Saturday, November 30, 2013

Product Reviews: Breakfast Anyone?

Do you see anything different about this cereal? Looks like a normal bowl of Cocoa Puffs and milk - right? 

Well - that is Lactose Free Milk from Borden! This is made from 100% milk and my husband and I were both surprised by the taste - it really tastes like 2% milk! In a side by side - I could tell the difference - but on it's own - it tasted fine to me.

I even have a touch of Lactose Intolerance - so it's nice to know I have an alternative that won't land me in the bathroom for 2 hours! If you have questions about the product, check out their new site at www.bordenlactosefree.com.


The folks at La Terra Fina sent me these AWESOME dips a while back and I loved them! Well - I was really excited to get a package from them again - this time it was a Frittata. What a fun word to say - just try it - but you have to say it like this: FREE-TA-TA. Would you like a free-ta-ta? It's fun.

Since my husband is allergic to eggs, I took this Three Cheese Spinach & Artichoke Frittata to work and had breakfast for the team! You can make this in the microwave - I used our convection oven for about 25 minutes and then finished it up in the microwave for a few minutes.

Everybody loved it! Lauren said this would be perfect for when her in-laws are in town and she doesn't feel like making a big breakfast - just pop this in the oven and you're done! 

The egg was light and fluffy plus it had a lot of veggies and just the right amount of cheese - I liked it a lot! They also have 4 different varieties of quiches if you're looking for crust! 

La Terra Fina products are available at Meijer and Costco in the Greater Cincinnati area - check their store locator for places nearby you! 

So here are a couple of fun breakfast options for you to check out at the grocery store - but if you are looking for a breakfast you can make at home - check out these Bird's Nest Breakfast Cups

Friday, November 29, 2013

DIY: Burlap Door Hanger

My friends and I love to get together for DIY Day. Danielle came up with the idea to do some sort of Burlap Door Hanger she'd seen on Pinterest. So I found a few (they're on my DIY board) and we went to town. 

These were fairly easy crafts to do - the supply list was short to: 

Luckily for us - Dani & Rachel had most all of the supplies so our cost was minimal and if you buy the supplies - you'll have plenty left over to make more. 

 The first step was to decide on your design and then either cut it out of the material/burlap or make a pattern on paper - then cut. Danielle, well known for her lack of DIY patience, went straight for the material. Rachel and I traced patterns on paper and then cut.

 I went freehand on the cross just looking at the designs on Pinterest - it was pretty simple. If you're not confident going freehand - you can find lots of patterns on the internet that are printable. I went for double burlap and then painted - my friends did burlap on the bottom and then material on top.

We did figure out a few tricks of the trade - here's a step by step with tricks for you to keep in mind:

1. Trace your pattern on paper
2. Cut out your pattern from the burlap
3. Hot glue the two pieces of burlap around the edges
   * Be sure to do this on top of newspaper to keep your floors/tables glue-free
   * Keep the glue line fairly thin so you have plenty of room for stuffing
   * Do NOT glue the whole thing all the way around!!! Be sure to leave a hole for the stuffing!
   * If you have curves or bends in your item, you might want to have your opening on the side so you can stuff it more easily.
4. Let the glue dry for 10 minutes or so. While that's drying - take plastic grocery bags and pull them (holding end to end) and cut the bag into strips.
   * Don't get too hung up on this one - just grab a bag and cut it up.
5. After the glue is set, you can start painting! I used a white base and then black & yellow polka dots.
6. After the paint dries a bit, take the end of a paint brush and start stuffing the grocery bag pieces into the opening. You don't have to stuff it really full - just so it has some dimension to it.
7. Once aptly stuffed, you can seal the opening with your glue gun.
8. After stuffed and dried, cut off a snip of the wire that's probably 8-12 inches long. Bend around in a circle. Take each end and poke it through the front of the burlap and bend it up on the backside to hold it in place.
   * You can get fancy and bend this in a curly q - but we weren't fancy
9. Attach any embellishments (ribbons, flowers, etc..)

All told - this took us a couple of hours - but there was talking, gossiping and the eating of clementine pie in the middle. So to bang one out - would probably take 30-45 minutes.


And here's my door hanger. I saw a couple of cute ones with the flowers - I just free-handed the flower out of burlap and then cut a circle on top for the center. Paint - dry - glue - done.

I really love mine - and I was shocked at how easy it was and cute it turned out. People are charging $35 for these on Etsy!  Even if I bought the supplies - I could make 10 of these for $16!

Mine is hanging in my kitchen - I already have a wreath on the door - but my kitchen is that same yellow - so it looks fantastic. LOVE IT! What a fun DIY Day with my girls!!!




Thursday, November 28, 2013

Restaurant: Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville at the Horseshoe Casino

First of all - HAPPY THANKSGIVING! 

Recently I was meeting up with a friend for lunch and we decided to head to the Casino. Neither of us had been to Margaritaville and thought it would be good to try and should be fairly quick since they weren't busy. 

Inside it has the look and feel of the old Cheeseburger in Paradise from the East side but it's much larger.

And there's your requisite tiki bar - having been to the Virgin Islands - I can say for sure - those are everywhere! There are hints of the island on the menu with the Conch Fritter appetizer and the Jerk Chicken.

I got the Baja Fish Tacos and was a bit surprised when looking at the menu at the prices. They are pretty expensive. I think this was $12.99. The fish was okay - but the tortillas were cold and the black beans and rice wasn't good. I didn't eat much of it. I'm not usually picky but this just wasn't very good.

My friend got the Cuban and he finished his so it must have been better than mine.

Why Should You Go? I wouldn't. It's expensive and slow. Bobby's Burger Palace is much better for the money.

Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville on Urbanspoon



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Recipe: Crock Pot Honey Mustard Brisket

Last week I shared this amazing recipe for homemade Honey Mustard dressing - it was so simple and delicious. The best part was that you could customize it to your taste buds. 

  This week - I came across a recipe for a Crock Pot Honey Mustard Brisket using that dressing! Color me excited! I'm always looking for new crock pot recipes that are actually good and this one seemed to be worth a try. Sometimes I don't like the texture of the meat out of the crock pot - so I was hopeful on this one. 


First I had to find a brisket - the only small brisket I could find was one for Corned Beef. I asked the meat guy filling the case if this was the same as the other (5 pound) briskets except just had the seasoning for corned beef and he said yes. So, I bought one of those pre-packaged (1.5 pound) Corned Beef Briskets and just pitched the seasonings. 

The recipe said to brown the brisket before putting in the crock pot. I've seen this in numerous other recipes but never done it. Luckily - I picked up this dutch oven at an estate sale last year - so I just popped it in while I was getting ready for work! 

Then into the crock pot with my pre-made honey mustard dressing for a full day of simmering.

When I got home - the house smelled delicious! I pulled the brisket out and used a couple of forks to pull it apart. Then I poured the sauce that was left in the crock pot into a measuring cup to use as gravy.

This brisket was DELICIOUS and tender and juicy. I have to say - it tasted even better as leftovers. I had extra mashed potatoes as well and took it to work the next day. This is definitely going in the "make again" column! I hope you enjoy it too!

Crock Pot Honey Mustard Brisket
(from Little Kitchie.com)
(Side note: This versio of the recipe is cut in half for 2 people.)

Ingredients

1.5 pound brisket
vegetable oil
salt & pepper
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1 cup homemade honey mustard dressing

Directions

1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Salt & pepper the brisket all over. Lay the brisket fat side down and sear for 5 minutes, flip and sear 5 minutes more.

2. Put a liner in your crockpot (I'll never go without these!) and transfer the brisket from the dutch oven to the crockpot.

3. Pour beef broth & Worcestershire over the brisket. Then add the honey mustard on top.

4. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

5. Remove brisket and let rest while you're prepping the rest of your meal (5-20 minutes) and then shred with a couple of forks.

6. ENJOY!!!




Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Road Trip & Recipe: Chicago - Bespoke Cuisine

On a recent work trip to Chicago we had a team building activity at Bepoke Cuisine in the West Loop of Chicago. 

It's very similar to The Glendalia here in Cincinnati - hands on cooking classes with drinking along the way! (aka FUN FUN FUN!) Since we work on a US Hispanic-focused website, they did a customized Mexican menu for us for the evening - oooh I was so excited! 

They had some cheese and crisps out for us to nibble on while we cooked - along with a bar - so we can drink some too!

They had stations around the kitchen area all set up and prepped and ready for us. On each table was all the ingredients, utensils and the recipe. We split our group up into 6 groups - 4 or so for each station. (It really works best with 2-3 per station - we got a little crowded.)

Here's a selfie with me and my fashionista Whitney! I j'adore this girl - she's been my inspiration for wearing makeup at work. Now if I could just find some leopard print pants in size big butt - we'd be sisters from another mister!

Whit was in super-concentration mode - but I'm not sure if she was concentrating on the cooking or the drinking?! :-)

Isaac was stirring something - I wasn't on his team - so I have no idea - I think he was on the croquette team - so I'm gonna guess sautéing some chorizo.

Luis - well he got the man job of grilling flank steak. He took this job very seriously! :-)

And he did a great job - the beer-marinated flank steak skewers with chimichurri sauce were one of our apps and they were awesome! I could really have eaten this whole plate - but I shared.

This was one of my favorite things all night - Chorizo Potato Croquettas! These had a LOT of steps - which scares me off a bit! There is potato mashing, croquetta shaping, batter dipping and even frying! Wow - so glad I wasn't on this team! They were like yummier-than-usual tater tots.

Oh man - it was really amazing to see the other teams finishing up their dishes and starting to drool over what we were about to have for dinner.

Oh yeah - some of this too! 

Our chefs finally let us have a seat and put the finishing touches on all of the dishes and plated them for us.

We started out with a grilled radicchio salad - this was my team. I had never grilled lettuce before - it was delicious! Some of the greens were a little bitter for my taste - but I liked the tricks I learned about grilling the veggies.

We also had a Guava Grilled Pork Tenderloin with a Seasonal Vegetable Bake with Crema. I have to say - that vegetable bake was awesome! My coworker who REFUSES to eat vegetables even choked down a few! Of course 3 cups of cheese never hurts a vegetable. :-)

My favorite of the evening was the Mexican Chocolate Bread Pudding with Kahlua sauce. If you remember that rack of them above - I could have eaten a whole tray! I wanted to go back in the kitchen and see if there were any extras. I love love love bread pudding.

This was a really fun evening - we got to hang out and chat with each other - drink a little, bond a little and get outside of our usual teams. Bespoke Cuisine (and The Glendalia here in Cinci) are a great experience for friends or work teams!

Here's the recipe for the Bread Pudding - hope you enjoy:

Mexican Chocolate Bread Pudding

Ingredients

1 loaf of brioche or French bread, cut into cubes (about 15 cups)
3 cups milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Kahlua
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 TBS vanilla extract
2 tsp pure almond extract
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
6 eggs, lightly beaten
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks

Directions 

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Lightly grease a 13x9 baking dish or 10 individual ramekins
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together milk, cream and liquer
4. In another mixing bowl, combine the sugar and brown sugar with the cocoa powder & mix well. Add to the milk mixture.
5. Add the beaten eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon and cayenne pepper to the milk mixture and mix well.
6. Stir in the chocolate chips
7. Pour mixture over bread cubes and allow to stand for 10 minutes, stir occasionally to make sure all the milk gets absorbed
8. Spoon the bread into baking dish or ramekins and bake until a wood skewer comes out clean. For the 13x9 pan about 1 hour, for the ramekins about 40 minutes.
9. To serve, make a well inside each of the ramekins and spoon in a small amount of the Kahlua cream sauce or spoon the sauce over individual servings from baking dish.

Kahlua Sauce

Ingredients

1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup kahlua
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions

1. In a double boiler, over medium heat, melt the butter
2. Add the Kahlua and sugar, whisk until the sugar is dissolved
3. Whisk 1 TBS of the Kahlua mixture into the beaten egg to temper it
4. Add the egg/Kahlua mixture to the butter/Kahlua/sugar over the double boiler and stir constantly until slightly thickened
5. Remove from the heat and place in pitcher. Cover with plastic wrap and keep warm until ready to serve with the bread pudding.



Bespoke Cuisine on Urbanspoon




Monday, November 25, 2013

Restaurant: The Purple Pig - Chicago

I don't get to travel for work very often - so when I do - I make the food portion count! I went to Chicago a couple of weeks ago for work and knew we would have one night on our own - so I set off to find the best dining experience I could! 

A quick check of Urbanspoon Chicago shows that The Purple Pig is the most talked about restaurant right now - so it was on my hit list! It's right downtown and was only a few minutes from our hotel.

The Purple Pig is a collaboration of chefs from Mia Francesca, Spiaggia and Heaven on Seven and features housemade charcuterie (prepared meats), cheeses and classic Mediterranean fare. How can you go wrong?

We started off with Whipped Feta with Cucumbers. This was AMAZING! Whitney and I were practically licking the bowl (I wish I were kidding.) The bread was a little over crisp and burnt on the edges - but I didn't care - it was just a feta-delivery-tool. I'm really not a huge fan of feta but this was simply spectacular. We had a 2nd delivery of bread to finish this off.

My coworkers were into the vino but I'm not a fan so I was trying some of their beer selection. Good stuff - I liked the DuPont better - at least once I added my lemon to it.

This place was PACKED!! They do not take reservations - so it's sort of a game of getting there either early or late to avoid a two-hour wait. But trust me - it's worth it - no matter which way you go.

Next up was the charcuterie and cheeses. And I really don't remember what we got - it was dimly lit (thus the horrible use of flash photography - my apologies) and a bit noisy (we were next to the bar) - but it was all damn good. I think the meat was one of the prosciuttos (which I LOVE) and for the cheeses we got a cheddar, a goat and something else. I can confidently say - the plates were EMPTY. So delicious - sometimes it's the simple things that are truly the best. (Plus - add a little jam on top to make it even better.)

The thing we loved is that it's somewhat of a tapas menu. There is so much to choose from and it's all sharable - so share we did. We made it a bit of a round-robin with each of us choosing an item and going around about 3x! Whitney wanted to try the Seabass with Chickpeas so we got that too. We started with a couple of items and then just kept noshing and ordering and drinking - repeat.

Two of our items looked like this - one was Eggplant Parmesan Balls and the other was the Chorizo Stuffed Olives. Both were great - I don't like eggplant but didn't mind these. The olives were nice little bites as well. 

Matt is a meat & potatoes guy - he does not eat vegetables. So he chose the Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes. This literally fell apart when you looked at it! No knife required. Delicious! The gravy was awesome too.

Instead of dessert - we decided to end the night with a Meatball Slider with Parmesan & Arugula. We sliced this into three pieces and gave one final toast to the Purple Pig.

Why Should You Go? It's a great night of dining! There is something for EVERYONE. The atmosphere is hip & you definitely feel like you're special when you're there. The staff was amazing - they just kept coming back and taking care of us amidst all the customers! The food - impeccable. It wasn't all zomg amazing but it was all tasty. My two favorites were the whipped feta & the charcuterie. If you're in Chicago (living or visiting) - you gotta go!

The Purple Pig on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: Purple Pig provided this meal for myself & my coworkers - but the opinions are my own. Thanks so much to the PP - I had no idea they were going to surprise us like that!!! 


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Restaurant: PF Changs Fall Menu

I had the opportunity to host a surprise baby shower for a good friend recently. It was so much fun! This is actually her 3rd baby - but I found out from her hubby that she'd never had a baby shower! (WTH?) So I knew - I had to throw one for her! 

We planned and schemed behind her back - got her friends all set up and then I told her I wanted to take her out to lunch at PF Changs (one of her favorites) before the new baby boy came to visit! It was all set! 

 Our other friend Jen even brought her new buddy to the party! It was really great to get to cuddle and snuggle him for a couple of hours too!

Then Leah arrived and was so surprised that she even teared up a bit! It was great! We only did one baby shower game (much to the delight of the guests) and had a great time! But while we were there...we had to eat too!

Leah got the Crisp Honey Shrimp and she let me snag a bite - it was good! I love shrimp and like the crisp coating with the honey glaze. 

I love that they have seasonal menus - so I always try and grab from that. The fall menu had something I could not resist: Vietnamese Noodles with Steak & Shrimp! They describe it as a pho-inspired dish with hoisin, sriracha, cinnamon & coriander along with flank steak, shrimp and lots of veggies.

I LOVED this dish. I had previously had the Oolong Chilean Sea Bass (which is to-die-for!!) and I think that dish is great for dinner but this noodle dish was perfect for lunch. It's more casual dining with all the noodles. It was so delicious - I ate every single bite! I definitely have my go-to dishes now for PF Changs! The combination of flavors made every bite so good.

And since Leah was the guest of honor - of course she got dessert! She went for a big ol' hunk of cheesecake. It was really big so she had a little help from her friends.

They also had mini-desserts for just $2.95 so I tried their blueberry cheesecake - it was just the right size a restaurant dessert. I liked it but I think it was still a little frozen in parts - so kind of icy. 

Jen and I came up with the same fortune - we told our husbands they were in for some trouble apparently! haha

I really love PF Changs - they have such a wide variety and so many unique offerings! Plus they were wonderful for our baby shower - they set us up with a table off to the side - with extra room for gifts and the service was fantastic. If you're a fan - they have a special right now that if you buy $100 in gift cards - you get a $20 bonus card! So get a few and give them away or keep them all for yourself and have lunch for free with the bonus card!

Disclosure: PF Changs provided me a gift card for this meal but the opinions are all my own.  P.F. Chang's China Bistro on Urbanspoon