Thursday, September 30, 2010

Last Minute Italian Bean Spread



Our new favorite bean is the cannellini bean, a traditional Italian bean that is loaded with nutrients. Giada de Laurentis cooks with cannellini beans frequently, but we hadn't tried them until recently when we made this spread. A friend was coming over and the only thing we had to offer him was pita chips. We didn't have hummus, salsa or even cheese in the refrigerator! Thankfully we had a can of cannelini beans in the pantry and some other basic ingredients on hand. We threw a few things together and - voila - we had an instant appetizer! Next time you go food shopping, buy a can of cannellini beans. We promise it will come in handy next time guests come over! Your friends will think you bought the spread at a gourmet market!

Ingredients:
1 can of cannellini beans
2 tablespoons of lemon juice (preferably fresh, but bottled is fine)
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon of cumin
1 garlic clove
A pinch of salt
A pinch of pepper
1 teaspoon of olive oil
Chopped fresh parsley

Kitchen Essentials:
Can opener
Measuring spoons
Knife
Cutting board
Strainer
Food processor
Small decorative bowl

Directions:
Open the can of beans and drain the water from the beans using a strainer. Place the beans in a food processor, reserving 10-15 beans to place on top of the spread at the end. Add the lemon juice, oregano, cumin, salt pepper and chopped garlic clove. Pulse until smooth, scraping the sides to make sure everything is incorporated. Place the spread in a bowl. Next, garnish the spread by placing the whole beans on top and drizzling with olive oil. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with pita chips.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Another Taste of Taste on the Epic!

Because we loved lunch at Taste so much, we decided to go back another night for dinner. The left side of the menu remained the same every night, but the right side changed daily. That same menu was offered at the Manhattan Room. We decided to eat in Taste that night because we were not in the mood to dress up. That's what we love about Norwegian - you are free to do whatever.

For starters, we had the quesadillas stuffed with chihuahua cheese and mushrooms. Chihuahua cheese is a soft, white cheese made from cow's milk. It originated in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. (Our dog Joey's ancestors are from there too!) We have been big fans of chihuahua cheese ever since we tried the Queso Fundido at Rosa Mexicano in West Palm Beach. Ever since then, we look for chihuahua cheese on the menu of every Mexican restaurant we go to. We hadn't found it until we went to Taste, and Taste is not even a Mexican restaurant! We were pleasantly surprised!
Next, we tried the Chicken Skewers with Pineapple Salsa. From the moment we saw it on the menu, we knew we could recreate this at home. The chunky salsa is easy to make: mix chopped, grilled onions and pineapples, teriyaki sauce and cilantro in a bowl. Yum!

Mr. P ordered the Goat Cheese and Pear Salad with Walnuts. He loves goat cheese! The salad's simple vinaigrette dressing was perfect. All of the starters were tasted at Taste were definitely a hit!

Now on to the main course. Mrs. P had been craving pasta all day and was excited to see Cheese Tortellini on the menu. Then she saw Lobster Tail on the menu and felt that she had to make a choice between the two. She told her waitress her dilemma and the waitress gracefully offered to bring out both. Mrs. P happily enjoyed her meal and the excellent service.

Mr. P is a huge lamb fan! He ordered the lamb with leek mashed potatoes and fava beans. The beans were a little undercooked for his taste, but everything else was excellent.


For dessert, we had the Panna Cotta with sugar-free blueberry compote. We loved the panna cotta, but wished the compote wasn't sugar-free. We also tried the chocolate mousse, which was a little too rich for us, but not bad.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cooking Good with Mr. & Mrs. P

Cooking good with Mr. & Mrs. P
By Wallace Clark
Gazette Writer

According to their blogspot, Michael Paez and Cristene Martinez-Paez are: “…newlyweds, homeowners, Chihuahua parents, party planners, travelers and most importantly, best friends. We have so many recipes and cool ideas to share that we decided to start a blog.”

The Miami Springs couple is doling out great recipes and ideas on entertaining on their blogspot and Facebook page and their fan base is rapidly growing. In late October, the Paezs will have a taste of the big time when they appear on Ingrid Hoffman’s TV cooking show.

The Paezs are Miami natives, 28 years old, and neither has had professional training as cooks. Cristy has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and works in public relations. Michael has a bachelor’s degree in science. He reviews research for human subject safety issues for medical school doctors. But the couple has further aspirations in mind.

“Our dream is to have our own cooking show because there isn’t one with a couple,” said Cristy. “Well, except for the Neelys. My goal is to introduce cooking to young adults because most of them don’t want to cook. Everyone says they are too busy but we’re both busy with demanding jobs and we find time to cook. Cooking is the universal language and it brings people together.”

Michael said he and his wife are entertainers and love to have parties. “In order to have great parties, you have to have great food so we started creating recipes and writing them down,” said Michael. Cristy said, “In the beginning I used to burn a lot of stuff or undercook food. It’s not easy until you cook things a few times. I still can’t cook rice.”

Michael said things didn’t always go as planned. “We had a few disasters. And sometimes we have to make adjustments. Once we bought a pork loin at Costco and it just wouldn’t cook right so we chopped it up, added seasoning, pan fried it and made appetizers. We called them pork loin bites.”

When the Paezs perfected their stack of recipes, they started photographing the food and figured that a publishing company would love them but that hasn’t worked out yet.

Naturally, the Paezs are big fans of The Food Network and once when they were watching a show called “The Next Food Network Star,” the winner said she started out as a food blogger. “I thought if she can do it, then we can do it,” said Cristy.

Michael said, “That’s when we decided to create a blog and share what we did. It became popular because we cook all types of food and we get inspired by our travels. We put our twist on meals we like and try to make them healthier. We also try to simplify the recipes.”

Mr. & Mrs. P’s blog is what took them to the next step toward having their own cooking show and Cristy’s brother was the connection. “He sent the blog to all of his friends and one was the godson of Ana Maria Hernandez, producer of Ingrid Hoffman’s show, Delicioso, on The Food Network,” said Cristy. “We met Ana and she liked us so much that she wanted us to make an appearance. Hoffman’s show had been revamped and expanded to an hour since she appeared on The Food Network. The new one is entirely in Spanish on TeleFutura.”

Before appearing on Hoffman’s show, producer Hernandez and a cameraman went to the Paez’s Miami Springs home in late August to shoot some footage of the couple cooking and entertaining friends. The lucky diners were filmed eating and they might even appear on Hoffman’s show along with the Paezs.

A few days later, Michael and Cristy went to TeleFutura Studios in Doral where the Hoffman’s show is televised. The biggest surprise was that there was a second kitchen behind the scenes preparing the same dishes created by Hoffman. That food was used for perfect close-ups. Plus, if a dish called for five items, someone in the second kitchen did the chopping and measuring for Hoffman to use so the show wouldn’t bog down.

The Paezs go the grand tour and learned that behind the studio was a warehouse with countless cases of dishes, glassware, eating utensils, cookware, table decorations and every accoutrement that a cooking show would ever need.

Cristy said, “After we were on with Ingrid, we sat there and watched and really enjoyed seeing the process. I found it fascinating, especially the décor used to dress up the table and set.”

“It took six hours to film a one-hour show,” said Michael. “But it wasn’t like Ingrid was cooking the entire time. Her new show is like a variety show in that she also has guests and she talks to them.”

Michael said the crew films two shows in a 12-hour day and a full season can be completed in two weeks. The show with the Paezs is set to air at 10 a.m. on October 23 on TeleFutura.

Michael and Cristy have a symbiotic relationship and are a well-synchronized team in the kitchen, always smiling and mutually complimenting each other. And the warm bantering is always tinged with humor.

“We’d like to have a show called, ‘How to cook together without killing each other,’ ” said Cristy.

Check out Mr. & Mrs. P’s blog:
http://www.cristyandmichael.blogspot.com/ and they’re also on Facebook and Twitter.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Wallace Clark and the River Cities Gazette for featuring us. - Mr. & Mrs. P

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Money well spent at Moderno on the Epic!

Cagney's has always been our favorite restaurant on board NCL cruises, however Moderno (Deck 7, Aft.) definitely raised the bar! The Argentinian churrascaria does not disappoint unless you are a vegan or on a diet! Make sure you come here hungry because you are about to try 10 different meats! By the fifth tasting, we were satisfied, but tried the last five anyway (you know, for the blog). We must say that the assistant maitre'D at that restaurant was fantastic. If you go, please tell Rosalia Dizon that Mr. & Mrs. P sent you. The cover charge at Moderno is only $18 per person. That's not bad for the amount of food they bestow upon you.

An hour before our reservation, we enjoyed 2-for-one martinis atMalting's, a swanky but quiet bar adjacent to Moderno. Check the daily newsletter for drink specials.
Mr. P had the Polaris made with vodka, ice wine and Sprite. This is definitely something we can make at home. The pictures below were taken on different days on board. Top photo: French Kiss Martini (left) and Lychee Martini (right) Bottom photo: Pear Martini (left) and French Cosmo (right).



While you wait for your table, you are free to snack on fancy appetizers from Moderno's fully stocked salad bar. Cheese, olives, pasta salad,prosciutto and air dried beef were some of the snacks we couldn't resist.
After meeting new friends (Kristi Slaughter www.glutenfreeguru.com) and bartenders at the bar, Rosalia sat us down in an intimate table near the kitchen. We were right in the line of fire. We were surrounded by skewers and meat!
Here's a list of all the meats they bring to your table:

1) Pork Ribs
2) Garlic Beef
3) Fillet Mignon
4) Top Sirloin Steak
5) Lamb Chops (Mr. P's favorite!)
6) Chorizo
7) Portuguese Sausage
8) Beef Ribs
9) Chicken Breast wrapped in bacon (Mrs. P's favorite!)
10) Chicken Drumsticks marinated in lime juice, sea salt and garlic


As for the sides, they were just as incredible! They served us buttered white rice with black beans, french fries, garlic mashed potatoes and fried bananas. The fried bananas were out of this world! We've tried plenty of "platanos maduros," which are fried plantains, growing up, but these were actual ripe bananas that were breaded and fried. How clever! That's on our list of things we tried on vacation and want to make!


For dessert, we ordered the Portuguese sweet bread puffs with caramel and vanilla sauce. The waiter insisted on bringing out a variety of desserts, so we also tried the coconut flan and mango rice pudding. We were in heaven! Needless to say, we worked out for an hour the next day and skipped breakfast. It was worth it!

Mr. & Mrs. P's Pumpkin Spiced Latte a la Starbucks




After reading various posts from our friends on Facebook raving about Starbuck's Pumpkin Spiced Latte, we challenged ourselves to come up with our very own recipe. It took a few attempts, but we think we finally perfected it! Give a try and let us know what you think!


Ingredients (per latte):
1 cup of warm milk
1/3 cup espresso (without sugar)
4 tablespoons of pumpkin spice mixture (see recipe below)
Whipped cream
A sprinkle of cinnamon

Ingredients for Pumpkin Spice Mixture:
1 can of condensed milk (14 oz. can)
1/2 can of pumpkin puree (15 oz. can)
1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (We bought the Spice Island brand found in the spice isle in Publix.)

Kitchen Essentials:
Stove
Refrigerator
Pot
Espresso maker
Whisk
Bowl
Airtight plastic container
Measuring cups and spoons
Coffee mug

Directions for Pumpkin Spice Mixture:
Whisk all of the ingredients for the pumpkin spice mixture in a bowl. Store the mixture in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Imagine all the money you will save by making this drink at home!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Seeing is Believing: Shanghai's Chinese Restaurant on the Epic


Shanghai's Chinese Restaurant (Noodle Bar) on the Epic is a great little exciting place to eat in this grand ship. What makes this a-la-carte restauant so unique is the ability to see your meal being cooked in front of you while you wait. Note: The Noodle Bar at Shanghai's is a-la-carte, however Shanghai's it self is a flat cover charge. Do not confuse this with the Tappanyaki restaurant on board. It is quite a different experience. The chefs at Shanghai's do not put on a show as they cook. However, is is fun to watch them cook, especially when you are foodies like us!

We began chatting with a Asian couple next to us when we saw them taking photos of their food. This doesn't happen very often, so we started up a conversation with them. They told us that they were taking photos of their food because it was one of the most authentic Chinese dishes they have ever had outside of their country. That's a pretty big deal! If you are a fan of Chinese food, you need to check this place out.
For starters, Mr. P ordered the shrimp dumplings with a sweet dipping sauce. They were steamed to perfection and had a very airy texture.

Mrs. P had the fried potstickers, which are pan-fried dumblings. They were served in a bamboo bowl. The crust was crispy and the stuffing was warm and satisfying.


We ordered the shrimp fried rice and the seafood noodles. The fried rice was really good, but the star of the meal was definitely the noodles. This soup-like dish is made with shrimp, octopus, seafood broth, noodles, red onions and peppers. Then it is topped with red pepper flakes and chili oil. The layers of flavor keep your taste buds asking for more! Mr. P was one happy cruiser!


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mr. & Mrs. P's Halloween Ideas & Tips!

Halloween is our favorite holiday! It's the kick off to the holiday season and this year we are eager to get the party started! Here's some fantastic ideas, from our home to yours...

SPOOKY TREATS!

Even before we got married, we had a passion for cooking and baking. So every year, we made something special for our friends' Halloween parties. In 2007, we made tri-colored cupcakes for Mrs. P's cousin's Halloween home-warming party. We baked the cupcakes in Halloween themed baking cups and decorated them using plain vanilla frosting and food coloring. We really like using bright colors such as purple, lime green and orange for Halloween. We divided the vanilla frosting equally into three separate bowls, then used a different food coloring for each bowl. Follow the instructions on the food coloring box for the amount of drops to use. After you frost the cupcakes, use creepy Halloween candy to decorate them. We used gummy bones for ours.



We made cupcakes again in 2008. What can we say? We love cupcakes! This time, they looked like little pumpkins and we only used orange food coloring for the frosting. In a small bowl, we combined sugar and orange food coloring to dye the sugar. Then, we dipped the frosted cupcakes into the bowl. Finally, we pushed a thick twisted pretzel into the center of the cupcake to resemble the steam of the pumpkin. Super easy, cheap and cute!


Last year, we hosted our first Halloween party at our home. We had just bought a bundt pan and were eager to use it. We made two cakes, using boxed cake mix. Once they both cooled completely, we put one on top of the other. The one on the bottom was upside-down. Then, we combined powdered sugar, water and orange food coloring in a bowl and whisked it to create the glaze. We drizzled the glaze over the pumpkin-shaped cake and placed an ice cream cone (upside-down) in the middle. We decorated it further by placing leaves from our tree on the top of the cake and candy corn on the bottom. It was a hit!


Another favorite treat are our dead lady fingers! Here's how we make them. We make shortbread cookies in the shape of fingers and before baking them, we create creases by pressing the dough with the side of a fork. Finally we place sliced almonds on the tips of the "fingers" to represent nails. Believe it or not, they really look like fingers when they come out of the oven! Your friends will love them!

HAUNTED HOUSES!

We cannot wait until the first day of Fall this year to decorate for Halloween! Last year was our first Halloween at our new home and we got so excited that we swapped all of our regular decorations for Halloween and Fall decorations. Below are some ideas from last year. We plan on doing things a little different this year and will post pictures soon!



(Left: We create "shrunken heads" by peeling apples and carving faces on them. It doesn't have to be perfect. Then we dip the apples in a lemon juice and salt mixture for two minutes and allow the apples to dry near a window for about a week. Right: All you need is water and red food coloring to make "blood.")




(Create your own cinnamon scented candle and save a lot of money! Here's how: 1) buy a small pumpkin 2) cut a hole on one side big enough to fit a tea candle 3) scoop out everything from the inside 4) rub cinnamon throughout the inside of the pumpkin 5) drill holes in it to let out the warming aroma and light 6) Light the candle and enjoy!)

(To create a spooky bar for your next Halloween party, use lab beakers as pitchers and a plastic cauldron as a cooler or ice bucket. Bones, spider webs and pumpkins will add to the scary scene!)

CREATIVE COSTUMES!


We dress up every year. We cant help it! Every year we get more and more creative with our couple costume ideas. In 2007, we were the tooth fairy and the dentist. Mrs. P ordered her costume online, while Mr. P borrowed a friend's scrubs and bought some dental care supplies at the local pharmacy.


In 2008, we became a little morbid and created a dead groom and widow costume. That was the year we were engaged to be married. We bought Mr. P's suit at a thrift shop and covered it in baby powder to give it that "just came out of the grave" look. We bought his body makeup in the pharmacy and sprinkled baby powder on his hair as well. Mrs. P's black wedding dress was an old, long homecoming dress that she had hemmed for this costume. She bought some black fabric and sewed it onto a silver plastic tiara she bought at Party City. She completed the look with a black bouquet of flowers, black gloves and black lipstick. Everything came out to under $50 for both costumes.


Last year, we jumped on the vampire bandwagon for Mr. P's costume. He already owned the clothes he wore and had leftover Halloween makeup from the year before. Mrs. P was a sexy witch. She bought the corset top and black skirt in Forever 21. The accessories were from Party City. Marc, Mrs. P's Godson, was Michael Jackson. His costume was homemade too!

We hope that you will find our Halloween ideas useful! Please comment if you plan on making any of these recipes or using any of our decor and/or costume ideas.
Happy Halloween!
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