Gettin’ Rioja-Ready Continues Again: Beet-Berries Juice Smoothie

September 27th, 2013

IMG_2150IMG_2151Alright I’m under three weeks now until we leave for Spain and lots of wine, food and no regular Jazzercising! So, I’m continuing to “sprinkle” in some extra vegetables into the day via yet another yummy juice smoothie.

I love beets! From what my mother tells me, I’ve loved them since I was a baby. So when I found this recipe in the September 2013 Cooking Light Magazine, I had to try it. This one is my favorite so far! I mean how can you loose with all the fresh blueberries and raspberries! The rooty, earthy flavor of the beet does come through. The color is so dramatic too thanks to the beet! You can buy pre-cooked beets, but they are super easy to prepare. Simply boil them in water like you would an egg or potato. When you can insert a fork easily, they are done. Strain water and let them cool, then peel off the outer skin like paper and voila!

I forgot to buy orange juice, so I substituted with some of the carrot juice I have left over from the Carrot-Ginger Juice Smoothie recipe. I’ll definitely try this again with OJ!

You don’t add any ice to this recipe, so I did use frozen raspberries and my beets, carrot juice and agave nectar were all chilled from storage in the frig. However, I think I would have liked the drink even more if it’d been even colder, so I might add a few cubes next time I make it.

Here’s the recipe (219 calories):
1 cup (a whole clear plastic box container) of blueberries
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1/3 cup sliced beets (one small beet)
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp light agave nectar

For It’s Wine, 2, 3 Strikes You’re Out at the old Ball Game!

September 25th, 2013

MeI attended my one and only Cincinnati Reds ball game of the season last night thanks to a free ticket from my friend Kathy who also joined me. I had seen an article in the Cincinnati Business Courier a week or two prior that talked about single wine bottle servings being offered at the Ballpark. The news article reported that former Cincinnati Reds second baseman and Baseball Hall of Famer, Joe Morgan, had introduced merlot and chardonnay wines in single-serve, 187ml plastic bottles to Great American Ball Park patrons for $10 starting in July 2013. And that he was partnering with California-based Steelhead Vineyards and calling the wine “W1NE for One” which came complete with a detachable cup attached to the bottle’s screw top. (Note: the last two run-on sentences can be found on Joe Morgan’s Wikipedia page — thanks to my first Wikipedia edit…ta-da!)

So, I just HAD to try out Joe’s wine during my visit to the game last night. I first tried going up to one of the bars set up along the outer corridors of the ballpark to make my wine purchase. Upon my first try, I was told that the single bottles were only sold by the vendors that came around to your seats — you know the ones who carry the heavy, open beer coolers. I’m guessing the vendor direct delivery is what drove the cost up to $10 because I could have gotten an $8 “plastic Reds cup” of wine from the walk-up bar whose staff were pouring from normal-size bottles of Beringer and other such wines. But I was on a mission to try Joe Morgan’s wine, so off Kathy (with her Leinenkugal draft beer) and I went to our seats.

About ten minutes passed with no vendors coming around, so I walked down from the seats into the corridor and found a vendor resting who happened to have a chardonnay but no merlot. Thanks to David, who BTW should receive the cutest Reds Ballpark vendor award, I finally could sit down and conduct my wine tasting. The 2012 Steelhead Chardonnay had an initial grape taste which was quickly followed by a slight metallic aftertaste. I was not impressed, but then I truly was not expecting anything really all that good. So, all in all it was better than I’d expected, but that’s really not saying too much. I would DEFINITELY not buy it again or recommend that anyone try it — sorry Joe!

screwtopinbottomofglassOn top of the poor-performing taste, it was INCREDIBLY awkward to drink this wine. As I mentioned, the screw top is attached to the inside-bottom of the plastic drinking “glass,” so there’s no way to close the bottle back up once you’ve opened it. The cup holders at the stadium are sized for beer and soda cups, not a petite, little wine bottle. so, while I drank my wine and nibbled on the cheese I’d brought to snack on, I set the open bottle near my foot. Anyone who’s attended a ball game is familiar with how close each seat is to the other. I came close to spilling my wine at least three times. I’m sure that anyone else who’s attempted to drink this wine has run into the same problem and that the ballpark’s concrete stands must be enriched with this stuff!

I attempted to purchase the Merlot to be complete in my ballpark wine tasting – embarrassing myself by shouting down the aisle, “you got any merlot?!?” I knew heads were turning and people were thinking, “what high-maintenance diva is at the ball game and asking for merlot?!?” I had to laugh at myself at how ridiculous I sounded. Finally, after three attempts, I walked back down to the corridor and found a fourth vendor who informed be that they were all out of the merlot. I guess Reds fans prefer red over white – LOL! Or maybe they ordered more chardonnay given the summer season and thinking more people would want a chilled wine?!? Your guess is as good as mine.

Since, I was not the least interested in another “glass” of the chardonnay, Kathy and I visited the craft beer stand at the ballpark. As I’d hoped, they did have one gluten-free beer option (Redbridge — that seems to be the popular pick at most Cincinnati area restaurant establishments) and one cider option (Reds Hard Cider). I’m not a big fan of cider, but it being early fall and the fact that I’ve had Redbridge on a couple of occaisions and I knew it to be nothing great, I opted for the Reds cider. I was happy to get a way bigger pour while paying $1.25 less than the wine. Ciders are usually so sweet — being the Rieslings of the apple world, but Reds Hard Cider had a very light, sweetness and great flavor. I’ll DEFINITELY pick it again given the chance!

So, in conclusion — I’m sorry fellow wine lovers, but when visiting the ballpark – I think I’ll stick to the traditional liquid refreshment – BEER! Or in my case gluten-free beer or cider! It’s always good to go with the saying, “You don’t know ‘til you try it!” Well, take it from me and spend your $10 on something tastier and less embarrassing to ask the vendors to pass down the aisle!!!

Gettin’ Rioja-Ready Continues: Kale-Pistachio Juice Smoothie

September 24th, 2013

full viewAerial ViewSo today, I took a long lunch to take my vacuum cleaner into the repair shop (my attachment hose broke during my last vigorous housecleaning day). On the way, I decided to quickly stop by the house to prepare and try out another veggie smoothie in my goal to eat smart and healthy in preparation for my wine Spain trip which is fast approaching in THREE WEEKS!

The stars of this juice-smoothie are kale and pistachios. If you hate kale, it won’t make a bit of difference because aside from the awesome green color, there’s really no sign that kale is anywhere to be found! You’d think there would be some sort of kale flavor, but nope! I did use Baby Kale that I found in the clear-plastic box in refrigerated produce section of Kroger. The Baby Kale are little tender leaves not tougher, thicker ones that you would find in bulk Italian or curly-leaf kale. Kale seems to work just like the frozen spinach I add to my breakfast protein smoothies every morning — no taste whatsoever — so both (kale and spinach) lend themselves really well to blending in with other domineering ingredients to result in SUPER healthy snacks!

However, the pistachios are a different story. These little nuts really provide the only flavor in this drink, so if you don’t care for the oily-salty taste of pistachios, you probably won’t want to try this recipe. But their taste isn’t overpowering. I think the kale may help to mellow the flavor of the nuts. I did use shelled, salted pistachios that are all the rage right now and easy to find at your grocery store.

The drink has a creamy texture thanks to the addition of a whole cup of skim milk and just a few ice cubes. I used Snowville Creamery (grass grazed and not homogenized) fat free milk which is produced locally here in Ohio (

You only add 1/4 teaspoon of ginger, so there’s none of the burn-zing-tang that I experienced in the Carrot-Ginger recipe. There’s just a good hint of ginger way back in your mouth that is very refreshing.

The addition of half a big pear and half a frozen banana (your only pre-preparation besides shopping for any missing ingredients) is to lend a little bit of sweetness to the drink. However, like the Carrot-Ginger juice smoothie, I wouldn’t call this one at all sweet. It also has no sour-y, vegetable-y yuck. It’s really quite tasty! I think I’ve found my new favorite way to consume kale!

Here’s the full recipe:
1/2 large, very ripe banana, cut into chunks and frozen
1/2 large pear, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups fresh (baby) kale
1 cup skim milk
1 tbsp pistachios
1/4 tsp minced ginger
5-7 ice cubes

Put all into blender for 343 calories and 16g protein! Enjoy!

Gettin’ the Bod Rioja-Ready: Carrot-Ginger Juice Smoothie

September 22nd, 2013

Orange-Ginger Juice SmoothieI’m FINALLY (one month out) starting preparations for my annual wine trip to Europe. This year’s EWBC (European Wine Bloggers Conference) is being held in the Rioja Region of Spain. My preparations for the trip consist of three basic components:
(1) educating myself on the country, region, culture, history, wine, etc. of the region(s) I’ll be visiting. The end products of this self-imposed education are posts here which share the things I learn and the actual creation of my travel logistics “to-do” list (booking hotels, researching train or bus schedules, identifying possible foods or actual restaurants to visit, etc.). I’d say this is the most time consuming pre-trip element, but it makes for a more relaxed trip and builds anticipation on what’s to come. I’ll be looking into trains and other local transport from Lisbon to Porto later today.
(2) shopping for new, comfy, stylish clothing and accessories for the trip. I’m awaiting my second online purchase delivery — VERY exciting. This is definitely the MOST fun part of pre-trip preparations!
(3) physically-preparing for the trip. I’ll be “treating” myself quite frequently during my trip — every day, every meal — lot’s of amazing rich foods, desserts and endless wine tastings! Gotta prepare the ‘ol bod for this kind of gastronomic “workout” with some extra-hard-core Jazzercise and more strict (than normal) food consumption.

I’ve begun preparations in relation to #1 and #2, so I thought it was time to get #3 off the ground. I’ve been hearing a lot about “juicing” the past few months. Who couldn’t use more fruits, but especially VEGGIES in their diet?!? Veggies are “FREE food” — good for you in nutrients and you can consume as big a portion as you like! In my desire to tone up and feel 110% during my travels without any of the guilt, I’ve got a plan to try some juice recipes out. I picked out a couple of juice recipes that also provide a good amount of protein, so I plan on using them as lighter liquid meals every day or so to lighten things up. It’s an experiment, so we’ll see how it goes and, more importantly, how good they taste. All of these recipes are dairy-based using either yogurt or milk as the prime protein component and include vegetables and fruits.

Today, for “lunch” (my third “meal” of the day – FYI: I eat about every 3-4 hours to provide a steady source of energy, calories and protein throughout the day), I put together a Carrot-Ginger Juice-Smoothie. It turned out a beautiful peachy-orange color and quite frothy on top. The overall taste is slightly banana and strongly ginger. If you’ve never eaten raw ginger, you may be both surprised and grossed-out by the burning-zing the ginger creates on the back of your throat. I’m familiar with this taste-sensation, so it didn’t shock me. Ginger is such a clean food and is so good for digestion that the zing just makes me feel like I’m really giving my body an injection of something super-healthy and good for it! Channel that thought and it might help dull the back-of-the-throat-burn. I tasted none of the carrot juice which I didn’t expect. I like the taste of plain raw and steamed carrots, so I was anticipating at least a hint of that same flavor, but didn’t get it. Maybe if I’d used actual raw carrots, the carrot flavor would have come through?!? But I don’t own a juicer, so I purchased and used Bolthouse Farms 100% carrot juice found at Kroger in the produce refrigerated section. The overall taste of the drink was a perfect sweetness — I wouldn’t say it was sweet, but it wasn’t bland or tart — just light and refreshing! I drank a few sips right after I blended it and it was super cold from the ice. Then, I started typing this post and let it rest ten minutes or so. I suggest letting it rest and loosing a bit of the chill before consuming. It seemed to “burn” less and taste more smooth.

Here’s the recipe that I found in the May 2013 edition of Health Magazine. My only change was using non-fat. plain Trader Joe’s brand yogurt instead of low-fat yogurt as it was listed in the original recipe. Stay tuned, I’ll be trying-out more “veggie-juice smoothies,” putting them through my taste test and sharing with you!

RECIPE: Combine in a blender until smooth: 1 ripe banana sliced, 1/2 cup (115g) carrot juice, 1/2 cup (113g) plain-non-fat yogurt, 1 Tbsp chopped peeled fresh ginger, and 1 cup (or so) of ice.

Kelowna – My First Canadian Landing

July 7th, 2013

Almost 44 years ago – on July 20, 1969, Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to land on the Moon. Well on June 5, 2013, this almost 44 year-old had my first landing in Canada! We Americans have all sorts of preconceived notions about Canada — like it’s always snowing and cold just like Alaska, right?!? The days are short, the people talk funny and, most importantly, they certainly don’t drink wine. Okay, how can I break this to you gently?!? Folks, I hate to burst your Fourth of July weekend bubble, but all this stuff about Canada — is CRAZY-wrong!

I experienced days of non-stop sunshine, blue skies and, frankly, I was hard-pressed to find any strong accents. What I did hear was a lot of was very friendly, “No Worries!” And, best of all, they have tons of vineyards and wineries with awesome wines to enjoy. Only downside, Canadian wine production is still very young compared with other regions around the globe. Although, some families have been farming for 100 years, many vineyards just got started within the past twenty to thirty years! 1978 plantings are considered “old vines” in British Columbia!

In addition, biodynamics and organically produced wines are HUGELY supported which means more healthy, environmentally-conscious, but smaller yields. Sadly, right now Canadian wines are only distributed within their own country. There’s just not enough Canadian wine produced to ship and supply the American market. So, for now, if you want to taste it — you gotta travel there! What an excuse for a trip to Canada, right?!? Read on and I’ll share where I visited and would recommend in an instant to fellow wine lovers or anyone looking for a great vacation!

The day prior to the start of this year’s (North American) Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC), my husband and I arrived early in British Columbia to participate in a short pre-WBC excursion in Kelowna. We were fortunate to be two of the 25 or so participants in this brief, but special, first-hand wine experience. As many of my other posts tout, the pre- and post-excursions along with any short, local vineyard day-trips we get to have during the conferences, are in my mind THE BEST parts of the WBC and EWBC. It gives me the chance to get out and see the countryside, small towns/villages, the people, the vineyards and winery architecture first hand. Wine is like anything — to see where it came from, the people who created it, the climate and land that grew it — to know its origins — is truly “the experience.”

I love maps and I think for anyone reading this post, a quick explanation of where the heck Kelowna is in Canada would be helpful, yes?!? Like me, it may have been a few decades since middle school geography class. So, similar to our 50 states, Canada has provinces. Kelowna is located in the most western of Canada’s provinces — British Columbia. We were actually only about a 2-3 hour drive from the US/Canadian border with the State of Washington! Vancouver is BC’s capital. After spending a few personal vacation days in Seattle, we flew from Sea-Tac straight to Kelowna on Alaskan Airlines. Although the flight attendant was clearly having a rough day, I thoroughly enjoyed the short hour (if that) flight — especially having partaken of the free glass of chardonnay and gluten-free, cheddar rice crackers!

Alaskan Airlinesdriversuburban Kelowna

The Kelowna Airport is small but very efficient, of course that may have had something to do with our tour bus driver from Distinctly Kelowna Tours. This picture I took of him upon our first meeting does NOT do him any justice. I think I managed to take a picture during the one and only time he was not smiling. He, like everyone we encountered in BC, was so friendly and happy to have us visit their region.

From the Kelowna Airport, we drove through what I’d call suburban Kelowna which with the grocery stores, gas stations and fast food restaurants looked like any American town. We quickly left this behind us as our driver pulled off onto a roadway that followed the shore of Okanagan Lake. He dropped us off at Hotel Eldorado, so we could check into our hotel rooms and freshen-up prior to our first vineyard visit and dinner at Summerhill Pyramid Winery.

The next morning, Tim and I skipped our workouts in order to meet the tour van promptly at 8:30am. It wasn’t too difficult rustling ourselves up and out of the hotel — with visions of what our breakfast at Tantalus Vineyard might be! After four or five years of wine blogger conferences and vineyard excursions, somehow I had never experienced breakfast at a winery! While traveling, breakfast is a big deal for Tim and me. No protein shakes and coffee will do. We’re ready to be gastronomically woo’ed and I was especially excited to see how they “do breakfast” in British Columbia!

Tantalus Vineyards staff greeted us with a sparkling 2010 Old Vines Riesling toast in their beautiful winery building. Constructed in March 2010, the structure was actually the first LEED certified winery building in BC and is part of Tantalus’ commitment to an extensive, sustainable environmental program. They are a single vineyard which means that all the grapes used in their wines are grown on site. This is unique for the Okinawa Valley (region surrounding Okanagan Lake). Currently, there are only a few, single-vineyards in operation. Tantalus’ sustainability focus also includes a conversion to completely biodynamic production. Biodynamic agriculture is a method of organic farming that emphasizes the holistic development and inter-relationships of the soil, plants and animals as a self-sustaining system. It’s basically returning to the “old way” of farming. Using what’s produced and available on site to enrich the soil and support the vines and grapes to maturity — all organic. Tantalus has constructed nesting boxes to welcome natural bird species to do their part. They also have welcomed staff from Arlo’s Honey Farm to upkeep bee hives right in the vineyard. The bees pollinate flowers, fruits, vegetables and the grape vines themselves supporting the vineyards “circle of life” and producing the most amazing honey. After breakfast, we enjoyed watching as honey was harvested from one of the hives. Did you know bees communicate by dancing? Anyway, this transition to an entirely biodynamic vineyard is a very slow process, but Tantalus owners and staff are committed to this goal and the value sustainability has for their vineyard and quality of the wines themselves.


So, Tantalus was an amazing place, but I don’t want to leave out the incredible breakfast we had. Staff had laid-out a huge, long table for us right in the middle of the tasting room. The glass doors were open entirely to the veranda and the beautiful views of the vineyard and Okanagan Lake in the distance — breathtaking!


Chef Mark Filatow created a breakfast made entirely from fresh, seasonal food sources grown and produced within the Okinawa Valley. My gluten-free, pescetarian diet prevented me from enjoying the waffle-station, Chef Filatow’s home-made granola, pain au chocolate and bacon — which EVERYONE was raving about and returning for seconds and thirds. However, I was quite satisfied with the whole-fat, homemade yogurt, honey produced from the hives in the vineyard (which we were each given a small jar of honey to savor back home as a farewell gift later on), and a symphony of plum, tayberry and blackberry jams. I had never heard of the tayberry before and it was by far my favorite “topping,” aside from the honey (of course), for the yogurt. Tayberry is a cross between a blackberry and red raspberry. Like a raspberry and blackberry, tayberries can be eaten straight from the vine or cooked for jams and pies. It’s named after the River Tay in Scotland, but the berries can’t be picked easily by hand or machine harvested (due to their softness), so they haven’t become a commercially-grown berry crop. Tayberries, like the ones we enjoyed at Tantalus, are mainly grown as specialty crops by home gardeners and chefs. Tayberries

After breakfast, we tasted four of Tantalus’ wines. The 2012 Riesling had a sharp, alcohol-strong zing and crisp, tart finish. Then, we tasted the still version of the 2010 Old Vines Riesling (we had the sparkling version upon our arrival). This wine was tart with a bit of a metallic taste. Staff shared that they look for young wines that make you “pucker up.” This one certainly did just that! I’m making it sound as if I didn’t like the Old Vines, but quite the contrary — it was my favorite by far! The third wine was the 2012 Rose-Pinot Meunier/Pinot Noir which smelled great, not too perfumey, but taste was a little bitter. The last wine was the 2010 Pinot Noir which was just not my style.


After Tantalus Vineyards, we drove along the Okanagan Lake shore a short distance past some beautiful homes to find CedarCreek Estate Winery. CedarCreek is owned by retired Senator Ross Fitzpatrick. Winemaker Darryl Brooker greeted us in the rose-terrace garden with a 2012 Ehrenfelser toast which was cool, light and refreshing.


We took a brief tour of the winery building and then took off up the vineyard’s moderately steep hillside. Darryl kept us rallied for the ascent sharing that he had wine tastings and food pairing stations set up along the way. We made the most of these stops — enjoying the refreshments and gorgeous views of Okanagan Lake. Two of the wine/food pairings I enjoyed and remember best were the curried almonds and CedarCreek Riesling and goat cheese balls rolled in almond dust with CedarCreek’s Chardonnay — both were AMAZING!
IMG_1113 IMG_1116 IMG_1109

The route we followed through the vineyard was to open in three weeks as the “Senator’s Trail” – a new, self-guided vineyard tour for CedarCreek visitors to enjoy. A portion of the trail was covered with mulch that they had recycled from old merlot vines they had recently removed from one section of the vineyard. In place of the merlot vines, new seedlings had been planted. Instead of going to the landfill, staff had found misprinted milk cartons and used them to protect the young, vulnerable seedlings. In Kelowna, vines weren’t grafted to existing older, mature vines because it gets too cold in the winter. Once the seedlings are established, staff will remove the cartoons and recycle them — how very “green” of them! It was a constant theme we heard from vineyards in Kelowna — much more common in BC than other places around the globe.


After our vineyard tour, we relaxed and enjoyed the view. Okanagan Lake was beckoning us, but we were told it was too early in the summer season to swim comfortably — water a tad too chilly! Still boats were on the water and the sunshine and blue skies made it a gorgeous spot to vacation. Before any time at all, our Kelowna visit came to an end and we had to board the bus for Penticton in order to arrive with time to check into our hotel there and attend the WBC’s opening reception. More great Canadian wine awaited us — in another gorgeous BC location…but that’ll have to be another post!

Disclosure: I tasted the wines of Kelowna as a part of a sponsored blogger excursion of the region, organized by Tourism Kelowna ( – 1.800.663.4345). Local transportation was provided by Distinctly Kelowna Tours ( My hotel accommodations at the Hotel Eldorado were provided by the sponsor. Winery tours, tastings and food pairings were provided by the sponsor in conjunction with Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Tantalus Vineyards, and CedarCreek Estate Winery.

Robyn’s Yummy Protein Shake

July 7th, 2013

For the past two and a half years, this shake has been my breakfast of choice 99.9% of my mornings at home. I drink it with about two cups of coffee. Some workday mornings when I REALLY don’t want to get up and moving, the thought of enjoying my shake and coffee in my robe while watching an episode of Mad Men is what finally revs me up and out of bed! It’s very filling (I eat this and don’t get hungry again for over three hours), packed with protein, covers ALL the food groups and best of all, it’s a treat with ZERO GUILT! Your body will LOVE you for fueling it up!

I made this shake as a special Fourth of July Weekend, post-Jazzercise treat yesterday after Lybra’s 9:30am class. Everyone seemed to love it as much as I do and asked that I share my recipe, so here’s all the details of how I make mine. You can take and tailor the recipe with your favorite frozen fruits — just watch your portions/measurements, don’t forget the veggie(s), and, although its healthy benefits are all the rage right now, don’t go too crazy with the honey. A little bit does go a long way!

Also, it doesn’t just have to be a breakfast item. It’s great as a snack, post-workout protein punch, quick lunch or even dinner — especially if it’s late (after 7pm), you’re starving, need something quick and nutritious! It’s an all around go-to meal! You can keep all these supplies in your frig, freezer and pantry so they’re available ANYTIME you need them!

What equipment you’ll need:
+ a really good blender
+ a big tumbler cup and extra wide straw (this makes it seem more like a treat than something healthy — make it fun!)
+ a digital kitchen scale for measuring (measuring cups and teaspoon/tablespoon can work too — I’ve provided measurements in both)
+ spatula

Grocery List:
+ non-fat, plain yogurtYogurt
+ protein powder (I order mine through – it’s “On” brand which is 100% soy protein which is completely vegetarian) proteinpowder
+ Chia seeds (good for joints and circulation) chiabag
+ honey (don’t buy the cheap stuff — go for a local honey and don’t be scared away by the price — the taste is worth it. In my book, cheap honey tastes like thick watered-down white cane sugar = YUCK!) honey
+ frozen chopped spinach
+ frozen blueberries (I buy huge bag at Sam’s Club)
+ tap water as needed
+ frozen sliced strawberries (again big bag from Sam’s Club — look for sliced, this will help out your blender a bit!) frozenstuff

Ahead of time (optional) prep:
I’ve purchased cheap, plastic, kiddie-party cups from Walmart to measure out my blueberries and spinach (in one cup) and strawberries ahead of time. I keep these cups on shelf in my freezer, so I can grab them quick in the morning — plus they are super cute and make me smile! I also measure out protein powder and chia seeds the night before. By doing this, I can switch on my coffee maker and have my shake ready to go by the time my coffee has finished brewing — under 10mins. measurestrawberriescutecup

Putting it all together:
everythingreadytogo First, scoop-out yogurt with spatula 1into blender. addyogurt
Add protein powder, chia seeds and honey.
Add spinach and blueberries. addspinachandblues
Before blending, add a little bit of water (this is trial and error — the goal is to add just enough water to assist the blender. I suggest you add about 1/4 cup water, start blending and if blender is struggling, slowly add teeny bit of water to get it mixing everything all up. I like as thick a shake as possible, hence why I add as little water as possible).
After water is in the pitcher, start blender. blend Once mixture is going, gradually add in your strawberries. addstraws
Again, if things “get stuck” you may need to add a bit more water. I always blend my shake through two full cycles (about 35seconds/cycle — it’s the “smoothie” button on my blender). mixeverythingonemorecycle
Then, just use spatula to get every last drop as you pour into a big tumbler (I purchased mine at Bed, Bath, Beyond — pink “R” again makes the whole experience more fun…and girly! Especially with the shakes beautiful purple color!). pour

I clean-up blender and everything before I drink shake — don’t want it to dry — then it’s pain in the booty to clean. But you’ll want to drink shake right away — it will separate and get frothy, if you leave it too long — placing in frig won’t help! Simply sit down, relax and enjoy! enjoy

Nutritional Information:
+ protein powder (serving size = 1 scoop or 30.5g; total fat = 1.5g; total carbs = 1g; calories = 120; protein = 25g)
+ chia seeds (serving size = 1 tbsp; total fat = 5g; total carbs = 1g; calories = 70; protein = 3g)
+ non-fat, plain yogurt (serving size = 1 cup or 227g; total fat = 0g; total carbs = 15g; calories = 110; protein = 10g)
+ honey (serving size = 1 tbsp or 21g; total fat = 0g; total carbs = 17g; calories = 60; protein = 0g)
+ frozen chopped spinach (serving size = 1 cup or 81g; total fat = 0g; total carbs = 2g; calories = 20; protein = 2g)
+ frozen blueberries (serving size = 1 cup or 140g; total fat = 1g; total carbs = 17g; calories = 80; protein = less than 1g)
+ frozen sliced strawberries (serving size = 1 cup or 140g; total fat = 0g; total carbs = 13g; calories = 50; protein = less than 1g)
Grand total (total fat = 7.5g; total carbs = 66g; calories = 510; protein = 41g)

After totaling up all the nutritional factors, I’m going to edit my shake by adding in only 1/2 scoop of my protein powder. My goal at each meal is to get 20-26g of protein, so the 41g is a bit overkill! Plus, by cutting powder in half, I’ll shave-off 60 calories and a bit more fat!

South Africa…Yes, Please!

May 26th, 2013

Robyn-Style NachosSo here’s how my husband and I celebrate Memorial Day Saturday Holiday when we DON’T travel from home. We both do our respective workouts in the morning (me=Jazzercise and Tim=gym and boxing). Then, we each run our errands (me=coffee with Laura then a bit of retail therapy and Tim=groceries for the week). We rendezvous back at the house and spend the remainder of the afternoon mowing, edging, weeding and making preparations for our deck renovation.

Now, the best part — grilling out and opening a bottle of wine. Tim recently recieved a shipment of wines from South Africa. As an appetizer, he grilled two, large portabella mushrooms seasoned with balsamic vinegar, garlic and salt. We toasted our portabellas with a 2011 bottle of Kanonkop Kadette from the wine region of Stellenbosch, east of Cape Town. It was THE PERFECT wine to go with our mushrooms. It smelled and tasted fantastic — perfect blend of spice and fruit!

The text on the back label made the food suggestion that the wine went well with meat, pasta or spicy dishes. I had prepared my own take on nachos — using my favorite spicey, blue corn chips as the foundation, I added grilled shrimp that had briefly marinated beforehand with lime juice, sea salt and minced garlic. I tossed a diced tomato and avocado together with the shrimp when they were off the grill and piled it all on top of the corn chips. Only other seasonings were a few shakes of cayenne pepper and hot sauce. I must agree with the label’s suggestion of “spicy dishes.” My nachos complimented the Kanonkop great!
The bottle label also shed some light on the wine’s name. “Kanonkop” means “Cannon Hill” and is derived from the days when cannons were fired to signal the arrival of Dutch trade ships into Cape Town Harbor. The cannon sketched on the front label, printed on the top-wrapper and in relief on the bottle itself — gave me a hint that there was some cannon connection.

Beach + Wine = Good Times, If You Stay “Still”

May 19th, 2013



Sitting on my deck in my sundress and new purple flip flops as the sun goes down has me fantasizing about long-weekend trips to the beach. Two such trips come to mind and, come to think of it, both happen to have occurred exactly one and two years ago THIS weekend!

In 2011, it was a girlfriend beach trip to Daytona Beach, Florida. And just last year, I hit the west coast of Florida and beautiful Naples with my husband. Based on these two trips, THIS weekend, the one just prior to the Memorial Day Weekend, I have determined to be THE BEST for a beach-bound trip here in the States. No crowds, few kids and families, and perfect — warm, but not hot, weather! You can’t do much better than lying on the beach and not breaking a sweat!

But this year, due to two, big trips — the North American Wine Bloggers Conference coming up in two weeks in Penticton, British Columbia and the European Wine Bloggers Conference this October in Rioja, Spain – I had to watch my allotment of vacation time and so it was the beach trip that had to get cut.

I want to stay focused or else this post is NEVER going to get to the “wine part,” but real quick let me share the hotels we stayed in during both trips because both truly rocked! In Daytona, it was The Shores Resort & Spa ( In Naples, it was the Edgewater Beach Hotel (

Okay, now to the wine part of the story. Although not a traditional Daytona Beach liquid refreshment (that’d be beer), I drank white wine, of course the more natural accompaniment for ice cubes and hot summer weather while relaxing on the beach. Since glass was prohibited at the pool and sandy beach, I kept the bottle of Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc in the hotel room and transported it using an empty, plastic water bottle. I would repeatedly get ice from the Palapa Tiki Bar and was good to go! The ice slowly melted and watered- down the wine a bit – no not tacky – it was wise! One must pace oneself while on vacation and not get carried away. With the melting ice, the wine kept cool and I could enjoy a favorite wine throughout the long, sun-filled, relaxing afternoon and still be able to get cleaned-up and make it to dinner when the sun went down. Previous blogs share my love of sangria red and white — so no haters please who love reds and feel you need to educate me on the greatness of reds and ice. I’m already a fan! However, in a hotel room, without a kitchen and proper equipment, plus – HELLO!?!? — I’m on vacation, the LAST thing I want to do is spend time putting together sangria. The Cono Sur was readily available at the nearby liquor store and easy-peezy – simply open bottle and serve! I gotta add that the Cono Sur went great with the hotel’s Grouper Tacos with chipotle dipping sauce and Coriander Seared Tuna Tataki with wasabi-yuzu dressing… two great and light ocean-side, vacation fare!

With this great 2011 summer vacation and beach-side wine-drinking skills under my belt, I was feeling confident about my Naples trip last year and thought I had it all figured out – HA! Allow me to share my experience, so that you may avoid the same thing or worse… a trip to the emergency room!

My problem in Naples was that I had traveled to Northern Italy in the fall of 2011 which had created a love affair for sparkling wine (that still lasts to today, I might add). It’s true, Franciacorta won me over. So in May of 2012, I was blind to any other wines when given the chance to choose my preference. So, without thinking, I grabbed three bottles of Cava at Publix to enjoy while basking in the Naples sunshine – it was a long weekend trip, so relax! Again, I had my empty, plastic water bottle. At the beach, when I reached in my bag and pulled-out my “wine” bottle, I did notice it seemed really taught and full. But I shrugged it off, thinking it’s the bubbles – like a bottle of soda – and that it had just got a bit shook-up on my walk down from the room. I slowly and carefully unscrewed the bottle cap, so that I wouldn’t get a fountain of wine all over me. At the last moment, as the last screw thread cleared, the top went flying like a bullet (I still don’t know where it landed). My hand got a little blasted, but no damage thank goodness. Our sunning-spot was on the edge of the hotel beach property, so fortunately no other guests even noticed my “wine” explosion and all eyes escaped being shot out.

So word to the wise – DO NOT MIX sparkling wine with plastic screw top bottles! Learn from my pre-Memorial Day Weekend beach trips and stick to “flat” whites. I did quickly recover from this harrowing experience by drinking my Cava (I mean, I couldn’t replace the top, so had to drink it before the bubbles disappeared!) and jamming to Beyoncé! …oh yes, and don’t forget the sunscreen! Cheers!

Chianti Classico, So Why the Black Rooster?

May 9th, 2013

Adesivo ChiantiClassicoOn every bottle of Chianti Classico, you’ll see the infamous Black Rooster. I remember first hearing the story behind the Black Rooster as an undergraduate pursuing my B.A. in Art History at Florida State University. Obviously, Italy was a main focus in art history studies and with Florence being the Medici’s hometown, so to speak, the Black Rooster entered into ne of those lights-out, slide show lectures.

Not only is the Black Rooster a trademark of Chianti Classico, it is the historic symbol of the Chianti Military League and painted by Giorgio Vasari on the ceiling of the Salone dei Cinquecento, in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio.
This historic symbol dates from the Middle Ages and a particular event when Florence and Siena were fighting for territory and power in present-day’s Italy’s center core. Then, as now, the Chianti region lay between these two great cities. Battles were raged relentlessly with either side gaining and losing ground with no end in sight. The story goes that in order to end the wars and establish a clear border, both sides agreed to a crazy tactic. Each city would have a knight depart at dawn and the point where they met would serve as the border between the two republics. The starting signal for each knight would be the cock’s crow. It’s told that the Sienese chose a white rooster, the Florentines a black. The scheming Florentines kept their black rooster trapped in a small, dark space and didn’t feed it for the days leading up to the event, so that the animal was mad and frantic.
Prior to dawn on the actual day, the Florentines, released their rooster early and it immediately began to crow. This early alarm enabled Florence’s knight to have a huge time advantage, covering much ground before the other knight began his ride from Siena. So ends the story of how almost all of Chianti came under the control of Florence – thanks to a bit of cheating, animal abuse and a ticked-off black rooster!

Just Add a Chianti Classico

May 7th, 2013

This pizza is the perfect partner for a nice bottle of Chianti Classico (also anything CHOCOLATE works too!)
Pizza recipe (Gluten-Free & Vegetarian):
• Arugula Pesto
o Whole container/plastic box of arugula
o 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
o Couple of walnut halves
o Juice of one lemon
o Garlic cloves – 3-4 depending on how much you like/love garlic
o Salt and pepper to taste
Put all of above in blender or food processor and mix it up. Slowly add about tablespoon of your favorite olive oil – more or less depending on your desired pesto consistency.
• Udi’s Gluten Free Pizza Crust
• 2 Baby Bel Lite cheeses (slice each into 3, thinner circles)
Spread pesto on the pizza crust and top with cheese slices. Place in preheated 400 degree oven until cheese melts and gets bubbly and crust browns to your liking (about 12 minutes, if you don’t like crunchy crust). Enjoy!