Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dining under the Full Moon

There's nothing better than having date night during the week. There's just something about going out during a "school night" that makes it extra special and somewhat adventurous. Earlier this month we had the pleasure of having a spectacular spring dinner at OCEAN2000 inside Pelican Grand Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale. Florida.  

Each month, the beachside restaurant hosts a unique event called “An Evening Under the Moon.” Nowhere else in Fort Lauderdale can you dine just steps away from the Atlantic Ocean on sand dunes simply lit by moonlight and a few strategically placed tiki torches. We sat so close to the water that we could actually hear the crashing waves and smell the sea salt. It was glorious. Although the weather was murky all day, the evening brought a cool breeze and soft clouds that made the night incredibly romantic and set the tone for surprises the evening had in store. 

As soon as we arrived, we felt relaxed and at ease at the sophisticated yet laid back hotel with an Old Florida vibe. We began our evening with two glasses of sparkling wine and butler-passed horderves during the cocktail hour on a beautiful terrazo-tiled private balcony. There were three telescopes lined up against the white railings overlooking the gleaming water and night sky. On the night we were there, there was a full moon and it happened to be the night after the blood moon made its appearance. The moon was absolutely breathtaking and awesome. 

Chef Todd Lough prepared a three courses dinner made with fresh ingredients and inspired by the season - a starter, main dish and dessert. In between the starter and the main course, we were treated to a granita to cleanse our pallets. It was hard to choose just one of each dish, but thankfully there's two of us and we get to share and try our two favorite picks. 

We choose the burrata and octopus salad for starters, filet mignon and lamb for the main dish. The soft burrata was served with peppery arugula, crisp yellow tomatoes and balsamic glaze. The octopus was fresh and very tender. The filet mignon and lamb was cooked perfectly.

We shared a chocolate parfait and passion fruit panne cotta for dessert. Panne cotta is one of Mr. P's favorite desserts and he couldn't get enough of it. The parfait was also delicious. The food was just as good as the view and atmosphere. 

We were pleasantly surprised to learn that an astrologist was reading people's auras during the event. Although we can be a bit skeptical of fortune tellers, we took a chance and met with her. Right away, she mentioned that we are both very creative and leaders, not followers. Check, check! Then, she asked us to pick a card from the upside down stack on the table. The card was "The World," which means all of our stars are aligned and we are grateful for our blessings. She said that we have great things in store in 2014 and 2015! We can't wait to find out!

For more information on Pelican Grand Beach Resort, visit www.pelicanbeach.com. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Healthy Turkey Chili

Lately it's been really hot in Miami, which reminds us that beach season is right around the corner! Although it is a little too warm for chili, we still like to treat ourselves to a nice bowl of it every now and then, especially when it won't make us feel guilty for eating it. For a few months now, we have been making small healthy changes that have added up to a healthier lifestyle. Sometimes its the little changes that make the most impact. This recipe is a lighter version of the original beef chili. We promise you won't miss any of the fat or calories from regular chili. This healthy turkey chili will satisfy your family and friends and they won't even know its good for them. All they will notice is how thick and satisfying this dish is, not matter what the weather is like outside!

2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 large onions
1 green pepper
8 garlic cloves
3 lb. of ground turkey
2 15 oz. cans of tomato sauce
2 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bottles of light beer
1 15 oz. can of black beans
1 15 oz. can of cannellini beans
1 15 oz. can of red kidney beans

Light sour cream
Shredded cheddar cheese
Fresh jalapenos
Fresh tomatoes

Kitchen essentials:
Dutch oven or large pot
Cutting board
Wooden spoon or spatula
Measuring spoons
Can opener

Chop the onions and peppers finely. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a dutch oven. When the oil is hot, throw in the onion and peppers. Add a little salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Finely chop the garlic and cook for about a minute. Next, add the ground turkey and cook thoroughly. Add some more salt and pepper. It is important to season each layer for intense flavor. 

Once the meat has browned, add the tomato sauce, beer and diced tomatoes. Add the rest of the spices and cook for a few minutes until the sauce is bubbling.  Strain the liquid from the canned beans. Lower the heat and add the beans. Simmer on low for about 45 - 60 minutes and allow the flavors to marry. Stir the chili occasionally. Taste to make sure the seasoning is right. Serve with sour cream, chopped tomatoes, cheddar cheese and cilantro. This turkey chili pairs perfect with warm bread! Enjoy!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cannoli Dip

We've seen a bunch of dessert dip recipes on other blogs, but we have never had an excuse to try one for ourselves. Last weekend, a good friend of ours made cannoli dip for a Superbowl party. We were hooked! We probably ate more dessert dip then the variety of cheese dips at the party. The following weekend, our neighbors invited us over for dinner and we were in charge of dessert. Of course we made cannoli dip! We were inspired by the recipe our friend gave us, which she found in a blog (ValSoCal). We made a few tweaks to make it our own. This dessert is so light and fluffy, that it will be hard to stop eating it. That's why we made sure to pack up the leftovers and give them away to family members. Everyone loved the sweet, smooth cream. It doesn't really matter what you dip into it - fruit, wafers, a spoon or your fingers - you won't be disappointed! Plus, this recipe is totally feasible even for the busiest sweet lover. Just throw all the ingredients in a bowl and mix!

Recipe modified from ValSoCal

Kitchen Essentials:
Stand or Hand Mixer
Mixing bowl
Cutting board
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons

2 1/2 cups of ricotta cheese
1 8oz package of cream cheese
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of water
1 teaspoon of instant coffee
2 cups of powdered sugar
1 cup of chopped milk chocolate chips

Allow the cream cheese to come to room temperature. Measure out the milk chocolate chips and roughly chop.

Measure out and mix the water and instant coffee in a small bowl and set aside.

Measure out the ricotta and cream cheese and add to a mixing bowl. Mix until smooth and fully incorporated. Next add the vanilla extract and instant coffee and give it a quick mix.  Then add the powdered sugar and slowly mix.

Lastly add the chopped milk chocolate chips and mix using a spatula. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour until the dip is cold and has thicken. 

Transfer to a decorative serving bowl, sprinkle some more chopped chocolate chips onto and serve with lady fingers, graham crackers, fresh fruit and vanilla wafers. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

There’s no better way to show your children how much you love them on Valentine’s Day then by baking homemade heart-shaped cookies. Allow them to help you decorate the treats and you are guaranteed to earn the title of best mom or dad of the year! This fun recipe will bring your family together by creating something from scratch in the heart of your home – the kitchen. This cookie dough is so versatile that you and the kids could experiment with different shapes, sizes and decorations. If you and your family are willing to share these moist and crumbly cookies, pack them up in a tin container or individual clear bags as gifts for teachers, classmates and neighbors. Y

Kitchen Essentials:
Baking sheet
Stand or hand mixer
Plastic wrap
Parchment paper
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Mixing bowls
Cookie cutters
Piping bag and tips

Ingredients for Cookies:
2 sticks of room temperature unsalted butter
1 cup of sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon on vanilla extract
½ teaspoon of ground white pepper
Zest of one lemon
3 cups of flour

Ingredients for Royal Icing:
3 ounces of egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups of confectioner’s sugar

Directions for Cookies:
In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar with a hand or stand mixer over medium speed. Next, add the egg, egg yolk, salt, vanilla, white pepper and lemon zest to the bowl and mix until fully incorporated. Slowly begin to add the flour one cup at a time until the dough is firm and turns into a big ball. With clean hands, create two round disks out of the dough. Cover each disk in plastic wrap and chill for an hour to three hours in the refrigerator.  

Now the fun part begins! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper. While the oven heats up, cover clean surface and rolling pin with flour and roll out the chilled dough until it is about half an inch thick. Begin to cut out the cookies using cookie cutters of your choice. We used heart-shaped cutters about 3 inches big for this recipe but have also used smaller ones and they come out just as great. Place the cookies on the cookie sheet one inch apart. Create another disk of dough using the scraps and chill and roll out again until you have used all the dough. Bake the cookies 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. Keep a close eye on them by turning on the oven light. Resist the urge to open the oven door to avoid changing the temperature in the oven. The cookies are done baking once the edges turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow the cookies to cool completely on a cooling rack before decorating them with the royal icing.

Directions for Royal Icing:

Royal icing is one of the best recipes for children to make because there is no heating involved. It could be a little messy, but definitely fun. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, vanilla and sugar until smooth. Divide the icing into separate bowls and add the food coloring of your choice. For this recipe, we divided the icing into two small bowls. We dyed one half red. The other half of the icing remained white. We used the white icing as glue for the multi-colored sprinkles we added to some of the cookies and the red icing to write on the cookies using a piping bag and a thin tip. Feel free to let your kiddo’s imagination run wild. No matter how the cookies end up looking, they will still be delicious!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Living a Balanced Lifestyle in 2014 #wowthatsgood

We are members of the Collective Bias Social Fabric community. We have been compensated to share our experience with you by Collective Bias and their client, Nestle.

Happy 2014 everyone! We hope you had a wonderful holiday season filled with tons of happy moments and celebrations! We sure did! This first blog post of the year is all about what we are doing to get back on track after indulging in holiday treats and outstanding cuisine during our recent trip to New Orleans. We've made big changes to our diet in the recent months by simply substituting some of the richer foods we normally would eat with healthier options. We don't believe in dieting, we believe in a balanced lifestyle. That's why we made a decision a few months ago to take better care of our bodies and get back to the weight we were almost five years ago when we got married. We had each put on about 10-15 pounds over the years and lost it all in about four months by just making healthier meal choices.

Picture of us 25 pounds ago at the end of July 2013 with our niece Audrey

Picture of us last week - Michael lost 10 pounds and Cristy lost 15 pounds!

It's no secret that we love to cook and eat. We thought it would be harder for us as foodies to make this change, however we learned that because we have a passion for food and cooking, it actually made it easier! You see, if you love experimenting with food as much as we do, then half the battle is already taken care of. All you have to do to become healthier in the new year is to eat less of the "bad" stuff and eat more things that are good for you. For example, we used to have ice cream or dessert almost every night while watching television or blogging. Now, we only have dessert once a week on the weekend. If we have a sweet craving during the week, we don't ignore it (that only makes it worse), we simply have an 8 ounce glass of low-fat chocolate milk, non-fat greek yogurt, some fruit or share a serving of Skinny Cow Divine Candy.

We also discovered that we were eating too much of certain things that are considered healthy. For example, now instead of eating an entire banana as a snack, we split one in half and share it. It is just as satisfying wether you eat the whole thing or half of it. The key is to listen to your body. Only eat when you are hungry and stop eating when you are satisfied, not full. As food bloggers, we are always working on delicious recipes to share with our followers. It can sometimes be difficult to control ourselves from overeating, however it is more important to us to be able to enjoy a small portion but still feel good in our skin then to over eat and then feel miserable afterwards. We encourage all of our followers to do the same - enjoy our recipes sensibly (like you would with alcohol.) It's all about balance. Sometimes we do eat a little more than we should, but then we will balance it out by eating less the next day.

One of our secret weapons to keeping a slim figure is Lean Cuisine meals. We don't know what we would do without this easy, quick meal! We both have office jobs and take lunch to work. We rarely go out to eat for lunch during the week unless it is a co-workers birthday or special occasion. Sometimes we have healthy leftovers from the night before or if we got up early enough, we will prepare a small turkey sandwich for lunch. But at least twice a week, we each take a Lean Cuisine to work for lunch. We love Lean Cuisine not only because it is satisfying and delicious, but also because it has a money-back guarantee, which we have never had to use, but are glad to know it's there!

A typical healthy lunch for us: Michael had Lean Cuisine's Wrap Additions with a side salad and fruit and Cristy had Lean Cuisine's Stuffed Pretzels (Three Cheese & Spinach Stuffed Pretzels) with a side salad and fruit.

A typical lunch for us look like this - a lean cuisine meal, a spinach and kale salad with tomatoes, a sprinkling of cheese and a teaspoon of olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice and a cup of fruit. The portions are perfect because we are neither full or hungry afterwards. If we are hungry in the afternoon, we'll either have a cereal bar or a piece of fruit to hold us up until dinner. We are not big breakfast people, so we normally have some coffee with sugar-free CoffeeMate and oatmeal or cereal.

All of the foods we mentioned in this post are available at Walmart. Here's a shopping list of the items we got this week: Skinny Cow Devine Candy, LEAN CUISINE® Sesame Chicken, LEAN CUISINE® Simple Favorites™, LEAN CUISINE® Morning Collection™ (Turkey Sausage English Muffin), LEAN CUISINE® Wrap ADDITIONS™, LEAN CUISINE® Stuffed Pretzels (Three Cheese & Spinach Stuffed Pretzels) and CoffeeMate (Sugar-Free French Vanilla). As multitaskers, we love shopping at Walmart because we could buy groceries, toiletries and just about anything else we need for the home all in one place. For information on other Nestle products at Walmart, visit http://www.walmart.com/nestle 

If you have any questions on how we lost the weight and keep it off, please comment below. Good luck!
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