Staycation Weekend – February 2014

Hello and Happy Tuesday! So because Kevin had to work last weekend we decided to celebrate Valentines Day and our six month anniversary a week later! Since we’re on a bit of a budget we decided to stay in the area instead of truly “going away” for the weekend. Originally I wanted to stay in a little boutique hotel in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, but then I found a special deal on a hotel in the Dulles area for – are you ready for this? — $56 per night. And this wasn’t just any hotel on sale – this was the hotel that Kevin and I usually stayed at on our layovers in DC when we were in between overseas for work – so it holds some sentimental value. For those who are interested, we stayed at the Hyatt Place Dulles-Herndon East. (For the record, there is also a Hyatt Place Dulles North and Dulles South, but no West. Interesting.) Anyway – this hotel is a complete gem for the price (Usually the cost is typically around $89 or $99 per night). Not only does it includes a hot breakfast, which is a huge bonus for me seeing how much I love food, but it also boasts 24 hour room service, a bar, an indoor pool – (huge in Virginia in February), and a fitness center. Not to mention each room has a separate sort of sitting area which includes a sofa bed, so it’s a total win. The hotel is about a 45 minute drive to downtown DC, so if you’re ever in the area and looking for a deal – I highly recommend it!

hyatt place dulles herndon east

We didn’t really have a plan for our weekend, so after some deliberation and online searching we ended up driving in to DC to check out Union Market DC. Union Market is an artisan market in Capitol City and has a bunch of adorable artisan stands. Parking in the area is free and we scored a spot right outside the building – woohoo! Once inside we did a lap to check out the shops and ended up at the Red Apron Butcher for lunch and beer.

red apron butcher union market

It only just occurred to me that I didn’t take any pictures of the beer or the sandwiches we got, but suffice to say they were awesome. Some more pictures:

cordial fine wine and beers union market dc |

righteous cheese union market dc |

union market dc |

From Union Market we decided to check out Port City Brewery in Alexandria, VA. I’m not going to lie, from the outside it was a little underwhelming:

port city brewery virginia |

But once we got inside it was nice – it was sort of a mixed ambience between modern America and old style Bavaria…at least that’s what I felt anyway. It was pretty crowded when we arrived, so we decided not to take the actually brewery tour and opted instead just to drink. and because the bartender and my husband are both from the same area of California and both have family from the same area in Oklahoma (weird, right?) we scored free flights! Sweet! The flight was pretty spectacular – six different tastings for $9 — and they were all great beers. I’m not an IPA person, I’ve mentioned this before, but I was really impressed with their Monumental IPA, as well the American Pale Ale which I’m also not normally a fan of. Kevin and I decided that there wasn’t one beer we wouldn’t order if we saw it in a restaurant, and that’s saying something!

port city brew house flight |

Anyway – if you ever get a chance to get to Port City Brewery in Alexandria, you won’t regret it. At least, I think you won’t! 😉

port city brew house virginis 2 |

After the brewery we were hungry again, so we checked out restaurants in the area and ended up at Rocklands Barbecue and Grilling Company for some barbecue. It was awesome, and that’s all I have to say about that.

rocklands BBQ |

rocklands BBQ |

After the barbecue we pretty much called it a day.

We checked out of the hotel on Sunday morning and brunch with some friends from our Bible Study before returning home and preparing to head back to reality, but it was really nice to spend some time away from our house, but not really away from home. And the best part? The entire weekend cost us about $250! Not too bad for a mini-getaway weekend!

I’m already planning our next one.

Apple Onion Balsamic Pork Chops

It appears that I have somewhat of an apple-onion theme going on.

apple onion balsamic pork chops |

Well, maybe. Does two recipes in a week count as a theme? Really I guess not, especially when you add the fact that I don’t have any more apple onion recipes up my sleeve. At least, not yet.

This recipe actually started as somewhat of an accident. (I feel like I say that a lot – is it just me?) I kind of wanted to make pork chops with apples and onions and so I threw a bunch of stuff in a pot, Kevin added a bunch of stuff to the pot, and it turned out to be pretty delicious! Except that the next time we tried to make it we couldn’t remember what we used and so we had to start over from scratch. Whoops.

apple onion balsamic pork chops |

Admittedly it’s not the most appealing dish I’ve ever made, but trust me when I say that it’s 100% delicious. The apple + onion + pork combination is a total win, and when you add a couple tablespoons of aged balsamic vinegar and a shake or two of red pepper flakes it’s the perfect symphony of sweet, tangy, and a kick in the mouth.

Pork happens to go really well with sweet, tangy, and a kick in the mouth, don’t you think?

apple onion balsamic pork chops |

As good as this tasted for dinner (we served it with roasted kabocha squash and sweet potatoes, delicious), I took leftovers in to work the next day and it was even better. Particularly when I paired it with – are you ready for this? – sauerkraut. Holy Yum.

(For those of you who haven’t experienced the beautiful culinary marriage that is pork and sauerkraut, you need to remedy that. Stat.)

And speaking of work – I had to take Kevin’s truck to work last week – guess who totally ROCKED backing that beast into a teeny parking spot in the garage??

awesome park job |

THIS GIRL!! Yes, I took a picture.

But I totally ducked every time I drove under one of those clearance signs because I was certain the truck wasn’t going to make it.



serves four


4 bone-in pork chops

2 onions, sliced

2 apples, cored and sliced

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/8 cup aged balsamic vinegar (eyeball it)

1/4 cup white wine

2 tsp cinnamon

red pepper flakes (optional)

salt and pepper

coconut oil


Heat 1-2 tbsps coconut oil in a heavy pan. Add pork chops and apple cider vinegar and brown on both sides. Remove from pan.

In the same pan, add apples, onions, cinnamon, and red pepper (if using) and cook until brown, about 5 minutes. (Don’t cook them until they are soft just yet – only until they start to brown up!) Remove from pan.

Deglaze the pan with a healthy glug of white wine, scraping all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the pork and apple-onion mixture back to the pan. Add the balsamic, lower heat to medium-low, cover, and cook 45 minutes or until pork is cooked through.

apple onion balsamic pork chops |

Easy Turkey Ratatouille

Can anyone even hear the word “ratatouille” anymore without thinking of the Pixar movie? Or for that matter, did anyone know was Ratatouille was before that movie?

easy turkey ratatouille |

I’m not even sure if I can answer that question myself. I’ve been making ratatouille for years – ever since I found the recipe in one of my old cookbooks and thought it sounded good. That, and I was trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into my diet…not because I wanted to be a vegetarian, but I was following a very clean diet at the time and was varying meat meals with vegetarian meals. Anyway. I was living overseas at the time and frankly I can’t remember which came first – finding the recipe, or seeing the movie.

easy turkey ratatouille |

It’s funny how even now sitting down with a bowl of ratatouille sparks memories of my various overseas homes. Whenever I was homesick for the States I’d make a huge pot of the thick vegetable stew and eat it with a sprinkling of shredded cheese and some crusty french bread and dream about Pennsylvania. Which is odd, considering we never ate ratatouille when I lived in PA – my father won’t touch eggplant, zucchini, peppers, or squash, and I didn’t ever make it when I was living by myself in PA…but for some reason, I equate the two.

I dunno.

easy turkey ratatouille |

I mentioned that traditional ratatouille is a vegetarian dish and that’s how I used to prepare it…before I married the consummate carnivore. I know Kevin would eat the vegetarian version if I served it to him, but I can pretty much guarantee that thirty minutes after dinner he’d be scrounging for some protein. So my easy solution to the problem was to toss in a pound of ground turkey to this dish – perfection!

This is another great one-pot meal to make on a cold night…and with the addition of the turkey, even the carnivores in your family will leave the table feeling full!

easy turkey ratatouille |


prep time: 15 minutes (long enough to chop all your veggies)

cook time: 1 hour


1.5lbs ground turkey

1 eggplant, cut in chunks

2 green zucchini, cut in chunks

2 yellow squash, cut into chunks

1 onion, diced

2 bell peppers (I used one green and one red), cut into chunks

1 can diced tomatoes (no salt added)

1 jar tomato sauce (I used marinara)

2 cloves garlic, minced

olive oil

your favorite red wine (optional)

salt, pepper

your favorite italian seasonings (I used an italian herb blend, rosemary, thyme and basil)

chipotle chili powder (optional)


Heat approximately 2 tbsp oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and sautee until translucent. Add your turkey to the pan and brown. Add eggplant, squash, bell pepper, and zucchini and cook until the vegetables are starting to get tender. Add diced tomatoes, seasonings, tomato sauce and a splash of red wine (if using) and stir to combine. For an extra kick, add a couple of shakes of chipotle chili powder. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer another 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste.

easy turkey ratatouille |