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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

CoCo Bolos

CoCo Bolos, which comes to us from Manhattan, KS, opened at Prairie Fire about a week ago and we chose it to celebrate Alexis's graduation from pre-K yesterday.  Bill loves Mexican food and he is always in search of new places serving the cuisine, so he was very pleased by lack of protests from the graduate, who is mostly a steak-and-potatoes kind of girl.  

As much as I was waiting for the opening of Cocoa Dolce, Bill was waiting for the opening of CoCo Bolos, especially after he read that the James Beard award-winning chef Michael Smith was going to be a partner, and menu designer, for the restaurant.  Coincidentally, a certain high-end Mexican restaurant fell out favor with the family about a week ago, after a second disappointing experience, so it was time to try new things. We had an amazing experience at CoCo Bolos, the dinner was delicious, and there was even steak-and-fries kid meal, which the girls loved (the steak was excellent!), and we will definitely be coming back a lot.  Did I mention that the margaritas on tap were out of this world?  Mexican-food crisis averted.   We have a winner!

CoCo Bolos Entrance.  There is a large outside seating area to the right.  Perfect for great weather.
The bar and dining room. 
Margarita on tap.  Yum.
Tomato and watermelon salad.  My dinner.  The dressing was amazing.  I tried not to lick the plate.
Chicken tamale with green mole and drunken beans.  Bill's choice.
Chocolate cake with Christopher Elbow's ice cream.
There is also some cool art on the walls.

Monday, May 19, 2014

My Birthday

My birthday yesterday was all sorts of amazing.  I spent a lot of time with my family and got happy birthday wishes from so many of my friends.

There were Cocoa Dolce sweets with coffee in the morning and a beautiful David Yurman necklace from my wonderful husband.

We had a big, almost all-family, brunch at Pig & Finch by 801 Restaurant Group at Park Place.

Emily spent hours making this puppet.   She thinks it looks just like me.

I can certainly see the resemblance.

There were presents from the family.

And donuts with lemon curd.

I ordered this delicious crabmeat omelet and asked the server to substitute fruit for the potatoes, but I got potatoes when my meal arrived.  Fruit would have been healthier, but these potatoes were really good.

I just had to get this spoon from the Threshing Bee at Prairie Fire.   They have some amazing things in that store and I am looking forward to exploring it further when I have some time.

 I got this awesome card from my boss.

For dinner, Bill and I decided to stay with 801 Restaurant Group and went to 801 Fish.  It was, as usual, too much food.  Next time, I am sticking with just the oysters and dessert.

It was an amazing day and I am looking forward to another amazing year.  I am so grateful for my family, my friends, and my life.   Cheers!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wasabi Sushi at Prairie Fire

When Prairie Fire opened this past weekend, it seemed like half of KC came over to take a look.  Kansas City's marching band Cobras performed.  TV crews filmed.   Street DJ filled the air with the 80s music.   Lines formed for the new movie theater.   And excitement was everywhere.   
The Marching Cobras, a Kansas City institution 
Having spent a good couple of hours wondering from store to store, we got hungry and decided to try out Wasabi Sushi Bar.   Wasabi has outside dining area with several tables, so we sat there in the shade.  Great for people watching and fresh air.  We are big sushi fans and have a few favorite sushi restaurants in town.  Wasabi's sushi was up there with the best of them.  

What I liked about the menu was the pictures of different rolls (rather than only ingredient descriptions).

Bill and I shared Beth's, rainbow, and spicy scallop rolls.   Yum!

Alexis went for the chicken tempura from the kids' menu.   She is not a big eater, but by the time she declared she was done, there were only a couple of pieces left on the plate.

Emily, who usually shares rolls with us, decided on this Grilled Salmon.  It was a beautiful plate and the fish was delicious.

I think we've found another family favorite and we are making plans to come back.  Is it the weekend yet?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Cocoa Dolce

Prairie Fire opened this weekend in Overland Park and our weekend lives will never be the same. Prairie Fire is now THE place to get coffee and chocolate, eat sushi, go bowling, buy innovative toys, catch a movie, and explore the life of the dinosaurs.  A very happy Mother's Day weekend, indeed!

As someone who loves chocolate, I was especially excited by the prospect of the opening of Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates.  I spent months waiting for the store to open.  I just knew it had to be all kinds of wonderful.  When the store finally opened this weekend, it was everything I was hoping for and then some.  Cocoa Dolce comes to Overland Park from Wichita, where the first Cocoa Dolce store was opened in 2005.  The founder, Ms. Beth Tully, who I had the pleasure to meet as she was working with her team on putting the store together, brought into the Overland Park store her many years of experience with all things sweet and with running a successful business.  

But I think what really makes the store so special is Ms. Tully's passion for what she does.  Before opening her first store, Ms. Tully had a successful career in sales at a Fortune 500 company, which couldn't keep her from her true passion, chocolate.  As the store's website quotes, Ms. Tully said:  "When I turned 50, I had this epiphany that I really needed to be doing something I felt passionate about.  I realized that I wasn't living what I'd call an 'honest' life.  I was just punching the clock and moving through life instead of really living it."  These words and this experience resonated with me.  I think a lot of us at different times in our personal history are living the life we happened into or that others expect from us and if we wake up to what is happening and have the ability to change what is to what we were meant to do and be, our lives become completely transformed.  We do go to really living.  

Back to sugar, one of the hallmarks of the sweet life.  You can find it at Cocoa Dolce in many delicious forms -- artisanal chocolates (to eat and to gift), gelato, French macarons, and specialty drinks.  The store is beautifully done and is very cozy.   There is free internet, comfortable armchairs, and the smell of cocoa in the air, all inviting you to spend a delicious couple of hours here anytime you want to.  There is also outdoor sitting.   You can come here in the morning to grab coffee before work (they open at 7:30 am on Monday-Friday) and you can come here for an after-dinner treat (they close at 9:30 pm on Monday-Thursday and 10:30 pm on Friday and Saturday).  Speaking of after-dinner treats, Cocoa Dolce offers the unique chocolate lounge experience, by offering craft beer and boutique wine pairings with chocolate.  Cocoa Dolce also does special events, including chocolate-making classes, which I am really looking forward to.

We tried pistachio, nutella, blackberry, cocoa dolce, and champagne.  The macarons were excellent.

Alexis loved creme de menthe (mint chocolate chip) gelato
Enjoying the chocolate lounge with my sugar connoisseurs

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Melon-Strawberry-Orange Smoothie

Here is this afternoon's quick recipe for a light and very hydrating smoothie.

Makes 4 servings
Per serving:  70 calories, 0 g fat, 18 g carbs, 1 g protein, 12 g sugar

  • 1 cup of cantaloupe (cubed)
  • 1 navel orange
  • 4 large strawberries
  • 1 banana 
  • 1 cup of spinach (I buy organic and triple washed)
  • 1 cup of ice
Put all the ingredients into a Vitamix (or any other powerful blender) and process until completely blended.  Perfect for a hot day.  It tastes so fruity that kids like it too (despite the lovely green color).



Monday, May 5, 2014

Snacks With Benefits

I've been getting questions about strategies for helping stay on course in pursuing wellness and fitness goals, so I wanted to write about some great snacks that can help bridge the gap between lunch and dinner, while providing some actual nutrients (say no to cookies!).  Depending on your weight loss/maintenance goals, whether you workout that day, how active you are (in addition to any workout you do), and how many hours you actually spend sitting in front of the computer, you may want to adjust your portions.  For instance, I aim for a 150-calorie snack portion on light activity days and 250-calorie snack portion on the days when I do strength training/cardio and take 10,000 steps.  However, since exercise doesn't burn all that many calories, adjusting your portions upward too much can stall progress.

When I choose a snack, I look for ingredients that are as close to whole foods as possible, -- the less processed, the better (say no to trans fats, MSG, or preservatives, the ingredient list needs to be short).   Any of these are also top priorities for me:   no GMOs, raw ingredients, no added sugar, decent amount of fiber, high protein.   Snacks also must be flavorful and taste great.  Since one cannot live on protein shakes alone, here are some chewable options.  None of the require refrigeration, which also makes them a great travel option (airline food is scary).

Epic bars:  Turkey and Beef.   These are great if you like jerky, but don't care for the leathery and hard-to-chew texture.  Epic also has Lamb and Bison bars. The Beef bar has 190 calories, 9 g sugar, 13 g protein, 2 g fiber.  The Turkey bar has 150 calories, 6 g sugar, 14 g protein, and 2 g fiber.   

Organic Mamma Chia Chia Squeeze Vitality Snacks, Green Magic and Strawberry Banana, with 1200 mg of Omega-3.   Chia is all the rage these days and these little packs are delicious.   Each has 70 calories per pouch, 7 g sugar, 2 g protein, 4 g fiber.

Doug's Nuts Coconut Beach Crunch.  Gluten free, cholesterol free, no preservatives, all natural. 1 ounce has 150 calories, 12 g fat, 3 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 3 g protein.  It tastes like a vacation.  Best of all, it comes the wonderful city of Eugene, Oregon!

Bhuja Snacks Crunchy Seasoned Peas.  Vegan and Vegetarian.  These pack only 100 calories per 1/2 cup, with 4.5 g fat, 2 g fiber, 1 g sugar, and 5 g protein.  Spicy and yummy.

Roasted Coconut Chips from Trader Joe's.  1/2 package has 160 calories, 10 g fat, 4 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 1 g protein.  Tastes like the Caribbean.

Sea Snax.   Strangely Addictive!     One container has 16 calories, 2 g fat, 0 sugar.
 And this is not really a snack, but something I like to add to smoothies.

Aloha Daily Good Packets.  40 calories per packet and tons of nutrition.
Happy and Healthy Snacking!

Friday, May 2, 2014


If you are in town this weekend and looking for a fun and casual place where you can eat a delicious, juicy burger, head over to BurgerFi.  This new gourmet burger restaurant just opened in Park Place and I was lucky enough to attend its "friends and family" opening last night.

Although the KC metro area has seen a few gourmet burger restaurants open in the last several years, I think BurgerFi will become the new favorite in no time.  The restaurant is in a great location, the space is beautifully done (and kid friendly), and the burgers and frozen custards are like nothing you can get anywhere else.  There are also multiple TV screens throughout the restaurant, so you can catch a game while you eat your meal.

I became interested in BurgerFi when I learned that it uses all-natural free-range Angus beef in its burgers, from the cattle that is raised without antibiotics or hormones.  This is huge for me because I spend a great deal of money and effort avoiding either of those two scary things in the food I eat.  Another big plus is that the meat is never frozen and never cooked in a microwave, and it shows.

The main menu (which lists calories on the website) includes:

  • Five kinds of burgers, as well as "Build Your Best Burger" option, which allows you to make your own creation.  Each burger bun coming out of the kitchen is BurgerFi "branded," which makes it look even more artisanal and gourmet.  The Brisket Burger I tried (made with double natural 28 day dry aged ground brisket) was hands down the best burger I've ever had and I am looking forward to repeating the experience.   Bill had and loved the Build Your Own burger with blue cheese and BurgerFi chili.
  • Five kinds of hot dogs, including 100% Wagyu Kobe Beef Dog.   I think these will be huge kids' favorites.  The little girl sitting next to me was very enthusiastic about her hot dog.
  • Fresh cut fries with multiple fry toppings.  I chose the parmesan cheese & herbs topping and the fries was amazing.  I can't wait to try the salt & vinegar topping next time.
  • Crispy onion rings.  I've never been a big eater of those, but these onion rings, which I tried with the salt & vinegar topping, were giant and crisp and delicious.  Several happy eaters around me also professed love at first bite. 
  • Old-fashioned frozen custards and concretes.  I was in frozen concrete heaven with my samples of red velvet, key lime, O.M.C. (Oh My Chocolate! - with peanut butter!), and tropical freeze.  You can choose from a variety of toppings and mix-ins to customize your experience (including candied pecans, coconut, mango, strawberries, and marshmallows).

  • A variety of soft drinks and water.
  • Wine and craft beer.  

There is also something called "Our Secret Menu," which is included in the fold of the main menu, featuring items like Supreme Burger (with grilled mushrooms), Hippie Veggie (two grilled quinoa burgers served on a potato bun with a side of neon relish), and Urban Fries (Parmesan and herb fries topped with garlic aioli -- I will so have to try these next time!).

Not only BurgerFi is good for you, but it's also good for the environment.  Each BurgerFi store includes earth-friendly elements, like chairs that are made from recycled Coke bottles, tables made out of compressed recycled wood, and large fans that use less electricity.   

We are taking our kids, big burger connoisseurs, to BurgerFi this weekend and I can't wait to see their reaction.  I predict this will be the new family favorite.