  • Rice Krispie Pumpkin Treats
  • “Hot & Creamy Bones” aka Cream Cheese & Pepper Jelly
  • Fall Flatbread Bites
  • Caramel Apple Nachos
  • 7-Layer “Cobweb” Dip
  • Fudge Brownies w/ Candy Corns

Want to remake some of these classics? Here are the recipes:

img_4070The Rice Krispie treats were super easy.  Just follow the standard recipe, but add 3 drops of orange food coloring. Once they’re about halfway cooled (about 15 minutes), roll them into balls and add a green candy for the stem.  We used green apple Jolly Rancher bites. You can add jack-o-lantern details with an edible gel pen if you like.

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Even easier! Let 2 packages of cream cheese come to room temperature, then place it on a piece of plastic wrap.  Using a second piece of plastic wrap on top, mold it into your desired shape, then transfer to a serving dish.  Next, cover with your favorite pepper jelly and add crackers.

img_4068These fall flatbread bites were DELICIOUS.  I originally got the Pin-spiration for these from a recipe on the Table for Two blog,  but edited the recipe to suit my own tastes.

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. On two cookie sheets, let your frozen puff pastry dough thaw for about 20 minutes. Unfold, cut into square-inch pieces (about 16 per sheet) and spray with cooking spray.
  3. In a saucepan, add 2 tbsp butter, then 1 medium, thinly sliced white onion and cook over medium heat.  Season well with salt and pepper. Stir every 2-3 minutes. After the onions have begun to carmelize (15 minutes or so), add 2 more tablespoons butter, 1 tbsp sugar, and 1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into small cubes. Add 1/2 tsp dried thyme and 1/2 tsp dried tarragon.
  4. Cook for about 10 more minutes, before removing from heat. Spoon the mixture over each piece of puff pastry.
  5. Top each bite with a nice amount of shredded gruyere cheese. Bake for 25 minutes, then serve immediately.

img_4066Another recipe that came from Pinterest – this one came pretty directly from Butter With a Side of Bread. One quick note though; the apples absorbed both the caramel and the marshamllow fluff.  So while they were totally delicious, they weren’t quite as beautiful as the ones she has on her blog.

img_4064This is basically just your standard issue 7-layer dip.  Mine contains refried beans, seasoned ground beef, shredded cheddar cheese, and guacamole in layers.  Then, I made the cobweb using sour cream; just make concentric circles, then using a toothpick, drag back from the center of the dish to create the swooping look.  Cover the toothpick lines with additional sour cream, and then rim the dish with sliced olives and tomatoes.

So there you have it. It was a great party! And just look at some of the resulting jack-o-lanterns:

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Dino-Pumpkin
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Dia-de-los Trum-kin
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Charlie Brown pumpkin (it’s even cuter during the day, b/c it has pumpkin ears!)
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Rick and Morty pumpkin
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Mr. Meesig pumpkin (another Rick and Morty reference!)
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This was an attempt at the poop emoji, but the glow-in-the-dark paint doesn’t come through so well.
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Bats-in-the-moon pumpkin

And those were only about half of the great creations made by our guests.  It was a fantastic night, and we can’t wait until next year.

It’s Pecan Gathering Time!

Windy days in the fall mean one thing around Unintended Domesticity HQ — time to harvest some pecans from the giant, ancient pecan tree we have growing in our front yard.

Did you feel it, Texans? That big breeze that blew through and dropped the temperature 15 degrees this afternoon….it smells like….fall! (Finally!)

And windy days in the fall mean one thing around Unintended Domesticity HQ — time to harvest some pecans from the giant, ancient pecan tree we have growing in our front yard.

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Yeah, it’s that big. I can’t even get it all in the frame.  (That’s what she said.)

But you don’t even need your own pecan tree to go pecan picking. You can find these bad boys all over local parks, roadways, etc. So how does one harvest pecans?

Well, it’s pretty easy.  You *could* theoretically get a ladder, climb the tree, and pick the pecans from the source, I suppose. But this is where that windy day comes in  — we just wait for them to fall to the ground, then pick them up, shuck them and throw them in a bucket.

There are a few key things to know before you do this:

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  1. You want to look for pecans in which the surrounding greenish-brown husk has started to open on its own accord. That’s why the top three on the left are all ok, even though they are of different shades and stages of dryness/falling from the tree.
  2. Anything that hasn’t opened at all (like the bottom right example) isn’t quite ripe. Also, if the husk clings to the pecan and is hard to remove? Don’t force it. Just toss that one and move on.
  3. Once you’ve removed the husk (or if you find a pecan already out of its husk) you want to survey it for any insect activity (look for wormholes or cracks) but also any mold.  The top right example is covered in a silverish white powder, meaning we should discard it.
  4. Don’t be afraid if they have some brownish residue, like the second example on the bottom left; that’s just some residual husk that will dry out in a few days time.

We spent just under two hours scouring for pecans last night and tonight, and ended up with a 2.5 gallon bucket full of pecans:

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We’ll let these dry for a few weeks (it helps them mature), by occasionally stirring the bucket and keeping them in a cool, dry place. Then, we’ll take them to our local Senior Activity Center, which offers pecan cracking at a very reasonable rate each November.

From there, these will be turned into honey roasted pecans, one of our favorite gifts to give at Christmas time.

And if you can’t make it out today, don’t worry — the pecans will keep falling over the next couple weeks. Happy hunting!

A Week of Low-Carb Meals, Day Four: Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Well, we got a little off track with our posting cadence, but we’re still aboard the low-carb train here at Unintended Domesticity headquarters and this past Monday, I made one of my all-time favorite meals.

You see, when I was a little girl, I had a very old nanny named Aunt Neva. Aunt Neva always smelled like a tube of Ben Gay, had hearing aids that constantly produced an irritating high-pitched ringing noise, forced us to take naps through her favorite soap operas, and was not shy about spanking us if we got out of line. But Aunt Neva had one redeeming quality: she made the best beef stew IN THE WORLD.

So…in the approximate words of Tenacious D: This is not the greatest stew in the world, No. This is just a tribute. (But a pretty good one at that, and it’s super easy to make.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs beef stew meat, any cut
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 10 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 bag of baby carrots
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2-3 cups beef broth

Directions:

  1. In a skillet, add your olive oil and then your beef cubes. Sprinkle half of all your spices onto the meat, and lightly sear the meat on all sides, roughly just 2-3 minutes of total cooking time.
  2. Next, transfer the meat into the slow cooker, and add all of your vegetables on top.
  3. Use your red wine to deglase the bottom of your skillet pan, then mix in the tomato paste until it dissolves. (You can add a little beef broth too, if necessary, to help it fully dissolve.) Add the remaining spices, and then pour over your vegetables.
  4. Fill the slow cooker the rest of the way with beef broth, stopping about 1 full inch from the lid line.
  5. Set the slow cooker to low for 10 hours or high for 4 hours, and when it’s finished, you can top with chives or cilantro, or enjoy it without any embellishment at all. Enjoy!

How We’re Saving $1,200 on our Five-Star Dublin Hotel

If you’re a fan of the blog, then you’ve likely been following our planning for next year’s UK & Ireland trip, including how we saved $6,500+ on our business class flights using Citi & Chase points on Singapore Airlines, and how we saved ~$600 on our hotels in Manchester & Liverpool using Starwood points.

The next item up for us to book was going to be the hotel for the bulk of our stay, in Dublin. The hubby wanted to stay right in the heart of the city centre, where (in his own words) “we could try a new pub every night and eat all the things.” And I mean..who could argue with that logic?

As we’d recently earned 100,000 new Chase Ultimate Rewards points for meeting the minimum spending requirements for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, we were happily sitting atop roughly 114k UR points, and given the improved redemption rate for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders, we knew we could turn those points into $1,700+ of free travel through the Chase travel portal.

The only real question was whether that would be the best use of our points. In the past, we’ve frequently transferred UR points over to Hyatt, because of the great value of the Hyatt loyalty program. Unfortunately, Hyatt doesn’t have any hotels in Dublin, and so this time that wasn’t an option.

Another option was paying outright with our Citi ThankYou Prestige card, and using the 4th-night free benefit to get a reimbursement for the cost of the 4th night. However, with this method you don’t get the reimbursement until after you complete your stay, and we’re not sure right now whether it’s worth it to keep our Citi card for another year, given the steep $450 annual fee.

So that had us back to booking via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. From here, I just needed to research what hotel was best for us. After looking at reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor, and several other sites, I had narrowed it down to either The Morgan or The Fitzwilliam. Both hotels were five-star properties with overwhelmingly positive reviews, but a slightly lower price and the fact that it’s allegedly Beyonce-approved pushed us towards ultimately deciding on the Fitzwilliam.

One thing I really like about booking through the Chase portal is that, unlike is often the case with award nights booked directly with the hotel chains, you can usually book any available room through the portal and not just the lowest-category room.

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The lowest tier room at the Fitzwilliam.

As such, we reviewed the Fitzwilliam’s offerings and opted to upgrade from the “Executive Double” room to the “Signature Room” for just 3,000 additional points total; I mean, after all, it is our vacation — worth a little splurge. And in my experience, you’re also much more likely to be upgraded from a higher starting point room than if you book the bottom of the barrel.

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Yet for just 3,000 more points, we could upgrade two full categories!

Taking a look at this room category through the hotel’s website, we would have had to pay €1146, or roughly 1,257 USD across our entire stay.  But using the Chase portal, we were able to secure our stay for four nights in a Signature room for just 80,910 UR points. That’s even slightly better than the stated redemption rate of 1.5 cents per point; closer to 1.6 in fact.

If you’re keeping track, that means that the total value of our trip to date is $9,598.44, and we’ve only had to pay $941 of that ourselves, meaning 91% of this trip so far is ABSOLUTELY FREE to us. 

Next step: positioning flights, trains, and ferries to get us from city to city along the way!

Header image courtesy of The Fitzwilliam Hotel Dublin, a member of the Preferred Hotels and Resorts group.

A Week of Low-Carb Meals, Day 3: Southwest Ranch Chicken Breasts

We continue forward on our lowcarb mission, and tonight’s dinner is another riff on the hubby’s favorites. I make a version of this dish stuffed with rice and beans, similar to what I’ve written about previously in the Southwestern Stuffed Portabellas.

But in order to cut the carb, this recipe takes a slightly different spin, stuffed with tomatoes, chiles, and mushrooms. Read on for details!

Ingredients:

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
  • 1 can of rotel
  • 1 package of sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
  • Green Onions to garnish (optional)
  • Fresh cilantro to garnish (optional)
  • Sour cream to garnish (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. With a paring knife, trim excess fat off chicken breasts, and cut a slice partially (but not all the way) through the center of each breast lengthwise, allowing you to pull the edges apart and create a bit of a bowl shape.
  2. Sprinkle each breast with salt and pepper, then lightly dredge in the Ranch dressing mix. Place in a baking dish.
  3. In a separate bowl, toss the sliced mushrooms with the olive oil and additional salt and pepper, until the oil is absorbed.  Then, dump them on top of and around the chicken breasts.
  4. Open and drain a can of Rotel, then dump those on top of and around the chicken.
  5. Cook at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, or until the thickest part of the chicken reaches 160 degrees internally.
  6. Add 1/3 of the cheese to each of the breast, and return to the oven for 2-3 minutes until well melted.
  7. Remove the chicken and plate with desired garnishes. I prefer a dollop of sour cream, and chopped green onions and cilantro.

And of course, enjoy!  This was a tasty one!

Easy Low Carb Meals for Campfire Cooking & Photos from Inks Lake State Park

Well, we’ve just returned from yet another camping weekend, our 4th since the hubby convinced me I might not actually hate the great outdoors a few years back. This time, we ventured to Inks Lake State Park, just about an hour outside of Austin.

And while I’ve talked about my “glamping” mindset in the past, you might like to know that also extends to the meals I make over our campfire. You won’t ever see me packing generic hot dogs and s’mores for our camping trips. I like to treat the outdoor setting, lack of gadgets, and campfire cooktop as a real-life Top Chef challenge of sorts, and this time we added in an additional bit of difficulty: we wanted to stay relatively low-carb.

So, I dug deep into my own recipe stash and Pinterest boards, and came up with a meal plan that really worked well. (Note – if you don’t care about food stuff, just scroll to the bottom for more camping pics!)

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Night One: Link Sausage, Elotes, and Tomato Salad

For this meal, we upgraded from a basic hotdog with a nice pork and venison sausage link that just went directly onto the grill grate over our fire. I then paired it with my absolute favorite grilling side-dish: elotes, aka Mexican-style street corn.

To cook elotes, you shuck the corn and rub it with butter + salt + pepper, before wrapping it in foil, and sticking it in the coals of your fire for about 5-6 minutes to warm.  I then removed the corn and brushed each side with mayonnaise, then transferred it to a large-size ziploc bag that I had pre-packed with crumbled cojita cheese, chili powder, paprika, and cilantro.  Shake the cheese/spice mixture until well coated, then squeeze a bit of lime on and enjoy!

Finally, we also paired dinner with a nice, fresh tomato salad. I simply picked the ripest tomato from my garden, chopped it into bite sized pieces on-site, topped it with some chopped green onion, and a Greek-salad style vinaigrette. Yum!

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Breakfast Day Two: “Breakfast Charcuterie” — Salmon Toasts, Cheese, and Dried Fruit

A lot of time camping at a busy campground means a pretty early wake-up call, thanks to lots of sunlight, loud children at nearby campsites, and/or the engines of the fishermen that wake up super-early to catch the biggest fish. Because of this, sometimes just an easy breakfast that doesn’t even require the use of your campfire is ideal, so that’s what we went for.

Granted, this was sort of a splurge on the carb front b/c we each had a slice of bread, however the bread we picked (Pepperidge Farm Pumpernickel) also had 3g of protein, and 2g of fiber, so we allowed ourself this little indulgence, since we were going to be doing a rather long hike shortly after breakfast.

For the toasts, we just did another light dab of mayonnaise (left over from the elotes) and then topped with smoked salmon and a sprinkling of dill. The cheeses were a delicious rosemary asiago that we’re fond of, and a smoked gouda. The fruits (in limited quantities b/c of carbs, but again, we were trying to power up for hiking) were dried apricots and dried cranberries (not Craisins, though, which have a ton of added sugar!)

Lunch Day Two: Snacks from the Cooler

Alright, no fancy photo of lunch. But I had made a batch of my curried chicken salad, and we paired that with almonds, beef jerky, and some of the leftover dried fruit from breakfast.

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Dinner Day Two: Foil Packets with Chicken, Artichoke, Mushrooms, Tomato & Pesto

OMG, guys, this meal was so good it’s going into the regular rotation — not just for camping meals, but also for our everyday eating. And it was incredibly simple: before we left, I cut up raw chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and then combined with jarred and rinsed artichoke hearts, sliced tomato, and sliced mushrooms. A couple dollops of homemade pesto provided the “sauce”, and we folded them up into foil and were ready to go.

If you’ve never made foil packets before, the key is to keep them relatively flat; you don’t want things stacked on top of each other, but more like in one single layer, so that it all cooks evenly. We cooked our packets about 10 minutes on each side, which was perfect to get the chicken bits nice and crispy, while also letting the veggies steam in the sauce.

Breakfast Day Three: Breakfast Scramble with sausage, green onions & mushrooms

For our final campfire meal, I pulled out the trusty cast-iron skillet. If you’re planning on cooking over anything that requires a skillet over an open flame, you’re going to want to invest in some good quality cast iron, because fire will totally destroy your everyday cookware.

I forgot to get a photo of this one because we were too busy packing out all our gear, but it was just a basic scramble…eggs, breakfast sausage, and the leftover chopped onions and sliced mushrooms I’d used in some of the other recipes. I topped mine with a bit more cilantro that was left from the elotes. Simple and delicious!

So there you have it.  That’s how we managed to stay low-carb even while camping this weekend, and it all managed to fit into a single cooler to boot. And never fear, more low-carb recipes from my current recipe series are coming later this week!

In the meantime, how about a few more photos from our camping trip?

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The scenic view from our Saturday hike. We did various trails that combined to be about 4 miles round trip on the West side of the campgrounds.
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Our noisy neighbors! We also spied several cranes, turtles, and even a rogue crawfish.
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Campsite 236, with our tent set up. This was a drive-in spot that came with a water and electricity hookup.  Being right on the water was fantastic. 
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We took a class on “Fishing with a Ranger” that was free through the park itself.  The hubby caught a bluegill during the class, and then several other little guys over the next few days! 
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And later on in the weekend, I followed suit.  Here’s me with a green sunfish – my first catch ever! A great thing about the Texas State Parks – no fishing license is required as long as you’re fishing from the shore.

There were plenty of other fun things to do at this park as well; you could rent kayaks or walk down to a popular swimming hole nearby, and the view of the night sky was fantastic as well. We had a great time! What’s your favorite camping locale?

A Week of Low-Carb Meals, Day 2: Pecan & Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast

Easing the hubby into low-carb eating continues here at Unintended Domesticity HQ, and after posting yesterday’s recipe, I got a really interesting comment from a friend. She lamented that she felt like having her husband join her on a diet was “punishing him,” and so she struggled with cooking meals that met both her dietary requirements but also were still tasty for the hubby.

I totally get it. My own hubby, fantastic as he is, is definitely not a low-carb fan. But I don’t really feel bad for “making” him go low-carb with me, because:

  • Low carb is more about eating healthy than attaining some specific result like weight loss.  I think I’d feel it was a lot more problematic if I was significantly limiting calories or doing some sort of crash diet like all-cabbage or juice-cleanse or whatever.
  • With a little creativity, it’s easy to tweak a lot of his favorites to make a low-carb version.

Tonight’s dinner definitely fit into that latter category.  The hubby’s favorite meal that I make is pecan-crusted chicken tenders. Generally, the breading on such a dish is a mix of crushed pecans and bread crumbs, but with a little ingenuity, I was able to make it into a low-carb version that he loved just as much as the original.

The key here is swapping tenders with breasts in order to achieve a better protein vs. breading ratio, and then replacing bread crumbs with grated parmesan cheese. Because of that secondary alteration, you also have to switch out your cooking style somewhat, otherwise the parmesan can burn. Here’s how you do it!

Ingredients:

  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup pecan pieces (I buy the “candy pieces” size, the smallest they make)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter

Directions:

  1. Salt and pepper both chicken breasts liberally. Begin preheating your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a small plate, crack your egg and add the water and vigorously whisk them together until fully combined.
  3. In a second small plate, mix the cheese, pecan pieces, and spices with a fork.
  4. Heat a frying pan over the stove for 30 seconds on high heat, then reduce to medium-high heat and add your oil and butter. (Combining both types of fat will give you a higher flash point, enabling a better pan-fry.)
  5. Dip your chicken breasts in the egg wash, then dredge in the cheese/pecan/spice mixture, covering all sides. You may need to use a fork to press the mixture onto the side of the chicken, depending on the thickness of your breasts.
  6. Once “breaded”, place each breast in the frying pan, and allow to cook for 3-minutes on each side.
  7. After you’ve crisped each side, transfer your chicken breasts only (no oil) to a baking dish, and let the chicken finish in the oven. You’ll want to cook the chicken through, until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, which for my chicken took about 20 minutes.
  8. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove from oven and let it sit for roughly 5 minutes before serving. Your chicken should be moist, tender, and flavorful.

Basically, I can make this meal anytime, and the hubby wouldn’t even know he was being fed something “low-carb”. It’s great! Hope all the other low-carb fearing hubbies out there love it too!

A Week of Low-Carb Meals, Day 1: Southern-Style Shrimp Boil

We’ve kicked off another round of “healthy eating” here at Unintended Domesticity, HQ. I’m calling it “pre-gaming” for the inevitable holiday weight gain. So, much to the hubby’s chagrin, we’ve once again cut out grains & added sugar from our diets.

The hubby in particular considers a low-carb diet something akin to torture. He simply loves his breads, pastas, pizza, and sweets. But what’s even worse that giving up his favorites is the amount of (gasp) vegetables I make him eat when we’re low-carb.  (The horror, right?)

So to ease him back into the low-carb scene, I started us off with low-country style shrimp boil, where the focus is on the seafood and spice. The recipe below was perfect for three servings, so adjust accordingly for your own brood. I also replaced the traditional red potatoes with mushrooms to further reduce the carb count, but you can really do either.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb large shrimp, unpeeled
  • 1 lb sausage, any variety
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, shucked and cut into thirds
  • 1 pkg of whole white mushrooms
  • 1/2 one onion, sliced in long strips
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 bag of Zatarain’s crawfish, shrimp, and crab boil-in-a-bag
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 tbsp salt
  • 2 cups of beer of your choice
  • 1 tbsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce (optional)
  • Parsley or scallion to garnish

Directions:

  1.  Add the boil bag, quartered lemon, and salt in the bottom compartment of a strainer pot, then fill the top pot with beer and water until about 2/3 full. Bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, add all remaining ingredients except the shrimp, and boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the shrimp, then boil for appx 90 seconds.
  4. Strain out the boil water (no need to shake, a little remaining moisture is good for flavor) and plate.
  5. Sprinkle with chopped scallions or parsley, whatever you have on hand.

Voila! It’s really that easy – this meal, prep and all comes together in less than 30 minutes and, even in its carb free version, is husband-approved.