August 30, 2012

Mexican Stuffed Shells

What happens when Mexican and Italian food combine?  Mexican stuffed shells!  Last Sunday I decided to put a Mexican twist on stuffed shells and man was it unique and delicious!  I found the initial recipe online (thank you pinterest) but I ended up modifying some ingredients and adding a few.  So without further ado, mexican stuffed shells!

1 LB ground turkey (or ground beef)
1 package taco seasoning mix
1/2 package jumbo stuffed shells
4 oz light cream cheese
1 can of (vegetarian) refried beans
1 jar of salsa
1 jar of taco sauce
Shredded cheese (for topping)
Sour cream (for topping)
  • Brown the ground turkey in a large skillet, then drain
  • Add the taco seasoning packet to the turkey per the instructions
  • Once the taco seasoning has been absorbed by the ground turkey add the cream cheese and mix well, then set aside to cool
  • Cook the shells, drain and allow to cool
  • Heat up the refried beans so that they can be easily place inside the shells
  • Spray an 8x8 pan (or a 9x13) with nonstick spray and add a layer of salsa to the bottom of the pan
  • Next - stuff your shells!  Add approximately a tablespoon of refried beans and then a spoonful of the ground turkey mixture.  Repeat this until all the shells are full. 
  • Once all the shells are stuffed - cover (or drizzle) them with taco sauce and top with cheese
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 - 40 minutes until the cheese is melted and the shells are bubbly
  • Let the dish sit for a little while and serve with sour cream and salsa (optional)
Mexican stuffed shells!  Note - the shells are pictured without the taco sauce and cheese toppings.
Once again this dinner was awesome and the shells made great leftovers for the next day!

August 27, 2012

Overlook Mountain

This weekend I hiked Overlook Mountain!  It was tough but totally worth it once we made it to the top AND there was an awesome abandoned hotel about half way up the mountain!  Overlook Mountain is located in Woodstock, NY which is about an hour from Albany.  I had never been Woodstock before so it was a dual trip - hike a mountain and see Woodstock!  We arrived around 11 AM and found where the trail started which happened to be a couple of miles up the mountain and next to a hippie religious sanctuary.  The trail was 5 miles round trip but about the first two miles were climbed at a near 60 degree angle, overall it was tough, you definitely felt like you were hiking up the slide of a mountain!
Overlook Mountain Trail Sign
My hiking posse - halfway up the mountain!
Nearly two miles up the mountain we came to the abandoned Overlook Mountain Hotel - one world can describe this hotel - FIRE!  Originally built in 1871 it was destroyed by fire for the first time in 1875, after which it was rebuilt in 1878.  For the next ten years the hotel was become popular but from 1887 - 1917 it was irregularly visited.  In 1923 it was destroyed by fire again.  After the second fire it started to be rebuilt but by 1939 it remained unfinished.  Many speculate that while the Overlook Mountain Hotel had the highest elevation in the Catskills it did not maintain a direct route to the hotel from a rail line making it rather difficult to travel to and from and therefore less popular.  The hotel was boarded up in 1940 but damaged by fire in 1941; the roof and other details survived until the mid 1960s when the hotel was gutted by a final fire.  Can you say cursed!  Today the outer structure of the hotel remains as well as the fireplaces, iron windows and a bath tub or two.  It was a great place to stop and explore along the hike but would definitely be a creepy place to visit at night; when I got home and researched the hotel there were numerous stories of ghosts and various paranormal activity. 

Overlook Mountain Hotel
After spending some time in the hotel we were back on the trail heading toward the top!  About half way to the top there was a set of rocks that I decided to climb - turned out it was a short cut to the fire tower!
There was a very high likelihood that there may have been rattlesnakes in there ... no fear!
Once we reached the top of the mountain there was a fire tower  that we climbed for some amazing views!  At the top of the tower your had a 360 degree view of the Hudson Valley, a ton of other mountains and you could see seven states - New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania!
Overlook Mountain Fire Tower
Looooooong way down!
View from the Fire Tower
After we finished climbing and descending the fire tower we headed out to the overlook (essentially a cliff) which provided even more great views!
View from the cliff overlook of Overlook Mountain
After the hike we had lunch explored the town of Woodstock for a little while.  Talk about hippies!  Lots and lots of tye-dye, live music and head shops; but it had a really small town feel and was a lot of fun to walk around.
New magnet to add to the ever growing collection.  Seems to sum of Woodstock pretty well!
Pretty awesome weekend all around and I definitely want to do some more hiking! Apparently upstate New York and the Hudson Valley have the reputation of having some pretty stellar hikes - I should take advantage!

And last but not least!  Someone gave me this bumper sticker this weekend and I think it is awesome!

August 19, 2012

Fair! Fair! Fair!

Saturday we went to the 2012 Altamont Fair - I was beyond excited and the fair did not disappointment!  Where I grew up (Clarke County, VA) the fair was a HUGE deal!  But since leaving Virginia I had not been to a fair so this was long over due!  It was a gorgeous day - not too hot, a nice breeze and sunny!  Overall it was a great day and I had SO much fun - the highlights ... the animals, the food (awful for you yet delicious!), the shows and the ferris wheel!  Get ready for fair picture overload!
Sky and a view of the mountains at the entrance to the fair.
Alpacas!  So cute!
Oh ... well hello there goat.
And another!
Awesome sign.
Baby goat!
Yes there was a giraffe at the fair!!
I guess mutant things are a staple at any fair.
Chicken ... not mutant.
"I bite!"
"I eat children!  That's how I got so big!"
Ferris wheel!
View of the fair from the top of the ferris wheel!
At the top of the ferris wheel!

100th Post

Happy 100th blog post to me!!

I doubt many people outside of my family and a few friends read my blog but with me living in New York it has been a great way to keep my friends and family updated, post fun pictures and talk about various topics!

Happy 100th little blog!

August 15, 2012

You Wish ...

You were creative like this when your back is hurting!  Making your own heating pad!  Rice, soccer sock, hair tie and a marker!  I lovingly call this my smiley worm sperm ... errr sock.
You had the chance to be 'attacked' by a giant stuffed bear at Dakota, a delicious restaurant in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
You had friends like this!  The awesome Miss. Sarah!
You had this for dinner last night!!  Delicious sushi from Hana Japanese Steakhouse in Albany!
Happy Wednesday!!

August 10, 2012


Last night we headed out to MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts to see the band Real Estate.  The best way I can categorize this band is 'dream poppy' but the venue was awesome!  MASS MoCA is basically a huge warehouse that has a museum and incorporates a lot of modern art.  I definitely want to go back sometime to see the exhibits and walk around.  The town of North Adams has a very small town feel, is very historic and is only about an hour and twenty minutes from Albany - over a pretty windy mountain I may add.  Here are some pictures from MASS MoCA!

MASS MoCA sign on top of the warehouse museum.
Advertisements for upcoming shows and exhibits.
Go this way!
Art?  Weird carousel looking thing.
Upside down trees!  So cool!
Real Estate playing in the warehouse venue!
 A few other cool things happened this week.  Wednesday I hit up the veggie mobile and got a TON of fruit for next to nothing and some of it was even free!  I have been on a little bit of a fruit overload this week.

And this excellent meal occurred!  Salmon in a maple glaze and zucchini sauteed with basil and mint - yum!

I also passed my benefits exam through Cornell University!!  This is a huge deal for me as it was a super challenging course and the second time I had to take the test - but I passed and now I am a certified benefits practitioner!  Over the course of the next year I have to complete a practicum, which is more of less handling the benefits advisement for a real client, but once that is complete I will be forever certificated!  Talk about a resume builder!

Happy Friday!!

August 6, 2012

Brandi Carlile, Rochester, Trader Joe's & Vermont ... oh my!

Work and life have been busy lately!  Last Wednesday we went to see Brandi Carlile at The Egg in Albany and the concert was AMAZING!  The Barr Brothers opened for her and they played everything from the electronic harp, to the spoons and even a banjo and a cow bell!  After that Brandi Carlile rocked the house!  It was an awesome mix of her earlier stuff (more rock) and her new album which is more blue grassy.  They even covered Bohemian Rhapsody and did a three song encore!  The best part of the show was when the entire band unplugged their instruments and mics, walked to the front of the stage and did a completely acoustic song!  I don't know that many artists/bands would do something like that but it was great!  I would definitely go see her again when/if she comes back around.  Next concert up is Real Estate at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA 
on Thursday!
The Egg Hart Auditorium - we were in the last row but still had a great view!
Singing and playing completely acoustic at the front of the stage.
 Wednesday was a late night because of the concert but Thursday morning at 5:30 AM it as off to Rochester, NY for work.  This is the second time that I have traveled to Rochester for work in the past couple of months (I secretly wish that we had a satellite program in Hawaii or the OBX instead of western NY, but oh well travel is travel).  The work meetings went really well and the hotel we stayed in was nice so I was able to relax in the pool/hot tub, hit up Wegmans for a sushi dinner and there was even a frozen yogurt place within walking distance of the hotel - yay!
Wegmans ... one of Rochester's few redeeming values!
Yolickity ... interesting name for a yogurt bar.
Friday something epic occurred in Albany ... Trader Joe's (finally) opened its doors!!  I have been waiting for this for years!  Trader Joe's was always one of the few things that I really miss living in New York (with Chik-Fil-A and Wawa also making the list) but now we have one of our own!  It opened Friday at 8 AM but I decided to go around lunch time on Saturday.  I was prepared to park blocks away and spend hours in the store but I was able to drive right up, park and spent about 45 minutes browsing and purchasing.  I will definitely have to go back sometime soon, it was getting crowded and I feel like I missed some things.  They have an awesome selection and I was so happy to not have to stock up because now I can go back whenever I like!
Trader Joe's Albany!
And lastly Vermont!  I really like Vermont.  For it being so close (about 30 minutes from my apartment) I do not go there nearly enough.  It is so pretty and mountainous and all the towns I have visited are gorgeous and quaint!  Yesterday we went up to Manchester, VT where they have a bunch of outlets as well as the most awesome locally owned bookstore, Northshire Bookstore.  I found a couple of pretty dresses and a few good pieces for work - all super discounted!  All in all a great trip and it is always fun to go to Vermont, I should really go there more often!
Location of Manchester, Vermont!
The entire state pretty much looks like this!
 I hope everyone has a fabulous and productive week!