Perfect Gluten Free Pie Crust

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Last October I wrote a blog post about the perfect flaky gluten free pie crust.  We were living in the RV and traveling around the North East at the time and the photos that I took to accompany the recipe were terrible.  The inside of RV’s just don’t have the best lighting and backgrounds for nice food photos.  I’d planned to remake the recipe and add some nice photos when we got moved into our new house, but it slipped my mind until a few days ago when I looked the recipe up for a peach pie I was planning.  The photos made me cringe.  I could just shoot new photos and replace the old ones…. but they kinda fit the story….. so I just had to make another pie (gee, darn) and shoot new photos! IMG_8104

I have a confession…. I stink at making pie crust.  My Grandmother made the most fantastic pie crust and she swore that I could learn to make them too.  (Actually she swore a lot when I tried to make pie crust.)  I could stand right beside her, mimicking her every move and still screw it up.  Grandma would have this tender, flaky, perfectly ruffle edged pie crust and I would create frisbees.  It was bad.  (I did learn new swear words, though, so it was still educational.)  Fortunately you can buy some very nice, pre-made, frozen pie crusts.

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It wasn’t until I went Gluten Free a few years ago and I had to find pie crusts alternatives that I decided to try my hand at making pie crust again.  The frozen GF crust are often more expensive than I like to spend … though there are some nice ones (I like theses).  I found a great recipe from Wicked Kitchen for a gluten free (make your own gf flour) pie crust.  But I am lazy…. (not so lazy that I just buy the frozen GF crust, but too lazy to make my own GF flour).   I don’t like messing around with making my own flour…. King Arthur’s Measure for Measure and Cup4Cup are too good and so much easier.  So I just followed Wicked Kitchen’s non-GF recipe and used King Arthur’s Measure for Measure in place of the regular flour.

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This is a pretty straight forward recipe.  Dump the ingredients in your stand mixer in the right order… make sure the cream cheese and butter are COLD, and be sure to let the crust chill for the full hour before rolling.  Wicked Kitchen has some great tips and information about pre-baking and blind baking and such, so you might enjoy checking out her post too.

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I have also used this recipe to make Grandma’s Turkey Pot Pie.  I omitted the vanilla, but left the sugar… I know it sounds strange, but this isn’t an overly sweet pie crust and the slight (tiny) bit of sweet goes nicely with the savory flavors of the Pot Pie.

 

Gluten Free Flaky Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 2½ c  King Arthur’s Measure for Measure GF Flour
  • 1 c (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, chilled
  • 1 (8-ounce pkg)  Cream Cheese, chilled
  • 1 TBLS Sugar
  • 1 tsp  Vanilla
  • ½ tsp Salt

Directions

Measure flour and set aside. Using an electric stand mixer, cream together butter and cream cheese. Add in sugar, vanilla and salt; mix until well combined. Add flour in two batches beating just until incorporated. Scoop dough into a ball and flatten slightly.   Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Allow dough to thaw a few minutes before rolling. Using a rolling pin, roll out dough between two sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap.

For Prebaked Pie Shells: Preheat oven to 425° F.  Place in preheated oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes.

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I used 1/2 the pie crust recipe to make 3 small pies.  I used these dishes.

Peach Filling

  • 4 Peaches, diced
  • 3 TBLS Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Cloves
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 3 TBLS Brandy

Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside while you prepare the pie crusts. Once the pie crusts are prepared, spoon the peach mixture into the unbaked pie crust.  I made a lattice top, but you could probably make a double crust using this size of pan. (Really though… lattice is SO much cuter for these peach pies!) Brush the top of your crust with an egg wash (1 egg whisked with a bit of water) then sprinkle a bit of sugar over the wet egg wash.

Bake at 350° F for 35 – 40 minutes.  Watch the top of your crust that it doesn’t get too dark. Pie filling should be bubbling.

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Chocolate Chip Almond Treats

I’ve been making a lot more recipes that call for almond flour lately.  I’m trying to stay lower-carb and keep away from all the gluten free flours and all of their high carb, blood sugar raising, deliciousness.  (Not that they’re not quite tasty and wonderful in many ways…. I’m just trying to cut back.)

Almond flour is a naturally gluten free (it’s just almonds) flour substitute.  It’s not the near perfect GF flour replacement of King Arthur’s Measure for Measure or Cup4Cup.  Almond Flour requires more fooling around and probably a better understanding of the whole chemistry/magic of baking.  I haven’t quite mastered the chemical/magical understanding yet, so I just stick to the recipes that other’s have already created.  Not that that’s foolproof either…. wow!  There’s some really awful almond flour concoctions out there!  Fortunately for all of us… this recipe isn’t one of the stinkers…. in fact, it’s pretty damn amazing.

One bit of warning:  These aren’t your traditional flour based Chocolate Chip Cookies…. they’re Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies.  They’re softer and chewier and have a slight almond (duh) flavor.

I discovered this recipe on the back of the Blue Diamond Almond Flour bag that I came across in CostCo a few weeks ago.  I usually prefer King Arthur Almond Flour, but I figured the Blue Diamond was such a great price, I should give it a try.  I’ve used it in several of my favorite almond flour recipes and its worked wonderfully.

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Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white
  • 2½ cups Blue Diamond Almond Flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips or pieces

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Beat together butter, sugars and vanilla extract in a large bowl, and then mix in eggs.
  3. Stir in almond flour, baking soda and salt. Mix well.
  4. Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Drop tablespoons* of dough two inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned on top and firm to the touch.

*we used this cookie scoop and flattened the cookies with the back of a fork since they don’t spread on their own.

 

Arbonne Detox – thirty days and beyond

We finished up our 30-day Arbonne Detox sometime last week. The exact ending date is kind of blurred…. we went on vacation for a few days near the end of our 30 days, but tried to stick to most of the diet.  And we went back to it when we got home… so the end was a bit blurred. 

We still haven’t actually ‘quit’ the program either. We’ve tried adding things back in, but for the most part we like the program as a lifestyle. I plan to keep up with the shakes for breakfast and/or lunch. They’re super easy, I like the taste and (amazingly) they’re quite filling.  Honestly, I’ve tried a ton of shakes and hated most of them. I’m super picky about the texture and the aftertaste of the sweeteners. That I actually like these shakes is a near miracle. 

Brian uses the shake powder to make pancakes every morning. They look really good, he adds a bit of Swerve sweetener to them and I just can’t get past the stevia taste. (Incidentally, Mom and Brian swear they can’t taste anything… so really, it could just be me.) 

Okay, down to the nitty gritty… the real reason you read this far…. Brian lost 15lbs. (He’s a monster, right?!). I lost 5 🙄

I know, I know…. it sounds like a lot of work for a stinking’ five pounds…. but…. remember how I’d been complaining about feeling ‘off’ before we started the Detox?  The headaches and stomach problems?  Well…. I may have only lost five pounds, but I also lost the headaches and stomach issues.   I had one headache the entire month…. and I’m actually going to blame that on my massage therapist who was working on some neck issues that I was having…. those kind of headaches feel different anyway. 

The biggest confirmation that the detox helped actually came when we started adding things back in. We had pizza for lunch one afternoon. (Gluten free crust, but still high carb crust.) By mid-afternoon I was SO tired I couldn’t hardly keep my eyes open. That night I slept poorly. No headaches or stomach problems, but, boy! it sucked the energy right out of me. One evening we had dinner at a Spanish restaurant and had rice with our meals… I also had half a pitcher of sangria… and neither Brian or I slept well that night. Just couldn’t settle or fall asleep. We didn’t feel bad… we just couldn’t fall asleep. Normally when you think of food disturbing your sleep you think indigestion or over-caffeination.  That wasn’t our issue…. we just couldn’t get to sleep… or sleep well once we did finally fall asleep. 

I am extremely happy to report that I’ve had dairy and it doesn’t cause any tummy problems…. I think the sugar in the ice cream may have zapped my energy (zing and crash!) but I’ve had cheese again with no issues. (Yay! Fat Head Pizza Crust is back on the menu!) 

Brian and I both feel that the 30-Day program was really beneficial for us. It’s too easy to slip and slide through a ‘diet’ with little indiscretions here and there. The strict  regimen of NO (no corn, gluten, alcohol, soy or sugar) was exactaly what we needed. No counting or weighing, just NO. 

The Arbonne Detox products were well worth the cost in my opinion. Mom suggested that I could probably find equivalent products cheeper, but honestly, I liked just having everything put together ‘here ya go.’ 📦  I liked the shakes. After some experimentation (shakes need ice, almond milk, and some berries blended with them) I found them tasty and filling. Brian was happy with turning the shake mix into pancakes. I often had another shake for lunch, but Brian liked to have sausage or sliced deli meat and a veggie. Dinners were generally some kind of meat with veggies. It took me a while to warm up to the Detox Tea, but I finally came to enjoy it as an after dinner treat in place of my usual cup of coffee. I also liked the Fizz Sticks with a packet of the Digestion Plus mid-afternoon. Brian couldn’t get past the taste of the 7-cleanse drink. (We actually took Option 2 and drank it at the end of each week rather than Option 1 where you started the program with the cleanse. 

I’ll keep ya updated as we continue on with the program…. mostly on Facebook, so be sure you’re following me there too! 

Gluten Free Key Lime Treats in the Florida Keys

When Brian and I visited the Florida Keys recently I made an extensive search of all the Gluten Free Key Lime treats. It was a challenge, but I love my readers…. Diet be damned! I ate every gf Key Lime treat I could find…. ’cause I love you guys! 😁 

Coconut Fried Key Lime Ice Cream

Marker 88
88000 Overseas Hwy,
Islamorada, FL 33036
Not my favorite Key Lime Treat in the Keys. The coconut coating was good, but the ice cream was so frozen it was hard to scoop it up with the spoon. It had to be ‘stabbed’ more than scooped. 


Key Lime Sorbet

Key Largo Chocolates 
100470 Overseas Hwy
Key Largo, FL 33037
Again, not a favorite…. Key Largo Chocolates had good reviews on the Find Me Gluten Free app. Maybe I just got the wrong employee.  She seemed disinterested and not very clear about what would be safe for GF people. 

I was excited to try the Key Lime Ice Cream, but when pressed, the clerk said that sometimes, when one of the frozen Key Lime bars (which do have crust) break in manufacturing they’ll add it to the Key Lime Ice Cream…. so it’s not necessarily safe. The sorbet is gf…. but… it’s just sorbet…. meh. 

They also had truffles and other Key Lime treats at the store, but by the time I’d badgered answers out of the clerk about the ice cream I was annoyed and ready to leave. 


Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe
802 Duval St
Key West, FL 33040
Kermit’s had great reviews on the FMGF app and they were so right!  

The staff was sweet and helpful. The first day…. (yeah…. I had to go back a second time…) I got a slice of GF Key Lime pie. OMG! It was so good. Rich and creamy… super Key Lime-y…. and NOT geen…. yay!  (because it shouldn’t be green… that’s just dye… yuck!) Brian and I each got our own slice… because I don’t share pie! 


On our second day in Key West we went on a Sailing / Snorkeling / Kayacking tour. Afterward we ate BBQ and then went back to the hotel to clean up (from the salt water, not the BBQ sauce!)  Brian would have been happy to turn in early, but I wanted to find some Key Lime Ice Cream. 

You wouldn’t think it would be so damn hard to find ice cream!  


Here’s a list of where GF Key Lime Ice Cream ISN’T: 

  • Häagen-Dazs® Ice Cream Shop
  • Kilwins Key West Chocolates Fudge (crust in the ice cream) 
  • Mattheessen’s (this place really ticked me off.  When asked, the clerk said it only had ‘little bits’ of pie crust in it. Yeah… ‘little bits’ are still a problem! Grrrr 😡

After checking all the ice cream places close to the hotel and only finding ice cream with pie crust chunks I was annoyed and determined to find GF Key Lime Ice Cream. Brian and I headed back to Kermit’s where I knew they had GF Key Lime Ice Cream. 

Brian wasn’t ecstatic that I made him walk a mile for ice cream, but it was damn good ice cream… and I argued that all the walking burned up all the calories! 

Gluten Free in the Florida Keys

Uggh… that’s so close to rhyming… ‘gluten frees in the Florida Keys’?  Nope…. it’s kinda making me crazy. Maybe I should just change it to ‘What I Ate on Vacation.’ Boring, but the almost rhyme wouldn’t bother me then. *sigh*

Anyway… so Gluten Free Stuff That I Ate on Vacation in the Florida Keys. 

The first day as we drove down the A1A (between St Augustine and the first Keys) we stopped for a picnic lunch along the beach. (Because there are sandy beaches along that stretch, but not IN the Keys.) We’re back on track with our much healither GF lunches… lunch meat, nuts, fruit and water. It’s easy to pack, way healthier, lower carb and travels nicely in the small cooler. 

The Florida Keys are filled with Gluten Free Friendly resturants. You could walk around and eat forever…. which I strongly considered… and tried to argue for, but Brian wanted to be ‘healthy’ and sight see and stuff.  😩

Thank heavens for the Find Me Gluten Free App. I don’t know how any GF person can survive without it!  FMGF was filled with recommendations all throughout the Keys. 

For lunch we stopped at Marker 88 in Key Largo. They had good reviews on FMGF  and the sales guy from the Visitor Center gave us a card for 10% off. 

The food was really good and the staff was polite and helpful with ordering GF safely. They had a separate GF menu and I appreciated that the GF menu was posted on their website. It’s nice to see what’s available before you get to the restaurant. 

Brian and I were even able to stay on our Arbonne Detox plan (a little longer). Except for the Coconut Crusted Deep Fried Ice Cream that we shared for dessert…. umm… but I had to order that for you guys, right?!  I have a responsibility to my readers! 

Brian got the Shrimp Zoodles. My mom has been telling me to make zoodles for forever, but I kept resisting… they just didn’t sound yummy…. Mom was right (As usual) the zoodles were delicious! 

I ordered the Alligator Reef Salad. There’s no alligator in the salad…. but the crab, shrimp and hearts of palm were super yummy. It was served with a Mango Citrus dressing that really complimented the shrimp and crab. 

The Coconut Fried Key Lime Ice Cream sounded better than it actually was.  The coconut crust was good, but the ice cream was super frozen. Obviously it had to be really cold so it could be fried, but it made it really difficult to eat.

Marker 88
88000 Overseas Hwy
Islamorda, FL 33036

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By dinnertime I didn’t care about keeping to the detox…. I wanted pizza!  Off the Hook Grill was well recommended on the GFMF app…. for a good reason! 🤤

Brian got the Duck BLT… made with duck bacon. OMG! Sooo good. 


I got the Lobster Pie.  It was good… but also kind of odd, but good…. I liked it, but it wasn’t my favorite pizza ever.  The bits of fig and balsamic vinegar gave it a slightly sweet flavor. Not bad, but I prefer more savory pizzas. The crust was fabulous though! 

Our waitress brought me a sample of the blueberry cider from Slim Pickens Cider and Mead. (A local brewer!) I’m not normally a big cider drinker, but I couldn’t pass up blueberry. It had a nice berry flavor, but not overly sweet…. crisp.   Perfect with pizza. 

We liked the restaurant so much that Brian and I went back the following morning for breakfast. 

Brian ordered the GF pancakes. He liked them, but they weren’t my favorite. They were thick and a bit ‘biscuit’ like. 

Since we were going out on the Sailboat / Snorkel / Kayacking tour that day I didn’t want to eat anything that might upset my tummy. 

I ordered scrambled eggs and duck bacon with a side of potatoes and gf toast. The waiter was great and told us that the potatoes themselves were gf, but since they’re fried there could be cross contamination… but since we were the first customers that morning and they change their oil every day the potatoes would be safe.  I appreciate that he took the extra step to warn me that they were safe this time, but might not be next time. 

The toast seemed to just be Udi’s… I should have told them to skip the toast, but every once in a while I come across something new and yummy. 

Word of warning: the restaurant is tiny.  Seriously tiny… 18 seats at tables and about 8 at the bar. Make reservations! 

Off The Hook Grill
728 Simonton St
Key West, FL 33040
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After a fun / tiring day on the sailboat, snorkeling and kayacking we were starved. (They fed us a good lunch on the sailboat, but I tried to stay out of the after lunch snacks… and a day in the water will wear you out!) 

Brian had been craving BBQ. I argued for Mexican, but I caved when I heard that the BBQ place was closer. I was just ready to eat and then go back to the room and get cleaned up. 


The waitress gave us a separate GF menu (single sheet of paper). She didn’t seem very knowledgeable about what was GF or not. I asked if the potato salad was safe and she said she thought it should be safe because potatoes are gluten free. Ugh. We ordered the BBQ Plate for Two. All of the sauces were Gluten Free and we decided to stick with green beans for our sides since they were listed on the gf menu. 

Despite asking for a Gluten Free menu, talking about Gluten Free choices and SAYING that we were Gluten Free they still brought us a basket of cornbread. What?!? (Strangely, the only mention that I can find on their online menu about gf is that the cornbread isn’t Gluten Free… but no other mention of what is or isn’t gf. So why bother?) 

The food was good and we didn’t get sick…. I’m not confident that they had the best understanding of GF…. it seems more like the meats and sauces are gf and if you stick to those you’ll be okay. 

Charlie Mac’s 404
404 Southard St
Key West, FL 33040

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I read some delicious sounding reviews for Le Petit Paris and had insisted that we weren’t leaving Key West until I got to go there for breakfast. 


Cinnamon Rasin French Toast with cinnamon butter and walnuts. *gasp* It was syrup coated heaven! I should have asked what brand of bread they used, but I was so busy stuffing every last bite into my mouth I never managed to ask. It was absolutely delish!  


Brian ordered the GF pancakes. They were…. cute?  Four very small, strawberry decorated pancakes made up Brian’s breakfast. It was almost comical compared to my heaping plate of French Toast. Fortunately for me, Brian doesn’t like raisins, so I didn’t have to share! 

Breakfast was not inexpensive. There was a $4 up-charge for all GF orders… which seems a bit steep to me…. but, the food was delicious. So just go in knowing that you’re going to pay an arm and a leg. (It’s worth it though!) The pancakes were $12 and the French Toast was $11 before the extra $4. Strangely, my French Toast got the upcharge, but Brian’s pancakes didn’t…. I took a bite of his pancakes and didn’t have any issues, so…. 

Le Petit Paris
825 Duval St
Key West, FL 33040

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I also made an extensive search of Gluten Free Key Lime treats, but that’s a whole other post. It was challenging, but I love my readers…. Diet be damned!  I ate every gf Key Lime treat I could find…. ’cause I love you guys! 😁  Post coming soon 

The Florida Keys

I’m just going to start his post by saying that I’m a terrible, spoiled snob about my vacation spots. I’ve visited Hawaii several times with my family and Brian and I went to Koh Samui, Thailand for our honeymoon. I warned him that starting off with a five star, tropical island resort was a terrible idea…. I’d expect everything to be that level from then on, but he insisted…. *sigh*  He really has no one to blame but himself. 

So that’s my basis of comparison for everything now. 

Me: It’s not Thailand

Brian: Not everything can be Thailand

Me: 😔

—–

We had some time to sneak off by ourselves for a few days. Since we live in Florida now I thought going to the Keys would be fun… and close…. but it’s not really ‘close.’  From Jacksonville it’s still a five hour drive just to the first Keys and another three to Key West.

I’m perfectally content to sit in the car, listen to music, Snapchat and nap. Brian could probabaly drive forever. We stop at pretty places and I take a few photos and then we drive again…. we’re good Road Trippers. 

We took the A1A or Hwy 1 most of the way down. I’d expected there to be more places to stop along the way… beaches, parks, cute little shops…. but not so much. 

(Brian told me to edit this and point out that there are cute shops, resturants and sandy beaches between Jacksonville and the Keys. Once you get into the Keys things change.) 

We finally stopped at Long Key State Park and learned that the Keys don’t have sandy beaches…. unless you’re at a resort that had sand trucked in. Huh, okay…. We paid our $6 and wandered off into the park. The Ranger told us that we could get to a rocky beach, so we figured we’d give it a try. Or, at least I thought we were going to the beach…. Mr Let’s See Where This Trail Goes led us off on a one mile hike through spider infested woods instead. 


With raccoons. 
When we’d passed the front gate I saw something fuzzy cross the road and I asked the Ranger what it was and he said it was a raccoon. In Missouri when we saw a raccoon durning the day we worried about rabies and distemper because raccoons are usually nocturnal… so Day Racoons = Bad, but the Ranger didn’t seem concerned. 

There were more racoons in the woods along the path… the narrow…. very quite…. spider infested path. 


These suckers were HUGE! (I couldn’t get my phone to focus of them, but I got some good pics on the big camera. I’ll post those when I get back to my computer.) 

The trail was long and hot and kinda creepy. 

We finally found the ‘beach’ which was actually just a strip of road and rocks with ocean on the sides. They had BBQ grills and picnic tables, but not what I was thinking when I heard ‘beach.’ It was fairly crowded already so we decided just to keep heading south through the Keys. 

We hadn’t booked any hotels… I just wanted to wander and see where we landed. Aside from the pictures I’ve seen online I didn’t really know anything about the Keys and I just wanted to take our time. It’s just a bunch of little islands… how lost could we get?  But the lack of planning/destination was just killing Brian. 

We stopped at a Visitor Information Center as we entered Key Largo. I was thinking it was the usual State Travel/Welcome Center that you come across on the highways as you enter a new state…. noooope. This was a commercial travel center. They’re selling shit. 


Now, I’m not entirely opposed to the commercial travel center… they’ve gotta pay the bills too, so if they make a commission for booking my reservations and I get a bit of a deal and good recommendations for going through them then that’s fine. Win-Win. What I am oppose to is the ‘used car salesman’ joking, badgering and juggling. We kept getting tossed between sales people. One did hotels, the other tours. Neither one could focus on the task in front of them or figure out how to use their own damn computer and they were both trying to work multiple groups of people. (Form a line, help each group in order. Duh!)  I’d have left, but Brian was having heart palpitations from the lack of trip planning and reservations. 

This is one of our big differences as a couple: When I’m with a group I plan everything down to the last second. I make itineraries. I have binders. I set alarms on my phone. I am ORGANIZED. I once earned the title ‘Evil Tour Guide Barbie.’  I’ve never lost a vacationer and the pictures always look great. The truth is though…. I HATE traveling like that. It’s no fun for the tour guide to lead 10 whiny people through a trip and answer ‘where are we going’ and ‘what’s for lunch’ ninetyeight times an hour. I like to just wander off and see where we end up. No schedule, no real destination. Brian hasn’t had to play tour guide as long as I have, so he doesn’t quite understand my aversion to ‘planning.’  Usually we compromise by choosing hotels in advance and leaving the days relatively open for wandering…. but this time I tried to skip reserving hotels and it was just killing him apparently. 

So we suffered through the sales pitches and finally got it down to a tour, a restaurant and a hotel. Brian was relieved but I wasn’t even entirely sure what we’d booked or IF it had even been booked at all. The whole thing felt sketchy to me.  (Since we survived the tour and the hotel I can tell you that it had all been booked and it did work out, but this still isn’t my preferred way of making reservations… it felt way too used car salesman-y.  Just know that when you go in and be prepared.)


We got reservations at the Pegasus International Hotel in Key West. The sales lady said it was right in the center of things and they had a special price in it. (We ended up paying $159 a night vs the $200 a night that I saw on Booking.com) The hotel was right in the middle of things…. read ‘noisy,’ but most everything was in a reasonable walking distance. It’s an older hotel, recently remodeled… ‘cheaply.’ (Cheap laminate floors, makeshift upgrades in the bathrooms.). Not high end, but clean and functional. I liked the location because we could walk to most of the stores and resturants, but it was quite noisy at night when all the other people were still out drinking or the trash and delivery trucks were out preparing for the next day. If we visited again I might check out The Garden Hotel of the Southernmost Hotels. They were set a few blocks back and looked pretty.  

I wanted to get some sunset photos so we killed time visiting the shops and taking photos. 

I wanted to get a photo at the Southernmost Point Marker…. but the line was crazy long. (I’d read that it would be.)  Brian and I ditched the line and stood in front of the wall. I caught a few photos in between the groups taking their photos. (We weren’t in anyone’s way, so I figure this is totally fair… I angled Brian’s head to block the couple standing next to the marker and I think we actually got a better photo by being a little further away from it.). 


We also got a photo at the “0” mile marker. 

The shopping wasn’t quite what I’d expected either. I was expecting something more along the lines of (again) Hawaii or Hot Springs, AR with an even mix of art galleries, tourist crap and nicer shopping. There were art galleries, but much more expensive ones, mixed in with ‘tourist crap.’ (Offensive t-shirts, lots of smoking/hookah stuff… I’m not complaing about the cigars,  those make sense here…. and tacky souvenirs.) I was hoping for the local artist galleries… but I didn’t see much of that. Maybe we didn’t make it to the right area?  

There were tons of food options. You could just roam around and eat all day. Even looking for Gluten Free food was easy.  That’s a whole other post! 


On our second day we took a sailboat tour with Danger Charters. It was a bit overcast that day so we didn’t get roasted on the boat, but I think that effected the snorkeling visibility and the kayacking location. 

I’m having trouble rating this tour… to compair it to the snorkeling/catamaran tour in Hawaii or the snorkeling/power boat tour in Thailand isn’t entirely fair….  Partially I think the weather kept us from potentially better snorkeling/ kayacking areas. I loved the sailboat, but I’m pretty happy anytime I’m in a boat.  The water was a murky green as we snorkeled and a darker blue as we sailed…. not the beautiful turquoise that I’d been expecting. 


The crew was great. They fed us constantly (with plenty of gluten free options like fruit, hummas, salsa & chips and a ‘make your own sandwich’ spread of chips, deli meats and cheeses.) and offered wine, beer, sodas and water every time we turned around. 

It was a smallish sailboat with room for twenty passengers and three crew. The crew, food and sailing were great, but I wasn’t impressed by the snorkeling and kayaking… again… consider my basis of comparison. If you’ve never been to Hawaii or Thailand, you’d probably love this tour. 

The Florida Keys aren’t what I expected…. I like em…. It’s not Thailand…. or Hawaii… or New Orleans for that matter (though Key West has some similarities).  If you can swing the air fare, go to Hawaii. Always choose Hawaii. The little islands of Thailand are also phenomenal, but depending of your starting destination the flight time (17 hours from LAX to Bangkok) is a killer. If you’re looking for fancy resorts and beaches I’d suggest Mexico. The all inclusive resorts and air fare are much more reasonable than Hawaii….. but it’s NOT Hawaii either. 

I was plenty happy with a three day trip, but we certainly could have spent more time taking other charter tours. There are jet ski, glass bottom boat, sail boat, kayack, SUP, parasailing and diving tours. There are also the historic walking and tram tours too. If we’d have stayed longer I would have liked to see the Earnest Hemingway house. You can rent bicycles, motor scooter and golf carts to get around since parking is limited and there are a lot of one way streets. Of course that makes things more interesting if you’re trying to walk and not be run over. 🙄

I enjoyed Key West. I’d recommend it…. and I’d be happy to go back sometime…. but I’m not in any big rush. 

Tijuana Flats

Our new house is in a new community… so there is construction going on constantly. Which is actually not as awful as I had expected it to be.  Even when the house next door to our was under construction it wasn’t really noisy.  There seem to be small teams of trades that come, do their part and then move on to the next house.  My only problem comes from the teams that play the spunky music like you hear in the Mexican restaurants.  Apparently I’ve got some Pavlovian response going on and the second I hear Mexican music I start craving nachos and salsa.  I can’t help it… I can’t shut up about it either.  I may be making Mom and Brian slightly crazy with my constant talk about nachos.  We’ve had taco bowls for dinner twice this week!  I really hope that team moves out of earshot soon.  I don’t seem to have any uncontrollable cravings from country or rock music, so I should be fine soon.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on if we’re considering my detox or my crazed cravings…. Tijuana Flats just opened in Town Center.  Even though I’m on this 30-day Arbonne Detox I couldn’t miss the grand opening.  I checked the menu online first to make sure I wouldn’t be faced with salsa and chips as my only options… because I wouldn’t be able to resist.  They actually had a really easy to read/understand Allergy Information page.  (Why can’t they all be like this?!) It’s a nice chart that clearly list gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, nuts and fish…. and best of all… says sensible things like “dairy free if ordered without cheese.”  So often these charts leave you to wonder…. is there dairy/gluten in there somewhere that I’m not imagining?  Would it be safe if I just didn’t get cheese on it?  Is it worth the risk???

I figured I’d be safe with one of the Bowls and could even stay within most of the Detox restrictions.  I’d have to forgo the chips this time… but 20 more days and everybody better stand aside!

Mom and I tried to go at lunchtime, but that was just silly.  The parking lot was packed and cars and golf carts were circling the lot like…. well…. hungry sharks.  To celebrate their Grand Opening, Tijuana Flats was offering free burritos…. there was no way I was going to get a parking spot at noon.  Duh!

We replotted the schedule and did our grocery shopping first… on empty tummies…. Can you even imagine what I threw in the cart?!

Fortunately I was finally able to sneak into a parking space around 1:00.  Mom and I darted across the parking lot, dodging golf carts all the way and were promptly blasted back by the music and chatter from inside. I feel old just for saying this…. but damn, turn the music down! The greeter at the door supplied us with menus and when I asked about a gluten free menu she said they didn’t have a ‘menu’ but they did have the allergy info and offered to grab it from the counter for me.  I already had it on my phone, so I passed, but she did add that the people at the order counter could help me too.

After glancing at the menu, Mom and I decided to stick to our game plan… Burrito Bowls. I told the ladies at the counter that we were gluten free and they all nodded confidently, and started rattling off a long list of things that would be safe.  They even mentioned items that are gluten free, but would be at risk for cross contamination from the fryers. (Bonus Points!)  We ordered our Bowls to-go since we still had the groceries in the car and I sent Mom out to turn the A/C back on while I waited.

It was crowded and noisy (just turn the music down a little?) but all the staff was just so darn nice.  They must have been feeding them pixi-sticks and Mt Dew in the back room or something, because after that crowd I don’t know how everyone was still being friendly.  The restaurant had a giant mermaid picture on one wall and I thought about snapping a picture, but it was crowded and I didn’t think I could crop out all the people… so I guess I’ll just have to go back again soon…. for the blog.  There is a nice patio area outside where I’d probably choose to sit next time… just to avoid the noise.  When your order is ready a server comes out and YELLS your name…. repeatedly, because apparently no one pays attention, or maybe they just can’t hear either.

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The Burrito Bowls were huge and absolutely delicious.  We both ordered chicken, and had them hold the cheese and sour cream (this time).  Everything was bright and fresh.  I can’t wait until I’m done with this detox and I can try the tacos! The burritos were HUGE and look fantastic, but they’re made with a flour tortilla, so those won’t be safe for me even after the Detox Program is through.  I’m just happy to have a safe and yummy Mexican place so close to home now!

I just noticed when I went to get the link…. I can order online… OMG!!!! Just think of the snacking possibilities!

 

Tijuana Flats – Nocatee

41 Settlement Drive

Ponte Vedra, FL 32081