Alley's Recipe Book
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Alley

Weekly Menu

The weekend is over already... :(  At least for us it was super relaxing, almost lazy even.  Today was a beautiful day to be outside!  I'm pretty sure this year has to be a record for the amount of fall color in Ohio... so beautiful!  

We went to El Vaquero for dinner this weekend, just the two of us... and they asked if we wanted guac for our chips.  Of course the answer was yes, that is the only answer when involving guac.  A few minutes later a bowl of guac the size of my head arrives!  Holy guacamole!  ;)  

el vaquero giant guac stuffed acorn squash 
autumn leaves canning tomatoes

Last week's stuffed acorn squash was quite delicious, so look for the recipe on the blog soon!

Now that the garden is torn down and only a bit of lettuce and herbs are left growing, it feels like it time to start hibernating.  :/  I can't believe Halloween is next weekend, which means November will be here... then the holidays and winter.  The year seems to have flown by...

And with another week comes another meal plan...

butternut and leek soup with grilled cheese
ravioli, green beans and garlic bread
spinach enchiladas
chicken fried rice
rosemary chicken and mashed potatoes

The Best Granola Ever - total time 30 minutes

chocolate peanut butter granola

You know the phrase "that's so granola"?  Describing something that is plain and boring...   Well those people have never had this granola!  I pretty much make it every week mainly for breakfast parfaits, but it also makes a great snack, especially when you need a few bites in between meals. 

You might buy granola in the store... it might taste good... but it is probably expensive, maybe three servings at best, and you don't know all of the ingredients, or maybe you don't like some of the ingredients.  Granola is soooo easy to make at home!  I had my doubts at first too.  But it really is just combining all the ingredients in a bowl and then spreading it on a cookie sheet, ten minutes in the oven and woop, there it is. ;)
I definitely save money too.  We would normally go through three bags of granola a week plus cereal and English muffins.   I get the main ingredients from bulk bins and the others are usually local and last through many, many batches of granola.  It also keeps me full longer in the mornings, so less snacking before lunch.  And you can make it into granola bars for a snack on the go.

So, chocolate and peanut butter... best combination ever, right?  You probably can't eat Reese cups every day, but this granola is actually healthy and has just enough sweet.  Whole grains and great protein from the seeds and nuts.  Plus it is naturally sweetened with a little honey and maple syrup... oh... and the dark chocolate chips of course... which are totally healthy, I promise!  :) 

Where to Eat in Glacier National Park


Glacier National Park is a hiker's dream world.  It's also on a lot of lists "to see before they're gone".  Not that the park is going anywhere, but the glaciers are.  The park had one of the warmest summers on record and several forest fires.  While we were there in September it was still in the high 70s.  We were able to see, and even touch, several glaciers... and witness how quickly they are melting away.

I'm not going to lecture anyone on global warming (although I could go on an on about climate change), our planet goes through a natural cycle of warming and cooling... we just happen to be living in the warming trend.  What I do want to tell you is that if seeing glaciers is on your bucket list, then please go soon!  Glacier National Park is a great park to visit, not only for the glaciers, but the wildlife, the mountains, the big blue sky, the pristine glacial lakes, being able to see the milkyway, everything is just beautiful!

September was really the perfect time to go for us, the crowds were starting to dwindle and the weather was flipping the switch from summer to early winter while we were there.  The first days were warm and I got tan lines between my cropped pants and boot socks!  The last two days were chilly, especially at night when it was near freezing and the winds were howling.  The leaves were starting to change and some of the flowers were still blooming.

The first day we hiked the highline trail which runs along the continental divide.  We spotted lots of mountain goats up on the very edge of the jagged ridge line which is amazing how they don't slide down the steep slope.  If you're afraid of heights, this trail is not for you.  At the very beginning there is a section that includes a rope line because there is a steep drop off on the edge of the trail.  Eek!  But no worries, the trail is plenty wide enough that you don't actually need the rope.

The next day we hiked up to Grinnell Glacier, probably the coolest hike I've ever done.  You hike past three beautiful lakes, including Grinnell Lake which is perfectly turquoise fed from the glacier.  There are a few switchback and you walk through a waterfall which was refreshing on that warm day.  At the top, a glacial lake with icebergs (fallen pieces of the glaciers) and Grinnell, Salamander, and Gem glaciers with waterfalls.  Quite the amazing site!  If you're careful, you can cross a couple glacial streams and actually touch Grinnell Glacier, which was neat... and scary... we could hear pieces falling away under the surface and could see the constant melt.  Thankfully for the glacier, the next day would bring colder temperatures so it could recover from the long, hot summer.

The other days we wandered around the park doing shorter hikes (our legs were sore!).  We even got hailed on right before I accidentally threw my phone into a mountain stream (so terrifying).  We saw rams, marmots, mountain goats, and even some black bears from a distance.  We took so many pictures because it was just sooo beautiful.  Below are a few of those pictures (and then below that, an eating guide to the park)...

glacier highline trail glacier highline trail glacier highline trail 
glacier highline trail glacier grinnell trail glacier fall colors glacier grinnell trail grinnell glacier grinnell glacier
grinnell glacier glacier ginnell icebergs 
glacier avalanche gorge glacier mountain goats 
glacier avalanche gorge glacier lake mcdonald 
glacier marmot glacier lake mcdonald 
glacier lake mcdonald 
   
Just like Yellowstone, there are not a ton of places to eat inside the park.  Unlike Yellowstone, there aren't a lot of place to eat outside of the park either.  Many of the places we ate at were closing down for the year the week we were there, so after mid-September, pack your bear bag full of picnic supplies, because that is your only option!

The first night we went to St. Mary Lodge right outside of the East entrance.  On the table was a Taste of Montana menu, so we totally wanted to choose from those courses!  We got to the restaurant pretty late since we were hiking and then setting up camp, but the service was pretty terrible.  We put in our order and not all of it came out.  When we told our waiter that we didn't get our appetizers, he told us he would take it off the bill (instead of bringing it out).The food and beer were decent.  I went a little overboard on the huckleberries since I knew they were in season.  Turns out, I'm not a huge fan of huckleberries.  We were hungry, so we pretty much polished off everything in front of us (I had salmon smothered in huckleberries and he had a lamb burger).

glacier saint mary lodge glacier saint mary lodge 
glacier saint mary lodge glacier saint mary lodge 

The next night we went to Many Glacier Hotel.  The view was amazing and we sat right next to the window to watch the sun set over the mountains.  Our waitress was much more attentive than at the last lodge and the food was much better.  I had the bison filet and my husband had trout.  We also ordered a cheese plate and some drink... all very tasty!  A little more pricy, but we were on vacation!

many glacier hotel IMG_7528 
IMG_7529 IMG_7530 

Our last morning on the east side of the park we stopped by Park Cafe which is a little dinner with about 12 tables.  It was completely full with a line when we arrived.  When we sat down we saw that everything was made from scratch and overheard that they had someone running to get more eggs.  I ordered the avocado eggs benedict and he had the bacon pancake.  So good!  And the pancake was huge!  The prices were very reasonable, which is good because they only take cash.  We found out that it was their last day open for the year, so all of the locals were coming to get their diner fix before winter set in.

glacier diner park cafe glacier diner park cafe 
glacier diner park cafe glacier diner park cafe 

On the west side of Glacier, you have a couple nearby towns you could drive to for a larger selection of restaurants.  I would recommend driving to one of them.  The first night we went to a pizza place (Glacier Grill & Pizza) near Glacier Under Canvas and it was mediocre (and they made us wait outside in the cold for our table which they had a whole section of open tables).  Then we went to the diner (West Glacier Cafe) right by the west entrance and, again, had a mediocre experience.

glacier grill and pizza west glacier cafe 

Our last night in Glacier, we went to the Belton Chalet, which was a hotel built to support the railroad travelers and the train station is still across the street.  Everything on the menu sounded really good.  We ended up with crab cakes for an appetizer and then I had lamb and he had the filet special, both came with mashed potatoes and grilled fennel.  We really liked the atmosphere of the building, so much character.  It was hard for us to decide whether we liked this place or Many Glacier Hotel better, but both are very good meals and similarly priced.

glacier belton chalet glacier belton chalet 
glacier belton chalet glacier belton chalet 


Weekly Menu

Brrr... I guess it is officially Fall now.  With the first frost this morning, I was busy harvesting the remaining peppers and tomatoes today.  The process is both sad (I don't want summer to be over) and a relief (although I don't put that much effort into the garden after Spring).  I still have some lettuce and herbs in the garden that will survive until the snow comes.

With Fall comes squash; butternut, acorn, spaghetti, pumpkin, and so many more.  We went to 101 Beer Kitchen for dinner on Saturday and they had a butternut squash soup topped with pumpkin seeds, creme fraiche, and duck confit.  It had a little bit of a kick to it, but very good and perfect fro a cold Fall night.  We also tried out some new pierogies which were filled with a sweet cheese.  Although I have a crazy sweet tooth, but sweet and savory usually a no-go on my plate.  They were good, so I will try another flavor of theirs in the future, just not the sweet cheese one...

garden habaneros garden peppers 
101 beer kitchen 101 beer kitchen 
babushkas pierogies babushkas pierogies 

If you need help planning meals during the Fall season, checkout my perfect Fall meal lineup complete with grocery list here.  But for this week, here is my meal plan, what's yours?

pizza night
tortellini soup
sausage stuffed acorn squash with brussel sprouts
spaghetti squash and meatballs
fish tacos and broccoli

Yellowstone National Park Tips


Yelłowstone, the world's first national park.  An area so interesting and scenic that it could start a trend of preserving natural treasures from being developed giving the world a place to unplug, breathe some fresh air, and look up at the night sky to see millions of stars reminding us that life doesn't have to move quite so fast.  We spent four days in Yellowstone, sort of a must-do pilgrimage for any national park visitor, and boy is that park huge!  If you're planning a trip to Yellowstone, here are a few tips to plan your stay and especially where to eat while you're there...

Being the first national park of the world, it is quite the tourist destination!  Not just American tourist, people come from all over to visit Yellowstone.  We frequently heard many different languages at all of the main "sights".  Many people are exploring the park in large groups, loading and unloading from tour buses making parking and crowding a bit of an issue.  Others are cruising around in their RVs with kids in tow.  This crowd makes Yellowstone feel like a bit of a scavenger hunt going from Old Faithful to Grand Prismatic to Mammoth Springs to Lamar Valley to Upper Falls.  If you're going to see the big five, you'll probably be following the same people around the park and be in the traffic jam that comes with that crowd.  Don't get me wrong, all five are amazing and really a must see, but there is more to Yellowstone than checking off a list.

Take a hike!  Probably the best hike in the park is Mount Washburn.  It's not for the casual tourist though (although I saw a woman with one leg and crutches make it to the top, so you can too).  About half of Yellowstone is one large caldera, which is essentially a flat volcano.  There are mountains surrounding the caldera, but only one mountain remains within it, which is Mount Washburn resulting in an amazing, uninterrupted panorama of the entire park.  On the east side of the park, you can drive partially up the mountain, then start your hike from the parking lot.  The trail is wide since it is a service road to the fire watch tower on top of the mountain.  Don't forget your bear spray, bears can be anywhere in Yellowstone.  It is about two miles of switchback, take it easy, you'll get to the top eventually.  Once at the top, you can see snow capped mountains, Yellowstone canyon and lake, and even the Tetons!

1. Book your lodging about one year in advance.  The beautiful lodges book up very quickly and the hotels nearby are just as expensive and certainly less beautiful.  If you didn't book the lodge in time consider camping, glamping, airbnb, or staying in a nearby town (Bozeman or Livingston).

2. Minimize the crowds and traffic by going in May or September, getting to the park really early or staying really late in the day, and only go on the weekdays.  You don't want to spend your entire trip sitting in traffic or finding a parking spot!

3. See the famous sites, they are famous for a reason... Upper Geyser Basin (Old Faithful and Morning Glory), Mammoth Hot Springs, Grand Prismatic, Lower Falls, and wildlife spotting in Lamar Valley.

4. Obey the signs.  Stay 25 yards from any vegetarian animal (bison, elk, deer, mountain goats, rams) and 100 yards from meat eaters (bears, wolves, coyotes).  You will definitely see tons of the vegetarian type and you'll also see people trying to pet or take selfies with them.  They are wild, let's keep them that way... and you don't get gored... win-win! :)

5. Find a trail and walk it!  It's easy to spend a lot of time in the car in a park so big, but pretty much every trail leads to a waterfall or a hot spring or ten geysers.  There will be less people away from the boardwalks 

Here is a bunch of pictures showing some of the crazy unique and wonderful sights there are to take in at Yellowstone.  Below the *probably* way too many pictures is where we ate and recommendations based on our experience.

yellowstone national park sign yellowstone gibbon falls yellowstone sapphire pool yellowstone sapphire poolyellowstone grand prismatic yellowstone prismatic reflection yellowstone grand prismatic bison yellowstone grand prismatic yellowstone fairy falls yellowstone waterfall


yellowstone lower falls yellowstone grand canyon yellowstone mount washburn yellowstone mount washburnyellowstone mount washburn yellowstone bison yellowstone boiling riveryellowstone petrified tree yellowstone earth reign ranch
yellowstone mammoth springs yellowstone mammoth springs  yellowstone white dome yellowstone geyser  yellowstone old faithful yellowstone morning glory yellowstone heart spring yellowstone castle geyseryellowstone rainbow yellowstone rainbow
montana grizzly experience montana grizzly experience



Eating in a national park can be challenging because there are not a lot of options.  Within the park, there are restaurants and snack bars at all of the lodges, and Yellowstone has several lodges.  But just because the restaurant is busy, doesn't mean the food is good.  Old Faithful Lodge was beautiful and the architecture amazing, the food was not so great.  I had a bison burger which looked like it spent too much time in the freezer and was very dry and flavorless.  My husband had a grilled cheese sandwich and it was just okay.  The next day, we went to the Mammoth Springs Lodge for lunch and had a really great meal!  Warm goat cheese salad, bison and trout tacos, and a smoked salmon club sandwich... all were very delicious.  Both places are run by the same company (Xanterra), so we were expecting similar food.

yellowstone lodge yellowstone old faithful lodge
yellowstone old faithful lodge yellowstone old faithful lodge
yellowstone mammoth spring lodge 
yellowstone mammoth spring lodge bison taco yellowstone mammoth spring lodge goat cheese salad 
For dinner, we ate outside of the park.  We were staying on the North end of the park in Pray, Montana and based on the recommendation of our hosts, we drove another 30 minutes to Livingston, Montana and we were glad we did.  A quaint little town which would have been fun to explore if we weren't starving and focused on food!  We went to 2nd Street Bistro which was a cute and reminded me of a restaurant we ate at in Rome.  The food was easily the best we had our entire vacation with hand made raviolis, hunter chicken (marinated chicken on mashed potatoes toped with sautéed peppers and onions), and coffee creme brûlée.  Mmmm... sooo goood!  We liked it so well, we went to their more casual sister restaurant, Gil's, the next night for pizza and pastries.  :)

yellowstone 2nd street bistro yellowstone 2nd street bistro yellowstone 2nd street bistro yellowstone 2nd street bistroyellowstone gil's pizza yellowstone gil's desserts 
We also went to the Lighthouse Restaurant one night which is somewhere between Gardiner and Livingston, not really around anything.  The restaurant itself is an eclectic mix of seaside decorations including a live lobster claw machine.  The menu is just as eclectic with foods from all around the world.  We went more of the safe route with a bison burger, crab cakes, and mac and cheese since new foods can sometimes make hiking not as fun... Everything was decent.

When we got to West Yellowstone, which is where most of the hotels outside of the park are located, we were surrounded by chain restaurants and tourist traps.  If you stay in this area, you might want to drive to Bozeman or Livingston for some good food.  We got to Timberline Cafe a few minutes before they closed and had some chili and sliders.  Probably could have gotten something better at Wendy's, but we were so hungry that we just wanted some food!

We moved on to Bozeman after that... definitely a college town with trendy coffee shops and restaurants.  Wild Joe's took me back to memories of college and we were probably the oldest people in the room.  Good coffee, a selection of pastries, but they ran out of their burritos which we were excited to try.  For dinner we went to Montana Ale Works which is in an old railroad storage building.  We tried some local brews and had a decent meal.  Their mac and cheese (which I am realizing now that we had a lot of mac and cheese in Montana) included goat cheese as one of the four cheeses, which made it extra creamy and a tad sweet.  We also had enchiladas, BBQ pulled chicken, and a fried chicken appetizer that sounded interesting and different, so we had to order it.  We finished it all off with some food truck ice cream... who had Nutella ice cream... mmm!

yellowstone lighthouse restaurant yellowstone lighthouse restaurant yellowstone timberline cafe bozemen coffee
bozeman montana ale works bozeman montana ale works bozeman montana ale works bozemen ice cream truck

Hopefully this helps you plan your trip to Yellowstone and you know some places that were really good and others to avoid while fueling up for your site seeing adventure!  

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