Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts {Doughnut Diaries}

Y'all. I almost forgot how to blog. It's seriously been a hot minute. Remember when I said I would have more of a routine schedule? Well, that was a false statement. 

Very false.

Some rotations I have had a normal, predictable schedule. Others, not so much. Some were about as predictable as a newborn's sleep schedule. Bonkers.

Anyway. I'm back. For now. I hope to drop in here and there with a few posts -- I really have so much to share (Minneapolis, MN, Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania, VA, Hatteras, NC x 2, somuchfood, Charlottesville, VA -- yikes). 


For all you Virginians, it's fall. 

That means an obligatory trip to the orchard. For most, that means Carter Mountain Orchard. Me? That's not my style. Don't get me wrong. It's close to the highway, great for families, and has some pretty wonderful views. 

But the crowds. Omylanta the crowds. I can't deal. Dickie Brothers Orchard is more my jam. 

Last weekend, one of my roommates came up from the beach and I had a pretty perfect 'Fall in Virginia/Virginia is for Lovers' weekend planned. Not all of it happened, but it was good. Really good. On the list? Dickie Brothers Orchard. They had other plans, though. They had been picked hard the weekend before, so they weren't going to be open for PYO the day that we had planned to go. Bummer. (Locals -- this weekend they are open for PYO Pink Lady apples!)

I wrapped my mind around going to Carter Mountain and we made the best of it. One thing that Carter Mountain is known for? Their apple cider doughnuts. Not to shatter any hopes and dreams out there, but for those that have never had one . . . . they don't taste like apple cider. They're made with apple cider and taste like fall (cinnamon, warm, etc.). 

A couple weeks before we went to the orchard, I invested in two doughnut pans (each one makes six and it's just more convenient since most recipes make 8-12 doughnuts). It's probably the best kitchen gadget you can invest in (besides a garlic press). I got mine at Michael's and used a 40% off coupon. It was like being rewarded for baking doughnuts! I dig it.

About that same time, the internet/blogosphere/Pinterest/etc. was flooded. Inundated. Overwhelmed. Swamped with doughnut recipes. It seemed like everyone I followed (blogs and IG) had bought a doughnut pan and were about to partake in doughnut benders

Know what I call that? Perfection. The stars aligning. A sign from above. Just kidding. But really though. I think this doughnut craze is mostly due to the recent release of Ashley McLaughlin's book, Baked Doughnuts For Everyone. For all you gluten free-ers out there, this book is your ticket to doughnut heaven.

A couple days after I bought my pans, we had planned a family get-together at my cousin's house to see my aunt and uncle off to Florida (they live there but made the trek to Virginia for their granddaughter/my cousin's wedding -- more to come). 

I decided that now was the time to break in that pan. First batch? Apple cider doughnuts.

Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts with Maple-Cinnamon Glaze

Doughnuts - borrowed from Eat Live Run

What You'll Need (for 12 doughnuts)

  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C apple cider
  • 1/4 C buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

How To Make Them

  • Preheat oven to 325F. Spray two doughnut pans with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, sal, and cinnamon.
  • Grab a smaller bowl and blend the eggs, buttermilk, apple cider, and melted butter. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until just blended. Batter will be thick and sticky.
  • Using a table spoon, spread the batter into the doughnut cavities about 3/4th full. Full disclosure -- I filled the cavities all the way. Also, I just spooned the batter into the cavities and went back afterwards with my finder, spreading things smooth.
  • Place doughnuts in the oven and bake for 22-25 minutes until fluffy and slightly golden. 
  • Invert doughnuts onto a cooling rack over parchment paper and allow to cool. If your doughnut hole isn't pronounced, I used something similar to this to punch out the centers.
  • While cooling, make your glaze.
    • Traditional apple cider doughnuts are tossed in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. I decided on a glaze for fun. If you'd like the traditional topping, make a cinnamon-sugar mixture (1/2 C sugar + 1 tbsp. cinnamon). 
  • Once glaze is made, dip the top of doughnuts into the glaze and allow to rest for ~15 minutes. 
    • For traditional apple cider doughnuts, grab a small bowl, melt a couple tablespoons of butter. Dip doughnuts into the butter and then into the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  • Eat up! 

Maple-Cinnamon Glaze - borrowed from Top With Cinnamon who borrowed from Ashley McLaughlin's Baked Doughnuts For Everyone

What You'll Need (for 12 doughnuts)
  • 2 C powdered sugar
  • 4 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 & 1/2 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

How To Make Them
  • Combine the glaze ingredients together until smooth. Add more milk if a thinner consistency is desired.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pineapple Mango Salsa

Apparently pineapple mango salsa has been done before? O well -- long hair don't care because this stuff is good

Remember when I said I should be making fresh and clean things since it's summer and all? Well, I did. Here she is. She's fresh and clean and guilt-free {in my opinion, at least}.

How should you serve her? In a bowl. With chips on the side. Might I suggest Tostito's Hint of Lime or their Roasted Garlic and Black Bean chips -- both are my kryptonite. Seriously. I don't even need salsa to eat these babies. 

This salsa is also kinda perfect over fish tacos. I'm definitely looking forward to it and several summer beverages (read: Bud Light Lime -- I'm not ashamed} once Virginia's heat reaches 100F and 532,438% humidity. It happens. That is not an exaggeration.

Cheers to the start of summer, peeps! O and if you've never sliced a pineapple or a mango, Youtube it or buy this and this. See what I did right there? Totally justified new kitchen purchases for ya.  

Pineapple Mango Salsa (serves ~6)

What You'll Need

  • 1 pineapple, cored and chopped (you will only need half)
  • 2 mangos, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, finely diced
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1/2 - 3/4 C cilantro, chopped
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

How To Make It

  • Core and chop your pineapple -- think bite size pieces since it's going to be salsa. Once cut, place half of the pineapple in a mixing bowl. The other half can be used for smoothies, snacking, or anything else you have in mind.
  • Chop your mango -- again, think bite size pieces and add to the bowl.
  • Finely dice your jalapeño, including the seeds and membrane (unless you can't take the heat, then remove the centers and seeds) and where's it going? Thats right, into the bowl.
  • Dice your red onion and chop your cilantro and add to the bowl.
  • Now everything is chopped and ready for salt and juice. Add your salt and juice from two limes. Mix to combine and serve her up! You can add more or less of any ingredient to your liking :)


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp {Summertime Delight}

Pssst. Hey! I have something hush-hush I wanna tell you.

IT'S RHUBARB SEASON! {Cue the trumpets, or guns, or whatever gets your blood pumping in your part of the world}

Feels good to get that out there. It's not really hush-hush, I just want all the rhubarb in the world right now. To myself.

However, it would be very selfish of me not to share this yumminess with you. You better run out for your 'barb because it's a hot harvest item right now and you gotta get it while you still can! 

O! And I'm not just saying that these are yummy because I made them. I can see how you think I might be biased and all, and for the simple fact alone that I maaaaaaybe licked my ramekin clean {in the comforts of my own home -- do you really think I'm that much of an animal in public?}. Ok but for real though -- in the words of one crisp consumer, "They are happiness under an oatmeal blankie." If that doesn't sell ya, I don't know what will.

One thing I need to mention -- people feel the need to make rhubarb sweet. Like with sugar. Lots and lots of sugar. I really don't get it. I could maybe see the need for sugar if you made a rhubarb pie or something of the like and there's no other fruit in it. Nine times out of ten -- you pair your 'barb with berries. Fresh ones. 

Naturally, when fruit is cooked or baked, it gets all juicy and releases its own natural sugar and sweetness -- this is why you don't need a lot of extra "stuff." Sometimes "stuff" is necessary but for this recipe you need very little "stuff." O and the orange in this recipe? Takes this dish to another level, just sayin'.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (makes 6 ramekins or an 8x8 square pan)

What You'll Need


  • 2 C rhubarb, chopped (~4 to 5 stalks depending on their size)
  • 1 C strawberries, capped and quartered
  • 1 small pear
  • 1 small fuji apple 
  • 2/3 C sugar
  • 2/3 C water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1tbsp + 1/4 tsp corn starch
  • 1 navel orange (you'll need its juice and zest)

Topping (I did adapt this part from Kitchen Simplicity)

  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C rolled oats
  • 1/2 C walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 tbsp butter, room temp

How To Make It

  • Preheat your oven to 350F.
  • Chop all your fruit and add to a large mixing bowl.
  • Zest your orange and set zest aside.
  • In a small bowl, add your corn starch, juice from one orange, and 1/2 tsp of zest and stir to dissolve/combine.
  • In a medium sauce pan, add your water and sugar and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and add in your vanilla and corn starch mixture. Stir to combine. 
  • Pour your sugar mixture over your fruit and stir, making sure all the fruit is coated. Add remaining orange zest (~1/2 to 3/4 tsp).
  • Using a 1/3 C measure, scoop 1/3 C fruit into each ramekin (make sure minimal juice from the bottom of the bowl makes it into each ramekin). Once each ramekin is full, distribute remaining fruit amongst the ramekins. Now you should have juice/sugar left in your bowl. Using a 1/4 C measure, pour 1/4 C of remaining juice over each ramekin and evenly distribute any remaining liquid. 
  • If you're using an 8x8 square pan, place fruit in pan and pour half of the liquid over the fruit into your pan.
  • Now for the topping -- throw everything into a mixing bowl except the butter and mix to combine. Cut the butter into individual tablespoons and add to the dry ingredients. You can use a pastry blender or your hands to distribute the butter into the dry ingredients -- I used both the dough blender and my hands. 
  • Using a 1/4 C measure, scoop topping onto each ramekin and evenly distribute any remaining topping amongst the ramekins. 
  • Place completed ramekins on a baking sheet and pop in the oven for 35 minutes until edges are bubbling. 
  • Serve with vanilla ice cream (Homestead Creamery for all you Richmonders) and fresh orange zest!

Have you ever made a rhubarb pie or crisp before? Did it call for a lot of sugar?


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ravioli vs. Tortellini {Lemon Mushroom & Spinach Pancetta}

Will all the dedicated pasta lovers please stand up?

Yea, you. I'm talking to you. I'll even stand with you if it makes ya feel better. I'd be lying if I said I didn't love pasta. It's carby, gluteny, and absorbs buttery things realllll well, y'all. It's almost summer though. I should be making/eating fresh things. Clean things. Summery things. So what gives?

Well, last week I was reading drooling over pictures and recipes at Beyond the Flavor and stumbled across this gem: Duck Confit Tortellini. Holy yum.

Naturally, my recipe-creating juices started flowing and I decided that tortellinis had to happen, stat. I toyed around with the idea of Boursin and duck confit and back-and-forth with a few other flavor combos. I settled on two versions -- a lemony mushroom one and a garlicky, spinach pancetta one.

Why these flavors? I challenged myself to make summer-style tortellinis. When I eat pasta, I often find the dishes to be delicious and well-crafted, but I also find them to be rich. And heavy. Rich in such a way that after eating them, I feel like a stuffed Christmas goose ready for basting. Don't get me wrong -- I enjoy that feeling from time-to-time, but more often than not, it just ain't enjoyable.

I wanted my tortellinis to taste fresh, while also satisfying my carby craving.

Don't let sheets of pasta deter you from making these yummies. Many Whole Foods locations sell pasta cut (or not) to your liking -- I may have mentioned my love for this service here.

If you don't have a Whole Foods in your area, try searching for local pasta vendors. Richmonders, I used pasta sheets from Bombolini because I just didn't feel like making pasta dough (keeping it real). The next time I make this, I may use this recipe or this recipe for pasta dough, and this tool, this tool, or this tool to make much prettier raviolis. The stamp seems more practical for me because it eliminates the need for an egg wash to seal the edges. 

In case you haven't noticed, the initial plan was to make tortellinis. After purchasing my pasta sheets from Bombolini, I realized that they were far too thick to make tortellinis. Solution? Raviolis with a biscuit cutter. Because this blog is about successes and flops, you can find my pretty hideous tortellinis below. Only took two of those for me to change my game-plan. 

It doesn't matter if you decide to make tortellinis or raviolis, we all know that what really matters is the filling. 

Lemon Mushroom Filling (enough filling for 48 raviolis or tortellinis - 1 tsp filling/each)

What You'll Need
  • 3-4oz. mixed mushrooms (mine were cremini, porcini, and chanterelle)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 C pecorino, shredded
  • 1 C ricotta cheese

How To Make It
  • Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. 
  • Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper to the butter and sauté until softened.
  • Add sautéed mushrooms, lemon zest, and pecorino to a food processor and pulse/blend until a "dip" consistency forms.
  • Empty mixture into a bowl and fold in ricotta cheese.

Spinach Pancetta Filling (enough filling for 48 raviolis or tortellinis - 1 tsp filling/each)

What You'll Need
  • 1 bag spinach
  • 1 package pancetta (about six slices)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 C parmesan, shredded
  • 1 C ricotta cheese

How To Make It
  • Chop pancetta and add to a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until almost crispy.
  • Using a slatted spoon, remove pancetta from the pan and allow to rest.
  • Add spinach to left over pancetta grease and wilt down. 
  • Add minced garlic to the wilted spinach and toss to coat. 
  • Add pancetta, wilted spinach with garlic, and parmesan to a food processor and pulse/blend until a "dip" consistency forms. 
  • Empty mixture into a bowl and fold in ricotta cheese.


What You'll Need
  • Pasta dough of your choosing or sheets of pre-made pasta. If you decide to buy it, tell the person at the counter what you're making and that you need it pressed thin, especially if you're making tortellinis.
  • A cookie cutter or biscuit cutter to make your ravioli/tortellini rounds (I used a 3" biscuit cutter).
  • Sheet pan for your completed raviolis to rest on. 
  • Flour for coating your surface and your pans so that the dough doesn't stick and to ensure that the raviolis/tortellinis don't stick to one another.
  • 1 egg - you will need an egg wash to seal the filling between the pasta sheets. 

How To Make It
  • Flour the surface that you will be cutting your ravioli rounds on. Also, flour your sheet pant for your completed raviolis. 
  • Before cutting your sheets, have a plan as to how many rounds you will be able to get from one sheet. 
  • Start cutting. You can either cut all the sheets at once and then fill them, or cut one sheet and fill one sheet, cut one sheet and fill one sheet, and so on. I prefer the latter method, so that your pasta doesn't dry out before you get to filling them. 
  • Crack an egg in a bowl and mix to combine the yolk and the white. 
  • Once you're ready to fill, using a teaspoon, spoon your mixture into the center of one disc. Using a brush or your finger, spread egg wash along the outer edge of each disc and seal together. You want to make sure that the "pocket" containing your filling has no air in it that can escape while cooking. Repeat this process until you have made 48 raviolis or to your liking.
  • When ready to eat, boil a pot of salted water adding five raviolis at a time and cook for 7 to 8 minutes. You can add a touch of butter or a little olive oil to the boiling water to keep the raviolis from sticking to one another.

My biggest fear was that my edges weren't sealed well enough and that my delicious filling was gonna spew out into my boiling water. I'm happy to report that they faired just fine.

To complete the pancetta spinach raviolis, just melt some butter in a pan on the stove and sprinkle garlic salt into the butter, then drizzle over top the raviolis. Top with a little shredded parmesan and you're good to go.

To complete the lemon mushroom raviolis, make the lemon cream sauce below, and top with fresh lemon zest and shredded pecorino.

Lemon Cream Sauce

What You'll Need
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 C whipping cream or half & half
  • 1/8 C fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest

How To Make It
  • Melt butter in a small sauce pan.
  • Add cream to the melted butter and simmer for a minute or two.
  • Once simmering, add the lemon juice and lemon zest and continue to simmer for another minute.
  • Remove from heat and drizzle over mushroom raviolis.

One good thing about both of these fillings is that they can be used in various dishes such as plain pasta noodles or as a dip for crackers. I had leftovers of each, but the spinach one is perfect on crackers! I will definitely be making it in the future to take to get-togethers. It's also good on bread, a spoon, or a finger! Not that I know or anything. The mushroom one is pretty divine on pita chips. Even if making raviolis isn't your thing, these would make perfect party dips for any occasion!

O and the lemon cream sauce? Yea, you can soak it up real nice with some crusty bread and make a meal off just that.

The best part? These fillings are delicious and refreshing -- just serve these summer-style raviolis with a side salad and you've got a wonderful summer-time dinner. 

If you want more information on tortellini/ravioli making, try visiting this site for some useful tid-bits.

Have you ever made ravioli? If so, what kinds of fillings did you make? Were they meaty or cheesy? Did you use any special tools to make them?


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Breakfast Frittata {Cast-Iron Skillet Style}

Last Saturday morning was a dreary one. And I loved it. I made my coffee and sat down to the Today Show while the rain trickled down the windows. The longer I sat there, the more I checked IG. Everyone was making killer breakfasts, so I did what any normal person would do -- I made a frittata. Why not something else? Because a frittata is easy and I was the epitome of lazy that morning. 

Seriously. What's easier than throwing things into a well-seasoned skillet and baking it? Nothing, nothing I tell you.

Breakfast Frittata (serves 4-6)

What You'll Need

  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 C milk
  • 1/8 C heavy cream or half-&-half
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 C pecorino
  • 1/8 C parmesan
  • 1 large handful of spinach
  • 5 slices uncured bacon
  • Salt and pepper

How To Make It

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
  • Crack your six eggs into a medium size mixing bowl. 
  • Next, add your milk, heavy cream, and two cloves of minced garlic to the bowl.
  • Add a sprinkle of salt (not too much because the bacon and cheese both provide saltiness) and some freshly ground black pepper.
  • Finely chop a large handful of spinach and add to eggs. I don't wilt mine down, but feel free to.
  • Add almost all of your pecorino and parmesan to the egg mixture (reserve some for garnish or just grate some more!).
  • Whisk to combine.
  • Cube your bacon slices and add to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Brown just until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet onto a paper towel-lined plate.
  • At this point, you can either drain all the grease from your skillet or leave it. We all the know the best option here -- there's not that much grease in the skillet :)
  • Add 3/4 of the egg mixture to the bacon-greased skillet and sprinkle with bacon, then add remaining eggs. You can run a knife throughout to help distribute some of that yummy, bacon-y goodness. Yep, bacon-y is a word.
  • Sprinkle with remaining cheeses or top with freshly grated cheese.
  • Pop into the oven for 15-18 minutes. No one likes over done eggs, so be sure to watch it/jiggle it to test for done-ness.
  • Remove from oven, let sit for a few minutes, then feast!

Frittatas are great in that they're extremely versatile. You could easily make several of these during the holidays when family is in town or for overnight guests. I think a sausage one would be divine, and a greek-style veggie one with feta would be spot on!

Have you ever made a frittata? If so, what ingredients did you use?


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Viva Las Vegas - Tardy For The Party

So I sorta went to Vegas . . . in December. I know -- tardy for the party. What can I say though? I took a whole lotta pictures and it was just easier to push them to the side for a bit -- like five months. Either way, the time has arrived and I'm ready to share. The only difference between Vegas in December and now? Christmas decorations and about 20 degrees.

This was my first time in Vegas. My reason for going? A pharmacy conference -- I won't bore you with the deets, but I presented a poster and participated in a lot of other pharmacy organization-related things (cough, cough -- residency process for next year), etc. I hardly had any daylight hours to get out and explore, but that doesn't really matter -- Vegas is most certainly a night-time city. 

From a photography standpoint, I hadn't really had never shot purely night-time photos, so this was definitely a learning process for me. Just envision me, walking around the Vegas strip, alone and in the dark, trying to figure out my camera settings while tripod-less! Whew! With that being said, these photos aren't the bomb-dot-com, but I definitely learned quite a bit in terms of shooting! There's a whole lot of grain, but I did what I could without a tripod. If I had had a tripod, it would have probably taken me all night to walk the strip, haha. 

Enjoy {there's a whole lot of them}!

Here's a little IG collage of my time in Vegas -- too bad I didn't have my iPhone 5 for this trip :(

The week before I left for Vegas, I started going over my daily schedule and it became very clear to me that I would have little to no time to do anything fun. I browsed the internet to see what kind of shows would be going on while I was there -- there were tons of cirque de soleil shows such as "O" at the Bellagio and Beatles LOVE at The Mirage. I would have loved to have seen the Beatles one! Shania Twain was also doing a show at Caesars Palace. I finally stumbled upon gold at my very own hotel -- the MGM Grand. Who could it be? Mmmmm just Aerosmith and Cheap Trick. NBD. 

No. Wait. It was. 

I arrived in Vegas early in the afternoon on a Saturday and made my way to the hotel. Before doing so, I stood in what I'm convinced is the world's longest {but fastest moving} taxi line . . . ever. Seriously. It was probably 100 people deep, and I only waited about 10 minutes. 

I arrived at the hotel and met up with the three other pharmacy students that I was staying with (from Ohio). 
Our view from the room.

Inside our room -- you can't really tell but it wraps around to the left through the doorway and it was huge. We had an enormous couch with a pullout, two really comfortable queen beds, two large TVs, a desk, a large closet, and a really nice bathroom with two showers. 

Once in our room, one of my roomies for the week and her friend were just as famished as I, so we did what any normal person would do -- we split an over-priced taxi fair three ways and found the closest In-N-Out. We each had burgers and animal style fries. This was my last decent meal for about 36 hours due to being a total busy body -- cue the Starbuck's oatmeal in the collage (it's so delish for those that have never had it). 

After clogging our arteries, we made our way to Mandalay Bay (where the pharmacy conference was being held) and picked up our packets and headed back to the hotel for a quick rest. Thennnn it was up-and-at-'em -- I had to go ready myself for Steven Tyler and all and one of my roomies was seeing Shania. 

Things got wonky when I left for the concert and headed for the Garden Arena. I arrived, entered through the gate, and was told that I couldn't bring my camera in -- if we were texting right now, this is where I would insert the emoji face with its eyes bugging out. I was in shock. Then mad. Then angry. VERY angry. Apparently MGM has some sort of rule about bigger cameras, specifically ones with big lenses (just an FYI for if you ever go to a show there). O and they DON'T have this information advertised. Anywhere.

At that point, I could either let them store it (puh-lease -- you must be cray-cray), or I could frantically run back to my room and then back to the arena. Even though it was in the same place as my hotel, it's a good 15 minute walk (one way). So I ran to my room and back. Once back and inside the arena, I found the closest vendor selling beer, bought two and found my seat just as Cheap Trick began to play. I calmed down and watched the best concert I've ever been to. After the show was over, I was walking out of the arena and there were many older couples around me -- I overhead a woman say to her husband, "C'mon, you know that show was better than the Stones." Yea -- it was THAT good. 

I had to be up early the next morning for a meeting, followed by student sessions for the rest of the day.
My view from inside the convention center.

That pyramid is the Luxor Hotel Casino.

That evening, I presented a poster that I designed for an event from my university's organization. Won't bore ya with the deets, but it was a lot of fun. My schedule was like that pretty much everyday that I was there -- busy to the max. 

Andddddd here's the Vegas Strip for ya.

Excalibur Hotel Casino and apparently Lynyrd Skynrd has a restaurant there.

Just through those palm trees is New York-New York Hotel & Casino -- it's fashioned to look New York City. The cool part? It has a roller coaster smack dab in the middle of it.

There's the coaster.

Just a random Coca-Cola Store. I got a photo of this from the other side of the street right after a "statue" dressed like Elvis scared the living you-know-what out of me. When I was in New Orleans, they had "statues" like these too, but this guy got me good.

Fountain at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino.

One thing about Vegas -- it's by no means a walking city. That In-N-Out that we went to? We could see it all day long but there was no {safe} way to get to it without driving. The picture below was taken from one of MANY footbridges that are elevated above the streets that connect one side of the street to another. The footbridges definitely keep people safer, but you better be ready to get your workout in by climbing up and down all of those steps . . . just to get to the other side of the street. There's also tons of plexi-glass on these things, I guess so people don't get the bold idea to jump or whatever crazy things they may come up with.

A random, large rose at CityCenter -- what's a big city without oversized objects?

Psychedelic lights at Planet Hollywood.

This gem reminds of something you might see in Germany.

In LOVE with this building -- so bold and bright -- Flamingo Hotel and Casino.

Also in love with this -- I adore the colors bouncing off the buildings.

Prob my favorite hotel/casino in all of Vegas (most people are all about The Venetian) - Paris Hotel and Casino.

Didn't get to go inside Madame Tussaud's, but it's definitely on my list for next time.

Finally made it to The Venetian. I had walked one side of the strip in it's entirety and I had to go to the bathroom something fierce, so that's what I did. I used the bathroom in The Venetian.

But not before seeing the canals and neighboring buildings lit up for Christmas. I'm under the firm belief that everyone should visit Vegas at Christmas and during the summertime.

This tree was made of bubbles and such and it changed colors -- soooo neat.

Up closer to the entrance of The Venetian, they had a stage with entertainers singing all sorts of music and then there were these things . . . kinda strange. Whimsical winter wonderland?

Once inside, I oo'ed and ahh'ed at the ceiling inside The Venetian. It was super awkward to take a photo of because they had tons of construction going on inside.

This was more stunning in my opinion. Just smells ritzy when ya look at it.


This is all I have of the Bellagio. It was kind of a far walk from the road and I was getting tired.

Of course I had to stay to watch the water show! Another reason to go to Vegas at Christmastime? The Bellagio does their fountain show to Christmas music!

And because I feel like you should experience it, here's a video I took of the fountain show (forgive the quality -- first time I used the video feature of my camera)!

Good 'ol Caesar outside Caesars Palace.

Hard Rock Cafe right beside the Coca Cola Store. I snapped this picture, turned around, and there stood Elvis scaring the living crap out of me. Yes, spectators laughed.

My trip came to a close on Wednesday morning. Please forgive the awful glare in the photo below -- I had to snap it because those mountain tops in the distance reallllllly made me feel like I was on the other side of the United States. Their dark color, their barren-ness, their clay-like texture -- it was kinda what I expected. It also reminded me of Breaking Bad and some of the New Mexico views that they show on the show.

I had a pretty awesome spot on my flight back :)

Coming in over NYC.

And this pretty much made the flight worthwhile.

Vegas was an awesome time and I can't wait to go back. I loved the strip and seeing things that I usually only see in movies or on TV.

Side note -- I've been writing and sharing for a little over a year now on this tiny sliver of the internet! I've looked back at some of the things I shared from the beginning until now, and I definitely feel like I've learned a lot in terms of photography {one of my main reasons for starting a blog}.

If you're a reader -- thanks for reading :)