Monday, June 30, 2014

Homemade French Vanilla Ice Cream with Strawberry preserves #recipe

Some girls ask for diamonds, some ask for purses and others ask for shoes. While I love all three of those items, my favorite gift to receive is a small appliance. I will admit it - I have a small appliance problem. Williams Sonoma is my version of heaven and it was a very sad day when I realized we wouldn't be registering there for our wedding (we registered for our honeymoon instead).
When we moved to Tampa three years ago, the first small appliance Gabe bought me was a KitchenAid Mixer. He got a great deal on it from an estate sale and every time I walk in the kitchen, it brings a smile to my face. I have made everything from homemade sausage to homemade pasta with the mixer. I found this recipe online for French Vanilla Ice Cream and now that it is literally 100 degrees in FL, it was the perfect time to break out the ice cream attachment. 

French Vanilla Ice Cream
Ingredients

2 1/2 cups half-and-half
8 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups whipping cream
4 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
Strawberry Preserves

Directions

1. In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat half-and-half until very hot but not boiling, stirring often. Remove from heat; set aside.
2. Place egg yolks and sugar in the KitchenAid® Stand Mixer bowl. Attach bowl and wire whip to mixer. Turn to Speed 2 and mix about 30 seconds, or until well blended and slightly thickened.
3. Continuing on Speed 2, very gradually add half-and-half; mix until blended. Return half-and-half mixture to medium saucepan; cook over medium heat until small bubbles form around edge and mixture is steamy, stirring constantly. Do not boil.
4. Transfer half-and-half mixture into large bowl; stir in whipping cream, vanilla and salt. Cover and chill thoroughly, at least 8 hours.
5. Assemble and engage the KitchenAid® Ice Cream Maker attachment. Turn to STIR Speed (Speed 1). Using a container with a spout, pour mixture into freeze bowl. Continue on STIR (Speed 1) for 15 to 20 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. Immediately transfer ice cream into serving dishes, or freeze in an airtight container.
6. Top with strawberry preserves or other topping of choice.

What would you make with a KitchenAid mixer? Let PartSelect know and enter to win your own!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Happy Friday! Guy sings Frozen in 21 Disney Voices

Happy Friday! Today is June 27 - Gabe and I are getting married 3 months from today! CRAZY.

I am home visiting Keri for her birthday this weekend. Let's start the weekend off with a video I saw on Facebook - A guy singing Frozen's Let it Go in 22 Disney and Pixar voices. #AMAZING!
 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Stay #FreshNaturally this Summer with Tom’s of Maine

This shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

I just bought my plane ticket to Maine for our Family Reunion! I cannot wait to get back up there and get out of the Florida heat for a few days. After the nation saw one of the worst winters in history, summer is officially here. I am a born and raised Floridian and 2014 is the hottest, most humid summer I can remember living through - and it just started. I become instantly miserable just walking outside - this is the time one is in need for a long lasting deodorant and staying #FreshNaturally!
As a runner, it is very tough to stay dry in this summer heat. Last year during marathon training, I didn't give much thought as to which deodorant  I used - I bought brands solely based on what they smelled like. This was until my friend Leslie made me aware how important it is to pay attention to what is in your deodorant. Ingredients found in many antiperspirants are the leading cause for breast cancer. They prevent your body from "purging toxins," which, when trapped, find their way into the lymph nodes. They concentrate and contribute to the cellular changes which lead to cancer. If you do some further investigation online, there are several websites which also link antiperspirants to Alzheimer's disease.
Maine - one of my favorite locations to visit
Leslie introduced me to Tom's of Maine Long Lasting Deodorant. It's aluminum-free with no artificial fragrances or preservatives and no animal ingredients. In terms of natural fragrances, there are a lot of options - refreshing lemongrass is my favorite!
The Whole Foods in Tampa has a large assortment of Tom's of Maine products. On a side note, I also love their bar soaps - I have very sensitive skin and have never had an issue since I switched over. Plus the product is made in Maine - so I am an instant fan!
2011 Family Reunion - Monmouth Maine
I will be back in Maine in 4 weeks for our Family Reunion!!! I look forward to a very relaxing weekend with stunning views of Lake Cobbosseecontee in Monmouth and eating ALL the lobster rolls I can fit in my belly. This will be my last weekend of relaxation before the stress of the wedding officially hits!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Reception walk-thru and new stuff to stress over #WeddingWednesday

THREE MONTHS. We only have three months left before the wedding. I get reminders from The Knot telling me what is left - luckily, there are only a few minor details left. Right now, I am thankful for my type-A personality when it comes to event planning.

Our remaining to-do's through the end of July:
Dance Lessons (my worst nightmare!!)
Purchase wedding bands
Arrange transportation for the wedding party
Decide if we will have a videographer

While we were in New Orleans last weekend, we had the opportunity to sit down with our event manager at Hotel Mazarin. There was a wedding taking place inside of La Louisiane that evening so we got a first hand look at what the set up will actually look like. Upon walking into the front doors, the first room will have our buffet stations lined up featuring gumbo, baked oysters, shrimp and grits, chicken cordon bleu, slow roasted top round of beef and a bananas foster station.
The cake will also be displayed in this area along with a giant Canvas from one of our engagement photos. I was excited to see an actual Haydels Bakery cake in person vs. the demo's we saw at the store.
This room also has the bar and cocktail tables. To be honest, not having everything in one giant room had me stressed out but seeing it in person helped my nerves. The giant French doors behind Gabe is where the main dining area and dancing will take place.
One thing about weddings in New Orleans is they utilize cocktail tables for seating with a smaller  amount of large tables mixed in. We do not want that. So the setup will be similar to what you see below but with more 8 tops. The table in the middle is where this couple chose to have their DJ, but that will be our Sweetheart table (using one of the cocktail tables in the above photo).
This is another view of the room. Where the open brick wall and false door meet is usually where the cake table goes but we opted to keep it in the other room so we could fit everyone in one room and have more room to dance. I must say how much we LOVE the brick walls and decor of Hotel Mazarin.
Now that the stress level has diminished some regarding the reception, a new wave of stress has come into play. We are getting married in Jackson Square. To get a permit from the state, you pay $500. Then you pay for chair rentals (about $250). Our preacher was around $300. When it is all said and done with, it was over $1,000 to have our ceremony here. On the contract, it states that we cannot close down the park since it is state property. No biggie right?
Wrong. We also saw a beautiful wedding taking place inside of Jackson Square while in town. Everything was how I imagined it. HOWEVER.....there were 100 people standing outside the gates watching everything go down. We were one of those people until the bride walked down the aisle, then we moved on. There were also about 20 people who actually walked inside of the gate, standing directly behind the wedding party. That is not OK. The photo below is from another couple who were married in Jackson Square. Looking at their wedding photos, they also had a ton of people looking outside the gates. When we picked this location, we knew there would be onlookers due to it being a public place. I never thought people would think it's alright to stand on top of a wedding, watching people they don't know get married.
I now have 3 months to become OK with the idea that everything may not go as perfectly planned it. We were going to have our Second Line band do our ceremony music down the aisle. After seeing the wedding last weekend, we need to hire audio for the ceremony since it is so loud in this area.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cauliflower Steaks with White Chia Seed Cauliflower Purée #giveaway Mamma Chia

For the last few months, I have started my day off with a tablespoon of chia seeds. If time permits, I will add Chia seeds into smoothies while other mornings are so rushed that I take them like a spoon full of sugar. Along with my morning dose of Chia, I have been experimenting with the super food in recipes. I came across a Cauliflower Steak recipe that I have wanted to try for quite sometime. Instead of making traditional Cauliflower Puree to place the steak over, I added white chia seeds. This turned out delicious and it was super easy to make!
Cauliflower Steaks with Cauliflower Chia Puree
adapted from epicurious
Ingredients
1 1 1/2-pound head of cauliflower
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus additional for brushing
1 Tablespoon White Chia Seeds (soaked in 1/2 cup water for 15 min)

Preheat oven to 250°F.

Cut two 1-inch-thick slices of cauliflower, cutting through stem end. Set cauliflower steaks aside.
Cut enough florets from remaining cauliflower head to measure 3 cups. Combine florets, 1 1/2 cups water, and milk in medium saucepan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring to boil and cook until cauliflower florets are very tender, about 10 minutes. Strain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Spread florets on large rimmed baking sheet, and bake 10 minutes until slightly dry. Transfer florets and soaked chia seeds to a blender. Add reserved 1 cup cooking liquid and puree until smooth. Return puree to same saucepan and increase oven temperature to 350°F.

Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Brush cauliflower steaks with additional oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add cauliflower steaks to skillet and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer skillet to oven and bake cauliflower steaks until tender, about 10 minutes.

Rewarm cauliflower puree over medium heat. Divide puree between 2 plates; top each with cauliflower steak.
On rushed mornings when I have no time to make a smoothie, Mamma Chia Squeeze vitality packs are my rescue. Mamma Chia is a line of high quality organic chia-based foods and beverages that provide vitality, energy and strength. AND they taste good - double bonus.
While it seems Chia seeds is a new trend, that isn't the case - the seeds were revered by both the Mayans and Aztecs for their amazing energy and natural healing powers. In pre-Colombian times, chia seeds were a main component of both the Aztec and Maya diets. One tablespoon of the seeds was considered capable of sustaining a warrior for 24 hours. 

I was first introduced to Mamma Chia while at the 2013 NYC Marathon. They were giving out samples of Mamma Chia drinks. I fell instantly in love with Pomegranate Mint and Blackberry Hibiscus. Another advantage of Chia seeds is that it helps you stay full, which is a bonus for marathon training.

I am giving one reader a Mamma Chia prize pack valued at $75!

GIVEAWAY
Let me know in the comment section below how you consume Chia seeds. Don't forget to log your activity in the rafflecopter widget - which will also allow you to gain more entries.

One week’s supply of Mamma Chia products
7 Chia Squeezes (varied flavors)
7 beverage vouchers
One copy of Janie Hoffman's book – Chia Vitality
One Mamma Chia T-Shirt
Total retail value: $75
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 23, 2014

Brews of the Burg and The Vinoy Renaissance's new craft beer, Paul's Landing


This Thursday, 6.26.14, Brews of the Burg is taking place - a 4 hour tour of local breweries in St. Petersburg FL with an after party to celebrate The Vinoy Renaissance's new craft beer. The tour will start at 12:00 and will visit three local breweries: Three Daughters Brewing, St. Pete Brewing Company and Cycle Brewing. During the 4-hour tours, guests can participate in scavenger hunts via social media with a chance to win nights at the beautiful Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club, free brunch at Marchand's Bar and Grill or free growlers of the Vinoy's brand new craft beer./ new brew.

Each participant will sample crafts and receive complimentary brews at each of the 3 stops. Brews of the Burg is taking place on Renaissance's 3rd annual Global Day of Discovery, with 155 Renaissance Hotels around the world.

Following the brewery tour, the Brew Bash after party will take place from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. in Marchand’s at The Vinoy. Sample local craft brews from the brew bus and microbreweries, enjoy ale-inspired food pairings from the resort’s executive chef and step behind the barrier to test out turn-table skills with Scratch DJ Academy.

Space is limited and tickets are only $22.90!! To purchase tickets and reserve your spot for this one-of-a-kind event please visit http://brewsoftheburg.eventbrite.com.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Red Fish Grill, New Orleans

If you've been to New Orleans and walked down Bourbon Street, chances are you have passed Red Fish Grill. We have seen the restaurant multiple times and have never stopped in. Red Fish Grill has received many awards including Top 10 Seafood Restaurant in the United States by USA TODAY in 2013. They were also named a Best Seafood Restaurant in the United States in 2012 by Travel + Leisure Magazine.
We decided to give Red Fish Grill a try since is located outside of Hyatt French Quarter, where we stayed during this trip. We were instantly greeted by a very energetic server by the name of Ike. We learned that serving at Red Fish Grill is his primary job and acting is his second job. Ike has been on multiple episodes of HBO's Treme, HBO's new show True Detective and FX's American Horror Story. If you find yourself at Red Fish Grill, request for Ike - you will not be disappointed.
We started off the night with the Red Fish Grill Seafood Sampler appetizer, BBQ Blue Crab Claws; Gulf Shrimp & Tasso Fritters; and Creole Marinated Gulf Shrimp .
While everything was delicious, the BBQ Blue Crab Claws was by far a stand out in this dish. We typically find Blue Crab in FL to be fishy - so we tend to stay away from it. We learned that Blue Crab in Louisiana is sweet and the farthest thing from fishy. These claws reminded us of a smaller version of Stone Crab. And the roux it was served it.....out of this world and I had to refrain myself from drinking it out of the bowl.
Gulf Shrimp & Tasso Fritters were cooked to perfection and had the flavors played off very well together.
Finally, the Creole marinated gulf shrimp were a perfect companion to the other two items on the sampler. They were marinated then chilled with a creole sauce.
When I first read their cocktail menu, I became intrigued with their specialty crushed cocktails. These were cocktails served over shaved ice, so they weren't "frozen" but were slushy. I ordered the Frozen Pimm’s Cup, made with Pimm’s No. 1, ginger beer, fresh lime and cucumber. It was perfectly refreshing on that hot and humid day. Gabe ordered what was probably his 10th Abita Strawberry on this trip. So happy that they have our favorite beer on tap in New Orleans!
When it came time to order dinner at Red Fish Grill, I wanted to get something light and healthy. I ordered the Mayhaw Glazed Yellowfin Tuna, over bibb lettuce, blackened avocado, sweet onions, pecans, lemon Dijon vinaigrette. Let me tell you - this was DELICIOUS. This was my first time eating blackened avocado and I am now pretty obsessed. The Tuna was cooked to perfection. It had the perfect amount of lemon dijon vinaigrette and had a nice crunch thanks to the pecans. I would absolutely order this again and again.
Gabe ordered Mississippi Catfish & Shrimp Creole. This was a HUGE crispy catfish served over a bed of shrimp Creole and rice. The catfish was light and flaky and quite possibly the largest catfish either of us have ever seen.
For dessert, I received the Double Chocolate Bread Pudding with a candle for my birthday - a rich dark and semisweet chocolate bread pudding with white and dark chocolate ganache and chocolate almond bark. This dessert takes 20 minutes to prepare and I strongly suggest ordering it if you are at Red Fish Grill.
We also tried the Pecan Pie Profiterole - a flaky profiterole filled with brown sugar Diplomat cream and topped with crunchy, caramel and toasted pecans. This was a delicious dessert which Gabe enjoyed - I was afraid to eat more than a bite now that I have a crown.

If you find yourself in the French Quarter and are looking for a delicious seafood dinner, I strongly suggest a visit to Red Fish Grill. We truly enjoyed everything ordered and it is no wonder why they have won so many awards.
Red Fish Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon - Happy Birthday to Me!

My original goal in life was to be in show business - behind the scenes, producing. My ultimate dream was to be part of the Tonight Show. A few weeks ago, my Mom called me and woke me up talking about Jimmy Fallon. At first, I was annoyed - why is my morning starting off my day prior to coffee talking about such things? After the caffeine hit my system, I called her back to find out that she had heard a rumor that Jimmy Fallon was bringing the Tonight Show on the road to Orlando. I instantly called my friend Darlynn and she confirmed this as a fact. AND Jimmy was bringing the Tonight Show to Orlando on my Birthday. I had to get tickets.
The day tickets were released, Darlynn did a great job stalking the internet and got into the que before tickets were gone (a whopping 3 minutes). She scored 4 tickets to the June 17th show - the day of my 35th birthday.
I couldn't have been more excited - especially hearing the lineup. We had Kevin Hart and Jimmy Buffet. Between Buffet and The Tonight Show in person, I could cross two items off my bucket list. We went to the show with Darlynn's husband Steve and my Mom. Best birthday present ever (besides the diamond ring I received last year of course).
Overall the experience was super cool and we laughed so hard our sides hurt. If you were to tell me a few months ago that I would have spent my birthday watching The Tonight Show, I would have never believed you. I couldn't be more appreciative for this experience. With that said, I saw the reactions of these two gentlemen in person after watching themselves during this scene. PRICELESS.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hyatt French Quarter - Our home away from home in the big easy

Gabe and I have been to New Orleans 6 times in the past 2 years. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know we are getting married there in 3 months. That's how much we love the Big Easy. My Birthday was yesterday and we needed to make one last trip to NOLA prior to our wedding in September, finalizing a few details. We decided to make a birthday weekend / wedding duty trip and had an amazing time. After a long drive on Friday, we arrived at Hyatt French Quarter.We were welcomed by a beautiful lobby and I knew we were in for a fantastic time.
After the tranquility of the lobby, we soon found ourselves overlooking a very busy Bourbon Street.
Bourbon Street from our private balcony
I found an amazing surprise inside our room - a delicious bottle of 2009 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, a hand written note and a meat / cheese platter that would make anyone jealous - see that honey? It's truffle honey. I about rolled over and am still dreaming about it.
While I was excitedly going through the treats left for our arrival, Gabe was running through the room exclaiming that this was the best hotel room he had ever seen. I soon understood his excitement when I left the cheese plate. We stayed in a king room which had a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street. Upon check-in, we were offered earplugs, which I would strongly suggest to anyone staying in the French Quarter in close proximity to Bourbon St. With that said, a balcony room was by far the way to go. We people watched all night while staying out of the hustle and bustle. It was the best of both worlds!
The room was very large and comfortable with over 300 Square Ft. Along with a king bed, there was a sofa with a lounging area. The bed at Hyatt French Quarter was insanely comfortable and I wouldn't have brought my own pillow if I knew we were staying in pillow heaven. I have to sleep with three pillows, which is why I bring my own (seen below on the bench...oops).
One of the best perks about staying at this hotel is a 24 hour fitness facility - Stay Fit at Hyatt. It featured every machine you would look for while traveling and if you felt like working off beignets at 3am, no one would be there to stop you. We loved the cool towels available all day and night as well.


This is when I get fired - we never made it to the pool at Hyatt French Quarter. Unfortunately, this trip was very short and we had time dedicated to wedding duties. I hear they have an amazing poolside bar with craft cocktails and I look forward to returning and lounging at the pool.
Speaking of Bars. Hyatt French Quarter has an amazing craft cocktail bar. If you find yourself in the big easy, you owe yourself a trip to Batch Bar. They have a wide array of house infused spirits and multiple unique drinks which are perfect to quench your thirst on a hot summer day. I tried the "Heated Situation" a cocktail made with Anaheim infused grey goose, prickly pear puree, cointreau, lime juice and orange juice.  It was as delicious as it was pretty to look at.
We also had daily breakfast at Powdered Sugar, Hyatt French Quarter's quick service market who offers fresh meals at great prices. I first have to applaud their cappuccino. It was perfect - this coming from someone who always has something negative to say about coffee drinks. Sadly, all I have to prove of this experience is a photo I posted on Instagram since my phone and I had a major disagreement this weekend - not allowing me to save photos! I will say, their breakfast buffet which is available on the weekends is the way to go. Amazing and fluffy scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, grits, potatoes, fruit and pastries. Great for starting your morning off the right way!
I would absolutely recommend staying at Hyatt French Quarter if you are in New Orleans. Between the location, the hospitality and overall convenience, you couldn't ask for more while on vacation. I can say this will not be our last trip to this beautiful hotel. Also, Hyatt French Quarter is very active on both Twitter and Instagram so if you are in the area, make sure you say hi!

Friday, June 13, 2014

We're Nola Bound!

Hi! We are currently on our way to New Orleans! Driving. Yes, driving. This is what I get for buying a new car. At least it has really comfortable seats. I will not be updating the blog until next week but will be all over Instagram :)
We hope to arrive in the big easy by 8pm and start our trip off with the obligatory touristy but delicious ACME Oyster House.This is one of Gabe's favorite restaurants in the city, their oysters are amazing and it is 0.1 miles away from our hotel.
Speaking of hotels, we are super excited to be staying at the Hyatt French Quarter. I stayed on this property during my first trip to NOLA in 2010. This was prior to it becoming a Hyatt - back when it was the Chateau Bourbon by Wyndham. I already know how great of a location this hotel is and I am even more excited to check it out now that it is a Hyatt!

Saturday morning, we will hopefully start off at Erin Rose Bar - a New Orleans Favorite who was recently named one of the best bars in America by Esquire Magazine. Yes - you read that right, we are starting off our morning at a bar. No judging, it is New Orleans - however, they have a morning happy hour - from 10am-2pm they have $3 Mimosas, $3 Screwdrivers, $4 House Bloody Marys, $3.50 Frozen Irish Coffee. $4 Hot Irish Coffee. Not to mention a killer po-boy menu including a “Dark & Stormy” Pork Belly Poboy NOLA Rum Ginger Glaze with Lime Slaw, Garlic Aiolipork belly - you are MINE Mr. Sandwich.

Then we are heading to the Cajun Zydeco Festival - our first actual festival from the 6 trips in NOLA. This festival celebrates Cajuns in with music, food and arts. Plus it is in walking distance from our hotel. I cannot wait to report back on this experience!
Saturday night, we are eating at Red Fish Grill off of Bourbon Street. This is a Dickie Brennan establishment which we have passed everytime we walk onto Bourbon Street. I am very much looking forward to finally dining here, especially after seeing the reviews on Yelp and Google.
On Sunday morning, we are having brunch at Broussard's - a New Orleans Classic. This is another establishment who was named best bars in America by Esquire Magazine. They also have an amazing brunch deal in NOLA - a 3 course jazz brunch starting at $21 a person. You have an option to get unlimited mimosas for an additional $12.95. You know this girl is partaking in that!
Later that night, we will finally experience Restaurant Revolution, one of the most popular restaurants in the city. While my birthday wont be for an additional two days, this will be my official birthday dinner. The food is supposed to be spectacular and beautiful. The above photo is corn cappuccino. I mean....really.....
Monday will be our final afternoon in the city and we are ending it with a tasting for our rehearsal dinner at Tableau, a restaurant opened in 2013 by restaurant guru Dickie Brennan. Tableau is located inside of the historically haunted Le Petite Theater. When we were in NOLA Feb 2013, it had yet to be opened. I recall the stories we heard about this property while on a ghost tour with our parents.

So this is what we will be eating while in New Orleans! What are you doing this weekend?