Sooooo... What does a single gal do with her comp time after she worked every single holiday for all the happy married people with kids? She goes to visit her Mommy & Daddy of course!! That's right, this grown woman just took a week of comp time, packed her car with her doggies & drove 2 hours north to leave all the hustle & bustle of Miami behind for the quiet, chill, relaxed & slow place of the retirement Mecca aka Vero Beach!
But boy did we have some serious FUN!! If you read my last blog, you know we hit up the farmer's markets in Vero & Fort Pierce. We also enjoyed art shows, beach walks, concerts in the park...
We did pretty much anything that was taking place outdoors that I could bring my dogs to! And yes that included riding bikes around Orchid Island by South Beach!
Believe it or not... My boys LOVED it!
The winter weather has been just perfect here... Simply Gorgeous! I can see why so many people choose to spend their golden years here... It's not a bad way to live... Not bad at all!
That's my Mom with Jagger in her bike basket! Now if you guys have read my blog, you may remember that Lisa Birch is better known as my own personal Vegan Chef... Especially when I come to visit for a week!! But did you know that she is also an organic farmer??
Yep! That's fresh organic romaine lettuce form her backyard garden!
She also grows fresh peppery arugula, superfood parsley, Italian & regular, cherry tomatoes & tons of fragrant herbs!
But I was in the mood for something "meaty" so I came up with the idea of tofu "steaks" & Mom went to work on the olive oil with her organic garden herb mix!
And she cooked 'em up nice & crispy in a grill pain... Perfection!
Throw in some grilled portobellos & some of that parsley & arugula I told you about... just-picked from the garden... & Voila! My tofu "steak" & vegetables are served! I was actually full from this "meaty" meal :)
Mom does not grow kale... But she's working on it! However we got some of the organic store-bought kale & she also made me this awesome flavorful kale & black eyed pea soup (for the New Year naturally) chock full of veggies. Superb!
And let's not forget this gem here! My Vegan Chef baked eggplants, (from the farmer's market) then peeled off the skin & placed the eggplant on a bed of angel hair quinoa pasta & then smothered it all with her homeade red sauce that is to-die-for! Notice the parsley on top, again fresh from her backyard garden!
And then there was this perfect purée of cauliflower to make the most scrumptious soup to eat during this colder weather we experienced! With pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top (also from the farmers market) this really hit the spot! It took her a little over an hour to make - but in my opinion - it was worth every minute! Easy for me to say right?
And this is what I eat when my Vegan Chef is tired from all the cooking. The most beautiful salads - with all kinds of fresh lettuce from Mom's garden, topped with tomatoes, cucumbers & chia seeds. My dressing of choice is usually balsamic vinagairette.
And my favorite dish was this breakfast favorite with a vegan twist - strawberry & blueberry crepes made with a tofu-filling so delicious that you would never know there wasn't cheese in the middle! The best part about this was that it's a Lisa Birch original recipe!
Now aside from all the eating we've been doing... lately I've taken to calling our cute little group, "The 3 Amigos," since we have been spending every waking moment together! So what better time to get the crew together & go on a roadtrip for a snorkeling day... But this one was super special!
We went swimming with manatees! This was by far the coolest thing I have EVER done! And I'm the Animal Advocate! I still can't believe I didn't do this sooner!
We went swimming in the Crystal River in Homosassa. Now that water was freezing! I couldn't feel my fingertips when we finally got out of the water, but it was worth it! Most people will never get to experience & observe nature within an arm's reach.
Where else could you see & touch this amazing creature?? Nowhere!! Apparently this location (just north of Tampa & south of Gainesville) is the only place in the world you can swim with manatees legally! This trip is a MUST - put it on your bucket list for sure :)
The trip was recommended by a good friend & it was in celebration of my Vegan Chef's Birthday! Hey I gotta pay her back somehow for all those delicious dishes she's always cooking & baking for me!
Before this trip, this was the closest I ever got to a manatee. This was an orphaned baby manatee that was rescued & rehabbed at Miami Seaquarium & I did a story on that cutie for work.
And that's where I'm back at now. My Vero vacation is over & "The 3 Amigos" are on hiatus... until the next visit. But as much as I love to travel to Key West & NYC & even abroad... there's something special, even magical, about being an adult & spending a week with the people that made you, raised you, taught you everything you know & that you love more than anything else in the world. I appreciate my parents even more today than a week ago.