eats, extras

Van Life: What Our Friends Eat On The Road

Today’s special extra comes from our DINK friends, Courtney and Bryce Zinckgraf. For those of you who don’t know us, Courtney and Bryce are the reason we’re married and so in love. They paired us to walk down the aisle together at their wedding, and the rest is history. But this post isn’t about us – it’s about them!


“Hi! We are from Jacksonville, FL. We quit our jobs, bought a 30-year-old van named Hidalgo and fixed it up. Now, we are living full time in the van while we drive around America seeing National Parks and meeting cool people.”

For those of who haven’t seen any of their videos yet, you’re in for a real treat. You can follow their journey HERE (and hit “Subscribe” – you won’t regret it).

But this EXTRA is all about their most recent video, which is what they eat in a typical day. We wanted to share two of their recipes with you, since we’re such foodies! See the full video and the two recipes below:

Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 Avocado
  • ½ Medium onion
  • 1 Apple -1 tomato
  • Salt to taste
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Empty chickpeas into a large bowl
  • Mash about ½ to ¾ of the chickpeas
  • Add avocado and mash to combine
  • Dice the onion, apple, and tomato
  • Add diced onion, apple and tomato to bowl with chickpeas and avocado
  • Add salt and garlic powder to taste
  • Stir to combine
Other things that are good in chickpea salad sandwich:
  • Mustard
  • Celery
  • Pickles
  • Lots of possibilities!

Peanut Butter Stir Fry

  • Rice Noodles (check package for serving size and cooking instructions)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 small package of mushrooms
  • 1 head of broccoli Sauce
  • ¾ cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic (or however much you want)
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger (or however much you want) –
  • Splash of water to thin it out
  • Cook rice noodles based on packaging instructions
  • While the noodles are cooking combine all of the sauce ingredients and mix well
  • Dice the onion and pepper
  • Cut up the broccoli
  • Lightly stir fry the onions, pepper, mushrooms and broccoli (or cook to your liking)
  • Combine rice noodles, veggies, and sauce
  • Mix to combine

Viola – there you have it! A special treat from our two friends who are pursuing their dreams and have the most incredible videos and photos to prove it. We hope you enjoyed this EXTRA and continue following Courtney and Bryce on YouTube or Instagram.


extras, life

No Landscaping Professionals Needed Here!

Hello, readers! My name is Ashley Kempa – you may know me as Melissa’s fast-talking bestie from the north. My husband Zack and I are also living the DINK life and we’re so excited about Melissa and Joey’s new blog! For Zack and I, the biggest focus of our DINK lifestyle right now is planting roots – both literally (I LOVE my gardens) and figuratively.

Zack and I have been married for just over two years now, and the first year of marriage was focused on finding a home to begin our lives as “The Kempa Family.” While I was born and raised in the Philadelphia area, the area near our jobs is about an hour from my hometown so all new territory. We spent several months trying to find a house that was affordable, checked the boxes on our non-negotiables, and would help us to transition from DINK to BARK (Broke Adults Raising Kids – yes, broke…a topic for another day…*cough Daycare cough*).

Here’s what were in our non-negotiables (which have to be realistic based on your budget):

  1. Cannot be a total “gut-job”
  2. 3 Bedrooms with at least 1.5 baths
  3. GREAT school district
  4. Nice community
  5. Close to our jobs

So, here’s what we bought to plant those roots last July:

  1. A house that was owned by the prior owners for a very long time so it just needed some “New, Fresh Love”
  2. 3 Bedrooms w/ 1.5 baths
  3. GREAT school district
  4. AMAZING community
  5. Close to our jobs

My posts on this blog will focus on items number one and number four from the above list – how to add some new, fresh love into your house, and how to be a DINK in a family-friendly community!

But for this post, I’m going to focus on a recent project we did to our house…

DIY Landscaping

Zack and I are DIYers – aka we’re cheap, want to learn new skills, and love watching a vision come to life. The front of our house when we bought it had death-trap stairs leading up to our front sun room. If you were not paying attention or walking too fast, you could absolutely be on your way to an urgent care – hello, twisted ankle. Not good. Instead of paying over $1,000 for a landscaper to come out and re-pave our front steps, I knew we could do this for not a lot of money and learn as we go. Here’s what we started with:



Cute, right?

The first thing we did was tear out all of the bricks and railroad ties. This step only took about 45 minutes and the hardest/longest part was stacking all of the bricks. Even if you were going to hire a landscaper to do this for you, you’d be able to save some money just by tearing out the old yourself before someone comes in to lay the new.


Next up, mapping out what we were going to replace these with. We chose to purchase large paver stones for two reasons – they were relatively inexpensive and the larger stones are easier to work with. My parents helped us draw out the dimensions of the steps and calculate how many stones and blocks we would need for the entire project. Having this prepared ahead of time saved us time in the store and money! We learned by slightly changing the sizing of the steps we could save by not needing as many stones and blocks.

Third step – HOME DEPOT.  First trip to home depot included checking the store’s inventory to make sure they would have enough of what we needed – very important! They did, so we began 1 of 3 or 4 trips to Home Depot to get everything we needed….and a few additional purchases like some herbs that got planted in my garden.  My parent’s dog, Mia, helped pick those out.  Isn’t she adorable?


After several trips, we had the blocks, mapped out our design, and we were ready to go!


So, how did we do this?  Let me sum it all up by saying trial and error.  I followed these steps and repeated multiple times until I achieved success:

  1. Dig spot for blocks (thank you, Mom, for your help!)
  2. Lay blocks down
  3. Level in all directions
  4. If not level, lift block up and adjust by adding or removing sand/dirt.

Note: if you are starting from scratch and not working in an area where steps were already existing, you will need sand to level and hold the blocks in place.  Fortunately we did not need to purchase as there was plenty there from the bricks!

After about 6 hours of work, we had two steps completed:


The remaining last step and flat surface of steps were all completed by Zack – Rockstar! We waited for a few good rains to occur to help the stones settle. We’re now in the maintenance phase where we just adjust a few stones here and there. Aren’t the new steps beautiful?!

We spent $200 total on this project, took 10 or so hours total, and we used the great help of my Mom and Dad (thank you!). We learned how to map out an idea, budget for a project you want to tackle and got several good workouts in while accomplishing the finished project. We’re now already eyeing the entrance into our backyard through our fence gate. New stepping stones would look pretty nice over there…

Until next time, readers!  Be inspired to DIY and give your home some LOVE!


eats, extras

“Reverse, Reverse”….. Reverse Seared Steaks!

Our First Extra

Joey, John, and Nick at Sunshine State Eggfest before they won People’s Choice

John Churey…. or Bar B “Chu” as we like to call him, is one of Joe and Melissa’s great friends from Joe’s time at Florida State University. Also an Insurance Wholesaler by trade, Chu is an “Egghead” (Big Green Egg Enthusiast) through and through! After all, he has enough of em to make an omelet…four to be Eggsact!! Not to mention he is head chef of “Risk It…. FOR THE BRISKET” BBQ Team that won the 2018 Sunshine State Eggfest Peoples Choice award, but that’s a post for another time.  In between weddings and insurance Chu loves hanging out at Wassis Meats in Melbourne, FL cooking, and talking all things Big Green Egg every Saturday with the Wassis Posse (Riverway Mike, Capt. Phil, Johnny Bacon, and the Crew). Come on by if you’re ever around the Space Coast!

We’re Eggcited to have Chu as the first “Extra Treats” guest blogger! Follow along his cooks on Instagram @bar_b_chu !

Let’s Start This Thing In Reverse

Love steak, but intimidated by all those Instagram pictures you’ve been seeing? Or looking to switch up your normal hot and fast grilling methods on steaks and chops? Introducing the Reverse Sear! Much like the name implies, the reverse sear is simply a traditional sear….in reverse. Traditional searing starts with searing initially, to create a beautiful crust before baking at a lower temperature until the desired internal temperature is achieved. The Reverse Sear is simply, the reverse! Start by baking steaks or chops at a low temperature (200-250 degrees) until their internal temperature is 5-10 degrees shy of your desired finished internal temperature. Once the steaks are close to desired finished temperature, take a hot skillet or grate and sear for that crunchy, flavorful crust  you would expect to find at the country’s finest steakhouses! Steakhouse quality, without the steakhouse price!

If that didn’t sound like enough of a culinary roller coaster for your taste buds, we stepped this up another notch and added bacon…grease to the equation. Render down some thick cut bacon ahead of time, set the grease aside, and enjoy a little bacon appetizer along the way!

Directions for Reverse Sear:

  1. Rub your steak with a generous amount of seasoning. For Beef I recommend Wassis Classic Steak, or Four41 Fat Henry’s.
  2. Fire up your Big Green Egg, letting the coals burn until smoke stops. Usually 15-20 minutes. Then set Egg for Indirect cooking (with ConvEGGtor, aka plate setter) and adjust vents accordingly to achieve 200-250 degree dome temperature. Return grate to Big Green Egg.
  3. Once the Egg is up to temp, place steaks on grate and let bake until internal temperature reads approximately 5-10 degrees shy of desired finished temperature. A Thermoworks Termapen is a great addition to any pitmasters tool box!
  4. Once steaks are 5-10 degrees shy of finished temp, set aside and cover loosely.
  5. Remove Grate and ConvEGGtor with a good pair of heat resistant gloves, (Blue Fires are my personal favorite), place grate and a Lodge Cast Iron Skillet back on egg, open bottom vent all the way and let the egg heat up for 5-10 minutes until skillet is very hot, leaving the dome open.  
  6. Place butter or bacon grease in skillet and let it heat up.  
  7. Carefully place Steaks in the hot grease or butter for 30-45 seconds per side, keeping a close eye not to burn.
  8. Remove Steaks from Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, and Enjoy Immediately! No Need to rest the meat when using the reverse sear method.
  9. Meat Sweats Commence!

Works on Pork Chops, too!

Feel free to try Reverse Searing on your favorite Pork Chops as well, you’ll love the results! You can achieve similar results with a gas grill/Sous Vide / stove top or any combination of culinary gadgets you have at your disposal, although I am partial to the results produced by the Natural Lump Charcoal, and the heat & moisture retaining properties of the Big Green Egg!

Follow along @Bar_B_Chu on Instagram!