Kale Mixed Berry Smoothie

KaleMixedBerrySmoothie2 The other day, I found the Lipstick & Berries on Instagram, and I was smitten. Ashley’s pictures are gorgeous, and everything she eats is so healthy and vibrant. I feel more energetic and nourished just looking at her stuff! So today when I went shopping, I was inspired to pick up fresh fruit, unsweetened almond milk, Medjool dates and curly kale – to whip up a smoothie. I’d never tried sweetening with dates before. They worked great! I might not ever use anything else.

Be sure to blend this thoroughly, or you’ll have bits of kale and chunks of dates at the bottom of the glass – which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries (or fresh berries and ice)
  • 2 handfuls of curly kale
  • 2-4 Medjool dates, pitted (or other sweetener of choice)
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)

KaleMixedBerrySmoothie3 Directions:

  • Blend together until smooth.

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Coast-to-Coffice: Gluten-free goodness at Cuppprimo

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I don’t always get to meet the owners of the coffee shops I work in; when I do, they’re always nice. But I’ve never met one more exuberant than Amy Brown of Cupprimo. Sitting with a friend at one of the tables, she was joking with me and my husband from the moment we walked into her compact space, before we even knew she owned the place. Glancing around, I recognized her shoulder-length blond hair and sparkling blue eyes in the oversized photos that decorate the walls. The pictures include Amy’s husband and kids and lots and lots of cupcakes.

Speaking of cupcakes, they’re delicious here, even the gluten-free ones, which can be hard to make taste good. That’s probably one of the reasons why Cupprimo was featured on the Food Network show “Cupcake Wars” back in 2012. Aside from TV stardom, baking fresh gluten-free cupcakes every day is really what sets Cupprimo apart from other bakeries in north Austin. Cupprimmo always offers at least four GF flavors, and custom orders are more than welcome. The “regular” the cupcakes are freshly made each day, too, and they’re just as yummy as they’re GF counterparts.

The flavors range from familiar – Primo Vanilla, Double Chocolate, Strawberry – to fantastical – Lemon Pistachio, Drunk Pineapple. Be sure to try the Blue Velvet made of old-fashioned wedding cake with cream cheese frosting. It’s almost too pretty to eat, but that won’t stop you. Or, at least, it didn’t stop me! If you have flavor ideas, don’t hesitate to tweet them Amy (Twitter handle: @cupprimo). She’s very open to new flavor combos and very responsive on social media.

From a working standpoint, Cupprimo is a pleasant space to toil away on the laptop. There’s free wifi, a bar looking out over the parking lot, and small tables in the front. The back has comfy chairs for reading or conversation.

If I lived in Austin, Cupprimo would be a regular stop for me – but not more than once a week. With their scrumptious offerings, it’d be too easy to expand my waistline while emptying my wallet!

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Pineapple M&M Cake

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This Pineapple M&M Cake is inspired by a cake I saw at an Iron Skillet restaurant at a truck stop in California. It was so pretty with colorful mini M&Ms on top and plenty of sweet pineapple filling between layers of yellow cake. I had a single, luscious bite and instantly had a very strong urge to dash to the buffet and haul the entire cake over to our table. Good manners kept me from doing it, but it was a close call!

Here’s a recipe to try at home.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk (to increase the pineapple flavor, sub 1/4 cup pineapple juice for part of the milk)
  • 1/2 cup pineapple filling
  • 1 can whipped white frosting (or your favorite homemade frosting)
  • 1 bag mini M&Ms

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease and flour two round nine-inch cake pans.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, and continue beating. Mix in the vanilla and salt.
  • When well incorporated, add the baking powder, and then the flour and milk a little at a time, alternating the two.
  • On medium speed, beat the batter for about 2 minutes, until thick and creamy.
  • Split the batter evenly between the two cake cake pans.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Set aside cakes to cool.
  • Spread about 1/2 a cup of frosting on the bottom layer of the cake, to about a 1/2 inch from the edge. Then top with the same amount of pineapple filling.
  • Carefully place the top layer on, and frost the top and sides of the cake.
  • Sprinkle the top with mini M&Ms.

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You think it’ll never happen to you…until it does

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All kinds of people fall victim to scams. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how old you are. It can happen to anyone.

When I worked for the State of Nevada’s Department of Business & Industry, I was chairperson of the Fight Fraud Taskforce, and I met so many people who’d been conned – or were trying to help a family member who’d been ripped off.  I spoke to groups big and small about scams and how to avoid them. Unfortunately, it was hard for people to be interested if something bad hadn’t happened to them, and I didn’t always have a lot of attendance at my seminars.

Problem is, once you’ve been ripped off, it’s really hard to fix it – even with a full staff of law enforcement and all the resources in the world. In ideal situations, it can take three to six months to get your money back, if you get it back at all. And, let’s face it. You’re rarely dealing with an ideal situation. Those who’re helping you are probably up against budget cuts and slashed resources. If the scammers are overseas, there are cross-border issues to deal with, and you can kiss your money goodbye for good.

I found that it was better to avoid the scam in the first place. Did you know that most scams can be avoided if you know what to look for? That’s why Richard Warren, a fellow consumer advocate, and I wrote Scammers, Schemers and Dreamers. The book follows a fictional middle-class, well-educated family as they fall victim to common, and very real, versions of consumer fraud. As you get to know Phil, Dana and the kids, you’ll relate to what they’re going through and how they get suckered into situations that outwardly seem easy to avoid. And you’ll learn how to protect yourself and your family. http://bit.ly/ssdbook

Tour of Spain: Exploring the Plaza de Espana and the City of Madrid

Our tour group posed in front of the monument to Cervantes, which includes sculptures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza

Our second day in Madrid was sunny and pleasant with a nice breeze. We piled into the bus and motored down the Gran Vía. It means “Great Way” but is commonly referred to as Spanish Broadway. Our first stop was the Plaza de Espana (or “Spain Square” in English) on the western end of the Via. It’s a popular tourist spot, in large part because of the monument to Spanish novelist, poet and playwright Cervantes. Behind the group of us in the photo above, you can see the monument. The tower portion features a stone sculpture of Cervantes, who’s overlooking bronze sculptures of his famous characters Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

I was digging exploring the Plaza on my own, wandering around and taking photos. I loved all the little things: the symmetrical lines of puffball trees, a man covered in dirt that you’d swear was a statue, an artist creating a portrait in charcoal, policia on horseback. Apparently I got into it too much, because just when I was heading back to the area where the bus was parked, Glenn rushed up to me, shouting my name. The bus had left, and our whole group had stayed behind to find me. Oops! Luckily, I got some great shots, and we didn’t have too far to walk to catch up with the rest of the tour.

After a museum walk-through, we separated from the tour again and had lunch at a restaurant tucked into the back of a store. Lindsay and I shared a scrumptious veggie platter. Everything was so fresh and delicious. On the way out, I started snapping the pics of the pretty displays and was scolded for doing so. I surreptitiously took a photo of pastel candies in cellophane stacks.

I savor the unscheduled times on a trip like this because you have time to see the little things like a black and white drawing on the corner of building.

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