Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Foodies 2011

Today I am featuring my Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Foodies but also a $50 Amazon Giveaway since it was my birthday yesterday (6/13).

This is just a little reminder that Father’s day is coming up on Sunday June 19, 2011.  I always do Gift Ideas for this occasion and the gifts are always for foodies.  This year all my gift ideas are coming from Etsy.com which is the world’s handmade market and I love it.  I always find fabulous things there.

Here are my top 10 gifts for Father’s  day from Etsy.com, something for each foodie father in every price range.

  1. Sweet & Savory Coarse Grain Organic Raw Mustard – $6 – Not too sweet like honey mustards, this one is more savory than sweet. They use pure local sorghum to sweeten this Canadian grown yellow/brown mustard seed combination. Red wine vinegar enhances this favorite for making mustard sauce and coating a brisket. This is a RAW mustard, however, this traditional condiment does not need to be refrigerated after opening and will not expire with age, only mellow.
  2. Hot Line Pepper Products’ Satan’s Bhut Juice – $8 – Satan’s Bhut Juice is made with the hottest pepper in the world, the Bhut Jolokia aka Ghost Pepper and blended with habaneros. It’s HOT and is made from all natural ingredients using fire roasted habaneros. Goes great on anything you want to spice up especially chili, stews and soups and can be added to your favorite BBQ sauce or Ranch dressing for a kicked up sauce. Makes a great dip when mixed with sour cream, and the possibilities are endless, just use your Foodie creativity.
  3. Julie’s Fudge – MILK CHOCOLATE ORANGE – $10 – A classic chocolate combination! Orange and milk chocolate – you just can’t go wrong! Yummm! Every awesome fudgy chunk is topped with a homemade candied orange slice! DELICIOUS! Creamy, smooth, and utterly perfect.
  4. Bacon Anatomy of Perfection – $12.95 – Do I need to say more?
  5. Magnetic grill guru master kit – $19.99 – All your BBQ grilling favorites in one sweet magnetic spice rack.
  6. Wine Bottle Stand – Self Balancing Wine Bottle Holder – $29.95 – This is an eye-catching, handcrafted wine bottle holder made of Walnut wood. It appears to be precariously balanced but will safely hold bottles with various neck shapes. It has multiple layers of a hand rubbed oil finish that is unaffected by water or alcohol.
  7. Chocolate Candy Mushrooms – $32 – These delightful Shitake-esk mushrooms (botanist not withstanding) are the perfect balance of salty-sweet-chocolaty-enlightenment.  Each realistic Chocolate Filled Mushroom is capped in organic fair trade chocolate and encased with a crispy (Neco Candy textured) vanilla shell and stem.
  8. Personalized Father & Son Apron Set – Monogrammed Embroidered – $41 – The perfect personalized matching Daddy & Son monogrammed apron set. Great gift for Dad & his daring kitchen accomplice. Aprons are embroidered with chef hat design & personalized with your name.
  9. Orange and Black Laminated Pepper Mill Attack – $60 – One of a kind handcrafted pepper mill, made from a gorgeous black and orange laminated wood. Curvy, cool, contemporary design. Sanded through eight grits and finished for durability. Stainless steel grinder mechanism that is designed to last.
  10. Handcrafted Wooden 24″ Wall Mountable Knife Block – $62.98 – Beautiful handcrafted 24” wall mountable knife block made of Brazilian Cherry with Beech inlays that cover the magnets to protect the knife blade. This block will easily hold 9 large knives (2″ blades), or up to 13 smaller knives (1″ blades), while using zero counter space. This knife block matches the cutting board perfectly.

Now to the $50 Amazon Giveaway since it was my birthday yesterday (6/13).  I really enjoy interacting with my readers on facebook – it gives me a chance to bounce ideas off of readers, ask questions, and just love to hear from fans.  As a thank you and because it was my birthday yesterday, I am giving away a $50 Amazon gift card! Simply go to my facebook page, and follow the instructions for entering.

Other Similar Items:

2010 Mother’s Day Gift Ideas
2010 Father’s Days Gift Ideas
Kitchen Fashion – what to wear in the kitchen
2010 Perfect Gifts for Him & Her


Monday, June 13, 2011

Rosemary and Parmesan Crackers

Crispy, rosemary, salty and cheesy cracker. Very addictive!

This is the Secret Recipe Club “assignment!”  Every month you get a name of a blog and you need to choose ANY recipe from that blog and then blog about that recipe by a date.  It’s a secret because the blog owner does not know you are doing this until the reveal date.  My secret blog  this month was Baking and Boys, which is Katrina. Katrina has an amazing baking blog with tons of decadent recipes and lots of very cute pictures of her four boys.  When I was looking at Katrina’s blog I had a hard time deciding what to make but have been wanting to make crackers for a long time and when I came across her Thyme and Cheese Cracker I knew that was my recipe.

Instead of thyme I made these to rosemary. You have to love rosemary and salt combination to like this recipe, which I love.  The original recipe called for ¼ tsp of thyme/rosemary and to me that is way too little and I added 2 tbsp of fresh rosemary which was just perfect.  Also the recipe below has sugar in it and next time I would just omit it, since it doesn’t add anything to the cracker.

These go perfectly just as a snack or with soup.  We had them with split pea soup and it was a huge hit – all the crackers went.

Rosemary and Parmesan Crackers

Adapted From: Baking and Boys

Yields:  40 (2” crackers) | Prep Time: 60 minuste | Bake Time: 35 minutes

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 6 tbsp all purpose flour
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
2 tbsp fresh rosemary finely cut
1 tsp sea salt (1/2 tsp in dough and ½ tsp for sprinkle)
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1 tbsp Olive oil

Beat the butter and lemon zest with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Slowly beat in the egg yolk and cream.

In a food processor add the cheese and fresh rosemary to make it fine.

Then in a separate bowl whisk the flour, cheese, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, rosemary and nutmeg together in a bowl.  Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture while mixing slowly.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on medium speed until combined and dough is sticky.  Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Roll the dough onto a wax or parchment paper lined baking sheet dusted with a little flour to about 1/8-1/4 inch thickness.  Freeze the dough for about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 F degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Cut the dough into desired shapes.  Brush the crackers with olive oil using a baking brush and then sprinkle the rest of the sale onto the crackers.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.  Let sit on baking sheet for a few minutes.  Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.  Store in airtight container for up to 1 month.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Pull Apart Bread

There are times when I need to put out a warning sign for a recipe that say “bake at your own risk” because the smell will be so good that you will eat the whole things.  Well for this Cinnamon Sugar Pull Apart Bread I am warning you, don’t come back here and tell me I didn’t.

Not only does this smell good but it’s just a cool bread, it pulls apart very easily, and it looks cool.

Do I need to say more?

Just a few yeast notes because I have had comments before where folks can’t get their bread to rise with yeast.  Few things to think about with yeast especially if you are using dry yeast.  Make sure your yeast is not old or expired.  Old yeast either will not rise or takes much longer to rise.  Secondly make sure your warm ingredients are lukewarm, not cold and not too hot. Think warm milk to your baby.  Then let it rise in a warm place.  I usually put it on my stove and have the light on.

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread

Adapted from: Joy The Baker

Yields: one 9x5x3-inch loaf | Prep Time: 2 hours | Bake Time: 35 minutes

For the Dough:
2 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Filling:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
2 oz unsalted butter, melted until browned

In a large mixing bowl whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.  Set aside.

Whisk together eggs and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt together milk and butter until butter has just melted.  Remove from the heat and add water and vanilla extract.  Let mixture stand for a minute or two, or until the mixture registers 115 to 125 degrees F.

Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula.  Add the eggs and stir the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the batter.  The eggs will feel soupy and it’ll seem like the dough and the eggs are never going to come together.  Keep stirring.  Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour and stir with the spatula for about 2 minutes.  The mixture will be sticky.  That’s just right.

Place the dough is a large, greased bowl.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel.  Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Note: The dough can be risen until doubled in size, then refrigerated overnight for use in the morning.  If you’re using this method, just let the dough rest on the counter for 30 minutes before following the roll-out directions below.

While the dough rises, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling.  Set aside.  Melt 2 ounces of butter until browned.  Set aside.  Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.  Set that aside too.

Deflate the risen dough and knead about 2 tablespoons of flour into the dough.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes.  On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out.  The dough should be 12-inches tall and about 20-inches long.  Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter across all of the dough.  Sprinkle with all of the sugar and cinnamon mixture.  It might seem like a lot of sugar.  But just go for it.

Slice the dough vertically, into six equal-sized strips.  Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into six equal slices once again.  You’ll have six stacks of six squares.  Layer the dough squares in the loaf pan like a flip-book.  Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and allow in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is very golden brown.  The top may be lightly browned, but the center may still be raw.  A nice, dark, golden brown will ensure that the center is cooked as well.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.   Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread and invert onto a clean board.  Place a cake stand or cake plate on top of the upside down loaf, and carefully invert so it’s right side up.  Serve warm with coffee or tea.

This bread is best served the day it’s made, but it can also we wrapped and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Next week is my birthday and to celebrate we will have an exciting giveaway – so don’t forget to come by.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Green Tea and Lemon Sorbet

Summer is here. . .well at least in Seattle.  This weekend was a fabulous 75+F degree weekend.  I finished planting my first vegetable garden and really excited about it.  I always do pots of herbs and this year i am growing: cilantro, dill, rosemary, thyme, basil, and parsley.  But but also my first batch of vegetables and fruit.  For vegetables i have tomatoes, spinach, green beans, parsnip, radish, green onions and fennel.  And for fruit i have blueberries, rhubarb, strawberries, and red currants.  I am so excited about my red currants – it was hard to find but i haven’t seen them around since i was a little kid, can’t wait to see them grow. I am also just eager to see what will survive in Seattle and see what i remove or add next year.  I will give you progress reports through out the summer.

Since summer was here i thought it was time to make another sorbet. I had received a big box from Lipton to try their new exciting 100% Natural Lipton Ice Tea flavors and i was a littel surprised how good they were, because i can tell you I am not a fan of Lipton Brisk at all.  But this was not made with a bunch of chemicals and also not too sweet like so many other drinks are.  The new 100% Lipton Iced Tea is available in these flowing flavors:  Green Tea with Citrus and Iced Tea with Lemon, as well as two new flavors—Iced Tea with Pomegranate Blueberry and Green Tea with Passionfruit Mango. They also have naturally flavored and preservative-free diet flavors—Diet Green Tea with Citrus and Diet Green Tea with Watermelon.  I really enjoyed both Green Tea Flavors and the Pomegranate Blueberry.

Since i had all this Green Tea and it was a fabulous weekend i decided to make Green Tea and Lemon Sorbet.

Green Tea and Lemon Sorbet

Yield: 1 quart | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Chill Time: 1 hour

2 cups boiling water (only if using Tea Bags)
8 Lipton Green Tea Bags or 1 – 20oz bottle of 100% Lipton Green Tea
1 cups sugar (use 1/2 cup sugar if using 1 – 20oz bottle of 100% Lipton Green Tea)
2 tbsp  lemon juice
2 tbsp of vodka

The trick I learned to making a good sorbet is that you need to make a simple syrup to sweeten it, straight sugar won’t have a good texture. Then the mixture needs a dash of alcohol to inhibit the freezing process, otherwise your sorbet will be a brick. This formula is very easy and it should work with any fruit or flavor, just be sure to taste the mixture for sweetness and acid.

The rule of thought it that for every 1 cup of juice, you use ½ cup of sugar and 2 tbsp of alcohol. But since I was using already sweetened Green Tea I only used 1/2 of the sugar required.

If you are using Lipton Tea Bags, in teapot, pour boiling water over Lipton Green Tea Bags. Cover and brew 5 minutes. Remove Tea Bags and squeeze. This is your “juice” or you can use the 1-20oz bottle of 100% Lipton Green Tea.

Prepare an ice bath and put aside.

Then in a small saucepan, combine the sugar and ½ cup of the green tea.  Bring to a boil then lower heat to medium and cook until the sugar has completely dissolved, 8-10 minutes. Transfer the syrup to your remaining green tea and set over an ice bath. Stir occasionally until cooled to room temperature, then add the lemon juice and vodka.

Once the mixture has cooled, freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Also for the summer Lipton partnered with Pandora internet radio.  Who doesn’t love Pandora?  I listen to is while working out, at home and at work.  I love it.   To check out Lipton Pandora Stations go to Pandora PopLipton Country, Lipton Rock or Lipton Hip-Hop.

For more information go to:  Facebook.com/LiptonIcedTea or twitter.com/Lipton.

Note: I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by Gen-Yknot on behalf of Lipton and received Lipton product samples and a subscription to Pandora One to facilitate my candid review. Gen-Yknot also sent me a promotional item to thank me for my time.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Places to Eat on Lopez Island WA

San Juan Islands, WA

Summer’s in Seattle are just gorgeous, and during this time i try to take a few long weekends and enjoy it.  One of the places i go to often is Lopez Island, WA and that is where i also went this past weekend.  Lopez Island, WA is one of the Islands that belong to the San Juan Islands archipelago in the northwest corner of the US.  It’s situated between US mainland and Vancouver Island, BC Canada.

Stockholm Archipelago

It’s an area of the US that is heavenly and reminds me a lot of the Stockholm archipelago “Skärgården” which is just gorgeous to me.  The big difference is that outside of Stockholm you have about 30,000 of these islands and they are very close to each other.  The San Juan’s have 97 islands and 6 of them are accessible by ferries operation by WA State ferry.  You can either walk on, bike or take your car onto the WA state ferry.  There are other ferries that will go to other islands but will only take passengers as San Juan Cruise or North Shore Charters. Otherwise you have to get there by your own boat or Air.

New York Times said that the San Juan Islands is one of the places to visit in the wold for 2011 and  I can see why.

View or WA state ferry from Lopez Island

To get to Lopez Island from Seattle you drive about 1 ½  hours to Anacortes, WA and take a 40 minutes ferry ride.  Lopez Island is a place to relax, there isn’t a lot to do but enjoy the peace, quite and the gorgeous island.  You can enjoy the Lopez Village with many cute little stores, rent a bike and bike around the island and see some amazing natural sites, kayaking, go to the farmers market, play golf, wine tour, or art tour.  Another big thing to do on Lopez is camping.

Lopez Island is the first stop on the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes.  The island is 15 miles long and 8 miles wide with 2,200 year round residents.

View from Lopez Island

If you ever on Lopez relaxing there are only a few places to eat but here is the full list for you:

Love Dog Café
My favorite restaurant on the island – always have the best food here.  Do not miss it while you are visiting Lopez Island.

Love Dog Café
Lopez Village
(360) 468-2150
Love Dog Cafe on Urbanspoon

Vita’s Wildly Delicious
This is my second favorite place to go and eat, just a fabulous selection of ready made food that you can enjoy on their patio.

Vita’s Wildly Delicious
77 Village Rd.,
Lopez Village
(360) 468-4268
Vita's on Urbanspoon

The Bay Café
This is my third favorite place to eat. Sitting outside enjoying the great waterfront view and having some fresh seafood.  Just delicious. Recommend reservations during the summer season.

The Bay Café
9 Old Post Road
(360) 468-3700
Bay Cafe on Urbanspoon

Holly B’s Bakery
Come here for breakfast and have some scones or a cinnamon roll.  The smell at this place is heavenly.

Holly B’s Bakery
Lopez Village Plaza
(360) 468-2133
Holly B's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Just Heavenly Fudge Factory
There are two reasons to come here.  First one is to get a scope of the Lopez Island Creamery Ice-cream and secondly to get a pieces of the AMAZING fudge.  Espresso is my favorite.

Just Heavenly Fudge Factory
9 Old Post Rd, Suite B,
Lopez Village
(360) 468-2439

Other places to eat:

Bucky’s Lopez Island Grill
Lopez Village
(360) 468-2595
Bucky's Lopez Island Grill on Urbanspoon

Galley Restaurant and Lounge
3365 Fisherman Bay Rd
(360) 468-2713

Islander Waterfront Restaurant and Resort
2864 Fisherman Bay Rd.
(360) 468-2233

Vortex Juice Bar Café
135B Lopez Road
(360) 468-4740
Vortex Juice Bar and Cafe on Urbanspoon

Lopez Island

Monday, May 30, 2011


I hope that everyone had a good weekend, and if you are in the US a great long weekend.  I know i did nothing but relaxed on and Island outside of Seattle for the whole weekend.  It was great, of course i did some cooking too but it was still relaxing and the weather was great.

One of the things i have been wanting to share with you is my Strata.  This dish was introduced to me by a friend years ago and i have been making it ever since, because it is an excellent brunch party dish.

One of the main reasons it is so great is that you can make it the day before and it is very easy and just delicious.

A strata is very similar to quiche and frittata but quiche has a pie base, frittata has no base and strata has a bread base.

All you need is some stale bread, some meat, cheese and eggs and you are ready to go. Prepare it the night before and the morning of the brunch put it into the oven 1 hour before eating time and enjoy your guests.

One of the worst things I know is getting up hours early to start cooking for guest for brunch, I love having brunch parties but to me it is all about good planning. Another great brunch dish you can make the night before is Baked French Toast.



Yields: 8-10 people | Prep Time: 30 minutes | Bake Time: 50 minutes

1 lbs sausage cut into ½ inch pieces (hot and mild mixture)
4 ounces bacon cut into ½ inch pieces
1 onion chopped
1 zucchini chopped
½ cup mushrooms chopped
1/3 cup of spring onions
1 tbsp of fresh basil
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp of fresh parsley
12 slices of stale bread, ½ cubed, with the ends cut off
¾ cups shredded Swiss
¾ cups shredded sharp cheddar
8 eggs
2 cups heavy cream

Cut your bacon and sausage and add to a skillet and cook for about 5 minutes or until bacon is cooked to your liking. Add chopped onions, zucchini, mushroom, spring onions, basil, paprika, salt, oregano, and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from stove and add parsley and Dijon mustard and stir. Set aside.

Line 9×13″ greased baking dish with the bread. Then sprinkle the cooked ingredients on top. Cover with cheeses. And then whisk eggs and cream together and pour liquid over and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Refrigerate overnight.

The following day turn the oven to 350F degrees and bake for 40-50 minutes (without the cover for the last 10 minutes).

And for all those folks wondering where I got my wonderful “Eat” napkins, you can get them from Piper who is the owner of the wonderful boutique called One Sydney Road. They come in set of 4 and you can get a matching table runner as well.  One Sydney Road has some very cute items for your home and you have to check it out.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rhubarb Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I am a rhubarb addict!  I love it!  I can eat it raw with just some sugar and be happy.  I know I am not alone – admit it.  People at work know this too, so the other day I had a co-worker bring me a huge shopping bag of rhubarb that was from their garden.  All I could think of was, what should I make with all this rhubarb.  I love strawberry rhubarb pie but I wanted something different.  As I was looking for ideas I came across  Sassy Radish’s blog and saw a great rhubarb strawberry banana bread recipe.  I could not think about anything else but thought that if strawberries and bananas go together, and if strawberries and rhubarb go together, then won’t rhubarb and banana go well together?  They should right?  And what if you add some chocolate chips to the mix.  I was right – lets just say that I should have made two loaves one for me and one for my co-worker who brought all the rhubarb. Now I just have to figure out what else I should make for my co-worker as a thank you for all the rhubarb because the loaf is gone in my belly.

Read more…

Sunday, May 22, 2011

20 reasons why cruising is not for me

Our ship

For those that regularly read my blog know that I went on a 2 week vacation a few weeks ago. I went on my first cruise.

I love travelling and have done that all my life, but cruising never appealed to me. I had visions of being trapped on a boat, lots of lines and lots of crowds of people, bad weather and being sea sick. None of this appealed to me. But due to family commitments a cruise vacation came up and we all went.

I am glad I went because now I never have to wonder what cruising is like. I understand that there are all types of cruises, some really high-end where everything is included, including alcohol, bigger rooms, smaller ships, and good food. Then there are cheaper versions where everything is a little less luxurious.

I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise – which is more in the middle of the line class.

I also understand the appeal of cruising since you only have to unpack once, and get to see many different locations and you do not have to worry about planning anything since that is all done for you. The kids have a blast there are activities for them 24/7.  And if you have a large family it could be very economical.  There are lots of people that love cruising, is a huge industry.

Don’t get me wrong i still had a good time on my vacation, the Caribbean was great, beautiful beaches, and the weather was always sunny and in the 90s F.

View from our cabin – this is your view 99% of the time at sea

But I will not go on a cruise anytime soon, here are my 20 reasons why cruising is not for me:

  1. Sea Sick – I never got sea sick but one night it was rough and hard to sleep. I think it might have been first time cruiser bad weather anxiety.
  2. Not able to pick up the soap in the shower – The bathroom and shower is so small so if you drop your soap, you need to step out of the shower to pick it up.
  3. Getting Sick – I am not talking sea sick but getting “the cruise” sickness. I got it and trust me nobody wants to get it.
  4. Having to use Purell everywhere you go – Yes, there are Purell stands everywhere.
  5. Having to be at the pool at 9am to get a seat – I am not kidding
  6. Having to sit 5 inches from your neighbor in the pool – One of the worst things I know. I want some privacy.
  7. Screaming children and adults in the pool – It was just like spring break all over again.
  8. No culture – I left the US and never felt like I did.
  9. Docking at ports with 10,000 other people getting of cruise ships – Do I even have to say more?
  10. Only getting 6-8 hours at port – There were places I wanted to spend more time exploring, but had to get back to the ship.
  11. Lines & Crowds – Yes, there were lines and crowds, it is a big ship but there are still lines and crowds.
  12. Being on a ship with 4400 other people – That is a lot of people
  13. Average Food – Food was my biggest disappointed, I really thought it was going to be good – bland, boring, over cooked, nothing exciting, very disappointing.
  14. Getting Lost – The ship is very large, you do get lost.
  15. No way of communicating with anyone else on the ship – You could leave messages in your room, pay a $2.49/min cell phone charge or just give up.
  16. Average Shows – Yes, it is true. When you hear Simon Cowell say that someone should be on a cruise ship – that is what they sound like.
  17. Ports are boring – Most of the time a port where a cruise ship can anchor is not a place I want to hang around. To get to a place more exciting you have to travel further once on land.
  18. Pay for alcohol – If you like to have drinks during your vacation your bill can get large pretty fast.
  19. Expensive excursions – The cruise line doubles or triples local excursion trips.
  20. Sea legs – You feel like you are on a ship days after you get off.

Main Dining Room

One of the kids pool area – before everyone arrived

Tendering from the ship


Would love to hear from you, have you ever been on a cruise? Do you like cruising or not and why?

Year Ago: Banana Bread

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

One of my favorite things to make for a brunch party is Baked French Toast and the reason is not only because it is delicious, but because i can make it the night before and just pop it in the oven the day of the brunch.  The last thing i want to do for a brunch party is to wake up at 6am and start cooking.  So this past weekend when i hosted a shower not only did i make the Ricotta Pound Cake but also Baked French Toast.  Usually i will go and buy some cinnamon raisin bread but i really wanted to make my own this time.  I found this great recipe (that i had to add raising to, i have to have raisins in my cinnamon bread) and it could not be easier to make.  The bread was so good that i had to have a few slices for myself with butter before i made it all into my Baked French Toast.  Lesson learned here: Make two loaves!

What are some of the things that you like to make for your brunch party?

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Adapted from: The Pioneer Woman

Yields: 12 servings | Prep Time: 4 hours | Cook Time 40 Minutes

1 cup Milk
6 tbsp Butter
2-½ tsp Active Dry Yeast
2 whole Eggs
2/3 cups Sugar (1/3 for dough and 1/3 for filling)
3-½ cups All-purpose Flour
1 tsp Salt
2 tbsp Cinnamon
1 cup Raisins
1 Egg for brushing
2 tbsp Softened Butter, For Smearing And Greasing

Melt butter with milk. Heat until very warm, but don’t boil. Allow to cool until still warm to the touch, but not hot. Sprinkle yeast over the top, stir gently, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Combine flour and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix sugar and eggs with the paddle attachment until combined. Pour in milk/butter/yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add half the flour and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the other half and beat until combined.

Switch to the dough hook attachment and beat/knead dough on medium speed for ten minutes. If dough is overly sticky, add 1/4 cup flour and beat again for 5 minutes.

Heat a metal or glass mixing bowl so it’s warm. Drizzle in a little canola oil, then toss the dough in the oil to coat. Cover bowl in plastic wrap and set it in a warm, hospitable place for at least 2 hours.

Turn dough out onto the work surface. Roll into a neat rectangle no wider than the loaf pan you’re going to use, and about 18 to 24 inches long. Smear with 2 tbsp melted butter. Mix sugar and cinnamon together, then sprinkle evenly over the butter-smeared dough. Starting at the far end, roll dough toward you, keeping it tight and contained. Pinch seam to seal.

Smear loaf pan with softened butter. Place dough, seam down, in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix a little egg and brush over the top. Bake for 40 minutes on a middle/lower rack in the oven.

Remove from the pan and allow bread to cool. Slice and serve or make Baked French Toast.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Mouse Cake

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ricotta Pound Cake

This is the Secret Recipe Club “assignment!”  Every month you get a name of a blog and you need to choose ANY recipe from that blog and then blog about that recipe by a date.  It’s a secret because the blog owner does not know you are doing this until the reveal date.  My secret blog  this month was Creative Culinary which is written by Barb.  Barb has an amazing food blog with a lot of delicious recipes,  I had a hard time narrowing down of what to make.  But this past weekend i was hosting a baby shower and needed a coffee cake of some sort, and when i saw Ricotta Pound Cake i knew that was my recipe.

There are times when you find a great recipes and just know that you will make it for years, well this is one of them.  I am a huge fan of ricotta cheesecakes, and this is very similar to that.  This Ricotta Pound cake is very moist and delicious, and several people asked for the recipe during the shower.  I did a few adjustments to the original recipe due to some of my favorite ricotta cheesecake memories and this recipe is a keeper.  I know i will be making this lots more, also as Barb suggested i made it the night before.

Ricotta Pound Cake

Adapted from: Creative Culinary

Yields: One 9 inch loaf cake | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cook Time:  60 minutes

1 1/2 cup  flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups fresh whole-milk ricotta
1 1/2 cups sugar sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 vanilla bean
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cups raisins
1 tsp lemon zest
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
Blackberries for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees and position a rack in the center. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray or butter, dust it with flour, and tap to knock out the excess.

In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, ricotta, and sugar on medium speed until smooth and light, about 2 minutes.

Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides of the bowl after each addition. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds with blunt side of a small knife, then beat them into batter along with vanilla extract, lemon zest and raisins. On low speed, beat in dry ingredients to combine them, scrape down sides of the bowl, and beat batter for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Pour batter into prepared pan and use a spatula to smooth the top. Give the pan a few gentle whacks on the counter to remove any air pockets.

Bake cake for 15 minutes, then turn the pan 180 degrees to ensure even browning. Lower the temperature to 325 degrees and continue baking until the cake springs back lightly when touched, the sides have begun to pull away from the pan, and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 25 to 35 minutes more.  (I had to cook mine for a total of  60 minutes)

Allow cake to cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully invert it onto the rack to cool completely. Dust cake lightly with confectioners’ sugar before serving it and or add blackberries; the flavor is best on the next day.

Any leftover cake may be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature for up to 3 days. The cake also freezes beautifully, wrapped in plastic, and place in a large, re-sealable plastic bag.

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