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Cook Up Your Best Life

Exotics at Redmond Town Center (RTC)


First off, I just want to say what an amazing FREE event this is for everyone in the car and local community. If you love cars as much as I do, then you have to make it a point to wake up early on one sunny Saturday morning during the summer to look at some beautiful machines. I made it to almost every weekend to grab a coffee, walked around and admired the scenery. There’s no better way to start a Saturday in my opinion.


The Exotics at RTC all started by founders Paul Bunn, Greg James and Jason Stutzman back in 2008 when the gathering would take place in Old Main Street in Bellevue Washington. Logistically that location was not ideal for parking and large gatherings of people, so it’s popularity eventually faded away. That was until two event goers, Tom Nault and Victor Tiscarino planned to resolve those issues by seeking out a new venue and keep the meet going. Long story short, after the two found their ideal location at Redmond Town Center mall, the car meet was reborn.


If you have a car that you would like to show there, keep in mind the event planners are very selective. The term exotic means the car should be rare, not a daily driver you see on the highway on your way to work. You are not going to find many tuner cars here, but that doesn’t mean that the event is restricted to just Lamborghinis and Ferraris. If you have a car that you are proud of, reach out to the event coordinators to find out if it meets their criteria.


Exotics at RTC promotes specific event days such as German and Italian specific manufacturers to be on display. If you plan on going, I highly suggest going to one of these special event days because they are typically bigger and show cars within the RTC promenade itself. Also keep in mind the event only happens if there is a minimal chance of rain in the forecast. If you are a local you already probably know to check the forecast, but be sure to also visit their blog before you consider attending. I have a link to exotics at RTC website below, check it out for more details.





Hiking Mount Pilchuk

The drive from my home in Kirkland takes about 1 ½ hours to the Mt Pilchuk trailhead. It is a scenic drive through Lake Stevens and Granite falls. Lake Stevens is where the actor Chris Pratt is from if you didn’t already know. My buddy who went hiking with me kept reminding us of this fact for some reason and now it’s stuck in my head. The last 3 miles to the trailhead is mostly dirt road with occasional large potholes. If you have all wheel drive with good ground clearance, this shouldn’t be an issue for you. If you’re driving a car you will have to go slower to avoid some of the large potholes. You can get by fine without all-wheel drive, it just gives you more assurance. In the winter time the trail gets a good amount of snow, so you definitely want all wheel drive available. I recommend picking up a forest pass at the ranger station if you don’t have one. Unless you don’t mind the $5 ticket you will receive for not having one like I did. Woops!


The hike itself I would so is moderate to difficult. Most of the trail is well kept, has stairs, ladders and rocks to climb which makes it easier. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash. As you get towards the top, it gets more challenging as you have to scramble across rocks to reach the fire look-out spot.

pilchuk firelookout


Dogs cannot reach the very top unless you are brave and they are small enough to carry. I would recommend leaving your dog at the bottom where it is much safer. Unfortunately, we were surrounded by clouds so we didn’t get the view we hoped for, but now I am determined to come back on a clear day because you can tell the view would be amazing. Overall, I give this hike a 4.5 out of 5 for how much I enjoyed it.


We stopped in Granite Falls on the way back for a beer and bite to eat. The place we went is called Buzz Inn Steakhouse. I highly recommend going here if you hungry or thirsty after your hike. It’s nothing fancy but affordable prices, good menu and everything tasted great. You will thank me later.


$6 Mug of beer at Buzz Inn Steakhouse

Buzz Inn Steakhouse website below:

If you want additional details of the hike, I shared the WTA website link below. I

Featured Image credit: Norm Buckley

Protein Balls

I know I know… Balls am I right? Nothing funnier than offering a family member or friends to try your balls. Who can forget the NPR skit on Saturday Night Live about Schweddy balls? Anyway, I’ll try to spare you some of my child-like humor and tell you about my balls. They are a great snack and if you eat protein bars and stuff like that, it’s a great alternative. I just store them in the fridge or take them with me for a quick snack. People will envy your balls in public as they should. This recipe makes about 15-20 balls depending on size and will typically last for a couple days. You don’t want your balls hanging around more than a week, keep your balls fresh.


1 ½ cp Oats

½ cp vanilla protein powder

1 TBSP Chia Seeds

½ tsp cinnamon

½ cup smooth peanut butter (Natural/Organic just about any nut butter will work)

3 TBSP Honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup chocolate chips cut in half (or try dried fruit cut in small pieces easy to roll into balls)

4 TBSP almond milk (Add more if mix is too dry)


  1. Add dry ingredients, oats, protein powder, chia seeds, cinnamon, chocolate chips to mixing bowl.
  2. Add “wet” ingredients, peanut butter, honey, vanilla extract, almond milk.
  3. Mix together with spoon or dampen your hands with water to keep your hands from getting sticky.
  4. Use a small scoop or two tablespoons to measure out balls onto a parchment paper or plate (parchment paper works best because these balls are sticky).


5. Using your hands, roll balls to uniform ball shape and store in the fridge in an air tight container.

6. The balls can be eaten immediately for all to enjoy.

Falafel with Tahini Yogurt Sauce

I am a big fan of Middle eastern/Mediterranean foods and flavors. My first job in a what most would consider professional kitchen was in an upscale Mediterranean restaurant. I still have occasional work nightmares from my time working there because I was very green, but eventually moved up to one of the lead chefs. In the time I spent there, it introduced me to some dishes and recipes that I was familiar with so I learned a lot.  Recipes using grape leaves like dolmas,  tzatziki, escalivada,  Spanish tapas and sauces like romesco and charmoula were new to me but became some of my favorites.

I do not believe we ever had falafel on the menu, I believe it’s more of a middle-eastern recipe, but you can usually order it at a Greek restaurant. Also, I recently have been trying to eat less protein from animals and more vegetarian dishes. Not planning on going vegetarian or vegan or anything like that but I don’t feel the need to eat meat every day. Falafel is a filling dish in which I really don’t miss not having meat in.

This is a recipe I recently tried that you can use for lunch, dinner or prep out for a meal plan week and assemble as you go. When I made this, I prepped some accompaniments like sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, green onions, mixed greens, just so I could quickly throw it together in a pita for a sandwich or together as a salad and take it to work.


1 lb. dry Chickpeas

1 small Onion small diced

¼ cup Italian parsley chopped

5 Cloves Garlic minced

2 Tbsp flour or chickpea flour

1 ¾ tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp ground cardamom

Vegetable oil for frying

For the tahini lime dressing
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions for Falafel

  1. Put the chickpeas in a large container or jar and cover with water at least 3 inches over the top. Let the chickpeas soak overnight at least 6-8hrs.
  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas after they have completed soaking. In a food processor combine remaining ingredients except the vegetable oil used for frying. I do drizzle about 2 Tbsp of olive oil in the mix as well to help combine everything.
  3. Pulse the ingredients until a coarse consistency is reached. Kind of like a “wet sand” consistency.
  4. Once the desired consistency is reached and you can make a test ball to see if it will form well, then cover and let it sit in the fridge for about 1-2hrs.
  5. When ready, fill a deep skillet with 1 ½ inches of cooking oil (Vegetable, Peanut, Grapeseed etc.). Put on medium-low heat.
  6. While the oil is heating, use a medium sized scoop or 2 Tbsp to scoop the falafel mixture to 1-2-inch sized servings. You can make them bigger or smaller for your preference.
  7. After the mixture has been all portioned out, lightly wet your hands and roll the falafel into balls so they are uniform in size and won’t fall apart when frying.
  8. Turn the heat up to medium and start by putting 1 ball of falafel in to fry. This will help to make sure your oil is up to temp before adding the remaining falafel.
  9. Flip the balls half-way through cooking until golden brown on both sides.
  10. Pull the falafel from the oil with a slotted spoon or spatula and let dry on paper towel.


Yogurt Tahini Dressing

  1. Whisk together Tahini, Yogurt, Garlic, Lime Juice,  olive oil, jalapeno (optional) salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Whisk in 1 Tbsp of water at a time if the dressing is too thick.



To assemble, you can put in pita bread smeared with yogurt dressing, cucumber, kalamta olives, tomatoes, green onions, feta cheese, mixed greens. Drizzle more dressing if preferred on top.

Or alternatively place all ingredient on a bed of mixed greens for a falafel salad. I tried both variations with this recipe, you really can’t go wrong with either.



Climbing Mt Rainier


Since moving to Washington State as a child, there is one landmark that stands out above all others and that is Mt. Rainier. It is an icon that is immortalized on our license plates. You can see the mountain from almost anywhere in western Washington on a clear day. Rainier is the highest prominence in the lower 48 states which means the height of a mountain or hill’s summit by the vertical distance between it and the lowest contour line encircling it.

I never really considered climbing Rainier until I watched a special about how the Seahawks coach at the time, Jim Mora and his staff summited it. That’s right, believe it or not, I followed the Seahawks before their super bowl year and am not a bandwagon fan, but I’ll save that tangent for another time. After watching that special on TV and seeing this ominous mountain for most of my life, I thought how cool it would be to climb some day. However years went by and I never got serious about setting the goal to summit the mountain.

Then a couple of years ago a friend of mine climbed Rainier and he seemed somewhat changed by the experience. He talked about how great it was and tried to convince our long-time group of friends to go, but only managed to get 3 of us to agree to climb it with him again. After we pulled the trigger and signed up through International Mountain Guides (IMG), it was time to get serious and make sure we were ready for the challenge. We were all in decent shape but climbing a mountain in the snow 14,411ft elevation takes more preparation than just working out in a gym.


Day 1 hiking to Camp Muir

After this experience I wanted to share how I physically and mentally prepared for the climb. Even if you work out in the 3-4 days a week you will still find this climb challenging. If you feel like you are out of shape and never exercise, there is no better motivation to change that than this goal.

Go on hikes

This is the most important step. Go on hikes with high elevation 3,000-4,000ft for at least every weekend rain or shine 2-3 months with weighted pack of 20-50lbs. Start with a little weight, even if it’s 10lbs and slowly move it up to 45-50lbs.

It will get you accustomed to wearing your frame-pack and helps strengthen your core. This will also help make sure your gear is working right for your needs. Try to go to a mountain that has snow but purchase some micro spikes for your waterproof hiking boots to give you some traction.


Camp Muir Day 1


Focus on a healthy diet, no pizza, no donuts, cut back on alcohol. There are a lot of diets out there, choose one that works best for you. Paired with these weekend hikes, you are going to get in great shape. Do not drink the night before so you are ready to put in a strong effort on a challenging hike.


View from Camp Muir Day 1


Be sure to have all the necessary equipment (especially the “must have” items) that you don’t plan on renting. After booking the trip, I slowly began to accumulate the recommended gear so it was not a large amount of money spent all at once. I would suggest buying your backpack first especially  so you get used to it and filling it with weight for training. I ended up only renting the boots, crampons, ice axe, harness and helmet. A list of gear is linked below:


Almost anything goes when hiking. You dieted and trained for months so it’s time to treat yourself on the mountain. I packed 2 PB&Js, cold pizza for my lunches and trail mix, jerky, 3 snickers bars, 2 protein bars, peanut butter cups, gummies and I went through almost all of it. The guides will feed you breakfast and dinner on the mountain so you do not need to worry about those meals.


Little Tahoma Viewed from Ingraham Flats Day 2

Eye care

I wear contacts and carefully removed them every night to rest my eyes. If you have daily disposable contacts, that is even better. Make sure to pack backup lenses and glasses if you have them. I would also recommend wearing a night mask on your eyes at night for sleeping as the sun will most likely still be up when you are ready to go to sleep.


Bring plenty, but purchase smaller sized squeeze tubes. I brought zinc for my face and a 50spf squeeze bottle that was easy to grab to re-apply during breaks.


Looking up to the summit from Ingraham Flats end of Day 2

Face Protection

A Buff works best (light weight). The ‘Buff’ brand is easy to find and perfect to protect from the sun, wind, snow and easier to wear and remove. I brought a neck gaiter that I use for snowboarding but would have been too warm for hiking so I purchased a Buff at IMG.

If you are considering climbing Mt Rainier, I hope this inspires you to do so. It is very challenging but also a rewarding and humbling experience. With solid preparation you will feel confident to accomplish this goal.


On the summit Crater of Mt Rainier Day 3

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