Travels: Louisville KY

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When I think of our little 2015 family vacation to Louisville, Kentucky, I think of firsts. This was the first time that my Dad’s extended family had gone on a vacation when my sister, cousins and I were adults (and all of us bringing along significant others). Our last big family vacation was to Disney World and Brittney and I were in elementary school. This was also the first time Kenneth and I had gone on a trip together as a married couple, outside of Ohio, since our honeymoon. This was also the first time we were gathering together, around the holidays, since my grandmother, Ruby, had passed away.

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We actually didn’t celebrate Christmas with my Dad’s side of the family in 2014. We weren’t ready to celebrate without her. My grandma was as vibrant as her name, Ruby. She made a family gathering feel festive. She was always down for a game of cards, dominoes or one of the board games we liked to play (Taboo and Pictionary were my picks, as long as Brittney was on my team so we could win!). She was colorful, a real character, she could be loud and she didn’t mince words (she and my grandpa on my mom’s side of the family liked to “argue” over who was more proud of their grandkids), but she was real. Ruby in full color.

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I think that’s why when I think of our trip to Louisville it’s always gray. It was a gray, overcast and rainy weekend, so that’s definitely part of it… but I think it was gray because it was our first time really getting together without Grandma there. We had a good time on the trip, but it was definitely one that she would have made more fun and festive.

I plan to visit Louisville again, probably in summer so I can see the city at its brightest and most colorful!

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We did a lot of dining on this trip, which is personally one of my favorite things about vacations. You have to eat out. Technically you could plan ahead and pack a lot of your food, especially on trips where you drive to your destination, as we did. But for the most part, trying out new restaurants is a big part of vacationing, even on weekend trips.

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We dined at the Troll Pub Under the Bridge, an underground restaurant full of trolls where we had lunch in the hidden bookcase room! My assistant, Cam (actually, my sister’s boyfriend), demonstrated how the bookcase swings open to reveal two tables with booth seating. The Troll Pub offers pretty standard but delicious pub fare and has a unique atmosphere. The music selection was a nice mix of indie and alternative music. I’d check it out again!

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We spent a few hours exploring the Kentucky Science Center. This science museum got its start as the “cabinet of curiosities” in Kentucky’s Public Library System in 1871. Today it’s one of the region’s leading centers for informal science education! Within the three levels of interactive exhibits, we explored human health and the body, natural science, chemistry, physics, and weather.

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At the entrance to the Kentucky Science Center – is a giant parabolic reflector. It reminded me of a giant mosaic of mirrors. You can see a mini version of this in your car’s headlights (it’s nowhere near as cool, though).

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We split up a few times throughout the center and I lost track of everyone a couple of times taking photos. We had fun watching my cousin’s kids play with the interactive children’s components and Kenneth and I took a few selfies with the two polar bears on display.

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Aiden had an absolute blast in the tornado simulator!

For dinner, we enjoyed authentic Louisville cuisine at Dish On Market. This popular, locally owned restaurant is in downtown Louisville and was a short walk from our hotel. Housed in the building where the old restaurant, Delta, once stood for decades, Dish On Market is the winner of several Leo Awards. In 2014 the restaurant won the Readers Choice, Best Burger, Best Bourbon List (they have 70 different Bourbons!), Best All You Can Eat Brunch, Best Bloody Mary and was a finalist in the Best Breakfast category.

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The restaurant has a clean, rustic atmosphere. Hardwood floors compliment the wood bar and red brick walls. We enjoyed supper on the second floor, overlooking diners sitting in booths in the room opposite the bar. Everything was delicious – everyone ordered something a little different, seafood, Cuban-style black bean soup, fresh salads, and sandwiches. It was at Dish On Market that I discovered that I really enjoy grits, which are usually made gluten-free.

Our food was fantastic and we had really great service! I will definitely keep Dish on Market on my list of go-to restaurants for the next time we’re in Louisville! If you go, I highly recommend the country peach tea – it’s made with Benchmark peach bourbon, sweet tea, and lemon.

Since we were in Louisville at the end of the 2014 winter holidays, we were able to catch the last weekend of the Louisville MEGA Cavern’s Lights Under Louisville. This Christmas light show features 17 miles of underground passages, 850+ Christmas light displays, 2,000,000+ points of light and festive Christmas music. The driving tour lasts about 30 minutes and is the only underground light show of its kind.

Louisville MEGA Cavern, which was mined between the 1930s and 1970s, also offers a rentable underground event space, and an underground zip line course, tram tour, bike park and ropes challenge course. The entire cavern spans approximately 100 acres and stays at a steady 58°F year round.

It was a fun experience! The light displays featured classic Christmas songs and characters like Santa and his reindeer, Christmas carolers and ice skaters, as well as modern winter themes, like Disney’s movie Frozen. I enjoyed trying to take photos of the lights as our vehicle slowly rolled through the cavern. I’ve never taken photos of Christmas lights while moving before, it was definitely a challenge and resulted in some rather trippy photos. 

North End Cafe was the last restaurant we dined at before splitting into two separate groups and returning home. Kenneth and I went with my parents, my sister, Brittney and her boyfriend, Cam, to check out the Kentucky Derby Museum. My aunt, uncle, cousins and their spouses and children visited the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.

North End Cafe was a great way to end our mini vacation in Louisville. Opening in the spring of 2003, it’s a relatively new restaurant and features locally sourced produce, some of which they grow themselves on their multi-acre farm in Simpsonville, Kentucky. The menu features lots of healthy dishes, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options as well as standard American breakfast and lunch items.

The cafe reminded me a lot of one of my favorite restaurants in Columbus, Northstar Café, which also focuses on local, healthy ingredients and has vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free options. Breakfast is my favorite meal and not many restaurants have gluten-free options beyond eggs, needless to say, I was pretty stoked. 🙂

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We had so many delicious breakfast foods – including gluten-free almond pancakes with warm honey and a dollop of whipped cream. Everything was fantastic and we had a great time at North End Cafe! The restaurant has a nice laid back atmosphere with plenty of natural light from the large windows. I loved the exposed brick and gorgeous paintings displayed. The next time we’re in Louisville, I definitely want to dine here again, if only so I can get those pancakes again!Happy Smilies Edible/Food Smilies

After enjoying our breakfast at North End Cafe, we explored a very eclectic and full backyard just up the road from the restaurant. It’s a private residence, owned by Jerry Lotz. He calls his collection Jerry’s Junk and this property is one of five houses in the neighborhood full of junk. It made for some interesting photos!

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Our last big stop of our Kentucky mini-cation was to the Kentucky Derby Museum. The museum was opened in 1985 to preserve the history of the Kentucky Derby. The museum is located on the grounds of Churchill Downs, which is where the Kentucky Derby is held annually on the first Saturday in May. The museum has two floors of exhibit space, including a 360-degree theater playing The Greatest Race. Many of the exhibits are interactive: we were able to place bets, ride in a simulated race and play with horse-inspired games and toys. We also went on a guided tour of  Churchill Downs, learning the history of the Kentucky Derby and hearing stories about the talented horses that won the derby and the jockeys who rode them.

Horses have a special place in my family on my dad’s side. My dad and Aunt Deedy grew up with horses and showed them at the Miami County Fair. My dad even brought his pony, Sugar Babe, with him when he married my mom. My dad and Sugar Babe were the same age and I’m one of the few people I know (who didn’t grow up on a farm) who can say I had a pony when I was growing up!

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My dad was the most excited to visit Churchill Downs and the museum, but we all had a great time!

Ramsi’s Cafe on the World was one of the restaurants I found and requested we visit specifically when I found out we would be going to Louisville. The website for Ramis’s Cafe describes its cuisine as “global comfort food.”

This is the food your Grandmother might have cooked for you if your grandmother was from Egypt or North Africa or Spain or Alabama. 

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Half of the menu is advertised as being vegetarian, which even though I’m no longer a vegetarian, I still enjoy vegetarian fare. My mom is a vegetarian, so I also want to make sure she can eat more than a salad when we go out! Thirty percent of the menu is vegan and many dishes are available gluten-free. Ramsi’s Cafe also serves local produce, eggs, and chicken from their own farm, Raising Hope Organic Farm.

A huge menu with diverse international flavors, gluten-free and vegetarian options with locally grown ingredients? I had to eat at this restaurant! And my family was happy to comply. 🙂

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Having enjoyed a large breakfast earlier that day at North End Cafe we arrived at Ramsi’s at the odd time of afternoon that is well past lunch but not quite time for dinner. We essentially had the restaurant to ourselves, which I only attribute to the odd hour we chose to eat, not a reflection of the popularity of the restaurant. Everything we had was delicious and I loved the restaurant’s laid back and eclectic decor.

My notes for that day describe our food as “Amaaazing.” Going from memory, I can confidently say that I will be eating again at Ramsi’s Cafe on the World the next time I am in Louisville. My only regret is finding yet another delicious restaurant that is not down the street from where I live, looking at these photos and thinking about what we ate has had my stomach growling for the past hour thinking about fried plantains and gluten-free sandwiches. 🙂

While were only in Louisville for the weekend, I definitely feel like we made some lasting memories and have a new city to visit when we need to get away from the business of our everyday lives.

Have you ever been to Louisville? What are your favorite spots to visit? Share in the comments below – I’ll need new places to check out the next time I’m there!

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New Year, New Travel Posts

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about blogging. Why I blog, what I like about blogging, what I have been writing about and what I want to write about in the future. I started blogging mainly for one reason: I wanted to cultivate a habit of writing often. The goal being to write every day… honestly, I’m still working on that one.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was pretty young but I spend much more time thinking about being a writer than I spend actually writing. Starting a blog helped me write more often, but the joy I find in writing for my blog has been hit and miss. Some posts I love writing, others I am less enthused about and write them so I can check them off my to-do list.

I’ve realized that there are three main things I love writing: fiction, personal essays, and posts that promote how awesome my home state is. I don’t really love writing restaurant reviews: it feels like a chore. And since writing reviews on my blog is not my job and I don’t love it, I’m not going to do it anymore. Not in the way I used to at least. I still want to share awesome places in my area with you, my readers, but I am no longer writing a review of a restaurant simply because I ate there and remembered to take pictures before letting my husband eat his dinner (you’re welcome, Kenneth ?).

I’m going to test the waters on this style of blogging by re-writing my travel blog posts. Instead of posting about each and every place we visited on a trip, I’m going to write about the trip itself and leave out the contact info, hours, and addresses for the places we went (you’re smart cookies — Google them if you want to visit). I want to tell you about how it felt to be in San Antonio when it was over 100 degrees and I decided to walk three miles to the botanical garden because I was too nervous to Uber alone (I was a hot sweaty mess by the time I arrived, but the plants were so worth it!). Or how I want to go back Louisville when it’s warm and sunny because even though we visited in January and it was cloudy and gray the entire time, I could just see how gorgeous this city must be in the summer.

So, if you were desperately searching for what I thought of the fabulous gluten-free almond pancakes I enjoyed at North End Cafe in Louisville, that post is gone. But I will be replacing it with highlights of the entire trip, so it’s pretty likely that those particular pancakes will pop up on the blog again. ?

Share + Give – The Empowerment Plan

January’s Share + Give 2017 organization is The Empowerment Plan. I first heard about The Empowerment Plan on Facebook from a friend who shared a post about the organization.

The Empowerment Plan creates jobs that lift its employees out of poverty and helps those who are currently homeless. Based in Detroit, Michigan and employing 39 previously homeless individuals, The Empowerment Plan makes and distributes heavy-duty winter coats that double as sleeping bags. They have distributed these innovative sleeping-bag coats in 40 states in the US and 7 provinces in Canada.

The Gap made this video about The Empowerment Plan for their One Stitch Closer program, which shares the stories, ideas, accomplishments, and challenges of women who are improving themselves and their communities.

Veronika Scott, the founder, and CEO of The Empowerment Plan found her inspiration for the organization while taking a class at The College for Creative Studies in Detroit. For the class, she was required to design and create a product that would fulfill a need her in her community. After spending time at shelters for the homeless, she decided to design the EMPWR coat. While working on prototypes of her coat in Detroit, Veronika met a woman who angrily told her that she didn’t need a coat, she needed a job. Thus, The Empowerment Plan focuses on creating jobs, specifically for those who are most in need.

Homelessness should not be a life sentence.

I think this dual focus of The Empowerment Plan is inspiring. Not only is this non-profit creating jobs and helping homeless men and women deal with the cold, but the employees who work at The Empowerment Plan receive support that goes beyond a steady source of income. They provide their employees with training for their job and help them earn their GEDs or higher education by providing them time and assistance with the cost of college or certification programs. They have team lunches at work and give employees food gift cards to encourage them to make healthy food purchases. They also help with child care, initial costs of housing and transportation. To be able to provide such wonderful benefits to their employees, The Empowerment Plan needs support. This comes in the form of donations from private individuals, local organizations, corporations, and foundations.

Donations can be made online, you can even choose what you are making your donation towards. I am making a $25 donation for materials for a coat so I can help #spreadthewarmth. You can also sponsor a coat, donate to the housing fund, transportation or education funds or sponsor a team lunch!

Donate Here

I am making my donation in honor of:
Brittney – my awesome designer sister who is as kind as she is creative!
Emily – my sweet cousin who shares my love of cats, The Doctor and delicious coffee.
Azmara – a friend who is also an amazing fashion designer whom I think will appreciate Veronika’s ingenuity.
Manda – a friend whose daily Facebook posts both crack me up, give me the feels and make me smile.
Nicole – a friend who is the most bubbly educator I have ever worked with and gives the best hugs.

Happy Share + Give 2017!

If you feel like sharing the love by sharing this post on your social channels and/or by giving to The Empowerment Plan in honor of a friend or family member, please use the following hashtags in your post!

#shareandgive2017
#thisohiolife
#spreadthewarmth
#empowermentplan

GF Tenera Grains Teff Banana Bread

I had my introduction to unique, staple grains long before I ever started eating or baking gluten-free. When I was a student at Ohio University, I interned for the Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative (ASFC). The ASFC mission is to build a regional bean, grain and perennial nut staple food system in the Appalachia region of Ohio.  Some of the first crops ASFC experimented with were millet, amaranth, buckwheat, black turtle beans and adzuki beans.

I participated in ASFC’s work by attending meetings with the Athens Food Policy Council, photographing events and creating presentations. A business called Shagbark Seed & Mill grew out of ASFC collaborations shortly after I graduated and moved to Columbus. Shagbark is a staple food hub, connecting Ohio farmers to millers and local chefs, bakers and consumers. Today Shagbark offers everything from organic stone ground flour from spelt, corn, and buckwheat, to corn tortilla chips and crackers, heirloom popcorn, pinto and adzuki beans. I personally love their tortilla chips the most!

Once I went gluten-free in 2010, I started my own series of experiments at home. Figuring out which flours work well together and how to adapt favorite recipes to suit my gluten-free lifestyle were definitely a learning experience! I have made hard as rocks biscuits and have had more bread and cakes fail to rise during baking than I care to admit. But I have also had successful baking experiments.

The successful recipes have quickly become favorites in my home. I love baking citrus loaf cakes and use everything from blood orange to Meyer lemon or pink grapefruit to flavor them. Ginger gem cookies that I used to make in college when I was venturing into vegan baking have become gluten-free holiday staples. I baked my first apple pie for my birthday one year, adapting a recipe inspired by the television show Pushing Daisies to be gluten free. It was entirely an experiment and completely perfect… so perfect that I have been unable to recreate it!

That’s the beauty of experimenting. I love the challenge of not knowing and having to solve puzzles and work by trial and error. Then there’s the eating – the best experiments are ones with edible results. ??

That’s where Tenera Grains, a fellow experimenter, comes in. Tenera Grains is a 2,500-acre family farm in southern Michigan. The Smith family has been farming this land since 1837 — that’s seven generations! Prior to 2015, the Smiths grew corn, soybeans, and wheat. But when the price of corn dropped a few years ago, a family friend from Ethiopia suggested they try growing teff. Despite the fact that teff, a grass crop with a very small seed, is native to the hot and dry climate of Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Smith family decided to give it a go. By experimenting and adapting not only their farming but also their harvesting methods, they were able to make farming teff in Michigan work! Today Tenera Grains uses no-till farming and crop rotation to grow teff in a way that is sustainable and works in Michigan’s humid climate.

Prior to Claire Smith reaching out to me to see if I would review Tenera Grains teff flour for my blog, I had only experienced teff in Ethiopian cuisine. The small, ancient grain is used to make injera, a fermented flatbread with a slightly sour taste and an amazingly spongy texture. Not only is teff a gluten-free grain, Tenera Grains is also a farm that is working to grow unique staple crops in my region – I was definitely on board to try some of their teff flour!

The first recipe I made with the brown teff flour Claire sent me was an adaptation from an I Quit Sugar recipe for banana bread. In addition to teff flour, I used one of my favorite gluten-free flours, buckwheat. The teff and buckwheat both give this bread a nice nutty flavor. Instead of mashing my bananas and having a more textured bread, I put all of the ingredients into the blender. Not only does this significantly speed up the time between making and eating the bread, but the smooth batter gives the bread a spongy texture, reminding me of my first taste of teff in injera.

Teff has a ton of health benefits, including a nice amount of protein, calcium, iron and the amino acids leucine and lysine. I plan to try a few more recipes with teff, focusing on healthy, low sugar baked goods. But first, I think I need to make some peanut butter and teff cookies! ?

This GF Tenera Grains Teff Banana Bread is the perfect accompaniment to a warm cup of tea and a good book on a cold winter day. Enjoy!

GF Teff Banana Bread

Makes one 9×5 loaf of bread

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup Tenera Grains brown teff flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup full-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 medium, ripe bananas

Directions Preheat oven to 350ºF and line a loaf tin with baking paper. In a blender, combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Once cooked through, allow the loaf to cool slightly before removing from the tin and slicing into 12 slices. Serve with a slather of butter if you like.

Adapted from Chai-Spiced Banana Bread by I Quit Sugar.

ohio-120x120Tenera Grains

Address: The Farm 14191 Calhoun Rd Addison, Michigan 49220

Emailinfo@teneragrains.com

Social Media: Instagram

Thank you to Tenera Grains, a seventh-generation family farm in southern Michigan, for sponsoring this post.