Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cozumel, Mexico

         Intercontinental Presidente Resort at Cozumel
                     We had a fantastic time in Cozumel and absolutely loved this resort!  
                                
                                     Here's a little taste of our time on Cozumel...



 




The Virgin Miami Vice, a cross between a pina colada and a strawberry daiquiri, has become my new favorite!

This is the open-air dining pavilion, right on the ocean front.  It's an amazing structure with a dried palm tree leaf roof.  A talented native Mexican guitarist would play every evening, under the pavilion to our enjoyment. There are some fantastic chefs at this restaurant.  We loved the menu and enjoyed some delicious breakfasts here as well.  But we especially enjoyed dining here beside the ocean every evening.


The staff was is great!  Here's a guy cutting open a coconut for me!



 I fell in love with this light and healthy coconut water! 

Take scuba lessons, snorkel, jet ski, or paddle board right on the beach. This is a perfect beach for little kids!  


The Town of Cozumel, is a quick drive from the hotel.  It's a fun and colorful place to walk around and window shop.  We ate at a local favorite, Los Otates, where they make some awesome street tacos.







                                                                 










 The local school children were so cute in their uniforms walking home from school.  This little girl let me take her picture.


                                                                           Raw Cacao Beans


We came upon this fun little Chocolate Shop while walking around Cozumel.  Here they grind their own cacao beans to create these delicious Mexican chocolates.  We enjoyed sampling their beautiful chocolates and ended up coming home with some real cacao beans to show the kids.  Can't wait to grind my cacao beans and make some Mexican brownies, Mexican hot chocolate...


                                                           Pretty Mexican Pastries

                                      Punta Sur State Park, Cozumel, Mexico
This is a beautiful and rugged area.  On the tip of this island you feel like Tom Hanks in Cast Away.  Looking out to the ocean, you feel like you're on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean!   Here there is a natural crocodile lagoon of American crocodiles, but don't be afraid they stay in the lagoon during the day and only come out onto the beach at night!  We took a boat ride in the lagoon and were able to see several large crocodiles.  We had a snorkel guide swim us out to a beautiful reef with an amazing forest of corals, beautiful fish, conch, star fish, and rays. A nearby light house climb offers amazing ocean views. 













                                                                   Adios Cozumel!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cucumber, Tomato and Bell Pepper Salad

Cucumber, Tomato and Bell Pepper Salad

           Hi friends!  The summer is finally starting to settle down a little!  We've been having so much fun and I hope you have too!  We had a fantastic time in Cozumel, Mexico, Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah. We've also had cousins come out to visit and had a great time with them in Washington D.C. I'll be sharing some photos from the trips soon! 
 I wanted to share this recipe from my sister- in- law and dear friend, Dawn Ann.  She served this salad at a family reunion years back and it's been a summertime favorite ever since.  It's so colorful and the flavor is so garden fresh, I love it! For a Mediterranean twist add a cup of Kalamata olives and a cup of crumbled Feta cheese.  Helpful hint: seed a cucumber by cutting it in half lengthwise and running  a spoon down the center scraping the seeds out as you go.  This salad lends itself well to grilled fish and meats or good old-fashioned Barbeque.   



2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1 green pepper, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

handful of fresh basil, washed


Vinaigrette:

1 cup white vinegar
2/3 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

 

In salad bowl combine all vegetables and set aside.  Blend all dressing ingredients together. Pour dressing over vegetables and refrigerate for 30 minutes prior to serving.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Sorbet Frosting

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Sorbet Frosting
Happy Cookie Friday!   Summertime is finally here!  (Just saying that makes me want to get up and dance to High School Musical 2!)  I hope you all have a fun end of the school year!   Hope you enjoy these yummy summertime cupcakes!  Like I've said before...I LOVE LEMON!!!  We are off to Mexico on Monday so I won't be checking in for a bit...but I promise to bring back all kinds of great ideas, photos and foods from Mexico!  Hasta Luego!

Lemon Cupcakes

1 cup butter, softened
1 ¾ cups sugar
3 cups flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
3 teaspoons lemon extract
Zest from one lemon

In bowl of electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.   Mix dry ingredients together.  Beginning with four mixture, add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, ending with flour mixture.  Beat in vanilla, lemon extract and zest.  Fill cups half full ONLY.  Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.  Cool on bakers rack.   Frost when completely cool.
                                    
Lemon Sorbet Frosting

12 cups powdered sugar
1 ½ cups butter
8-12 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon extract

Beat all ingredients together in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Begin with adding only 8 tablespoons of lemon juice.  If frosting is too stiff add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice at a time until soft but stiff.  Fit a BIG round or star tip in a pastry bag and fill with frosting.  Pipe one dollop of frosting in center of the cupcake.  Now start winding a big thick strip of frosting around the outside of the cupcake.  Swirl frosting towards the center overlapping as you go, until you reach the center top.  Add your favorite sprinkles, top with a blueberry, raspberry or add a little live flower or a candy flower to make them perfect for any occasion.  Let set uncovered in a cool location until ready to serve, even overnight if needed.



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cranberry Pecan Romaine Wedge Salad

Cranberry-Pecan Romaine Wedge Salad
After a really fun 12 mile bike ride, along the beautiful C&O Canal to the quaint little Civil War town of Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, we were famished!  We dove into a little cafe for lunch where I had a delicious salad similar to this one.  I love this salad combination of the cranberries, pecans and blue cheese!  Plus, it's really fast and easy enough for week night dinners and elegant enough for lunches and dinner parties.  Hope you enjoy!  

3 hearts of Romaine lettuce
3/4 cup chopped pecans 
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Blue Cheese Dressing
extra blue cheese, crumbled

Cut hearts of romaine in half lengthwise, giving you 6 romaine wedges.


Place romaine wedges on individual plates or on a platter.  Dress each romaine wedge with Blue Cheese Dressing, sprinkle chopped pecans and dried cranberries over the top and garnish with a little extra crumbled blue cheese.  

   Blue Cheese Dressing

I L-O-V-E this blue cheese dressing!  Believe me, you'll never go back to store bought dressing after this one!

1 ½ cups mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
½ lemon, squeezed
1 cup crumbled blue cheese 
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon coarse salt
 ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper to taste


In bowl of food processor or in blender, whip all ingredients together until smooth.  If needed, thin with a little milk.  Dressing may need thinning after refrigeration.
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Friday, May 23, 2014

Sugar Cookie Tarts

Sugar Cookie Tarts

Happy Cookie Friday! These Sugar Cookie Tarts are the best of both worlds...delicious sugar cookies and scrumptious fruit tarts, combined!  These give you the look of beautiful fresh fruit tarts without all the fuss of an actual French pastry.  These tarts look like you've put in a lot of time and effort, but they are really simple and fast.  They are perfect for brunches, open houses and parties and best of all, they are positively mouthwatering!  This recipe will make 27 Sugar Cookie Tarts.

Sugar Cookies

1 cup sugar
¾ cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In bowl of electric mixer combine sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, lemon extract and lemon zest. Save the lemon juice for the Lemon Glaze.  Mix until creamy while scraping the bowl often.   In separate bowl mix flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Add to butter mixture and mix until well blended, about 1-2 minutes.  Roll dough into 1 ¼ inch balls.  Roll dough balls in extra granulated sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet. 

Dip bottom of a drinking glass in sugar and flatten dough balls into 2 ¼ inch circles.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or just until tops of cookies begin to break slightly.  Let cool 2 minutes and remove from cookie sheet.  Cool completely.  Frost with Lemon Butter Cream Frosting.


Lemon Butter Cream Frosting

1/2 cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar
juice from 2 lemons 
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream all ingredients in an electric mixer until fluffy.  Place a spoonful of frosting on a cookie and spread it around with the back of the spoon.


 Top with a big pinch of fresh blueberries, sliced strawberries and fresh raspberries.  Garnish with a sprig of mint.  


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